Review: Genghis Khan, Jack Weatherford

Rating: 5 out of 5

I really enjoyed this, mostly due to Mr Weatherford’s perspective in putting himself in the shoes of the people he is describing. Too many historians never give credence to the actual difficulties which would have been in the minds of the people they are describing due to their distance from what they are describing. The author’s description of why the visit to the Khan’s original homeland was helpful is, in that way, an eye-opener and one which should be emulated. Continue reading “Review: Genghis Khan, Jack Weatherford”

Review: Offa and the Mercian Wars, Chris Peers

Rating: 2 out of 5

This is in general an alright book, but entirely misleading in its title or content. Offa features in the introduction and then skips back in for about ten-twenty pages in the middle of the book, after which the author goes back to describing a general history of Mercia — more on this below. The book also comes across not knowing where it wants to lie on the scholarly spectrum with plenty of references to academic work and minimal evaluation of these.

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Review: Common Sense, Thomas Paine

Rating: 4 out of 5

This work presents a compelling case for independence as opposed to other methods of government and treats this in the local American context of the 1770’s. In some ways a thorough summation of this treatise is “we should because we can” which, though less elegant, essentially captures the spirit of the author while his economic claims often sound silly (though one must keep in mind that economic theories in the 18th century were considerably more primitive than now). Continue reading “Review: Common Sense, Thomas Paine”

Review: Sekigahara (2017)

It was with pleasure I noted during the opening scenes of this film that it is based on a book by Ryotaro Shiba, a true favourite of mine amongst writers. It was even better, therefore, that the movie jumped to a scene where the author narrated a story about the meeting of Ishida Mitsunari and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. These original scenes piqued my interest and turned this into a thrilling story which continued in a similar way. Continue reading “Review: Sekigahara (2017)”

Review: Farewell Address, George Washington

Rating: 5 out of 5

There are two sentiments in this well-known piece which echo through the years — the first is of the national hero who yet manages to apologise for whatever he may have done wrong, and the second is of his eternal wish to be equal to every other person in his nation.

Yet, for the modern reader a lot of the pamphlet is barely understandable — who now has heard of the conflicts between the USA and France in the 1790’s? I have a good grounding at this point for I just read Hamilton’s biography and got the inspiration to investigate this piece, which is definitely worth doing — Just be prepared for some background reading. Yet, I’ll emphasise… “Though … I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors.” What a character!

Review: Alexander Hamilton, Ron Chernow

Rating: 5 out of 5

Hamilton, the arch-Federalist, is a typically maligned fellow in the history of these United States as it probably would have been called in his day. Mr Chernow has tried his best to bring him to life (and light) as well as to correct historical injustices, and in addition to the principal subject the reader is also treated to the story of his wife, Eliza, as well as the Federalist party though not in as many words. What we also see in these pages is the effort the author devoted to figuring out the motives of the various characters in the early republic as well as trying to objectively assess their contributions, and this makes for some very good reading.

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Review: Ryoma! Volume I, Ryotaro Shiba

Rating: 5 out of 5

I have been a fan of the writings of Mr Shiba for nearly a decade now — and I was overjoyed when I saw that yet another of his books had been translated into English (or, well, the first volume of one of his books…). That was the beginning of my story of reading ‘Ryoma!’, the first volume of which details the early years of a figure who was to feature very strongly in the politics of 1860’s — the end of the first volume sees the reader through to that decade in a very colourful description of Sakamoto Ryoma’s formative years. Continue reading “Review: Ryoma! Volume I, Ryotaro Shiba”

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