Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Daily Life of the New Americans

10 August, 2016

I may have found a new series of books for my reading pleasure.

“Daily Life Of…” Greenwood Press. Seems to be like the Very Short Introduction series, around 150 pages, geared to a college freshman, well written by an expert.

Just finished Daily Life of the New Americans: Immigration since 1965 written by Christoph Strobel (2010).

 

 

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Calvin for Armchair Theologians

24 July, 2016

just finished “Calvin for Armchair Theologians”,  (previously I read “Reformation for the Armchair Theologian)…and I want to say I like this series. Much like the Very Short Introduction series, written by experts, for a lay audience. Makes me feel smart ‘n’ stuff.

 

 

Very Short Introduction: African American Religion

6 July, 2016

Once again, an well written book in the Very Short Introduction series, Eddie S. Glaude Jr’s “African American Relgion”.

A quick quote, from a Swedish traveler in ~1750, “It is …to be pitied, that the masters of these negroes in most of the English colonies take little care of their spiritual welfare, and let them live in Pagan darkness. There are even some, who would be very ill pleased at, and would by all means hinder their negroes from being instructed in the doctrines of Christianity; to this they are partly led by the conceit of its being shameful, to have a spiritual brother or sister among so despicable a people…”

Or course, it points me to others to read…so, on my ever growing list:

  • Jacquelyn Grant
  • James Cone
  • Delores Williams

The Boys in the Boat

21 May, 2016

The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel Brown, was a pleasure to read. Early Seattle history, exciting sports story – I was still nervous during the final race chapter, even though I knew who won! – and a bit of a shadow story of Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler’s genius filmmaker/propaganda, (which I’m more curious about her, but I don’t really want to study evil.)

Highly recommend.

Mormonism a Very Short Introduction

21 May, 2016

Once again, I really like the “Very Short Introduction” series.

Currently, I’m interested in the beginnings of religious traditions. And this case, there is plenty of primary source material. I do want to read more on Mountain Meadows Massacre, more on the US government’s war with the Mormons, more on the persecution that the early Mormon church faced.

 

The Reformation for Armchair Theologians

5 March, 2016

Glenn S. Sunshine, “The Reformation for Armchair Theologians” was a pretty fun read.

Sunshine does a good job of introducing the times and the personalities of the theologians. However, there was  a few chapters that to me, seemed like a military history, because, you know, princes were looking for reasons to kill each other…and the Reformation was a good reason. I didn’t enjoy these so much. I wanted to know what were the theologians and preachers and pastors doing while their flocks were killing each other. Not that I have anything against reading a military history, it’s just not what I wanted, and Sunshine is not the best military historian.

What I liked was Zwingli asking, “why are we selling Swiss blood to French kings” attacking the mercenary trade. The answers of “that’s a good question” and “hey, you’re cutting into our profit margin” only led to more violence.  Funny how to really understand the Reformation, you need to understand Swiss Canton politics.

I’m looking forward to reading other books in this series. (Did I mention it was a short read?)

 

Today

24 May, 2014

It’s past bedtime, but MrGrunty is singing “Sinking Deep” by Hillsong young & Free. The song he liked from last Sunday. It is so adorable to watch him learning the lyrics, and going around the house earlier today singing the melody. His favorite part is the bridge.

Today, MyBetterHalf’s little brother helped me on raised beds for a garden project I’ve been meaning to do for years.

Just finished “the Jesus Wars” by John Phillip Jenkins.
It was alright. Good to know that since the beginning, that Christians have argued, debated and fought over who Jesus is. But for me the best quote is the last sentence: “a religion that is not constantly spawning alternatives and heresies has ceased to think and has only achieved the peace of the grave.”

The Caliph’s Splendor

19 April, 2014

The Caliph’s Splendor: Islam and the West in the Golden Age of Bagdad
Benson Bobrick (2012)

A nice quick read. Blurbs aboot the book implied more of contact and relationship between Frankish Charlemange and caliph Huran al-Rashid of Bagdad. Did not get much of that, but got fascinating views of rise of Bagdad, which I should have expected, had just as much treachery, murder, political and religious scheming as any Byzantine story.

One thing humored me, Bobrick writes, “Yet in the recurrent fate of kingdoms, luxury and learning can lead to a process of decline.” Maybe the key word is “can”. He tells the story of harsh military and political conquest, followed by flourishing of arts, trade, learning. Did the luxury of Baghdad make them soft, so years later it was easy for the Mongols to sack the city, leaving a “mountain of skulls”?  That’s another book I suppose. And maybe “why do empire’s end?” is an unanswerable question.

 

The Gothic War

10 April, 2014

The Gothic War: Rome’s final conflict in the West

Torsten Cumberland Jacobsen (2009)

 

An enjoyable book, a large part about Belisarius, the great general who was hated by the Empress Theodora.

Belisarius was given orders to retake Rome, to  liberate Italy from the barbarians. Ironically enough, the Goths that were living in Italy, and had been born in Italy, were probably more Roman than Belisarius’s army that was filled with barbarian mercenaries.

Belisarius attacked the enemy’s weakness with his strength. He was outnumbered, so he avoid direct confrontation. Always ready with a new technique, and when the Goths imitated his army, he knew how to counter. He used trickery to disguise his weaknesses. He always thought about how to prepare for the next several encounters. All the while doing it on a restricted budget of money, supplies, and troops. He did it.

He was successful.
And popular.
And so, the Empress Theodora doubted his loyalty, didn’t believe his lack of ambition. (Funny, Theodora was BFF with Belesarius’ adulterous wife, but I learned that in another book.)

Other generals were sent to Rome, with no supreme commander.
Belesarius was recalled to Constaninople, and taken down a few notches socially, regulated to a lesser post, accused of disloyalty, had wealth taken from him. The generals left were idiots, who were greedy, abused the populace, and cowardly. Soon the Goths had a new king, Totila, who was a good general, and quickly all of Belesarius’s hard won work was lost.

 

The Empress Theodora

18 March, 2014

In the process of reading two books about the Empress Theodora. And all I can say is she was awesome… she rose from the lowest rank of society to become Empress, wielding considerable power with her husband. She convinced the Emperor to stop persecuting monophysite Christians, she increases the legal rights of women, she helped some escape lives of prostitution, she ran the Empire while he was fighting the plague…

…and she had enemies. Just finished Procopius “the Secret History” where he lays out all the dirt on the Emperor Justinian and his wife Theodora. He hated them. They were the cause of the down fall of the Empire. He accuses her of being a whore, (adding details that would make Larry Flynt proud), being a murderess (both abortion and assassinating political enemies), having spies through out the kingdom, covering up the infidelity of a hero’s wife, being married to a demon.

Way more interesting of a character than Cersei Lannister. Come on, Hollywood, bring the story of Justinian and Theodora to the screen.