That’s how John Julius Norwich characterises the early 1500s in his book Four Princes. The four were all born in the 1490s and went on to shape Europe for centuries to come:
- King Henry VIII ruled England. He broke from the Papacy of Rome, established the Church of England, created a superb administration and transformed the navy.
- King Francis I ruled France. He was the Renaissance man. He brought Leonardo da Vinci from Italy to France. He transformed the Louvre from a medieval fortress to a vast Renaissance Palace. He made French, rather Latin, the official language of the country.
- Suleiman the Magnificent ruled the Ottoman Empire. He created a single code of law, expanded the number of schools and was extremely tolerant. He gave artists professional status and encouraged every form of artistic creativity by attracted artists from all corners of Europe whether Muslim or Christian.
- Holy Roman Emperor Charles V combined rule in Germany, Spain and parts of Italy to create a new heart of Europe. Under his rule, European rule expanded to the New World defeating the Aztecs of Mexico and the Incas of Peru.
But these highlights mask the violence and divineness of religion that was unleashed during the period. Continue reading “Never Before Had Europe Been Overshadowed By Four Giants – Henry VIII, Francis I, Charles V, Suleiman”
In today’s world, especially in Western Europe, religion can often be viewed negatively. Religion is thought of as irrational, polarising and not equipped for the modern world. Yet for many around the world, religion remains central to their lives. Whatever one’s thoughts about religion, what is true is that religion has survived in various guises for thousands of years and across hundreds of cultures today. Given this, there must be something within religions that provide time-tested practical benefits to people. From my exposure to various multiple religions, I’ve identified 5 practises that all religions seem to share and persists to this day. One could call these the 5 “eternal” life hacks…. Continue reading “5 Life Hacks From Religion”
From the Establishment Age to the Information Age
Fake news, social media manipulation, government propaganda – the list goes on, so who do we now trust to understand the “truth”. In the old days, it was enough that it came from a reputable organisation like a top university (say Harvard or Cambridge), government body (say the FDA or UN) or large media company (say the BBC or NY Times). The internet and perhaps more importantly the social media era disrupted that. Continue reading “Overcoming Fake News – Welcome To the Reputation Age (3 min read)”
The Original Civilisation
The Ancient Egyptian civilisation that stretched from 3,000 BCE to 300 BCE was one of the earliest known civilisations (along with the Mesopotamians). It the one of the longest lasting, the first to have one government rule an entire nation and produced awe-inspiring architecture. Even so, it’s hard to imagine the world four or five thousand years ago.
To provide context, this was a time before Plato, Caesar, and Jesus. Continue reading “Have You Read the Ancient Book Of the Dead? (3 min read)”
The British Empire, one of the largest in history, went through several phases. One critical phase was the American War Of Independence when the colonists in the North America broke away from the Empire in 1783. While it did stop British expansion in the west, it resulted in them focusing on the East. Eventually it lead to the British Raj in India and the next phase of the British Empire.
It also saw them have more contact with the Chinese. At the time, the British were allowed to trade in the Canton port (later Hong Long), but they weren’t allowed a presence in mainland China. What many history books fail to mention is that though the British (along with possibly the French) were the largest European powers, they weren’t the largest in the world. Continue reading “What the Chinese Thought Of the British Empire In the 18th Century (2 mins)”
One of the challenges of understanding the consequences of Brexit is the apparent lack of precedent for such an event. But this pre-supposes that only the recent past is relevant. If instead we use the full sweep of history, then we can find the obvious precedent of the English Reformation that started in 1534. King Henry VIII passed the Acts of Supremacy making him “supreme head in earth of the Church of England” and repealing any “usage, custom, foreign laws, foreign authority”. The foreign authority, of course, was the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church. At the time, Continue reading “It’s Not the First Brexit, Just Ask Henry VIII”
Last week I provided my reading list for developing the right character for work that I give to new members of my team. This week, I’ll give my reading list for the knowledge base they need to have in the financial industry. Some of the books are easy to read cover to cover whichever industry you are in, others are worth dipping into and out of, while some are very technical. If I’ve missed any good books let me know: Continue reading “My Reading List For Success At Work (Part 2)”
I recently came across an excellent paper called “Going to Extremes: Politics after Financial Crisis, 1870-2014” by Funke, Schularick and Trebesch (2015). It conducts one of the first ever studies of how politics changes after financial crises in 20 advanced economies going back over one hundred years. It seems very apt given the changes we are seeing around the world. The study has four main conclusions: Continue reading “Why Is Extremism On the Rise?”
After this week’s UK and European political developments, I thought about Machiavelli, Shakespeare and Sun Tzu. The latter wrote in his “Art of War” that all warfare is based on deception (how true!). He went to describe this in more detail (as did Charlie Sheen in the 1980s classic “Wall Street”):
“Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable;
When using our forces, we must seem inactive;
When we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away;
When far away, we must make him believe we are near.”
Another more controversial Chinese classic was written around the same time in 500BC, it was called “The Master of Demon Valley”. It was associated with Continue reading “The Intoxication Of Power (2 mins)”
Shakespeare. You cannot get more British than that. His works are taught in schools across the country, revered by the guardians of British culture and promoted as the quintessential British cultural icon abroad. With the UK’s referendum to leave the European Union, it may be time to fall back on such an icon to help forge a new path for Britishness. Continue reading “From Greek Drama To Shakespearean Tragedy (5 min read)”