Monday, October 27, 2014

Preparing for Mutiny

This week our class was introduced to the Congress of Vienna, a conference with the ambassadors of the European states. Their main goal was to restore the chaotic borders Napoleon left behind after his grand vanquish.
The One and Only Congress of Vienna
     In history class we learned Napoleon was quite the party pooper in Europe, leaving many distressed by the it's state. The citizens just wanted their rights, while the ones in power felt threatened by Napoleon. So in order to seek vengeance, on September 1, 1814, representatives from Russia, Austria, Prussia, Britain, and France, came together to defeat the threat of Napoleon. Their goal was to reconstruct the countries that were under Napoleon's rule. (You can learn all about Napoleon from my blog) Before we got started my class and I got a little overview of the situation Europe was in by watching a dramatized film excerpt (attached below) of a meeting between Napoleon and Klemens von Metternich, the statesman of Austria. We saw how rough their relationship was and it set the mood for the next activity- making decisions for the Congress of Vienna.
     To make us understand the situation Europe was in at the time, our history teacher gave us the three dilemmas the Congress faced. Our job was to predict and choose Metternich's decision (considering the fact that he was a conservative).
Europe was well aware of the chaos that was brewing, and the Quintuple Alliance (the Congress) wished to prepare for the possibility of future revolutions. France was well known for their revolts which impacted most of Europe; the revolutions caused decades of war, leaving towns and countries devastated, and leaders killed or removed. The ideas of revolt and fight for rights spread quickly through Europe, and the Congress were willing to take the chance of helping each other out to stop chaos. The Alliance introduced the 'Principle of Intervention', the ideology that gave the great powers the right to send troops into a country to stop revolution and restore monarchs. England, however, refused to take part in the intervention. This principle came in handy and "saved" several revolts, such as the Italian uprising in the 1820s.
     The representatives at the Congress were not necessarily best suited for their duty and were not in their country's best interest; their mood and nature was described as "sparkly chaos", that should pretty much say it all. I feel as if the monarchs were too dominating and did not allow enough, let alone any at all, freedom for their people. I'm not surprised that so many countries revolted against those bossy snobs. One of the options for to prepare for future revolutions was the following:
"Recognizing on the basis of enlightened reason that wars and revolutions bring chaos and disorder, 
the monarchs will act with more benevolence toward their peoples in the hope of quelling revolutionary ideas. European leaders will support religious toleration and greater freedom of speech. They will also develop and support the arts, sciences and education."
That is what people wanted; the powerful "leaders" should have been willing to sacrifice some of their power to make their people happy. I think if the Congress had thought more, and made a wise, and selfless, decision the people of Europe would have been pleased.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ideological Show Downs

As we launch into our new unit on Atlantic Revolutions, we briefly touched upon the three main ideologies of the 19th century to help us understand the thoughts and actions people took during that time.
     Ideologies is a term that I haven't heard in a while, since people, nowadays, have such a variety of thoughts and opinions they can fall into any major political ideology category: conservatism, liberalism, and nationalism. These three ideologies were particularly popular in the 19th century, and they influenced social and political actions, at the time. In order to understand the meaning of these terms my history class went through the ideology show down. We began by finding out what ideology means (a system of ideas that forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy). After looking up their "modern definitions", our class was split eight groups; two groups focusing on one topic. After reading a quick article on our given ideology, we went straight to work. We were to go against our opposing group and create a minute video/skit that would describe the ideology while entertaining the class. Yes, it was a tough task- trying to keep our class awake while talking about 19th century principles, but it was worth it, since my group won!
    My group was assigned to define and explain conservatism, which is overall a system where traditional values are accepted and put in place. So basically, it is filled with a bunch of stingy people who don't want to try anything new. Conservatives (not conservatists) came from the traditional elite aristocracy. They supported a class system dominated by aristocracy, monarchy, and the church. They opposed to innovation and reform, and used the French Revolution as an example of a chaotic and unsuccessful reform. Edmund Burke and Joseph de Maistre were popular conservatives who wrote books expressing their ideas opposing constitutionalism and revolution. While discussing how to start our video, we realized how ridiculous Edmund Burke looked with his fancy wig. So we decided why not use this unfortunate hair accessory and make a video of him enlightening our class on conservatism. We used the app, Chatter Prix, and created two 30 second clips on how wise words on conservatism.
Our video gives a brief definition of conservatism and lists a few examples of their traditional values, such as the opposition of revolutions. Conservatives prefer the monarchy as a political power, and the aristocrats at the top of the social ladder, to keep things “traditional”.
     After our glorious win, we viewed the other projects on nationalism and liberalism. After having a laugh, it was time to take our notes. We learned that liberalism, obeying it’s liberty prefix, is a system of government that is based on freedom, rights, and merit rather than traditional values. Even though they restricted the power of the church, they did not get rid of social classes. On the other hand, nationalism is the idea that people should unite based on similar traditions and beliefs, and go against a common enemy. Italy, for example, was once a group of separate states whose common enemy was Germany. They then realized that their disunity was what was bringing them down, therefore, they came together as a nation and defeated their enemy; so it’s basically teamwork and group effort.
These ideologies were interesting to learn and it helps us categorize the thoughts of all important leaders in history. So now thanks to this fun activity, we are able to predict the choices one can make based on their ideology.

Part I 

Part II

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

How Napoleon Dynamite Impacted the World

A very dramatic picture of Napoleon
Finally, we've moved on from our first unit on the Industrial Revolution to the Atlantic Revolutions (yeah, we're keeping up with the revolutions of the world). Last week, we started our new unit by reviewing the renowned reign (or dictatorship) of Napoleon Bonaparte. We kick-started the class by watching a really, really short biography clip on Bonaparte (video below), and learned how his rule changed society.

     Whenever I hear the name Napoleon, I think of Napoleon Dynamite; just kidding I think of the Bonaparte one, like we're supposed to. Napoleon was probably well known for his "dictatorship" over a large span of Europe around the late 1700s to the early 1800s. Almost eighty percent of Europe was directly or indirectly under his control. I've always been taught that Napoleon was a mean, short yet intimidating man who decided to take control of the whole world. But in class, we learned that there were many who had mixed feelings for him. We read a few articles on the different opinions on Napoleon's rule, which I personally found really interesting. We looked at short articles/excerpts by Madame de Stael and Marshal Michel Ney, and an essay by Thomas J. Vance. Madame de Stael was generally opposed to Napoleon's impact on society, while Marshal Michel Ney, an army general favored Napoleon's rule. Thomas J. Vance authored an essay mentioning the various opinions of historians on Napoleon's impact on the world.

Madame de Stael states in her mini excerpt that Bonaparte's government was based on his "profound contempt for all the intellectual riches of human nature: virtue, dignity, religion, enthusiasm." Apparently, Napoleon regarded these 'intellectual riches' as "the eternal enemies of the continent." Stael thought that Napoleon's reign was basically a universal monarchy. Stael was predicted to be part of the nobility, who were strongly opposed to Napoleon's decisions that helped the poor. In her final argument she says, "His [Napoleon's] system was to encroach [intrude] daily upon France's liberty and Europe's independence...By altering between cunning and force he has subjugated [conquered] Europe."
Contradicting Stael's words, army general Marshal Michel Ney praises Napoleon's rule, in which "the times are gone when the the people were governed by suppressing their rights." He claims that "liberty triumphs in the end", with their "august emperor", Bonaparte. Ney as part of the army, obviously, benefited from Napoleon's military dictatorship, and preferred his rule.
Thomas J. Vance's essay titled The Lost Voices of Napoleonic Historians, nicely incorporates both the negative and positive thoughts on Napoleon's rule. Many viewed Bonaparte as a creative and intelligent military general, who would have brought good fame to his name if he hadn't become filled with excessive pride and greed-"...[he] would have been "regarded in the light of something heroic, and remembered...perhaps dangerously, fine...A great soldier, a great liberator, a great reformer and a great was given to him to live for 18 years after this, and to work actively for must be a usurper, a tyrant, and a greedy, egotistical and ambitious ruler..." Vance then lists Napoleon's great characteristics that were often unrecognized, summing them up by saying "He was the greatest genius of his time...perhaps of all time...that high wisdom born of reflection and introspection which knows its own powers and limitations..." Vance's work allows us to analyze Bonaparte's impact on most of the world from all perspectives.
    Overall, Napoleon's rule altered the social, economical, and political systems of Europe. He balanced France's budget by establishing the Bank of France. Also, in order to restore economic prosperity, he controlled prices, encouraged new industry, and undertook massive public works programs. However, he stole a great deal of money, wealth, and art from Italy. The political power of the Roman Catholic Church was significantly reduced, as well. All the countries he conquered had to follow his Napoleonic code, which included rules such as:
  • Freedom of religion
  • Eliminate birth rights
  • Introduced the meritocracy system
  • Only provide government jobs to those who qualify 
On a social standpoint, meritocracy was introduced, and it cleared all social titles. This change benefited the once poor and modern classes, naturally angering the nobility. Serfdom was eventually abolished, allowing more citizens to have rights to property, education, and qualified jobs.
     Napoleon Bonaparte is still recognized and praised for his exceptional intellect and strong ambition. His rule changed society, and perhaps the world, for both the better, and the worse; as we learn that Napoleon was viewed from different standpoints, we realize the once all-mighty ruler had his drawbacks, as well. His unique ideas helped him rise to the top, conquering almost the whole of Europe, making him one of the most extraordinary military leaders, and dictators, of all time (sadly, unlike Napoleon Dynamite).

Just a heads up, the video is really really short (only 60 seconds) with tons of information

Friday, October 10, 2014

Tasting Economic Chocolates

Welcome to a lesson on choconism, the study of economic and political system through the consumption of Hershey Kisses. This week in history class we got a sweet taste of capitalism, socialism, and communism through the perspectives of Karl Marx and Adam Smith's theories.
    My parents love talking "all things politically" and I never understood the term capitalism and socialism and communism. Well of course I thought communism means a community government, and socialism was a government which included a lot of social people, and capitalism was the rest of society, because I couldn't figure it out. But a couple days ago, I realized what they meant, through a little gamble with chocolate and rock, paper, scissors.
When my history teacher brought in a huge bag of Hershey Kisses, our whole class leapt in joy, and the excitement just increased when she started distributing it to class. Two chocolates for twenty four kids and eight chocolates for the remaining two. "Wait what!? Is Mrs. Gallagher showing favoritism??" Obviously us twenty four students were enraged at the other two kids who were sitting gleaming at their desks. After being instructed not to eat the chocolates (yes, it was sad), my history teacher told us that we could earn chocolates by beating other kids through a simple game of rock, paper, scissors; if you lose you have to give on up and if you win you earn one, and when you are left with zero you have sit down. Okay, so my stomach grumbled with joy, until I got out after five games! Slowly the seats were getting filled, and there were only five to six kids playing, with almost ten pieces (the two "favorited" kids were left with none). Once, everyone was settled, more than half of the class had no chocolates, while a few had a lot. Then comes our awesome government, my history teacher, and collects the chocolate of the others and redistributes it equally, two for everyone. Of course, the majority of the class was happy, except for the fact that our government was eating the bag of chocolates in front of us. She gave us a choice of playing, but almost everyone refused to play, and were happy with the equal amount of Kisses we had; so my teacher didn't have to supervise the candy distribution. And, finally, after the struggle, my class reached the economical standard of communism.

    Karl Marx, a German socialist, authored the Communist Manifesto, which introduces his three step process to achieve communism. Marx's theory of communism starts with capitalism, with everyone having some kind of private ownership of industry. People will then have a freedom of competition, allowing people to earn or lose money, which eventually resulted in class struggle and revolts from the proletariat (poor class). Marx then said, in lever to make things more fair, people would create a government system of socialism. The goal is to bring economic equality, so there will be a government ownership of industry, therefore leading in a classless society. Finally, Marx claims that the majority of people would not accept the possibility of sharp divisions between rich and poor any longer. By any means necessary, even violence, they would create communism, where the goal of a classless society is set. Eventually, this system will result in no government to distribute and supervise society. Marx thought if everyone was in the same rank as everyone else, then the poor would benefit, and be in a better position than they were before.(a quick video bio of Marx is below)
Adam Smith, a British social philosopher, published his theory on capitalism in his Invisible Hand. (yes, it does sounds shady) Smith introduced the ‘invisible hand’ theory that was proved to be more fair than Marx’s communism ideas. He said that if the government leaves private companies alone and allow them to buy and trade on their own, they will operate based on their own self interest . Over a period of time, after competing with others, the good businesses, that don't cheat customers and charge reasonably, will succeed and the bad businesses will fail; this way the economy will grow on it's own. The only downfall is that this process takes a long time, and while the economy to figure everything out there will be a lot of “stalling” and time wasted. So in order to speed things up, the government will be put to charge to avoid the stalls. The rich preferred this system because they got a choice to go into business or not. Also benefited by this process is the poor, who would be receiving higher quality products for less price. They would eventually be able to afford them and be part of the market. This theory is quite difficult to grasp, so our class watched two videos describing Smith’s motivation and the process itself (videos are below)
I prefer Adam Smith’s theory of the invisible hand, since all the ranks in the social class are benefiting from it, while being supervised by a sturdy government, who will lead them on. The only problem to this method is the long time it takes for a country to become wealthy. I feel its quite impossible for a country to survive without a government since things could get out of hand. Marx’s theories on communism calls for a recipe of slight violence and disaster. Imagine if the “used-to-be” rich protested against the majority “poor class” for their money back. The results would not be great. Capitalism gives everyone a fair opportunity even if there are social classes, and those who have the capability of achieving success, will earn it fairly.  

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Balancing Costs and Benefits

 Last week our class learned about the textile industry and how the production increase impacted the lives of average families during the 1800's. We learned about the benefits and costs of the girls who were motivated to go and work in the Lowell mills. 

If you drive through the town of Lowell, MA, it is quite hard to believe there were hundreds of young girls and boys, who worked hard in the textile mills, almost 150 years ago. It was usually the daughters of farmers who were sent to work in the mills. It benefited the mill owners as they hired a cheap labor force, knowing young girls were obedient. This choice was also in favor for the families since the girls would be sending money home, along with receiving education and maintaining their morality. Girls learned to be more independent, and aware of the money they were earning.
The conditions of the workers were not the best- factors like poor boardinghouses, lack of food, dangerous machines, and unfair wages created a low reputation for the mills. To lure more families to send their daughters, the Lowell Experiment was set in place. This experiment's goal was to avoid the negative aspects of industrialization, and try and convince girls to look for jobs in Lowell. The experiment emphasized the protection of women, and maintained their morality and dignity by creating a paternal system that was similar to the 19th century American dynamic family. The father figure was played by the corporation who set the rules, such as curfew, for the girls. While the boarding house keepers were the mother figure, who regulated the behavior of the girls outside mill hours and maintained a "homely" environment. The girls were educated without any cost, while earning money for their families; these elements appealed to many families and soon there were many young girls and women working in the factories.
       After learning about the Lowell Experiment, my class and I watched an interesting thirty minute documentary, titled Daughters of Free Men (video embedded below). This film was about the women who worked in Lowell's textile mills in the 1830s. The film showed the initial struggle of the workers and how they protested and stood up for themselves when wage cuts were unfair. This documentary was told through the perspective of a young girl named Lucy Hall who moved to Lowell to earn money for her family. Along with fitting in with the other workers, Lucy encountered tough choices she had to take to stand up against the unjust treatment and improper wages.    
     The potential benefits for the mill girls balanced out the probable drawbacks. As the girls earned enough money to provide for their families they were required to travel and work far from their loved ones. The boarding houses assured a safe place to stay and serving daily meals, however the fees of these houses took up most of their wages that were received; also taking into consideration of the inconsistent salaries. The dangerous machinery, and strict rules imposed by the overseers added to the list of costs. However, the education and new independence appealed to many girls who worked in the mills.

     The Lowell Experiment and the "Mill Girl Era" ended around the time the Civil War took place. The dramatic increase in immigrants provided a cheaper labor force, and the living and working conditions deteriorated in the city. However, the mill girls impacted the common perception of women. Differing from the norm, perspectives were changed as women worked outside their homes, lived away from their family, were educated, wrote for the public, and reformed labor. A few mill girls returned to the farms and got married, and many carried on with their independent lives, some even became outspoken abolitionists and women's rights activists.