an assortment of religious history links

Just wanted to share a few links on religious history:

Material History of American Religion Project: An interesting idea: studies religion in America through ephemeral documents and artifacts like these.

American Religious Experience at WVU: Online essays about the history of various religious movements in the United States…and, as an added bonus, Canada!

Guide to Early Church Documents: All sorts of writings from folks with Roman-sounding names.

Virtual Religion Index: A plethora of links on world religions.

Voice of the Shuttle-Religious Studies: Religion, history, and religious history. If you want to know what the name means, here is a gross story about it.

the Library of Congress is extremely cool

“Each day an event from American history is illustrated by digitized items from the Library of Congress American Memory historic collections.” Today’s topic is World War I–check it out!

terrorism and the law

In 1942, eight men landed on U.S. soil, tasked by the Nazi government to carry out acts of sabotage within the U.S. One of them, himself actually an American citizen who had returned to Germany at the beginning of World War II, informed on the project to the FBI. The eight men were arrested, tried by a military court directed by FDR himself; and the six of them who did not cooperate were executed shortly thereafter.

This incident has direct implications for us today, since these tribunals are the precedent for the incarceration and trials of the Guantanamo Bay prisoners.

A new book discusses the case of the Nazi saboteurs, and argues that these proceedings allocate too much power to the executive branch, both then and now. Various accounts of the incident can be found at U of C law, the FBI, and The text of a 1942 White House press release about the incident is here.

“For God and Home and Native Land”: women, temperance, and the vote

As a little disclaimer before I begin, I have never been particularly enamored of feminist approaches to scholarship. One problem I have with such approaches is that they project current experiences of and beliefs about sexism onto other times and places where they might or might not have any relevance. As I’ve studied various regions and time periods, I realized that views about and roles of women are extremely variable. Women have more or less always had roles in society that differed from those of men, but the degree and way in which they differed, and how these roles were valued, vary widely across time and space.

One thing about recent women’s history that has interested me is the changing concept of the political role of women. Of course, women have not always been considered to have a political role: Emile Durkheim showed what he thought of such things in his 1893 book The Division of Labor in Society with the disapproving observation that “There are even now a great number of savage peoples in which the woman involves herself in political life.”

While Durkheim was solemnly denouncing the involvement of women in politics as detrimental to organic solidarity, however, women around the world were deciding that political involvement was the only answer to ensuring their own well-being and that of their families. However, their goals and methods were markedly different from modern feminism, although echoes of their beliefs and practices can still be heard across the political spectrum. Nearly all women today have inherited some part of their political beliefs, and looking into the work of the women of this period has given me more insight into current political worldviews and divisions.

The emergence of women in the political realm in the late 19th century, and the campaign for women’s suffrage, was associated closely with, of all things, the temperance movement (1, 2). This movement, known as “first-wave feminism,” was a curious mishmash of progressive and conservative means and goals which drew from both the evangelical revival of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and the 19th-century equal rights movements (3). The women of this period saw themselves as equal to but different from men, believing that their main sphere of concern was within the home. They felt that that womanly characteristics of caring and nurturing would be of benefit in the public sphere, and the rights they sought were mainly connected to their roles in the home, over property and their children (4).

The temperance movement began in the early 19th century, part of a perception of a need for moral reform in a wider sense (5) and was from early on mainly a woman’s movement. It became more organized after the Civil War, however, especially with the formation of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union in 1874. The organization became international in 1893 (6). Especially under its influential president Frances Willard, the Union espoused a wide variety of causes from the criminalization of alcohol sale and use, to votes for women, equal pay for equal work, crackdowns on prostitution, child labor laws, organized labor, education, and world peace (7). The fact that this movement had little to do with modern divisions between conservative and liberal can be seen in the fact that it culminated in both the 18th and 19th amendments; as well as in the Union’s two slogans: “For God and Home and Native Land” and “Agitate – Educate – Legislate.”

Perhaps this array of causes coalesced around temperance because, on one hand, it attracted a wide range of women: more conservative women who did not seek the vote, and more radical ones for whom it was only part of a wide range of desired reforms (8). On the other hand, the crusade against alcohol struck at the core of women’s lack of rights: in the 19th century, men drank, but women suffered for it (9, 10). Alcoholic husbands and fathers abused and impoverished their families, and as women had no rights over marital property or children, they were helpless to better their situation.

However, women did not seek only the rights that would allow them to escape from abusive situations. Rather, they sought the salvation of the men in their lives from the ravages of alcohol and other vices. The role of the Victorian woman was as a protector of the home and the nurturer of virtue, and the temperance women saw alcohol as seducing men away from virtue, destroying their bodies and their minds as well as the lives of their families. The desire to protect men from alcohol grew out of this Victorian concept of woman as guardian of virtue.

The means by which women sought these reforms changed somewhat over time (11). Early on, they sought change by “moral suasion,” in keeping with the prevailing belief that this was the proper realm of women, who were unsuited for political involvement. It was not long before the women decided that political action was necessary to achieve their ends, however; but the movement continued to be rooted in both Christianity and domestic concerns, rather than a secular political philosophy or women’s freedom to take on traditionally male roles in the public sphere.

This stands in contrast both to the 1970s vision of feminism and to the temperance movements’ contemporaries, the suffragettes (12) (about whom more in a future post, hopefully). The means by which they worked for temperance consisted mainly of prayer and hymn-singing at taverns, and the goal was the conversion of men into Christian husbands and fathers by the elimination of alcohol and other temptations to vice. There were other, more colorful characters in the temperance movement such as the hatchet-swinging Carrie Nation (13); but her goal also was to do God’s work.

The temperance movement consisted mainly of lower and middle-class white women, although the Anti-Saloon league was also in operation under male leadership (14). Black women also led temperance unions (15); but the Union was criticized by contemporary African-American reformers for racial insensitivity (16, 17).

Like the Wesleyan evangelical movement of the eighteenth century (18), this “first-wave feminism” was a mix of what would in modern terms be called “progressive” goals (relief for the poor, the rights of women) with profoundly conservative ones (the enforcement of Christian “purity” by legal means (19). Both were seen as necessary, most importantly as the work of God, but also for the relief of human beings; because both societal indifference and personal behavior such as alcoholism and promiscuity contributed to the misery of the poor and underprivileged. Though the schism between these two sets of goals is probably for the most part unbridgeable by this time, nearly all women have inherited some part of the temperance women’s beliefs, even if only that women have an important contribution to make to the political realm. In closing, it is important to note that the WCTU is still in existence (20, 21), still bridging the gap between conservative and liberal based on a particular set of ideas about women and religion.

Other links:
The diverse means employed by the temperance workers (22)
Prohibition stuff (23: warning, plays music)
Documents from the temperance movement (24, 25)

A final note: I was messing with different ways of handling links while working on this, and hope it is not too distracting. Some of the numbered links refer to the same web page, when that web page made significant reference to more than one point I wanted to make. All of the pages I’ve linked to are worth reading, and go into much more detail and offer more points of view than I could.

talking Turkey

Argh, what a horrible pun. So I guess since I have to go to Turkey later this summer, I might as well learn a bit about the place. Here are a couple of links I’ve found, I’ll post some more as I find them.

It seems that a fellow named Mustafa Kemal Ataturk is more or less responsible for modern Turkey. A short bio can be found on a fun, quirky site that I found; a longer and more glowing account of his life–and pictures!– can be found here.

The “Turkey Travel Planner” grapples with the broad spectrum of Anatolian history. If you have no patience with all that clicking, Lonely Planet sums it all up for you on a single page. The Oriental Institute, of course, has the ancient aspects well in hand. Pretty spiffy, huh?

Success or failure at Yalta?

What happened at the Yalta conference? Was President Roosevelt too sick to deal effectively with Stalin? Could he have done more to temper the Soviet Union’s postwar ambitions? An interesting piece about Roosevelt, Stalin, and the Yalta conference.

The short but glorious reign of the schnellbomber

Over the holiday weekend, we had the opportunity to visit the National Museum of the USAF near Dayton, Ohio. It’s a phenomenal museum, and well worth the visit should you find yourself in the area.

Due to time constraints, we were only able to fully explore the World War II section of the museum, which includes among other things the B-29 that dropped the second atomic bomb. The aircraft that interested me the most, however, was a restored Junkers Ju 88–an aircraft I’d not before seen in person. (A subsequent internet search revealed that there are just a handful of restored Ju 88s today–the first one pictured on that list is the one we saw at the Museum.)

The Ju 88 represents a curious and short-lived period of military aviation history. Between the two World Wars, military thinkers around the world (Billy Mitchell being perhaps the most famous) spent a lot of time trying to figure out how airplanes, which had shown promise but had not proved decisive in World War I, could best be used in future conflicts.

The Ju 88 was an effort to meet the German ideal for combat aircraft: the schnellbomber, a fast, agile plane that combined the speed and manuverability of a fighter with the heavy armament and payload of a bomber. It was a fast medium bomber that could, in theory, hit enemy ground targets while holding its own against enemy fighters. The Ju 88 was but one of several aircraft built to meet this vision–other German aircraft in this vein included the infamous Stuka dive bomber, the unusual Me 110 “Zerstorer,” the Do-17 “Flying Pencil,” and the He-111. These bombers are unique, perhaps a bit ugly even, in appearance–but they seem to me to possess a sort of curious elegance.

All of these fighter/bomber hybrids saw action in the early months of World War II. They enjoyed great success in the Spanish Civil War, and performed reasonably well during the Blitzkrieg. The Battle of Britain, however, was where they were really put to the test–they would be facing a prepared foe armed with capable aircraft. By the end of that hard-fought campaign, it was clear that the schnellbomber concept didn’t work as well in reality as it did in theory. Their speed was not enough to protect them from the top-of-the-line British fighters of the day (which were themselves getting faster and more powerful as time went on); the Ju 88 and its brethren actually required a fighter escort if they hoped to survive above England. Nor were their bombing capabilities sufficient for the task; their relatively limited payloads (compared to the Allied heavy bombers that would soon be clouding the skies over Germany) made them rather mediocre strategic bombers.

Like its fellow medium bombers, the Ju 88 was a solid aircraft but too much of a jack-of-all-trades to hold its own in the face of rapidly-advancing fighter and bomber technology. After a short period of dominance before and immediately after the start of the war, most of the schnellbomber-type planes were quickly outclassed. Most German planes of this type ended up being reassigned to secondary roles (reconnaissance, night-fighter duty, etc.), where they performed competently but unremarkably until Germany’s surrender. But they were important precursors to the more specialized fighters and bombers that, by the war’s end, would completely redefine the practice of war.