Thursday, May 1, 2014

Perspectives from history: Shakespeare enthusiasts and naval life under sail

Sometimes we can benefit from stepping back from the daily grind.

Close reasoning about history belongs to other disciplines than genealogy. In a recent New Yorker (paywall or in any decent library) by the excellent Adam Gopnik, we learn of two long-running disputes about Shakespeare. See what you think. My take was that these people were not paying attention in the class where they were encouraged to try to disprove their own favorite hypothesis.

Sometimes we need a different kind of reminder -- about how different the past was. Good historical fiction can help us get a feel for that. My current recommendation would be a sampling (or more) of Patrick O'Brian's series of 20 novels of Napoleonic-era naval adventures, known as the Aubrey-Maturin series and listed in order on his Wikipedia page. Even as a non-aficionado of sailing, I was fascinated to see an entire tightly knit social world with highly developed expertise and hierarchical divisions of labor -- and of course now completely gone. Two hundred years ago might as well be two thousand. Maturin's medical practice alone should also cure readers of nostalgia for the "good old days."

Adam Gopnik, Life and Letters, “The Poet’s Hand,” The New Yorker, April 28, 2014, p. 40.

"Aubrey-Maturin Series," Wikipedia ( : viewed 1 May 2014).

Harold Henderson, "Perspectives from history: Shakespeare enthusiasts and life under sail," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted    2014 ( : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

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