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Archive for the ‘World History’ Category

In the “Insight” segment of my series on the Five “I”s of History, I briefly introduced the idea of a new “Vectors” feature in the PHR blog.  The basic theme I had in mind for this segment was that a proper study of history gives us “insight” into how the world around us came to be and the processes that govern how history is unfolding around us.

In that original post I also hinted that the first example of a “vector” that I would be discussing is what I call the “debt aggregation vector.” This “vector,” in my view, is a key mechanism governing how the ongoing global economic crisis is unfolding.  Here is what it is and why it matters, using the obvious and instructive example of Spain–one of the global dominoes that is now falling before the US, and whose fate will be determined by the precise implementation of the debt aggregation mechanism…

Let’s start with the official Spanish Debt-to-GDP.  This is the number that news agencies usually talk about when discussing the solvency of national governments.  As per this article, and countless others, it hovers somewhere around 75 to 80%.

Not bad–compared to the US anyways, which is now over 100%–or Italy, at 137%–or Greece, somewhere around 170%.

The problem with these figures is that they do not incorporate the reality that is debt aggregation.

Every country that has a debt problem–there are no major economies that don’t!–has layers of private and public debt residing below those of its federal government, which–when push comes to shove–are being aggregated to the federal level by some mechanism or other.

In Spain, we see the reality of this with recent news about Catalonia demanding a bailout from the Spanish government.

As discussed on Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis (which Powell History recommends) –the federal response has been to propose to collectivize/aggregate regional debt into  “hispanbonos,” or joint bonds, to facilitate debt financing.   This will allow local governments to continued to live beyond their means for some time, avoiding any more “austerity” (in the form of cutbacks in government spending) at a time when the Spanish economy is already in a depression, and where the spending of local governments provides jobs and nominal GDP that no one can accept dropping any further.

But the debt aggregation mechanism keeping the Spanish economy afloat does not just pertain to local governments being bolstered by national ones.  There is another axis of debt aggregation.  Recently Spain announced it would nationalize the third largest Spanish bank, Bankia.  This will add 24 Billion dollars or more to its debt–who knows, the figure increases almost daily.  In a refrain that is familiar to Americans, Bankia is considered “too big to fail,” and Spain’s socialization of its debt is characterized by government officials as an “investment.”

Following not long after this bit of news, it became evident that not just Bankia, but rather the entire Spanish banking system was in need of a bailout.  The latest of 19 EU emergency meetings on the European financial/debt crisis was focused precisely on the question of debt aggregation.   Indeed the entire trajectory of the European Union over the next two-to-three years depends on the answer to the question: to aggregate, or not to aggregate.

That really is the question.

If Germany agrees to issue so-called “Eurobonds” and to supranationalize the banks in the European Union, then the market will be fooled into thinking a solution has been found, and there will be a sense of normalcy returning to the financial world for perhaps a couple years.  What debt aggregation buys is time.  It is what a lot of commentators call “kicking the can down the road.”

Of course, if Germany does not agree, then it’s financial Armageddon for Europe.  Already, French journalist Pierre Jovanovic (sorry, it’s in French!) has been feverishly documenting the aggressive measures being taken by French banks to prevent bank withdrawals in that country.  The bank runs in Greece and Spain being well documented already, it will only take the slightest indication that the banks are on their own, for them all to face the kind of mayhem we all remember from the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  It’s not just George Soros, who recently weighed in on Bloomberg, who thinks the Euro experiment is at the edge of a cliff.

The entire financial market is begging for debt aggregation.  Spain’s debt financing, which is the measure of the market’s willingness to deal with Spain one-on-one, is becoming untenable.  With yields on Spanish 10-year bonds reaching for 7%, Spain needs a bailout of its own.  In the EU context national debt must be aggregated into supranational debt.

This is one of the favorite themes of new French president Hollande for propping up the Eurozone.  In this theory, all European borrowers can benefit from lumping their debt together with Germany, as the core economic powerhouse whose debt financing capability is (relatively) solid.  That way, profligate regions and nations can continue to pile on debt, while not having to pay the rates they otherwise would have to while bankrupting themselves.

Aggregation to this level in Europe is difficult, however, because the United States of Europe are not the federal equivalent of the United States of America.  Germans don’t want so-called “Eurobonds.”  Which is why different forms of more stealthy debt aggregation have been used already and will continue to be used.  The EFSF (“European Financial Stability Facility”) is supposedly morphing into the ESM (“European Stability Mechanism”), which will runs alongside the ELA (“Emergency Liquidity Assistance”) and LTRO (“Long Term Refinancing Operation”), and other sundry mechanisms concocted by central banking philosopher kings that the general populace cannot possible keep track of.  (Don’t think it’s just a European problem! How many Americans know the difference between QE1, QE Lite, QE2 and the Fed’s “Operation Twist”?)

Regardless, at some point, even though you can fool most of the people most of the time, you can’t fake reality.   The games governments are playing with the debt they have accumulated and the debt they have encouraged others to accumulate which they are now socializing lead only to one place: default.

Right now this only seems to be a problem for Greece and Spain.  But I invite every reader out there to go a little debt comparison shopping between the four largest economies in the world–Europe, the US, China and Japan.  If you’re American, and you’re worried about America’s debt, think about what debt aggregation will do to that debt, and how quickly the situation in America could get out of control.  California just voted to aggregate its debt to the federal level, by means of a phantom monorail.  And America’s most cash-strapped cities are now proposing to pay your student loans for you!  These and all the past and present debt-aggregation mechanisms that will pile more debt onto the federal government will eventually reach a dramatic end point.

Watch for it.  You’ll know when the next phase of the financial crisis is coming when debt-aggregation ceases to work.

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Japan has 54 nuclear reactors, but as of Saturday, not one of them will be in operation…

Before the 3/11 disaster, Japan relied on nuclear power for about 30% of its electricity, and there were plans to increase that to 50% by 2030 with the construction of new reactors.  Now what?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/may/03/japan-nuclear-power-closure

Chris Martenson, one of the experts I respect most on the topic of the on-going global economic crisis, has some thoughts about how to integrate Japan’s energy crisis within a broader framework.  Here’s his article:

http://www.chrismartenson.com/blog/japan-another-spinning-plate-global-economy-circus/72033

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Article 9 of the Japanese constitution reads:

Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. To accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.

As many people are aware, this, along with other essential features of the current Japanese constitution (such as the renunciation of the divinity of the Japanese emperor) were imposed on Japan by the conquering power of the United States following World War II.

In his book Nothing Less than Victory historian John David Lewis explores how the overwhelming use of force brought about the enduring peace with Japan, and one can hardly argue with the results of American policy when assessing the past 60 years, with Japan apparently serving as a loyal subordinate of the United States since the beginning of the Cold War.

But what if we expand the context of our apperception somewhat to a longer continuum of Japan’s past, present and future?  Why is it that geo-political expert George Friedman predicts war between the United States and Japan by the middle of the 21st century in his book The Next Hundred Years?

A meaningful prediction of Japan’s conduct through the next hundred years must be grounded in a proper assessment of Japan’s last hundred years, especially its cultural response to the geopolitical supremacy of first Europe and now the United States.  In 1HFA5-1: The History of Japan, we will explore how Japan responded to the arrival of America’s “black ships” under the command of Commodore Perry in 1854 by trying to overturn that supremacy.  Then, one hundred years later still, during the American occupation of 1945-52, the Japanese struggled to define a new path by accepting it.  Why then, one hundred years later–by 2045 to be sure–as Friedman predicts, will Japan have likely returned to being an belligerent nation once again?

Japan certainly appears quiescent.   What happens, however, when it is forced to declare national bankruptcy within the next five years, due to a debt problem that far exceeds that of the United States and that can no longer be evaded?  What happens when Japanese industry cannot get the raw materials it needs because of expanded wars in the Middle East?  What happens when these factors combined with Japan’s demographic implosion force the Japanese to choose between an even more acute subordinacy in world affairs and the “glorious” hope of a Japan reborn through the “way of the warrior”?   The most essential traits of Japanese culture in the evolving context of American supremacy make a return to war almost inevitable!  Find out why in 1HFA 5-1: The “First History” of Japan for Adults(Pre-registration specials available until April 19.)

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As promised, I’m inviting former First History clients of Powell History to revisit their history studies to explore how to apply what they’ve learned.  The goal is to practice the arts of iteration and integration–two of the Powell History “Five ‘I’s of History.

Of course, anyone who is interested is welcome to participate. So here is the “pop quiz”…

In 1878, Japan was desperate to modernize its army to catch up with the West. It had originally turned to Britain for help in developing its navy, and France for help in developing its army. Now, however, it shunned the French model that it had been following since the mid-nineteenth century and adopted another. Whose model was it and why did the Japanese adopt it?

For students of 1HFA, Part 2: Europe – Context and Foil, the answer is found in lecture 15.

BONUS QUESTION: What is the significance of this shift in Japanese policy to its conduct in the World Wars?

[Answer(s) provided with the next PHR History Pop Quiz!]

Interested in developing an integrated of Western and Eastern civilization?  1HFA5: Japan, China, and India  is coming this summer, and pre-registration is now open (until April 19).

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The new Powell History website features pre-registration specials on 1HFA5: Japan, China, India and the New Era of the Balance of Power.

Pre-registration is open from April 5 – 19 only, and you can save from $20 to $120 by pre-registering, so don’t miss out!

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Yesterday, the first of 2500 American troops arrived in Darwin, Australia to engage in training with the Australian Defense Force.  The exercise is part of a new defense pact, the reasoning behind which is explained by Australian Defense Minister Stephen Smith:

“We see this very much as responding and reflecting the fact that the world is moving into our part of the world, the world is moving to the Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean…The world needs to come to grips with the rise of China, the rise of India, the move of strategic and political and economic influence to our part of the world.”

Here’s the full article in the NY Times.

One of the crucial themes of the upcoming First History for Adults, Part 5: Japan, China, and India will be the “balance of power” and why postmodernity makes this construct so disproportionately important.  (Full course descriptions and pre-registration will be available starting tomorrow!)

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Announcing the "First History" of Asia for Adults!

Western civilization has dominated the world for centuries now. Until the 20th century European empires spanned the globe, subordinating every other culture. Now America stands as the world’s sole superpower. When Columbus sailed in 1492, however, it was to reach Asian civilizations described by Marco Polo whose wealth and power were in advance of the West. Over the course of the Age of Discovery and subsequent colonial and imperial periods, an inexorable tide seemed to carry that wealth and power from East to West. However, if the world’s economists and historians are to be believed, that tide is reversing—and just as inevitably as before. But are the “experts” right? Will the 21st century will be the “Asian Century”?

Any valid prediction must be anchored in history. Thus, Powell History presents:

A First History of Asia for Adults, Part 5 – Japan, China, and India: The New Era of the Balance of Power


Here is a basic outline of the course, with details to follow soon…

Part 1: Japan

(Jul14 – Sep6:  8 weekly lectures — mark your calendar!  Times TBA)

An industrial powerhouse whose infrastructure and environment have recently been devastated; now a net importer with a staggering debt-to-GDP; how will Japan’s insular culture emerge from the multiple crises it faces in the next generation?

Part 2: China

(Sep – Oct 2012; 8 lectures; exact dates TBA)

The world’s most populous nation, second largest economy, and the greatest creditor nation in history. How will its codependency with the United States – the largest debtor nation in history – affect its fragile oppressive “state capitalist” system?

Part 3: India

(Nov – Dec 2012; 8 lectures; exact dates TBA)

The world’s 2nd most populous nation is projected to have the largest economy on earth by 2050. Is India the most western of the great Asian nations? How did its utter subordination to Britain and subsequent independence define its cultural trajectory?

PLUS: A FREE BONUS LECTURE! For students of all three course segments: Preparing for the New Era of the Balance of Power.

As with all Powell History courses in the past, the lectures will be given live, so live attendance is an option via Internet and telephone conferencing, and recordings will also be available in MP3 format and via iTunes.  This course will also be given using a new WebEx  format currently being used in HistoryAtOurHouse, which means there will be a visual component as well.

More information on the attendance options, formatting of the material, and pricing will be available prior to the launch of pre-registration April 5th.  Look for more news in forthcoming posts of PHR.

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It will have occurred to some readers that the notion that the key pedagogical principles of history can be stated in the form of five “I“s is a little too convenient, if not downright gimmicky. Nonetheless, the principles are what they are, and they happen to each start with the letter “i.” (Those readers who adhere to a code of rational egoism may find this fact mildly amusing.)

I consider the three Is introduced thus far to be the cardinal values of history. They are forms of that which by means of history we seek to gain and or keep: powerful knowledge.  I have discussed these three Is with my students at various junctures, and so it may have surprised some of you to find that the number of them had expanded from three to five.   The reason for the expansion is that the next two key Is in the Powell History method are the means to those ends, which I’ve come to recognize as being as crucial as the ends themselves.

In evaluating the successes of my courses for adults and children over the past five years, I’ve had the opportunity to confirm without a doubt that in the pursuit of powerful knowledge about the past, the fundamental challenge is epistemological.

History is a plethora of facts. When presented in an un- or dis-integrated manner, its vast constellation of facts are impossible to understand or remember. Only by brute-force rote memorization do professional historians manage to do so within their subspecializations, but for normal (and psychologically healthy) human beings, who lack the motivation to pursue useless information, the past is an insurmountable overabundance of information.

That is why integration is the key to learning history.

Integration,” in the words of philosopher Ayn Rand, “is a cardinal function of man’s consciousness on all the levels of his cognitive development. First, his brain brings order into his sensory chaos by integrating sense data into percepts…His next step is the integration of percepts into concepts, as he learns to speak. Thereafter, his cognitive development consists in integrating concepts into wider and ever wider concepts, expanding the range of his mind.”

By means of historical integration, one’s awareness can expand to include 5000 years of recorded human experience across the full spectrum of human civilizations.

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IN THE PURSUIT OF POWERFUL KNOWLEDGE ABOUT THE PAST, THE FUNDAMENTAL CHALLENGE IS EPISTEMOLOGICAL.”

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Powell History integrates history like never before. The secret of the Powell History method is called “periodization.” Properly understood, periodization is not merely the breaking up of history into periods, but an abstract process of differentiation and integration, where the ultimate aim is the organization of history into a conceptually coherent whole. It is only in this form that history can optimally deliver the values of instruction, insight, and inspiration.

Students of the A First History for Adults series are already familiar with this technique to some extent.  It has actually been applied with far more rigor, and with fantastic results in the junior high and high school classes of History At Our House — which has allowed me to learn that much more about it and thus permitted me to study and communicate history with an ever greater efficiency.  (The power of this method will be demonstrated to a new degree in the upcoming A First History for Adults Part 5: Japan, China, and India, coming this summer.  Registration opens in April, so stay tuned!) 

Part of the purpose of the PHR newsletter, is to help my students and all adult learners of history better understand this method by acting as a forum to publish information about the ongoing development of this method, including the application of the method to specific examples from ancient, European, American, and world history, which brings us to the fifth “I”…

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The past year has been an incredibly busy time for me, with the launch of new products and a trip around the world, but I’m back, with some exciting announcements for the coming months!

For both those of you new to Powell History and those who’ve been around from the start, let me get you caught up on the history of Powell History, as well as recent goings-on.

For over five years Powell History has provided an unmatched educational experience for history students of all ages.  In 2006, the first sessions of “A First History for Adults, Part 1 (The Story of America)” were offered to students across the United States and the world.   A year later, History At Our House—the ultimate history resource for homeschoolers—was launched, making live professional history instruction available to homeschooled children of elementary grades everywhere.

Both products have grown by leaps and bounds.  Over the the past four years, A First History for Adults has expanded to include:

Part 2 – Europe: Context and Foil
Part 3 – The Islamist Entanglement
Part 4 – The Ancient Background,

…and European History Through Art for adults!

HistoryAtOurHouse has grown even more rapidly along side, as a fully integrated curriculum, offering a three-year program rotation of ancient, European, and American history for students from second to twelfth grade.

In 2010, the HistoryAtOurHouse model was adopted to begin making a wider range of homeschooling products available with the launch of MusicAtOurHouse, a music history and appreciation program taught by composer M. Zachary Johnson.

ScienceAtOurHouse was added to the growing array of programs available in 2011, and is currently enjoying great success thanks to work of curriculum director Dr. John Krieger of VanDamme Academy and life science instructor Rachel Miner.  Based on early progress in this venture, we plan to expand ScienceAtOurHouse into a three-year program rotation of life science, physical science, and earth science for students from 2nd to 9th grade.

2012 promises to be the best year yet with new curriculum offerings for children and adults alike.  Plans are in the works for literature, math, and physics in the coming years.   And for students of history — both homeschoolers and life-long learners — the coming year will be extremely exciting:  our focus will shift to the history of Asia.  A First History for Adults, Part 5: Japan, China and India – will begin this summer! — exploring the theme of the subordination of the major eastern cultures to western civilization and the evolving responses of each of them, which will play a crucial role in shaping the world we live in.

History At Our House will also focus on Asia in the coming year, breaking from its fundamental three year program rotation of ancient, European, and American history for a unique spectrum of courses on Asia, including units on the history of India, China, Japan, and the Middle East.

2012 is also the year when Powell History’s product lines will move to a new on-line platform developed by Cando.Com.

The new PHR blog and newsletter will serve as the vehicle for news on these exciting developments. It will also serve the broader purpose of promoting the unique value of history using Powell History methods.  Please look for the upcoming feature articles on The Five “I“s of the Powell History philosophy of history, and a stream of articles in which that philosophy will be put into action!

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Through the HistoryThroughArt program, you’ll learn to see history in a new way by combining the abstract lessons of history with the visual power of art!

Aren’t you tired of history books that bombard you with too many facts? Having trouble seeing the “big picture”? Are you convinced that understanding history is just not something you can do as an adult? If you’re like me, you had a terrible history education. (Who among us actually liked history in high school? Who among us learned anything of value?!)

After graduating from college, I started to really learn history for myself. I had to…I was teaching it! I already had a love of art as well, and these two passions slowly came together. For the past three years, I’ve been using art to enjoy history even more and to help my homeschooling students across the country better understand history as part of the HistoryAtOurHouse curriculum.

The verdict is in. Students and parents agree: it’s awesome! Art really helps bring the past to life. In fact, it has worked so well, I decided to pass on the the unique benefits of this program to adults.

Why learn history through art?
History is about the past. As obvious as that is, to recognize this simple fact helps us to understand why history can be so difficult to learn. There’s no way to experience history directly. The only way to learn about the past is to read about it. As engaging as some writers can be, it still takes a ton of reading to piece together the story of the past. Even if you’re willing to make that effort, and even if you are able to assimilate all of history’s stories, what you’re left with in the end is a lot of abstract information that isn’t easy to connect to your life here and now.

That’s where art can help.

Art has the ability to show us the past in visual form. Simply put, art lets us see history. In some ways, art can function much like photography and film do today. But art can also do so much more than document history. As we’ll see throughout this course, art can represent much more than just a moment in time. It can depict the meaning of history.


This is where the power of art can transform our awareness of history. The value of history lies not in its myriad facts, but in their meaning. In most instances, however, the meaning of events is the most difficult thing to grasp of all. After you’ve performed the research, you still need to do a lot of difficult thinking. Although there are no short cuts or “quick fixes” when it comes to this challenge, there are tools for facilitating the process. Art is one such tool. Through art we can see history’s meaning.

It’s a cliche, but it’s true: a picture really is worth a thousand words! In fact, when it comes to history, a picture–if it’s a great work of art–might be worth a lot more than that!

Program Details
History Through Art for Adults will operate in the same way as A First History for AdultsTM.


  • The program will operate on a three-year rotation: Ancient, European, and American history.
    • This year, the program will focus on European history.

    • Students will have two options for attending: live lectures, via conference-call and/or on-line recordings.

    • The program will run from September to June, with two seminars per month.

    • That’s 20 lectures in all!

    • Classes start September 2nd!
      • Each interactive seminar will last 1 hour to 1.5 hours.
      • Students will receive images and links via a dedicated class web page.
    • Live classes will be held Wednesday evenings at 8:30 PM Central Time (9:30 PM Eastern, 6:30 PM Pacific), usually on the first and third Wednesday of the month.

    • All lectures will be recorded and made available indefinitely for listeners to download for repeat listening.


    In every lecture, you’ll get an essentialized history lesson to help you learn the story or recapture the context. Then we will examine works of art that help us visualize the characters and events–and that help us grasp and retain the meaning of the story. Every lesson will combine the power of history and art!



    Can’t attend Wednesday nights?

      • You can listen to the lectures on-line, anytime.
      • Lectures can easily be downloaded to an iPod or other portable player.
      • You can listen as many times as you like.
    • Like A First History for AdultsTM classes, History Through Art for Adults classes are recorded.


    Program Cost

    History Through Art for Adults is available for only $20/month!

    • That’s less than the price of a movie per lecture! (And it’s better art!)


    Want to try it, before you buy the whole course?

    • Click here, and select a single month of lectures.



    The HistoryThroughArt program has been one of the most successful components of the HistoryAtOurHouse homeschooling curriculum of Powell History.  Combined with the unique pedagogical methods of A First History for AdultsTM, I’m certain that you will be amazed by how much you enjoy learning history!  Explore your registration options here.

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