A History of Nigeria is an impressive book, the more so because its ambitions initially appear straightforward. Toyin Falola and Matthew Heaton describe their project as ‘a general background survey of the broad themes of Nigeria’s history from the beginnings of human habitation … to the early twenty-first century’ (p.
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.
At the conclusion of her history of Marian devotion, Mother of God, Miri Rubin states, ‘For in woman’s capacity to act as a generous host, to contain a body in her body, there is an act of tremendous hospitality’ (p. 424).
‘Heritage should not be confused with history. History seeks to convince by truth … Heritage exaggerates and omits, candidly admits and frankly forgets, and thrives on ignorance and error’.(1) David Lowenthal’s remarks on the difference between these two enterprises go a long way to explain why historians have had a rather negative view of public historical practices.
Reading an edited collection of articles can be likened to dining out on a tasting menu: you’re afforded the opportunity to sample broadly but portions can sometimes be relatively puny. A standard serving, like a monograph, provides bulk whereas essays may fire up your appetite yet fail to satiate your hunger.
‘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.
Two books on druids in two years, and by the same author! If I were either of Ronald Hutton’s publishers I’d be biting my nails over this, but let me reassure them both right at the start that Hutton pulls it off, and in style. The two really do complement each other. So what does Blood and Mistletoe have that The Druids: A History (1) does not?
'From the Sea of Perpetual Gloom to the Holiday Cruise'
The Pacific forms part of the series ‘Seas in History’ edited by the late Geoffrey Scammell. Already published are the volumes about the Atlantic, the Baltic and North Seas and the Indian Ocean. The historiography of seas and oceans has an illustrious tradition (Fernand Braudel, Kirti Chaudhuri, O. H. K. Spate, J. H.