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Interactives -- Historical and Cultural Contexts Image of a Newspaper Pick another Interactive:


Speed Round

Now that you are familiar with the different writing styles, it's time to test your detective skills.

As in the previous excercises, you will see three random documents, perhaps one of each primary source, one-at-a-time. However, for added fun and challenge, let's time it. You will have 3 minutes (180 seconds) to look at each document and identify on the map where it took place and what time period it was written. Then you will answer three multiple-choice questions about the document. Each story will have seven questions, for a total of 21 questions at the end of the Speed Round. Your final score will be totaled from all 21 questions.

Good luck...Ready?

Late 15th early 16th century

To the Most Serene Grand Duchess Mother:

Some years ago, as Your Serene Highness well knows, I discovered in the heavens many things that had not been seen before our own age. The novelty of these things, as well as some consequences which followed from them in contradiction to the physical notions commonly held among academic philosophers, stirred up against me no small number of professors--as if I had placed these things in the sky with my own hands in order to upset nature and overturn the sciences. They seemed to forget that the increase of known truths stimulates the investigation, establishment, and growth of the arts; not their diminution or destruction.

Showing a greater fondness for their own opinions than for truth they sought to deny and disprove the new things which, if they had cared to look for themselves, their own senses would have demonstrated to them. To this end they hurled various charges and published numerous writings filled with vain arguments, and they made the grave mistake of sprinkling these with passages taken from places in the Bible which they had failed to understand properly, and which were ill-suited to their purposes.

These men would perhaps not have fallen into such error had they but paid attention to a most useful doctrine of St. Augustine's, relative to our making positive statements about things which are obscure and hard to understand by means of reason alone. Speaking of a certain physical conclusion about the heavenly bodies, he wrote: "Now keeping always our respect for moderation in grave piety, we ought not to believe anything inadvisedly on a dubious point, lest in favor to our error we conceive a prejudice against something that truth hereafter may reveal to be not contrary in any way to the sacred books of either the Old or the New Testament." ...

[An account during the Roman Empire just before Jesus Christ was born]

There is nothing so ruinous to good character as to idle away one's time at some spectacle. Vices have a way of creeping in because of the feeling of pleasure that it brings. Why do you think that I say that I personally return from shows greedier, more ambitious and more given to luxury, and I might add, with thoughts of greater cruelty and less humanity, simply because I have been among humans?

The other day, I chanced to drop in at the midday games, expecting sport and wit and some relaxation to rest men's eyes from the sight of human blood. Just the opposite was the case. Any fighting before that was as nothing; all trifles were now put aside - it was plain butchery.

The men had nothing with which to protect themselves, for their whole bodies were open to the thrust, and every thrust told. The common people prefer this to matches on level terms or request performances. Of course they do. The blade is not parried by helmet or shield, and what use is skill or defense? All these merely postpone death.

In the morning men are thrown to bears or lions, at midday to those who were previously watching them. The crowd cries for the killers to be paired with those who will kill them, and reserves the victor for yet another death. This is the only release the gladiators have. The whole business needs fire and steel to urge men on to fight. There was no escape for them. The slayer was kept fighting until he could be slain.

'Kill him! Flog him! Burn him alive!' (the spectators roared) 'Why is he such a coward? Why won't he rush on the steel? Why does he fall so meekly? Why won't he die willingly?"

Unhappy as I am, how have I deserved that I must look on such a scene as this? Do not, my Lucilius, attend the games, I pray you. Either you will be corrupted by the multitude, or, if you show disgust, be hated by them. So stay away."

[A mid 19th century account]

When the famine had actually come, and all the country was aghast, when supplies from all parts were poured in, -- what was done with these supplies? Why, the best that these inefficient housekeepers could do. The rice and Indian meal, both of which are excellent articles of food, were cooked in such a manner that, in most cases, they were actually unhealthy, and in all cases unpalatable. So unused were they to the use of that common article, rice, that they steeped it the night before, then poured the water off, without rubbing, and for three and four hours they boiled, stirred, and simmered this, till it became a watery jelly, disgusting to the eye and unsavory to the taste, for they never salted it; besides unwholesome for the stomachs of those who had always used a dry potato for food. The poor complained that it made them sick; they were accused of being ungrateful, and sometimes told they should not have any more; and the difficulty, if possible, was increased, by giving it out uncooked, -- for the starving ones in the towns had no fuel and they could not keep up a fire to stew it for hours, and many of them ate it raw, which was certainly better, when they had good teeth, than cooked in this unsavory way.

A man had died from hunger, and his widow had gone into the plowed field of her landlord to try to pick a few potatoes in the ridges which might be remaining since the harvest; she found a few -- the landlord saw her -- sent a magistrate to the cabin, who found three children in a state of starvation, and nothing in the cabin but the pot, which was over the fire. He demanded of her to show him the potatoes -- she hesitated; he inquired what she had in the pot -- she was silent; he looked in, and saw a dog, with the handful of potatoes she had gathered from the field. The sight of the wretched cabin, and still more, the despairing looks of the poor silent mother and the famished children, crouched in fear in a dark corner, so touched the heart of the magistrate, that he took the pot from the fire, bade the woman to follow him, and they went to the court-room together. He presented the pot, containing the dog and the handful of potatoes, to the astonished judge. He called the woman -- interrogated her kindly. She told him they sat in their desolate cabin two entire days, without eating, before she killed the half-famished dog; that she did not think she was stealing, to glean after the harvest was gathered. The judge gave her three pounds from his own purse; told her when she had used that to come again to him.

This was a compassionate judge, -- and would to God ______ could boast of many such.




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