Saturday, January 13, 2001
Sovereignty and Liberty. Italy wants foreign net sites shut down if they contravene Italian law, lending a bit more credence to the liberty needs sovereignty argument.

NATO brings democracy in Bosnia. Unless you criticise it.

The Spectator poo-poos depleted uranium.

Some interesting stuff from Alan Bock on Northern Ireland. My views on Northern Ireland are rather tougher, and I don't view Paisley as akin to Gerry Adams - peddling hate is a far lesser crime than peddling violence.

What I've been reading

The Balkans : Nationalism, War and the Great Powers 1809-1999 by Misha Glenny

This is a very well written history of the various Balkan nations. It's central premise is that Balkans political history is a lot easier to understand than it seems at first glance. Its the sort of book that lets you feel that not only do you know more, but now you understand more as well. One of the good things that he does is that he pays full attention to the under-reported Macedonian question, and its relation to Bulgaria - one of the many loose ends in this war like region. Similarly he puts Northern Greece into the Balkan picture when people think of the non-slavonic NATO member as something seperate from the Balkans.


Clive, the life and death of a British Emperor by Robert Harvey

The conquest of India by the East India Company is probably the birth of the Leninist falacy that large scale imperialism can turn a profit. In the end, of course the East India company was wound up and the British state found itself with an economic and strategic liability which (together with Australasia) almost cost it the Second World War. Putting such minor quibbles aside there was obviously some fascinating history in there to be dug out and one of the most fascinating actors in this was Robert Clive, the victor of Plassey and the model for a moderately common English christian name.

The author himself is refreshingly untouched by the angst of academic historians who too often are fed with the progressive banalities of university history. To Mr Harvey the pre 1832 British constitution had its real strengths, although he does hold an exagerated horror for the Industrial Revolution. His strength is that the book never strays far from the subject of Clive, although one gets the feeling that he ignores certain questions as to whether the English would find themselves overstretched, or whether India would ever repay the nation the investment that was put into it. Mr Harvey's sympathies for Clive stop being original about a third of the way into the book and grate towards the end. One gets the feeling of sleepwalking into Empire. A good book for those who prefer novels to history.


Jingo : A Discworld Novel, by Terry Pratchett

I must admit to be a Terry Pratchett fan. Terry Pratchett, to those who don't know him writes funny novels based on a fantasy world, known as the discworld with dwarves, gnomes, trolls and all those mythical creatures that Dungeons & Dragons gamers used to go on about. Discworld is light relief for Star Trek fans, although don't let that put you off too much, they are genuinely funny. They are also surprisingly topical.

Basically the gloriously corrupt and unruly city of Ankh-Mopork is working itself into a lather about a war crisis with the very exotic country of Klatch over an island that technically never existed with their only hope resting on a flat footed police force masterminded by the brutally realistic Lord Vetinari. As a gentle parody on some of the lunacies of war fever, it is worth reading. It is not one of the best of Terry Pratchett's books, but it still had me laughing aloud.



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