‘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
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
Adieu, then, to the Weekly Standard, which is to close. Continue reading
Review – Churchill: Walking with Destiny by Andrew Roberts
How can a writer address a life such as Winston Churchill’s – a life so full of incident and happening, a life of early fame, deep failure, and finally international apotheosis? Continue reading
Staffan de Mistura’s office recently stated that he will shortly stand down as the United Nations’ special envoy to Syria. This announcement impelled cordial official references to the man and his work from governments and non-governmental organizations across the globe, but occasioned little sadness. Continue reading
When the Islamic State group swept through Iraq and Syria, and the scale of its barbarism became apparent, the terror group became the most discussed story in the world. Continue reading
On real mania and its imitations
A piece nominally about how social media drives people mad, or at least superficially so; but also how, instead of that madness being a product of authenticity, it is in fact just another role played by some participants, who are able to induce others into legitimate, real mania while remaining, if not detached, at least unaffected by its worst excesses.
How we communicate has changed dramatically in recent years. It is increasingly defined by the artificial world we have constructed on our phones and our computers. What is said there and, more importantly, how it is said bleeds out of the devices on which such things are displayed. Continue reading