Dahomey’s Green Folly Sources Accidental Children
Martin Luther’s Accidental Revolution by Keenan Malik (Pandaemonium): Martin Luther was a strange kind of character, not really a revolutionary; when he nailed his 95 theses to the church door, he kind of knew he was asking for trouble, but he didn’t quite expect to start a revolution. At the same time, he was very conservative religiously (if not traditionalist), believing that we have no free will (e.g., that he literally had no choice but to nail the theses to the door) and that there was no place for reason in religion. So when he said that “if you respect and follow the judgement of human reason, you are bound to say either that there is no God or that God is unjust”, he thought we should not follow the judgement of human reason. [via]
Human Folly by Matthew Adams (New Humanist): Erasmus was a Dutch contemporary of Martin Luther who wrote a strange, genre-bending book called In Praise Of Folly, which was a hugely controversial book, poking fun at sacred cows during a time when sacred cows carried swords. This included a sort-of sarcastic Christopher Hitchens-esque volley against religion, which Erasmus later in the book shows to be folly. But which proved to be quite influential; once the seed of doubt is planted, it’s only a few years until you get Enlightenment, apparently. [via]
Children In The Roman Empire by Peter Thonemann (The Times Literary Supplement): The Ancient Roman poet Statius talks in rapturous terms about a newborn infant he is behold, full of wonder that the child was playing with his face. A new father? Nope - this is a slave that belongs to him, the child of two of his other slaves. And…later in life (but not that much later), the same child will probably be an erotic plaything for Statius (as well as a beloved child), and this was completely normal to the Romans. So, being a child in the Roman Empire could really be exceptionally weird. [via]
Dahomey’s Women Warriors by Mike Dash (Past Imperfect/Smithsonian): Modern day Benin used to be called Dahomey; and the kingdom of Dahomey’s army, when the French invaded in the late 19th century, was largely made up of women. And these women were renowned for their fierceness in battle, for fighting as well as any man. Unfortunately, you can fight fiercely all you want, but the French had modern weapons and the Dahomey women didn’t. But some of the warriors survived until surprisingly late into the 20th century.
Sources Of Illumination by Miri Rubin (Times Higher Education): Universities are only 800-900 years old; starting first in France and Italy and spreading quickly to the UK. And they were originally started in order to train the bureaucracies of the power systems that existed at the time (the states and churches); and so there was a focus on Latin and how to implement law. Once upon a time, the Bachelor of Arts meant that you had the gold standard of training, as far as literacy and ability to administer bureaucratic stuff went. [via]
Green Gold by Jack Turner (New Yorker): There was a craze in France, in particular, in the late 19th century for the drink absinthe; in the end absinthe was banned because it was thought to contain a psychoactive substance - wormwood - which sent men mad. And so Turner follows a group of men trying to resuscitate the art of making absinthe, using vintage distillery equipment and working out the subtleties of the old recipes that have been handed down.