Author Archives: Colin

Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 42 – Establishment of the Lombards on the Danube

lombards settle in the balkans

We have given a lot of attention to the campaigns of Belisarius, especially those in Italy. Gibbon covers it all in sumptuous detail. I think we can assume that the court in Constantinople did as well. Big events like the recapture of Rome and Ravenna are bound to be seen as important and significant. Continue reading

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What Is Happening With Political Parties?

Edward Heath led the Conservatives in the 1970s

I wrote this back in 2015 just after Jeremy Corbyn was elected as Labour Party leader, but before his MPs started the process of trying to get rid of him.  At the time his rise seemed the most surprising and unpredicted political event.  I didn’t trouble publishing it at the time.  It isn’t particularly insightful or even very well written.  But it does show how quickly events change how things seem.  

I really really wish I had kept the slip of paper I put in my jacket pocket one Saturday night in 1978. I was 18, and was devoting considerable efforts to try and get a girlfriend. This was the height of the Disco era, so it was discos I mostly went to. But a straight forward old fashioned dance was worth a try as well. So this particular weekend I had ended up in the Conservative Club in the seaside town where I grew up, at a dance. I seem to remember enjoying it, but didn’t manage to pull anyone which was my main objective at the time. It was only the next day that I realised that by picking the cheaper admission option I had actually joined the Conservative Party and had a membership card to prove it. Continue reading

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Filed under 20th Century

Trump Isn’t Hitler. He Is Augustus. And That Is Nearly As Bad

Ruler of the world, but not his own hair

I don’t think it is a great idea to use historical parallels as a guide to present day actions. Just because things played out a particular way back then there’s no reason they should do so again in the same way. And worse than that, historical parallels can be very bad guides to action. For example, the British Prime Minister Anthony Eden described Egyptian president Nasser as another Hitler to justify invading Egypt to take control of the Suez canal. Continue reading

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Reality Is Not What It Seems by Carlo Rovelli

Reality Is Not What It Seems by Carlo Rovelli

Dante’s vision of the universe prefigured 20th Century ideas

Reality turns out not to be what it seems. I have a feeling that there was never a time when people who thought about it actually believed that the Earth was flat. But we have certainly believed lots of things that are equally untrue since we evolved brains that had the capability to ponder these matters. Continue reading

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Filed under History in Culture

The Holy Roman Empire By Peter Wilson

 

The Holy Roman Empire gets written out of European history to a large extent.  This is despite having been founded by Charlemagne and ended by Napoleon and having played a big part in the history of wide chunks of Europe in between. Continue reading

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He Knew He Was Right by Anthony Trollope

In Victorian Britain married women were firmly under the control of men.  They were obliged to be obedient to their husbands and could not own property independent of him.  Okay it sounds great in theory, but how did it actually work? Continue reading

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Filed under 19th Century, History in Culture

The Secret History – Gibbons Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 41 Part 5

Belisarius_mosaic

We’ve all got used to social media and communicating over the internet. We instinctively know what the real meaning of a lot of communications are.  You can tell that an email or a message on Twitter is not genuine even without reading the whole thing. But put yourself in the place of an historian looking back on the 21st century from a 1,000 years in the future. Human nature probably won’t be very different, but the social context will have changed enormously.  Many of the social conventions we regard as so obvious we hardly even feel the need to notice let alone explain will be far from obvious any more.  There will probably be a thesis written on exactly what LOL means. Our future digital historian might well ponder statistics about how many plaintive tweets went unanswered and ponder how lonely people using Twitter used to be in the early years of the twentieth century.  As to what they will make of Twitter exchanges between famous people – well we all know that their accounts are run by their offices.  But how do we know that?  Again, taken out of context would it make any sense? Continue reading

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Filed under Byzantine Empire, Gibbon

SPQR by Mary Beard

 

You can’t doubt Mary beard’s academic credentials, but she has written SPQR for the general reader. She starts the story with Cicero and the Cataline conspiracy. We get the characters involved and we get a description of what the world the action is taking place in looked like. This is history as entertainment, and it is very entertaining. But that doesn’t stop it also being very informative. Continue reading

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Filed under Roman Empire

HBR The Gothic War Continues – Gibbons Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 41 Part 4

Belisarius_mosaicThe Goths were far from out of the running and although they had pulled back from Rome they still held plenty of territory in northern Italy, had a very strong base in Ravenna and were mobile and numerous enough to counterattack at any time. Continue reading

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Filed under Byzantine Empire, Gibbon

The Siege of Rome – Gibbons Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 41 Part 3

Digital StillCamera

Despite all his efforts it was still very much touch and go as to whether the Romans would be able to keep Rome. The Byzantine position in Italy was still highly precarious. Holding Rome depended on keeping out the Goths who had rapidly regrouped and were now laying siege. There had been a change in leadership too, with the rather indecisive Theodatus by replaced by the much more aggressive Witiges. The Goths were getting back into form as barbarian invaders and finally pulling together as a coherent force. Continue reading

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Filed under Byzantine Empire, Gibbon