Democracy

In Britain, following the recent General Election, fundamental questions are being raised about the nature of Democracy. In an era seemingly desperate for strong government, is a system that created a ‘hung parliament’, with no party having an overall majority, “the best of all possible worlds?” Without straying into the party political arena, can any dispassionate observer see as more or less ‘Democratic’ a system that functions by the consent of the party coming third in the polls? Does history shed any light on how this happened?

“WE THE PEOPLE of the United States . . . do ordain and establish this Constitution.” These opening words of the preamble to the U.S. Constitution indicate the founding fathers intended the United States to be a Democracy. Of Greek origin, “Democracy” means “rule of the people,” or as Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, famously defined it at Gettysburg: “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

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With Shame Remembered

Rating: ★★★★★

With Shame Remembered (1978) by Bill Beatty

`With Shame Remembered’ is a short account by Bill Beatty on the history of `Transportation’, the policy of transporting petty criminals as well as hardened felons from 18th Century Britain to Australia. Often a horrifying story of cruelty, but also lighter moments. It has often been assumed that the transported convicts were all habitual criminals, the scum of Britain, sent away in the enlightened hope that life in a distant colony would reform them into useful citizens.
In reality, the death rates, immorality, brutality and even accounts of cannibalism, as well as the effects of the British policy on the Aboriginal population, leave a picture of `man’s inhumanity to man’, if not on the same scale, in the same spirit of Nazi Germany and the concentration camps.

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The Bible came from Arabia

Rating: ★★★★★

The Bible Came from Arabia

What to make of a radical theory, effectively rewriting Biblical geographical and historical preconceptions?
In short, as I understand the theory, the original land promised to Abraham was not the land of Palestine as we know it, but an area of western Arabia, bordering the Red Sea, now known as Asir. Evidence presented is almost entirely founded upon place-name or topographical evidence, but the author never discounts the ancient presence of some Jewish people in Palestine. After the return from Babylonian exile , in 537BC, the Jews `returned’ to the site of present day Jerusalem, hence the Biblical term `daughter of Zion’. Some thirty locations we associate with the Bible, predating 537BC, such as Salem, Zion, Hebron, Beersheba, etc. being named in Palestine in similar fashion to York (UK), New York (US). Other authors have identified this phenomenon associated with displaced peoples worldwide, such as The Key by John Phillip Cohane (1969). Biblical history after the Babylonian exile is largely accepted by the author.

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The Riddle of Prehistoric Britain

Rating: ★★★★★
I came to this author via John Mitchell’s  “Eccentric Lives and Peculiar Notions”  where Comyns Beaumont is the subject of Chapter 15. There he is described as a ‘revisionist geographer’, which, considering he claims many of the original locations of ancient Greece, Egypt, and Palestine in Britain, is something of an understatement.
He noticed the similarities between British place names and those in the ancient world, and concluded that many of these places had, in reality, been in Britain itself. Loch Carron in Scotland, for instance, and the nearby village of Erbusaig sounded to his ears strangely like Acheron, the Greek river of hell, and the mythical purgatory Erebus. Achilles, the Greek hero, grew up on the island of Skyros, which could be none other than the Isle of Skye. Bath had to be Athens; the names of the two cities were too similar for it to be otherwise.
Then, reasoned Comyns Beaumont, if the Flood had occurred in north-western Europe, it was surely likely that Noah, and every other biblical character, had lived there too. The British Isles were the true cradle of world civilization.

John Wycliffe c.1320-1384

Born around the year 1320, near old Richmond, Yorkshire, John Wycliffe was sent to Oxford University, where he rose to become master of Balliol College by 1361 and, some years later, a doctor of theology. His expertise with English law and Canon law was not merely the result of his interest in the subject, but of a deep-rooted desire to see English liberties defended and maintained. From the time of King John a tribute had been paid to the Pope in acknowledgment of his supremacy. In 1365 a demand was received from Pope Urban V for this money, along with arrears covering more than 30 years. The next year, Parliament decided that King John in unilaterally agreeing to the tribute, acted beyond his right, that the feudal tribute would be resisted. Seeing their determination, the pope dropped his demand, but not without generating some controversy on the part of the members of the monastic orders in England.

In reply, Wycliffe wrote a tract in which he legally defended the stand Parliament had taken. His argument was couched in the words of various Lords in Council: “It is the duty of the Pope to be a prominent follower of Christ; but Christ refused to be a possessor of worldly dominion. The Pope, therefore, is bound to make the same refusal. As, therefore, we should hold the Pope to the observance of his holy duty, it follows that it is incumbent upon us to withstand him in his present demand.”(John Wycliffe and His English Precursors)

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The Thirteenth Tribe: The Khazar Empire and Its Heritage

Rating: ★★★★★

The Thirteenth Tribe: The Khazar Empire and Its Heritage (1976) by Arthur Koestler 

Thirteenth TribeIn this book Arthur Koestler traces the history of the ancient Khazar people, who from around 750 AD, converted to Judaism. They lived in the Caucasian region, modern-day Ukraine, and were related to other Turkish tribes, the Magyars, Huns, and Oghuz. Were they wiped out in the Middle Ages by the Mongol hordes of Gengis Khan sweeping westward at around 1222 AD? There is substantial evidence that the survivors migrated north and west, primarily to Hungary and Poland.

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Real Lace: America’s Irish Rich

Rating: ★★★★★

 Real Lace by Stephen Birmingham

Real LacePublished in 1973, this book is getting on a bit, however, as a thoughtful social history of some fascinating families, it deserves to be better known. The generation that emigrated from starving Ireland in the 1800’s often arrived in America alone and penniless, facing slums, more poverty, prejudice and disillusionment, but at least spoke English.

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Moses in the Hieroglyphs

Rating: ★★★★★

Moses in the Hieroglyphs

This book to me represents an important milestone in understanding Egyptian chronology. I recommend it not because the authors are necessarily correct in every detail, but rather, the unique approach, that is, that ancient Khymric provides the most consistent and straight forward means of decyphering Hieroglyphics..

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Red Earth, White Lies: Native Americans and the Myth of Scientific Fact

Rating: ★★★★★

Red Earth, White Lies: Native Americans and the Myth of Scientific Fact

‘Red Earth, White lies’, published in 1995, gives a Native American perspective on Science as generally received, that is, the origins of mankind, evolution theory, and the so-called worthlessness of ‘myth’ in shedding light on our common traumatic past.

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The Highland Clearances

Rating: ★★★★★

The Highland Clearances

Anyone visiting northern Scotland today often begins by admiring the unspoilt wilderness,but soon notices the stone walls of former houses scattered on the landscape. Caithness was not as badly affected as Sutherland, but the population is still one third of the figure 100 years ago. It may be easy to think that the drift away from rural isolation to the cities, and emigration, was by choice, or economic necessity, but this is simplistic..

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