Modern

Posts on events in the last few hundred years

Twilight of the Scribes

The BBC has a short piece on the vanishing of professional letter-writers in India (link). A generation ago, someone who wanted a letter written or a package addressed could hire someone to do that for them outside most post offices in big cities. In the author’s view, rising literacy rates make letter-writers less necessary, but... Continue reading: Twilight of the Scribes

Persian Encounters

Replica of an Achaemenid bull column-capital from a Bierkeller in Ingolstadt, by Bildhauerei Setayesh http://www.bildhauerei-setayesh.de/ On a recent trip, I stumbled over a bar with some Achaemenid sculpture in front. Most of the pillars at Persepolis were crowned with a pair of bull’s heads back-to-back; they supported one set of timbers... Continue reading: Persian Encounters

A “Primitive” Battle in Afghanistan

The horrors of these domestic feuds [amongst the Eusofzyes, Kipling’s “Yusufzaies”] are sometimes aggravated by a war with another Oolooss [roughly a “tribe,” p. 211]. Many causes occasion these wars, but the commonest are the seduction of a woman of one Oolooss by a man of another, or a man’s eloping with a girl of his own Oolooss, and seeking protection from another. This protection is never refused, and it sometimes produces long and bloody wars. I shall show their nature, as usual, by the example of the Naikpeekhail.
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The Indian Petí Cuirass

A black and white photo of a body armour and helmet of layered cotton 2 cm thick with a smooth surface
Cloth body armour with shoulder flaps and helmet with cheek and neck flaps, captured from Tipu Sultan in 1799, Victoria and Albert Museum catalogue numbers 3517:1to:6/(IS)

Sultan Tipu was a warrior king, and like a warrior king he died when his enemies stormed his palace. Those enemies seized his treasury and hauled it to London, and as London has not been sacked since, most of his treasure is still there. Amidst the jewelled patas and the musical automata is a cloth armour.

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Im Abendland

Some of my recent reading has reminded me that German has two interesting expressions for “East” and “West” in the sense of two broad cultural and geographical regions. One can speak auf Deutsch of the Abendland and the Morgenland, the land of dawn and the land of twilight. I admire these phrases, which are much... Continue reading: Im Abendland

A Comment to Herodotus

Herodotus, Histories 7.44-46, tr. George Rawlinson: Having arrived here at Abydos, Xerxes wished to look upon all his host; so as there was a throne of white marble upon a hill near the city, which they of Abydos had prepared beforehand, by the king’s bidding, for his especial use, Xerxes took his seat on it,... Continue reading: A Comment to Herodotus

Philippus Arabs

Emperor Maximilian’s memorial at the Hofkirche is one of the most impressive monuments of Innsbruck.  Being an early modern aristocrat, he made extravagant plans which could not be fully carried out after his death.  A number of bronze busts of Roman emperors, which my guidebook tells me were meant to be part of a set of 34, are... Continue reading: Philippus Arabs

An unusually forthright statement

“The University of Calgary is a significant business … a $1.2-billion (a year) business.  The space, specifically for the president, that the board of governors worked out of was embarrassing.” Mr. Bob Ellard, VP Facilities Development, University of Calgary, quoted by Mark McClure, Calgary Herald, 18 November 2013.  Ellard was explaining why he and his... Continue reading: An unusually forthright statement

Who writes the history books?

Michael Ignatieff, former head of the Liberal Party of Canada, has been musing about why he lost the election of 2011 (see eg. this excerpt from his book in the Toronto Star).  One of his consolations is that succesful political thinkers often fail as practical politicians, because theory and practice are different arts and require different virtues. Canadian readers... Continue reading: Who writes the history books?