Saturday Showcase | February 27, 2021 Showcase



AskHistorians is filled with questions seeking an answer. Saturday Spotlight is for answers seeking a question! It’s a place to post your original and in-depth investigation of a focused historical topic.

Posts here will be held to the same high standard as regular answers, and should mention sources or recommended reading. If you’d like to share shorter findings or discuss work in progress, Thursday Reading & Research or Friday Free-for-All are great places to do that.

So if you’re tired of waiting for someone to ask about how imperialism led to “Surfin’ Safari;” if you’ve given up hope of getting to share your complete history of the Bichon Frise in art and drama; this is your chance to shine!

Short Answers to Simple Questions | February 24, 2021 SASQ

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How were iron WWII bunkers made?

Here's a picture of what I'm talking about.


These things were massive, did they have a giant furnace on site that they would use to create these? Were they created somewhere else and shipped? Were they solid iron?

Pardon my ignorance

Did cowboys smoke weed back in the times of the Wild West?
Today, you can find many U.S. government footage from the 1950s depicting nuclear tests on YouTube. Considering the contemporary secrecy around these tests, who was the primary audience for these films when they were created?

Considering the videos typically have narration explaining the sequence of events on a non-technical level, I assume that they wouldn't have been for project staff. Were they for the military? If so, in what context were they shown?

Example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ll0Kn3fWs-s

Do we have any records or memoirs of how female Soviet soldiers reacted to the mass rape during the invasion of Germany?
In the German tv show Babylon Berlin, we see two young women share an apartment with a man— the lease says he has it all day, they have it 7 pm-7 am. Was this type of agreement common, or even legal? Was there a shortage of affordable housing in the Weimar Republic?
At the conclusion of the Chinese Civil War, how exactly did ~800,000 people manage to retreat to Taiwan?
In 1938 Stalin proposed G.M. Malenkov as the Head of the NKVD, however "a majority of the Politburo recommended L.P. Beria for the post"(Getty, Manning). Does this event indicate that Stalin was actually not in control of the party?
why did Yugoslavia's Economy Collapse in the 80s?

after WW2, Yugoslavia had developed a unique economic system based on worker's self-management that provided a third way in the cold war between Western Capitalism and Soviet Communism. While it had it's fair share of issues, it was quite successful for much of it's history and brought years of peace, stability and prosperity that many in the Balkans look back fondly upon (especially considering what came after it)

however, in 1980 just after the death of Tito, the country began to enter a major economic crisis that brought about inflation, unemployment and drove the one booming economy to a grinding halt. it was a major shock at the time and as someone personally interested in Studying the Yugoslav experiment in a more market-focused form of Socialism, I've yet to figure out what even caused this sudden collapse of a once innovative and effective economic system.

What caused the collapse of the Yugoslav Economy in 1980? was it a result of the major oil crisis at the time, the large amount of foreign debt the country had accumulated, from contradictions stemming inherently from their worker-run system or as a result of deviating from it towards private enterprise and capitalist reform?

Why did the Nation of Islam reject Christianity as the religion of the colonizers, while embracing Islam as a “black” religion, when Islam was brought to Africa by Arab conquerors?
"The Jew Among Thorns" was an infamously antisemitic fairy tale recorded by the Brothers Grimm. Were there any early modern European folk tales that included Jews in a non-antisemitic context/treated them sympathetically?
How did the US go from a place where it was almost one’s patriotic duty - for women, children **and** men - to knit “for the boys” in WWI and WWII to a place where, by the mid-to-late ‘50’s, knitting became taboo for men and boys? What changed so significantly after WWII?
I've talked to many people from China who have been surprised that the Sunzi Binga (Master Sun's Military Methods, better known as "Sun Tzu's Art of War") is popular and well-known in the West. How did it become so ubiquitous?

*Bingfa in the title, obviously.

I'm guessing some of its popularity must be due to its use in business and management theory and so on - is that all there is to it? Quite a few Chinese people (all in their 20's, I should note) I've spoken to have noted that while they certainly know about it, it's considered a relatively speaking obscure work in China and not something they'd expect Westerners to know about.

European infantry is often depicted as carrying their kit and living equipment going into battle, while African infantry (Zulus, etc.) as mostly bare save for a shield and spear. Did African warriors not need the equipment while on the march? How much did they actually carry while in battle?
How were land and property disputes handled before modern map making techniques emerged?

Let’s say I’m a medieval land owner. I’ve got a decent sized estate, but it’s too big to be aware of the goings on of every corner of it at all times. One day, I notice that some squatters or herders or what have you have been making incursions onto my land without permission. How do I resolve this, and how are the boundaries of my property made known and enforced?

I used medieval Europe as an example, but really any time or place will do for the answers.

On a more macro level, how did states define their borders, especially if there was no clear geographical boundaries? If the boundary was a mountain range or hills, who decided if the near or far side was the border? Or what if their was a drought and a river used to demarcate a border dried up, what happened?

How do academic historians view popular historians like David McCullough, Nathaniel Philbrick, or Shelby Foote?
How did Filipinos get their last names when the Spaniards colonized?

My last name is the same name of a an "ancient town" in the Philippines, and I was just wondering how and why that's the last name?

It seems like my ancestors haven't really moved around a lot either, until they moved to America (for what reason, I don't know)

Does anyone know how the naming system worked during colonial times and what people during this time did?


Trying to understand medieval economical logic in Roman Empire, I was wondering: how well would an Emperor or Nobleman in the 11th century be expected to know how to do math?

Very broadly speaking, if an Emperor were presented with a proposition to cut 1/3 of a total of 400 gold coins in taxes of some province, would an average educated person be expected to do these calculations by head?

How did Sigmund Freud arrived to his own assessment that homosexuality isn't a vice nor a degradation?

Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia on counterculture wrt to lgbt.

"Sigmund Freud publicly expressed his opinion that homosexuality was "assuredly no advantage, but it is nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation; it cannot be classified as an illness; we consider it to be a variation of the sexual function, produced by a certain arrest of sexual development".

From Freud's own point of view, what scientific basis did he have not to see homosexuality as being a health-related disorder? This seems counter to the later classification of homosexuality by scholars in the 1950's as being a mental disorder, which has then been retracted as such decades later. Not only that, Freud's views is counter to his contemporary culture's views on homosexuality.

Edit: added more information

How did American accents come into existence?

One of the answers I've read to this on previous posts is that American spelling changed the pronunciation, but if that's the case wouldn't Canada still use British pronunciation?

The Godfather portrays mid-century Italian-American mobsters as having a sort of honor code that drew a line at participating in the drug trade. Was this a reality, or just a plot device to make the organized criminal protagonists somewhat principled and sympathetic?
Which religion did Bosnia and Herzegovina have before the invasion of the Ottoman Empire?

And why did so many Bosnians convert to Islam compared to the rest of Balkans? Did converts face any social repercussions?

How did 13th century workers build a castle in water?

I've just seen this (https://www.reddit.com/r/europe/comments/ltjljh/sirmione_castle_italy/?utm_medium=android_app&utm_source=share) post about Sirmione Castle in Italy. Some of the walls are partially submerged as it is a fortified port. How did they build such walls?

I have tried googling but all I got were instructions on how to make fortified port (the drink) and information about moats.

Would the British Army at the Battle of Camden really have fired exploding shells from their field artillery, as depicted in the film "The Patriot?"

I've been through some of the previous FAQ answers that touched on this battle and they were very helpful, but I didn't see anything addressing this point. The scene repeatedly shows cannon (horizontal, not mortars) firing, and then explosions happening where the shot lands. I had the impression that field artillery of this era was still pretty much just firing roundshot, but maybe roundshot isn't cinematic enough unless it hits a guy right in the head?

In WWII, why was the Pacific war fought on all the little islands and not just the main islands of Japan?

Like if the cut the head off the political snake, wouldn’t the rest fall in line? Like Hiroshima and Nagasaki happened then Japan surrendered, but couldn’t that of been the plan the whole time? Not the bombs but major attacks on Japan...

Did the Nazis really spare “Aryan” soldiers the worst of war for reproduction purposes? - Oral history says they did

My Austrian great-grandfather had a friend, Herr Wagner. Herr Wagner had no wife or children. When he died, my great-grandmother told the following story:

When Herr Wagner reported for conscription, he was measured all over - face, fingers, body. The doctors determined he met the proportions of the “perfect Aryan” and sent him to a special training center.

He didn’t know what he was doing there at first, but the training was intense. For example, the officers set the barracks on fire in the middle of the night without any warning.

At some point, Herr Wagner was told that we was to be one of Hitler’s bodyguards. He then saw terrible things. For example, he said he saw Hitler give a speech telling soldiers than Germans do not retreat. The next day, after a battle, only three men out of about 100 were still alive and uninjured.

In 1941, Herr Wagner returned home with a medical certificate exempting him from military service because of a weak heart. However, his heart was healthy. He was sent home because by then someone up high was afraid that Germany could lose, or that too many “perfect Aryans” could be killed, and he was sent home to survive and reproduce.

Herr Wagner did not want to be a stud for Hitler, so he never married or had children.

I cannot confirm this. By the time I knew any of it, the man was dead. He did not want to talk about it, so my great-grandmother only knew the basics, and then second-hand from when he told my great-grandfather years before.

So, my dear Historians. Is such a scenario possible? Could a young man be selected for special service/Hitler’s bodyguard just for the proportions of his body? Was there a policy of secretly sending home people with eugenics in mind? Was there such insane training?

It is true that Herr Wagner returned early from the war, and his advanced age suggests that he did not have heart problems. It is also true that the man never married or had children, in a time when the extreme ratio of women to men, and conservative social pressure, would have made it easy to do and difficult to avoid.

Any insight you have would be greatly appreciated. I’ve always wondered, but have no one who would know that I could ask.