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Momopi, puzzling questions about general history

If you're a history buff, love to talk about history and watch the History Channel, this is the board for that.

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Momopi, puzzling questions about general history

Post by Winston » March 7th, 2014, 1:07 am

To Momopi or anyone else:

Since you seem to have an impressive knowledge of history, I was wondering if you could shed light on some puzzling questions I have about general history. After watching many history documentaries, there are a number of things I don't get. Can you shed some light on them or explain them? I will list them by number.

1. Why did Columbus have to sail over the Atlantic Ocean to try to get to India? Why didn't the Europeans just sail south around Africa to India?

Also, since Europe and Asia are joined by the largest landmass continent in the world, why couldn't they have just gone over land to India? Surely there must have been multiple routes?

They say that Turkey blocked the "Silk Road". What does that mean? How can a whole route be blocked? How can a whole continent be blocked? And why couldn't armies in Europe just remove the block by force?

2. After Columbus discovered the Americas, history says that Spain sent many men to plunder South America during the 1500's. Why didn't they plunder North America too? Why did they leave the whole northern continent untouched for 100 years?

Then history says that the English settled in Jamestown during the early 1600's. Why didn't the English come to the New World at all during the 1500's? Why did they do nothing for a century? That was never explained.

3. Since America was settled during the 1600's, why didn't the American Indians learn how to make rifles from the white settlers? Surely they could just capture some rifles and learn how to make them right? They had almost 300 years to do so. So why didn't they? If they had, that would have brought more balance to the Indian Wars.

4. Why did the white population in America explode like crazy, whereas the American Indian population didn't? Even before Columbus, the American Indians had thousands of years to populate the continent. So why weren't there millions of them?

5. How did Hernando Cortes conquer the Aztec Empire and South America with only 400 men? Guns during that time were short range and took a long time to load. So couldn't thousands of Aztecs have just thrown spears and rocks and killed all of them easily? They could also have ambushed them in the forest at close range combat and taken the advantage.

6. During the 1800's, why didn't the American Indians just flee into Canada so they didn't have to be forced onto reservations? Then they could live freely in Canada, and the US army could not pursue them there right?

7. During the Vietnam War, why couldn't the US military just capture Hanoi and force a surrender? Surely they could capture the Vietcong leader if they really wanted to right? The US is good at finding anything it wants.

In WWII, when Berlin was captured, the war was over. So why wasn't it like that in the Vietnam War too? Did the US purposely not capture Hanoi and the Vietcong leader in order to prolong the war for profit?

If the Vietcong leader could evade capture like that by hiding in the forest, then why didn't Hitler and Mussolini do the same?

8. Why was Japan able to occupy a huge country like China, but Germany could not do that with Russia? Germany's armies were more powerful than Japan's.

9. Why didn't the Nazis enter Moscow to capture Stalin and force a surrender? How else were they planning to win? Aren't you supposed to capture a city or leader to win a war?

10. Why did the Nazi armies fight a seige at Stalingrad for many months? I thought their objective was to capture the oil fields in the Caucus region. So why didn't they just pass by Stalingrad and head toward the Caucus region for the oil then? What's the point of wasting many men and resources for just one city when the objective was oil?

Sorry for so many questions. Hope they are interesting to you. I look forward to your explanations. Thanks.
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Post by momopi » March 7th, 2014, 2:12 am

History documentaries on TV are for lazy people who want to read badly written cliff notes. Stop watching them and start reading history books.

1. Columbus believed that he could find a shorter (more profitable) route to India by sailing West.

The Republic of Turkey did not exist back then. Asia Minor (Anatolia) was part of the greater Ottoman Empire, which sat on the silk road. It was the height of Ottoman's power and they imposed a trade embargo vs Western European States.

2. The Spanish, French, English, Scottish, etc. had many earlier attempts at colonizing the North America that resulted in failure. i.e. the English attempt at colonizing North Carolina in 1500's failed.

3. For Native Americans to make guns and powder, they'd need to setup precision metalworking shops, saltpeter mines, sulfur mines, etc. If they were educated enough to do so, they'd have already been integrated with the European settlers.

4. The Native American Indian population was depopulated by disease. There is no accurate estimate on their population numbers prior to Columbus.

5. Cortes did not conquer the Aztec with 400 men.

6. Many Native Americans did flee from US to Canada.

7. Using US forces to capture Hanoi may have triggered direct military intervention by China.

The war was mainly fought between Peoples Army of Vietnam (PAV) and Army of the Republic of Viet Nam (ARVN), not "Vietcong".

8. Japan did not conquer China in WW2. They occupied a smaller chunk in China and the Chinese fought them for 8 years, until end of WW2.

9. When Napoleon captured Moscow in 1812, did Tsar Alexander I capitulate?

When the Japanese captured the Chinese Capital of Nanjing in 1937, the Chinese simply moved their capital to Wuhan. When the Japanese captured Wuhan in 1938, the Chinese moved their capital to Chongqing.

10. So... if you don't conquer the area and secure your supply route, what happens when your enemy cut you off from behind?

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Post by Winston » March 7th, 2014, 4:30 pm

Thanks for your responses Momopi. I guess that makes a lot of sense. A few follow up questions.

1. How could the Ottoman Empire block the entire Asia from Europe? Looking at the map, there should be hundreds of routes, not just the Silk Road.

Also, if India was so hard to get to, how did the British colonize India? And how did the British start the Opium trade in China?

Why couldn't Columbus just sail south around the tip of Africa to get to India?

2. Why did early attempts at colonization fail? All you need is to plant farms and hunt animals to survive right? Wasn't the soil very rich and fertile in the New World?

How come England didn't send tons of men and ships to the New World like Spain did?

3. Why didn't the American Indians all get rifles from trade or barter? Did they even try to set up metal shops to make them?

4. Ok.

5. Then how did Cortes topple the Aztec Empire? Why didn't all the Aztecs just all stone him and his men to death or spear them to death? How can 400 men take over a continent? All the documentaries make it look like he did.

6. Why didn't all the American Indians flee to Canada? There is still plenty of unoccupied land there today. They could have lived there freely right? Did the Canadians put them in reservations too?

Come to think of it, there is plenty of unoccupied land in the US too, esp in the Western states. So why couldn't the Indians just live in those unoccupied lands and wilderness areas of the US that are still unoccupied today?

Why do Native Americans look so depressed today? Why don't they just live the way they did 200 years ago on their reservation lands? What do they need? Why can't the US government help them out with food and jobs to amend for their past sins?

7. If the US could not capture Hanoi, then what was the objective of the war? What was the point if you could not "capture the flag" and win? Didn't the US general tell the news media that they were on the verge of winning?

8. Ok. Movies about China in the early 20th Century give the impression that it was occupied. In the movie Ip Man, for instance, it looked like all the Chinese there were under Japanese rule.

If the Japanese only occupied a small part of China, why didn't all the Chinese there just flee to the unoccupied parts, if they didn't want to live under Japanese rule?

9. No, the Czar just ran away from Moscow and set the city it to fire. So what then was Napoleon hoping to accomplish? Even if he captured the Czar, he could betray Napoleon again after he left.

Also, when Napoleon's army was in Moscow, and the Czar fled to St. Petersburg, why didn't Napoleon continue the pursuit and go to St. Petersburg? At least there would have been food there right? What was the point of trying to head back and starving his men to death? Seems stupid.

10. Couldn't the Nazis just take the oil fields in the Caucus and then fly the oil back to Germany by plane?

Another question I thought of.

11. In WWII, instead of landing at Normandy on D-Day, why didn't the Allies just land troops in the Middle East or Russia and head to Europe over land? Or just land in Spain instead? Spain was unoccupied right? Then there wouldn't have been the risk of facing enemy forces meeting them at the landing point.

Also, why didn't the Allies bomb the beachhead of Normandy by plane before their troops landed there, to get enemy troops out of the way?

Thanks again.
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Post by momopi » March 7th, 2014, 8:36 pm

1. Yes, you can simply ship trade goods by sea, which is why Columbus was trying to find a shorter and more profitable route.

The British colonization of India was neither short or easy, it took them about 250 years to gain control over most of India. They competed against the Dutch, Danish, French, and Portuguese in India. The last European colony in India was Portuguese and not British. There are many books on this subject, as well as the opium wars, you can find them at your local university library.

2. If early colonization attempts were easy, the Pilgrims at Plymouth wouldn't have needed to be saved from starvation by the Patuxent/Wampanoag, and we wouldn't have Thanksgiving Holiday today. Had the Indians opted to let the colonists starve, Plymouth would've been another failed colony.

The English did send many ships to the New World, they were simply behind the Spanish. The Spanish crown sponsored Columbus financially, and they reaped the benefits (loot) before others.

3. The American Indians did get firearms from trade, and proceeded to wipe out rival Indian tribes. See: Beaver Wars (1628). I've already answered the metal shop question. By Custer's last stand in 1876, the opposing Indian forces were armed with at least 37 different models of firearms.

5. Cortes did not topple the Aztec Empire with 400 men, nor did they he take over a continent. The Aztec Empire only occupied a small area in central America. Stop watching crappy documentaries.

6. It's not realistic for "All American Indians" to flee to Canada. Many had already settled in reservations or integrated with European immigrants. Well-off Indians owned farms, plantations, slaves, and intermarried with whites.

If someone looks depressed to you and you want to know why, ask the person directly and not an unrelated person. I used to work with a Navajo, he married a hot Pinay in San Diego and was sent to work in Geneva for 2 years. He did not look depressed.

7. That is why the Vietnam war dragged on for so long.

8. Movies are even worse than crappy documentaries.

To flee occupied areas, you'd need to cross the front line, where people are shooting each other.

9. Napoleon was playing chess and Alexander I was playing checkers.

10. Not cost effective and, the German AF didn't even have the capability to resupply ~700 tons per day with 500 cargo planes to Stalingrad.

11. What is the distance between England and Normandy vs England and Spain/Middle East/Russia?
Last edited by momopi on March 8th, 2014, 5:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by xiongmao » March 7th, 2014, 11:50 pm

I'll answer some.

The Spanish went to South America because of GOLD. Maybe they were worried about fiat currencies too.

The well organised Japanese outclassed the Chinese peasants. I guess it was a bit like the start of War Horse, when the British charge the Germans on horseback, but the Germans unveil the machine gun.

The silk road is barely a road - even today. You still can't get a train from England to India. China is largely cut off from Europe, even though it looks like one landmass. Would have been interesting to see Roman and Qin armies do battle.

Sailing round the bottom of Africa was/still is extremely dangerous.

The USA simply got it's ass kicked in 'Nam. I was stunned about the scale of the losses - 382 Phantoms and 17 B-52's destroyed in action for example.
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Post by momopi » March 8th, 2014, 11:55 pm

xiongmao wrote: The well organised Japanese outclassed the Chinese peasants. I guess it was a bit like the start of War Horse, when the British charge the Germans on horseback, but the Germans unveil the machine gun.
Prior to the second Sino-Japanese war, the Chinese had employed German advisers to modernize the NRA (National Revolutionary Army). They knew very well that China's military was backward, and thought the Japanese was capable of massive combined operations (army, navy, marines, air force) near coastal areas. So the strategy was to modernize NRA divisions with German doctrine and equipment, and build defensive fortification lines inland where the Japanese army had to deal with long, vulnerable supply lines, and the Japanese Navy ships couldn't reach.

However, at the Battle of Shanghai, Chiang Kai-shek decided to throw 600,00 - 700,000 of his best trained and equipped troops, along with whatever armor and combat aircraft he had, as a show of force to Western Nations. In his mind, if he had followed German adviser's plan and pulled his troops back to fortify the Wufu and Xicheng line, it'd make China appear weak and reduce the chance that Western powers would intervene. Because he had sent his forces forward to Shanghai, the fortress at the defensive lines were mostly left empty.

The consequence of this decision was, the NRA lost both the best German-trained and equipped troops, and the fortifications that had costed significant treasure to construct. The Japanese penetrated the Wufu line in 2 weeks, which opened Nanjing to attack. However, the events that took place in Nanjing and after would turn US opinion against Japan, contributing to the oil and steel embargo that lead to the attack of Pearl Harbor.

Japan did not have the manpower or resources required for a massive invasion to conquer and occupy all of China in short time. They were hoping to do it in pieces over time like the British in India, but the Marco Polo Bridge Incident blew into full-scale war. At that point their objective was to defeat the NRA in decisive battle and force the Chinese to capitulate in 3 months. Again, with the "capture the flag" mentality, they force-marched their men 400 km to conquer the Chinese Capital of Nanjing, at which point the Chinese simply moved their capital elsewhere and continued the war for 8 more years.

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Post by Winston » March 10th, 2014, 3:57 am

Thanks Momopi.

1. I see. So did the British usually get to India by sailing around the southern tip of Africa?

2. What were the challenges of early colonization? How hard is it to plant crops and hunt animals? Also, do fruit trees grow in the wild? Or do they have to be planted? What about vegetable trees?

My high school history books usually said that Columbus discovered the New World in 1492, then the Spanish plummeted South America for gold and brought down the Aztec Empire in the 1500's. Then the English colonized America in the 1600's with Jamestown. They don't say anything about what the English were doing in the 1500's.

3. Ok.

5. Then how did Cortes topple the Aztec Empire then? Why did he just walk all over everyone there without resistance, like a Chuck Norris movie where he just kicks down all his enemies with no resistance?

6. But all Native American documentaries and historians say that the Native Americans were imprisoned on the reservations against their will and that it was not a happy place. They preferred to be free. So why not all flee to Canada if they were not happy?

See the 6 hour documentary "500 Nations" hosted by Kevin Costner. It's on YouTube.

Why do you think all documentaries are "crappy documentaries"? There are many excellent documentaries out there. You know that. They just do not address every issue or question.

I'm not talking about Native Americans you know. I'm talking about the ones on the reservations who are depressed and drink all the time. You know what I mean. You've heard about them too. That's their reputation.

7. Then the US was probably trying to sustain that war for profit, since it had no clear objective from the start.

8. Some movies are masterpieces. Oliver Stone's movies tend to be very accurate. See his 1995 film Nixon. It's a masterpiece and very moving. It depicts Nixon's deep inner struggles like no one else has before.

9. Ok.

10. Ok.

11. Well I thought the ships used for D-Day came from the US? And I thought the objective was to march into Europe to liberate it. So what did it matter where they landed?

I just thought of another question.

12. How did Genghis Khan conquer China and Russia? Mongolia is a small country and sparsely populated. How could it occupy all of Asia like that? No way.

Also, documentaries about Genghis Khan make it sound like his army marched through China and plummeted every town and village without resistance. Why didn't an army of millions of Chinese soldiers come out to face Khan on the battlefield? When Alexander the Great marched into Persia, he faced large armies that outnumbered his own. They marched out to fight him. Why did no armies march out to face Genghis Khan in a grand climactic battle? That's weird.

Instead, documentaries just say that Genghis Khan's army ran through China and took everything they wanted with no resistance, like Chuck Norris or Steven Seagal knocking everyone down with no resistance. Then it says that they reached the walls of Beijing and surrounded it, starving the Chinese inside the city and then looting it when the troops inside fell from starvation.

Why did no million man army come out to fight Genghis Khan in an epic battle, like the kind that Alexander the Great face? Strange.

One more question I forgot to ask.

13. The ancient Romans and armies of medieval Europe wore metal armor over their bodies to protect the wearer from swords and spears. Why didn't the European and American armies during the 18th Century wear any armor? Why didn't Napoleon's army, the British army, or the American continental army wear any armor? Wouldn't the armor have protected them from musket balls?

It's strange to think that medieval soldiers and Roman soldiers were better protected than 18th century troops. Odd huh?

Sorry if these are strange or tedious questions. But I'm very curious about them.

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Last edited by Winston on March 10th, 2014, 3:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Winston » March 10th, 2014, 4:08 am

xiongmao wrote:I'll answer some.

The Spanish went to South America because of GOLD. Maybe they were worried about fiat currencies too.

The well organised Japanese outclassed the Chinese peasants. I guess it was a bit like the start of War Horse, when the British charge the Germans on horseback, but the Germans unveil the machine gun.

The silk road is barely a road - even today. You still can't get a train from England to India. China is largely cut off from Europe, even though it looks like one landmass. Would have been interesting to see Roman and Qin armies do battle.

Sailing round the bottom of Africa was/still is extremely dangerous.

The USA simply got it's a** kicked in 'Nam. I was stunned about the scale of the losses - 382 Phantoms and 17 B-52's destroyed in action for example.
I see. But why did the Spanish think they would find gold in South America rather than North America? There was no evidence of that.

Yeah but lots of armies outclass their opponents yet lose. For example, the British army outclassed the Americans during the American Revolution. The Nazi army outclassed the Russian army during WWII. And the US army outclassed the Vietnamese army in the Vietnam War too. It's not that simple. Plus, snipers can easily hide and pick off highly classed troops.

Why is China cut off from Europe? All the way from north to south?

Why is sailing around the southern tip of Africa dangerous? Is it because it's too close to Antarctica? Why didn't ancient people go to Antarctica?

The US did not get its ass kicked in Vietnam. They won every engagement and battle, and inflicted far more casualties on their enemies. They whipped their opponents. But the problem was that there was no flag to capture to win. So they had no reason to keep killing people and losing their own. So they had to go home. Plus the American people were opposed to the war too.

Since you're a Brit, maybe I can ask you something. Why did Winston Churchill want WWII so bad? Why didn't he accept Hitler's peace proposals? He gave America the impression that he was a victim at the end of the rope with nowhere to turn to. If he needed help, he could have just accepted Hitler's peace proposal right? What was the problem?
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Post by momopi » March 10th, 2014, 11:19 am

1. That would be a shorter and more profitable route to India than sailing west.

2. There is no short answer to your question, but I'd say that you should not assume the colonists were competent, or the local Indians were friendly. When a colony fails, often nobody is left to tell exactly what happened. Although it's possible to forage for food, when winter hits you're less likely to find edibles. There is no such thing as a vegetable tree.

5. History is usually written from ethnic-centric perspective. Cortes had allied himself with nation-states and Yanaconas (peasants?) that opposed the Aztecs. Think of it as a much larger regional or civil war between nation-states, and Cortez was lucky enough to have allied with the winning side.

6. What makes you think if an Indian band flees to Canada, the Canadian authorities wouldn't deport them back to the US?

Again, if you meet an Indian on an Indian reservation who looks depressed and want to know why, ask him directly and not an unrelated person.

7. If you were to believe that profit was the objective, then you cannot say that there was no objective.

8. Anthony Hopkins is not Richard Nixon, nor does anyone really know what went on in Nixon's head other than what he wanted you to know. Movies are for entertainment.

11. How many trips can you make per day with a landing ship from UK to Normandy, versus UK to Russia?

12. Genghis Khan died in 1227, the Mongol Empire was not at war against the Chinese Song Dynasty until AFTER his death. The Mongols and the Chinese Song Dynasty were allied against the Jin (Jurchen) Dynasty, and after conquering Jin they fought over the spoils. The Mongol-Song conflict lasted from 1235-1279, taking 44 years for the Mongols to conquer Song Dynasty.

What crappy documentary told you that Genghis Khan conquered China without opposition?

13. Napoleon did have 16 armored cuirassier regiments. Although armor was less effective vs firearms, they were still effective vs sabers, lance, and bayonet.

The penetration power of a musket is dependent on the range. Historians cite the Battle of Cerignola in 1503 (or other Spanish-French battles from the same period) as the turning point where Spanish arquebusiers defeated the heavily armored French Gendarme.

Metal armor was still used in WW1, offering limited protection against shrapnel. Google "trench armor".

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Post by Winston » March 25th, 2014, 8:58 am

Check out the answers to my history questions in my other forum. They are pretty informative too.

http://www.debunkingskeptics.com//forum ... =21&t=3355
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Post by momopi » March 25th, 2014, 9:57 pm

Winston wrote: The US did not get its a** kicked in Vietnam. They won every engagement and battle, and inflicted far more casualties on their enemies. They whipped their opponents. But the problem was that there was no flag to capture to win. So they had no reason to keep killing people and losing their own. So they had to go home. Plus the American people were opposed to the war too.
Who told you that Americans "won every engagement and battle" ?

Did you know the North Vietnamese sunk an US aircraft carrier with 2 frogman in a canoe?

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Post by Winston » March 27th, 2014, 7:59 am

momopi wrote:
Winston wrote: The US did not get its a** kicked in Vietnam. They won every engagement and battle, and inflicted far more casualties on their enemies. They whipped their opponents. But the problem was that there was no flag to capture to win. So they had no reason to keep killing people and losing their own. So they had to go home. Plus the American people were opposed to the war too.
Who told you that Americans "won every engagement and battle" ?

Did you know the North Vietnamese sunk an US aircraft carrier with 2 frogman in a canoe?
Well they won 99 percent of the engagements. That's almost all.

Documentaries say that. Why do you think all documentaries are crap? The BBC, History Channel, PBS, A&E, etc. are all renowned for producing high quality documentaries. Why do you deny that?

I saw one about an explosion on a US aircraft carrier during Vietnam. How could two guys on a canoe sink an aircraft carrier? Doesn't it take torpedos to do that?
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Post by Winston » March 27th, 2014, 7:59 am

Here's another question:

14. During the top secret Manhattan Project, how did the US secretly detonate an atomic bomb in the desert of New Mexico? Wouldn't an atomic bomb going off in a mushroom cloud within the US have gotten the attention of residents in New Mexico, the media and local government as well? How could that have been done secretly? I've never understood that.
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Post by momopi » March 27th, 2014, 7:09 pm

Winston wrote: Well they won 99 percent of the engagements. That's almost all.
"99 percent", "almost all", "a majority of", etc. is not the same as "winning every time".

http://www.g2mil.com/lost_vietnam.htm


Winston wrote: Documentaries say that. Why do you think all documentaries are crap? The BBC, History Channel, PBS, A&E, etc. are all renowned for producing high quality documentaries. Why do you deny that?
I saw one about an explosion on a US aircraft carrier during Vietnam. How could two guys on a canoe sink an aircraft carrier? Doesn't it take torpedos to do that?
What did the documentary say about the attack on the US aircraft carrier?


Winston wrote:Here's another question:
14. During the top secret Manhattan Project, how did the US secretly detonate an atomic bomb in the desert of New Mexico? Wouldn't an atomic bomb going off in a mushroom cloud within the US have gotten the attention of residents in New Mexico, the media and local government as well? How could that have been done secretly? I've never understood that.
The Manhattan project involved over 100,000 people with varying degree of secrecy. The press had some ideas about what's going on, because the war-time office of censorship gave them an exact list of what NOT to write about. Failure to comply means treason during war-time. If you're referring specifically to the Trinity nuclear test that took place in July 1945 (about a month before the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki), the detonation was seen and heard as far as 200 miles away. The air force press release simply stated that an ammunition storage exploded.

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Post by Winston » April 3rd, 2014, 12:52 am

Momopi,
Here's a historical documentary that is NOT crappy at all!

viewtopic.php?t=22603

I've never seen a biographical documentary as good as this one. It's like a masterpiece of art. You have to see all four hours of it to understand what I mean. The last hour will bring tears to your eyes. Tears of sympathy, admiration, and appreciation. You will feel like you personally have known the man after you've seen this.

In fact, all of Ken Burns historical documentaries are considered great masterpieces by history buffs.

http://www.amazon.com/s?ie=UTF8&field-k ... -alias=dvd

So you see, there are a lot of GREAT documentaries out there. Too bad you haven't seen them.
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"It takes far less effort to find and move to the society that has what you want than it does to try to reconstruct an existing society to match your standards." - Harry Browne

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