44 Comments
Dec 3, 2023Liked by Greg Olear

Yes, we will survive this. But I am horrified that we do not have more of our fellow citizens alarmed, saddened, resolute and determined to overthrow the fascist elements now in charge of the "conservative" side of our politics. Fire alarms should be ringing everywhere, and they're not. Sad.

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Dec 3, 2023Liked by Greg Olear

Greg i agree with you and Tuchman. Humanity will survive Trump. Even if he starts a Nuclear war.

The sad part is he should have gone to prison years ago.

In a just society the

malevolent Robber Barons would be taken down.

I suspect the black plague like covid still lingers in rat infested mega cities.

8,045,311,447 and climbing

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Dec 3, 2023Liked by Greg Olear

I've been asking myself for years if "things are getting worst" or does it seem that way because of our access to "information" 24 hours a day. These are the times I miss my Dad's perspective the most, because he was a history buff whose library was filled with history books. The last time I asked him if he thought things were getting worst was in the 90's. His response was the American people have gone through periods of extreme political rhetoric and policies but the country always comes back to the center. I wonder how he would answer that question today. And to Tuchman's point, the line in Hamilton that says history is who tells your story is relevant. I would add in addition to who, it's what they tell and how.

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Dec 3, 2023·edited Dec 3, 2023Liked by Greg Olear

I have to say, Greg, that I cannot understand how you can claim to be knowledgeable about the reign of Caesar Augustus if you are unaware of the role of the Roman Republic's victory in the Punic Wars - which established Rome as an empire in all but name internationally while maintaining an increasingly-fraudulent republic internally (sound like any major country you happen to live in, looking at the history of that country over the past 80 years to today?), with the economic results of empire making the increasingly-outrageously-rich Roman Patrician class even more antagonistic to the restraints on them set by Republican laws, to the point they supported the insurrections of Roman generals and attempts to install a dictatorship, leading to more class discord in the Republic, and eventually leading to Julius Caesar, the Donald Trump with brains of his time, and the eventual installation of Augustus and the imposition of complete ruling class control without any of the protections of the Republic remaining. Do you really not notice that the period between the final victory over Carthage and the installation of Augustus certainly "rhymes" with our past 80 years?? But you would if you just read a few of the many good studies of the fall of the Republic.

Likewise, how can you have any understanding of how the Civil War happened without an understanding of how the Revolution "baked in" the Civil War?

And yeah, A Distant Mirror is good for you to look at, as was The Guns of August, and you also ought to read The Proud Tower.

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Dec 3, 2023Liked by Greg Olear

I just ordered The Distsnt Mirror! The cover alone would have ignited my book lust. Thanks for your fine review!

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Dec 3, 2023Liked by Greg Olear

Love your ditty!

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Excellent point. Good news is always on the back pages or ignored entirely. For example, individual productivity is increasing rapidly. One day we’ll all be richer in free time to use wisely. 😀

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Dec 3, 2023Liked by Greg Olear

Great piece! I kept thinking about Tuchman as I listened to Maddow’s ULTRA podcast. There is a comfort in knowing that we’ve “survived worse”.

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I was a history major focusing on the Renaissance because I'd been a year abroad in Florence. Then I switched to grad school in English Lit, which involved a lot of British history. Then to Law School and practice.

About 18 years ago I decided to recreate my excellent Western Civ course from freshman year on my own, in 6-8 month chunks, reading intensively in "periods" from Mesopotamian history on. A 3 month retirement trip in 2010 to mostly Germany-sides to Low Countries, Prague, Austria-had me reading by country rather than period. I basically followed Holy Roman Emperors around Europe with a nod to Hapsburgs. On my return reading Peter Brown got me sidetracked to Late Antiquity. It helped that most of this was before the Internet really got going; certainly not 2.0. My favorite period (that got a year) was Medieval, due in part to Tuchman's book that I'd read when it first came out.

I love mysteries so during each chunk I read historical mysteries of the time. I basically abandoned leisure reading of the likes of Robert Ludlum and assorted female sleuths for this program.

I was never really into American history. Then Trump hit. Back to the founding Parents and constitutional history, which I'd had both as undergrad and in law school. But suddenly my reading was more online, more in discussion groups, more ferreting out the deluge of issues his regime raised.

All this has given me a broad perspective and a tendency to spot connections which I try to keep from being banal. Yes there was population migration in Roman times; no, trump is no Augustus. Get into the bad emperors and maybe. But even the worst seem to have been well, smarter, than he is.

Clearly I am a bookworm and not into a heavy social life nor TV. But for all you youngsters out there (I was around 60 when I started) it is a way of keeping a young mind through continual learning==and it is FUN.

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Dec 3, 2023Liked by Greg Olear

Grateful for the Christmas book recommendations for my voracious reader of non-fiction. My husband will love them!

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Dec 3, 2023Liked by Greg Olear

Great book. I love Barbara Tuchman’s writing. Will we survive? Survive in the sense of the world still turning, still livable? Yes. Will we be like the Germans after WW2 regretting the last years? I hope not!

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Dec 3, 2023Liked by Greg Olear

I was in Venice in 2019 and thought alot about the Black Death. I did read some about it before the trip but I should have read this book. And I saw my sister-in-law and her husband this weekend and they are the watching the Kennedy series on History channel and highly recommended it. The husband said Kennedy had his war cabinet members read "Guns of August". I saw that as a sign and ordered the book today! Have you read "Paris is Burning?". That is one of my favorite WWII books.

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Dec 3, 2023Liked by Greg Olear

I always appreciate how you take something from history and apply it to today. There really is nothing that new, just more lipstick on the same pig. Truer words were never spoken more about the times we live in than, "Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it." Of course, it could also be said that even those who DO learn history are doomed to repeat it. Sometimes, I despair of humanity, and for the past several years, some VOTERS, too. We're going to survive, but I have higher aspirations in what's left of my life than "survival."

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Dec 3, 2023Liked by Greg Olear

I have the utmost respect for history buffs, as I’m not one. But I do consider myself something of an amateur philosopher. That combination explains, I guess, why I’m such a fan of what you write, Greg. My favorite take-away from this piece: “No Pope ever issued a Bull to approve of something.” Coming from my experience with the negativity of doom-and-gloom organized religion (though not Catholicism), that’s worth a chuckle!

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Dec 4, 2023Liked by Greg Olear

I want to reread this book, which was first assigned to me by my college Medieval history teacher. As I recall, the graphic scenes depicting the origins of the plague are fascinating. I too, find solace in history & by studying it we can grasp a greater perspective on the World’s current events; however frightening they may have become.

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Dec 4, 2023·edited Dec 4, 2023

God..I hope you're right Greg. " The orange menace.." Appropos! And like most scourges, finite.

Eventually, we all take the dirt nap, some sooner than others. Who was it that said, "hope springs eternal in the human breast?" Alexander Pope? At last report, he was no optimist. And yet, dine on enough Big Macs and they have been known to create heart issues. Here's to Big Macs!! Do your worst..oh noble burger!

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