Thursday, July 06, 2006

Naughty bits

Who says history books are boring? Well, Freedom Just Around The Corner certainly isn't. It is chock full of interesting facts and analysis. While reviewing David Hackett Fisher's concepts of regional emigrants from Britain bringing their folkways with them to America, McDougall talks about how place names came as well. Apparently the Scots-Irish were given to the ribald rather than the serious, so they gave a possibly giardia ridden stream the name Shitbritches. A rather more happy place was given the name Tickle Cunt. We can only guess whether Fucking Creek was meant as a recommendation or an aspersion.

On a more serious note, he also delves into interesting issues in American history such as why did the Salem witch trials happen. Sure, paranoid sexist society and all that, but that was true for a century before and a century (or more?) later. So why in 1692? McDougall argues it is because the collapse of Stuart power in England left a vacuum in America that the Whigs had yet to fill. This made New England in particular insecure in the face of French and Indian depredations. They were all the more ready to accept out of control witch trials. It's little bits like this that make the book so fun to read.

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