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August 15, 2012


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My understanding about slavery among Native Americans is that it is only in the Northwest Coast that there was 'true slavery', so that the children of slaves would be slaves, and slaves would be killed at the funeral of the tribal leader. In other Native American groups, there were slaves who were taken as prisoners of war, but their children would not be classified as slaves (though this might be brought up to insult them) This article (from page 300) discusses it and the author has written a monograph about NWC slavery.

I'm not sure if this is an observation I have seen or one I am making, but one of the reasons slavery existed in a more organized fashion there was because it was easier to make raids and then escape via the coast and the other reason is that their societies were, as you note, based on 'salmon ranching', which created a massive amount of wealth that created a very hierarchical society. Another point to make about the amount of wealth they were able to amass, when it came time to negotiate treaty rights, they generally gave up most of their land as long as they were allowed to retain their fishing rights.

[h]e keeps referring to the HRE’s "constitution", but never defines it, so I really don’t know what he’s talking about.

This is probably not just the fact that the author is British. Historians tend to use the words in the meanings that these words had in the period they study, even if it causes confusion.

Until 19th century, "constitution" didn't mean a written document with the headline "Constitution". It was a vague concept, meaning the most important customs and statute laws of a country. In many cases, it was used to mean not only the form of government but also the criminal law and most important aspects of civil law.

Thus, the Germans of the 17th century would talk about the constitution of the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation, but it would consist of several acts and decrees. Everyone would probably agree about the core precepts, but the argument would center on defining the boundaries.

It's not that different in the US. For example, most people think that Posse Comitatus Act is an important constitutional protection, although it is not really required by the written constitution or even by preceding bench law.

Reading, berry picking, eating ..... no internet .....


Great post, Doctor.

I look forward to your post on "Twilight Of The Elites", which I just finished as well.

For another less Rousseauian look at Native Americans, there's Cabeza de Vaca's account of his travels along the Gulf Coast following the collapse of the 17th Spanish expedition from Cuba he was a member of.

Our response to global climate change suggests we're all afflicted with Stockholm Syndrome. The carbon black is in our souls.

Years ago I worked in a commercial fishery -- california sea urchin -- which had managed to arrange a self-tax on landings administered by the State Fish & Game. Funds were to spent on researching the fishery and managing the quota system they'd come up with (a limit on the number of licensed divers). Not sure how the fishery is doing these days, as a result. But even those types can work together to find solutions. And if they can...

Finally, a note on the fighing life getting "in the blood." Fishing at that scale is romantic as hell. Terrifying at times, exhilarating, frustrating, satisfying, always challenging mind, body, and spirit. Almost every moment I was on the boat I looked ahead to getting back on the beach. And nearly every moment on the beach I looked ahead to getting back on the boat. It's a powerful stimulant.

Gah. "A note on the fishing life..."

Where's the edit button?

oh man.

"17th Century Spanish expedition"

Nobody expects the Spanish expedition.

I think the Cherokees kept slaves. They learned that from the Europeans. But I haven't read anythiing about that in years and could be remembering wrong.

I read mysteries because I like a story to have a purpose other than introspective angst or strum and drang.I don't like books that are just one action scene after the other ad I really hate books about middle class white people who spend all their time being desperately unfulfilled and unhappy over childhood traumas or bad marriages. Get a life!

My favorite mysteries are the ones where the plot is an excuse for wandering through a time and place with interesting people: James McClure's South Africa series, Andrea Camilleri's Sicilian series (which is often funny and the characters stop to eat wonderful seafood meals every five or six pages no matter what's going on in the plot), and Colin COtteril's series set in Laos just after the Communist take over.

Lately the place I have been tourig is Turkey via Barbara Nadel but I'm on an excursion now into the Ottoman Empire in the 1830's via Jason Goodman's The Janissary Tree.

It's a brfeat way to travel to places I really don't want to go.

...the fact that the western shore of South America is extremely dry,

Did anyone else hear the story on NPR this morning about the natural mummification that insprired later human efforts at mummification (among the Chinchorro?). At any rate, it was also due to the arid climate of the western shore of South America. (Just to note a coincidence.)

Our family has read all of Terry Pratchett's books out loud multiple times, but we're finding The Long Earth quite a slog. Two big problems:
So many arbitrary contrivances with no organic feel to them, and
So little reward along the way. Pleasure and insights are thin on the ground.
Well, a third problem is that there's no music to it. Pratchett's books are a delight to wrap your voice around.

I eagerly await the next Discworld novel out on 18th September.

Nobody expects the Spanish expedition.


You get vacations?

I've read the Wilson book on the 30 Years War and it is indeed rather a dour piece of work. The HRE did have a constitution of sorts, although large portions of it were rather shakily based and ill-defined. The Golden Bull of 1356 laid down a number benchmarks in terms of institutions or procedures, and these, combined with the ongoing development of the Imperial Diet produced a reasonably recognizable constitution. Alas, it found no Antonin Scalia to write quirky judicial fictions about it in hyperbolic terms involving broccoli! Joking aside, the Wilson book is important as the first real attempt for quite a while to bring together the work being done in a rather neglected field in English language history.

I have read the Novik books and they have some good things going on, but I have trouble believing that Temeraire would really remain quite so wussy and bumbling as he generally seems to be. I also find Novik's China and its inhabitants both rather exoticized and rather generic for my taste.

The Hayes book has moments, but it feels rather hastily written and facile at points. Its insights strike me as a little banal and not adequately contextualized. Too often, I feel that Hayes has decided to narrow his focus onto one theme and use that theme to explain more than it really can. I also wonder why he seems to have relatively little to offer in the way of solutions to the problem he identifies. In this, admittedly, he is typical of the modern American left, which now seems to be playing the role of conservatism in terms of defending institutions and the idea of government from the radicalized rightwing Bolsheviks of the post-Gingrich GOP.

Charles C. Mann, in his epic study of pre-Columbian Americas, *1491* (and picked up again in the sequel *1493*, which I am currently reading), suggests that on the east coast of what is now the USA there happened to be - BEFORE the Europeans came - a general distinction between "slave" societies ("Mississipian" cultures) roughly south of the Mason-Dixon line and non-slave societies (well, there was slavery, but it was temporary and not integral to the economy) among the Algonkians and others north of that line.

He wonders - as one would - whether the mapping of this distinction onto the North-South division in white colonial/USA society is entirely coincidental.

I know nothing more about it, but Mann generally seems to have his head screwed on right, and he cites his sources copiously. Both books are brilliant, IMHO.

Do any of our resident historians or history buffs have a recommendation on a good, comprehensive book (or books) on the Nuremberg trials? I'm looking for something after I finish the current pile on my nightstand, which consists of a recent biography of famed studio musicians The Wrecking Crew, four books from the 33-1/3 series of monographs on classic albums, an Iain M. Banks book in the Culture series and a biography of director Wes Craven.

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