Saturday, October 13, 2018

Book Recommendations

The Romanovs: 1613-1918 by Simon Sebag Montefiore,204,203,200_QL70_&dpSrc=srch
Make no mistakes, at 657 pages, reading this excellent history is a project. It’s also a catalog of horrors and evil. If you want to know what autocracy looked like in practice, it’s here. Flashes of the admirable in the Tsars, such as Alexander I’s firm resistance to Napoleon, are completely subsumed ion their terror, antisemitism, use of torture and murder. They were usually ill-prepared for the throne, arrogant and self-centered beyond belief. For much of history, the serfs were the most numerous slaves in the world, able to be bought, sold and often given as gifts. A victorious general might be made a count and given 50,000 rubles and “400 souls.” I found especially interesting the author’s comparison of the Romanovs and the modern Tsars like Stalin and Putin. The book is well-researched and very readable. It should be of especial interest both to history buffs and those interested in non-democratic politics.

An Edible History of Humanity by Tom Standage
This terrific book is well-researched and well-written. It starts with the change from hunter-gather’s to farmers and brings us up to date, detailing how food has been the prime mover in history, especially in wars. The author points out that everything we eat has been, at some point, “genetically-modified’ through encouraging mutants, developments of particular strains, or cross-breading, far before the current panic of GM food in labs. Nothing we eat in mass can exist in the wild, plants or animals. I found especially interesting his discussion of how food has been used as a weapon, including in man-made famines that killed far more people through starvation than the holocaust. I highly recommend it.

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