Good morning, we are going to wind down Europe in the Middle Ages series and then shift into summer mode. During the summer, instead of posting daily, I will be posting new blogs three days a week from June to August. Then in September, I will be back to blogging five days a week.
This time we are going to explore Medieval Cities and city planning through the eyes of a scholar. The run time for this episode is 52:23.
The Cathedral was the symbol of power for the city and they were often constructed by unknown workers. It was stone masons that helped create the Gothic style. The Cathedrals were paid for by merchants, bankers, and patricians. They were members of a new class. The Cathedrals were often built out of pride to show what men could aspire to. This episode follows the life of Heinrich Schuder. He was a doctor, a cartographer, and a scholar.
In 1492, Heinrich made his way to Venice and he is looking for information on the new trade routes to India and maps. He also had to pay bills in Venice. Venice was the hub of world trade and so Henrich would travel through Venice. It is here that he sees the roots of bankers. The money changers had set up an office in Venice. They placed a cloth over the table that showed they could legally be money changers. They also pledged not to default on the republic. The tool of their trade was a scale and they had to withdraw any forged or poor-quality coins.
Francisco Marco di Datini was a pioneer in the banking trade. He was known as rich Francisco. He had the most beautiful and expensive palace in Venice. 150,000 documents have been preserved and these documents show the banking trade he engaged in. He was no longer a traveling merchant. He combined banker and financier. He also produced some of the finest woolen fabrics. He was a global player. He controlled 16 business operations. He pioneered double-entry bookkeeping, and this standard is still being kept all around the world. He also invented the bill of exchange. His signature was considered currency around the world.
However, the bankers could not charge interest. They lived in the fear of hell if they did. It is here where a preacher talks about the torments that would follow if the bankers charged interest. Datini feared the fires of hell and tried to win heaven over. He gave money to the church and was known as the “merchant of the poor.” At his death, he released his debtors and gave his business to his employees.
Henrich continues his exploration of Venice. He notices corpses being taken out of the house. The Black Death was back in Venice and it was spreading like wildfire. This was the first time Henrich had seen plague victims. The Black Death did not spare the rich or poor in Venice. The dead had left such a stench, they dead had to be buried outside the city. Plague victims had to be reported and everyone who had the plague was taken to a plague island. Henrich decided that he needed to help out. However, everyone who had the plague was doomed to die.
The quarantine station in Venice still exists. It was the place where people had to be quarantined before entering the city. All travelers had to be under observation for 40 days. Even the goods that the travelers brought with them had to be stored for 40 days. Only those who passed the medical examination could go into the city. However, it was the rats that were bringing the plague into Venice. Heinrich eventually leaves Venice to return to Nuremberg. Anyone who left the city was sentenced to death, but he decided he had to risk it. Would Heinrich make it out of Venice? Would he make his way back to Nuremberg? Did he catch the plague? Tune into the rest of the episode to find out more about Heinrich and the Medieval Cities.
This was an interesting documentary, however, I felt like the title was deceptive. The film makers did not get to the town planning until the middle of the documentary. Still, it was very interesting and would be something I would show int eh classroom.
Good morning, we are continuing our way through the people of the Middle Ages. This time we will be exploring the life of the peasants and the nobles. The run time for this episode is 51:56.
Books give us a glimpse into how the nobles and kings lived. However, little is found about peasants. They are the voiceless masses of the Middle Ages. The peasants could not read or write. Their lives were uninteresting. Prayer books show how the peasants live. This episode follows the life of a peasant. He is a traveling showman. He is an orphan, who did not know his father or his mother. He has been on the move earning a few pence. The peasants look down on him because he travels so much. He has a unique insight into the life of a peasant.
Peasants could marry each other but had to have the permission of the Feudal Lord to marry. They would have had to pay off the Lord to get married. The peasants were tied to the land and were protected by a lord. They did not have the freedom that the traveling entertainer did. He would have moved on after the celebrations. He even went into town to provide medical services like pulling teeth.
Anthropologists in Austria are trying to discover more about peasants. What diseases did they suffer from? What did they eat? What caused their death? There have been over 200 skeletons examined. These skeletons come from a 10th Century cemetery. In the graves, there were a few simple objects. The average age was 21, however, there was a high rate of infant mortality. Many of the people lived over 40 years old with a handful living past 60 years old. Anthropologists carefully examine the bones of the dead and discovered that there were insufficient levels of Vitamin C. There have been holes in the bones, hinting at a disease. Tuberculosis was common in the village and spread through the village.
A nobleman’s prayerbook depicts a peasant’s life very differently. They depict a flattering picture of the peasants. Images show the peasants working in their Sunday best. They exposed themselves in shameless ways to the noblemen. However, a peasant’s life was not an easy one. They grew oats and rye, and if these harvests failed famines followed. They rotated their crops, giving the land time to rest. A village has been reconstructed to show the life of a peasant. An agricultural revolution helped increase food yields which helped increase the population.
Agriculture became a science during the Middle Ages. One of the first books on agriculture was written at this time. This book provided guides on how to grow crops, what to grow, when to grow, and other areas of agriculture.
The church and the lords demanded a tithe. The peasants had to surrender as much as half of their produce. The lords always received the best from the peasants. The traveling entertainer watches as a lord reacts angrily to a presentation. The entertainer stepped in and helped the poor peasant. This is when the documentary turns to the archives in Aragon to discover information about the tax laws. The archives document the taxes and the complaints about the taxes. Aragon introduced the income tax because the king’s income was no longer sufficient enough to pay for the armies. The people had to document what money was made over the year. Then there is a long discussion on taxes in the Middle Ages.
So what was the lot of the peasant? Where does the traveling entertainer go? What was life like in a castle? Why was it really called the Dark Ages? What were the rules of polite behavior? What else was introduced during the Middle Ages? Continue to watch this episode to find out more about the peasant and the nobles.
I am a little bit mixed when it comes to this documentary. Maybe there could have been a different character selected, but I understand that this traveling entertainer had a unique perspective on the peasant’s lot. It started out slow and then it started picking up with the information on the clothing laws. At the start I would recommend you skip this episode for the classroom, however, it got better in the middle of the documentary. So now I would recommend this episode for the classroom.
Good morning we are continuing the series Europe in the Middle Ages. In this episode, we will be learning about Monks and Heretics. The run time for this episode is 52:44.
The Middle Ages was a highly religious period and there was no salvation outside the church. People feared hell during these times. They also feared the final judgment. The stained-glass windows testify to the devotion of the people. The people longed for eternity while at the same time fearing the damnation of hell. Gothic stained-glass windows are among the most beautiful works of art that come from the Middle Ages. Today, those windows are carefully restored piece by piece.
Monks for the most part were unknown. In this episode, we will follow the life of a monk Edward. He was a monk in Scotland and it is 1308. He is a novice and Edward the Confessor was his patron saint. He was seven when he went into the monastery. His parents were poor and it would have been the only chance he would have had to learn to read. He studied and copied manuscripts.
The treasure of knowledge was held in the church and monastery. This episode goes into the chained library. The books were so important they were chained to walls. The monasteries were self-sufficient places. One academic team explores one monastery plan. Was this plan a master plan for all monasteries? The team uses computers to test this out on a variety of terrains. Perhaps this is where the origins of town planning are found. They were a place for monks and marketplaces.
We go back to the monk and he almost burns a book. He had drifted off to sleep while reading. The monk panics about burning the book. He was sent on pilgrimages to see if he could get a new copy of the book. This is his way to atone for burning the book. He was off to Santiago de Compostela and the grave of St. James the Apostle. Here the documentary talks about the people in the Middle Ages taking pilgrimages. He is making his way to Castile on foot. How did the pilgrimages know the way? Where would they spend the night?
A priest makes his appearance and brings out a treasured manuscript: a book about the pilgrimage. The book described the country and the people. It talked about the costs of the journey and where good food and drink could be found. It was the travel guide for the pilgrim. It was the young and old who went on this journey. Even today you can still walk these roads. Along the way, pilgrims could spend the night at a hostel. Everyone was taken in and the monks carefully looked after the pilgrims.
Edward the Monk finally made his way to the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela. Here he would have seen an incense burner that would have been swung over the people. St. James the Apostle was buried in the cathedral. Pilgrimages were a big business in this city and the pilgrims spent their money and gave generously to the cathedral. Edward repented of burning the book, however, his mission was not done yet. He went on to Toledo to find a copy of the book he burned. He makes his way to La Manche and sees the windmills. These are the windmills that Don Quixote would tilt at. It was also here that Edward would see a solar eclipse.
Edward finally arrives in Toledo. Toledo was a place of three cultures: Muslims, Jewish, and Christian people who lived together side by side. Here they worked together to translate books. It is also here, that Edward found a copy of the book he had burned because of his foolishness. The librarian said he could have a copy of the book if he could find a copy of the book in his library. Will Edward be able to find a copy of the book he burned? Will Edward the monk make his way back home? Tune into the rest of the episode to find out more!
This is a pretty cool series. I enjoyed following the story of Edward the Monk. This would be something to show more for fun in the history classroom.
Good morning, we’re going to look at Europe in the Middle Ages. The first episode covers knights and tournaments. The run time for this episode is 52:30.
The Middle Ages were often considered a dark and dreary time. Four estates lived during this time: knights, monks, peasants, and beggars. This series follows the lives of people from each level of society. You will see the Middle Ages through their eyes. What was the reality of that? However, it is a time when the modern age was born. So what can we discover about the Middle Ages through these groups? Was the Middle Ages all that dark?
The first episode of this series covers the night. One knight on horseback was worth eighty men on foot. They were the military elite and inspired ideas of chivalry, manners, and courtesy. They were well-armed and went to war as vassals of their lords. They risked their lives in tournaments to gain honor. This episode explores the life of a knight. He is a man who has no land or serfs. His father’s lands will pass to his older brother. The knight has to find his way. He leaves his family in Portugal and goes north. He is joining up with the Teutonic Knights to fight against the remaining heathens in Europe.
In 1335, you were never far away from the castle. It was the symbol of Medieval Power. A knight could be assured of hospitality and shelter. This is when the documentary talks about the Guedelon Castle. This is a historical rebuild of a castle. The plan is to build a castle using 14th Century Techniques. The foundation stone was established in 1997. Over 50 craftsmen have been working on the castle. Florian Renucci is overseeing the construction and he speaks about the progress of the castle for this documentary. The workers on the castle had to learn and rediscover historical methods. There is a good discussion on the tools that were used, what materials were used, and the techniques that were rediscovered. There was a discussion as to the workers developing the five-day work week. (To learn more about this historical experiment watch Secrets of the Castle! By 2023 the Castle should be finished.)
The knight continues to travel with his page. The page aspires to be a knight and the knight demonstrates what could happen if the page did not keep up with his watch or his training. They continue to travel the countryside, experiencing castle after castle. The Castle was the greatest status symbol a knight could possess. Archeologist Mathew Johnson has examined many castles and could give a picture of their military value. Johnson examines Bergen Castle and points out that it was not built for military purposes.
The knight then enters his first tournament in Flanders. He was thrilled with entering the tournament. Every novice had to enter as many tournaments as he could to raise his status among his peers. John the King of Bohemia was hosting the tournament. He had to declare his colors and show that he had the required noble ancestors. The melee was the first tournament event. Knights were not supposed to be killed in the melee, instead, the knights were to be taken prisoner; it was used as a practice for war. Will our knight get past this first test?
Tournament books describe the events and the rules of the tournament. The knights also competed for the praise of beautiful ladies. The ladies gave out the prizes. The knight in the story participates in the joust. He challenged the King of Bohemia. In this section, there is a discussion of the risks that the knight would have faced in the joust. The test involves a crash test dummy fighting with a lance under tournament conditions. Will the knight be victorious? Tune into the rest of this episode to find out more.
This documentary reminds me of the Storm Over Europe series I had done earlier in the year. In that series, we followed the story of an individual from a tribe who watched the fall of Rome. That was an excellent series, and this series is starting off strong as well. I would use this episode in a middle school history class.
Wait, there is a third episode about cracking the Shakespeare Code? Peter Amundsen and Robert Crumpton conclude their quest to crack the Shakespeare Code. In this final chapter, the code reveals a treasure map and where mythical objects are hidden. The run time for this episode is 52:36. So the twists and turns conclude with this final episode.
Peter and Robert begin the episode by looking at blow-up versions of the Earth and Sky. The latitude and longitude on the earth correspond with points on the sky map. They talk about constellations and masons. They talk about Neville and the colonization of the New World. Peter talks about how the stars are not accurate and that the stars move over time. Additionally, he talks about how longitude was not measured accurately.
The Tempest was the last play Shakespeare wrote. It is about a man who was abandoned on an island. Eventually, Peter shifts the discussion to Oak Island, and he believes that it was a treasure island. It would share the same latitude as one of the stars Danub, mentioned in the Shakespeare code. It would have been known as Gloucester Island. This island would have been named for the Duke of Gloucester, who was a patron of the masons. He was buried in the St. Albans Cathedral and when his body was found it was perfectly preserved.
Robert talks about Oak Island and how people searched the island for treasure hidden. As early as 1795 people have been digging on the island for treasure. Six people have died on the island looking for the treasure and legend has it that a seventh person must die before the treasure is revealed. Peter talks about the challenges of getting to the underground tunnels. Sea water prevents people from getting to the tunnels. There were pieces of paper found on the island the paper was preserved using mercury. Then there was a discussion on Nolan’s Cross which was found on the island. It would have matched the Swan Constellation. It was at this section that I was expecting the Lagina brothers to show up. I wonder if Peter reached them with his theory about Oak Island.
Peter went out to Oak Island to test his theory about the “Tree of Life.” He talks about seven points on Oak Island that provide a guide to where the treasure will be. He was given permission to dig at two points. On this expedition, he discovered half a stone that was flat on onside. Peter then had a backhoe dig further around the stone in search of the other half. He then went to another part of the island o find another stone. Peter has an idea as to where to access the treasure.
It was at this point, Peter and Robert turn back to the Tempest. This time they look at the epilogue of the Tempest. This epilogue would have been Shakespeare’s “swan song,” before his requirement. Peter points out the word “Mercy” in the epilogue and believes it would correspond to “mercy point” on Oak Island. However, there is a problem, mercy point is in the middle of a swamp. It is at this point; Peter brings out the History of Henry II and talks about the picture in this book. Peter brings out another picture, featuring Sir Francis Bacon pointing to a pond. Peter and Robert head out to Oak Island to examine Mercy point. They take a boat out to the swamp and discover a flat, hard rock in the swamp. What else does the Shakespeare code reveal? Was there a treasure on Oak Island? Tune into the rest of this episode to find out.
I have to give Robert some made respect for giving the code a chance and not laughing at Peter’s theory. That said, this is one episode to skip for showing in the classroom.
I had to check out to see if Peter contacted the Lagina brothers with his theories and discovered that he had and took part in their show about Oak Island. Later, Robert mentioned that the swamp had been drained to prove Peter’s theory. It feels like there was a catch-up section in this episode.
Good morning we are continuing our exploration of William Shakespeare and the codes found in his work. Did William Shakespeare exist? Amundsen and Crumpton continue their exploration into the Shakespeare Code. This time, a third character is introduced to being a possible author of Shakespeare’s plays. This is the second episode in the series. The run time for this episode is 53:41.
Amundsen and Crumpton meet again. A sticking point in Crumpton’s mind is that the plays were written with such feeling, they could not have been written by the analytical mind of Sir. Francis Bacon. However, Amundsen points out that the potential second author: is Neville. Perhaps, he could have written with the feeling Bacon had lacked. Amundsen found codes connected to Neville and based his theories on the book The Truth Will Out by Brenda James. Amundsen then turned to Shakespeare’s Sonnets and turned to the introduction to the book of sonnets.
At first, Amundsen could not understand James’ methods, however, he eventually found a way to understand her method. Both he and Amundsen talks about understanding codes and how codes are open to interpretation. They talk about Henry Neville. He died at the same time Shakespeare died, it was at the same time that there were no more Shakespeare plays. Amundsen believes that since Henry Neville died, there would be no more plays. Amundsen continues to offer more codes, and he pulls out the letter written by another contemporary poet.
Crumpton visits Shakespeare’s grave with Amundsen. It is visited by people from all around the world. The inscription on the grave is intriguing. There is no name on the gravestone, instead, a short poem is written on it. It contains a curse against opening the tomb. The poem in general is considered of poor quality. There was an older stone on the headstone that had been moved. The inscription on the tomb was written in what was called the Bacon cipher. This is a code that had not been broken. Together Crumpton and Amundsen examine the text and notice that both William Shakespeare and Francis Bacon are found in the code.
Amundsen believes that Bacon paid Shakespeare off to act as the frontman for the plays. Writers in the background would be the ones writing the plays. They then turn to a wall above the tomb. It is a memorial dedicated to William Shakespeare. It was put up a few years after his death and compares him to the ancient writers. Amundsen points out the codes in the plaque. He points out that the age mentioned in the plaque could be wrong as well as points out that Bacon and Neville are in mentioned in the plaque. Amundsen believes that Bacon wrote the epitaph on the Shakespeare memorial.
Crumpton then takes his time to learn more about Henry Neville. They stop at the Neville family home and look at a portrait of the man. He notes that he looks like Henry Neville. Crumpton also examines the bust of Shakespeare that was on the memorial plaque. The bust was put on the memorial a few years after his death. There was an image of the bust published in the 1700s. however, the picture does not match was is on the memorial. Crumpton thinks it could have been a bad job or the picture was a fanciful interpretation. Amundsen believes that the original bust was a masonic symbol and this puts Dr. Crumpton on a new path in exploring Shakespeare and the code. So what was happening? Is Crumpton falling into the coding trap? Tune into the rest of this episode to find out more about the Shakespeare Code.
You have to give Dr. Crumpton credit for pursuing this quest. I know I would think that the guy was nuts and would just walk away. He was patient and was willing to give the argument a chance. At times I struggled to follow Amundsen’s logic, so I have to give major props to Dr. Crumpton for attempting to follow the logic. This would be something to show in an English literature class to spark debate.
Heads up for this episode, there seemed to have been blips in the upload that made it choppy at times.
Let’s shift gears for the next few blogs and explore William Shakespeare and his writing. Is there a secret code hidden in William Shakespeare’s writing? The run time for this documentary episode is 49:22. The documentary series is called the Seven Steps to Mercy: Cracking the Shakespeare Code.
Petter Amundsen is a Norwegian organist who believed he found a secret code hidden in Shakespeare’s first folio. This code reveals a treasure map where mythical objects are hidden. Dr. Robert Crumpton investigates this code. Together, they come to investigate the codes in Shakespeare’s writings as well as the man himself. Who was the real William Shakespeare? Did he even exist? If he did not exist who wrote all his plays?
The first character introduced in this series is Robert Crumpton, he is a historian who is skeptical of the code. The other is Petter Amundsen and he has a nose for codes despite not having a Ph.D. in history. Then there is a discussion on William Shakespeare, the debate over whether or not he existed. What the historical record said and the monuments dedicated to him. He is the most important figure in English literature and he created many characters over the years. His works still make people weep and cheer.
However, that said, Crumpton was intrigued by Amundsen’s theories. So he goes out on a search to discover the Shakespeare Code. Amundsen’s works lead him to believe that Shakespeare’s works have been written by Sir Francis Bacon and a second mysterious author. There have been plenty of people looking for codes in Shakespeare’s work, however, they were debunked. Crumpton goes out and meets Amundsen. They go over what Amundsen had collected and researched over the years. Amundsen brings out a book of Shakespeare’s first folio. This work was completed after his death by Shakespeare’s fellow actors.
On the first page, there is a poem written by Ben Johnson, who may have posted a code in the poem. Amundsen and Crumpton look for a number that is on the page. Crumpton discusses the strict conventions governing publishing poetry. They turn to pay and then continue with their exploration to two. Amundsen continues with this explanation using the first folio. He points to a name in one of the plays: Francis Bacon.
Francis Bacon was assumed to be William Shakespeare. He was a scholar and the greatest English essayist of the age. He was fascinated by codes. Most scholars reject that the plays in the first folio were written by Bacon. Crumpton then transitions to the scene between Miranda and Prospero and this is recreated by two actors. The pair debate over the codes that were discovered in the book.
Crumpton explores more about Francis Bacon and talks about Bacon’s style. He could be clever, but could he switch from the high language of the upper class to the lower classes? Could he write verses easily as if like water? Crumpton concludes no that he did not have the skills to write prose nor did Bacon have the imagination. Amundsen suggests that there were two authors behind Shakespeare. If Bacon was not writing on his own, who else was helping with the writing? Crumpton and Amundsen continue to explore the writings.
One of the other writers put forward is Henry Neville. He was Francis Bacon’s nephew and a distant cousin to Shakespeare. He walked the same corridors of power as Bacon. They were contemporaries. So did they come together and write these works? Amundsen continued his demonstration for Crumpton. What other codes are found in Shakespeare’s work? What is significant about the number two and other numbers in the code? Was Shakespeare a real person or a figment of the imagination of two men? Tune into the rest of the episode to find out.
I was enjoying Crumpton’s healthy dose of skepticism when he approached this mission. It was thoroughly enjoyable to learn about the other theories behind William Shakespeare. It surprised me to hear that Queen Elizabeth I was offered as a potential author. I could foresee a good discussion in English class regarding this debate. This would be a good documentary to show in an English Literature or general literature classroom.
Today we are looking at the War of 1812. This is a longer documentary with a run time of 1:53:16 and was produced by Buffalo Toronto Public Media.
In June 1812, the young United States declared war on Great Britain. This war lasted for two years and the United States fought against the British, the Canadians, and the indigenous populations. This is a war that is largely forgotten in both the United States and Britain. However, there is one place where the war is remembered: Canada. Legends grew up after the war. 1812 was a tiny war by the world’s standards and yet it has a big impact on a continent.
There was a long prelude to the start of the War of 1812. The British were in a struggle against Napoleon. The only way Britain could defeat Napoleon was by cutting off supplies to his shoulders. The United States was neutral during this war, making money off of both sides. The British had enough, announcing to the world that any neutral ships would have to stop in Britain and pay a duty before being allowed to move on. Eventually, impressment became the policy meaning that the British started taking British-sounding people and forcing them to serve in the Royal Navy. Eventually, they started seizing sailors off the shores of the United States. However, war was not declared at this time, feeding American resentment. A new generation of Americans was not going to stand by and let this happen.
In the meantime, William Harry Harrison was purchasing land from the indigenous people. He would come to loggerheads with Tecumseh, an indigenous leader who wanted to form a confederation of First Nations. Harrison would eventually lead an attack on Tecumseh’s home base in Prophet’s town. However, the Indigenous people fought back, surprising Harrison’s army. Harrison reported back to Washington a great victory. His troops discovered that the Tecumseh’s men had British-made weapons. This angered the American people and caused a headache for President James Madison. President Madison was a man at home with his books, while his wife Dolly Madison was a sociable and politically astute woman.
President Madison put forth his arguments for war and Congress voted for it. For Britain the news of war was unwelcomed. They were busy with Napoleon. King George III was insane. A British Prime Minister was assassinated. Canadians did not want a war. In the United States, the west was thrilled with the war. While people in New England were less than enthused. They were busy making money off of British trade.
The American Army was not prepared for the war. Yet they were ordered to invade Canada from three positions. There were no real roads into Canada, transportation was done best by water, and there was a lack of communication between the three American armies. There was additional discussion on the generals who were in charge of both armies. The war would commence and the documentary does reenactments of the war.
The war was starting off to be a debacle. There were many losses along the way and the British were blockading American shores. Trade and the economic system were closing up. In 1813, the Canadians were marching into Ohio. However, the Americans were prepared for this invasion. Fort Meigs was established and it was ready to undergo a fight. Harrison established the fort and was not going to surrender.
As the war progressed the Americans continued to suffer defeats. There were naval battles on the Great Lakes. The British wanted to keep control of Lake Erie. If they could keep control of Lake Erie, they could control the flow of supplies. The Americans and the British went on a furious ship-building spree on Lake Erie. It was on Lake Erie that the British would suffer defeat and every single British Ship would be surrendered to the Americans. The Americans seized control of Lake Erie and the Canadians would retreat. To learn more about the War of 1812, continue to watch this documentary.
This is a surprisingly well-produced documentary about the War of 1812. It had a really good flow to it and the tidbits about the British being more worried about Napoleon were good. I got a kick out of the “incompetent officers” lines from time to time. Overall, this would be a good documentary to show in an American history classroom.
Good morning, we are looking at the Empire of Time series. Matteo Ricci was the first European allowed to be in the Forbidden City. He was going to convert the Chinese through science and mathematics to Christianity. After his death, a second Jesuit priest, Schall von Bell continued his work. He began drafting a new calendar. Who would claim the mandate of heaven and rule the empire? The run time for episode two is 49:09.
The episode opens with the writings of Schall von Bell. He is writing about his time in China and the Emperor. In 1644, the Ming Emperor died and Schall von Bell lost everything. The only thing he had left was his calendar. His house was surrounded by men, what these men wanted from him he did not know. He would defend his house and his life. The rebellion was finally crushed so Schall von Bell could live in peace, at least for the time being.
A new group was on the scene and they were looking to seize power. This group expelled many residents from their homes. However, Schall von Bell was looking to get an introduction to the new court by providing the new leaders with a book on Astronomy. The residents would still have to vacate their homes to house soldiers. In his petition, he told the new rulers that he was an astronomer and that if he was expelled from his home, all his work would be lost. His work could be of use to the new dynasty.
Bell’s petition was heard, and he found an ally in the Grand Secretary to the new emperor. He was allowed to keep his house and he would use the opportunity to revive the Jesuit’s fortunes in China. A solar eclipse would be his way back into the Imperial Court. The Emperor eventually gave him permission to participate in the Astronomy Bureau’s work. Bell’s prediction for the eclipse was put into competition with the other Imperial Astrologists. An army official was allowed to supervise the contest. Bell won the contest and showed that the European model for predicting the stars was more accurate.
He would soon be in charge of creating the calendar. Once the calendar was printed it was sent out to many households in China. Bell was soon in charge of the Astronomer Bureau. It gave Bell direct access to his colleagues and was a position of power. He introduced the western calendar system and worked to improve the civil astronomy system. He oversaw a major transformation of the bureau, expelling many senior officials and giving examinations. A number of new converts became members of the Astronomer Bureau.
The Manchus had conquered the Han Chinese. The Han did not like being conquered. On top of that, a foreigner was in charge of the Astronomy Bureau implementing new ideas. The conflict was going to happen. Bell was clear that his method was right and was keen on implementing the method in the Imperial Court. He was close to the Manchu Emperor Shunzhi.
Eventually, Bell would ask for a replacement sent to China. However, the church was undergoing a change that would challenge the Vatican’s beliefs. What event was taking place during this time? A further challenge during these times was an outbreak of smallpox in the Forbidden City. Would bell get his replacement? Would the Han fight back over the changes Bell was making? Tune into the rest of this episode to find out more.
Wow, the introduction was really disjointed. I was not clear as to what was happening, and if I could not understand what was happening, how could a student? The producers should have made it clear that the Emperor had died and that there was a rebellion before a new emperor rose to take his place. The producers did not make clear who was rebelling and who did the conquering, at least until the middle of the documentary. Just based on the production value of this documentary this would be one documentary I would skip showing the classroom. It was way too choppy, the information was presented out of order, and did not have a good flow to it. Overall, it was a disappointing watch.
Good morning, we are now going to shift gears and learn about China in the documentary series: Empire of Time. This first episode explores astronomy. The run time is 48:48. I will admit that I am a little bit skeptical about writing a review about this series, but I will give it a shot.
Matteo Ricci was a Jesuit priest who entered China. He was the first European to enter China at the end of the 16th Century. He would look to convert the Emperor and eventually all of China to Catholicism. He was a man who was trained in geometry and algebra. He would use his learning to convert the people. He noted that Astronomy was important to the Chinese. After him, the Jesuits remained in China for three generations looking to convert the Emperor and eventually all of China.
During the Ming Dynasty, the Emperor was the center of a vast empire. He was considered the son of heaven and his power was based on how he mastered heaven and time. The story begins with the Emperor celebrating and praying at the temple of heaven. The second scene cuts to a man journeying through China. He is looking at the stars and admiring the night sky. He is a Jesuit priest and is about to enter the Forbidden City.
Time had a deep significance to the Chinese people. They wanted to do things at the right time. They felt that time should go with the flow of nature. To establish his legitimacy to rule, the Emperor adopted the term the Son of Heaven. He was the representative of the people before heaven and vice versa. He was between Heaven and Earth. The Emperor had to convince the people that he had a divine mandate to rule.
The Forbidden City leaned to this air. It was the most important place and like the Polar Star. The Polar Star was known as the “Star of the Emperor.” It was here where time was announced. Eventually, as society developed, there was a need for a more accurate measurement of time. For generations, people tried to calculate time. Eventually, two systems of time developed: one that followed the rotation of the earth and the other that followed the rotation of the atom. Timekeeping was an activity controlled by the state during the Chinese empire. Astronomers were civil servants. They were a major part of the Chinese bureaucracy.
There were three departments in this department of astronomy. One department was in charge of observation. The second department was responsible for establishing the calendar. The last department was to change the water out of the water clock. Time was measured according to the height of the water. Everything had to be carefully measured and controlled, otherwise, it would show that the Emperor had problems ruling his country. Punishments were severe for inaccurate information.
At the same time during this 1601 period, Pope Gregory was working to reform the calendar. This is where the Jesuit Priest Matteo Ricci. He was trained under a famous Jesuit Priest Christopher Clavius. He was the man who settled the debate on when to celebrate Easter. He also institutes mathematics as a separate subject in school. Matteo Ricci would make his way to China, he was going as a Jesuit Missionary. He would have traveled from Lisbon, Portugal, and would travel to India before making his way to Macau, China. He would eventually learn Chinese. He would meet up with a Jesuit Priest, Father Ruggieri and together they would study. The wrote the first Chinese-Portuguese dictionary. He did not go straight to Beijing but would explore the countryside. He would eventually visit an observatory and what he found in this observatory surprised him. What did he find in China? Would he make his way to the Forbidden City? To learn more about what Matteo Ricci did in China, continue to watch this series.
There were places where I found myself drifting, particularly the long (and I mean long) discussion on time. It was really slow-moving and disjointed at times. The recreations were fascinating. I am not impressed so far. I hope that it gets better, but I have my doubts. So far I am leaning that this documentary would not be a good fit for the classroom.
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