Media History Top Ten Booklist

The Democratic Sound by Fred Turner 

Historians have always had a tough time writing about media. The danger of technological determinism tends to loom over any discussion of technologies such as television or the Internet—the risk of arguing that a particular medium or device causes people to behave or think a certain way. That fear has been present since the earliest days of media studies, when the War of the Worlds and the pioneering audience research of Paul Lazarsfeld and the Bureau of Applied Social Research in the 1930s raised questions about the “effects” that mass media had on people, both as individuals and groups. Meanwhile, the power of Hitler’s megaphone implied that people as a mass were pliant, susceptible to a sort of top-down manipulation that sits uneasily with most historians, with their concern for contingency, complexity, and agency in the past.

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Why did Germany lose the Battle of Stalingrad?

Soviet soldiers attack in the heart of Stalingrad in February 1943, by RIA Novosti Archive – Public Domain

The Battle of Stalingrad, between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, is considered not only the most important in World War II, but one of the most important in military history. The battle proved to be decisive for the Soviet Union and fundamentally changed altered the course of the war. Germany’s defeat at Stalingrad not only lead to catastrophic German losses, but put the Nazi war machine was on the defensive for he rest of the war. Why were the Germans defeated at the Battle of Stalingrad and what lead to the Soviet victory? The German was hobbled by Hitler’s micromanaging and tactics, his personal intransigence, and poor German battlefield leadership. The Soviet’s benefitted from superior Soviet leadership, numbers, and tactics.

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How did illegal abortions spur the push for medical licensing in the 19th Century?

New York Governor John T. Hoffman

In 1872, American physicians were not licensed anywhere in the United States. Medicine was completely unregulated and anyone could claim to be a physician. Most American physicians could be classified as either a regulars, homeopaths or eclectics. These three medical sects were in brutal competition with each other. Regulars were part of medical sect that could trace its roots to ancient Rome. Homeopaths and eclectics were part of medical sects that had been founded in the 18th and early 19th centuries. The ineffectiveness of Regular medical practice encouraged people to explore new medical ideas that led to the creation for distinct medical sects. These new medical groups found willing patients who were understandably skeptical of traditional medicine.

These three sects were operating in an environment unencumbered by any meaningful regulation. Over the next thirty years, that would change dramatically. While regular physicians were predisposed to advocating for some type of medical licensing, state legislatures had so far expressed little interest in creating any medical licensing. Up until that point nothing had occurred to galvanize widespread support for medical licensing until the summer of 1872.

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How has the Role of Horses Changed in Human Societies?

By the 9th Century BC, Neo-Assyrians used horses to replace chariots.

Most studies suggest that domestication of the horse took place along the Eurasian steppe. However, it is not clear where exactly and most likely there were several independent domestication attempts. Interestingly, wild horses before domestication show a wide range of interspecies variation; however, it is believe that only one type of species became domesticated.[1] Most likely, the horse was domesticated by 4000-3500 BC. All domesticate horses are classified as Equus ferus caballus, with Equius ferus as being the species that domesticated horses derive from.[2]

Initial domestication may have been done as a means to develop horses as traction animals, or use in agriculture and plowing, and also for riding.[3] Probably at around the 3rd millennium BC, the horse began to spread across Eurasia and into China, Europe, and India. This could have been associated with the migration of Indo-European and Eurasian groups that were likely migrating across Asia during this time. These populations may have introduced horses, therefore, to new regions such as the Near East, India, and China.

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Origins of the French Revolution – Top Ten Booklist

Storming the Bastille

The French Revolution has been seen as a world-altering event. The revolution demolished a long standing monarchy and showed that it was a natural form of government. The Revolution also showed that it was possible to change society, using reason, for the better and worse. The French Revolution inspired many to agitate for democracy and equality around the world. It also unleashed an extraordinary amount of violence and paved the way for Napoleon’s takeover of France. Many historians (not all) have argued that the French Revolution can be seen as the start of the modern world.

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What was George Washington’s military experience before the American Revolution?

Trumbull, George Washington 1780.jpg
George Washington and William Lee 1780

The Second Continental Congress voted unanimously to put George Washington in charge of the Continental Army in 1775. Washington was only 43 years old at the time, a gentleman planter and local Virginian politician. He had not served in the military for over 20 years and his military service records was not particularly distinguished. What qualified Washington for the supreme confidence the young American rebels placed in him?

George Washington entered the working world in his teens as an enthusiastic young surveyor. He especially enjoyed working on the frontier in western Virginia, mapping the unsettled lands controlled by his neighbor, William Fairfax. Washington’s brother, Lawrence, also happened to be married to Fairfax’s daughter. When George was 19, Lawrence died of tuberculosis and Fairfax took it upon himself to give George a leg up on life. [1] He urged Governor Robert Dinwiddie to appoint Washington as an adjutant in the Virginia militia, a position of varied responsibilities, mostly teaching the rowdy underclasses how to be soldiers.

At that time in 1753 the French and English were jostling for position to exploit the western lands of America beyond the Appalachian Mountains. When Dinwiddie got word that the French were building forts at the confluence of the Ohio, Allegheny, and Monongahela rivers (modern day Pittsburgh) he sent his 20-year old aide on an expedition with a letter informing the French of the British claims in the region. The French thanked Washington for coming, put him up for three days and sent him back to the Virginia capital of Williamsburg with a notice that they planned on staying. [2]

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What were the Root Causes of the Spanish Civil War?

General Francisco Franco in 1936

The Spanish Civil War was one of the bloodiest wars in Twentieth Century in Europe. The war was not simply a Spanish affair, but drew in other several other nations, including Italy, Portugal, Germany and the Soviet Union. The war was a result of many factors, some of which will be discussed here. The main cause of the Spanish Civil War, was the failure of Spanish democracy. This was because there was a refusal by the Spanish parties and groups to compromise and respect democratic norms.

Spain was a very divided, unstable and weak country in the 19th century. Once a great power, Spain lost almost the last of its colonies after it defeat in the Spanish-American war.[1] It was technically a monarchy, but power had frequently been in the hands of military dictators. The country was bitterly divided. The acute poverty of the Spanish people meant that many were drawn to Communism, Anarchism and Socialism. [2] These ideologies call for popular governments and the re-distribution of resources, such as land and wealth.

Spanish anarchists, socialists and communists were secular and wanted to remove the influence of the Catholic Church from Spanish society. The elite and the middle class were especially conservative. They dominated the economy and feared that the Communists would confiscate their property. This is typified in the fact that much of the best land in Spain was owned by a relatively small proportion of the population. Furthermore, the wealthy and the middle class, especially in rural society was Catholics and resisted any idea that there should be a separation of Church in State in Spain.[3]The elite and the rich landowners, the ‘agrarian oligarchy’ were terrified of communism, especially after the Russian Revolution in 1917.

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