Tags

, , , ,

A round, domed wicker shield with a spiked steel boss and a cloth-bound rim.  Three short scimilars hang behind it with their handles up and blades crossed at the middle.

A Turkish target and three Turkish scimitars from the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century in the second armoury, Schloss Ambras. Photo by author, October 2015.

(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.

In December 2015, Steven Payne made a pilgrimage on foot from Southhampton to Canterbury in fourteenth-century kit.

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).

A group of academics in the Netherlands have begun to x-ray the bindings of early printed books to read the clippings of manuscripts buried inside

How a physicist-turned-quant discovered what Clausewitz called friction and Xenophon the divine. (Minor proskynesis to 3quarksdaily).

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 …

Paul Bernard, who excavated Ai Khanum among other sites, has passed away.

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

Phil Paine writes about his reading in English, French and Middle English over the course of 2015. An example:

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.