Review: The Silk Roads, Peter Frankopan

Rating: 2 out of 5

I found that I had a problem with this book. We have a British author who wants to re-centre the world, and yet the book he writes is more Anglo-American than many others. Not only this, the author does not even do courtesy to the Spanish and Portuguese, noting that in those languages the people “call” themselves by other names as if the English version was what the people would have recognised at the time. This hypocrisy surrounds this entire work, though it is not without a saving grace (which I will get to).  Continue reading “Review: The Silk Roads, Peter Frankopan”

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: This Sceptred Isle: Empire, Vol. 2, Christopher Lee

Rating: 5 out of 5

This is a superb overview of the problems and successes of the British in about a hundred years after the beginning of the 19th century. India is covered in depth up to the point of Victoria being made Empress, and the story also presents one of the most factual investigations of the Indian Mutiny that’s still very comprehensible.

However, what I liked unutterably more than the question of what was covered was the tone with which it was done. The most memorable phrase mentioned in this volume — to me — was “The British sometimes enjoy being spiteful to their heroes.” This, coming after countless descriptions of men and women who performed their uttermost to help both people they belonged to as well as treat everyone equally and honestly, was a crushing but ultimately truthful statement.

Other stories covered herein, such as that of Mungo Park, illustrate the complacency and backwardness of these would-be imperialists. And, overall, a lot of the injustices done by the British in their various locations come through very well here as the author has also quoted plenty of modern historians from those places, offering insights other histories (especially concerning India) have not done as well.

Review: The Celtic World, Jennifer Paxton

Rating: 3 out of 5

This is quite directly an overview of the Celts as it is understood by the most recent researchers: Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, Man, Ireland, Britanny, Gaul and Galicia are treated alongside a brief look into the Hallstatt and La Tene cultures — though not all of these places at the same level of detail. Literature, art and modern conceptions of the former peoples are all treated in some detail, and the connection of the past to the present is done very nicely. Continue reading “Review: The Celtic World, Jennifer Paxton”

Review: Prisoners of Geography, Tim Marshall

I recently read Tim Marshall’s ‘Prisoners of Geography’, and this short post here is meant to be a brief look at some points within there that I disagreed with.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Overall, the book is written in a very poetic style — too much so for what it should be like for the topics considered. What is more important, however, is the cluttering of bad phrases and inadequate comparisons which do no justice to the book. Continue reading “Review: Prisoners of Geography, Tim Marshall”

Review: The Private Lives of the Saints, Janina Ramirez

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

It is my innate liking of Anglo-Saxon Britain which makes me rate this at 3.5/5 rather than any particular strength of the book. Indeed, I think that while it is an illuminating look into many people who otherwise do not get a deserved mention in more secular histories, the look into every individual here is quite shallow and generally based on a well-known story or feature. Rarely do we encounter even a conjecture of what their “private” life was like, and even where the author’s mention of “interesting results” is common, these results are communicated down to the reader in a very poor manner. Continue reading “Review: The Private Lives of the Saints, Janina Ramirez”

Review: This Sceptred Isle: Empire, Vol. 1, Christopher Lee

Rating: 4 out of 5

‘Empire’s first installment sounded a bit weaker to me than my recollections of the previous series’. This could be due to an error on my part, remembering wrong what I thought of the previous ones, especially as I am at a loss to say what was missing. A gripping narrative interwoven with historical citations and the story of the development of Britain (and the modern world) doesn’t leave much to be said, if one appreciates that the level of detail will not be perfect if the subject matter spans five hundred years.  Continue reading “Review: This Sceptred Isle: Empire, Vol. 1, Christopher Lee”

Review: This Sceptred Isle: The Dynasties, Christopher Lee

Rating: 5 out of 5

It was very easy for me to pick up another volume of ‘This Sceptred Isle’ as I absolutely adored the general historical collections I went through earlier this year. The one doubt I had was to do with this one’s name: “Dynasties”. I thought that though the Plantagenets and Windsors have their charms, it might not be that interesting. Firstly, I was mistaken — this deals with the common(er) dynasties (and the people who have actually been influential), and secondly, it was very interesting indeed to go through the stories of so many families. Continue reading “Review: This Sceptred Isle: The Dynasties, Christopher Lee”

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