What We Are Reading Today: Empires of the Weak by J. C. Sharman

Updated 19 January 2019
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What We Are Reading Today: Empires of the Weak by J. C. Sharman

  • New book demonstrates that the rise of the West was an exception in the prevailing world order.

What accounts for the rise of the state, the creation of the first global system, and the dominance of the West? The conventional answer asserts that superior technology, tactics, and institutions forged by Darwinian military competition gave Europeans a decisive advantage in war over other civilizations. 

In contrast, Empires of the Weak argues that Europeans actually had no general military superiority in the early modern era. J.C. Sharman shows instead that European expansion from the late 15th to the late 18th centuries is better explained by deference to strong Asian and African polities, diseases in the Americas, and maritime supremacy earned by default because local land-oriented polities were largely indifferent to war and trade at sea. Europeans were overawed by the mighty Eastern empires of the day, says a review on the Princeton University Press website. 

Bringing a revisionist perspective to the idea that Europe ruled the world due to military dominance, Empires of the Weak demonstrates that the rise of the West was an exception in the prevailing world order.


What We Are Reading Today: Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe

Updated 23 February 2019
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What We Are Reading Today: Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe

Patrick Radden Keefe tells the story of the conflict in Northern Ireland between the Irish nationalists, the Catholics, and the unionists, the Protestants, in a time described as The Troubles.

Say Nothing is an excellent account of the Troubles; it might also be a warning, Roddy Doyle stated in a review published in The New York Times

“The book is cleverly structured. We follow people — victim, perpetrator, back to victim — leave them, forget about them, rejoin them decades later. It can be read as a detective story,” the review added. 

Doyle said: “The book is full of the language of my youth, phrases I heard every day — ‘political status,’ ‘shoot-to-kill policy,’ ‘dirty protest,’ ‘legitimate target.’ And it is full of names, names that are more than names — Gerry Adams, Bobby Sands, the Price sisters, Burntollet Bridge, Bloody Sunday, Enniskillen, Margaret Thatcher, Ian Paisley — the names of people and places, events, that carry huge emotional clout, that can still silence a room or start a fight.”

Doyle added: “If it seems as if I’m reviewing a novel, it is because “Say Nothing” has lots of the qualities of good fiction, to the extent that I’m worried I’ll give too much away.”