World Classics

Why are Greek and Latin ‘Classics’ and not Chinese? There is no real answer to this question, which popped out of some twittering I was doing just now with Dave Parry.  It is hard to argue with Dave’s position which is that this represents a European cultural bias. If we redefine classics in world rather than European terms, what languages should we add in? Continue reading “World Classics”

Beamish Sheets Got Y2Ked

Shawn Day, of the DHO, showed some inspiring visualisations at last weeks digital humanities  seminar in the Boole Library which he’d done in his work on the brewing industry in Guelph in the nineteenth century. I have made several runs at turning all or parts of  my old MA thesis on the history of Beamish and Crawford but it keeps getting pushed down the list. However, I pulled up my old spreadsheets to have another go at them, and found they have been slightly Y2Ked. The brewery, of course, closed down a few weeks ago, having been in continous operation in South Main St since 1792. Continue reading “Beamish Sheets Got Y2Ked”

Jarre-ing quote?

Critics of Wikipedia will no doubt crow over the latest hoax in which a Dublin student inserted a faked quote into the article on Maurcie Jarre which was picked up by several papers. I’m not very concerned – history is full of faked quotes, and at least in Wikipedia we can see what user account inserted the unreferenced quote
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Crying WHOlf?

Raising the Pandemic Alert level to 5 shows how crude the WHO system of pandemic threat levels is – one more notch and we’re all dead? Surely not. News media all over the world are obviously featuring the story, but many people will find a Level 5 alert on a 6 point scale unduly alarmist at this stage. More people die in road traffic accidents everyday, but you don’t see that as the top news on CNN or Sky. The WHO pandemic level is a simple measure, and we don’t live in a simple world. The rapid escalation of the alert level could lead to people treating this as another false alarm, like the SARS scare. Continue reading “Crying WHOlf?”

Age of Misery, 1973-20??

One of my graduate students remarked the other day on how miserable his thesis topic – the 2006 war in Lebanon – is; and it led me to point out to him how miserable contemporary history is now compared to what it used to be when I was young. I recalled a remark made by my sister-in-law a few years ago about how so much current modern literature is depressing and wretched – no one lives happily ever after anymore – and I think it applies to contemporary history as well. 30 years ago, the world was a more optimistic place, wars were cleaner, and even the bad guys were nicer than they are now. Continue reading “Age of Misery, 1973-20??”

`Black Bob’ Craufurd and Ireland, 1798—1804

Bob Crauford is most known for his leadership of light infantry in the Peninsular War – Sharpe fans will have found him mentioned in passing – but current issue of  ‘War in History’ has an excellent article on his reaction to Irish politcs as a result of his service here between 1798 and 1804.  His robust criticism of the administration of Ireland at the time cranks him up a few more notches in my estimation.   Michael Durey’s article is well worth reading if you have online access. Crauford is also interesting because one of my Phd candidates is working on a thesis on Irish officers who served with Wellington in the Peninsula and at Waterloo.


I was quoted in The Irish Times yesterday, in a good piece by Brian O’Connell on digital archives and political history.  After pointing out that Alexander the Great’s lack of email or Twitter is not an obstacle to writing about him, I got a good finish with “It’s all about people really, and while people do change with different cultural contexts, we’re still dealing with the same crooked timber of humanity.”  The full piece is online at  There is quite a lot in the article, it’s worth a read.

Swop Finance Ministers and we’ll fight again!

Well, faith and begoraah but isn’t it great to be Irish today? The government actually made a decision (quick – when was the last time an Irish cabinet made a decision?) to guarantee all savings in Irish banks and now cash is flowing from the UK into Dublin; to such an extent that Alasdair Darling is very upset and the UK banks are up in arms.  Aside from the “yeah sucks boo to you”, I actually think the blanket guarantee to all depositors, which probably should only be a short term measure, is better than the US bailout which tries to protect shareholders as well as depositors.

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Medieval Mobile Boring?

For game that does so much well at the tactical level, Medieval Total War on mobile phones is very disappointing as a strategic game. Clearly, the team who ported the PC game to the J2ME platform have a very good hexmap based, IGUO engine for fighting pre-modern battles, but the strategy and diplomacy end is no more than a device for stringing the individual battles together. At that level, it compares very poorly with Civ3, which I have had on my cellphone for over a year now. I will still be using it in my class on the Infantry Revolution next year though. Continue reading “Medieval Mobile Boring?”

Charlie Wilson’s War

Charlie Wilsons War is a book which should get onto quite a few academic reading lists as an interesting case study in several areas – it sheds light on the workings of US government and politics, on how some clandestine agencies work, at least some of the time, and is one of the most interesting books on how to organise irregular warfare since Lawrence’s “Seven Pillars of Wisdom”, and Charlie Wilson certainly saw himself as a modern Lawrence of Afghanistan. Continue reading “Charlie Wilson’s War”