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).
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.
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”
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 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.
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.
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”