Re: Ch. 3 - The Truth about the First Thanksgiving
Interestingly, we were taught (early 70s) about Europeans sending smallpox blankets to wipe out First Peoples. We heard about several "Indian fighters" including Jackson, Custer and William Henry Harrison, but there was no attention paid to the plagues that I can remember.
The Black Death of the mid 1300s was certainly epochal. A number of historians, including popularizer Barbara Tuchman ("A Distant Mirror") speculate that by killing off 1/3 of Europe, and similar portions of Chinese and Turkish populations, it might have launched a wave of modernization. This is plausible to economists, who see the ratio of people to "means of production" as being normally determined mainly by Malthusian poverty from breeding restrained only by starvation and "normal" disease levels. When the "man/land" ratio takes a jump (or a slide, with "land to men" jumping), as it did with discovery of the Americas and also with the Black Death, there seems to be a tendency to adopt labor-saving technology and to search for more efficient methods that would normally be forestalled by the abundance of human labor.
I must say I was completely unaware of the estimates having populations in the Americas outnumbering the European population, before disease and conquest took their toll. It does put a different perspective on things.
Most of us have heard of Eric the Red finding Greenland, of Romulus and Remus founding Rome (a violent tale) and of the origins of the Arabic kingdoms emerging with Islam. The founding myths were likely to exalt "pagan" virtues of courage and violence, and I think it is at least somewhat helpful to have religious freedom among the motivations for founding. (Though we were also taught that the Puritans were themselves intolerant.)
I have some awareness of the Swiss myths, including William Tell (which is re-enacted regularly in the "mountain cantons" who formed the original core of Switzerland, but as far as I know without actually shooting an arrow off the head of any children) and the Genevois story of the sneak attack by the Duke of Savoy, threatening Geneva's standing as a Protestant bastion, which was repulsed due to a lady making soup on the walls who poured the hot soup on the invaders and raised the alarm. This event is also still celebrated with the "Escalade" (ladder) festival in early December.
I'm curious what people think of Lincoln's appropriation of American mythos with phrases like "a new birth of freedom"? It has been noted that such re-appropriations themselves shape the way the original mythos is handed down. In Lincoln's case this was quite conscious and, I would say, more radical than the re-shaping that went with, say, Sophocles re-writing myths of Oedipus and Antigone.
Well, I have heard Germans say "it wouldn't be German without potatoes." Likewise pizza is thought of as Italian, especially by non-Europeans, though of course it is Italian-American in origin. "Indian food" is a thorough mix of borrowings (as is "Thai food"). Apparently "biryani" is, among Hindus, an insulting way to refer to Muslims, who eat beef.
West Africa adopted "batik" for a way of putting patterns onto cloth, with some help from the Dutch who brought it from Indonesia, or so I am told. West African batik is recognizably different from Indonesian batik, and I would bet most Africans are unaware of the origin.