Category Archives: History

An Instance of Fortitude

In his “Essay on Epitaphs,” Samuel Johnson recalls the lines inscribed on the tomb of the Greek Stoic teacher: “Epictetus, who lies here, was a slave and a cripple, poor as the beggar in the proverb, and the favourite of … Continue reading

Posted in History, Literature, Philosophy, Samuel Johnson, Stoicism

Muggeridge’s Memoirs

I realize that over the years I have dedicated very little space to Malcolm Muggeridge. This paucity is perhaps due to sheer irresolution when faced with the depth and volume of his insights. Where to begin? For the moment I … Continue reading

Posted in History, Politics

Crossing the Alps with Hannibal

According to Betty Radice, Penguin Classic’s founding editor, the Roman historian Livy “was an inspiration to the European scholars who welcomed the humanism of the classical world.” He was a masterful storyteller. In Book XXI he takes the reader across … Continue reading

Posted in History

The Brilliant Bias of Edward Gibbon

Concluding my series of remarks on Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, I refer once again to Hilaire Belloc’s commentary.* The Anglo-French historian spoke highly of Gibbon, saying that he “fashioned a vehicle wherein could repose in the … Continue reading

Posted in Hilaire Belloc, History

Decline and Fall

The decline of empire may for a time be delayed but it can never be averted. Rome was torn apart by recurring civil wars amidst cultural and moral decay. Barbarian incursions dealt the final blow, yet they were more a … Continue reading

Posted in History, Politics

Mankind is Governed by Names

I have continued my reading of Gibbon, with his discussion of the Roman Constitution and the decline of the republic. The true and lasting origins of imperial power, we are told, lay not in the spectacular and short-lived dictatorship of … Continue reading

Posted in History, Literature, Politics

Chronicles of Empire

“I have not read all of the books in the English language, but of such as I have read, Gibbon’s Decline and Fall is far and away the most readable.”—Hilaire Belloc Belloc celebrates Edward Gibbon as one of the masters … Continue reading

Posted in History, Literature

Raul Hilberg: Documenting Genocide

For over thirty years I have read accounts of Nazi Germany, including Raul Hilberg’s The Destruction of the European Jews (1961), the first comprehensive history of Hitler’s “Final Solution.” Of interest to me at the moment is a lesser-known monograph … Continue reading

Posted in History

The Crisis of the Intellectuals

“The French concept of the intellectual remains bound up with the notion of a social, political and moral crisis. Better still: it implies the notion of a permanent state of crisis. Given this state of crisis, the intellectual considers it … Continue reading

Posted in History, Philosophy, Politics

Plutarch’s Thanksgiving

The ancient biographer Plutarch has an interesting commentary on the nature of gratitude. In his life of Gaius Marius he describes the Roman leader as a man consumed with vanity who ended his days grasping for more honor and power … Continue reading

Posted in History, Philosophy, Plutarch