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.
‘We are most of us governed by epistemologies that we know to be wrong’: Gregory Bateson’s observation summarizes what motivates Keith Jenkins’s latest book.(1) In this collection of essays written and published over the last 15 years (including not only a foreword by Hayden White and an afterword by Alun Munslow, but also responses from Perez Zagorin and Michael C.
Confucius once remarked that rulers need three resources: weapons, food and trust. The ruler who cannot have all three should give up weapons first, then food, but should hold on to trust at all costs: 'without trust we cannot stand'.(1) Machiavelli disagreed.
Addressing the Joint Session of Congress in 2003, Tony Blair issued a stirring defence of the democratic idea. Words like ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’, he declared, were not ‘American values or Western values’:
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)
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.
Passing under a tessellated ply-wood portcullis to enter ‘Revel Grove’ and attend the Maryland Renaissance Festival, held in the Baltimore suburb of Crownsville, crowds of eager 21st–century revelers are greeted by none other than a faux Henry VIII, six feet plus in height, twenty stone, fists at his hips, legs akimbo in colossus fashion, and dressed in as authentic Holbein garb as a theater co
David Nirenberg’s Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition is an impressive scholarly accomplishment that matches a dauntingly large subject matter with a vast vault of personal knowledge. At 474 pages and 13 chapters covering more than 3000 years, it is thorough without being exhaustive.
The first thing to note about this book is that it is about the American far left’s (that is by what Norwood sees as the American far left after 1920) engagement with Antisemitism and it is not about, or at least not just about, Antisemitism by the American far left.
The beginnings of Europe is not a very complicated historical subject. After the end of Roman domination in the fifth century CE, so-called ‘successor states’ grew up in the territories and around the margins of what had been the Western Roman Empire, and out of those states grew France, Spain, Italy and (with greater complications) England and Germany.