Saturday, January 5, 2008
Reaping the benefits of geography
Since I've been reading history it's become more and more apparent that my lack of geographical knowledge causes me to spin my wheels, pausing to look up a place or fuming over not having an atlas with me. During the last year I've spent a lot of time boning up on geography, mainly using these outline tests. I've memorized the U.S. capitals, the English historical counties, all the countries of the world, and all the capitals except those in Oceania and the Caribbean. Recently I had a great moment when I realized the fruits of my labors. I was listening to the twelfth podcast in the 12 Byzantine Rulers series, and Brownworth was talking about Michael III's Patriarch Photios. The Bulgarians were making overtures to join the Orthodox Christian fold at around the same time when some Scandanavian Slavs in Armenia were making folks in Constantinople nervous. In 863, under Photios's guidance, Micael took the opportunity to attempt to convert all of them to Christianity. As I was listening I realized that I wasn't spinning my wheels at all, because I knew where all those places were! It may not sound like much, but to someone who's always been not only historically but geographically challenged, it was a real watershed.