Monthly Archives: August 2013

History is more recent than it feels

I’ve finally finished reading the Penguin History of the World. Turns out the zebra did it.
Awesome read. I had never read any history pieces and this was fantastically enjoyable.

There is one salient piece that has jumped out most at me. As you read about all these events that feel, to most people, so ancient, you come to notice that many of them took place not more than 200 years ago. And after having bathed your mind in the full history of civilization and its building, these events feel incredibly more recent.

The Ottoman Empire is a good example. Even how recent some countries became states was surprising. Germany is a good example.

It was very powerful to think that we feel so far from these very different ways of living when in fact, we are merely a speck in time away from them.

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History of the world – cool facts

A lack of posts is due to reading the Penguin History of the World. Which is super cool and has so far yielded the following, not connected, amazingly surprising things:

1. Back in classical China, the best thing that could happen to you was to receive the gift of a family name from the emperor if you were a common people. Hence the reason why, now, 22% of the population has the last name of either Zhang, Li or Wang.

2. On New Year’s day in 1256, Baghdad was stormed and raided and the last Abbasid caliph murdered. But due to superstition of shedding his blood, he was rolled in a carpet and trampled to death by horses.

3. The word ‘slave’ comes from the first major group of peoples to be sold as ‘slaves’: the Slavic people of, what is now, eastern Europe.

4. In 1279 when the great Song empire finally collapsed, the last emperor committed suicide along with 800 members of his royal clan. He was an eight year old boy.

5. Among the most interesting innovations created by the Christian church: in the 12th century, they formalized the theory of transubstantiation. This is the process by which the body and blood of Christ are actually present in the bread and wine served during service.

6. Dominicans, a sect of the Christian church during the 12th century, provided much of the personnel responsible for carrying out the Inquisition. Yes, that, inquisition.

7. The best quote read so far:
“Such movements expressed the great paradox of the medieval Church. It had risen to a pinnacle of power and wealth. It deployed vast estates, tithes and papal taxation, in the service of a magnificent hierarchy, whose worldly greatness reflected the glory of God and whose lavish cathedrals, great monastic churches, splendid liturgies, learned foundations and libraries embodied the devotion and sacrifices of the faithful. Yet the point of this huge concentration of power and grandeur was to preach a father at whole heart lay the glorification of poverty and the humility and the superiority of thing not of this world.”
Shit, my brain almost jumped into my mouth reading that. What I would have given to describe such things so eloquently.

8. The total population of the world is estimated to have gone down to 50 million by 1360. It only began to rise in the 15th century. After the 15th century, it has never again decreased since. Ever.

9. ‘Ivan the Great’ was the first ever to take the title of Tsar. The word comes from ‘Ceasar’. This is the first thing on which I’ll comment… It’s weird to us that a man so engrained within our minds would take something from a culture with which we would not immediately associate him. But that’s the interesting part; to him, the interesting things were what happened 500 years ago… it’s a chronological association that we don’t often realize exists.

10. In 1730, the family line of Peter The Great ended. This is due to the fact that there was no successor to Peter, other than the son whom Peter had tortured to death.

That’s all for now. I’m about three quarters through the book.

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