SPQR—a book for the masses

Once upon a time I cut my teeth reading historians like Scullard, Cary and Gibbon. They were good chaps, in their own way, but their time is beginning to wane. We might well say when Byron falls, Rome falls and when Rome falls—the world, but the stuffy old professor approach to classics is finally making … Continue reading SPQR—a book for the masses

Mary Queen of Scots—Great Film

Go see Mary Queen of Scots. See it for the acting, see it for the history, see it for the Gaidhlig and, most importantly, see it for the unique story it tells. Even if you know what happens, the way they tell it is profound. Very few stories have the message this one does, and … Continue reading Mary Queen of Scots—Great Film

How Braveheart and Dead Poets Society tell the same story

They couldn’t be more different if they tried, right? Pikes and kilts and killing the English who invade their land, what could that have that’s similar to sitting around a posh boarding school and wanting to be in a play? And yet, when we get down to it, they tell essentially the same story. Rather … Continue reading How Braveheart and Dead Poets Society tell the same story

Hereward—Bourne Again

How have I not heard of this guy until well into my twenties? I’d like to think after a history degree and a lifetime’s interest in all things historical, I’d know all the key players in the time periods I was interested in. Apparently not. Que James Wilde, and his desire to bring Hereward to … Continue reading Hereward—Bourne Again

Re-watching Rome—the knife-edge of history

“But let us turn to the different, but equally grave, plight of the modern historian… knowing more and more about less and less, sunk without trace in an ocean of facts.” A little while ago I made a post about appreciating the layman when it comes to history. I basically said they’re great at getting … Continue reading Re-watching Rome—the knife-edge of history

Mulan—what a great film

You know, it’s kinda funny talking about the Disney film Mulan. To anyone older than say thirty-five, it’s a kid’s film so why would you watch it? To anyone in their teens now, you’ve grown up with 3D animation so spectacular, what’s the point of cartoons? But to those of us in between, those of … Continue reading Mulan—what a great film

Machiavelli—Long may he REIGN!

"It is much safer to be feared than loved" Perhaps his most famous line. Why stop there though? "for a man who wishes to act entirely upon his professions of virtue soon meets with what destroys him among so much that is evil."   "It is necessary to be a fox to discover the snares … Continue reading Machiavelli—Long may he REIGN!

History: if you want the crux of it, ask a layman

I like studying history, I really do. I'm one of those people who thinks an hour long lecture on the finer points of Roman politics sounds interesting, at least most of the time. But there's something I learned from being saturated with all these details and conflicting academic perspectives: the key issues are often pretty … Continue reading History: if you want the crux of it, ask a layman

Baudolino—when good writers lose the plot

Have you ever heard of Baudolino? Probably not. How about Umberto Eco—you know, the guy who wrote The Name of the Rose? Baudolino is another of his books though less well-known, and for good reason, it sucks. But The Name of the Rose was such a good book—it even became a movie (the sign of … Continue reading Baudolino—when good writers lose the plot

Studying history is like learning a new language

The two biggest mistakes you can make learning a new language or studying history are thinking, "They're exactly like me," and, "They're nothing like me." It's so natural to drift between these two extremes in both scenarios and yet I think that the more we're conscious of our tendency to think in this way, the … Continue reading Studying history is like learning a new language