(Due to some events in my private life, this post is late and pulled out of my file of drafts)
Gui Minhai, a Chinese Suetonius who did not wait until his targets were safely dead, was disappeared in October 2015. In January 2016 he appeared on Chinese state TV to make a confession then vanished again.
A character sketch of Edward Luttwak, another of those curious American academics-cum-policymakers whom my readers may know for his Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire and Grand Strategy of the Bzyantine Empire.
A watercolour of Innsbruck in 1495 courtesy of Albrecht Dürer. He sat to sketch a little bit downstream from Conrad Seusenhofer’s house.
L. Sprague de Camp’s historical novels set in the Mediterranean between the fifth and the second centuries BCE have been reprinted in codex and ePub by Phoenix Pick. One of them imagines the events which might lie behind the very detailed description of an elephant in Aristotle; readers who enjoy stories about the gifting of large animals over long distance might enjoy reading up on the elephant Harun al-Rashid gave to Charlemagne, the elephants Nadir Shah sent to St. Petersburg for Emperess Anna of Russia, or the giraffe which Sultan Faraj of Egypt sent to Samurkand for Tamurlane.
Another scholarly book which might be useful to historical novelists: Pardon Letters in the Burgundian Low Countries (+XV).
The chaos in Libya is producing its own groups of masked men in black.
Hans Prunner Editore is offering 30% off the last of its books of beautiful detail photos of armour until the end of May 2016 or supplies run out (link).
A search and rescue agency suggests the best ways for someone to get killed hiking on the North Shore mountains of Vancouver.
I try not to quote professional sayers-of-outrageous-things on the grounds that it encourages them. That said, I feel a certain jolt of thauma to read that David Irving explained to a reporter that his career had been forseen by the object of his writing. On the same theme, Michael Shermer opined about a hominid find and inspired a specialist in the subject to politely but firmly disagree.
Josho Brouwers reminds us that the Classical Greek word hoplon means “gear” not “shield” except when it is being used very loosely. I think that poor Diodorus has sometimes been misunderstood, but that is a subject for another day …
Albert Einstein’s move to the US lead to a culture class between German and American attitudes to peer review, as David Kennefick describes in Einstein versus the Physical Review
At the time [circa 1841- ed.], most political reform and radicalism was built on the premises of romantic nationalism. It was taken for granted that the nation was the natural unit of politics, and even where political movements envisioned democratic governance, this was seen as secondary to the mysticism of the nation as a collective agency. The “nation” embodied biological descent, and required “unity” — conformity of language, faith, and custom. No European intellectual of the period, that I can find, valued diversity or felt that it was a good thing to combine different languages, faiths, or ethnicities into the same polity. It was seen as a defect that might have to be tolerated, but not as something of positive value. Promoters of empires considered diversity the weakness of their realms. Promoters of national independence envisioned their “liberated” states as culturally uniform units.
Lafontaine and Baldwin had come to the opposite conclusion, putting them into a different category from other reformers of the era. They explicitly advocated a multi-lingual, multi-ethnic, multi-religious state, held together by a commitment to share a political community without conformity. In their view, democracy and the rule of law formed an abstact framework of values that could allow freedom to prosper without needing any of the traditional defining features of nationhood. As they saw it, and stated explicitly, this diversity constituted a strength, not a weakness, just as they had found in their personal friendship. But this was not something that any significant number of intellectuals were advocating. The only available precedent was Switzerland, which had just gone through a civil war, and accomplished something similar with an intense compartmentalism. Europe would go on to more extreme and disastrous manifestations of Uniformitarianism.