Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Photos from the 2014 Arts & Sciences Expo

Several of our history majors presented their research at this year's Arts & Sciences Exposition. They included Daniel Leopold, Nick Siciliano, Matt Zaros, Max Schneller, and Dr. Payne's entire digital history class. Congratulations everyone!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Congratulations History Majors!

Here are a few photos from today's Phi Alpha Theta induction ceremony. Congratulations to all the new inductees!

Initiation into the Phi Alpha Theta

The History Department is pleased to initiate 16 new members into the national history honors society, Phi Alpha Theta, at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, April 28, in the Thomas Merton Center.

The following students are being initiated, and friends and family are welcome: Sara E. Apenowich, Leah D. Brownstein, Jacob Mark Bunce, Rachel Wren Farrell, Anna M. Ciesla, Andrew Gagne, Michele’ J. Madonna, Chelsea O'Connor-Rosiek, Maximilian J. Schneller, Nicholas Siciliano, Michael James Specht, Christina Anne Stankewicz, Mariah Wolford, Kevin Joseph Yehl, Matthew Joseph Zaros, and Christina H. Zoppi.

Please note that any Phi Alpha Theta student who is graduating this May and who was initiated into the honorary society prior to this year may contact Dr. Karen Robbins if they are interested in wearing honor cords for graduation. The cost is $13.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Discovering Buffalo with Daniel Leopold

As a Buffalo native, my pride for the once prominent city has become a large part of my life since moving away to Bonaventure. What was once America’s 8th largest city is still home to a plethora of artistic venues, beautiful architecture, and incredible museums. One such museum, the Mark Twain room, is housed within the walls of the Central Buffalo Library, located downtown.

The Southern author spent eighteen months in the city, writing for local newspapers while working on fiction pieces on the side. Many of the artifacts of his life are on display in the room, including a restored mantelpiece of his mansion on Delaware Avenue and a steamer trunk that held forgotten Twain documents.

The centerpiece of the museum are leaves from the original handwritten manuscript of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, one of Mark Twain’s most well-known works. Filed around this unique piece of history are English and foreign language editions of the novel. Norman Rockwell prints for the 1940 edition of Huckleberry Finn hang on the wall adjacent to bookshelves containing illustrations and other works relevant to Twain.

While small, the Mark Twain room captures a great deal of Buffalo history. Admission is free, and more information about the museum and library can be found at http://www.buffalolib.org/content/grosvenor/mark-twain-room. The room is truly a mark of the resurgence of Buffalo, connecting the vibrant downtown area and central library with a remarkable segment of local history. It is definitely worth a visit.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Learning History Where it Happened: History Major Harrison Leone and the Defenestration(s) of Prague

In the summer after seventh grade, I fell through a second story window at my house, glass, frame and all. After my stitches healed, my dad began gleefully joking that I had been trying to re-enact the Defenestration of Prague. Now, I had no idea what the “Defenestration of Prague” was, and for a while I was convinced he had made it up. Defenestration? Come on, dad, that’s not a real word. Prague? Where was that, Russia?

Obviously, thirteen year old me was frightfully mistaken. Defenestration is a real word; Prague is not in Russia; and the Defenestration of Prague of 1618 played a pivotal role in modern European history. Throwing opponents out of windows is a peculiarly Czech solution to intractable political debates and, though the most significant from a historical standpoint, the Defenestration of 1618 was only one of three such events in Bohemian history.

Before understanding the defenestrations, readers should know that the Czechs have a long tradition of questioning authority and combating oppression, specifically when that oppression came via religious persecution. Prague itself was one of the first places to question the growing decadence of the medieval Catholic Church.

The fiery and passionate preacher Jan Hus decried the opulence of the church during his time. Hus would eventually be tied to a stake and set ablaze for the troubles he created. His teachings and grisly demise ignited the Hussite Wars, a proto-Protestant movement that lasted for several decades and left Bohemia a devastated, backwards province, removed from power, and without any capacity for self-government. The Hussite Wars were set off with the First Defenestration of Prague in 1419, when town council members were thrown to their death from the New Town Hall.
The Second, and most famous, Defenstration of Prague was once again provoked by religious conflict. By this time, the Protestant Reformation was in full swing and threatening to upend the social order of Europe. The Czechs, now under the rule of the devoutly Catholic Hapsburgs, were once again at the forefront of the religious fissures developing across the continent. The Protestant Bohemian nobility had enjoyed freedom of worship and equitable legal status under Emperor Rudolf II after he issued the Letter of Majesty in the early 1600s. Now, Rudolf’s successor, Emperor Matthias, revoked the letter, leaving the powerful Czech Protestants enraged at their disenfranchisement. In May of 1618, Catholic ministers were hurled from a three story window at the Prague Castle. According to the Catholics present at the scene, their lives were spared by intervening angels; according to the Protestants, they fell in manure. In either case, this spark ignited the powder keg, and Europe descended into the Thirty Year’s War, a horrendous conflict that was the deadliest the continent had ever seen.

The Third Defenestration, which is little known or publicized outside of the Czech Republic, had nothing to do with religion but everything to do with power. In 1948, Czechoslovakia had just undergone a bloodless and widely supported Communist coup. Foreign Minister Jan Masaryk, son of one of the greatest Czech heroes Tomáš Masaryk, was found dead below his bathroom window, with the official report stating suicide. Masaryk was an ardent nationalist and no fan of the increased Soviet influence in his country, and suspicion abounded that either Czech communist thugs or Soviet secret agents sent the unfortunate minister to his death. In 2004, after further investigation, the Prague police officially stated that Masaryk had in fact been murdered.

The story of the Czech people’s struggle is often tragic. Surrounded by powerful neighbors, placed in the middle of the most historically mercurial continent on earth, the Czechs have sought for centuries to assert their national character on their own lands. The Czechs seem to have been the victims of every historical villain of the past 500 years, whether this villainy came in the form of corrupt priests, power-hungry Austrians, Lebensraum-seeking Nazis, or the Warsaw Pact. Troubled past aside, my experiences with the Czechs have been absolutely peaceful and pleasant, although I have made it a point to avoid standing near windows.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

History Major Victoria Glanowski Writes from London

“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford."
-Samuel Johnson

Well, I must say that there is always something to do in London even if you have lived here your whole life. Unlike Dublin, which is compact and small, London is spread out. There are six zones in the Greater London area and three other zones in the North West of London. Luckily, there are many modes of transportations such as buses, bikes, cars, trains, and the London Underground, also known as the Tube. On a rainy day in London, which sometimes happens, the Tube is your best mode of transport.
Besides the presence of the London Eye, there are plenty of historical places on virtually every street corner. A few weeks ago, I had a great meal at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Pub located on Fleet Street in London. The pub was rebuilt back in 1667 during the reign of King Charles II. Inside, the pub is a labyrinth of rooms that draws in tourists and locals. Outside the pub, in the passageway, there is a list of all the royals who have been served.

Not a far distance from the pub is the iconic St. Paul’s Cathedral. Besides the marvelous mosaic walls, the other amazing part of the cathedral is the three galleries. We came upon the Whispering Gallery after walking up 257 steps and going through the smallest door that was hobbit size. After the Whispering Gallery, our group went up another 376 steep steps to the Stone Gallery and then another 528 steps to the Golden Gallery. The best view of London was the Golden Gallery and not the Stone Gallery. The Golden Gallery even had a peep hole where you could see the inside of the Cathedral!

So far the adventure has been amazing and there are still plenty of things to see in London!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

History Students in Action on GIS Cemetery project

Last Monday we saw a hint of spring, so the class took the opportunity to go the cemetery to work on our map.  We also met with a local genealogist who has been volunteering in online commemorating for years.  After an excellent presentation students set out to find the remaining graves they are researching and secure their coordinates.