Musings of an Anglican/Episcopal Priest

Tag: history

The Twilight of the Greatest Generation & the loss of Memory

As we grow further removed in history from World War II and D Day, especially as that generation dies and fewer people have even heard first-hand accounts from family members and others they know, people will need more reminders of the significance. The map below is one reminder. 50% of deaths from allied civilians. A trial everywhere, but in some cases completely staggering–a 25% death toll in Belarus for example.

And while a lot of folks may not realize it, for the reasons given above–the postwar pursuit of economic integration, free trade, and the emergence of the European Union (with the UK as an important ballast to prevent domination by Germany or France)–were integral to the peace that emerged and the fact that there hasn’t been another conflagration in Europe.

Cordell Hull

Tennessean Cordell Hull (there’s a building named after him on the square in Gallatin, and he was a graduate of the Normal School at Bowling Green KY, which I’m guessing was a predecessor to Western Kentucky University) was a major architect of this and champion of the insight that economic integration fosters peace. Not without flaws–he opposed admitting Jewish refugees fleeing from the Nazis and thus did not rise above the lesser instincts of his day on that front–he nonetheless advocated for a perspective on international trade and peace that has proven insightful, durable, and mostly accurate.

The breakdown of the postwar consensus, the likely departure of the UK from the EU, and greater moves toward nationalism and economic protectionism, especially when the advocates display very little awareness of the broader implications of those changes, when the broader implications–political and social–of the postwar policies were arguably the major point, with base level economics being secondary. This latter issue was also in play with the short-sighted rejection of the Trans-pacific Partnership trade agreement by both candidate Hillary Clinton and now-President Trump. Trump’s issues with China can be read in part as a result of the fact that the multilateral economic agreement meant to bind Pacific rim powers more closely to the United States and hem in Chinese influence, was rejected in favor of his arrogant attempts at bilateral agreements.

Hull was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1945 for his instrumental work in founding the United Nations. Funny that the apocalyptic preachers of my youth who so often used the UN as a Boogieman, never mentioned that a Southerner–a Tennessean!–was integral to its founding. If they had, regional loyalties are such that it might have limited the effectiveness of their message.

As one essay about Hull and his work prior to WWII put it, “Mark Twain said, ‘you can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.’ Secretary Hull and the commercial policy planners foresaw an integrated world economy where peace would be built on trade liberalization. But most Americans could not yet picture that world” (Available here–requires registration). Now, the problem seems to be we’ve seen only that world for long enough, that we’ve forgotten how bleak the alternative of nationalistic factionalism is.

Charles, King & Martyr

January 30th is the feast day of Charles, King & Martyr for many within the Church of England, as well as some around the Anglican Communion, including the members of the Society of King Charles the Martyr.   This is a particularly interesting and ambivalence-inspiring observance for Americans, given our own elevation of democracy to divine status. It is for this reason, of course, despite regular attempts, that Charles Stuart has never been on the official calendar of the Episcopal Church.

The long and short of it is that Charles I was a poor politician, and an ineffective ruler who is, by today’s standards, seen as despotic (though, of course, no more than many current petty dictators with whom we are happily allied!).  All the same, he was a sight better than the Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell (though the importance of Cromwell’s readmittance of the Jews to England shouldn’t be overlooked), and seems to have been a decent human being who was committed to his principles and his faith.  Because of this, it did not take the people of England very long to look with fondness upon the days of Stuart rule, as opposed to the equally oppressive (and much more stodgy) rule of the puritans.

I think the best summary of this that I’ve read is in JRH Moorman’s A History of the Church in England:

On January 30, 1649, the king was beheaded on a scaffold outside the banqueting-house in Whitehall.

When the bleeding head was held up, the cry of horror from the crowd drowned the derisive shouts of the soldiers.  During the trial and at the hour of death Charles had behaved with a quiet courage and dignity which had won many to his side, even among those who had been ready to take up arms against him seven years before.  Royal despotism was a bad thing, but military despotism was worse.  English people dislike the sight of blood; and the execution of a king sent a thrill of horror and detestation through the country which has never been forgotten.  It has been described as ‘a crime against England even more than against Charles’.  But not only did it outrage the deepest feelings of the country, it also alienated many who might have been Cromwell’s supporters, and thus made a restoration of monarchy and Church inevitable in due course.  The regicides little realized that in cutting off Charles’s head they were cutting their own throats.

From 1662 to 1859 the execution of King Charles was commemorated in the calendar of the Prayer Book and special services were held each year on January 30.  Charles thus came as near to canonization as it is possible to be in the Church of England.  he stood as a symbol of the patient sufferer who lays down his life for his creed and for his Church.  He was certainly a good man and devout.  He had great courage and firm convictions.  In his own way he was convinced that he was doing what was right.  His father had taught him that the Divine Right of Kings was part of the will of God, and he had upheld this doctrine even unto death.  Such devotion to duty, such readiness to die rather than surrender his belief, is worthy of honour.  But his faith in Divine Right made him exasperating to others, especially his enemies.  His duplicity and irresponsibility, to which, in his own mind, he was perfectly entitled, to others appeared as sheer dishonesty.  To Cromwell there could be no peace for England so long as Charles Stuart was there to disturb it; hence the desperate remedy of a royal execution.  So Charles died; but with his death the fate of Puritanism was sealed and the Church’s future ensured. (Moorman, p. 240-241)

Further Reading:

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The Oxford American: Carrying America's Shadow: Does bias still inform the Northern view of Southern literature?

I’ve written before about how I believe the South can provide a remedy for the general American tendency to downplay our faults and forget our own history. There is an article in the Oxford American that says much the same thing while approaching the subject from a literary standpoint. I commend it to you:

Even today the Northern visitor hankers to see eroded hills and rednecks…to sniff the effluvium of backwoods-and-sandhill subhumanity and to see at least one barn burn at midnight. So he looks at me with crafty misgivings, as if to say, “Well, you do talk rather glibly about Kierkegaard and Sartre…but after all, you’re only fooling, aren’t you? Don’t you, sometimes, go out secretly by owl-light to drink swampwater and feed on sowbelly and collard greens?”


—George B. Tindall, in the 1963 speech “The Idea of the South.”



You know the situation from TV: a one-way mirror separates two rooms. You’re in the second, dimmer room, and the mirror allows you to gaze through into Room One, where the lights blaze and the action rolls. The people there can’t see you, though occasionally somebody strolls to the glass and peers at her reflection, as though suspecting something.


This metaphor suggests the position in which contemporary “Southern” writers find themselves vis-à-vis the mainstream American literary establishment. I use quotes to draw attention to a dubious distinction: No other group of writers in this country is typically tagged by place. John Irving and Annie Proulx, for instance, aren’t identified as “Northern” or “New England” writers, or writers from the “Deep North.” Though “Southern” may be applied—and often is applied—without belittling intent, the effect makes clear that Southerners are “Other,” from a “there,” not here. And here, Room One, the center whose centrality is so obvious that it doesn’t need to be specified, is the Northeast. Room One is New York.


{read it all}



Anglican historical resources

I was recently reading an online discussion about what theological beliefs constitute Anglo-Catholicism. This brought to my mind two books that I highly recommend to anyone interested in Anglicanism, particularly the High Church variety and it’s sub-categories (Anglo-Catholic, High Church evangelical etc…).

Here they are:

Revisiting the Crusades

The following article from First Things is very interesting. I learned the “new view” of the Crusades while I was in college. I’m thankful I was taught history by historians rather than by ideologues. There was certainly a lot that cannot be defended about the Crusades, but it was no worse than any other war, and had far more moral justifications than many modern conflicts, not to mention the fact that there is far more ethical dissonance with our contemporary capability of dealing death at a distance. At any rate, take a look:

The Greedy Younger Son is not the only myth historians have discarded. It may surprise some to learn that the Crusades were almost never profitable, since booty was so scarce. Or that the Christian settlers in the so-called Crusader Kingdom were not themselves Crusaders. Or that the Crusades met all the criteria of a just war, especially in their defensive nature. Or that the Crusades had nothing at all to do with colonialism. Or that the Crusades were in no way wars of conversion. Or that the Crusades were not related to Muslim jihad (except insofar as they were a defense against it). Or that the Muslim world knew nothing at all about the Crusades before the nineteenth century.

If your image of Western civilization relies on a depiction of the Crusades as an insane and bloodthirsty attack on a peaceful and sophisticated Muslim world, then you are not going to like what recent historians have to say. This is apparent in some of the responses to these new works. In a New Yorker review of the books by Asbridge and Phillips, the journalist Joan Acocella seemed a little miffed by what she found coming out of the academy. How can two professional historians talk of piety, devotion, and selflessness as Crusader motivations? “Does this mean that Asbridge and Phillips think the Crusades were OK?” she asks incredulously. No, it means they think it is their job as historians to uncover the truth. Acocella speaks approvingly of the much older works by Runciman and John Julius Norwich, who is no historian. The entry of scholars into popular Crusade history does not seem to be welcomed in all quarters.

{read it all}

One of the lessons for us to take out of this is that History is often used for political purposes. All one has to do is look at the size of the Muslim world to know that the Holy Land is a tiny fraction of it. When modern scholars say that Muslims knew nothing of the Crusades until the 19th century, they mean that Muslims didn’t think of them any differently from any number of other wars, and that, for the most part, they were relatively insignificant in their history. In fact, Muslims really only took notice of the Crusaders when the Europeans were foolish enough to attack the pilgrimage routes to Mecca. It was only when Egyptians under Brittish rule went to Oxford to study that the Muslim world was exposed to the idea of “Crusade” and came to see it, given their own political context as a precursor to colonialism.

Here are some books you might be interested in:

Eric Foner: A forgotten step toward freedom

We Americans live in a society awash in historical celebrations. The last few years have witnessed commemorations of the bicentennial of the Louisiana Purchase (2003) and the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II (2005). But one significant milestone has gone strangely unnoticed: the 200th anniversary of Jan. 1, 1808, when the importation of slaves into the United States was prohibited.

This neglect stands in striking contrast to the many scholarly and public events in Britain that marked the 2007 bicentennial of that country’s banning of the slave trade. There were historical conferences, museum exhibits, even a high-budget film, “Amazing Grace,” about William Wilberforce, the leader of the parliamentary crusade that resulted in abolition.

What explains this divergence? Throughout the 1780s, the horrors of the Middle Passage were widely publicized on both sides of the Atlantic, and by 1792 the British Parliament stood on the verge of banning the trade. But when war broke out with revolutionary France, the idea was shelved. Final prohibition came in 1807, and it proved a major step toward the abolition of slavery in the empire.

The British campaign against the African slave trade not only launched the modern concern for human rights as an international principle, but today offers a usable past for a society increasingly aware of its multiracial character. It remains a historic chapter of which Britons of all origins can be proud.

In the United States, however, slavery not only survived the end of the African trade but embarked on an era of unprecedented expansion.

Americans have had to look elsewhere for memories that ameliorate our racial discontents, which helps explain our recent focus on the 19th-century Underground Railroad as an example of blacks and whites working together in a common cause.

Nonetheless, the abolition of the slave trade to the United States is well worth remembering. Only a small fraction (perhaps 5 percent) of the estimated 11 million Africans brought to the New World in the four centuries of the slave trade were destined for the area that became the United States. But in the Colonial era, Southern planters regularly purchased imported slaves, and merchants in New York and New England profited handsomely from the trade.

{Read it all; HT to Kendall}

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New resources on the history page

I’ve added the following section to my history page. I have a lot of other online resources that I’ve been using for various things over the years, which I’ll be adding all along.

From the dusty historian: Knights Templar Exonerated by Vatican

Templar SealAt least that’s what is being claimed about a book set to be released this week by the Vatican’s secret archives. Processus contra Templarios is based on a text called the Chinon Parchment which, according to the BBC had been incorrectly filed; it contains the record of the investigation into the charges of heresy surrounding the Templars before their dissolution. Check it out:

The Vatican is to publish a book which is expected to shed light on the demise of the Knights Templar, a Christian military order from the Middle Ages.

The book is based on a document known as the Chinon parchment, found in the Vatican Secret Archives six years ago after years of being incorrectly filed.

The document is a record of the heresy hearings of the Templars before Pope Clement V in the 14th Century.

The official who found the paper says it exonerates the knights entirely.

Prof Barbara Frale, who stumbled across the parchment by mistake, says that it lays bare the rituals and ceremonies over which the Templars were accused of heresy.

{read it all}

The Vatican library is closed for renovations at the moment, and I’m not sure how one would go about getting the book, but what a great one to practice one’s rusty Latin skills on! If anybody knows where I can order a copy, let me know.

UPDATE: scratch that, I just found out how many of these are to be printed and what they will cost.  I guess I’ll have to visit it at a library somewhere:

Only 799 copies of the 300-page volume, “Processus Contra Templarios,”—Latin for “Trial against the Templars”—are for sale, said Scrinium publishing house, which prints documents from the Vatican’s secret archives. Each will cost $8,377, the publisher said Friday.

An 800th copy will go to Pope Benedict XVI, said Barbara Frale, the researcher who found the long-overlooked parchment tucked away in the archives in 2001.

{read the rest}

New Resources

I used to have quite a few history and theology resources on my old static site. I’m gradually migrating them all over to wordpress. If you look up top, you’ll see a new “history” tab. There’re some resources there, mostly off-site, but one interesting sermon I’m transcribing from the works of the Rt. Rev. John Stark Ravenscroft, first Episcopal Bishop of North Carolina. Let me know if you know of any resources I should add.

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