Weekly Web Links:
- Great moments in science as they would have played out if twitter had been around at the time.
- Scientist arguments are the best arguments: was ‘hobbit man’ (Homo floresiensis) a modern human with Down’s Syndrome?
- Lessons from the last time civilization collapsed: how to avoid it and what to do when it inevitably happens.
- Look, I’m all for the historical … study … of ancient Roman orgies but perhaps breaking into Pompeii to recreate one isn’t the best plan?
- 200 year old alcohol was found in a shipwreck and it’s still drinkable. I find it somehow reassuring to know that booze will preserve longer than just about anything else.
- If you’re wanting to mix up your love life a bit, here are some 18th Century phrases of endearment. ‘How ugly you are’ seems particularly backhanded…
Historical Book Review for the Week:
Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone by Eduardo Galeano
Described as an ‘unofficial history of the world seen through history’s unseen, unheard, and forgotten’, this is a remarkable undertaking which aspires to provide insight into every imaginable aspect, time period, class, and region in the world’s history. While it is understandable that most books on history, whether they focus on one specific person or event or whether they provide a larger overview, focus on the major figures and events, it does mean that the vast majority of people, times, and occurrences are only briefly touched on in connection with these grander occurrences or else they are passed over completely. In this way, Eduardo Galeano has created a book which is remarkable for its uniqueness in covering everyone. Essentially, I feel that his approach to this is something along the lines of just because someone’s contribution to the world and its history wasn’t impactful doesn’t meant that it wasn’t important. In a way, this book touches on the hope that I think a large majority of people have which is that what they do matters and is making a difference even if they aren’t going down as one of the great, memorable, figures in history.
As much as I enjoy this book, I do have two small critiques of it:
- The entries are incredibly short – there are as many as three on a page, which means that they are brief overviews only which, while interesting, don’t provide as much detail as I would like. You really only get a taste of each person but to cover everyone who is in this book in detail would make for one massive tome of a read so I guess my arms appreciate that.
- In the attempt to cover so many people and groups in history, the book is forced to generalized ex) all black slaves who helped build the White House are one entry and, while they all would have shared aspects of that experience, there is no way that all of their lives were exactly the same.
To be fair with this second point, as we travel through history, there are a greater number of details and more individually specific entries as the historical record provides more information. It is entirely understandable that earlier entries coming from a time when the majority of the population was not preserved in records is forced to be generalized.
Overall, this is a fun read and the layout of the book is such that you can read an entry or two, move on to another book for a while, come back to this one, jump around through the entries, read it in whatever order you like, and finally take down a massive list of topics that you want to read about in greater detail later.