Is this really “Napoleon's March”?

Is this really “Napoleon's March”?

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The Chabad/Lubavitch Jewish group have a tradition that this song originated as a military march played by Napoleon's armies as they invaded Russia:

Is there any historical backing to this tradition?

Napoleon’s Return From Exile, Rallying an Army With His Words Alone

The ranks opened suddenly, and a figure stepped into view.

He was taller than many of his enemies described him. Taller and leaner, the angles of his face clearly defined. His eyes were colder than depicted in the paintings and the propaganda, and they sparkled with a strange ferocity as he surveyed the lines of armed men before him.

The 5th Infantry Regiment had leveled their weapons, the barrels of their guns held steady as the small army advanced towards them.

Napoleon Bonaparte had returned.

The old Emperor had moved quickly, but word of his approach moved quicker still. It was said that he and his men were yet to fire a single shot in their defense – his words alone were enough to win the people to his cause.

He promised free elections, political reform, a new era of peace and empowerment for the citizens of France. It was a stirring message, uplifting and powerful – wherever he went, his forces swelled.

By the time he reached Grenoble, however, the royalist authorities were well aware of his progress. Holding a line across the road, their rifles aimed squarely at Napoleon’s oncoming troops, the 5th Infantry Regiment were ready and waiting.

Less than ten months ago, France’s greatest general had been sent into exile.

The Coalition had marched on Paris, and after an increasing number of severe defeats and setbacks, the capital was taken. Following the Battle of Montmartre, Napoleon surrendered to his enemies and abdicated his throne.

Napoleon leaves Elba.

He was promptly exiled to the island of Elba, there to live out the rest of his days in seclusion while the powers of Europe rebuilt their nations. Of course, it was not to be.

From his new home, Napoleon had watched as tensions escalated across the continent. The Congress of Vienna, where heads of state from throughout Europe gathered to redefine the borders, was always going to be a difficult situation. However, against a backdrop of increasing civil unrest in France, fuelled by the actions of the new royalist regime, it looked as if peace might be short-lived.

Napoleon was exiled to the island of Elba. Mjobling – CC BY 3.0

Returning to their country for the first time in years, the old French nobility mistreated everyone from the veterans of Napoleon’s wars to the lower classes in general. On top of this, the people of France had to watch their once great empire being rapidly portioned off and reduced by the Coalition.

All this was fuel for the fire Napoleon was now about to light.

Vive l’Empereur!

So it was that, on the 26th of February 1815, the exiled Emperor left the island where his enemies had hoped he would end his days. In fact, some members of the French nobility were even pushing to have him assassinated, or at least moved further away, as they astutely feared he might take advantage of the growing unrest.

Of course, even as such plans were formulated, they were already too late.

During a brief window of opportunity, with both British and Spanish ships temporarily absent, Napoleon and 1000 loyal men left Elba and sailed away undetected. By the time word reached Paris of the exiled Emperor’s escape, he was back on French soil.

With tensions between the royalist nobility and the oppressed lower classes nearing breaking point, there could have been no better time for the old Emperor’s return.

Napoleon’s farewell to his Imperial Guard, 20 April 1814.

The people of France welcomed back their leader with open arms men flocked to his cause. His army had grown rapidly and, until Grenoble, no one had stood in his way.

Now, however, royalist troops barred the way. The 5th Infantry Regiment had taken their positions as the enemy approached, and as the vanguard of Napoleon’s forces came to a halt, a tense silence fell.

As the sun set, lighting up the western horizon, Napoleon strode out into the open.

He was unarmed, yet he showed no fear as he surveyed the line of gleaming rifles before him. For a moment he stood quite still, his face inscrutable. Then, without taking his eyes away from the royalist regiment, he seized the front of his coat and ripped it open.

“If there is any man among you who would kill his emperor,” Napoleon declared, “Here I stand!”

The 5th Infantry Regiment joined Napoleon on the spot.

Some accounts differ as to exactly what happened next, but most agree on the fundamentals of the event itself. After a moment of silence, voices within the ranks of the 5th Regiment began shouting

As the cry spread, it was taken up by more and more of the royalist soldiers. Before long they had lowered their weapons and, en masse, the entire regiment joined Napoleon’s army.

The following day, the 7th Infantry Regiment joined the cause, followed by an ever increasing number of soldiers. Marshal Ney, a high-ranking royalist commander, promised the King that he would bring Napoleon to Paris bound inside an iron cage. With 6000 men at this back, Ney then proceeded to march against the Imperialist army – only to swear his allegiance to Napoleon upon their meeting.

By the time the army reached Paris, they were able to enter the capital city unopposed. The royalists had fled before the Emperor’s advance and, once again, Napoleon Bonaparte had reclaimed his throne.

The Battle of Waterloo, and the end of the 100 Days.

In the end, of course, his reign would only last for a brief period. Remembered in history as Napoleon’s 100 Days, his fleeting return to power would end in the aftermath of the Battle of Waterloo. That crushing defeat for Napoleon and his troops saw the end of the war and the final abdication of the Emperor himself.

However, regardless of that outcome, Napoleon Bonaparte’s escape from exile remains a fascinating moment in his remarkable life. The subsequent march through France, gathering support and rallying troops with nothing but his words and charisma, defines perfectly one of Europe’s greatest military leaders.

This past Motzaei Shabbos and Sunday, the 24th of Teves, was the 194th yahrzeit of Rebbe Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the Rav Baal HaTanya, talmid of the Maggid of Mezritch and founder of Chabad Chassidus. He is best known for his sefer “Tanya,” the fundamental source of Chabad Chassidus.

We posted twice on his yahrzeit last year: THE Baal HaTanya's YAHRZEIT - THE MASTER OF SONG and Quill of the Soul: Negina of the "Alter Rebbe" of Chabad. Please be sure to read up on them again.

This year, I’d like to present a fascinating account of the Baal HaTanya’s adventures with Napoleon, including the origin of the Chabad-adapted niggun, “Napoleon’s March.” The following is an edited version from various sources that I found on the Web. However, the main source I had found a number of years ago and was unable to relocate it – perhaps it has been taken down. It appears to be from this book: A Day to Recall, A Day to Remember by Sholom DovBer Avtzon. The article has extensive footnotes, some of which I have integrated into the story below. My other sources were Is Judaism a Theocracy? by Yanki Tauber The Passing of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi and Bonaparte and the Chassid.

So without further ado, on to our story.

There was no more time to lose. Anticipating Napoleon's evil designs to attack and conquer Russia, the Rav Baal HaTanya, (the Alter Rebbe) instructed his family to be ready to flee at a moment's notice. He emphasized this by saying: "I prefer death than to live under his rule. I don't want to be a witness to the calamity that will befall my nation."
The Alter Rebbe said, "Napoleon is a very powerful evil force [klipa], and I fear that I will have to have mesiras nefesh (sacrifice my soul) in order to humble him." What did Napoleon represent, and why did the Alter Rebbe loathe him to such an extent? In every country Napoleon conquered, he introduced the (French) Declaration of the Rights of Man, which abolished serfdom and guaranteed religious tolerance. Understandably, oppressed people everywhere considered him a liberator, and many openly assisted him in overthrowing their rulers.
Many of the extremely oppressed Jews at that time were also taken in by Napoleon. Until then, they'd been restricted from engaging in many occupations they had to pay a special Jewish tax and were forced to live in ghettos. Napoleon promised to change all that. So they, too, assisted Napoleon and were of great help to him in his conquest of Poland.
Once Napoleon captured most of Europe, he set out to conquer Russia as well. On Tisha B'Av 5572 (1812), he invaded Russia, expecting to receive assistance from the Jews there. The Alter Rebbe marshaled his Chassidim against Napoleon. Why? Because the Alter Rebbe believed that even though Napoleon was good to the Jews (that is, he gave them equal rights and abolished the tax on Jews), and under his regime, the financial and political situation of the Jews would (probably) improve the Alter Rebbe also foresaw that the spiritual level of the Jewish community would be greatly harmed were Napoleon to gain control over Russia. He expressed it thus: “This is what Heaven showed me during Musaf on the first day of Rosh Hashana. If [Napoleon] Bonaparte is victorious, then the power of the Jews will be elevated, and they will have plenty of riches. However, their hearts will become separated and alienated from their Father in Heaven.”
The Alter Rebbe also said that when the Czar won, he would definitely remember everything the Jews did to help him win the war. Not only would he rescind some of the harsh and harmful decrees that had been set forth against the Jews, but he would also help to improve their situation. This actually came to pass: The Rebbe's contribution to Russia's victory was recognized by the Czar, who awarded Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s descendents the status of "an honorable citizen for all generations." Shortly afterwards, the Mittler Rebbe [his son] received from the government some tracts of land in the Cherson province to establish Jewish settlements. Subsequently, five generations of Chabad Rebbes were to make use of this special standing in their work on behalf of the Jews of Russia.
Thus, the Alter Rebbe prayed constantly for Napoleon's downfall. But there were also rabbis and Chassidic Rebbes who eagerly awaited liberation by Napoleon’s armies. No longer would the Jewish people be locked into ghettos and deprived of their means of earning a livelihood no longer would the state be allied with a religion hostile to the Jewish faith. Liberated from the persecution and poverty that had characterized Jewish life on European soil for a dozen centuries, the Jewish people would be free to deepen and intensify their bond with G-d in ways previously unimaginable. Indeed, there were those--such as the Chassidic masters Rebbe Shlomo of Karlin Rebbe Yisrael, the Maggid of Kozhnitz Rebbe Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev and Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Riminov--who believed that a French victory would ready the world for the coming of Moshiach and the final redemption.
Since these tzaddikim disagreed about who should win, Chassidim relate that the Heavenly court decreed that whoever would blow the shofar first on Rosh Hashana, his opinion would prevail. The contest was between Rebbe Schneur Zalman and the Maggid of Kozhnitz, and it would decide the outcome of Napoleon’s war against Russia. According to Kabbalistic tradition, the sounding of the shofar on Rosh Hashana effects G-d’s coronation as King of the Universe and the Divine involvement in human affairs for the coming year each of these two Rebbes therefore endeavored to be the first to sound the shofar in the fateful year of 5573 (1812-1813) and thereby influence the outcome of the war. The Maggid of Kozhnitz arose well before dawn, immersed in the mikveh, began his prayers at the earliest permissible hour, prayed speedily, and sounded the shofar but Rebbe Schneur Zalman departed from common practice and sounded the shofar at the crack of dawn, before the morning prayers. "The Litvak (Lithuanian, as Rebbe Schneur Zalman was affectionately called by his colleagues) has bested us," said Rebbe Yisrael of Kozhnitz to his disciples.
In addition, the Baal HaTanya sent letters to many Jewish communities, urging them to aid the Russian army in every way possible encouraging them not to be dejected or pay attention to the victories of Napoleon, as they were only temporary. The final and complete victory would be the Czar's. Secretly, he even instructed his Chassidim to spy against Napoleon's army. His youngest son, Reb Moshe, who was fluent in French, also heeded this call. He moved to the city of Dasvia, where the French army headquarters were located. There, he offered his services to the French high command. They eagerly accepted Reb Moshe, who assisted them by making maps of the routes that the French army should take, and translating all the information that the local villagers gave in their native tongue of Russian, Latvian or Polish. In no time, Reb Moshe gained the French generals' trust.
His task was made all that much easier because the area in which the French army found itself fighting was made up of former Polish provinces. Naturally, the French assumed that the Jews living there would regard them as liberators as the Polish Jews had, and would similarly come to their aid, as indeed, some Jews did. Never did they suspect that the Jews in this area would be disloyal. Although Napoleon was well aware of the Alter Rebbe's tremendous opposition to him, he did not realize the amount of effort the Alter Rebbe expended to ensure his downfall, and to what extent was his influence. Acting as a spy, Reb Moshe was able to pass all his military information to the proper Russian army channels.
The Alter Rebbe wanted nothing less than a total collapse of Napoleon's power. The Mittler Rebbe noted in a letter, "My father's wishes will be complete when [Napoleon's] own countrymen rise up against him." (Indeed, shortly after returning to his own country from his shameful defeat, Napoleon was banished from France).
In the Rav’s eyes, the French leader was the greatest threat to the heart and soul of Judaism. Napoleon's arrogance and free spirit were a denial of the Torah's holy principles of life. Behind his abolishing the restrictions that existed was a veil hiding his true intentions. All Napoleon wanted to accomplish with his revolution, insisted the Alter Rebbe, was a refusal to accept any authority, including belief in G-d's rule. This in turn would weaken one's religious adherence. For this reason, the Alter Rebbe refused to live in Napoleon’s conquered domain for even a short period of time. When he heard that the French army was rapidly approaching, he reluctantly fled Liadi, even though the constant traveling was not good for his health.

When the Alter Rebbe heard the marching song of Napoleon's army, he said it was a (song and a) march of victory. He then decided that the song should be used in one's service to Hashem. [On Yom Kippur, before the shofar is blown (at the end of Tefillas Neila), it is customary in Lubavitch to sing Napoleon's March.] We should note that the Alter Rebbe took away from Napoleon his victory march, elevating it for one's service to Hashem, while Napoleon, as related below, was unsuccessful in his tireless attempts to obtain something of the Alter Rebbe's.
You can listen to Napoleon’s March here or watch a video here.

Our story continues:
With the assistance of the Russian army, the Rebbe and his entire family began their flight, loaded on four wagons, on Erev Shabbos, 22 Av, 5572 (1812). Before leaving, he instructed the townspeople to help themselves to his furniture and utensils and to make sure to remove everything that was in his house. After traveling approximately two miles, the Alter Rebbe asked the commander for a fast carriage and horses. Together with two attendants, he returned to Liadi and instructed them to search the house for anything that might have been left behind. After a thorough search, they found a pair of worn-out slippers, a sieve, and a rolling pin in the attic. Not wanting Napoleon to obtain any memorabilia from him, the Alter Rebbe took these objects with him. Chassidim insist that the Alter Rebbe thought that Napoleon was a sorcerer, and if he would have gotten hold of anything that belonged to the Alter Rebbe, he would have used it to guarantee his victory (or in the least, to mitigate against the Alter Rebbe's ability to oppose him). Then he told his attendants to set fire to the house, and they left.
This was not a second too early, as immediately afterwards, Napoleon's soldiers entered the city from the opposite direction. Despite their utmost efforts, they were unsuccessful in putting out the fire. All that was left of the Rebbe's house were smoldering ashes. In Napoleon's name, the French soldiers proclaimed that anyone who would give them something that had belonged to the Alter Rebbe would be richly rewarded with gold coins. Obeying the Alter Rebbe's wishes, no one gave them anything. In their anger, the French soldiers burned down the shul that was adjacent to the Alter Rebbe's former house. The Alter Rebbe had foreseen this, and before leaving had instructed the townspeople of Liadi to remove everything from the shul before Napoleon's arrival there.
In the meantime, the Alter Rebbe rejoined his family and the Chassidim, and they continued their flight from the French army. Half an hour before Shabbos, they managed to reach a safe haven, and they remained there in the village until Motzaei Shabbos. Promptly, he continued his flight, hoping to reach a Jewish community in the province of Poltava before Rosh Hashana.
The rapid advance of Napoleon's army made it virtually impossible for the Alter Rebbe and his entourage to rest, and he was forced to be constantly on the run. Some cities were captured by the French barely a few hours after the Alter Rebbe had left them. In one instance, he told his son, HaRav Dov Ber (the Mittler Rebbe), that they should continue their flight on Shabbos as it was a question of pikuach nefesh [survival]. Unfortunately, the entourage made a wrong turn, which put them dangerously off schedule in addition to having to travel an extra distance in the freezing weather.
The Mittler Rebbe wrote: "On Erev Rosh Hashana, my father, the [Alter] Rebbe, confided to me: 'I am extremely pained and worried about the battle of Mazaisk [in history books it is referred to as the battle of Borodino], since the enemy is becoming stronger and I believe he [Napoleon] is also going to conquer Moscow.' He then wept bitterly, with tears streaming down his face.
"On Rosh Hashana, my father again called me to him and happily told me the sweet and comforting news: 'Today, during my prayers, I had a vision that the tide has changed for the better and our side will win. Although Napoleon will capture Moscow, he will eventually lose the war. This is what was written in Heaven today.'" On that day, the battle of Borodino began. It was the first time that the Russian Army openly engaged the French in a battle, and they inflicted great losses upon them. We should note that the battle began in the early morning, at approximately the time that the Alter Rebbe blew his shofar.
The Mittler Rebbe continued: "That day we ate and drank in joy and happiness, in good spirit - rejoicing with gladness of heart. Two days before Yom Kippur, Moscow was captured by Napoleon's army, but two months later, on the 15th of Kislev, it was driven back, and this was the beginning of Napoleon's rapid downfall." With the rout of Napoleon's army, the Alter Rebbe could proceed in a more relaxed and orderly manner on his journey. On Friday, the 8th of Teves, he and his entourage arrived in the city of Piena. This was one of the few non-Jewish cities or villages that welcomed them hospitably (even to the extent of offering free lodging and firewood).
As soon as he arrived in Piena, he began immediately to organize a relief campaign for all Jews who were affected by the war. He sent his oldest son (and successor, the Mittler Rebbe) HaRav Dov Ber to arrange housing for the refugees of the war. HaRav Chaim Avraham (his second son) was sent to nearby provinces to raise the necessary funds to help rebuild the many communities ravaged by Napoleon's army. Reb Pinchas Schick, a Chassid and extremely accomplished businessman, went to Vitebsk to coordinate the effort and find the most practical solutions of finding some means of livelihood for the refugees.
The Mittler Rebbe noted that, in one of the greatest acts of mesiras nefesh, the Alter Rebbe put his own life in mortal danger to do his part to defeat the evil ways of Napoleon. Indeed, the Alter Rebbe's ill-fated prophecy came to be, for the humbled last remnants of Napoleon’s army retreated out of Russia that Motzaei Shabbos at the time of the Alter Rebbe's histalkus [passing]. In a letter, the Mittler Rebbe writes, "Napoleon's total defeat will be when his own countrymen rise against him." That happened a year later.
Shortly before his histalkus, the Alter Rebbe said: "Anyone who will hold onto my klaymkeh [door handle], I will do him a favor [in return] in this world and the next one." The Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek offered eight explanations for this statement. One of them is: "My door handle [or my ways] does not merely mean learning Chassidus. For the Alter Rebbe, through mesiras nefesh, instilled in Chassidim the practice of Ahavas Yisrael" - and Chassidim should live with it.

Rebbe Schneur Zalman’s fears were borne out by the events of the next two centuries. When emancipation did come to European Jewry, it came as a gradual process, and the traditional Judaism had by then developed an array of intellectual and moral responses (most notably, the Chassidic and Mussar movements). Still, the spiritual toll of freedom was high: traditional Jewish life was all but wiped out in France and Germany by the upheavals spearheaded by the French Revolution, and while it persevered in Eastern Europe until the eve of the Holocaust, many fell prey to the winds of anti-religious "enlightenment" blowing from the west. We can only imagine what the toll might have been had Napoleon conquered the continent in the early years of the nineteenth century.

Shortly before his passing (by one account, "after Havdala, several minutes before giving up his soul in purity to G-d") the Rebbe penned a short discourse titled, "The Humble Soul."
"For the truly humble soul," Rabbi Schneur Zalman wrote, "its mission in life lies in the pragmatic aspect of Torah, both in studying it for himself and explaining it to others, and in doing acts of material kindness in lending an empathizing mind and counsel from afar regarding household concerns, though the majority, if not all, of these concern things of falsehood. For although the Divine attribute of Truth argued that man should not be created, since he is full of lies, the Divine attribute of Kindness argued that he should be created, for he is full of kindnesses. And the world is built upon kindness."

Zechuso Yagein Aleinu v'al Kol Yisrael - May his merits protect us all!

12 Great Visualizations That Made History

Most visualizations end up as passing follies that are significant in the short-term, but in the long-run they fade to the background with the rest of the noise. Occasionally, though, some visualizations end up in a perfect position to play a significant role in culture and history. Here are a few that have been fortunate enough to become significant.

Content writer at Rock Content.

Most visualizations end up as passing follies that are significant in the short-term, but in the long-run they fade to the background with the rest of the noise. Occasionally, though, some visualizations end up in a perfect position to play a significant role in culture and history. Here are a few that have been fortunate enough to become significant.

1. One of the earliest known visualizations is a map. The famous Lascaux caves in France contain paintings on their walls that date from the paleolithic period. One particular painting shows three stars known as the Summer Triangle. These three stars, Vega, Deneb and Altair, were bright in the sky. The images around them may suggest ideas of constellations, ways to help remember the star patterns and navigate.

2. The trans-atlantic slave trade was one of the most despicable things people have done to other people. Transport conditions were especially bad, but at the time the public did not know much about the process. The Description of a Slave Ship engravings gave people a visual sense of what had previously only been conveyed orally. Over 10,000 copies of the engravings were created in under a year, giving strong support to the antislavery movement.

3. There are rare people in history who have contributed more to visualization than anyone else. William Playfair is one of these people. He is responsible for creating pie charts, bar graphs, and line and area charts. These charts are commonplace today, but imagine being the first person to create one and seeing how powerful they can be to help communicate numerical information.

This image is of the first pie chart ever produced. At the time, visually depicting a part-whole relationship was a novel idea.

4. Playfair’s bar charts were inspired by timeline visualizations produced by Joseph Priestly and by a lack of detailed data.

5. This line chart is especially interesting because Playfair showed that it is not just the lines themselves that convey meaning. The interaction between the lines also shows information.

6. Of all of the visualizations in this post, Charles Minard’s map of Napoleon’s March is probably the most famous. Edward Tufte singled it out as “the greatest statistical graphic ever“, pushing it into the public consciousness. Whether it really is the greatest ever or not, this image does a great job of showing the miserable failure of the march, and the correlation with really cold weather.

7. Today we know that cholera is spread through water, but in the early 1800s people weren’t sure. John Snow’s cholera map helped to show that contaminated wells were at the center of outbreaks. His research helped save countless lives and set the foundation for the field of epidemiology.

8. Another lifesaving visualization came from Florence Nightingale. Nightingale was a nurse during the Crimean War and was also very adept at statistics. Her reports to British parliament contained chart types that she invented, the Coxcomb Plot. These charts helped to prove to parliament that sanitation was important to the survival rate and that the Royal Commission that she had convinced them to start was helpful.

9. If something moves so fast that you can’t see it clearly, how do you know exactly what it is doing? Today, we would use a high speed camera to take slow motion video, but in the 1700s that technology didn’t exist. Most visualizations so far involved capturing information over a long period of time and condensing it into a single digestible image. Eadweard Muybridge‘s work does the opposite. As challenged by Leland Stanford, Muybridge took photos of a horse moving so quickly it was difficult to see. The series of photos effectively “slowed down” the motion so that people could tell that a horse does indeed lift all four legs off the ground during a gallop.

10. It isn’t very often that people are aware they are making history while they are making it, but Richard Grumm and his team probably had a pretty good idea. They were the team in charge of the tape recorder on the Mariner 4 probe sent to Mars. The recorder was set to record the data from the television camera on the probe before transmitting the data back home. If all went well, the transmitted images would be the very first up close pictures of Mars! Unfortunately, once the data was received, it would take computers hours to turn the numbers into an image so Grumm and his team decided to hand color the data stream as it was printed out on ticker tape, just like a paint by number painting. The resulting image is red purely by coincidence, but the resemblance is remarkable.

11. One really interesting task in visualization is to try to show something to extra-terrestrial life. How do we know they can see, let alone understand abstract drawn representations of real things? Despite the assumptions involved in undergoing a task like this, Pioneer 10 and 11 were both fitted with gold plaques depicting information about the craft, the species that created it, and where it came from. The spacecraft are still on their journey today, well past the edges of our solar system by now!

12. With the increasing prominence of computers in doing statistical work in the 1970s, the typical output of computers was all numerical. Francis Anscombe challenged this norm and argued that computers should also output charts and graphs to help people understand the numbers they were crunching. In order to support his argument, he created a set of numbers known now as Anscombe’s Quartet. These numbers have identical statistical qualities (mean, variance, correlation, linear regression) but there are definite patterns shown in each set. Without visualization these patterns are hard to spot.

Drew Skau is a PhD Computer Science Visualization student at UNCC, with an undergraduate degree in Architecture.

Edward Ayers, “Civil War and Emancipation: Visualizing American History”

So this is the introduction stuff—thanks to the people with the money, introduction of the theme. “History in the Digital Age”—pretty significant diversion from previous themes.

History of Pauley Symposium—honor the love of travel and adventure, “premiere gathering of digital scholars in the country”—the scholars here are from a lot of different fields, but all are held in high esteem among their peers. Consider Mary Beth Norton—one of the most well-known women’s historians in the US.

Richard Hoffmann, Dean of Arts & Sciences welcome—How do humanist scholars present their work in a digital, networked age? That is a big question, and one that I think will come up again in tomorrow night’s keynote/roundtable. Bragging on the CDRH. “Transforming the kinds of work humanists do, and the kinds of questions they ask and answer” So to what extent does the medium of presentation change the very essence of the scholarship? Does it? Hoffmann’s answer is yes, because scholars can ask new kinds of questions—Is it that they’re new questions, or that we now have the ability to fully incorporate the variety of historical documents and artifacts that can be used to answer questions in a more expansive way than ever before? Digital scholarship will now hold scholars in the humanities to the same type of “scientific” standards in the hard sciences—“experiments” can be replicated because all of the pieces used to answer the question are embedded in the answer.

Introduction of Ed Ayers—Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at UVA historian. Humor from the dean—displays Ayers’ c.v. rather than reading selections from it. How we got Professors Seefeldt & Thomas—Dean Hoffmann first met Ayers at a gathering of Arts & Sciences Deans (but the History department was already well on the way to these hires in order to build the UNL reputation for digital history).

Mobile microphone—always dangerous, but appears to be working so far. Bit of a southern accent. Quote from a memoir. Rapt audience. Who wrote it? Bob Dylan—I think a bit of surprise that someone knew the answer. Proud to say it’s a UNL history department grad student. Americans have become immune to the radical nature of the Civil War and the emancipation of 4 million people. Is the History channel to blame? Or maybe the fact that we split our history courses at Civil War/Reconstruction?

Used computers to analyze the frequency of word usage in Civil War-era newspapers. The visual display is a nice touch—the bigger the words, the more frequent the use. Same for letters and diaries (from the Valley of the Shadow project). Graph to show how word usage changes over time—shift from slavery to negro among southern Democrats. Political usage of words. This is amazing how he has visual, graphic representations of words and their importance, change over time, as a means of getting at how Americans understood the war and issues of race. “Emancipation peaked early and diminished over time.” Duty—war becomes about loyalty to a cause rather than the ideology of slavery/freedom/state’s rights. Thought: Digital scholarship has revealed a pattern among words that could revolutionize the historiography of the Civil War.

Minard’s graphic explanation of Napoleon’s march on Moscow. Makes sense of, and condenses, the chaos and magnitude of a major event. Thought: Is this one of the dangers of digital scholarship, or an advantage? “What does the history in your head look like?” Distortion: comparison between maps and history. Connection between time and space—the two go hand in hand in the process of remembrance. “Time Maps” Visualizing the connections and patterns and themes in history in our heads—how to make it visible to others? Words vs. images. Do historians have a burden to include more visual images to supplement (clarify?) their words? Need for detailed maps that do not oversimplify history. Does this still clarify and condense the past? Historians are like weathermen—terrible at predicting the future, but very skilled at analyzing the past.

The spatial environment of history—history literally takes place in a very physical space, but historians have not traditionally relied upon spatial theories as a means of understanding/analyzing the past. Maybe this is less true for urban historians, like Mahoney, Reiff, Chudacoff who use space to represent history.

In the absence of extensive written/oral accounts of freedom in the post-Civil War south, how do we as historians reconstruct that experience? What did freedom look like? Map of Barrow plantation shows shift from neatly order slave dwellings to 20 years later the scattered homes of sharecroppers. 1808 English map of the progress of abolition—looks like a tree, with each person represented by a single “tributary” shows both Britain and North America. Visual representation of black population from 1810-1890: again, what history actually looks like on the physical plane of the United States patterns become evident.

From the big picture to the small. Thought: Digital scholarship allows us to travel very quickly from the broad themes and experiences of history to the specific stories of the women and men who lived them. How successfully does print scholarship do this? Maybe Foner’s Story of American Freedom? This availability of primary source material in a way that connects the micro and macro makes the Civil War personal in a way that it usually isn’t. For my own purposes—thinking of assigning a writing project based on Valley of the Shadow for 201 next semester. Maybe have 2-3 essays based on digital projects?

Visual representation of marriages in Augusta County based on records from Freedmen’s Bureau. Slavery generally imagined as holding people in place, but these marriage records (at least through “L”) show that there was a great amount of mobility as enslaved people married across the county. By 1910 80% of black Virginians owned their own land. How do they achieve that? This is really hammering the ability to visualize history. How else does digital scholarship change history? Is the visual component the most important part? What about breadth of research? Access to primary sources at the site of analysis?

1. “The form and substance of the humanities are deeply related.” But how do we write such a textured history and move beyond the database collection of facts?

2. Changing the approach to sources in the humanities creates a tension in scholarship.

3. Digital scholarship forces humanists into new territories, puts them “off-balance.”

1. Word analysis—what’s the importance of “white” to blacks during emancipation.
–Generally related to sharecropping contracts, etc. Whites were a central part in how blacks had to envision freedom, but also reflects the importance of blacks to the survival of whites.
–Cool thing forgotten in the presentation: Social network map ability to fully explore lives when we only have scattered references to individuals.

2. Cohabitation map—mobility of enslaved population. Theory before the image, or did the visual representation spur the new theory?
–Question upon question builds the map now look for other sources to flesh out the story.

3. Concept of duty in the Civil War. Relative of a CW veteran. Concept of duty in the CW in the modern context and need for volunteers for war in Iraq. (I love that the audience is making the connection between past events and current events. That’s the essence of the humanities.)
–Draft riots suggest that it’s not a simple matter of ideology motivating soldiers. Military purpose isolated from the political purpose. That’s an incredibly cool way to approach the civil war, to separate the battlefield from the politicians.

4. Question about Minard from Patrick Manning. Minard’s map 45 years after the fact is there a comparable response to the Civil War in the US?
–Absence of novels, art in the wake of the CW. Minard’s map an anti-war statement an act of memory.

5. New York State Historical Society display on the slavery and emancipation.
–Slavery being told as a national story in the last 10 years.

6. Teaching: Quality control of student database entries in Ayers’s Southern History Database project. What did they produce? Was it good? Effective?
� students HIUS 323: The Rise and Fall of the Slave South (upper division) entries approved by teaching assistants before being posted. Combination of classroom quality control with the “Wikipedia” approach. Plus the use of other’s work.
–Note, that this is one of the big questions for digital scholarship as a whole. Who are the gatekeepers? Who decides if it’s quality, worthwhile? Should we separate the professionally trained historian from the history buff who builds a website?

7. Being Ed Ayers: What are the obstacles to creating a 3-D environment that would reveal the genius of his thought?
–Talent, time, humility. Then, well, go for it. At this point, it’s the outlines of knowledge, a framework that still needs to be filled in with the expert knowledge of historians who intimately know the time/field. Inspired by the genealogies of rock ‘n roll at the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame.

8. Strategies for getting at minority voices in earlier fields, like medieval and ancient?
–“The farther away in time you get, the more inventive the historians are.” Inspired by scholars of earlier time periods in creative uses of sources as a means of visualizing history. Language mapping a way to deal with a super-abundance of sources, where earlier fields must deal with a paucity of artifacts.

The Underappreciated Man Behind the “Best Graphic Ever Produced”

He’s known for his acclaimed depiction of Napoleon’s ill-fated invasion of Russia. But Charles Minard was full of innovative visualizations.

Charles Joseph Minard’s name is synonymous with an outstanding 1869 graphic depicting the horrific loss of life that Napoleon’s army suffered in 1812 and 1813, during its invasion of Russia and subsequent retreat. The graphic (below), which is often referred to simply as “Napoleon’s March” or “the Minard graphic,” rose to its prominent position in the pantheon of data visualizations largely thanks to praise from one of the field’s modern giants, Edward Tufte. In his 1983 classic text, “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information,” Tufte declared that Napoleon’s March “may well be the best statistical graphic ever produced.”

Today Minard is revered in the data-visualization world, commonly mentioned alongside other greats such as John Snow, Florence Nightingale, and William Playfair. But Minard’s legacy has been almost completely dominated by his best-known work. In fact, it may be more accurate to say that Napoleon’s March is his only widely known work. Many fans of the March have likely never even seen the graphic that Minard originally paired it with: a visualization of Hannibal’s famous military campaign in 218 BC, as seen in the image below.

On its face, it may not seem remarkable that Minard is remembered for this one piece of work after all, many people owe their fame to a single great achievement, and the Napoleon graphic is certainly worthy of its reputation. But Minard was most definitely not a one-hit wonder.

Minard made scores of other graphics and charts, as well as nearly 50 maps. He pioneered several important thematic mapping techniques and perfected others, such as using flow lines on a map. A great example of this is the trio of maps in the graphic at the top of the post, which depict cotton imports to Europe.

It wasn’t until I met R.J. Andrews, the visual storyteller behind the website, that I learned about Minard’s prolific career. Andrews has been studying the history of data visualization and writing a series of posts about some of the field’s “sacred cows.” When he started looking into Minard, he found a trove of his work in the digital archives of the École Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées (National School of Bridges and Roads), where Minard was an instructor.

Minard made some of his charts and maps during his engineering career, which culminated in his appointment as inspector general of the school. But it was after he retired, at age 70, that he really poured himself into crafting his “graphic tables and figurative maps,” as he called them. The Napoleon and Hannibal graphics were among the very last he made, at age 88.

Minard wasn’t the first to put flow lines on a map, but he really raised the bar for doing so. The maps are all designed to tell a story—to “speak to they eyes,” in Minard’s words.* He mapped the flow of everything from coal and wine to people and languages. He always prioritized the data, often distorting the underlying geography to accommodate it.

In some cases, such as the cotton import maps, he charted the same data over time. In the video above, Andrews explains how the cotton maps tell the story of an emerging global economy and the impacts of civil war.

The invention of the pie chart is credited to Playfair, but again Minard took an existing idea and vastly improved it. He was the first to use pie charts on a map, and he added his own innovation: turning the pie charts into proportional symbols.

One of his first pie-chart maps shows the origin of butcher’s meats supplied to Paris markets in 1858 from each of the country’s departments. The size of the pies indicates how much total meat came from each location. The colors indicate which type of meat: black for beef, red for veal, green for mutton. All the departments in yellow contributed some meat, and the meatless areas are tan colored. A century and a half later, cartographers are still using the technique.

Andrews also discovered that, unlike now, Minard’s work was widely known and appreciated in his day, at least among government officials. Buried in a 15-year-old scholarly paper, Andrews found an intriguing passage of Minard’s obituary translated from the original French. It said that from around 1850 to 1860, all the ministers of public works in France made a point of having their portraits painted with one of Minard’s charts in the background. This sent Andrews down a rabbit hole in search of those portraits. You can read Andrews’ account of the hunt and what he found out.

*Friendly, Michael (2002). Visions and Re-Visions of Charles Joseph Minard. Journal of Educational and Behavioral Statistics, Vol. 27, No. 1, pp. 31-51.

Napoleon went east, but where do today’s foreign fighters come from?

Charles Joseph Minard has not solely inspired presentations of the same historical event, or to a redesign of the map itself. Minard’s way of combining flow charts and maps in figurative presentations have become established as a conventions within data visualisation and infographics: ‘the flow map’, mentioned in the introduction. In this way it is difficult to point out what are, and what cannot be, specific actualisations of Minard’s method. But then examples emerge in which the source of inspiration seems to be evident, such as in the Italian Alessandro Zotta and Density DesignLab’s ‘On their way’, from 2016.

‘On their way’ (published originally in Italian in the newspaper Corriere della Sera’s Sunday supplement) provides, in a reflection of Minard’s design, a graphic presentation of the foreign fighters’ routes from their own home countries to join IS, and then their ways to travel home again. In terms of colours, those of the original presentation are turned on their head: Black marks those travelling out, whilst yellow-brown marks those returning home. Zotta’s presentation operates, incidentally, with other variables than those that Minard used, because the theme is, after all, only loosely related. Furthermore: The large number of sending countries, and the fact that IS cannot be placed geographically in a traditional sense, result in the map itself being more of an abstract character. The source of inspiration seems, however, to be easy to trace if one is aware of the classics of data visualisation’s design history.

Einstein vs. Bohr, Redux

Two books — one authored by Sean Carroll and published last fall and another published very recently and authored by Carlo Rovelli — perfectly illustrate how current leading physicists still cannot come to terms with the nature of quantum reality. The opposing positions still echo, albeit with many modern twists and experimental updates, the original Einstein-Bohr debate.

I summarized the ongoing dispute in my book The Island of Knowledge: Are the equations of quantum physics a computational tool that we use to make sense of the results of experiments (Bohr), or are they supposed to be a realistic representation of quantum reality (Einstein)? In other words, are the equations of quantum theory the way things really are or just a useful map?

Einstein believed that quantum theory, as it stood in the 1930s and 1940s, was an incomplete description of the world of the very small. There had to be an underlying level of reality, still unknown to us, that made sense of all its weirdness. De Broglie and, later, David Bohm, proposed an extension of the quantum theory known as hidden variable theory that tried to fill in the gap. It was a brilliant attempt to appease the urge Einstein and his followers had for an orderly natural world, predictable and reasonable. The price — and every attempt to deal with the problem of figuring out quantum theory has a price tag — was that the entire universe had to participate in determining the behavior of every single electron and all other quantum particles, implicating the existence of a strange cosmic order.

Later, in the 1960s, physicist John Bell proved a theorem that put such ideas to the test. A series of remarkable experiments starting in the 1970s and still ongoing have essentially disproved the de Broglie-Bohm hypothesis, at least if we restrict their ideas to what one would call "reasonable," that is, theories that have local interactions and causes. Omnipresence — what physicists call nonlocality — is a hard pill to swallow in physics.

Credit: Public domain

Yet, the quantum phenomenon of superposition insists on keeping things weird. Here's one way to picture quantum superposition. In a kind of psychedelic dream state, imagine that you had a magical walk-in closet filled with identical shirts, the only difference between them being their color. What's magical about this closet? Well, as you enter this closet, you split into identical copies of yourself, each wearing a shirt of a different color. There is a you wearing a blue shirt, another a red, another a white, etc., all happily coexisting. But as soon as you step out of the closet or someone or something opens the door, only one you emerges, wearing a single shirt. Inside the closet, you are in a superposition state with your other selves. But in the "real" world, the one where others see you, only one copy of you exists, wearing a single shirt. The question is whether the inside superposition of the many yous is as real as the one you that emerges outside.

The (modern version of the) Einstein team would say yes. The equations of quantum physics must be taken as the real description of what's going on, and if they predict superposition, so be it. The so-called wave function that describes this superposition is an essential part of physical reality. This point is most dramatically exposed by the many-worlds interpretation of quantum physics, espoused in Carroll's book. For this interpretation, reality is even weirder: the closet has many doors, each to a different universe. Once you step out, all of your copies step out together, each into a parallel universe. So, if I happen to see you wearing a blue shirt in this universe, in another, I'll see you wearing a red one. The price tag for the many-worlds interpretation is to accept the existence of an uncountable number of non-communicating parallel universes that enact all possibilities from a superstition state. In a parallel universe, there was no COVID-19 pandemic. Not too comforting.

Bohm's team would say take things as they are. If you stepped out of the closet and someone saw you wearing a shirt of a given color, then this is the one. Period. The weirdness of your many superposing selves remains hidden in the quantum closet. Rovelli defends his version of this worldview, called relational interpretation, in which events are defined by the interactions between the objects involved, be them observers or not. In this example, the color of your shirt is the property at stake, and when I see it, I am entangled with this specific shirt of yours. It could have been another color, but it wasn't. As Rovelli puts it, "Entanglement… is the manifestation of one object to another, in the course of an interaction, in which the properties of the objects become actual." The price to pay here is to give up the hope of ever truly understanding what goes on in the quantum world. What we measure is what we get and all we can say about it.

1812: Napoleon's March on Moscow by Adam Zamoyski

Jul 28, 2014 #1 2014-07-28T23:50

I have written about about this in Julian Japeries thread, but a little more detail here.

Every chapter of this book got more chilling (literally and figuratively) than the last. I would read a chapter about emaciation leading to cannibalism, drowning while crossing rivers, horses and people crushed to death, civilians dying in great numbers as they accompanied the army or were straggling behind, cossacks - how awful were the cossasks, like hyenas really - picking off anyone they could, even prisoners of war, and then it would end, "In fact the worst was still to come." or "It would have been better for them if it (Vilna) had been a burnt-out shell like Smolensk."

Stories throughout the book show both how inhumane and inhuman people can become in wartime, and how much some of them can rise above their surroundings and situations. There are examples of people setting fire to huts just to get some warmth for themselves, even though there were people inside, people pushing down others to get across muddy rivers and people refusing to even allow people to get a light from a fire to start their own.

Then there are others who refuse to leave dying masters or servants and die themselves, or look after enemies who they had known in earlier times, or protect their children instead of themselves. Zamoyski suggested that one thing that saved soldiers best was sticking to their units (not always that easy when there are only a few left from a regiment) and forming a marching force rather than just straggling in dribs and drabs.

Even when people got to civilisation their suffering wasn't necessarily over. Some went mad (including one man who had lost his toes of both feet had to cut the gangrenous bits of his feet off every night, and had remained 'brave and gay', only to lose it when he reached the safety of Vilna), others made themselves sick with the food. Someone wrote,"That night of complete rest around a good fire had been enough to extinguish their courage and their energy. They were overcome by a general drowsiness, a heaviness in the head which seemed to obscure the faculty of thought. Stupified, and as if drunk, they attempted to get to their feet only to fall back heavily."

Reading of some of the generals and leaders was interesting, even if I hadn't know any of them but Napoleon before. Zamoyski was not impressed with Kutuzov, the commander of the Russian forces, and thought Napoleon had lost his health and his decision-making skills in Russia, but not the love of his soldiers or their respect.

It was also interesting to me to read of the political machinations of the time, with alliances changing and countries joining with others, and then unjoining.

Excellent book as far as I could tell, though no doubt some of his ideas and conclusions might be controversial.

Today marks the 154th anniversary of Cinco de Mayo, a bicultural celebration that has become synonymous with margaritas, cervezas (beer) and the occasional controversy. But we found most people don't know the real story behind this holiday.

So here are five facts that will probably surprise you about Cinco de Mayo:

1. It's not Mexico’s Independence Day: Cinco de Mayo commemorates the triumph of the Mexican army at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. This victory occurred over 50 years after Mexico’s Independence Day, which is celebrated on September 16.

“The significance of Cinco de Mayo is that it represents Mexican resistance to foreign intervention, it is a moment where Mexico as a young nation rallied to defend itself,” said Raul Ramos, Associate Professor of History at the University of Houston. “But it was not a struggle for independence. Instead it represented a struggle against imperialism.”

Ramos noted that prior to the first Cinco de Mayo, Mexico was a nation with strong regional differences, from the Pacific coast to Northern Mexico to the Yucatan. “The Battle of Puebla helped the country coalesce around the idea of a unified Mexican identity.”

2. Cinco de Mayo commemorates a military victory over France — not Spain. Why was Mexico at war with France? Because the Mexican government had defaulted on its foreign debt to several European countries, so France invaded our southern neighbor.

Napoleon III hoped to install a monarchy in Mexico (which he was able to do for a few years before Mexico ousted the French). “The French army was considered the best army in the world at the time, and they had not been defeated in decades,” Professor Margarita Sánchez of Wagner College told NBC News. “So this was a real David versus Goliath situation that inspired Mexicans at home and in the U.S.”

3. Cinco de Mayo is a bigger celebration in the U.S. than in Mexico. “Recent Mexican immigrants are often surprised at what a huge thing Cinco de Mayo has become here,” said Sánchez. “They do celebrate the holiday in Mexico, but it is only a big deal in Puebla.”

In fact, Los Angeles is host to what is routinely described as the largest Cinco de Mayo party in the world, a multiday event known as Fiesta Broadway. The scale of these festivities even dwarfs those in Puebla.

“It (Cinco de Mayo) started out as a cultural celebration, then became bigger and bigger,” said Sánchez. “And at some point it became very commercial with people taking advantage of the day to drink all the Coronas they can drink.”

The evolution of Cinco de Mayo can be seen as a metaphor for Mexican-American assimilation. The first American Cinco de Mayo celebrations date back to the 1860s, when Mexicans in California commemorated the victory. About a century later, Chicano activists rediscovered the holiday and embraced it as a symbol of ethnic pride.

In the 1980s and 1990s, corporations (especially the alcohol and restaurant industries) began promoting Cinco de Mayo as a way to reach Hispanic consumers and sell products like tequila and beer. So over time, this “foreign” holiday has become firmly ingrained in U.S. consciousness Cinco de Mayo received its own commemorative postage stamp in 1998 and is also customarily observed at the White House.

4. Cinco de Mayo has a connection to the U.S. Civil War. David Hayes-Bautista, Professor of Medicine and Director of the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture at the University of California Los Angeles, has written that Cinco de Mayo is very much an American holiday.

His research shows that the celebration began among Mexicans in California in the mid-19th century. The Battle of Puebla, he explained, occurred at a time when the Confederacy was expanding into New Mexico and Arizona, getting closer to California (which was a free state).

“Back then, when Latinos here got the news that French were stopped at Puebla, it electrified the population, and propelled them to a new level of civic participation. Latinos joined the Union army and navy and some went back to Mexico to fight the French,” Hayes-Bautista told NBC News.

“For Mexicans in the U.S., the Civil War and the French invasion of Mexico were like one war with two fronts. They were concerned about France, which sided with the Confederacy, being on America’s doorstep.” Had the Battle of Puebla gone differently, there is a real chance that the Civil War might have gone differently.

5. The hero of the original Cinco de Mayo was a Texan. General Ignacio Zaragosa, who led the ragtag Mexican forces to victory over the superior French army, was born near what is now Goliad, Texas. “This fact should make Americans, especially Texans, very proud of their connection to that event,” said Raul Ramos of the University of Houston. “But often it doesn't resonate. The Mexican aspect of Texas history has been so marginalized and ghettoized, it takes extra effort for people to learn about it.”

Ramos pointed out that the fact that a Tejano (or “Tex-Mex”) has a link to Cinco de Mayo reflects the reality that Mexican history is part of American history. “It gives you a sense that our countries have had a shared history going back hundreds of years,” he said. “It is something that extends to cultural and national ties as well as family ties.”

Margarita Sánchez of Wagner College takes a pragmatic view of what Cinco de Mayo has become. “I wish it were celebrated with more depth, with more opportunity to learn about Mexican history,” she said. “But a day of celebration is a day of celebration — and that is good for everyone.”

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Watch the video: Napoleons March - Cantors Dudu Fisher, Yaakov Motzen, Avremi Roth, Shlomo Simcha