Thursday, May 19, 2011

History 101

Fall of 2007 I started as a full-time, degree seeking student.  I knew I wanted to take a lot of History classes; 101: American History, 1492 - the Civil War seemed like a logical starting point.  What did I learn?

I learned (already knew some of this) what a bastard Columbus was.  I learned that the first African slaves came to America in 1609, eleven years before the Pilgrims.  I learned about the economics of colonialism and how the American Revolution can be only be truly understood by at least factoring in economic issues.  I also learned that the slavery issue had an economic component well beyond what I had been considering.

But the biggest thing I learned was that there is a very specific format that one must follow when writing history papers.  And that this even includes essay questions on exams.  I got a BC in this class, the only grade below B on my transcript.  But I learned. 


  1. Good for you. Tell us about these slaves here before the Pilgrims...


  2. I read a book 5ish years ago about slavery, the colonies/US was far from the main offender, Brazil was number 1 importing over a million, our own shame was in the 600,000 range. England, I believe was the primary freighter of slaves, Belgium I think was next. The sellers or enablers in Africa were for the most part Africans.

    This book had a couple chapters about indentured servants. The number of white people arriving in the new world who had contracts, some slave like contracts, to work off their transportation cost is a lost story. Millions were in this situation, and the number who ran off from who ever they were to work for was staggering, there was a whole business of bounty hunters looking for runaway's. Jokingly, and partially right, I can conclude we are a nation spawned of abusive taskmasters and cheaters running out on their agreements.

  3. notacynic:

    Were you using Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States" as a textbook in the class?

  4. Well, Sarge, contrary to what many of us learned in grade school/high school, the American colonies were largely financial enterprises. The Pilgrims/Puritans were one exception, such strict interpreters of "holy scripture" that they couldn't get along in English society. They didn't do all that well over here, either.

    Anyway, Jamestown, VA was the first colony to survive and it was based on exporting tobacco. Planting tending, and harvesting tobacco is not pleasant work and the god damned natives kept running west whenever the white man stuck a hoe in their hands. They weren't about to offer high wages (you know, a market based solution), so slaves were imported.

  5. Yes, Mr. Fringe, our history (and I really mean human history) is based on economic exploitation from as far back as we can see to now.


  6. Whit, we were not, though I had read Zinn's History only about a year previous and was reminded of it frequently. We used Tindall and Shi's America: A Narrative History. Also some primary sources, like Columbus's letters back to Ferdy and Isabella. "With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want."

    History isn't overly pretty.

  7. interesting article - I too - took many History/Philosophy classes (more than I needed) and enjoyed them all - and if I had it all to do again I'd probably Major in History and be a school-teacher.

    ah, if we only had the 'youth drink' I read about on Whit's blog

  8. I just started reading Howard Zinn, your comments reminded me about that. Have added that other book to my books to read list.

  9. ICE if I was even twenty years younger I would keep pushing, Master's, Ph.D. and try to get a gig as a University Professor. Seems like my dream job. But, not practical at my present age (51).

  10. You should post your thoughts on Zinn, when you're finished, Skinny.

    Tindall and Shi are interesting, too. They call it a "narrative," right in the title. I guess the theme running through it is "progress." They do a good job at getting to the people behind the events.

    Who'd've thought history could be so interesting?

  11. The more you learn about history as an adult, the more you learn that you learned nothing in elementary and middle school.

    Perhaps one day I shall partake in a class or two...

  12. You know, BC, it's not so much that they "lied" to us, then. It's just that they gave us the quick version. Sort of like Classic Comics.