28 février 2015

Afin de voir l'histoire autrement

Dans cet article, le site i09 nous offre sa liste de livres d'histoire qui promettent de changer notre vision du passé. Voici quelques-unes de leurs suggestions qui ont piqué ma curiosité:

A People's History examines America's much-celebrated social progress and finds it wanting. For example, in the early chapters Zinn examines the close ties between African slaves and European indentured servants during colonial times, and how those ties were severed when the indentured servants were granted more rights. Regarded one way, rights for indentured servants, who were frequently assaulted and sometimes maimed by their "temporary" owners, was a triumph. Regarded another way, it was a slight advance which was nothing compared to what might have done if the two groups had stuck together. Or if the poor and the emerging middle class had stuck together. Or if the upper and middle class had stuck together. The "history" of the people seems to be very much focused on what kind of bribes, or concessions, the rich and powerful offer in order to destroy the alliances that exist among the poor and disenfranchised. While you may not agree with the book's assertions, it is a book that will make you consider rethinking who, exactly, is politically on your side.

This is a furious history of one of the world's most famous royal lines. G. J. Meyer takes a blow torch to the popular legend of the Tudor dynasty — which is fair enough, considering what the Tudors did to many of the people who opposed them. Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn's passionate story of a love turns into a petty grab for money, with a little personal stubbornness thrown in. The corrupt Catholic church is, compared to the royal court, an open-handed charity and an admirable meritocracy. "Bloody Mary," is a surprisingly tolerant and sympathetic queen. Elizabeth, instead of being the strong lady we see in movies, becomes a vain, deluded, and terrified woman scrabbling for her own survival (...) It's worth it to read one account that is both unsentimental and unsparing.

It's a difficult job to run through the history of two continents from 25,000 BC to 1491 AD, but if any book comes close, it's this one. The book is designed to set up and knock down various myths about the pre-Columbian Americas. The result is a mix of disorienting new revelations and oddly intuitive information. The former comes in the form of understanding the way people in the Americas "terraformed" the land, sculpting whole ecosystems in order to encourage the growth of the plants and the migration of the animals that suited them best. The latter reminds us of facts that, if applied to most other continents, we would already have guessed. For example, the fact that when an existing empire is invaded, the people who have been oppressed by the empire are more likely to help the invaders — or use them to advance their own goals — than they are to fight on the side of the people who have been oppressing them. The book gives readers an understanding of two continents, both of which had a complicated existing power structure before new people in boats showed up.

Mongol Queens explains the history of Mongol Empire, including the fact that is was an empire, not just a swath of land controlled by horsemen. The empire affected every major government from Europe to China, politically, economically, and culturally. Ever seen the weird cone-hats that European noblewomen wear in old paintings? That's called a hennin. It's an imitation of the boqta headress worn by the mongol queens, who were familiar figures to anyone who planned on sending a trade delegation eastward. More importantly, the history of the Mongol empire fills in some very important holes in history, including what maintained the balance between Christianity and Islam in Eurasia. You need a strong stomach to read this book. Warfare is never gentle, but back then many different cultures celebrated the brutality of war and the book is full of people who get burned alive or have their various orifices sewn closed. It's also called the "secret history" of the Mongol queens for a reason. 

2 commentaires:

fylouz a dit…

Merci pour ces renseignements. Je pense que je commencerais par celui qui parle de couture (d'orifices variés).

Prof Solitaire a dit…

Rien de mieux qu'un récit de sévices historiques pour se dire que de nos jours, ça va pas si mal finalement! ;-)