aximilian Schich, an art historian at the University of Texas at Dallas, and his colleagues used the Google-owned knowledge base, Freebase, to find 120,000 individuals who were notable enough in their life-times that the dates and locations of their births and deaths were recorded.
The list includes people ranging from Solon, the Greek lawmaker and poet, who was born in 637 bc in Athens, and died in 557 bc in Cyprus, to Jett Travolta — son of the actor John Travolta — who was born in 1992 in Los Angeles, California, and died in 2009 in the Bahamas.
The team used those data to create a movie that starts in 600 bc and ends in 2012. Each person’s birth place appears on a map of the world as a blue dot and their death as a red dot. The result is a way to visualize cultural history — as a city becomes more important, more notable people die there. The work that the animated map is based on was reported on 31 July in Science1.
The animation reflects some of what was known already. Rome gave way to Paris as a cultural centre, which was eventually overtaken by Los Angeles and New York. But it also puts figures and dates on these shifts — and allows for precise comparisons. For example, the data suggest that Paris overtook Rome as a cultural hub in 1789.
Around the year 1500, an assistant to the Venetian ambassador to England was struck by the strange attitude to parenting that he had encountered on his travels.
He wrote to his masters in Venice that the English kept their children at home "till the age of seven or nine at the utmost" but then "put them out, both males and females, to hard service in the houses of other people, binding them generally for another seven or nine years". The unfortunate children were sent away regardless of their class, "for everyone, however rich he may be, sends away his children into the houses of others, whilst he, in return, receives those of strangers into his own".
It was for the children's own good, he was told - but he suspected the English preferred having other people's children in the household because they could feed them less and work them harder.
The clip is part of “Nixon’s the One,” a television series created by Shearer and the Nixon scholar Stanley Kutler. It was first broadcast in Britain earlier this year—a savvy choice for a show whose humor depends upon a taut sense of discomfort—and is slated to début in the United States this fall. The script is taken entirely from the Nixon tapes—the audio captured by the voice-activated recorders that Nixon had installed in the White House—and from notes from Nixon’s associates. The selected scenes are reproduced as faithfully as possible—“every word, every pause, to the best of our ability, every inflection,” Shearer told me. It’s hard to think of a more apt way to revisit the tenure of a President whose rise and fall was bound, at every juncture, to recordings of one kind or another.
Shearer says that the show sprang out of a longstanding obsession with Nixon, beginning during the Nixon-Kennedy debates, when he observed a “bizarre and remarkable unintentional humor” in the politician. Later, during the 1968 race, “as I watched him campaign and become President, it became obvious that this was a man who, fairly uniquely, spent about eighty-five per cent of his waking energy suppressing his genuine emotional responses to anything, and the other fifteen per cent blurting them out in the most untoward circumstances,” Shearer said. He wants to bring that inadvertent humor “back to the public consciousness.”
Along with Kutler, Shearer (who is a font of Nixon anecdotes) listened to hundreds of hours of the Nixon tapes, many of which have not been transcribed, to select scenes to feature on the show. Shearer has spent so much time listening to and analyzing Nixon that he very tentatively admits that he might be in better touch with Nixon’s emotions that Nixon himself was. (“I’d be pretentious and arrogant to say yes, but I’d be lying to say no.”)
A friend suggested the Feminist Mormon Housewives podcast (also on iTunes) for learning about the history of Mormon polygamy. My heritage is Mormon so I've been listening to a story that has been obscured and whitewashed over the years. It is a one year project focused on the history and is presented chronologically. I started around episode 20, but went back and started at the beginning. A fascinating period - the fanaticism of the church during the 1850s - its reformation and wars - is amazing. Brigham Young had created a 19th century theocratic equivalent of North Korea - episodes 43 and 44 are particularly interesting if you are curious about that period.
The historical podcasts are flagged as part of the 'year of polygamy' project - the remainder of the site appears to be for Mormon feminists and their struggles with the faith.
These are often over an hour long - just the thing for long commutes, trips or exercise sessions. Lindsay, the host, has done a good deal of work and regularly involves professional and amateur historians with links to sources.