History and Culture A _ 2012-2013

A class blog Patricia Bou. English Studies. UV

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving Day is coming! 

In the US, it's traditionally a holiday to give thanks for the food collected at the end of the harvest season. It's a day for families and friends to get together and give thanks to them for their love and support. This holiday commemorates the feast held by the Pilgrim colonists and Wampanoag Indians at Plymouth in 1621. 
Thanksgiving Day in the United States is a holiday on the fourth Thursday of November. This year it's celebrated on November 22th.

Thanksgiving is America's preeminent day. It is celebrated every year on the fourth Thursday in the month of November. It has a very interesting history. Its origin can be traced back to the 16th century when the first Thanksgiving dinner is said to have taken place.

Origin of Thanksgiving Day

Journey of Pilgrims

The legendary pilgrims crossed the Atlantic in the year 1620 in Mayflower-A 17th Century sailing vessel. About 102 people traveled for nearly two months with extreme difficulty. This was so because they were kept in the cargo space of the sailing vessel. No one was allowed to go on the deck due to terrible storms. The pilgrims comforted themselves by singing Psalms  (sacred songs).

Arrival in Plymouth

The pilgrims reached Plymouth rock on December 11th 1620, after a sea journey of 66 days. Though the original destination was somewhere in the northern part of Virginia, they could not reach the place owing to winds blowing them off course. Nearly 46 pilgrims died due to extreme cold. However, in the spring of 1621, Squanto, a native Indian, taught the pilgrims to survive by growing food.

Day of Fasting and Prayer

In the summer of 1621, owing to severe drought, pilgrims called for a day of fasting and prayer to please God and ask for a bountiful harvest in the coming season. God answered their prayers and it rained at the end of the day. It saved the corn crops.

First Thanksgiving Feast

Pilgrims learnt to grow corn, beans and pumpkins from the Indians, which helped all of them survive. In the autumn of 1621, they held a grand celebration where 90 people were invited including Indians. The feast was organized to thank god for his favors. This communal dinner is popularly known as “The first Thanksgiving feast”. However, there is no evidence to prove if the dinner actually took place. 

While some historians believe pilgrims were quite religious so, their Thanksgiving would have included a day of fasting and praying, others say that the Thanksgiving dinner did take place.

Turkey and First Thanksgiving Feast

  Thanksgiving Day: “First Thanksgiving, The,” reproduction of an oil painting by Ferris

 There is no evidence to prove if the customary turkey was a part of the initial feast. According to the firsthand account written by the leader of the colony, the food included, ducks, geese, venison, fish, berries, etc. 

Pumpkin and Thanksgiving Feast

Pumpkin pie, a modern staple adorning every dinner table, is unlikely to have been a part of the first Thanksgiving feast. However, pilgrims did have boiled pumpkin. Diminishing supply of flour led to the absence of any kind of bread. 

The feast continued for three days and all the food was eaten outside due to lack of space. It was not repeated until 1623, which again witnessed a severe drought. Governor Bradford proclaimed another day of Thanksgiving in the year 1676. October of 1777 witnessed a time when all the 13 colonies joined in a communal celebration. It also marked the victory over the British.

After a number of events and changes, President Lincoln proclaimed last Thursday in November of Thanksgiving in the year 1863. This was due to the continuous efforts of Sarah Josepha Hale, a magazine editor. She wrote a number of articles for the cause. 

On December 26, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a joint resolution of Congress changing the national Thanksgiving Day from the last Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday. Two years earlier, Franklin had used a presidential proclamation to try to achieve this change, reasoning that earlier celebration of the holiday would give the country an economic boost.


Thursday, 15 November 2012

Elizabeth I

As my mate, Lucía Callero, has written about Anne Boleyn, I am going to write about Elizabeth I, her daughter.

Biography Elizabeth I

The reign of Queen Elizabeth I is often referred to as The Golden Age of English history. Elizabeth was an immensely popular Queen, and her popularity has waned little with the passing of four hundred years. She is still one of the best loved monarchs, and one of the most admired rulers of all time. She became a legend in her own lifetime, famed for her remarkable abilities and achievements. Yet, about Elizabeth the woman, we know very little. She is an enigma, and was an enigma to her own people.

  Elizabeth was the daughter of King Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. She was born on 7 September 1533 at Greenwich Palace. Her birth was possibly the greatest disappointment of her father's life. He had wanted a son and heir to succeed him as he already had a daughter, Mary, by his first wife, Katherine of Aragon. He had not divorced Katherine, and changed the religion of the country in the process, to have only another daughter. Elizabeth's early life was consequently troubled. Her mother failed to provide the King with a son and was executed on false charges of incest and adultery on 19 May 1536. Anne's marriage to the King was declared null and void, and Elizabeth, like her half-sister, Mary, was declared illegitimate and deprived of her place in the line of succession. 

 The next eight years of Elizabeth's life saw a quick succession of stepmothers. For generations, historians have debated whether the constant bride changing of her father was responsible for Elizabeth's apparent refusal to marry. It is certainly possible that the tragic fates of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard impressed upon her a certain fear of marriage, but there may have been other reasons for the Queen's single state, such as a fear of childbirth, which claimed the lives of a significant number of women in this period. Even if the Queen had no personal reservations about marriage, there were political problems with almost every contender for her hand. Religion was a major divisive issue, and there was also the problem of whether Elizabeth would have to relinquish any of her royal powers to a husband in an age when the political sphere was exclusively male.

As a child, Elizabeth was given a very impressive education. It had become popular amongst the nobility to educate daughters as well as sons and Elizabeth excelled at her studies. She was taught by famous scholars such as William Grindal and Roger Ascham, and from an early age it was clear that she was remarkably gifted. She had an especial flare for languages, and by adulthood, she could reputedly speak five languages fluently.

Elizabeth's adolescence was no easier than her childhood. While the King lived, she was safe from political opportunists, but when he died in the January of 1547, and his young son became King Edward VI, she was vulnerable to those who saw her as a political pawn. Despite being officially illegitimate, Henry had reinstated his daughters in the line of succession. Mary was to follow Edward, and Elizabeth was to follow Mary. This meant that Elizabeth was now second in line to the throne. Edward was too young to rule himself as he was only nine years old, so his uncle, Edward Seymour, became Protector of England. His younger brother, Thomas Seymour, was jealous of his position and attempted to overthrow him. His scheme, which involved an attempted kidnapping of the Boy King, cost him his life. He had made no secret of his desire to marry Elizabeth (in Tudor times a girl was considered of marriageable age at twelve) so she was implicated in his plot. It was treason for an heir to the throne to marry without the consent of the King and his Council, and at only fifteen years of age, Elizabeth had to persuade her interrogators that she knew nothing of the plot and had not consented to marry the King's uncle. She succeeded in defending her innocence, but rumours of an illicit affair with Seymour, all the more scandalous because he had been married to her last step-mother, Katherine Parr, (before she died in childbirth), plagued her long afterwards.

  Elizabeth again found herself implicated in treason after the Wyatt rebellion of 1554. Edward had died in the summer of 1553 from prolonged ill health, and Elizabeth's half-sister, Mary, was now Queen Mary I of England after a brief fight for the throne against the scheme of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, to make his daughter in law, Jane Grey, queen. Mary was not a particularly popular monarch, and was suspicious of her Protestant half-sister. It was thus not difficult to persuade her that Elizabeth may have been conspiring with Thomas Wyatt and his men to seize the throne. Whether or not the rebellion was to make Elizabeth queen is uncertain, and it is also unknown whether Elizabeth had any knowledge of the conspirators plans. Even if she did have knowledge of them, there is no evidence that she approved of the actions of Wyatt and his followers. Elizabeth said she was innocent of the accusations made against her, but she was still arrested and sent to the Tower of London as a prisoner.

Many of those surrounding the Queen would have liked Elizabeth to have been executed, but there was no evidence against her and she was popular with the people. Elizabeth was kept a captive at the Tower for two months and then removed to Woodstock Manor in Oxfordshire, where she was kept a prisoner for a year. The house itself was uninhabitable so she had to be lodged in the gatehouse with her servants. It was only at the behest of the Queen's husband, Philip of Spain, that she was allowed to return to her childhood home of Hatfield in Hertfordshire. Philip was aware of the Queen's poor health and wanted to gain the friendship of Elizabeth to ensure peaceable relations between England and Spain should his wife die and Elizabeth succeed to the throne.

Elizabeth did finally succeed to the throne on 17th November 1558. It was a moment of supreme triumph for the unwanted daughter who had spent her life in the shadow of the court, cast aside and forgotten. The years following the death of her father had called for sobriety and caution, but now that she was Queen, Elizabeth was determined to enjoy her new found freedom and live life to the full. She loved all kinds of sports, especially horse riding, and in the early years of her reign spent many an hour riding. She also loved hunting, hawking, bear baiting, and watching the male courtiers excel at jousts or other sporting contests. She loved music and dancing, pageantry and masques, and could even play the virginals and the lute herself with skill. She had no time for the Puritan theologians who deemed such things impious. She also loved watching plays and created the atmosphere responsible for the flourishing of the literary masterpieces of the period against the Puritan demands for the closure of all theatres and playhouses. 

  Elizabeth was crowned Queen on Sunday 15th January 1559. In the months that followed, the new Queen re-established the Protestant Church in England and restored the debased coinage. Perhaps to appease Catholics or to appease those who did not believe a woman could become head of the church, Elizabeth became Supreme Governor of the Church of England, rather than Supreme Head as her father had been. While it is impossible to know what exactly the Queen's personal religious beliefs were, the Church she established is an indication of them. She was a committed Protestant, and reputedly spent time in prayer every day, but she was probably a conservative Protestant. She liked candles and crucifixes in her private chapel, liked church music, and enjoyed the more traditional style of worship in contrast to the sermon based service that was becoming popular in some Protestant circles. She did not like religious extremism and did not want to persecute any of her people for their religious beliefs. However, the tenacious political nature of the Catholic/Protestant split meant that her government had to take a harsher line towards Catholics than she wanted.

Now that Elizabeth was Queen, proposals of marriage flooded in, but Elizabeth committed herself to none of them. In a genius of political wheeling and dealing, she managed to use her single state to benefit the country by using the bait of marriage to draw in enemies, or to frighten them by suggesting she would marry one of their foes. Whatever Elizabeth's personal feelings towards marriage, on two occasions she did come close to matrimony. For many years, the most serious contender for her hand was Robert Dudley, created Earl of Leicester in 1564. He and Elizabeth had known each other for years and had been imprisoned in the Tower of London at the same time. He was the only serious personal love interest of the Queen's life. Politically, however, marrying him would have been a disaster. He was unpopular as he was the son of the traitor Northumberland, and was loathed even more after his wife was found dead in mysterious circumstances. It was thought he had murdered her so he would be free to marry Elizabeth. The other serious contender for the Queen's hand was Francis, Duke of Alencon/Anjou, heir to the French throne. But again, political considerations made the match ultimately impossible.

 Not marrying and having a child of her own meant that the succession was unsettled. Elizabeth did not like to talk about the succession and tried to have talk of it suppressed, but people were anxious about what would happen to the country when she died. However, having a child of her own may not have been an end to all problems. In the eyes of Catholics, Elizabeth was illegitimate and had no right to the throne. To them, Mary, Queen of Scots was the rightful Queen of England. Plots were made to make Mary queen and these would have been formed regardless of whether Elizabeth had a child or not. This is perhaps especially so when Mary was Elizabeth's prisoner following her disastrous reign in Scotland.
Forced to flee her own country, having abdicated her throne in favour of her son, she landed in England, seeking Elizabeth's help in restoring her to her kingdom. She was immediately imprisoned. This was as much to protect her as to minimize the danger she posed to Elizabeth. Mary was kept a prisoner for almost twenty years. In that time, Elizabeth refused to hear about executing her cousin, but Mary's complicity in the Babington plot of 1586 made the execution, in the eyes of many, unavoidable. It was a traumatic time for Elizabeth, and for a while it seemed that she would not have the strength to go ahead with the execution, but she did, and Mary was executed at Fotheringay Castle on 8 February 1587.
  Relations between Elizabeth and Philip, now King of Spain, had begun amicably, but had deteriorated over the years as their different political and religious agendas clashed. By 1588 they were enemies of the first-rate. Philip had spoken of invading England and dethroning Elizabeth for years but the execution of the Queen of Scots gave him an added incentive. Now he could claim the English throne for himself and not for her. In the summer of 1588 he sent his mighty fleet against England. But by superior tactics, ship design, and sheer good fortune, the English defeated them. Elizabeth's popularity reached its zenith. It was also another personal triumph as she had proved that she, a woman, could lead in war as well as any man.

  Elizabeth was dedicated to her country in a way few monarchs had been or have been since. Elizabeth had the mind of a political genius and nurtured her country through careful leadership and by choosing capable men to assist her, such as Sir William Cecil and Sir Francis Walsingham. Elizabeth was a determined woman, but she was not obstinate. She listened to the advice of those around her, and would change a policy if it was unpopular. In appearance she was extravagant, in behaviour sometimes flippant and frivolous, but her approach to politics was serious, conservative, and cautious. When she ascended the throne in 1558, England was an impoverished country torn apart by religious squabbles. When she died at Richmond Palace on the 24th March 1603, England was one of the most powerful and prosperous countries in the world.

(Clara Ruiz Estela)

About Anne Boleyn

Anne was the second wife of Henry VIII and the mother of Elizabeth I. Henry's desire to divorce his first wife and marry Anne was one of the complex factors which contributed to the English Reformation.
There is some dispute over the year in which Anne was born, with a date between 1501 and 1507 most likely.
When Anne and Henry were secretly married in January 1533 she was already pregnant. She was crowned queen in June. She was never popular beyond the court, partly because she was an advocate of the reformation of the church.
Portrait of Anne Boleyn, artist unknownOn 2 May 1536, Anne was arrested. She was accused of adultery with her own brother and four commoners - they were all tried and convicted of treason by Anne's uncle, the duke of Norfolk. On 19 May, Anne was beheaded at the Tower of London - the first English queen to be publicly executed. Modern historians view the charges against her, which included adultery and incest, as unconvincing. Following the coronation of her daughter, Elizabeth, as queen, Anne was venerated as a martyr and heroine of the English Reformation, particularly through the works of John Foxe. Over the centuries, she has inspired or been mentioned in numerous artistic and cultural works. As a result, she has retained her hold on the popular imagination. Anne has been called "the most influential and important queen consort England has ever had", since she provided the occasion for Henry VIII to divorce Catherine of Aragon, and declare his independence from Rome. Henry married his mistress Jane Seymour soon afterwards.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

A nation votes, Ohio decides

Today, in the United States of America, citizens are voting to elect their next President, as well as their congressmen for various states. However, not all votes are created equal. The two campaigns are spending big money on only a few states: the so-called "swing states" that will decide the election. If you are a republican living in New York, your vote does not count. The same can be said for a democrat living in Texas. 

This is due to how the electoral college works, as explained in the video above. The US uses a winner-take-all electoral system, where all the electoral votes from a state are granted to a single candidate if he gets just over 50% of the votes. 

This can lead to situations where the race comes down to a single state. For example, in the 2000 elections, the state of Florida gave the presidency to Bush after months of controversial recounts because the result was too close to call. This created a situation where 500 votes decided the next president of the US, regardless of the fact that Al Gore had obtained 500,000 more votes than Bush, on a national scale.

On this election, all polls seem to suggest that Ohio will determine the president of the new term. No Republican candidate has ever won the presidency without carrying this state. Depending on how Ohio decides, this might create another scenario where the president-elect does not have the popular vote. Jon Stewart, a famous comedian in the US, captures the irony of it on the video below and on his converage of the election night, titled "A nation votes, Ohio decides".

The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Swing State Hell
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

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Monday, 5 November 2012

Today, being the 5th of November, day in which we commemorate Guy Fawkes, I thought this video could interesting.


Tony Palmer’s “Bird on a Wire” film was a venture that started in 1972 as a film recording of Leonard Cohen’s impending European tour. Tony Palmer’s first contact with L.C. was as disappointing as it could be since the songwriter and singer said that he “didn’t want to tour again”. Added to this he had no record contract and he also mentioned that he did not want to make this film. Tony palmer had been profoundly moved by L.C. Book the Anarchy of Slaves… so their first interview was some sort of ice-breaking over the poems written by the singer. L.C. was quite intent on not being portrayed as someone who wrote “happy little love songs” but someone who wrote songs with a political message. So the recording started and Tony Palmer made very clear that He would be always filming , in any situation, and requested of L.C. to “never close the door” on the camera. The filming was done with analogical camera, so lighting became very important. After 4 weeks of filmmaking and touring in Europe and Israel L.C.’s manager wanted 30.000 dollars for its rights. Finally in May 1974, the 30.000 dollars were paid to put together or produce the film of which now 2 versions existed but Tony Palmer couldn’t find the original cans of film. Finally he found them in London- 296 cans! They were full of unused material but they still couldn’t find the soundtrack. A long time had gone by, almost 40 years!!! Miracles happen, so while they were in London in 2009 fiddling with the material they had found they knocked over one can and it was the one that contained the soundtrack!... so they had the soundtrack but still no pictures, so they started a process by which they would clean each fragment that had some recording in it and they found 3000 of those fragments and put them together into the film that is now “Bird on a Wire”.This film has now been processed so that it can be watched on DVD, with the original soundtrack and the 3000bits of film put together into a musical documentary of the tour that follows the original chronology of the concerts. Tony Palmer also told us that the drawing of the bird on the cover of “Bird on a Wire” is Picasso’s Dove and that he had to make numerous maneuvers and wait for several long periods of time to get legal access to the use of the famous painter’s drawing although one of the conditions of that use was that it remained painted in blue-its original color- and not in gold as the author of the film would have preferred. Luckily for him and after all the effort and wait he didn’t have to pay a single penny for using the famous bird. Summing up- the original film had disappeared; the second version had been lost; and the third version which is what you get when you watch “Bird on a Wire” has been reconstructed out of sheer luck in 2009. And that is all, as Tony Palmer said:”I’ve told the story.” Here is a direct quote from the author of the film:
“When, in 2009, 294 cans of film were discovered in a warehouse in Hollywood,” says Palmer, “in rusted up cans that sometimes had to be hammered open, and these cans were shipped to me by, of all people, Frank Zappa’s manager, I believed at first that nothing could be salvaged. The cans did not contain the negative (still lost); some of the prints were in black & white; and much of it had been cut to pieces and/or scratched beyond use. But when I finally opened one box and found most of the original sound dubbing tracks, I knew we had a hope of putting the jigsaw back together. So now, taking full advantage of the latest digital technology, this is what we have done, piece by piece, slowly and painstakingly. It has taken months and months, and probably has cost more than the original filming, and although it’s by no means perfect, it’s very close now to the original.”