Great perspective on why the Civil War was fought. I have come to the conclusion, despite all the protestations of the South, that this war was fought...moreGreat perspective on why the Civil War was fought. I have come to the conclusion, despite all the protestations of the South, that this war was fought solely about slavery. The price in blood was required of this country for the longstanding sin of slavery.(less)
This is a fascinating account of Sir Isaac Newton and the times in which he lived. This account is accessible to the non-mathmatical student of histor...moreThis is a fascinating account of Sir Isaac Newton and the times in which he lived. This account is accessible to the non-mathmatical student of history amd is primarily concerned with the events that shaped the world's view of Newton's genius.
Throughout his life, Newton was embroiled in numerous controversies, many of his own making. Though each rift and rivalry is dealt with separately, it must be remembered that Newton dealt with each almost at the same time and dispatched each with the cunning of genius.
Newton cannot be viewed outside of the times that produced him and it now unimaginalbe to us the magnitude of his discoveries. What we now learn in primary school, even though we may not understand the mechanics wis first thought, or revealed to Newton. A great read, though heavy with repetition as the author presents each controversy.
"A secret art my soul requires to try, If prayers can give me, what the wars deny. Three crowns distinguish'd here in order do Present their objects to my knowing view. Earth's crown, thus at my feet, I can disdain, Which heavy is, and, at the best, but vain. But now a crown of thorns I gladly greet, Sharp is the crown, but not so sharp as sweet. The crown of glory that I yonder see Is full of bliss and eternity." Eikon Basilike
Early biographers attributed the above the Sir Isaac. Although he was not the author, it provides a glimpse of his world view as a child, which did not change throughout his eighty years.(less)
This book provides an authoritative depiction of every segment of life in Renaissance Europe. From the peasant to the Pope in Rome, Manchester relates...moreThis book provides an authoritative depiction of every segment of life in Renaissance Europe. From the peasant to the Pope in Rome, Manchester relates in detail how people lived, almost unchanging, for a thousand years. I highly recommend this book to anybody wanting an introduction to the medieval period. It is well written and informative, presenting ideas and situations you may not have considered.(less)
Partway through this epic American narrative, describing the years between 1932 and 1972, I have two main impressions. The first is described by the a...morePartway through this epic American narrative, describing the years between 1932 and 1972, I have two main impressions. The first is described by the aphorism "the more things change, the more they stay the same." The second is a new take on Karl Marx's philosophy on winning hearts and minds and going communist; "Two steps forward and one step back." Before I embark on the themes, I will give a little of an overview of volume I.
Opening with a discussion of the Depression and the failure of Hoover policies, he segues into the election of FDR in 1932. Brushing upon all the major points, the Depression, the New Deal, WWII, the Manhattan Project, Truman, Korea, and finally Eisenhower, the first volume ends in 1954 with the entangling alliances that led to Viet Nam and the defeat of the French in Dien Ben Phu.
In addition to covering the political strategies and tactics used in creating and combating the main events, he presents interesting vignettes about the social climate and ties in how it influences the policies of each era. While reading, Manchester sparked my interest in a number of areas about which I know little and have decided to read more about. These include:
Amelia Earhart and her disappearance. Manchester made the assertion that the government at the time not only suspected the Japanese had a hand in her death, he seemed to indicate that everybody thought that. My only recollection is that her disappearance was always a mystery.
The Hurricane that wiped out the northeast as events in Europe were heating up really intrigued me. Apparently, the news about the devastation made the headlines for a couple of days and was lost to history, washed aside by the fall of Czechoslovakia.
Orson Welles' War of the Worlds is well known, but the impact it had on the populace is astounding. I think I will read more of that. I remember one Halloween listening to a rebroadcast of the show and I was afraid even knowing it was a "hoax" back when first portrayed.
The Manhattan Project and the development of the atomic bomb and the subsequent hydrogen bomb was very interesting, pointing out how little I know about that part of our history.
As far as the grand themes go, the first is in comparison to the 21st Century political situation. The politics of left and right seem not to have changed very much. The leftist elitists are always smarter (as in more nuanced) than their straight forward, backwater rightist counterparts. It is hard to tell where Manchester sits, but he seemed to be a little to the left of center in general in his assessments of the policies, although he was fair in describing the failures of the New Deal. He did however toe the Democrat view of the Forgotten Man. He, and FDR, describe the forgotten man as the poor working class schlub who needs hand. The real forgotten man is the person whose money is taken, by those who know better (FDR) and given to the poor working class schlub, the taxpayer in essence.
This philosophy is being replayed today with the rise of the takers at the expense of the producers. The class warfare pitting the elite "Ruling class" against the "Country class" is at the core of Obamacare. It is interesting to note that socialized medicine has always been the goal of the left, which brings me to my second theme of "two steps forward, one step back." The best way to get a radical agenda passed is to push really hard for something impossible, then accept a minor concession to get you one step closer to your goal.
Taking the idea a step further, I picture the country as being trapped in a whirlpool. In 1789 traversing the edge of the vortex was barely noticeable, but the ship of state since then has constantly been circling the drain. At some points, the country seems to be on track and things seem to be going well, but we are drifting ever downward in ever shortening rotations. The problems are coming ever faster and it is more impossible every cycle to even conceive of a way out. While our forefathers may not have perceived the dilemma, we can see that we are stuck and destined for destruction, but cannot even see rest of the surface of the water and have no hope of ever reaching it again. (less)