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Subject: History

Napoleon’s Purgatory

The Unseen Humanity of the “Corsican Ogre” in Fatal Exile (with an introduction by J. David Markham)

Thomas M. Barden, Fellow in the International Napoleonic Society

January 2017 / ISBN: 978-1-62273-166-4
Availability: In stock
$55 £44 €50

Napoleon’s Purgatory is a work portraying the human side of Napoleon as revealed by those who shared his exile on the island of St. Helena. Through the diaries and journals of the Emperor’s servants, generals, and companions come the stories of Napoleon’s tender love for children, his captivating sense of humor, his eternal love for Josephine, and his agonizing death. Napoleon Bonaparte was sent by the British to the remote island of St. Helena where he could not escape. What followed were six excruciating years of loneliness and depression, mixed with frolicking play with the island’s children, a battle of wills with his British captor, an exploration of his lapsed Catholic faith, and the complex relationship with the members of his entourage. This time in exile was akin to time served in Purgatory for Napoleon. His humanity, suffering, joy in the laughter of children, and longing for Josephine are captured vividly in this work through the detailed use of primary sources written by those who were there. While many considered Napoleon Bonaparte the “Corsican Ogre” for the wars he waged across Europe, he was anything but during his exile on St. Helena.

Modernity, Civilization and the Return to History

Anthony F. Shaker, McGill University, Canada

January 2017 / ISBN: 978-1-62273-184-8
Availability: In stock
$80 £68 €77

The modern concept and study of civilization have their roots, not in western Europe, but in the spirit of scientific investigation associated with a self-conscious Islamicate civilization. What we call modernity cannot be fathomed without this historical connection. We owe every major branch of science known today to the broad tradition of systematic inquiry that belongs to a “region of being”—as Heidegger would say—whose theoretical, practical and institutional dimensions the philosophy of that civilization played an unprecedented role in creating. This book focuses primarily on the philosophical underpinnings of questions relating to civilization, personhood and identity. Contemporary society and thinking in western Europe introduced new elements to these questions that have altered how collective and personal identities are conceived and experienced. In the age of “globalization,” expressions of identity (individual, social and cultural) survive precariously outside their former boundaries, just when humanity faces perhaps its greatest challenges—environmental degradation, policy inertia, interstate bellicosity, and a growing culture of tribalism. Yet, the world has been globalized for at least a millennium, a fact dimmed by the threadbare but still widespread belief that modernity is a product of something called the West. One is thus justified in asking, as many people do today, if humanity has not lost its initiative. This is more a philosophical than an empirical question. There can be no initiative without the human agency that flows from identity and personhood—i.e., the way we, the acting subject, live and deliberate about our affairs. Given the heavy scrutiny under which the modern concept of identity has come, Dr. Shaker has dug deeper, bringing to bear a wealth of original sources from both German thought and Ḥikmah (Islamicate philosophy), the latter based on material previously unavailable to scholars. Posing the age-old question of identity anew in the light of these two traditions, whose special historical roles are assured, may help clear the confusion surrounding modernity and, hopefully, our place in human civilization. Proximity to Scholasticism, and therefore Islamicate philosophy, lent German thought up to Heidegger a unique ability to dialogue with other thought traditions. Two fecund elements common to Heidegger, Qūnawī and Mullā Ṣadrā are of special importance: Logos (utterance, speech) as the structural embodiment at once of the primary meaning (essential reality) of a thing and of divine manifestation; and the idea of unity-in-difference, which Ṣadrā finally formulated as the substantial movement of existence. But behind this complexity is the abiding question of who Man is, which cannot be answered by theory alone. Heidegger, who occupies a good portion of this study, questioned the modern ontology at a time of social collapse and deep spiritual crisis not unlike ours. Yet, that period also saw the greatest breakthroughs in modern physics and social science. The concluding chapters take up, more specifically, identity renewal in Western literature and Muslim “reformism.” The renewal theme reflects a point of convergence between the Eurocentric worldview, in which modernism has its secular aesthetics roots, and a current originating in Ibn Taymiyyah’s reductionist epistemology and skeptical fundamentalism. It expresses a hopeless longing for origin in a historically pristine “golden age,” an obvious deformation of philosophy’s millennial concern with the commanding, creative oneness of the Being of beings.

Portrait of Young Genius – The Mind and Art of Marie Bashkirtseff

Joel L. Schiff

December 2016 / ISBN: 978-1-62273-171-8
Availability: In stock
$85 £68 €80

Marie Bashkirtseff was of one of the most extraordinary women of the 19th century. Her Journal (originally comprising some 20,000 hand-written pages but pared down to a few hundred for publication) was a cause célèbre after her death and continues to be an inspiration to the Women’s Movement to this day. It also inspired such great writers as Anaïs Nin and Katherine Mansfield among many others. Born into an aristocratic family in a village in Ukraine the family soon settled in France, first in Nice and later in Paris. Taught entirely by tutors Marie spoke multiple languages, played numerous musical instruments and longed for a singing career on the stage. An illness that affected her throat made her change course and she took up painting for which she had a latent talent. As a student at the Académie Julian in Paris she was soon exhibiting at the annual Paris Salon, the premier venue for artists. But it was her personality that makes Marie Bashkirtseff such an exceptional individual. At a very young age she was already exhibiting in her Journal the thoughts of a learned philosopher, wrestling with the nature of God, the position of women in society, the politics of men. Having contracted tuberculosis in early childhood she ceaselessly strove to shrug it off in her quest to achieve greatness. In the end, a great tragedy unfolds. The book is somewhat unique in format. The first part is a biographical section that describes Marie’s unusual and fascinating life. Then a second section, consists of a single Journal excerpt (in English translation from the original French) on each left-hand page, juxtaposed with one of her outstanding works of art on the facing page. In this manner, we learn about her remarkable life and tribulations, enter her restive and brilliant mind via her Journal, as well as appreciate her exceptionally fine works as an artist.

Self, History and Future

A work on the modality of history

Tetsuaki Iwamoto

June 2016 / ISBN: 978-1-62273-473-3
Availability: In stock
$45 £30 €40

Be it Foucault’s insight into a society based on ‘power-knowledge’ or Fukuyama’s attempts to predict the future based on the end-game situation of ‘liberal democracy’, both are like trying to work out a curvature of a line from a given point by using pre-calculus maths. No amount of elaborate narratives based on a quasi-dynamic, phenomenological concept like ‘discourses’ or a static concept like ‘liberal democracy’ will capture the dynamism of moving events and their fluid directions called ‘future’. You need the methodology of operative concepts that process moving events. My essay is based on a holistic and dynamic concept with logical progressions. Instead of capturing movements as a still picture I try to record constantly changing situations in terms of modality of history. It is the necessity of tangencies and encompassments for Circles of Identity (CI) that forms history. The momentum of ‘self’ that bridges the past and the future is the propellant of CIs, which follows certain rules to suggest our destiny.

Questioning History

16 Essential Questions That Will Deepen Your Understanding of the Past

Joe Regenbogen

June 2016 / ISBN: 978-1-62273-105-3
Availability: In stock
$45 £33 €38

Since the days of the Ancient Greeks, history has been perceived as the academic study of the past. Unfortunately, it has generally been taught as a litany of rigid, boring facts intended to be accepted rather than questioned. This has been reinforced for decades by weighty textbooks that overwhelm the reader with mind-numbing details presented in a chronological sequence. The end result is that students see little relevance of what they learn in history class to the real world, and many simply struggle to stay awake. Compared to other subjects taught at the secondary level, history is frequently judged to be the most boring. This is largely because it is viewed as an intellectually lifeless subject that presents few opportunities for active engagement. Questioning History is a book built around 16 essential questions designed to challenge this common assumption. Each question is broad, open-ended and subject to vigorous debate. By examining the historical background behind each question and by analyzing the ways in which the question can be answered, the reader will come away with a deeper understanding of the past and a new appreciation for history as a cognitively dynamic subject. In addition, by using each chapter as a platform for engaging discussions and Socratic seminars, the reader will be able to refine the decision-making skills necessary for effective citizenship in a democratic society. Depending on the classroom or the setting in which it is being used, Questioning History can either take the place of the more traditional textbook or at least be used as a supplement to make it come more alive. The best way to learn and to appreciate a subject is through active engagement. Questioning History provides a shot of adrenalin to the study of history.

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