Bourguignonne, espagnole, autrichienne, française, hollandaise… la Belgique possède la plus singulière des histoires, aussi passionnante qu’un roman d’aventures. Des siècles de guerres, de mariages diplomatiques et de luttes religieuses qui ont semé la graine d’un royaume né d’une révolution romantique en 1830.
Le livre présents l’histoire du territoire qui fait maintenant la Belgique, en commencent avec la Belgique celtique jusqu’à contemporanéité. L’histoire a un point de vue classique, focussé sur la succession des chefs politiques, mais fait parfois des mentions aux développements sociales et économiques.
Patrick Weber fait une très compréhensive et entrainante présentation de l’histoire de ce pays. Tous les périodes sont présentes : la Belgique preféodale, féodale, bourguignonne, espagnole, autrichienne, la Belgique dans le sillage de la révolution française, la Belgique néerlandaise, la révolution belge, Leopold le Ier, Leopold le IIème, Albert le Ier, Leopold le IIIème, Baudoin, jusqu’à Albert le IIème.
Des petits sous-chapitres sont inclus avec des détails des différent provinces ou villes belge, dans la période que le chapitre présent.
On peut comprendre mieux maintenant la signification des nommes des stations de métro à Bruxelles : Toison d’Or, Joséphine-Charlotte, Mérode, Simonis et autres.
C’était un très bon livre, facile à lire, en sélectant les détails importants de l’histoire belge, en essayent d’être neutre politique (même que l’auteur parait être wallon), je recommande à tous.
It was painful to consider that the nation which could produce the world’s greatest battleships was unable under pressure to produce a single satisfactory torpedo boat.
These are the memoirs of the only Imperial Japanese Navy destroyer captain at the start of World War II to survive the entire war. Tameichi Hara presents his memoirs, with the help of journalist Fred Saito and translator Roger Pineau.
The book focuses on the navy battles of the Pacific in 1942 and 1943 while captain Hara was fighting the US Navy in Guadalcanal and the Philippines, being involved in over a dozen major actions.
The stories are an unique view of the Imperial Japanese Navy, their tactics, problems, morale and weaponry. The writing is engaging, and the pace is surprisingly good for a memoirs book.
Captain Hara is not just as simple captain. He wrote the Japanese manual for torpedo tactics, the most advanced in the world at the time. He managed to keep his ship intact with no crew loses, in several military engagements, when Japanese destroyers where sunk or damaged at a high rate.
The book practically shows how the power of air took over the power of navy, how warplanes gradually got the upper hand over warships.
Towards the end of the war, he accepted a suicide mission, as captain of the light cruiser Yahagi, accompanying battleship Yamato in its last attack.
What logic can make a human being to accept almost certain death, when everything else is lost? Captain Hara beautifully describes the situation and the facts with great precision.
The book is superbly researched, the Japanese actions being verified with accounts from the Allies. Those are some great memoirs, on par with the ones of Heinz Guderian, another great innovative mind. While Hara was the master of torpedo, Guderian was master of tanks, both ending on the same during and after the war.
The arguments in Whitehall concerning the weight of the rocket lasted throughout July and well into August. Herbert Morrison was near panic: on 27th July he was wanting the War Cabinet to plan immediately for the evacuation of a million people from London…
The book is a World World II memoir of Reginald V. Jones, responsible to anticipate and counter the German science applications in warfare, mainly air, and create new technical aids. Those weapons included radio navigation, radar, navigation for the Allied Bomber Offensive, and the V-1 and V-2 rockets.
R.V. Jones’ position in the British war effort, both in the Intelligence Section of Britain’s Air Ministry and in the MI-6, allowed him to be at the forefront of the technical war between NAZI Germany and the United Kingdom. He is now considered the father of technical and science intelligence and CIA has an award with his name.
The author’s account reveals much of the battles’ details fought with the technical minds in Germany, but also the experience of the war, the bureaucratic fights inside the various British ministries and his interactions with the British Prime Minister, of whom he was a great admirer.
The memoir is read as a wartime scientific detective story, with a strong espionage background. For example, he reveals how the V-1 (flying bomb) and V-2 rockets were assessed in terms of warhead capability and production. He fought with his own expert councils and with some ministers panicked of a possible mass attack over London. By looking at aerial photographs, the messages from the ultra secret decipher service at Bletchley Park; the spy reports; prisoners’ interrogations and others, he was able to correctly put together the puzzle of the V-1 and V-2 rockets and find counter-measures for them.
His battle was different than the ones with tanks and land offensives, but not less important. Without him and his counter-measures, the bombing of Britain in 1940 would have been a lot more accurate and the German air force would not have sustain the crippling losses.
This book is widely acclaimed as one of the best memoirs of the World World II, from one of the highest ranked positions in the British intelligence. I sincerely recommend it to all readers interested in history and science.
Henry begins with a text listing his view of what the objectives of any man’s life are…First of all is man’s duty to secure salvation for his soul. This is by definition the most important goal of human life. Next is the pursuit of honour for himself, his name, his lineage and his nation. Honour, declares the prince, is passed on by inheritance from generation to generation and so concerns the very essence of worldly existence. If he possesses honour, a man’s name and reputation will endure until the world’s end…He dismisses as worthless most of the activities necessary either to make life tolerable or, indeed, to keep going at all.
Prince Henry “The Navigator” is a detailed biography by Peter Russell of the famous Portuguese prince who started the Portuguese maritime discoveries of the 15th century.
The Prince was obsessed by his crusading destiny and, under his pressure, the Portuguese conquered Ceuta. He then goes against everyone, seasoned sailors and common knowledge, to fund expeditions going beyond Cape Bojador, a place after which sailing was considered impossible. This was a crucial moment that defined the destiny of Portugal.
Prince Henry also organized and pushed the discoveries for decades, until his death, despite the fact he was constantly struggling with bankruptcy. The trade with Guinea (mainly slaves) and, principally, the riches from Madeira (wood, dyes, sugar) brought much wealth to the country and showed that profit could be made from maritime discoveries.
He was open to people of skill, hiring foreigners in his service, mainly Genoese to develop trade. Rusell suggests that some of the funds to finance the expeditions were coming from the Genoese merchant houses in Portugal.
The ascetic Prince was very close to his retinue, always trying to help them and give them positions. Maybe his court was not always paid in time, but he tried to take care of his knights and servants.
The biographer is a balanced writer of Price Henry’s life. The debacle of Tangier, when the Portuguese attacked the Marinid Morocco’s port, again at the Prince’s pressure, shows a darker side of the noble. To be allowed to leave, the Prince agreed to give back Ceuta, leaving his brother as guarantee. He never returned the city to the Moroccans and his brother died in prison.
While the Prince always presented his expeditions as religious attempts to christianize Africa, the purpose looks more likely to be profit. Putting the cross of the Order of Christ, where he was leader, on the sails certainly helped to boost this image. In practice, no churches were built in Africa and he cruelly defended his monopoly of trade to Guinea, especially against the Castilians.
But, why was he starting the expeditions? Why not others? Maybe the answer lies on two aspects: first, he was conditioned to go towards the sea, there was nothing of enough value, or too costly to get if North Africa was attacked; secondly, he wanted more than others to become famous. The biographer suggests that the Prince strongly believed that he could get by sea to the mythical kingdom of Preacher John, a Christian kingdom full of riches in Africa. Of course, the conditions were set for discovery: internal stability in Portugal, with Castile fighting internal wars, no threat from Africa, ships that could travel such long distances, enough wealth to finance the expeditions, skilled and courageous sailors, etc..
The books is lengthily, still not enough detailed as it could have been. However, it is a classic, maybe the best biography of the famous Portuguese prince.
[Featured photo by André Luís from Lisbon, Portugal]
In 1642, 18-year-old Blaise Pascal, the son of a French tax collector, tired of waiting for his dad to come play a game of “le catch”. Blaise’s dad was what is known as a tax farmer, sort of a 17th century version of a loan shark, threat of broken bones and all. Tax farmers advanced tax money to the government and then had a license to collect taxes, hopefully “harvesting” more than they advanced. Elder Pascal was constantly busy calculating and tabulating his potential tax haul. To help him out, Blaise envisioned a mechanical device with wheels and cogs and gears and numeric dials that could sum up numbers to eight digits long. That’s 10 million francs. Dad must have been a top tax guy.
The book explains the history of technology, from the Industrial Revolution to contemporaneity, through the lenses of capitals and stocks. The books is written in a simple way and without much depth, kind of like Wikipedia is explaining. However, the connections it makes are genius and really make the reader think.
Andy Kessler, the author, worked for two decades in the banking and investor sector, from research analyst to hedge fund manager.
The book is divided in 5 chapters: The Industrial Revolution; Early Capital Markets, Components Needed for Computing; Digital Computers and Modern Capital Markets.
Each chapter has small stories, linking to each other, explaining the creation and change of some concepts, laws, industries. The overall thematic is economics, trade and, partially, laws influencing trade, money, finance and national economies.
Andy Kessler explains in a simple and brilliant way very complex concepts, such as fractional reserve banking and the Corn Laws. While it doesn’t have depth, it has the right amount of detail to made the reader understand why things happened that way.
All those facts presented are freely available online, but Kessler put them together in a logical and consequential way. It is really a book that “connects the dots”.
It is rarely that a book has so much ingenuity, easiness of writing, clarity in thinking and presenting the facts. The book can be freely found on the author’s website. One of the few that I would read twice.
The hatchet with France was slowly being buried, but there were still serious differences to be ironed out over North Africa. Russia remained a huge threat, and it was against her that Britain’s first major diplomatic initiative of the new century, the Anglo-Japanese alliance of 1902, was directed. The main worry, however, was Germany, which had shown unconcealed sympathy for the Boers and whose naval ambitions were seen as a direct challenge to British maritime supremacy.
At 550 pages, Europe is a very dense book of European history, mainly focusing on German lands, due to their position in the center of Europe. It follows the struggles between kingdoms and nations from an international relations perspective. The depth of detail is impressive, but the way the narration progresses and the events are presented keeps the reader engaged.
The book has everything, from the wars within the Holy Roman Empire to modern Germany, from conquest of Cyprus by Ottomans to Crimean war, from Ivan the Terrible to Putin. While Europe is the main focus, there are historical events from Afghanistan, China or the United Stated which get much attention as well.
Brendan Simms offers a thorough explanation of some crucial questions, such why Germany is so important and why Europe conquered the world. It explains brilliantly the motivations of why some countries acted in a specific way.
Brendan Peter Simms is Professor of the History of International Relations in the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge. He shows an impressive quality of understanding historical events, while not pinning down the reader in an infinite enumeration of details.
Just until the present day analysis, the book is a scholarly masterpiece. The present day events are a lot less clear as the author wants them to be. Also, international relations and foreign policy are sometimes given too much weight, while other actors, such as technology, leaders at a specific time or culture, were important factors as well.
To sum up, this is a brilliant scholarly book on European history from a primacy of international relations viewpoint.