A new history of the world
Whenever I open a book, particularly one with a grand title promising to offer a new history of the world, my immediate reaction is to ask: what is the line? What is the angle? I know at once that the author will have an angle, a bias, and I want to know what that bias is. So let me confess at once, and answer my own question. What is my line? Well, let me give an easy, and possibly misleading answer: this is a “right-wing” history of the world.
In this account, I concentrate on the Greeks and Romans. In my grand scenario of world history, I see three revolutions. First there is the Neolithic revolution, when man ceased to be a hunter gatherer and settled down to become a farmer. At the other end there is the industrial revolution in which we are still living and enjoying the second half, the computer revolution.
And in between, there was a radically form of society which I call the money/markets/democracy revolution, when the Greeks and Romans invented money and with it a new form of society which was to some extent at least democratic. Current histories ignore all this. The Romans are usually seen as colonists and imperialists – and what is worse, successful colonists and imperialists. But this trite view does nothing to explain their success. The Greeks and Romans were enormously successful – and they were the first to grapple with all the problems of democracy and freedom – and I set out to explore where this difference lies.
I start by looking at pre-money economies, first by going to the South Pacific to look at the economy of the Trobriand Islanders. I then look at two of the great empires of the near East, the Egyptians and the Minoans, to see how they worked.
I then turn to the Greeks and Romans, to their rise, and then to their decline and fall
Currently I am investigating another great empire with a rather different trajectory –the Chinese. The Chinese also invented money – but not certainly not democracy. Yet they were hugely successful; there was no decline and fall, but rather a series of declines followed always by a new and even brighter dynasty, until eventually they were disrupted by the enormous step forward that the West achieved in the industrial revolution. The Chinese story needs fuller investigation.
This then, is my story, one presented with a new tilt, a new bias that will I hope prove persuasive – or at least provocative. If you would like to hear more of my beliefs, the philosophy that underlies these pages, then click here for my conclusions, my confessions as to where my beliefs come from. Better, plunge ahead into the full text and read first the story of what life was like, before money.
Either: read my Confessions
On to the Trobriand Islands
4th January 2015