Into a bicycle history of the Middle East

And now, to something completely different: the bicycle in Middle Eastern History. Whereas today the bicycle is – arguably – mostly known as a vehicle for leisure, around 1900 it was not only a major means of individualized transportation but it also stipulated the restoration and expansion of road networks that would make the automobile viable, and bicycle races inspired public attention and drew crowds that today seem unimaginable. Moreover, this early history of the bicycle is intricately connected to histories of colonialism, modernity, and Western discourses on the perceived “exploration” of the wider world. Continue reading Into a bicycle history of the Middle East

Let’s talk survival bias

How many manuscript copies were produced of any given texts? How many were circulating at any given time? When were they lost, discarded or destroyed?  How often are the works penned on their pages cited in other texts by the same or different authors? These questions lie at the very heart of our epistemology and are usually subsumed under the term ‘survival bias’. Continue reading Let’s talk survival bias

Medieval Damascus: Was there no garbage problem ever?

Insides of a medieval German latrine

Reading two articles on Medium, one about rat kings and another about an early car named by its creator Horsey Horseless and which featured “a life-size replica of a horse head, down to the shoulders, and attaching it to the front of a carriage“, I got into thinking. I have to add here that I am no specialist in this field.

More specifically, together these articles made me wonder what did Medieval Damascenes do with their garbage and how did they avoid to have recurrent garbage crises? Obviously, they did not have to worry about plastic piles but the garbage they did have to worry about was still of a rather smelly nature. As the exhibit from the Frankfurt historical museum shows, there was a lot of other waste as well. Continue reading Medieval Damascus: Was there no garbage problem ever?