History’s among us

May 21, 2009

Google unveils an odd cast-based discrimination dating back from the Tokugawas: scandal in Japan (from Yahoo! tech).

Old Japanese maps on Google Earth unveil secrets

By JAY ALABASTER, Associated Press Writer – Sat May 2, 2009 11:39AM EDT

TOKYO – When Google Earth added historical maps of Japan to its online collection last year, the search giant didn’t expect a backlash. The finely detailed woodblock prints have been around for centuries, they were already posted on another Web site, and a historical map of Tokyo put up in 2006 hadn’t caused any problems. Read the rest of this entry »

False economy

April 14, 2009

Good review from the FT, found via A New Start:

False Economy: A Surprising Economic History of the World
By Alan Beattie
Riverhead $26.95 336 pages
Published in the UK in June

False Economy is a book about how economic triumphs and disasters have shaped the world – and why it’s so hard to change the course of history once decisions have been made. The book’s central idea is that our smart or stupid choices determine whether a country’s economic development is successful – but that success is still often a surprise.

The reader has to work to arrive at this or any other central idea, however. For much of this fascinating but sometimes maddening book, Alan Beattie, the FT’s world trade editor, seems to follow Mark Twain’s famous preface to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: “Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.” Read the rest of this entry »

Rainmakers in South East Asia

March 15, 2009

This week in The Economist


Historical determinism

Mar 12th 2009 | DALAT

THE idea that climate change will lead to war is often raised by environmental pessimists, and a meeting on the climatic past of South-East Asia, held last month in Dalat, Vietnam, suggests it is not such an unlikely thought. The meeting was organised by the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, part of Columbia University, some of whose researchers have been trying to reconstruct the pattern of South-East Asia’s monsoons over the past few centuries. One matter they raised was the possibility that two periods of conflict in the area, in the 15th and 18th centuries, were provoked by droughts. Read the rest of this entry »

History canal

February 27, 2009

American canal building

Waterway triumphs

Feb 26th 2009
From The Economist print edition

AS SOME governments are about to rediscover, the actual construction work can be the easy part when embarking on large infrastructure projects. Winning the necessary political support is much harder, especially from legislators keen on alternative public works that more directly benefit their constituents. The competing interests of places that stand to lose or gain from projects are further obstacles to overcome. So are the difficulties contractors experience when they seek to recruit thousands of dependable employees willing to work long hours in arduous conditions. Read the rest of this entry »

The Economics of the Great Depression: an interview with Ben Bernanke

February 19, 2009


Submitted by Rich Marino

Lately, there has been never ending discussions about today’s government bailouts and stimulus packages within the context of currency devaluations, deflation, yesterday’s gold standard, and how all of this relates to the history of the Great Depression. All of this banter begs the question: what did we actually learn from this history? Read the rest of this entry »

Will a fourteenth-century industrial district deafeat the subprime crisis?

January 30, 2009

Today in the FT’s Comments section an excellent article by Peter Marsh showing the significant effects historical factors such as location of industrial districts can have on contemporary businesses.


Survive the credit crisis the Alpine way

By Peter Marsh

Draw on a map a circle of 200km radius and centred on Lucerne, Switzerland, and you see the Alpine Ring. What this represents holds valuable lessons for the world as it tries to fight its way out of the economic crisis. Read the rest of this entry »

How the city hurts your brain

January 14, 2009

Here is one very interesting article, once more it is becoming clear that historians will have to take into consideration the work of neurologists, geneticist, psychologists, etc.

How the city hurts your brain

…And what you can do about it

By Jonah Lehrer boston.com

THE CITY HAS always been an engine of intellectual life, from the 18th-century coffeehouses of London, where citizens gathered to discuss chemistry and radical politics, to the Left Bank bars of modern Paris, where Pablo Picasso held forth on modern art. Without the metropolis, we might not have had the great art of Shakespeare or James Joyce; even Einstein was inspired by commuter trains.

And yet, city life isn’t easy. The same London cafes that stimulated Ben Franklin also helped spread cholera; Picasso eventually bought an estate in quiet Provence. While the modern city might be a haven for playwrights, poets, and physicists, it’s also a deeply unnatural and overwhelming place. Read the rest of this entry »