Now that I am Editor-in-Chief, it means that I am at least semi-retired from Current Archaeology and I am therefore able to devote much of my attention to writing what I call my ‘big book’. And since one should always think big, at least at the outset, I am setting out to write a history of the world, which is tentatively entitled Barbarism and Civilisation.
The very title will — I hope — be a red rag to a bull, for concepts such as barbarism and civilisation are terribly politically incorrect. But if one is writing a book in one’s retirement, surely it should be controversial. What, you will ask, is barbarism and what is civilisation? Well the difference lies in the use of money (which again may prove controversial). But money not only allows us to operate much more efficiently, it also gives us much greater freedom: freedom to choose what we eat, how we live, and how we spend our money. And in the book I chase up both the economic aspects of money and the much neglected social aspects of money.
It concentrates therefore on the Greeks and Romans. It starts off with a little anthropology, looking at Bronislaw Malinowski in the Western Pacific. We then move on to what I call higher barbarisms of Egypt and Minoan Crete, trying to understand how the pyramids were built without the use of money, and how the Minoan Linea B tablets reveal the inner most secrets of the Minoan economy. And then I come on to Greece, and particularly Rome – the world’s first successful market economies, and in the case of Greece at least, the world’s first democracy. Basically it is all very respectable, but underneath it there is a subversive message, hinting at why we in the West toy are so successful, and why our liberal society is so desirable. The Romans too in my book are very much nicer than they are usually made out to be, and this too is a rather more readable story than the conventional account.
As the book is written chapter by chapter I put it up on the web as a convenient means of storage. I have two web sites — www.civilisation.org.uk (with an ‘s’) and www.civilization.org.uk (with a ‘z’). The former is the original site, but it is now obsolete, as it was becoming totally chaotic, so I have replaced it by the ‘z’ site which has a ‘content management system’ called WordPress, which manages all the arrangement of chapters for me. I am now approaching the halfway mark in writing the book, and I am getting a fair number of hits, 60-80 a day. This blog therefore is intended essentially for those who are reading ‘Civilization’, so that they can be informed of my latest progress: I have just added a new chapter on the Fourth Century in my account of the decline and fall of Rome.
Jun 06, 2016 0Listen to John Reid, author of our cover feature Bullets,...