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Old historians, like old soldiers, don’t die; they simply fade away. A paradox of the historical profession is the widespread disregard shown towards ancestors. We all aspire to write groundbreaking work that will pass the test of time, but the sad truth is a given monograph will have a short shelf life and quickly join what G. M.
How should we live? Roman Krznaric, in The Wonderbox: Curious Histories of How to Live, tackles a question as old as civilization itself from a position more fundamental than philosophy, religion or psychology offer on their own. This position is historical.
Classical works formed the kernel of Thomas Jefferson's libraries. The third president read both Latin and Greek. He wrote repeatedly of his fondness of classical literature and died, on 4 July 1826, with Seneca's work open on his bedside table. Nonetheless, Jefferson in many ways doubted the classical world was the original mold upon which the American experiment had to be built.
No one would deny that Pompeii, the city destroyed by the forces of nature – as when, in the words of the poet Leopardi, ‘an overripe tomato falls on an anthill’ – has attained the status of an archetype, outpacing even Atlantis (whose story must now be explained to the unfamiliar in terms of the fate of Pompeii).
The liberal enlightenment idea of progress has promised many benefits over the past 300 years. Liberal progress, we have been told, would provide cures for diseases, remedies for ignorance, alternatives to superstition, and antidotes to poverty. Nothing however has raised higher expectations than liberalism’s claim that it could put an end to war.
The writing of history – any history – is shaped by the intellectual environment in which it is written, and by the preoccupations of its writers. As Christopher Tyerman acknowledges in his prefatory remarks, ‘writing history is not a neutral revelation but a malleable, personal, contingent, cultural activity’ (p. xi).
It is rare to review a book that was published nearly 60 years ago. It is also a privilege, because Sir George Hill’s last volume in his four-volume A History of Cyprus is considered by most historians of Cyprus as the starting point for both students and scholars of the Ottoman and British periods (until 1948) of Cyprus’ past.
Ten Years of Debate on the Origins of the Great Divergence between the Economies of Europe and China during the Era of Mercantilism and Industrialization
1. Smith, Marx and Weber
The first principle of understanding history, I was taught, is to sympathize with the historical actors, to immerse oneself in their context and perspective.(1) Otherwise, history becomes a fabricated reconstruction – more about the writer's ideology than the events of the past.