Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Some Early Germanic

What I say here may differ from previous posts on early Germanic history. So tell me your thoughts.

The main set-off for the first great wave of Germanic migrations was started by the sudden advance of the Hunnic armies into Europe. Driving out many once-settled people these Germanics moved in warbands of about 80,000 each into the Roman empire. However, they did not establish permanent colonies. The ethnic make-up was still very much the same. Most new Germanic settlers were still close to their homelands. The warbands did change the political face, dividing the Roman Empire into several kingdoms with Germano-Roman governments. In these courts there was a great mix and the rulers tried to copy Roman ways, still they were not ready for complete stability. Eventhally the Frankish kingdom rose to dominance. It helped set up some stability. But centralized royal governments could not be kept. Kings rewarded nobles and generals with existing land, thus propelling the feudal advance.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Crusades: 1.2-2.0

Remember HBG? I really urge you to check it out sometime. I have some ideas about a good blog organization that can be efficient and lead to real results, while saving the bloggers' independence.

I am still continuing to post about the Crusades, and will for a while. Const. Notes, Globalisation, and early civilization posts and other history will continue while I am researching for this. Why am I so obsessed about this period of history? Because it's one of those epic times, both when it comes to what happened and what it caused. There are just so many different types of people and different events and ideas. It is a true clash of civilizations, religions, ideas, and most importantly, people.

In the Middle East: The daily lives in Arabia are more urban-oriented. Cities and trade are a dominant part of the economy. People either live in massive metropolises near oasis, in river valleys, or on the coast, but always there is a trade route nearby. Agriculture is also important wherever there is good enough soil. The Arabs had studied and mastered Roman engineering, especially those pertaining to water. Aqueducts and extensive irrigation are quite common. The markets, or bazaars and souks as they are called, exist in every major city. They bring together wealth from lands near and far. Many gather here every day, gossiping, discussing theology, or considering the most recent political events.
The rulers have become somewhat less-warlike now, more interested in science and philophy and poetry. Exept for the newly-converted Turks, their previous lives were tough ones and combat was common. As I have said, Mamluks dominate the politics in many regions, influencing the weaker sultans and mastering the art of string-pulling.
Until now, it must be remembered that tolerance of Christians and Jews is more widespread. While certainly they are not treated equally, they have better treatment than pagan religions. Many early sects of Christianity, such as the Nestorians and the Coptics, flourish in Persia and Egypt. From there missionaries are sent to many other places. The main centers of conflict between the two peoples are in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) and Spain. But even the hostility there seems like friendship compared to the long-term bitter resentment and hate that is on the horizon.

Then, in about 1070, the Sejuk Turks took Jerusalem from the tolerant Fatimids of Egypt. They were much more reluctant to let Christian pilgrims come into the Holy City. Things got worse, and other reasons, explained in the next post, attributed strongly to what happens in 1095. In this year, Pope Urban II called for Christendom to gather its forces and march for the Holy Land.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Crusades 1.2

Back to setting the scene for the Crusades. Read the previous post please for the rest.

In Europe: Urban II is now the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. Wielding great power as at this time religion is a key force. Still though, he knows his power is not safe. As long as most of the recruiting, taxation, and other powers are in the hands of hundreds of lords spread out over the continent, he is safe. But if a few kings start accumulating that power, they would have the strength to defy him. Urban II also has an enemy in the Orthodox Church centered in Constaninople, present-day Istanbul. A permanent schism has formed between these two factions in Christianity. Also, this city is an economic powerhouse, stradling two enormous trade routes, from Russia to Mediterrranean, from Europe to Middle East. As the Italian trading cities such as Genoa and Venice rise, they will attempt to topple the strength of this city. Thus we see feudal Europe, well on its way in economic and political recovery, ready to truly make a leap.

In the Middle East: The once united and contantly expanding Islamic empire led by the Baghdad Caliphate has now broken up into multiple dynasties that obey different caliphs in Cordoba, Spain; Cairo, Egypt; and Baghdad. Also, North Africa is somewhat divided. The Shi'i and Sunnis have been divided now for hundreds of years. Thus we see the Arab empire broken up. However, the unity of religion is still powerful among these kingdoms, all that is needed for them to unite is a leader, and a cause.
The military power has been lessened as the once miltaristic Arabs now fill up the ruling, merchant, legal, and scientific niches. But just as it seems Islam's military might is over, we witness the onrush of countless Turks from Central Asia. Those in the Middle East are quickly converted, and they become the military arm of the Muslims, practically unmatched in religious zeal and fervor. Many fight as Mamluks, slave warriors, but some places as in Egypt these Mamluks hold the real power.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Crusades I

Some time ago I said I would start a series about the Crusades, what actually happened during them, why, when, and the immediate and longterm impacts of the time. This period in history really is a very important time. The whole series of events was epic, with many different characters and places in them. To start, I will set the setting of the time right before the Crusades happened.

The time is late 11th century A.D. Europe is now recovering well from the collapse of the Roman Empire and the foundations needed for greater advancement are ready, only the ingredients have to be found somewhere. It currently exists in a more or less feudal society, a relic from the days when kings gave local lords better powers in return for local defense against invaders. The monarchy themselves do not have as much power as they well some time later. For now, the main recruiting power lies in the ability of the lords to train or hire knights and mercenaries. The knightship itself is considered one of the best types of soldiers, trained from a very early age to learn battle skills and the culture of the upper class. Their roots may have been from elite warriors of the tribal Germanic households, sworn to defend their lord and king. The lord keeps them in service, but much of their expenses are paid from their own pockets. To be continued.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Mesoptamian History

The river valley that lies between the Tigris and Euprhates is one of the most interesting and dynamic and oldest regions on Earth. It was one of the first two places (along with the Nile) to develop civilizations based on complex urban societies, a system of reading and writing, trade, advanced agriculture, and established government along with organised religion. Unlike the Nile valley, which mostly stayed under Egyptian rule for long stretches of time, Mesoptamia's ethinic and political boundaries were constantly changing. When the cities rose up and their people's lives improved, nearby nomads often wanted the riches. Pretty soon, there was constant war between the urban-dwellers and their mostly Semitic nomadic neighbors. There were several waves of Semites that often overthrew old kingdoms and set up their own. The ethnic make-up was constantly changing. After a while, most of the people became Semites, but politics were still changing. There were the Sumerians, the Babylonians, Assyrians, and still more. Outside influences were common. Soon, a new wave of Indo-European invaders came in. They set up the Medes and Persian empires in modern Iran. Eventually the Persian empire managed to conquer the area and hold it until Alexander the Great took it. This region is really one of the most interesting places to study.

Friday, May 20, 2005

G-mail Account

I just created my new, blogger-only account at g-mail. If you have anything that you only want to tell me, you can contact me at historium@gmail.com. (Now where did I get that name?) By the way, anybody notice the new poll on the sidebar, it's been up for a while now, it's about how you found this site. Please vote.

Development of Alphabets

Yeah, I know I have been writing a lot about this early stuff, but it's interesting anyway. Now about early writing. First of all, what would be considered the difference between writing and drawing pictures. You can create stories with both of them. Aren't all letters really nothing but scribbles without the interpretation of humans? Each letter and word has a meaning, if you are literate enough it often causes an instant recognition in the mind, so you know what it means. Pictures can act in the same way, so what is the difference between an alphabet and pictures? Much of this is theoretical, so I'll warn you, much of it is also my own theories.

First, we need to figure out the needs to create an organized alphabet. Well let's define an alphabet first. An alphebet is a group of characters that each imply a vocal sound and/or actual object or idea. Now back to the needs. I have often used scenarios so I will use another one here. A hunter , let's call him Bob, has just returned to a village after a very good expedition, maybe he was chased by a pack of wolves, swam across a lake, climbed up a tree to escape a bear, fell down, beat the bear with a branch that had broken off in the fall, and then manage to drag it all the way back to the village. If that happened to you, you'd probably want some recognition for that. We can assume that there is an oral tradition already that allows for the passing down of information, stories, and things like that. But what impels Bob to record things in a non-spoken way?

Oral traditions are faulty, and we can assume Bob knew that, he didn't want anybody messing around with his story. Also, memories are not always the best and there may be disturbances in the population. In the early time of Bob, people are still highly vulnerable to predators, famine, disease, warfare, natural disasters, etc. Lifespans in general were not exactly long and the next generation had to be brought up fast. Therefore, a story would die if a person died. Let's assume Bob discovered that a certain type of bear can climb trees. Knowing this is important, he wants to tell other people. But the problems I described before are great, a surefire way of passing the story on unchanged over generations needs to be found.

By now, making paintings on walls and such is pretty common, so Bob makes a kind of primitive cartoon strip on a wall, or maybe he scrathes it onto a piece of stone together with dye. Perhaps about this time, Bob realised that painting has its limits. You can't tell ideas or dialogues very well. You can try to draw a picture of it, but you never know how the other person will interpret this. However, you can pass on exactly what you mean by saying it. So here is one push towards a practical alphabet, a need to write down exactly what you mean, and making sure other people will interpret it the same way as you. But most modern alphabets are not made of pictures of animals and objects, they are made of characters that one has to learn their meanings.

The story of Bob becomes famous, and other people want copies of it (beginning of written entertainment? Great, we have comic book fans already). They also want personal copies of it that they can refer to at any time, one tablet obviously won't do, so it gets copied. Here we get something new, it's laborious to copy entire pictures of animals and people so the copyers will look for shortcuts. Each person can also draw different things in different ways, maybe a different mouth shape of a bear (early handwriting?). To make the understanding of the tablets easier a kind of universal characterization would be needed. So now we have more character-like pictures that come in universal forms, people are taught what each picture means. In other words, copying creates a drive towards simplification and universalization.

Slowly, a primitive pictographic proto-alhabet forms. The simplification and characterization is continued, and quickened when people beyond Bob's village want to know the story. More people means a need for an effective character that can be taught and understood by people. Of course as the characters start to slowly less resemble their original representations, they become harder for illiterate people to understand. This may have increased the need for teaching, and later the rise of the literati class.

So far, I have mainly used the examples of stories, but there is also direct communication among people to be considered. Bob has made many other good hunts and even perhaps some expeditions against enemies, he rises to more and more important postitions, until perhaps he becomes the ruler of his village. Seeking a better life for his people, he starts a period of economic and political expansionism. A nearby village has discovered iron, a very useful metal, in return they are willing to exchange salt for it, something Bob has. Our new ruler senses a good chance for his village to progress, he quickly creates a complex trade treaty to be offered to the neigbor. Because he doesn't want his messanger to mess the details up, he does his best to write the details down on a tablet, and tells the messenger those things that will fill up the hole. All the messenger now has to do is go to the village and read the treaty. This becomes successful and trade quickly grows.

Now Bob is a wise guy, he sees that the alphabet system works, it has many advantages that can really improve things. He realizes that he can write down laws, court cases, religious customs, festival proceedings, other customs, government procedures, treaties, etc. The benefits of writing these down would be tremendous. A person's mind would no longer be the main storage of all the important documents. This meant that these things could be elaborated and detailed and added to without any danger of being lost because someone forgot. With official things this would also be a great thing, especially with laws. A solid visible record of a law would no wipe out the haziness the judges could have about them. Basically, when something was written down, it became something that was clear, hard to question, and able to be passed on mostly unchanged and intact. Any changes would more likely be intentional ones, instead of mistakes from trying to recall from memory.

With all these advantages staring at him in the face Bob acted quickly. He and some assistants and others who were literate gathered all the known and established characters, they then put them in logical orders on one place. Now that they had a beginning, they worked on any gaps they could find. After that they got together everybody who knew the details of the documents and ritals, and wrote everything down. As they did so they found more gaps, which they filled in. It would have taken years to put together the characters in a kind of alphabet, gotten together all the information they needed to write, and compiled it into written records.

The work paid off, government, culture, and trade became much more organized and efficient. Passing down knowledge, one of the vital aspects of survival, now simply required writing it down. That writing would dispense its info to everyone who read it. The social structure itself changed, with the increased roles of the government and with the additions of scribes and other government officials. This may have been the first Information Revolution. Knowledge needs to be found, recorded, and passed on. Reading and writing at least changed how recording and passing were done.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

A few Topics

Here are some topics I am considering, tell me any elso you would be interested in:
Rise of organised nations
Beginning of towns/trade/specialist jobs
Early religion
Early philophy
Requirements for civilizations
Early writing
Most recent archeaological finds
Early fortification tech.
mideast cities
Chinese civilizations
post-roman german governments
formation of european kingdoms
ottoman empire
econmies of ancient mideast
city of rome
siege tech
weapon and armor in middle ages
mediterranean trade
confucius and other chinese philosophers
chinese 3-kingdoms era
1st japanese industrial revolution
samurai culture
early mining
advent of currencies
anatolian cultures and civilizations
urban revolution

Influence of Mathematics

Math has been around ever since somebody started to count little bunies jumping around playfully, right before they impaled them with razor sharp arrows and ripped their skin off which they made their hats out of. The philosophers of Ancient Greece really pushed forward pure mathematics, especially people like Pythagoras. But a real boost of math came when algebra was perfected by the Arabs. The presence of variable had enormous possibilities in many parts of the real world. It really helped people figure things out. I know my last few posts have been really short, I will try to give more time to posting in the weekend.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Crusades Intro: Jerusalem

About a few days ago I said I would make a new series of posts on the Crusades. I am still working on it and the real thing will start in a week or so. In the meantime I have been wondering about how the city of Jerusalem actually came about. I have been surfing the Internet and unfortunately have not come up with much. If anybody knows anything, please tell me. In the meantime, please go to my poll, I will stop yapping until someone has voted. This area has a long history, it was of great economic importance since many eastern goods set off from here to the Mediterranean ports. Tell me anything you know, thanks.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Random thought

Okay, this is not even related to history, but I really have to say this. I hate it when people say something is in another dimension. Do guys even know what dimension is? A dimension is something from with the location of an event can be measured from. Before you go and write some science fiction story about another dimension, think about this. There are only sets of dimensions. This whole universe is one set of dimensions. Each point in it can be measured from those dimensions. If you are thinking 3-D, a dimension is an edge, but don't get me started. The Universe is weird.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Siege History I

Announcements: Again, look for the poll in the left sidebar and vote, if you are at this site it is relevant to you.

Conflict has been around for a long time; people have been fighting each other over all kinds of things. To win, you have to eliminate the enemy or incapacitate them from getting in your way again and make them accept your terms. When people started to gather together and build towns, it was easy for enemies to locate them. For nomadic enemies you have to find a track or get some info, hunt down the enemy and find them and attack them. This took a lot of time and effort, since the enemy could be anywhere. But now the location of you rival is in a place where he will probably stay for a while. This meant much more time to plan your attacks; so basically, the settling down of life started one of the first military revolutions, and a major one. It was no longer search and destroy, it was search, observe, prepare, then attack and destroy. For now we will not look at field battles, but sieges.

Pretty soon the settled people realized their danger, to keep their place protected they had to guard it. At first they may have used some watchfires and posted lookouts on the highest structures available. Some kind of alarm system would then be used to warn the town. As technology improved and settlements could afford more materials, they may have used specialized buildings that combined the watchfires, lookouts, and alarms into one place, a watchtower, these would be particularly higher than the other buildings for a better field of view. Still, they could be caught off guard and if the attacker rode horses there would be very little time to prepare. By now some rudiment of walls would have been used to pen up livestock in the night, to keep them in and others out. They must have realized that the same thing applied to people. Therefore, some guy decided to put some pieces of wood in a circle around the most important buildings in the village, in the space inside the people and valuables could be hoarded into quickly. The attacker realized this and thought of ways to fight it.

What followed was a military arms race that lasted thousands of years, right up until World War II when the advent of the blitzkrieg and heavy accurate artillery made any kind of walled fortification completely useless. This race lasted thousands of years.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Some philosophy

Announcements: I am hoping to get a series of posts that detail what actually happened in the crusades, I am not sure when it will start, maybe in a week or two. Also, please do the poll in the sidebar.

Movies are a primary source of entertainment for those who have access to them and can afford them. Generally, movies have one fundamental difference from real life, they often exaggerate the good vs. evil idea. To simplify things, there is often a really good guy and a really bad guy that tries to stop the good guy. Unfortunately this has often been applies to movies based on historical events. A director who is too simple-minded will try to make the story fit to his/her good guy/bad guy theme. Often he will portray one nation or people as wicked, while another nation or people as inherently good. This does not really happen in history nor in the present world. Why? Because it’s the individual who is separated by goodness and badness, it all depends on which is dominant. A creative and knowledgeable director will know this, and therefore not warp history too much. But still, it is one of the great fantasies of a world with a superhero who gloriously defeats the menacing villain. In real life, there are no people who are simply “bad”, there are ideas, motives, desires, emotions, beliefs, messages, dreams, events, and environments and a host of other variables that have impacts upon an individual, who him/herself also consists of numerous variables, the end result is an enormous number of personalities and traits. This complexity is further complexified when you put in the variables that occur when interactions between these individuals take place.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

"Dark Age" Eurpean History

Announcements: There is a new poll on the sidebar, please take part in it. You can also tell me exactly how you found this site in a comment. During the Pax Romana, or peace of Rome, the tribes in Germania were more or less in control. Unfortunuately this was suddenly ended when there was a huge population boom in Germany, a Crisis for Rome followed. The empire just barely survived that but already it was cracking severely. In a few hundred years, the ever-growing and moving peoples of Germania took over almost all of the Western Roman Empire. Visigoths settled in Spain. Franks in Gaul, or present-day France. And soon the Angles, Jutes, and Saxons would begin the invasion of modern Great Britain. In Italy itself the Ostrogoths and Lombards were staking their claim. While in Carthage, the Vandals had taken over many of the Roman African possessions. In the East meanwhile, the other main ethnic group, Slavs, were also spreading quickly. They soon settled in large parts of the Balkans and other areas east of Germania. All these movements resulted in permanent and far-reaching ethnic restructurements. Most of the native Northern Europeans are descended from these people. An interesting thing though is to look at how their languages changed. Since practically all of the new areas conquered by the Germanics were formerly Roman, they took up a lot of Roman culture, including parts of the Latin language. The Franks and Visigoths based almost their whole languages on Latin. French an Spanish are descendants of the dialects these people spoke while they were learning the languages. Those tribes that settled closer to the original Germania still spoke the Germanic languages, although Latin definitely did affect them. Those that settled in modern Britain also spoke Germanic languages. These however were strongly influenced by first Celtic, then Norse, and finally from its many contacts with the French. The two main sources of Latin introduction in English are probably from those that spoke the original language in the Britain, and later on from the French version. German itself may have had one of the least Latin impacts, since there was not much of a Latin base in it to start with, any influences were probably from later rulers who believed it was a good language to learn and encouraged its use. The Dark Ages is what many call the period between the fall of Rome and about the year 1000. During this time the centuries-old Roman political system was gone and had to be replaced. Most of the natives had relied on the welfare system of Rome to thrive in their cities or farms. But now this was gone. The new Germanics of course knew little about the Roman ways, except for those that had studied them. But most of the ordinary Germanics were simple farmers who knew little besides what had been passed down from generation to generation. These people were also the new majority, and this caused problems. The old economic, political, and social systems were changing radically. A kind of Great Confusion followed, people had little idea of what was going to happen.

The main way this could have been stopped is if the Roman technology was continued. But that was definitely a problem. Many Roman cities had been destroyed or abandoned, the educated classes had been fleeing from the Germanic onslaught and were scattered. As I said before, few new how to read the Latin texts, or what engineering the Romans used. During the Great Confusion Europe suffered from a major breakdown of communication, political, and economic systems. Also the literati class was rare, those that existed were involved in religion or politics. Except for some exceptions, those in religions were concerned mainly with religious matters. And politics is politics, most lords were concerned about how to effectively plunder the next enemy village, get the most money, or kill the new neighbor. Most, not all, were like this, and for the present the other technological achievements were not used. So the three systems and the literati class are 4 of the basics needed for a complex civilization, without these, Europe slid back into a less complex rural society.

The Great Confusion ended when people knew what to do, they chose the simplest and quickest method to stability, make a village and start farming. The once great cities and large estates of Roman life were quickly replaced by a hard village life. Each particular tribe or clan would have several closely connected villages, the head of them would swear fealty to a kind of king that would hold some tribes or clans together, in case of some great need for unity like a great new war. This was not exactly feudalism, more like tribal warlords, the villages are most important and they are all loosely held together.

Eventually though, civilization started to come back. The literati and stability was growing steadily. There was now a sense of order provided by the new life, a kind of purpose of knowing what to do, what's going on, and what may happen. The literati provided the ability to improve things. Now that things were getting closer to normal, some of the kings and rulers would be interested in the more complex technologies and philosophies of the classicals. While not a complete Renaissance, it was definitely a step forward. It was during this time that the foundations of modern Europe were being established.

This period was marked by the rise of Charlemagne, a French ruler who tried to revive the Roman order. He respected learning and encouraged it too. His empire included France, parts of Germany, and northern Italy. It was broken up after his death among the sons. The progress made was soon gone but it was definitely a sign things were ready to leap forward. Charlemagne may have come to early, Europe was still in a relative isolation, the knew little of the more advanced civilizations of the East.

This order and stability came in just in time, the new wave of invasions was starting, that of the Vikings. These soldiers were almost invincible. They were amazingly skilled and aggressive troops by themselves, and they often surprised the locals. They did much damage and took quite a lot of lands. The kings at the top were unable to deal with all these harassing attacks that happened everywhere seemingly, they therefore shifted the responsibility of resisting them to the local lords. In return this lords were given much power and wealth. Feudalism had arrived. Now the life of an average peasant revolved around the manor. Much of the land was divided in manors, which the lords controlled. They allowed peasants to live on their land if they worked it and gave a large portion of it to the lords. For now, the isolation was too prevalent to allow large-scale trade and mercantilism, trade involved simple barter of goods between people. Since the economy was mainly agricultural, the only products in demand were mainly produce and farm tools. Since the population was widely spread, the suppliers of these demands had to stay local and meet local needs. A craftsman would only have the resources to supply the needs of maybe 10 sq. miles. Because of the manor system, there would not be many people in that area. This would change quite soon though.

The Vikings themselves caused an enormous impact; they created more permanent ethnic changes and were the first to explore large areas. Thanks to their master seamanship, they were able to travel to all sorts of places. Many actually entered the Mediterranean. Some of these expeditions lead to permanent colonies. They brought with them their culture and technology. One of the most notable of these colonies was Normandy, where a mix of Viking and Celtic peoples lived. Still, the kings of the Viking homelands in Scandinavia were not able to keep these colonies under one roof. The settlements were eventually absorbed into whatever European places they were in. Because of this lack of unity, a major economic revolution still had not come.

The one thing that changed all of this and finally pulled Europe out of its economic downtrend was something that did not even happen in Europe itself. It happened in a little-known place, mainly important because of its religious aspects, the Holy Land. The event, the Crusades. This period is now often noted for its religious, military, and political sides. Many acts of heroism, legends, and tragedies happened to both the Crusaders and the Muslims. But what I will most stress in here is the economic impact, which was as great or greater than any other event in the Middle Ages.

While some of the Crusaders believed they went to fight for God, they realized that there were things they could only have imagined. All most knew about the city of Jerusalem and it surrounding areas was that it was were some of the most important people and events in Christianity came from or happened. But when they came they knew it was much more than that. For centuries Muslims in the Middle East had continued trade with Africa, India, and the Orient. Goods from all over the world came together in the markets of Baghdad, Damascus, and Jerusalem. There were spices, silks, salt, textiles, exotic foods, perfumes, and countless other goods the Crusaders had never seen before.
Some of the Crusaders came home with samples of these goods and tales of the great riches. A few shrewd merchants and politicians were quick to take advantage. Pooling together all their resources, they invested in some exploratory and possible trade expeditions. Many of these were from Italy, where some of the best Mediterranean ports were located. When the trade parties came home, the course of history changed forever.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Back to the Middle Ages

Announcements: HBG. Is still now looking for two more Leaders, tell me if you are interested and have a blog. The first post on the site is about HBG, the second is where you can post a comment if you are interested. Please look into it.

The first posts that I had on this site were about what is called the Middle Ages. The name itself only applies to Western Civilization, the period between the end of the Classical Age and the beginning of the Rennaissance.

Many people think that this period was a backward time and that only the Rennaissance saved the people. That little progress was made. These people think of stone castles, brave knights, evil lords, fair ladies, and fiery dragons when thinking about this age. To be blunt, this is stupid.

Worldwide, this time period was one of intense change. Kindoms fell, Empires rose, boundaries shifted, and trade became more and more an international thing. While the advance of knowledge was slowed down somewhat in Europe, it moved forward fast in places like the Middle East and China. Old political and religious ideas were being replaced by new ones. Contrary to the idea of a bleak and desolate period, this was one the most exciting times in history. People think our ideas and beliefs originated in the Rennaissance, when these things changed. But the foundations of the way the modern world works was started here. The first universities were created, allowing the pool of educated resources to grow. Modern economies also started during this time, as trade spread globally. Only in the first 500 years after Rome's fall was Europe in a worse state. But even in the later years of that time it was quikly jumping back. The once "barbarian" Germanic tribes that had spread all over western Europe had now set up formidable monarchies. In the east the Slavs were doing the same. The Crusades brought even more progress. Ancient Greek and Roman texts were passed from the Arabs to the Italians. I'll be back later today.

Constitutional Notes

I after some weeks of blogging about economics, I'm don't really know what I'm going to blog about. Well let's start with a little Constitutional Notes, for the amendments.

1st Amendment- possibly the amendment that has had the longest controversy. It was being challenged Only a few years after the U.S. became independent. A possible reason may be that it's vague.

If you have any ideas what I should talk about, please say so. I'll be back in an hour or so.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Last Economic History

One of today's biggest questions is how much should the government intervene in a nation's economy. Some prefer that it should do all it can, other say it should keep its hands off. History though seems to have used the former one more often. Why? Because interconnected economies probably aided the rise of politics. Since then, the two have often been intertwined.
This will be the last of the Early Economic History Posts so read on!
We return to our village in a time of great change. It has just come into contact with another village and there has been an exchange of goods. Even this small amount of goods greatly changes the economy, the comodities are rare, and highly prized. Some in the village start to see a possible source of wealth. The other village had seemed to be eager to get their goods. If they could get enough of an exchange, they would be very rich. Therefore, some of these people load up a large amount of native goods, and start travelling to the new village. Only a few actually find their way there. But these soon strike a fortune, they get great amounts of the items that are higly prized at home for a price that seems very reasonable to them. When these return, things really change.

Money brings influence, and influence is politics. The new goods make these first merchants so rich their position in the village skyrockets. They can now buy huge amounts of land and still have enough money to farm it, and enough to buy a new house. These merchants soon become an enormous boon to the village, and they start realizing it. Pretty soon more villages are discovered and a trading system emerges. Merchants could go to several cities in the same trip. As their wealth increases their power does too. They have the wealth needed to make large improvements to their village. They earn respect, and this respect grows. Soon the wealthy merchants form a primitive ruling class, and the modern world is under way.
After this things really begin to become complex. Cultures advance and eventually some become civilizations. A new era in human history starts.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Economic Overview

Today, as it has always been, the current economy of the country is a major issue. New solutions always come up, only to be of little value. Politics often keep people from doing the best course of actions. But no matter what we are doing, the economy of the U.S. is still sliding downhill. Here are three main reasons:

The "paper" industries- Manufacturing and agriculture are just barely getting by. They are dying off in the U.S. Instead, people are constantly looking to get rich quick in the rising "paper" industries: stock trading, banking, legal, and insurance. These are just finance businesses, they handle money, in the simplest terms. They together are worth countless sums of money. Unfortunately, you can't export accounts, you can't transport insurance plans, you can't sell lawyers to other countries. The products of these industries are just characters on paper. Industrial powerhouses such as Japan and Germany are not full of brokers, accountants, stock traders, and lawyers. No offence to anybody but, these people are not always the best. It can't be good when just some advise can cost thousands of dollars. After all, they are just words, they dissapear. Service industries only involve a 1-way flow of resources. Let's say you go to a lawyer for counseling. He tells you some stuff and you have to pay money for it. That counseling is not a product, it does not enter an economy. The money you have to pay does enter the economy. Basically, this is the problem with service industries, a huge part of the economy is in the hands of the service people, while the rest get less and less of it. More and more resources just move to one direction.

Dependent Industries- The biggest industry in the U.S. today is everything involved with the medical industry, a huge part of it is again service. It is big because of two reasons, it is inflated by the "paper" industries, and by government support. This brings together legal aspects and politics into the medical field. Insurance corporations, politicians, and lawyers are practically as important as a doctor here. When the government comes in, it infects the field with its own instability and bureaucracy. Paper industries add inefficient complexities. All of this makes resources move through the medical industry at a snail's pace. In a typical capitalist economy, money and other resources are constantly moving rapidly throught the economy, this improves the chance people will have money when they need it. They can then spend it and the cycle continues. But here we have $2 billion dollars of the United State's economy in one of the most slowly moving sections of the economy. It is also growing rapidly. In the best scenario, about as many resources flow in as they flow out. In here, tons flow in, thanks to the paper industries and bureacracy, but very little flows out.

Small businesses- In today's global economies, small businesses are not good. Foreign markets are becoming as important, if not more, as domestic markets. Small business do not have the resources to expand themselves into the international market. It is not true that they encourage competition, small businesses only have enough resources to stay local. There will only be a few of them for a particular industry where you live. Although there are tons of them, those that are too distant don't have the resources to reach your neighborhood. Wonder why we export more than we import? The large corporations of foreign nations have the strenght and resources to expand their markets into the U.S. and then compete successfuly. I don't think a small business could do that. Small businesses are like subsistence businesses, they do enough to provide their goods or services to their local areas, but they can't go beyond. There aren't many surplus goods to be exported and there aren't many businesses that have the resources to successfuly do that.

These are three major problems, there are countless other ones. Rising gas prices will continue as worldwide demand rises more and more, while the profits stay in the Middle East. The trade deficit means we have tons of foreign goods here because we buy so much, but little capital because we sell so little. We are trillions of dollars in debt, and debt always hurts. It leads to higher interest rates and inflationary money. Interest is rarely good, as it calls for more money than is available. The computer industry is being beaten by foreign competition. Tons of regulations on practically everything, slow inefficient bureaucracies, and ever-increasing paperwork for everything is slowing the economic flow down severely. Our GDP is more and more backed by services, which do not produce solid, well-supported products with value, that can continue to flow in the economy.
Our efforts to turn all this around have been incompetent and simple-minded. A toddler could understand tax cuts. And tax cuts mean little. Money will always find other ways to penetrate the bureaucracy of government. There it will always be slowed down to a near-stop, pretty much taking money away from the real economy. Subsidies and other measures to protect certain industries can badly hurt others.
What we really need to do is study the current economic situation, really understand it. Find out all the patterns, systems, and relationships. Then we have to go over several sollution, find out what their possible effects are. We should reduce the bureaucracy, end unneccessary regulations that just put more paperwork and cause delays, reduce politico-legal influences on medicine and free the money trapped in there. We should help corporations that can effectively compete globally and benefit people here. The regulations should now be placed on the "paper" industries, reducing their size in the economy. Instead, industries that truly promote the capitalist cycle should be the priority. There are probably many more solutions but these are some according to my opinions. I probably have not been accurate in everything so please tell me your thoughts about this.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Site News

I know my posts have not been too good recently. It's hard to maintain a blog daily, which is what I am trying to do. Either way, I will continue Globalisation, Book of Blogs, Sunday Review, and Economic History series this Saturday or Sunday. I will also restart Constitutional Notes with a look at the Amendments.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

HBG is Back!

The History Bloggers' Guild is back, now in its own blog! For those of you who are a bit confused right now, it is in short an organisation I created for bloggers who have at least a few regular posts about history.

As of now I am looking for 2 more Leaders, info. on them can be found on the HBG blog. If you want to join, you can tell me either here or at the HBG site. Once you post up a few history posts or show how some existing posts are related to history, you may join.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Economic Dialogue

For about a week now Tom of HamsterMotor and I have been having a conversation about several different economic subjects. It's pretty interesting, here are the links to them, it's really worth a look:

Part I

Part II
Tom and this

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Influnce: Finale

One of my "mini-series" of posts was about comparing the influence of George Washington and Genghis Khan. I am not talking about how "good" they are, but how much they affected people's lives. This is the last post of it, it will talk abou how difficult the tasks that each faced was.

The task that Washington did of which we will examine the difficulty of will only be his military role in the Revolutionary War. Although he was highly important politically, that only came later.

Washington surely did something few people would expect, manage to defeat the strongest army in the world of the time. He was able to keep his troops away from a crushing defeat and forge it into a force that could fight well. Still though, it can be argued that he did not have many distractions. He surely must have kept an eye on the Conintinental politics but it did not affect him too much.

Genghis Khan on the other hand did something that would make most people cower. 1. He survived the tribal blood feuds on the steppes of Mongolia. 2. He by his force of personality brought together the dozens of bitter rival clans into one nation. 3. He set up an entire government and set of laws almost from scratch to govern the new Mongol nation. 4. He continued to handle administration while doing everything neccessary to conquer half the known world.

To say this was unexpected is a major understatement. Nowhere ever in history had this been done before. No singe one man had ever before united all of Mongolia and conquer the largest empire every and govern it well enough to hold it together during his entire life and after.

Most say he was a madman, he was not. Yes he did massacre millions, but not because he was bloodthirsty. It was because this was the norm in the steppes. The last thing you would want, if you were just barely getting enough food for your tribe in the middle of several day long blizzards would be to have to worry about putting down another rebellion. The Mongol army never numbered more than 200,000, there was no possible way to keep garrisons in every single village, town, city, fortress. The massacres were not come giant cruel genocide, it was just one of the most icy military acts ever. There was one city that was spared at first by one of the Khan's generals, in a few months, that city was rebelling.

Monday, May 02, 2005

The Beginning of Interconnected Economies

Not too long ago, a group of explorers from another village came to the particular village we are studying. During their visit, something particulary interesting took place, barter. Normally one gets paid by working. That was all, and it was simple. Everyone in the village had the same things so there was not need to exchange materials. But now these people just came, the two villages want to establish good relations with each other. The logical thing to do to start things out would be to exchange gifts.

You could say that the time and effort one put into the work can be called a comodity. In exchange for these things you get food and a house. But time and effort are not solid things that you can actually hold. It's hard to explain. The time and effort produce the crop, and the crop is shared. Time and effort do not circulate in the economy, they are best described as tools, not comodities. They are used to get the comodities, in this case the crop.

Before the barter the comodities were mainly expirable things, food, animals, maybe some wood but not much. The amount of these goods in circulation may grow, but that would only be in response to population growth.

Now let us say the gifts the explorers gave were things common in their village. Maybe some precious stones, or seashells, or other inexpirable goods. They accepted goods that they thought were of equal value. Pretty soon, the people get interested in these exotic new objects. Because they are rare, have some practical use, and simply look valuable, their value skyrockets. People realise this of course, if they had enough of this they would be able to get other people to work on their farms, build new and bigger houses, and so forth. They realise that this could gain great wealth and a good life with this.

What they don't know, is that the modern econo-political system is just starting to emerge.