History, Science and Trade Kelly Wagner History 140/Spring 2011
What is History?
History is a story that is explained and interpreted. It is facts, but the facts don’t matter without the meaning behind it.
First you need to know the facts, then interpret them, but will always be different from person to person.
When considering history there are two different sources: primary and secondary:
A primary source is a “comment made by someone who was a witness or a participant in an event.”
A secondary source is a “record made by someone not present at an event, but who uses primary and other secondary sources as evidence.”
The following is the pattern of education: “We collect what we believe are the facts, cast them into meaningful form, judge their worth, and act on them.
It is important to interpret history for ourselves, but when we do not know certain things we listen to those who “know.” When this occurs we need to be careful because that person’s judgment and opinion gets thrown in to what the facts are.
Differences of belief, experience, education, bias, age, sex, and wealth, cause people to interpret history differently. Then there are the “narrow-minded” people, with less experience, who see things only in one way. Then there are people with a larger education, who are good at observing, and understand several view points, even when they prefer only one. When it comes to history, there will be people or groups who decide to hide facts vital to the past, or want events to be interpreted in a certain way. If you do not know stories of other people, you can’t begin to understand them. When there is this lack of knowledge of other people, this most often leads to “distrust, fear and hatred.” If people know other people’s stories, as well as themselves, the will be less likely to kill someone, or degrade them in any way, just because of a difference of belief or race. “A deep knowledge of history teaches that no single system of human belief or way of interpretation of way of life has a monopoly on truth.”
The Journey of Man According to geneticist Spencer Wells, all humans alive today originated from one man 60,000 years ago in Africa when there was a malfunction in his Y-chromosome. He says that “every piece of DNA in our bodies can be traced back to an African source.” In his mind, the people he describes as “Adam” and “Eve” weren’t the only people alive during this time, they are considered the lucky ones who left descendants down to the present day. The first “wave” of migration out of Africa to Australia, were the Aborigines of Australia, 50,000 years ago. Archeologists disagree, by saying, by fossil evidence the first “wave” of migration occurred around 100,000 years ago.
Richard Klein, an anthropologist at Stanford University, believes that Homo sapiens “may have been anatomically modern 150,000 years ago, but did not become behaviorally modern until about 50,000 years ago, when a genetic mutation in cognition made us smarter.” This change in thinking led people to travel farther, make more advanced tools, be more effective in hunting and possibly develop a language. Wells believes the second “wave” of hominoids left Africa around 45,000 years ago to the Middle East, China, and India. Depending on where they migrated to depended on the traits they acquired. If they were in a colder climate they started becoming paler, shorter and had smaller eyes. When in a tropical climate they needed protection from the sun, with melanin, which made their skin darker.
Suddenly Smarter “Once symbols appear, we know we’re dealing with people like us: people with advanced cognitive skills who could not only invent sophisticated tools and weapons and develop complex social networks for mutual security, but could also marvel at the intricacies of nature and their place in it; people who were self-aware.” 45,000 years ago there were cave paintings, graves for the dead, the first fishing equipment, and even sturdy huts. This change gave humans the ability to adapt and expand to Europe, Asia, Australia, and the Americas. Richard Klein suggests that this change didn’t occur because the size of humans’ brains changed, that there was an increase in the quality of their brains from a genetic mutation. There are two known migrations 100,000 years ago and 40,000 years ago. The difference between the two is that “the earlier settlers apparently lacked the modern ability to respond to change with new survival strategies, such as fitted garments, projectile weapons and well-heated huts.” This is not to say that people didn’t look like us 115,000 years ago because they agree they did, they were classified as “early modern” humans. There is no evidence of these people fishing, having sturdy homes or burying their dead until 45,000 years ago. These people had better weapons, a broader diet, they were creating real art, and making jewelry.
Scientists and Solving History Riddles “Newfound technologies are bringing researchers closer to the lost cites and the lost people whose fates lies only in imagination.” Advances in technology can’t solve everything, but people can do a lot more with DNA testing, x-rays, carbon dating, satellite images, and undersea technology to solve cases they couldn’t just 30 years ago. The latest effort by the National Archives is to restore the 18 ½ minute Watergate tapes that were erased. The technology a computer now has is unbelievable, i.e. narrowing the search for Amelia Earhart. It has been one of the greatest mysteries since the 1937 disappearance, that the company Nauticos is convinced they have computed the variables to have “narrowed the search area to less than 500 square miles off uninhabited Howland Island.” From x-rays telling us that the “famous Italian Iceman, the Bronze Age’s best-preserved mummy, was killed with an arrow,” to carbon dating giving the age of the mummy, to DNA tests of Jesse James proving he didn’t fake his death, to finding the Titanic, these advances have given people so much more, but not all of it. The technology will help solve some of the cases, but can’t go in to detail of final moments of what happened or why it happened.
Spices and Things
Hundreds of years ago the way we traded, paid for commodities, and what we thought were luxuries were a lot different than they are today.
Trying to trade between countries wasn’t like it is now: for example, China was the first to use silver as a currency and as they traded with other countries this became more popular. They would trade their silks to the British and Dutch, who would in return pay with Spanish pesos.
In the year 1770; Africans wouldn’t trade slaves for fine French furniture, like the French people thought they would: British merchants in Canada couldn’t sell Virginian tobacco to the Iroquois, they wanted their taste for African cultivated tobacco: some of this was due to the fact they didn’t trust their seller or thought products were poisoned. Throughout the years when new products came on the market, they were thought of as drugs, such as new foods from “exotic lands,” like coffee, tea, coca, tobacco, and sugar. They often started as “drugs that caused pleasant pharmacological effects.’ “Once they gained acceptance and began creating fortunes for merchants and state treasuries, most of the drugs became acceptable.” “The drugs not only helped create national identities in the consuming nations , they also distinguished different sectors of them.”
Not only were there new “drugs” coming in to the world, but there were new crops as well. The potato was discovered by Spanish soldiers in the Peruvian Andes in the 1550s, but as a second-class food. Potatoes were important because they grew at extremely high altitudes, they didn’t require a lot of labor and they were easy to store. Depending on where you were in the world depended on how you viewed the potato. It was a luxury for rich Europeans or it was food for the enslaved working in mines in the Spanish Peru. But in the end it saved people from starvation in wars during the time and in Ireland.
Before Christopher Columbus In 1492 Columbus sailed off in to the sunset to find land in South America. He was not expecting to find a land populated with people because it was believed to be empty land filled with forests. During this time the Western Hemisphere was populated with approximately 90 to 112 million people, which meant there were more people in the Americas then in Europe. Of these millions of Indians, non of them had seen a white person before. Since the Indians were more nature oriented and lived as the people of the land, they were not equipped with the more “modern” weapons. The Indians had never seen a gun before and considered them just “noise-makers.” They thought of these weapons as hard to handle compared to their bow an arrows and spears. “The Indians maintained and expanded the grasslands by regularly setting huge areas on fire.” This then created a fire-adapted plant species over the next few centuries.
After Christopher Columbus Became the age of discovery People were determined to make the land their own. African slaves were brought to the Caribbean and worked on plantations, that “changed the face of two continents.” Originally Europeans wanted to use the Indians, but because the death rate was very high they turned to Africans. Crops grown on these plantations were spread around the world ie; the potato. Unfamiliar diseases were brought over, such as smallpox, typhus, influenza, diphtheria and measles. These diseases killed off the Incans specifically the ones brought by Spaniards. Pigs that carried diseases would also transmit their disease to the wildlife in surrounding forests. The Indians had never been in the presence of such a thing and had no idea how to handle it. It is estimated that “in the first 130 years of contact, about 95 percent of the people in the Americas died- the worst demographic calamity in record history.”