Well read audible, a history of the women of the "women's institute" which was actually a pacifist organization, and how it served the women left behiWell read audible, a history of the women of the "women's institute" which was actually a pacifist organization, and how it served the women left behind as their sons and husband's went off to war. They decided that while they could not 'support the war' they could support the nation during a time of war by maximizing food production, mending soldier's clothing, take care of those displaced by the war, etc. In addition it educated women with limited previous education in ideas related to "home science, home economics, etc" and opened up their minds to ideas of culture and art, etc., and basically created "support groups" for women who were often isolated from each other geographically on farms, etc., or by British ideas of social hierarchy -- all of which the organization overcame in service to a great good ...more
This book is history written as fiction (not to be confused with historical fiction), where the author not only covers the history of the events leadiThis book is history written as fiction (not to be confused with historical fiction), where the author not only covers the history of the events leading up to the British withdrawal from India, but it includes a large quantity of information obtained from personal letters, Biographies written by the loved ones of the famous people, Autobiographies etc., so that By the end of this book you feel you know the people, not just the events. If your knowledge of Gandhi was holy defined buy Hollywood movies and the American civil rights movement, you're going to have a radically different opinion of him (by the end he was a bit of a wacko). With regards to the Mountbatten's, all I really knew about him was that he had been involved in India and assassinated by Irish terrorists, and I had not known anything about her till I read the book. He and his wife were actually incredibly interesting people.
If you exclude the later sections of the book which include depressing and highly detailed descriptions of atrocities met by Hindus on Muslims, and by Muslims on Sheikhs etc. etc., this is actually a highly entertaining book. The author really does go in the ethnic cleansing atrocities in horrifying detail, and, unfairly in my thinking, lays the blame SOLELY on the British policy of divide and rule; he claims that populations had lived together in a utopian peaceful coexistence before India was colonized, but that by the end, this method of rule had led to such mutual hatred that millions of brutal killings were inevitable. ...more
This was a very good book, I really enjoyed it. There are so many reviews on this best seller that's soon to be a movie that I'm not going to bother sThis was a very good book, I really enjoyed it. There are so many reviews on this best seller that's soon to be a movie that I'm not going to bother saying more than I really enjoyed it. I "listened" to the reading by Scott Brick offered by Amazon with the kindle version. ...more
While this book has valuable things to offer, recognize that it's jingoistic (it is utterly devoid of any sort of critical analysis of Korean society,While this book has valuable things to offer, recognize that it's jingoistic (it is utterly devoid of any sort of critical analysis of Korean society, other than point out the obvious and therefore safe things to criticize, such as Korea's suicide rate, changing status of women, etc.) and the reader should therefore take it with a massive grain of salt -- in that respect, however, its also highly educational with regards to learning about various aspects of Korean culture.
This book is unabashedly pro-Korean book. Its reflective of the sort of 'the Japanese miracle' books that used to dominate the bookstores of airports 20 years ago, aimed at the business traveler, but that you haven't seen since their economic bubble burst. The Japanese have gotten much more self-reflective in that time, and by extension US authors writing about them are now free to publish the critical thoughts about Japan they used to exchange in private, but would never be so bold/self-destructive as to try to put in print -- since most of the publishers of those books were owned by or had a strong economic dependency on the Japanese.
One way you can be sure that this is book is biased towards the Korean pro-nationalist crowd is from its telling of Korean history. There are to my experience two concurrent tales regarding Korea, the one told by hard core historians who have actually studied the documentation of the various periods, and those who's knowledge of Korea is passed more from father to son as a form of myth, or via popular media (designed to make the viewer feel proud of themselves). This is a bit like those Americans who honestly believe that it was Paul Revere and he alone to who warned of the British, and that George Washington won all or even most of the battles he fought during the war, and that the French had no impact on American independence. Unfortunately Americans who believe the above constitute the majority of Americans, and the same pattern plays true here in Korea. The history of Korea as written by historians, particularly modern ones who don't live in Korea and don't have to appeal to Korean nationalism if they want to maintain their jobs, tends to be a lot more critical of Korea's past and near present than the story shared in this book.
After its discussion of Korean history, the book begins with Korean Shaminism, or Musok-in. I am by trade a cultural anthropologist, and Korean shaminism as described is completely consistent with shaminism in many other cultures (Bali for instance). Traditionally, those whom Western culture would diagnose as schizophrenics used to be 'rehabilitated' if you will as shamans -- those to whom the gods spoke (hence hearing voices, possibly with the demand of obsessive compulsive requirements to prove their worthiness). Some utilize mushrooms to achieve the state, as is still true for the Native American church's road-men in the US, who utilize peyote. The author in describing Korean shaminism includes all of these elements, what I'm saying is that there is nothing at all unique or even in any way odd about how it is practiced here.
The relationship that Korean shamanism has with Buddhism is not unique to Korea either, although the book might lead you to think that. In fact practically all Buddhist countries exhibit the sort of side by side relationship with shamism seen here (as described in the book), be it Japan or Tibet or anyplace in-between. Nor is the presence of the Confucian influence (which as the book noted is present in almost all the countries that were influenced by China). What's somewhat unique is the social hierarchies that resulted as the three religions (although technically Confucianism is a philosophy) shook out who their followers were. I've never heard that being discussed in the context of other cultures, as in I don't think (but could be wrong) it happened outside of Korea.
The fourth religion discussed in Xtianity. Probably the most interesting aspect is that in Korea its initial presence was not the result of foreign missionaries but rather Koreans who converted abroad and then came home to proselytize. Also, there is some very interesting discussion of how the 'believing in Christ will make you rich' variety of Xtianty seems to be the dominant strain here, and how it therefore connects to shaministic practices, and plays a part not only in business but in politics. ...more
Quite readable, although a bit rushed and broad brushed, so that I found myself having to backup and re-read chapters a few times in order to wrap myQuite readable, although a bit rushed and broad brushed, so that I found myself having to backup and re-read chapters a few times in order to wrap my brain around it (I'm not good at just remembering facts, I need to be able to identify underlying patters or currents to see how those facts fit a story or pattern -- which made this lack of detail a bit frustrating for me).
The author starts out saying he assumes you have no background in Korean history, but then because of the broad strokes I got the feeling that he was expecting me to fill in the missing details with my own previous knowledge. I think he's sort of FORCED into doing this because a lot of what is historically true runs smack into what Koreans believe is true, and by the norms of Korean culture talking about it directly is therefore impolite -- and these things should not be talked about. I should note I"m basing this on what my college age Korean students tell me, and from talking to them I've learned most of what they know about their own history is from historical movies, TV dramas, etc... which is, just as in the states, a bit distorted; very few of them have ever taken a class on Korean history or cracked open a history book. Fewer still watch the news or read newspapers, so their sense of their own history is predominately from entertainment shows. This puts the author (who is Korean) between a rock and hard place... what is acceptable to the emotionally sensitive Korean brain that has only ever heard things that are flattering to the Korean viewer's sense of self (nationalistic belief), and what is in fact historically true.
I do not come to this book with a blank slate. I've already (before reading this book) from my various students (I teach at the University level) Korean, Chinese, etc., picked up bits of history and had numerous chances to visit a bunch of historical sites both in Seoul and around the peninsula. I had also already developed a distinct sense of a massive disconnect between Korean history as Koreans describe it to me and what I heard about their history from the Chinese, Japanese, etc. Also, if you have since I already have a preexisting knowledge of Chinese and Japanese history (I studied both in college), the more I listened to Koreans talking about their own history the more the pieces just didn't seem to fit.
Therefore, having now lived in Korea for a year and a half -- and having developed a bit of my own prejudices about the stories I was being 'taught' by my hosts, I figured it was time to actually read up on Korean history from what seemed to be authoritative sources.
One of the nice things about this book, from my perspective as someone who studied history a lot (I can teach US history no problem, and can do justice to an overview course on European or Asian history), is that the author makes a point of trying to show where the historical record often does NOT jive with how Korean nationalism has chosen to revise its past to meet current political needs. He discusses where Koreans tend to view certain historical results as inevitable (think preordained) when they were far from it, and shows where they judge their past unfairly with current ideas about political nationalism (which any historian will tell is you is an idea very much of the modern age). He also in his discussion of the Japanese occupation says a lot of things that to my ears rings as far more likely to be true than the narrative I'm used to hearing from Koreans, but which I'm sure will greatly offend most them (in that as previously stated they do NOT jive with the nationalistic narrative). To put it bluntly, according to the author, becoming part of the Japanese empire was viewed by about half or more of the population as the lessor of inevitable two evils, as the other option was to have western/white overlords (Keep in mind that this was the period of the rapid colonization of all of Asia by Europeans... which the exception of Japan which had just exhibited its military prowess by beating the Russians). While the author does not mince words when it comes to the atrocities that began with and then accelerated during WWII, his descriptions of life in the Japanese dominated peninsula BEFORE the war started may cause Koreans to become 'reactive' at best.
Also he diminishes the importance of many Korean heroes of that period as having been essentially NOT influential to any ultimate outcomes, but argues that their deeds were "amplified' after the war as Koreans desperately tried to construct a war-time stance they could be proud of. (Not unlike what one sees in how the French tell their history of WWII.) And that in fact, these figure heads were brought in from outside of Korea and as such were representatives of the Allied forces that had 'liberated' Korea, rather than of the Koreans themselves. (North Korea ends up under Russian communist hegemonic influence, the South to the Americans.) This in turn resulted in a period of intense politics as Korean went from Japanese domination to domination but US and Russian forces who had even less understanding of Korean culture than the Japanese had had, and that ultimately resulted in the Korean war.
The author does ultimately make a good argument for how this period of relying on, and or trusting in, the Japanese to protect them -- only to find themselves betrayed, which was then followed by a different sort of western colonization, resulted in the strong nationalistic tendencies (and tendency to blame everyone but themselves of any and everything wrong in Korea, or its history)that is evident among Koreans today.
Going back a bit, Koreans (here in Korea) tend to reject the strong historical and cultural ties that exist between themselves and Japan historically, preferring to see Japan simply as aggressors.
This book on the other hand discusses how one of Korea's three kingdoms had very strong ties with Japan and hints that the Japanese royal family may have originated in Korea and at the very least were deeply influenced by the Paekach kingdom. Keeping that in mind, the choice of many Korean intellectual and power elites to turn to Japan, as a preferable overlord to the western powers during the colonial period, is far more understandable. The Author goes on to suggest that this in turn may not have been (in retrospect) the worst choice when the post WWII results are considered in their totality -- and of course if you choose to simply forget the atrocities of the war. He (BRIEFLY) points out that a lot of the companies that are Korea's pride and joy today got their start during the Japanese period, and profited greatly from those collaborative connections during the post war period when the Japanese economy was at its strongest. From the modern nationalistic Korean perspective, however, the 1/2 that had supported the Japanese are now being viewed as traitors who betrayed Korea and/or Japanese-collaborators by the 1/2 who never had agreed with inviting in any colonial power -- and they choose to not think about any benefits to modern Korea's economy accrued as a direct result of that period.
In the author's mind however this does not forgive the Japanese behaviors during the war which went from one of allowing a high level of cultural freedom in Korea, even allowing them to develop and codify the Korean alphabet, and language as an outlet for the tensions of colonization ... to then doing a full about face in 1940 and forcing Korean school child to speak Japanese, attend Japanese shrines, bow to the emperor, etc... and for the populace to be forced into giving up their ancestral Korean names in favor or Japanese ones, etc.. nor does he in any way forgive the forced labor, comfort women, etc.
That said, its a good guess on my part that most (less enlightened) Koreans who would read this history would be SO offended by some of what he had to say about the war that none of this last part would matter to them. Its my guess that a lot of Koreans would probably hate this book.
Likewise, while modern Koreans like to claim almost every part of their own culture as being Korean in origin. This book/author makes a pretty good argument for showing how Koreans -- back before any notion of a modern Korean state existed (before the modern notion of nationalism) -- happily adopted everything it could from China, and integrated those ideas into what is now 'Korean culture.' And how that even back then, Korean leaders would point to various thing that were obviously imported and declare them to be uniquely Korean. Again, I doubt most of the Koreans I work with on daily basis, would appreciate this author's (who is a Korean American himself, let's not forget) interpretation of their history; however, based on every academic review I've read, this is considered an authoritative telling of it.
Read this after reading his book on the history of Cod; be warned, there is a lot of repetition between the two books (as salt is used for preservingRead this after reading his book on the history of Cod; be warned, there is a lot of repetition between the two books (as salt is used for preserving fish). He does however make a strong argument about how you can trace a direct correlation between the rise of major cities and the presence of salt mines, or some way of making salt (and by the end of this book you'll know almost every method and its pro's and cons). Also some of his discussion of the importance of salt in various early civilizations, such as China, and various revolutions and wars (including US wars) is very interesting, but then it starts to feel incredibly repetitive and its hard for my brain to keep track of what he's talking about.
Also, you can't talk about salt without talking about food. As a result, I now know more about fish pastes from around the world than I ever wanted to know; and am intimately aware of how different sorts of cheese are made, with some explanation of almost all of the 250 different types in France and why each ends up unique (which apparently has more to do with where they are and what the producers have to work with than any attempt to be unique)... and how both products depend on salt. I also now know all about 'salted cabbage' be it sauerkraut or Kimchi/chinese salted cabbage. Also, just like in the other book, the author loves throwing in ancient recipes, ad nauseum. I listen to my books (via Kindle) rather than read -- I've got vision issues in my old age, which means I can't just jump over these and it gets a bit boring hearing about the recipes.
I also now know why when flying into the SF bay area the south bay looks red... something I've always wondered about.
Interesting book (I've actually read it twice, about 2 years apart), who knew that cod was so central to the history of western Europe and North AmeriInteresting book (I've actually read it twice, about 2 years apart), who knew that cod was so central to the history of western Europe and North America.
The book makes an argument I'd never heard before that Basques from Spain had been coming to North America regularly before Columbus ever got here, but never declared it cause they didn't want anyone else pouching their fishing grounds (apparently when the first British got here they even commented on all the Basque ships, but since they had never formally declared the ground for Spain -- why would they? -- the British declared it for themselves).
It then goes through the whole history of nations that rose on the back of cod, and how eventually almost every location that had been rich in cod was over-fished practically to extinction, and how there are no longer enough cod in those waters to support fishermen, even if they were allowed to fish them. How the Fisherman (who don't want to give up fishing as a profession, because they love it) refuse to realize and or accept this...
Almost every chapter begins with a cod recipe, and then the book finishes off with a large selection of fish recipes -- the last chapter is almost ALL cod recipes ...more
The author shares her exhaustive research into tulip-mania and debunks it. On one hand the points are interesting, but the exhaustive detail turns itThe author shares her exhaustive research into tulip-mania and debunks it. On one hand the points are interesting, but the exhaustive detail turns it into a slog at times as you wade through the lives of the people who were involved in the investment bubble, and their motivations. The author however does do a good job of making you understand how times were different, and what these flowers meant to the collectors. Tulips at the time fell into the same category as works of art (the whole concept of growing a garden of flowers was a relatively new thing, and tulips were an import from Asia and therefore not unlike orchids today). The mania was that of the collector of things rare and beautiful, only with a tulip what bloomed one year might not pop up the next year looking the same, and when the bulb splits the 'child' might not resemble the parent, which created all sorts of problems between buyers and sellers. Additionally a community that had been built utterly on trust (dutch cities had been organized into social subsets based on high trust relationships) were shifting at this same time to one of commodities and contracts, and the reordering of the social structure that made people uncomfortable. While people did get hurt in the crash, no one actually went bankrupt who hadn't already shown a tendency towards economic irresponsibility, and the whole affair was ultimately overblown and distorted.
However, that said, the book does tend to ramble on, I think she could have made the argument just as well with 1/2 the pages...more