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Showing posts from January, 2014

Disputing "Eleanor Roosevelt's" "Great Minds" Quote

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A while ago I saw someone share the following quote:

"Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people." — Eleanor Roosevelt

From the start, I didn't think this quote sounded like something Eleanor Roosevelt would say. (I would think she was too caught up promoting human rights to get down to categorizing people in a demeaning way like that.) Apparently my hunch was right: The quote is almost surely misattributed. Of course, it's usually very difficult to prove that a particular person never said a certain string of words, but it's certain in this case that they at least did not originate with Eleanor. (This is why I have "Eleanor Roosevelt" in scare quotes in the title.)

While some people may find this quote appealing—and I may have even liked it in the past—now I don't think it's a positive saying at all. Let me explain.

The Continued Rise of Global Uniformities

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Last October, I went to Mexico without being able to speak Spanish. I would call my knowledge of the language "less-than-survival level." However, I managed to do pretty well navigating the daily need-to-do tasks I had while in Oaxaca. Why is that? I mean, it could have been far more difficult for me to spend five days in Mexico without knowing the language—but it wasn't. The historian in me has only one conclusion to make: The main reason I managed as easily as I did was because of the continued rise of global uniformities.

In his book The Birth of the Modern World, Christopher Bayly traces what he names "the rise of global uniformities" from 1780 to 1914.

Let's explore what this concept means for all of us.

Quick Alternate Histories: Napoleon Invades Britain

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Alternate histories are very easy to imagine: Just find a moment in the past where one changed action or occurrence might have altered the world forever. So far on this blog I have written two other "QAHs," the first about a Franco-German empire and the second about Afro-Eurasians coming to the Americas bringing epidemic diseases long before the "Age of Discovery."

Now I wish to return to the Napoleonic era, also the subject of my Franco-German empire post. I plan to be much more brief this time.

Imagine:

What if, in 1804, Napoleon had launched an invasion of Britain?