History v Historical Fiction by Jane Smiley [The Guardian] Historical fiction is not a secondary form – I was condescended to by a conservative historian who cannot see that he too constructs stories.
“The condescender was Niall Ferguson, a conservative historian about 15 years younger than me, who wanted to be sure that I understood that the historical novel is all made up, but that historical non-fiction, written by historians is truth. He referred to his research. I referred to my research. He wasn’t convinced. I suggested that the demands of history and fiction are slightly different – that since a novel is a story, it must be complete, and since a history must be accepted by the reader as accurate, it must be incomplete.”
Over the past few centuries, Western cultures have been very good at creating general prosperity for themselves. Historian Niall Ferguson asks: Why the West, and less so the rest? He suggests half a dozen big ideas from Western culture -- call them the 6 killer apps -- that promote wealth, stability and innovation. And in this new century, he says, these apps are all shareable. [more inside]
Wall Street Lays Another Egg. "Not so long ago, the dollar stood for a sum of gold, and bankers knew the people they lent to. The author charts the emergence of an abstract, even absurd world—call it Planet Finance—where mathematical models ignored both history and human nature, and value had no meaning."
Empire Falls. "They called it 'the American Century,' but the past hundred years actually saw a shift away from Western dominance. Through the long lens of Edward Gibbon's history, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Rome 331 and America and Europe 2006 appear to have more than a few problems in common." By Niall Ferguson, whose views on the American hegemony have been discussed previously.
Eurabia? WTF? An interesting article by the ultra-prolific Niall Ferguson obliquely raises the question: wouldn't Europe (and the world) be happier if Islam still had a hold on the West? Al-Qaeda's longings for Andalusia and the Algarve apart, the truth is that Southern Spain (until 1498) and Portugal (until 1297) were very happy under Muslim rule. Isn't it sad that the three great monotheistic religions, plus the great atheist belief, can't live together anymore? [ NYT registration required. Via Arts and Letters Daily.]