Herman the German – A long forgotten English Hero

Herman

One of the fifteen decisive battles of history identified by Edward Creasy was the battle in the Teutoburg Forest where the Roman General Varus lost three legions almost to a man to a huge ambush by the German tribesmen.  We have a pretty good account of the engagement from Tacitus and Creasy writes it up superbly to make it into a great piece of writing.  It is hard to dispute that this is indeed a decisive battle since it prevented the Romans from establishing a frontier much further east which would have made the empire much deeper and would have reduced the length of the frontier that needed to be defended considerably.  Had they succeeded the empire might well have lasted a lot longer.

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Olympic Opening Ceremony London 2012

I am not a Daily Mail style hate everything in sight kind of person, but I was a bit anxious about how well the Olympic opening ceremony was going to go.  The preview had looked dreadful. Sheep and cows in a field?  What was that all about.  And we had the security fiasco as well.   Note to future governments, especially Labour ones, some things shouldn’t be contracted to the private sector.  One of those things is security at major national and international events.  And they definitely shouldn’t be contracted out to a bunch of incompetents.  Frankly, we’d have been better off giving an agency that hires bouncers a ring.  At least they would have turned up.

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A Socialist Reads the Hobbit Part 8 – Eagles

The dwarfs, Gandalf and Bilbo have now reunited but are still far from out of trouble.  Gandalf points out that the Goblins are quite likely to be chasing them soon and on top of that they are in wolf country.  As it turns out the wolves and the goblins have a working agreement, if not a complete alliance.  The situation is therefore precarious.  So it is no surprise that as night falls the party find themselves surrounded by wolves.  This is a bit of bad luck because as it happens they are on the very spot that the wolves have arranged to meet with their partners in crime for a spot of village raiding.

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Millenium by Tom Holland

MIlllenium by Tom Holland

The perfect popular history book should be like a cute little puppy, easy to pick up and hard to put down (literally or metaphorically).  And this is just such a book, complete with big eager eyes and a shiny nose.  But like a puppy, it isn’t quite fully formed.   It sets out with the noble objective of creating a coherent narrative of the era around the turn of the first millennium. The framing mechanism is the idea that lots of people were reacting to the imminent return of  Christ.  It doesn’t really succeed.  In fact it sort of shows the opposite.  But that doesn’t stop it from being a cracking read

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A Socialist Reads the Hobbit Part 7: Riddles in the Dark

The Hobbit has grown in popularity in many ways, but one of the most surprising started in the Seventies.  That was when the game Dungeons and Dragons emerged.  This was very much a cult thing, I can remember that there was a small group of us at school who knew about and enjoyed D and D.  There was another small group who knew about and loathed D and D.  But most were totally unaware of it, which gave it a delicious exclusive feel.

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The Huns – Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 26 Part 1


 

Gibbon was not alone in his fascination for the Roman Empire, and in the following generation Napoleon Bonaparte expressed his interest rather more practically by attempting to effectively refound it with himself as the new emperor.  So it is quite fitting that in one his first battles as emperor, at Eylau, he should find himself up against Cossack horsemen armed with bows and arrows.  They probably looked much like the Huns, also steppe nomads, who had played such a big role in the destruction of the empire that he was trying to revive.

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The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence In History And Its Causes by Steve Pinker

Things are bad.  And they are getting worse.  Inevitable disaster looms in the not too distant future.  The only good news is that life is getting so hazardous that in all likelihood we personally won’t survive long enough to see the worst.

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Command of the Ocean by N.A.M.Rodger


 

It doesn’t do people or countries any good to dwell too much on past successes or failures.  I am old enough to have been taught at school about Britain’s naval successes and what I was taught was largely mythical.  I think it is a good thing that schools don’t do that kind of thing any more.  But as is often the case, the truth is a lot more interesting.  This book reveals in a great deal of detail just how much went into creating the surprisingly brief period when Britain’s navy was able to control the  oceans of the world.  There was a lot to it.

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