State, Society, and Culture in Early Modern Europe

This basic course in early modern European history is being given at Tel Aviv University in the first semester, Mondays and Thursdays, from 1400-1600, in Room 305, Gilman Building.

Eddie Izzard Explains British Colonialism

posted Mar 14, 2016, 2:03 AM by Professor Katz

Man Gave Names to All the Animals

posted Nov 7, 2015, 3:05 AM by Professor Katz   [ updated Nov 7, 2015, 3:13 AM ]

It was during the Renaissance that the Hebrew language acquired mystical signification and kabbalistic intonations.  Hebrew was the vernacular of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, when Adam gave names to the animals, and there was no poetic ambiguity between words and the things to which they referred.  The biblical reference is Genesis 2:18-20:

18And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. 19And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. 20And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.

The Bible also tells us that God created the universe by speaking, and the language He spoke was almost certainly Hebrew.  There was always the hope that one day humankind might recreate this entire technology by a study of the intricacies of the Hebrew language, and thereby take part in the divine process.

Robert 'Bob Dylan' Zimmerman knew this when he wrote that song, 'Man Gave Names to All the Animals', first recorded in 1979.  But, you know, I think Johnny Cash sings it better:


Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, in the beginning
Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, long time ago

He saw an animal that liked to growl
Big furry paws and he liked to howl
Great big furry back and furry hair
“Ah, think I’ll call it a bear”

Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, in the beginning
Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, long time ago

He saw an animal up on a hill
Chewing up so much grass until she was filled
He saw milk comin’ out but he didn’t know how
“Ah, think I’ll call it a cow”

Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, in the beginning
Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, long time ago

He saw an animal that liked to snort
Horns on his head and they weren’t too short
It looked like there wasn’t nothin’ that he couldn’t pull
“Ah, think I’ll call it a bull”

Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, in the beginning
Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, long time ago

He saw an animal leavin’ a muddy trail
Real dirty face and a curly tail
He wasn’t too small and he wasn’t too big
“Ah, think I’ll call it a pig”

Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, in the beginning
Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, long time ago

Next animal that he did meet
Had wool on his back and hooves on his feet
Eating grass on a mountainside so steep
“Ah, think I’ll call it a sheep”

Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, in the beginning
Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, long time ago

He saw an animal as smooth as glass
Slithering his way through the grass
Saw him disappear by a tree near a lake . . .

Copyright © 1979 by Special Rider Music



Big History

posted Oct 27, 2015, 5:52 AM by Professor Katz   [ updated Oct 27, 2015, 5:55 AM ]

Big History begins with the Big Bang, 13.7 billion years ago.  This is universal history that is the history of the universe itself.  As Mark Twain wrote, 'If the Eiffel Tower were now representing the world's age, the skin of paint on the pinnacle-knob at its summit would represent man's share of that age'.

OK...but is it history? Or should we leave these subjects to experts in cosmology, astronomy, geology and other such sciences?  Is it ethical, say, for an expert in Russian history to make a TED talk covering the history of the world in 18 minutes?  Bill Gates thinks so: in 2008 he saw a DVD of a video course made by David Christian, and has been a big supporter of Big History every since.


Watch the TED talk and see what you think.

The Agonic Line

posted Nov 25, 2013, 3:03 AM by Professor Katz   [ updated Nov 25, 2013, 11:30 AM ]

Columbus noticed something very odd on his third voyage to the New World (1498-1500): his compass didn't always seem to work very well.  When he passed 'the line from north to south a hundred leagues west of the Azores' in a westerly direction, 'the needle shifted by a quarter north-westwards, and continued to shift farther to the north-west as we sailed on.'  What Columbus discovered was what used to be called the 'Line of No Variation', and is now referred to as the 'Agonic Line', i.e. 'the line having no angle'.

As it happens, your compass needle will point to the actual North Pole in only a few places on the globe, and if you draw a line through those points from north to south, you get an Agonic Line.  West of that line, the magnetic N on your compass will increasingly point to somewhere east of the North Pole.  If you are east of an Agonic Line, then the magnetic N on your compass will increasingly point to somewhere west of the North Pole, and it only gets worse the farther away you get from the Line.  This phenomenon is very dramatic in the United States:


The bigger problem is that the location of 0 degree Agonic Lines
changes over time, since the magnetic North Pole is always on the move, and is never exactly in the right spot, thanks to movement in the molten metallic core of the earth:


In Europe, the same phenomenon exists, of course, but the difference between True North and Magnetic North is not as severe, although it increases dramatically towards the poles.


If you don't have a GPS you will need to take all of this into account when you go hiking, especially in the USA.  If you are in Washington State, the magnetic N on your compass will point up to 20 degrees east of True North ... and if you are in Maine, the magnetic N on your compass will point up to 20 degrees west of True North.  If you don't know this, you could get very badly lost.

In Israel, the difference is only a little over 4 degrees, so it's not such a big deal.  You just need to remember that True North is a little over 4 degrees less than what you are seeing as the direction of the magnetic red N, so just turn your compass a little over 4 degrees in a counter-clockwise direction so that the red N appears 4 degrees to the right of the arrowhead.
If you want to know how to calibrate your compass, wherever you are, click here.  It could save your life ... unless you have a GPS ... or prefer to stay at home studying interesting subjects such as the Agonic Line.

Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition, Baby Bird!

posted Jul 24, 2013, 12:07 AM by Professor Katz

Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) Lives!

posted Jul 8, 2013, 2:17 AM by Professor Katz   [ updated Jul 8, 2013, 2:18 AM ]

 

...well, not exactly, having met a fiery end while assisting in a public ceremony at the Campo de' Fiori in Rome.  But his memory lives on, as evidenced by this bit of graffiti I saw on a wall in Palermo in June 2013:

Zamora's Complaint

posted Jan 13, 2013, 1:50 AM by Professor Katz   [ updated Feb 18, 2013, 11:52 PM ]

CLICK TO ENLARGE IMAGE

Alfonso de Zamora (c.1474-1544), the convert from Judaism who became professor of Hebrew at Salamanca, helped Cardinal Ximenes with the polyglot Bible.  He also wrote some Hebrew letters, including the one in which he complains that he never had a good day in his life.  I attach the text.  Read it, if only to see how much fifteenth-century Hebrew looks like modern Hebrew.  The complaining letter is on page 414.

Fleas: they're not all bad...

posted Dec 18, 2012, 12:15 AM by Professor Katz   [ updated Dec 18, 2012, 12:40 AM ]


Evil, Scary Flea (left)                              Nice, Friendly Rat (right)

As we learned, fleas played the most important part in the transmission of plague, and rats were victims as well, innocently providing transport.  The fleas carried plague bacteria, and their bites injected it into the bloodstream, causing infection.  The spread of the epidemic relied on two different rodent populations: one that was resistant to the disease and therefore carried it as hosts; and a second that lacked this resistance and died, passing over into Rat Heaven.  When the supply of rodent victims became too small, the fleas hopped over onto other hosts, including people, resulting in a human epidemic as folks got bitten and infected.


It's true that
some rats can cook.  But even fleas are not all bad. They have a circus:

How to Spot a Humanist

posted Nov 11, 2012, 1:56 AM by Professor Katz   [ updated Nov 11, 2012, 2:06 AM ]

You'll remember that a big part of being a Humanist was to walk the walk and talk the talk: about the way you divide history, about how much you love ancient Greek, and about the 'dignity of man' (women not included).  We do have a guidebook to being a Humanist, Il Libro del Cortegiano ('The Book of the Courtier'), written by Baldassare Castiglione (1478-1529) and published in Venice in 1528.

Sadly, we lack a sixteenth-century instructive video on 'How to Spot a Humanist', so we'll have to make do with one of the United States Armed Forces Information Films, released in 1950.  Many of the same principles apply:

Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

posted Oct 24, 2012, 12:38 AM by Professor Katz   [ updated Oct 16, 2013, 12:20 AM ]

Before Istanbul was Istanbul, it was Constantinople...and before that it was Byzantium...and even before that it was Byzantion, a 7th century BC Greek city-state.


Very confusing.  Four names for the same place.  Perhaps this song will clear things up:


Istanbul (Not Constantinople) was first recorded by The Four Lads, a Canadian group, in 1953.  (They were originally known as 'The Otnorots' ... that's Toronto backwards, get it?)


Anyway, you might know the later version, released by
They Might Be Giants in 1990.

Here are the lyrics:

Istanbul was Constantinople
Now it's Istanbul, not Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Constantinople
Now it's Turkish delight on a moonlit night

Every gal in Constantinople
Lives in Istanbul, not Constantinople
So if you've a date in Constantinople
She'll be waiting in Istanbul

Even old New York was once New Amsterdam
Why they changed it I can't say
People just liked it better that way

So take me back to Constantinople
No, you can't go back to Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Constantinople
Why did Constantinople get the works?
That's nobody's business but the Turks

Istanbul (Istanbul)
Istanbul (Istanbul)

Even old New York was once New Amsterdam
Why they changed it I can't say
People just liked it better that way

Istanbul was Constantinople
Now it's Istanbul, not Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Constantinople
Why did Constantinople get the works?
That's nobody's business but the Turks

So take me back to Constantinople
No, you can't go back to Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Constantinople
Why did Constantinople get the works?
That's nobody's business but the Turks

Istanbul

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