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Literature & Scholarship

Bylica the Astrologer

One night at his dacha, Stalin looked up from his meal of bread, sausage, and smoked carp to consider a matter of celestial importance. With him in the study were Comrades Kaganovich and Molotov, who stood at the far window arguing about a constellation. The one said it was Cassiopeia, the other Orion. Stalin wiped […]

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Literature & Scholarship

Forgeries, Lies, and Deception in History

Lies loom large over the historian’s craft. Historians devote considerable time to parsing the tensions among words, intentions, and behaviours. Reconstructing the inner lives of those who lived in the past is a notoriously difficult task. It is doubly so when you know your informants are deliberately leading you astray. And yet deception hasn’t really […]

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Literature & Scholarship

Long Form Historical Writing

Long form narrative is not object oriented, to butcher a phrase associated with philosophy and computer programming. While historical writing is certainly evidentiary, it’s not a sequential presentation of evidential objects. Lots of great stuff in Chad Black’s A Long Form Historical Narrative Framework. Chad Black’s post should be read alongside Craig Mod’s posts: Platforming […]

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Literature & Scholarship

Roman Science?

The standard story about science in the Roman world condemns it to the realm of engineering and the application of Greek science to practical problems. To the extent that Romans acquired scientific knowledge, it was through popularizations and translations, often with commentary, of Greek works. Roman science conjures up images of Macrobius’ Commentary on the […]

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Literature & Scholarship

Pseudoscience and orthodoxy

The term ‘pseudoscientist’ is a bit like ‘heretic’. To be a pseudoscientist is to be accused; you don’t describe yourself as a pseudoscientist. … So there was a lot of pseudoscience about in the Cold War decades, but the category – not the content – was manufactured by orthodox scientists concerned about maintaining the boundaries […]

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Literature & Scholarship

John Dee in Rudolfine Prague

In his A Time of Gifts Patrick Leigh Fermor conjures up a melancholic image of Rudolfine Prague and its fascination with the occult. Emperor Rudolf II: “Moody and unbalanced, he lived in an atmosphere of neo-platonic magic, astrology and alchemy. His addiction to arcane practices certainly darkened his scientific bent.” Johannes Kepler nourished Rudolf’s and […]