February 22, 2013
Someone writes: "Please get rid of the ridiculous designation of BCE. There is no common era that is before anything. It is BC and AD. Please use them."
Response: BC and AD are Christian designations. Not everybody in the world is Christian. However much we respect Christianity let us leave others (including Jewish historians, archaeologists and other secularists) designations of their choice.
Mr Someone responds: "I understand your position, I just do not understand why, after two thousand years, it is now necessary to obliterate any tacit acknowledgment of Christ. Seems like you're kind of reaching at straws. I'm not even that religious actually. It just pisses me off that people such as you feel this overwhelming need to knock Jesus down a peg or two. You may be satisfying some fundamental desire to balance your own little world, but while you are at it, you are insulting the hundreds of millions of Christians who created Western Civilization.
My edited response:
Sorry about your view of my motives, but thanks for taking the time to tell me about it.
I was first introduced to BCE (Before the Common Era) as an alternative to BC (Before Christ) by the Jewish historian and statesman Abba Eban. Christ is a Greek word meaning king. Jews as you know don't accept the idea that Jesus of Nazareth as Christ.
Your use of the word "insulting" reminds me that some devout people, Muslims included, would benefit from expecting and accepting that some others have opinions that differ from theirs. Your call not to insult strikes me as a call to be politically correct, a conformism that doesn't fit with good history methodology.
I have no desire to insult Muslims or to "knock Jesus down a peg or two." I see many who are Christian or Muslim and not troubled by a Middle Ages fanaticism as working their faith in accordance with their decent instincts.
But your comment about "hundreds of millions of Christians who created Western Civilization" I find interesting. It's a gigantic idea. Too big actually. Who contributed to historical change and who did not? And of those who did, how many were considered errant by Christianity's institutions?
I see a lot of tragedy in the creation of Western Civilization – as I do in the history of Islam. I try to describe it and in doing so upset some people. I'm really not very emotionally attached to the Common Era idea, no more than I am to the globalism of the metric system.
Reader response: First, let me apologize if anything I said could be misconstrued as casting aspersions on you or your character... I respect your reasons for your positions and am sorry if I "picked-a-fight. Like I said, BCE seems one more way for society to erase Jesus and Christianity and it really does piss me off. However, like you I have a passion for history; always have. Anyway, thanks for the response, I appreciate your taking the time.
September 28, 2012
Somebody associated with an educational institution has complained about history websites that are filled with inaccuracies and insufficient documentation. Good!
I try hard to be accurate and to avoid myth. I have on my site an extensive bibliography. A quick search on my bibliography page or a site search on the subject of Rome, for example, will give books I have accessed on the subject. I'll be using footnotes when I write about Billy the Kid because of the unusual amount of conflicting and unreliable testimony involved in his story.
I'd like to remind everybody that we should consider everything we read as open to question and that some sources are inaccurate. Fortunately today, unlike a generation or two ago, we can check accuracy or find elaboration on a subject quickly on the internet with a few keystrokes. We no longer need an hour or more of digging at a great library.
I don't know of any historianian on broad subjects who has not committed or been accused of inaccuracies. Second and third editions are often quickly issued. With online materials we make corrections instantaneously.
Good writers try to get as close to the truth as they can, but they don't believe with absolute certainty that they grasp whole all connections to the event being examined.
September 12, 2012
Ed Darrell writes:
"Some guy named Frank Smitha has assembled a history of the world, claiming to be trying to avoid bias."
Actually I know that I write with bias, in other words a point of view, but I try to describe the past without distorting it with the biases in the cultural traditions of my parents and friends, and I try to avoid misshaping my perception of events or the ideas of others by jamming them into my own ideological framework. Like many others, I've been able to admit realities that have gone against my way of thinking. That's why I see the world a little differently from what I did fifty years ago.
I look forward to comments that are more critical than Mr. Darrell's. Good historians like good scientists need to remain open to criticism.
Ed Darrell is a learned gentleman and educator with a website: Millard Fillmore's Bathtub.