We talk about the new book, The Verge: Reformation, Renaissance, and Forty Years that Shook the World
Great book, just finished it. I was particularly struck by the details of the financing and organization of the voyages of exploration of Columbus and the Portuguese.
With regards to the debate over the Great Divergence of China vs. Europe, I have to say that the book moved me more towards the Eurocentric side. The voyages of Zheng He's treasure fleet are often compared to the European voyages of exploration, and much is made of the Chinese fleet's supposedly massive size, much bigger ships, tens of thousands of troops, etc. But one thing Wyman made clear is that the European voyages were privately financed to a large degree, and therefore had to be economically rational and sustainable. Hence few, relatively small ships. Anything more would be a waste of money.
By comparison, the massive Chinese treasure fleets are large and impressive, yes, but also economically irrational and unsustainable. No one in China was going to get rich from Zheng He's voyages, so one must ask, who were the interest groups within China that would benefit from the voyages? It seems that the only person who benefited was the Yongle Emperor himself. And when we remember that he took power as a usurper, one gets the impression that the whole thing was designed to whitewash his personal stature as emperor. Certainly the Imperial bureaucracy thought it was a huge waste of money, which is why they canceled and buried the whole project after the Yongle reign was over. Wyman's book makes their actions more understandable.
Very clear and pleasant diction, a voice ideal for radio (and podcasts) and commercials. Probably the key reason for a success of Tides of History. Could not listen all but I had a few, e.g. Fall of Rome, etc. We’ve got a previous warning to forget everything what we had learnt in the school, but I could not hear anything new. Still the same a la Disney meets Hollywood version, what was unexpected from one PhD. Sounds as a joke that from side of East/West Roman border was spoken Latin, on the other was spoken Greek. Who lived (and still live!) on the both sides of the border? Illyrians, Thracians, Moesians, Dalmati, etc. Which language they spoke and what has happened to them that they suddenly disappeared from the history and from the face of the Earth? They gave dozens of Roman Emperors on both sides (just to mention couple of them – Constantine, Diocletian, Valens, Valentinian, Jovian, Julian, Licinius, Justin, Justinian, etc). It is interesting how their Emperors’ language disappeared fairly recently. And, the fall of the Rome did not happen in the city of Rome than somewhere else where was the centre of the Empire, where money was minted since Alexander, where was the largest Colosseum, where the first Christianity was introduced, and the first Christian diocese was established. Who were Goths (Dacians)? I2 Germans? What was the ethnicity of the elite Roman legionaries, who gave dozens of Emperors? They were not Greeks (who lived in the Roman province Illyric!) because they did not give any Emperor. Maybe Italians? I did not know that they were so tough fighters in the past and I don’t know what’s happened in meantime. So, as for Renaissance. Where is the information that was a period when the most of history and other falsifications appeared? That is the period when all sc. ‘ancient’ documents were forged because there is no one original. And Luther? Who was he (‘he was a character!’)? Very extensive elaboration but why not mention about his non-German ethnicity? What his real surname, Ljutic (from ‘ljut’=hot or angered) means (maybe because ‘he is mad!’) and what was his non-German ethnicity (the same as Empress Catherine II, Leibnitz, Bismarck and other Prussians)? There is no end in questioning… Good podcast!