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Over 40 years ago, Robert Darnton proposed to evaluate the Enlightenment from its authors’ perspectives. After all, he observed, they were ‘men of flesh and blood, who wanted to fill their bellies, house their families, and make their way in the world’.(1) But with what did they fill their bellies, and when, and how much?
At first sight this looks like another of those increasingly common commodity books, some of which are intended to be global in scope, and which include studies of chocolate, sugar, cod, salt and many others (digestible or not!). As Riello points out, commodities are a good way to tell a global story since many of them have been traded throughout the world for centuries.
From the advent of the new social history, the patient has received extensive attention from historians of medicine.
In his new book Steven Pinker, psychologist at Harvard University, sets out to fundamentally alter our understanding of the trajectory of violence from pre-historic times to the present. He takes issue with the widely held perception that the most recent past, the 20th century, was an age of large-scale bloodshed and genocidal slaughter.
And whenever we abuse that reason, and act beneath the character and dignity of a rational creature, we lose the divine image in that respect; we have nothing to denominate us men but outward shape; or, in other words, we become brutes in the shapes of men.(1)
According to the American humorist Ogden Nash, ‘God, in his wisdom, made the Fly. And then forgot to tell us why’. This long-standing mystery has apparently been resolved by John F. McDiarmid Clark, who argues that the fly’s main purposed was to allow early Victorian amateur bug-hunters to become 20th-century professional entomologists.
It is said that ‘efficiency is doing better what is already being done’, although the word in English derives from the Latin efficere; simply, to accomplish. In its crudest sense then, regardless of culture or nationality, the vast majority of humanity engages in efficiency at a personal level on a daily basis.
In the past decade Britain has finally relaxed the strict controls on the movement of dogs and cats across its borders. The most potent and compelling arguments used for the retention of quarantine regulations could be found in the pictures of rabid dogs posted at marinas and other embarkation points.
John Monro was not, I suspect, an interesting man.
Clarkson's and Crawford's research at the Centre for Social Research and in this book builds on Kenneth H. Connell's pioneering studies of population and of Irish diet.