The spirit of Black Hawk is alive and well and living in New Orleans. How does the influence of this Sauk war leader inform Creole identity over 250 years after his birth? The answer involves a rich gumbo of Native American and African American culture with dashes of American Spiritualism and the iconography of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.
Black Hawk (Muk-a-tá-mish-o-ká-kaik) was born to a prominent Sauk family in 1767 in Saukenuk, present-day Rock Island, Illinois. He distinguished himself in battle during numerous campaigns against other Indian tribes and thus became influential although he was not a hereditary chief. Life was good for Black Hawk’s band in the years leading up to the 1820s. But it did not last. Edwin D. Coe recounted Black Hawk’s trajectory in an 1896 pamphlet from Readex’s American Pamphlets:
The political question of internal improvements challenged lawmakers in the earlier days of the United States with the majority supporting the federal government taking an active role in the construction of roads, canals, and railroads. This view prevailed. Many schemes were put forward to construct railways that would connect canals and other waterways.
In 1829, W.C. Redfield published a pamphlet proposing a route that would establish connections among New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, and several territories.
The construction of a Great Western Railway...is recommended to the attentive consideration of every citizen who feels an interest in the prosperity of his country, and wishes to promote its rapid advancement in wealth and power, by the multiplication of those physical resources which constitute national greatness, and best promote individual happiness and prosperity.
By the 1830s railroads were being proposed and constructed rapidly. Many of these were of limited scope but funded variously by regional commercial and civic interests or the War Department which had a sustaining interest in the nation’s defense infrastructure.
Part of the power of Readex’s new Morality and Science: Global Origins of Modern Bioethics is the access it affords to primary material that is otherwise difficult to obtain in English-language translations. This is certainly true when it comes to the suppressed Soviet controversy regarding Lysenkoism as a credible expression of the tenets of evolutionary biology. That debate bears a striking resemblance to America’s love/hate relationship with climate change as a consequence of global warming in which human actions are held to play a significant role—or not. And the parallels go deeper still.
In 1925 America had a problem with evolution, or rather with government endorsement of Charles Darwin’s widely accepted theory of “natural selection” which implied that human beings were the descendants of primates rather than created in the semblance of a divine being. The “Scopes Monkey Trial” of that year pitted orator William Jennings Bryan against highly regarded attorney Clarence Darrow in a bid to punish (or free) John Scopes, a Tennessee high school teacher who taught evolution rather than creationism. Scopes was jailed for doing so under Tennessee’s Butler Act of 1925, which prohibited the denial of creationism in public education. The case was ultimately invalidated on technical grounds during an appeal of the initial ruling to fine Scopes $100. It became the template for the 1955 play Inherit the Wind, which was later made into a motion picture.
The experiences of women in wartime have been less well documented than those of men. Their contributions, their sufferings and heroism merit closer attention. The wealth of digitized primary sources in Readex collections offer fresh opportunities for researchers to study women who lived through, and often participated in, conflicts across multiple centuries and continents. In this post, we will touch on the diverse roles played by women in American wars from the early days of settlement through the middle of the 19th century.
The earliest European settlements in North America conflicted with the various Indian tribes which populated the eastern lands of the continent. One popular type of publication was the captivity narrative. In 1754 Susanna Willard Johnson and her family were taken captive by the Abenakis and held for four years. After her release she published a popular account.
More than a thousand years ago, Egyptians noticed a shining red object that seemed to wander through the night sky. Fascinated, they painted the celestial body onto star charts and the ceiling of tombs. Chinese, Greek, Roman and other ancient astronomers also tracked the red planet, making up stories about it and attributing it with an array of astrological powers.
In more modern times, too, people obsess over Mars. It has stunning topography, with a volcano three times higher than Mount Everest and gorges four times deeper than the Grand Canyon. Massive windstorms shape its sands into ever-shifting, otherworldly dunes. Its surface temperature is 138 degrees Fahrenheit colder than Earth’s, and its atmosphere deadly thin. Although liquid water once pooled and coursed across the surface of Mars, that water seems largely locked up as ice today.
In 2018, a Chinese scientist named He Jiankui secretly altered the DNA of a pair of human embryos to make them resistant to the HIV virus. When the twin babies were born and Dr. He announced what he’d done, scientists and governments around the world condemned him. One researcher called his actions “unconscionable...an experiment on human beings that is not morally or ethically defensible.” The Chinese government launched an investigation, and media circulated calls to ban or limit the technology that made the genetic engineering possible.
The CIA, no doubt, was paying attention to the whole hoopla. Although the twin babies represent the current apogee of genetic engineering, Dr. He’s work was predicated on decades of research and debate—much of which was monitored by the CIA, which has experimented with using genetically-engineered insects and other animals as instruments of espionage.
More than half of America’s states began as territories. “Territorial Papers of the United States” records this official history, collecting Native American negotiations and treaties, correspondence with the government, military records, judicial proceedings, and more. Now these publications are available in a unique digital product, offering new research opportunities for all studying the creation of modern-day America.
“As government information librarians, we not only assist users with current issues, we often delve into historical research. Negotiation of Native American treaties, public land issues, and territorial administration all frame a significant role in the development of the United States. To have digital access in a single interface to the complete, original documents of the Territorial Papers of the State and Interior Departments culled from difficult-to-access locations is a great complement to existing collections and an enormous benefit to researchers. In addition, Readex’s Territorial Papers of the United States is cross-searchable through the Readex AllSearch interface with the U.S. Congressional Serial Set, Early American Imprints and Early American Newspapers.”
— Christopher C. Brown, Professor, Reference Technology Integration Librarian / Government Documents Librarian, University of Denver
The word robot comes from the Czechoslovakian word robotnik, meaning “forced labor,” or “slave.” And indeed, since it was coined by Czech writer Karl Čapek in 1920, people have both feared and fantasized about robots. Friendly ones, like The Jetsons’ housecleaner Rosie or Star Wars’ C3PO, exist to make our lives easier. But lurking behind their helpfulness is the prospect of malevolence, a suspicion that the machines we’ve built in our image could turn on us. As Bladerunner artfully captured, becoming too dependent on robots could make us—not them—the real slaves.
Yet while pop culture reflects society’s conflicted feelings about automation, the scientific fields of robotics and artificial intelligence have marched forward with less ambiguity. Robots have transformed from clunky, bumbling machines to sleek, capable devices that deliver packages, vacuum our floors, and manufacture items we use every day. As these machines encroach deeper into our lives, the question of how we got here is increasingly relevant to scientific historians and other researchers. What philosophical, technical and cultural advances led to the automated world we now inhabit?
The inclusion of California in Territorial Papers of the United States, 1763-1953, is perhaps surprising as that state was never formally organized as a territory prior to statehood in 1850. Rather, Alta (Upper) California, including much of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, went through a two-year transitional period during the Mexican-American War when its status was undetermined. The “territory” that became the Mexican Cession following the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 was administered by the U.S. Army as a protectorate with the clear understanding that it would ultimately redound to the United States.
The conquest and annexation of Upper California was the ultimate step in “Manifest Destiny,” a term coined in 1845 by journalist John O’Sullivan to articulate the sense that the American national project was to extend republican government from coast to coast, and that this task was sanctioned by God.
Earlier this year, the United States Department of Defense and U.S. Intelligence Community issued reports warning that human-caused climate change is already exacerbating national security threats and global instability—a problem that’s only expected to worsen in coming decades. Among the impacts listed are rising sea levels that could flood U.S. military bases on Pacific islands; punishing drought that’s driving conflicts in East Africa; and melting Arctic sea ice reinvigorating competition for natural resources between the U.S., Russia and China.
Yet while the ways in which climate change fuels conflict and instability are ever evolving, the threat itself is hardly new. As early as the 1980s, the U.S. Naval War College began studying the intersection of global warming and American security. And a division of the CIA that monitored, recorded and translated into English thousands of foreign broadcasts and publications has been tracking international research on the issue for even longer. Today, these reports, found in Climate Science and Sustainability, offer a compelling archive for researchers interested in tracking how governments around the world have responded to the growing threat of climate change over time.