Exodus Lost – S.C.Compton


Exodus Lost by S.S.Compton is easier to describe by saying what it isn’t than what it is.  Despite having a lot about the Bible in it, it isn’t a book with any particular angle on religion.  It isn’t a conventional history book.  And it isn’t a crazy ‘Chariots of the Gods’ style fairy story.  So what is it?  It is a very good read, and because it has a sort of detective story feel to it, I don’t really want to talk about the contents.  You don’t often have to worry about spoilers reviewing history books.  But in this case the fun is seeing the case being built up. Let’s just say it covers the question of whether or not there was communication between Ancient Egypt and the civilisations of South America. Continue reading

The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers by Paul Kennedy


The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers was highly influential when it came out and continues to make an interesting read, though it has rather swiftly slippd from being an interesting look at the contemporary situation to an interesting look at how the world looked in the Eighties.  Having read it not long after it came out, I can remember the way it seemed to have some kind of great predictive power.  This was enhanced when the Soviet Union collapsed – an event that was foreseen by almost nobody, including Paul Kennedy, but he somehow seemed to have the best explanation.  Continue reading

The Making of the English Working Classes by E.P.Thompson

This huge book was also a huge success when it came out.  There was a time when it was a common sight on buses and trains, and every bookshop in Britain had it in stock.  In the seventies and eighties it seemed perfectly obvious that everyone was interested in the working class so a long and detailed history of it was a very logical proposition. Continue reading

The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World: from Marathon to Waterloo by Edward Creasy

The Spanish Armada – One of Fifteen Decisive Battles (Thanks to Wikipedia)
History books always tell you a lot about the era in which they were written, and never was this more true than of this classic from 1851.  Britain’s empire was at its apogee.  It would get bigger and richer, but at this point Britain’s empire was at its most secure.   It was without a rival and without a care in the world. Edward Creasy took full advantage of the situation.   Continue reading

How Tall Are You? How Tall Should You Be?


Short Japanese Surrendering to Tall Americans (thanks to Wikipedia)

I have been very interested lately in a branch of economic history that until recently I knew nothing about, but which seems to offer a way of looking at the past that has never crossed my mind before.  And it is surprisingly simple, suspiciously so in fact.  You can tell a lot about changes in society simply by looking at average height. Continue reading

Why The West Rules – For Now: The Patterns of History and what they reveal about the Future by Ian Morris


As an industrial scientist I have learned quite a few problem solving tricks over the years.  One of the simplest, at least in principle, is just to tabulate the data into a meaningful form.  Many impossible issues that fox everyone involved suddenly become obvious if you just look at the information in a way that makes it easy to understand. It can be tedious to do, but is often very effective.  But there is a downside. You present your painstakingly assembled piece of work to your colleagues. With the hard work done for them, somebody usually grasps the issue rapidly and often claims to have solved it themselves and proceeds to give themself a slap on the back for their penetrating insight.  Nobody requires a huge amount of information to confirm their own genius.  From that point on people start to focus on the next problem and your weeks or months of effort are rapidly forgotten. Continue reading