Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Invention of Science by David Wooton

David Wootton offers a kind of justification for his lengthy chronicle of the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries. “We still live with the consequences,” he writes in “The Invention of Science.’’ The “scientific way of thinking has become so much part of our culture that it has now become difficult to think our way back into a world where people did not speak of facts, hypotheses and theories, where knowledge was not grounded in evidence, where nature did not have laws.”
Wootton fears that we don”t quite appreciate what an intellectual leap forward the revolution was, and he proves himself a worthy tutor. The University of York history professor is a dazzling explicator of difficult ideas whose relish for his material is evident on nearly every page. He writes well not only about key figures like Isaac Newton, Nicolaus Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Galileo, Francis Bacon, and Robert Boyle, but also dozens of lesser known scientific minds — Italian German, English, French — from the era.

The Federalist's Notable Books Of 2015

From Mark Hemmingway:" So we asked Federalist staff and contributors to come up with their own list of books that, for whatever reason, they found notable in 2015. Maybe those books didn’t even come out in 2015. Maybe they weren’t huge bestsellers. Perhaps these books were overlooked because they ran afoul of The New York Times’ politics or Amazon’s publishing imperatives. And yes, there’s at least a few new books mentioned below that did manage to live up to the hype surrounding them. So here our recommendations in all their idiosyncratic glory."

Read here:

Mark Hemingway is a senior writer at The Weekly Standard. Follow him on Twitter at @heminator

Irish writers pick their top reads of 2015

The year in books saw a smattering of Irish and international blockbusters, some lesser-known masterpieces and an Elena Ferrante obsession. 

Here, 22 leading Irish authors offer their top choices for the last 12 months.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

December's Additions 2015

December is nearly over, but these latest additions to the Library arrived about a week ago!

Domesday Book: A Complete Translation
Compiled in a matter of months in 1086 at the behest of William the Conqueror, Domesday quickly established itself as document of immense legal importance. It was last consulted for legal precedent in 1982. It is also the most remarkable portrait of England in the late eleventh century. 

Sisters to the King by Maria Perry
In the Tudor age, both Margaret and Mary were thought to be more important personalities than Henry's six wives. Margaret became Queen of Scotland at the age of 13. Mary, Henry's famously beautiful younger sister, was married off to the ageing King of France. Against convention both chose their second husbands for love. 

Mary Rose : Tudor Princess, Queen of France, the Extraordinary Life of Henry VIII's Sister by David Loades
David Loades' biography, the first for almost 50 years, brings the princess alive once more. Of all Tudor women, this Queen of France and later Duchess of Suffolk remains an elusive, enigmatic figure.

Cecily Neville : Mother of Kings by Amy Licence
One of a huge family herself, Cecily would see two of her sons become kings of England, but the struggles that tore apart the Houses of Lancaster and York also turned brother against brother. Cecily's life cannot have been easy. 

Lordship in Four Realms : The Lacy Family, 1166-1241 by Colin Veach
This book examines the rise and fall of the aristocratic Lacy family in England, Ireland, Wales and Normandy. This involves a unique analysis of medieval lordship in action, as well as a re-imagining of the role of English kingship in the western British Isles and a rewriting of seventy-five years of Anglo-Irish history.

The Greatest Knight : The Remarkable Life of William Marshal, the Power Behind Five English Thrones by Thomas Asbridge
In The Greatest Knight, renowned historian Thomas Asbridge draws upon an array of contemporary evidence, including the thirteenth-century biography, to present a compelling account of William Marshal's life and times, from rural England to the battlefields of France, the desert castles of the Holy Land and the verdant shores of Ireland. Charting the unparalleled rise to prominence of a man bound to a code of honour, yet driven by unquenchable ambition, this knight's tale lays bare the brutish realities of medieval warfare and the machinations of royal court, and draws us into the heart of a formative period of our history, when the West emerged from the Dark Ages and stood on the brink of modernity.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Daily Routines of 12 Famous Writers | James Clear

The Daily Routines of 12 Famous Writers (And How They Can Help You Succeed) | James Clear

We often assume that great things are done by those who were blessed with natural talent, genius, and skill. But how many great things could have been done by people who never fully realized their potential? I think many of us, myself included, are capable of much more than we typically produce -- our best work is often still hiding inside of us.
How can you pull that potential out of yourself and share it with the world?
Perhaps the best way to develop better daily routines. When you look at the top performers in any field, you see something that goes much deeper than intelligence or skill. They possess an incredible willingness to do the work that needs to be done. They are masters of their daily routines.
As an example of what separates successful people from the rest of the pack, take a look at some of the daily routines of famous writers from past and present.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

How Libraries Acquire Books

How Libraries Acquire Books (Because Most People, Including Digital Piracy Advocates, Don't Seem To Understand This)

On my list of ten items about why digital piracy sucks, one of those items was meant to dispel a common argument employed by idiots, which is: Durr there's no difference between pirating a book and getting it from the library.
The simple response to that, of course, being: Well stop being lazy and just get it at the library, asshole.
Except, libraries do not get books for free. They pay for books. And those sales can be incredibly important to authors. This, apparently, is not obvious to a great many people, because I still see the library gambit tossed around by the pro-piracy set.
And in doing research for this little rant, I found that it's not so obvious that libraries pay for books. So I thought it might a good idea to spell that out. The more you know, as G.I. Joe used to say. 
I don't expect to change anyone's mind. No one changes their mind anymore. That's a sign of weakness. And anyway, people who contort themselves into pretzels to defend their shitty behavior, they don't care about facts. They care about the endgame: Their own entitlement. 

Rob Hart

Column by Rob Hart

Rob Hart is the class director at LitReactor, as well as the associate publisher for He's the author of New Yorked and The Last Safe Place: A Zombie Novella, and his short stories have appeared in publications like Shotgun Honey, Thuglit, Needle, Joyland, and Helix Literary Magazine. Non-fiction has appeared at Salon, The Daily Beast, and Nailed. He lives in New York City, and you can find his website at

Monday, October 12, 2015

Cleopatra’s shadows

The author of a debut novel sidelines Cleopatra in favor of her sisters, powerful protagonists of their own dramas.

The story of Cleopatra has been told many times over, in many different ways, though there’s a certain consistency to the tale’s key elements — the seductiveness, the asp, the sultry kohl eyeliner. In her new novel, “Cleopatra’s Shadows,” Emily Holleman decided to break free of the clichés dogging the last great pharaoh of Ptolemaic Egypt, the better to see her fresh. 

The book is the first in a planned series of four that will tell of Cleopatra’s rise and famous fall, but Cleopatra herself hardly appears in it; we glimpse her, in the opening pages, not as some Elizabeth Taylor-esque glamazon sure of her erotic power, but as an 11-year-old girl, setting sail from Alexandria with her father, Ptolemy Auletes, to seek support from Rome against her half-sister, Berenice, who has taken the throne for herself.

Berenice, 19 and in charge of holding together an unstable kingdom, is one of the shadows of the title. The other is Arsinoe, Cleopatra’s younger sister, left behind in Alexandria to fend for herself in an environment of political and familial treachery. The book’s title turns out to be slyly deceptive; Arsinoe and Berenice might be confined to the shadows of history, but here they are squarely in the limelight, powerful protagonists of their own dramas.

Timeless tale of a medieval saint

A novel about the life of a 15th-century Russian monk might sound an unlikely bestseller, but Eugene Vodolazkin’s extraordinary tale Lavrus became a literary sensation, won Russia’s Big Book award in 2013, and was shortlisted for numerous other prizes. This fall it’s published in English.

So what is the appeal? Vodolazkin’s spiritual odyssey transcends history, fusing archaism and slang to convey the idea that “time is a sort of misunderstanding.” Towards the end, the eponymous hero “Laurus”, a medieval doctor, holy fool, pilgrim and - finally - hermit, is leaning on an old pine tree. The ants are swarming over the bark and through the monk’s beard, embodying the idea that he has almost become part of the forest he lives in. The image is typical of Vodolazkin’s poetic vision. 

An Unexpected Revival For A Beloved Russian Poet Anna Akhmatova

There's a surge of interest in the work of 20th century Russian poet Anna Akhmatova. It's inspired in part by American country and folk singer-songwriter Iris Dement, who has an adopted daughter from Russia and has set some of the poet's work to music in a new album, The Trackless Woods.

Akhmatova, born in 1889, witnessed the tumultuous years of the Russian Revolution and lived through the horrors of Joseph Stalin's repressions. She survived as a beacon of artistic courage.

Akhmatova came from an aristocratic background and she knew the splendor of the palace during its pre-revolution days — when it was, as Nisnikova says, "a kind of treasure house with examples of Western European art, ancient Russian icons, armor and ancient manuscripts."

Octobers Additions to the Library

Just a few additions (so far) to the Library for October 2015:

The Book of Melusine of Lusignan in History, Legend and Romance by Gareth Knight.
This book provides a collection of material from various sources to give an all round picture of the remarkable faery, her town, her church, her immediate family, and the great Lusignan dynasty she founded. An established authority on Melusine, Gareth Knight collects together all the best source material, which he translates from the French, and presents his own researches into the Lusignan family of the 12th century, whose dynasty included kings of Cyprus and Jerusalem, examining the possibility of a familiar spirit guiding the family in its destiny.

Anna Comnena by G. Buckler
This book discusses Anna’s character, attitudes, biases, theological opinions, and writing style (all of which are useful and interesting), but of more immediate interest to the genealogist is her chronicling of military affairs, foreign relations with the Crusaders (especially the "Franks"), and political marriages with Balkan rulers. 

The Man Who Believed He Was King of France by Tommaso Di Carpegna Falconieri
ith the skill of a crime scene detective, Tommaso di Carpegna Falconieri digs up evidence in the historical record to follow the story of a life so incredible that it was long considered a literary invention of the Italian Renaissance. From Italy to Hungary, then through Germany and France, the would-be king's unique combination of guile and earnestness commands the aid of lords and soldiers, the indulgence of innkeepers and merchants, and the collusion of priests and rogues along the way. (Still awaiting delivery of this one - have read it a numbers of times - on loan from local library - so now is the time to add it to my own personal library).

Magna Carta by David Carpenter
With a new commentary by David Carpenter "No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land." Magna Carta, forced on King John in 1215 by rebellion, is one of the most famous documents in world history. It asserts a fundamental principle: that the ruler is subject to the law. Alongside a new text and translation of the Charter, David Carpenter's commentary draws on new discoveries to give an entirely fresh account of Magna Carta's text, origins, survival and enforcement, showing how it quickly gained a central place in English political life.

Templar Families by Jochen Schenk
This detailed study explores the close relationship between the Order of the Temple and the landowning families it relied upon for support. Focusing on the regions of Burgundy, Champagne and Languedoc, Jochen Schenk investigates the religious expectations that guided noble and knightly families to found and support Templar communities in the European provinces, and examines the social dynamics and mechanisms that tied these families to each other. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

September Additions - Part 3

And, finally, Part 3 of September's additions to the Library:

Byzantium and the Rise of Russia: A Study of Byzantino-Russian Relations in the Fourteenth Century by John Meyendorff - This book describes the role of Byzantine (predominantly ecclesiastical) diplomacy in the emergence of Moscow as the capital of Russia in the fourteenth century, and the cultural, religious and political ties which connected the Northern periphery of the Byzantine Orthodox 'Commonwealth' with its centre in Constantinople. 

Colonial Ireland, 1169-1369 by Robin Frame - This book examines the processes of conquest and colonization, against the background of economic expansion and seigneurial enterprise apparent elsewhere in Britain and Europe. It also explores the nature and extent of colonial retreat, and the political and cultural adjustments that were evident amid the less favorable conditions of the 14th century.

The Kingdom of the Isles: Scotland's Western Seaboard C.1100-C.1336 by Andrew McDonald - Exploring the history of Scotland's western seaboard during the central Middle Ages, this study discusses three interrelated themes: the existence of the Isles and coastal mainland as a kingdom; the monarchs of the region, from Somerled to his descendant John MacDonald, the first Lord of the Isles; and the complex relations among the Isles, Scotland, Norway, and England. 

Thomas Becket : Warrior, Priest, Rebel, Victim: a 900-year-old Story Retold by John Guy - The story of "Thomas Becket" is the story of an enigma, as well as of one of the most tumultuous periods in English history. Drawing on a vast array of contemporary records, personal letters and first-hand accounts, John Guy has reconstructed a psychologically compelling, stunningly nuanced and utterly convincing account of this most remarkable man, the dramatic times in which he lived and the pivotal role he played in his nation's history.

The Royal Stuarts : A History of the Family That Shaped Britain by Allan Massie - Exploring the family's lineage from the first Stuart king to the last, The Royal Stuarts is a panoramic history of the family that acted as a major player in the Scottish Wars of Independence, the Union of the Crowns, the English Civil War, the Restoration, and more. Drawing on the accounts of historians past and present, novels, and plays, this is the complete story of the Stuart family, documenting their path from the salt marshes of Brittany to the thrones of Scotland and England and eventually to exile. 

The Audacious Crimes of Colonel Blood : The Spy Who Stole the Crown Jewels and Became the King's Secret Agent by Robert Hutchinson - Bestselling historian Robert Hutchinson paints a vivid portrait of a double agent bent on ambiguous political and personal motivation, and provides an extraordinary account of the perils and conspiracies that abounded in Restoration England.

Septembers Additions - Part 2

Part 2 of September's additions to the Library include:

Conqueror's Son : Duke Robert Curthose, Thwarted King by Katherine Lack - In "Conqueror's son" Katherine Lack redresses the balance of opinion on Robert Curthose. There is no doubt that Robert was rebellious, but the fact remains that the throne of England was meant to pass to him on the death of William the Conqueror. William Rufus and Henry I were thus usurpers, which casts a new light on English history.

The Man Who Killed Richard III : Who Dealt the Fatal Blow at Bosworth? by Susan Fern - On 22 August 1485 on a battlefield in Bosworth, Leicestershire, King Richard III, the last of the Plantagenet kings, was dealt a death blow by the man who had sworn loyalty to him only a few months earlier. That man was Rhys ap Thomas, a Welsh lord, master of Carew Castle in Pembrokeshire. For his service that day he was knighted on the field of battle by Henry Tudor. 

The Plantagenets : The Kings That Made Britain by Derek Wilson - Featuring some of England's greatest but also most notorious kings, the house of Plantagenet would reign for over 300 blood-soaked, yet foundational, years. 

Perkin: A Story of Deception by Anne Wroe - Anne Wroe manages to achieve the impossible: to reconstruct the life of a young man whose identity can never be taken for granted. On the way she described in breathtaking detail the illusions, longing and deceptions that characterised the last years of the fifteenth century: a world quickly losing its medieval certainties, and trembling on the brink of a whole new age of discovery.

Jane Boleyn : The Infamous Lady Rochford by Julia Fox - The story of Henry VIII's queens - as seen through the eyes of Jane Rochford, sister-in-law to Anne Boleyn and cousin to Katherine Howard. Jane Rochford was sister-in-law to Anne Boleyn and Lady of the Bedchamber to Katherine Howard, whom she followed to the scaffold in 1542. 

The Rise of the Tudors : The Family That Changed English History by Chris Skidmore - The Rise Of The Tudors is much more than the account of the dramatic events of that fateful day in August 1485. It is a tale of brutal feuds and deadly civil wars, and the remarkable rise of the Tudor family from obscure Welsh gentry to the throne of England--a story that began sixty years earlier with Owen Tudor's affair with Henry V's widow, Katherine of Valois.

Septembers Additions - Part 1

September was a busy month in the Library for additions.  Part 1 includes the following:

Ducal Brittany, 1364-99 : Relations with England and France During the Reign of Duke John IV by Michael Jones - 
Traditionally John IV, Duke of Brittany has been considered an Anglophile. This book re-examines his role in Anglo-French relations by a full study of the diplomatic, administrative and military evidence. It suggests that the Duke's policies were designed principally to create an autonomous duchy.

The Franks : From Their Origin as a Confederacy to the Establishment of the Kingdom of France and the German Empire by Lewis Sergeant - That aim implied that the greater part of the volume should be devoted to periods in which the historical foundation was least secure-to the long struggle between Romans and Teutons, during which the tribes on the east of the Rhine were perpetually combining against their enemies until the Frank confederacy clearly emerged, and to the subsequent Merovingian period, during which the Franks were gradually subjecting the whole of Gaul.

A Tale of Two Murders : Passion and Power in Seventeenth-Century France by James Farr - As scandalous as any modern-day celebrity murder trial, the "Giroux affair" was a maelstrom of intrigue, encompassing daggers, poison, adultery, arch-enemies, servants and royalty, and legal proceedings that reached to the pinnacle of seventeenth-century French society.

Medieval Naples : A Documentary History, 400-1400 by Ronald Gusto - This is the first comprehensive English-language collection of sources yet to treat the city of Naples from late antiquity to the beginning of the Renaissance. Sources are drawn from its historical, economic, literary, artistic, religious and cultural life from the fall of Rome through the Byzantine, ducal, Norman, Hohenstaufen and Angevin periods.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Patti Smith: 'It's not so easy writing about nothing'

M Train tells the story of Patti Smith's musical creativity. She was such an influential part of the punk rock movement that it’s easy to forget she had influences of her own. Her new memoir M Train follows the journey that led her to create her most iconic work. The “train” in this memoir stops at 18 “stations,” each representing one of the most significant turning points in Smith’s life, that she believes were responsible for shaping her creative identity.

M Train begins in the tiny Greenwich Village cafe where Smith goes every morning for black coffee, ruminates on the world as it is and the world as it was, and writes in her notebook. Through prose that shifts fluidly between dreams and reality, past and present, and across a landscape of creative aspirations and inspirations, we travel to Frida Kahlo's Casa Azul in Mexico; to a meeting of an Arctic explorer's society in Berlin; to a ramshackle seaside bungalow in New York's Far Rockaway that Smith acquires just before Hurricane Sandy hits; and to the graves of Genet, Plath, Rimbaud and Mishima. Woven throughout are reflections on the writer's craft and on artistic creation. Here, too, are singular memories of Smith's life in Michigan and the irremediable loss of her husband, Fred Sonic Smith. Braiding despair with hope and consolation, illustrated with her signature Polaroids, M Train is a meditation on travel, detective shows, literature and coffee. It is a powerful, deeply moving book by one of the most remarkable artists at work today.

How to Plan a Crusade by Christopher Tyerman review – the role of reason in medieval religious wars | Books | The Guardian

This book opens disarmingly with a novice historian stumbling through a lecture, “wondering why he had ever begun”. He is saved by his students, who storm the hall and, with cries of “Deus lo volt”, demand to be taken to Jerusalem, AKA the pub next door. Thirty-six years later, Christopher Tyerman, now professor of the history of the Crusades at the University of Oxford, returns to the subject of his lecture: how to plan a crusade.

How to Plan a Crusade is serious and scholarly, the synthesis of decades of work on difficult, fragmented sources. Administrative records weren’t routinely kept until around 1300, which makes Tyerman’s task harder and more impressive. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

History of Taiwan Feminine Literature

A new book, which maps out the historical lineage of Taiwan women's literature spanning from ancient times to the early 21st century, was launched at the 11th Cross-Strait Book Fair held in Xiamen, a coastal city in southeast China's Fujian Province, on September 12.
The book titled "History of Taiwan Feminine Literature", consists of nearly a million characters. It deftly portrays the origin, development and evolution of the distinctive South Asian literary arena.
Publishing insiders recognize that the book is the first on the Chinese mainland to feature such a long time span of Taiwanese literature studies, filling a notable gap in the history of Chinese literature, and of women's literature worldwide.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Agincourt, by Anne Curry - book review: The archers omnibus - Reviews - Books - The Independent

Agincourt, by Anne Curry - book review

Anne Curry’s interesting, commendably accessible, and admirably well researched book commemorates this autumn’s 600th anniversary and is very good at sorting fact from fiction. She begins by piecing together what actually happened when Henry V led a smallish English army against a large French one in an expansionist bid to seize France. She uses a number of contemporary or near-contemporary accounts. 

Yes, Henry really was a charismatic orator well able to whip up the morale of his men. Yes, the sky was, at one point, dark with a shower of English arrows. Yes, he named the battle after a nearby castle. And he most definitely gave an order to kill the French prisoners. Shakespeare included that, of course. Olivier omitted it. The last thing Britain needed in 1944 after five years of war with Germany was a film about an English leader with  ambivalent morality. 

University of Delaware Library acquires rare Shakespeare quarto

University of Delaware Library acquires rare Shakespeare quarto

The University of Delaware Library has announced the purchased acquisition of a rare early quarto edition of a play by William Shakespeare and John Fletcher, The Two Noble Kinsmen (London: by Tho. Cotes, for John Waterson, 1634). 

The piece was made possible with support from the B.H. Breslauer Foundation; the University of Delaware Library Associates; the College of Arts and Sciences; the recently retired Lois Potter, professor emeritus of the Department of English; and Mark Samuels Lasner, senior research fellow in the Special Collections Department.

Q5: Professor emeritus explores Middle Ages with new novel

After a long and eventful military career, including battalion command in Vietnam and four tours as an intelligence officer and Russian foreign area specialist in Europe during the Cold War, Col. George Steger began a second career in academia. He is a professor emeritus in history and international affairs at the University of Saint Mary. He has written a book entitled “Sebastian's Way.”

The novel is the story of two men: Charlemagne, “The Thunderer,” master of all Europe in the 8th century, who fights and rules like the pagan enemies he seeks to conquer, and Sebastian, a young warrior who challenges the king to forge a new path to peace. The pitch of the book is how difficult it is to have radically different ideas from those around you, especially if you are right and those in authority are wrong. Being different needs courage and a very good reason, and one needs to be prepared to pay the price. The background for the novel was the 30-year war Charlemagne fought with the Saxons.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

May Additions

Although May has long gone and June has all but vanished, below are the recent additions to the Library for May 2015.

I love Marlowe and Richard III - so these will make welcome additions to my Wars of the Roses - Elizabethan Poets shelves.  I am not averse to reading various authors - it just adds to a more rounded view of a character.  So read nothing into the choice of authors!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Review: Archie Goodwin - Nero Wolfe's Legman

Born in Ohio. Public high school, pretty good at geometry and football, graduated with honor but no honors. Went to college two weeks, decided it was childish, came to New York and got a job guarding a pier, shot and killed two men and was fired, was recommended to Nero Wolfe for a chore he wanted done, did it, was offered a full-time job by Mr. Wolfe, took it, still have it.
— Archie Goodwin addressing the suspects in "Fourth of July Picnic" (1957)

I was introduced to Archie Goodwin first through reading Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe series then watching the TV series starring Maury Chaykin and Timothy Hutton.  So it was with great pleasure that I had the opportunity to read two books featuring Wolfe's "legman" Archie in a new adaption of Stout's Nero Wolfe, now undertaken by author Robert Goldsborough.

The first was Archie Meets Nero Wolfe: A Prequel to Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe Mysteries which I though was a very well done introduction to a character that featured so prominently in Stout's "Nero Wolfe" novels - all the usual suspects are introduced in this prohibition era setting.

This was then quite recently followed by Archie in the Crosshairs, taking place in the late 1940s possibly early 1950s - about 20 years after their first meeting. And as for this outing, loved it!  This episode tackles yet another mystery to be solved by the almost reclusive Nero Wolfe with the aid of his side-kick, Archie Goodwin. I read this in one sitting as the pace and style of writing kept me intrigued to the very end. I read the complete Nero Wolfe series quite a number of years ago, and these new additions faithfully follow Stout's originals.

For further reading, could I suggest Goldsborough's Archie Meets Nero Wolf, then Stout's books, followed by Goldsborough's, possibly finishing with Archie in the Crosshairs. This would get you up-to-date with all things Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin.

Further Reading:
Nero Wolfe on wikipedia
Rex Stout on wikipedia
Robert Goldsborough on wikipedia

Review: Gerald Posner: God's Bankers

"God’s Bankers has it all: a rare exposé and an astounding saga marked by poisoned business titans, murdered prosecutors, mysterious deaths of private investigators, and questionable suicides; a carnival of characters from Popes and cardinals, financiers and mobsters, kings and prime ministers ..."

So with that I was eagerly anticipating a journey into the underbelly of Vatican politics and double-dealing from the time of Peter to our current Pope Francis. However, the early years were briefly touched upon until we reach the reign of Gregory XVI (1831 - 1846) when the cash-strapped Church was looking for ways to boost their coffers. Thus, the age of lay-financiers, prelates and shady businessmen begins with the Church taking uncertain steps into the world of investment and money-lending. From the reign of Leo XIII the Vatican Bank steps tentatively onto the world stage whilst headed by a select group of financial outsiders, steering the Bank through revolutionary Italy, the stock-market crash and the creation of the Papal State - the Vatican City. It is in the 20th century that the Vatican Bank takes a rather interesting stance on Germany during the 1930s and 1940s - the Vatican has spread its investments thought Fascist Italy and Germany, and is at odds with itself over preserving financial independence and fighting communism or speaking out against documented atrocities. We then move forward through the years of assisting war criminals to the influx of dubious Italian and Sicilian businessmen into the banking hierarchy, and support for fledgling anti-communist movements worldwide. 

This a is lengthy tome - with copious notes. It is not a light read - and the reader may find themselves re-reading past chapters.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Review: The Man In The Iron Mask

This is my second reading of this fascinating work on this historical mystery: this first time was in July 2010.

"The Man In The Iron Mask" by Roger MacDonald is a very fascinating and enjoyable journey into 17th & 18th Century France during the reigns of Louis XIII and his son, Louis XIV, the Sun King.

It is the time of the dominance of Cardinal Richelieu and his successor, Mazarin, and of the royal mistresses; of the intrigues and turmoils of France in the centuries preceding the Revolution; the plotting and power struggles of the French courtiers for ascendancy; of diplomats and spies; of the Musketeers.

MacDonald introduces us to three Musketeers in particular who were far from being the "bastards" of the imagination of Alexandre Dumas, writing over one century after events.

And so MacDonald has his candidate for the famous "Mask" and summarily takes the reader through events from the first appearance of the mask leading up to his final moments of freedom before his decades of incarceration.  MacDonald using original documents as he outlines his case for the Mask whilst assessing and disproving the case for other nominees, including Nicholas Fouquet and the Comte de Lauzan.

MacDonald declares that the identity of the Mask will not be revealed even if the impudent reader fast tracks to the back sections of the book outline the cast of characters, the chronology of events, and the chapter notes.  However, this reader cottoned on to the identity of the mask fairly early in the piece.

This tome has a place on the shelf of any French History enthusiast or those who love a good mystery.  For in this tome we discover a plausible candidate for the Mask and the reasons for his incarceration.

Another fascinating tome to add to my own personal library.

See Also:

January Arrivals

Just before Xmas Day, the following books were ordered for addition to my Library.

Stewart Binns' : "Conquest, Anarchy, Crusade & Lionheart".
Set in the period after the Norman Conquest till the reign of Richard I, so looking forward to this series.

Elizabeth Van Houts' "The Normans In Europe".

Another one of those books on the Normans that I had read but had not yet added to my Library.

Alexander Callander Murray's "From Roman to Merovingian Gaul".
From Roman to Merovingian Gaul documents events that are both remarkable in themselves and that demonstrate what made this era of history distinct. A nice addition to my French History shelf as I have books following this period but not dealing with this history of this area prior it.