Will we no longer be standing on Zanzibar?

Cover of "Stand on Zanzibar"
Cover of Stand on Zanzibar

I read an interesting report in the Economist about the stabilization of the world’s fertility rate at 2.1. Perhaps that means that the dystopian future we all fear where the world is suffering from overcrowding won’t happen … yet.

Or maybe, instead, the industrialization and increased wealth that has helped lead to the fall in population growth, will mean more pollution, more carbon emissions and other grave problems.

But at least, perhaps, John Brunner‘s vision in Stand on Zanzibar, won’t come true – unless it has already of course …

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The Renaissance was after the Middle Ages – a Medieval Myth

This is a classic myth and misconception about history and its epochs and one I’m sure many people realise. The Renaissance, the rebirth of classical learning made new by writers and scholars such as Michaelangelo and Petrarch, did not start after the Middle Ages, it was actually a phenomenon that started probably in the late 13th century.

The proof?

Look at the dates of the following artists:

Enough said really!

I think the problem is that most people still see the Middle Ages as a time of misery, ignorance and muck, with perhaps only the chivalry of knights to add any colour.

The Middle Ages: A Case of Mistaken Identity?

This was not the case. The real renaissance had already started in the twelfth century with the rediscovery of Aristotle. Humanism developed with secular writers such as Dante and Chaucer. Religion was being questioned in the late fourteenth century by Wyclif, as it had been by a host of heretical movements and scholars for several centuries.

These myths though are often just propagated further in books and film, and unfortunately the classic fantasy novel, set in a pseudo-medieval world that never existed, is partly to blame.

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Writing for the Web: Great Tips for Bloggers

I found this fascinating quote today:

Writing for the Web works best when it is scannable. The following tips will help make your articles scannable and ready for the Web.writerscommunity.net, How to Write for the Web, Oct 2009

You should read the whole article. It offers some great ideas such as using:

Using Headings

Making Lists

  • So that readers can easily scan material
  • And keeping sections short and concise
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The Longbow – A Classic Medieval Myth

Battle of Crécy between the English and French...
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If you have read any of my previous posts about Agincourt you’ll know that I’m slightly cynical about the overwhelming effect of the longbow commonly attributed by historians and novelists.

The famous longbow, at 6 foot in length required great strength and skill to draw and use properly and is usually seen as the weapon of choice for English archers throughout the hundred years war from 1337 to 1453. According to historical myth it was responsible for the destruction of French armies at Crecy, Poitiers, Agincourt and a host of smaller battles.

Because of the bow’s fast rate of fire and stopping power it could prove hazardous to even armoured knights and in certain battles no doubt it did some damage. But it really was the case that the reason for the English victories was down to:

a) Bad French leadership and disorganization on each occasion.

b) Well drilled combined arms strategy from the English – although outnumbered there is evidence that the English wanted the French to fight them as they knew they could defeat them.

c) The professional and battle-hardened troops of the English army – troops in the early years had gained experience from wars in Scotland, and retinues were raised on the basis of pay rather than as a feudal array.

The archers were an important factor and together with well armed infantry men-at-arms they could defeat the French.

But wasn’t the longbow an amazingly powerful weapon. Yes, but…

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Mary Rose