Saturday, 31 March 2012

Could Julian the Apostate have defeated Christianity?

Julian has continued to fascinate people down the ages. He tends to be viewed favourably. In life he must have had a lot of charisma to do many of the things he did. He has left enough of his own writing and there are enough eye witness accounts that you can feel that you have got to know him.  He is talented, engaged, idealistic and with a great sense of humour.  He is very likeable.  Add to that a hero's death and an against the odds struggle against history he becomes irresistible.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

The Death of Julian - Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 24 Part 2

Resting Place of Julian the Apostate (Thanks to Wikipedia)

Julian was a scholar who had read widely and could write well.  His tastes were philosophical but the skills he had acquired in the pursuit of truth could be used for more worldly objectives.  So when he invaded Persia he studied the records of Trajan who had fought across the same territory years before.  Laying siege to Ctesiphon he was able to locate and reopen a canal built exactly 250 years before, enabling the city to be surrounded.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Stalingrad by Antony Beevor

Some books are just so well written that it makes reading them almost like watching a film.  You lose awareness that you have a book in your hand and you just picture what is going on in your head.   This is a book that is that well written.  But I think that this isn't just down to the skill of the author.  I imagine that to get the realistic feel that this book has it must have been necessary to spend many hours in research getting to know the subject matter intimately.  You don't think about that when you are reading it of course.  The effort it must have taken to produce no more crosses your mind when you are reading a good book than you think about the animination techniques in a well made film.

Continue reading at the new blog site

Monday, 26 March 2012

Niall Ferguson: China in the Future Channel 4 26.3.12

The previous episodes in this three part series have told the story of how China came to be where it is today. This one tackles the question of where it is going next.

Continue reading Niall Ferguson on the future of China at the new home of the blog.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Julian Invades Persia - Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 24 Part 1

Roman Empire at Time of Julian the Apostate (thanks to Wikipedia)

Rome grew to dominate the world under the republic.  After the republic fell, the emperors for the most part were content to simply defend what they had.  But the tradition of conquest continued.  Claudius added Britain and Dacia and Mesopotamia were conquered by Trajan.  Several smaller scale campaigns outside the empire were undertaken too.  So in 363 when Julian, the last pagan emperor led a Roman army drawn from all parts of the empire out across the border to conquer a foreign enemy he was doing something that was rare but which was not unprecedented. It would have broken his young and idealistic heart to know that this would be the last time the empire as he knew it would mount such an attack.

Read more about Julian in Persia at the new home of the blog.

Get new history books review podcasts as soon as they are released

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The History of Napoleon Buonaparte by John Gibson Lockhart

'Better luck next time!' - British sailors to Napoleon as he was transferred to the ship taking him to exile in St Helena.

Read more about John Gibson Lockhart's Napoleon at the new home of the blog.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Niall Ferguson: China and Mao Channel 4 19.3.12

The second programme in Niall Ferguson's series on China opened with a chilling question. If we ask the Chinese to help with bail out western economies, does that mean that they will become our masters?  It is an interesting and sobering question.  But he then proceeded to spend the next hour answering a completely different question, which is how come Chairman Mao is still so popular in China.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Comrade Reagan - Why Ronald Reagan is my Socialist Hero

Growing up in the seventies I was a socialist.  I was a pretty moderate socialist, but a socialist nonetheless.  But as I thought things through and became more aware of how the world was, I began to realise that socialists had two huge problems.  The first was the USSR.  The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was very obviously socialist, they even had it in the name.  It was also very obviously not somewhere to be admired.  For a start there was the violent repression of dissent.  But bad as that was, there was also the problem that it was just a bit crap.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

What Is Really Going On in the Primaries?

With the latest results just in from the process to select the Republican candidate just in, yet another upset has materialised with the front runner, Mitt Romney, failing to win any states.  This fits in beautifully with the narrative being applied to the story by the media.  Republican voters are, we are told, deeply unhappy with poor choice being offered to them and are expressing this by their fickle switching from one doomed unpopular candiate to another.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Niall Ferguson: China, Triumph and Turmoil Channel 4 12.3.12

Niall Ferguson's one hour history and sketch of China started with him admitting that he didn't really understand it - in fact he feels like he is an alien when he visits.  Not a promising introduction, but he soon starts giving the lie to it by pointing out some of those obvious facts that stare you in the face but that you never really notice.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Black Swan by Nassim Taleb

It is a good sign when a book doesn't fit into an obvious category.  It is probably a nightmare for a librarian or a bookseller, but it is good news for the reader.  There is less risk that you are going to read the same old stuff you have read before - we all enjoy the unexpected.  Black Swan is one of those books defies classification.  Is it philosophy, business, mathematics or history? What it is about unexpected events which unsettle prior conceptions.  So that is promising, an unpredictable book that deals with the unexpected.  Lets read on, over at the new home of this blog.