I'm Off to the Yukon Again

Wednesday, 27 April 2658

I fear I will be unable to tweet anything for the next four days. I will be bereft of all outside contact with the world. I must apologize ahead of time for ignoring all of you, but it can’t be helped.

You will remember almost two years ago I took a handful of students to the Yukon to stay in a cabin owned by the Association of Temporal Anthropologists to see who could survive for a week living in primitive conditions. (See Annual Temporal Anthropologist Candidate Endurance Test) This year I’m going back with six students who made it past that first hurtle and are now committed to becoming licensed time travelers.

This trip isn’t so much a test as an exercise in living without modern conveniences. The trainees are as follows:

Archibald Cocker - University of Liverpool: You will remember Archie who was the only one who decided to become a Temporal Anthropologist after the Endurance Test I presided over. He wants to study Victorian Britain, too, but from the angle of his working class ancestors. People think I’m brave to go back and live in the 19th century, but you’ll never see me working in a factory or sweeping a chimney. Very brave lad!

Dawn Owhi - Central Washington University: Stella is a Yakama who wants to study the Plateau tribes in the Pacific Northwest corner of the United States of America.

Ropata Hahona - University of Auckland: Ropata wants to live among his Maori ancestors in New Zealand.

Taharqa Mayardit - University of Sudan: Taharqa is interested in the ancient Kush & Meroe Empires.

Henri Luc Pétain - University of Paris: Henri dreams of traveling to 17th century France and seeing “The Sun King.”

Brigit Fitzpatrick - University of Dublin: Brigit wants to carry on the work of the late Brendan MacDonnell, one of the founding members of Association of Temporal Anthropologists. Brendan was studying Dark Age Ireland, and making copies of the lost books of the monastic libraries.

I know none of these scholars will be living in a 19th century cabin when they go out into the Field. As I said this is just to get them use to living without computers and modern plumbing. We are also coming here in spring rather than summer. There will probably still be some snow on the ground, making the conditions even more uncomfortable for them. And we will all be crammed into two rooms with three bunk beds and a cot. Hardly a luxury holiday.

Still I enjoy these type of outings more than the endurance tests since the whiners have all been weeded out. However, it will not be easy for any of them. They are all products of the 27th century after all. This will be a culture shock for them.

The Association could have just as easily sent a historical recreationist along to show the students how to light a wood stove or chop wood, but we send them with an experienced temporal anthropologist. I’m sure they are all dieing to ask me what it’s like in the Field. I plan to have long group discussions so they can ask questions and air fears. I get to play the role of wise elder. (All right, I’ll have to fake the “wise” part.)

Tweet you all next month. I’ll let you know how things went.


Otto von Bismarck - Party Animal

26 April 2658

I spent today at Göttingen University delivering all the data and video I collected on my trip back to their fair city in 1865 when they were still part of the Kingdom of Hanover.

Bismarck in soberer days
John Theibault, who follows me on Twitter as @jtheibault asked me if I had visited any sights associated with Otto Von Bismarck. I thought the fellow mad. When was Bismarck in Göttingen? In 1865 Bismarck was the Prime Minister of Prussia, whom Hanover is about to go to war with. All talk I heard of Bismarck back then was all negative.

However, when Dr. Karl Bosch, head of the history department, took me on a tour of modern 27th century Göttingen, he proudly pointed out a stone cottage built into the old city wall in 1459, that he called Bismarckhäuschen.

“Bismarck House?”

“Yes. Otto von Bismarck lived here when he was a student in the 1832.”

“The Otto von Bismarck? The man said to be most responsible for unifying Germany into an empire and then becoming it’s first Chancellor?”

“The very one.”

“Wasn’t he Prussian? Why did he go to college here instead of Berlin?”

Bismarck in wilder days
“He eventually did, but he spent his first year here. Göttingen had such a reputation as a leading university, as it still does. Also I think Bismarck wanted to get away from home. He was seventeen.

“So why did he live here and not on campus?” I asked.

Bosch cleared his throat. “Well, he was seventeen and far from home. He got kicked out of the dorms for overzealous partying.”

“The Iron Chancellor?”

Corps Hannovera House
“He was a teenager then. I understand he was also placed under arrest for ten days in the university jail. That might have been for dueling. He was a indefatigable duelist. He was also a member of the Corps Hannovera Göttingen, a student club devoted the academic fencing. Bismarck was their wildest member.”

“So, there are dozens of memorials all over Germany to Bismarck the statesman and architect of a unified Germany, but you have the only one to Bismarck the party animal?”

Dr. Bosch chuckled at that. “Yes, I guess we do.”

I’m not sure what Otto von Bismarck would have thought of that. I’m sure this was an episode of his life he didn’t want anyone to remember. Perhaps Bismarckhäuschen is Göttingen’s final revenge against the man most responsible for the downfall of the Kingdom of Hanover.

Let that be a lesson to all you college students who spend your academic career partying.


My Night Among the Stars

30 April 1865 - Göttingen, Hanover

Yesterday I explored Göttinger Wald or Göttingen Forest to the west of town. The spring flowers were everywhere. I got a bit carried away and spent more time than I had planned. The sun was creeping behind the hills, so I headed back to town before it got dark.

I made it out of the forest before nightfall, but not before reaching the Inn I was staying at. I was taking a shortcut across Göttingen University campus when I noticed lights in the window of one of the buildings. Bit odd for a Saturday night for anything other than a dorm. I then recognized the building as the Royal University Observatory.

Royal University Observatory
I knew I shouldn’t, but I couldn’t resist going up and peering through the window. There was a chap with a teddy bear build dressed in a rumpled coat. He looked up and saw me, but instead of shooing me off, smiled and nodded. He then motioned for me to stay, and left the room.

The front door at the portico opened. “Hallo!” He called.

I went up and introduced myself. I told him I was an English visitor and my German was not “wunderbar.” He just grinned and said his English really “sticken” but I was welcome to butcher his language if I wasn’t opposed to him butchering mine.

Ernst Klinkerfues
He introduced himself as Dr. Ernst Friedrich Wilhelm Klinkerfues and I was welcome into his observatory.

“So you are the director?”

Klinkerfues made a face. “No, I guess I’m the assistant. Back in '16 when they finished the observatory, Carl Friedrich Gauss was made the director. By '51, Gauss was getting on in years, so I was hired as his assistant. I had been studying mathematics and astronomy at the University of Marburg, but was able to get my PhD while I worked here.”

“I thought Gauss was an mathematician.”

“Yes, but what good is math if you don’t apply it. He was very interested in astronomy, geophysics, statistics, analysis, gravity, optics--I don’t know what all. A brilliant man. I was privileged to have worked with him. Pity our time together was short.”

“He left?”

“Passed away in ‘55. That’s when they made Weber the director of the observatory.”

“Wilhelm Eduard Weber, the physicist? Yes, I met him. I didn’t know he was an astronomer.”

“He’s not.”

“Then why did they make him Director of Astronomy?”

Klinkerfues shrugged. “University politics, I suppose. I’ve been told I don’t dress well enough. I see no reason to be uncomfortable. And I have a sense of humor they don’t appreciate. I just think a paper should be entertaining as well as informative, so students will read it.”

I looked down at my clothes. I dress more like an absent minded professor than a dandy. I have bachelor written all over me. “I’m a history researcher from Cambridge myself. I suppose if I tried to become Head of the History Department, I would get laughed out of the Board of Directors meeting.”

Klinkerfues nodded. “That’s what happens when you let people who aren’t really part of the academic life make decisions. I don’t think they ever talk to students and other faculty. They just judge you by your cover. Well, I suppose it’s just a title. Weber lets me run the observatory and I’m allowed to live in the east wing. I’m the real astronomer here. By the way, are you interested in astronomy, Dr. Howe?”

“I’m a historian by profession, but who isn’t interested in the stars?”

“Would you like to have a peek through my telescope?”

I spent a couple of hours peering at celestial bodies while my host gave me a lecture on astronomy. My later research on the man showed I was nothing special. Klinkerfues was known for giving lectures to any size audience, even if it was only one student. The man is mad about the stars, and eager to share his passion. He has already discovered six comets and will eventually catalogue 6900 stars.

It was getting late, and I had taken up far too much of Klinkerfues’s time. I thanked him and wished him luck.

I discovered later that he will be made “director of practical astronomy” in 1868. It will be a shallow victory. Director of Theoretical Astronomy will be Ernst Christian Julius Schering, again another mathematician and not an astronomer. He and Klinkerfues did not get along.

I found Klinkerfues to be a friendly and kind--and it breaks my heart to report the end of this wonderful man’s life. Ill-advised financial blunders, losing battles with university politics, failing health and other disappointments will drive the poor fellow to shoot himself in 1884. His memorial will be an asteroid and six comets named in his honor. Most fitting that his name be forever among the stars he loved.


Might Is Not Right

Thursday, 20 April 1865 - Gottingen, Hanover

My last blog I spoke of the “Gottingen Seven.” These were seven professors here at Gottingen University who publicly protested King Ernestus Augustus’s rewriting the constitution without the approval of Parliament in 1837. All seven were sacked.

The public outcry must have had an effect, for ten years later His Majesty put the constitution back the way it was, and pardoned the Gottingen Seven. In the end I suppose they won. Two of them actually came back to Gottingen, Wilhelm Eduard Weber, the physicist; and George Heinrich August Ewald, orientalist and theologian.

I was able to corner the latter after one of his lectures. He prefers to go by Heinrich Ewald. In fact he introduced himself as Henry Ewald, when he noticed my English accent.

Heinrich Ewald
Ewald is considered one of the greatest Bible scholars of the nineteenth century. His eight volume History of Israel I think is already a classic. His writings are being translated into numerous languages, and he is famous throughout the world. One would never know that on meeting him. He is very down to earth chap.

Ewald is now sixty-one and shows no signs of slowing down. He told me he had visited England three years ago to copy Oxford’s collection of Hebrew manuscripts. He said he always enjoyed his visits to my country.

I asked if I would be too bold to ask about the Gottingen Seven. His soft eyes flashed. “I am not sorry I stood up to that tyrant. His father, King William, had signed the new constitution into law in 1833. Ernestus had no right to revoke it. My only regret was that I had to leave my beloved Gottingen.”

“You are fond of the University?”

“I was born in this town. My father was a weaver here and I was raised here, educated here, wooed and married my wife here. It was elated to teach at the University here. I hope to die here. It broke my heart that I had to leave.”

I can only imagine how he must have felt. I was born in Cambridge, where my family has always lived. Indeed, my DNA shows I had Bell Beaker Folk ancestors living in the Cambridge area.. For years, Harvard (the “other Cambridge” as I call it) has been wooing me to cross the pond, but I could never leave my Cambridge. To be booted from my alma mater would break my heart, too.

“Where did you go?” I asked.

“I went to England and spent a year and a half gleaning your two biggest libraries: the Bodleian in Oxford, and the British Museum in London. A year and a half later, the King of Würtemberg invited me Tubingen University to teach. I was grateful to His Majesty but to be honest I was never happy there. Tubingen and I did not always see eye to eye.”

I’ve heard horror stories of college politics. Cambridge has always tried their best to work with me, so I’ve been lucky. Or maybe I’m never around on campus long enough to become a thorn in anyone’s side.

Ewald shrugged. “I will say one thing. I was so unhappy, I buried myself in my studies. I wrote a lot to escape. I can’t tell you how overjoyed I was when Gottingen asked me back in ‘48. I didn’t bear them any ill will. It was the King who fired me, not them, after all. I came back and have been teaching here ever since.”

“So you get along with the staff here?”

“Well, there was that incident in ’56.”


“Minister von Borries’s policy was unconstitutional, so I protested publicly.”

“Ah,” I nodded. “Another Gottingen Seven?”

“More like Gottingen One. I was the only one that protested. I nearly got fired again. I suppose they didn’t want another incident, so they decided to ignore me.” Ewald looked rather disappointed.

“I’m glad to see you don’t ignore political injustice.”

Ewald smiled. “More than one Biblical prophet got in trouble doing just that. It’s hard to study them and not follow their example.”

King Wilhelm of Prussia
soon to be
Kaiser Wilhelm I, Emperor of Germany
 I thanked Professor Ewald and wished him luck. The feisty gent has one last confrontation in him. Next year when Prussia conquers and annexes Hanover, King Wilhelm of Prussia will demand all government officials, including college professors, swear allegiance to him. Only one man will refuse, declaring “Might is not right.” A stronger country did not have the moral right to rule a weaker one by using force. Ewald had sworn allegiance to King George V of Hanover and will not forsake his king for another.

Ewald will be threatened with expulsion, but won’t back down. The Prussian Government will be stuck with a dilemma--how to punish the rebel without looking like the bad guys. They will deprive Ewald of the right to teach in any Prussian school. However, in acknowledgement of his years of service as a teacher and writer, they will give him a pension equal to his current salary--a very generous “punishment.”

Ewald will be allowed to live the rest of his life in his beloved Gottingen. Rather than retiring, he will use his time produce new books as well as revise old ones. He’ll die of a heart attack at 71, working up until the end. I can’t tell him his fate, but I think he would probably be pleased to know he will die in Gottingen doing what he loves.

History of Israel
Third Millennium Library website with links to all eight volumes.

More works by Heinrich Ewald at Internet Archive.


Two Members of the "Gottingen Seven"

Tuesday, 18 April 1865 - Gottingen, Hanover

Original Gottingen University Library
Today I visited the Gottingen University Library. Built in 1734, it predates the opening of the University by three years. It quickly became one of the leading libraries of the world. Currently it’s ranking has dropped due to under-funding. Fortunately the Prussian will rectify that next year when Gottingen University becomes their responsibility. It will again become one of the leading research libraries.

Its most famous librarians were a couple of brothers named Grimm. Jacob and Wilhelm were also professors at the university. They began work here back in 1834.

Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm
 We think of the Brothers Grimm as children’s writers, like Hans Christian Andersen, but that was hardly the case. They were in fact anthropologists, what we would today call folklorists. Jacob, the more robust one, would go into the countryside collecting folk tales, before the oral traditions disappeared. Little brother Wilhelm, more the story teller, would record them.

They called their collection Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children's and Household Tales). Although Wilhelm, being a devout Christian, cleaned up the earthier elements, many complained the stories were too violent for children. The first edition to render a selection of the tales into something more suitable for youngsters, were the Grimm Brothers themselves, so in essence, they did become children’s writers.

The Brothers also studied linguistics. One of their forgotten works was the first German Dictionary. Unfortunately the chaps never got the chance to finish it, only getting as far a “F” before the Grim Reaper took them. (No pun intended.)

The Göttingen Seven.
Top row: Wilhelm Grimm, Jacob Grimm.
Middle Row: Wilhelm Eduard Albrecht, Friedrich
Christoph Dahlmann, Georg Gottfried Gervinus.
Bottom Row: Wilhelm Eduard Weber,
Heinrich Georg August Ewald.
Here is something else you probably did not know about the Brothers. They were members of a radical group called the “Gottingen Seven.” As I explained in my last blog, Hanover finally got a king of their own in 1837. Not everyone was thrilled with having an interfering king now underfoot. When King Ernest Augustus I came to power, he decided to rewrite the constitution to reflect his own personal values.

Seven Gottingen University professors publicly protested and refused to swear allegiance to the new king. The king fired all of them. Two of them, the Grimm brothers, were given three days to leave the country!

The Gottingen Seven were lauded as heroes by the public. Generations of college students would follow their example, protesting wars and social evils. The Grimms were invited to Berlin, by the King of Prussia, where they lived happily ever after.

Twenty seven years ago was able to meet the Grimm Brothers in 1851 before they died--Wilhelm in 1859 and Jacob in 1863. I needn’t tell you how excited I was to meet these pioneers of anthropology. It was like a fairy tale come true. (Erm--again, no pun intended.)

Download an English translation of the Original Grimm’s Fairy Tales: Volume I and Volume II
(May not be suitable for children)


The Walt Disney Company currently has a trademark application pending with the US Patent and Trademark Office, for the name "Snow White.” Open letter to Disney

Snow White is an old German tale recorded by the Grimm Brothers in 1812. If they were alive today, would Disney Studios sue them for publishing the fairytale that Walt borrowed? And would these two members of the Gottingen Seven take it lying down?


The Kingdom Queen Victoria Lost Due to a Minor Technicality

Friday, 14 April 1865
Gottingen, Kingdom of Hanover

Gottingen in the Kingdom of Hanover
Since pre-historic times, those in power sought alliances with others in power through marriage. Kings used daughters and younger sons as bargaining chips to seal deals with foreign kings. The children were told they had to marry royalty from their own class, but politics was the real motive.

This seemed like a good idea, except soon any peasant could brag they were more English or French or whatever than the ruling king. A bigger problem was what happens when the nearest relative to the passing monarch is from another country altogether?

That is what happened in 1714 when Queen Anne died without a child or siblings. Her nearest relative was her second cousin, George, the Duke of Brunswick-Luneburg and Electorate of Hanover. Seven years earlier, British and Scottish parliaments had passed the Act of Union stating that they would share the same monarch, but keep separate parliaments. This allowed the same situation with Hanover. George now had the choice of staying in Hanover or moving to the much larger and more powerful United Kingdom. I need not tell you which one he chose.

Hanover at the time was a part of the Holy Roman Empire that dates back to 962. By 1714, the empire had dissolved into a collection of Duchies and Principalities that just pretended to be part of an empire. It all came to an official end in 1806 after Napoleon conquered these states one by one.

Central Europe between 1814 and 1866
Hanover is in pink near the top
(click to enlarge)
  Napoleon finally bit off more than he could chew with the English, and lost his empire. All the principalities now became independent kingdoms in 1814. However, Hanover is a kingdom with a absentee king. The Hanover kings almost never visited Hanover, preferring London.

Perhaps to make it up, George the II founded the University of Gottingen in 1734. That is how one of Germany’s greatest university was started by an English king.

Ernest Augustus I
Kingdom of Hanover's
first stay at home king
Now Hanover has it’s very own king it doesn’t have to share with anyone. When Queen Victoria came to power in Britain in 1837, she lost power in Hanover where law said no woman could rule. So her uncle, Ernest Augustus became King of Hanover.

George V
current king of Hanover
Currently Germany only exists as an idea. Right now it is a collection of little kingdoms--well, a lot of little ones and two big ones. Austria and Prussia are vying for mastery of the remnants of the Holy Roman Empire and that will come to a head next year. The War of 1866 (or the Seven Week War) will decide Prussia gets Germany and Austria can have eastern Europe. Soon Hanover will find itself part of the German Empire.

So I am here to record the Kingdom of Hanover, while there still is one, and to record the University of Gottingen.


Temporal Anthropologist Ball

The first of April was the birthday of Dr. Serendipity Brown, the woman who invented time travel back in the 24th century and thus made temporal anthropology possible. So in her honor, every 1st of April, we hold the Annual Association of Temporal Anthropologists Meeting and Ball. Actually we will have the meeting this weekend, but this evening will be the ball. This year it will be held at the Empress Hotel in Victoria in the Crystal Ballroom.

I've never been able to visit the Empress while in the field, because it wasn't built until 1908. I understand they almost tore it down in 1965, but the entire city protested and she was restored and has been carefully preserved all these centuries.

Dr. Chester Black Buffalo
in his formal ball attire
The annual meeting is the one time when all the Temporal Anthropologists try to make it home so we can all gather together. I imagine it must look like a giant masquerade party since we are all in our period clothes. Next to an Egyptian or Viking, suddenly a Victorian doesn't look all that exotic anymore. It is quite a spectacle because everyone wears their best attire for the ball.

I'll be wearing a Victorian tuxedo. Maybe it's just my tailcoat, but all the ladies want to dance with me when they play a waltz. I'll be sure to save a dance for Dr. Warwick. Been too long since I've seen Matilda. She is quite a sight in her medieval gown.

Today I'm meandering about the Empress, chatting with my colleagues. Later, I'll see if I can pull Matilda away for tea. The Empress is famous for its afternoon teas. Definitely do not wish to miss that.