What is History 9: Jared Diamond Guns, Germs & Steel Overview

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ORT_Logo   Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 2  December 2018

What is History 9: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond, 1997: Overview & Critique


1 Overview

Preamble

I read Guns, Germs and Steel 1997 within a year of its publication and was strongly influenced. I had been looking for something about human history that was more scientific in its approach and that linked history to the evolution of human kind. It is now twenty years later.

I’ve mentioned before it is important that we start to look at history from a multidisciplinary view and certainly at least link it to our biological heritage. Jared Diamond says much the same thing in his introductory Prologue:

Those disciplines include, above all, genetics, molecular biology, and biogeography as applied to crops and their wild ancestors; the same disciplines plus behavioral ecology, as applied to domestic animals and their wild ancestors; molecular biology of human germs and related germs of animals; epidemiology of human diseases; human genetics; linguistics; archaeological studies on all continents and major islands; and studies of the histories of technology, writing, and political organization.

I would have added more categories at the time. In my 1995 Travel Journal in Pakistan inspired by the Taxila Museum, I wrote:

It is amazing how [our understanding of] history has improved in the past fifty years as the yoke of European ethno-centricity has been thrown off. Scholars knew some of these things before, but outside expert fields the knowledge was remote, and a belief in the superiority of Europeans masked enormous elements of human history. The contributions of science, anthropology, psychology and sociology have been enormous in the twentieth century…

Today I’d add economic history and ‘big data’ to the list.

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Case Study of Q Research

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Case Study of Q Research, a Marketing Research Company

ORT_Logo   Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 3 August 2018

Q Research: Portrait of a small Strategic Marketing Research Company

Preamble

This is a portrait of a small business I started and ran for eight years from 1988 to 1995. It was a small strategic marketing research company that offered something quite different to clients; most of whom appreciated it and some didn’t.

It is perhaps a little self-indulgent publicising Q Research so many years after it closed, but there would have been sensitivities and confidentiality issues previously. Please skip this article, if the topic isn’t of interest.

The key elements described are small business, marketing research and what is involved. The theoretical framework for our approach was based on the work of Australia’s most recognised social scientist Frederick Edmund Emery, with whom I worked at ANU (the Australian National University), and in particular his Search Conference methodology, which I have mentioned several times previously (see The Art of Prophecy). Also relevant are sampling and survey research methodology, questionnaires, quantitative and qualitative approaches and analysis. Don’t switch off. I won’t be providing details.

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What is history 8: EH Carr History as Progress

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Feature Carr What Is History?

ORT_Logo   Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 1 July 2018

What is History 8 by EH Carr: The next two Lectures or Chapters 5 and 6

History as Progress & The Widening Horizon

Introduction

In What is History: Sleep Patterns we found that what we view as normal wasn’t necessarily the same in other periods. Sleep patterns were quite different before the coming of electric and gas lighting. Similarly the view of history has changed as well.

The two brilliant lectures in EH Carr’s What is History on the historian and his facts and causation were covered in the two previous articles: What is History 5: EH Carr Historians & their Facts and What is History 7: Causation in History covering EH Carr’s earlier lectures 1 to 4 in the book.

The current lecture 5 on History as Progress is perhaps Carr’s most brave and modern chapter in the book. While speculative, it raises issues that we still need to deal with, both in our understanding of history and our current understanding of what civilisation means. As such, the topic needs to be confronted and not marginalised.

The previous What is History? articles have been 1 Introduction, 2 Sleep Patterns 3, The Medieval Mind, 4 Love,  5  EH Carr Historians & their Facts, 6 Religion and 7: EH Carr Causation.

Progress in History

The changing view of History

The ancients were basically unhistorical in Asia, Greece and Rome, that is, basically uninterested in the future or the past. EH Carr says:

Poetic visions of a brighter future took the form of visions of a return to a golden age of the past — a cyclical view which assimilated the processes of history to the processes of nature. Continue reading “What is history 8: EH Carr History as Progress”

One Sentence

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Keira Knightley, Anna Karenina UK Film 2012
Featured Image: Keira Knightley, Anna Karenina, UK Film 2012

ORT_Logo   Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 1 June 2018

One Sentence: a story about great sentences and great first sentences

This article on one sentence may veer in an entirely different direction, or not! I don’t always want to be predictable.

Journalists and newspapers often write articles on the first lines or one sentence of novels in holiday periods and the best of them are marvellous. Jane Austen and Tolstoy are always the first cabs off the rank.


Great opening sentences in fiction

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, 1813

Comment: This one sentence isn’t a bad summary of the novel. Underlying it is an indictment of late 18th Century inheritance laws and the inability of women to make their own way in the world, of which Jane Austen was painfully aware. She covers this topic in all her books on 18th century county life and manners.

The Story: David Bader’s Haiku barely does a better job than Jane’s sentence.

Single white lass seeks,

landed gent for marriage, whist, 

No parsons, thank you.

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What is history 7: EH Carr Causation in history

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What is History? by EH Carr: The next three Lectures (Chapters 2 to 4)

Society & the individual; History, science & morality; Causation in history

Introduction

I covered Lecture 1 or Chapter 1 (pp 7-30) in What is History, quite comprehensively in What is History 5: Historians and their facts. This was a very satisfying process because it was easy to tease erudite and incisive answers from Carr’s wonderful sentences and quotations from other historians.

The remaining lectures on initial reading tend to be slightly less incisive and a little more difficult in interpretation. However, there is still a large amount of fascinating material and the content Carr is grappling with, that is, defining a new way of looking at historical method (historiography) is too important to ignore.

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The Second Coming WB Yeats

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Featured Image: WB Yeats, Poetry Foundation from Chicago History Museum
Featured Image: WB Yeats, Poetry Foundation from Chicago History Museum

Featured Image: WB Yeats, Poetry Foundation from Chicago History Museum

ORT_Logo   Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony,  6 February 2018

The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats — a muse on literature

Prologue

Cast a cold Eye
On Life, on Death.
Horseman, pass by!

Epitaph on Yeats grave, Drumcliff, County Sligo

When I was living in Derry, I stopped at Yeats’ grave a couple of times on my way down the west coast. My memory of it was coloured by the season — terribly cold, grim and isolated.

We passed by in 2014, travelling up the west coast in an unlikely Indian summer. The grave was no longer isolated, nasty strip developments along the highway had almost caught up with it. The site was pleasant, warm and sunny with stunning views of the escarpment.

William Butler Yeats

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) was born in Ireland and died in France. His remains were exhumed and moved to Ireland in 1948.

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The Humble Percent & Food Labels

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Sugar Frosty Feature

ORT_Logo   Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony,  24 November 2017


The Humble Percentage and Food Labels

Introduction

Percent or (percentage) used to be spelled per cent (and sometimes still is). It comes from the latin per centum meaning by the hundred.

What percent means is changing any list of numbers that add up to an irregular total into a modified list that adds up to 100. Once you get used to it reading a table of percentages becomes familiar and comfortable. Percentages can also be expressed as fractions and odds (think racecourses).

For example, 50% is a half, or odds of 2 to 1 in racecourse parlance (still meaning 1 chance in 2, but expressed this way because you get $2 profit for every $1 bet). 33% is about one third, 25% a quarter, 20% one fifth and 10% one tenth. Continue reading “The Humble Percent & Food Labels”