Bits of Gibbon (Vol. Chap. XI)

This line about the Gallic emperor Postumus tickled me.  It’s like a line from a song by The Fall.

He was slain at Cologne, by a conspiracy of jealous husbands

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Russian Rulers Podcast bibliography

I do like a bibliography, and Mark Schauss’ Russian Rulers podcast has one on its website.  So I thought I’d copy it over.  It’s maybe not a complete bibliography, more of a suggested started point for someone inspired by the show to read more.

I have none of these books, although I am aware of a few of the authors.  Orlando Figes was always on my wishlist, but I’ve heard a few strange things about him – secret amazon review accounts and libel cases – ah well, I’m sure his books still stand up.

  • A History of Russia – Nicholas Riasanovsky and Mark D Steinberg
  • A Brief History of Russia – Michael Kort
  • Natasha’s Dance: A Cultural History of Russia – Orlando Figes
  • Czars – James R Duffy and Vincent L Ricci
  • Russia: A History – Gregory Freeze
  • Peter The Great – Robert Massie
  • Tolstoy – A.N Wilson
  • Tolstoy – Henri Troyat
  • Pushkin – T.J Binyon
  • Pushkin – Henri Troyat

 

Bits of Gibbon (Vol. 1 Chap. 13)

When Britain was thus dismembered from the empire its importance was sensibly felt and its loss sincerely lamented.  The Romans celebrated, and perhaps magnified, the extent of that noble island, provided on every side with convenient harbours; the temperature of the climate, and the fertility of the soil, alike adapted for the production of corn or of vines; the valuable minerals with which it abounded; its rich pastures covered with innumerable flocks, and its woods free with wild beasts or venomous serpents.  Above all, they regretted the large amount of the revenue of Britain, whilst they confessed that such a province well deserved to become the seat of an independent monarchy.

In this passage, Gibbon seems to get a bit carried away with some of the panegyrics written after the recovery of Britain from the rebellion of Carausius.  He occasionally has a tendency to get a little bit patriotic and play up his home in a way that jars with the rest of the narrative.

It’s a good thing everyone has stopped over-estimating the importance of Britain!

Russian Rulers Podcast

Another old school podcast – starting in 2010 inspired by long running podcast The History According To Bob, podcaster Mark Schauss’ personal family links to the country, and his old college professor Paul Avrich.  This may sound like a backhanded compliment, but the best thing about this podcast is the short episodes.  With episodes typically lasting fifteen minutes, this actually breaks down the hundreds of years of Russian history in something easier to digest (as a beginner to the topic).

Schauss tries to add variety to the show with an extra section at the end of each show – listing events on this day in history, or reading parts of a primary source.  None of this really works.  When he gets to the Soviet era, he goes with a short biography of a lesser figure of the time (Fritz Platten, Felix Dzerzhinsky).  That works slightly better, but can still feel like a unnecessary break.  Ultimately he drops it in the race to the end of the Soviet Union.

The reading is history focuses mostly on a chronological narrative (largely derived from a favourite set of sources – Robert Massie, Duffy and Ricci’s Czars, Mark Steinberg).  Schauss’ delivery is fairly straightforward, but the script portrays the drama well.  We get a little of a analysis seeping through over the whole series as Schauss identifies some of the bigger turning points in Russian history.

The show is a good take on Russian history for beginners (like me).  I find Russian history to always have an agenda or a spin, and Schauss remains cautiously neutral: ignoring Yeltsin’s later career as too recent to comment on, and giving a bare set of facts on Putin.  This is fine.  But it could be a little more daring and a little more polished.