IMAGINING COMMUNITIES

indonesia_pol_2002

I have been posting recently about how societies and groups construct their memories, and through that process, define their identities. When I say “constructing,” that need have no implication of deceit or forgery: rather, it means that multiple memories are available, and we choose to emphasize some rather than others. History is always being rewritten, [Read More...]

ESTABLISHED SINCE RECENTLY

I recently posted about the construction of historical memory, and the debate over whether such histories were onions or olives – that is, whether such ideas arose from a genuine core, or if they were wholly imagined. Obviously, that can be a controversial issue, particularly in religious terms, but it is helpful to address it. [Read More...]

ZOMIA AND ISRAEL

James C. Scott is a distinguished scholar who works on multiple topics and diverse eras. At Yale, he holds the intriguing title of Sterling Professor of Political Science, Anthropology, Forestry, and Environmental Studies. Even he might be surprised, though, to find himself cited on matters of Biblical history and archaeology. He may well offer a [Read More...]

THE KOLLAM PLATES

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Some years ago, in The Lost History of Christianity, I wrote about the world of Asian Christianity during the first millennium. Now, an amazing body of documents throws light on that lost world. This material also demonstrates how the Internet can make historical information freely available. In the mid-ninth century, legal transactions were inscribed on [Read More...]

ONIONS AND OLIVES

72mysteryhill

I recently posted on Philip K. Dick’s book The Man in the High Castle, and what it suggests about the construction of historical memory. For historians of religion especially, we can learn a lot about the invention of history, and how new histories, new memories, come to be seen as solid fact. The godfather of [Read More...]

DOWN FROM THE HIGH CASTLE

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As a historian of religion, I am haunted by Zippo cigarette lighters. Let me explain. As a teenager, I was stunned by reading Philip K. Dick’s novel The Man in the High Castle, originally published in 1962. The book’s theme seems almost commonplace in retrospect, as so many other works have used its central idea [Read More...]

FROM ANGELS TO ARMAGEDDON

First-World-War-Poster-from-the-Museum-Collection

Over the past couple of years, I have been working on a book about the religious aspects of the First World War, to be published in this centennial year of 2014. It will appear this coming May, as The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade (HarperOne). It’s an ambitious [Read More...]

PROPOSING BOOKS

Tommy Kidd and I have both recently posted about writing and publishing – chiefly in history, but what we said also applies to plenty of other humanities disciplines. Assume you have an idea for a book, but don’t know exactly how to get it into print. Tommy mentioned submitting a proposal to the publisher, to [Read More...]

OUR BETTER ANGELS

I have been re-reading Steven Pinker’s provocative book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (2011). Briefly (and his argument is quite dense – 830 pages!) Pinker argues that mass violence and killing have steadily declined through the centuries, and that even the appalling wars of the twentieth century were far less [Read More...]

WRITING AND PUBLISHING HISTORY

chabot-valley

I was hugely grateful for Tommy Kidd’s recent column on publishing in history. His post took so many themes that are quite familiar to academics and professional scholars, and then unpacked them for non-specialists in an extraordinarily valuable way. That was a real contribution. Like Tommy, I also lay claim to being a prolific publisher. [Read More...]


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