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
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
The 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
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
The Goths with their extensive kingdom in Italy ought to have found events in Africa thought provoking. Here was a resurgent Empire confidently recovering a lost province. They must have guessed that they were now top of the to do list. Perhaps now was the time to unite against a common enemy. Continue reading
This is an unedited first draft – I’ll tidy it up later.
I am very impatient about Brexit. I really want the process to start and to get us outside of the EU as quickly as possible. My reasoning for this is quite simple. I want to get back in. At the moment if you complain about leaving the EU when the decision has been made to leave it you sound a bit pathetic. The argument has been had and my side has lost it. It is quite reasonable for people to say we should move on. And indeed we should. I am not looking forward to leaving, but it does have the consolation that when we are outside people campaigning to get back in will be the radical outsiders and the outers will be the establishment. (Actually I think they always were the establishment, but being opposed to the status quo gave them a sort of faux radicalism.) Continue reading
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