- POPULAR CULTURE
- MENTAL HEALTH
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES
- APPLIED SCIENCES
- PRINT & MEDIA
My website on the subject of history divides this ancient discipline of study into: classical, medieval and modern, three separate sub-divisions and three separate webpages. This introductory section, this particular webpage, on the subject of history also includes: (a) interdisciplinary studies, & (b) economics--toward the end of this page. Readers wanting to examine my opening remarks on the subject of economics &/or interdisciplinary studies need to scroll-down here on this webpage of my website. You can either (a) scroll-down many pages, or (b) find the word 'economics' or 'interdisciplinary'
When this 4th edition of my website was in the planning phase 5 years ago in the spring of 2010---my website design company and I divided the field of knowledge into more than 80 sub-divisions. I did not include economics or inter-disciplinary studies at the time, and so have added these two fields of study in the five years since this 4th edition of my website "went live", as they say, 21/3/'11.
Summaries of: (a) the human sciences and (b) the human services are also included below. My website now has well over 100 disciplines and sub-divisions in the: (i) arts and humanities, and (ii) the physical, biological and applied sciences. It is part of my attempt to cover the widest possible range of disciplines and sub-disciplines that take my general interest.
An academic discipline or field of study is a branch of knowledge that is taught and researched as part of higher education. A scholar's discipline is commonly defined and recognized by the university faculties and learned societies to which he or she belongs and the academic journals in which he or she publishes research. However, there exist no formal criteria for the status of an academic discipline. Disciplines vary between well-established ones that exist in almost all universities and have well-defined rosters of journals and conferences and nascent ones supported by only a few universities and publications. A discipline may have branches, and these are often called sub-disciplines. While not wanting to outline and discuss the history of the several major disciplines of learning, a few words need to be said about the many new disciplines that have been added since the early 20th century.
New disciplines such as education and psychology were added by WWI. In the 1970s & 1980s, there was an explosion of new disciplines focusing on specific themes, such as media studies, women's studies, & black studies. Many disciplines designed as preparation for careers and professions, such as nursing, hospitality management, and corrections, also emerged in the universities. Finally, interdisciplinary scientific fields such as biochemistry and geophysics gained prominence as their contribution to knowledge became widely recognized. There is no consensus on how some academic disciplines should be classified; for example, whether anthropology and linguistics are social sciences disciplines or humanities disciplines. More generally, the proper criteria for organizing knowledge into disciplines are also open to debate. For more go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outline_of_academic_disciplines
The past is still, for us, a place that is not safely settled.--Michael Ondaatje(1943- ) is a Sri Lankan-born Canadian novelist. He won the Booker Prize for his novel The English Patient, which was adapted into an Academy Award-winning film.
“The past is not dead, it is not even past” is the epigram from William Faulkner(1897-1962), the American writer and Nobel Prize laureate. This epigram is also found at the front of Peter Carey's True History of the Kelly Gang (2000). This book is Peter Carey’s invented first-person narrative of the Australian outlaw-hero. Carey finds a voice for his long-dead narrators that deftly frees them from the constraints and hazards of pastiche. Carey(1943- ) is an Australian novelist who is one of only two writers to have won the Booker Prize twice.
HISTORY: AN OVERVIEW
The following survey of "World Civilizations from Prehistory to 1500" by Dr. Edrene S. McKay examines six categories of values: value of life, world peace, justice and equality, education, family, & social responsibility. There seems to be universal agreement that these six values are fundamental to building a perfect world. How did ancient civilizations measure up to these fundamental values and principles? Let’s take a look at these links: http://smartsheep.org/world-civilizations-from-prehistory-to-1500 , (you may not access this site's history)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkV7XPh20ng , https://www.course-notes.org/World_History/Outlines/World_Civilizations_The_Global_Experience_4th_Edition_Outlines
TELLING HISTORY'S STORY
This video is an introduction to the course, "Understanding Baha'i History" for the Wilmette Institute. To learn more about this online history course from the Wilmette Institute visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-r3wJWhTrO4 The speaker is Dr. Moojan Momen, a graduate of the University of Cambridge & a medical doctor by profession. Dr. Momen was born in Iran and raised in England. He has contributed to the Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World and the Encyclopedia Iranica, and has had papers published in various academic journals, including the International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, Past and Present, and Iran and Religion. Momen talks about various understandings of what makes history. He begins with The Social Construction of Reality is a 1966 book about the sociology of knowledge by Peter L. Bergerand Thomas Luckmann. This work introduced the term social construction into the social sciences & was strongly influenced by the work of Alfred Schütz. The central concept of Social Construction of Reality is that persons and groups interacting in a social system create, over time, concepts or mental representations of each other's actions, and that these concepts eventually become habituated into reciprocal roles played by the actors in relation to each other. When these roles are made available to other members of society to enter into and play out, the reciprocal interactions are said to beinstitutionalized. For more about this book go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Social_Construction_of_Reality
POPULARIZERS OF HISTORY
Popular history is a broad and somewhat ill-defined genre of historiography. It takes a popular approach, aims at a wide readership, and usually emphasizes narrative, personality & vivid detail over scholarly analysis. The term is used in contradistinction to professional academic or scholarly history writing which is usually more specialized and technical. Such scholarly writing is generally less accessible to the average reader. Some popular historians are without academic affiliation while others are academics, or former academics, that have “become somehow abstracted from the academic arena, becoming cultural commentators”. At least that is how one popular writer put it. Many popularizers of history have worked as journalists, perhaps after taking an initial degree in history.
Popular historians may become nationally renowned or best-selling authors. They may or may not serve the interests of particular political parties, or particular viewpoints in their roles as “public historians.” Many authors of “official histories” and “authorized biographies” would qualify as popular historians who serve the interests of particular institutions or public figures. Popular historians aim to appear on the "general lists" of general publishers, rather than the university presses that have dominated academic publishing in recent years. Increasingly, popular historians have taken to television where they are able to produce both a book and an accompanying series of documentaries. For more on this subject go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popular_history
The link below will take readers to a list of historians. Some are popularizers and some are not. The names are grouped by order of the historical period in which they were living and producing works. This period is not necessarily the same as the period in which they specialize. Chroniclers & annalists, though they are not historians in the true sense, are also listed here for convenience. See also: (i) List of historians by area of study, (ii) List of historians of the French Revolution, (iii) English historians in the Middle Ages. For more, and these lists, go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_historians
Sir Anthony "Tony" Robinson(1946-) is one of the more successful popularizers of history. He is an English actor, comedian, amateur historian, TV presenter & political activist. He is known for playing Baldrick in the BBC television series Blackadder and for hosting Channel 4 programmes such as Time Team & The Worst Jobs in History. Robinson is a member of the Labour Party and has served on its National Executive Committee. He has also written sixteen children's books. For more on him go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Robinson
Recent examples of American popular historians with academic affiliations include: Stephen Ambrose, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Pauline Maier. Non-academics include Bruce Catton, Shelby Foote, David McCullough, and Barbara Tuchman. Recent examples of British popular historians include: Niall Ferguson, Christopher Hibbert and Simon Schama. From a previous generation the following names could be included: Eric Hobsbawm, E.P. Thompson, and A.J.P. Taylor who was an early pioneer of history on television. Others from a previous generation include: Christopher Hill and much of Hugh Trevor-Roper's output which was also directed at a popular audience.
THE HISTORY OF LOVE
Love is a variety of different feelings, states, and attitudes that ranges from interpersonal affection ("I love my mother") to pleasure ("I loved that meal"). It can refer to an emotion of a strong attraction and personal attachment. It can also be a virtue representing human kindness, compassion, and affection—"the unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another". It may also describe compassionate and affectionate actions towards other humans, one's self or animals.
Non-Western traditions have also distinguished variants or symbioses of these states. This diversity of meanings combined with the complexity of the feelings involved makes love unusually difficult to consistently define, compared to other emotional states. Love in its various forms acts as a major facilitator ofinterpersonal relationships and, owing to its central psychological importance, is one of the most common themes in the creative arts. Love may be understood as a function to keep human beings together against menaces & to facilitate the continuation of the species.
The word "love" can have a variety of related but distinct meanings in different contexts. Many other languages use multiple words to express some of the different concepts that in English are denoted as "love"; one example is the plurality of Greek words for "love" which includes agape & eros. Cultural differences in conceptualizing love thus doubly impede the establishment of a universal definition. Although the nature or essence of love is a subject of frequent debate, different aspects of the word can be clarified by determining what isn't love (antonyms of "love"). Love as a general expression of positive sentiment (a stronger form of like) is commonly contrasted with hate (or neutral apathy); as a less sexual & more emotionally intimate form of romantic attachment, love is commonly contrasted with lust; and as an interpersonal relationship with romantic overtones, love is sometimes contrasted with friendship, although the word love is often applied to close friendships. (Further possible ambiguities come with usages "girlfriend", "boyfriend", "just good friends"). For more on love go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love For a video on the history of love go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fK2IJ43ppd0
ESSAYS IN HISTORY
Essays in History was founded in 1954 as a print journal and annual publication of the Corcoran Department of History at the University of Virginia. That history department published the work of Virginia undergraduates, graduates, and, occasionally, professors. Over nearly 60 years, the generosity of both the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, Inc., and UVA's College of Arts and Sciences have proved invaluable to Essay's success. Frank E. Grizzard Jr. was the first editor to bring the journal on-line in 1990. Since then the journal has been produced in both a print and an electronic format. In 1994, Editor Drew VandeCreek, with the help of UVA's Electronic Text Center, began producing Essays solely as an electronic journal. Editor Meg Jacobs, in 1996, opened up submissions to students and beginning scholars outside of the University of Virginia community, as well as added book reviews to Essays' content.
Today, Essays not only receives submissions from students and professors from across the country but also from as far away as Germany, the Czech Republic, Brazil, and even Goa. In addition to their own search engine, Essays is indexed in the "Historical Abstracts" and "America: History and Life" databases. Copies of Essays issues which are not on-line are obtainable from Bell & Howell Information and Learning. Seeking high-quality work by emerging scholars, EiH publishes peer-reviewed articles in all fields of historical inquiry, as well as reviews of the most recent scholarship. EiH serves as a resource to students, teachers, researchers, and enthusiasts of historical studies. Go to this link for more: http://www.essaysinhistory.com/past
BILL GATES: A STUDY OF HISTORY
In 2008, shortly after Bill Gates stepped down from his executive role at Microsoft, he often awoke in his 66,000-square-foot home on the eastern bank of Lake Washington and walked downstairs to his private gym in a baggy T-shirt, shorts, sneakers and black socks yanked up to the midcalf. Then, during an hour on the treadmill, Gates, a self-described nerd, would pass the time by watching DVDs from the Teaching Company’s “Great Courses” series. On some mornings, he would learn about geology or meteorology; on others, it would be oceanography or U.S. history.
As Gates was working his way through the series, he stumbled upon a set of DVDs titled “Big History” — an unusual college course taught by a jovial, gesticulating professor from Australia named David Christian. Unlike the previous DVDs, “Big History” did not confine itself to any particular topic, or even to a single academic discipline. Instead, it put forward a synthesis of history, biology, chemistry, astronomy & other disparate fields, which Christian wove together into nothing less than a unifying narrative of life on earth. Standing inside a small “Mr. Rogers"-style set, flanked by an imitation ivy-covered brick wall, Christian explained to the camera that he was influenced by the Annales School, a group of early-20th-century French historians who insisted that history be explored on multiple scales of time and space. Christian had subsequently divided the history of the world into eight separate “thresholds,” beginning with the Big Bang, 13 billion years ago (Threshold 1), moving through to the origin of Homo sapiens (Threshold 6), the appearance of agriculture (Threshold 7) and, finally, the forces that gave birth to our modern world (Threshold 8). For more on Gates and this approach to history go to this link: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/07/magazine/so-bill-gates-has-this-idea-for-a-history-class.html
Since David Christian and Bill Gates have locked into the Annales School in the above paragraphs, it would be useful for readers to get a context for this school of history. The Annales School is a group of historians associated with a style of historiography developed by French historians in the 20th century to stress long-term social history. It is named after its scholarly journal Annales d'histoire économique et sociale. This journal remains the main source of scholarship, along with many books and monographs. The school has been highly influential in setting the agenda for historiography in France and numerous other countries, especially regarding the use of social scientific methods by historians, emphasizing social rather than political or diplomatic themes, and for being generally hostile to the class analysis of Marxist historiography. For more on Marx go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSQgCy_iIcc
After reading and studying, teaching and writing about history and politics, philosophy and the social sciences in general for more than half a century, I am more than a little aware that the average reader does not have a handle on, an understanding of, the basics of historiography. I encourage readers, therefore, to go to this link before reading further at this wepage of mine which is intended to introduce the subject of history. Historiography refers to both the study of the methodology of historians and the development of history as a discipline, and also to a body of historical work on a particular subject. Go to this link for more on this subject:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historiography
The Annales School deals primarily with late medieval and early modern Europe, that is, the period before the French Revolution, with little interest in later topics. It has dominated French social history and influenced historiography in Europe and Latin America. Readers who would like to place David Christian and his approach, as well as Bill Gates, into an appropriately wider and relevant context can do some Googling to the extent that their interests, time and circumstances allow. For more on this school of history go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annales_School
LEARNING FROM HISTORY
The following article is an adapted form of a paper read as the Hasan Balyuzi Memorial Lecture at the 13th Annual Conference of the Association of Bahá’í Studies in 1988. Dr. Moojan Momen is a graduate of the University of Cambridge and a medical doctor by profession. Dr. Momen was born in Iran and raised in England. He has contributed to the Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World and the Encyclopedia Iranica, and has had papers published in various academic journals, including the International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, Past and Present, and Iran and Religion.
Thie paper at the link below considers the challenges caused by the influx of Third World villagers into the Bahá’í world community. The author examines what light a study of the history of the Bahá’í Faith can shed upon this phenomenon. In particular, he examines the way in which a study of Bahá’í history can assist with the problems of how to adapt our presentations of the Bahá’í Faith to the context of different cultures; how to adapt our methods of presenting the Bahá’í teachings; and how to accelerate the process of realizing these teachings in the lives of the villagers. Go to this link for the full article: http://bahai-studies.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/2.2-Momen.pdf
There are now dozens of internet sites devoted to history. PBS has a great source for information on a myriad of historical events and personalities. PBS’s assorted and diverse web exhibits supplement specific individual television series & generally include a resume of each episode, interviews (often with sound bites), a timeline, a glossary, photos, and links to relevant sites. Categories include American History, World History, History on Television, and Biographies. Go to the PBS Teacher Source for lessons and activities.
Center for History and New Media(CHNM) produces historical works in new media, tests their effectiveness in the classroom, and reflects critically on the success of new media in historical practice. CHNM’s resources include a list of “best” web sites, links to syllabi and lesson plans, essays on history and new media, a link to their excellent History Matters web site for U.S. History, and more. Resources are designed to benefit professional historians, high school teachers, and students of history. For more go to: http://besthistorysites.net/ , and to: http://www.historychannel.com.au/
THE NEW HISTORY WARS
If we want students to understand what is happening in Missouri or Melbourne, the Middle East or Mexico, they need an unvarnished picture of our past and the skills to understand & interpret that picture. People don’t kill one another or become secular humanists just for recreation. They have reasons. Those reasons have historical and psychological components, as well as sociological and political factors, to say nothing of several other factors from other disciplines of study like economics and philosophy just to make things as complicated as possible.
Last month, the College Board in the USA released a revised “curriculum framework” to help high school teachers prepare students for the Advanced Placement Test(APT) in United States history. Like the college courses this test is supposed to mirror, the APT calls for a dialogue with the past. This dialogue involves learning how to ask historical questions, interpret documents and reflect both appreciatively & critically on history.
Navigating the tension between patriotic inspiration and historical thinking, between respectful veneration and critical engagement, is an especially difficult task, made even more complicated by a marked shift in the very composition of “we the people.” As of this autumn of 2014 in the USA, whites will constitute a minority of public-school students. “Our” past, the past of citizens in the USA, is now more diverse than we once thought, whether we like it or not. This is not only the experience in the USA, but in more and more countries as the world gravitates socially more and more into the neighbourhood that it has been technologically for decades.
It turns out that some Americans don’t like this trend. That's not surprising! A member of the Texas State Board of Education has accused the College Board of “promoting among our students a disdain for American principles and a lack of knowledge of major American achievements,” like those of the founding fathers & of the generals who fought in the Civil War & World War II. The Republican National Committee says the framework offers “a radically revisionist view” that “emphasizes negative aspects of our nation’s history.” Stanley Kurtz, in National Review, called it “an attempt to hijack the teaching of U.S. history on behalf of a leftist political & ideological perspective.” Disagreement is not a bad thing. But learning history means engaging with aspects of the past that are troubling, as well as those that are heroic.
There was a time, for example, when historians didn’t worry much about the slave trade and the emergence of an economy based on forced labor. Historians likened the plantation to a “school,” and emancipated people as children let out of class too soon. Only slightly more than a half-century ago, historians began to “revise” that narrative, examining sources previously ignored or unseen, informed by new ideas about race and human agency. More recently, scholars have revised 19th-century images of the “vanishing Indian,” a wildly inaccurate narrative that lives on in public monuments and popular lore, and has implications for public policy. This essential process of reconsideration and re-evaluation takes place in all disciplines; imagine a diagnosis from a physician who does not read “revisionist” medical research.
Revisionism is necessary — and it generates controversy, especially when new scholarship finds its way into classrooms. But debate over what is taught in our schools is hardly new. Part of the logic underlying the creation of Catholic schools in 19th-century America had to do with a public-school curriculum that took a distinctly Protestant view of religious conflicts and cultural values. Since the early 20th century, battles have been waged over the relative place of “history” & “civics” in public education, a dichotomy that many professional historians don’t even accept. In 1994, Lynne Cheney, a former chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, pronounced the results of a congressionally mandated set of national standards in American history “grim and gloomy,” distorted by “political correctness,” and deficient for paying too much attention to the Ku Klux Klan and McCarthyism and too little to Robert E. Lee and the Wright brothers. The educators and historians who worked on the new history framework were right to emphasize historical thinking as an essential aspect of civic culture. Their efforts deserve a spirited debate, one that is always open to revision, rather than ill-informed assumptions or political partisanship.
A TOUCH SCREEN: BRINGS HISTORY ALIVE
ALL the whiz-bang technology in today’s smartphones and tablets can sometimes make you feel as if you’re living in the future. But those same devices can also give you a window to the past. The Ken Burns app, created by the documentary filmmaker, is a great place to start. Made for the iPad, it has clips from Mr. Burns’s films that cover important moments in American history from 1619 through 2013, and are sorted into generalized categories like Innovation, Art and Race. The main interface can show the clip list as a timeline or by category. Tapping on a film’s entry shows you a text summary of the film and its length. When you are ready to watch, press play to have Mr. Burns transport you back in time.
It is gorgeous to look at, and Mr. Burns’s voice and imagery help bring history alive. But while you get one category — innovation — free, unlocking the entire content archive costs $10. Remember, too, that these videos are snapshots of Mr. Burns’s longer documentaries, which you will be invited to buy through links to iTunes and Netflix. For more go to: https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/ken-burns/id723854283?mt=8
THE IMPULSE TO WRITE HISTORY
A story, as John Burrow says of his own History of Histories, is selective. It looks forward ‘to its later episodes or its eventual outcome for its criteria of relevance’. Hence a difficulty: "The impulse to write history has nourished much effective narrative, and narrative – above all in Homer – was one of the sources of history as a genre. It would be a strange paradox if narrative and history turned out to be incompatible. But the example of Homer, the first major literary-historical source in the Greek tradition, may teach us not to take the paradox too tragically. The Iliad has a climax, the fall of Troy, but it has many perspectives, and it would be a drastically impoverished reading of Homer’s epic that saw as its ‘point’ an explanation of Troy’s fall. The concept of a story is in essence a simple one, but that does not make all narrators either simple-minded or single-minded. Narrative can be capacious as well as directional."
The above words are the opening lines of a review by Cambridge sociologist Geoffrey Hawthorne in 2008 in the London Review of Books of: (i) A History of Histories: Epics, Chronicles, Romances and Inquiries from Herodotus and Thucydides to the 20th Century by John Burrow, 550 pages, 2007; (ii) What Was History? The Art of History in Early Modern Europe by Anthony Grafton, 300 pages, 2007; (iii) The Theft of History by Jack Goody, 350 pages, 2007; and (iv) Thucydides and the Philosophical Origins of History by Darien Shanske, 300 pages, 2007. Each of these books, says Hawthorne, has a grasp of the whole, an eye for detail, & a sense of irony & wit that make them a pleasure to read. I recommend to readers this brief review of history writers from ancient times to modern.
Hawthorne continues: "For John Burrow & his history of histories, time itself is capacious, 2500 years of capaciousness. Grafton’s practitioners, the writers of history that concern him, were writing in the decades around 1600." The renaissance and reformation had by 1600, carved-out the opening notes of what some historians now call 'early-modern history.' Grafton treats those writers as his mutually curious contemporaries. Burrow’s stretch is across two and a half thousand years, but until 1700 or so, his historians had been engaged with one another: the ancients were engaged with themselves, and those who came after the ancients were engaged with the ancients. Histories of the Greek, and more especially the Roman world, had for a thousand years set the frame and rhetorical style in which histories of other times were written; the ancient historians were regarded also as sources of moral and political wisdom. Because so many of them referred to others, we can be reasonably sure that even where their work has not survived, we know who the more significant were. Burrow makes no apology for devoting the first third of his book to them.
John Wyon Burrow(1935-2009) was an English historian. In 1954 he won a history scholarship at Christ's College, Cambridge. His published works include assessments of the Whig interpretation of history, and of historiography generally. His 1981 book, A Liberal Descent: Victorian Historians and the English Past, won the Wolfson History Prize. In that work he proposed that the historians William Stubbs, John Richard Green and Edward Augustus Freeman, writing in the 19th century, were historical scholars with little or no experience of public affairs, with views of the present which were romantically historicised, and who were drawn to history by an antiquarian passion for the past and by a patriotic and populist impulse to identify the nation and its institutions as the collective subject of English history, making "the new historiography of early medieval times an extension, filling out and democratising, of older Whig notions of continuity.
It was Stubbs who presented this most substantially; Green who made it popular and dramatic. It is in Freeman, of the three the most purely a narrative historian, that the strains are most apparent. Readers wanting to familiarize themselves with Whig history, or Whig historiography, the approach to historiography which presents the past as an inevitable progression towards ever greater liberty and enlightenment, culminating in modern forms of liberal democracy & constitutional monarchy, go to this link:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whig_history For more on Burrows go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._W._Burrow For more of this general review in the London Review of Books go to: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v30/n22/geoffrey-hawthorn/things-keep-happening
PRIVILEDGED WAY TO HISTORY
Thucydides, the Athenian, wrote the history of the war fought between Athens and Sparta....in the belief that it was going to be a great war and more worth writing about than any of those which had taken place in the past. -Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, Penguin, 1972, p.35.
Ron Price, a Canadian, provided a massive autobiographical work through several genres. What some regard as ‘the priviledged way to historical, or social, reality’(1), autobiography, he believed, was part of his way of playing a role in the greatest drama in the world’s history: our own age. It certainly deserved the best he could contribute in a measureable way, a way which inspired his imagination, perhaps the only way which he thought could one day be useful to future generations.-Ron Price with thanks to (1) Martin Kohli, “Biography: Account, Text, Method”, Biography and Society: The Life History Approach in the Social Sciences, editor, Daniel Bertaux, Sage Studies, 1981, p.64.
Personal life-records, as complete as possible, constitute the perfect type of historical and sociological material especially if, along with the narrative, there exists a family history, medical, psychiatric and psychological findings, official criminal and other records, indeed, any verifiable material. These records help to balance with some things objective, what is essentially a subjective account, albeit sincere and of the highest authenticity.-ibid., p.71.
He knew these were still the early days,
part of that springtime when
the many are called and few are chosen,
whatever that meant.
Somehow it seemed absurd
to include those items official;
this would tend to self-promotion
which was not what was intended here.
Rather, a restructuring of a life,
a way of deriving meaning
since all becoming was the product
of an interaction of my producing self,
the produced result of social evolution,
some impulse for defining the self
and its world in the great maelstrom
of history, its drama, its profound
confusion, and the vast lamentably
prevailing order which he witnessed.
And so I apply my personal canons of relevance,
accept the large chunks, gaps and silences;
and aim at some understanding,
a search for meaning, with art and insight,
into the history of our own times.
25/5/'97(circa) to final draft 25/5/'14.
Even the First World War, despite all setbacks, meant a vast expansion for Winston Churchill as both politician and writer. In his historical works the personal and the factual elements have been intimately blended. He knows what he is talking about, well at least sometimes, like everyone else. In gauging the dynamics of events, his profound experience is unmistakable. He is the man who has himself been through the fire, taken risks, and withstood extreme pressure. This gives his words a vibrating power. Occasionally, perhaps, the personal side gets the upper hand. In my poetic idiom this personal side of life also and often gets the upper hand.
Balfour called The World Crisis(1923-29) “Winston's brilliant autobiography, disguised as world history.” I would like to be able to say the same of my work, but this is far from the case. With all due respect to archives and documents, there is something special about history written by a man who has himself helped to make it. Churchill was obviously a big player in the game of history, and I am one of the billions of the ordinarily ordinary, the humanly human, those two-bit men and women on the scene whose names are for the most part lost to history. -Ron Price with thanks to S. Siwertz, “Presentation Speech for the 1953 Nobel Prize in Literature,”in Nobel Lectures, Literature: 1901-1967, Editor Horst Frenz, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1969.
In the search for an adequate
perspective, a context in which
to examine what it was all about;
in trying to define the dynamics
of the events of my life and times;
in my attempt, too, to give my words
a vibrating power as they play with
salutary truths in their fluid and elastic
blend of the personal and the factual,
I exude a fundamental gravity.(1)
I exude, too, a touch of that humour
absorbed in the Antipodes; perhaps,
it was in my genes, half amused, and
once appalled, turning as I often did
the frequent somersaults between the
many antitheses to get the mode, the
manner, the tone, the note, just right,
in an atmosphere of pleasure, finding
and mastering many of life’s surprises
and also getting beaten again and again.
(1) Some ideas here are borrowed from Siwertz’s contrast between G.B. Shaw and W. Churchill.
19/1/'05 to 10/11/'14.
PERSONAL EXPERIENCE: ON THE PERIPHERY OF HISTORY
The three Selma to Montgomery marches in late February and March of 1965 were part of the Selma Voting Rights Movement. They led to the passage in July of that year of the Voting Rights Act, a landmark federal achievement of the 1960s American Civil Rights Movement. Activists publicized the three protest marches to walk the 54-mile highway from Selma to the Alabama state capital of Montgomery as showing the desire of black American citizens to exercise their constitutional right to vote, in defiance of segregationist repression. A voters registration campaign in Selma had been launched in 1963 by local African Americans, who formed the Dallas County Voters League (DCVL). Joined by organizers from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), they began working that year in a renewed effort to register black voters. Most of the millions of African Americans across the South had effectively been disenfranchised since the turn of the century by a series of discriminatory requirements & practices.
Finding resistance by white officials to be intractable, even after passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ending segregation, the DCVL invited Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the activists of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to join them. SCLC brought many prominent civil rights and civic leaders to Selma in January 1965. Local and regional protests began, with 3,000 persons arrested by the end of February. On 26 February 1965, activist & deacon Jimmie Lee Jackson died after being mortally shot several days earlier by a state trooper during a peaceful march in Marion, Alabama. The community was sorrowed & outraged. To defuse & refocus the anger, SCLC Director of Direct Action James Bevel, who was directing SCLC's Selma Voting Rights Movement, called for a march of dramatic length, from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery. Bevel had been working on his Alabama Project for voting rights since late 1963.
I mention all the above detail for two reasons. The first reason is Selma, an American historical drama film released in late 2014, directed by Ava DuVernay and written by Paul Webb & DuVernay. It is based on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches led by James Bevel, Hosea Williams, and Martin Luther King, Jr. of SCLC and John Lewis of SNCC. This five-day march, which took place nearly 50 years ago, is depicted in detail in this newly released film, “Selma.” The film stars British actors David Oyelowo as King, Tom Wilkinson as President Lyndon Johnson, Tim Roth as George Wallace, Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King, and American rapper and actor Common as Bevel. The second reason I write about all this in some detail here is that: I belonged to a very small and largely informal McMaster University branch of the Student Union for Peace Action (SUPA) and SNCC. I attended conferences as far away as Ottawa, and many discussion sessions. I also spent a night on the steps of the American embassy in Toronto on 10 March 1965 as an expression of my protest and concern for civil rights issues. I remember my photo being on the front page of the Hamilton Spectator. Huddled in winter clothing, wrapped in blankets and sleeping bags, several dozen protesters endured daily police brutality and constant exposure to chilly temperatures. Images of marchers in the streets of Selma mirrored the images of demonstrators in front of the consulate on University Avenue in Toronto.
During this short period of two months in the middle of my university life I was slowly working out the nature of my personal response, just how I would work-out, my stance in relation to the problems afflicting the world's peoples. The story of the 1960s civil rights movement is conventionally viewed as a distinctly American phenomenon arising from that nation’s longer history of slavery, civil war, segregation, & racial violence. A recent paper challenges this conventional view by looking at the dynamic relationship between black activists in Halifax and Toronto, & the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a radical organization based in southern states from 1965 to 1967. Neither SNCC nor Canadian activists saw themselves in local or even national terms. While their aim was to transform local injustice, their sightlines were transnational. This paper takes two instances from 1965: (i) the Selma, Alabama, solidarity protests in Toronto which I was part of & (ii) the Freedom Singers Maritime Tour. These two instances chart how activists on both sides of the border recognized music’s strategic importance to public protest. Both events mark a high point in SNCC/Canadian solidarity.
In 1964-5 I was a student in my second year of a history and philosophy honours program at McMaster University in Hamilton Ontario and, for perhaps two-to-three months, I participated on the edges of political and social activism in a very small group of no more than a dozen students at my university. I was part of the 8-day demonstration outside the U.S. Consulate in Toronto on 10 March 1965 in which Canadian activists voiced their support for southern movement workers in Selma, Alabama. This small group was part of the Student Union for Peace Action(SUPA), and the Canadian Friends of SNCC. The empathetic association between southern SNCC chapters, Canadian SNCC chapters and SUPA gelled in March '65 with the groups’ concerted response to civil rights violence in Selma, Alabama. The strategy was intended to pressure the U.S. federal government to intervene in civil rights abuses in Selma. As SNCC’s chairman at the time, John Lewis, explained, “I don’t see how President Johnson can send troops to Vietnam and the Congo … and can’t send troops to Selma, Alabama.”
SNCC’s more aggressive style by 1966 centred on the ideology of “Black Power.” By 1966 the civil rights campaign had moved from the rural South and places like Selma Alabama into the urban North as the Black Power movement gained momentum. The result of this more aggressive approach was a transformation of the northern support base in Canada. Groups such as Canadian Friends of SNCC, composed predominantly of white youth
like myself--disappeared. By 1966, too, I had transferred my social concerns to the Inuit people of Canada, and had begun my preparations to teach on Baffin Island. This was the beginning of what has become 50 years of social activism in a Baha'i perspective. I have been deeply committed to the Baha'i Faith and have channelled my social and political, my psychological and sociological concerns through the various Baha'i approaches to current social issues. For more on the Canadian activists in 1965 go to: http://pi.library.yorku.ca/ojs/index.php/topia/article/viewFile/34316/32854
In May 1965 my father died; I worked for the Canadian Peace Research Institute that summer, and started a third year of an honours sociology course in September at McMaster university. In October I attended a Baha'i conference in Chatham Ontario, and it was at that conference that I decided to pioneer for the Canadian Baha'i community to the eastern Arctic. My social activism within the Baha'i community had begun to take on a new form. The Baha'i Faith is the only religion in the world that defines consciousness of the unity of mankind as its central theme and dedicates itself almost single-mindedly to the achievement of that goal. More and more, of course, are the people of all religions and philosophies becoming concerned about the ways and means of bringing unity and harmony among the contending and conflicted groups on the planet. It is the Baha'i view that no amount of individual saintliness will, by itself, achieve the result of overturning the unjust and oppressive social conditions throughout the world. The Baha'i approach to social issues is discussed time and again throughout this website. Political, economic and social reform are all at the centre of the Baha'i agenda, an agenda I have now been involved with in a wide variety of ways for over 60 years. For a general statement on the Baha'i Faith and Social Action by Christopher Buck published in The Encyclopedia of Activism and Social Justice, ed. Gary L. Anderson and Kathryn Herr, pages 208-213(Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2007) go to this link: http://bahai-library.com/buck_bahai_social_action
ARCHEOLOGY AND HISTORY
Archaeology, or archeology, is the study of human activity in the past, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that cultures and civilizations, peoples and nations, have left behind. This includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts (also known as eco-facts) and cultural landscapes (the archaeological record). Because archaeology employs a wide range of different procedures, it can be considered to be both a social science and a humanity. In the United States it is thought of as a branch of anthropology, although in Europe, it is viewed as a separate discipline.
Archaeology studies human prehistory and history from the development of the first stone tools in eastern Africa 4 million years ago up until recent decades. Archaeology does not include the discipline of paleontology. It is of most importance for learning about prehistoric societies, when there are no written records for historians to study, making up over 99% of total human history, from the Paleolithic until the advent of literacy in any given society. Archaeology has various goals, which range from studying human evolution to cultural evolution and understanding culture history.
The discipline involves surveying, excavation and eventually analysis of data collected to learn more about the past. In broad scope, archaeology relies on cross-disciplinary research. It draws upon geography, geology, linguistics,semiology, physics, information sciences, chemistry, statistics, paleoecology, paleontology,paleozoology, paleoethnobotany, and paleobotany.
Archaeology developed out of antiquarianism in Europe during the 19th century, & has since become a discipline practiced across the world. Since its early development, various specific sub-disciplines of archaeology have developed, including maritime archaeology, feminist archaeology and archaeoastronomy, & numerous different scientific techniques have been developed to aid archaeological investigation. Today archaeologists face many problems, such as dealing with pseudoarchaeology, the looting of artifacts, a lack of public interest, & opposition to the excavation of human remains. For more go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archaeology
THE BAHA'I FAITH AND SOCIAL ACTION
Some 50 years ago this year, in 1965, I was 21, an adult. After a dozen years of contact with the Canadian Baha'i community, as one of only a small handful of youth in the three small Baha'i communities of Burlington, Dundas and Hamilton, pioneering came on to my agenda and I have been pioneering ever since. I translated, transferred, my various forms of involvement in Baha'i community life, into a form of social activism known as pioneering. I write about this in my autobiography and will not do so here. I will, though, draw on the words of Christopher Buck to explain the nature of social activism in a Baha'i context. The Bahá’í Faith is an independent world religion that promotes social justice through social action by advancing processes leading to world peace. In the Bahá’í value-hierarchy, social justice is the cardinal principle of human society. On the theory that all human actions flow from consciousness, Bahá’ís believe that world peace can only be established on a foundation of human solidarity—the harmony of races, religions, and nations. The purpose of justice, according to Bahá’u’lláh (1817–1892), prophet-founder of the Bahá’í Faith, is the achievement of unity in human society. International peace and security are unattainable, Bahá’u’lláh counsels, unless & until world unity is firmly established.
Acting globally through interfaith alliances and national & international agencies, including the United Nations, Bahá’ís actively promote race unity, human rights, social and economic development, moral development, & the advancement of women. They draw international attention, in particular, to human rights violations against the Bahá’ís in Iran while advocating universal human rights for all. Bahá’ís aim to achieve these humanitarian goals through practical applications of Bahá’í principles of unity. Bahá’í philosopher Alain Locke (1885–1954), whose work is cited here to illustrate Bahá’í teachings, wrote that world peace depends on discovering necessary common values involved in the application of democracy on a world scale. World democracy thus entails building infrastructures that can best canalize efforts to achieve social justice, to which Bahá’í institutions and programs of social action contribute.
Bahá’ís at the United Nations
Ethics-based and religious non-governmental organizations (RNGOs) are playing increasingly significant roles in their consultative collaborations with the United Nations. As a RNGO, the Bahá’í International Community (BIC) represents a network of 182 democratically elected National Spiritual Assemblies that act on behalf of over 5.5 million Bahá’ís worldwide. Accordingly, the BIC is the voice of the worldwide Bahá’í community in international affairs. On the 60th anniversary of the United Nations in October 2005, the Bahá’í International Community issued a statement, “The Search for Values in an Age of Transition,” presenting its recommendations for human rights, development, democracy, and collective security.
Commending the international community’s commitment to democracy, the BIC stressed that democracy is good governance—an essentially moral exercise (what Alain Locke calls a “moral democracy”). Democracy will succeed only if it is coefficient with personal integrity (gaining respect of the governed), moral principles, transparency, objective need assessments, and ethical applications of scientific resources. Democracy, according to the BIC, must be rooted in moral values that promote social welfare both within and beyond the nation-state. Without this principled anchor, democracy falls prey to the excesses of individualism and nationalism, which tear at the fabric of the community, both nationally and globally. As sociomoral forces, Bahá’í principles of unity serve as a moral bedrock for building a world democracy.
Principles of Unity
In his epistle to Queen Victoria (c. 1869), Bahá’u’lláh endorsed parliamentary democracy as an ideal form of governance. Referring to his own mission as that of a “World Reformer,” Bahá’u’lláh promulgated social principles that are wider in scope than the process of electing governments. The Bahá’í community, in a measured participation in political democracy, eschews partisan politics as polarizing & divisive. While exercising their civic obligation in voting, individual Bahá’ís distance themselves from the political theater of party politics. Embracing democracy, they shun
campaigning. Instead, Bahá’ís work with the body politic, applying Bahá’í principles to better society. These principles include the following:
1. Human unity
2. Social justice
3. Racial harmony
4. Interfaith cooperation
5. Gender equality
6. Wealth equity (economic justice)
7. Social and economic development
8. International law
9. Human rights
10. Freedom of conscience
11. Individual responsibility
12. Harmony of science and religion
13. International scientific cooperation
14. International standards/world intercommunication
15. International language
16. Universal education
18. World commonwealth
19. World tribunal
20. World peace
21. Search after truth
22. Freedom of conscience
23. Love of God
24. Nobility of character (acquiring virtues)
25. Advancing civilization (individual purpose)
26. Work as worship
27. Ideal marriage
28. Family values
29. Model communities
30. Religious teleology (Progressive Revelation)
31. Bahá’í doctrinal integrity
32. Bahá’í institutional support (the “Covenant”)
33. Promoting Bahá’í values
In 1925, Alain Locke stated that Bahá’í principles—and the leavening of America’s national life with its power—are to be regarded as the salvation of democracy. Only in this way can the fine professions of American ideals best be realized. There is much more to say on the Baha'i Faith and social action but, for now, the above will suffice.
WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN
In the London Review of Books(Vol. 27 No. 16, August 2005), Slavoj Žižek in his "Lenin Shot at Finland Station" reviews What Might Have Been: Imaginary History from 12 Leading Historians edited by Andrew Roberts(Phoenix, 200 pages, 2005). He writes: "Andrew Roberts has contributed an essay on the bright prospects that would have faced Russia in the 20th century had Lenin been shot on arriving at the Finland Station. One of Roberts’s arguments in favour of what he calls "what might have been history" is that ‘anything that has been condemned by Carr, Thompson and Hobsbawm must have something to recommend it.’ Roberts believes that the ideals of liberté, égalité, fraternité ‘have time and again been shown to be completely mutually exclusive’. ‘If,’ he continues, ‘we accept that there is no such thing as historical inevitability and that nothing is preordained, political lethargy – one of the scourges of our day – should be banished, since it means that in human affairs anything is possible.’
The topics tend to concern how much better history would have been if some revolutionary or ‘radical’ event had been avoided (if Charles I had won the Civil War; if the English had won the war against the American colonies; if the Confederacy had won the American Civil War; if Germany had won the Great War) or, less often, how much worse history would have been if it had taken a more progressive turn. For more on this "what might have been" historical playgorund go to:http://www.lrb.co.uk/v27/n16/slavoj-zizek/lenin-shot-at-finland-station
CIVILIZATIONS COME AND GO
We today are mere twigs atop a vast human forest, whose roots are in a prehistoric past of which we still have very incomplete knowledge. This is a warning of how ephemeral we, and our institutions and events today, really are. Soon it will be our turn to be tipped into the humus of a human past mostly already forgotten, or rarely acknowledged. Norman Davies explores that human past of humus in his book Vanished Kingdoms. Davies’s book is an exercise in historical realism whose effect is to undermine the ideologies of human progress and perfectibility by which Europe and its intellectual offspring have lived since the Enlightenment. For a review of Vanished Kingdoms: The Rise and Fall of States and Nations by Norman Davies go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/dec/06/history-beyond-history/
Davies is an English historian now in his mid-70s(1939- ). He holds a number of honorary titles and memberships including: (i) honorary doctorates from the universities of the Jagiellonian University, Lublin, Gdańsk and Warsaw, (ii) memberships in the Polish Academy of Learning, the Academia Scientiarum et Artium Europaea, and the International Honorary Council of the European Academy of Diplomacy, and (iii) fellowships of the British Academy and the Royal Historical Society. Davies received an honorary DLitt degree from his alma mater the University of Sussex. His chosen “vanished kingdoms” are several: Alt Clud, Kingdom of the Rock (Scotland, fifth to twelfth centuries AD), Burgundia (411–1795), Aragon (1137–1714), Litva (modern Belarus, 1253–1795), Byzantion (Byzantium—the Eastern Roman or Greek Christian Empire, 330–1453), Borussia (modern Prussia, 1230–1945), Sabaudia (Savoy and Piedmont, 1033–1946), Galicia (1773–1918), Etruria (historic Florence, 1801–1814), Rosenau (Thuringia, 1826–1918), Tsernagora (Montenegro, 1910–1918),1 and Rusyn (Carpatho–Ukraine, March 15, 1939). For more on Davies and his work go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Davies
THE IDEA OF PROGRESS: PROGRESSIVISTS VS DECLINISTS
In historiography and the philosophy of history, progress, a word from the Latin 'progressus' meaning "an advance", is the idea that the world can become increasingly better in terms of science, technology, modernization, liberty, democracy, quality of life, etc. Although progress is often associated with the Western notion of monotonic change in a straight, linear fashion, alternative conceptions exist, such as the cyclic theory of eternal return, or the "spiral-shaped" dialectic progress of Hegel, Marx, et al. The idea of progress, though, is not a simple one. There are several, indeed, many, thinkers whose views of history, to say nothing about the future, do not hypothesize a belief in progress. I will mention but two, one a historian and one a sociologist.
Rober Nisbet(1913-1996) was an American sociologist, professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Vice-Chancellor at the University of California, Riverside and Albert Schweitzer Professor at Columbia University. History of the Idea of Progress(Basic Books, 1980) discusses the concept of progress from the Enlightenment to postmodernism. The idea of progress is, of course, still very much with us. In intellectual discourse, journals, popular magazines, and radio and talk shows, the debate between those who are "progressivists" and those who are "declinists" is as spirited as it was in the late seventeenth century. In History of the Idea of Progress, Robert Nisbet traces the idea of progress from its origins in Greek, Roman, and medieval civilizations to modern times. It is a masterful frame of reference for understanding the present world.
Nisbet asserts there are two fundamental building blocks necessary to Western doctrines of human advancement: the idea of growth, and the idea of necessity. He sees Christianity as a key element in both secular and spiritual evolution, for it conveys all the ingredients of the modern idea of progress: the advancement of the human race in time, a single time frame for all the peoples and epochs of the past and present, the conception of time as linear, and the envisagement of the future as having a Utopian end. In his new introduction, Nisbet shows why the idea of progress remains of critical importance to studies of social evolution and natural history. He provides a contemporary basis for many disciplines, including sociology, economics, philosophy, religion, politics, and science. History of the Idea of Progress continues to be a major resource for scholars in all these areas. For more on Nisbet go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Nisbet
John Nicholas Gray(b.1948) is an English political philosopher with interests in analytic philosophy and the history of ideas. He retired as School Professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Gray contributes regularly to The Guardian, The Times Literary Supplement and The New Statesman, where he is the lead book reviewer. Gray has written several influential books, including False Dawn: The Delusions of Global Capitalism (1998), which argues that free market globalization is an unstable Enlightenment project currently in the process of disintegration, Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals (2003), which attacks philosophical humanism, a worldview which Gray sees as originating in religious ideologies, and Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia (2007), a critique of utopian thinking in the modern world. Gray sees volition, and hence morality, as an illusion, & portrays humanity as a ravenous species engaged in wiping out other forms of life. Gray writes that 'humans ... cannot destroy the Earth, but they can easily wreck the environment that sustains them.' For more on Gray go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_N._Gray For more on the idea of progress go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progress_(history)
CIVILIZATIONS COME AND GO: A SECOND LOOK
A Study of History is the 12-volume magnum opus of British historian Arnold J. Toynbee, finished in 1961, in which the author traces the development and decay of all of the major world civilizations in the historical record. Toynbee applies his model to each of these civilizations, detailing the stages through which they pass: genesis, growth, time of troubles, universal state, & disintegration. The nineteen major civilizations, as Toynbee sees them, are: Egyptian, Andean, Sinic, Minoan, Sumerian, Mayan, Indic, Hittite, Hellenic, Western, Orthodox Christian (Russia), Far Eastern, Orthodox Christian (main body), Persian, Arabic, Hindu, Mexican, Yucatec, and Babylonic. There are four 'abortive civilizations' (Abortive Far Western Christian, Abortive Far Eastern Christian, Abortive Scandinavian, Abortive Syriac) and five 'arrested civilizations' (Polynesian, Eskimo, Nomadic, Ottoman, Spartan).
For those who are disinclined to wade through such a mammoth and encyclopedic work, you might prefer the following: (i) A Study of History: Abridgement of Vols I-VI, with a preface by Toynbee (Oxford University Press, 1946); (ii) A Study of History: Abridgement of Vols VII-X (Oxford University Press, 1947); and (iii) A Study of History: Abridgement of Vols I-X in one volume, with new preface by Toynbee & new tables (Oxford Univ. Press 1960). For more on Toynbee and his views go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Study_of_History
The social scientist Ashley Montagu assembled 29 other historians' articles to form a symposium on Toynbee's A Study of History, published as Toynbee and History: Critical Essays and Reviews(Boston: Extending Horizons Books, Porter Sargent Publishers, 1956). The book includes three of Toynbee's own essays: (i) What I am Trying to Do (originally published inInternational Affairs vol. 31, 1955; (ii) What the Book is For: How the Book Took Shape (a pamphlet written upon completion of the final volumes of A Study of History) and (iii) a comment written in response to the articles by Edward Fiess and Pieter Geyl (originally published in Journal of the History of Ideas, vol. 16, 1955.)
Arnold Toynbee suggests that the civilisation as a whole is the proper unit for the study of history, not the nation state, which he suggests is just a part of a larger whole. He suggests a list of 21 civilisations, and an additional 5 "arrested civilisations", but when one examines this list it seems to be very arbitrary at times where one civilisation ends and a new one starts. For example, do we identify a "Sumerian" civilisation in ancient Iraq, followed by a later "Akkadian, or Babylonian" civilisation, or are these just different phases of a single, long-lived Mesopotamian civilisation?
Toynbee lists them as separate, but later includes both the Greek and the Roman civilisations within a single category, called "Hellenic," though it is clear from Toynbee's list that Greek gave rise to Roman just as Sumer gave rise to Babylonia. Why is Sparta listed as a separate civilisation from the rest of the Hellenic world? What is the relation between Minoan and Mycenaean (which Toynbee considers early Hellenic)? Jacquetta Hawkes considers these two aspects of the same civilisation (which she calls Mino-Mycenaean, a finding that would be supported by Leonard Robert Palmerfrom his studies of Linear B). If these are just early phases of a much larger civilisation, separated from Hellenic civilisation by a "Dark Age", what is one to do with what Toynbee calls "Sinic civilisation", separated from "Far Eastern Civilisation", or for that matter "Indic civilisation" separated from "Hindu civilisation"?
In his list there is no mention of such civilisations as the Etruscans, the Ethiopians, the East Africans, or the Sudanese. While the latter could perhaps be considered part of the Islamic civilisation, the former could not. And what of Tibet and South East Asia, old Indo-China, are they part of the Indian Hindu Civilisation even though they are Buddhist, or part of Far Eastern Civilisation, or both. And if Hittite is a separate civilisation, where do Hurrians, Elamites and Urartu fit?
David Wilkinson suggests that there is an even larger unit than civilisation. Using the ideas drawn from "World Systems Theory" he suggests that since at least 1500 BC that there was a connection established between a number of formerly separate civilisations to form a single interacting "Central Civilisation", which expanded to include formerly separate civilisations such as India, the Far East, and eventually Western Europe and the Americas into a single "World System". In some ways, it resembles what William H. McNeill calls "the closure of the oecumene", in his book The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community.
HISTORY AS THERAPY
Historian and broadcaster Dan Snow and psychologist Richard Bentall get to the root of 21st century melancholy, and propose a cure. We’ve never had it so good. So why are so many of us unhappy? In 2015, we no longer have to worry about bubonic plague taking the lives of our loved ones, nor suffer a course of leeches to treat smallpox. And yet, malignant sadness rocks our prosperous society like a curse. In the US, use of anti-depressants is now so common that environmental agencies are worried about their impact on the chemistry of tap water. Our emotional health has never been worse. Why?
Join historian and broadcaster Dan Snow, and clinical psychologist Richard Bentall, as they seek an answer to this mystery. Richard will explain how inequality and isolation have led us to our current plight. And Dan will ask whether history itself might provide us with a solution. Does meditating on the lives of our ancestors help us get a better sense of perspective toward our own problems? Can history nourish and console? Is the study of history, in short, a form of therapy. For more go to:http://www.theschooloflife.com/london/shop/dan-snow-and-richard-bentall-history-as-therapy/?utm_source=The+School+of+Life+Mailing+List&utm_campaign=ad2f320c14-Dan_Snow_Content_Reminder10_19_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_ee13007971-ad2f320c14-20627741&mc_cid=ad
WHAT MAKES A SPECIALIST IN HISTORY
Moved though they are by intellectual curiosity, historians often feel a personal affinity with the subjects they write about. In Britain, Roman Catholic scholars from David Knowles to Eamon Duffy have been drawn to the history of the medieval church and the monastic orders. Wartime experience with the Coldstream Guards in Italy encouraged Sir Michael Howard to turn to military history, just as a nonconformist upbringing helped to make Christopher Hill a historian of Puritanism. Sir Lewis Namier’s studies of the eighteenth-century English aristocracy derived from his fascination with its twentieth-century descendants; and given their political views, it is hardly surprising that E.P. Thompson and Eric Hobsbawm should have studied the history of labor movements. Nowadays we are accustomed to feminist historians writing about women, gay historians about homosexuality, and black historians about slavery.
Such affinities are particularly evident among those who engage with the history of countries other than their own. Generations of American historians studied the history of England, either because, like Henry James, they venerated the multilayered antiquity and sophistication of the Old World, or because they felt a debt to the British legal and parliamentary tradition. Hedonistically-minded scholars have always been attracted to the art, antiquities, and sunshine of Italy, while France’s distinctive charms have encouraged many to take on a second, Francophone identity, though none so wholeheartedly as Richard Cobb, the wonderfully maverick historian of revolutionary France, who confessed that whenever he crossed the English Channel he became a different person. The central thesis of the modern historian, often lucidly and vigorously presented, is honourably complex & tentative. This is the modern manner, history with its head down: patient, unpretentious, suspicious of the swift & brash generalisations that stole the headlines a decade and more ago. Of course, this is not always the case with writers of history. The sort of history-writing that has attracted me has been of this sort. For more on this subject go to this link:http://www.lrb.co.uk/v05/n07/blair-worden/rescuing-the-bishops and this: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/feb/21/empires-elliott/
A SPECIALIST IN ENGLISH HISTORY: AND THE ENGLISH IMAGINATION
The sequence of authors celebrated in Peter Ackroyd's novels and biographies: Pound, Eliot, Wilde, Dickens, Chatterton, Blake, Milton, Thomas More---has followed a steady progression backwards through time. And for all the rationalist sophistication of his intelligence, he has long been drawn to darker forces in the cultural psyche - whether the mystic lines along which Hawksmoor built his churches or the apocalyptic visions of Blake. His last book, London: The Biography, was less a guide to the modern capital than a paean to its sacred nooks. And his new one, Albion: The Origins of the English Imagination(Chatto, 500 pages) follows a similar journey, back towards the primal ooze from which English poetry, fiction, art, architecture and music have sprung. There are now several reviews of this 2002 publication; one is in The Guardian at: http://Albion: The Origins of the English Imagination For more on this English biographer, novelist and critic, Peter Ackroyd, go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Ackroyd#Honours_and_awards
TWO BIG STORIES IN HISTORY
Felipe Fernández-Armesto, a prolific and learned English-born historian of Spanish descent, begins his new book as follows: "History has two big stories to tell. The first is the very long story of how human cultures diverged—how they parted & developed differences, in ignorance or contempt of one another. The second is the main subject of this book: a relatively short and recent story of convergence—of how human groups got back in touch, exchanged culture, copied each other’s lives, and became more like each other again." Go to this link for more: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2007/apr/12/how-the-winds-changed-history/
HISTORY: TWO DIRECTIONS
In The Drowned and the Saved, Primo Levi’s final book on his experiences at Auschwitz, he makes a wise remark about the difficulty of rendering judgment on history. The historian is pulled in two directions. He is obliged to gather & take into account all relevant material and perspectives; but he is also obliged to render the mass of material into a coherent object of thought & judgment: Without a profound simplification the world around us would be an infinite, undefined tangle that would defy our ability to orient ourselves & decide upon our actions. We are compelled to reduce the knowable to a schema. In The New York Review of Books, 21/11/'13, Mark Lilla's "Arendt & Eichmann: The New Truth" reviews Hannah Arendt, a film by Margarethe von Trotta, and a 250 page book Hannah Arendt: Her Thought Changed the World edited by Martin Wiebel, with a foreword by Franziska Augstein. For more of this review go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/nov/21/arendt-eichmann-new-truth/
STUDIES IN NATIONAL HISTORY
This is no ordinary time for American studies, Canadian Studies, Australian Studies, indeed, any one of some 200+ study programs covering each of the 200+ nations in the world. It has never been more difficult—yet never more important—to explain how the abstract idea of “America” or "Canada" or "Australia"...or....or...or...works in the world. As our globalizing, planetizing world moves increasingly within the fabric of a one world culture as some historians have come to call it, the permutations & combinations of inter-relationships & interdependence are now increasingly complex. To analyze the social relations such abstract concepts as "nation" and "one world" both enable and inhibit, to examine both the bright promises and the bitter betrayals of the aspirations of each nation, that are voiced in their names, is both important and difficult. This category, 'National Histories,' the histories of peoples that aspire to but have not achieved nationhood, can be found in some detail, some 39 pages at Wikipedia, at this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:National_histories
FIRSTLY: AMERICAN STUDIES
American studies, or American civilization, is an interdisciplinary field dealing with the study of the Americas, with a historical emphasis upon the United States. It traditionally incorporates the study of history, literature, & critical theory, but also includes fields as diverse as law, art, the media, film, religious studies, urban studies, women's studies, gender studies, anthropology, sociology, foreign policy & culture of the USA, among others. Fields studying specific American communities, such as African American studies, Chicano studies, Latin American studies, Asian American studies, and American Indian studies are considered to be both included in and independent of the broader American studies discipline. For more on American Studies go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_studies
To begin with 'American Studies' allow me to voice a deep concern. The year 2014 is yet another moment of danger. One hundred years ago, in 1914, it was another moment of danger. Scholars in the field of American Studies are asking, where does American Studies stand and what do we do now? The nation, whose history and culture frame American Studies scholarship & teaching, seems to be unraveling at the seams. Its economy, environment, & educational system are all in crisis because of the cumulative consequences of four decades, at least since the 1970s, of neoliberal dispossession, displacement, and disciplinary subordination. Unprecedented prosperity for the upper classes creates austerity for the masses. Privatization schemes enable elites to loot public resources for private gain.
Readers whose knowledge of history and economics is, like me, the knowledge of a generalist or, like many, sparse to non-existent, need to get an overview of neoliberalism before continuing. Neoliberalism is a label for economic liberalism whose advocates support: (i) economic liberalizations, (ii) free trade & open markets, (iii) privatization, (iv) deregulation, & (v) enhancing the role of the private sector in modern society. It was an economic philosophy that emerged among European liberal scholars in the 1930s attempting to trace a so-called ‘Third’ or ‘Middle Way’ between the conflicting philosophies of classical liberalism and collectivist central planning. The impetus for this development arose from a desire to avoid repeating the economic failures of the early 1930s which conventional wisdom of the time tended to blame on unfettered capitalism. For more on this subject go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoliberalism
Corporate-controlled media outlets promote a pervasive culture of cruelty, callousness, and contempt. Warfare is now embraced enthusiastically, by many, as a permanent condition rather than tolerated reluctantly and regretfully as a temporary emergency. Long-standing legal and moral commitments to due process, habeas corpus, & equal protection have been abandoned, not entirely of course, but they are increasingly becoming unstuck. Relentless regimes of race-based surveillance, mass incarceration, and targeted voter suppression systematically undermine the capacity of aggrieved communities of color to defend themselves politically. The criminal justice system routinely degrades and punishes poor people, but refuses to hold employers, investors, and owners accountable for continuously violating laws that prohibit housing and hiring discrimination, that protect the environment, that require payment of minimum wages, and that guarantee decent working conditions. For more of this lament in relation to both American Studies and the state of affiars, so to speak, go to: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/aq/summary/v065/65.1.tomlinson.html
NOSTALGIA, KANT, MARX, AND HISTORY
In a series of essays written between 1784 and 1798 and concerned specifically with history and its meaning, Kant characterized the Enlightenment as an expansion of knowledge made possible by man’s courage to refuse the tutelage of others and use reason freely. Kant acknowledged that this new world of reason would bring dangers and difficulties. For him, this was always the case whenever one moved from servitude to freedom, and whenever one accepted that the psychological tension resulting from this transition would often manifest itself as longing for an earlier, simpler time. However, there is no room in Kant’s thought for doubt regarding the desirability of this transformation of the world. On an individual level rationalization and progress could and would be a source of pain, they were justified collectively due to their role in leading humanity towards a better state. Ultimately, the “empty yearning” for simplicity—a sentiment fueled by reports from European travelers about “simpler” societies—would melt away as the benefits of reason became perceptible to all.
Historian E. J. Hobsbawn(1917-2012) was a British Marxist historian of the rise of industrial capitalism, socialism, and nationalism. His best-known works include his trilogy about the long 19th century: The Age of Revolution: Europe 1789–1848, The Age of Capital: 1848–1875 and The Age of Empire: 1875–1914). He also wrote The Age of Extremes on the short 20th century, and an edited volume which introduced the influential idea of "invented traditions". Hobsbawn saw “human history as an ascent, rather than a decline or an undulating movement about a level trend.” He offered his contribution to a critique of nostalgia; he dismissed any critique of the present that was non-progressive: "Compared to these relatively coherent ideologies of progress, those of resistance to progress hardly deserve the name of systems of thought. For more on Hobsbawn go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Hobsbawm
Any system of ideas that did not believe in progress were based on attitudes lacking a common intellectual method. Such systems of ideas also relied on: (i) the view that bourgeois society was essentially weak, and (ii) the unshakable conviction that there was more in life than liberalism allowed for. Consequently, for Hobsbaum, they require relatively little attention from the historian. Nostalgia, like religion for Marx, is in fact a symptom of the real unease caused by an unjust society, a condition that would disappear as soon as the underlying cause of the dissatisfaction was done away with.
For Hobsbawn & others, it is difficult to imagine that logical thought would not lead a reasonable person to embrace the benefits of development and abandon attachment to the “archaic.” The critique of the politics of nostalgia outlined above is based on the belief that history is the narrative of progress towards an improved state. Yet the indictment of nostalgia as bad politics has also been supported by another belief. This one from Freud.
The survival of affectionate attachment to the past in the second half of the nineteenth century & into the twentieth century upset Marx’s narrative. As late as 1915 it was still deemed necessary to formulate a similar critique of nostalgia, though with another vocabulary. In 1915 Freud published his Mourning and Melancholia, a text that may be read in light of nineteenth-century struggles over ways of relating to the past. As in the eighteenth century, here a version of nostalgia continues to define abnormality: while mourning is the healthy reaction to loss, melancholia is pathological. In the former, after a series of “reality checks,” the mourner accepts that the lost object of affection indeed no longer exists & that no amount of effort will make it return.
The mourner’s desire to live then slowly forces him to detach himself from the object, move on, and acquire a new object of affection. This “working through” is the healthy response to loss, one opposed to melancholia’s regressive impulse and pathological inability to progress. When faced with a melancholic subject, Freud’s work of mourning “impels the ego to give up the object by declaring the object to be dead and offering the ego the inducement of continuing to live”. The first step, then, is recognizing that the object, like Marx’s 1789 Revolution, cannot be resurrected.
By our 21st century the notions of progress and of nostalgia had become so complex that the average person hibernated to his garden and sport, to fun and games, to family and job, to leisure and privacy. These larger questions of man and society had become very complex indeed. Each person had his or her assumptions of "the world" and did not tend to enage in any dialectic. Those areas of hibernation I have just mentioned, with family, job and entertainment filling the interstices of time for Everyman, were a refuge from the complexities of history and society, sociology and psychology. For more of this essay entitled "History and the Politics of Nostalgia" at the Website of the Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies go to: http://www.uiowa.edu/~ijcs/nostalgia/nostfe1.htm
MY TAKE ON (I) CATASTROPHE AND (II) THE PARTISAN-POLITICAL WORLD
Franz Kafka(1883-1924) provides a beginning point, a starting position, for how I view catastrophies. Kafka was a German-language writer of novels and short stories; he is regarded by critics as one of the most influential authors of the 20th century. One of the primary reasons that Kafka has come to be regarded as oblivious to reality, and politically remote, is that he focused less on great losses themselves—even when they were catastrophic—than on the larger significance of these losses, and the way they laid bare the essence of the era as a whole. The decline of a great symbol, the end of a tradition, the tip of the pyramid chopped off; for example, the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand and the subsequent destruction of the Austro-Hungarian Empire he experienced these events as signs of a larger, an irreversible dissolution.
I have felt this decline of tradition, and become more than a little aware of the many outworn shibboleths of our age. I have long seen, with C. Wright Mills, the irrelevance of socialism and liberalism, communism and capitalism in trying to deal with the crises of our age. Since at least my late teens and early 20s back in the 1960s, I have seen so much of humankind's way of dealing with this climacteric of history as utterly inadequate. A sense of urgency, of a certain obsession, of what one writer calls 'the war mentality', has now been a part of the intellectual matrix of my inner life since at least 1962/3, half a century. I see catastrophe, in its myriad forms, as part of the process of the total disintegration of the central pillars of traditional society; it is a process that is accompanied by another process, that of integration and the construction of a new world, and a new basis to society, to global society.
Millions, if not billions, now ask questions like why follow politics at all? Part of the raison d'etre for people's interest in the political domain is the joy and mirth they find in the failure of partisan adversaries? For some it is to stay informed, or to participate in the civic process, or to improve policy. For many thoughtful commentators those motives do not arise, but they derive their intellectual pleasure from political schadenfreude. Schadenfreude is a German word meaning that pleasure is derived from the misfortunes of others. In the partisan politics world, where an individual has a psychological identification with one or the other of the major parties, millions now have no identification with a party.
For most people, politics is a necessary means of making decisions about how their society should be governed. It is not a source of emotional succor or intellectual commitment, although it's often a little like a spectator sport, an analog to a team-sports rivalry. A person with a healthy attitude toward politics might cite, as their favorite political moment, something that made society more just, efficient or prosperous. Most people, at least in the West, take an adversarial stance viv-a-vis the political domain; they view it with varying degrees of criticism, contempt & even disgust, as if there is something basically unsavory about the mindset of the politician and his or her partisan political world.
Kafka was not indifferent to the troubles of the times. Neither am I, in spite of appearances to the contrary, in spite of my non-partisan political position, a position I have held since at least the first elections in Canada when I was beginning to be conscious of the world of national politics: the Canadian federal elections of 1957, 1958 and 1962. I was about to turn 18 in 1962. I had been a member of the Baha'i Faith since 1959, an officially non-partisan religion. I was too young to vote in those three elections. The Progressive Conservative Party led by John Diefenbaker were the party in power during those years. In 1957 they had brought an end to 22 years of Liberal rule in Canada; a similar process took place in Australia, but not until 1972, bringing 23 years of Liberal rule to an end.
My parents had always been on the left side of politics, and voted for the CCF party. The CCF and the Canadian Labour Congress decided to join forces to create a new political party which could make social democracy more popular with Canadian voters. In 1961, the CCF became the New Democratic Party. The political experience of my parents in the 1950s and early 1960s, before my father died, helped to reinforce my non-partisan position. In the election of 1965 I was old enough to vote. At the time I was a student in the third year of a four year honours sociology course at McMaster university. My father had just passed-away. Since 1965, nearly 50 years, I have not voted for a party. For more on the Baha'i teachings on politics go to: http://www.ronpriceepoch.com/Babi.html Readers with the interest can also go to:http://www.bahai.org/misc/politics
“The notion that Kafka was not concerned about public resonance,” a recent biographer writes, “that he was immune to both praise and criticism, is false.” Indeed, it seems that during World War I he engaged a clippings agency so that he would not miss even the most fleeting public reference to his work. All the same, he had no illusions about the possibility of worldly success and fame. He remarked with melancholy humor of his first book, a slim volume entitled Meditation, “Eleven books were sold at André’s store. I bought ten of them myself."
Much of his energy, physical and spiritual, was bent to the task of insulating himself against the world’s affronts. In the process, his recent biographer Reiner Stach writes, "he established a system of obsessions that would enhance his life on a narcissistic level but consume all his vitality. His story “The Burrow” presents a vivid symbol of this: A creature who walls himself in to remain self-sufficient, in a permanent state of siege, is therefore condemned to permanent vigilance. Everything is threatening; every spot is vulnerable. One cannot let down one’s guard anywhere, every act of carelessness is punished, and a single leak will sink the ship. If nothing can enter, and all cracks are sealed, nothing can exit either. He noted laconically in his diary, “My prison cell—my fortress.” It is hard to imagine a more precise analogy.
But what was it, exactly, that drove Kafka down into the burrow of himself, there to cower in Kierkegaardian fear and loathing? He saw himself as alien, hardly human, a creature who, as one of Nietzsche’s friends said of the philosopher, seemed to come from a place where no one else lived. Why? In seeking an answer, one returns to Erich Heller’s elegant characterization of Kafka’s prose style as at once lucid and obscure. Native speakers assure us of the limpid beauty of Kafka’s German, of its unrivaled purity and conciseness. Yet his language, like Freud’s, gives a distinct sense of shroudedness. His sentences move like Loie Fuller’s Chinese dancers in Yeats’s poem “Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen,” who “enwound/ A shining web, a floating ribbon of cloth,” inside which the dancers themselves seemed no more than flickering shadows. In Kafka, something is always not being said.
Due, perhaps, to the rigors of my bipolar 1 disorder; due, perhaps, to growing-up in the shadow of the A-bomb; due, perhaps to several mental health issues which I have had to deal with since my late teens; due to several other possible factors which I write about in my autobiography, my memoirs, and my prose-poetry, I have experienced life in some ways not unlike Kafka's. Due to the ameliorative affects of pharmacology and its several cocktails over the last 45 years, though, as well as the intellectual and spiritual infuences of religion, I have not had to deal with the intensity of Kafka's paranoia, his depressions, and general affective disorders. Both Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, those founders and fountainheads of existentialism in the 19th century, have influenced my writing, as they did Kafka's, but I am no existentialist--except in some peripheral sense, a sense in which I experience some of the many features of that many-multi-faceted philosophy. For an overview of Kafka's existentialism go to: http://www.cliffsnotes.com/literature/m/the-metamorphosis-and-other-stories/critical-essays/kafka-and-existentialism For more on this theme and Kafka go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/oct/24/different-kafka/
OPTIMISM AND PESSIMISM
The more one reads the writings of those who have studied more than a little of the past, the great galaxy of writers and historians, philosophers & poets, the more one gets a myriad interpretations of: (i) the early history of humanity's beginnings, (ii) the early history of any of the world's 200+ countries, and (iii) the nature of truths and verities which are perennial. So often these truths are set in a context that is so archaic and lacking in intellectual credibility; are so defined by individuals whose character and life-narrative is far from exemplary, that fundamental doubts have arisen in my mind making it impossible for me to be a believer, impossible to identify and affiliate with any of the organizations: parties, groups, sects, cults, denominations or isms, holding these truths.
And so it is that all modern political parties, all the old religions, all philosophies, inter alia, have remained outside the ambit of my convictions and affiliations, except in part. I have found that my life's search, beginning as far back as my late childhood in the mid-1950s, has been within the context of an affiliation, a religion, an organization, that captured my commitment by sensible and insensible degrees from those 1950s to the mid-1970s. This affiliation, this belief-system, has held my commitment with its attendant duties and responsibilities, pleasures and joys, for the last half century.-Ron Price's pessimistic and practical realist muse.
The more we ponder the matters in relation to society and its present state---the more must we realize that, scientifically speaking, the real difficulty presented by Man is not the problem of whether he is a center of constant progress: it is far more the question of how long this progress can continue, at the speed at which it is going, without Life blowing up upon itself or causing the earth on which it was born to explode. Our modern world was created, for the most part, in less than 10,000 years, and in the past 200 years it has changed more than in all the preceding millennia. Have we ever thought of what our planet may be like, psychologically, in a million years' time? It is finally the Utopians, not the 'realists', who make scientific sense. They at least, though their flights of fancy may cause us to smile, have a feeling for the true dimensions of the phenomenon of Man. These are the words and thoughts of Teilhard de Chardin(1881-1955), French philosopher and Jesuit priest who trained as a paleontologist and geologist. He took part in the discovery of Peking Man and Piltdown Man. This quotation comes from his 1955 book: The Future of Mankind
In the late 1940s, when I was the age my granddaughter and her friends are now, the modern world was recovering from one of history's nadirs. Children my age, their age, had been murdered for no reason at all in the years 1941 to 1945. At the hands of the Nazis, one & a half million children perished horribly. And that figure was just a fraction of all the innocent people who died pointlessly for the fulfilment of idle political dreams, in the period just before and after my birth.
By the time I was a strong young man, and could read, in the 1950s and 1960s, I knew all about it. If I was ever going to despair for the human race, that would have been the time. The years from 1914 to 1945 had been, as I say, one of history's nadirs. But I wasn’t only reading about all that had been destroyed, I was reading about all that had been achieved. It was one of the Australians, Howard Florey, who did the crucial work in developing penicillin, and penicillin saved my life when I was ill. So right there I had an example of what human creativity could do to overcome the pitiless workings of nature. Modern ideological maniacs could only kill people. But creative spirits, working in freedom, could make life better, and after World War II you could see it happening in the West even as China and all the lands of the Soviet bloc continued to suffer from compulsory madness.
The industrial revolution continued. It had long ago got past the stage when it ruined the lives of factory workers. It had reached the stage when you had to be a die-hard anti-capitalist to believe that that modern technology was not improving lives. My father, cruelly deprived of his two sons by the war, would have had every reason to warn me that I should place no trust in the human future. But in the 1950s and 1960s, hope sprang-up from despair's bleached skull and my generation, the war-babies and the baby-boomers came to have utopian dreams yet again. For more on Clive James, one of the many essayists I have to come appreciate more and more during my retirement from a 50 year student and paid-employment life, 1949 to 1999, go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clive_James For Clive James' take on the miracles of modern captialism, and the hope that is liberal democracy, go to:http://www.clivejames.com/point-of-view/series6/generation
TECHNOLOGY AND HISTORY
The history of the human being is the history of technology—of the production of interfaces to interact and communicate with each other and the rest of the physical world. The concept of the cyborgian-us as prescribed by Donna Haraway in the eighties is now so entrenched in cultural studies, and art and media theory, that it has become a cliché. From the use of the first tool, the wearing of the first shred of clothing, we and our technologies became inseparable—indistinguishable. There is no point at which we end and our machines begin. We eat, sleep, and move with technology, and our thoughts are intertwined with its daily machinations. If there was any doubt as to our symbiotic relationship, the Internet and advances in genetics have annihilated it. As Hardt and Negri put it more recently: “Tools have always functioned as human prostheses, integrated into our bodies through our laboring practices as a kind of anthropological mutation both in individual terms and in terms of collective social life”. If there was any doubt as to our symbiotic relationship, the Internet and advances in genetics have annihilated it. For more go to: http://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/viewArticle/148
MY TAKE: A BRIEF OVERVIEW
As we head through this second decade of the 21st century, and as we gaze back at what seems another age, another epoch, the 20th century, concluded nearly 15 years ago; and as I head through my second half century of the study of history(1954 to 2054), it seems to me that the changes from 1914 to 2014 are far more profound than any in humankind's history. They are changes which, for the most part, are little understood by the present generations. The foundations of confidence in the future of writers like Clive James, based as they are on capitalism and liberal democracy, are frail when one examines the great dangers looming on the horizon. Humanity appears desperate to believe that, through some fortuitious conjuction of circumstances, it will be possible to bend the conditions of human life into conformity with prevailing human desires.
Such hopes, I believe, are not merely illusory, but they miss entirely the nature and meaning of the great turning-point through which our world has passed in those last 100 years: 1914 to 2014. We need to grasp the meaning of the historical transformation wrought by these last 100 years. My website provides, or so I like to think, an opportunity to grasp this meaning and this significance rooted at that meaning and significance is in the magnitude of the ruin that the human race has brought upon itself, on the one hand, and on the unifying forces of life on our planet on the other. For more on this general perspective go to:http://manybooks.net/titles/communityb1926719267-8.html
A CAREER FOR HISTORY GRADUATES?
In order to discuss what sorts of careers graduates in history can pursue, Edward J. Balleisen begins by asking what "History" is good for—what sophisticated historical thinking and the skills of historical analysis offer to other academic disciplines, to nonacademic arenas, and to society at large. Balleisen is an Associate Professor of History, and Senior Fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics, at Duke University. In his several books, Balleisen explores the historical intersections among law, business, culture, society, and politics in the modern United States.
In the following article Balleisen argues that the above way of framing the task invites discussion about the social value of historical research, historical debate, and the communication of historical knowledge. It further encourages students, teachers, and others with an interest in the question of what value is history in terms of a career path---to identify contexts in which historical expertise might make more of a difference to those who are applying for jobs as well as those whose task it is to find the best person for a particular job. Grafton and Grossman suggest a very modest proposal for graduate programs in history. The job market is what it is, and students entering that market need to enter it with their eyes open. Their proposal has a series of entry points for such an inquiry including: journalism, corporate management, documentary studies, cultural memory, and the digital humanities. The following article in the electronic journal of the American Historical Association briefly considers their proposal: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2011/1110/1110pre1.cfm This article discusses the kinds of skills and jobs for history graduates in the arena of public policy. Go to this link to read more:http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2011/1112/The-Career-Question-in-History.cfm
A WRITER OF HISTORY WITH STYLE
Hugh Trevor-Roper(1914-2003) was one of the greatest prose stylists in the English language. He was also a man of prodigious learning, a classical scholar, and a remarkable historian. As a writer he took for models Francis Bacon, Donne, Hobbes, Sir Thomas Browne, Gibbon, and, perhaps surprisingly, Flaubert, and perhaps even more surprisingly, George Moore. Stylistically, his nearest though laggardly competitor among his contemporaries would have been Evelyn Waugh, who loathed him personally. They both greatly admired Gibbon and sought to emulate his sonorous periods. Among historiographers, few could compete with him for elegance, insight, and liveliness. A.J.P. Taylor, his friendly rival, once remarked that when he read one of Trevor-Roper’s essays, tears of envy stood in his eyes. Trevor-Roper was an English historian of early modern Britain and Nazi Germany and Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford. For more go to:
Trevor-Roper’s childhood was comfortable but unhappy—“I can recollect,” he wrote later, “no real pleasure before the age of 16.” His father was a doctor, kindly disposed yet remote, while his mother, according to Sisman, “was rigidly conformist, lacking in humour, and cramped by what seemed to Hugh in retrospect a stifling class-consciousness and accompanying sense of decorum.” No doubt the memory of the chilly circumstances of his childhood was one of the factors that determined the adult Trevor-Roper to enjoy life to the fullest. He loved scholarship but was also an enthusiast for the hunt, and, certainly in his letters and journals, presented himself as a mighty drinker and a devotee of pleasure in all its forms—“gaiety” was one of his favorite words. He was, or aspired to be, both Falstaff and Prince Hal, with a dash of Hamlet thrown in for bad measure—all his life he suffered from devastating bouts of depression. As Richard Davenport-Hines, editor of The Wartime Journals, shrewdly puts it, Trevor-Roper “was a gregarious introvert, a man of tight emotional reticence, who edited and controlled the public version of his self as strictly as he cut and buffed his prose.” For more go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/aug/15/hugh-trevor-roper-prince-essay/
MORE ON WRITERS OF HISTORY
Part A: A.J. P. Taylor-1
After a literary-historical diet of Toynbee and Gibbon, a historian like A.J.P. Taylor is much easier to read. Although Taylor was the best-known British historian of the 20th century, certainly the most popular and probably the most influential, my generalist education and teaching in the sixty years from 1953 to 2013 kept me from enjoying his writing. I had too much else on my plate and my reading interests were far too wide to continue specializing in a subject which, in only the short period 1964-5, my second year of university, was one of the two disciplines at the centre of my academic life. By the time I came to enjoy Taylor, among the pantheon of historians whom I came to enjoy during my retirement, I was six months short of 70. I had accumulated some notes on Taylor in the early years of my retirement, 2003 to 2013, and had come across references to his works as far back as the 1960s. But I had never got down to actually reading any of his 30 books and unnumbered essays. In January 2014 I began reading Taylor's four volumes of essays published between 1950 and 1964 by Hamish Hamilton. They were a delight although, given my broad reading and writing program, it was unlikely that I would complete the entire collection of essays. For a useful background statement on Taylor go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._J._P._Taylor
Part A: A.J. P. Taylor-2
Writing history for Taylor was, at bottom, simply a form of story-telling. The historian's picture, his version of events, is formed before he begins to write or even do research. Writing is, as it is for scientists, a confirmation of their ideas. He looks for details to "thicken-up his picture and make it look intellectually convincing." The writing process shapes into a version of history the tangle of events that was not designed as a pattern. Writing history is ceaseless explanation, an argument without end. This was Leinin's motto and Taylor's. This was also the view of that Dutch historian Pieter Geyl(1887-1966). Like historical fiction, history is an exercise in creative imagination "restrained by the limits of our knowledge." The content of the above paragraph comes from Taylor's essay: "Fiction in History" in Essays in English History, Penguin Books, 1950, pp.9-17.
Part B: Peter Gay-1
Peter Gay(1923-) is Sterling Professor of History Emeritus at Yale University and former director of the New York Public Library's Center for Scholars and Writers (1997–2003). Gay received the American Historical Association's Award for Scholarly Distinction in 2004. He is the author of more than twenty-five books, including The Enlightenment: An Interpretation, a multi-volume award winner; Weimar Culture: The Outsider as Insider (1968), a bestseller; and the widely translated Freud: A Life for Our Time (1988). Peter Gay was born in Berlin, Germany in 1923 and emigrated to the United States in 1941. From 1962 to 1969 he was Professor of History at Columbia University. He joined Yale University’s History Department as Professor of Comparative and Intellectual European History in 1969, and was named Sterling Professor of History in 1984. For more on Peter Gay go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Gay
Part B: Peter Gay-2
Unlike Taylor, I did not wait until my retirement to read his books. According to the American Historical Association's Award Citation, Gay's range of "scholarly achievements is truly remarkable". His 1959 book, Voltaire's Politics examined Voltaire as a politician and how his politics influenced the ideas that Voltaire championed in his writings. In 1959 I was only 15, and it would be another 15 to 20 years before Gay became part of my reading agenda. Gay followed the success of Voltaire's Politics with a wider history of the Enlightenment, The Enlightenment: An Interpretation (1966, 1969, 1973), whose first volume won the 1967 U.S. National Book Award in History and Biography. I enjoyed these books at various times in the 1970s and 1980s, the first two decades of my teaching in post-secondary schools, colleges and universities.
Gay's 1968 book, Weimar Culture was a ground-breaking cultural history of the Weimar Republic. Starting in 1978 with Freud, Jews and Other Germans, an examination of the impact of Freudian ideas on German culture, Gay has become increasingly interested in psychology. Many of his works focus on the social impact of psychoanalysis; for example, he wrote A Godless Jew: Freud, Atheism, and the Making of Psychoanalysis. In this book he wrote about Freud's atheism and how, in his view, Freud's ability to develop psychoanalysis was due to his atheism. Gay is a leading champion of the field of Psychohistory; he is also an admirer of Sigmund Freud. He has written history books which apply Freud's theories to history; for example, The Bourgeois Experience: From Victoria to Freud which I read at various times in the last decade of my FT employment as a lecturer in what is now a polytechnic in Western Australia: 1989 to 1999.
There are many views of Gay's The Enlightenment: An Interpretation (1966). One of the views is that it was here that Gay first formulated the view that the Enlightenment brought political modernization to the West, in terms of introducing democratic values and institutions and the creation of modern, liberal democracies. While this thesis has many critics, it has been widely accepted by Anglophone scholars and has been reinforced by the large-scale studies by Robert Darnton, Roy Porter and most recently by Jonathan Israel.
CIVILIZATIONS: FIVE TYPES AND THE FUTURE
Some Patterns in World History and How they can be Used to Predict the Future Civilizations is the tile of the following essay. I will only post the first two paragraphs here and I'll leave it to readers with the interest to follow the link I have provided. Civilizations belong to a living culture and have characteristics of living organisms. They rise and fall in the cycles of life. World historians have identified certain societies that have gone through the complete cycle. Rome's civilization, once powerful, has now become extinct. So have civilizations of the Babylonian, Mayan, Sinic, Indic, Syriac, and other societies.
Civilization, in a broad sense, transcends the life cycles of individual societies, passing its culture along to peoples in many parts of the earth. But they, too, have come one after another to comprise successive historical epochs. Four civilizations have already come and developed to a mature state. Another has recently appeared on the cultural horizon; it remains in embryonic form. That makes five civilizations altogether. Four of these five civilizations have seen the light of day. The fifth - the computer-based civilization - is like an infant opening its eyes for the first time. Because world history now contains a fairly complete record of the first four civilizations, it is possible to identify certain historical patterns that apply to civilizations as they develop from one stage of life to another, based upon examination of these civilizations. Once the general pattern is established, it then becomes possible to apply this to the civilization that is just now beginning to develop, giving us a glimpse into the future. Go to this link:http://www.worldhistorysite.com/prediction.html
In a book published nearly 4 years ago, in April 2011, Francis Fukuyama of Stanford University presented a sweeping new overview of human social structures throughout history. The book was entitled: “The Origins of Political Order.” In some ways, the book took over from where Dr. Wilson’s ambitious synthesis left off. For more on Wilson, biologist and researcher, go to this link:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._O._Wilson Human social behavior has an evolutionary basis. This was the thesis in Edward O. Wilson’s 1975 book Sociobiology that caused such a stir, even though most evolutionary biologists accept that at least some social behaviors, like altruism, could be favored by natural selection. The analysis of Francis Fukuyama of Stanford stretches from prehistoric times to the French Revolution, and for a further discussion of Fukyyama's work go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/08/science/08fukuyama.html?pagewanted=all For another useful review of this book go to: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/may/12/origins-political-order-francis-fukuyama-review
Stanford's Francis Fukuyama argues in his follow-up volume, his new book, that economic growth produces middle classes that in turn demand accountable institutions, the kind that make democracies healthy. But powerful elites can end up controlling those very levers of democracy, leading to the political paralysis evident in some Western societies. Political scientists have long tried to understand why some governments perform better than others. In this new book Fukuyama examines political institutions: the modern state, the rule of law & accountable government from the French Revolution to the present day. The following online audio-program explains how Francis Fukuyama, one of the world's most distinguished intellectuals, articulates his thesis on the decay of politics and institutions in the Western world at: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/betweenthelines/does-political-leadership-turmoil-signal-a-deeper-problem-with-/6082696
Fukuyama, the Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, builds on the theories of the late political scientist Samuel Huntington, who argued that political instability comes when government institutions fail to keep pace with social mobilization. In particular, Fukuyama observes that economic development produces middle classes that are often the social basis for democracy. His book, Political Order and Political Decay, is the second volume in a political history. Fukuyama is also the author of the influential 1992 book The End of History and the Last Man, in which he argued that liberal democracy and market economies would emerge as the dominant systems in the post-Cold War world. For more go to: http://news.stanford.edu/pr/2014/pr-fukuyama-politics-book-100614.html
THE HISTORY FILES IN MY STUDY and MY PERSONAL STUDY OF HISTORY
The fifteen arch-lever files and seven two-ring binders I now have in my study, filled to the rafters with notes and photocopy material on the subject of history, had their origin more than 20 years ago--in 1990. At that time, 1989 to 1994, I was teaching four different history courses: the history of ideas, ancient history(2), and modern history. By 1995 I was no longer teaching any of these history courses. I finished my career as a professional teacher in the Human Services section of a Technical and Further Education(Tafe) college where history was integrated into Human Services courses.
Teaching in Tafe in the 1990s was a kaleidoscopic affair for me with dozens of syllabi as part of my teaching responsibilities. I kept the ancient history notes I made in the years 1989-1994, and they have now been expanded to occupy some 13 files in a separate section of my study. The modern history and the history of ideas files were condensed into one file in 2000 and, by 2005, these resources had expanded to seven arch-lever files and six two-ring binders. I have added a good deal of material since retiring from FT teaching in 1999 and from PT and casual-volunteer teaching by the end of 2005. I think that the future will see an extensive expansion of this new core of history resources if the first decade and a half, 1999 to 2014, of my retirement is anything to go by.
My contact with history in institutions of learning goes back, as far as I remember, to mid-primary school when I was ten years old in 1954/5, 60 years ago. If I took any history before the age of ten, and it is likely that I did, I have no memory of the experience, the content, or the process. I’m sure there was some attention paid to history in the early years of primary school from 1949 to 1953. Each year until I finished university in 1967 I studied some course in history, although in my third year of university, when I majored in sociology, the closest I got to a formal history course was one in sociological theory with its base in history and other social sciences.
I can not ignore the influences of my grandfather and my uncle, my mother's brother, both of whom had an interest in history and both of whom where involved in my upbringing in different ways from 1943 to 1966. During my teaching career, when I was a primary and secondary teacher from 1967 to 1973, history came under the umbrella of social studies. From 1974 onwards, working in post-secondary education, until I retired from teaching as I say above, most of the history I taught continued to be within some social science framework, with the exception of matriculation history at Tafe in the late 1980s and early 1990s, as I have indicated above. That history of ideas course, whose notes formed the embryo of what is found now in some seven files, was also an exception to this general rule.
In the first six years of my retirement, 1999 to 2005, I taught history under the umbrella of various social science and humanities subjects at a local School for Seniors. But now, nine years later in 2014, all of this formal teaching is finished and it looks like it will remain so. After some 32 years in classrooms as a teacher and another 18 as a student, I no longer have any desire to teach in a classroom. In some ways, of course, my formal classroom teaching has become cyberspace, the internet. This is an informal, indirect, form of teaching. It is done in cyberspace at dozens of history sites, and sites centred on other disciplines especially philosophy and sociology. This has taken place now for 15 years: 1999 to 2014, and at my website since 1997, a website now in the 2nd month, of the third year of its 4th edition.
THE HUMAN SCIENCES and HUMAN SERVICES
Human sciences, also known as the moral sciences in the UK, is a term applied to the investigation of human life & activities by a rational, systematic, and verifiable methodology that acknowledges the validity of both data derived by impartial observation of sensory experience (objective phenomena) and data derived by means of impartial observation of psychological experience (subjective phenomena). It includes but is not necessarily limited to fields of study commonly included within the social sciences & humanities, including history, sociology, anthropology, & economics. For more on the human sciences go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Human_sciences
Human services is an interdisciplinary & applied social science discipline that involves the study of social technologies. These social technologies include: practice methods, models, and theories. It also involves the study of service technologies: programs,organizations, and human systems, as well as social innovations that are designed to ameliorate problems and enhance the quality of life of individuals, families and communities. The mission of human services is to promote a practice that involves working at all levels of society. This is known as the whole-person approach. In the process of this work, human services aim to promote the autonomy of individuals or groups, making informal or formal human services systems more efficient and effective. They also advocate for positive social change within society. For more on the human services go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_services
MY PASSION FOR HISTORY
My passion for history has been life-long, well, at least since my late teens. But it is, and was, a passion that has been mixed, at least since I was 19, with sociology and psychology, with religion and philosophy---with the social sciences and humanities in general. I've had an unending fascination with the past and the present---their meanings for us, for me, in our own time. Within that wide, clearly interdisciplinary framework, I’ve had several turnings as I tried to give voice, not so much to people in history and in the society I lived-in, but to my own voice. I was not aware, in my teens and twenties, that I was searching for a voice, for my voice. As I tried to write about my understandings, make some personal sense, and put into words what it all meant: the individual in society, me in society, I gradually found my voice. This finding of my voice was the result, at least as I see it now in retrospect, some 40 years after my youth could be said to have ended at the age of 30, of a series of critical turning-points.
The first turning-point was an inundation, four years of university studies, 1963 to 1967, aged 19 to 23. I was overwhelmed in the first four months of my post-secondary education, September to December 1963. For the next 3 and 1/2 years, until I graduated in June of 1967, with my B.A. and B. Ed., I gradually adjusted my intellectual sites to the vast fields of knowledge that came my way. I write about this in my autobiography, and do not need to repeat the details, the complex development, here. The second turning occurred in 1974 when I got a job at a college of advanced education, what is now, the university of Tasmania. I was a senior tutor in education studies and I taught students who were preparing to teach primary and secondary school. It was another year of endless reading, writing and talking about teaching and learning, education and the arts.
My third turning-point occurred in my late 30s and early 40s, in the 1980s. I was stabilized by 1980 on lithium for my bipolar 1 disorder, and I entered by the late 1980s a stable period of employment as a teacher of secondary and post-secondary students in Perth Western Australia. During this period I began to read a dozen books a week. When I retired at the age of 55 in 1999 I began my fourth turning-point. I was finally able to devote virtually all my time to being a writer and author, poet and publisher of my work. The story is far from simple, but this paragraph provides a brief sketch, a framework on which to hang the mural and all the paintings, so to speak.
A BAHA'I VIEW OF HISTORY
The Baha'i view of history is religious. But, in practice, it is unlike that held by other religions. Many religions have what is sometimes called "a providential control of history." Not all the higher religions possess a profound interest in history. Hinduism and Buddhism, for example, could be said to have an ahistorical view as part of its pessimistic appraisal of human activity. The concern for God's historical dealings with humankind was bequeathed to the Semitic daughter religions of Judaism: Christianity and Islam. The Baha'i Faith possesses a schematic view of history. The traditional modes of viewing history are differently stressed, substantially altered and reoriented in the Baha'i teachings.
The Baha'i view of history, as of nature itself, is teleological. The natural world is not a fortuitous composition and arrangement. It is an organic development; there is providential intervention within the process of historical evolution itself. It is also apocalyptic, but in a far wider and complex sense than previous religions. The Baha'i philosophy of history has as its cornerstone a belief in progress through providential control of the historical process. The assurance of an ever-advancing civilization dispels the historical pessimism and contemptus mundi of the old religions, and extends to humankind immense hope and confidence in the future.
According to the Baha'i teachings, God has sent messengers to the world whenever a new message has been needed. The social changes and developments that occur in human history as well as the fact that humanity tends to alter and corrupt the divine message necessitates that from time to time, a new messenger should bring a renewal and updating of the divine message. Thus in one sense, the whole religious history of humanity is the background and context of the beginnings of the Baha'i Faith, since Baha'u'llah (1817-1892) claimed to be the latest, but not the last, in a series of messengers that God has sent to the world.
According to the Baha'i view of human history, social conditions had changed sufficiently by the 19th century that humanity was in need of further guidance from God. While lesser degrees of unity had been achieved, up to and including the bringing together of peoples to create a nation, what was now needed was the divine guidance necessary to move humanity forward to the next stage of its development: global unity. Indeed, the messenger that was now to come was the culmination of all of the religions that God had sent to different regions of the world. This apparent anthropomorphism is only apparent; in fact, the Baha'i concept of, and writings about, God, are extensive and complex. At the center of all teachings of the Bahá'í Faith stands the figure of the manifestation of God. Anyone who would explore the Bahá'í scriptures, and delve into their meaning, must grapple with this important, often paradoxical figure.
The Bahá'í Faith teaches the existence of a God that transcends the world so completely as to remain utterly unknowable; yet this is a God that manifests Himself in each world according to the understanding of that realm's inhabitants. The Bahá'í scriptures extol a veritable panoply of prophets, equally lauding Jesus and Zoroaster, Buddha and Muhammad. Only one concept ties together for Bahá'ís the mosaic of humankind's religious experience throughout recorded history: the concept of the manifestation of God. Some appreciation of the background of this new world religion is necessary to understand so powerful and central an idea. For more on this concept of God go to:http://archive.today/mLTw For more on this view go to:http://www.patheos.com/Library/Bahai/Origins/Beginnings.html
MARK FOSTER'S WRITINGS ON: HISTORY AND OTHER SUBJECTS
Go to this link for an interesting array of essays on aspects of history and sociology:http://foster.structurization.com/
SOME OF MY POSTS ON HISTORY ON THE INTERNET
Any interest I have in an educative role, in the role of teacher, I find it--as I say above--on the internet where I write a great deal about history. See the following links for some examples of my posts on aspects of history:
(I have dozens of posts at the above link, but readers are advised that in the first 100 sub-sites other 'Prices' are also found)
(readers need to register at this site to access my more than 100 posts and some 40,000 words)
(readers must register at this site to access my writing on the subject of boxing)
SOME EARLY INFLUENCES ON MY INTEREST IN HISTORY
The influence of my grandfather on my interest in history can not be quantified. I lived under his roof from my birth to the age of three, 1944 to 1947, and later he used to visit my mother, father and I until his death when I was fourteen in 1958. He used to read history extensively out of personal interest. His influence, although unquantifiable, is beyond question. The influences of others, academics like Douglas Martin, Jameson Bond, Elizabeth and Michael Rochester, all within the Baha’i community and many others outside that community could be listed here and discussed. Three of the professors I had during my university years, 1963-1967, were highly influential. One of them was Dr. George Grant(1918-1988) a Canadian philosopher, teacher and political commentator whose popular appeal peaked in the late 1960s and 1970s after I left university. Dr. Grant was a faculty member of McMaster University's Religion department from 1961 to 1980. He founded and led this department in the 1960s and early 70s.
24 October 2006 to 18 November 2011
THE HISTORY OF IDEAS
The history of ideas is a field of research in history that deals with the expression, preservation, and change of human ideas over time. The history of ideas is a sister-discipline to, or a particular approach within, intellectual history. Work in the history of ideas may involve interdisciplinary research in the history of philosophy, the history of science, or the history of literature. In Sweden, the history of ideas and science has been a distinct university subject since 1932 when Johan Nordström, a scholar of literature, was appointed professor of the new discipline in a pompous ceremony at Uppsala University. Today, several universities across the world provide courses in this field, usually as part of a graduate program. For a u-tube video on the history of ideas go to:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fK2IJ43ppd0&feature=em-subs_digest
When WW2 was over Isaiah Berlin(1909-1997) gave up his philosophy fellowship and started calling himself a historian of ideas. Berlin’s decision baffled his friends and colleagues back at Oxford, and left the impression that he had taken a step down the intellectual ladder. It occurred to no one at the time that moving from philosophy to the history of ideas might actually represent a step up. Philosophy was philosophy, history was history, and that was that. No one in Britain called himself a historian of ideas back in the late 1940s, and no one wrote the kind of wide-ranging, labyrinthine essays connecting thinkers over many centuries that Berlin perfected. The dons could make nothing of them and considered him a dilettante. Berlin excelled as an essayist, conversationalist and raconteur. He was also a brilliant lecturer who improvised, rapidly and spontaneously, richly allusive and coherently structured material. For more on Berlin go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaiah_Berlin
The historian Arthur O. Lovejoy (1873–1962) coined the phrase history of ideas and initiated its systematic study in the early decades of the 20th century. Johns Hopkins University was a "fertile cradle" to Lovejoy's history of ideas; he worked there as a professor of history, from 1910 to 1939, and for decades he presided over the regular meetings of the History of Ideas Club. Another outgrowth of his work is the Journal of the History of Ideas. Aside from his students and colleagues engaged in related projects, such as René Wellek and Leo Spitzer, with whom Lovejoy engaged in extended debates, scholars such as Isaiah Berlin, Michel Foucault, Christopher Hill, J. G. A. Pocock, and others have continued to work in a spirit close to that with which Lovejoy pursued the history of ideas. The first chapter of Lovejoy's book The Great Chain of Being lays out a general overview of what he intended to be the programme and scope of the study of the history of ideas. For more on this subject go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_ideas
Five historians discuss ground rules for the study of intellectual history. Intellectual history refers to the historiography of major ideas, and thinkers. This history cannot be considered without the knowledge of the men and women who created, discussed, wrote about, and in other ways were concerned with ideas. Intellectual history as practiced by historians is parallel to the history of philosophy as done by philosophers, and is more akin to the history of ideas. Its central premise is that ideas do not develop in isolation from the people who create and use them, and that one must study ideas not as abstract propositions but in terms of the culture, lives, and historical contexts that produced them. For the discussion with five historians go to: http://www.historytoday.com/stefan-collini/what-intellectual-history For more go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intellectual_history
Interdisciplinarity involves the combining of two or more academic disciplines into one activity; for example, a research project. It is about creating something new by crossing boundaries, and thinking across them. It is related to aninterdiscipline or an interdisciplinary field, which is an organizational unit that crosses traditional boundaries between academic disciplines or schools of thought, as new needs and professions have emerged.
Originally, the term interdisciplinary was applied within education and training pedagogies to describe studies that used methods and insights of several established disciplines or traditional fields of study. Interdisciplinarity involves researchers, students, and teachers in the goals of connecting and integrating several academic schools of thought, professions, or technologies---along with their specific perspectives---in the pursuit of a common task. The epidemiology of AIDS, or global warming, require understanding of diverse disciplines to solve neglected problems. Interdisciplinarity may be applied where the subject is felt to have been neglected or even misrepresented in the traditional disciplinary structure of research institutions, for example, women's studies or ethnic area studies. For more on this subject go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interdisciplinarity
HISTORY AND LITERATURE
The following two quotations capture some of the relationship between history and literature: (i) It takes a great deal of history to produce a little literature.-Henry James, Life of Hawthorne; and (ii) First of all, let me ask: is there a history of silence? -Jacques Derrida, Writing and Difference
Literary history? Can there still be people who believe in it? People believe in literature, in history, but literary history? Is history not something synchronic, merely a different way of talking about language? The views implied by these rhetorical questions seem wrong to many people. Here is another rhetorical question: is an unexamined, unfalsifiable historicism as unpersuasive as an unexamined, unfalsifiable textuality? To review just what historicism is go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historicism
The above questions were raised nearly 30 years ago by Earl Miner in his review "In Praise of History" in the London Review of Books. He was reviewing the following books: (i) A History of Japanese Literature. Vol. I: The First Thousand Years by Shuichi Kato, 300 pages, 1979; (ii) A History of Japanese Literature. Vol. II: The Years of Isolation by Shuichi Kato, 250 pages, 1983; (iii) A History of Japanese Literature. Vol. III: The Modern Years by Shuichi Kato, 300 pages, 1983; (iv) World within Walls by Donald Keene Secker, 600 pages, 1977; (iv) Modern Japanese Poets and the Nature of Literature by Makoto Ueda, 450 pages, 1983; and (v) Low City, High City: Tokyo from Edo to the Earthquake by Edward Seidensticker, 300 pages, 1983.
The books under review here are useful precisely for alienating our concerns with European and American views and evidence. By attending to very different histories, we may understand our own better. The place to begin seems to be the sheer fact that these literary histories exist. There are no contemporary counterparts in English about English or American literature. We have seen histories of the Elizabethan theatre audience or of the ‘Auden generation’, but pantascopic historians of the whole of a literature have long been asleep so soundly as to pass for dead. The last full-scale history of English literature that anybody has bothered over was David Daiches’s two-volume Critical History of English Literature. When it appeared, in 1960, it was thought gallant but defeated. For more on this theme of literary history go to:http://www.lrb.co.uk/v06/n04/earl-miner/in-praise-of-history
PHILOSOPHIES OF HISTORY
The word 'philosophy' is given different meanings, dependent upon the context of its use. Karl Popper claimed that we are all philosophers in the sense that we all have a body of working principles and beliefs, more or less consistently and coherently held together, by which we live our lives. Here the word is used to refer to the exploration of the general principles of History and its study. What this meaning implies is a consideration of the assumptions that lie behind the study of History and/or that underlie history. In this sense the philosophy of History falls into two parts: the critical philosophy of History, and the speculative philosophy of History. Those who have contributed to the speculative philosophy of History, who look below the surface of events and changes, have sought to identify the purpose, or meaning, or the underlying pattern, of history.
The issue of the online journal Essays in Philosophy brings together 5 articles that work in the spirit of the philosophy of history broadly construed. Each author provides us a glimpse into the methodological relationship between philosophy and history. To access these five articles go to: http://commons.pacificu.edu/eip/vol7/iss2/ For seven of the major philosophies of history go to this link:http://www.history-ontheweb.co.uk/histtheory/histtheory_4.htm
THE MASSACRE IN HISTORY
The Massacre in History by Mark Levene and Penny Roberts( eds., New York: Berghahn books) was published in 1999. This was the year I retired after a 30 year teaching career and half a century in classrooms as a student or teacher, lecturer or adult educator. I took a sea-change to northern Tasmania at the age of 55. If I live to be 110, the age of 55 is the mid-point. The above book is reviewed in the electronic online journal IDEA by Eric Sterling. The issue in which the review appeared is 15 January 2001, Vol. 6, No. 1. Mark Levene’s and Penny Roberts’s collection of essays, which is part of the War and Genocide series at IDEA, covers various massacres from Herod’s murder of the Innocents to the fighting in the former Yugoslavia during World War II and currently.
In the first chapter we find Laura Jacobus’s essay on the Murder of the Innocents. It focuses on medieval representations of the massacre in both theatre and art. Jacobus begins with a quotation from Matthew 2:16-19 which states that Herod became angry and slaughtered many innocent children and that Jeremiah prophesied that Rachel would cry inconsolably. But Jacobus quickly shifts from the Bible to medieval theatre and art to deal with the manifestations and representations of the massacre. These two media, theatre and art, illustrate that the massacre was considered “‘a women’s problem’”. As portrayed in two medieval plays of the eleventh century, Rachel cries incessantly, failing to perceive that the massacre is part of God’s larger plan for human salvation. Furthermore, she foreshadows the Virgin Mary’s grief at the Crucifixion. For more on this subject go to:http://www.ideajournal.com/articles.php?id=32
SUSAN LANGER: THE NEED FOR A WORLD ORDER
The following three paragraphs come from Suzanne Langer's essay in Fortune, Vol. 31, March 1945. Readers with the interest can read the entire essay at this link:http://www.anthonyflood.com/langermakeyourownworld.htm "In a world that is, de facto, a community of nations," writes Langer, "the claim of each national state to sovereignty, or unbridled freedom, is as fantastic as the proposal of our political “anarchists” to dispense with civil law." Most readers who come to this introductory page on history will, in all likelihood, not have heard of this American philosopher(1895-1985) of mind and of art who was influenced by Ernst Cassirer and Alfred North Whitehead. She was one of the first women to achieve an academic career in philosophy and the first to be popularly and professionally recognized as an American philosopher. Langer is best known for her 1942 book Philosophy in a New Key.
"Anarchy has never been seriously tried in any large community of men," Langer continues; "Its most probable results are just too probable. Yet in the community of nations it is the prevailing system, and its actual results are exactly what one should expect. Where no law prevails, no higher authority than each member’s own will determines rights and obligations, and the only duty of states is to advance their own interests, every neighbor is a potential enemy. Friendly neighbors are states that share some vital fear, and must needs make common cause against a foe whom neither could keep in check unaided. But when that fear is removed, there are no real bonds between nations; so the stanch allies of yesterday may be rivals and antagonists tomorrow." There is an anarchy that is inherent in state sovereignity. Humanity must abandon what is an outmoded fetish. Langer recognized this in this piece of writing before I was one year old. So have many others who have influenced my thinking from my late teens when I began to think seriously about the state of the world.
Langer continues: "The greatest obstacle to any help from this anarchy, that is, to the creation of any worldwide civil order, is the fact that national sentiment has made unlimited, ruthless egotism a moral ideal instead of a moral failing to be countered and controlled by institutions of justice. It is the “duty” of each state to advance its own interests even at the cost of untold suffering among other peoples; to take, by force if necessary, any strategic place that covers its borders; to withhold from others even the surplus of its wealth; and, above all, to brook no criticism, respect no “natural rights” of others, and generally think of itself first, last, and always. This complete rejection of all social responsibilities is the principle of sovereignty, which all patriots will defend with their lifeblood. Sovereignty is the “national honor”; not only dictation by another power, but even the thought of a universal authority, which would treat all states alike as legal persons; offends against that “honor.” By the time I was in my mid-to-late teens, 1959 to 1962, I was more than a little aware of ths universal problem.
During those years I read the following: "The unity of the human race, as envisaged by Bahá'u'lláh, implies the establishment of a world commonwealth in which all nations, races, creeds and classes are closely and permanently united, and in which the autonomy of its state members and the personal freedom and initiative of the individuals that compose them are definitely and completely safeguarded. This world commonwealth must, as far as we can visualize it, consist of a world legislature, whose members will, as the trustees of the whole of mankind, ultimately control the entire resources of all the component nations, and will enact such laws as shall be required to regulate the life, satisfy the needs and adjust the relationships of all races and peoples." This unity will, it seems, be forged in the blood, sweat and tears of the human race or, as the historian Toynbee, Buckminster Fuller, and many others, argue---the result will be oblivion. I leave it to readers with the interest to follow this theme of history in our time. For more go to:http://info.bahai.org/article-1-7-7-1.html
In 1971, half way through the first century of the Formative Age, a Baha'i term for the period in this new Faith's history beginning in 1921, I became an international pioneer from Canada to Australia. I was 27. That same year Reinhold Niebuhr died(1892-1971). Niebuhr was the most influential American theologian of the 20th century.(1) Niebuhr was born the year Baha’u’llah died, 1892. I came across his writings and his ideas occasionally beginning in the 1960s while at university and when I started reading, in a way that could be described as serious. His major books, all published between 1932 to 1952, serve as an interesting backdrop to the evolution of embryonic Baha’i administrative institutions and the Baha’i community I have now been associated with for nearly 60 years. Evolving at the time of the great wars and the evils resulting from the political and ideological ambitions of men like Stalin and Hitler, the Baha’i institutional matrix rose phoenix-like out of the Baha'i community's blood-stained history as well as the wider human community’s ruin in the trenches of Europe and their catalogue of horrors, worse than history had ever seen.
In 1952, on the eve of the inception of the Kingdom of God on earth, as ‘Abdu’l-Baha referred to 1953, Niebuhr wrote that there was “a deep layer of messianic consciousness in the mind of America.”(1) Niebuhr had no idea that the Baha’i community, then in its infancy—less than 60 years on American soil—represented the fulfilment of that messianism, at least to the then fledgling Baha'i community. -Ron Price with thanks to Arthur Schlesinger Jr., “Forgetting Reinhold Niebuhr,” The New York Times, September 2005.
There are no absolutes here,
Reinhold, only the relativity
of religious truth & shadowy,
fitful & imperfect understanding.
Yes, we see through a glass darkly
and we must see it with humility,
if we are to reconcile the world’s
contradictory absolutes with truths
that are perennial but not archaic
and thus deal with the Almighty’s
infinite mystery and His apparently
very incompatible communications.
The hazards of struggle we must see
with eyes not blinded by conviction,
by vainglory, self-righteousness and
the endless feeling that we are right.
For that Source of all glory & majesty
has purposes to which we are not privy
and He does not always sanctify what
we most fervently desire and a sense of
contrition regarding foibles & frailties
is not always ours amidst our faiths and
our certitudes. Our management of
history must always be with a matrix of
faith and doubt, with a modesty about
the virtue, wisdom and power available
to us for the resolution of its perplexities.
17 September 2005 to31 October 2011
NIEBUHR-2-KEEPING THE VEHICLE ROLLING
In 1962, the year I became a Baha'i, Jimmy Carter was elected to the Georgia state senate. I was 18; Jimmy was 38. He was also a committed Southern Baptist and, as the years went on, he became stronger in his religious commitment, a commitment he took with him to the presidency in 1976 to help counter the Watergate scandal. As the years went on in my own life my religious commitment became stronger, although there were periods of doubt, of feelings of spiritual inadequacy and burnout. Carter, too, had his doubts and inadequacies and the electorate became dissatisfied with his way of handling many issues. As I watched Jimmy Carter's life unfold in this TV documentary it was clear that, for both of us, religion was at the centre of our lives. Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, a liberal Protestant thinker, influenced Carter in the 1970s and 1980s. It was impossible for me to highlight any one particular thinker, either inside or outside Baha'i circles, who influenced me. There were so many. -Ron Price with thanks to ABC TV, "Jimmy Carter," 8:30-9:30 pm, 17 November 2003.
You were a persistent little fellow,
Jimmy, shaking a thousand thousand
hands with a PR machine that put you
in the White House. I needed that
same persistence and I had it, too,
for those years after ’62.
But one runs out of gas, Jimmy.
I ran out several times and
had to tank up yet again
to keep the vehicle rolling.
I’m not running on empty now,
but I have a different niche
to house my commitment,
a different way of using
my talents after forty years
on the road, endless talk
and wall-to-wall meetings.
I’ve moved to the back room
and write my message now.
And where are you now, Jimmy,
with eighty years beckoning
and your presidency far behind?
Does Jesus still burn brightly
as you head for your final hour?
’76 to ’80 were busy years, eh
Jimmy? A sort of riches to rags
story for both of us, eh Jimmy?
You got dumped after four years
and I got unemployed and back
in a psychiatric clinic, another
bottoming out before that long
climb to yet more years of service
and an exhaustion which contains
more peace than I have ever known.
22 November 2003 to 31 October 2011
WHY THE AMERICANS?
The year that the Kingdom of God on earth had its beginnings, 1953, American historian and writer Daniel J. Boorstin(1914-2004) published his The Genius of American Politics. A perusal of the contents of this book by this archtypal consensus historian reveals, to a certain extent anyway, why the USA serves as the model on which Baha’i Administration is based around the world. Boorstin sees Americans has having fundamentally the same political beliefs inspite of an apparent polarized party politics. There is a sense of givenness, of automatically defined beliefs, an identification of the “is” with the “ought.”
Values and a theory of society are implicit in the facts about society according to Boorstin. Americans do not brood over historical alternatives to the given; they pursue both realizable and unrealizable dreams. There is an in-built utopianism in the USA. What can be built, ought to be built. Boorstin reveals the uniqueness and virtues of America just at the time when the Baha’i vision was being extended around the world. -Ron Price with thanks to Richard Reinitz,”Niebuhrian Irony and Historical Interpretation,” The Writing of History: Literary Form and Historical Understanding, editors, R. Canary and Henry Kozicki, the University of Wisconson Press, Madison, 1989, pp.103-110.
They’d been going at it for 16 years,
by then, by that auspicious year
when I was only nine
and they finished the Chicago temple.
That built-in utopianism,
that uniqueness would be
essential ingredients down
the long, tortuous and stoney road
toward realizable and unrealizable
dreams with only one result
in a golden age: the Most Great Peace
and its child—a world civilization.
28 August 2002
Moving to Australia as I did in 1971 and living here for these last 40 years has inevitably brought me under the influence of Australian historians. This may not have been true if I was into, say, computers, or majored in psychology or art, or any one of many other disciplines and interests. But history was one of the several key subjects in my life, one of the many---for I was a generalist and not a specialist. By the time I had retired after 32 years in classrooms as a teacher and another 18 as a student, by the 21st century, I had become something I had not set out to be back in the 1960s while at university and beginning my pioneering-travelling life. I was one of those generalist-species discussed at this link:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generalist_and_specialist_species
The man, the Australian historian, who has influenced me more than any other is Manning Clark. He wrote that: "Everything a historian writes should be a celebration of life. A hymn of praise to life. It should come up from inside a man who knows all about that horror of the darkness when a man returns to the dust from whence he came. Of a man who's looked into the heart of a great darkness. that has seen and felt both a tenderness for everyone and yet paradoxically a melancholy, a sadness and a compassion, because he realises that what matters most in life is never likely to happen."
Manning Clark also wrote that: "I want to show that a knowledge of the history of Australia can help a person to find the answers to the great problems of life. I want to show how the discovery of Australia threw light on all the things that had puzzled and bewildered me in life. I know you will be sceptical about this claim that a man can find out anything about life by a journey into the past. I'm aware of the stern warning about historians by Lev Tolstoy; namely, that historians are like deaf people who go on answering questions that no-one's asked them. And all I can say in reply to that is that all human beings have to find the way in which the world becomes intelligible and bearable to them. Human beings find their answers in all sorts of ways. Life is immense. I happen to be one of those who find answers to these deeper questions about life by knowing more about the past."
For an interview about him and his ideas go to the following link:
MY APPROACH TO HISTORY
In my approach to the study of history I have chosen pluralism, the embrace of multiple subjects, methods, & truths, rather than fragmentation, the flight to small islands of certainty. Many historians reacted to the end of faith in the last two centuries, and the end of metanarratives in the last half century, that is overall explanations of everything, by becoming experts in a narrow or specialized subject. I accept the irreducible variety within history, and seek to embrace difference within an account that is harmonious, convincing, and true. I do not write with any particular authority about: economics and society, politics and culture or, indeed, any two other fields of study from among the increasing labyrinth of subjects and fields, disciplines and sub-disciplines. I am not a specialist as I indicated above in this long introductory thread on history at this 4th edition of my website.
I grant the value of specialization, but I have never been able, nor have I been sufficiently interested, to master the huge literatures of these fields, to which others impart, and sometimes impose, grace and unity. There are, broadly speaking, two kinds of polemical intellectuals who deal with history. There are those for whom the taking of controversial positions is primarily a matter of personal peacock display, factional or clique positioning, hidden agendas, score-settling, or serial, knee-jerk revisionism. Then there are those who, while not without personal motivations and biases, are fundamentally concerned with seeking the truth. I see myself in the latter category, although it is difficult not to occasionally slip into the former.
Some links in cyberspace on aspects of history, aspects of personal interest, are found below. The first link takes readers to a history of genocide and the second to a four volume history of women. The above thread, an introduction to history, was formed in the more than 3 & 1/2 that this 4th edition of my website was on public display(21/3/'11 to 21/11/'14). It has undergone much revision during that period, and in the 18 years my website has been on the world-wide-web: 1997 to 2014: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2008/apr/17/man-slaughters-man/
Of the more than 100 sub-sections of this website, none of them are concerned with the subject of Economics, except somewhat tangentially. I have, therefore, placed Economics at this part of "History>Introduction", FYI, dear reader.
Economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods & services. The term economics comes from Ancient Greek words meaning (i) "management of a household, administration", (ii) "house", and (iii) "custom" or "law". Economics in this original sense, then, means "rules of the household". Political economy was the earlier name for the subject, but economists in the late 19th century suggested "economics" as a shorter term for "economic science" that also avoided a narrow political-interest connotation and as similar in form to "mathematics", "ethics", and so forth. There are some aspects of economics which I discuss at another sub-section of my website, a sub-section which deals with "industry and government." That sub-section subsumes the world of "business" under its rubric. You can access that part of my site at: http://www.ronpriceepoch.com/Industry.html
In 2008-2009 capitalism suffered one of its periodic shocks. These shocks have given John Maynard Keynes and his economic theories a new lease of life. Keynesian economics, Keynesianism, is the view that in the short run, especially during recessions, economic output is strongly influenced by aggregate demand or total spending in the economy. In the Keynesian view, aggregate demand does not necessarily equal the productive capacity of the economy; instead, it is influenced by a host of other factors and sometimes behaves erratically, affecting production, employment, & inflation. For more on this view of economics go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keynesian_economics
Events have demonstrated the limits of the theory that economies can be relied on to be stable if they are lightly regulated and otherwise left to themselves. There is now much talk of the paradox of thrift, whereby the rational choices of individuals can prove collectively ruinous, & of the need for government to counteract the inherently anarchic tendencies of markets. Keynes has been revived because he understood that markets are very often irrational. Unfortunately, few of those who urge that we go back to him seem to have understood why he believed this. For more of these words, words which come from a review of the book Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism by George Akerlof and Robert Shiller---go to this link:http://www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n22/john-gray/we-simply-do-not-know Also, for more on the above basic explanation of the field of economics go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economics
In the autumn of 1963 I enrolled in Economics 1a6, and the basic text was Paul Samuelson's Economics: An Introductory Analysis. Paul Anthony Samuelson(1915-2009) was an American economist, and the first American to win the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. The Swedish Royal Academies stated, when awarding the prize, that he "has done more than any other contemporary economist to raise the level of scientific analysis in economic theory". Economic historian Randall E. Parker calls him the "Father of Modern Economics", & The New York Times considered him to be the "foremost academic economist of the 20th century".
That basic text was the largest-selling economics textbook of all time: first published in 1948. It was the second American textbook to explain the principles of Keynesian economics and how to think about economics. It was the first text-book to be successful, now in its 19th edition, having sold nearly 4 million copies in 40 languages. After 2 or 3 weeks of going to lectures and reading that text, I dropped the subject because I quickly realized that, if I kept this subject, I would fail it. I had had the same experience with physics the year before at the matriculation level, grade 13, in Ontario. After some more picking and choosing, I settled on the required core of subjects in what was then my first year of a BA degree. My central aim on entering university was to get a degree, and there was no point in my taking a subject which I knew in the end that I would, in all likelihood, fail.
I have always found the subject of economics, since that opening note in the autumn of 1963, a bewildering genre. John Kenneth Galbraith(1908-2006) was the economist I understood better than others. He was a Canadian and later, U.S., economist, public official and diplomat, and a leading proponent of 20th-century American liberalism. His books on economic topics were bestsellers from the 1950s through the 2000s, during which time Galbraith fulfilled the role of public intellectual. In macro-economical terms he was a Keynesian & an institutionalist. The Affluent Society was the first of his books, published in 1958, that I enjoyed. The book sought to clearly outline the manner in which the post-World War II United States was becoming wealthy in the private sector, but had remained poor in the public sector, lacking social and physical infrastructure, and perpetuating income disparities. The book sparked much public discussion at the time, and it is widely remembered for Galbraith's popularizing of the term "conventional wisdom." Many of the same ideas were later expanded and refined in Galbraith's 1967 book, The New Industrial State. Former U.S. Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, called it his favorite on the subject of economics. The Modern Library placed the book at #46 on its top 100 non-fiction books of the 20th century. For more on Galbraith go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Kenneth_Galbraith#Economics_books
One of the last books that Galbraith wrote in his long & illustrious career, The Culture of Contentment (1992), has passed into relative obscurity. This is a shame, as it could offer a prophetic glimpse into the long-term, paradoxical consequences of the Reagan-Thatcher era. Capturing the neoliberal tendency at the moment of its consolidation, Galbraith’s essay poses incisive questions for those seeking to understand why, after five years of recession, stagnation and austerity, the structures that produced the 2008 financial crisis are stronger than ever, while popular protest remains sporadic and muted. For more of a review of this 1992 publication go to: http://www.newleftproject.org/index.php/site/article_comments/the_winter_of_content
In the 18/12/'14 issue of The New York Review of Books Alan S. Binder's "What’s the Matter with Economics?" article is a review of Seven Bad Ideas: How Mainstream Economists Have Damaged America and the World by Jeff Madrick(Knopf, 250 pages). The New York Times also had a review on 25/9/'14. This latter review began as follows: "The economics profession has not, to say the least, covered itself in glory these past six years. Hardly any economists predicted the 2008 crisis, and the handful who did tended to be people who also predicted crises that didn’t happen. More significant, many and arguably most economists were claiming, right up to the moment of collapse, that nothing like this could even happen.
Furthermore, once crisis struck economists seemed unable to agree on a response. They’d had 75 years since the Great Depression to figure out what to do if something similar happened again, but the profession was utterly divided when the moment of truth arrived.
In “Seven Bad Ideas: How Mainstream Economists Have Damaged America & the World,” Jeff Madrick, a contributing editor at Harper’s Magazine & a frequent writer on matters economic, argues that the professional failures since 2008 didn’t come out of the blue but were rooted in decades of intellectual malfeasance. For more on this book go to:http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/28/books/review/seven-bad-ideas-by-jeff-madrick.html?_r=0
For those readers who find economics more of a mystery than a discipline of study, you might enjoy a vast array of fiction books using economics as their essential narrative and plot. Anarcho-capitalism has been the subject of a number of works of literature, both nonfiction and fiction going back to the middle of the 19th century. Go to this link for a list of such works: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarcho-capitalist_literature Galbraith's 1990 publication, a novel, is my favorite. Galbraith is at his best in those parts of his A Tenured Professor that deal with early influences in the life of the main character, and his post-tenure activist ride to liberal prominence. While the narrative sort of winds down to a rather unconvincing end, the point of the story, really, is the rise to enconomic success of the main character. The author of A Tenured Professor is not only a famous tenured professor of economics but, unlike many of the breed, an elegantly witty writer.
From time to time he demonstrates his versatility by turning out a novel. This one is, in part anyway, an unimpassioned satire on the recently fashionable school of economic thought that deals in Rational Expectations. Galbraith evidently had a great deal of fun writing the novel, and interlacing it with incisive comments on academia, on economics and economists, as well as on American society and politics. While these larger 'public' themes give the story a certain seriousness of purpose, Galbraith's often sharp humour, and light touch, ensures that the novel is not weighed down with complex economic jargon, advice on how to fix the world, and a general philosophical meliorism. For more on meliorism go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meliorism A Tenured Professor is a celebration of nerdiness, liberalism of the American variety, and activism. It will certainly appeal to the progressive nerd in you! For more of a review go to: http://nanopolitan.blogspot.com.au/2006/12/tenured-professor.html
Globalization, or globalisation, is the process of international integration arising from the interchange of world views, products, ideas, and other aspects ofculture. Advances in transportation & telecommunications infrastructure, including the rise of the telegraph & its posterity the Internet, are major factors in globalization, generating further interdependence of economic & cultural activities.The term globalization has been increasingly used since the mid-1980s and especially since the mid-1990s. Sociologists Martin Albrow and Elizabeth King define globalization as: "all those processes by which the peoples of the world are incorporated into a single world society." In The Consequences of Modernity, Anthony Giddens uses the following definition: Globalization can thus be defined as the intensification of worldwide social relations which link distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice versa. In Global Transformations David Held, et al., study the definition of globalization and write the following:
Although in its simplistic sense globalization refers to the widening, deepening and speeding up of global interconnection, such a definition begs further elaboration. ... Globalization can be located on a continuum with the local, national & regional. At one end of the continuum lie social and economic relations and networks which are organized on a local and/or national basis; at the other end lie social & economic relations & networks which crystallize on the wider scale of regional and global interactions. Globalization can refer to those spatial-temporal processes of change which underpin a transformation in the organization of human affairs by linking together and expanding human activity across regions and continents. Without reference to such expansive spatial connections, there can be no clear or coherent formulation of this term. ... A satisfactory definition of globalization must capture each of these elements: extensity (stretching), intensity, velocity and impact. For more go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Globalization
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
The best article I have yet seen about the recent global financial crisis appeared just after the Lehman’s crash. To get it written, the Wall Street Journal put four journalists on the case. They called in a further three correspondents. So trying to praise a single author would be like looking for Snow White when there is nobody at home except the Seven Dwarves. There is nothing dwarfish about the article, though. Brief for its content, it's still extensive, and, to the extent that I can understand these things, definitive. Without articles like this I wouldn’t understand finance at all, but a waking lifetime of reading newspapers and magazines, books and journals at all levels has convinced me that the piece that covers the case is less common than not. This is the way it should be done, and obviously it takes deep resources. I thank Clive James for his words here, and the link he has provided to me on this subject at: http://www.clivejames.com/text/prose-finds/lehman-demise
CLIVE JAMES AND HISTORY
Clive James is an amateur historian of a serious sort: The large volume of essays he published in 2003 devoted pages to Primo Levi’s significance and to the holocaust scholarship of Daniel Goldhagen. “Cultural Amnesia,” his new book, is subtitled “Necessary Memories from History and the Arts,” and only an “Australian overachiever” — as he once termed his fellow countryman, the art critic Robert Hughes — could have achieved it. The book’s almost 900 pages consist of over 100 biographical and critical portraits organized from A to Z — from Anna Akhmatova to Stefan Zweig. Mr. James’ therapeutic aim is “to help establish a possible line of resistance against cultural amnesia,” an enterprise he has been reading and thinking about for 40 years. For more on this book go to: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2007/may/19/20070519-101019-3738r/?page=all
A NEW GILDED AGE
"Why We’re in a New Gilded Age" is a review by Paul Krugman in The New York Review of Books. It appeared on 8 May 2014 and reviewed the book Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, translated from the French by Arthur Goldhammer(Belknap Press/Harvard University Press, 700 pages) Thomas Piketty, professor at the Paris School of Economics, isn’t a household name, although that may change with the English-language publication of this magnificent, sweeping meditation on inequality, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Yet his influence runs deep. It has become a commonplace to say that we are living in a second Gilded Age—or, as Piketty likes to put it, a second Belle Époque—defined by the incredible rise of the “one percent.” But it has only become a commonplace thanks to Piketty’s work. In particular, he and a few colleagues (notably Anthony Atkinson at Oxford and Emmanuel Saez at Berkeley) have pioneered statistical techniques that make it possible to track the concentration of income and wealth deep into the past—back to the early twentieth century for America and Britain, and all the way to the late eighteenth century for France. For more of this review go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/may/08/thomas-piketty-new-gilded-age/?insrc=hpma
Some 35 years ago, in October 1979, the following review appeared in the London Review of Books. The review was entitled: "Foremost Economist", and it was written by Rosalind Mitchison. Rosalind Mary Mitchison(1919-2002) has since passed away. She was a historian of Scotland who specialised in social history. Rosalind's father, Edwin Wrong, and his father, George Wrong, were both historians. Rosalind studied history at Lady Margaret Hall, & came to Manchester University as an assistant lecturer, working under the famous Sir Lewis Namier, in 1943. In 1947, while Tutor at Lady Margaret Hall, she married zoologist John Murdoch Mitchison. For more on Mitchison go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosalind_Mitchison
Population Malthus is a biography by Patricia James(Routledge, 524 pages, 1979) The review begins as follows: "Three names dominate the debates on the social policy of 19th-century Britain: Bentham, Malthus and Chalmers. The first two were original thinkers whose ideas often contradict the system popularly ascribed to them. We have been forced over the last few years to recognise that Bentham’s idea of government was far more sophisticated than the particular pieces of legislation usually labelled Benthamite. Now a remarkably thorough investigation of his life and writings emphasises and develops what Keynes pointed out more than forty years ago: that there was much more to Malthus than Malthusianism."
The name of Thomas Robert Malthus is perhaps more widely known than that of any other economist since Adam Smith. For more on Smith go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejJRhn53X2M The principle he enunciated, that population growth was rapidly exceeding existing resources, was relevant in its time in a Britain where family size was growing and population expanding. Since then its relevance has not diminished, and the fears of the affluent minority that the fruits of technological advance may be snatched away by the demographic profligacy of others has now become worldwide. Yet, despite the continuing popularity of his principle, little was known of Malthus the man. Patricia James rectified that deficiency more than 30 years ago for those interested in the subject. James succeeded in bringing to life a person of great personal charm and kindness, far removed from what one would expect of one whose writings incited contemporary reference to political economy as the 'dismal science'.
Malthus scholars throughout the world have come to have a great appreciation for Patricia James(1917-1987) thanks to this biography of Malthus. In 1937 James obtained an honours degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. After taking the Administrative Civil Service Course at the London School of Economics in 1937-8, she joined the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries as an Assistant Principal. Marriage, in 1939, to a fellow civil servant, Arthur Frederick James, required her to give up this career. She returned as a temporary civil servant after the outbreak of war, but resigned in 1940 on account of pregnancy. For more on Patricia James go to:http://www.intellectualhistory.net/malthus/#obituary For more of the above review of her biography of Malthus go to:http://www.historytoday.com/robert-gavin/population-malthus-his-life-and-times