Weekly Web Links:
- How digital photography is helping to collect ancient cave art – some of the photos in here are absolutely stunning.
- When you typically think of Victorian photography what comes to mind? Is it the image of the dour family portrait where everyone is wearing the best (and most uncomfortable) clothes and no one is smiling? Well, new photographs suggest that those Victorians weren’t afraid to look silly in front of the camera from time to time.
- The impact on modern technology on the interpretation of cultures and artifacts of the past.
- A slab discovered in Russia may, in fact, be the world’s first sundial.
- The history of the super rich; a trip from ancient castles to the massive yachts and bejeweled grills of today.
- Right. So. Spiders. I’m certainly not a fan but this article on the symbolism of spiders throughout history is really quite cool. I mean, they’re still going to meet unpleasant ends it they show up in my house but I’ll acknowledge that they’re kinda cool first.
- The use of accessories as weapons for the women of the 20th Century. Short version? Don’t piss off a woman with a hat pin.
Historical Book Review for the Week:
Titans of History by Simon Sebag Montefiore
This collection of biographies covers the essential facts in the lives of over 180 major historical players featuring everyone from royalty and political leaders, to religious figures, to poets, writers, musicians, and revolutionaries. And, while it is obviously impossible for any one book to cover every significant figure throughout the whole of human history, the author does make what appears to be a conscious effort to cover every continent, every religion, and every political event with as much equality as possible and with a style as open and non-objective as possible.
One of the most interesting parts of reading this comes down to the chronological layout of the book as it is not going through each short life blurb but rather seeing these remarkable people as a collective. There were a number of overlaps which, while logically they should be expected, were often surprising and really highlighted the varying rates of progress which have occurred throughout human history across the vast expanse of the globe. In my head when I think about standout figures in history, I often picture them as occurring in a sequential order, one after another and this neat compartmentalization is obviously not how things actually work. One other aspect of history which was really emphasized while reading through it in this format was just how up and down life must have been for the regular folks. One ruler enforces a certain law, policy or belief; then their successor reverses it; then the next one reinstates it; then, if you’re lucky, you might have two or three leaders that stick to the concepts established by their predecessors but then the next one following them might come up with something completely new. It would be very difficult as a common person to keep in favor of the trends.
When I was considering this book I checked it out on amazon and one of the major criticisms I read of it was that, since each entry is only around 4-8 pages, there was no detail, depth, or analysis accompanying the entries and I do have to agree with that. With some of the better known individuals covered here there might not be much new information provided, however, with this many people discussed I would be very surprised if anyone could read through the whole book and not come across something they didn’t previously know.