The blog you are reading is about history. I’m not a historian, and the majority of content here will be taken directly from people who actually know what they’re talking about. Here is what happened: I realized that I knew almost nothing about the past. Some basics, of course, courtesy of a good American education (wikipedia), but nothing granular. I tried to rectify that by hunting for broad overviews, but even finding a proper timeline was difficult. Most of the sources out there stuck to one time period or another – admittedly smart, because everything synoptic is lossy – which made it hard to get a sense of what was actually happening in order. I am not that smart, and I am very amateurish at just about everything. Accordingly, I did what felt natural: I sat down, wrote out a lone timeline, and began to compile books to read.
This blog is more or less the result of that. I’m not going to pretend it has much purpose outside of itself, and I make not no claim to expertise in anything here. While I’m going to try to be as careful as possible, I guarantee revisions and mistakes, poor sourcing, mistranslation, unwarranted speculation.
If you make it past this introduction, you’ll be reading along with me. This is what you should expect:
First, I’ll provide sources for everything – either a link to the book or the paper. I’ll try to rely on scholarly accounts for details, but often I’ll rely on the most-well-received pop-history I can find, because human history is very long. Mistakes will be noted when made, and I’ll keep an archive for them. Should you happen to be a historian and notice a screw-up and/or the use of a bad source, especially if it’s egregious, then please yell at me. That’s basic diligence, but worth mentioning up front.
Second, I’ll give general overviews, but I’m mostly interested in specifics. More than that, I’m interested in the sense of being alive at a place and time. Pretend ancient accounts are literal for a moment: I’m less interested in Alexander cutting the Gordian knot than I am in the fact that – somewhere, unrecorded – a person just like you or me happened to be particularly good at tying knots, that this person apparently woke one morning with the knot of all knots, that they must have gone home to the family, eaten their dinner, and felt that the workday was a good one. There’s no way to picture the knot-tier’s dinner without well overstepping any objective sources. I do promise to warn you when I do so.
Third, I’ll try to describe things as much as possible with the science and math and myths and philosophy of the time. That is to say – when we hit Sumer, I’ll be using Mesopotamian creation accounts at least at first, and I’m going to try to introduce all the cultures with their own (or, failing a single one, the oldest) creation myth before getting into the overview history. This will collapse in places (discussing climatic change, reconstruction of linguistic proto- families, certain medical anomalies, etc.), but it’s something I want to try to follow.
Fourth, in keeping with an interest in culture and mythology, I’ll be writing quite a lot about mathematics, philosophy, art, and religion using the books themselves. That is to say, some part (hopefully a largeish amount of) this blog will be interpretations of and quotes from texts. This is, admittedly, where I feel most comfortable. It’s also going to be the shakiest, so you’re warned up front. I write under a pen-name, but it won’t doxx me to say that my undergraduate degree had credits for two majors: one in History of Mathematics and Science, and one in Philosophy. Accordingly, trust me first on philosophy, somewhat less on math, and not at all in other fields.
Fifth, I’m going to try to advance in order, but I’ll probably jump back to earlier civilizations from time to time. The only time I’ll really break the time-line is to talk about historiography and the philosophy of history. I have no set plans for exactly when I’ll do that, simply that I will.