Preservation Roundup: Columbus Day, Gulf Coast Erosion, 19th Century Presidential Smears, Preservation and Modernity

Posted on: October 13th, 2008 by Matt Ringelstetter 1 Comment

It's Columbus Day: Long the hero of elementary school history lessons, the actions of the Genovese admiral have understandably come under closer scrutiny and criticism in the past few decades, following the rise and inclusion of the new social histories. While the destruction of people and culture that did result from European-Native interaction can not be justified, it's important to remember the words of Marc Bloch and his seminal work, The Historian's Craft: "What do I care for a historian's belated decision on [a] point? We should only beg him not to be so hypnotized by his own choice as to forget at the time another was possible." To summarize--historians make terrible judges. Comparing choices made by people from one time period to the next is an easy and understandable activity, but doing so, and acting like a "judge in Hades, charged with meting out praise or blame to dead heroes," fences our comprehension of history. Some Americans may celebrate the holiday, while others may consider it an imperialistic recognition of genocide. Either way, we have to remember that it is our responsibility to avoid simply passing judgment and instead unearth the facts and provide the clearest picture of the past as possible. Here's a few links to stories out there on Columbus Day. Enjoy the day off from work and school! (If you were lucky enough, that is)

Huffington Post - Story on Columbus Day Celebrations and Columbus Circle, NYC

American Creation - A religious history look at whether we should celebrate the holiday.

Tower Blog - Books on the subject.

Odd Wisconsin - Probably one of the smallest cities named after Columbus is in Wisconsin, with some cool info on the city.

Will Gulf Coast Communities Ever Be Safe From Hurricanes?: Coastal towns along the Bayou have been slammed by hurricanes in the past few years. Besides the destructive damage severe storms bring to buildings and their cities, the coastal wetlands and barrier islands of Louisiana are diminishing at an alarming rate. According to AlterNet.org, since the 1930's the region has lost 1,900 square miles of land--an area equivalent to the size of Delaware. Storms such as Rita, Katrina, Ike and Gustav have all contributed to the situation, which is proving extremely dangerous for the communities of Cajun and French-Indian people who call the areas home. [AlterNet]

Urban Sprawl and the Swiss Alps: It's many a man's dream to one day reside in a quaint, mountainside, alpine cabin--but at what cost? "The Swiss National Science Foundation study released on Wednesday revealed that since 1935 urban development has claimed as much of the Swiss landscape as it did during the previous 2,000 years." [swissinfo.ch]

19th Century Presidential Mudslinging: If only once I could turn on a presidential debate and hear one candidate label his opponent a scurvy knave or a dastardly charlatan. Lincoln's Cottage looks at documents from the 1860 election, where in a New York Tribune editorial, "the Republicans claimed the Democrats formed, 'the rendezvous of thieves, the home of parasites and bloodsuckers, the enemy of God and man, the stereotyped fraud, the sham, the hypocrite, the merciless marauder, and the outlaw renegade and malefactor.'" The democratic explanation of Lincoln's emigration to Illinois from the South is equally colorful. [President Lincoln's Cottage Blog]

The New Modernity: "Historic preservation is one result of the collision between tradition and modernity. As traditions and traditional things become obsolete, we desire to preserve them. It is an impulse with expressions as diverse as Mount Vernon and Farm Aid. The advent of “globalization” in the 1990s caused much hand-wringing, although historians and economists might argue that globalization is contemporaneous with modern capitalism, dating to the late 18th century creation of the joint-stock corporation. Preservation has similar roots and a similar timeline – it is a product of the Enlightenment." [Time Tells]

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One Response

  1. pat

    October 14, 2008

    Having lived in Columbus Wisconsin for over 50 years and now a transplanted New Yorker, I am proud to have lived in that small town that was named after Columbus. Even though we never had a day off from work or school, we were proud to have been named after that fearless explorer. As history may dictate his fate, and we learn that his intentions and methods may not have been honorable, it is important that we all look at the bravery and thirst for discovery that drove him to set out and learn worlds and confirm his ideas.