Thursday, 28 June 2012

Command of the Ocean by N.A.M.Rodger

It doesn't do people or countries any good to dwell too much on past successes or failures.  I am old enough to have been taught at school about Britain's naval successes and what I was taught was largely mythical.  I think it is a good thing that schools don't do that kind of thing any more.  But as is often the case, the truth is a lot more interesting.  This book reveals in a great deal of detail just how much went into creating the surprisingly brief period when Britain's navy was able to control the  oceans of the world.  There was a lot to it.

Continue reading at my new blog site

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Reforming the Story of the Reformation

It is always good to see a meaty historical issue raised in the Sunday newspapers.  Today the Sunday Telegraph has done just that by letting Eamon Duffy challenge the conventional view of the English Reformation. It was, according to him, a cultural disaster.  Really?

Continue reading at the new blog site

Friday, 22 June 2012

Summer Solstice - The World We Have Lost

Yesterday was the Summer Solstice.  Here in Britain the weather marked the occassion by soaking the assorted new agers, Druids and general mystics who turned up to celebrate at Stonehenge. The newspapers in turn celebrated the god of cliche by saying that their spirit was undaunted by the weather.  Whatever, it was good to see so many people turning out.  The Summer Solstice shouts out to be marked in the calendar by some kind of festival.  The days have now got as long as they are going to get and will start getting shorter, reminding us to enjoy the summer while it is still here.

Read more here at the blog's new home

Thursday, 21 June 2012

The Last Roman - Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 25 Part 7

Power is always relative.  The Roman Empire had lost some territory to the Persians, but this did not hugely reduce its resources.  It remained the big beast in the jungle.  For the Persians however, acquiring some new provinces enhanced their capabilities considerably over where they had been  before the peace treaty.  They were still at a severe disadvantage in an all out fight with the Romans, but they posed a much bigger threat than they used to.  This meant the forces deployed to defend against them had to be larger and they had to be treated with a greater degree of diplomatic finesse.

Continue reading at the new blog location

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell

Orwell's account of his participation in the Spanish Civil War on the side of the Republicans has quite rightly achieved the status of a classic.   Orwell pitched up in Barcelona as a journalist intending to cover the war.  In the event he got carried away by the atmosphere of the time and ended up signing up to fight at the front.  It must have been some atmosphere.  Orwell describes it as a formative experience that made him really believe in socialism, something he had done only intellectually before.

Continue reading this review of George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia on the new blog site.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Theodosius in Africa - Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 25 Part 6

From the fall of Carthage in 146 BC to the arrival of Christianity at the end of the 2nd Century nothing much happened in the Roman province of Africa.  But although it was uneventful it was far from unimportant. The Romans used Africa as the name for the area around Carthage, modern day Tunisia, and the southern shore of the Mediterranean to its east - the northern part of modern day Libya.   At that time it was highly productive and fertile.  The bread dole that formed part of the bread and circuses that kept the population of Rome fed and entertained was largely from this region.  Read mire at the new home of the blog

Thursday, 7 June 2012

The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers by Paul Kennedy

This book was highly influential when it came out and continues to make an interesting read, though it has rather swiftly slippd from being an interesting look at the contemporary situation to an interesting look at how the world looked in the Eighties.  Having read it not long after it came out, I can remember the way it seemed to have some kind of great predictive power.  This was enhanced when the Soviet Union collapsed - an event that was foreseen by almost nobody, including Paul Kennedy, but he somehow seemed to have the best explanation.

Continue reading at the new home of the blog

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Theodosius in Britain - Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 25 Part 5

The country the Pilgrim Fathers left for America from in 1620 was England.   Britain was purely a geographical expression, and not a particularly widely used one.  The United Kingdom of Great Britain came into existence in 1707 when the two states officially united.  Americans have continued to call the result  England to this day.  Read more at the new home of the blog

Monday, 4 June 2012

Wisconsin and the Gracchi

There is no particular consensus on who was responsible for the current financial crisis.  Credit was definitely involved somewhere along the way.  But was it the people who lent it, borrowed it or regulated it who are culpable?  Nobody seems to know, though some people have some pretty strong opinions.  But there is one group of people who would seem to be in the clear.  Organised Labour don't advance loans, issue credit ratings or set the rules for banking operations.  So whatever else you think about your local union, you have to at least concede they didn't wreck either Wall Street or the EU.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Diamond Jubilee Special Post

Well I have just got back from a street party to celebrate the 60th anniversary of our dear Queen's coronation.  I have had some beer, almost but not quite got up to dance and joined in with singing God Save the Queen.  See more at the new home of the blog