Saturday, August 17, 2019

Twenty-Five History Posts

All that makes earlier times seem simpler is our ignorance of their complexities.

--Thomas Sowell

Orientalism, Europe, and the World. Taking off from a recent French novel, we ask what actually made Europe the center of the world.

Michael Hunter, "The Decline of Magic: Britain in the Enlightenment." Why did the European persecution of witches end in the later 1600s?   

Piracy and Life. From my old blog, a meditation on the madness that drives life into every crack and humans to do anything to survive.

A Magic Sphere and the Disappointment of Roman Magic. So far as I can tell, ancient magical practice was not based on any theory of how it was supposed to work.

Sickles, Scythes, and the Conundrum of Slow Technological Change. Why was the vastly superior scythe so little used before 1500 AD?

A Primer on Alchemy. For 1500 years people tried to transmute lead gold, without ever once succeeding. Why did they keep at it?

Beast Men: Berserkir and Úlfhéðnar in the Viking Age. Do these shaman-warriors help explain the strange and savage phenomenon of the Viking expansion?

Pondering the 1619 Project. How should we think about slavery and American history, especially around the time of the Revolution?

Gay Renaissance Artists, Worldly Churchmen, Corruption, Tolerance, Aristocracy, Populism, Art, and Life

Aminidab Seekright v. Ferdinando Dreadnought. It helps to know something about the law before using legal sources in your historical work.

Mongols and Massacres. The truly awful events of the Mongol conquest.

Shamanism, Daoism, and the Kargaly Diadem. A wonderful artifact from central Asia opens a window into the weirder aspects of ancient Chinese religion.

Ethics, Expertise, and Judgment. What matters more, technical know-how or moral rectitude? What should the victorious Allies have done about German and Japanese experts (engineers, technicians, bankers) with needed skills but dubious politics? Plus more here on the particular role in postwar Japan and Korea of economic planners who trained in Manchuria.

Scholars who achieved my great ambition and were remembered in folklore as wizards: Guiguzi and Michael Scot of Balwearie.

Were there female warriors in the Viking Age?

Nalanda. Once great Buddhist university refounded in northeastern India.

The Socialist Tragedy of Eleanor Marx. Some people, including Karl Marx's daughter, thought socialism would, besides fixing economic life, solve all the problems of love and marriage.

Swedish Rune Stones and the Spirit of the Viking Age.

Bronze in 4700 BCE; or, the Metalsmiths of Pločnik, Technology, and Social Change.  Just because something has been invented does not mean it will be widely used.

Why No Empires after Rome?

Who was Lambert Simnel? And what do we really know about Medieval history?

The Battle of the Harzhorn, c. 235 CE: reconstructing an ancient battle from archaeological finds.

Ma Shumou and the Grand Canal. The peasant's eye view of Chinese history.

New Smyrna and Florida's First Boom. The great land rush of the 1760s.

Napoloeon's Soldiers and the Power of Experience. What do people really want in life?

No Blitz: a Counterfactual Exercise about 1940. After conquering France, what should Hitler have done?

Trauma and History

Wotan id est furor. What sort of god was Odin?

Sex, Self-Control, and Masculinity: over the past few thousand years human sexuality has been as diverse as everything else about us.

Merlin. Merlin actually has a better claim to having been a real person than Arthur; if he did live, who was he?

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