Friday, 27 May 2011

Aerotropolis by John Kasarda and Greg Lindsay

Aerotropolis: The Way We'll Live Next

In the past Empires were built on the demand for spices. What was so special about spices?  Basically it was that they were valuable, imperishable and portable.  Before modern technology, in particular modern transport, they were just about the only commodity which it was technically feasible to trade on a global scale.  But as technology has developed what can be traded has changed.  And it is still changing.  This book looks at the implications.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

A Socialist Reads the Hobbit Part 4



Where Bilbo lives is a very comfortable and law abiding place.  As we get further away from home things get wilder.  The Hobbit is of course a children's book and Tolkien makes things as simple for his youthful audience.  He designates this area as 'the Wild'.  This is fairly easy on the brain and gets us to the right place mentally with minimal effort.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

The Church as a Franchise

I am indebted to the highly followable  @TLockyer on Twitter for drawing my attention to a fascinating paper available via the marvelous Medievalist.net resource.

http://www.medievalists.net/2011/05/01/franchise-conflict-the-tide-of-antipopes-in-the-aftermath-of-the-eastern-schism/

This looks at the idea that the Church can be thought of as a franchise in quite a lot of detail and uses this idea to interpret so key historical events.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

The Satires - Juvenal

 Sixteen Satires (Penguin Classics)

First off - they may by satires but they aren't really laugh out loud funny.  There are a few mildly funny stories, but nothing that a modern stand up comedian could do anything with.  But there are times when they bring a smile to your face, and as you read more and get to know the author better you do start to find his approach to life amusing.

Read more here at the new home of the blog http://historybooksreview.co.uk/the-satires-juvenal/

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Naill Ferguson - Civilization Is the West History, the whole series



I have given quite a lot of coverage to the individual episodes of Niall Ferguson's series Civilization, Is the West History?, so I thought it made sense to round it all off with a review of all six programmes as a whole.   Each of them explores a particular aspect of how the West has come to dominate the world for the last 500 years.  But the title, the tone and even the advertising of this series project lay claim to a high ambition. The aim is surely not just to explain how things got to be this way, but to tell us where things are going.  And we do surely need an answer to the question in the title.  Has domination of the world by the West now run its course and possibly be going into reverse.

So what are we to make of the series as a whole?   Is the case it makes believable?  Is the West in fact history and destined to lose its predominant position in the world fairly shortly?  And perhaps most important of all, is it worth plowing through six hours of video to find out.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

How the Church Won: Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 15 Part 4


The rapid rise of Christianity has often been considered to be a remarkable event in itself, and the fact that it acquired so many adherents so quickly is often held to be a miracle in its own right that further confirms the truth of the message. Recent calculations are a bit more sober.  Prior to its official adoption growth was impressive but far from unbelievable.   In fact it is in line with and if anything  even a bit slower than the the much better documented recent growth of Mormonism.

The rest is at the new home of my blog

http://historybooksreview.co.uk/how-the-church-won-gibbons-decline-and-fall-of-the-roman-empire/

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Durruti - Ever heard of him?



Durruti was a well known name able to induce panic anywhere in Europe in the 1930s.  He was a prominent Spanish anarchist dedicated to the violent overthrow of bourgeois society.  He really came into his own during the Spanish Civil War where he led troops in fighting against the Fascists in the battle for Madrid.

Niall Ferguson: Civilization - Is the West History? Religion and the work ethic


I had watched the rest of the series when it was broadcast and blogged it instantly.  I couldn't do that for the last episode because I was away at a conference to do with my work.  Not many people work on a Sunday evening, but I think Niall would approve.  In the West we used to work hard, and now most of us don't any more.  And this may be our undoing.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Miracles: Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 15 Part 3

Jesus turns water into wine


Gibbon has an issue with miracles.