History

Conquerors

Conquerors: How Portugal Forged the First Global Empire by Roger Crowley My rating: 4 of 5 stars As Roger Crowley explains in “Conquerors”, in the early 16th century Portugal, a poor country on the periphery of Europe, came to control trade in the Indian Ocean thanks to bravery, cruelty, navigation skills and cannons. They fought …

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Fashion for Socialist Dictators: Maduro in China

Originally published in the Los Angeles Review of Books China Channel as Sartorial Sychophany As Venezuela has been the recipient of over half of China’s loans to South America, the ongoing crisis there is of concern to Beijing. China continues to support the embattled government of Nicolás Maduro and, like Russia and Turkey, doesn’t recognize …

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What Really Happened in Wuhan?

“It began in the autumn of 2019. Months before the first reported case of human-to-human contact, the Wuhan Institute of Virology began to go dark. Publicly available information was wiped from the internet. Staff connected with the Institute disappeared as the scientists fiercely criticised its safety practices and standards. At the same time, there were …

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Rebellion in the Backlands

In Canudos, a backlands town in the Northeastern State of Bahia, Antônio Conselheiro (Anthony the Counselor) preached against the republic. His followers, leather-clad ruffians or ‘jagungos’, terrorised the countryside. In the 1890s the Republic of Brazil was in its infancy and insecure, rumours of monarchist plots abounded, troublemakers like the Counselor needed to be dealt …

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Thoughts: Netflix, The Serpent, The Queen’s Gambit, Walter Tevis, The Hustler, The Color of Money 

I just watched the first two episodes of “The Serpent” and am happy to find another engaging Netflix series. It is somewhat based on a book called “On the Trail of the Serpent”, published in 1979. In the quest for hit shows, Netflix writers are scouring non-fiction and novels for exciting (long forgotten) tales. For …

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China Sketches: Dalian 2001 skyscraper photo essay

It had passable beaches, a large shipbuilding industry and a lot of impressive skyscrapers; from the top of any of these you could see the port and in the other direction the green hills marking the end of the urban sprawl. At that stage of my life I hadn’t seen Shanghai, Hong Kong or New York. I was overwhelmed by the shiny skyscrapers in Dalian. When I later visited New York, the first museum I went to was the Sky Scraper Museum, my enthusiasm has since waned due to overexposure to tall buildings…