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International Women’s Day begins Women’s History Series

Today is International Women’s Day and it marks the kick off of our Women’s History Series. Look for our postings on various topics in women’s history over the next couple of weeks.  Next week’s topic: The Women’s Rights Movement.

2649 YWCA 1919_dwnl

Poster: “YWCA…For United America…Division for Foreign Born Women,” 1919

 

For more information on International Women’s Day visit:

United Nations Women Watch: “UN System Observances for International Women’s Day 2013

International Women’s Day 2013 website

OxFam America: “Celebrate International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day 2013 Events Search

It’s Geography Awareness Week!

Happy Geography Awareness Week!  This week, celebrate geography in your classroom by inserting maps into your lessons.  Maps are a fantastic way to visually interest students in a topic and help them make connections they would otherwise miss.

Take for example this image of Magellan’s Route in 1544.

In early November, when this map appeared as the “Image of the Week” on our Facebook page, teacher Michelle Delgado responded to the question: How can you get students to engage with this image?

“Whoa!  Check out the shapes of the continents!  I love this map.  I’d use it as an opener and compare with a map students are more familiar with and ask what Magellan got right/wrong and why.”  -Michelle Delgado.

This is a fantastic idea Michelle!  Students would not need to know much about Magellan’s trip in order to interpret this map, and it would be a great exercise to get them excited about the Age of Exploration.  To find more maps to add to your lessons, check out the image collection page at the Marchand Archives and search under the topic “maps”.

Our thanks to Michelle for her insights, if you want to share your thoughts on our “Image of the Week” join the discussion on our Facebook page. For more information on Geography Awareness Week visit the National Geographic Education website.

Religion and Noble Families in Late Medieval Society

We are pleased to bring you another post from Shennan Hutton, author of Women and Economic Activities in Late Medieval Ghent, on the Book of Hours of Catherine of Clèves:

About the image: This beautiful example of late medieval manuscript illumination is the front page of the Book of Hours made for Catherine of Clèves, the Duchess of Guelders and Countess of Zutphen.  All of these small territories are now in the nation of The Netherlands, but in the 15th century, when this book of hours was prepared, they were semi-independent principalities under the loose rule of the Holy Roman Emperor.

Shennan’s Insights: I like to use this image in teaching to highlight two themes about late medieval religion and society.  The first theme relates to late medieval religion.  This book was produced around 1440, which is approximately 80 years before Martin Luther wrote the Ninety-Five Theses and set off the Reformation (1517).  In addition to anti-clericalism and dislike for the abuses of the church, such as indulgences, one of the major precursors of the Reformation was the laicization of spirituality.  This awkward nominalization – laicization – means that lay people (that is, not clergy) were practicing spirituality outside of church activities.  They were making their spiritual lives more personal and private, and integrating spiritual objects and practices into their daily lives.  This front page illustrates the laicization of spirituality.  Catherine owned this book which included prayers for different hours of day, and for different days of the year.  The book made it possible for her to worship in her room, and not only in the chapel of her castle.  She could worship by herself, without the intervention of clergy.  In the illumination, Catherine is “entering” the space surrounding the Virgin and the Child.  It is an intimate setting of worship.

The second theme relates to noble families.  In addition to private devotion, Catherine would have likely prominently displayed this book to noble visitors.  Everyone knew that it had been enormously expensive, which would add to Catherine’s prestige, and that of her husband, Arnold, Duke of Guelders.  On the bottom in the center are Catherine’s coat of arms combined with that of her husband.  In the four corners (and the four corners of the next page) are the coats of arms of her great-grandfathers.  Noble families displayed their honor through expensive clothing and objects, and their “noble blood” by coats of arms.

Shennan Hutton is a Program Coordinator for the California History Social Science Project. She taught world history in high school for 15 years, before entering the graduate program at UC Davis.  She earned a Ph.D. in medieval European history in 2006.  She teaches medieval, European and world history at various colleges and universities, as well as promoting K-16 collaboration at the California History-Social Science Project. You can read more from Shennan at Blueprint for History Education.

Unpacking Imagery from a Book of Hours

Title: The Holy Family at Work

The Holy Family at Work. From the Book of Hours of Catherine of Clèves

Here’s what Shennan Hutton, author of Women and Economic Activities in Late Medieval Ghent, had to say about this image:

This image of the “Holy Family at Work” comes from the book of hours of Catherine of Clèves.  One of my favorite medieval visuals, it depicts the Virgin Mary, Joseph, and the toddler Jesus.  Mary is weaving, Joseph is working wood, and Jesus is toddling around in his wooden walker.  The ribbon extending upwards from his mouth is the medieval equivalent of a “thought bubble.”  It reads, “This is my beloved mother.”  Although groupings of the Holy Family was a popular theme in medieval art, it is a bit unusual to see the adults at work.  In typical medieval fashion, Mary, Joseph and Jesus appear dressed in burgher clothing (like the urban workers Catherine of Clèves might have glimpsed as she shopped in one of the cities of her tiny principality.)  Either her father or her husband commissioned this book of hours for Duchess Catherine of Clèves, as a wedding gift for her marriage to Duke Arnold of Guelders.

Clèves was a tiny county in the Low Countries, to the east of Flanders, north of France, and on the western edge of the Holy Roman Empire.  Today part of it is in Germany and part in the Netherlands.  Guelders was another small principality, entirely within the Netherlands today.  In the Late Middle Ages, books of hours were prized possessions of wealthy nobles and urban elites.  Many books of hours were made by artisans in the Low Countries, modern-day Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.  An unknown artist (probably several artists in a workshop) in Utrecht (the Netherlands) completed this one for Catherine in 1440.  The Book of Hours contained little prayers to be said at certain hours of the day, hence the term “hours.”  Most of the pages were decorated with brightly painted illustrations, sometimes called illuminations or miniatures, of portraits of saints, visions of hell, and scenes from Jesus’s life, all drawn by hand.  Production and consumption of these books served many functions.  Owners displayed their books of hours as a sign of wealth, but also used the books for private religious meditation in their homes.  Often the books were decorated with the coat of arms of the owner intertwining with religious symbolism.  For this reason, books of hours exemplify the fourteenth- and fifteenth-century movement called the “laicization of spirituality,” a time when lay people were increasingly practicing their faith outside of the church setting, without the mediation of a clergyman.  This was an important precursor to the Reformation.  At the same time, this image depicts a very pre-Reformation subject, complete with an aged Joseph (medieval people usually thought of Joseph as an old man) and halos of sainthood.  I like to use this image to show how rich nobles and elites displayed their family background and prestige, and how spiritual practices were moving out of the church into private spaces.  However, this image is most useful for its unique background.  Although only the wealthiest people could afford to purchase books of hours, this image does not show the interior of a lavish townhouse or rich castle.  The room surrounding the Holy Family is the main room of a house that might have been owned by a late medieval burgher (a solid urban citizen.)  It is the kind of house that the artist might have lived in.  This little illumination might even have been drawn by a woman.  In fifteenth-century Bruges (just to southwest of Utrecht), there was a guild for artists who drew illuminations.  One of every four members of this guild was a woman.  Whether or not the artist was a woman, she or he drew a scene from daily life to surround the Holy Family.  As such, it gives us a fascinating glimpse into daily life in the Late Middle Ages.

You can see more images from the Book of Hours of Catherine of Clèves here.

Shennan Hutton is a Program Coordinator for the California History Social Science Project. She taught world history in high school for 15 years, before entering the graduate program at UC Davis.  She earned a Ph.D. in medieval European history in 2006.  She teaches medieval, European and world history at various colleges and universities, as well as promoting K-16 collaboration at the California History-Social Science Project. You can read more from Shennan at Blueprint for History Education.

Mining a Photograph for a Deeper Understanding

Title:  Kimberley Mine, Southern Africa, 1872

About the image: The Kimberley Mine photographed in 1872, one year after Dutch colonists discovered an 83-carat diamond here.  Once known as the Colesburg Kopje (hill) the mine was already on its way to becoming “The Big Hole.”

Why does Stacey Greer, Program Coordinator at the History Project at U.C. Davis find this image interesting?

“This photograph displays the enormity of the diamond-mining project at the Kimberley Mine in a way that would be impossible to grasp by just reading about it. This picture engages me, with many details to observe that reveal how European colonists procured valuable raw materials in the late nineteenth century. The rows of endlessly-deep ditches spread for an undetermined distance to the hills in the background and extend beyond each side, making the rows appear indefinite. I want to know the lengths, widths, and depths of the mines. Additionally, this image captures the limits of the technological developments by this time. There are no cranes or big machinery. Instead laborers, mostly Africans, work with cables (held by precariously-rigged wooden beams), horses, and carts. They walk above the maze-like mine on hazardously constructed footbridges. Looking closely, I can see a multitude of workers, yet they are difficult to count and it is unclear how many labor below the surface. I can imagine the many dangers they faced just moving about, as well as while digging for and transporting the diamonds. At the same time, I am struck that the European managers appear to be completely relaxed, only barely concerned with the hard, dangerous work underway to bring the immensely valuable gems to them. Finally, this image demonstrates the environmental destruction of the earth required to gather these diamonds. Yet, it is only the beginning of the changes to this area in what would become known as the Big Hole.”

Related Topics/Themed Collections: Imperialism

Lessons in the Marchand Collection:

Resources Available in the Marchand Collection:

  • Leonard Thompson, A History of South Africa
  • A. Adu Boahen ed., General History of Africa VII: Africa under Colonial Domination 1880-1935

Share your ideas! How would you use this image? Let us know here.

Complicating the Aztecs

Codex Telleriano-Remensis: Historical Chronicle 1383-1399, c. 1563

Title:  Codex Telleriano-Remensis: Historical Chronicle 1383-1399, c. 1563

About the image: The destruction of Colhuacan by the Aztecs and Tepanecs. Colhuacan had been founded by the Toltecs under Mixcoatl and was the first Toltec city.

Why does Professor Andrés Reséndez at U.C. Davis find this image interesting?

“In class we often present the Aztec empire as timeless: always powerful, always an empire.  Yet the Aztecs had a history too.  Their rags-to-riches story is so extraordinary that it is hard to believe (and rightfully so, for we know that they rewrote their own history!)  According to this version, the Aztecs were originally a lowly band of wanderers arriving to the valley of Mexico when it was already occupied by several other city-states.  Colhuacan was one of the dominant powers in the fourteenth century.  The leaders of Colhuacan tolerated the late-arriving Aztecs by employing them as mercenaries and giving them other menial tasks while also forcing them to live in marginal lands.

Yet, from these humble beginnings, the Aztecs rose to power by skillfully establishing alliances with other city-states of the valley.  This folio of the Codex Telleriano-Remensis shows the moment when the Aztecs allied with the Tepanecs finally defeated Colhuacan.  I find it especially interesting for what it reveals about the Aztecs’ evolving culture and identity.  Two Aztec warriors no longer clad in animal skins (as they are depicted in earlier folios of the codex) but dressed in cotton (and therefore fully assimilated to the sedentary culture of central Mexico) are battling the mighty city-state of Colhuacan and setting it on fire.  They were no longer outsiders but important players.  Undoubtedly, this victory was a turning point in the history of central Mexico, but a turning point all but ignored in a historical narrative that almost always begins much later with the Spanish arrival.”

Related Topics/Themed Collections: Ancient Mexico, Arts & Architecture, War, Religion

Lessons in the Marchand Collection:

Resources Available in the Marchand Collection:

  • Jacques Soustelle, Daily Life of Aztecs: On the Eve of the Spanish Conquest
  • David Carrasco, Daily Life of the Aztecs: People of the Sun and Earth
  • Gisele Díaz and Alan Rodgers, The Codex Borgia: A Full-Color Restoration of the Ancient Mexican Manuscript
  • Miguel Léon-Portilla, The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico

Share your ideas! How would you use this image? Let us know here.