". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

People Still Read Real Books -- Sir Steven Runciman

      . . .  . Working my way through Steven Runciman's three volume history of the Crusades.

[ "  His three-volume A History Of The Crusades, published between 1951 and 1954, set out to exemplify his belief that the main duty of the historian was "to attempt to record, in one sweeping sequence, the greater events and movements that have swayed the destinies of man," and show that history's aim was to give a deeper understanding of humanity. He aimed as much at a non- specialist audience as at fellow academics.
For Runciman, the crusades were the last of the barbarian invasions; their disaster was their failure to understand Byzantium. "High ideals were besmirched by cruelty and greed, enterprise and endurance by a blind and narrow self-righteousness," he wrote, "and the holy war itself was nothing more than a long act of intolerance in the name of God, which is a sin against the holy ghost." ]

I came to 
Runciman (1903 - 2000) only two summers ago, and not for via the Crusades, but the enduring conflicts over the control of Italy via The Sicilian Vespers, among the Papacy, France, the Holy Roman Empire, Spain and the Angevins (i.e. also the English - Plantangenets, etc.).  So not even even the shocking insanity of Venice's organization of the 1203 - 04 Crusade to take out Constantinople and their great rival -- as they saw it -- for the trade via the Black Sea, in which they destroyed the bulwark between Europe (including Venice) and the great Islamic states > Ottomans, is new information by now. 

Nor, so far, am I impressed by the 'colorful' narrative style, which reads clunky to me.

HOWEVER!  These books were published 80 + years ago (1951- 1954), so -- wtf do I know?  So much has been written since, that references these books, including by Roger Crowley, who is a very fine writer as well as scholar.  Crowley does know all the languages, which is the most important aspect of this work -- Arabic, Latin, Greek, Turkish, French, etc. Runciman also references, as much as possible, only the contemporary works.  Though of course his references do roll ahead as far as the late 19th century and aughts of the 20th -- and so much was still not revealed that Crowley, et al. have had the advantages of.

I do wish I'd had access to Runciman's books back when I was decades younger. On the other hand, that I hadn't means I didn't imprint, and new work > research > information doesn't have a problem moving to the forefront of my thinking.

Whereas, when it comes to Mycenae Greece, I can never get Renault out of my thinking -- and, alas, she was wrong about so much.

 Runciman, though, he wasn't wrong in either facts or interpretation. He was ahead of his time.

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