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Thread: When Did Your History Begin?

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    When Did Your History Begin?

    An interesting question came up in the Civil Unrest in France thread, namely when does the history of a country/nation/people begin? I do not believe that any German would agree that their history begins in 1871 nor any Italian (maybe with the exception of Cavour) that their history begins in 1859. But why don't we ask? Could any of our non-USA members please tell us when you consider your history to have begun? You don't have to defend your answer (unless you want to, of course).

    I might add that epenguin did not address my question about Poland. Do any Poles view their history as starting in 1918, 1945 or 1989?

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    RNA, back in the sea a few billion years ago.
    ................................

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    Mine? Friday, August 13, 1965.

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    I still say you need to be more specific with the question (depending on what you're looking for). Countries are about political boundaries, which are for the most part pretty cut and dry. Nations are about people (for instance the Navajo Nation, or Nation of Islam) which is much more fluid.

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    The history of my country started with its political foundation as an independent nation-state. Before that, there was an interesting political and cultural prologue of a couple of centuries, but that is all.
    Other peoples had lived here before the foundation of our country, sure, and we inherited many cultural elements from them, but their political history was separate from ours. Only in a metaphorical, poetic sense can we see ourselves as successors to the other peoples and political entities which existed in the same geographical area prior to our present country.
    I do not adhere to the idea of inherent 'nations' which predate 'states', and to whose nature and borders states should conform. I think that's a 19th century romantic nationalistic fantasy. States are made (and unmade, and sometimes remade) by largely contingent historical and political factors, not by pre-existing 'nations'.

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    Extremely difficult to say, if not actually impossible. As I mentioned in the other thread, it really depends on how you view history.

    There's archaeology in Scotland that dates back to 3,000BC (probably even earlier), but that's obviously pre-history. Not much exists of early Scottish history before around AD79 when the Romans turned up (except maps, some much earlier) and there's a potted history covering several centuries after that. The history of Scotland (ie, the nation), for many, would probably begin in 843.

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    When Swedish crusaders came to save us pagans from damnation in the 12th century. At least that's how history lessons made it appear. There wasn't much, if any, talk about the history of Finnish tribes before that time in school. Maybe you could say that's the time when civilization came to Finland. Chronology of Finnish history

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    Quote Originally Posted by Celestial Mechanic
    An interesting question came up in the Civil Unrest in France thread, namely when does the history of a country/nation/people begin? I do not believe that any German would agree that their history begins in 1871 nor any Italian (maybe with the exception of Cavour)
    not such a negligible exception, surely?
    Quote Originally Posted by Celestial Mechanic
    that their history begins in 1859. But why don't we ask? Could any of our non-USA members please tell us when you consider your history to have begun? You don't have to defend your answer (unless you want to, of course).

    I might add that epenguin did not address my question about Poland. Do any Poles view their history as starting in 1918, 1945 or 1989?
    1) I'm sure not that late, I did not say it starts when the State starts. If it doesn't start earlier you wouldn't get the state in most cases.
    2) What they do think or what their school histories say is not necessarily, not necessarily, the same as what really was.
    Maybe I should repost the original.

    I venture you know the history of Ruritania as such has started when some or all of :
    restiveness at what is seen as rule by someone seen as 'foreign', (some) people are agitating for or have acheived an independent Ruritania and/or other attributes of Ruritanian dignity e.g. if not independence, autonomy, or things like official documents in Ruritanian, government jobs for Ruritanian speakers;
    some poets are writing in and some professors are inventing Ruritanian which up till then was a lot of unwritten dialects, the national composer has composed characteristically Ruritanian music.

    (Then sure, after independence things can be more crystallised, texbooks are written showing Ruritanians have always occupied their present sacred territories plus a bit robbed from them by Tinpotania - not only is Ruritanian the official language but Tinpotanian-speakers may be assimilated/marginalised/expelled but that's another story.)

    This is very approximate and it is all more complicated and varied than that. I'd say 2nd half of 18th C and 19th C crucial period in many countries but earlier in the strong states.

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    Last edited by epenguin; 2006-Apr-11 at 11:17 PM.

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    REPOSTED from other thread so ppl know what we're talking abt.

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Celestial Mechanic
    All the "other" countries of Europe are younger only in the sense of the age of their current political unit. No German would agree that German history only begins in 1871, no Italian would agree that Italian history only begins in 1859, no Pole would agree that Polish history only begins in 1918 (or 1945? or 1989?). All of the nationalities/ethnicities of Europe, even most of the recent immigrants, have centuries more history behind them than the USA does.[/QUOTE]

    In the post you replied to you'll see I made a certain definition which I think makes sense. That makes me disagree with what you say here. In fact I would maintain that the USA is one of the oldest nations, in at least one sense the oldest.

    First:
    The internet and sites like this have their +s and -s.
    + Without it this groups of people would not be discussing.
    - Its nature favours the instant off-the-back-of-your-head response.

    For the last reason I know we will not get to the bottom of this question and I am satisfied if I merely instil doubts about what you say, which in many minds if not yours are seen as obvious incontrovertible facts.

    Nations are active human creations not objective facts like atoms waiting to be discovered, at least they cannot be discussed in the same way as atoms. A map looks like a representation of reality in the same way as a molecular diagram but it can be dangerous intellectually to uncritically take the representation for the reality. On the other hand it can be dangerous practically to not pretend that the representation is the reality. And sometimes, by pretending it becomes reality. For quite a long time often…


    E.g., examine the form of your statement "No German etc… would agree…". That may be a fact, even an important fact that means something or other, but the fact that no-one would agree with a statement does not mean that it is not true! (Quote (and getting back to original subject of thread): "Fifty million Frenchmen can't be right." G.B.Shaw.) It is also another very significant fact that all those people have been to a school, where they were told when their country started and that that's a 'fact', they were told it in a language which is a kind of fact but also a creation, they are taught it's the national language, somebody or something has decided it is, though. The school is the most important single institution in telling people who they are; there are many others such as the Flag, the Army and National Service and all the institutions of the State, the National Museum, the national poet and composer, not to mention radio and TV…, all creations.
    ("no Italian would agree that Italian history only begins in 1859…" One Italian that would, Cavour or somebody, certainly an authority: "Well we've made Italy. Now we have to make Italians.")

    Ah but you say the people were there, the people the people. Yes there were people in Ruritania before the USA was created. There were also mammoths - does it make sense to call them Ruritanian mammoths? But for present purposes what do these people matter, there has to more than just being there for them to have a history as Ruritanians. There has to be some sort of National Project in people's minds at least. For the people to count as a nation there has to be some notion surely of Popular Sovereignty. And where was that fully achieved for the first time? In America. So the USA is the oldest nation.

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    Last edited by epenguin; 2006-Apr-11 at 11:16 PM.

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    epenguin, I found it very difficult to follow your reasoning. Maybe you assumed too much prior knowledge of other threads?

    To answer Celestial Mechanic's question from my own perspective:

    History comprises written records. Ergo, the history of a region begins from the first recorded mention of that region. The history of a people begins with the first recorded mention of that people. When you talk about the history of a nation, I thin you need first to define what you mean by "nation". The history of a country begins in one of two ways - either the first recorded mention of that country, or the first recorded mention of the region and peoples that constitute the country.

    Germany and Germanic peoples were first recorded (I think) by the Romans - ergo, their history begins around the first century AD (or possibly the first century BC).

    Similarly, the first recorded history of Britain was by the Romans, so everything prior to that is prehistory.

    And so on.

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    epenguin, having thought a little more about your posts, I think you are, in fact, talking a lot of nonsense.

    For example, England has existed as a nation since about the 9th or 10th century (my own memory is at fault here, and I can't be bothered to go and look this up). The Domesday Book of 1086 clearly records the whole of England as it existed at that time. A great deal of relevant information also comes from the earlier Anglo-Saxon chronicle. England has had a national identity for around 1000 - 1100 years. The USA has had one for perhaps 150.

    I leave you with some words first recorded in the late 16th / early 17th century:

    "And you, good yeomen, whose limbs were made in England / Show us here the mettle of your pasture / Let us swear that you are worth your breeding / which I doubt not, for there is not one of you / that hath not noble lustre in your eye..."

    Now, if that isn't an appeal to a national identity, I don't know what is.

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    The history of Brazil begins in 1500, when the Portuguese took possession of the land [the so-called "discovery of Brazil", which wasn´t a discovery at all]. The first Brazilian city, Sao Vicente, was founded in 1532 by the first Governor General of the territory, Martim Afonso de Sousa. Back in 2000 the country celebrated its 500 years.

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    Dr. Nigel's first reply has made me rethink my own.

    Quote Originally Posted by Celestial Mechanic
    An interesting question came up in the Civil Unrest in France thread, namely when does the history of a country/nation/people begin?
    That's three questions!

    My previous post is an answer to the first one. (Assuming one understands "country" as "state".)

    The history of a "people" is a more nebulous thing. A people can exist inside a country, or several countries, without having a state of its own. A people may not show up in written records, and therefore be forgotten. A people can change its ways, and move around... For example, are Italians still Romans? I would say no! I think the Roman people dissolved, at the very latest, after the fall of Constantinople to the Turks -- that's right, halfway across Europe. The Italians had lost their cultural ties to ancient Rome.

    Since ethnicity is a matter of culture, though, this can turn into a can of worms. Remember the "Third Reich", Third Empire? The Nazis regarded themselves as successors to the German Empire of the Kaisers, as well as to the Holy Roman-German Empire of the Middle Ages and the Happsburg. But these were three (at least three) quite distinct political and cultural entities!

    As for the second question, my answer is that I do not know what a "nation" is, outside of a state (except for some technical uses of the term, such as when it refers to the Native North American "nations"). It seems to be more an emotional word than an objective concept.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Disinfo Agent
    For example, are Italians still Romans? I would say no!
    Hmm, ok but don´t tell´em this.

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    Talking

    Let's hope Papageno doesn't read this thread. Hey, it's just my silly opinion, anyway...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr Nigel
    History comprises written records. Ergo, the history of a region begins from the first recorded mention of that region. The history of a people begins with the first recorded mention of that people. ... everything prior to that is prehistory.
    I feel you are defining the problem away. We can surely distinguish what was or what happened from our knowledge of it. According to your definition the history of a group can increase or decrease by centuries according as a manuscript is lost or found, and in one sense of the word that can be said. The expressions 'true history' or 'false history' would be meaningless in your definition. Slightly ambiguous word history. Sometimes the word 'historiography' is used to distinguish what you are calling 'history' from the more common meaning.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr Nigel
    England has had a national identity for around 1000 - 1100 years. The USA has had one for perhaps 150.
    Eh? That's just a bit off. A few years ago, California celebrated its Sesquicentennial:

    http://www.placerville-downtown.org/150th_bday.html

    when it joined the union. And I clearly remember celebrating the U.S.'s Bicentennial in 1976. Of course, there is quite a bit of history prior to when we became a nation, but as for a national identity, it is more like 230 years.

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    Wink

    Ca 250,000 BCE.

    Or, alternatively mid 15th century.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn
    And I clearly remember celebrating the U.S.'s Bicentennial in 1976. Of course, there is quite a bit of history prior to when we became a nation, but as for a national identity, it is more like 230 years.
    I don't, on account of being born that year. What's more, that sequicentennial is just its history as a state; there are cities in California that are older than quite a few cities back east--San Diego, for one.
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    The chronology JMV quotes is typical of the development I outlined. The people have been there for 2,000 years. However the dominant rule shuttles between external powers, the language culture and orientation of an élite, commerce, the University etc. is the 'foreign' one and things go on as if this is just an unquestioned fact of life. The first stirring noted in JMV's narrative of a project of Finland is in 1835. So there is at least one country in Europe younger than the USA in the sense I claim!
    (It is also not untypical that a part of the 'foreign' élite is the first to be restive with the setup and is prominent in the first stirrings - just look at the names. The USA is like that except the 'foreigners' remained totally dominant.)



    1835 Publication of the first edition of the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic, compiled and edited by Elias Lönnrot. An enlarged edition appears in 1849.
    1848 The first public performance of the Finnish national anthem, Maamme (Vårt Land), (English: Our Land).
    The first volume of Johan Ludvig Runeberg's "Fänrik Ståls sägner" (Tales of Ensign Stål), a collection of poems stressing morality and a sense of responsibility is published.
    1853-1867 "Fältskärns berättelser" (The tales of Barber-Surgeon), a historical novel by Zachris Topelius is published as a series of books.
    1860 Finland acquires its own currency, the markka or Finnish mark.
    1860s Sawmilling begins to flourish and the paper industry starts to develop.
    1863 Finland's own legislature convenes. Emperor Alexander II decrees that Finnish is to have equal status with Swedish as a language of administration. The decree is to have the force of law within 20 years.
    1870 Publication of the first novel in Finnish, The Seven Brothers, by Aleksis Kivi.

    1882 Emma Irene Åström becomes the first Finnish woman to receive a university degree
    1899 In the opinion of many Finns the Russian Emperor Nicholas II breaks his promise to uphold the Finnish Constitution when the so-called February Manifesto is issued. Finns oppose the manifesto, which they think will erode their autonomous position. A period of resistance begins and lasts until independence is attained in 1917.

    1900 The Finnish pavilion at the World Fair in Paris attracts much admiration. The pavilion is designed by architects Armas Lindgren, Herman Gesellius and Eliel Saarinen with frescoes by Akseli Gallen-Kallela. This is a golden age of Finnish arts, represented by painters such as Gallen-Kallela, Albert Edelfelt, Eero Järnefelt and Pekka Halonen and the composer Jean Sibelius, who rapidly wins international acclaim.
    1902 More than 23,000 Finns apply for passports to America. This is the crest of the wave, which brought over 320,000 Finns to the United States and Canada in 1864-1914.
    1906 Finland acquires its own national parliament, elected by equal and universal suffrage, a development that makes Finnish women the first in the world to be granted full national political rights, that is to say suffrage and eligibility to stand for election to their national Parliament.

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    Last edited by epenguin; 2006-Apr-12 at 03:51 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lianachan
    Extremely difficult to say, if not actually impossible. As I mentioned in the other thread, it really depends on how you view history.

    There's archaeology in Scotland that dates back to 3,000BC (probably even earlier), but that's obviously pre-history. Not much exists of early Scottish history before around AD79 when the Romans turned up (except maps, some much earlier) and there's a potted history covering several centuries after that. The history of Scotland (ie, the nation), for many, would probably begin in 843.
    From my position further south in the UK, first-hand written history starts with Julius Caesar's invasion in 55BC. Earlier than that, there's a few vague mentions of the tin island, but nothing detailed. Then there's trying to get at the truth behind the Celtic legends, story of King Arthur, etc, with a continous written history picking up again with the Anglo-Saxons.

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    I can trace "first causes" of the Maritime Acadians' history as far back as ancient Greece. Prior to that, it's a bit nebulous.
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    About 8000 BC, in the sense that the country has been continuously inhabited since then.

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    Well, I would say Modern English history begins in 1066. Before that there were various smaller kingdoms with Saxon and Norse kings.

    British history starts with the Act of Union.

    Of cours ethe British Isles have history going back thousands of years but apart from earthworks, stones and what is dug up there isn't much known pre roman conquest.
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    Short time after big bang

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    Half the time after the big bang that Monique refers to.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Monique
    Short time after big bang
    I like that answer. One way of thinking about this is that a person's answer may heavily depend on their perspective of their citizenry. What is the heirarchy of importance for the entities to which they belong?

    I am a citizen first of Earth, second of the USA, third of my very local community, last of the State of WI. If I saw myself first as a citizen of the USA; my answer to the OP question might be different than it is (which I have deviously not shared yet).

    BTW - I am a citizen first of Earth only because that encompasses all of humanity (as far as we know to date).

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    Quote Originally Posted by epenguin
    I feel you are defining the problem away. We can surely distinguish what was or what happened from our knowledge of it. According to your definition the history of a group can increase or decrease by centuries according as a manuscript is lost or found, and in one sense of the word that can be said....
    Yes, epenguin, that's right. A history can be extended back a hundred years or more with the discovery of a previously-unknown manuscript. History is, by definition, what has been recorded. More can be inferred from archaeological evidence, but that is far less specific than the written word.

    I think you might find that most historians and most archaeologists accept "history" as what was written. I know this looks like an argument from authority, but a consensus of experts should at least be carefully considered.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn
    Eh? That's just a bit off. A few years ago, California celebrated its Sesquicentennial ... when it joined the union. And I clearly remember celebrating the U.S.'s Bicentennial in 1976. Of course, there is quite a bit of history prior to when we became a nation, but as for a national identity, it is more like 230 years.
    Well, I was thinking of the end of the civil war. Prior to that, the states weren't really united, were they?

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    Quote Originally Posted by captain swoop
    Well, I would say Modern English history begins in 1066. Before that there were various smaller kingdoms with Saxon and Norse kings.

    British history starts with the Act of Union.
    Well, England was one state prior to the conquest. It was ruled by Harald, and before him, Cnut .... I'm a bit hazy on the details, but I think what were Wessex, Sussex, Middlesex, Essex, Kent, Mercia, East Anglia and Northumbria became a single nation (England) around 1000 AD.

    British history, I think, starts with the Romans, who recorded a "Britannica Unitas".

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