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review 2019-11-17 16:16
Ideal for the middle school or high school student
Julius Caesar: Dictator for Life (Revised Edition) - Denise Rinaldo

My son is currently studying Roman history at school, and during one of our trips to our local library a couple of weeks ago he picked up as many books about Roman history as he could find. This Julius Caesar biography was among them, and while it's geared to a slightly older group of learners I'm not one to tell someone what they can't read. As soon as we arrived home, though, the books landed on the floor in his room, where they've sat ever since.


One of the reasons for this is that reading it wasn't an obligation. While he has a considerable amount of homework every week, he's allowed to choose what he wants to read. Because of this, he usual meets his obligations by reading books in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Dog Man series, both of which he enjoys greatly. In addition to that, though, he also has a weekly project due that rotates between Literature, Writing, Science, and Current Events. This week Literature came up in the rotation, which means that he has to not just read a book but "respond" to it in some way. I decided to use the assignment to push him to read the Caesar biography, and for it I decided to read it myself.


For an adult it's a quick read, with plenty of illustrations and info boxes. Denise Rinaldo does a good job of presenting the basic facts of Caesar's life, with some helpful short-term background information added in for context. Overall, it's a fine introduction for anyone seeking "just the facts" on one of history's big names, and is ideal for the middle-school or high school audience to whom it is geared. Hopefully with a little help an elementary school reader can enjoy it as well!

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url 2019-08-23 21:02
Podcast #156 is up!
Emperor: A New Life of Charles V - Geoffrey Parker

My latest podcast is up on the New Books Network website! In it, I interview the distinguished historian Geoffrey Parker about his new biography of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Enjoy!

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text 2019-08-10 18:24
The Roman Empire and the Silk Routes: The Ancient World Economy & the Empires of Parthia, Central Asia & Han China - Raoul McLaughlin
The Roman Empire and the Indian Ocean: The Ancient World Economy and the Kingdoms of Africa, Arabia and India - Dr Raoul McLaughlin

Has anyone read anything by Raoul McLaughlin? 


I'm tempted by his book on the Silk Roads but reviews seem to be mixed, and I really want to avoid another book that disappoints as much as the much-hyped Frankopan one. 


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url 2019-04-12 13:59
Podcast #143 is up!
Empires of Ancient Eurasia: The First Silk Roads Era, 100 BCE – 250 CE - Craig G. R. Benjamin

My latest podcast is up on the New Books Network website! In it, I interview Craig Benjamin about his history of the emergence of the trading routes across Afro-Eurasia in the late ancient world. Enjoy!

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review 2019-03-27 14:41
Globalization 1.0
Empires of Ancient Eurasia: The First Silk Roads Era, 100 BCE – 250 CE - Craig G. R. Benjamin
This is a relatively short book about a large span of space and time. In it, Craig Benjamin examines the emergence of trade routes between eastern Asia and the Mediterranean basin over a 350-year period. As Craig explains, the origins of this lay with the pastoral nomads of eastern and central Asia. The challenge they posed led Han China to mount a series of diplomatic missions and military expeditions westward, which established the first contacts with the communities of central Asia. As a commodity and a currency silk was a part of these efforts, contributing to the spread of this rare fabric until examples reached as far west as the Roman empire.
Once he has detailed the emergence of the trade routes, Craig shifts his focus and describes the four empires — those of the Romans, the Parthians, the Kushans, and the Han —whose presence made them possible. These chapters serve as excellent introductions to the empires for anyone unfamiliar with them, while their explanation of their roles as markets and guarantors of stability underscore well the conditions necessary for the trade to flourish. Craig then covers the development of the maritime routes, which gradually become the preferred method of shipping much of the trade, before concluding with the impact the disruption of these empire in the third century CE played in the decline of the trade routes. Taken together, it makes for an excellent summary of the first transcontinental trading routes in Eurasia, one that explains nicely the role of trade in the ancient world and provides some useful context for how global trade developed.
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