Wow, I'd never read a history written in a narrative style like this before. So, to me, this style of history is fresh and fun. 'Hearing' the personagWow, I'd never read a history written in a narrative style like this before. So, to me, this style of history is fresh and fun. 'Hearing' the personages from my history classes and traditional histories speak in their own voices, or what we can assume must be close facsimiles of them, really brings the whole history to life and makes them much easier to relate to. The author has done a fine job of making a relatively dry and easily overlooked period of history visceral, poignant, and empathetic to the jaded, apathetic modern audience.
(I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.)...more
Very good read. Superbly researched, well paced, with a clear thesis and support for that thesis. But it reads as more than simple history, though DiaVery good read. Superbly researched, well paced, with a clear thesis and support for that thesis. But it reads as more than simple history, though Diane Preston proves again that she's a superlative historian. She also has a fine understanding of storytelling. The individuals she expands on gave the narrative just the right touch, elevating this work from that simple history to a story with human personality. The diary excerpts and personal correspondence the author includes made a nice counterpoint to the newspaper accounts to gauge public reaction to the events taking place. My only quibble was that there were so many of them clumped together in some places, and felt a little like page filler. That aside, this was no snore-inducing history class assigned piece you have to force yourself to push through. The author has identified a fascinating coincidence of history, a 6 week span in which war changed. And in that change was born some of humanity's modern understanding of relevant topics in the news today (terrorism, morals of warfare, et al). I enjoyed every page and gained a new understanding of the evolution of the concepts touched upon.
(I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.)...more
First thing to understand is that this focuses on northern European examples, and those from the bronze age to roughly the 14th century. Do not expectFirst thing to understand is that this focuses on northern European examples, and those from the bronze age to roughly the 14th century. Do not expect non-European, or even southern European, content.
It provides lots of detailed descriptions of bladed weapons from the stated time period; so if you're looking for that sort of thing, it's right up your alley. More interesting to me, between the descriptions, was Oakeshott's take on the history surrounding the weapons, the cultural history; particularly his understanding and explanations of the relationship between the weapons and the men who carried them, why they carried them, how they identified with them, how they served as personal, social, and cultural tools and icons, and how these weapons effected cultural history long after they'd been laid down. His sections on swords is robust, though somewhat lacking considering axes, daggers and blunt weapons.
Oakeshott's style is a little stodgy compared to popular norms; but we continuing students of history have experienced far, far worse. I'd suggest it for anyone with an already informed understanding of the period and is looking for some sharp (excuse the pun) detail into this facts of the time and culture involved. For those just delving into an interest in the evolution of weapons, I'd suggest one of the many survey books available before diving into this one. ...more
Great survey volume for those who already have a grip on historical and archaeological practices and terminology. Not a volume for those with no priorGreat survey volume for those who already have a grip on historical and archaeological practices and terminology. Not a volume for those with no prior interest or study of history outside of high school. If a reader is just beginning to wonder about ancient Egyptian history, they should hold off reading this and pick up a few of the basic historical atlases first to acclimate and educate themselves on some of the ways we've deduced the knowledge collected in this book. Diving right into this book without some preparatory reading will probably bore those casually interested in the subject. Examples of what to read before this would be "The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Civilizations" or "The New Penguin Atlas of Ancient History". They'll prime a beginner for the greater depth and focus offered in this excellent survey. ...more
Four stars for ease of read and summarizing of inscriptions so that those who aren't full blown scholars can understand what they mean, while includinFour stars for ease of read and summarizing of inscriptions so that those who aren't full blown scholars can understand what they mean, while including the inscription for those of us who are more than casually interested and want to make our own inferences of the texts. It lost one star for the dated nature of SOME of the material and analysis. What you need to know is that by reading this volume you WILL have a strong understanding of Sumerian culture. Certainly there have been advances in our understanding of this culture in the last 40-50 years; but most of it is academic and little of it is available in popular, non-scholarly format. The casually interested will still benefit, while only those already expert in the subject may not.
Also realize that if you are looking for information on the day-to-day lives of the average "Sumerian", you probably won't find it here; but that's is due to the nature of the historical material we have. Inscriptions in stone and baked clay were made for mainly political and financial purposes, and not for chronicling the lives of Bob the Shoemaker or Ashesef the Baker. At the time of print, there was a great volume of material (clay tablets, inscribed stones and pottery) that had been discovered though not translated and studied yet. Even now there are boxes and boxes of material in dusty archaeology department storerooms that have yet to be examined. Kramer has included as many deductions concerning joe-blow Sumerian as had been made at the time of his writing, based on the limited judicial documentation found and interpreted up to that point. ...more
Outstanding examination on the origins of the Indo-European language family. I was fascinated by the history the author describes and by the logic heOutstanding examination on the origins of the Indo-European language family. I was fascinated by the history the author describes and by the logic he used to construct that history. The author uses detailed archaeological evidence to shed considerable light on the transition from strictly hunter-gatherer to settled life and the path western languages traveled along the way.
Whether the author is correct in his assertions is, of course, debatable; but his logic is sound, and his arguments thought provoking. He has also done his best to make his scholarly material digestible for general consumption, though some of the detailed descriptions of unearthed artifacts can make for some dreary reading. I should note that the book is primarily scholarly; but all of the material is made understandable to the layman, if unnecessary to understand the author's point. Anyone interested in the pre-dawn of human civilization, particularly western, should add this volume to their reading list. My only other quibble is with the way it fizzles at the end. I think it would benefit from a concise summation, and the authors thoughts on the continuing work on the subject and the future of the archaeological work the book draws upon.
I felt enlightened for having read this book and suggest it to anyone interested in ancient history, linguistics, or archaeology. I know that I now have a greater feeling of connection with the roots of my culture and those who share it, as well a more profound understanding of language for having read it....more