Friday, July 26, 2013

Some thoughts on separation of church and state

It has recently struck me how many liberals have spoken in favor of getting rid of laws with a religious basis. In the name of separation of church and state, many liberals try to get rid of laws against gay marriage by pointing to the religious basis of many arguments supporting them.

This seems to me a fundamentally flawed interpretation of separation of church and state, for the following reason: Many laws supported by atheists and agnostics are, for many people, grounded in religious belief. The Ten Commandments say "Thou shalt not kill" (the basis of laws against murder), "Thou shalt not steal" (the basis for laws against theft), and "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor" (the basis for laws against perjury). If we were to discard any law with a religious basis, we would have to do away with laws against theft, perjury, and murder, which are supported largely on the basis of religion. The harm to society of doing such is self-evident, and so clearly, discarding laws with a religious basis is unwise.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

My tremendous passion for history

Most of my Facebook and Blogger friends have seen my posts about history. Whether it's talking about the latest historical book or documentary that I've watched, or noting the anniversary of an important historical event, or even posting about a major historical individual on their birthday, I love posting about history. A few people have given me positive feedback on these historical posts.

But I have never, as yet, talked publicly about how I got interested in history. At the risk of boring my readers, I will now share some of the story about how I acquired my tremendous passion for history.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

My favorite history documentaries

Ancient empires

Egypt's Golden Empire (PBS Empires) - 2 ½ hours

The Greeks: Crucible of Civilization (PBS Empires) - 2 ½ hours

Rome: Rise and Fall of an Empire (History Channel) - 10 hours

Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire (BBC, requires European DVD player) - 6 hours

The Roman Empire in the First Century (PBS Empires) - 3 ½ hours

Art history

Kenneth Clark's Civilisation (BBC, art history) - 11 hours
              (available on YouTube - link to first episode)

The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance (PBS Empires) - 4 hours

Religious history

Kingdom of David: The Saga of the Israelites (PBS Empires) - 4 hours

Ancient Roads from Christ to Constantine - 5 ½ hours

Martin Luther (PBS Empires) - 2 hours

David Starkey's The Six Wives of Henry VIII - 3 hours

History of the British Isles generally

Simon Schama's A History of Britain (BBC, with American financing) - 15 hours
              (available on YouTube - link to first episode)

David Starkey's Monarchy (U. K.) - 17 hours

Michael Wood's The Story of England (BBC) - 6 hours

Neil Oliver's A History of Scotland (BBC Scotland) - 10 hours

Huw Edwards' The Story of Wales (BBC Wales) - 6 hours

Fergal Keane's The Story of Ireland (BBC Northern Ireland) - 5 hours

Andrew Marr's Modern Britain 1901-2007 (BBC - requires European DVD player) - 10 hours

Specific countries (outside of the British Isles)

Alistair Cooke's America: A Personal History of the United States (BBC, requires European DVD player) - 10 hours

Canada: A People's History (CBC and Société de Radio-Canada) - 32 hours
              (available on YouTube - link to first episode)

Michael Wood's The Story of India (BBC) - 6 hours

History of the English language

Melvyn Bragg's The Adventure of English (British-made) - 6 hours
              (available on YouTube - link to first episode)

The rest of these are in something approaching chronological order.

Famous reigning queens

David Starkey's Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth the First) - 3 hours

Catherine the Great (PBS) - 2 hours

The Spanish Conquest

Michael Wood's Conquistadors (BBC) - 4 hours

Colonial America

The Pilgrims (PBS) - 2 hours

The Seven Years' War (French and Indian War)

The War That Made America (PBS) - 4 hours

The American Revolution (the War of Independence)

Overviews of the war

Liberty! The American Revolution (PBS) - 6 hours

History Channel's "The Revolution" - 10 hours

Founding Father biographies

Benjamin Franklin (PBS) - 3 hours

George Washington (History Channel) - 1 ½ hours

Alexander Hamilton (PBS) - 2 hours - available on YouTube

Founding Fathers (History Channel) - 3 hours

Founding Brothers (History Channel) - 3 hours

John and Abigail Adams (PBS) - 2 hours - available on YouTube

Thomas Jefferson (PBS, Ken Burns) - 3 hours

Frontier exploration

Lewis and Clark (PBS, Ken Burns) - 4 hours

The French Revolution/Napoleonic Era

Marie Antoinette (PBS) - 2 hours

The French Revolution (History Channel) - 1 ½ hours - available on YouTube

Napoleon Bonaparte (PBS Empires) - 4 hours - available on YouTube - link to first episode

The War of 1812 (North America)

The War of 1812 (PBS) - 2 hours - available online

Dolley Madison (PBS) - 1 ½ hours

Andrew Jackson (PBS) - 2 hours - available on YouTube

The Mexican-American War

The U.S.-Mexican War 1846-1848 - 4 hours - available on YouTube - link to first half

The Gold Rush - 2 hours - available on YouTube

The American Civil War

The Abolitionists (PBS) - 3 hours

The Civil War (overview by PBS, Ken Burns) - 11 hours

Reconstruction: The Second Civil War (PBS) - 3 hours - available on YouTube - link to first episode

Civil War biographies

Abraham and Mary Lincoln (PBS) - 6 hours

Jefferson Davis (privately made) - 3 ½ hours

Ulysses S. Grant (PBS) - 3 ½ hours

Various other American topics

Transcontinental Railroad (PBS) - 2 hours - available on YouTube

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony (PBS, Ken Burns) - 3 ½ hours

Murder of a President: James A. Garfield (PBS) - 2 hours

Mark Twain (PBS, Ken Burns) - 3 ½ hours

New York Underground (PBS) - 1 hour

Spanish-American War (PBS) - 2 hours

Theodore Roosevelt (PBS) - 3 ½ hours

Horatio's Drive: America's First Road Trip (PBS, Ken Burns) - 2 hours

Panama Canal (PBS) - 1 ½ hours - available online

History of American business

The Men Who Built America (History Channel) - 6 hours

Edison: The Father of Invention (PBS) - 2 hours

Tesla: Master of Lightning (PBS) - 1 ½ hours

Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio (PBS, Ken Burns) - 2 hours

Henry Ford (PBS) - 2 hours - available online

Walt Disney (PBS) - 4 hours

World War One

The Great War (BBC, interviews veterans) - 17 hours

World War I (CBS, the complete story) - 10 hours

Woodrow Wilson (PBS) - 3 hours - available on YouTube - link to first episode

The Storm That Swept Mexico (PBS) - 2 hours - available on YouTube

World War Two

The War (PBS, Ken Burns) - 15 hours (focuses on United States)

The World at War (British series) - 23 hours (talks about all the major powers)

Biographies of major figures of World War Two

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (PBS) - 4 hours - available online

Winston Churchill (British-made) - 3 hours

Harry Truman (PBS) - 4 hours - available online

Dwight D. Eisenhower (PBS) - 2 ½ hours - link to first episode

The Cold War (other)

The Cold War (CNN) - 18 hours - link to first episode

The Korean War (Timeless Media) - 5 hours

Cold War political biographies (other)

John F. Kennedy (PBS) - 3 ½ hours

Robert F. Kennedy (PBS) - 2 hours

Lyndon B. Johnson (PBS) - 3 ½ hours - available online

Richard Nixon (PBS) - 2 ½ hours - available online

20th century American race relations

Jackie Robinson (PBS) - 4 hours

General American history in the 20th century

Baseball (PBS miniseries, Ken Burns) - 19 hours

Jazz (PBS miniseries, Ken Burns) - 19 hours

Monday, July 1, 2013

A review of "Canada: A People's History"

"It shall be lawful for the Queen, by and with the Advice of Her Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council, to declare by Proclamation that, on and after a Day therein appointed, not being more than Six Months after the passing of this Act, the Provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick shall form and be One Dominion under the Name of Canada; and on and after that Day those Three Provinces shall form and be One Dominion under that Name accordingly."

- Canada's "Constitution Act of 1867," also known as the "British North America Act of 1867"

I would like to offer my American perspective to this 32-hour Canadian series. I hope Canadians will not mind. I got this series because I was interested in the history of America's northern neighbor. Canada is one of the United States' biggest trading partners, and being interested in doing trade with Canada, and able to speak both French and English, I thought it would be helpful to know something about Canadian history and culture.

This documentary did not disappoint. It was dramatic and interesting, and I learned much about Canadian history. Having read from many online comments that even Canadians learned something about their history by watching this series, I am struck by its informative and educational power. It is also very moving in places, with great acting, music, and narration. Those looking to learn something about the country will not be disappointed.

The Battle of the Plains of Abraham, a major battle in the Seven Years' War - Quebec, 1759
(an important year in Canadian history, because it was the year that Canada became British)

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