Thursday, December 16, 2004

I finally finished The New Penguin History of the World by J.M. Roberts, and I have to say I don’t particularly recommend the book to anybody. Chalk it up to high expectations, perhaps. How can you go wrong with such a grand title? I’ll tell you: Too many numbers, too much about demographics, literacy rates, population growth, economic output and blah, blah, blah. Pages and pages, entire chapters it seems, go by with nary the mention of a proper name. Please, give me the kings and battles! If I wanted this crap, I’d have gone back to school. (Plus, the ending was a real downer. Some wackos crash some planes into Manhattan! Lame.)

A proper history book should tell you important, useful knowledge, such as: The Roman Army brought elephants to Britain. Guards from Asia Minor manning the northern frontier of Roman Britain worshipped Mithras, the Persian sun god. And the native Celts, according to Caesar himself, wore their hair long, shaved their entire bodies save for the heads and upper lips, dyed themselves blue with woad, and shared their wives between groups of ten to twelve men (all of the lucky gal’s offspring being recognized as the children of her first husband).

Think about that last one for a second. When we think of marriage practices in ancient (and some not-so-ancient) societies, we usually think of multiple women for one man. The Celts did it the other way around.

All of this and more can be found in Winston Churchill’s History of the English Speaking Peoples.


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