General

Quick Link – The Tyburn Angling Society

Great article this!

The Society’s architect, David Gaunt, has prepared a detailed map of the proposed demolition zone as well as renderings showing South Molton Street and Berkeley Square as watercourses. Bowdidge has descended into the sewer itself in order to report on the river’s condition (“Members were concerned by my reports on the poor level of fish stocks and the Honorary Ghillie was taken to task.”).

via The Tyburn Angling Society.

Some Excellent History Podcasts

First and foremost I thought I’d remind us all that we live in times historic. A time that despite enormous change and significant scientific achievement can still be grounded by natural causes and nature itself.

But what this blogpost is about is three great history podcasts. New Books In History, Don Carlin’s, Hardcore History and 12 Byzantine Rulers.

For a long time, I missed the potential of podcasts. I didn’t own an mp3 player of any kind and I love radio so I was happy enough to listen to whatever was on air when I was walking, reading or working. Then I got an iPod Touch!

Since then I’ve found four podcasts that I listen to nearly everyday, some for short period like Mattins, a wonderful daily short reading by James Bridle and sometimes for more than an hour.

These three offer different things, one, New Books In History, is very focussed and about a single topic per episode with an obvious connection to the book being discussed. Hardcore History is much broader and covers topics in depth sometimes stretching over multiple episodes. The last, 12 Byzantine Rulers, is focussed and precise yet covers a huge sweeping history over a series that lasts about 17 episodes.

I heartily recommend them all!
Eoin

Christmas Books Special – 2009 – Part 2 of 4

Sci-fi & Fantasy today
It is a difficult thing to hold my list to three books in this post (and so cheekily I’ve chosen some series based books). I have read some incredible sci-fi and fantasy books over the last year, some of which have really broken through to the mainstream of sci-fi readers and some of which have only done passably well. The three I’ve selected simply ran away with my imagination.

Fire Upon The Deep

Fire Upon The Deep
Vernor Vinge is by many people’s standard one of the modern greats of Science Fiction. Until I read a post by Jo Walton about his book Fire Upon The Deep on Tor.com the emerging online hub of science fiction and fantasy, (which goes to show the value of a good educational role for online communities). There was so much in the post that appealed to me that I went out and bought the book and have since bought another, I will probably buy anything and everything he writes or has written. Fire Upon The Deep is an absorbing read with strange and wonderful characters, exciting and yet extremely limiting realities (FOR THE AUTHOR THAT IS). What a book to read if your creative insights are running dry, it is sure to spark imagination and profound thoughts.

Empire in Black & Gold

Empire In Black & Gold (The Shadow of the Apt Series)
I was not convinced at first by this book. The pace seemed slow, the language stilted. Yet it was good enough for me to keep reading. And then, boy did it take off like a rocket. Perhaps THE most exciting and inventive series I’ve read in a while. It offers new perspectives on a host of fantasy memes. I was sent book two and three by another fan and I’ve decided that it is that kind of series, the kind that converts readers into zealots. I think you should all become zealots! Read the first four in rapid succession and you’ll feel bereft when it comes to the last page and you’ll be dying for the next book!

The Blade Itself

The Blade Itself (The First Law Trilogy)
Joe Abercrombie is a fine writer. One who knows a lot about fantasy. In this remarkable series he pretty much subverts the accepted narratives of fantasy while creating new and exciting versions around the carcass. A berseker (and an evil one at that) central hero, a torturer who holds our pity, respect and I suspect for most people, our admiration and a wise central enigmatic character that is almost the exact opposite of your Belgarath or Gandalf.

Tomorrow, History,
Eoin

Honourable Mention: The Long Price Quartet, by Daniel Abraham (AMAZING)

The Battle of Stamford Bridge

Eoin Purcell

A re-enactment of The Battle of Stamford Bridge

A re-enactment of The Battle of Stamford Bridge

Complex stories
One of the battles that has most fascinated me over the years has been King Harold Godwinson of England’s victory over the forces Norwegian force of King Harald Hardrada and Earl Tostig Godwinson (that’s right, Harold’s brother) at Stamford Bridge (that link will take you to Wikipedia, but this one for the UK Battlefield Resource Centre is excellent as well). The battle did not go well for the Norwegians. Google Books has a great account of the battle here in The history of England from the earliest times to the Norman conquest by Thomas Hodgkin.

What has always amazed me about that battle and the characters involved is that in Harold Godwinson we have on the one hand the known villain of subsequent (and of the contemporary) propaganda especially the amazingly effective Bayeux Tapestry (a quite incredible piece of public propaganda which is well worth visiting). Harold has come down by the victor of the Battle of Hastings word as an oath breaker.

Because of that twist of faith, we don’t remember Harold’s own victory at Stamford or the fact that he was seen by many Saxons as England’s bulwark against Norman influence. What’s more because of Hastings, we don’t hear the story of the brother’s Godwinson or indeed of Harald Hardrada who as the link above makes clear had a fascinating life himself.

All told, Stamford Bridge and the ignored heroism or at the very least success if you will of Harold reinforces for me the sense that very often history recalls not the reality of a persons life but only the most resonate aspect of it, that events which have relevance are often overshadowed by subsequent less important but better recorded happenings.

Enjoy the weekend!
Eoin

Google & General George Monck

Eoin Purcell

Links & the rest
I decided I would search out George Monck information on the web and the results are pretty great. Google has an interesting timeline feature. You can view it here, but I’ve a screen grab below:

Google's Timeline Feature

Google's Timeline Feature



It also drags up the Wikipedia link, the About.com link, the rather excellent British Civil War site and the General George Monck site (which has a lot more than just a biography on hand).

It is all well worth digging into,
Eoin

Defying Empire: Trading with the Enemy on Colonial New York

Eoin Purcell

Great books deserve better reviewers than I
So I was recently sent a review copy of Thomas M. Truxes’, Defying Empire: Trading with the Enemy in Colonial New York which was published by Yale University Press in 2008. Needless to say I completely failed in my mission to read the book and write a review in any kind of decent timeframe.

But I did read it and it is wonderful. The book covers a fascinating period in Colonial history when the British Empire was fighting a war with the French Empire and American merchants were intent to benefit from the trading opportunities despite the heavy presence of British soldiers and the fact that in name at least they were engaged in treason.

A book that creates and sustains a brilliant portrait of 18th Century New York and brings to life the intriguing political and mercantile world of that city under British rule. Well worth reading, 7 out of 10.
For some more detailed review on the book, try here, here, here or here.
I also decided to try something I have been toying with for a while, a video review. It is my my first such effort and is decidedly patchy, but here, in honour of along delayed review it is.

I hope someone enjoyed that!
Eoin

John Quincy Adams Lives … (Vicariously Through Twitter)

Eoin Purcell

What a very cool project by the Massachusets Historical Society to reproduce a line a day from the diary of John Quincy Adams on Twitter: beginning with his journey to Russia on 5 August 1809. They also have a site dedicated to the journals. Today’s line:

8/12/1809: Calm morning, and stiff head breeze all the rest of the day. Lat: 43-52. Read lives of Lycurgus and of Numa.

I have, by the by, inserted links to the text referred to, Plutarch’s famous work commonly called Parallel Lives. You can download it, free, from GBS! How much fun is the internet? Loving it,
Eoin