Currently Reading - February 2021

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Currently Reading - February 2021

1Settings
Feb 1, 10:28pm

Continuing with Historiography by Ernst Breisach.

It's very readable - I thought it would be jargon filled and difficult but it's fine, just very detailed and condensed. Am disappointed that it's so hyper-focused on Greek, then Roman historiography, to the almost complete exclusion of historiography from even neighboring civilizations. But it's still interesting.

2AndreasJ
Editado: Feb 2, 8:46am

>1 Settings:

You may already know this, but if you instead of bolding the title enclose it in square brackets, LT automatically creates a link to the work page. Like this:

Historiography

(Depending on your browser and whatnot, you may have to hit "delete" after completing the brackets for the link to "take".)

Myself, slowly getting my way through The Tibetan Empire in Central Asia when the infant lets me.

3Shrike58
Feb 2, 6:50am

Finished up Thebes: The Forgotten City of Ancient Greece yesterday evening, which I rather liked, but which a reader coming cold to the topic is probably going to bounce off of; what we know about the polity, and how, being an inherently complicated thing to explain.

4Settings
Editado: Feb 2, 12:20pm

>2 AndreasJ:

I got so sick of broken touchstones I'm done with them for a bit. There's a bug report ongoing about it.
https://www.librarything.com/topic/327209

5rocketjk
Feb 2, 1:03pm

I finished The Union Reader, edited by Richard B. Harwell. This is a very interesting anthology for those who care about American Civil War history. It’s a collection of letters, newspaper columns and journal entries from people of all sorts who took part in the war or witnessed it the war from the Union side. (Harwell also published a companion collection, The Confederate Reader.)

We get journal entries from Union soldiers in far flung theaters of war like New Mexico, but we are also taken inside Fort Sumter at the very beginning of the war, a diary entry of a woman watching the soldiers of both sides rush back and forth through the streets of her hometown, Gettysburg, first-hand accounts of major engagements like the Battle of Shiloh, letters and telegrams back and forth from an increasingly exasperated Lincoln to his generals during the early years of the conflict. There are accounts of life inside prisoner of war camps and a description of life in New Orleans during the Federal occupation.

Editor Richard B. Harwell (1915-1988) was a prominent enough Civil War historian (especially regarding the Confederacy) that the Atlanta Civil War Round Table now confers the Harwell Book Award for the best book on a Civil War subject published in the preceding year: http://www.civilwarroundtableofatlanta.org/Harwell-Bio.htm

6DCBlack
Feb 2, 1:18pm

>5 rocketjk: Sounds interesting! I may need to look for this one, as I love these types of anthologies of first hand accounts and primary sources.

A couple from my collection that I look at from time to time are:

The Civil War: The First Year - Part of the Library of America series which covers each year of the War. I still need to pick up the other volumes in this series.

Ohio's War - A collection of letters, speeches, newspaper articles, and other documents focused on the state of Ohio. This one is of interest to me because I have ancestors that fought in some Ohio regiments. There are similar books for other midwestern states.

7rocketjk
Feb 2, 1:29pm

>6 DCBlack: Those look good, especially the second. That sort of localized history really brings historical events alive, I find.

8rocketjk
Editado: Feb 6, 2:30pm

I finished The Year 1000: When Explorers Connected the World - and Globalization Began by Valerie Hansen. Hansen here describes the growing interconnectedness between ever wider areas of the world for the purposes of trade, yes, but also the sharing of ideas and innovations. The year 1000 is really used as a sort of central point in time, one that Hansen frequently circles back to, but not one that she slavishly adheres to. She talks, really, about developments over a range of times within a 2- or 3-century time period, from around 900 to around 1200.

Basically, what Hansen does in this book is give us a tour around the world, circa 1000, to describe what an observant traveler then might have found, and both going back in time to illuminate how things got that way and then moving forward. What she wants to emphasize is that the world then was much more interconnected, that trade routes, for example, were much more far flung and markets more sophisticated, than we might imagine via a Western view through which we think of parts of the world as being "discovered" in the 15th and 16th centuries.

With some exceptions, Hansen does a good job of illuminating her overall thesis, showing how trade was common and markets widespread, particularly between China, Southeast Asia, Africa (The chapter on the wide ranging trade throughout the continent and then outward is short but quite interesting.), the Middle East and India. While I would imagine that among historians there is room for debate about some of Hansen's conclusions, I feel that I certainly learned enough and was engaged enough for most of the time, to find this a valuable reading experience.

9ulmannc
Feb 8, 4:11pm

I finished The 100 Best Illustrated Letters Of Charles M. Russell. It is a great read and a beautifully presented set of images of the letters. I almost think one could make a study of CMR's life by just reading his letters!

There is one technical fault as the transcriptions of the letters is in a typeface that it hard to read as it is so light.

10jztemple
Editado: Feb 9, 5:21pm

Grinding through the Kindle version of British Submarines in Two World Wars by Norman Friedman. A typical Friedman book, some part are rather interesting from a technical point of view, and then we go through pages of the findings of this committee or that budget review and I lose interest for awhile. Still, I couldn't beat the Kindle price for a Friedman book!

11Shrike58
Feb 12, 9:46am

Finished Mesa of Sorrows. Ostensibly an account of a case of intra-community violence amongst the Hopi, it turns into an examination of the mindset and circumstances under which such an atrocity could have occurred, and which still has repercussions in the wider Hopi community. I came to like this book, but since Brooks apparently tried to tell the story in such a way as to reflect the Hopi sense of history being a cycle, he often comes close to losing the thread of his argument.

12Shrike58
Feb 14, 7:54am

Finished Engines of Diplomacy, which takes the potentially dreary topic of George Washington's Office of Indian Trade and makes something fresh of it; very much American history with the First Nations getting a vote.

13jztemple
Editado: Feb 15, 1:51pm

Gave up on Calendar: Humanity's Epic Struggle to Determine a True and Accurate Year by David Ewing Duncan. Got through about half way. Parts of it were really interesting, but there was little actually about the calendar. What I think finally made me give up on it was that the author never stayed on any one area or era for very long and I tend to like books that are in-depth on a person, event or technology. Others might find it more interesting.

14AndreasJ
Feb 17, 4:01am

>13 jztemple:

So what does the author write about? Personalities?

Not very long ago I read a piece about the calendrical debates in the early Qing - somehow the author managed to keep almost entirely to the politics and only lightly touch on what the differences between Western and inherited Chinese methods actually were. Annoying.

15AndreasJ
Feb 17, 4:02am

And as for myself, I’m reading Hellenistic and Roman Naval Wars.

16jztemple
Feb 17, 10:18am

>14 AndreasJ: Yup, a lot of it was about people, and not necessarily people who had anything to do with the calendars. As I said, not a bad book, but not my style.

17Glacierman
Feb 17, 12:39pm

I've been meaning to post this for some time, but things kept getting in the way.

This is not about what I am currently reading, however, but it does pertain to history. My wife and I have for some time now been purchasing history courses from The Learning Company's Great Courses series and we have been very happy with them. We have been picking them up on sale, or we otherwise would not be able to afford them. We have been eminently satisfied with those we have taken and heartily recommend them to you.

The first one we purchased was Barbarian Empires of the Steppes, a very thorough examination of the numerous such empires which had such a major impact on world history. The lecturer is Dr. Kenneth W. Harl, Professor of Classical and Byzantine History at Tulane University. This course is taught over 36 lectures. Get the DVD, as it has many illustrations, including maps, without which you could get lost very quickly! We also bought the full transcript of the course and it serves as a textbook and reference for future use. While we were aware of the existence of various horse barbarians, we had no idea of the number of peoples and the complexity of the cultural and political context in which they existed. This course really gave us an education in the topic. Highly recommended.

Also recommended is Dr. Harl's course on The Peloponnesian War, a detailed examination of the background, causes and effects of this great Grecian conflict in 36 lectures. If you have read Thucydides and wish a broader understanding of this war, this course will give it you. And if you haven't, you may well find yourself reading it after you've finished the course.

Other courses we have taken and have been satisfied with are:

1. History of Ancient Egypt by Dr. Bob Brier (48 lectures). Dr. Brier gives a very decent overview of several thousand years of Egyptian history. We thoroughly enjoyed this course and he is a great lecturer.

2. Ancient Civilizations of North America by Dr. Edwin Barnhart (24 lectures). Dr. Barnhart here examines a subject often given short shrift: the indigenous civilizations of North America. Very interesting and informative.

We are currently in the midst of The Italian Renaissance by Dr. Kenneth R. Bartlett (36 lectures), so I can't give you a review, but I can say that so far we are getting a good understanding of how and why the Renaissance started in Italy. We are only about two lectures into it, so have a long way to go, but if the rest is as informative and entertaining as these two, it should be a fun and educational ride.

If you want to try these courses out, wait to get them on sale and save a bundle.

18jztemple
Editado: Feb 18, 11:08pm

19Shrike58
Feb 19, 3:30pm

Finished The Field of Blood yesterday, a very interesting detective story of just how prevalent personal violence was in the U.S. Congress pre-1861.

20Shrike58
Feb 26, 9:28am

My last book for the month is Hellfire Boys, which takes you from the discovery of a forgotten chemical weapons dump in Washington DC, to the Great War, and America's race to gain a chemical-weapons capability. I liked it, but it is like one of those over-stuffed pub sandwiches; the ingredients are good but it might be a bit more than you want to consume. I'm posting here because as much of the narrative action, if not more, takes place in the United States, and the author has wider ranging thoughts on the meaning of this adventure in military technology.

21jztemple
Feb 26, 10:33am

>20 Shrike58: For those who might be interested in the Kindle version of that book, it is on sale right now for $2.99 USD.

22ulmannc
Feb 26, 9:13pm

I completed reading
Mining the hard rock in the Silverton San Juans : a sense of place, a sense of time and it was sort of fun. It was the next Colorado book to read in my library.

It sort of has a thread through it with lots of episodes about events and people. One physical thing I don't like is text printed on top of an image background. It's getting hard and harder for me to read that. . . maybe time for the cataract to come out of the one eye!