POC Blog

The random technotheolosophical blogging of Reid S. Monaghan

Surprised by History


This summer I have been a bit into some reading of history. For some time I have loved the history of ideas and how these flow from people in various political, social and economic contexts.  Good history is also something done by good story tellers - I have been blessed by both of late.  

Here are a few titles which have occupied my mind a bit over the last several months. I also have become somewhat addicted to the audio book reading of John Lee - very intoxicating.

Colossus: Hoover Dam and the Making of the American Century by Michael Hiltzik - this book was a fascinating look at the history of southwestern United States, water rights, the entrepreneurs and engineers who put blood, sweat, tears and political wrangling into the project to bring electrical power and water to the arid dessert.  Very good read that covers a broad history and range of subject.  Book and Audiobook

Empires of the Sea: The Siege of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto, and the Contest for the Center of the World by Roger Crowley - A wonderful read that focuses on the 16th century battles between the great Mediterranean sea powers of the Spanish and Ottomon Empires. The story of the Battle of Malta was unfamiliar to me and I am thankful that this deficit has now been remedied.  Book and Audiobook

Worlds At War: The 2,500-Year Struggle Between East and West by Anthony Pagden - Though a bit tainted by the author’s massive secular bias, this book nonetheless succeeds at covering a massive swath of history. It truly does traverse the entire 2500 years.  I really felt like the author had a naive and ignorant view of religion and the conclusion of the book was just weak and demonstrative of the lack of any real vision secularism offers today. It was worth the time to read; I particularly enjoyed the early histories involving Alexander the Great and the Persian empires. This book is also very long. Book and Audiobook

Lee: A Life of Virtue (The Generals) by John Perry - A short treatment of the life of Robert E. Lee with emphasis on his character and virtue as a leader.  This was my first book on Lee and I found it interesting and compelling enough for me to add two very long movies to our Netflix Queue :-) Book and Audiobook

The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade bySusan Wise Bauer - I enjoyed this much more than Pagden’s work as it did not carry the anti-religious baggage along the journey.  Bauer covers not only the typical western far but also the histories of Islamic empires and those ruling the lands of China, India and Japan.  Though the western histories are a bit more robust the breadth of the treatment of the time period was much appreciated.  Bauer is an English prof at the college of William and Mary and appears to be married to a minister. This showed in both her writing and lack of derogatory tone towards religious views. Also very long. Book and Audiobook

OK, that’s all for now - I’m off in search for my next read in history - love medieval and late medieval periods so I may land there.  

Any suggestions?