Post 12: Historical Pubs: The Eagle in Cambridge (1667)

I guess 1667 isn’t young by any means, but this is a fair bit younger than the last pub I covered. What makes this one stand out is some more recent events in the twentieth century – the so-called RAF bar in the back, and the discovery of DNA being announced there by Francis Crick in 1953. According to the latter tale Crick ran in, interrupting lunch, and dramatically announced that he had “discovered the secret of life” – his old Cavendish Laboratory was based around the corner at the time, so I’m guessing it was selected for it’s locality as much as anything else.

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Post 11: Historical Pubs: Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem (1189)

Having said in my recent post on David Crowther’s History of England podcast that I should probably check out their Facebook group, I did and reading a few of the posts there was inspired to write a blog entry on this old pub in Nottingham. I’ve got a few other old pubs in mind too, so I may well end up doing a few of these. I was in Nottingham for reasons related to work, but took the advantage of some free time to look around the city. The pub, which claims to be the oldest in England – founded in 1189, is near the castle on the West side of the city centre. It’s probably one of the most impressive locations for a pub that I’ve seen, overshadowed by and more or less built into the huge limestone cliffs, just around the corner from the statue of Robin Hood.

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Post 10: Venice: City of Fortune

How Venice won and lost a naval empire

City of FortuneThis book by Roger Crowley, published in 2011 by Faber and Faber, tells a narrative history of the Venetian overseas empire – so essentially a time span of ~1000 to ~1500 with the changing interactions with the dying Byzantine Empire, the rising Ottomans and the wars with the other Mediterranean trading powers. Crowley is a very good writer of narrative history, particularly in his field of Mediterranean naval warfare circa 1400. This book can in some ways be seen as a natural companion to 2005’s Constantinople: The Last Great Siege and to 2008’s Empires of the Sea. Those charted the fall of Constantinople and the ensuing battle for the remaining christian strongholds in Cyprus and Malta. This book on the other hand is a step backwards in time, giving the run up to those struggles from a Venetian perspective.

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Post 9: When Diplomacy Fails

Now for another podcast series, Zack Twamley’s When Diplomacy Fails, one which I mentioned briefly in my post on the History of England. In that Zack contributed a guest episode on the Battle of Bannockburn, an episode that would act as a prototype for this series. It focused on the war and specifically on why the war happened. Now, I don’t mind military history but at times I find it can descent into “A moved to B and did this, then C moved to D and did this …” until you end up with a long list of individually inconsequential events and start losing sight of the big picture. This podcast promised to be different, with an emphasis on the reasons behind wars and the factors that caused them to finished up as the do.

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Post 8 – Lars Brownworth

Lars Brownworth, along the two podcasts mentioned in my first post, is one of the big figures in history podcasting and now seems an opportune time to mention him, given his recent release of a new book on the Normans.  His style is very clear and well written, and his topics are well chosen, but he is perhaps a little simple and introductory. Either way, he’s got a fairly decent body of work on both the Byzantines, the Normans and anything else that comes to mind.

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Post 7: History of England Podcast

History of England Podcast

Another podcast summary here – this time the History of England, as found at http://historyofengland.typepad.com/. As the title suggests, this is very much from the “History of X” school of podcasts that have sprang up in the aftermath of History of Rome. In this podcast series, David Crowther covers the history of England from Anglo Saxon times onward using his Ladybird book of English monarchs. The end goal is to reach the end of Queen Victoria’s reign in 1901, but at the time of writing he is 124 podcasts in and currently somewhere in the reign of Richard II so there’s still plenty more to go.

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Post 6 – Popular Culture in Ancient Rome

This book by author Jerry Toner, released on Polity Press in 2009, aims to give a short, general study of Roman culture among the non-elites of the Roman world. As a concept for a book, this seems both promising and a little risky – history does tend to focus on wealthy and powerful groups and individuals so shining a little on the rest of society is usually fascinating; however fitting all of this into a mere two hundred pages or so would never be an easy task – with the broad scope of “popular culture” to choose from, roughly one thousand years of history, and a huge geographical expanse.

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Post 5 – Hawkwood: Diabolical Englishman

This “biography” of John Hawkwood by Frances Stonor Saunders is a great read. Released by Faber & Faber in 2005, the book presents itself as the story of an English mercenary who made his name fighting first in the Hundred Years War, and then in medieval Italy. Actual biographical details of the famous mercenary may be short on the ground but it turns out these aren’t really necessary, Saunders gives a wonderful description of the mercenary life among the warring states of Fourteenth Century Italy.

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Post 4 – The other side of the medal: How Germany saw the First World War

Temporary exhibition at the British Museum

9 May – 23 November 2014, Free

I happened to be at the British Museum the other day and this exhibition caught my eye. It’s just a small one in a little alcove off to the side of their Roman section but worth checking out if you happen to be in the museum in the next few months.

The exhibition contains a number of medals made by German artists between 1914 and 1919, and can roughly be divided into two sections – propaganda presenting a pro-German or anti-Entente view of the war, or expressionist art presenting views on the horror and destruction of the war. Both sections produce some very striking and thought provoking pieces of art, though not always for the reasons intended by the artists.

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Post 3: Dividing the Spoils: The War for Alexander the Great’s Empire

Dividing The Spoils

The War for Alexander the Great’s Empire

Dividing the SpoilsAnother book review here – this time Dividing the Spoils by Robin Waterfield, published in 2011 by Oxford University Press. I thought this was a particularly interesting topic for a book – there’s often a bit of a gap left in history between Alexander conquering the world and the successor kingdoms that made up the world during Rome’s rise. How these kingdoms came to be is rarely filled in but it’s a fascinating tale, full of battles, intrigue, murder and all kinds of twists and turns. The book takes the narrative from Alexander’s death in 323 B.C. until ~280 B.C. when the founders of the successor dynasties conveniently die within a few years of each other, providing both a natural beginning and ending to the book. The book sets out to be accessible and enjoyable, focusing on the major personalities of that period of history. I gather that the study of history has moved on a bit from “the great man theory” (as the author acknowledges in his introduction) but this is perhaps one case where it may be a useful approach. The book does also have asides on economic and cultural developments during this period – though these could have been covered in a little more detail.

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