BBC History May 2007

Yeh, bit slack with reading these mags at the moment… I got stuck on an article about Charles II and the restoration, and then it occurred to me that I didn’t have to finish reading it – novel, eh?

The two articles about the mutiny/insurrection/pick your favourite word in India, against the Brits, were fascinating. Saul David and William Dalrymple give different perspectives on it (literally: one Brit, one Indian). Given I knew zip about the issues and results of the conflict, these articles were intriguing for me. The question about motivations, and whether it was religious or political or how those things worked together in somewhere like India, with Hindus and Muslims and Christians, was absorbing. And I am not willing to draw any modern parallels.

I’ve heard the word Oxyrhynchos (sharp nose) with reference to papyri before, but never really knew what was going on there. Now I know, thanks to Peter Parsons! I love things like this: piles of rubbish being preserved for millenia, and then being just the ticket for archaeologists – a great big mound of treasure, basically. Yay for the preserving sands!

It’s the 300th birthday of the union between England and Scotland this year, and apparently there’s a bit of grumbling and muttering, in Scotland especially, about what a bad deal they got. Not so, according to Eric J Evans, who reckons the Scots got a very good deal indeed – especially economically, if not politically.

There’s a new book coming out about Stalin as a young man – who’s not interested in analysing the youth of a nutter, to see what caused him to be like that, to reassure ourselves that something went wrong so he wasn’t just a normal man who did dreadful things? Anyway, according to Simon Sebag Montefiore, he developed a taste for violence early on, but also was into seducing women and writing poetry… which may be connected to one another…. I don’t think I’ll read the book, but it’s an interesting idea, and I think I’m glad someone has done it.

Diarmid MacCulloch’s article on Christians and Muslims today, and whether this is some inevitable (argh! anathema word!) clash of faiths or a result of the last 200 years of history, is fascinating – because I don’t know a lot of it, and he makes a compelling case. As a Christian myself, I think that there is (inevitably!) tension between the faiths because of their differences, but this doesn’t necessarily translate onto the world stage… I’m not convinced Bush makes his decisions as a Christian and nothing else, and I am also not sure about the various Islamic states – because I just don’t know enough about them. Anyway, very interesting stuff.

Finally, let me just mention the short article on ERII’s coronation. Interesting stuff about the behind-scenes events, and the stress over whether or not to broadcast it.

Not the best issue of BBC History, for my tastes, but still quite good.

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