Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Social Complexity and Sustainability by Joseph Tainter

I promised a fuller review of this paper at the beginning of the month when I just pulled out the currency data (See http://historybooksreview.blogspot.com/2010/11/quantitative-easing-roman-way.html).

Did Rome fall because it was too complicated?

But interesting as that was there is rather more to Professor Tainter's work that is worth looking at.  His paper was published in a biological journal, The Journal of Ecological Complexity and is an attempt to look at historical phenomena from an ecological perspective.  In particular he looks at the rise and fall of the Roman Empire -a subject much on History Books Review's mind at the moment given the ongoing extended review I am doing of Gibbon at the moment.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Baron Hennessy of Nympsfield

Peter Hennessy is having an exciting year.  Not only has one of  his books been reviewed here on the History Books Review, yesterday he also became a member of the House of Lords.

Congratulations your Honour, and hopefully this will give you more time to write more books.

See the review of The Secret State by Peter Hennessy here:


Sunday, 14 November 2010

The Gordians: Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 7 Part 2

So the senate was now resolved to do battle with the upstart Maximin.  Everyone's hopes were invested in the Gordians, who they felt represented the best of the traditions of Rome.  Envoys to the rest of Italy had quickly established a high level of support in the heart of the empire.  The problem was Maximin had the army, and he knew how to use it.  Once the excitement of the rebellion had died down the sober assessment of the situation was bleak. What could stop a march into Italy by the legions.  And the nominal leader of the revolt hadn't even made it to Rome yet.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Byzantium The Lost Empire

Empress Theodora in a Byzantine Mosaic

This series ran on UK television a couple of years ago.  The photography is truly stunning.  I am going to be reminding myself with this YouTube edition, which by my calculation must sadly be missing some of the footage that was originally screened.  It is probably not going to be as enjoyable on the computer as on the full sized telly screen, but still well worth a look.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Quantitative Easing the Roman Way

When someone finds a Roman coin in a field, they often imagine that they have stumbled across something of great value.  It is after all old, rare and made of a precious metal.  The reality is that only the first of those things is true.  Roman coins can be bought on Ebay for a pound or less.  And the disappointment with the low value of the coin is something that the original owner probably shared.


Sunday, 7 November 2010

Barbarian Emperor: Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 7 Part 1

If you want to follow this series it starts with the reign of the first Roman emperor Augustus.  The previous episode is covers the reign of Alexander Severus the last of the Severan dynasty to rule Rome.

Few reigns, even in the brutal world of Rome, had such an ugly start as that of Maximin. There is no record of the plotting that led up to his coup, but on the day appointed he was acclaimed by the troops in the camp as emperor.  Alexander, realising that his tenuous grip on the throne was now gone fled to his tent.  It was no protection, and pleading for mercy and blaming his mother, he was killed in short order. His crime was simply to stand in the way of someone determined to have the throne.

Monday, 1 November 2010

God is not Great by Christopher Hitchens

I am very grateful to the lay preachers at Frenchgate Chapel in the nineteen sixties for being just about the worst advocates for their religion I can imagine.  They not only failed to convince me, at about age 7, that I should believe in God.  They failed to persuade me that they did either.