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Bury the Chains by Adam Hochschild

A book about the UK campaign to stop the slave trade in the West Indies. It was a highly enjoyable read that illuminated this part of history to me. I was very ignorant about the slave trade in the Caribbean, and how involved the British Empire was at the time. In the current times of Black Lives Matter, I think it is important to know the history of the slavery. I happened to stumble upon this book in the used book store last week, and was grateful that I did.

It is an incredible accomplishment that 12 men could start a social movement to stop the slave trade. It did take almost 50 years, but sometimes it takes a while to change people's minds.

May revolution never cease until despotism is extinct.

This book gives me hope for our world. In the 1700s, when some people started to campaign against the slave trade, it was so much a part of the economy, that it seemed foolhardy to think they would ever succeed. Just as in the times of Kings, who could've imagined states without monarchs? I hope our world has reached a tipping point for universal income/climate change. Before COVID-19, it seemed inconceivable that the world could change quickly, but we saw how quickly this thing brought countries and the traditional capitalist system to its knees; there is hope for us yet.

Rating: ★★★★★ Book #80 in my My 2020 Reading Challenge

#Books #BookReview #history #slavery #AdamHochschild

Primary Sources: History of Taiwan

Great collection of Taiwanese history links. Enjoy!

This page is part of a collection assembling links to historical primary sources that are open on the web. It should be seen as a work in progress, and corrections or suggestions for additions are most welcome. These resources may be especially useful to students studying Taiwanese history who are looking for inspiration and primary sources for use in their essays who a) are limited to the English language (though some Chinese language sources will also be listed below too) b) lack access to subscription databases that universities with strong East Asia collections may offer, and c) are in lockdown due to a global pandemic.

#History #Taiwan #links

Venice: Pure City by Peter Ackroyd

An interesting, but uneven stroll through Venice's past. Interesting, but at time the author sounds like a wind bag who doesn't really know what he's talking about.


The Emperor: Downfall of an Autocrat by Ryszard Kapuściński

What a short and powerful book. It was incredible to hear the descriptions of the palace life of the Ethiopian Emperor. I had never heard this story before. Kapuściński turns these interviews into a very compelling narrative. His book is divided into three sections: The Throne, It's Coming – It's Coming, and Collapse. The Throne, details the intricate details of daily palace life. It's Coming, It's Coming is about the rebellion against the King. Finally, Collapse is about the end of the very long lasting Emperor Haile Selassie.


Historium by Richard Wilkinson (Illustrator), Jo Nelson

(Welcome to the Museum Series)

One of the many perks of being a parent is getting to read kids books without book snobs looking down on you. Also, I buy it for them, but also can enjoy it too. So the key to buying books for your kids is to buy books you enjoy. Yes they are 'for' your kids, but why can't they be for both of you, right?

Now this is one of those 'large format' big books. It's published by the publisher BIG PICTURE PRESS. It's gorgeous. The fonts used for the titles are beautiful. The layout is great. The illustrations of museum objects are beautiful. The size is another factor – when I pick it up I feel I'm transported into the museum full of special things.


Explorer (Eyewitness Books) by Rupert Matthews

These books are a blast from the past for me. Between every cover you find a mini museum. I remember these books sparking my love for history.

This book is about Explorers, so it's about lots of white guys going around the world and 'exploring'. These people did terrible things to the natives in the places they explored, but this is sanitized in the kids book. It's a good jumping off point though to learn more history of how the world was 'explored'.

I love the close up, labeled pictures of the instruments and equipment people used from the past. The hallmark of this Eyewitness series is these detailed, colour photos. This is the type of topic that excels in the Eyewitness history, because the information presented has little chance of being 'out of date'. I recently read the Space Exploration book in the series but it was painfully out of date in the last few pages.

Rating: ★★★★★ Book #87 in my My 2019 Reading Challenge

#Books #BookReview #history #explorers #RupertMatthews #EyewitnessBooks

The Stone of Heaven: The Secret History of Imperial Green Jade

by Adrian Levy, Cathy Scott-Clark

This book is the history of Imperial Green Jade but really it's a history of greed. This was the favoured type of jade that comes from Burma/Myanmar. It starts off as a history book of Chinese emperors and their obsession for the stone, but near the end turns into a travelogue of the authors going to the present day mines in Myanmar.

The story of jade is filled with so many twists and turns, it's hard to accurately describe this book. It's a long book, and filled with minutiae about famous people who collected jade, or were jade traders. It's about drug lords extracting the stones. It's about famous people who owned jade. I almost gave up halfway through when they kept talking about Hutton and other rich people who were addicted to buying jade jewellery but I'm glad I didn't because I would've missed the story of how they visited the mines.


The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World by Greg Grandin

This is one of those very large, very beautiful hard-cover history books with illustrations and pictures in it that open your eyes to something you knew very little about. This is about slavery and it uses a slave revolt on the ship, The Tryal, to give this book a narrative that's easier to follow along. As the author makes his way to explaining the slave revolt on the ship you learn a lot along the way.

This book does a good job of taking a very large (and potentially overwhelming) subject and breaking it down into manageable chapters of information. It links all the information through the narrative. It also 'attacks' the subject from all angles so you get quite a full picture of slavery from the point of view of slavers, regular people, people working on the ships, the Spanish, the English, the Americans, etc. It also has very detailed notes at the end of the book giving you even more information on important people, and things mentioned in the book.

These kind of books, you read them and reflect on them for months after.

Rating: ★★★★★ Book #71 in my My 2019 Reading Challenge

#Books #BookReview #history #slavery #GregGrandin

21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari

This book looks at 21 things the humankind has to consider, change, and contemplate so that we avoid extinction and irrelevance by the 22nd century and beyond. Harrari has a knack for making astute observations and predictions about the future in a humorous way. You wouldn't think this sort of book would elicit laughter, but at times it did. He tears down almost every religion, and ridicules the other self-destructive tendencies humans have to make his point.


The Paper Trail: An Unexpected History of a Revolutionary Invention

by Alexander Monro

A super, detailed look at the paper in the way it influenced empires, their culture, and religion. This book reaches back to the Tang dynasty to the origins of paper. It stays with China for quite awhile because they were very important to paper in the beginning. Then it moves onto how Buddhist writings helped spread the acceptance of paper. Next, it moves into the Middle East. Finally, it moves into Europe and how the Renaissance, and religious writings there helped move the rest of the world to paper.

I really enjoyed this book. It doesn't delve much into the physical way that paper is made, and I wish it did a bit, but focused wholly on the culture of using paper in government and personal use. There is a lot of detail here. If you like little tidbits about how certain words came about like 'gazette' (a word derived from a Venetian monthly newspaper, published in 1556), you'll love this book. If not, move along.

The author has an extreme passion for books and the way they changed our lives. I would say the middle section of the book about the Middle East is not as strong as the parts about China, and Europe but that's to be expected I think from a non-Arabic speaking author. I also venture a guess that Middle East paper use is not as well researched as in the context of China and Europe.

I really liked this book and now have to make a decision, either to keep it as part of my reference books I collect on China/Taiwan, or sell it to make room for new books. It's certainly a dilemma I now face.

Rating: ★★★★★ Book #47 in my My 2019 Reading Challenge #Books #BookReview #History