Monthly Archives: February 2016

Scientific Revolution and ‘the Two Cultures’

Last week, for a bit of light reading, I found myself taking a look at The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution by C. P. Snow, in which the author – who, as both a writer and a scientist, saw himself as a member of the two great tribes of academic life – criticised the arbitrary and seemingly hostile separation between the sciences and the arts, and the increasing specialisation of individuals who devoted their attention to one, but who seemingly never studied both. Continue reading

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Coming off the Fence on Europe

I like Michael Gove a lot – in fact, I think he’s one of the best Conservative ministers we have and are likely to enjoy for some time to come; but I’m a little saddened by his wanting Britain to leave the European Union. Not, I think, necessarily because this requires him to team up with two of the most unpleasant political figures in the country – the dual horrors of Nigel Farage and George Galloway, who represent living proof that extremists of Left and Right eventually come to resemble each other – but because in many ways it makes the case for remaining a little less attractive. Continue reading

The ‘Good Guys’ in Colour

The importance of Syria’s civil war in international terms cannot be overstated. It has spawned the greatest mass movement of people since the end of the Second World War. It has provided thousands of terrible, heart-wrenching vignettes, from the unseeing body of a small boy washed up on a Turkish beach to the grisly output of a thousand propagandists, which fill newspapers and television screens on a daily basis. And it is unlikely to be over any time soon. Continue reading

The Villain of the East

Review – The Russian Origins of the First World War by Sean McMeekin

The First World War is hardly a novel subject for serious historical study. Its origins in particular, in the same way the end of the Roman Republic and the creation of an empire captures the attention of scholars and general readers, demands attention; it is both a vital, epoch-defining event and a perfect encapsulation of something deeper – and such a suggestion is highly attractive, not only to those who seek to discover (or invent) cast iron laws of history, but to anyone seeking a more crystalline understanding of the past. Continue reading

How to Build Nations

The story of Emma Sky, newly told in her memoir The Unravelling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq, is a fascinating one. An opponent of the war in Iraq – someone, in fact, who had proposed serving as a human shield in the first Gulf War – does not generally end up in effect administering a province, as Sky found herself doing very soon after her arrival in the country in 2003. But this is what she did. And more than that, she spent much of the following seven years in Iraq, working closely with the very American military she and many like-minded individuals opposed so vigorously before the war began. Continue reading

A Memoir from Mesopotamia

Review – The Unravelling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq by Emma Sky

The Unravelling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq is a captivating book.  The memoir of Emma Sky, a one-time opponent of the war to topple Saddam Hussein, deals with how she administered an Iraqi province in the aftermath of the overthrow of the Baath regime. Moreover, she spent much of the following years in the country, working closely with the American military – the same organisation she and many likeminded individuals opposed so vigorously in the run up to the war. Continue reading