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Tag: history

The Last Man struggles for the sake of struggle

Tuesday, 5 March, 2019

Francis Fukuyama is touring the world promoting his new book, Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment. Sounds very much like the right book at the right time. Fukuyama is best-known, of course, for The End of History and the Last Man (1992), which grew out of an essay in The National Interest magazine in 1989, and in which he argued, controversially, that the global spread of liberal democracy and the associated Western lifestyle might herald the end point of socio-cultural evolution. Or, in his own words:

“What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”

As mentioned, this was, and remains, hugely controversial, but what’s been overlooked in all the heated debates since is the message of the fifth and final chapter of The End of History and the Last Man. Published almost three decades ago now, it anticipated so much of what we face today. Snippet:

“But supposing that the world has become ‘filled up,’ so to speak, with liberal democracies, such that there exist no tyranny or oppression worthy of the name against which to struggle? Experience suggests that if men cannot struggle on behalf of a just cause because that just cause was victorious in an earlier generation, they will struggle against that just cause. They will struggle for the sake of struggle. They will struggle, in other words, out of a certain boredom: for they cannot imagine living in a world without struggle. And if the greater part of the world in which they live is characterized by peaceful and prosperous liberal democracy, then they will struggle against that peace and prosperity, and against democracy.”

The National Interest


Churchill: Walking with Destiny

Wednesday, 7 November, 2018

It was published in the UK last month and yesterday in the rest of the world. The Rainy Day copy will arrive today. Churchill: Walking with Destiny by Andrew Roberts deserves to be called a contender as it weighs in at 1.5 kilogrammes. The index runs to 60 pages, the author’s notes to 37 and the bibliography to 23. No wonder Amazon is offering a 40 percent discount on the Kindle version. There have been more than 1,000 previous studies of Churchill’s life, the publisher helpfully warns us, so anyone intending to add another tome to the heap had better have something original to offer readers. By all accounts, Andrew Roberts has. His access to and analysis of previously secreted materials is what makes the difference. Then, there’s the historian’s depth of vision.

Why did Churchill loathe Hitler from the get go? According to Roberts, the young Winston had seen Islamic fundamentalism close up in India and the Sudan and this sharpened his senses for nihilism. What he experienced was “a form of religious fanaticism that in many key features was not unlike the Nazism that he was to encounter forty years later. None of the three prime ministers of the 1930s — Ramsay MacDonald, Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain — had seen true fanaticism in their personal lives, and they were slow to discern it in Nazi Germany. Churchill had fought against it in his youth and recognized its salient features earlier than anyone else.”

Expect similar snippets from Churchill: Walking with Destiny in the weeks to come.

Churchill: Walking with Destiny


Job of the day: Corporate Historian at Ralph Lauren

Friday, 5 October, 2018

“Corporate Historian will lead archival efforts in documenting, preserving, cataloguing and promoting the company’s 50+ year history. The Historian will also leverage the company’s archive and history to work with internal and external partners to engage audiences with the story and heritage of Ralph Lauren.”

That’s the job. If you want it, bring some knowledge to the table. For example, knowledge of twentieth century American Fashion history and general knowledge of American and New York history. Helpful, too, a “working knowledge of library database, taxonomy, and metadata.” Photoshop, InDesign and Excel proficiency are pluses.

There’s a significant media component: “Pull and capture notable quotes by and about Ralph Lauren found in editorial, social media and advertising on a weekly basis,” and a legal one: “Lead ongoing vetting process by partnering with high-level executives in design, philanthropy, and legal departments.”

Naturally, there’s “storytelling” to be done: “Collaborate with Director of Rare & Historical Collection and Director of Marketing & Advertising Assets to promote the company’s history through storytelling in partnerships with internal departments as well as potential external partners in exhibitions, publishing projects, and new media.”

Ralph Lauren’s story deserves a historian as it’s a uniquely American one of rags to riches. And, as Churchill said, “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.”

Ralph Lauren


In the year of his first cigarette

Saturday, 24 June, 2017 0 Comments

In the year that the great Galty smoked his first cigarette, The Wizard of Oz, starring Judy Garland, premiered in Hollywood; Francisco Franco assumed power in Spain; Flann O’Brien’s metafiction At Swim-Two-Birds was published in London; Princess Fawzia Fuad of Egypt married Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi of Iran; Billie Holiday recorded Strange Fruit; Italy seized Albania and King Zog fled; an Irish Republican Army bomb exploded in the centre of Coventry, killing five people; John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath was published; Batman made his first appearance in Detective Comics No. 27; nylon stockings went on sale in Wilmington, Delaware, and LaGuardia Airport opened in New York City.

Oh, and the opening shots of World War II were fired when Germany invaded Poland.

Galty


When old news was news

Friday, 6 March, 2015 0 Comments

Life was hard and diversions were few around Peebles on the Scottish Borders in the early days of the 19th-century. News of the outside world was infrequent and often arrived long after events had taken place. The “headlines” of the time were conveyed by travellers and welcomed by a largely illiterate public. Robert Chambers, the famous publisher, recalled an eccentric character called Tam Fleck who wandered the area carrying a translation of The Jewish War by the Roman historian Josephus, which he read out as if it were the “current” news and which was relished by his audience:

“Weel, Tam, what’s the news the nicht?” someone would ask.
“Bad news, bad news…Titus has begun to besiege Jerusalem; it’s gaun to be a terrible business.”


Twitter’s third column

Friday, 9 May, 2014 0 Comments

As Twitter rolls out a new look that adds a third column for users accessing the service with a web browser the message is clear: your tweets are front and centre. The new, full-sized layout centralizes tweets and moves secondary information to the sides. The “Who to follow” widget has been moved from beneath the profile bio on the left to the right, where it sits above the Trends block.

Twitter

Language note: Ernest Hemingway included the word “column” in the title of his only play, which he wrote in Madrid while the city was being bombarded during the Spanish Civil War. It was published in 1938 as The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories. It is said that Emilio Mola, a Nationalist General, told a journalist in 1936 that as his four columns of troops approached Madrid, a “fifth column” of supporters inside the city would support him and undermine the Republican government from within. The term spread then beyond the borders of Spain and came to define any group of people who destabilize a larger group, such as a movement or nation from the inside.

Political note: In an address to Parliament on 18 March this year, Vladimir Putin “raised the spectre of ‘a fifth column’ — a ‘disparate bunch of national traitors’ — sowing discord inside Russia.”


The Doge

Sunday, 23 June, 2013 1 Comment

“And they assembled in the church of St. Mark, and he was declared to be elected Doge; and they stripped off his clothes and led him before the altar, and there he took the oath, and there was given him the gonfalon of St. Mark, and he took it. Then amid great rejoicing he went […]

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Margaret Thatcher RIP

Monday, 8 April, 2013 0 Comments

“For my part, I favour an approach to statecraft that embraces principles, as long as it is not stifled by them; and I prefer such principles to be accompanied by steel along with good intentions.” Margaret Thatcher (13 October 1925 — 8 April 2013)

“Socialists cry ‘Power to the people’, and raise the clenched fist as they say it. We all know what they really mean—power over people, power to the State.”