Geography

A Video Review – The Training Ground: Grant, Lee, Sherman and Davis In The Mexican War 1846-1848

A short video review of The Training Ground: Grant. Lee, Sherman and Davis In The Mexican War, 1846-48 by Martin Dugard (ISBN: 978-0-316-16625-6).

I mention that I enjoyed the writing style but felt the short chapter structure was an annoying feature.
I also mention my bigger issue which was the absence of proper detail on the military aspects of the campaign and the fact that the Mexican side of the story is mostly ignored except for a very cursory analysis.

I encourage people to read the book however as is an enjoyable read despite its problems.

Defying Empire: Trading with the Enemy on Colonial New York

Eoin Purcell

Great books deserve better reviewers than I
So I was recently sent a review copy of Thomas M. Truxes’, Defying Empire: Trading with the Enemy in Colonial New York which was published by Yale University Press in 2008. Needless to say I completely failed in my mission to read the book and write a review in any kind of decent timeframe.

But I did read it and it is wonderful. The book covers a fascinating period in Colonial history when the British Empire was fighting a war with the French Empire and American merchants were intent to benefit from the trading opportunities despite the heavy presence of British soldiers and the fact that in name at least they were engaged in treason.

A book that creates and sustains a brilliant portrait of 18th Century New York and brings to life the intriguing political and mercantile world of that city under British rule. Well worth reading, 7 out of 10.
For some more detailed review on the book, try here, here, here or here.
I also decided to try something I have been toying with for a while, a video review. It is my my first such effort and is decidedly patchy, but here, in honour of along delayed review it is.

I hope someone enjoyed that!
Eoin

A day for battles: Warsaw & Blenheim

Eoin Purcell

Warsaw
I’ve written before about the completely fascinating Polish-Soviet War of 1920 and Adam Zamoyski’s excellent book on the topic: Warsaw 1920: Lenin’s Failed Conquest of Europe. The key battle in that war The Battle of Warsaw began on this day 89 years ago. The initial stages of the battle were not that promising for the Poles as an extract makes clear:

On 13 August Sollohub attacked the outer perimeter in force, and the Polish 11th Division abandoned its positions and fled. Sollohub’s 27th Omsk Division pursued it and was joined unexpectedly by the 21st Rifle Division of Lazarevich’s army, which had strayed into the wrong sector. Together they overran the little town of Radzymin, twenty kilometres from Warsaw, but happily for the Poles the two units became so entangled that they were unable to pursue their advantage.*

Blenheim
John Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough , was one the most exceptional military leaders of British history. His most celebrated victory is Blenheim when he prevented the armies of France from advancing towards Vienna in a crushing defeat made possible by his rapid and secretive march from the Low Countries to the Danube. You can a description of the battle in The Fifteen Decisive Battles of The World by Edward Shepherd Creasy. There is a version here in Google Books, sadly you cannot download a copy because although the text itself is well out of copyright and firmly in the public domain, the only copy that seems to be available on GBS is a Forgotten Books version (thus there is IP in the setting and it is not a public domain version)

Below is a great video on Marlborough as a Great Commander.

Quite the day for climactic battles is it not?
Eoin

*Page 84, Warsaw 1920: Lenin’s failed Conquest of Europe, Adam Zamoyski

No Seriously: The Plague

Eoin Purcell

I was getting on the Dart to travel back from Sydney Parade to Glasthule when I stumbled across this rather exceptional story in Metro*:

A second man has died of pneumonic plague in northwest China, in an outbreak that prompted authorities to lock down a town where about a dozen people were infected with the highly contagious deadly lung disease, a state news agency said.

And if you think that is the worst of it, how do you like this:

Pneumonic plague is spread through the air and can be passed from person to person through coughing, according to the World Health Organization. It is caused by the same bacteria that occurs in bubonic plague — the Black Death that killed an estimated 25 million people in Europe during the Middle Ages.

Bubonic plague is usually transmitted by flea bite and can be treated with antibiotics if diagnosed early. Pneumonic plague is one of the deadliest infectious diseases, capable of killing humans within 24 hours of infection, according to the WHO.

Worrying no. Some quality material on the plague is available on Google Books in case you are in the humour for digging and reading:

THE most memorable example of what has been advanced is afforded by a great pestilence of the fourteenth century which desolated Asia Europe and Africa and of which the people yet preserve the remembrance in gloomy traditions It was an oriental plague marked by inflammatory boils and tumors of the glands such as break out in no other febrile disease On account of these inflammatory boils and from the black spots indicatory of a putrid decomposition which appeared upon the skin it was called in Germany and in the northern kingdoms of Europe the Black Death and in Italy la Mortalega Grande the Great Mortality

The Black Death in the fourteenth century. By Justus Friedrich Carl Hecker, Benjamin Guy Babington

There is much, much more, all of it worth reading. I think, this is a limited outbreak I stress and expect that it will not, unlike the Swine Flue Virus we are currently experiencing, cause widespread fear and panic.
Eoin

* The link is to the Yahoo News version of the story, Metro is not online.

The FT has a really nice piece on Hidden City Rivers

Eoin Purcell

Lovely corner in the Fleet Sewer. (Image with thanks to Flickr User: Mr. J Doe)

Lovely corner in the Fleet Sewer. (Image with thanks to Flickr User: Mr. J Doe)

What a week
I had intended to write more on hidden city rivers but then events interrupted and I got waylaid.

In any case, the FT has a wonderful article on another hidden river, The Fleet in London:

The Fleet became a noxious ditch and, in 1679, the build up of filth burst under the pressure of the water behind it and washed away several butchers around Smithfield meat market, cattle and all. The poet John Gay, perhaps employing his profession’s licence, thought the river delightful and observed: “Fleet Ditch with muddy current flows.” Gay also recommended the oysters for sale on the quayside. Such shellfish would struggle to pass health and safety muster now. Much better to stop at The Eagle, the bar that started Britain’s gastropub revolution, and which tempts me in with those ancient London scents: meat, beer and fish.

It really is a wonderfully evocative piece and well worth reading. If you are looking for something more, you could read the Wikipedia article linked above or you could check out Mr. J Doe’s Flickr stream (his image adorns this post) and read some the fascinating captions he has on the sequence of photographs of London’s Sewers.

Hidden City Rivers

Eoin Purcell

Image Copyright of Flickr user informatique (http://www.flickr.com/photos/infomatique/)

Image Copyright of Flickr user informatique (http://www.flickr.com/photos/infomatique/)

UPDATE: Kathy Foley has e-mailed me some links that I will incorporate into something later today or perhaps tomorrow. I also remembered this book, Hidden Cork, which we are publishing in November and I am planning on hitting the author up for some Cork details!

An appropriate topic for Uncovered History!
A great pointer from the NYT Blogs section (not to mention a wonderful historical photo) to an article on “Daylighting” historically covered rivers in cities and creating greenbanks along their banks:

I have a story running in The Times on one of the most remarkable such transformations — the restoration of the Cheonggyecheon in Seoul, South Korea. Through more than six centuries of settlement, the stream went from being a revered feature of the landscape to an open sewer to a buried, forgotten storm drain and now to a three-mile corridor of burbling waters, milling carp, strolling picnickers and relative quiet in one of the powerhouse metropolises of Asia. You can see a video report on that effort at the bottom of this post. The Seoul stream project was integrated with a parallel effort to take away highways and improve public transportation.

The story also discusses an ambitious effort to expose 1,900 feet of the Saw Mill River, which runs under a stretch of shops and parking lots in downtown Yonkers, a city of 200,000 abutting the Bronx. The photograph above shows the giant flume built in the early the 1920’s to contain the river. From San Antonio to Singapore, there are other examples.

Of course it doesn’t take long to realise that Dublin has it’s own rivers that might make for interesting “Daylighting” projects. The video gets particularly interesting around the 5minute mark when they go underground and actually follow the tunnels that the Poddle river flows through

On the other hand, Dublin is lucky in that it has two extant canals that frame the city centre and create park-like walkways most of the northern and southern perimeters. When you take in the glorious seafront, the effect of the Liffey and the Dodder, then “daylighting” the Poddle seems a bit like we are getting greedy.

Kathy Foley suggests that Cork might benefit from some “daylighting” but when I did some digging on that front I didn’t get much. If anyone knows more, send me info to eoinpurcellsblogATgmail.com

Just going 9am, time to cut the hedges!
Eoin