Tag: Academics: History

Review: Silence – A Christian History

Posted 10 May, 2017 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

Silence: A Christian History
By: Diarmaid MacCulloch
Format/Source: Hardback; my purchase

In this essential work of religious history, the New York Times bestselling author of Christianity explores the vital role of silence in the Christian story.

How should one speak to God? Are our prayers more likely to be heard if we offer them quietly at home or loudly in church? How can we really know if God is listening? From the earliest days, Christians have struggled with these questions. Their varied answers have defined the boundaries of Christian faith and established the language of our most intimate appeals for guidance or forgiveness.

MacCulloch shows how Jesus chose to emphasize silence as an essential part of his message and how silence shaped the great medieval monastic communities of Europe. He also examines the darker forms of religious silence, from the church’s embrace of slavery and its muted reaction to the Holocaust to the cover-up by Catholic authorities of devastating sexual scandals.

A groundbreaking work that will change our understanding of the most fundamental wish to be heard by God, Silence gives voice to the greatest mysteries of faith.

I think I first heard of this book from a review or mention made by The Economist. The premise sounded really interesting–silence and religious orders do make up a facet of Christianity and Catholicism–so I had added it at the time. This was one of my whim buys as I did see it for a very good price at the bookstore earlier in 2016 and just snatched it up immediately. This is one of the last reviews I have leftover from 2016 😉

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Review: The Invention of Russia

Posted 16 January, 2017 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

The Invention of Russia: The Journey from Gorbachev’s Freedom to Putin’s War
By: Arkady Ostrovsky
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

By tracing the history of modern Russia from Mikhail Gorbachev to the rise of ex KGB agent Vladimir Putin, Arkady Ostrovsky reveals how the Soviet Union came to its end and how Russia has since reinvented itself.

Russia today bears little resemblance to the country that embraced freedom in the late eighties and gave freedom to others. But how did a country that had liberated itself from seventy years of Communism end up, just twenty years later, as one of the biggest threats to the West and above all to its own people?

The Invention of Russia tells the story of this tumultuous period, including the important role played by the media, and shows how Russia turned its back on the West and found itself embracing a new era of Soviet-style rule.

Having studied the history of the country from its earliest times up to around events of 2008/2009, this book naturally piqued my interest the minute I saw it shortlisted for the Orwell Prize for books 2016 (and later won).

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Review: History’s People: Personalities and the Past

Posted 10 August, 2016 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

History’s People: Personalities and the Past (CBC Massey Lectures)
By: Margaret MacMillan
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase

In History’s People internationally acclaimed historian Margaret MacMillan gives her own personal selection of figures of the past, women and men, some famous and some little-known, who stand out for her. Some have changed the course of history and even directed the currents of their times. Others are memorable for being risk-takers, adventurers, or observers. She looks at the concept of leadership through Bismarck and the unification of Germany; William Lyon MacKenzie King and the preservation of the Canadian Federation; Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the bringing of a unified United States into the Second World War. She also notes how leaders can make huge and often destructive mistakes, as in the cases of Hitler, Stalin, and Thatcher. Richard Nixon and Samuel de Champlain are examples of daring risk-takers who stubbornly went their own ways, often in defiance of their own societies. Then there are the dreamers, explorers, and adventurers, individuals like Fanny Parkes and Elizabeth Simcoe who manage to defy or ignore the constraints of their own societies. Finally, there are the observers, such as Babur, the first Mughal emperor of India, and Victor Klemperer, a Holocaust survivor, who kept the notes and diaries that bring the past to life.

History’s People is about the important and complex relationship between biography and history, individuals and their times.

I’m a fan of the CBC Massey Lectures series, I think it’s a great series showcasing great thinkers, academics, and public figures discussing an array of topics that are interesting from an academic standpoint but also ties in well to our everyday lives and/or the world we live in. I’ve read and reviewed a few in the past (see shiny new tag; I’ve read 5 to date, but only reviewed 2 over here) but I was really excited when I heard last year that Margaret MacMillan was going to be the featured lecturer for the latest installment. You may have heard of Margaret MacMillan for her books like Paris 1919 and Nixon and Mao: The Week that Changed the World. She’s a prominent historian too and was a lecturer when I was at UofT; alas I never got close to signing up for her class, it were pretty popular and hard to get into. Anyway, I’ve enjoyed reading Paris 1919 years ago and was looking forward to reading her take on prominent historical figures and their impact on history.

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Review: The Pope’s Dilemma

Posted 13 April, 2015 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

The Pope’s Dilemma: Pius XII Faces Atrocities and Genocide in the Second World War
By: Jacques Kornberg
Format/Source: Galley courtesy of the publishers via NetGalley

Pope Pius XII presided over the Catholic Church during one of the most challenging moments in its history. Elected in early 1939, Pius XII spoke out against war and destruction, but his refusal to condemn Nazi Germany and its allies for mass atrocities and genocide remains controversial almost seventy years after the end of the Second World War.

Scholars have blamed Pius’s inaction on anti-communism, antisemitism, a special emotional bond with Germany, or a preference for fascist authoritarianism. Delving deep into Catholic theology and ecclesiology, Jacques Kornberg argues instead that what drove Pius XII was the belief that his highest priority must be to preserve the authority of the Church and the access to salvation that it provided.

In The Pope’s Dilemma, Kornberg uses the examples of Pius XII’s immediate predecessors Benedict XV and the Armenian genocide and Pius XI and Fascist Italy, as well as case studies of Pius XII’s wartime policies towards five Catholic countries (Croatia, France, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia), to demonstrate the consistency with which Pius XII and the Vatican avoided confronting the perpetrators of atrocities and strove to keep Catholics within the Church. By this measure, Pius XII did not betray, but fulfilled his papal role.

A meticulous and careful analysis of the career of the twentieth century’s most controversial pope, The Pope’s Dilemma is an important contribution to the ongoing debate about the Catholic Church’s wartime legacy.

I hadn’t been on NetGalley for, errr, a very long time :3 When I logged on and started casually browsing through the most recent titles added, this book popped up. It caught my curiosity because I had some vague idea what went on during Pope Pius XII and knew of the controversy surrounding his papacy thanks to an essay that was submitted to the undergraduate history journal I was on the committee for years ago. I was fortunate to have been approved a copy of this book for review as I wanted to see how this author went about analysing his papacy. This book was released on 24 February 2015 (though the University of Toronto press is listing its release date (for the paperback, I believe?!) as 23 July 2015).

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Review: The Social Life of Ink

Posted 13 November, 2014 by Lianne in Books / 4 Comments

The Social Life of Ink
By: Ted Bishop
Format/Source: Advanced Reading Copy courtesy of the publishers via GoodReads First Reads Programme

Ted Bishop has made a career of investigating original texts, poring over stains on paper made by some of the greatest minds in literature. But what of the ink itself? This miraculous invention has mediated the flow of our culture, yet ink is so common that it is invisible. Bishop sets out to reveal the secrets of ink. From Budapest to Buenos Aires, he traces the lives of the innovators who created the ballpoint pen—revolutionary technology only decades ago. He visits an off-the-grid ranch in Utah to meet a master ink- maker who explodes linseed oil. In China, he discovers that ink could be an exquisite object, the subject of poetry and a means of entry to the emperor’s court. And in Uzbekistan, he sees the world’s oldest Qur’an, stained with the blood of the caliph who was assassinated while reading it.

Part travelogue, part memoir of personal discovery, The Social Life of Ink asks us to look more closely at something we see so often that we don’t see it at all

When I first saw this book on GoodReads, I thought it was really cool and interesting because it was a subject I didn’t really see in the nonfiction sections of the bookstores. Sure, you learn a bit about ink and art and Gutenberg’s printing press and literacy rates in history class, but unless you studied book-making or this element of cultural history, it’s just something you don’t often think about. So I was pretty excited when I learned that I won an ARC of this book via GoodReads. This book was released on 4 November 2014.

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