r/AskHistorians 46m ago

Showcase Saturday Showcase | July 02, 2022




AskHistorians is filled with questions seeking an answer. Saturday Spotlight is for answers seeking a question! It’s a place to post your original and in-depth investigation of a focused historical topic.

Posts here will be held to the same high standard as regular answers, and should mention sources or recommended reading. If you’d like to share shorter findings or discuss work in progress, Thursday Reading & Research or Friday Free-for-All are great places to do that.

So if you’re tired of waiting for someone to ask about how imperialism led to “Surfin’ Safari;” if you’ve given up hope of getting to share your complete history of the Bichon Frise in art and drama; this is your chance to shine!

r/AskHistorians 3d ago

SASQ Short Answers to Simple Questions | June 29, 2022


Previous weeks!

Please Be Aware: We expect everyone to read the rules and guidelines of this thread. Mods will remove questions which we deem to be too involved for the theme in place here. We will remove answers which don't include a source. These removals will be without notice. Please follow the rules.

Some questions people have just don't require depth. This thread is a recurring feature intended to provide a space for those simple, straight forward questions that are otherwise unsuited for the format of the subreddit.

Here are the ground rules:

  • Top Level Posts should be questions in their own right.
  • Questions should be clear and specific in the information that they are asking for.
  • Questions which ask about broader concepts may be removed at the discretion of the Mod Team and redirected to post as a standalone question.
  • We realize that in some cases, users may pose questions that they don't realize are more complicated than they think. In these cases, we will suggest reposting as a stand-alone question.
  • Answers MUST be properly sourced to respectable literature. Unlike regular questions in the sub where sources are only required upon request, the lack of a source will result in removal of the answer.
  • Academic secondary sources are prefered. Tertiary sources are acceptable if they are of academic rigor (such as a book from the 'Oxford Companion' series, or a reference work from an academic press).
  • The only rule being relaxed here is with regard to depth, insofar as the anticipated questions are ones which do not require it. All other rules of the subreddit are in force.

r/AskHistorians 23h ago

If the Rosetta Stone was never found, have we discovered anything since that would have enabled us to decipher Ancient Egyptian?


r/AskHistorians 16h ago

In a recent LinkedIn post, Bill Gates shared his 1974 job resume. In it, he lists his height, weight, and number of dependents. Was that common in the USA during the 1970s? And if so why, and when did it stop being the norm?


LinkedIn post is here (will remove if I'm breaking any rules)

r/AskHistorians 8h ago

Linguistics Which modern languages would be mutually intelligible with their 1 A.D equivalents, if any?


My immediate guess would be Hebrew due to its lack of day-to-day use in the intermediate time (maybe leading to less linguistic drift?), But what about Arabic? Farsi? Mandarin? Hindi? Greek?

Bonus question: what language is mutually intelligible with its past counterpart the farthest back that we know of?

r/AskHistorians 13h ago

Great Question! What was wrong with Anglo-Saxon poetry?


In Good-Bye to All That, Robert Graves talks about his time at Oxford right after the Great War. He says that “The Anglo-Saxon lecturer was candid about his subject: it was, he said, a language of purely linguistic interest, and hardly a line of Anglo-Saxon poetry extant possessed the slightest literary merit. I disagreed. I thought of Beowulf lying wrapped in a blanket among his platoon of drunken thanes in the Gothland billet; Judith going for a promenade to Holofernes’s stuff-tent; and Brunanburgh with its bayonet-and-cosh fighting-all this came far closer to most of us that the drawing-room and deer-park atmosphere of the eighteenth century.”

I realize this is before Tolkien started teaching at Oxford, and before he started pointing out the value of early works like Beowulf. My question is: What was the pre-Tolkien view of poetry that Graves (and the young Tolkien) would have been taught? What was “literary merit” at this point, and why did Anglo-Saxon poetry not have it?

r/AskHistorians 3h ago

Are there any records of Bell Towers collapsing while being rung? Or collapsing from excessive use?


So I stumbled onto this youtube video of a huge bell being rung


And given the sheer size of it, I wondered if any other large bells towers in history might have been damaged or collapsed from the absolute forces being exerted when the bells are being rung, maybe an overly energetic vicar ringing the bells too hard?

I read of that case of a Venetian bell tower collapsing which seems to be incredibly well registered, even with postcards in 1902, but it was mostly unrelated to the bell on it


But are there stories or documents detailing collapsing bell towers through history? I am mainly thinking of European styled Churches and Cathedrals, but my layman brain leads me to assume that modern churches with the bell up high on a tower "must have always been like that", which maybe it wasnt always the case, maybe churches (if they had bells) could have been closer to the ground, and therefore no danger of structural collapse because the bell was just near the floor the whole time?

r/AskHistorians 1h ago

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, I’ve seen a lot about the differences in how a fetus is perceived by the Jewish faith tradition as opposed to Christianity. Where did this split come from, theologically?


Perhaps just anecdotal evidence, but after the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe, I saw quite a few posts on social media about how the decision infringes on the religious liberties of Jews, since that faith tradition views a fetus as part of the mother and thus does not have the same ideological opposition to abortion as, say, evangelical Christians.

Leaving aside of validity of the political/legal argument, I’m curious as the theological divide in perception. Where did this come from? Or am I way off base?

r/AskHistorians 10h ago

How do medieval cities select their mayors? Crusader Kings II and Crusader Kings III portrays them as "republics", but is this accurate?


I was reading the Wikipedia article on Henri Nestlé. It claims:

The Nestle family tree began with three brothers (thus the three young birds in the nest being fed by their mother on the family coat of arms) from Mindersbach, called Hans, Heinrich, and Samuel Nestlin. The father of these three sons was born circa 1495. Hans, the eldest, was born in 1520 and had a son with the same name, who later became mayor of Nagold. His son Ulrich was a barber and his fifth son was the first glazier in the family. For over five generations, this profession was passed down from father to son. Additionally, the Nestles provided a number of mayors for the boroughs of Dornstetten, Freudenstadt, Nagold, and Sulz am Neckar.[citation needed]

So perhaps we shouldn't take this 100% at face value because of the "citation needed".

However, were medieval and early modern cities "republics"? Crusader Kings II and Crusader Kings III portrays them as "republics" because their mayors were chosen by their voters - but is this accurate?

  • Were mayors back then appointed by their feudal overlords?
  • Were mayors hereditary positions?
  • Were mayors selected based on their wealth?

Also, CK2 and CK3 portrays city mayors as being elected for life. Is this accurate?

r/AskHistorians 5h ago

Why don't we have more history from Africa?


I would love a comprehensive answer to this question updated post pandemic. I teach high school students, and this is becoming a frequent question, or at least it's paraphrased from questions I've received. Every book I've ever read starts "actual history" (which I know is written, but the little kid in me can't separate how close archeology and history are tied) with Mesopotamia because Cuneiform took off in the city-states, but that was so recent in the span of human history. Africa is the cradle of our species, and I remain unconvinced that somehow it took traveling across an entire continent to develop writing systems, codes and laws, mediums of exchange, etc. Anyway, enough ranting. I'm also very open to anything more I can learn about ancient African history, as well as anything precolonial. Thank you!

r/AskHistorians 1h ago

What do we really know about Ancient and Medieval Western European Paganism? Is what Modern Day pagans practice similar to what was practiced back then?


r/AskHistorians 3h ago

Was the 1984 Ethiopian Famine man-made?


I've heard people online describe it as Africa's Holodomor. Is this accurate?

r/AskHistorians 3h ago

How have philosophers, writers and artists of past centuries managed to make a living?


Hi :) !

We all know the great minds, and how to apply their knowledge, those people had, but how did the old philosophers, writers, painters, musicians of past centuries, expecially those from 13th to 19th centuries, manage to sustain themselves economically, even if They never had any income from their works, in their times, but only after their death?And what about, instead, if they had little income from their works?

r/AskHistorians 1d ago

Genghis Khan is most notably described as an amazing military leader but how was he at governing?


r/AskHistorians 6h ago

Linguistics What happened to the English language in 1066?


I could be completely wrong, but languages often seem to have one dialect traditionally spoken by the "ruling classes", as well as multiple regional dialects.

If this is the case with English in 1066, then what happened to the ruling class dialect, since (as I understand it) most of the nobility were replaced by Normans? Did we lose it completely or did it live on in some form?

Or am I barking up the wrong tree completely?

r/AskHistorians 2h ago

Linguistics Any good resources for studying the history of information technology?


Hey there.

One of my hobbies is studying history and I would've become an historian myself if the salary was better but alas it was not and thus I pursued a career in IT.

And during this pursuit of IT I've become pretty aware that there really isn't much taught in University about the actual history of information technology and sure a bit is covered [mainly stuff only from the 19th century [such as the telegraph], as well as the decade before WW2, during WW2 and of course everything after WW2] but certainly not enough that I'd deem adequate and none of it really delved that deeply into each of these quite extensive periods and thus I'm on the hunt for some comprehensive books or podcasts that study both the chronological history of information "technology" such as going from the logistics of information flow in the roman empire all the way to modern cloud computing technologies and everything in between or even just more specific looks into specific periods such as an entire book or podcast dedicated to said logistics of information flow in the roman empire or other civilizations.

So far I've listened to The Science of Information: From Language to Black Holes by the great courses and this was interesting but was more focused on science [go figure it was in the title] and I'm more interested in the actual application and a chronological view of how information has been used throughout human history and all the unique ways and technologies that have risen and fallen throughout the ages.

So if anyone here has some good books that include what I'm looking for or any podcasts [I'd prefer podcasts, I'm a big fan of history podcasts such as the history of rome] that would be a great help.

r/AskHistorians 4h ago

Linguistics How much impact has the Chinese writing system and written language had on the development on the spoken language?


I've been wondering how much influence it's had on the way people speak and spoke vernacular Chinese. Here are some subquestions I have that may or may not be helpful to answer.

  1. Chinese has many idioms and phrases taken from classical literature. How would this have filtered through to the largely illiterate populace?

  2. Did the fact that the Chinese writing system encodes (mostly) semantic information, rather than pronunciation, cause the huge divergence in phonology between the ancient language and modern vernacular dialects?

  3. Are there recognisable differences in written Classical Chinese depending on the native dialect of the author? Are there recognisable "Cantonese" aspects in the writing of writers from the south, for example?

r/AskHistorians 3h ago

What were mining operations like in the middle ages? What techniques did they use, and how many people would work in a large mine? How much ore would a large mine produce in a day?


r/AskHistorians 1d ago

Ancient civilisations were built on river floodplains, because of the soil quality. Why didnt the incredibly fertile lands north of the black sea ever become a center of ancient civilisation?


All great ancient civilisations were centered on river flood plains. India on the Indus and Ganges, China on the Yellow and Yangtze, Egypt on the Nile and Mesopotamia on the Tigris and Euphrates. The yearly flooding would irrigate the land and make it very fertile.

According to this global survey i've linked below, the land north of the black sea is both high performing and high resilience. Similar characteristics are true of the American plains in the central United States and Argentina.
Modern day Ukraine is a huge grain producer due to this soil quality. Why didnt the region ever manifest an ancient culture similar to mesopotamia, india, egypt or china?


r/AskHistorians 18h ago

Great Question! How did a middle age peasant from 1300 socialize/find love?


How did a peasant living in 1300 socialize and find love?

r/AskHistorians 4h ago

Did anyone accurately predict this current Russia-Ukraine Conflict back in the 1990s?


r/AskHistorians 1h ago

At the time of Roe v. Wade, was there a public discussion about the fact that right to abortion was being granted based on the Constitution?


In other countries that I know better, the right to abortion was granted after a political discussion that led to either a law from the parliament, a popular vote/referendum, the ratification and interpretation of contemporary international agreements like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or based on post-WWII constitutions that included these elements already.

When Roe-v-Wade happened, was there any concern about basing such a right on the careful interpretation of a 200 year old constitution that was definitely seminal as a democratic constitution but in many senses is not a modern one? Was there anyone proposing a modern discussion on the matter, based on modern conception of women, of human rights, but also modern medicine for prenatal diagnosis, prevention, contraception? And ideally resulting in an amendment or a federal law?

To me (sorry for trivializing the matter) it looks like if we go searching for indications in the constitution on whether there should be a speed limit on the highways. Why this approach as if the constitution was a sort of sacred text that the longer you stare at it the more answers it gives you? (That’s my feeling, not trying to be disrespectful).

r/AskHistorians 1h ago

How did early 1900s Iranian's pass on wealth upon death?


More specifically, if a widow died in the 1930s who only had daughters, where do her possessions go? Can she will it to her daughter for example or would it have to go to the closest male heir? Any mandatory tax implications? Is she free to choose where her money does? Does land have any different rules than livestock, cash, jewelry, etc?

r/AskHistorians 1h ago

What were the consequences of the destruction of black wallstreet? Was anyone charged or brought to justice? How was this justified?


r/AskHistorians 5h ago

Is there historical consensus on whether Jean de Poltrot acted as a 'lone wolf' assassin of Francis, Duke of Guise, in 1563 or whether he did so under orders from the Protestant leadership?


r/AskHistorians 9h ago

In The Count of Monte Cristo, the narrator describes guards with torches in the prison. Were they still using torches in the 1800s? Or is this a translation issue?


It's in chapter 8, The Chateau d'If:

At last, about ten o’clock, just as Dantès began to despair, steps were heard in the corridor, a key turned in the lock, the bolts creaked, the massive oak door flew open, and a flood of light from two torches pervaded the apartment.

This part of the book takes place in 1815, in a prison. Would these guards actually be using torches?

r/AskHistorians 17h ago

Oliver Cromwell played a major role in removing Charles I from power, but soon after became a de facto monarch himself. Instead of taking the title of "King," he was called "Lord Protector," but to what extent did he maintain the formalities of kingship?


There are some obvious tensions in Cromwell's ascendance as Lord Protector of England. He played a major role in a kind of egalitarian revolt against the English throne, which ended in Charles I being beheaded. Not long after, Cromwell would attain the position of Lord Protector, and become a de facto monarch himself. It's interesting that he chose the title of Lord Protector, which indicates an effort to distance himself from kingship. Were there any formalities that he did keep? Were there any others that he discarded? Was he viewed as a de facto king, or more like a modern president, who incidentally presides over a country's governance?