Hereditary empires and the struggle with modernity

Hereditary dynasties could not survive the industrial revolution. Well, except for one

Hereditary empires and the struggle with modernityLast week’s column drew from British historian Dominic Lieven’s current book about emperors and empires. Called In the Shadow of the Gods, it’s an exploration of the characteristics that contributed to dynastic success or failure. Lieven’s penultimate chapter deals with the challenges modernity posed to hereditary dynasties. As the environment changed rapidly, the crowns adorning…

Are we seeing the destruction of democratic capitalism?

More than 100 years after H.G. Wells forecast big changes in the world order, the tide is turning

Are we seeing the destruction of democratic capitalism?Democratic capitalism is a remarkably empowering and wealth-generating structure. Although wealth is not a zero-sum game, power may well be. In his 2011 book The Fruits of Graft: Great Depressions Then and Now, Wayne Jett explores how certain elitists have actively sought to undermine the masses and usurp political and economic power for themselves. In H.G.…

How empires grab and hold on to power

Being recognized as divinely anointed didn’t guarantee acquiescence, but it was still a huge asset

How empires grab and hold on to powerDominic Lieven is a British historian who has written extensively on European, particularly Russian, history. His latest book, In the Shadow of the Gods, is about emperors and empires. It examines their historical scope and the characteristics that contributed to dynastic success or failure. At over 400 densely written pages (excluding notes), the book is…

A direct call on a pocket phone from 100 years ago

Cartoonist W.K. Haselden was known for making bold predictions, including some that are eerily accurate

A direct call on a pocket phone from 100 years agoCan people see into the future and predict what’s about to come? Most of us recognize that the answer is, sadly, an emphatic “No.” Nevertheless, our society has long been fascinated with religious and non-religious prophets, seers and others making predictions. Several works – including the seventh-century Chinese book Tui bei tu, Geoffrey of Monmouth’s…

Why all Canadians should be monarchists

Queen Elizabeth represents continuity with the past, including the best developments in Canadian history

Why all Canadians should be monarchistsWith the 70th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation upon us, this is a useful opportunity to ponder the monarchy in Canada. Some will assert that the concept of royalty was long ago outmoded. Others oppose what Queen Elizabeth II represents – colonialism and the British Empire. It can also be argued that with an ever…

Catholic Ireland’s conflicted interest in the monarchy

Dublin cinemas planned to screen the Queen's coronation but opted not to after receiving threats

Catholic Ireland’s conflicted interest in the monarchyNews stories about Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee put me in mind of a book by Irish author Mary Kenny. Called Crown and Shamrock, it’s described by historian Roy Foster as a “characteristically breezy, racy and insightful” look at a complicated relationship. Kenny is five months older than I am and what she writes of Ireland…

How to maximize the meaning in our lives

There’s nothing more significant than living with meaning

How to maximize the meaning in our livesThere’s nothing more significant than living with meaning. This is the concept pondered by the Jewish psychiatrist Viktor Frankl as he struggled to remain alive for three years in Nazi concentration camps. Frankl established the groundwork for his psychological theory on the importance of finding meaning in life before he was sent to Auschwitz. He…

War and brutality go hand in hand

Combat naturally leads to behaviours that would be deemed shocking in normal life

War and brutality go hand in handAntony Beevor is a prolific English military historian, most famous for the bestseller Stalingrad. First published in the late 1990s, the book’s narrative covers the period between the June 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union and the conclusion of the Battle of Stalingrad in February 1943. That battle is often described as the Second…

Irish lead the way in the push to decolonize

Language and culture played a big role in helping the Irish survive and fueled their cultural renaissance

Irish lead the way in the push to decolonizeDecolonization is a word we often hear in Canada. In essence, it means to remove the colonial. That can mean different things to different people, and misconceptions often cause fear. Perhaps finding a relatively successful example of decolonization in process can help us understand the concept. Ireland was one of the first countries colonized by…

A love letter from Canadian LGBQT artist to the Queen 

She led me to the intersection of the many roads I could walk, in a bigger world with room for us all

A love letter from Canadian LGBQT artist to the Queen I began my life in Nova Scotia, the most British of Canadian provinces. As a young boy in the 1960s who preferred pink over blue, there was an enormous sense of not belonging, of living in a world that had not yet carved out a place for a child like me. In the accepted definition…
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