It is tempting to think that leadership today is uniquely bad, but when you study history you find that nothing is unique, especially when it comes to human nature. Therefore, I love reading ancient accounts of good leadership, such as by Confucius or Cicero. They can provide us insights into how to be better leaders today. And I recently came across a 7th-century letter written by the head of an empire to his new governor of Egypt on how to lead. It was excellent.Continue reading “Top leadership lessons from the 7th-century”
What the Chinese Thought of the British Empire In the 18th Century (2 mins)
I was brought up with a very western-centric view of the world, and culture continues to frame things in that way. It is therefore intriguing to view the world from a completely different perspective. History can provide a very real way of doing that. One example of this is when the British Empire encountered the Chinese.
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 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)”
Napoleon As Management Guru?!
I recently re-read a book on Napoleon by British Historian Andrew Roberts. Napoleon of course is known to some as one of great military commanders in history. But I looked for Napoleon’s broader leadership style and character. This is what I took away from the book: Continue reading “Napoleon As Management Guru?!”
Who’s the Most Famous Person Of All Time?
How do you compare the fame of an actor today to a Greek philosopher from two thousand years ago? Well, the clever people at MIT have come up with a system called Pantheon to do just that.
It looks at the biographies of historical figures that feature in more than 25 languages in Wikipedia. This gives a sense of broad impact of the figure. Then they make adjustments for number of page views, bias towards English language bios and age of the historical character (so if a bio is still being written on someone from two thousand years ago, that means their cultural is very big).Continue reading “Who’s the Most Famous Person Of All Time?”
The Internet’s Transition From Nomadism To Feudalism
Sometimes you come across an insight that’s so thought-provoking you have to share it verbatim. This is from product designer Alexander Singh on the evolution of the web:
“Over the past 25 years, the web appears to have transitioned from a primarily nomadic culture to a mostly agrarian one, mirroring the Neolithic Revolution 10,000 years ago. Continue reading “The Internet’s Transition From Nomadism To Feudalism”
Never Before Had Europe Been Overshadowed By Four Giants – Henry VIII, Francis I, Charles V, Suleiman
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”
5 Life Hacks From Religion
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”
Overcoming Fake News – Welcome To the Reputation Age (3 min read)
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)”
Have You Read the Ancient Book Of the Dead? (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)”
It’s Not the First Brexit, Just Ask Henry VIII
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”