Weekend Reading

This week: a tsunami in medieval Switzerland; the surprising background of the last Confederate general; the first book published on these shores; and faking war on film is pretty much as old as film.

• New geological evidence supports a seemingly impossible observation recorded by the early medieval chronicler Gregory of Tours: that what we would now call a tsunami swept across Lake Geneva in AD 563.

• The return of a 16th century Aztec headdress that was once owned by the Holy Roman Emperor.

• Why the “first Thanksgiving” received little or no attention in the two most famous accounts written by Pilgrims, while a different kind of thanks-giving two years later is reported at length.

• A few years later, in 1640, the Pilgrims’ Puritan neighbors produced the first book published in the present-day United States: a book of psalms, of which there are only eleven surviving copies (the best of which was appraised at $10 million).

• And if you’re saying to yourself, “I thought the Pilgrims were Puritans,” then read Mark Noll’s review of Michael Winship’s Godly Republicanism: Puritans, Pilgrims, and a City on a Hill for a helpful introduction to this interesting chapter in American religious history.

• Did you know that one Confederate general kept fighting the Civil War for about ten weeks after Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse? Or that he was a Cherokee named Stand Watie?

• Or did you know that the first war to be filmed with moving pictures was the 1897 conflict between Greece and Turkey? Actually, none of the footage captured by war correspondent Frederic Villiers survives, and what he got proved (to his mind) disappointingly inglorious, but the early cinematic genius Georges Méliès faked his own footage of a naval battle, and that survives to the present day:

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