Helmut Titling An Essay
The purpose of a historian depends on his point of view.
Leopold von Ranke, Histories of the Latin and Germanic Nations from 1494–1514
When it comes to history, every student seems to understand that at the end of the day it is who has the Gatling gun and who has not that determines who tells the subsequent story and how. There is, nevertheless, a richer way of looking at historical perspective; it derives from perspective in painting, and more precisely from the intersection between modern historical thinking and the discovery of linear projection.
In his dedication of The Prince to Lorenzo de Medici, Niccolò Machiavelli hinted at this intersection. "Just as men who are sketching the landscape put themselves down in the plain to study the nature of the mountains and the highlands, and to study the low-lying land they put themselves high on the mountains, so," Machiavelli wrote in 1513, "to comprehend fully the nature of the people one must be a prince, and to comprehend fully the nature of princes one must be an ordinary citizen."1 The perspective of an observer outside the thing being observed, Machiavelli implies, is the precondition for comprehension. For Machiavelli, perspective had a particular, painterly resonance. Roughly a century earlier, Filippo Brunelleschi had conducted his famous experiments leading [End Page 269] to the discovery of linear perspective, which Leon Battista Alberti then systematized for the use of his fellow artists in his famous treatise, On Painting, published in 1436. The essential discovery is that from the perspective of a viewing eye, the lines of a three dimensional image on a flat plane converge in what Alberti called the "centric point."2 In English, in the course of the eighteenth century, this "sign," as Alberti also called it, became known as a "vanishing point."3 In mathematically precise fashion, it determined the relative size of all other objects on the canvas.
The vanishing point is good to think with—even if Alberti's rigid construction is not the only way that painters render perspective. Nevertheless, the vanishing point suggests that perspective generates as well as limits knowledge. It asks what point on the canvas is decisive for structuring the whole, and it suggests that this point structures in a strong sense. And it considers this point, and the composition of the canvas, "as arranged for the spectator as the universe was once thought to be arranged for God."4 Not the sanctity of every epoch, but the constant struggle between the material and the attempt of the historian to get a lock on it, rendering it visible, comprehensible and stable, is the crux of the problem.
Linear perspective is of course a metaphor, the use of one kind of thing to better understand another. As love is not a red, red rose, so history is not a Renaissance canvas with a vanishing point. But for the writing of history, the painterly metaphor is an old one, and if not merely a cliché it tells us something. When Voltaire, for example, compared his chapters of the Age of Louis XIV to "frescoes of the great events of the time," he added, revealingly: "the principal figures are in the foreground; the crowd is in the background. Woe to details!"5 Conversely, when the social historians of the 1960s and 1970s talked about widening the canvas, foregrounding the crowd and empathetically rendering the details of the everyday, old-school critics wondered where the center was now to be. They were not wrong to ask. When taken seriously, the painterly metaphor helps us consider the place of significant facts in a larger image; it allows us to see what is in the foreground and what placed out of view. It also enjoins us to consider these things from an analytical position that does not necessarily privilege our present perspective, or reduce perspective to a putative political ideology. Instead, the metaphor suggests that...
For other uses, see Helmet (disambiguation).
A helmet is a form of protective gear worn to protect the head from injuries. More specifically, a helmet aids the skull in protecting the human brain. Ceremonial or symbolic helmets (e.g. UK policeman's helmet) without protective function are sometimes used. The oldest known use of helmets was by Assyrian soldiers in 900 BC, who wore thick leather or bronze helmets to protect the head from blunt object and sword blows and arrow strikes in combat. Soldiers still wear helmets, now often made from lightweight plastic materials.
In civilian life, helmets are used for recreational activities and sports (e.g. jockeys in horse racing, American football, ice hockey, cricket, baseball, camogie, hurling and rock climbing); dangerous work activities (e.g. construction, mining, riot police); and transportation (e.g. motorcycle helmets and bicycle helmets). Since the 1990s, most helmets are made from resin or plastic, which may be reinforced with fibers such as aramids.
The word helmet is diminutive from helm, a medieval word for protective combat headgear. The medieval great helm covers the whole head and often is accompanied with camail protecting throat and neck as well. Originally a helmet was a helm which covered the head only partly.
All helmets attempt to protect the user's head by absorbing mechanical energy and protecting against penetration. Their structure and protective capacity are altered in high-energy impacts. Beside their energy-absorption capability, their volume and weight are also important issues, since higher volume and weight increase the injury risk for the user's head and neck. Anatomical helmets adapted to the inner head structure were invented by neurosurgeons at the end of the 20th century.
Helmets used for different purposes have different designs. For example, a bicycle helmet must protect against blunt impact forces from the wearer's head striking the road. A helmet designed for rock climbing must protect against heavy impact, and against objects such as small rocks and climbing equipment falling from above. Practical concerns also dictate helmet design: a bicycling helmet should be aerodynamic in shape and well ventilated, while a rock climbing helmet must be lightweight and small so that it does not interfere with climbing.
Some helmets have other protective elements attached to them, such as a face visors or goggles or a face cage, or an ear cage or ear plugs and other forms of protective headgear, and a communications system. Sports helmets may have an integrated metal face protector (face cage).
- Baseball batting helmets have an expanded protection over the ear, which protects the jaw from injury.
- Motorcycle helmets often have flip-down face screens for rain and wind protection, and they may also have projecting visors to protect the eyes from glare.
- Hard hats for construction workers are worn mainly to protect the wearer from falling objects such as tools.
- Helmets for riot police often have flip-down clear visors and thick padding to protect the back of the neck.
- Modern firefighter's helmets protect the face and back of the head against impact, fires and electricity, and can include masks, communication systems, and other accessories.
- Welding helmets protect the eyes and face and neck from flash burn, ultraviolet light, sparks and heat. They have a small window, called a lens shade, through which the welder looks at the weld; for arc welding this window must be much darker than in blowtorch goggles and sunglasses.
- People with some medical conditions must wear a helmet to protect the brain, due to a gap in the braincase, e.g. because of cleidocranial dysostosis or in separated craniopagus twins.
- Mixed martial arts helmets have ear pads to prevent serious injuries to the athletes, who do not usually endure such force to the ears.
- Some watersports helmets, such as for underwater hockey or water polo, have ear-cages fitted which are designed to help prevent burst eardrums caused by an excessive water pressure resulting from a contact or percussion from other equipment involved in the sport.
- Crash helmets for F1 racing drivers, their design and construction have evolved enormously. Nevertheless, head and neck trauma remains the greatest single injury risk to drivers.
Historically, helmets have been made from a wide range of materials, including various metals, plastics, leather, and even some fibrous materials such as Kevlar. Ancient and medieval helmets were usually made of metals, often bronze, iron or steel, though some boar's tusk helmets were known to ancient Mycenae.
Some British gamekeepers during the 18th and 19th centuries wore helmets made of straw bound together with cut bramble. Developed in the mid-19th century, the pith helmet, made of pith or cork, was often worn by Europeans in the tropics.
Military applications in the 19th-20th centuries saw a number of leather helmets, particularly among aviators and tank crews in the early 20th century. In the early days of the automobile, some motorists also adopted this style of headgear, and early football helmets were also made of leather. In World War II, American, Soviet, German, Italian and French flight crews wore leather helmets, the German pilots disguising theirs under a beret before disposing of both and switching to cloth caps.[when?] The era of the First and Second World Wars also saw a resurgence of metal military helmets, most notably the Brodie helmet and the Stahlhelm.
Modern helmets have a much wider range of applications, including helmets adapted to the specific needs of many athletic pursuits and work environments, and these very often incorporate plastics and other synthetic materials for their light weight and shock absorption capabilities. Some types of synthetic fibers used to make helmets in the 21st century include Aramid, Kevlar and Twaron.
Helmets of many different types have developed over the course of human history. Most early helmets had military uses, though some may have had more ceremonial than combat-related purposes.
Two important helmet types to develop in antiquity were the Corinthian helmet and the Roman galea.
During the Middle Ages, many different military helmets and some ceremonial helmets were developed, almost all of these being made of metals. Some of the more important medieval developments included the great helm, the bascinet, the frog-mouth helm and the armet.
In the 19th century, more materials were incorporated, namely leather, felt and pith. The pith helmet and the leather pickelhaube were important 19th century developments. The greatest expansion in the variety of forms and composition of helmets, however, took place in the 20th century, with the development of highly specialized helmets for a multitude of athletic and professional applications, as well as the advent of modern plastics. During World War I, the French army developed the Adrian helmet, the British developed the Brodie helmet, and the Germans produced the Stahlhelm.
Flight helmets were also developed throughout the 20th century. A multitude of athletic helmets, including football helmets, batting helmets, cricket helmets, bicycle helmets, motorcycle helmets and racing helmets, were also developed in the 20th century.
Helmets since the mid-20th century have often incorporated lightweight plastics and other synthetic materials, and their use has become highly specialized. Some important recent developments include the French SPECTRA helmet, Spanish MARTE helmet or the American PASGT (commonly called "Kevlar" by U.S. troops) and Advanced Combat Helmet, or ACH.
Main article: Helmet (heraldry)
As the coat of arms was originally designed to distinguish noble combatants on the battlefield or in a tournament, even while covered in armour, it is not surprising that heraldic elements constantly incorporated the shield and the helmet, these often being the most visible parts of a knight's military equipment.
The common practice was to display a helmet as part of the coat of arms, above the shield, a practice maintained long after helmets themselves ceased to be used. In German heraldry, the helmet was even considered to be inseparable from the shield, in contrast to English heraldry, where the practice of displaying the helmet and crest alone with no shield whatsoever came into vogue in Victorian times. In most post-medieval heraldic traditions, the style, colour and position of the helmet became emblematic of the rank of the bearer. Rank was also often denoted by a coronet, usually either surmounting the shield or placed upon the helmet.
The practice of indicating peerage through the display of barred or grilled helmets first appeared around 1587-1615, and the heraldic convention of displaying helmets of rank in the United Kingdom, which came into vogue around Stuart times, is as follows:
- Sovereign: a gold barred-face (tournament) helm placed affronté
- Peer's helmet: silver barred-face (tournament) helm placed in profile
- Knight's or baronet's helmet: steel helm (earlier jousting helm, later close helm) placed affronté with visor open
- Esquire's helmet: steel helm placed in profile with visor closed
Earlier rolls of arms reveal, however, that early heraldic helmets were depicted in a manner faithful to the styles in actual military or tournament use at the time.
Corinthian Helmet, 500 BCE
Greek Chalcidian Helmet, 500 BCE
Thracian Helmet, 4th Century BCE
Celtic (Gallic) Parade Helmet, 350 BCE
Ancient Bronze Greek Helmet, 350 BCE to 300 BCE
Roman Cavalry Helmet, 1st Century
Late 19th-century pith helmet
Type 90 helmets worn by the Japanese during the Second World War
Leather firefighting helmet
Motorcycle helmet (PFF's collection).
Aviakit motorcyclist "pudding basin" helmet
Full face and open face motorcycle helmet
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