This book contains 2 stories of the Middle East and India: a coming of age story of a young, modern Hindu scholar living among Moslems, and a story of the travels of a medieval Jewish merchant living among Moslems and Hindus. Each story is engaging, but the connection between them is tenuous. Ghosh tries to draw comparisons between his experiences and those of his medieval subject, but they are unconvincing.
One of the great ironies in intellectual history is that the knowledge of ancient Greece was largely lost to Europe in the early Middle Ages, but was saved in the Islamic world and then reintroduced to Europe through Moslem Spain. This book gives great insight into the middle leg of that story in a thorough and accessible manner. Starr sets out to explain the rise of the Central Asian Enlightenment, describe all its glories, and then explain its decline.
Central Asia, in the centuries both before and during its Enlightenment, was at the crossroads of vast commercial activities. These included the famous Silk Road to China, as well as routes to India, the Middle East and Europe. Starr focuses on how Central Asia was able to use the interactions and wealth brought by such trade to create an intellectual class. This class was both familiar and comfortable with different cultures and languages and was also used to serving as middlemen between different peoples and cultures. Those intellectuals took the ancient knowledge, sifted it through the other influences of the region, integrated it with knowledge from India and China and made substantial contributions of their own.
The book contrasts the acme of the Central Asian Enlightenment with the comparative backwardness of Europe at the time and then further contrasts the opposite trajectories in intellectual history each area subsequently followed.
Starr argues that religious dogmatism and conflict were prime causes of the decline in the Central Asian Enlightenment. While outside the scope of this book, Starr’s other comparisons of Central Asia and Europe lead to the fascinating question of why European intellectuals were able to escape the intellectual conformity imposed, frequently quite violently, by the Roman Catholic Church, which was even more organized and bureaucratic than Islam, while those in Central Asia could not do so.
This is a fascinating story of various movements coalescing into a unique event. It’s told from the viewpoints of multiple participants: the planners, the speakers, the politicians, the volunteers and members of the crowd. It follows the progression of the planning and presentation of the March, with several flashbacks to tell individuals’ stories or to explain particular trends. This technique has the risk of being disjointed, but instead it helps add layer and layer of depth at appropriate points, building in a crescendo to the grand conclusion.
The narrator has a wonderful voice, and is particularly good with the songs. (He does a great Bob Dylan.) There are, however, several mispronunciations that are grating.
This is a fascinating account of a pivotal development in American jurisprudence. It provides a wealth of historical background and perspective, all of which help to explain the development of Holmes’s thinking.
The epilogue provides only a cursory discussion of developments in First Amendment law since the time of Holmes. Given the in-depth analysis of the body of the book, the final summary left this lawyer and student of history wanting more. That, of course, would be a whole textbook.
The first half of this book, through Appomattox, is a detailed, meticulously researched account of Grant’s life and contributions. It convincingly sets forth what distinguished Grant from other Union generals. Brands also sets Grant’s activities within the general context of contemporary events and trends, but that analysis does not go very deep.
The second half of the book is much more rewarding. Of necessity, it deals with the issues and trends of the day and Grant’s influences on and reactions to them, and it focuses less on personal details. It sets forth the accomplishments of his administration, which are too often overshadowed by the scandals at the end of his term. Brands argues that Grant showed the same courage trying to protect the freedmen and, to a lesser extent, Native Americans, that he showed in battle.
The book also raises fascinating questions that deserve greater analysis, including: Did the Radical Republicans in Congress really hijack Reconstruction and direct it in ways Lincoln would never have countenanced, or did they try to save it from Johnson’s attempts to ingratiate himself with Southern Democrats? At the end of the Civil War, Grant was afraid the rebel armies would disintegrate into guerilla bands. While the armies did not “take to the hills,” should the KKK be treated as the reconstituted guerilla force that Grant feared? Sheridan considered the KKK to be terrorists. Had they been treated as such at the time, would civil rights have been established before more than another century had passed?
This is really a history of scientific theories of the moon's origins and makeup, rather than just an explanation of the current prevalent theory. Unlike an earlier reviewer, I found the history of earlier theories interesting, in that they help explain the development of the current Giant Impact theory.
What I found disappointing was the Appendix that addresses the claims of conspiracy theorists that astronauts never reached the moon. This was a very satisfying academic book and didn't need to descend to that level.
This is a great historic panorama of the Mediterranean. It is meticulously researched and cogently presented. As with any work that encompasses 7,000 years, it is in some ways an overview and introduction. At the same time, it provides valuable details into, and insightful analysis of, all historic periods. I therefore disagree with the earlier reviewer in that the book does tell a story, and there are themes. First among these is the cross-cultural mixing that has occurred ever since humans started to cross the sea.
Abulafia sees the nationalism and ethnic cleansing that has occurred since the end of WWI as a terrible break from that tradition. Yet he describes earlier pogroms and deportations, all of which had terrible human costs, but none of which could long prevent such mixing. I would argue that one could evaluate ethnic cleansing as a similar horrible reaction to the persistence of cultural mixing. In that vein, Abulafia also describes how tourism serves to continue such interaction across cultures in the present.
I think Abulafia therefore overstates his disagreements with Braudel. While political history is critical, he describes throughout the book how political decisions were limited by the geography and environments of the Mediterranean and its bordering regions. To me, this exemplifies Braudel’s argument that political history can exist only within the physical, environmental and economic worlds within which it takes place.
This is a great illustration of the series of challenges Mandela faced in attaining his goal as well as the ways he dealt with and overcame them. Unlike most revolutionaries, he was concerned not just with eliminating the injustice against which he fought, but also in creating the society that was to follow. Accordingly, the ways in which he fought apartheid were also calculated to create the nonracial society the ANC espoused.
I had known the general outlines of this story, but I had not been aware of, and was particularly impressed by, how many whites, of all political persuasions, Mandela was able to persuade to join him at each step of his struggles.
These essays are sophisticated historical analyses. A listener needs to be familiar with the major developments of the Revolutionary and early Republican periods as well as with the major historical interpretations of such periods. This is therefore not an introductory work.
It is instead an advanced scholarly work. The essays challenge some of the commonly accepted interpretations of our early history in some intriguing and well argued ways. I found them both convincing and enjoyable.
Two good stories wrapped around a political screed. This is Shute’s near-hysterical jeremiad on why he left England for Australia.
This is an exhaustively researched and incredibly detailed look at Peter’s life, the influences on him, and the results of his actions. It is a well organized and well told story. Massie does a good job placing Peter’s life in the context of his times. He also begins several tantalizing discussions about the longer-term effects of Peter’s life, such as changes to balance of power calculations in Europe and, following Solzhenitsyn, the effects of the subordination of the Russian church to the government. Such discussions are fascinating, but not fully developed.
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