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Posts Tagged ‘history’

I had been planning to write about the debate in Athens in 415 about the proposed attack on Syracuse. Though there is one remarkable contrast between the two situations – whereas Nicias’ sensible older men were faced with the aggression and ignorance of Alcibiades’ pumped-up youths, in our time the pragmatism of the young is confronted with the reckless, après moi le deluge nostalgia of the old – there are significant parallels in the rhetoric used to argue for and against driving the city off a cliff. Nicias urges caution and common sense, and constantly has to defend himself against insinuations of cowardice, self-interest and talking down Athens; it’s a manifestly weak argument in the face of Alcibiades’ boundless self-confidence, optimism, disparagement of foreigners – the Sicilians are weak and disunited, and “most likely they will be happy to make separate agreements with us when we make attractive proposals to them” – and appeals to the true nature of Athens. Indeed, given Dominic Cummings’ well-known predilection for Thucydides, one might wonder how far the Leave campaign is directly drawing upon motifs from his speeches. (more…)

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Your Hxtory

Devastated to discover this morning that, according to Buzzfeed’s ‘Which 90s Indie Band Are You?’ Quiz, I am Belle & Sebastian, for whose music I feel a deep, unqualified and undoubtedly irrational loathing. I think I may have selected one too many answers related to books… Obviously I really wanted to be the Make-Up, or Sleater-Kinney, or at the very least Pulp. And it’s in that spirit of political provocation that this blog is celebrating International Women’s Day by banning ‘history’. At least in this post – if someone can lend me a magic bit of code to change the spelling automatically everywhere else, I’d be very grateful – it’s ‘hxtory’ all the way. (more…)

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RIP Ellen Meiksins Wood (and see also here)

A week and a half into term, and I am already being forcibly reminded of why I didn’t manage to post more than once or twice a month for much of 2015. It’s not as if I don’t have a load of stuff I’d like to write about – not least because Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister of Australian, has just produced a load more Thucydides references in a recent speech, on the (not unreasonable) assumption that this is how to communicate with US foreign policy types these days (cf. Xi Jinping) – it’s just the quantity of other stuff that has to take precedence. But some things do deserve recognition and comment, above all – despite the fact that this blog has started to look like an obituary column – the passing of yet another significant figure in my intellectual pantheon. I have got to find some younger, healthier people to get influenced by… (more…)

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There’s a great scene in the 1990s Welsh teenage drama series Pam fi, Duw? [Why me, God?], where everyone has gone to London (can’t remember why) and the indomitable grandmother insists on dragging the family across the city to visit the statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square – to their utter bemusement, as she’s a dyed-in-the-wool socialist, but you don’t argue with Mamgu. When they finally get there, she sticks up two fingers at it and says something to the effect of “That’s for Tonypandy, you bastard!” (more…)

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RIP Christopher Brooke

As I think I’ve mentioned on here before, I was the sort of undergraduate who would give a personal tutor in the modern university nightmares.* Quite apart from the complete lack of social skills and the regular bursts of disappearing into a black hole, and expending so much energy on writing, music and low-level student politics rather than academic work, when I did focus on history I went to virtually no lectures.** It just seemed so pointless, going along to hear someone summarise the textbook when I could work through the material much more efficiently on my own and set it against other reading (and the nightmare moment, when I wondered if I was really in the right place, was when one lecturer cheerfully announced that the lectures would give us all we needed to know without any need to read anything else). (more…)

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Pick of 2015

It’s been an interesting experience to look back over my posts from 2015, deciding which ones to re-promote as representative of my output (not least in the hope of bumping my viewing figures up in order to beat 2013) – and to realise how little I ended up writing for rather a lot of this year, almost entirely due to pressures of work. Once again, my resolution has to be to blog more frequently, given that the world doesn’t show any sign of letting up on the supply of things to comment on.

This post, however, is prompted by one this morning from my Bristol colleague Will Pooley, offering the pick not of his own (eminently pickable) posts but of other blogs he enjoyed this year. (more…)

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Misquotations of Thucydides on Twitter, Nos.73 and 74… Nestled in among the continuing deluge of mis-spelt variations on ‘The sacred of hippiness is freedox…’ quotes – most of these are bots, I assume, changing the spelling slightly for copyright reasons – the discerning observer may occasionally spot a few new variants; yes, I’m starting to feel like one of those obsessive bird-watchers, improbably excited by the possible sighting of something that’s distinguishable from a common-or-garden variety of misquotation only by a slightly different pattern of wing stripe. But this is one of the few occasions I get to be a properly scholarly pedant, or pedantic scholar…

First up is something I’ve spotted a couple of times before without getting round to looking it up: “The peoples of the Mediterranean began to emerge from barbarism when they learned to cultivate the olive and the vine.” Perfectly innocuous statement, indeed more or less a staple of introductions to the Mediterranean environment and the rise of classical civilisation – but nagging feeling that I can’t actually recall it in Thucydides’ Archaeology (which is the obvious place to look). (more…)

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