November 14, 2006 | Leave a Comment
I received a book recommendation from Stefan Jovanovich who, like Jim Sogi, utters something of profundity whenever he speaks. He recommends historical books by Peter Green and J. S. Holliday as models of good scholarship. I call on him and others for some good historical books that I can read and augment my library with and share with my children, who are studying history in school, and regrettably have been brainwashed by politically correct curricula, starting with Squanto as the archetypical American hero.
I recommend the book Lessons of History by Will Durant as well worth reading for its lessons on markets as well as a honest attempt to review the lessons from a life long study of the sweep of history in conjunction with this request.
Alston Mabry replies:
Inventing America is a textbook that has an interesting approach and might be an alternative for homeschoolers:
Book Description; W. W. Norton presents Inventing America, a balanced new survey of American history by four outstanding historians. The text uses the theme of innovation–the impulse in American history to “make it new”–to integrate the political, economic, social, and cultural dimensions of the American story. From the creation of a new nation and the invention of the corporation in the eighteenth century, through the vast changes wrought by early industry and the rise of cities in the nineteenth century, to the culture of jazz and the new nation-state of the twentieth century, the text draws together the many ways in which innovation-and its limits-have marked American history.
Some other longtime favorites are The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes, The Devil’s Horsemen: The Mongol Invasion of Europe by James Chambers, and King Harald’s Saga: Harald Hardradi of Norway: From Snorri Sturluson’s Heimskringla by Snorri Sturluson. You can get the wiki overview here, but the saga itself is a quick read and an amazing story.
Another audio book I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to on cross-country drives is Simon Schama’s A History of Britain. The audio book is in 3 volumes. Schama, a professor at Columbia, is such an excellent storyteller that I would pick up anything he has written. The television series of the same name is also available on DVD and is outstanding.
Stefan Jovanovich replies:
Simon Schama has the gift of charisma. When you watch his narration of the video documentary of the History of Britain, you are instantly aware of it. The trouble is that his histories are not to be trusted. At their worst they are little more than royalist propaganda. Too often he writes the story that the Queen would like to read, not the one that happened. Even though Cromwell was the first head of the United Kingdom to allow Jews to openly practice their religion, Schama finds the Great Protector to be a far greater villain than any of the crowned heads who so routinely persecuted the children of Israel. He is equally severe in his criticisms of those greedy speculators of the Dutch Republic who left Spinoza free to grind his lenses; in Schama’s eyes, those Dutch Reform bigots were guilty not only of inventing capital markets but also of buying too much stuff. The common thread in Schama’s works is the notion that sectarian Christians, with their notions of free markets, are to be feared as dangerous, greedy fanatics who will upset the natural order of the world. The meme continues with Rough Crossings. Schama makes a great deal of the fact that the British offered freedom to slaves who would join the Royalist forces in fighting Washington’s Army while failing to note that the Confederates ended their struggle with the same concession to the dire necessities of war. In general, Schama finds the Christian deism of the slave owning signers of the Declaration of Independence proof of their hypocrisy and, by extension, that of the American nation as a whole. The fact that, for another half century, neither the Archbishops of Canterbury nor the Kings of England had any problem with sanctioning and enforcing slavery in their remaining territories is somehow put aside. So are the origins of the anti-slavery movement in both England and America (those dreadful Methodists). The nearly two centuries old Anglo-American naval alliance (the longest-lived military confederation between democracies in recorded history) had its origins in the anti-slavery patrols off West Africa by both fleets that began in the 1820s. Those were initiated as a political concession in both countries to those same cross-bearing nutballs who thought that the “common” people should have the right to vote even if they did not own a carriage. Ain’t history grand?
Tom Ryan suggests:
Daniel Boorstin’s three books, The Americans, written before 1973, provide a refreshing take on American history in my opinion. I recommend the third in the series, “The Democratic Experience”, which covers the 1870-1970 period in American History. It is unconventional in the sense that it focuses on the stories of the individuals who built, invented, and created this country, the untold stories of the individuals as it were, rather than the typical history of Washington political leadership that is regularly fed to children in grades 4-12.
Steve Ellison adds:
I highly recommend British historian Paul Johnson’s A History of the American People, which goes into detail on many topics, including the relentless economic growth that occurred almost from the outset. A small sample:
By the third quarter of the 18th century America already had a society which was predominantly middle class. The shortage of labor meant artisans did not need to form guilds to protect jobs. It was rare to find restriction on entry to any trade. Few skilled men remained hired employees beyond the age of twenty-five. If they did not acquire their own farm they ran their own business.
Rodger Bastien responds:
I just completed Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Empire by Tom Holland. I highly recommend this historical narrative of the final days of the Republic which deals with primarily the years 100 B.C. to 14 A.D. For me, the book brought to life this period which I knew little about but was arguably as important to subsequent civilizations as any period before or since. Caesar, Marc Antony and Cleopatra may have existed centuries ago, but to me those centuries somehow feel a little shorter.
Gibbons Burke replies:
I am finding I am enjoying first-person narrative accounts of historical events and times, so, with that in mind:
- Sufferings in Africa: The Astonishing Account of a New England Sea Captain Enslaved by North African Arabs by Captain James Riley
- Exploring the Colorado River: Firsthand Accounts by Powell and His Crew by John Wesley Powell
- Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain
and one that’s not a first person, but which is fascinating and has many meals:
- Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky
John O’Sullivan replies:
I recommend two books by Anthony Beevor: Stalingrad and The Fall of Berlin 1945. Both mesh grand strategy with individual detail and amazing narrative momentum. I also like three Middle & Far Eastern travelogue/history/biographies by William Dalrymple : Xanadu, From the Holy Mountain and White Mughals. Dalrymple has created his own genre and its a rich mix.
MacNeil Curry replies:
I would have to recommend Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West. Not only is it a fascinating account of the West from a different perspective, but it highlights quite well that there are two sides to every story and that both must be carefully studied before one can truly come to there own conclusion.
Tyler McClellan replies:
Speaking of John Wesley Powell, Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West by Wallace Stegner is a book with many practical lessons for investing and life that used to be required reading for the history of the American West.
Craig Cuyler replies:
My favourite historical novels are without doubt the three part trilogy by Neil Stevenson called the Baroque Cycle. This body of work, over 2500 pages long, covers life in 17th-century in England, Europe, Russia with special reference to natural philosophy & science. Stevenson weaves in his ideas about currency, calculus in speculation which took place around the central characters like Isaac Newton, Huygens, Hook, Leibniz. The courts of Louis XIV in the battle for the monarchy in England feature strongly. The Baroque Cycle is to science what the Lord of the Rings is to fantasy. Fantastic read!
Does fear in sport , as in the market put your opponent in the drivers seat? or does it depend on the personality of the warrior / trader, as to how this will effect the final outcome? I forward to you an article from Buenos Aries:
We hate Hewitt, says Nalbandian — From correspondents in Buenos Aires. September 20, 2006.
FORMER Wimbledon finalist David Nalbandian stirred the seeds of animosity ahead of the Davis Cup semi-final clash between Argentina and Australia by claiming his teammates don't like Lleyton Hewitt.
Hewitt has been at the centre of several spats with Argentina over the past few years and the ill feeling has grown to such an extent that he has reportedly employed two Australian bodyguards for the trip to Buenos Aires this week.
"No-one is friends with Hewitt and he does not worry me at all," Nalbandian, who was beaten convincingly by Hewitt in the 2002 final at the All England Club, said.
"We won last year over there (4-1 in Sydney) and now we will win here."
There had been talk that Hewitt would pull out over security fears but Nalbandian thinks his presence in the team will make little difference.
"With Hewitt, this tie will be a little more difficult but that doesn't change much really," added the world No.4.
"Whichever team comes here to play knows that at home, we are very strong, and now we have a great chance to make the final."
Argentina captain Alberto Mancini echoed Nalbandian's sentiments, claiming the circus surrounding Hewitt's appearance would not distract his team.
"The issue of Hewitt and his security (which includes six local security personnel) is something that everyone is talking about but it's not something our team is worrying about," he said.
"We respect Hewitt but my players can beat him."
Earlier, Argentina's Jose Acasuso blasted Hewitt for overreacting to the perceived animosity he will encounter.
"Hewitt seems to think that he's come to Iraq, that they are going to plant a bomb," Acasuso said.
"But we're not bothered because this is the circus that he wanted to set up. Nothing's going to happen and we shouldn't pay any attention to it.
"We're just worried about Argentina. Whether Hewitt has one bodyguard or 500 bodyguards, that's up to him."
Former world No.1 Hewitt, who was named alongside Mark Philippoussis and doubles specialists Wayne Arthurs and Paul Hanley for the tie, had previously expressed reservations about playing in the tie because of security concerns.
The bad blood between Hewitt and Argentina began at last year's Australian Open when Juan Ignacio Chela took exception to the Australian's histrionics and spat at him as they changed ends in their third round match, copping a fine for unsportsmanlike conduct as a result.
John O'Sullivan answers:
Yes and no, if we take cricket as the sport in case. There are few more exciting sporting spectacles than a contest between a hostile fast bowler and an aggressive batsman in international test cricket. A truly fast bowler is capable of delivering the 5 1/2 oz hard leather ball at speeds approaching 100mph. Over a 22 yd pitch that takes just over 0.5 seconds to arrive at the batsman. The batsman must select and execute his shot in that very short interval. Remember that in cricket, it is perfectly legitimate for a fast bowler to deliver a "bouncer": a short pitched delivery aimed at the batsman's chest, throat or head. Obviously, the aim is to intimidate and unsettle the batsman. Often a simple, straight ball aimed at the wicket will follow. This is a classic fast bowling sucker punch - a scared batsman will fluff the shot, and get bowled out.
From personal experience I know that no other sporting experience produces an adrenaline surge like going in to bat against a really fast bowler. The ball may be traveling so quickly that you can barely see it. In the amateur game the pitch may well be uneven, leading to dangerously unpredictable bounce. As a batsman you know that when the bowler releases the ball it may well be flying toward your face or ribs at 90mph half a second later. If you get your shot wrong, you'll get hit, and it will hurt like heck.
The fear causes a massive adrenaline rush. As a batsman you must harness that rush, as it sharpens your perception and quickens reactions. You must concentrate totally and absolutely on the ball in the bowler's hand as he runs up. And you must try to play freely and naturally.
When an aggressive batsman faces a hostile fast bowler, they will seek to dominate each other. The bowler will bowl bouncers to intimate the batsman. The batsman may "hook" those bouncers. The hook shot requires tremendous nerve and skill. The batsman doesn't attempt to duck or swerve the ball, but stands in line, allowing it to approach his face. He then plays a cross bat shot hitting the ball high, behind and to the right ("to leg") just as the ball comes on to his face. If he can execute this shot correctly he will score heavily, and dominate the bowler. If not, the bowler dominates, and the batsman may be hit in the face.
All batsmen where padded gloves, pads on the legs and a "box" to protect the groin. In recent years helmets have become common place. Less confident batsmen may add arm guards, thigh pads and chest guards.
The more heavily padded a batsman is, the less free his movement. Helmets can hinder vision. So the more protection a batsman has, the less able he is to apply technique to deal with the threat.
If a batsman is confident in his own abilities, he won't hinder his movement with too much protective padding. Market analogy: confident traders will not use stops.
A great batsman must have natural ability: eagle eyesight, quick reflexes, strength and nerves. Market analogy: a great trader must be a quick & confident thinker and have iron nerves.
A great batsman must practice endlessly. He must have a complete array of shots that he can select instantly and instinctively in response to the bowler. One can only learn by doing over and over again. Market analogy: a great trader's instinctive reactions can only be honed by being in the market in all conditions.
Cricket is a team sport, but a lopsided one: the batsman is on his own against the 11 men of the fielding side - the bowler, the fielding captain, and the fielder are all conspiring to get him out. The batsman stays alive and prospers by wit, skill and judgment. Market analogy: the trader relies on his wits to survive against the combined force of the market.
One mistake, and the batsman is a failure. To be a success, he must get it right over and over again. One error, and the batsman gives a catch to the fielding side, or he is run out. Or he is bowled out. To build a big innings, to score heavily, maybe a century, he must get it right over and over again. He might face hundreds of deliveries from several bowlers over the course of several hours, with the fielding side constantly conspiring against him, in order to build a big score. His concentration must be unremitting, and application of technique fluent and correct. One error and he is gone. Market analogy: the successful trader must constantly make correct judgments on placing, pulling and sizing orders and positions. One mistake and he is underwater, maybe even wiped out.
Craig Mee responds:
I believe the great Vivian Richards who averaged 50 runs every time he walking out onto the pitch with bat in hand, and faced some of the fastest bowlers ever to play the game, never wore a helmet in international cricket. Maybe the answer lies here, in this one individual, though I believe he may have been two standard deviations away from the mean, as the downside of getting hit, well for us mere mortals, is 'there goes the account.!'
Adi Schnytzer comments:
Although, to be fair, the nastiest fast bowlers in Richard's era were on his team! Donald Bradman, the greatest batsman that ever lived, and by a fair stretch, claimed in an interview that he was only ever hit once on the body by a ball! He wore no body protection to speak of and evidently needed none. Even the fast bowlers were scared of him! I once saw Richards make 200 in a Test match at the MCG and watching that innings I could not help wondering how anybody could ever make 300 in a Test in one day (Bradman at Leeds way before my time). Watching his interviews, one gets the feeling that the man had no need for adrenalin at all.
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