History’s Mysteries

Yes, I’m borrowing the title of a History Channel show. It fits with my plans for this post. There are several historical mysteries that have baffled me. None are worth a full post, but I thought several posted together might make for interesting food for thought. Let us begin.

Why a Prime Minister, but not a President?

Margaret Thatcher circa 1975; from the Library of Congress

Margaret Thatcher circa 1975; from the Library of Congress

Women in the United States gained the right to vote in 1920 with the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Women in Great Britain gained the right eight years later. Women in both nations had a long history of suffrage movements prior to gaining the rights. However, why is it that Great Britain has had a female Prime Minister (the recently deceased Margaret Thatcher) but the United States has yet to have a female president? What makes this more interesting is the fact that Britain’s Liberal Party is still known as more conservative than the United States’ Republican Party. Maybe it is due to a past history with a handful of ruling queens? Or might it be because British women have equal rights (since 1975) while we still don’t? Keep in mind Thatcher was in office by 1979, served as PM for nearly fourteen years, and led the Conservative Party.

Which Mozart?

“Wolfgang and his sister Maria Anna” by Eusebius Johann Alphen; from Wikipedia.

History has led us to believe that Amadeus Mozart what the musical genius of his family. However, his older sister Maria Anna (known as Nannerl) was equally talented, if not more so, with music. She was older and trained first, learning the harpsichord and pianoforte. On their family’s early tours of Europe, she was the one who received top billing, not Amadeus. As she grew older, it was considered less socially acceptable for her to preform publicly and this stunted her musical career while her brother’s continued to grow. Nannerl’s career completely halted in 1769 when she became old enough to marry; their father prevented her to continue her career.

We know that Nannerl composed music. Her brother praised her works in the letters he wrote her, but none of the works survived. Or did they? One common theory presented in the movie Mozart’s Sister, a French film, is that she burned everything after the forced end to her career. But if her brother wrote about her works in his letters, he would have seen the scores and played them. What if some works attributed to the famous Amadeus Mozart were really Nannerl’s? What if he preformed and published them as some of his when she couldn’t?

By the way, Mozart’s Sister is a movie worth watching. Viewers can see the early progress of both Mozarts’ careers and how Nannerl’s ended. While the movie is only based on a true story, based on minor research, it is very close to the truth.

Western Depiction vs. Reality?

"Jesus Christ - detail from Deesis mosaic, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul" photo by Edal Anton Lefterov; from Wikipedia.

“Jesus Christ – detail from Deesis mosaic, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul” photo by Edal Anton Lefterov; from Wikipedia.

One thing that frequently bothers me during the Christian holiday seasons is how Jesus Christ is depicted. It is always the same: white-skinned, long brown hair, and brown eyes. These are Western European attributes that have been applied to him since the rise of Western art. However, he was born and raised in the Middle East/Mediterranean sphere. More likely he was olive-skinned with darker brown or black hair. It wasn’t until the last hundred years other skin and hair colors would be easily found in that region, and even then it was from the Jewish People who moved from Europe to Israel. Since the Bible doesn’t give Jesus’ everyday appearance, we’ll never know for sure what he looked like. Thus which do we believe, Western art or historical precedent?

Who Really has the Right to Bear Arms?

"US Marine carrying Winchester M97 shotgun,WWII" from the Department of Defense via Wikipedia.

“US Marine carrying Winchester M97 shotgun,WWII” from the Department of Defense via Wikipedia.

Now for the real powder keg (pun intended). The shorthand of the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution is considered to be “the right to bear arms.” This is what we are taught in school. However, the full text reads “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” There are two possible interpretations. One is the traditionally held one taught in the schools: everyone has the right to bear arms. However, because the original text mentioned the right is to maintain a “well regulated Militia” does it really mean everyone? Originally, all men over the age of twenty-one were considered to be part of the militia. This is no longer the case. During the Civil War, the militia was recruited and since the incorporation of the National Guard in 1903, only Guardsmen are considered to be militia (full history here). Thus if the founding fathers were alive today, which view would they uphold? The traditional or a literal interpretation? Then the waters only become murkier when we remember that when the amendment was written, only muskets and pistols existed; rifles came along just before the Civil War and nothing back then was automatic.

Feel free to comment and debate. I’m not taking sides; I’m providing observations. I’d be interested to hear what others think.

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5 thoughts on “History’s Mysteries

  1. I wonder what the founder’s exactly meant by “people”? Would a guarded stronghold of arms, ready for distribution to trained and vetted citizens in case of an attack, fulfill the “right of the people to keep and bear Arms”?

    • Since I studied both history and political science (my minor) as an undergrad, I can say what was probably meant by “people.” Back then, it would have would have been synonymous with citizen-white males who were not indentured. It would have excluded all women and slaves.

      As for the second question, maybe. I know from visiting old forts that are now historic sites, the arms were usually kept in well-placed armories rather than always being carried around when not on guard duty or in battle. They were also government owned. Thus I’d say a distribution center could fulfill the role as there is a historic precedent, but many may not agree.

      And thanks for commenting!

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