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: 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.

Continue reading “Review: Alexander Hamilton, Ron Chernow”

Review: Hamilton the Musical

Rating: 5 out of 5

Absolutely loved it — but to be clear, I haven’t seen it but just listened to it. There is so much to enjoy in the rich world it creates though of course some ahistorical notes also creep in. I feel, however, that any deviations from the truth as we know it are thoroughly warranted by the virtue of making another Founding Father accessible to the modern public.  Continue reading “Review: Hamilton the Musical”

Review: The Elusive Mr Pond, Barry Gough

Rating: 2 out of 5

Oh Peter, Oh Peter Pond, what a figure you are… Mr Gough’s work makes you sound like a misunderstood choir boy who never meant anyone any harm while the entire rest of the world was out to get you — while another book that covered some of your exploits noted you as the voyageur dangereux, whose companions and associates suffered accidents perhaps a bit too often.  Continue reading “Review: The Elusive Mr Pond, Barry Gough”

Review: Archipelago, Richard Grigg

Rating: 4 out of 5

This was a solid overview of the geological factors which have created the Hawaiian Islands with the complimentary diversions into the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and the Emperor Seamount Chain. I will start by stating my conclusion — that overall, this book is well worth the time it takes to read it. The reader can also rest easy as the style is very accessible, and the science-y aspects are introduced with a lot of care. Continue reading “Review: Archipelago, Richard Grigg”

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