By now it is fair to say that barring some unforeseen event, like a national restoration to their senses, or a direct intervention by the Republican leadership, that Donald Trump is almost certainly going to be the Republican candidate for the Presidency of the United States of America. His big wins throughout the primaries, along with Marco Rubio dropping out of the race after his disastrous loss in Florida, has swept the path to the nomination pretty clear. Not only has Trump maintained his popularity among his supporters, but he is benefiting from his self-serving opponents who are now jockeying for his favour in case he actually wins the nomination. Continue reading “Trump’s Horse: How the Trump Campaign Satirizes Democracy”
The other evening, I met up with a good friend and former colleague from Wilfrid Laurier University at one of my favourite haunts in Waterloo. It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening as it had been some time since we had last seen each other. Surrounded by exposed brick and artificially distressed wood, I was reminded of why I loved the academic life so much even though as a contract faculty member I was underpaid and underemployed during my career and often at the hands of the tenured faculty.
The Atlantic has a fascinating piece on the myth of the barter economy entitled (of course) “The Myth of the Barter Economy” (Feb 26, 2016, Article here.). Its premise is based on the assumption that pre-modern societies organized their economic systems on an arbitrary formula of 16 chickens to 20 potatoes is in fact more historical myth than historical fact and that this as with so many other historical economic myths can be traced back to Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations.
In the second episode of Vikings, we seem to have a nod to Oscar season as Bjorn, having just set out to explore and conquer southern Europe does his best Leonardo DiCaprio impression from the Revenant, including an encounter with a bear. Although fortunately for the audience, he is spared an ursine sexual assault (that’s a sentence you don’t write everyday). There isn’t really much to say about this story line. Bjorn has no dialogue and all we see him do is fish for his dinner. It may set the scene for reminding us of his fortitude, but there is no plot or character development which is unfortunate since that screen time could have been replaced with more about the drama taking place at Kattegat which is sadly absent from this episode. Continue reading “Vikings: The One Where Bjorn goes Fishing”
The fourth season of Vikings began this past Thursday on the History Network and as with the previous seasons it didn’t disappoint. The visuals are stunning and the realization of Carolingian Paris is a thing of beauty notwithstanding the misplaced hill in the centre of what will be become the Ile de la Cite.
We are currently experiencing a golden age of historical drama and it is not surprising that many of these dramas draw upon the rich source material of the Middle Ages to tell their stories. Vikings stands out as one of the best shows at the moment not only because of the production values and the quality of acting, but also because of the high degree of faithfulness to the historical period depicted. Continue reading “A Paris Wedding – A Review of Vikings Season 4, ep 1”
To Marcus Antonius, better known to history as Mark Antony the Latin speaking Roman general (not to be confused with the Latin singing Marc Anthony), born on this day in 83BC. Part of the original Triumvir, Mark Antony, as a supporter of Julius Caesar, was instrumental in transforming the late Roman Republic into the autocratic state that Augustus would continue during his reign as the first official Roman emperor.
Today represents an important watershed in the history of investigative journalism. In 1893, Emile Zola published J’Accuse. The piece exposed the antisemitism of the Third Republic. In 1894, the Alsatian Jew, Alfred Dreyfus
Zola faces the mob, oil on canvas by Henry de Groux, 1898
was accused of sending secret documents to the Germans. Continue reading “This day in…”
Born this day in 1729, Edmund Burke has come to be regarded as one of the greatest political philosophers of the modern age. In fact, it is easy to argue until the bizarre spectacle of the American conservatives shifts towards ideologically driven demography,
Edmund Burke was the founder of modern conservatism, at least until Barry Goldwater’s failed bid at the 1968 Republican Convention began the slow unraveling of the traditional intellectual underpinnings of the GOP.
Today in 532, the capital of the Roman Empire, Constantinople was convulsed by one of the most violent riots in its history. Known as the Nika Riots, the aftermath represents a major turning point in the development of modern Istanbul.
In an example of the past not being a foreign country, Constantinople supported to major chariot teams known as the Blues and Greens. Part sports organization and political factions, the Blues and Greens reflected the political life of the city with pro and anti imperial factions using the chariot races as an outlet for the often violent passions that dominated daily life in the imperial capital.
A year earlier, in 531, several members of both the Blues and Greens were arrested for murder during an earlier riot (The English Football Fan Association has a few things to learn about the art of sport rioting). Most of the murderers were hanged except for a Blue and a Green who had sought sanctuary in a local church.
At the same time, the emperor Justinian was negotiating a peace treaty with the Persians as well as facing a possible revolt in the city itself. In an attempt to reduce these pressures, Justinian called for a chariot race. By the end of the race, the Blues and Greens had put aside their differences and began shouting Nika (“Win” or “Conquer”) and began a 5 day riot throughout the city, including besieging the palace. Seeing an opportunity, many of the nobles joined the rioters in an attempt to take advantage of the situation.
The riots nearly led to the abdication of Justinian, but his wife Theodora was not about to give up her position without a fight and convinced her husband to stay and face the rioters which he did.
Employing his general Belisarius in a classic case of divide and conquer, the leader of Blues was reminded that the emperor was a supporter and while we’re at it, why are the Blues making common cause with their rivals in the first place. And if this alone was not incentive enough, Belsarius bribed the Blues to cease rioting, leaving the Greens at the mercy of the imperial troops. Needless to say, very little mercy was given and it is estimated that approximately 30,000 people were executed. In addition to the loss of life, nearly half of the city was burned to the ground, including the Hagia Sophia.
While the riots were the largest in the city’s history, the results on the architectural legacy of the city have been longer lasting. With half of the city destroyed, Justinian took advantage of the opportunity to rebuild the city in his own image, especially with the newly rebuilt Hagia Sophia which would a fitting monument not just to the glory of God, but an eternal testament to the power of the state which only a few years earlier had nearly been toppled by a sports riot.