February 03, 2005

Book blogging

The Cranky Neocon is recommending VDH's Carnage and Culture.

I couldn't agree more. Two springs ago I taught the Senior Seminar, and we used C&C together with Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, & Steel to look at the issue of conflict and societal evolution. The two books completely disagree with each other arguing as they do from radically different perspectives: Hansen from the belief that certain social patterns developed by the Greeks and adopted by later European and then American societies explains the lethality of these societies when waging war on others, with Diamond seeking to explain the question of differential evolution of societies based on a variety of natural phenomena rather than culture. I'm partial to G,G, & S for the prominent place LLamas play in the story. In the immortal words of Dave Barry, I'm not making this up: a large factor in explaining the relative development of Aztec and Incan societies and empires versus Spain was the absence of domesticated animals, save for the humble LLama.

Anyhoo, it was a fun class: we also read Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations (kids hated it, never defines "civilization" usefully), Kennedy's The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (his predictions about the future from the mid 1980s are hilarious---it's a wonder that our Imperial overlords in Japan, Inc, astride the world as he predicted, allow this book to remain in print....), and we finished with Bowen's BlackHawk Down and Kaplan's Warrior Politics. It was pretty wild given the backdrop of Spring 2003.

Lately, however, I've been poring through The Letters and Writings of Benjamin Hawkins, who was the American agent to the Creek Nation during the Washington and Jefferson administrations. Hawkins was about the closest thing to a fair and scrupulously honest agent you were going to get, and of course he was well hated by the Georgians for it. The Cherokee Nation gets all the attention from this timeperiod, but the Creeks to me are more appealing precisely because they are more mysterious, and because of the way they were feared.

Speaking of wacky frontier life amongst the savages, the Irish Elk has a tribute to Winter Carnival at Dartmouth. Apparently, I attended Winter Carnival my freshman year in college, but to this day have no memories of the time, save for the cringing vision of the look of vomit in snow....

YIPS! from Robbo: I never made it to Carnival myself, although I almost met a very violent death at the hands of my then-girlfriend driving back to Connecticut late one fall evening after rowing in the Darmouth 8's. Howsomever, the Missus' grandfather was a Dartmouth DKE. We have a pillow his wife needle-pointed for him that features the old Indian mascot with a keg of rum on his shoulder. Message to PC Police - neener! neener!

Posted by Steve at February 3, 2005 01:42 PM
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