Mar 20

Saint Stories and Christian Heroes

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon, where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light and where there is sadness joy.

Oh Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”—Prayer of St. Francis

St. Francis of Assisi

St. Francis of Assisi

St. Francis of Assisi is one of the most beloved of saints, known for his humble cassock, simple joys, and love of all of God’s creatures. Born into a wealthy family in Italy, Francis was at first drawn to the gay and carefree life of a prosperous merchant’s son. Seeking adventure, he became a soldier and traveled, but soon returned home to Assisi, determined to give all his belongings to the poor, give up the trappings of privilege, and humbly serve his fellow creatures. His conversion infuriated his powerful father, but won him dozens of faithful followers, and he has served as a vivid reminder of the true spirit of Christian charity ever since.

As we approach the Easter season, this is an excellent time to reflect on the lives of hundreds of saints who have represented Christian ideals over twenty centuries. Some saints, such as Francis of Assisi, are well known and lived influential lives even while exemplifying the Christian virtues of piety and humility. Others are lesser known as historical figures, but are especially beloved by people of specific regions or those who share similar occupations. Saints have arisen from all stations in life and their stories vary, but many are full of conflict, since living according to Christian ideals always has put one in at odds with worldly materialism, love of pleasure, popular vices, and the powers-that-be.

Recommended Reading

The Heritage History library includes dozens saint biographies. We do not, however, include them all in one single collection. Our Ancient Rome collection features Christian heroes of antiquity. Our British Middle Ages collections feature Christian heroes of England, Ireland, and Scotland, and the Christian Europe collection contains over a dozen saint biographies featuring well-known saints of Medieval Europe. The subjects of our biographies range from legendary saints, such as Sts. George and Christopher, to the life stories of important Church Fathers such as Augustine and Ambrose.

The Four Saint Books presented here all feature stories about St. Francis, and are taken from either the Young Readers collection, or our Christian Europe library.

God’s TroubadourIn God’s GardenSaints and HeroesSaints and Friendly Beasts

God’s Troubadour by Sophie Jewett relates the story of how a gay, courtly young soldier, who grew up amid wealth and privilege became a knight of Jesus Christ, gave up earthly ambitions and vowed devotion to Lady Poverty. In Gods Garden by Amy Steedman features engaging saint stories that were selected to be especially appealing to young children. The inspirational stories of both legendary and historical saints are told with emphasis on the life of faith. The Book of Saints and Heroes by Mrs Andrew Lang is an especially delightful collection of beautifully illustrated Saint Stories that are told with in the style of a fairy tale or romance. The Book of Saints and Friendly Beasts is especially attractive to younger children because it features many saints, including Francis of Assisi, who tamed wild beasts and had special relationships with animals.

Many of the stories in these book are based on true heroes, but some include some fantastic elements. The stories of saints and Christian heroes are not only delightful to children, but also serve to remind Christians that we affirm miracles and the wonder of creation. We hope your family enjoys some of these inspiring stories during this blessed Easter Season.

Mar 12

Heritage History and Core Curriculum Standards

There is nothing so corrupt as history when it enters the service of the state.” —Edgar Quinet

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” —George Orwell

“It is the great paradox of the modern world that at the very time when the world decided that people should not be coerced about their form of religion, it also decided that they should be coerced about their form of education.”—G. K. Chesterton

Homeschool History vs. “Official” History

These quotes illustrate a few of the objections that homeschoolers have to curriculum standards and state-sanctioned history education. We at Heritage History are veteran homeschoolers and are opposed to government-sponsored curriculum standards as a matter of first principles. We believe that families and voluntary communities, rather than federal or state government, should be in control of children’s education and we created the Heritage History library as an alternative to state-sanctioned history programs. When considering whether or not we support such movements as “Common Core State Standards” we don’t need to read the fine print or ponder the details—the notion that we would go along with program of “national history standards” is counter to the very purpose of our existence.

Alfred the Great managed quite well without CCSS.

Alfred the Great managed quite well without CCSS.

That said, when curriculum standards are suggested, it can be instructive to review them, because they reveal much about the government or organization that is proposing them. The Common Core State Standards that are currently being discussed among homeschoolers, however, are so vague and opaque that the main thing they reveal is that the education establishment in America is thoroughly absorbed in a bureaucratic maelstrom of ed-school-jargon mumbo-jumbo. You can see the Middle School Social Studies standards here.

Are you asleep yet? To the untrained eye, these standards appear to be nothing more than pablum and gobbledygook—and yet strangely uncontroversial. How could anyone object to insisting that students study “primary” and “secondary” sources, or analyze “key points” of the text.

Unfortunately, it is not that innocent. By focusing entirely on methods and failing to disclose the intended content of history instruction, these standards give the green light for government schools to do exactly what they are already doing, i.e. teaching state-sanctioned, socialist ideals of “global citizenship” under the guise of social studies. The CCSS movement was not conceived of to reform public education, but merely to rubber-stamp the mediocre status quo and deflect efforts at genuine reform (i.e. vouchers and charters). The fact that they were “quickly embraced by 46 states and the District of Columbia” tells you all you need to know these standards; they upset no apple carts and serve only to empower the existing education bureaucracy. If there was a shred of actual reform or accountability associated with these standards, they would have been violently opposed at all levels of government.


The Heritage Curriculum—Traditional, not “Standard”

The real tragedy of the CCSS history standards, however, is not that they leave the door open for politicizing captive students. The worst thing about these standards is that they instruct teachers to present history in the most mind-numbing, mundane manner possible. Instead of delighting in the most exciting stories of 3000 years of human endeavor, the CCSS standards treat the whole field as fodder to teach “critical thinking”. History is a subject that should be the most interesting part of a child’s education, and the core curriculum standards reduce the entire topic to a pedantic slog.

It can almost be said that the Heritage Classical Curriculum is the antithesis of CCS standards. The standards are entirely process-oriented and make no explicit judgments regarding the value of particular texts. At Heritage History, we are entirely content oriented, and deemphasize busywork. We’ve spent years collecting hundreds of historical texts that we believe are worthwhile and interesting to students, and our core readings emphasize fundamental historical knowledge. Instead of requiring students to “cite textual evidence to support analysis”, “summarize how key ideas develop” or “integrate quantitative analysis”, we simply encourage students of all ages to “read”, “read”, and “read” whatever histories interest them the most.

Instead of using selected history texts as fodder for teaching lessons in “global citizenry” we give students a huge selection of the best history stories ever written and encourage them to cultivate a genuine interest in history. And if our efforts are not in accordance with government “standards”, so be it.

Feb 27

“Victory or Death” at the Alamo

I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna. I have sustained a continual Bombardment & cannonade for 24 hours & have not lost a man. The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword . . . I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, & our flag still waves proudly from the walls I shall never surrender or retreat. . . . . I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country VICTORY OR DEATH.” —William Barret Travis

The Battle of the Alamo: Feb 23 to March 6, 1836

Some defeats do more to inspire a nation that a victory ever could. The battle of the Alamo, which ended in disaster for 186 brave defenders was such a defeat and it instilled in Texans a fighting spirit that survives to this day.


Outnumbered 10 to 1, Texans stand their ground

The conflict between Mexico and Texas began in 1835 when the Mexican government threw out the existing constitution of the republic and began to consolidate more power into the central government. The settlers in Texas decided to fight for their independence and spent the fall and winter of 1835 driving Mexican soldiers out of Texas territory. In February 1836 Texan leaders met at Washington, Texas to declare their independence and develop a constitution, leaving only a small garrison near the Alamo Mission under commanders William Travis and James Bowie.

Determined to teach the rebellious Texans a lesson, Santa Anna marched towards the Rio Grande and arrived much earlier than expected. The Texans left to defend the region were woefully undermanned. At once Colonel William Travis made his famous declaration and sent an emergency dispatch to his commanders, nearly 200 miles away. A few of the riders gathered reinforcements on the way, who bravely joined their comrades, bringing the total force of defenders inside the Alamo mission to 186 men arrayed against a force of over 1800 Mexicans.

Day and night, the defenders of the Alamo repelled the advances of the Mexican Army. The Mexicans were unable to destroy the Alamo with cannonade, so after 10 days of fighting, on the night of March 5th, Santa Anna’s men stormed the mission. Every wall and room was fiercely defended, but one by one the defenders fell, until only the women, children, and servants were left standing. Five soldiers were taken alive, but when they were brought before Santa Anna, he ordered them to be executed.

Santa Anna’s brutality towards the surviving soldiers and the stories of heroism related by the women who had witness the battle energized the citizens of the new Republic. Only seven weeks later, Sam Houston led the Texans to a final victory over Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto, invoking the immortal battle cry “Remember the Alamo” to rally his troops.

Recommended Reading

If you would like to read more about this fascinating battle, Heritage History offers a number of Choices. Edward Sabin’s Boys’ Book of Border Battles provides exciting, in depth accounts of the both the Siege of the Alamo, the battle of San Jacinto, at which Houston avenged the heroes. Almost all American histories mention the Alamo, but only a few, such as Charles Morris’s American Historical Tales give it the detailed attention that it deserves.

Book of Border BattlesHistorical Tales - AmericanShort History of Mexico

Both of these volumes listed above provide excellent accounts of the battle itself, but to really understand the politics leading up to the conflict, Arthur Noll’s Short History of Mexico provides fascinating insights into the complicated shenanigans of the Mexican government at the time.

Texas is a unique and fascinating state, with an unusual history. We’ve managed to track down a few more children’s histories of Texas and hope to have them available by later this year.

Feb 25

Plutarch and the “Marks of the Souls of Men”

Sometimes small incidents, rather than glorious exploits, give us the best evidence of character. So, as portrait painters are more exact in doing the face, where the character is revealed, than the rest of the body, I must be allowed to give my more particular attention to the marks of the souls of men.”

Alexander the Great and the Philosopher Diogenes

Few writers in history have been more influential or as widely read as Plutarch. His biographies of famous Greeks and Romans were read with enthusiasm by classical scholars from the time they were written in the first century AD until recent times. Plutarch was the very archtype of classical wisdom, but unfortunately, his brilliant and sympathetic understanding of human nature is now shunted aside by modern scholars who seek to understand human behavior by means of “scientific” observation instead of thoughtful insight.

The wisdom that can be gained from reading Plutarch is well described in the quote featured above. Each biography is not just a recount of achievements or conquests, but rather a study of the nature of the man himself. What were his inherent strengths and primarily influences? How did he deal with difficulties? Who were his enemies, and perhaps most important, what were his fatal flaws? In addition to examining the temptations, foibles, and errors of the great men of history, Plutarch has much to say about the fickle nature of public adulation and fair-weather friends. His works stress not only the character of individual men but say much about the societies in which they lived.

Plutarch’s unabridged works are appropriate for college-level study, but Heritage History offers several books that provide a good introduction to younger students. The problem with simplifying Plutarch, of course, is precisely the same problem as that of “re-telling” Shakespeare. It is difficult to simplify the works of either author and retain that which makes their work a masterpiece. Plutarch’s works are rich in anecdote and commentary, much of which must inevitably be stripped out in order to make them accessible to young people.

The books listed below, therefore, are all greatly simplified, but are intended for different audiences. Gould’s Children’s Plutarch (two volumes) is severely simplified, and retains only a basic narrative for grammar school students. Kaufman’s Young Folks Plutarch provides very through biographies, but skimps on the “moralizing” that makes Plutarch, with his vivid insights into human nature, so fascinating.

Children’s PlutarchChildren’s PlutarchPlutarch LivesYoung Folk’s Plutarch

Both Gould and Kaufman cover all fifty or so of Plutarch’s lives, and shorten their versions correspondingly. Weston, on the other hand, in his Plutarch’s Lives for Boys and Girls focuses only on fourteen the of Plutarch’s most famous subjects, and is therefore able to retain more of the tone of Plutarch’s original. His versions eliminate detail, extraneous secondary characters and side plots, but retain more of the commentary for which Plutarch is best known. It is therefore, our favorite rendition of Plutarch and one we recommend to thoughtful students who are ready to appreciate the insights a classical education can provide.

Plutarch was enormously influential among many writers and philosophers, including Shakespeare, Chaucer, and the founding fathers. His Lives have been favorites of classical scholars of all ages, and are much more than brilliant histories. The great biographer was primarily a moralist and his works are imbued with piercing and eternal “value judgments”. It is a small wonder that Plutarch is no longer a favorite of the mediocre and nihilist gate-keepers of the modern academy. Such mendacity cannot cannot tolerate the glare of timeless truth.

This post is part of the Quotable Wisdom Link-up by the bloggers of iHomeschool Network.

Feb 16

Benjamin Frankin on the “Errors of Mankind”

The history of the errors of mankind, all things considered, is more valuable and interesting than that of their discoveries. Truth is uniform and narrow . . . But error is endlessly diversified; it has no reality, but is the pure and simple creation of the mind that invents it. In this field the soul has room enough to expand herself, to display all her boundless faculties, and all her beautiful and interesting extravagancies and absurdities. —Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin, printer’s apprentice

This amusing quote contains the key to why so many of the most fascinating historical characters are either outright villains or at least morally ambiguous. Many of the “great men” of history were capable of both magnanimous deeds and cold-blooded slaughter, who succeeded in their schemes by adopting their own private moral universe and imposing it on all around them. Napoleon, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, and even Hitler and Stalin, were visionaries as well as military leaders, and all believed that they were capable of creating a vastly better civilization, once opposition to their designs had been thoroughly repressed.

Those of us who would love to use history help teach good character in our students need to take a broad view of the situation. It is easy to find inspiring heroes at first pass: Alfred the Great, George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln come to mind. But the range of unambiguously good characters, outside of the fields of missionary and charity work and is fairly slim. Politics, discovery, and military conquest are seldom the province of saints, and the moral lessons that history teaches are often complex. The most interesting history stories feature plenty of decadence, cowardice and adversity. The bravest and most irrepressible souls often have character flaws a mile wide. The most noble and patriotic characters often meet with ingratitude and bad ends.

Students who clearly understand the difference between good and evil, and most essentially, understand man’s tendency toward sin, have some chance of making sense of history, where as those who are only capable of doing a “cost-benefit” analysis of historical events and characters will come up empty. Truth may be “uniform and narrow”, but it is our only reliable guide.

This post is part of the Quotable Wisdom Link-up by the bloggers of iHomeschool Network.

Feb 12

Fight for Freedom of the Seas: Stephen Decatur

As the Americans swarmed over the rails and came upon the deck the pirates gathered in a panic-stricken, confused mass on the forecastle. Apparently they thought themselves assailed by an opponent many times more numerous than themselves, whereas, in truth, the odds were all on their own side had they but known it. . . . .The pirates, terrorized from the beginning, stood before the fierce onslaught only long enough to see scores of their number go down under the unerring pistol shots and cutlass thrusts of the Americans, and then those of them who could, fled to the rails and jumped madly overboard. . . .”

This Week in History: February 16, 1804

The Burning of the Philadelphia

On February 16th of 1804, an “Intrepid” crew of American sailors led by Stephen Decatur brought a vessel loaded with combustible materials, disguised as a small merchant ship, into the heavily fortified harbor of Tripoli. Their mission was to blow up the USS Philadelphia, a 36-gun frigate that had been captured by the Pasha of Tripoli, to prevent its use by the Barbary pirates.

Decatur’s ship, a captured Tripolitan ketch that had been outfitted—complete with Arab-speaking sailors—as a merchant vessel returning from a long voyage, drifted slowly across the harbor towards the USS Philadelphia. Explaining to the guards that they had lost their anchors in a storm, the “merchant ship”—filled with seventy-five cutlass-wielding seamen,—requested permission to fasten against the larger ship for the night. Permission was granted, ropes were passed across to hold the two ships together, and moments later the Americans used the ropes to board the captured frigate.

After a sharp, but brief conflict with pirate guards aboard the Philadelphia, Decatur ordered the powder from the Intrepid “merchant ship” to be transferred to the doomed frigate. Working swiftly, Decatur and his crew set multiple fires aboard the Philadelphia and hastened back to the Intrepid. The swift blaze of the burning ship illuminated the harbor and alerted the surrounding forts, who opened up the full force of their gun batteries against the fleeing Intrepid. Miraculously, they escaped unharmed across the harbor and were soon out of reach of the cannons. Not a single American life had been lost.

Lessons Learned

Decatur and his men board the Philadelphia

The sinking of the Philadelphia was one of many thrilling episodes during the American campaign against the pirates of Tripoli. The Barbary Wars, fought between 1801 and 1815 were enormously significant because they helped to liberate all sea-faring nations—not just Americans—from the threat of the piratical terrorism.

Although France and Britain had powerful navies and could have easily destroyed the pirate enclaves of Tripoli long before the Americans took on the task, they declined to do so. The Barbary pirates dared not attack British or French ships so they preyed on those from smaller and weaker countries—and by doing so helped wealthy and powerful nations maintain a monopoly on sea trade.

When the Americans struck a blow against the Barbary pirates, they struck a blow for freedom of the seas—not just for America, but for all nations. And their target was not just savage pirates but also the cynical and self-serving empires that tolerated them and benefited by them. The narrow interests of American merchants could have been protected just as easily by paying tribute, but America refused to do so on principle. The early naval heroes of America understood what they were fighting for and it is important that our children—who will have to stand up to modern terrorists and present-day cynical politicians—understand what fighting for freedom involves.

Recommended Reading

This daring escapade described above won a permanent place for gallant Steven Decatur in the hearts of Americans and in the annals of naval history. Yet Decatur was only one among many bold and talented officers who helped to establish the United States as a world class naval power. Due to the heroic efforts of such stalwart sailors as John Paul Jones, Edward Preble, William Bainbridge, Isaac Hull, and Oliver Perry, the American Navy,—founded only a generation before the Barbary Pirate Wars,—was quickly established as force to be reckoned with.

Twelve Naval CaptainsBoys Book of Sea FightsMidshipman FarragutTwelve Naval Sea Captains tells the thrilling stories of a dozen of the earliest heroes of American Naval history. It focuses on the critical period between 1776 to 1815, by which time the U.S. Navy was firmly established.

Two other books that feature American naval heroes and battles are Boys’ Book of Sea Battles by Chelsea Fraser, and Midshipman Farragut by James Barnes. Both authors specialize in military history written for young men, and their books are filled with exciting episodes and feats of daring do. Fraser’s book includes one of the best accounts of the story of John Paul Jones that we currently have available at Heritage History, and Barnes provides a fascinating account of some of the early adventures of one of America’s best known navel heroes.

Jan 29

The Execution of an English King and American Liberties

Charles refused to plead, except before a lawful authority. “It is not my case alone,” he said; “it is the freedom and liberty of the people of England; and do you pretend what you will, I stand more for their liberties. For if power without law may make laws, and may alter the fundamental laws of the kingdom, I do not know what subject he is in England that can be sure of his life, or anything that he calls his own.”

This Week in History: January 30, 1649.

King Charles I on the Scaffold

What do American ideas regarding religious and personal liberties have to do with the execution of an English king? More than you might think!!!

On January 30th, 1649, Charles I was led to the scaffold. He had been found guilty of treason, but the court that convicted him was of dubious authority. The parliament that authorized the proceedings was hand-picked by Cromwell and judges that hesitated to condemn the king to death were either excluded or refused to participate.

The king was executed in order to bring a clear resolution to a devastating Civil War that had dragged on for almost eight years, but it didn’t work. Fighting continued even after the death of Charles I, and only subsided when Cromwell’s army finally crushed all active resistance. Even after establishing a successful Commonwealth and implementing many of his cherished reforms, Cromwell’s government was never popular and on his death, the son of the executed king was restored to the English throne.

A Defining Moment

The English Civil War was a watershed event in both British and American history. Many of America’s Founding Fathers descended from families that had fled to the colonies to avoid persecution during the War. The issues at stake during that devastating war were foremost in the minds of the founders when they framed the constitution of the United States, and they provide a fascinating case study in political and religious entanglements.

The simple explanation for the English Civil War was that it was a conflict between supporters of the king, representing the traditional order, and supporters of Parliament, who believed elected representatives should have more control over national government. However, the underlying divisions were complicated by religious loyalties, so instead of being resolved on the battlefield or by political compromise, the conflict dragged on even after the king surrendered and conceded to many of Parliament’s demands.

Rupert’s Charge at Edgehill

The opponents of the king had been unified on the battlefield, but they could find little common ground once peace was established. There was broad agreement that the monarchy should surrender power but no agreement about what Parliament should do with its newly-won influence. Ideas ranged from minor changes to whole-sale dismantling of the Anglican Church. Some men valued political influence above all while others fought for religious freedom. Some men sacrificed to preserve existing traditions, while others sought fundamental changes in both church and state government. The Scots disagreed with Englishmen on matters both political and religious; the Aristocracy sought to protect their privileges, wealthy merchants schemed to increase their influence; and the Puritan interpretation of Christianity generated both undying loyalty in its adherents and extreme opposition in its detractors.

Lessons Learned

The long and devastating English Civil War touched the lives of almost all Englishmen and provided enormous food-for-thought for political philosophers for decades afterward. The founding fathers of the United States, as well as many of England’s greatest political thinkers and statesmen (Hobbes, Locke, Burke, Pitt, etc.), lived in the century following the English Civil War and all were deeply influenced by it.

One of the many “lessons learned” from this conflict was that men of different religious persuasions could live peaceably together only if the state refrained from efforts to impose uniformity of belief. This insight was not embraced by most other European countries until the 19th century, but it became one of the tenets of the American constitution. Another lesson was that both radical change and uncompromising adherence to tradition are enemies of liberty. Perhaps the greatest lesson learned was that government of any kind needs restraints on its power or it will tend to become tyrannical.

Reading Suggestions

There is no historical subject that provides a better foundation for understanding the deepest concerns of the men who framed of the United States Constitution, than the English Civil War, and no better way to learn how American ideas of “Freedom of Religion” were formed.
Tudors and StuartsCharles IOliver CromwellKing at Oxford

All the “core” British histories in the Heritage History library cover the English Civil War, but most books written for younger students cover the incident briefly. Only those histories written for older students, such as The Tudors and Stuarts by Nisbet, Charles I by Jacob Abbott, and Oliver Cromwell, by Estelle Ross cover the conflict in enough detail to provide a solid understanding of the political and religious issues at stake. Alfred Church’s With the King at Oxford, a fictional account of the war, also includes a great many interesting historical insights.

All these books, which are included on the British Middle Ages Curriculum CD, provide an excellent background to the study of the English Civil War and are worthwhile for High School students intending to study American Civics.

Jan 24

Why are some books “missing” from Heritage History’s CD collection?

If I buy the the entire collection of Heritage History’s Classical Curriculum and Library CDs, will I be getting all of the books in the Heritage Library? If not, which books are left out? I would love to see a place on your site with a list of these books, so that I could find, without a lot of searching, if we already have a book or not and if there was something that we might be interested in.

Q: Are all of the books on your website included in at least one curriculum CD? If not, why aren’t they? and are you planning to add them to your CD collection at a later time?

Some variation of this question has been asked by at least a half dozen Heritage History readers, and we apologize for taking so long to answer. There are in fact, several dozen books in the Heritage Library that are not included in any of our Curriculum or Library collections. Our most recent inventory found about 55 books out of a total of over 500 in our online library were not included on any CD. Of these, about 15 were created in the last few months and will probably be included in a later release of an existing library. About forty, however, were not included in any library collection because they relate to historical topics that we have not yet developed a complete collection for. Most of these books are histories of non-western civilizations such as Chinese, African, or Islam.

More information about Heritage History books that are not currently included in one of our collections is provided as follows. All are currently available for individual purchase:

Asian and African Histories

The British Empire collection is intended to focus on colonial history, and it includes many of our favorite books covering Asian and African history. The ten books listed below might also have been included in that volume, but they tend to cover more ancient and isolated periods of history that have little to do with the colonial period. Also, the books we have included in the collection provide a good basic overview of many foreign regions, especially those that were directly colonized by Britain, such as India, South Africa, and Australia.

Our favorite middle-school level Asian histories were written by Robert Van Bergen. They are included on in the British Empire collection and are reviewed here. The books listed below are all excellent, however, and we regret not making space for them on an existing collection. We especially enjoy Charles Morris’s Historical Tales series, and Jacob Abbott’s biography of Genghis Khan is simply fascinating.

Genghis Khan by Jacob Abbott       China’s Story by W. E. Griffis       The Story of the Buddha by Edith Holland       Historical Tales – Japanese and Chinese by Charles Morris

In terms of African history, we can’t speak too highly of the Stories of the Gorilla Country series, written by the explorer Paul du Chaillu. It is one of our all time favorites, but it is so utterly unique in style and content that it is hard to categorize. We feature the first book in his series on the British Empire CD, but did not find room for all four, although they are an exceptionally good collection. You can read more about the Gorilla Country series here.

My Apingi Kingdom by Paul du Chaillu       The Country of the Dwarfs by Paul du Chaillu       Wildlife Under the Equator by Paul du Chaillu       Lost in the Jungle by Paul du Chaillu       West African Folk Tales by William Barker       Native Fairy Tales by Ethel McPherson

Moslem Histories

We have long had an interest in Moslem history, and have been trying to track down suitable children’s histories that cover Islamic countries for almost ten years. However, there is a dearth of Moslem histories and folklore written for young people, and it has been more difficult to track down children’s histories of Moslem countries than it has been find similar Chinese, Indian, and African volumes.

The scarcity of Moslem histories is a curious challenge, especially considering that Islamic countries bordered Europe for over 1000 years, and had much interactions with Europe countries. Furthermore, much of the Mediterranean territory conquered by Moslems in the seventh century was highly civilized and prosperous. The Moslem civilizations centered in Spain, Baghdad and Turkey were also highly cultivated. One would think that such thriving societies would be a terrific source of narrative history, but such is not the case.

Nevertheless, we have assembled a diverse collection of Moslem histories. Other than Horne’s short synopsis of the Ottoman Turks, however, it there are few comprehensive Moslem histories to work from. We would love to increase our collection, but may have to rely on adult, rather than children’s histories, in order to provide a complete picture of Moslem history.

Harun al-Rashid by Gabriel Audisio       Stories of the Magicians by Alfred Church       The Crusaders by Alfred Church       The Barbary Pirates by John Finnemore       The Lance of Kanana by Harry French       The Story of Mohammed by Edith Holland       Greatest Nations – Turkey by C. F. Horne       Eothen by A. W. Kinglake       The Arabian Nights Entertainment by Andrew Lang       Haremlik by Demetra Vaka

Nordic Histories and Mythology

Heritage History has a large collection of Norse Histories and Mythology. During the late 19th and early 20th century, Nordic mythology enjoyed a terrific revival and dozens of children’s stories were written to popularize old Nordic heroes such as Odin, Thor and Siegfried. Read simply as myths, many of these stories are very moving, and have common elements, such as Dragon slayers, magic swords, and invincible heroes, with better known stories from Christian and Greek mythology.

When one reads a little more German history, however, one learns that the promotion of Nordic mythology in the late 19th century originated as part of a pan-Germanic ideology that was prominent in Northern Europe during that period. And this idealization of the Nordic race, which involved a campaign to actively “de-Christianize” German youth, led directly to the Prussian racism that fueled the Great European Wars of the twentieth century.

For this reason, we originally intended to include Norse mythology with “Modern Europe”, because the Nordic revival was wholly a product of the 19th century. Nordic legends were considered pagan during the middle ages so it would not be accurate to include them as part of the Christian Europe collection. However, we thought it better to leave them out altogether than to associate them with this unfortunate period of pro-German idolatry.

The stories of Nordic heroes themselves are quite charming and devoid of offensive pro-German propaganda, and we’re sure to find a good home for them in later editions. The fact that they were used for propaganda purposes does not diminish the stories themselves, but it should serve to warn parents that even harmless children’s stories, in the hands of a nefarious government, can be used with evil intent.

The Sampo by James Baldwin       Children of Odin by Padraic Colum       Rolf and the Viking’s Bow by Allen French       Norse Stories from the Eddas by H. W. Mabie       Heroes of Asgard by A. E. Keary       Historical Tales – Scandinavian by Charles Morris       Eric the Red by George Upton

World Histories

All of the following books are collections of historical stories taken from many different periods of World History. For this reason, they did not fit well into any one particular historical category, and so were not included in any of the Heritage collections.

Most of the following books are written for middle school or early high school reading levels. It may make sense for Heritage History is to group such books together in a “World History” collection, intended for students who want to read history stories from a wide variety of periods. We are likely to do something like this in the future, but have nothing available for 2013.

Ten Boys who Lived on the Road by Jane Andrews       Historic Boys by E. S. Brooks       Historic Girls by E. S. Brooks       The Red Book of Heroes by Andrew Lang       Heroes Every Child Should Know by H. W. Mabie       Legends Every Child Should Know by H. W. Mabie       Boys’ Book of Famous Soldiers by J. W. McSpadden       Boys of the Ages by Laura Scales       Ten Boys From History by K. D. Sweetser       The Boy’s Book of Sea Fights by Chelsea Fraser       Scientific Discoveries by Charles Gibson       Twentieth Century Inventions by Charles Gibson

Recently Released Books

One of the main areas we are actively working on is on a collection of Bible histories, and histories pertaining to Egypt, Assyria and other Biblical era periods. For this reason, about half of our most recent entries, are collections of children’s Bible stories. We have reviewed most of our Children’s Bibles here.

When the King Came by George Hodges       The Story of the Bible by Hurlbut       Peeps at Ancient Assyria by James Baikie       Peeps at Ancient Egypt by James Baikie       Children’s Bible – New Testament by Kent and Sherwood       Children’s Bible – Old Testament by Kent and Sherwood       The Story of the Chosen People by Guerber

The other half of our newly released books are entirely miscellaneous. Most, however, could very well have been included in one of our existing collections if they had been completed earlier. We will probably include them in our planned 2014 update to our library and curriculum CD collection.

St. Anselm by Wilmot-Buxton       The Adventures of Buffalo Bill by William Cody       Ivanhoe Told to the Children by Ethel Lindsay       Gabriel Garcia Moreno by Scott       Isaac Jogues by Scott       Joseph Bonaparte by J. S. C. Abbott       A Book of Myths by Jean Lang       Highlights of the Mexican Revolution by McLeish       A History of Russia by Nathan Dole      

If you fail to see a pattern in our selection of recently released books (other than an obvious bias in favor of Children’s Bibles), don’t worry, we don’t see one either. If they appear to be fairly random, that is just because we’re interested in history from all periods, so almost anything can strike us as a worthy subject. The pile of books awaiting processing currently on our desk looks about the same. . .

Jan 19

The Massacre of a British Regiment

The battery was reached; but too late! All around it lay the dead gunners, and a goodly number of Zulus. With startling rapidity the foe had fallen upon the battery, surrounding it so that escape was impossible, and rushing upon the gunners with cruel ferocity. Hand to hand they fought, but the British were appallingly outnumbered, and at last not a man of them remained alive; rifles and assegais had done their work.

This week in History: January 1879

One Hundred and forty British soldiers hold off 4,000 Zulu warriors at Rorke’s Drift.

One of the greatest military disasters in the history of the British Empire occurred at Isandhlwana, in the Zululand region of South Africa. On the morning of January 22, a British camp of 1,400 soldiers and camp followers was over run by 20,000 Zulu warriors. After a horrific fight, the entire British army was savagely massacred and the Zulu army proceeded to Rorke’s Drift, where a small battalion, hearing of the debacle at Isandhlwana, fortified a camp and prepared to meet the Zulu’s in battle.

How did such a catastrophe come about? British over-confidence was largely to blame. In past conflicts, native armies tended to disperse when fired upon by the superior weaponry of the British, so Lord Chelmsford made no serious defensive plans for his excursion into Zulu territory. He left only about 140 men to hold the ford at Rorke’s Drift when he crossed into Zulu territory. Then, from the encampment at Isandhlwana the British commander marched against the Zulus with most of his forces, leaving 1,400 doomed men under the charge of Colonels Durnford and Pulliene.

The Zulus were well aware of the troops movements. Once the main army was gone, the camp at Isandhlwana was attacked by a band of Zulus 20,000 strong. Although they fought bravely the British were vastly outnumbered and over 1300 soldiers lay dead on the field by evening. The Zulus then moved on, taking the British supplies and equipment with them, as they headed for the ford at Rorke’s Drift, where they intended to cross into the English colony of Natal.

By mid afternoon a messenger had managed to get word to the garrison at Rorke’s Drift that the Zulu forces were approaching and they fortified their position as much as possible in the brief time they had before the Zulus were upon them. All afternoon and throughout the night, the small band of 140 men defended their position against thousands of Zulu warriors. Finally, the following morning, Chelmsford’s main body of men arrived and the Zulus dispersed.

The battles of Isandhlwana and Rorke’s Drift are only a few of the exciting episodes of British colonial history that are featured in Heritage History’s British Empire Classical Library.

It is fascinating to read about such events from the point view of the British, rather than from modern, anti-colonial writers, who rarely acknowledge the British point of view. The British justified their involvement in colonial regions because they believed that natives would benefit from improved infrastructure, education, and opportunities for trade provided by the imperial government. They also thought they could be effective in helping to end native practices that they considered inhumane, such as slavery, child-marriage, witchcraft, and tribal warfare. Even if one opposes colonialism, understanding the British perspective is instructive.

Some of the books included in the British Empire collection that feature stories of the Zulu War are Eric Wood’s Boys’ Book of Battles, H. E. Marshall’s Our Empire Story, and M. B. Synge’s The Reign of Queen Victoria. All of these books present the Zulu War in context and provide important insights into the political rivalries in the region, which were more complicated than simply native vs. British. Inter-tribal conflicts, diamond discoveries in the region, and diplomatic struggles with white settlers in the region who opposed the British government, were all complicating factors.

Modern histories that treat native rule as is it were a self-evident good, and demonize colonial powers without presenting the full complexity of the situation, distort history. There is much to be said against the British rule in Africa, but there is much to be said against unrestrained barbarism as well.

Jan 15

Targeting Civilians: A Zeppelin Attack on Britain

This week in History, January 1915

Lieutenant Reginald Warneford was the first British Pilot to shoot down a Zeppelin. He received the Victoria Cross, but was killed in action shortly afterward.

Before the 20th century, most of Britain’s wars were fought overseas and British civilians remained relatively safe from harm. Specifically targeting civilians in order to demoralize the enemy did not become a part of modern war strategy until World War 1, when the German Kaiser authorized nighttime bombing raids on England using Zeppelin airships.

On January 19, 1915, Zeppelins crossed into Britain over the Norfolk coast and headed towards the British towns of Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn. The initial raids used both bombs and incendiary devices intended to start fires. Unprepared to deal with such a threat, the British military scrambled to build their defenses while terrified civilians wondered where to hide.

Initial attempts at using artillery against the Zeppelins were not effective, but fighter planes armed with incendiary rounds were and the British were able to successfully deter Zeppelins, while the Germans began to look for other ways to transport bombs.

Although the Zeppelin raids did not achieve much in the way of destroying the British infrastructure they had a significant psychological effect on civilians, creating waves of terror and rioting across the nation. More importantly, they set a terrible precedent and by World War II, the aerial bombing of civilian populations in times of war was considered a legitimate military tactic.

You can read more about Germany’s aerial attacks on Britain and the response of early British pilots in Thrilling Deeds of British Airmen by Eric Wood, and learn more about the First World War by reading The Story of the Great War by Roland Usher. These are only two of about a half dozen books about World War I featured in the British Empire Classical Curriculum.

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