Revolutions Podcast Fundraiser II

Mike Duncan of Revolutions Podcast is doing another fundraiser (possibly more of a downsizing, as he moves house).  As ever, I’m interested in the books he’s selling – largely to add to my own reading list, so I’ve reproduced them below.  Check out his podcasts if somehow you haven’t, and if you are familiar with them, check out the extra episodes and some good t-shirts (I do like his “Livia did it” one).

Philosophy

  • Critique of Pure Reason – Immanuel Kant
  • On Revolution – Hannah Arendt
  • The Prince – Niccolo Machiavelli
  • Leviathan – Thomas Hobbes
  • Second Treatise of Government – John Locke
  • Essential Rousseau – JJ Rousseau
  • Birth of Tragedy – Nietzsche
  • Beyond Good And Evil – Nietzsche
  • Thus Sprach Zarathustra – Nietzsche
  • Genealogy of Morals – Nietzsche
  • Autobiography – John Stuart Mill
  • On Liberty – John Stuart Mill
  • Utilitarianism – Mill and Bentham
  • An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding – David Hume
  • Political Essays – David Hume
  • Cambridge Companion to David Hume
  • Surveys From Exile – Karl Marx
  • Common Sense and Rights of Man – Thomas Paine
  • Guerrilla Warface – Che Guevara

The English Civil War

  • The Causes of the English Revolution – Lawrence Stone
  • The Causes of the English Civil War – Conrad Russell
  • Britain in Revolution – Austin Woolrych
  • The Crisis of Parliaments – Conrad Russell
  • History of the Great Rebellion – Earl of Clarendon
  • Revolution, Riot and Rebellion – David Underdown
  • The World Turned Upside Down – Christopher Hill
  • The Century of Revolution – Christopher Hill

The American Revolution

  • Rules of Civility – George Washington
  • Washington – Ron Chernow
  • A Defence of the Constitutions – John Adams
  • The Federalist Papers
  • The Americans – Daniel Boorstein
  • American Scripture – Paulin Maier
  • Paul Revere’s Ride – David Hackett Fischer
  • The Birth of the Republic – Edmund Morgan
  • The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution – Bernard Bailyn
  • Radicalism of the American Revolution – Gordon Wood
  • The Unknown American Revolution – Gary Nash
  • Colonial Merchants and the American Revolution – Arthur Schlesinger
  • American Slavery, American Freedom – Edmund Morgan
  • The Glorious Cause – Robert Middlekauff

The French Revolution

  • Massacre at the Champs de Mars – David Andress
  • Talleyrand – Duff Cooper
  • The Longman Companion – Colin Jones
  • The Peasantry in the French Revolution – PM Jones
  • Twelve Who Ruled – RR Palmer
  • The Sans-culottes – Albert Soboul
  • The French Revolution and Human Rights – Lynn Hunt
  • Becoming a Revolutionary – Timothy Tackett
  • Reflections on the Revolution in France – Edmund Burke
  • The Origins of the French Revolutionary Wars – TCW Blanning
  • Interpreting the  French Revolution – Francois Furet
  • The Coming of the  French Revolution – Georges Lefebvre
  • The Social Interpretation of the  French Revolution – Alfred Cobban
  • The King’s Trial – David Jordan

The Haitian Revolution

  • Toussaint L’Ouverture – Jean-Bertrand Aristide
  • The Haitian Revolution – David Geggus
  • Slave Revolution in the Caribbean – Laurent Dubois and John Garrigus
  • Haiti – Laurent Dubois
  • Before Haiti: Race and Citizenship in French Saint-Domingue – John Garrigus
  • You Are All Free – Jeremy Popkin
  • Confronting Black Jacobins – Gerald Horne
  • The Making of Haiti – Carolyn Fick
  • Facing Racial Revolution – Jeremy Popkin
  • The Slaves Who Defeated Napoleon – Philippe Girard
  • A Concise History of the Haitian Revolution – Jeremy Popkin

Spanish-American Independence

  • Bolivar – Marie Arana
  • The Spanish-American Revolutions – John Lynch
  • Francisco de Miranda – Karen Racine
  • For Glory and Bolivar: The Remarkable Life of Manuela Saenz – Pamela Murray
  • Simon Bolivar – John Lynch
  • Writings of Simon Bolivar
  • Bolivar – JL Salcedo-Bastardo
  • The United States and the Independence of Latin America – Arthur Whitaker
  • The General in His Labyrinth – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Jose Antonia Paez – RB Cunninghame Graham

Rome

  • Scipio Aemillianus – AE Astin
  • The Civil War – Caesar

There’s also a baseball section, but I think that’s beyond my interests.

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Citizens by Simon Schama

18370354716_2I think there are a few ways one can approach the French Revolution.  One is a biographical focus on the main characters – Schama does not do this, although he does cover Lafayette and Talleyrand in some detail.  Another is to deal with it thematically – Schama does not do this, although he deals with themes as and when they show up in the narrative.  Another still is do give a blow by blow account of the Revolution – this, for me, is what Schama does (the book is even subtitled ‘A Chronicle of the French Revolution‘).

It isn’t a light book.  Schama’s background leads him to show a particular focus on art.  The work of Jacques-Louis David is ever present.  And this pads out the book to an extreme length with detailed descriptions of the art and culture of the Ancien Regime and the Revolution.  The benefit of this is that one gets a feel for the atmosphere, the motives and the aesthetics of the participants.  The downside is that this isn’t necessarily an easy introduction to the topic – with action dispersed among lengthy commentaries on art. particularly in the early part of the book.  Some institutions just seem to pop up, while others are given solid explanations.

Another uneasy thing here for an introduction is Schama’s judgement on the Revolution.  He thinks it was a lot of violence, horror and disruption to very little benefit.  He might reluctantly admit that the focus on rights changed the direction of post-Revolutionary France, but it had little positive material benefit.  With all this focus on the personal loss and violence of the period 1789 to 1794, he doesn’t actually spent that long on the longer term effects of the revolution.  Never mind the revolutions of 1848, 1830 or Napoleon, he doesn’t even get to the Directory.

For all that, Schama does write very well and the sections on art and culture add something different, more visual, to the history of the revolution.  Maybe it doesn’t stand alone as an unbiased record, but there’s so much to the period that it would be hard to find a book of substance that does.  Perhaps, as Schama is currently on TV reworking an old Kenneth Clark BBC series, this could be thought of in similar terms as The French Revolution: A Personal View.

January in Podcasts

This month I have mostly confined my listening to some old favourites.

Hardcore History

Seemingly Dan Carlin has been looking for a way to up his output from two shows a year.  With Hardcore History shows now verging on six hours in length, it’s easy to see why it takes so long to prepare.  Carlin however wants to communicate with fans more regularly – I guess there’s only so many times you can respond “I’m working on it” on twitter.  Therefore we now have Hardcore History Addendum, in which he plans to carry out interviews or discuss short digressions that don’t find into the long digression that is the main show.

The first two of these are up: the first a comparison of the German armies within World War One and World War Two; the second an interview with Mike Duncan of History of Rome/Revolutions and the author of The Storm Before The Storm.  The first of these is a typically speculative HH topic, initially it sounded like it might get a bit military history focused for my taste but it curved back and largely centred on political influence.  The second is interesting.  Both podcasters are interested in Roman history and American politics and, despite any other differences they may have they, both remain dubious about comparing the US to the late Roman Republic.

History of Byzantium

I was actually a little behind here, as I wasn’t commuting into work for a few months so my listening habits fell away.  Robin Pierson has stopped at the end of Basil II’s reign, so that gave me time to catch up.  It’s a nice part to take as a block – Basil grew up under a series of regent generals, seeing his mother remarried then exiled, and experiences shocking palace coups.  As a young man he re-took the throne, then re-gained his powers and spent the later parts of his life crushing the Bulgarians (or so the propaganda would say).

Pierson is helped on the topic by historian Anthony Kaldellis – with a lengthy interview on his new book Streams of Gold, Rivers of Blood and many small segments broken up throughout the narrative.  The interview was very interesting and the book have made it onto my ‘to buy’ list (along with his Byzantine Republic from a previous interview).  Pierson is as level and patient as ever with some exciting but often confused material.

Revolutions

Mike Duncan continues his trek through the world of Revolutions, tackling the challenging world of 1848.  He’s switching between the many areas of interest: the revolution in France, German unity, the fragmented Austrian empire, and Italian independence.  This does mean that I enjoy some episodes more than others (I’m liking the budding class war of France). but Duncan excels at explaining how these are connected and how they are not.

The news from France sparks everything off, but Duncan stresses the difference between the Liberal “political question” of constitutions and who can or cannot vote and the “social question” of inequality and early socialism.  Meanwhile nationalism is raising its head and complicating matters.  I have read books and listening to podcasts on 1848 before – but they only ever focused on parts of it.  Despite the regional differences, the wide overview that Duncan provides really makes the whole thing come together.

 

The Road Not Taken by Frank McLynn

How Britain Narrowly Missed A Revolution

In the introduction to this book, McLynn refers to two other contemporary books on the same topic:  David Horspool’s The English Rebel and Edward Vallance’s A Radical History of Britain.  In these, Vallance took an optimistic stance, tracking a chain of progressive ideas through history and sees the rebellions and protests of British history as part of that; Horspool sees the rebellions as failures and often rooted in tradition.  McLynn tries to walk somewhere between these – he stresses that he isn’t a Marxist, but does find himself rooting for the underdog.

The book focuses on a few big movements: the Peasants Revolt in 1381 (and to a lesser extent Jack Cade’s revolt), the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536, the influence of the Levellers on Oliver Cromwell, the Jacobite rebellions (particularly 1745), the Chartists, and the General Strike of 1926.  The underlying question is why did these protests never turn into a true revolution?  The Glorious Revolutions is dismissed as a mere regime change, and Cormwell’s Protectorate as not radical enough.

One answer is the flexibility and, to be blunt, the dishonesty of the ruling class.  The Machiavellian talents of Henry VIII are shown off in the 1530’s, as he stalls and charms his way out a tricky military situation then stamps down on the rebels (McLynn portrays Henry as a brutal tyrant in the mould of the worst 20th century dictators – he’s not a fan).

The double dealing and outright lies of the General Strike are also covered in detail.  McLynn shows disdain for the gradualists of the Labour party like Ramsay McDonald and right wingers in the unions like J.H Thomas, who would let down and even work against the strikers.  The unreasonably hardline Conservative government of Baldwin, Churchill, F.E Smith and Joynson-Hicks also comes in for a bashing.  The characters are well drawn out.

Frank McLynn’s area of expertise (despite his long and varied list of biographies) is the Jacobites, and that part of the book probably feels the least obvious.  How revolutionary would Charles Stuart have been?  There were Jacobite followers of various kind and we are introduced to some (including some Tories) who sympathised with the working classes.

It could have been revolutionary in that sense, but it never really feels like a true overthrow of the system – this is true throughout the book.  What McLynn does or does not include lacks consistency, or (more generously) sometimes needs a little bit of imagination to see “what if?”.  In what he does cover, McLynn does trace a fascinating and personal history of near-revolutionary change in British history and attempts to explain what prevented it from sparking.  It’s more interesting than authoritative, but the portrayal of the personalities of the general strike alone make the book worth reading.

John Locke – beer tourist

John Locke

In 1683 John Locke fled into exile in Holland, after being connected to a scheme to assassinate Charles II.  While there he denied involvement or knowledge in such a plot and refused to implicate his friends.  His excuse, which amuses me, was that he was simply in Holland because he preferred the beer!  It seems pretty plausible to me.

(Unfortunately, I haven’t actually been able to find a primary source for that; it was mentioned in the introduction of my Penguin Classics’ collection of his Political Writings, and I have found mention elsewhere online.  Annoyingly many of his letters have been collected by a fellow called E.S de Beer, so google searches have been pretty difficult.  The man did seem to know his beer – as noted in this beer blog, with John Locke organising various types of British ale into categories.)

 

History of Modern France by Jonathan Fenby

51hzPxe5euL._SX323_BO1204203200_[1]I got this book in the lead up to the French presidential election, and although it sat on the “To Read” pile until after Macron’s victory, I was hoping to pick up a sense of the forces involved in that election.  The French presidential election seems increasingly like a free for all with a baffling number of candidates; hardy perennials that turn up each time, and spin offs from the main parties.  I have tried to get an understanding of France before, with Graham Robb, but was just even more lost in the number of regions, subcultures, personalities and quirks of history that make up the country.  To misquote De Gaulle: how can you understand a country which has two hundred and forty-six varieties of cheese?

This history starts with a quick review of Napoleon and the Revolution before taking the reader chronologically through French history.  Starting with the Restoration and July Monarchy (which I was vaguely familar with from histories of the 1848 revolutions), on to Napoleon III (similar), then the Third Republic between the Franco-Prussian and First World War (my prior knowledge began and ended with the Dreyfus Affair), then on to the Second World War and the Fourth Republic, before reaching the Fifth Republic that exists today.  The tone of the book is straight faced and to the point, but the pacing is quick and it is remarkably accessible.  Single page biographical asides are dotting throughout the book, adding some colour.

Some parts that were initially obscure to me before reading remain clouded (the presidents and prime ministers of the third republic for instance); but Fenby has helped me rationalise that.  Lack of stability has often been a feature of France, as politics becomes fragmented and discontent with the system grows.  Fenby finds this tension running throughout the history, not just between left and right, but between shades of the left or the right.  Under exceptional leaders like De Gaulle or Mitterrand, these can be unified, but eventually the same tensions rise again.

Many of the candidates for the recent election feature in the book, but Macron possibly the least of them – relegated to a footnote on the PS picking an investment banker as an economic minister.  The conclusion to the book does stress the need for some innovation in French politics, a move away from the entrenched party politics and old battles, but it is not clear that Macron is that move.  With the elections for the French parliament coming up and Macron’s new party polling well, it will be interesting to see where things go from here.

Going Dutch by Lisa Jardine

If you’ve ever (as an english speaker) listened to someone speaking dutch, you might be surprised to find much common links between the two countries.  In the 17th century however, there was a huge crossover of ideas and culture – eventually culminating in William of Orange taking the British throne.  Lisa Jardine argues in Going Dutch that William’s Glorious Revolution was more of a hostile military occupation than the standard portrayal.  William brought tens of thousands of men, his personal guard patrolled the streets of London.  He was easily assimilated however, because of a long recent history of shared culture between the two nations.

Jardine goes through each aspect of this shared culture in detail – letters and collaboration between scientists, taste in artwork, styles of landscaping gardening, and the roles of prominent families like the Huygens family.  The detail is fascinating, if often overwhelming, occasionally repetitive and sometimes over-reliant on the aforementioned Huygens family (and on Robert Hooke, who Jardine had also written a biography of).

I did  have a few other issues with the book, the tone suggests a groundbreaking change in how we should view the Glorious Revolution but the actual content is much more grounded.  While the extent of the  dutch connection might be forgotten, I’m not sure anyone really believes William’s propaganda as fact.  The subtitle “How England Plundered Holland’s Glory” is also over the top, and not really justified by the content of the book.

Ignoring this, it’s an enjoyable overview of cross-channel culture during the 17th century.  There’s plenty to enjoy and it does point towards art, architecture*, landscape and more for anyone wanting to explore their dutch heritage.

 

*It reminded me of this documentary by Jonathan Meades, which investigates the same topic with a slightly different tone.

Post 63: History of Rome/Revolutions Fundraiser

With the ease that the internet allows, many people who run blogs or podcasts (even very good ones) will be amateurs making the most of their spare time. However, time can be limited and running things can cost money – so podcasts will sometimes consider ways to raise funds. Some of these methods work better than others, but there’s plenty of room for inventiveness.

Some like the History of Byzantium podcast may sell occasional special episodes. Others like Hardcore History may sell large parts of their back catalogue (at a fairly decent price too, given the length – they’re worth checking out). Many like David Crowther’s History of England podcast, may just have an option for donations. Peter Adamson at the History of Philosophy gets a grant. And some like The History of Iran podcast are even funded via Kickstarter.

Continue reading Post 63: History of Rome/Revolutions Fundraiser