Friday, November 21, 2008

Piracy

John at Dymaxion World points us to an interesting observation at Talking Points Memo, and declines to comment further:

Josh Marshall:
I don't want to draw over-broad interpretations. But historically, the rising incidence of piracy has frequently, if not always, been a sign of the receding reach of whatever great power has taken on responsibility for policing the sea lanes. The decline of the Hellenistic monarchies in the Mediterranean before the rise of Rome. Caribbean piracy during Spain's long slide into decrepitude and before England decided she lost more than she gained from it. There are many examples. I note too that the Russians just announced that they're sending a few more warships to try to get things under control off the coast of East Africa.
The EU is sending an armada as well. Man, there's so much to talk about with this kind of issue. Do I blog about how the combined forces of the industrialized world don't have the necessary assets to put down piracy off the coast of east Africa? Do I blog about how this is a good example of why it's probably a bad idea to go around creating failed states in places like this? Or do we talk about the possible signal of the EU finally emerging as a global military actor in it's own right?

Well, lucky for you I don't have the time to write about any of those things so you're spared a few hundred words of my prose. Ha-ha!
I won't comment, either, except to say that if you fire up Google Earth and search the Google Earth Community for "Somali pirates" you find a variety of downloadable maps on the subject.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Discovering the Global Past, Vol. 2, 3rd edition

On the off chance that some of the students in the upcoming Modern World History course, HIST 1505, may already be reading this, and for other teachers of world history who might be interested, I thought I'd say a few words about the document reader we will be using in that class: Merry Wiesner et al. (= and others), Discovering the Global Past, Vol. II: Since 1400, 3rd edition.

Mark Crane, HIST 1505's seminar leader, located this volume a couple of years ago and we are in his debt for finding it. It is a reader in which original documents are organized not only by theme ("Constitutional Responses to European Expansion") but in a clearly comparative way ("Constitutional Responses" compares the Gold Coast (Ghana) to Hawaii). As I am not only lecturing in HIST 1505, but leading one of the seminars, I looked much more closely at this book
than I had before, and it made fascinating reading when taken all together.

Here's what I liked:

  • Fabulous selection of themes and individual sources.
  • Very good editorial discussion of themes and documents (if not quite as fabulous as the selection).
  • Taught me a number of things I did not know.
  • Made me look forward to discussing them with students.
Will students like this book and learn from it? Who knows? Students, years, and classes are all different. But at least I won't be working with second-rate material.

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