Totalitarianism as a concept has made something of a comeback in recent years.
Trauma has become a burning topic in Western cultures of late. Traumatic events and debates over how they are remembered by individuals and memorialised by cultures are important for lots of different constituencies.
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.
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.
Ernest Gellner, who died on 5 November 1995, was one of the great polymaths of the century. Many of his twenty books were concerned with philosophy, sociology and anthropology. Yet at the core of his work was an historical question.
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.
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.
This book achieves two aims: to locate the Great War in the history of the 20th century, and to show how, as the 20th century unfolded, our understanding of the meaning and significance of the Great War changed as well.
The history of emotions, a rocket taking off according to Jan Plamper, seems to be screaming ‘know thyself!’ at psychology in all its various forms, but most specifically at neuroscience. The development of a hard science of emotions has involved, with every step ‘forward’, the forgetting of the previous step.
In the latest of our occasional Reviews in History podcast series, Dr Jordan Landes talks to Professor Jan Plamper about his new work on the history of emotions, a subject which he has memorably described as a 'rocket taking off'.
Jan Plamper is Professor of History at Goldsmiths, University of London.