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

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

The Revenege of Geography

Eoin Purcell

Robert Kaplan Strikes Again
Kaplan writes an elegant and persuasive article about how Geography affects the world! In many ways it is a plea for a realist view of the world:

Realism means recognizing that international relations are ruled by a sadder, more limited reality than the one governing domestic affairs. It means valuing order above freedom, for the latter becomes important only after the former has been established. It means focusing on what divides humanity rather than on what unites it, as the high priests of globalization would have it. In short, realism is about recognizing and embracing those forces beyond our control that constrain human action—culture, tradition, history, the bleaker tides of passion that lie just beneath the veneer of civilization. This poses what, for realists, is the central question in foreign affairs: Who can do what to whom? And of all the unsavory truths in which realism is rooted, the bluntest, most uncomfortable, and most deterministic of all is geography.

What I like about the piece is threefold
Firstly I enjoy his references to philosophers and historians. The philosophers are Isaiah Berlin and Thomas Hobbes, both with interesting and illuminating things to offer reader. And Google Books has plenty items in Full View for both though frustratingly in the case of Hobbes, not a Leviathan available for extract so instead you get a rather nice but non-downloadable Forgotten books edition! Which seems crazy when the base text is well out of copyright!

His historical references are numerous but Mahan and Braudel stand out! One eye opener was Nicholas Spykman (for more on his truly intriguing views here is a very nice overview) of whom I had never heard but of whom Kaplan say:

Similarly, the Dutch-American strategist Nicholas Spykman saw the seaboards of the Indian and Pacific oceans as the keys to dominance in Eurasia and the natural means to check the land power of Russia. Before he died in 1943, while the United States was fighting Japan, Spykman predicted the rise of China and the consequent need for the United States to defend Japan. And even as the United States was fighting to liberate Europe, Spykman warned that the postwar emergence of an integrated European power would eventually become inconvenient for the United States. Such is the foresight of geographical determinism.

For another thing
Secondly I like his concept of:

geography in the most old-fashioned sense. In the 18th and 19th centuries, before the arrival of political science as an academic specialty, geography was an honored, if not always formalized, discipline in which politics, culture, and economics were often conceived of in reference to the relief map. Thus, in the Victorian and Edwardian eras, mountains and the men who grow out of them were the first order of reality; ideas, however uplifting, were only the second.

And maybe I feel that way because I wish to justify my recent (and fabulously cheap) purchase of Keith Johnston’s A Sketch of Historical Geography which is a truly excellent text worth owning and you can read in the lovely Open Library edition here, but I think there is something to what Kaplan says. Something that informs the rest of the piece.

And finally
I like his closing exhorting for us all to:

learn to think like Victorians. That is what must guide and inform our newly rediscovered realism. Geographical determinists must be seated at the same honored table as liberal humanists, thereby merging the analogies of Vietnam and Munich. Embracing the dictates and limitations of geography will be especially hard for Americans, who like to think that no constraint, natural or otherwise, applies to them. But denying the facts of geography only invites disasters that, in turn, make us victims of geography.

I very much enjoy Kaplan but sometimes I’m left with as many questions as answers with him, not that that is a bad thing!
Eoin

Public Domain Works & GBS

Getting sick of Public Domain Works not appearing in GBS? There is much more to the story sometimes than you would think!

Eoin Purcell

Cross Posted @ Eoin Purcell’s Blog

Search Max Weber and see what happens
Here is the result when you search with no limits here is the result when you limit your search to full view books. Here is a biography for Weber. He died in 1920 and so by any stretch his work is out of copyright, in the public domain and ought by rights to be free to view in a scheme like google’s yet you cannot find a copy. What is going on?

How does Google Define Full View?
Here’s how:

Full View

You can see books in Full View if the book is out of copyright, or if the publisher or author has asked to make the book fully viewable. The Full View allows you to view any page from the book, and if the book is in the public domain, you can download, save and print a PDF version to read at your own pace.

Is there no work from this period in a library in the scheme?
This is the current list of Library Partners in Google’s Book Search program. At random I tested the catalogue of three of them.
The University of Virginia has in its archive a 1927 Edition of Weber’s General Economic History published by Greenberg in 1927.
Columbia has a similar edition
New York Public Library has the same edition too.

And then it occurred to me: what about the translator
And therein lies the solution. Weber was writing originally in German and the translator for this edition was Frank H Knight who’s bio is here. When you realise that, it all makes sense. The translation copyright therefore is not in the public domain! Such is life!

Digging and digging, finding outr stuff,
Eoin

Kagan on Herodotus: Atlantic gains another subscriber

Eoin Purcell

Atlantic Monthly, Borders & Ancient History
Atlantic Monthly is a magazine to which I generally become addicted when I buy a copy. Living in Ireland as I do this has not been very frequently. One product of the arrival of Borders in Ireland however has been their penchant for importing US magazines. I spent an hour and a half in their new Blanchardstown store (the aerial view) on Valentine’s Night (A very understanding and generous girlfriend) and bought the new Atlantic. This morning I decided to pony up the cash and get a yearly subscription. The magazine will now arrive monthly by post and for that I am very grateful.

This all relates to the blog because a truly excellent artilce in the magazine this month by Robert D. Kaplan on Herodotus and his relevance to current times, A Historian For Our Time. It is a wonderful piece and well worth the entire price of the magazine this month. I thought people might be interested to know that you can download a copy of Herodotus’ Histories (with copious notes apparently) or you can look over the list of freely readable titles and find something more to your taste. If course you can download the e-text from Gutenberg too!

Interestingly you can also grab a copy of Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War. And of course e-text here.

Enjoying a little more time!
Eoin

The vagaries of Google Book search

Goddamn I love free books!
Yes free. Download em if you doubt me.

For instance: The Causes of the French Revolution by Lord John Russell (Longman, London, 1832) is available free for download here. Which is kinda crazy. Of course as we mentioned before you can get the text already on Gutenberg but this is a whole different ballgame. Or maybe its the game changer.

You can also easily download the History of the Girondists: Or, Personal Memoirs of the Patriots of the French Revolution, By Alphonse de Lamartine (H.G. Bohn, London??, 1853) and if you want to it is here.

But I did say vagaries (I had to check that. I was pretty sure I knew what it meant but just in case).
Sadly the one I really want is The History of the French Revolution, By Adolphe Thiers (A. Hart, Philadelphia, 1850) and all I can get is this! It seems strage for a book published in 1850 and even Thiers, though long lived (he died in 1877) died outside of the window for public domain works!

Oh well. I’ll take the free stuff for now and get the rest when I can!
Eoin