A Daunting Scope: Peter Heather’s Empires and Barbarians

Snapshots of Europe taken at the beginning and end of the first millennium AD could not appear more different. As the millennium opened, Rome was just reaching the apex of its imperial might. The traditionally dominant Mediterranean world extended its tendrils of control across the Celtic world of modern-day France and lowland Britain, while beyond the Rhine and Danube frontiers Germanic peoples pursued a subsistence existence much less developed than their Roman and Romanized neighbors. One thousand years later, Mediterranean dominance was a distant memory. Germanic cultures and kingdoms had replaced Roman imperial rule. Europe’s center of balance had moved decidedly northward, and the eastern plains and forests boasted new states formed by Slavic peoples. Gone was the unequal pattern of development, and the map of modern Europe had largely, if blurrily, taken shape. This Late Antique/Early Medieval period, as Western Rome crumbled and fell, and ‘barbarian’ kingdoms took its place, has long fascinated me, and so I was excited to get my hands on a somewhat general, approachable history of the period by Kings College, London historian Peter Heather. While I found Heather’s work greatly informative, my hopes of reading a sensible, comprehensive narrative of this period were unfortunately left unfulfilled.... Read More
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Civilization: Withstanding the Test of Time (With A Few Dark Ages)

I owe a lot to Sid Meier. In 1991 he released the first installment in what would become the wildly successful series of turn-based strategy games for the computer: Civilization. I received a copy of Civilization II while in elementary school, and have since played every installment in the series up to 2017’s Civilization VI. […]... Read More
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Solid, yet Predictable: Dee Rees’s Mudbound

A couple months ago, a trailer for a Great Depression/Second World War period drama debuting on Netflix caught our eye, and Mudbound was duly put on our list to watch. Despite a (fortunately) aborted idea to watch it on New Years Eve with Bryan’s parents, we did eventually get around to watching this frank portrayal of Southern racism and poverty in the wake of the Second World War. Though we enjoyed its coverage of less-trod historical themes, we were kept from really loving Mudbound by its thoroughly predictable story.... Read More