‘Public history’ is something of a misnomer. The degree to which history which can influence policy is ‘public’ is a difficult question. E. H. Carr writes in his What Is History? that, when he was working in a junior capacity at the Paris peace conference in 1919, all the diplomats and their staffs took extra care to empty their wastepaper baskets. They were thinking of the discussions surrounding the peace treaty after Napoleon’s defeat in 1815, and the history they used to inform their actions was a titbit of information about that time: that nefarious negotiators spied on their opposite numbers’ plans by going through their waste paper. Carr uses this to illustrate the fallacy of thinking one can ultimately ‘learn from history’ in a way which is total and all-encompassing. Each moment in time presents new and unique challenges. One cannot rely simply on knowing the past to know the present, or indeed to predict the future. Continue reading
Monthly Archives: December 2018
A New Right Reading List
When Osama bin Laden was found by the special forces of the United States and met his end, there was surprising attention paid to this bookshelf. First, and understandably, the volumes present were the subject of understandable interest. That bin Laden appeared to like the books of Noam Chomsky, at least enough to include them in his collection, elicited a little amusement. Continue reading
‘Race’ or ‘Civilisation’?
Lord William Bentinck did not hold office in British imperial service during the reign of Queen Victoria, but the offices he held before she ascended to the throne were significant; he was governor-general of India, the first to hold that office after the Charter Act of 1833 re-organised Indian governance. His attitudes and perspective can thus be seen both to foreshadow Victorian ideas of empire, and also, in places, to diverge dramatically from them. When Bentinck departed Britain for his first role in colonial administration, the governorship of Madras, which he occupied at the beginning of the nineteenth century, he expressed Enlightenment values pertaining to the universality of human nature: ‘Is not human nature everywhere the same?’ This belief was stiffly expressed but sincerely held. Continue reading
The Meaning of Alexander
Was he nothing more than a military adventurer?
Alexander the Great was a remarkable military commander. He was an impressive leader of men who experienced huge and undeniable success. His conquest of much of the Persian Empire is notable for its dramatic nature and for the rapidity with which that conquest was achieved. Continue reading
Review – First Man, directed by Damien Chazelle
Space exploration is difficult and dangerous. Its technical demands are profound. Its toll is immense. These things are not communicated – or not communicated well – in our age’s space race; it is a commercial drama, where blood is exchanged for balance sheets and vital, war-like international competition is replaced by the pettier prospect of corporate intrigue. Jeff Bezos receives criticism for spending his money on rockets rather than workers’ rights; Richard Branson applies the same cheap showmanship to aerospace as he does to airlines; Elon Musk smokes cannabis on an MMA commentator’s podcast and tweets about anime. Continue reading
So Long, Farewell: The Weekly Standard
Adieu, then, to the Weekly Standard, which is to close. Continue reading
A University Leaves Budapest
After legal and political drama seemingly spanning years, a final move has been made in Hungry, as the Central European University (CEU) prepares to leave the country.
The university has been under threat for a while, actively targeted by the government of Viktor Orban, including the recent passage of a law designed to make the operation of foreign-run universities a more bureaucratically challenging enterprise. Continue reading
Isis Is in Retreat, but Challenges Remain in Eastern Syria
The Islamic State (ISIS) no longer holds sway over great stretches of Iraq and Syria, but its capacity for violence remains. Fighting continues around ISIS’s base at Hajin, in Syria’s eastern desert near the Iraqi border. Continue reading
Raed Fares and Hammud Junayd Died in Heroic Pursuit of a Free Syria
Last week, Raed Fares, one of Syria’s most visible and visionary pro-democracy activists, was murdered in Idlib.
Alongside Fares, his colleague Hammud Junayd was also killed as part of an ongoing campaign of assassination targeting Idlib’s moderates and advocates of democracy. Continue reading