Mr. E's Blog

Historical curiosities and pedagogical thoughts.

A Strange Thing

A photo of waves on a beach

A strange thing is going to happen to this website over the next few months. I have poured everything I have into teaching history for years, but now, my career is about to make a major change - I have been elected to represent teachers on the Kenai Peninsula as the President of our teacher's union.

My focus will move from classroom teaching to advocacy for students and teachers, and will take my focus from keeping study resources up to date. Unfortunately, I will probably not keep up with the major changes to AP tests for the three tests that I have resources for. That said, my AP World resources fell out of date after I stopped teaching it and they moved to the new format, and frankly, who can keep up with their changes after a year of pandemic?

Here's something exciting, though, amidst that which might be a bit of a bummer.

I've always wanted to leverage my library of primary and secondary sources to provide students with access to collections of quotes, brief analyses, and the starting points for research that they might later need. Over the last year, I've built two textbooks into my website (thanks to the folks at OpenStax and the tremendous work of the contributors to the US History and US Government textbooks) that I intend to refine and build upon. For a few years, I've lazily added primary sources to my Sourcebook as they were needed for my in-class assignments.

As it stands, I have many, many resources, but have always dreamed of adding more.

Teaching is the most exhausting job I've had in my life, and I don't expect that to change. I haven't had time to truly fill out any of the resources that I've built here. Over the next couple of years of work, without the endless at-home hours required to keep up with grading and lesson planning, perhaps I'll be able to post more in the other places that need attention. Perhaps I can add context and resources to the textbooks. Perhaps I can write my own articles for them.

Once a teacher, always a teacher. I will not be able to stop working on this craft no matter what my job title is.

 Photo by Lance Asper on Unsplash

Native American Treaty Rights

Oklahoma Indian Lands

Recently, SmithsonianMag ran an article titled "Hundreds of Native American Treaties Digitized for the First Time." You can access those treaties in the Indigenous Digital Archive Treaties Explorer

Many students are surprised to learn that Native American nations have special relationships with the United States Congress through treaties. While they have been modified (both in good faith and in bad faith in turns) and are typically very old, these treaties must still be honored by the federal government.

I wanted to combine access to these treaties with connections to a recent Supreme Court case, McGirt v. Oklahoma, which held that "land reserved for the Creek Nation since the 19th century remains 'Indian country.'"1

There is a phenomenal podcast that I started listening to last year about this case called This Land. It's very personal, detailed, professional, and accessible. In the  final episode of that podcast ("The Ruling"), you can feel the emotion and the passion, and the moment of terror when the creator opens up the decision to read it and find out the fate of their tribal lands.

The treaty in question in that podcast, from 1832, is available on that archive and also in transcript form:

Of particular interest is Article 14, which was cited in Justice Gorsuch's majority opinion. You can read the opinion from the official document linked above, or here on Oyez.

Article 14
Article 14 of the treaty between the United States and the Creek Indians, 1832. Original source.


"Slave Streets, Free Streets" - Virtual Tour of Baltimore, c. 1815

Baltimore, 1815 (screenshot)

I was just discussing the nature of societies that coexist on top of each other with one of my classes earlier this week; in particular, the world of slaves and the world of free whites in New York during the mid-1700s. I recalled a study (the name of which escapes me - this was reading from back in college) that mapped out, on city streets, the daily paths taken, tasks accomplished, and social connections of both free and enslaved individuals.

Fortuitously, a similar study of Baltimore just hit the Historical Association's Facebook page.

I encourage you to read the article in Perspectives, the AHA's news magazine. Mapping out the individual lives of people who lived in times long gone brings to life one of the most beautiful things about history; the excruciating detail and depth of lives that we too often reduce to mere statistics and footnotes.

The project, completed between 2012 and 2014, resulted in what appears to be an incredible museum exhibit and this incredible virtual tour of Baltimore c. 1815. Not only can you get a bird's eye view of the city, but each significant building/landmark has a host of primary source material attached to it, explaining the history of each of those places.

"History is boring."

Machu Picchu

You are wrong.

History is life. It's the cumulative story of a species that can wield pure imagination against reality and, on occasion, win. It is the sum of the human experience, the grave tragedy and the euphoric victory of living on the thin crust of this Earth. History is the words and thoughts of every person since the first tick of time. 

No, we don't have the whole story yet. No, we don't know every little detail. But millions of people are putting it together as they make their own histories every single day.

How can you be bored?

The trick is finding what you're interested in. Everyone has a question. Everyone has a journey. Everyone has a problem they are stuck on, a challenge they struggle to overcome, a passion that they draw breath for. 

There were more before you. And there will be more after you.

Someone, "back then," asked the same questions as you. They ate food, they drank water, their hands made things out of nothing, just like yours do. They mulled over similar problems, felt similar feelings, loved similar souls and hated similar enemies. Maybe they were average for their time, and maybe they led millions. Maybe they succeeded, and maybe they failed.

Stories is what we have, and stories is what we are.

History isn't boring. You're just not paying attention.


World War I: Why Young Men Wanted to Go To War

Monitor vs. Merrimac engraving

I'm currently reviewing some old textbooks on American history, and came across a fantastic passage.

There are a number of reasons why World War I's volunteer enlistment was high. Read this passage from a children's textbook1 about the battle between the Monitor and the Merrimac in 1862.

You can see very clearly how young men, taught from an early age of the glory, adventure, and honor of battle would seek it out as soon as it was an option.

335. Famous Battle between the Monitor and the Merrimac.—It was a Sunday morning, and the sun rose in a cloudless sky. The batteries on both sides of the bay were crowded with men waiting for the coming contest. At the first sign of life on board the Merrimac, the Monitor began her preparations for the battle.

Slowly the Confederate ram came down the bay. She opened fire on the Minnesota, which was still aground. The frigate responded with a mighty broadside, but the cannon balls rattled off the iron flanks of the huge ram like so many peas. Clearly everything depended upon the little Monitor.

The battle now began, and the huge shells and heavy shot crashed like loudest thunder. It was a strange, an awful battle. At times the two vessels were in actual contact. The dense smoke, the deafening roar of explosions, the shouts of officers' orders, the crews often hurled off their feet by the terrific blows smiting the iron armor—all made it beyond description fearfully sublime. The Merrimac's plates were split and torn. One shot, entering her port, did terrible havoc.

Just as Lieutenant Worden of the Monitor was looking through the slit in the turret to take aim, a shell struck outside and filled his face and eyes with powder and iron splinters! He was insensible for some time.

When he came to himself, his first question was, "Have I saved the Minnesota?"

"Yes," was the reply, "and whipped the Merrimac."

"Then I don't care what becomes of me," he answered.

After more than three hours of this frightful combat, the humbled Merrimac steamed back to Norfolk, the victorious little Monitor giving a series of farewell shots as she sailed away.

Thus ended this marvelous battle, the first in the world's history between ironclad vessels. All Washington retired to sleep that night with a sense of relief, for it seemed as if the nation had been saved.

The brave Worden shortly after the famous battle went to Washington. President Lincoln was at a cabinet meeting when he heard of the lieutenant's arrival. He rose hastily and said, "Gentlemen, I must go to that fellow."

When Lincoln entered his room, Worden was lying on a sofa with his eyes and head heavily bandaged.

"Mr. President," said he, "you do me great honor by this visit."

"Sir," said Mr. Lincoln, with tears in his eyes, "I am the one who is honored by this interview."

  • 1. Available at Albert F. Blaisdell, The Story of American History for Elementary Schools (Boston: Ginn & Company Publishers, 1902), 394-296.

Hagia Sophia will become a mosque again

The Hagia Sophia

According to Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Edogan, the Hagia Sophia will not remain a neutral historical site. Instead, it will be converted back into a mosque. This is a pretty important development in world history, should it actually occur. There's a chance it's political maneuvering as elections in Turkey come near, but it's a good reminder that even ancient cathedrals are still living historical artifacts today.

Read the Article on the Art Newspaper >>

Medieval Magazine

Medieval Magazine

Here's a bit of light reading if you find the Medieval Era fascinating like I do. Take a look at Medieval Magazine; there are a lot of interesting articles about surprisingly specific pieces of history.