Literary Adventures in History

I always like to read history. Many years ago I read Felipe Fernandez-Armesto’s Millennium: A History of Our Last Thousand Years. I especially like to read about the oddballs of times past – the politically-correct refuseniks, assholes, anti-heroes and the quirky. Most historians think of Hitler as a failed artist. Yet looking at some of his paintings, you can see the man got more than a modicum of artistic talent. (One website lists a small watercolor painting for $80,000.) I wonder, if he had a rich patron, would the world have been the same? And King Henry VIII of England who reinvented the Roman Catholic Church into the Church of England because he had the hots for Anne Boleyn. For all his troubles because of Ms. Boleyn – the Pope excommunicated him and sent armies to fight England – he beheaded her in the end. Christ, what a waste (especially if she really looked like Natalie Portman). And Napoleon , who sent an army and many learned people on an expedition to Egypt to not only conquer it but to raid its cultural treasures. And Aristotle, remember him? – the Greek thinker who started the whole crap about “The Great Chain of Being” (a basis for old Christendom’s Whites-Asians-Negroes hierarchy) which influences our thinking even until today.

In the spirit of A.J. Jacobs’ quest to read all of the Encyclopædia Britannica (a whimsical book – The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World), I am thinking of making a similar literary adventure with the Encyclopedia of World History

This encyclopedia of 3760 pages spanning over 7 volumes is nothing compared to A.J.’s literary indigestion of Britannica (32 volumes with 33,000 pages and some 44 million words) but this project still fills me with trepidation. I hope to cross reference it with…what else, the venerable Encyclopædia Britannica, and Professor Peter N. Stearns’ The Encyclopedia of World History

Posts will be under “Literary Adventures in History”


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