Visit Homepage
Skip to content →

Category: European History

Book Review: The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues, and the Coming Dark Age (James Kirchick)

This is a silly and shallow book.  But it is not worthless, because it serves to exemplify and clarify modern political fracture lines.  In the West, the major political split today is between those who view the modern liberal project of maximum individual freedom and maximum democracy (as long as the voters make the correct choices) as the ultimate and unquestionable good, and those who view that project as either inherently defective or sharply limited in the good it brings to humanity.  If Ryszard Legutko, in his criticism of European “liberal-democracy” in The Demon in Democracy, had conjured that demon to physical form, it would be James Kirchick—although, perhaps, Kirchick would manifest only as an imp or familiar, in thrall to some greater demon lurking in the wings, such as George Soros.

Leave a Comment

Book Review: The Benedict Option
(Rod Dreher)

The Benedict Option is, as I expected, an outstanding book.  Rod Dreher has definitively shown that he is the Pope Urban of a new and dynamic movement, and this book has occasioned much commentary in the mainstream press.  Unfortunately, the main point of Dreher’s book—to make a countercultural call for individual and group Christian renewal focused on communities of believers—has been somewhat lost in a secondary point, the real and growing persecution of Christian believers in mainstream society.  This was inevitable, I suppose, because persecution is more interesting to outsiders than a call to holiness, but unfortunate, because it caricatures Dreher and tends to erode receptivity to his message.

2 Comments

Book Review: The Coming of the Third Reich (Richard Evans)

For the past few months, we have been subjected to a tedious, hysterical stream of comparisons of Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler.  As a reader of this book, The Coming of the Third Reich, will quickly figure out, such comparisons are both vicious and ignorant.  One thing is clear to the reader of this book, the first of massive trilogy covering the Third Reich, and that is there is little evidence that we are heading the way of 1920s and 1930s Germany—but that if we are, it has nothing at all to do with Donald Trump.   Nonetheless, this is an interesting book of history, and just because it’s not a warning, per se, does not mean that it does not contain interesting lessons.

Leave a Comment

Book Review: The Almost Nearly Perfect People (Michael Booth)

Published in 2014, this book has an eerie vibe, redolent of a past that seems distant but really was just yesterday.  Intertwined with gentle criticisms of Nordic foibles is an iron self-confidence that “we,” a group constantly referred to but never defined, desire above all things “modernism”:  absolute equality of result and a rejection of sex differences, collectivism, atheism, multiculturalism, the death of traditional cultures through multiculturalism, and the active, aggressive suppression of any view or speech deemed “right-wing.”  Viewed from the post-Brexit, post-Trump, pre-Le Pen perspective of early 2017, this seems as quaint as nostalgia for steam locomotives.  It worships something that was hollow and imaginary then and is now, fortunately, being dragged out, still struggling weakly, to be thrown on the ashheap of history.  Reading this book is like seeing a man venerate a statue of Mithras—it just seems odd, with a frisson of fading menace.

Leave a Comment

Book Review: The Demon In Democracy (Ryszard Legutko)

There is a scene in Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks, in which a character comes across a book of philosophy (Schopenhauer) and realizes in a soaring epiphany that it contains the answers to all of life’s questions.  For me, this book served much the same purpose—it explained to me why certain things are the way they are in the modern world.  Although, sadly, it did not explain “all of life’s questions,” such as what is contained in Area 51.  (I will also gloss over that the character in Mann’s novel quickly forgets the supposed answers and then drops dead of a tooth infection.)

One Comment

Book Review: Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left (Roger Scruton)

It is easy enough to know what the Right thinks, and why.  Half a dozen recent books can easily be found explaining clearly libertarianism; or social conservatism; or “reform conservatism.”  But no such thing exists for the Left.  Yes, there are many books on what political ends the Left desires.  I think those desires are mostly insane and fly in the face of reality.  But it cannot be true that those on the Left view their desires, or what drives their desires, as either insane or senseless.  And one must know one’s enemy.  So why are those ends desired?  I have always found that hard to say.

One Comment

Book Review: Conquests and Cultures (Thomas Sowell)

Last month, in December 2016, maybe as a Christmas gift to himself, Thomas Sowell announced that he was retiring.  Technically, he announced that he was retiring from writing a syndicated column, but at age 86, it seems likely that he does not intend to write any new books, either.  This is unfortunate, but his work is done.  There can be little doubt that Sowell’s many works, taken together, by themselves would be adequate to educate someone raised by wolves on everything any person needs to know about economics, political economy, and much of history.

Leave a Comment

Book Review: The Richest Man Who Ever Lived (Greg Steinmetz)

The Richest Man Who Ever Lived is pop history, designed to appeal to modern readers by putting a modern gloss on a medieval man. As to its central figure, the German banker Jacob Fugger, it may get the core of his story right. Or it may not, because in much of its ancillary history, it is grossly inaccurate—to the degree it makes the reader uncertain what in the core story is actually accurate.

Leave a Comment

Book Review: The Rise of Early Modern Science: Islam, China and the West
(Toby Huff)

This is a magisterial book, pulling together innumerable threads into a coherent, cohesive whole. It is actually a different book than I expected—it spends much more time on the sociology and philosophy of science, in the abstract and as tied to and generated by each society, and much less time on individual scientific inventions and advances. Those do appear, of course, but more by way of illustration than discussion. So if you’re looking for a catalog of inventions, you may be disappointed (though Huff apparently has a later book that is more that), but you’ll probably learn more with this book written the way it is.

Leave a Comment