DARN: Somehow I managed to shave the final minutes off the video while recording! Still, the main points are covered.
A short video review of John Man’s book, The Gutenberg Revolution: How Printing Changed The Course Of History, on Johann Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press and creator of the Gutenberg Bibles.
I discuss the merits of the book, how well written it is, the way that it deals nicely with the material, especially relating to the innovation and inventiveness of Gutenberg and how satisfying a read it is.
You can get a copy of the book here from rbooks, Random House’ customer facing bookstore.
A short video review of The Training Ground: Grant. Lee, Sherman and Davis In The Mexican War, 1846-48 by Martin Dugard (ISBN: 978-0-316-16625-6).
I mention that I enjoyed the writing style but felt the short chapter structure was an annoying feature.
I also mention my bigger issue which was the absence of proper detail on the military aspects of the campaign and the fact that the Mexican side of the story is mostly ignored except for a very cursory analysis.
I encourage people to read the book however as is an enjoyable read despite its problems.
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.
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:
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.
John Bowman’s Archive Show
John Bowman covered General Richard Mulcahy on its show today. Their archive link is here, but the show is not yet put up. The show includes some very interesting pieces with contributions from John A Murphy, Brian Farrell, Brian Nolan and several others.
The idea was to give a sense of this somewhat enigmatic figure from Irish history. He was after all an interesting figure in the 1916 Rising when he fought with the men of Fingal at Ashbourne (there is a good summary of that fighting here on the 1916 Rebellion Walking Tour site) and he went on to hold the Rank of Commander in Chief of the Free State Army, not to mention a significant of not always successful career in politics. The General’s son. Risteard is publishing a new book (with Liberties Press) on his father’s life and career:
My Father, The General: Richard Mulcahy and the Military History of the Revolution by Risteárd Mulcahy is an in-depth biography of the often controversial and hitherto neglected figure and Free State leader. Featuring rare and unseen material from the family archive, this book is a marvellous insight into the man behind the uniform who played a major role in running the War of Independence.
Even the Liberties site and the book description manages to reference the remaining core controversy of Mulcahy’s story and the one which overshadows his entire career (which is an impressive on):
His order to execute anti-Treaty activists found carrying guns made him a figure of controversy during the Civil War when a total of 77 anti-Treaty prisoners were executed by the Provisional Government. Despite the Free State government’s mandate being renewed in the following election, Mulcahy’s perceived severity during the Civil War was later to prove a stumbling block to his elevation as Taoiseach of the first Inter-Party government in 1948. Mulcahy selflessly stepped aside to allow John A. Costello to become Taoiseach of a coalition which, as leader of Fine Gael, Mulcahy had skilfully organised
What is remarkable about this is that Bowman’s archive show generally skirted over those executions that Mulcahy and the Free State government oversaw. In fact the only reference I heard was also by far the most chilling section of the piece in which Ernest Blythe defended mulcahy as an arch-realist who in the aftermath of Sean Hales’ killing had already selected the four Anti-Treaty Free State Men that were to be executed.
I’ve yet to read the book and right now I’ve got to say it is only moderately high on my list, but two points seem to come clearly out of the discussion today and the book description. One is the need for a rigourous, unquestionable account of Mulcahy’s life. Something both he and many of the other early Free State leaders lack. Secondly that Mercier’s forthcoming series on the military history of the Civil War will be enormously valuable in bringing that period back into the public thoughts so that we can finally lay to rest some of the lasting myths and resentments that remain alive in some minds, even now (though admittedly to an enormously lesser extent that in the 1950s and 1960s when active participants in the conflict remained in positions of authority).