Thursday, 26 April 2012

The Retreat of Jovian - Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 24 Part 3



The death of Julian left the Roman army in a tight situation.  They were still 200 miles deep in Persian territory and were running low on provisions.  Julian's eccentric decision not to name a successor left them with an immediate practical problem.  Who was to lead them?  And needless to say the decision had to be made quickly - a crisis like this required decisions to be made without delay.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Going Dutch: How England Plundered Holland's Glory by Lisa Jardine


The events of 1688 have been remembered in British history as the Glorious Revolution.  A tyranical Catholic king was out of control and was destroying the country's constitution, its liberties and its religion.  In desperation William the Third was invited across to rescue the British and replace the unacceptable James the Second.  William of Orange landed unopposed.  He drew support to himself from the disaffected subjects of James and advanced slowly on London, carefully giving the British plenty of time to come round to his side and so to avoid any bloodshed.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

I am better informed about current affairs if I read history and ignore the news


I think it must have been about 2004 that the penny dropped.  But habits are strong things, and it probably wasn't until around 2008 that I had modified my behaviour.  Following the news makes you less informed than reading history.  I still watch the news when something is going on that has caught my attention.  Who wouldn't want to hear Barak Obama's first speech as president?  And long running events like the Arab Spring and the financial crisis have a sort of soap opera like ability to keep you tuning in to see what happens next.  And it pays to know the name of the head of state of countries in Europe.  But I no longer feel that I need to consume the news every day or follow every twist and turn of what is going on with any great degree of attention.  Instead, I have increased the amount of history I read.  As a result, I feel better informed.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

An Appeal to Reason by Nigel Lawson



I have written before in my review of Bjorn Lomborg's book about how I am a climate change skeptic. I believe climate change is a huge problem, but I am open to changing my mind presented with an argument against it that makes sense.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Libya - What does the West Really Want from it?



Libya was the first country in which bombs were dropped from an aircraft during a conflict.  The year was 1911 and the bombers were Italian fighting the Ottoman Empire for control of what was at that time one of their provinces.  The use of this advanced technology gave the Italians a distinct advantage over the Turks, but led to a huge escalation in costs making the war much more expensive than had been anticipated.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Britain's Six Greatest Enemies

Six of biggest threats to Britain over the years


Britain has had many enemies over the years, here are a few of the ones that posed the biggest threat to the British way of life.  Here are half a dozen of my favourites.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The Skeptical Environmentalist by Bjorn Lomborg



I am a climate change skeptic.     I am a scientist and I think skepticism is crucial to the way the scientific method works.  Seek out the key facts - not all the facts just the key ones.  On the basis of these come to a decision.  Then look for any reason to junk the decision.

Friday, 6 April 2012

How Tall Are You? How Tall Should You Be?


Short Japanese Surrendering to Tall Americans (thanks to Wikipedia)


I have been very interested lately in a branch of economic history that until recently I knew nothing about, but which seems to offer a way of looking at the past that has never crossed my mind before.  And it is surprisingly simple, suspiciously so in fact.  You can tell a lot about changes in society simply by looking at average height.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Return the Elgin Marbles



I've thought that the Elgin Marbles should be returned to Greece ever since I first saw them at the British Museum.  The display at the museum is fine, but as soon as I saw them in three dimensions I knew it was wrong to keep them.  I can't explain it logically or make any eloquent case in the way Steven Fry has recently done.  I just think that they should be back where they came from.

And if you are going to choose a good time to do it, why not now?  With their current economic woes I think the Greeks would appreciate being reminded of the bigger picture and the contribution their ancestors made to world culture.  Balancing the books is great, but nobody is fighting over accounting ledgers from the 5th Century BC.

Some extra tourist revenue wouldn't do any harm either.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Update on the Kindle



I reviewed my Kindle not long after I got it.  I have now been using it regularly for over a year and have got used and thought it was time for an update.  Lots of things take a while before you really get the measure of them, especially technology.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

How Fire Made Us And The World We Live In


There is a lot of coverage in the media today of the recent report that seems to make clear beyond all doubt that our pre-human ancestors were using fire around a million years ago in Africa.  This is an interesting enough thing to discover in itself, but it has added significance because there is a theory that it was the discovery of fire that created humans as they are today. The idea goes that it was the ability to cook our food that enabled us to make our diet energy rich enough to be able to evolve brains and culture.