Category: History


Desiderius Erasmus: A Brief Biographical Sketch

Desiderius Erasmus is one of the most influential Catholic theologians in the entire history of the faith.  He is remembered not only as a prominent member of the Church but also as a great Humanist.  He took a middle path approach to resolving conflicts between religion and rationalism.  He was despised by both sides for his preference for compromise over conflict. But his positions and views were based on pragmatism and not cowardice.  The proper way, for Erasmus, was to never resort to fanaticism even if one is right.  He understood well the nature of evil and he too hoped to see truth replace error and right triumph over wrong. But

“he showed discretion in his choice of tactics. If you wish to bring about peacefully true and lasting reforms, you do not, like the fanatics, indiscriminately attack not only the ideas you oppose but also the honesty, integrity, and sincerity of those who hold them. If you wish to convince a person he should change his ways, . . . Read More

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How did the Lewis & Clark Expedition help America expand?

The Lewis & Clark Expedition is one of the pivotal moments in the history of the United States.  Two centuries ago, under the orders of the then President Thomas Jefferson, Captain Meriwether Lewis and Captain William Clark set about with a team of thirty three personnel to explore, observe and chart the vast expanses of territory to the west of the continent.  Titled very aptly the Corps of Discovery, the team started their journey in Wood River, Illinois in 1804 and reached the Pacific Ocean on the other side of the continent a year later.  The entire route taken by the team measured 3700 miles.  It covered several states, including “Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington”. (“Lewis and Clark Bicentennial,” 2001) The expedition marked a key event in the course of the nation’s history.  This is acknowledged during the bicentennial celebrations of the event that transpired in 2005.  On the . . . Read More

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Political Violence in Germany in the lead up to Nazi capture of power

Document analysis: Extract from Bernt Engelmann’s autobiographical memoir, In Hitler’s Germany, (1986), pp.1-4

While political violence during the reign of the Third Reich is copiously documented, the intimidation and oppression in the lead up to Nazi capture of power is less well known.  Bernt Engelmann’s autobiographical memoir In Hitler’s Germany, written half a century after the event in 1986, serves to fill this lacuna.  In the extract in question Engelmann recounts a dramatic event he experienced when he was a school kid growing up in late Weimar Germany.  Even eight months before Germany came under the grip of the Third Reich there were troubling early signs of what is in store.  Engelmann’s Jewish French teacher (Dr.Levy) was vilified and victimized right before his eyes and for not fault of his. Merely by the fact of his religious faith and by his legitimate act of removing a Swastika flag from the school mast, Dr. . . . Read More

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Documentary Film Analysis: The Journey of Man by Dr. Spencer Wells

The Journey of Man, presented by Dr. Spencer Wells, is a very important documentary film that sends out a message of human solidarity.  As Dr. Wells says in the introduction, it is the retracing of the all routes of human migration out of Africa in the last 50,000 years.  It is a fascinating story constructed on a grand timescale.  The drama and significance of this story lies in the high stakes involved for those early humans who ventured into alien territories. There are several facets and themes to the documentary film.  But the most striking and profound is that of human solidarity amidst diversity.  This essay will expound on this thesis.

In this most compelling story of natural history, the pivotal moment was the great Ice Age that set in 50 thousand years ago.  Up until this point, the entire human population (technically of the species Homo sapiens) were confined to just the African continent.  This is understandable, for most of the early hominids . . . Read More

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Asian American Woman before 1950s

It is fair to state that the status of Asian American women before 1950s was not any better than that suffered by minorities from any racial-ethnic group during this period.  This is amply attested by first-hand accounts of discrimination and maltreatment by early immigrants. We also have copious legal indictments handing penalties, jail sentences and deportations to early wave of Asian immigrants to the ‘land of the free’. Considering that it was beginning from the second half of the 19th century that steady streams of Asian immigration poured into America, it is apt to claim that their struggle spanned a century, ending with the Civil Rights movement of 1960s.  Prior to this the community endured a century of hardships that mitigated their integration into mainstream American socio-culture.  If racial prejudice was a sizeable challenge on its own, the issues were compounded for womenfolk.  The rest of this essay is an overview of the Asian American experience . . . Read More

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The Origins of Negro Slavery by Eric Williams

1. In sum, what is the Williams thesis? What is his main point and central argument?

Eric Williams is an important black intellectual who witnessed, documented and analyzed African slavery in America firsthand. His main argument is that multiple factors were behind the origins of Negro slavery. The powerful papacy of the Roman Catholic Church, in collusion with powerful European Kingdoms of Spain, Portugal, and later Britain and France, permitted the practice of slavery. Since African Negroes were not of Christian faith, they were deemed infidels by the Catholic Church along with Muslims, Pagans and the rest. Williams contends that economic exploitation went hand in hand with religious dogma in perpetrating slavery. Theories of white racial supremacy were another source of this hideous institution.

2. The Williams thesis critiques which interpretations of the origins of plantation slavery? In other words, which other explanations of the origins . . . Read More

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Ah Q and Hsiang Tzu: Two Symbols of a Society in Transition

It is fair to claim that the first half of the twentieth century was the most turbulent in modern Chinese history. The revolutionary fervor, mixed with the wave of Western cultural influences, created a national identity crisis in these decades. The two characters in question transcend their fiction and represent the society at large during this period.  They stand for two contrasted Chinese identities that speak of the good and evil in the Chinese character. This essay will elaborate on how Ah Q and Hsiang Tzu symbolically represent a nation, culture and society that was in transition.

Ah Q is a powerful yet critical portrayal of young Chinese men at the turn of the twentieth century.  As the novelist Lu Xun introduces him, he is full of folly and vainglory. He is also shown to possess the vice of sloth and lack meaningful goals in life.  Lu Xun’s main concern with the novella is not the moral dimension but the social and political ones.  In this view, Ah Q is the . . . Read More

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St. Augustine’s spiritual journey of divine reverence as evidenced in his Confessions

Although Augustine of Hippo’s early life was disordered and undisciplined, his adult life is marked by maturity and spiritual searching.  His steadfast spiritual journey – one identified with penance and dedication – will lead him to a profound understanding of the message of Christ.  He attains a refined reverence for the omnipotent will of God.  Although St. Augustine lived at an age that was far removed from St. Francis Assisi’s, some of the values cherished and preached by the latter is easily applicable to the former’s life. Reverence is one such Franciscan value that is represented by Augustine’s lifelong spiritual journey. The rest of this essay will highlight this connection by citing relevant passages from the Confessions as well as scholarly commentary given upon it.

One of the early influences on St. Augustine was the Greek theologian Plotinus, whose famous words ‘alone with the Alone’ made an impact on the young aspirant. This peculiar theory . . . Read More

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How might a theological anthropology enable Christians to resist ideologies of racial oppression in church and society?

Introduction

Despite Christian doctrine’s claims of all men being created in the image of God, the Church has historically been guilty of racial discrimination.  The very notion of slavery goes against Christian theology.  Western Christianity has especially failed to adequately interfere with this social malice in the centuries past.  In contrast, among cultures of the newer churches around the world there is more communal harmony and acceptance. This is evident in indigenous peoples from less materialistic and less consumerist cultures that practice Christianity.  There, we find “traditions of cherishing every creature, however small, and of living in close and respectful relationship with the earth itself. Openness to traditions like this could lead the church into a renewed relationship with the Creator and the creation, and to a deeper respect for life itself.” (McRae-McMahon, 1998)  This essay will elaborate how theological . . . Read More

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Critique of President Barack Obama’s inauguration speech delivered on January 21, 2013

Barack Obama has a reputation as a skilful and fluent public speaker. His address to the nation on the occasion of the inauguration of his second term in Presidency underscores this reputation.  But style is one thing and substance is another.  The crux of his message was for American people to expect no radical changes to the general direction of policies. Although delivered in all eloquence and with a sense of importance, a careful scrutiny of its content would reveal its vapidity.

But looking at the speech as an artefact of creative writing, there is some skill in the writing and delivery. For example the organization, punctuation and rhythm of the speech, there is merit to be found. The phrasing, pauses and iterations were so conceived as fitting to an oral presentation.  In this regard the speech worked well with the large audience at the Capitol Hill.  One can witness members of the audience hooting, nodding or clapping in approval during pauses in the speech.  The . . . Read More

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