Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Humanities/2011 January 6

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Humanities desk
< January 5 << Dec | January | Feb >> January 7 >
Welcome to the Wikipedia Humanities Reference Desk Archives
The page you are currently viewing is an archive page. While you can leave answers for any questions shown below, please ask new questions on one of the current reference desk pages.

January 6[edit]

Action of 8 December? 18 December? 28 December?[edit]

Sorry, it's me again. Having rescued Action of 8 December 1669 from proposed deletion and being about to substantially expand it...I can't figure out what date it was really on. I originally moved it from Action of 18 December 1669 because it appeared to me from the sources I had that 18 December was the New Style date and, England being on Old Style at the time, 8 December was the correct date. That was also the date that most of the sources seemed to use. However, I've been finding more sources, some of which (including one eyewitness account) give a date even later in December, and now I have absolutely no idea what is right. Any help would be most welcome.

Alternately, would you suggest another rename to a title that excludes the date, and I could include a section in the article that explains how there's apparently confusion over OS/NS as well as discrepancy in the sources even accounting for that?

Thanks, Roscelese (talkcontribs) 00:20, 6 January 2011 (UTC)

Call it what reliable sources call it. As it doesn't cite any reliable sources, it's difficult to help you beyond that. (talk) 01:25, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
(edit conflict) What sources do you have, and why doesn't the article cite any?
It should be called what it is most commonly referred to as in the sources. If there is another name for the engagement, the article might best be called that with redirect(s) for the "Action of..." date(s), for example "Action of June 28, 1776" is a redirect to Battle of Sullivan's Island. WikiDao 01:28, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
Thanks, Einstein! Gosh, if only I'd thought to look in reliable sources. It's almost as if I didn't explain in my request that I looked in sources, and then I looked in more sources, and that there is no consensus that I can find.
Sorry that I'm short-tempered, but I've been reading through documents on Google Snippet View for hours and hours on end in preparation for sourcing and expanding this article, and it's a little frustrating to be told "just go with what the sources say!" when the reason I asked was because the sources say different things.
(Also, it doesn't appear to have a formal common name, and "Captain John Kempthorne's fight against seven Algerines" isn't much of a title.) Roscelese (talkcontribs) 02:20, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
Just leave out the date, and do Action of December 1669, make a note in the article that the exact date is unknown. Ariel. (talk) 02:40, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
That works. Thank you. (I still hope someday to be able to put in the article what date the battle actually took place on, but at least it doesn't have a potentially inaccurate title now.) Roscelese (talkcontribs) 03:10, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
Did you see Kempthorne's entry in the Dictionary of National Biography? It relates the recapture of an English vessel on the 8th, and the action with six warships of Algiers on the 29th.—eric
Yup, I have that, and also a later edition of the DNB (the online one) which says the action was on the 18th, oy. This one looks like it might just be due to OS/NS confusion, though (they arrived in Cadiz on the 30th just after a battle on the 18th, according to Hollar, who was there). Roscelese (talkcontribs) 18:56, 6 January 2011 (UTC)

Logical publication of the law[edit]

Whether or not the basis of any legal system are there any legal systems which publish statutes or cases in the form of a polychotomous key? --Inning (talk) 01:24, 6 January 2011 (UTC)

The only thing I could think of even close to that is Mandatory sentencing guidelines, whereby "crime X gets sentence Y" is a formula that courts are bound to follow. But that's a stretch. --Jayron32 02:40, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
Thanks, Jayron. I have also heard that some juries are required to respond to questionnaires which represent only the circumstances they have found to be true with the complete key not provided until that case summary by the court. Thanks. --Inning (talk) 03:56, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
No, already! --Mr.98 (talk) 02:41, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
Shall I liken this and prior comments from you and your compadres to a Wikipedia reference desk street gang that likes to mug visitors or anyone not from the neighborhood or under your control? --Inning (talk) 03:56, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
I don't know if you can call yourself a visitor or not from the neigbourhood when you've asked the same question multiple times over the past few years and used multiple aliases many of which have been banned. I thought you yourself were supposed to be making these wonderful keys for us which will destroy lawyers etc, whatever happened to that? In any case it's a bit rich to complain about people ganging up on you when you keep asking the same questions and you've been given multiple chances but usually ended up getting yourself banned not because of what you've done in the past but because you wear out the communities patience yet again. Nil Einne (talk) 10:54, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
What he said. It gets tiring to answer the same question ten thousand times. Nobody does what you suggest. Nobody is going to do it anytime soon. If you want to do it, more power to you. But don't ask us about it endlessly. --Mr.98 (talk) 13:28, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
I also remember having seen this question before. Actually, it sounds logical that it should be like that, but it isn't. Furthermore, you would still have to formalize real world facts to apply any logically structured law upon them. (talk) 12:03, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
Yes. This is exactly it. We mug everyone who asks about Polychotomous keys. Now hand over your wallet ... over the internet ... somehow. How is this mugging supposed to work, anyway? APL (talk) 15:32, 6 January 2011 (UTC)

Look, Inning, your pattern seem to be the following: you post a question based on some wild assumptions, and then fail to substantiate those assumptions or answer follow up questions (for instance, in the discussion above, I expressed some IMO reasonable doubt regarding the veracity of the statement in your first question, and then several of the editors asked you to clarify the second post you made. You glossed over both of these). Then, a couple of days later, you reword the question and post it again, without addressing the issues raised in your previous question(s). If we are going to compare behaviors to criminal acts, there is a word for what you do (i.e., post questions and never come back to address follow up comments or questions on them) - it's called drive-by editing. Drive-by editing is considered impolite on Internet forums (we tolerate it here, though), and doing it repeatedly like you do is close to trolling, which is not welcome here.

Now then, having said that, you have a choice. You can address the follow-up questions - the source of your quote in the first question, the meaning of your second post above, the meaning of the phrase "polychotomous key" as you use it (as you can see, there is some uncertainty as to what exactly you mean) etc., or you can be considered a troll. And if people consider you a troll, don't be surprised if you get some brusque comments. TomorrowTime (talk) 14:52, 6 January 2011 (UTC)

In a sense, yes, the laws of the United States are published by private sources which is indeed polychotomous. It isn't readily apparent to one who has had no formal legal training, but if you made a trip to your local law library, you would see several examples of this. The statutes and opinions themselves are not published in a polychotomous fashion, but annotated statutes and opinions are. The publishers Lexis and West place headnotes[1] above each opinion. From the foregoing link, you can see on page 173 an example of a case headnote which organizes the legal topic in the opinion according to the broad category, in this case insurance law, followed by a unique key number which is arbitrarily assigned by the private publishing company. This Key Number is similar to the Dewey Decimal system in that each digit has independent significance, where the broad topic of evidence may be 200, hearsay evidence may be 220 and the business records exception to the hearsay rule for financial records may be 225.20(4). These Key Numbers are cross-referenced in a number of ways. One can pick up a Shepard's Citations Service or Key Number Citations Service and get a list of cases which all involve that particular point of law. This is how attorneys determine if a point of law in a case is still good, or whether it has been overruled by a subsequent opinion. Shepard's Citations Services are updated weekly in a law library, but most attorneys check online for any updates at or This is a paid service. Additionally, annotated statutes will take these headnotes from cases, and organize them under the relevant statutes. For instance, a statute involving the carrying of mandatory auto insurance may have a reference to the insurance case headnote in the above example. Lastly, a legal encyclopedia will typically organize itself in volumes according to the same Key Number reference system. Legal encyclopedias, statutes, regulations, cases, Shepard's Citation Services, practice manuals, treatises, surveys of the law, will all be interconnected through the Key Number system. The web of connections between these sources of the law is complex and presents the American attorney with a number of choices in how to persue his legal problem within the materials of legal research he has available to him. In American law schools, students take several classes in legal research so as to better understand the system and learn to identify the quickest route to finding the necessary information to render a legal opinion. Often in these legal research classes, the law librarians have constructed a flow chart very similar to the ones developed by computer scientists for common troubleshooting problems. The American lawyer can find any aspect of the law quickly through a polychotomous key known as the Key Number or Westlaw number citation. Those unfamiliar with the process and without a good understanding of the design of how research is organized can find themselves in an infinite loop as any first year law student could attest to. The answer to your question is yes, except such publication is by private entity and not strictly by the legislature or court who first published the material. Gx872op (talk) 16:26, 6 January 2011 (UTC)


What is "brachy-brown"? I encounter it here. Bus stop (talk) 03:23, 6 January 2011 (UTC)

Possibly related to brachycephalic? Can you give a context? AndyTheGrump (talk) 03:34, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
It occurs a few times in this book. I think you a right about what it means. It has something to do with head shape theories. Strange. Bus stop (talk) 05:35, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
Strange indeed. The shape of people's heads (see Cephalic index) has sometimes been used as a pseudoscientific 'measure' of 'race', and been used to 'rank' people accordingly. Personally, I think anyone who believes this nonsense needs their head examined. AndyTheGrump (talk) 05:40, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
It is a classification of race from the 19th century. It seems brachy-brown would be Iranian, based on the cranial index and hair color and style.
A. H. Keane Ethnology p.168
I. Straight-haired: 1. dolicho, Eskimo; 2. brachy, (a) red, Prairie Indians ; (b) olivaster, Mexican, Peruvian ; (c) yellow, Guarani, Samoyede, Mongol, Malay.
II. Wavy or Curly-haired : 1. dolicho, (a) blonde, Cimmerian, Scandinavian, Anglo-Saxon ; (b) brown, Mediterranean (Basque, Corsican, Berber) ; Semite ; (c) black, Australian, Indo-Abyssinian; (d) red, Fulah, Red Barabra (Nubian); 2. brachy, blonde, Finn ; chestnut, Kelt, Slav ; brown, Iranian, Galcha.
III. Woolly-haired : 1. dolicho, (a) yellowish, Bushman, (b) black, Oceanic, Papuan; Africa, Kafir; 2. brachy, Negrito.
That work lists Broca's classification of only one of many. To call this pseudoscience seems wrong as it was the forefront of science at the time in the emerging area of anthropology, the fact that it has been superseded and has been used to support the most morally repugnant of causes does not mean it wasn't an honest attempt to classify the human species. meltBanana 13:41, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
It was only sometimes an honest attempt. Stephen Jay Gould's book, The Mismeasure of Man, is a great overview of the practice, including numerous instances where the results were fudged to fit the researcher's preconceptions. One of my favourites was an illustration that showed the gorilla head shape as being intermediate between the "Caucasian" and "Negro" ones. (Our article cites a number of criticisms of the book, but they're mostly about his later chapters, not the early ones on phrenology.) Matt Deres (talk) 15:22, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
Thanks everybody. That clarifies it. There is a legitimate even if imperfect basis for what seemed to me at first glance a weird reference. Bus stop (talk) 17:23, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
From the context, it's worth noting that most 19th century racial theories like Grants (and presumably Lapouge's, though I don't know his work) have at least three different "tiers" — the total savages (e.g. the Africans or Asians or whomever else looks different and you don't like), the people-who-look-white-but-are-also-savages (e.g. the Irish or the Italians or Slavs or whomever looks "white" but you really think is actually inferior), and the true-white-people (e.g. the Nordics or the English or the Aryans or whomever is "truly" white and superior). (Categorizing the Jews in this scheme has often varied; usually they fall in somewhere between the latter two categories, but are also paradoxically intelligent.) Anyway, the passage seems to indicate that Lapouge believed that the Jews were able to convince the people in the middle category of all sorts of untruths that were counter to the real truth of the "top" category. Like Grant and others from that period, he probably didn't worry too much about the opinion of the "savage" category, since they couldn't really do much damage anyway at that point, they were so marginalized from European (and American) politics and life. It's only after World War I or so that you get the really strictly bi-racial theories of race (less Madison Grant, more Lothrop Stoddard) that see the world as really black-and-white, coincident with the rise of non-whites as political entities, and a decline in interest in dividing up whites into subgroups. Hitler's racism was more along the Grant lines than the Stoddard lines, and was one of the forces which really discredited it. The Stoddard approach lived one for many decades after WWII. Anyway, just some background. --Mr.98 (talk) 23:12, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
I seem to remember the background of the Nazi race theories is usually said to stem from the ideas of Arthur de Gobineau and Houston Stewart Chamberlain via Alfred Rosenberg. --Saddhiyama (talk) 15:10, 7 January 2011 (UTC)
Grant was a big part of it, too. Hitler referred to The Passing of the Great Race as his "bible." Bleh. What Grant also introduces to the racial theory is a notion of conservation ecology — eugenics — which was pretty key to the whole Hitler approach as well. --Mr.98 (talk) 21:00, 7 January 2011 (UTC)

Offspring of mixed Muslim-Christian Marriages: Muslim or Christian[edit]

Hi there, I'd love to know if it's true that the offspring of mixed Muslim-Christian Marriages (at least in the past, e.g. in Spain under íslamic rule) had to become muslim - are there any sources for this claim? Yours -- (talk) 18:50, 6 January 2011 (UTC)

The mixed offspring was termed mozárabe. Apparently, they could convert (and many did), but they could also be educated as Christian. Mixed marriages were very frequent, but most of them were composed by a Christian wife and a Muslim husband. I wanted to quote here another article, but Wikipedia blocked it as a possible site related to spam. Pallida  Mors 20:30, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
Our article on Islamic marital jurisprudence is fairly good; the specific one on Interfaith marriage in Islam not great, but does have several references. BrainyBabe (talk) 12:15, 7 January 2011 (UTC)
(Not answering the question I know, but...) Richard Dawkins suggested that "... the labels 'Muslim child' or a 'Catholic child' [are as] equally misapplied as the descriptions 'Marxist child' or a 'Tory child', ..." -- Mitch Ames (talk) 06:49, 8 January 2011 (UTC)
Had a debate not long ago with a rabid Christian editor where I suggested that it was wrong to count the children of Christian adults as Christians until they were of an age to decide for themselves. By default they are counted in religion articles here when religious folk are trying to prove that their religion must be right because they have more believers. (Is this the theory of the democratic god?) The obsessed Christian editor simply could not see my point. To him it was obvious that his children were Christians, even though they couldn't yet read the Bible, so who was I to say otherwise. He got very excited over the issue, hence my choices of adjectives above. HiLo48 (talk) 06:58, 8 January 2011 (UTC)
A Christian may believe that even an infant is necessarily a Christian - ie a member of the church - if the infant has been baptised. An analogy (copied from here) is that
  • "If baptism is a sign that a person is a member of God's covenant community, and if the children of believers are members of that community, it follows that the children of believers should receive the sign that they are members of God's covenant community by being baptized, as an infant is entitled to a passport that indicates the child as a member of a particular country."
If you already subscribe to the Christion belief, then this is "reasonable", and consistent with some definitions of "Christian" - although the Infant baptism article does have counter-arguments. I presume the same would apply to other religons, although I am less familiar with their beliefs. (I was brought up as a Roman Catholic, but then learnt to think for myself.) Mitch Ames (talk) 11:10, 8 January 2011 (UTC)
This cartoon more succinctly and amusingly expresses how I feel about this view, so I will link to it rather than waste all our time with words. A child can certainly be said to belong to a religion or culture before they have chosen whether to continue to do so. (talk) 17:15, 8 January 2011 (UTC)

Frankly, I cann't figure it out[edit]

Who by the name of "Frank" was famous around 1880?--Doug Coldwell talk 22:41, 6 January 2011 (UTC)

Many people, no doubt. Can you give us anything else to go on ? First name or last ? Famous in what field ? StuRat (talk) 22:46, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
Actually, this list doesn't suggest many possibilities around that date. Frank James would have been one. Ghmyrtle (talk) 22:58, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
That list doesn't include Frank Harris, who admittedly didn't really become famous until some way into the 1880s. --Antiquary (talk) 23:02, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
I am suspicious my grandfather Frank was named after somebody famous of the time. He was born in 1882. The Frank James of above seems to fit the bill.--Doug Coldwell talk 00:11, 7 January 2011 (UTC)
"Frank" was often short for Franklin. Franklin Pierce was President from 1853-1857. Lots of Civil War generals had Franklin as a first or last name. Edison (talk) 00:38, 7 January 2011 (UTC)
The original inspiration was probably Benjamin Franklin. LANTZYTALK 00:51, 7 January 2011 (UTC)
I agree that many pubic figures (politicians, religious leaders, generals) of the mid 19th century were named "Benjamin Franklin (Something)." Edison (talk) 16:50, 7 January 2011 (UTC)
All the way through to B.F. Pearce in M*A*S*H. -- Jack of Oz [your turn] 10:37, 8 January 2011 (UTC)

In the 1880s, many Americans would have been familiar with "Frank" as a given name from Frank Leslie's Weekly. —Kevin Myers 02:18, 7 January 2011 (UTC)

Where can I find old comparative population figures for Australia?[edit]

I have this view in my head that at one stage Melbourne was the biggest city in Australia (by population), rather than Sydney. And also, that within Victoria, Geelong may have been bigger than Melbourne. Where do I look to confirm or refute my unsourced memories? HiLo48 (talk) 23:52, 6 January 2011 (UTC)

I don't know where to find those details, HiLo48, but I can confirm that "The economic boom of the Victorian gold rush peaked during the 1880s and Melbourne had become the richest city in the world and the largest city after London in the British Empire". Never heard about the Geelong claim, though; it seems unlikely. (Jack of Oz) -- (talk) 01:21, 7 January 2011 (UTC)
Bigger than Calcutta or Delhi? I rather suspect not. DuncanHill (talk) 01:42, 7 January 2011 (UTC)
You'd better take that up with the reliable source we use in the article, Duncan. -- (talk) 02:54, 7 January 2011 (UTC)
It doesn't say that London was the largest city in the British Empire, just that Melbourne was the largest one after it. The Blade of the Northern Lights (話して下さい) 05:58, 7 January 2011 (UTC)
You could try this source:
Vamplew, Wray (editor), ed (1987). Australians: Historical Statistics. Broadway, New South Wales, Australia: Fairfax, Syme & Weldon Associates. p. 26. ISBN 0-949288-29-2
Marco polo (talk) 02:39, 7 January 2011 (UTC)
Both our Melbourne and Sydney articles back up the claim that Melbourne was bigger (see for example Demographics of Sydney) but are unfortunately not directly sourced. Nanonic (talk) 07:41, 7 January 2011 (UTC)
Actually, London was the largest city in the world in the late 19th century. As I recall, Calcutta was the largest urban area in India until well into the 20th century. (It was the main port for northern India and the capital of British India until 1911.) According to this source, Greater London had a population of 3,834,194 in 1881, and Calcutta had a population of 766,298 the same year, whereas Melbourne had only 284,874, per this source. So it is clearly incorrect that Melbourne was the second largest city in the British empire, or the second largest city after London. Marco polo (talk) 20:45, 7 January 2011 (UTC)
"Clearly incorrect"? For starters, you're comparing Melbourne with Greater London, not just with London per se. I'd very much like to see the definitions those refs use, and their own sources of the data they present. -- Jack of Oz [your turn] 10:35, 8 January 2011 (UTC)
But what do you mean by "London per se"? DuncanHill (talk) 11:14, 8 January 2011 (UTC)
At a guess, I imagine that Jack is objecting to the comparison of Greater London (i.e. London proper, plus suburbs) with Calcutta proper (i.e. not including suburbs), which is on the face of it an unfair comparison. (I'm not sure whether he's aware that the balance is righted a little in that London proper covers one square mile, and thus the comparison between Calcutta proper and London proper would be ridiculous.) Marnanel (talk) 16:57, 8 January 2011 (UTC)
Quite so - I was making (unsuccessfully, it appears) the point that words like "London" and "Melbourne" and "Calcutta" do not have a precise meaning. "London" could mean the City, or it could mean the two cities (London and Westminster), or the County, or the Metropolitan Police District, or the Greater London Council area, or any of a large number of "official" areas, not to mention all the various meanings and extents implied or inferred in genersl conversation (is Croydon south of London, or part of London? for example). DuncanHill (talk) 17:10, 8 January 2011 (UTC)