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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The End of Manichean Simplicities
Professor David Cannadine is Professor of History at Princeton. An earler book:'Ornamentalism' was acclaimed. His forthcoming 'Penguin History of Victorian Britain' is eagerly awaited.

His latest book:'The Undivided Past' is a masterly, multifaceted account of how we see both ourselves and others. It is replete with gems.

In my own field of...
Published 15 months ago by Dr Barry Clayton

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0 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Undivided
The writer clearly has an agenda that none of the distinctions which historians have used are as decisive as they claim. But in doing so he trips over some instances which were more inclusive than he claims.
Published 17 months ago by John Bradley


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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The End of Manichean Simplicities, 8 Aug 2013
By 
Dr Barry Clayton (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Undivided Past: History Beyond Our Differences (Kindle Edition)
Professor David Cannadine is Professor of History at Princeton. An earler book:'Ornamentalism' was acclaimed. His forthcoming 'Penguin History of Victorian Britain' is eagerly awaited.

His latest book:'The Undivided Past' is a masterly, multifaceted account of how we see both ourselves and others. It is replete with gems.

In my own field of International Relations, war and strategy it is commonplace to emphasise conflict, violence and outright war among nations. This book is, therefore, a very welcome corrective.

David Cannadine seeks to explore the various forms of human solidarity as they have developed across the ages. To do so he concentrates on six 'identities', namely religion, class (he has written a book on this), nation, race, gender and civilisation. The 40 pages he devotes to 'nation' ( a term introduced in the 1790's) ought to be force-fed to every 6th form History pupil and above in order to nullify the myths that surround this topic. Indeed. the whole book is essential reading for the same.

Cannadine says it has become a habit to focus on conflict between antagonistic identities, on 'them' and 'us'. he quotes George Bush's ludicrous 'war on terror' speech and his his speech of 16 April, 2006 as examples. The result is a Manichean view that our world is divided into 'good' and 'evil'. It is, as he says an apocalyptic perspective. This binary view is one shared by many including the late Osama bin Laden.

To challenge this view the author addresses the six identities historically over thousands of years. In so doing, he reveals excessive inaccuracies in published accounts. He discusses each of the six divisive collective identities and shows how politicians, theologians, priests, pundits and historians have polarized the truth. On class for example, he shows how historians have focused on this to the extent that it has become an 'identity-obsessed way of looking at the world'.

Cannadine admits his canvas is vast and controversial, and, therefore, his aim is to open up the subject 'to encourage (or provoke) others to do better'. To encourage us to stop viewing the world as being divided between the virtuous 'us' and an 'evil' them, or as Hobbes said a 'war of every man against every man'. He points out that the 25th chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew sets out an unfortunate vision of humanity when Jesus warned humanity will be be divided into sheep and goats. Those on his right hand will be blessed and the elect who will inherit the kingdom of heaven while those on his left will be condemned to everlasting fire and perpetual punishment.

The author demonstrates how Christianity and Islam cooperated for many years, that hatred and division has not been the norm. Tensions and conflicts have, of course, arisen across the years resulting in terrible bloodshed over religion, race and national aspirations but he shows that the view that innate bellicosity is the norm breaks down under scrutiny. 'Conversations' across so called unbridgeable divides, between pagans and Chritians, Germans and French, blacks and whites, West and East (he has a very useful discussion of Samuel Huntington's famous: 'Clash of Civilisations' book), workers and capitalists, make up a substantial part of human experience.

There has he argues been too much emphasis on what divides us instead of concentrating on what we have in common. Even Kipling urged a broader perspective on humanity, in which the differences were ultimately dissolved in the similarities when he wrote: 'We-As only a sort of They!'

Cannadine urges historians to focus more on humanity's essential unity rather than on its divisions. He writes:'A History that dwells only on divided pasts denies us the just inheritance of what have always shared, namel a capacity to live together in societies sufficiently harmonious and orderly not to be constantly breaking apart'.

Never has his plea been more pertinent. Do read this thought-provoking book even if you end up disagreeing with some of the arguments.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read, Though struggles with consistency and depth over its huge topic areas, 15 May 2013
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This review is from: The Undivided Past: History Beyond Our Differences (Kindle Edition)
Thought provoking and generally well written. Sometimes struggles with how each are of differences being discussed is approached, varying from individual experiences to political movements. Also, as the author admits, huge aspects of history and geography are excluded from the arguments presented, leaving me wanting a bit more depth at times. As a starting point of an argument against seeing humans as always divided by insuperable differences it is certainly a good beginning
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0 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Undivided, 19 Jun 2013
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This review is from: The Undivided Past: History Beyond Our Differences (Kindle Edition)
The writer clearly has an agenda that none of the distinctions which historians have used are as decisive as they claim. But in doing so he trips over some instances which were more inclusive than he claims.
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