Wednesday, 1 May 2013

It does seem a pity not to take advantage of Blogging, since it exists. So here goes. My plan at the moment is  from time to time to bring the long perspective of a historian to bear on items that appear in the news. Two recent examples that made me consider this were the debate over Baroness Thatcher's legacy and the North Korean crisis. I never saw the name "Gladstone" mentioned when great Prime Ministers were being discussed, and I do remember the Cuban missile crisis a bit. Perhaps occasionally I shall have something interesting to say.

There will also be shameless advertising for those of my writings that I have self-published on Amazon Kindle. At the moment there are some pieces called "A-grade History Lectures" and some called "Lectures in Scottish History". The first lot are written with an able and ambitious senior school pupil in mind. They are not revision notes to memorise; they are supposed to provoke thought, and they would probably be a bit challenging for a pupil who had not already got a grip of the text-book. Since publication, however, I have been very pleased to discover that several adult general readers enjoy them. They are short, they are meant to be interesting and stimulating and they are my best effort to use over forty years of reading and thinking to explain things about the past. They also contain a lot of information, so anyone who is in a pub quiz team, or who watches "Pointless" will find them useful.

The ones on Scottish history are written with the visitor to Scotland in mind. I like to think of travelers from all over the world sitting in Princes Street Gardens with their Kindles and improving their knowledge of the country while resting their weary feet. In case anyone is interested, here are the links.


It is mildly interesting to see which exam topics are most popular. "The Causes of the First World War" is way out in front, with "Hitler's Rise to Power", "Appeasement", and "The Russian Revolution" vying for second place. My own favourite, "Votes for Women" is doing very badly, almost as badly as "The Congress of Vienna Reassessed" (which I will admit to being an unfashionable topic).

To my surprise "The Place names of Scotland", in the Scottish set, is currently outselling "Hitler". The other two Scottish ones so far are about the first Jacobite rebellion - an investigation of "Bonnie Dundee" that uses Walter Scott's poem as a starting point - and the Scottish Enlightenment.

All of my so-called Lectures (only a few of them have actually been delivered to live audiences) are short. They are intended as introductions, reminders, or a stimulus for fresh thinking. There are plenty of very long and very good history books, but it seems to me that their length can be off-putting to the busy modern reader. One of my favourite quotations is from George III, when he visited Edward Gibbon. "Scribble, scribble, scribble Mr Gibbon. Another damn great thick book." Another favourite comes from Pascal: "I apologise for writing you such a long letter, but I have not had time to compose a short one." George III and Pascal are my witnesses for the defence.

That is more than enough for a first blog post. It is really a try-out, to see if I can cope with the technology. Google doesn't like the photo I have chosen because it says my friends won't recognise me, but who cares. I like it.  

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