In Honor of Baseball Season

Screen Shot 2013-04-03 at 6.09.23 PMBaseball is part of the fabric of American life. It’s our national pasttime. It’s the sport of champions.  We have integrated baseball into every corner of pop culture. Baseball in New England and the Northeast carries special weight. Factories and mills scouted people, not for their industrial prowess, but for their ability to add to the mill baseball team. The Blackstone Valley League was a traveling team of mill players that added a bright spot to the dismal lives of the workers–baseball games began to represent community as people rallied around their team, especially in Connecticut and Rhode Island, where mills tended to be small one-stage factories employing entire families. Families worked in the mill, lived in factory housing, went to mill-built churches and schools, and spent their paycheck in factory stories. This form of paternalism (acting as the parent) was the hallmark of the Industrial period.

The history of baseball integration includes many groups, including African-Americans, Cubans, and even women. Everyone knows the story of Jackie Robinson, but not as many are familiar with the women who played on the All-Girls Baseball League which filled in the vacancy left by the men during World War II.

Here in Rhode Island, we hold proud to another piece of baseball history–the longest game ever. Taking place over three days, with the first two being played April 18-19, 1981, and the deciding inning taking place on June 23, 1981. The thirty-three inning game took over eight hours of playing time and left the AAA Pawtucket Redsox victorious over the Rochester Redwings.

Important baseball history themes include: 

1. The humble origins of baseball.

2. The role of baseball in industrialism and factory life

3. Baseball’s regional history in the New England mill villages

4. The first traveling teams

5. Segregation and reintegration of baseball

6. “For the love of the game”–How media has changed baseball

7. The economics of MLB today

Study baseball, play baseball, write about baseball–historians do, not only “for the love of the game,” but because it’s real history.

Writings of Gandhi

The following selections are letters written by Gandhi.  Please read the following and analyze the critical questions.

Gandhi’s letter to Hitler, July 23, 1939

Gandi’s letter to Hitler, December 24, 1940

Critical questions: 

1. What is the objective of each letter?

2. What’s going on in the War at the point Gandhi sends each letter?

3. Research: Did Gandhi receive a response?  If not, what would you predict the response would have been? Write an annotated (short) response as if you were Hitler.

4. What does he mean by his “dumb cry” for peace?

5. How does Gandhi compare the British to the Nazis? What are the key differences?

6. How is Gandhi’s appeal to Hitler different than to the Britons? Why so?

Gandhi Questions and Resources for Indian History

Screen Shot 2013-02-24 at 3.54.33 PMIn our examination of Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi, we’ll look at several themes: 

1. Accuracy of the film.

2. Sir Ben Kingsley’s portrayal of Mohandas K. Gandhi

3. How Gandhi developed his thoughts on satyagraha (non-violent resistance).

4. How Gandhi fits into the freedom movements we have already examined.

5. The role of one person in making a significant impact. What tactics could be used for other situations?

We will also discuss and examine the following critical issues in the region today: 

Gandhi is a starting point for discussing Indian history, religion, society, and politics. He is one of the great people in all of world history. Please start with some of these resources, and be prepared to dig in and add your own in the comments.

Your mission:

Choose and research one critical area of Indian history, including–but not limited to–Gandhi’s effect on any area of the world, US-Indian relations, relations between India and Pakistan, religion, outsourcing, culture, population, caste/human rights, ecology…  You are responsible for constructing a presentation that will inform us in detail about your narrow area of research.


  • At least three sources
  • A thesis statement.
  • A conclusion that ties together your sources
  • Some type of visual
  • A well-rehearsed presentation of a minimum of 2-3 minutes. You can have more time if you’d like.

Suggestions for supporting materials: 

  • Infographics
  • Learnist board
  • Handouts
  • Prezi
  • Video or voiceover

Your Favorite Right

The Founding Fathers added a ton of things into the Constitution so it wouldn’t be weak like the Articles of Confederation.  Still, they were afraid their rights would be trampled, and took the next step–debating and adding the Bill of Rights. If we examine the Bill of Rights and the rest of Amendments we get a snapshot of how America developed its ideas about freedom.  Freedom in Colonial and Federal times wasn’t the all-inclusive freedom you consider your right.  That developed through decades of struggle.  Freedom for all Americans–women, African Americans, the poor–those didn’t come until much later.  I think back on some of the people who have struggled for those rights and freedoms.

Roger Williams: left Massachusetts Bay Colony to come to Rhode Island, which he founded upon the principle that all men should be free to worship as they choose.  This idea was not held in isolation–James Madison took that with him when he helped design what would become the United States Constitution.

James Madison: felt strongly about the idea of separation of church and state.

Frederick Douglass: former Maryland slave, author, abolitionist. He traveled the world, crusaded for abolition and women’s rights, and became the United States minister-consul in Haiti.

Mahatma Gandhi:  WAIT. He’s not American.  True.  But, his idea of satyagraha (peaceful resistance) influenced and entire globe, including the great Americans who brought us Civil Rights.  Without Gandhi, Africa might well have stayed under Colonial rule, India might have achieved its independence very differently, and certainly Martin Luther King Jr. would have had no thoughts or inspiration for his struggle. To be fair, Gandhi got his thoughts from Indian history and Hindu philosophy–so let’s give a shout out to his influences as well.

Susan B. Anthony: Suffragist from Rochester, New York, who put herself on the line to get women the right to vote. A detail worth noting is that both she and Frederick Douglas are buried in the same cemetery–Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, New York.

I could write about the great people who helped us get our freedom all day. I’ll edit and add to this list as the day progresses, but the point of our discussions on freedom has been this.

1. Freedom is earned. These people fought for your freedom. The men and women of the military continue to do so. You pay them back with your thoughts and respect.

2. Freedom comes with responsibility. If you want freedom in any area, you must act like a responsible citizen. No questions asked.

3. The definition of freedom is ever changing. This site explains what you need to become a web designer as well as some tips and tricks.  If you’re starting from scratch, it will help you begin to focus what you will need to learn to get the fundamentals down, and how to put yourself in the best position to land a job.  During the colonial period, freedom was not “free” as you would imagine it. It got much moreso during years of struggle. Today, we have many freedoms, but we also balance the need for safety against some of those freedoms, causing a dialogue between many people in society today–what freedoms should we have and where does safety trump freedom. It’s an interesting social and constitutional conversation–one worthy of your thoughts and research.


Take a moment to comment on some people who need to be added to the list of those who struggled for our freedom. There are too many to mention, and I just started us out this morning.  Comment on your favorite rights and amendments–those which you could not do without. And pause to be grateful for those freedoms and to the people who ensured they were ours.

Don’t Hate History–Just Find the Type You Like

There are so many areas to study in history that it’s nearly impossible to truly “hate” studying history. For most haters of history, I discuss whether the book was boring, or whether you’re just studying an area of history that’s interesting to someone else.  Often times schools look at themes in history that talk only about Western civilization-Greeks, Romans, Europe, and America.  More and more often, we’re seeing world history expand into other areas–Eastern civilization (China, Japan, Southeast Asia, India), and topical areas in history. Here is a quick snapshot of some of the types of history we study in schools:

1. Military history: This is about all the great battles, their causes and effects on society.  Done well, this provides a snapshot into conflict, conflict resolution, and key turning points in history. Done poorly, it is a column in a book that saves you from having to count sheep before you go to bed.  This type of history is often the “traditional” study of history as we set up the little toy soldiers, reenact battles, and discuss weaponry.

2. Comparative history: This type of historical study allows you to compare two types or periods of history–it allows you to examine evidence and draw parallels between two areas, time periods, people, or regions.  This is often an interesting way of connecting things that you might not otherwise connect. This type of study is used at some of the world’s most prestigious universities, like Oxford, to make large and small connections between things that otherwise might have been missed.

3. Political history: This tells about politics and relations in an area.  It’s often helpful in discovering the root cause of conflict and alliance in the world today. Many political historians study these regional conflicts–like the conflict in the Middle East, and attempt to provide solutions.

4. Religious history: This is a fascinating area of history, and can often overlap into other areas, like political or military, depending on what you are studying.  Studying the Crusades, for example, forces you to discuss moments in history where conflict meets social injustice, but at the same time, where world travel causes events in history which rippled out through the globe. Many people often feel that they must be religious to study this area of history–not true.  Although some of the best studies in this area have been monks and priests, like the Jesuit order, Some of the best scholars in this area are secular or even nonbelievers.

5. Social history: This is the history of the story of the people. How did people live and work? What advances in history affected the people directly? What is the history of social class and social interaction? Social history is coming much more into the limelight in modern studies of history.  Studying the story of people is fascinating and should never be overlooked as one of the most important branches in history. Please take some time to look at this Learnist board on oral history, an aspect of social history, assembled by our own Kevin Cordeiro and journalist Maggie Messitt.

6. Historiography:  Ever wonder why old textbooks talk about the “dead white guys?”  History accounts have generally been written by people in power, people who had leisure time to write about such things, or by the winning side in any conflict or war. Ever wonder what the British would have written about the American Revolution? Have you studied that? Have you ever wondered why there are so few historical accounts by Africans under Colonial Rule? Have you thought deeply about the difficulty finding primary source accounts from Native Americans during the period of Westward Expansion? Then historiography is for you.  This is the study of the study of history  rather than history itself.  Take a moment to examine this Learnist board about historiography and consider this alternate view of Lincoln, which stands in contrast to the Lincoln in most history books. Consider, judge, and evaluate! You get to decide.

It’s refreshing that history is now being considered from so many more directions and angles.  Historians are considering all of these things and including them into excellent accounts.  Still, it’s important to remember that ultimately, history is something YOU determine in your mind. After reading the primary and secondary sources, you become the authority and you use that material to render your own verdict.  This is the critical point.  Using the evidence, you get to decide–there is more than one right answer.  You have the power to determine what that right answer is!

Do you still hate history?  Yes, you in the front row–I’m talking to you:)

Local History: New York

I like to make my customers happy. In keeping with this we shall take a left turn from Gettysburg into New York.  Incidentally, several Union troops who were on their way to fight at Gettysburg took a detour into New York City to put down the draft riots that occurred in New York that July.

Start out by reviewing this Prezi by Mr. Cordeiro.

There are several things to consider during our snapshots of New York at this time in history:

  • Nativism.  Early generations of Irish immigrants came early in the history of the nation. These tended to be Protestants, or Scotch-Irish. The English Civil War caused a lot of upheval in Britain, and part of the controversy surrounded the issue of religion. As Protestant sects split from the Roman Catholic Church, religion became a political issue rather than a spiritual one. For hundreds of years, the Catholic church represented empires and kings in Europe.  The “Divine Right of Kings, ” was part of this philosphy.  You might dare to rebel against a person, but if GOD HIMSELF made him king, you won’t mess with that.  What? You say… How do we KNOW God made you king? Well, because I’m king–if he made YOU king, YOU’d be king. Seems like flawed logic today, but in those days… well, enough said.   If the king switched religions, everyone did. This was at the heart of the English Civil War, where Catholics were stripped of their land and in some cases sent to colonies.  They were not allowed education, and were relegated to the bottom social classes.
  • Irish history:  Because of the Protestant Reformation, the divide in Europe between Catholics and Protestants became catastrophic.  It, in some neighborhoods, has lasted to this day.  Irish Protestants had land rights and priviledges. Catholics did not.  However, when the Great Famine in 1947–48 starved most of Catholic Ireland, many of the Irish Catholics emigrated to the United States.  This put two social classes of Irish in the United States.
  • Civil war looming in the background: One of the issues that the Constitutional Convention never addressed was the issue of slavery.  This film takes place against the backdrop of the Civil War.
  • Poverty: You’ll notice the clear separation between the haves and the have-nots in this film. Look for the living situations, the close-quarters, the way the fire brigades operated, and the activities of the poor.  Note that many of the poor became well-to-do by buying into the political machine.
  • Tammany Hall: This was the political machine in New York City.  Influential people like Boss Tweed organized the vote, recruiting voters and loyalists to support candidates that under the influence of Tammany Hall. Graft and corruption were the norm. In many cases, Tammany Hall took care of its own in return for patronage (loyalty, voting for the right candidate).

Critical questions:   

1. How have neighborhood, ethnic and religious divisions and rivalries continued locally and throughout the world until today? Examine gang violence, religious strife, or neighborhood divisions.

2. Has our political system improved in terms of graft and corruption? Examine this past election and/or the local headlines.

3. How has the infrastructure of major metropolitan areas changed? You can use a city like New York and examine the building of subways, zoning, commercial areas, sanitation systems, and other things that made the city modern, or you can consider the building and decline of your local mill villages, built to support the industrial machine in the region.  Look for hints:  factory houses near the river, larger houses up the hill, and the Victorian mansions located up the hill far from the factories. What does all this mean?