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Search tags: political-history
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text 2020-02-11 08:42
Reading progress update: I've read 358 out of 451 pages.
Unspeakable: The Autobiography - John Bercow

The chapter on "How to be a Good MP" was both insightful into the background of some of the MPs that have represented in the House over the last 20 years and somewhat encouraging for anyone interested in getting involved in active politics. 

 

What I liked best about it, tho, was that Mr. Bercow - as he has done in most of the book - provides a record of parliamentary goings on.

He criticises some MPs for their failings and blunders, but - more importantly to me, and seemingly spending more time on it -  he praises some MPs for achievements that have made a major impact on people's lives and that would otherwise probably be soon forgotten.

 

I'll finish the book tonight.

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text 2020-02-10 00:24
Reading progress update: I've read 320 out of 451 pages.
Unspeakable: The Autobiography - John Bercow

Enough of this for today.

While the book is excellent, revisiting the blow-by-blow of the governmental shambles that led to and immediately followed the Brexit referendum makes for enraging reading, and I am resolved to not lose sleep to this part of the book.

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text 2020-02-09 19:45
Sunday Soup

Well, I did mention that the chances of a Sunday Soup post were favourable as Storm Ciara passing over inspired me to stay indoors and search for a new soup recipe...and of course read. 

 

 

The soup is a sweetcorn chowder which features coconut milk as one of the ingredients - you can find the recipe here. It's delicious and I look forward to having more of it for lunches and dinners later this week. 

 

I'm loving John Bercow's book and am paying no heed to the critics that are trying to shout him down in the media at present. It's a timely read. 

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review 2020-01-22 20:18
The Thirty Years War
The Thirty Years War - Cicely Veronica Wedgwood

War is hell, just imagine it lasting for an entire generation with armies crisscrossing the same ground again and again producing famine, depopulation, and disease all in the name of religion, nationalism, and then finally simple greed.  C.V. Wedgwood’s The Thirty Years War covers nearly a half century of history from the causes that led to the conflict through its deadly progression and finally it’s aftereffects.

 

From the outset Wedgwood sets the German domestic and the continental political situations in focus by stating that everyone was expecting war but between Spain and the Dutch while the German economy was on the decline due to the rise of new trading patterns over the course of the last century.  It was only with the succession of the Bohemian throne and the ultra-Catholic policies of the Ferdinand II after his election that started the war everyone knew was coming, sooner and further east than expected.  The war began as a purely religious conflict that saw the Catholic German princes led by Emperor Ferdinand crush the Protestant opposition because many of the Protestants decided not to help one another until it was too late due to political conservatism that Ferdinand used to his advantage.  It wasn’t until Gustavus Adolphus and the Swedes entered the conflict a decade later that the conflict turn slowly from religious to international and an extension of the Bourbon-Habsburg in which the former used first allies then their own troops to prevent the encirclement of France by both branches of the Habsburgs.  The negotiations for the end of the war took nearly five years and would change as events in the field would change strategies until finally allied members of the Bourbon and Habsburgs would cut deals with the other side to quickly break deadlocks and achieve peace but how it took almost six years to stand down the armies to prevent chaos.

 

Wedgwood’s narrative historical style keeps the book a very lively read and makes the war’s progress advancing even when she’s relating how the continuous fighting was affecting the German population.  She is very upfront with the men, and a few women, who influenced the conflict throughout it’s course from the great kings of Ferdinand II, Christian IV of Denmark, and Gustavus to the great princes Maximillian I of Bavaria, John George of Saxony, and Frederick Henry of Orange to the mercenary generals that gained in importance as the conflict continued like Albrecht von Wallenstein to finally the political masterminds of Richelieu and Mazarin.  With such a large historical cast, Wedgwood’s writing keeps things simple and straight for the read thus allowing the conflict’s long drawn out nature to fully impact the reader and how it affected those out of power.  And in describing the aftereffects, Wedgwood disarms many myths about the effects of the war that over three hundred years became considered fact.

 

The Thirty Years War by C.V. Wedgwood is an excellent narrative history of a conflict that saw the end of one kind of conflict and the beginnings of another with interesting personalities that fought and conducted policy around it while also showing the effects on the whole population.  If you’re interested in seventeenth-century history or military history, this book is for you.

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review 2019-12-08 00:06
Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times
Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times - H.W. Brands

Considered by some the most dangerous man to be President and others as one of their own that deserved the office, he ushered in a sea change in Washington and American politics.  Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times by H.W. Brands follows the future President of the United States from his birth in the South Carolina backcountry to frontier town of Nashville to the battlefields of the Old Southwest then finally to the White House and how he gave his name to an era of American history.

 

Brands begins with a Jackson family history first from Scotland to Ulster then to the Piedmont region of the Carolina where his aunts and uncles had pioneered before his own parents immigrated.  Fatherless from birth, Jackson’s childhood was intertwined with issues between the American colonies and Britain then eventually the Revolutionary War that the 13-year old Jackson participated in as a militia scout and guerilla fighter before his capture and illness while a POW.  After the death of the rest of his family at the end of the war through illness, a young Jackson eventually went into law becoming one of the few “backcountry” lawyers in western North Carolina—including Tennessee which was claimed by North Carolina—before moving to Nashville and eventually becoming one of the founders of the state of Tennessee and become one of it’s most important military and political figures especially with his marriage to Rachel Donelson.  Eventually Jackson’s status as the major general of the Tennessee militia led him to first fight the Creek War—part of the overall War of 1812—then after the successful conclusion of the campaign was made a major general of the regular army in charge of the defending New Orleans from British attack which ultimately culminated in the famous 1815 battle that occurred after the signing of the peace treaty in Ghent.  As “the” military hero of the war, Jackson’s political capital grew throughout the Monroe administration even with his controversial invasion of Florida against the Seminole.  After becoming the first U.S. Governor of Florida, Jackson left the army and eventually saw his prospects rise for the Presidency to succeed Monroe leading to the four-way Presidential contest of 1824 which saw Jackson win both the popular vote and plurality of electoral college votes but lose in the House to John Quincy Adams.  The campaign for 1828 began almost immediately and by the time of the vote the result wasn’t in doubt.  Jackson’s time in the White House was focused on the Peggy Eaton affair, the battle over Bank of the United States, the Nullification Crisis with South Carolina, Indian relations, and finally what was happening in Texas.  After his time in office, Jackson struggled keeping his estate out of debt and kept up with the events of around the country until his death.

 

In addition to focusing on Jackson’s life, Brands make sure to give background to the events that he would eventually be crucial part of.  Throughout the book Brands keeps three issues prominent: Unionism, slavery, and Indian relations that dominated Jackson’s life and/or political thoughts.  While Brands hits hard Jackson’s belief in the Union and is nuanced when it comes with slavery, the relations with Indians is well done in some areas and fails in some (most notably the “Trail of Tears”).  This is not a biography focused primarily on Jackson’s time in the White House and thus Brands only focused on the big issues that is primarily focused on schools instead of an intense dive into his eight years.

 

Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times is a informative look into the life of the seventh President of the United States and what was happening in the United States throughout his nearly eight decades of life.  H.W. Brands’ writing style is given to very easy reading and his research provides very good information for both general and history specific readers, though he does hedge in some areas.  Overall a very good biography.

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