A book I read a long time ago suddenly seems more interesting than it has for many years. Back in 1985 I was a Labour Party activist. I had other things on my mind at the time and it wasn”t a huge part of my life in the way that it was for some of the other activists I met. But I went to meetings. I was briefly a secretary of a ward branch (sounds a lot more important than it actually was). I used to go out leafletting and canvassing. And this being the eighties, I was also involved in internal party debates. Continue reading
I am a big fan of the RamClub series where a celebrity is asked to listen to an album that they haven’t listened to before. The only trouble is that as I’m not a celebrity I won’t ever get asked to do one. So I have decided to do my own. Continue reading
Thurston Hopkins became famous in the forties and fifties as a photographer on the Picture Post. But I can confirm that before this in 1928 he was the author of a small guide book to Sussex. It has to be said that he was better at taking pictures than writing.
But he is good if slightly irritating company in this book describing his travels around Sussex. The nineteen twenties were the only time a book like this could have been written. The car and the railways enabled him to get to most of the county easily enough but they weren’t yet advanced enough for Sussex to become London’s backyard. Sussex would soon become first an extension of Bloomsbury and then a dormitory which it is still today. But it was still a largely rural environment at the time this book was written. Continue reading
History is the story of real people’s lives and I am now old enough for the early part of my life to count as history – and that sometimes gives current news stories a poignant context. In the late eighties I was working in a medium sized engineering company which used a lot of steel. One of my workmates was then in his sixties and was an absolutely incorrigible old Tory while also being an absolute font of knowledge about engineering. He was also tremendously interested in metallurgy and was very interested indeed in the British steel industry. As such he was very keen indeed in one of the Thatcher government’s more minor projects, the sale of the nationalised British Steel. Continue reading
I have been doing this blog for many years now. I started off in I think 2008 on Blogger and have been putting up posts reasonably regularly ever since. I have never thought for a minute that it would ever be more than a very minority interest. It certainly isn’t the kind of thing that can develop into a business opportunity. Relatively few people read history books. Even if they did it takes about 6 to 16 hours to read a history book, and another couple of hours to write a review. And they aren’t very high value items. The numbers just don’t stack up for it to be any more than a source of pocket money. If that in fact. Continue reading
There isn’t much really good evidence that Jesus actually existed. In fact, it is pretty much dependent on the account in the Bible. Without that, he really doesn’t count as an historical figure. But I am inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. The main reason for this is that the Bible story of his execution rings true to me. The incidental details just seem to be how things really happen rather than how someone making a story up would describe them. Continue reading
I have had a lot of success with a free web based app called The Most Dangerous Writing App. It is pretty good for the price, and in fact does the job it sets out to do pretty well. It is taking a little while to get used to it, but I am finding that it is both increasing the amount of writing I am getting done and the quality. Writing against the clock isn’t ideal for every writing task of course, and it is totally bloody useless for editing. But for getting a quick draft out it is superb. And to my surprise it is also forcing me to use shorter and easier to read sentences. And it is even improving my typing speed. Continue reading
A current news story has got me thinking about disability benefits. We live in a society where we collectively support disabled people with cash payments, infrastructure and favourable social treatment. This is something that we don’t think much about, but it is quite intriguing because historically this is something that has only been done since the 20th century. And I am not sure we are always clear why we do it. Continue reading
One of the problems of reading history is that we get a very distorted view of it. We are looking at the past down the wrong end of a telescope. A good example is the Vandal kingdom of North Africa. This seems like a very ephemeral kind of thing from our point of view. In fact the Vandal Kingdom lasted for over 50 years and it must have seemed pretty well established to people living in it. It was possible to have been born in it and to have lived to a pretty mature age without knowing any different. Continue reading
If you are a regular follower you’ll know that most of my output is an extended review in great detail of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. This episode fits in with that review but I have stepped out of the frame of the book briefly. I have reached the reign of Justinian, and I want to go into a bit more detail about the changes in the military set up in the Empire at around this time. Gibbon covers it well enough and his account is okay, but I think it is important enough to warrant going into a bit more depth. So I have dug into Gibbons source, the historian and soldier Procopius, and also into Edward Luttwak’s book on Byzantine strategy which I have reviewed previously. Edward Luttwak is a Romanian born strategic thinker and consultant to the American defence department. I am not sure how he got his Anglo Saxon forename, but I do know he has been into the sources of information about what made the Byzantine Empire tick in a lot of detail.
With these three guides I hope we can have an illuminating journey.
So why do I say the Byzantines had a military revolution, and what prompted it? Continue reading