This page presents a brief introduction to the scholiast.org site, including some remarks about how it came to be, and answers to some frequently asked questions.
I receive anywhere from three to forty e-mails in a given week, pertaining to the history page alone. As you will surmise, answering these e-mails is a major drain on my time - and some of them, frankly, aren't worth answering. Hopefully, this page will save me a great deal of work, answering a number of essentially identical questions. If you find that you have questions that cannot readily be answered by this page, please feel free to ask.
My name is Peter Ravn Rasmussen, and I'm a history student at the University of Copenhagen, in Denmark. My specialty is mediaeval history - as you probably have already realised. Need to know more? Look at my about the author page.
The answer, quite briefly, is: I didn't plan to. This site (or rather, the history page) started as my notes (now part of the Tables of History) to a University course on European colonisation that I was taking, back in 1995. At the time, I was fiddling around with HTML, and I thought I might as well put them on the then-juvenile WWW.
I found that the hypertext medium added some very useful functionalities that I hadn't thought of, not to mention the fact that a number of useful sites with historical reference materials had appeared on the Web. I decided to expand the pages, and they became a qualified success. After that, they've just sort of grown organically. On occasion, I have redesigned parts of them.
Some time ago, I noticed that my visitor count was pretty high at certain times of the year (there seems to be a correspondence with the American academic year's cycle), and I decided to move the site from the University's server to a private domain - purely for financial reasons, since the University does not allow paid advertising. I'm not making any real money on it, but it helps support the domain hosting.
Because a scholiast is a writer of scholia. A scholium (pl. scholia) is a mediaeval term for a margin note on meaning or grammar, added by a later writer - who is then called a scholiast.
Since this website is mostly (but not exclusively) an index of links to other sites, with "marginal" notes and comments, I found the term apposite. This is also the reason why the site is subtitled "Margin notes for the World Wide Web".
As for myself, hey, I don't like them that much, either. Anything that prolongs the time it takes for a page to load has got to be a negative thing. But money doesn't grow on trees , and the banner income, while trifling, is fairly easy money, given that I'd be maintaining this site anyway.
Tell you what - let's make a deal: if there's a page that you'd really rather not see any banner ads on, send me an e-mail, and we'll dicker. If you pay me a reasonable amount, I'll take the ads off a particular page permanently, or for as long as we agree on. I'll even post a notice on the page crediting you as the philanthropist who made it banner-free.
You're not feeling philanthropical? Well, if you're not willing to give up money to make the page ad-free, why should I be? After all, at least I do all the hard work of maintaining the site.
Many of the e-mails that I get are concerned with genealogical issues - especially from Americans trying to trace their ancestors.
I'm sorry to say that those of you researching Danish ancestors with names ending in "-sen" (or "-datter", if they are female and before the mid-19th century) are in for a difficult job.
In Denmark, names ending in "-sen" (such as "Rasmussen") are originally patronymics. That is, they are derivative forms of a parent's name - just as is the case in Russia. In the middle of the 19th century, the Danish government, in an effort to make census-taking simpler, "froze" the names, and since then, "-sen" names have behaved just as regular surnames. If your ancestor migrated after that, the chances are good that relatives in Denmark today will have the same name.
However, the bad news is that "-sen" names are a dime a dozen in Denmark. If your name is Rasmussen, too, the odds of your being related to me are about the same as two separate Smiths being related. In other words, close to zero.
Some of the letters I get on this subject concern themselves with the name "Ravn". In Denmark, Ravn is a very rare name, both as a surname and as a personal name. I regret to inform you that if you are looking for relatives with the surname Ravn, you should look elsewhere - in my case, and in my sons', the name Ravn is a personal name.
In any case, I hope that you find what you are looking for. There are a lot of useful genealogical resources to Denmark on the WWW, including the Danish Demographic Database (a golden resource, which also includes police emigration archives), and some pretty good private pages. If your name is not a "-sen" name, try looking in the Danish white pages for people of the same name. If only a few hits turn up in the phonebook, then the name is probably rare enough in Denmark for you to have a good chance of finding a relative - you could try writing these people a (polite) letter.
One last remark, on the subject of emigré names: many Americans have names that derive from Danish names containing one or more of the Danish special characters: "æ, ø, å" (uppercase: "Æ, Ø, Å"). If your name is derived from Danish and you can't find anyone of that name, try searching again, replacing "o" with "ø", "ae" with "æ", "aa" with "å", or "a" with "å".
One question that a lot of people ask, in various forms, is: "Will you do my homework for me?". Of course, not everyone is as blatant as that - but when I get a brief mail asking me to write a "500-word précis on the historical importance of John Locke" (actual example), only a simpleton would be unable to see that this was a homework assignment. Most of these jokers don't even bother to say please....
I'll bet you can guess what my answer to such questions is. Yes, that's right - a resounding "no". That's if I even bother to answer. Frankly, I think asking others to do your homework is a sure sign that you might be better off working as a sewage maintenance worker, rather than haunting the halls of academe.
And hey - my time is precious. If you want me to do work for you, asking me to do it for free is an insult.
On the other hand, if you are working with something interesting, and you are genuinely bogged down and need to ask a relevant question, I'm generally quite willing to talk shop and maybe give you some pointers. I just won't encourage laziness.
I know what you're thinking: That's a stupid question.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of people out there who really are that stupid. They seem to think that, having paid for an Internet connection, everything they find on the WWW is theirs to use, free of charge.
These thieves habitually rip off entire pages, often not even bothering to change anything except the name of the author. They apparently think that I'll never catch on. Duh.
Just to get things straight, I'd better inform you (and them) that I do regular searches of the major search engines for pages similar to my work, using a variety of techniques. This takes up a lot of my time, but I find that it is an effort well worth making, since it catches a lot of these crooks. And, when I do come across one of the plagiarists, I have a lawyer handle the rest of it. The results are predictable, and generally expensive (for them). Depending on where you live in the world, copyright infringement is punishable by anything from a hefty fine to actual time in jail.
So, in the words of an old TV-series theme: "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time." If you want to use my material for reference - link to it. Don't copy it. You have to have my permission to do so legally, and I'm not giving it - and certainly not for free.
Having read this answer, and the previous, you may think I'm being a grouch. Maybe I am - but I put hard work into this site, and I won't stand for being ripped off. So don't push your luck.
Send me the URL, and we'll see. The address is: email@example.com.
Because history is a near-infinite thing, and I am but frail mortal flesh. I have even been known to sleep, on occasion. If there's an event you really, really, really feel is missing, send me a mail, and I'll consider it.
As I mentioned above, the Tables of History is actually the oldest thing on the site - and they tend to reflect my personal fascinations, rather than a broader viewpoint. Caveat lector, one might say.
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This page is the work of Peter Ravn Rasmussen.
Updated: October 1, 2000.