Wednesday, October 30, 2013

dissertations for Early Mormonism

From a footnote in
Compton, Todd M.; Gentry, Leland Homer (2012-01-26). Fire and Sword: A History of the Latter-day Saints in Northern Missouri, 1836-39 (ebook Part 1) (Kindle Locations 218-227). Greg Kofford Books. Kindle Edition. 
comes the suggestion of some places to look, including
Larry C. Porter, “A Study of the Origins of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the States of New York and Pennsylvania, 1816–1831” (Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1971); Max H. Parkin, “A History of the Latter-day Saints in Clay County, Missouri, from 1833 to 1837”; and Milton V. Backman Jr., The Heavens Resound: A History of the Latter-day Saints in Ohio, 1830–1838. Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith. Several of the women I researched had significant Missouri experiences: Emily and Eliza Partridge, daughters of Bishop Edward Partridge; Agnes Coolbrith Smith, wife of Don Carlos Smith; Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner; Eliza R. Snow; Lucy Walker; and Martha McBride Knight, wife of Bishop Vinson Knight. Stephen C. LeSueur, The 1838 Mormon War in Missouri; Alexander L. Baugh, A Call to Arms: The 1838 Defense of Northern Missouri.

Mormonism and authorship attribution

An interesting reference (though no details as of yet) on how Sidney Rigdon rigged up the book of Mormon by talking the writings of a fantasy writer of that age, Solomon Spaulding, and giving them a theological work-over.

Alexander Campbell on the book of Mormon

Ah, the ease of the Internet. Turns out that Dr Alexander Campbell's book Delusions, a contemporary refutation of the book of Mormon, is available here and here.

His key points of internal evidence, by which Campbell means, as in light with the remainder of the Bible, are:

  • (p.11) God separated the Aaronite and the Levite priesthood so strictly that Hebrews 7 points out that even Jesus could not approach the altar and usurp the position of Levi.
  • (p.12) The departure from Jerusalem and Canaan, far from being experienced as a curse and punishment (see Deuteronomy 29,21), is accepted happily by Levi & Nephi. But positing any other land makes God into a liar, breaking His prophecies. 
  • (p.12) Neither do the Jews show any sadness for Jerusalem and the Temple of the Lord, as they did in Babylon.
  • (p.13) Paul states that some of his knowledge about the Apostles are secrets that are only now being revealed (e.g. Romans 11), but the Book of Mormon gives them out hundreds of years earlier.
  • (p.13) Campbell is suspicious of the fact that so much doctrinal controversies discussed in New York during the 1820s, citing "infant baptism, ordination, the trinity, regeneration, repentance, justification, the fall of man, the atonement, transubstantiation, fasting, penance, church government, religious experience, the call to the ministry, the general resurrection, eternal punishment, who may baptize, and even the question of freemasonry, republican government, and the rights of man" (p.13).
  • (p.13) John the Baptist is said to preach in Bethabara and Jesus claimed to be born in Jerusalem.
His key points of external evidence are:
  • Smith and his collaborators cannot bear witness for themselves, as John 5:31 ("If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.") points out.
  • The test for prophets is whether their prophecies have come true (Deut 18,22; not 18,3 as in the pamphlet).

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Ian Gregory on Maps as Bad Graphs

I strongly suspect that I completely agree with the sentiment of Ian Gregory implied by the title
Gregory I.N. (2008) “‘A map is just a bad graph:’ Why spatial statistics are important in historical GIS” in Knowles A.K. (ed.) Placing History: How maps, spatial data and GIS are changing historical scholarship. ESRI Press: Redlands CA. pp. 123-149
In fact, walking back from the Institute for European Ethnology yesterday, where I had picked up a copy of Henri Lefebvre's Production of Space, I was thinking the same thing. But boy, is it difficult to get a hold of that article.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Elizabeth Morgan on Holy Scripture as fundamental category of Systematic Theology

In her presentation, Ms Morgan focused on the question of how the Holy Scripture is available, especial with respect to the question of the Middle of the Holy Scripture.

The theme is the middle of scripture, which is treated from various theological disciplines, and from various interests--canonical, polemical for exclusion of old writings, unification of OT and NT (possibly via the middle of the OT then as a precondition.

The main systematic sketch is the one proposed by Ingolf Dalferth, who defines
Jesus Christus ist die externe Mitte der Schrift.
Identification of categories of that conceptual framework pile, and figuring out functions and definitions. This plays into practical efforts as well, for example, in the selection of pericopes within the EKD.

The term middle of Holy Writ because it has organizing influence and is a rhetoric figure, possibly even a tropos.

The middle itself is related to medium. Historically it was called centrum scripturae, the midpoint of the circle, possibly even the Archimedian, but is only attested for with Johann Gerhard (Loci Theologici), who claims to have this from Luther (though we have no record for that).

Alternate terms such as Evangelium, Kanon and Wort Gottes are all related to this term, but the specific details are complicated to explicate.

"Schriftprinzip" is itself a very late term, from the 19th century; the principium primum is the term that Luther employed.

Martin Kähler argued that the "eklektische Rezitation einzelner Bibelbelege" was not sufficient to fulfil the principium primum.

Scripture comes from the Latin scriptum, which is both the line and the act of writing, as well as the writ. But there is an oscillation between the singular and the plural; the Greek plural byblia becomes a singular in the biblia. "katas tas graphas" is translated as "gemaess der Schrift" in Luther's translation.

Scripture becomes the principium cognoscendi of the theology, which means it also becomes the norma normans.

Dalferth wants to see scripture inseperably tied to church and interpretation.

Sola Scriptura is the key with Luther. There are additional solae, specifically adding Christus, gratia and fide. But Luther does not provide the four as a block. The English tradition has a fifth, from Bach, where the glory of God is emphasized. What about verbo (which Jüngel suggested in reaction to the 19th century criticism) and experientia

The function of writs in the early protestant orthodoxy is expressed in five functions, namely auctoritas causativa, auctoritas normativa, sufficientia, Claritas and Efficiata.


  • Maybe the christological focus of Luther became the middle of the scripture focus in the reprocessing.
  • Systems of thought get worked out in later phases, though Luther may not have had all the bits and pieces put together, but that does not deny the prevent them being present.
  • The question of the OT needs separate treatment, and a focusing of the terminology needs to happen sooner rather than later.
  • Exposition present middle and scripture rather separately, but they are theologumena already and maybe cannot be treated helpfully without that context.
  • There is a common reformatorical pattern here, that can be found in Zwingli and Calvin as well.
  • Lectio continua does not require a middle of the scripture in the same way.
  • The positioning of scripture and tradition is key here, the role of the wildcard, which the middle can accept. 
  • Maybe the organization of the pericopes should be the umbrella of the whole effort.
  • Check Morphologie des Luthertums in the two volumes for details on the construction of the sola complex.
  • Spickermann's publication of a new biblical theology.
  • Problem of the lack of literature and littera as terminology.


  • Maybe the term is an exclusionary term, not an organizing term? 
  • Maybe you only need a middle if you have a historical canon that is actually heterogeneous?
  • Shouldn't there be just one sola?

Vischer's early copper print of Korneuburg

This image is of a fresco in the Niederösterreichische Hilfswerk in Korneuburg, replicating a colored copper print of M. Vischer of the city of Korneuburg from 1671.

The picture is almost a case study of the problems of interpreting historical art for historical purposes. 

Vischer needed to make money, so he had to generate appealing views if the cities in question; and he worked on a large number of cities in the Hapsburg empire. So he polished up and tightened up the vistas, leaving one to guess as to how accurate they were.

Several cases in point, in no particular order

• the city condition is way too good; the Swedish commander Torsten and his troops had destroyed some 60 houses when taking the city during the 30 Year War, blown corners off the city tower, etc
• the castle of Kreutzenstein is too proximate to the city and in too good a condition, as Torsten had the fortifications blasted before departing
• the Hungarian Gate had additional structures (Vorwerk) that are not depicted
• the relationship to the Danube and the absence of the shipping channels cannot be right

Of course, Vischer got many things right
• one can make out the city tower, the city church St Aegid, and the tower if the Capuccian monestary
• the large buildings in the center are most likely the roof tops of the salt silos
• due to being a landesfürstliche city there were to be no buildings around the outside fortifications, which is what Vischer depicts

But that still leaves two church spires unexplained (the Augustine priory? Private house chapels?) and gives in general no confidence in the specifics of the rooftops depicted.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Geographical Non-Determinism

Winfried Schenk writes in historische Geographie 3rd Ed, WBG 2011:

... um dem Vorwurf des Geodeterminismus vorzubeugen, ist festzuhalten, dass die Historische Geographie dabei keine zeitlosen Gunst- und Ungunsträume kennt, sondern nur zeittypisch zu nutzende Potentiale ....

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Monetary Background to Spanish Treasure Hunting?

I have always wondered why Joseph Smith Sr, Joseph Smith Jr and their accomplices were treasure-hunting for Spanish treasures. Now, Rothbard's monetary history of the United States might shed some light on this mystery.
Among the gold coins circulating in America were the French guinea, the Portuguese “joe,” the Spanish doubloon, and Brazilian coins, while silver coins included French crowns and livres. [48-49]
More specifically, Rothbard writes:
By far the leading specie coin circulating in America was the Spanish silver dollar, defined as consisting of 387 grains of pure silver. ... Spanish dollars came into the North American colonies through lucrative trade with the West Indies. The Spanish silver dollar had been the world’s outstanding coin since the early sixteenth century, and was spread partially by dint of the vast silver output of the Spanish colonies in Latin America. More important, however, was that the Spanish dollar, from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, was relatively the most stable and least debased coin in the Western world.[Fn 2] [49]
And furthermore:
Originally, Congress provided in 1793 that all foreign coins circulating in the United States be legal tender. Indeed, foreign coins have been estimated to form 80 percent of American domestic specie circulation in 1800. Most of the foreign coins were Spanish silver, and while the legal tender privilege was progressively canceled for various foreign coins by 1827, Spanish silver coins continued as legal tender and to predominate in circulation. [p.61]
If Rothbard's assertion is correct, then there is a high likelihood that older treasures, before the introduction of US monies, contained Spanish silver coins.  As the Spanish silver coins fell out of use during the 19th century, people finding the old coins would have assumed that the hoards themselves were buried by Spaniards.

Literature List 

  • Rothbard, Murray N. (2010-10-26). History of Money and Banking in the United States: The Colonial Era to World War II. Ludwig von Mises Institute. Kindle Edition.

More on Danto

We need to discuss the fact that the interpretation of processes must be over rational and over purposeful.

This is actually discussed to an interesting extent in Von Mises Human Action. But it does not bring out the relevancy of the internal consistency of the reconstruction process correctly in my opinion.

Possible Stratifications of early Mormon History

If we want to apply Braudel's conceptualization framework, suitably updated, to the rise of Mormonism in upstate New York, Ohio, Illinois and Missouri, then we need to identify the separate temporal strata of the context in which the event history plays out. This is equivalent to asking what would be in the three "parts" of our The American North during the Life of Joseph Smith Jr, if the parody be permitted.

One of the exciting aspects of taking this tack is that concept of la longue durée is potentially best applied not to the geographical features, but to those of the history of mentalities. Specifically, the continued presence of Gnostic and Hermetic traditions in Mormon cosmology is well worked out, as is the presence of folk magic and treasure hunting--two traditions that stack up as if internally segregated parts of la longue durée (given the temporal limits on Spanish colonization on the American continent).

Other mentalities, themselves with significant durations, were just coming to an end. While during Joseph Smith Jr's lifetime, methodism was still a rebellious new religious movement for the New Yorkers, it would soon settle and become part of the religious establishment, akin to the way 21st century Baptism has become to be equated with conservatism in the continental US of A (esp. in the South).

Alternatively, the specifics of geography were experiencing massive revision during the time. The Erie canal, completed during this time and visible from Joseph Smith Jr's home in Palmyra, fundamentally changed the context of the Great Lake region; the beginning of a longue durée comparable to an earth quake changing a regional hydrology. The rise of the steamboats on the Ohio river, exemplified by their early adoption during the Mormon time in Nauvoo, also form part of this backdrop of establishing new patterns with significant continuation (in 2011, 14.3 million tons of goods worth 6 billion US$ moved through the state of Ohio via the Erie Canal and the Ohio river).

As innovative as Joseph Smith Jr, Oliver Cowley and the other thinkers of the early Mormon church were in working out their relationship with the Christian tradition, they drew on local patterns of settlement, farming practice, commerce and banking, music and entertainment, policing and military organization. These patterns belong to la duree médiane, so they not date back to even older times.
They also drew on the rich organizational experience of religious communities, be they the Carians or some of the Pietistic prophetic groups in northern Pennsylvania that Smith Jr and Cowley were familiar with since their youth.
There was "sectarian know-how" here that the rising Mormon church took advantage of, continuously.

Scripts versus Ideal Types

On reconsideration, it appears more helpful to treat ideal types as concepts of discovery rather than presentation.
They do capture some of the relations at the type level but the underspecified form makes them more useful for the research phase than for the presentation or description phase.
The precise way in which they are underspecified is their degree of quantification with respect to the relationships.

clarifying temporal and conceptual model relationships

Even if one exempts la durée médiane for a moment, there is a relationship that exists between la longue durée and structural history on the one hand, and la histoire événementielle and event history on the other. Thus, there is a parallelism of temporal duration and its description.

The appropriate way to handle the shorter one is the script instantiation. The appropriate way to handle the other, however, seems to be Golemization, which corresponds to the Weberian ideal type. (This suggests that the process description is what goes with la durée médiane, though that observation fairly screams for a differentiation between scripts and processes.

However, the ideal type pushes the focus from the temporal components to the qualitative relationships of the conceptual model. As the sum of all identified feature types, and some of their quantificational constraints, it is a description of type level potentialities. It is the view taken from the side of the structure, without the temporal constraints of the structure instantiation.

Again, this needs work for clarification.

Upgrading Braudel's model palette

Previously we observed that the conceptual framework for Braudel's Mediterranean needs to be not only extracted, but also updated to reflect past thinking, Braudel's own reconsiderations and more recent thinking on the issues involved by others.

As far as the past thinking is concerned, the odd thing about the Mediterranean is that it's use of historical geography is much less sophisticated than the use is in Lucien Febvre's Introduction géographique (Paris, 1922). This is even more surprising when one considers that Febvre and Braudel did not meet until the 1930s.

Braudel of course had a much larger oeuvre than just the Mediterranean, as often as he returned to the subject matter in revisions and re-scriptions. It would be a caricature of Braudel to not revise his stance from the Mediterranean, where helpful, from the latter works on Capitalism, the identity of France, the History of Civilizations, and various other works. 

Braudel had no direct followers in his approach to historical authorship, but The Corrupting Sea by Horden & Purcell, the richly illustrated The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean by David Abulafia, and The Middle Sea: A History of the Mediterranean by John Julius Norwich all define and differentiate themselves with respect to Braudel and deserve to influence palette construction.

The "middle duration" (la durée médiane, for want of a better word) was always the step-child of Braudel's model, more illustrated than explicated with the business cycles. But it is in this area of research that population biologist Peter Turchin and his work on clio-dynamics (Secular Cycles; War, Peace and War; Historical Dynamics) has made most relevant contributions, extending the dynamic feedback descriptions from populations to socio-political groups such as artistocracies. I strongly suspect that Braudel would have embraced Turchin's work and found good use for it in yet another rewrite of the Mediterranean

The final update that needs to happen is the elimination of any triptych restriction of the temporal stratification. There is no justifiable reason to have just three layers in the historical cake; rather, the number of layers needs to be determined by the temporal aspects of the subject matter at hand and the duration of the various influences. It makes sense to cluster and sort the temporal durations, but there is no advantage to hard-code the cluster size to three. The work on knowledge representation for processes in cell and plant biology, where multiple cycles interlock at different rates and durations to form larger processes, is an example of such interactions.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Building the Model Palette

The construction of the model palette mentioned previously is not restricted to a simple reading of the three volumes of the Mediterranean in various translations, with an eye toward the French single-volume first edition.

The model palette construction process needs to also include a clarification of what the model palette is and what is construction means. This is the place to discuss the difference between scripts (Schank & Abelson) and ideal types (Weber), the problems of mapping plans and goals (Schank & Abelson) onto events (Danto), and the discovery of explanatory rules (Danto again). It is also the place to differentiate oneself from postmodernism and the "large narrative" discussions (Morris), to explicate my personal Kripkensteinian stance, and to accept the relevancy criticism from Danto's demolition of the ideal chronicler (which Braudel seems to not accept for the longue durée, as he pretends to describe the geography independent of the future uses he will put the description to).

basic task premise

The basic premise of the research task is to
Extract the conceptual framework of Fernand Braudel's Mediterranean, dust it off, apply it to the early history of Mormonism, see what you get, and thence extrapolate.
This approach breaks down into five major undertakings

  1. Enumerate the conceptual framework of Fernand Braudel's work (a.k.a. the Model Palette), namely the parts that respectively belong to
    1. La Longue Durée
    2. the anonymous middle duration "la durée médiane" (business cycles)
    3. La Histoire événementielle
  2. Update the framework using
    1. earlier works that Braudel "misunderstood"
    2. later works by Braudel that clarify, correct or rebalance insights
    3. later works on the Mediterranean
    4. later works on the conceptual problems that Braudel raises
  3. Apply conceptual framework to the Rise of Mormonism 
    1. reorganizing the material into temporal strata
    2. within strata, identifying appropriate models for making sense of specific historiologumena
  4. Evaluate the insights of the Model Palette to current State of the Art of Mormonism historiography
  5. Re-contextualize the Model Palette's strengths and weaknesses within the current debates of Church and confessional historiography
In, as it were, a nutshell.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Ulbricht on ethnology assisting social historiography

In the introduction to Von Huren und Rabenmüttern. Weibliche Kriminalität in der Frühen Neuzeit, Böhlau 1995, editor Otto Ulbricht makes several good points about the interaction between structures and the individual, some of which appear to be drawn from ethnology.

On page 26 of the introduction, Ulbricht writes
Aber wenn auch einmal Strukturen übermächtig wurden, so wurden sie es selbst in dem Augenblick nicht in gleicher Weise für alle; .... [p.26]
But even when structures became overwhelmingly powerful, even in that moment they did not become so for everyone in the same way; .... [p.26] 
 This insight leads Ulbricht to point to a general way in which structures, conceptualized here as represented through statistics, and individuals need to be thought of as interacting.
Statt den einzelnen Menschen hinauszuaggregieren, statt ihn zu einer Puppe zu machen, die einzig und allen an Fäden hängt, die der anonyme "Spieler", die Struktur, in der Hand hat, scheint der Versuch sinnvoll, in geschlechtsspezifischer Perspektive festzustellen, welche subjektiven Motive im einzelnen Fall vorlagen, welche Bedeutungen die handelnden Subjekte mit ihren Taten verbanden, in welche Denk- und Gefühlssysteme diese Gedanken einzubetten sind, ob sich Identitäten herausarbeiten lassen, und welche sozialen Netzen die Personen selbst angehörten und wie die einzelnen Teile agierten und auf die Tat reagierten. [p.26]
Instead of aggregating away the individual human, instead of turning them into a puppet which exclusively hangs by the thread of that anonymous player, the structure, we think it sensible to attempt to determine, in a gender-specific fashion, which subjective motives were present in the particular case; which subjective motives were present in the case; which meanings the active subjects attributed to their deeds; which systems of thought and feeling embed these thoughts; what identities can be identified; and which social networks the people belonged to and how the individual parts acted and reacted to the deed. [p.26]
Ulbricht draws these conclusions from the literature cited in footnote 135, which is attached to the cited passage, mentioning specifically:

  • Hans Medick, "Missionare im Ruderboot" Ethnologische Erkenntnisweisen als Herausforderung an die Sozialgeschichte, in: Geschichte & Gesellschaft  10 (1984), 295-319.
  • Hans Medick, Entlegene Geschichte? Sozialgeschichte und Mikro-Historie im Blickfeld der Kulturanthropologie, in: Joachim Matthes (Hrsg), Zwischen den Kulturen, Göttingen (Schwartz) 1992, 167-178.
  • Giovanni Levi, On Microhistory, in: Peter Burke (ed), New Perspectives in Historical Writing, Cambridge 1991, 99-113.
  • Otto Ulbricht, Mikrogeschichte -- Versuch einer Vorstellung, in: Geschichte in Wissenschaft und Unterricht 45 (1994), 347-367.