Metamacrohistory (The meta is only there to annoy you.)

  • Thread starter JRDunassigned
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  • #1
JRDunassigned
Metamacrohistory (The "meta" is only there to annoy you.)

I just finished The World and the West by Toynbee. I'm in the middle of the Civilization on Trial. I'll probably start scratching some surface on A Study of History soon. I'm a multi-tasker when it comes to reading, though, a defense developed early on to battle the onset of seeping boredom or growing disinterest, (the cause of which is usually seeing the same writing style day after day, not the content itself).

I'm looking for some works to aid and abet my study of history. I'm looking for content similar to Toynbee's - the study of histories growing and falling, the world's encounter with the west, basically "macro-history" lessons focused on the effects of culture-clashes with analyses of what happened, (cue John Madden: And then you see Gandhi really Trying to stop the play over here in the yellow circle, but then BOOM! The cultural blend is complete).

If that's out of your common knowledge vs. interest-range in history, then...

List your top 10 all-time must-read history books?:

Thanks in advance !
 

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  • #2
Astronuc
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Top ten history books would be tough. It depends on the period. Or is one interested in books on the history of all of humanity.

Here's an interesting abstract by L. B. Namier on his 1949 review of Civilization on Trial, by Arnold J. Toynbee
“By ‘the age in which we are living’ I mean the last five or six thousand years within which mankind, after having been human for at least six hundred thousand years before that, attained the modest level of social and moral achievement that we call ‘civilization.’” This sentence supplies the key to Dr. Toynbee's historical thinking. That age, which on the cosmic time scale is “of such infinitesimal brevity” that it could hardly be shown “on any chart of the whole history of this planet,” has seen nineteen distinct civilizations, of which five survive. “I mean by a civilization the smallest unit of historical study at which one arrives when one tries to understand the history of one's own country.” Thus his work is a protest against what he calls “our own unconscionable parochial-mindedness,” “the parish-pump politics of our Western society as recorded in the national and municipal archives of ephemeral ‘Great Powers’”; and he himself tries to envisage the history of the last five or six thousand years as one whole, within which “the histories of all societies of the species called civilizations” are “in some sense parallel and contemporary.” Indeed, “the philosophical contemporaneity of all civilizations” is a basic tenet of his historical outlook.

There is Europe, A History by Norman Davies, 1996, Oxford University Press. It covers from the Ice Age through the Cold War.

If one wants a period book - what period. I'd recommend Peter Heather's The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians, 2005, Oxford University Press.

or for something more contemprary - David Andelman's A Shattered Peace: Versailles 1919 and the Price We Pay Today, 2007, Wiley. I highly recommend this book for understanding a number of the conflicts of the 20th century. Andelman delves into many of the personalities who re-mapped the world after The Great War (WWI).

Then there is more recent - the rest of the 20th Century - and before.

Here's an interesting essay - Napoleon’s Total War
http://www.historynet.com/napoleons-total-war.htm

When Revolutionary France declared war on the Austrian empire in the spring of 1792, its leaders promised a short, sweet and victorious campaign. Instead, 1792 marked the beginning of a long, grinding, hideously bloody series of wars that would drag on in every state in Europe and last, with scant interruption, until the final defeat of France’s Napoleon Bonaparte at Waterloo in 1815.

These wars marked something fundamentally new in Western history, and collectively deserve the title of the first ‘total war. Long before 1792, the major European powers had fought with each other at regular intervals, but those conflicts were remarkably limited in scope. The armies tended to avoid large-scale battle. Noncombatants could hope for relatively merciful treatment. Enemy officers dealt with each other as honorable adversaries. The major powers and their armed forces were still dominated by hereditary aristocracies, and war retained the feel of an aristocratic ritual. It was not play-acting by any means, but earlier wars proceeded according to a fairly strict code of aristocratic honor.

The French Revolution marked a sudden and dramatic break with this tradition. Revolutionary France overthrew the country’s aristocracy along with its king and queen, and brought in new men (including the young and talented Bonaparte) to lead its armed forces. By 1793, its leaders were calling for total military mobilization of the population. Not only would young men go into the army, but women, old men and even children would turn their energies to the war effort, producing weapons, uniforms and supplies. France declared that its opponents were not honorable adversaries but enemies of the human race who amounted to nothing more than criminals.

The result was a steady escalation of horror that did not stop even after the high point of revolutionary radicalism had passed in France itself, and after Napoleon took power there in 1799. The figures speak for themselves: More than one-fifth of all the major battles fought in Europe between 1490 and 1815 took place in the 25 years after 1790. Before 1790 only a handful of battles had involved more than 100,000 combatants; in the 1809 Battle of Wagram, largest in the gunpowder age to date, involved 300,000. Just four years later the Battle of Leipzig drew 500,000, with fully 150,000 of them killed or wounded. During the wars, France alone counted close to a million war deaths. In the process, France carved out for itself the greatest empire seen in Europe since the days of the Caesars, but lost it again in a stunningly short time.

Among the most hideous novelties of the period was the spread of vicious insurgent campaigns against French occupying forces that the French themselves tried to murderously suppress. The first such campaigns took place in France itself, involving struggles by traditional Catholics and Royalists against the Revolutionary government. But as French rule spread like an inkblot over the map of Europe, more such episodes followed: in Belgium, in Italy, in the Tyrolian Alps of Austria. The worst of all occurred in Spain, where the War of Independence of 1808–14 set a new standard of horror in European warfare, and bequeathed a new word to European languages: guerrilla, from the Spanish for little war. It was in Spain that the French army’s brutal campaign to suppress those guerrilla wars revealed fully the ugly face of the new total war.
. . . .

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napoleonic_Wars

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_war_of_Schleswig

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franco-Prussian_War


It's about personalities, egos, aspirations, ethnism, nationalism, . . . .
 
  • #3
JRDunassigned


Ah thanks. This will supply me with reading material for quite a long time.

If I had to pick a specific place and time I'd love to learn about, I'd have two very specific points:

New Orleans inception until now
Pre-colonial North America

A short story by Neil Gaiman gave birth to my interest in the former. I've read that Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee can help me some with the latter. Any recommendations are welcome.
 
  • #4
JRDunassigned


P.S. I noticed you mention Satriani in your little quip there - listen to any Buckethead?
 
  • #5
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Completely off topic but I stumbled here and saw buckethead mentioned. I saw him at Wakarusa a few years ago. I was in a good place at the time and it was just awesome!
 
  • #6


I'm in the middle of Barbara Tuchman's "A Distant Mirror," which is a narrative history of the 14th century, and it is excellent. A fantastic read, and a horrifyingly fascinating period in history! Highly recommended.
 
  • #7
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Maybe a bit off topic, but be mindful when reading macrohistory of how sweeping generalizations and assumptions of collective existence are simply assumed a priori in the language of the narrative.

It's practically impossible to trace networks of inter-individual interactions through specific micro contexts over extended distances and periods, but this fact requires you to read macro-history through a filter if you have any concern with empirical accuracy.
 

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