Saturday, April 21, 2018

Iron Age/ Industrial Revolution Origins, Plus Housekeeping

By Stone Monki - 100_9866.jpg.ok.jpg, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28214332
So Chile's Bernardo O'Higgins Research Base was inaugurated on 16 February, 1948, by President Gabriel Videla, "the first head of state to visit Antarctica." It is officially the capital of Antarctic Commune, and the way things are going, will probably be the northernmost inhabitable place on the planet in fifty years or so. The Wiki article  says that Chile began to perform acts of sovereignty in the Antarctic the year before. 

Either someone's been Google Translating out of the Spanish, or this might belong on Pornhub. 

President Videla and some Wehrmacht cosplayers enjoy an old time Antarctic summer. (Enjoy some Chilean goose-stepping here. It's oddly compelling, I have to say.)
The Economist does not mention that the Chilean Antarctic Expedition was a response to Operation Tabarin, and the islands in question were actually the South Shetlands, and specifically, Greenwich Island, on which Chilean "Base Arturo Pratt" is located. My bad! As for The Economist, it is not clear that President Videla was ever on Greenwich, and it is certainly not clear why it would be trying to start a war with the southern cone of Latin America over possession of the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. Maybe there's coal there?  

In other news, the prototypes of the Neo-Assyrian Royal Annals might be epic literature, with an "Epic of Sargon" predating and informing the more famous Epic of Gilgamesh? I don't know that this gets us anywhere: We've reached the point where writing about technology is batting its wings against the same cage as writing itself. Ancient scribes aren't up to anything as ambitious as a year-chronicle, so they're not up to telling us how iron was made. 

Okay: Enough of that. I started this post with the idea that I was going to recap my explanation of the origins of the British Industrial Revolution. (Spoiler: It happened because of export subsidies, high taxes, especially revenue-raising tariffs on imports, and persistent, large, state deficits. If you're wondering why I decided to talk about that this week; Yeah, me, too. Kidding! Before the week turned out to be about porn stars, there was a stir on the tariff front. If I were postblogging Monday --and I'm frankly beginning to think that someone needs to make that project happen-- you'd know what I mean.)

Unexpectedly, the post did not develop in the direction of recapping state spending on wars, generating foreign exchange for the use of, and export bounties/tariffs. Recall that I jumped aboard a project of reinterpreting the beginnings of the Iron Age because I'm all about the relationship of early iron production to woodland management. At first the connection seemed obvious. Iron axes are good for woodland clearance; charcoal is necessary for making iron; more woodland clearance makes for more charcoal. Positive feedback! (Or, "hysteresis,"  if you're an economist and want to show off your Latin, rather than a former physics undergrad, and want to show off your Introduction to Partial Differential Equations scars.) It was only recently that the revelation that salt, soda and potash are made from charcoal as well, impinged. Soda, being a primordial industrial component (and substituable for potash) leads to glass and detergents. The latter, in turn, leads to the production of "luxury," that is, clean and dyed, cloth.

Okay, well, my postblogging has directed attention to British exports of coal, and natural resource exports have also been in the news of late. Rather than directing you to the political side of the Kinder Morgan question, here's a link to a recent post by Liveo di Matteo at Worthwhile Canadian Initiative. So what about coal and the origins of the Industrial Revolution? A scorching hot take would be that, if "Dutch Disease" were real, British exports of coal ought to have retarded industrial development. Certainly the old time English were obsessed with the idea that exporting raw yarn was like exporting jobs and revenues!(In the stone age of economics, people thought that a combination of tariff barriers and subsidies could be used to promote industrialisation and national prosperity. Nowadays, we've turned economics into a science, and can resolve such questions by simply inputting some data series into one of those computer models I hear so much about every time we ask at work why computers can't order carrot juice.*)

On the other hand, English exports of coal were subsidised. One way of understanding that is that by undercutting competitive fuels, coal might have made those competitors cheaper, and promoted growth in other industries. Since charcoal and firewood make salt, soap and glass,there's a valid line of inquiry here. In Iron Age or even Industrial Revolution studies, it's hard to get at soap, and even hard to get at salt, but glass is pretty robust. What might turn up if one pursued that line of inquiry?
Vann Copse, Waverley, Surrey. It's the local government area that includes Godalming, if you were wondering, and it is in the Weald, as probably doesn't surprise you at all.


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Postblogging Technology, February 1948, II: The Dipstick Problem

Star Leopard
R_. C_.
Vancouver, Canada.

Dear Father:

So, the truth finally came out about Don Bennett in Britain, last week; and I, as a seasoned Atlantic crossing veteran of two round trips, could not be more pleased! It's bad news for the British aviation industry, but perhaps we'll forgive it when we're enjoying the two promenades, complete bar, and roller-skating rink they're putting into the Brabazon. 

Speaking for myself, you may still hear about me roller skating around a drive-in this summer. My interview with Magnum's was a DISASTER!! They told me I'd get a call later this week, but that was just pity. I don't know what went wrong? I waltzed in there like I was going to own the place and. . . 


Wait, never mind, I know what went wrong! It was Ronnie being Ronnie. 

Also, and to be hundred percent fair to myself (because someone has to), I was agitated by some unexpected difficulties regarding interviews for my Senior Thesis. Someone very important to the history of it all has gone missing, and no-one knows or cares where he is? Hmmph.

Uncle George (and Grace) used to do a thing where, if an article was particularly important, they did a separate letter. This month's Fortune has a huge article about weather control (you know, cloud seeding and the like).  It gets a little bit non-technologically technical, with a discussion of the insurance implications, which are obviously huge. If this works (and it looks like it does), it's only a matter of time before some of our neighbours try using it to protect their orange crops, and we need to know where we stand, soonest. Also, I thought it would be fun to march right into the law library and find out what's what! I hope that you like my little paper!


Yours Sincerely,
Ronnie.
Obviously the real point is that Fortune has fallen hook-line-and-sinker for this b.s. At this late date, we're talking more sociology (anthropology?) of science than history, but' it's still an interesting bump on the road to our modern world. Along with Armstrong of FM and Ventile fabrics (illustrating that fashion doesn't have patents, but does have innovation), there's a lot in here to justify a "Patent Troll" tag.


Friday, April 6, 2018

The Early Iron Age Revival of the State, IX: Chariotry, Cavalry, Infantry and Casseroles

Pinned twice from a website where this is buried deep in the archives. It's an "Iraqi casserole." That's all I know.
The words of Tiglath-Pileser I (1114--1076BC), strong king, unrivalled king of the universe, king of the four quarters, king of all princes . . . attentive purification priest, to whom by the command of the god Samas the holy sceptre was given . . . whose weapons the god Assur has sharpened and whose name he has pronounced eternally for control of the four quarters, capturer of distant districts to borders above and below, radiant day whose brilliance overwhelms the regions,splendid flame which covers the hostile land like a rain storm, and who by the command of the god Enlil, having no rival defeats the enemy of the god Assur; . . . 

At that time I marched to the insubmissive land Katmuhu which had withheld tribute and impost from the god Assur, my lord. I conquered the entire land of Katmuhu. I brought out their booty, property and possessions. Their cities I burnt, razed and destroyed. The remainder of the (inhabitants of the city of) Katmuhu, who had fled from my weapons (and) crossed over to the city Seressu which is on the opposite bank of the Tigris, made that city their stronghold. Taking my chariots and warriors I hacked through the rough mountain range and difficult paths with copper picks and made a good way for the passage of my chariots and troops. I crossed the Tigris and conquered their fortified city, Seressu. I spread out like grain-heaps the corpses of their men-at-arms in the battle. I made their blood flow in the hollows and plains of the mountains. At that time mL laid low like sheep, with the army of the land Katmuhu, the army of the Paphu which had come to the aid and assistance of the land Katmuhu. I built up mounds with the corpses of their men-at-arms on mountain ledges. I allowed the River Name to carry off the bodies of their warriors out to the Tigris. I captured in battle their king, Kili-Teshub, son of Kali-Teshub, who is called Errupi. I carried off his wives, his natural sons, his clan, copper kettles, five bronze bath-tubs, together with their gods, gold and silver, the best of their property. I brought out their booty. I burnt, razed (and) destroyed that city and its palace."

Welcome to the Late Bronze Age.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Postblogging Technology, February 1948, I: The Great Soul





R_. C_.,
Vancouver, Canada

Dear Father:

It has been a wearing week, and not just because I am a working girl, now. I've been invited to give a talk about my senior thesis, I think mainly because I am the only Junior who knows what her senior thesis is going to be! I've had to do some fast footwork over the fact that it is Californian history, and not French literature, but Stanford tends to be easy with these things if you're eager and smart. (And rich, Reggie would say.) And I'm told, with a heavy hint that it's my fault, that my Mother is drinking again, and that Dad is acting as though his ulcer is flaring up. He, of course, won't say anything, in case it makes me feel guilty. He'll just rant on about how Indians, Mexicans, Coloureds, Jews and Communists make  him sick to his stomach. I can't say I find that much better. 

So that's me, so obviously the most important bit; but, you might have heard that Gandhi is dead. I feel a little like I'm supposed to be sad about it. What hits a lot closer is that President Tressider is dead. He was only 53! The rumour around campus is that he was in New York to "manage" President Hoover --One more thing to blame the Wonder Boy for. 

So that's it for me, except to mention that Mrs. Delano called back about my application for a summer job at Magnin's to offer me an interview. It's quite exciting, and makes me wish that I'd thought to apply to Magnin's! 

Thank you, is what I'm trying to say. 


Yours Sincerely,

Ronnie.




Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Early Iron Age Revival of the State, VIII: Return of the Dead

Bernie may be dead, but he sure can dance! It's hard to believe that this movie is 29 years old, meaning that it is separated from us by a recession, the dotcom boom, the 2008 crash, and whatever it is we've been living through since.

That, of course, was a blatant attempt to work the 2008 crash into the conversation. Niall Sharples waits until the conclusion of his book to do it.
"It is a little easier to to explain how catastrophic the end of the Bronze Age was, given the collapse of the financial markets that devastated national economies in 2008. In the Bronze Age, bronze was as important as money is today; it connected people and created a system whereby other people relied on others to provided materials that were not locally available, animals when they were needed for consumption and sexual partners necessary for the continuity of human communities. In times of crisis, the credit built up through the long-term exchange of gifts would enable people to acquire the essentials to rebuild their lives. It also provided a way of classifying and contrasting people and communities by status and identity. The complex system of exchange relationships, and indebtedness, which had been operating for over 1,000 years, was completely undermined and abandoned at the end of the Bronze Age." (Sharples, 312--13.)

I am very impressed by Niall Sharples' Social Relationships in Later Prehistory (2010), and, in my personal opinion, it would have been a barn burner if he'd gone back over it and sharpened up this point. But, of course that would be my opinion, given that my interest in the Late Bronze Age Collapse was revived by the 2008 collapse. I had a sense that this was where Sharples was going in the main text, but he waited for the conclusion to spring the analogy --if it is an analogy. There's lots of material in the main text that "hangs a lampshade" on 2008, as the kids say, or said several years ago. And then, in the conclusion, he drags out the literal lampshade. "This is what I was talking about."

Which means that it is time to forage in the communal graveyard of ideas that is academic publishing, bring to light the relics of the heroes, and expose them to celebrants of the mystery. If you don't have an epiphany, lie back and think of the polis. 

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Postblogging Technology, January 1948, II: Demand Outpaces Supply





Mayhem! I have no idea what this is about. Maybe?




R_.C_.,
Vancouver,
Canada


Dear Father:


First of all, thank you for your kind offer, which I've decided to decline. I know that I cried during our phone call, and it's really dirty pool to turn around and say, "Oh, it's not so bad," but my sisters have been a rock! We went over my finances, and have concluded that I should be able to complete my undergraduate degree if I just get a job. (Gasp! I know!) Law school is another matter, and I may be begging you to revisit your offer next year! So there's no need for you to get into trouble with the family --they'll know that it's you, even if my fiance doesn't figure it out and fink, which he might, because he's a rat. 

So, no money from you, and my parents can just grit their teeth at their daughter getting some plebian job (Mom will throw a fit!). It's not as though they've grounds to stand on. They disowned me. (And please let's not get into tawdry details, as my fiance has less attachment to me than his damned dachshund.) 

On the other hand, (and here Ronnie puts on absolutely her sweetest, puppy dog eyes and leans close), if you could put a word in with any employers who might find me worth a bit of a premium on sixty-five cents an hour, that would be swell! Because my first stab at this has me working behind a soda counter, and it turns out that work is a lot of work!


Yours,

Ronnie.







Sunday, March 11, 2018

One, Two, Many '48s: Somewhere Between a Technical Appendix and a Sacred Spring Installment

Von David Hawgood, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13972302
This Irish National Heritage Park exhibit is a reconstruction of a "Fulacht Fiadh," or cooking pit. About 8000 are known in Ireland, and are characterised by mounds of broken stone and charcoal, adjacent to a trapezoidal wooden trough. The "cooking pit" interpretation sees them as locations where venison was cooked by stewing, using fire-heated stones to maintain water temperature. In Britain, the same features are known as "burnt mounds," signifying a more agnostic take on their likely ancient use. Scandinavian exemplars are sometimes seen as saunas. In Britain and Scandinavia, burnt mounds are a phenomena of the Bronze Age, with dates clustering around 1500BC and 1200--800BC. German Wikipedia has a more complete writeup than the English-language version

So far, so good. This is a placeholder posting. I was led to the "burnt mound" problem by Niall Sharples, but I can't say that I've digested Sharples, never mind finishing his monograph. That's because I have been working on the Postblogging Technology, January 1948, II; but after losing a day to an overtime shift, I've had to concede that there is no chance of finishing it tomorrow. You will have to wait for my report on the debate between Ernest K. Lindley and Henry Hazlitt on the Marshall Plan, in which Lindley vainly attempts to explain economics to the author of Economics in One Easy Lesson, while Hazlitt stubbornly insists that there is no chance of the Plan working, on account of the Europeans being collectivist socialists and all, and that it would be better to save the money and use it for tax cuts. There is, in fact, in January of 1948, something of a full-court press on for tax cuts, or at least an attempt to head off tax increases, on the grounds that they will cut into business investment. Since Robert Taft has boarded this bandwagon, it is not entirely clear whether partisanship is driving ideas; or ideas, partisanship. What we do know is that arch-internationalist GOP Senator Arthur Vandenberg will soon drop Taft and begin promoting MacArthur's candidacy. It's a weird old world.  

Lindley's argument, which you've heard before in these pages, is that without the Marshall Plan, Europe will go Red. The Economist has already been there, announcing that 1948, "The Year of Revolutions," was nothing special, and neither will be 1948. As it happens, 1848 was the year of The Communist Manifesto, and 1948 will be the Year of the Berlin Airlift. It's an interesting conjunction, although you'd have to be a pretty desperate blogger to make a connection between the Communist revolution and  the practice of adding soda ash to the smelt to produce higher-quality steel and trying to carry it back to the beginnings of the Iron Age. 

Well, it's Saturday night before time change, and I'm working at 9, so here we are.