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K. J. H. MACLEAN (England)

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The Late Medieval English Church: Vitality and Vulnerability Before the Break with Rome
The Late Medieval English Church: Vitality and Vulnerability Before the Break with Rome
by G.w. Bernard
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £25.00

17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Objective Analysis, 12 Dec. 2012
For the layperson who picks up an historical work the expectation is that it will treat of a personage or period in a generally narrative form. Unless the reader has a reason to doubt the author on any particular, the author is accepted to know exactly what happened and why. And usually the text is written as though writer was endowed with omniscience.

Professor Bernard does not present us with a story; he provides information and then proceeds in respect of each portion thereof to analyse it. This should not be off-putting to the serious layperson since, although the book is no doubt now lodged in many an academic bookcase, it is written in good, plain English.

The subject matter is dealt with in chapters entitled The Monarchical Church; Bishops; Clergy; Lay Knowledge; Lay Activity; Criticism; The Condition of the Monasteries; and Heresy.

As he presents each piece of evidence drawn from extant records Prof. Bernard evaluates it in a fashion which this reader saw as being akin to judicial. We are repeatedly reminded that sources are scarce and that they may be interpreted in more than one way. Bernard where appropriate, dissents from prior interpretations, with reasons given.

For those new to this type of history book, the manner in which the materials have been garnered, are presented and then interpreted provides a fascinating behind-the-curtain glimpse of objective historical scholarship.

The reason and objectivity is most refreshing when compared , for example, with the prose employed by art historians when presenting on TV.

Another refreshing aspect of the book is the lack therefrom of political correctness - no BCEs or CEs here. (It is true that every mention of "laymen" is followed by "and laywomen", but perhaps this is only just on the border of PC.)

It is also good to see a modern book which does not elicit the observation that it should have been better edited.

For a review by a professional historian, see Reformation Blues, Peter Marshall, Literary Review, July 2012.

Our Shadowed Present: Modernism, Postmodernism and History
Our Shadowed Present: Modernism, Postmodernism and History
by J.C.D. Clark
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

1 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Warning, 15 May 2011
I was looking for a novel in my bookshelves the other day and my eyes lit upon Our Shadowed Present. The title on the spine meant absolutely nothing to me, so I extracted the book with a view to ascertaining its nature. In it I found three reviews of the book cut from newspapers/magazines and all dated 2003. Also inserted in the book, a few pages into the lengthy Introduction, was a bookmark.

I had completely forgotten my purchase of the book, presumably in 2003 (it is the first edition), so I read the reviews to give me an idea as to why I had obtained it. Two of the reviews had me scratching my head as to what had aroused my interest eight years ago, but the third gave the answer. It was a review by John Adamson in the Daily Telegraph of August 10 2003.

First Adamson praises Clark as one of the most combative historians of his generation. He then informs us that in "this new book Clark offers a subtle and devastating critique of these latest trends in Anglo-American intellectual fashion. By "trends", Adamson is apparently referring to postmodernism.

Thus I started, once again, to read the book. However, it immediately became apparent why in 2003 I had not even completed a reading of the Introduction.

Only buy this book if you are thoroughly versed in the academic treatment of history/historiography and/or you are very, very, very patient and/or you are a masochist and/or you are a pseudo-intellectual and/or you delight in wasting precious time. Otherwise read Adamson's review and leave it at that - I wish I had.

If this book has something important to say, it would be of service to mankind if an interpreter could explain what it is, in plain language, in a short pamphlet .
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 23, 2012 7:51 PM GMT

Heaven And Earth: Global Warming - The Missing Science
Heaven And Earth: Global Warming - The Missing Science
by Ian Plimer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £25.00

131 of 156 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A serious person's guide to the sceptic case on AGW, 11 July 2009
For those who wish to obtain an introduction to the sceptical case regarding the assertion that humans are responsible for global warming, there are available short books written in a racy/journalistic style. One such (which I would recommend) is An Appeal to Reason: a Cool Look at Global Warming by Nigel Lawson.

Professor Plimer's book falls into a somewhat different category. What his book does is to fulfil the requirement of the intelligent layman for an up-to-date, authoritative and comprehensive account of the case for doubting the purported phenomenon of anthropogenic global warming (AGW).

In that almost all politicians and most elements of the media, such as the BBC, now speak of AGW as though it was an incontrovertible fact which no rational person would even contemplate questioning, the book is of marked value in demonstrating, in a manner readily accessible to the layman, that the science of AGW is anything but finally settled.

The book commences with a 20-page introduction followed by a chapter on the history of the Earth's climate, including detailed accounts of the Roman Warming, the Medieval Warming and the Little Ice Age. Next comes the main scientific "meat" of the book, this being set forth in five chapters (totaling 334 pages) which are respectively entitled The Sun, The Earth, Ice, Water and Air. If you are more at home with racy or journalistic offerings, these chapters may not be for you. If though, you wish to obtain somewhat more than a fleeting understanding of the current state of man's knowledge of the workings of the planet's climate system, then Professor Plimer's work will be of definite assistance to you.

The book concludes with a chapter entitled Et Moi which treats of the political aspects and the religiosity of the AGW movement. For those not acquainted with the genesis and development of the AGW movement or with the nature of the clashes between the believers and the sceptics, this final chapter will prove, I suspect, to be an eye-opener.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 6, 2010 6:40 PM GMT

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