An experiment in History, Part One

Now that I’m finally finishing up The New Penguin History of the World (who knew there was so much to know about penguins?) today seems like a perfect time to begin a review of my grand, accidental experiment in History.

Somehow I managed to grow up suspecting the world was illusory. I blame this on the assumed Neo-platonism of western civilization, naturally. Or maybe Gnosticism. Of course, I seem to blame everything on western gnosticism so that’s not really fair. Regardless, if you suspect the world to be somewhat illusory History won’t really have any appeal to you.

Wading chest deep into the Third Quest for The Historical Jesus with N.T. Wright (and really, one does have to wade into Wright) and reading enough context setting introductions to Greek classics will eventually have anyone better attuned to the past. And accepting the critical-realist stance of Wright probably shook from me the last remnants of slavery to a hopeless subjective world. Maybe. Maybe I’m just a cynical post-modernist.

Last year my ignorance of history was too much too take. I had been meeting regularly with a group of people who seemed to know everything about everything that ever happened and what it meant for who we are. Admittedly, they were all somewhat older than me, and one is married to a History Prof., and one is an expert in medieval monastic orders, so, of course I’m going to feel ignorant. But big, unsubtle, thundering hints are still hints.

Reading The Old Testament as well as reading Mann’s Joseph and His Brothers (one of my favorite books), set in Egypt’s New Kingdom period, kind of skewed my interests towards the origins of civilization. Adding that up with some of my other interests I knew what kind of book I needed to read. Well, I was pretty sure. I thought a one volume History book, a general introduction, would be the thing for me.

Coming up: Actual books! What’s an ignorant young punk to read? How is it that looking for the best book and not finding it is the best thing of all?

4 thoughts on “An experiment in History, Part One

  1. How did you put up with all those pages and pages about eggs and icebergs and sea lions?I dunno, you do a fairly good impression of knowing everything about everything that every happened, here on your blog at least. So you had me fooled. UNTIL NOW.(in person the impression you give is that of a self-effacing guy who simply knows everything about comics and quite possibly art.)Is it just me or does Wright need a really strict editor? Like, a dominatrix who’ll lash him on a sensitive area if he uses too many words. I mean, I think the man’s brilliant, and I like reading him, but he’s so chatty and digressive.In any case, I’m looking forward to your recommendations, because, uh, I’ve got lots of, um… friends… I need to pass them on to. Yeah.

  2. It’s not just you, everyone says Wright needs an editor. It cracks me up that Christian Origins Vol. 3. is the last chapter to Vol. 2 that got out of hand. It only became a third volume because Wright physically could not cram anymore pages into Vol. 2.Still, I like chatty digression in my scholarly works.Elliot, do you have any recommendations for Church History?

  3. Well, Stephen Neill’s book on Anglicanism is a great read. Oh, and the new Cambridge History of Christianity set is supposed to be fantastic, according to a review I read. I looked at the volume on the 20th century and what I read was pretty fantastic. The Chadwick bros., Owen and Henry, wrote a bunch of church history books that seem to be pretty good. Diarmaid McCulloch’s book on the Reformation is supposed to be a new classic, though he’s not a Christian himself, and tends to pronounce ‘a pox on both their houses.’

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