Book Blog

This is where I will take notes on what I am reading. May be a daily thing, or just haphazard thoughts and summaries. Spoilers will be in here.

Further information on the books themselves can be found at the Book List.

December 29th, 2021

The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories I read two additional stories, Three Thanksgivings and The Cottagette. Three Thanksgivings is about a 50 year old woman who is broke and going to lose her mortgaged house in two years (after three Thanksgivings). She doesn’t want to live with her kids, and the man who the house is mortgaged to is using it a leverage to marry her. So she figures out a way to make the money by starting a Women’s Club. It’s a nice little story and I wouldn’t have minded if it went on a little longer. The Cottagette was kind of boring. It’s about two young women who live in this little cottage camp-site type area and this guy one of the girl loves. They’re all artists of some type. The one girl convinces the other girl to set up a kitchen and start “keeping house” in order to get the guy to fall in love with her. So she does this and then has no time for her art and the idyllic home gets busier in busier. Eventually the guy proposes on the condition that she stops keeping house and focuses on her art. What a happy ending. These are nice little turn of the century stories. Light reading for lunch time.

December 28th, 2021

The Song of Roland Reading this after reading about his battle in Bullfinch’s Mythology. His story bummed me out with so many knights dying, who up until this point had accomplished so many amazing things. I was not expecting their deaths. But only two of the knights, Roland (Orlando) and Oliver appear in The Song of Roland. I was also surprised to see that Roland and the rear guard die two-thirds in. The last third is about Charlemagne being sad and a second battle. I liked it, despite the differences from what I was expecting. It short and simple. The guys you are supposed to like do cool stuff and die heroically. It won’t be leaving any long-lasting emotions in me, but it’s neat from a historical perspective.
The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories I read the first story, The Yellow Wallpaper. It’s interesting. The narrator is either a crazy woman or a woman who is driven crazy from isolation. A short and easy read. It’s one of those stories where you can’t believe everything the narrator is telling you. The ending is neat. I like the visual of this lunatic dragging herself along the wall over her unconscious husband. I wonder if the “trail” in the paper she was seeing was real or imagined. If real, could she have not been the first person in this situation? There were also teeth marks on the bed posts, according to her. Or she’s just a whacko.

December 23rd, 2021

England in the Seventeenth Century Read the last chapter today, which is about England under Queen Anne. Things were generally good and, after the war, people were better off than they had been in centuries. Wages were high, good food was readily available. A lot of this better well-being was due to the large rise of commerce and industry. It is estimated the value of foreign trade increased at least threefold during Queen Anne’s reign. Trade to certain regions was controlled by “companies”, who had monopolies, but it was essentially a merchants’ club which you paid to enter and abided by their rules. During the wars, people could sneak into these trade routes without joining. The companies had to upkeep diplomatic and military stations and compelled to loan money to the government. By Queen Anne’s reign, the monopoly era was near death. People were tired of them and wanted open trade, the Tories at least. This fast expansion of trade was due to the industrial progress of the 17th century. Religious tension had lessened but was still a frequent debate. There was still hostility towards those who were not part of the CoE. Laws were passed against Catholics and Non-conformists, but the drastic violence of prior eras was gone. Clergy were getting better earnings and were becoming a more respectable class. The Puritans had lost the political battle at the Restoration, but their morality had pervaded society and became dominant. There’s quite a bit about John Locke, who I’ve never read either. I should read his work, considering how much he has affected English and especially American history. The author says his ideas essentially justified the Glorious Revolution (after the fact). Government is a “contract”, not a divine right, and when the contract is broken, the leader can be replaced. This is very different from Hobbes who believed in the need of authoritarianism, or society would collapse. Well, the GR proved him wrong. Daniel Defoe was also an active writer at the time, apparently a journalist, and a Dissenter who’s writings got him prison time. Locke was also from a Dissenter background, but had Whig friends in high places. The main takeaway is that in the 17th century, we enter the modern world. Tudor absolutism had died and, after the republican experiment, the Royalist reaction led to the Glorious Revolution and a chosen government. The House of Commons had asserted its power, despite the electorate still being very small, the “cabinet” government was forming, and the medieval economy was vanishing. In an epilogue about the death of Queen Anne, a debate over succession is discussed. Anne was often seriously ill, and the question of whether the government should follow the Act of Settlement and give the crown to Hanover, or to the Old Pretender. Unfortunately for the Jacobite, young James would not give up Catholicism. He was no-go. There was drama in the cabinet. Lord Treasurer Harley was dismissed and Bolingbroke, despite being refused the job, had ultimate power as Secretary of State. Bolingbroke was still flirting with the idea of working with the Jacobites. The Duke of Shrewsbury orchestrated that he be Lord Treasurer, and received the job from Anne on her death bed. Queen Anne was the last monarch of the “old school”. Shrewsbury had prepared everything for the succession of George I (Sohpia had died in May). He inherited a peaceable country with the two crowns firmly united. Barely knowing the language or understanding English politics, the crown would have to rely on the elected government.

December 22nd, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte The final chapter of the book is about Napoleon’s 5-6 year exile on St. Helena. It doesn’t sound so bad. He had a nice house, but was clearly bummed out and bored. He brought 4 French guys and some of their family with him. Bertrand is the only name I remember seeing before this chapter. He was a loyal soldier and ultimately general who served with Napoleon since Italy. Two of the guys ended up leaving because life around Napoleon was always dramatic. According to the author, the last guy killed Napoleon with arsenic poisoning. This is not agreed upon by everyone. Some say he died, in 1821, from stomach cancer. We’ll probably never know. Regardless, Napoleon is dead. He did a lot of terrible things, and a few good things. It’s kind of hard to look at all that was done and not at least kind of admire the guy. I’ve said many times that if I had absolute power, I’d end up like Stalin. But maybe if I were lucky, I’d end up like Napoleon.
England in the Seventeenth Century The next chapter describes the Peace of Utrecht and England’s colonialism. The Peace of Utrecht, which sounds like a separate peace for England at the expense of its allies, kept Phillip of Anjou on the Spanish throne, but he had to renounce his rights to the French throne. Charles had succeeded to the Austrian throne, so it seemed like a bad idea to let him have both. Britain got a lot of trade benefits, Dunkirk, Gibraltar, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and lots of its other takings. They also emerged from war as top naval power. Its colonial age really began under James I, despite some probings by Sir Walter Raleigh in Elizabeth’s reign. Virginia and Plymouth came to being under James I, while many more came under Charles I. During the Interregnum, the English got Jamaica (or maybe it was Bermuda), somewhere for growing sugar. Charles II gave away Pennsylvania, and I believe got a hold of the Dutch holdings. The American colonies were very independent and resented the Navigation Acts, which held them to use only English ships for trading. Of course, they did everything they could to bypass it. This would be an issue until the Revolutionary War. Ireland was colonized during this time too. Scottish Presbyterians, chased out by Cromwell and the like, were used to push out the native Catholics. The Irish sided with Charles I and James II and were punished for their actions. The Scottish eventually got treated like equals and were united in Parliament with England, though many Scots resent this union to this day.

December 21st, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte The rest of this chapter is about the Battle of Waterloo and its aftermath. The maps in this book are terrible or non-existent, so it is not easy to follow along. Napoleon failed to follow up in pursuit of the Prussians and assumed that some of those moving east represented the entire army, but the main fighting force was moving north, closer to the British. Napoleon also did not know that Ney had lost his battle. Napoleon wanted to march straight on Brussels, but had to take care of the British before the Prussians could join. Pouring rain and mud slowed his advance drastically. Grouchy was sent to block the Prussians, but he failed to anything. The battle began on 18th of June and was extremely bloody. Napoleon stuck hard and the British held firm. Ney charged with his cavalry many times and was repulsed every time. Late in the day, the Prussians arrived. A last-ditch assault ended with an Allied counterattack and the French were routed. The war was over as the French retreated. 60k men died or were wounded on each side. Ultimately, Napoleon abdicated in favor of his son and was placed on house arrest while a committee governed France. Against their wished, the Bourbons were put back on the throne. Thousands of Bonapartists were killed in acts of revenge by royalists. Lous XVIII created of list of men to have arrested for treason, but names such as Davout and Fouche were absent. Davout demanded his men be removed and he be put on, but to no avail. He warned the men and many escaped. The few who were captured were executed. Ney had been tried and sentenced to death, killed by firing squad.

December 20th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte Napoleon planned to use his Army of the North to destroy the Prussian and Anglo-Belgian-Dutch armies before they could join or be reinforced by Russia and Austria. Wellington led the English and Dutch forces but got little help from home. Only 1/3 of his army was English, and he was headquartered in Brussels, but his army was spread all over. The Prussians were spread thinly to his southwest. There were two battles fought in Belgium on June 16, one at Quarte-Bras against the English, the other at Ligny against the Prussians. For whatever reason, Ney did nothing on the 15th and allowed the English to take Quarte-Bras. Instead of lodging them out, he waited until the next day to attack. This attack prevented the English from reinforcing the Prussians, but it was a French defeat. Napoleon’s forces attacked the Prussians at Ligny and had a tactical victory, but he did not crush the army as desired and most of the Prussians were able to retreat. Napoleon blamed Ney for this for not sending him the I Corps when ordered, which is a fair grievance. Not much had been gained for all of Napoleon’s work. His Marshals were still not obeying his commands.
England in the Seventeenth Century Queen Anne’s reign was mostly concerned with the War of Spanish Succession, or Queen Anne’s War here in America. There’s generally not a lot to say about wars. It lasted from from her taking the throne in 1702 until the Peace of Utrecht in 1713. The English were still allied with the Dutch, various Habsburgs (Austria, Savoy, Baden). The Portuguese later joined the coalition, and probably more states. The French, with Philip in control of Spain, had the Bavaria as an ally. The key player, and supreme commander, was John Churchill, Earl (later Duke) of Marlborough. Another important ally was Prince Eugene of Savoy. They had some major victories and innovative strategies that embarrassed the French and took Bavaria out of the war. The French had not had such defeats since the beginning of Louis XIV’s reign. But no peace could be made and Coalition proposals were unacceptable to France. The French were able to hold their heads above water, and the war lasted 11 years. The chapter also talks about domestic affairs, but it’s all back and forth between Whigs and Tories. By 1710, the people were sick of war and there was a huge Tory victory of the elections. Marlborough was dismissed, unfortunately, and the British essentially stopped fighting. Prince Eugene was defeated in 1712, and peace was made shortly after. I’ll have to wait for the next chapter to see what the treaty contains.

December 19th, 2021

England in the Seventeenth Century William and Mary’s reign lasted only until 1702, with Mary II dying from smallpox in 1694. I’d like to note that William was the son of Mary, daughter of Charles I, thus William and Mary were first cousins. William III was in charge and generally unlikable, and had a strong disdain for France. The war with France was eventually won due to English naval power, the French unable to maintain a strong fleet in both the Channel and Mediterranean. James II uprising did not go far, and on June 30, 1690 he was defeated at the Battle of Boyne, in Ireland. James II fled to France and die there in 1701. With James out of the way, war between France and the Coalition would go back and forth until 1697. The Whigs were annoyed with William because he placed Tories in his cabinet. William was obliged to accept a Triennial Bill in 1695, which forced parliament to at least every three years and may not sit for more than three years. William had little respect for the English parties and know that Tories, Jacobites, and even Whigs were in touch with James II in France. He never trusted the English, so this had little affect on him. To pay for the war a Lottery Act was passed and the Bank of England was founded. The crown was no dependent on the Bank, which was controlled by the legislature, pointing the king in an even more dependent position. Int he Peace of Ryswick, Louis XVI gave up almost all his conquests. This was fine, as he was expecting much out of the death of the childless Habsburg Spanish King Charles II. After 1694, the Whigs controlled the government but fell out over accusations of being Jacobites. The next election in 1698 brought back the Tories, who reduced the standing army and did other things that made William threaten to abdicate. Many secret agreements between England and France and some Germans were made about how to divvy up the Spanish empire. But the Tory parliament of 1700 did not care about Spain. They passed the Act of Settlement. Since William and Mary’s kids all died, the throne would go to Anne. Since all of Anne’s kids died, the throne would go to Sophia of Hanover, a granddaughter of James I, thus a cousin of Charles II and James II, and her heirs. Catholics were banned from the throne. There were also a lot of items banned in there that William had done. When the King of Spain died on November 1, 1700, somehow he made up his will that throne would go to his half-sister’s grandson. This half-sister was Louis XIV’s wife, and so he dropped all previous arrangements to put his grandson, Philip of Anjou on the throne. He also made a tactical error. When James II died, Louis recognized James’ son as the heir to England. These things combined led to war, which William would not wage. He died only 4 months later. Queen Anne would fight the war.

December 18th, 2021

England in the Seventeenth Century

The author describes the reign of Charles II as the Age of Experiment, which he calls the dying of the Middle Ages in England and the birth of the modern world. In the Church, the idea of toleration was to become accepted as banishing dissenters died out. As talked about, the party system was born, as was limited monarchy. The sciences began to modernize. Random experimentation and alchemy was replaced by the scientific method in this era of Newton. The Royal Society was establish, a scientific body, and Newton published his Principia in 1687. Science and math were slowly added to education, which was previously solely the “classics”. Henry Purcell became renown in music. Theater was brought back after its ban during the Interregum, finally featuring females played by women. I’m not too interested in the dramas and whatnot. Political writings were big, despite censorship. Something I may want to read is Discourses Concerning Government by Algernon Sidney, which led to his arrest and beheading. Importantly, the country was done with absolute monarchy by the time James II took the throne.

The next chapter is about James II short reign, 1685-1689. He was more arrogant and less likable than his brother. Despite his Catholicism, he was coronated with no problems, thanks to the work of the Tories at the end of Charles II reign. He immediately called a parliament and the royalists had a major victory in the elections. But there was a rebellion. The Earl of Argyll and the Duke of Monmouth landed with armies. They were disconcerted, one a republican and the other intending for the throne. They were defeated and executed, but despite their poor planning, they almost won. Many of the peasants flocked to Monmouuth and he nearly won his battle at Sedgemoor. The victory got to James’ head and he wanted to emulate Louis XIV. In the name of tolerance, he put many Catholics in high positions, which the Tories found to be too much too soon. He tried to get the Test Acts repealed, which only allowed members of the C of E to hold public office. This aliened more people. Mary and Anne, James’s surviving children, did not approve of his actions. Louis XIV was stirring up more territorial wars on the mainland, and William of Orange was worried that James (his father-in-law) would side with France. By April 1688, William was considering invading England to put his wife on the throne. Then in June, James at 60 something had a son. In fear of a Catholic dynasty through this son, James (III), the English gentry invited William to come to England. The Glorious Revolution was underway. Absolutism would not be tolerated in a post-Revolution world, and there would be no more Catholics. James, not wanting to lose his head, hesitated to leave safety and head an army. William took the country without a battle, and James fled. The parliament considered James as having abdicated by fleeing and declared William and Mary co-regents. This was accompanied with a Bill of Rights that limited the monarchy’s ability to suspend laws and maintain a standing army. James, with French backing, tried to raise an army in Ireland. William showed his real intents by bringing England into his Dutch war against France.

December 17th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte Napoleon and his new forces were able to take Paris and the country without bloodshed. The Bourbon court had fled to Belgium. Napoleon, with his typical impressive work under pressure, was able to amass over 200,000 soldiers and most importantly Marshal Davout was in his service. Also important to his new government was Lazare Carnot as Minister of Interior. Carnot was a revolutionary and republican who voted for the execution of Louis XVI. He served as a member of the Committee of Public Safety, so it’s hard to say he was a good man. He was Director and served in the government during the Consulate, but resigned when Napoleon declared himself Emperor. He was a mathematician with a military background and was known for being behind some of the early victories in the Revolutionary wars. A liberal constitution was written by Benjamin Constant, which Napoleon approved and had “voted” on, in order to appease the population. The west of France was essentially in civil war and very anti-Napoleon. Napoleon had 100,000 men to keep France pacified. Davout initially was chief of staff instead of in the field until Soult was put in that position. But they were able to raise/extort money and forge muskets. So let’s see what happens when they get to fighting.

December 16th, 2021

England in the Seventeenth Century It’s probably me, but I find it hard to retain anything from this book. It might be too dense. There is a lot of information in little 12 page chapters. Chapter 10 is about the second half of the reign of Charles II, 1674-1685. This era saw the rise of political parties. At first, there was the pro-king Court party and opposition Country party. Lord Danby, the Lord Treasurer, controlled the Court party and bribed members of the Commons to keep the government running. Louis XIV was still bribing Charles II to support him in his Dutch and Spanish wars. The Country party was led by former CABAL members (the “cabinet” after Clarendon), Lords Buckingham and Shaftesbury. Anti-French feeling was too strong for the king to overcome, and despite three secret treaties, he agreed to the marriage between James’ daughter Mary and William of Orange. Mary was not a Catholic like her father. Many were convinced of Catholic plots and French plots to get a Catholic on the throne. Titus Oates and Israel Tonge made up a plot that there was a plan to assassinate the king to put the Duke of York on the throne. It was eventually taken seriously, somehow, and men were executed and James was exiled. Parliament began making outrageous demands and was dissolved. Elections in 1679 were a defeat for the Court, and Danby was dismissed. Parliament (known as the Exclusionist P.) introduced a bill to ban James from the throne, and was dissolved by the king. The opposition began to back James Scott, Duke of Monmouth, Charles’ II illegitimate son as heir. The third parliament tried another Exclusion Bill, rejected by the House of Lords. At this time, political meetings in London led to the pejoratives “Whig” (a Scottish outlaw) and “Tory” (Irish robber) to be applied to these “parties”. Whigs were exclusionists, Tories loyal to hereditary monarchy. Charles summoned a new parliament in Oxford, away from London mobs, but it was a dud and dissolved. Whigs came armed to protest it. There was a “Royalist Reaction” and the Cavalier spirit was refreshed. Sympathy for Charles brought a pro-king feeling and the Tories grasped for power. A decent number of Whigs were exiled or killed for various reasons, and James returned from exile. Charles II fell ill and later died on February 6th, 1685. James II took the throne, the first Catholic since Mary I 130 years before.

December 15th 2021

Beyond Good and Evil

Finished Beyond Good and Evil. The eighth chapter is a bit nationalistic, but has some interesting thoughts. Nietzsche clearly hates democracy and any sort of welfare type system, claiming it degenerates men and creates a new type of slavery. He could be right, however distasteful it sounds. He also says the strong man will only get stronger as there are more opportunities, not just for the privileged. He claims there are two types of geniuses, those who can create and those who can “form” or “mold”, and of course makes claims as to what country is capable of what. Not a very important chapter. The ninth and final chapter is more interesting. Nietzsche gets into his idea of nobility and aristocracy. Society is full of varying ranks and requires slavery (not literally). Civilizations begin with the strong barbarian. He conquers the peaceful nation or the weakened civilization and establishes his caste in its place. The higher caste were the barbarian, the warrior, who has the strongest will. The aristocracy must not be a function of king or government, but the basis of it. He claims life is conquest and appropriation. Individuals cannot treat each other as equals, or they are denying their own will. “Exploitation” is not primitive, but crucial to a natural life. There are is a master-morality and a slave-morality, which may be mixed within a person, or morals of rulers and the ruled. The rulers determine what is “good”, or noble. The generosity of nobility comes not from pity or sympathy, but from an excess of power. He should have a hard heart. Modern ideas such as democracy are the antithesis of this. The slave morality is one of utility, what is useful for existence. Nietzsche claims that a desire for freedom is slave-morality, while reverence is aristocratic. Very bizarre thinking to the modern mind. But is he wrong? It’s nice to think of everyone as equal, but it is obvious this is not reality. Based on intelligence and capability, the is are higher and lower degrees of man. But should a higher man have a harder heart, no sympathy? I can’t say I agree. He throws some social Darwinism in there and says that strength is gained from unfavorable conditions. While this may be true, it should not be assumed that stability leads to weakness. Though people tend to be proud of their hardships, I wouldn’t say this makes them stronger than someone who has not struggled as much. Maybe more accustomed.

Some more interesting parts: paragraph 272 “Signs of nobility: never to think of lowering our duties to the rank of duties for everybody; to be unwilling to renounce or to share our responsibilities; to count our prerogatives, and the exercise of them, among our DUTIES”, paragraph 273, to paraphrase, men who strive for great things use people to their advantage, and if they are not helpful they are a hindrance (sounds distasteful but I think I agree with it). Paragraph 274 is a good one, titled “The Problem of Those Who Wait”. He claims that fortunate chances are rare and waiting for the right moment will lead to nothing. The odds are when the chance comes to you, it will bet too late for you. 277 has is a nice insight on people. “The melancholia of everything COMPLETED!”, meaning when the work is done, you are empty Paragraph 279: “279. Men of profound sadness betray themselves when they are happy: they have a mode of seizing upon happiness as though they would choke and strangle it, out of jealousy--ah, they know only too well that it will flee from them!” All in all a very interesting chapter. Chapters 6, 7, and 9 I will have to reread. I don’t like everything they say, but they are well thought out. And the book ends with a song. Very unique.

England in the Seventeenth Century 1660, the monarchy is restored under Charles II, though not to its former glory. Many forms of revenue raising for the King had been revoked. Parliament was back to its Pre-Cromwell structure, and the Scots and Irish were on the outs. The CoE was given back its bishoprics, though the undertones of Puritanism remained. Charles was smart, a bit lazy and had expensive taste. His chief minister was Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, whose son-in-law was the future James I. Clarendon was a chief orchestrator behind the peaceful Restoration. Parliament was in charge of convictions for the rebellion, and with the king’s blessing, only 30 individuals were convicted of treason. Most people who lost their land could request it back, but mostly the big landowners gained more land. Religion remained a touchy subject, and the Clarendon Code imposed penalties on “dissenters”. This was very unpopular, so was the selling of Dunkirk to France. Due to Parliaments tight wallets, Charles resorted to working with his pal the French King Louis XIV for funds. His marriage to a Portuguese princess brought an ally, but no children. War with the Dutch broke out in 1665, and was embarrassing for England. They were able to sail to Chatham and take the flagship of the navy. During this time, plague broke out and killed 68k, followed by the Great Fire of London. This burned down all the thatch houses and were replaced with brick which may have prevented future outbreaks. All these problems led to Clarendon become a scapegoat and he was exiled. Then the English allied with the Dutch to scare off the French, who were vying for Spanish Hapsburg possessions, and the crown. Then in 1670 the English were back in the French fold and anti-Dutch. A third Dutch war broke out in 1672, which also was a bust. All the while, Charles II was becoming more lenient towards Catholics, and his brother James had even converted. This spells trouble to the staunchly Puritan men that run the country.

December 14th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte March 1st, 1815, Napoleon and his few thousand men landed at Cannes, an undefended city with no walls. He secured provisions for his army and moved on a carefully planned path towards Grenoble. He had sent messages ahead of time to the commander there and intended to take the city without a shot. The current state of France was that of a constitutional monarchy under the fat Bourbon Louis XVIII, with the constitution drafted by the Allies to remove the absolute power of the monarchy that led to the Revolution. Due to the lack of candidates, most of the top military roles were filled by former men of Napoleon. One of the first on Napoleon’s path was Massena, who chose to do nothing. Napoleon reached Grenoble and the soldiers flew to him. He promised to bring back the principles of the Revolution to the excitement of the crowds. Despite the recent and poor memories of conscription, high taxation, and autocracy, it seems the masses viewed the Emperor as the savior of the Revolution. Or they did not know the extent of his deeds. Either way, monarchy probably still left a bitter taste in their mouths, though the south and west of France had long been royalists. As Napoleon marched closer to Paris, more and more soldiers flocked to him, or deserted the royal army. Ney had rejoined him, Murat had lost his mind and was trying to regain his throne (soon to be executed by the King of Naples). Soult resigned the army after being viewed with suspicion, MacDonald and Berthier were still in the King’s command. This is one of the amazing parts of Napoleon’s legacy. Meanwhile, Talleyrand had been trying to destabilize the Allies at the Congress of Vienna, despite not technically having a say, and was performing his typical manipulating actions well. But when they learned of Napoleon’s invasion, they acted in a unified manner to bring him down.

December 13th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte After the Allies took Paris, the country turned against Napoleon. Talleyrand had long be working against him and worked with the Allies to achieve unconditional surrender and the downfall off the Bonapartes. After going back and forth of what to do, Napoleon’s men eventually declared they would not fight any more. Napoleon was forced to abdicate, and he was given the island of Elba to be sovereign. He attempted suicide, but the poison was years old and made him violently ill for days. In May 1814, he set sail to Elba. After ruling there for several months, he was bored. Josephine had died, his wife was in Austria and had moved on. His sister and mother were there, and several of his former officers and court joined him, but it was not enough. In December, he decided to take his small force of a few thousand men and set sail back to France. He would attempt to take back what was his.
Beyond Good and Evil The seventh chapter is an interesting one, though the last third of it goes on a diatribe against women. The header claims the chapter is about virtue and makes a good point on the diversity of moralities in a person, and their different moralities will cause conflicting actions. Paragraph 217 is a painful one, which says a moral person will never forgive someone who witnesses them commit an immoral act. I know I’ve been that person, unfortunately. Paragraphs 224 and 225 delve into the idea that man is meant to suffer and only through struggling can he grow. He says we “are only in OUR highest bliss when we--ARE IN MOST DANGER”, and says that philosophical systems that grade things on pleasure or pain (e.g. hedonism) are naïve. Then in paragraph 229, Nietzsche explains his idea that men seek cruelty, and much of men’s actions are based on the fact that “he is secretly allured and impelled forwards by his cruelty, by the dangerous thrill of cruelty TOWARDS HIMSELF.” The seeker of knowledge is cruel towards himself as he is fighting his own instincts for ignorance and contentness. Paragraph 230 is the most important, in which Nietzsche describes his theory on the spirit. In short, the spirit has its “will to power” and wants to be master over itself and its external world. Like a living creature, it wants to grow and seeks new experiences to feel growth. Simultaneously, like a stomach that cannot eat anymore, it will close itself off and say “no more”. It will seek to keep out anything new and shut itself in. This is a very important paragraph. I have expressed my own belief that stagnation is death, but I’ve never considered the “spirit as a stomach” idea, and that it can only consume so much before it finds anything further revolting.

December 12th, 2021

Beyond Good and Evil Chapter six is generally about “scholars” and “philosophers”. Nietzsche more or less attacks the “scientific” man as a weak, non-self-sufficient type who falls under his “herd” type described in chapter five. Paragraph 207, hit a little close to home. I see a lot of what he calls the “objective man” in myself, which he describes as essentially unfeeling, indifferent, ungenuine, who only wants to “expand” himself. Felt kinda bad. The rest attacks skepticism, which seemed like Nietzsche doesn’t like fence-sitters, and philosophers who just “reflect” and categorize the past. He clams that a real philosopher give commandments and bring laws, on how the future must be constructed. A philosopher dissects his age, is the “bad conscience” and seeks a “new greatness”. I have to say this is the most interesting chapter so far. Probably worth a reread.

December 11th, 2021

Beyond Good and Evil The fourth chapter is a bunch of aphorisms. Here are the ones which I liked:
  • 68. "I did that," says my memory. "I could not have done that," says my pride, and remains inexorable. Eventually--the memory yield
  • 112. To him who feels himself preordained to contemplation and not to belief, all believers are too noisy and obtrusive; he guards against them.
  • 146. He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.
  • 149. That which an age considers evil is usually an unseasonable echo of what was formerly considered good--the atavism of an old ideal.
  • 156. Insanity in individuals is something rare--but in groups, parties, nations, and epochs it is the rule.
  • 157. The thought of suicide is a great consolation: by means of it one gets successfully through many a bad night.
  • 160. One no longer loves one's knowledge sufficiently after one has communicated it.
  • 173. One does not hate as long as one disesteems, but only when one esteems equal or superior.
  • 180. There is an innocence in lying which is the sign of good faith in a cause.
  • 182. The familiarity of superiors embitters one, because it may not be returned.
  • 183. "I am affected, not because you have deceived me, but because I can no longer believe in you."
The fifth chapter is about the history of morals, I guess. It’s kind of all over the place. He mentions Plato describing evil as purely uninteninonal, and thus anything that brings unpleasantness is evil, and a man who is aware that something is evil would not do it. Nietzsche then goes on about how modern morals are the morals of a herd society, of weak sheep who want to rid their lives of fear and anxiety and their morals only stem from the elevation of the herd. What is so wrong and “degenerating” about minimizing the unpleasantness of life? According the Nietzsche, the man who seeks to end his internal struggles does himself injustice. The man who is able to use his internal struggles as a stimulus can accomplish great things. The Epicurean or the Christian, seeking peace, is weak. Then he attacks democracy, socialism, and equal rights as deteriorating man and ruins his potential and the potential of all mankind. It’s all very bizarre. It’s as if he believes in some idealistic man who is capable of anything he has the will or desire to do. I’m not married to democracy, but it seems that a man who can make himself chosen by millions of people has a higher “will to power” than a man who is born and waits for his dad to die. Very backwards thinking.

December 10th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte I forgot to write yesterday. I think the Austrian, Prussian, and Russian forces had marched on Dresden. Napoleon, despite being outnumbered, was able to hold them off. Separate Allied armies were moving on Leipzig, and Napoleon made the difficult decision to leave Dresden and get to Leipzig before the Allies and split them up. The French reinforced the city, but were outnumbered. In mid-October 1813, the Battle of Leipzig was a total defeat for the French. They were ejected and fighting for their survival back to France. Austria, Prussia, and German territories were lost, and Napoleon had learned of their complete defeat in Spain at the end of June. Back in Paris, Napoleon was hurrying to come up with a defensive force. In December, the Allies had sought peace at the price of France returning to its “natural” frontiers. Not receiving a response, on January 4th, 1814 they changed this to pre-1792 borders, meaning France loses the bank of the Rhine, Switzerland, and Belgium. This Napoleon would not agree to and with 100,000 men attempted to fight 3 armies. The Swedish were still busy with Davout in north Germany. There were some victories but many defeats. The Allies ultimately marched on Paris, where there was little to no defensive force. On March 30th, Joesph gave the order to surrender the city. Learning of the surrender, Napoleon sent Caulaincourt to negotiate a favorable treaty. Napoleon had finally lost it all.
Beyond Good and Evil I started reading this at work because I had little to do and have never read Nietzsche. This work seemed short enough that I could read it in a weekend. I read the first three chapters, and so far Nietzsche hasn’t said much. It can be pretty easily summarized. The first chapter is about the inability of philosophers to be objective and they cannot separate themselves from their ideas. They often are pushing something that is their own personal opinions or claim they have “discovered” something new, and become dogmatic about it. The second chapter seemed to jump around, but is titled “The Free Spirit”. He does mention several times his Will to Power theory. I guess he was trying to say how we have no more freedom than our drive for “more” or are victim to someone else’s. He also goes into the dichotomy of “true” and “false” and “good” and “evil” and how our philosophy is hedged in by the language of opposites, how philosophers die for their “truth” while putting down the “untruth”, instead of seeing there are degrees of truth. He also mentioned maintaining ignorance “in order to enjoy life”, which I thought was interesting. As he said, societies are built on untrue ideas, and it would be better (in the viewpoint of stability) to keep that ignorance in place, else the system would collapse. The third chapter is the anti-religious chapter. He talks about the strangeness and unnaturalness of “denying” to oneself, as the Christian does, or the monk. I thought paragraph 51 was very interesting, which says:

The mightiest men have hitherto always bowed reverently before the saint, as the enigma of self-subjugation and utter voluntary privation--why did they thus bow? They divined in him-- and as it were behind the questionableness of his frail and wretched appearance--the superior force which wished to test itself by such a subjugation; the strength of will, in which they recognized their own strength and love of power, and knew how to honour it: they honoured something in themselves when they honoured the saint. In addition to this, the contemplation of the saint suggested to them a suspicion: such an enormity of self- negation and anti-naturalness will not have been coveted for nothing--they have said, inquiringly. There is perhaps a reason for it, some very great danger, about which the ascetic might wish to be more accurately informed through his secret interlocutors and visitors? In a word, the mighty ones of the world learned to have a new fear before him, they divined a new power, a strange, still unconquered enemy:--it was the "Will to Power" which obliged them to halt before the saint. They had to question him.

But overall he acknowledges the nonsense that a religious life has imposed on people. I don’t remember where, but he mentioned the historical change of morality. He claimed ancient morality was based on the results, which in the later eras became based on the means, and in the modern era morality is based on the intent. I don’t know how historically accurate that is.

December 8th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte Napoleon was able to muster a couple hundred thousand men and moved east. The Prussians and Russians had taken Warsaw, Berlin, Hamburg, and Dresden. Much of the fighting would be in Saxony, thus this is called the Saxon Campaign. Davout was sent to take the northern forces and take back Hamburg and threaten Berlin. Napoleon’s men moved south towards Dresden, the Saxon capital. On May 1st, outside Luetzen, an unhappy and unprepared Neys was taken by surprise by the Russo-Prussian army. Napoleon snapped out of his doldrums and waged a successful battle, holding the field but unable to rout the enemy. Like Borodino, this was technically a French victory, but losses were about equal on both sides. The Allies retreated towards Dresden, which Napoleon attacked after some reinforcements arrived on the 21st. With double the forces, he took the city the next day, but because Neys had failed to block a critical path, the Allies escaped. Saxony was again in French hands, but Napoleon did not have his major victory. Sadly, on the 23rd, Marshal Duroc was killed by a cannonball. This man was Napoleon’s only remaining friend, and Napoleon was crushed. He did not act for days. Meanwhile, Davout had captured Hamburg. With victories on his side, the allies pressed for an armistice. Austria acted as a mediator to pursue a peace treaty, but Napoleon would have none of it. He would not give up Poland or any other German territory he had gained. During the armistice, the British had joined the war effort (monetarily at least) and Austria, too. Berandotte, the failed Marshal, brother-in-law to Joesph Bonaparte, had somehow been elected heir to the Swedish throne. He brought his forces to north Germany and prevented Davout’s movement on Berlin. Allied demands to end the war were now essentially to move to pre-revolution borders. Let’s see how Napoleon’s outnumbered forces in Saxony manage to get out of this one.

December 7th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte Napoleon in Paris finally realized that he could not wage a war on two fronts. After 5 years of war and loss in Spain, Napoleon ordered to Joseph to move and hold a region just beyond the Pyrenees, while he secretly negotiated with the Spanish royal family about their return to the kingdom. 200,000 to 300,000 French soldiers died in this wasted effort, and untold Spanish were killed alongside them. Joesph was to return to his estate in France, no longer a king of any country. The last king remaining among the brothers, Jerome, was not to last much longer either. Westphalia was never stable under his leadership, and the Germans resented the French presence. Its border was less than 100 miles from Berlin, and the Prussians were at last raising forces to remove the French. The Russians and Prussians formed a coalition, which Austria would not yet join for fear of losing another wary. Austria tried to broker peace, but no party was interested, not even Napoleon after losing 500,000 men. Once the British joined the coalition, the Austrians felt more comfortable about picking a side. On top of that, the Swedish joined the coalition, like they fought alongside Russia during that campaign. Napoleon looks pretty screwed here.

December 6th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte Now for one of the most famous incidents of Napoleon’s reign, the Grand Armee had marched into an empty Moscow shortly after Borodino. Instead of capitulation, Napoleon got nothing. The Russians, before their escape, had ruined nearly all of the hoses in the city. Then a fire started in the Chinese district. It was thought at first to be rowdy soldiers looting, but more fires began. Unable to put them out, and with help a timely wind, the fires spread. Nearly 75% of the city was destroyed by this arson. After an evacuation, the French returned, assuming their stay would bring about a peace treaty. After nearly 6 weeks of this and the Russian armies approaching, Napoleon finally agreed to leave on October 19th. It had been a warm fall, but on the long march back winter was starting. With Russian attacks, horses dying, and vengeful peasants, very few made it back across the Nieman. Out of 612,000 men of the Grand Armee, 400,000 died (65%) and 100,000 were captured (16%), leaving 2 out of every 10 to come back to friendly territory. The cavalry was decimated. The Imperial Guard was down to 1000 men. Across the Nieman, Napoleon and Caulaincourt set off to return to Paris, leaving the army to Murat. Napoleon was already issuing orders for another 300,000 men. Meanwhile, the Duke of Wellington was undoing all the French work in Spain and was taking Madrid. Napoleon was failing in the east and west, two wars that could have been avoided if he had listened to his advisors. I guess we all make mistakes.

December 3rd, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte The author takes a detour from the wars and tells the story of an attempted coup in Paris. General Malet was a staunch republican and had been dismissed during the early Napoleon years. He had come up with various plots over the years, which Fouche dismissed as useless, but DuBois took seriously. By 1812, both police ministers had been replaced and Malet had been committed to an insane asylum. Malet had forged documents claiming Napoleon’s death outside Moscow and orders from the senate for several arrests and the promotion of new officials. He convinced a neighboring barracks that he was now in command and took the National Guard unit into Paris, though without preparing the muskets with flintlocks and ammo. He arrested several officials and killed the governor before he was arrested. Despite having no plan for governing, he very nearly took over the government with little to no question. He with two other generals and several officers, who all fell for the forged documents, were tried and executed. Malet had it coming, but it is an unfair verdict to take everyone else out too.

December 2nd, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte Napoleon finally got his first Russian battle at Smolensk in August 1812. The French were able to drive Russians out, though per usual it did not go as planned. Murat’s cavalry sustained heavy casualties charging a Russian square formation and refused to led Ney pass him and assist with the battle. Smolensk was left burning as both armies moved closer to Moscow. They met again 75 miles outside Moscow at Borodino, at the convergence of the Moskva and Kolocha rivers, in September. Russian general Kutuzov had replaced Barclay de Tolly, which brought in a fresh attitude and higher morale amongst the Russians. This bloody battle was technically a French victory, for they kept the field, but not a decisive victory, again because of the inability to cooperate in the Grand Armee. Davout had suggested a flanking attack to avoid a heavily fortified area, which Napoleon dismissed and ordered Davout to attack head on. At the beginning of the battle, Napoleon had made a great miscalculation and placed his cannon too far back. They had to be moved mid-battle amongst artillery and gunfire. Napoleon also refused to send his Imperial Guard into battle, despite pleas from his marshals. Both sides lost about 40,000 men, despite Napoleon have about 50,000 more to begin with. This was not a good show for Napoleon. All the while, the Iberian war was getting worse. In addition to those killed outright, the wounded and amputated died quickly, as neither side had any semblance of a medical corps.

December 1st, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte This chapter went on further to describe the invasion of Russia. It was a lot of the same as yesterday. It talked about the make-up of the army and how the Russians were still retreated. Napoleon gets towards I believe Smolensk before the first battle. Miles of troops made the slow crawl further and further into Russia. After being berated by his brother, Jerome abandoned his post and returned to his kingdom. Murat had to temporarily run Jerome’s corps, until the unreliable Junot was put in charge. The author goes to great lengths to tear down Napoleon’s lack of preparation and inability to organize and provide necessities for his army. Napoleon seems to have adapted to only a specific type of war, the ones he fought in central Europe. In Egypt he blundered, in naval warfare he blundered, in Spain he blundered, and in Russia he will blunder. It is amazing how he could be this incompetent and negligent and yet gain control a continent. What a fascinating man.

November 30th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte The previous chapter ends with how Napoleon having a legitimate son finally born in March 1811. The next chapter is about the war with Russia. On New Year’s Eve, 1810, Tsar Alexander declared that Russia would no longer abide by Napoleon’s oppressive continental system. Napoleon was deeply offended by his “ally’s” betrayal. Relationships soured and by the middle of 1811, Napoleon was making war preparations. Napoleon wanted subservience and to keep Poland French, Alexander wanted to shake off the French yoke and avenge the embarrassments he and his allies have endured the last decade. A year later in June 1812, the Grand Armee crossed the Russian border. With half a million men, Napoleon had created the largest army Europe had ever seen at that time. Men were conscripted from every French satellite. Kings Jerome and Joachim Murat (Caroline’s husband, Naples), Eugene de Beahaurnais, Emperor Napoleon and his famous Marshals led the French forces. Joseph was to keep the war in Spain going. It did not start of well for Napoleon, as the Russians did not give him battle and only withdrew further in the country. Supply lines were stretched, and Napoleon was never good at planning for supplies or food. Men and horses were starving and dying before they ever got to battle. Napoleon’s pride and blind rage gets a million men killed.

November 29th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte It’s been a couple days since I’ve been at work. Last it was talking about finances and it continues talking about the economies of the Netherlands of Louis, Jerome’s Westphalia, and Joseph’s Spain and how Napoleon gave them no independence of rule and straddled them with so much debt that they never had a chance to succeed. Already discussed was the conscription of the Dutch navy and the destruction of their trade, and Jerome’s extravagance and generally poor governorship. Joseph got the worst of it since his country was perpetually at war and Napoleon put all the blame on him. Joseph’s authority was slowly eroded and relationships between the brothers plummeted. Napoleon was to continually embarrass his brothers before the world. Joseph even invested hundreds of thousands of francs in English banks in case he decided to flee like Lucien. Eventually, Louis and Fouche were caught in a plot. They had been negotiating with the English about seeking peace. Needless to say, Napoleon was livid.

November 28th, 2021

England in the Seventeenth Century This chapter discusses the various thoughts of the Civil War and Interregnum years, 1640-1660. Under the Puritan rule, the plays and poetry of the previous era went to the wayside. Most writing was political or religious. In contrast to the Puritan's dogmatism, there was a strong opinion that the differences in religious opinion did not matter and were irrelevant. These men were “moderates”, like Laud, and another of note was Lord Falkland. Cromwell agreed with these men in the “liberty of non-essentials”. The “liberty of conscience” Puritans were a minority. English Presbyterians were not as strong believers as Church-ruled state as the Scots, but they were intolerant and opposed to democracy and republicanism. They wanted a strong parliament of “good” men and a limited monarchy. Calvinists as a principle opposed popular government. Only Cromwell and the “Independents”, who believe all Christian believers were equal and had a right to their own thoughts could lead to the modern individual equality. John Lilburne and the Levellers went one step further and wanted manhood suffrage, which Cromwell feared. The Diggers went even further and promoted a sort of proto-communism and established a communal farm, which was destroyed by the Puritans. All these had in common were a search for the “true way” a Christian should live. The major political writers of the time, who have impacted thought since, were Thomas Hobbes and James Harrington. Hobbes' “Leviathan” describes how an absolute ruler comes to be and the importance of one to prevent anarchy and war. Only this strong ruler can keep the peace. Harrington's “The Commonwealth of Oceana” was a refutation of Hobbes and stated the strong ruler relies on a strong army. He then described the importance of land/property to a stable society. He believed property should be limited to a maximum amount per man. The English kings had lost their power because they sold their estates for money, and the new landed gentry was able to take power. He advocated the ballot in elections, a senate similar to the one described in the US constitution (aristocratic, not elected) which would make and debate laws, with a popularly elected house to vote on the laws. This would be a democracy+aristocracy and have benefits to both. It goes without saying how influential this has been. I really should read Hobbes and Harrington. There seem to be some really important stuff in their writings, which obviously came to inspire the republicanism of the US. Lastly, the author talks a bit about the Puritan poet Milton and “Paradise Lost”. I don't know if that's a must read, but if I have time, it is part of the English canon.

November 27th, 2021

England in the Seventeenth Century Things did not fall into place with the execution of Charles I. A Commonwealth was declared and the Rump Parliament remained the legistative power. The executive was to be a Council of State, whose members were elected annually. Not everyone was pleased with this, and the “Levellers” were men who advocated for manhood suffrage and a freely elected parliament. The gentry and those in power stomped out these ideas, as they feared a system which the poor could rule the rich and how it would affect their property. Ireland had long been in revolt, with the English seeking vengeance for a massacre of 1641. Cromwell led an expidition there in 1649 to destroy the Royalists, and many Irish were slaughtered. Charles II, a 19 year old in exile, was approached by the Scottish to become King, under their own Presbyterian terms. Charles bided his time until the Royalists in Ireland were decimated and then took up the Scottish offer. In 1650, Charles went to Scotland, and Cromwell was recalled to fight the Scottish. General Fairfax was on the outs for being against war in Scotland and the execution of Charles I. Cromwell, now the leading figure in England, successfully waged war against Scotland and Charles, now coronated at the Stone of Scone, had to flee. A sort of economic war on the seas had broken out with the Dutch, which gave England further domination of the seas. In 1653, impatient with the lack of consitutional reform from Parliament, their shrinking of the army, and their plans to pass a bill for a perpetual Parliament, Cromwell used the army to force out the parliament. Now Cromwell was the military ruler of England, but struggled to find a form of government that suited him. Different councils were created and dissolved, and Cromwell learned, like Charles I, that he could not get the funds to run a country without parliament. There was talk of bringing back a king, or making Cromwell king. Ultimately he refused, and died in 1658. After his death, there was more confusion. His eldest son was given the role, but was fairly useless. The Rump Parliament was reconvened after 5 years, but quickly dissolved. Cromwell’s second in command then invited Charles II to reign, under terms, which Charles agreed to. Cromwell learned the hard way the one revolution leads to another, as his authority was put under the same scrutiny as the King’s. His strong belief of liberty of conscience was enshrined in the constitution, though it was limited to his strict definition of Christians. He also gave a good name to England’s military and navy. Like Napoleon, he brought an end to (local) chaos brought by 10 years of war. However, he executed the king and killed thousands of Irish, so ultimately he’s not a good man. Though few in power are.

November 26th, 2021

England in the Seventeenth Century After Charles I reconvened Parliament in 1640, he abolished this “Short Parliament” after 3 weeks because they would not give him the money he wanted. After losing the north to the Scottish rebels, he was forced to reconvene Parliament a few months later, the “Long Parliament”. The reformists held a significant majority in the Parliament and forced their will upon the kingdom. The king’s advisor, the Earl of Strafford, Lord Deputy of Ireland, was executed for allegedly raising an Irish army to put down Parliament. The King himself had to sign the death warrant, but nothing was gained by Strafford’s death. Archbishop Laud was imprisoned and also ultimately executed. The Parliament then passed laws that made Parliament automatically reconvene every three years and attempted to remove bishops from the church. After trying to control the army, many reformists backed down and the House of Commons was fairly evenly split. Charles attempted to raise the London militia against the House, but London was firmly on the side of Parliament. The Civil War had begun, and despite his previous military problems, the king was able to raise an army in the west and north that stood was a match for Parliament’s army of the industrial regions. The Scots allied with Parliament, and this would in time decide the war. Charles could not wage a war on two fronts. Towards the end of the war, the Parliamentary forces were reorganized in a “New Model Army”, which had Fairfax as lead general and Cromwell a prominent inferior commander. The author claims that the war was not fought over religion, despite its catalyst, but as a struggle between the waning economic power of the crown and the growing economic power of the gentry. It was said that the House of Commons was worth more than the House of Lords. With economic power comes demands for political power. The first Civil War ended in 1646, which Charles abandoning Oxford and fleeing to Scotland, where he was turned over to Parliament. The House of Commons, now in power, started to eat its own. The Scots and English were in talks of unifying their churches, which Cromwell and his Independents were not interested in. They wanted pure freedom of thought. Charles also refused to go along with the Presbyterian-CoE union. Parliament was trying to dismantle the army after the war and there were disagreements about payment and whatnot. Charles escaped and there were some more royalist uprisings, but this Second Civil war lasted only a few months of 1648. Shortly after, Cromwell’s faction purged the House of Common of non-allies and a “Rump Parliament” voted to execute the king, mostly forced by Cromwell. Cromwell was now left to fill the power void.

November 24th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte The wedding chapter wraps up with the fate of exiled brother Lucien. Still adamant not to leave his wife, he finally gave up on trying to persuade his brother and planned to escape French territory for America. Unable to get through British water, the family was held prisoner on Malta and ultimately brought to England, where they started a peaceful existence and were popular among the locals. After the wedding, Napoleon did not start any new campaigns but allowed the Iberian war to continue. Napoleon was constantly raising taxes and implementing new ones, or bringing back ones that the Revolution had abolished. Spending was 4x as much as in 1789. The economy was tanking, and life for the lower classes was worse than ever. The Continental Plan was detrimental to all countries in Europe, but Napoleon could not be budged. Unwilling to ever change his ways, military and economic warfare would bring his empire to ruins. Stubbornness and closed-mindedness do not make a good leader.
England in the Seventeenth Century Charles I had an even harder time with the Commons than his father, and was less apt at dealing with it. Like his father, he still depended on the Commons for money. There was still a war with Spain, and it was not going well. There were no real capable commanders, and this is before the time of England’s domination of the seas, even though we’re past the Spanish Armada. Charles was sympathetic towards Catholics, and married Louis XIII’s sister. The English, however, were supportive of the Huguenots, and this led to another disastrous war for Charles. Also during this time, the Dutch were becoming and economic and colonial power, which soured relations with its old ally England. With parliament not giving him the money he wanted, Charles took levies from imports (illegally according to the Commons) and enacted other taxes. The House of Commons grew more bold and demanded more, even got to the point where the held the Speaker in his chair to continue a session. Then came the time where Charles dissolved parliament, which did not meet again for 11 years. According to the author, the “11 Years of Tyranny” went pretty well for the peasant class. Charles apparently took good care of the poor and acted against people enclosing common land. For the downsides, Charles lived too extravagantly and surrounded himself with men of equally weak characters, like the Duke of Buckingham. Much to the pleasure of Parliament, the Duke was assassinated before leading a naval excursion. After the 11 years, Charles tried to force a new prayer book in Scotland, which led to an uprising. In order to raise funds for a larger army, he reconvened parliament. First of all, all of these people take their religion too seriously. Second, it seems the House of Commons was grabbing power it had no right too. Instead of looking after important internal affairs, they focused purely on religion. I’m still curious how the House of Commons became a Puritan stronghold. It’s a shame a government institution could be held hostage by religious extremists. Sometimes reform goes too far.

November 23rd, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte This next chapter went on for a long time about Napoleon’s new marriage. At the end of 1809, he reluctantly divorced Josephine because she could not have any more children. A few months later he married an Austrian archduchess named Louisa Marie, the daughter of Emperor Franz. Napoleon was very excited about this a focused on this and his future potential children instead of the economic downturn and awful war in Iberia.
England in the Seventeenth Century The rest of the book looks like it will go sequentially through the reigns of the kings. The first goes through the 20 year or so year reign of James I, who is spoken of favorably by the author. Described as an intelligent and peaceful king, he ended the war with Spain that had taken up 20 years of Elizabeth’s reign. After this, however, the House of Commons refused to raise taxes to support the royal spending. There was a lot of conflict between the king’s divine rights/royal prerogative and the House of Commons attempts to regain its ancient rights of power, which the author claims were fiction. James continued to try to find a middle ground and resolve the ongoing religious conferences at home. The negatives listed by the author were that, as many leaders do, James surrounded himself with some less than useful people, mainly the man he made the Duke of Buckingham. In the reign of his son, Charles I, this relationship will apparently lead to some very bad results. In foreign policy, James tried to maintain peace. To further cement peace with Spain, he spent a long time trying to marry the daughter of the King of Spain, then a Hapsburg kingdom. They refused, mainly on the grounds that England were non-Catholic heathens, and James was furious. This happened during the opening of the 30 years war, when his son-in-law, Frederick of the Palatinate, was elected King of Bohemia and replaced an Austrian Hapsburg. This led to war, and the King of Spain aided his relative. James then provided support for his son-in-law and the Protestant movement, which also pleased a Spain-hating Parliament. James died in 1625 and his second son, Charlies I, became king of England and Scotland.

November 22nd, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte Today wrapped up the chapter on the aftermath of Wagram. Brokering a peace treaty took months, and it got to the point where Napoleon demanded Emperor Franz abdicate. Metternich was able to convince the French to drop this requirement and they would join the Continental Plan. This was agreed upon, but the French also took some of Austrian Poland, Italy, and the Balkans for its German allies, plus millions of francs. The Austrians, Prussians, and Russians would bide their time until they had the strength to retake what was lost. It took an aside to discuss the horrible conditions of the field medicine, as there was no medical corps to speak of. Despite Napoleon’s tears at the site of the mangled men, he took no actions to improve conditions. Surgeons and doctors had been pleading with him since Egypt, but to no avail. How many French men would have made it home had he taken the time in 10 years to establish a medical corps? Meanwhile back home, the government ignored warnings from Fouche of a British mobilization until they were at the shores of Holland. Then they scrambled to get an insufficient number of men and put Bernadotte in charge. Luckily for them, the British bungled an attempt to take Antwerp and left. Napoleon was livid. All this time there are talks of insurrection against him in Paris. People are sick of his war mongering it seems. But it is the end of 1809, and he has somehow has a few years left in power.
England in the Seventeenth Century The next chapter discusses the state of religion at the beginning of the century. Catholicism took a dive during the Tudor era. They were still widely oppressed, though James was to be fairly tolerant as long as they didn’t try to assassinate him. The Church of England was the powerhouse, while a Puritan minority was growing. Bishops of the church made a poor living and thus took several “livings” in which they were supposed to preach. Many did not preach anywhere. The Puritans had approached the king on his way to his ascension with their grievances, including this and other things such as “idolatrous” ceremonies like marriage rings. James was sympathetic and held a meeting of bishops and Puritan leaders to bring some reform to the CoE, but this did not satisfy the bishops. As time goes on, the Puritan movement will have a backing in the House of Commons which will bring tensions to the leading members of the state.

November 21st, 2021

England in the Seventeenth Century The book is off to a slow start. After a quick prologue describing the James I ascension, the first chapter mainly discusses economics of the century. As I've mentioned, I find economics very boring. There were very rich nobles and rich gentry members. The gentry was growing as more titles and peerage were created, largely for the king to make money, but they also held growing power in the House of Commons. The yeomen were the backbone of the country and owned and worked the land. The other 75% of the population were peasants and laborers, barely making enough money for food. Though they lived in hovels, they could still afford white meat and black bread, while those in the country side could grow on the land and use common pasturage. Potatoes had not yet become the staple of the poor. Industrialization was minimal. The wool industry was still the primary industry, as it had been for centuries, but most looms and what not were found in the home. War and depressions would come to hurt the trade in this century. Coal mining was rapidly increasing as deforestation surged wood prices. This is one of the earliest “capitalistic” industries, as creating a coal mine was a huge investment. The main investors were those who were already wealthy from joint-stock oversea trading and the iron industry. Like I said, kind of boring.

November 20th, 2021

A History of Russia The final chapter of the book discusses the society and culture of modern Russia. It is difficult to describe a living culture. For better or worse, religion made a strong return to public life, though service attendance did not take off. Unfortunately, religious revivals tend to go hand in hand with nationalism, which is what was seen in the 90s and 200s Russia. Other religions and ethnic groups are put down as “corrupting” the proper Russian views and culture. Nationalist groups make up a large portion of the Duma, and skinheads and other gangs are not unknown. On the topic of gangs, the privatization of business gave a boost to gangs and “mafias” who provide “protection”. This same era in the 90s led to rise of new upper classes, oligarchs and billionaires, who profited from the chaos. Meanwhile, the average Russian’s life got worse. Homelessness increased, villages were abandoned for the cities, pensions were worthless, despair and suicide increased. “Immorality” increased with the opening of casinos and widespread prostitution. Western culture infiltrated with imported goods, music, movies, and even the use of the dollar. At the beginning of the era, many were not paid in cash but in materials. As far as culture goes, the Soviet censorship was over. Newspapers, books, movies, TV could say or show what they want. Putin has since put a clamp on TV and journalism, but books and movies may still be safe. Instead of the Communist enforced optimism, the new culture favored sex, violence, and the real darkness of life. Grittiness had taken the place of phony hope, though you still have reactionaries who view the past with rose-colored glasses. I don’t know what it’s like 10 years later, but unless the Putin indoctrination programs have worked really well, I can’t imagine optimism making a comeback.

November 19th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte After the loss North of the Danube, Napoleon planned his next excursion. The loss would not go unanswered. A lot of engineering and thoughtfulness went into the next system of bridges that would carry his entire army not only across the river, but flank the Archduke’s army. The Archduke still sat in place, giving Napoleon the time he needed. Napoleon urged the Tsar to move against the Austrians as agreed upon in a previous treaty, but the Tsar pushed back. Ultimately, after French pressure, he moved into Austrian Poland and sat, telling Emperor Franz that he would not attack. The Tsar had warned the Emperor not to attack the French, that it would end badly, but pride is a powerful motivator. In the Battle of Wagram, a few miles north of the Danube shore, things started off well for the French. Then the right got bogged down by heavy fortifications, and the conscripted Italians broke and ran until forced back at bayonet point. Then Bernadotte, the notorious coward, repeatedly refused to obey orders and retreated, ruining Napoleon’s plans multiple times. The Emperor had had enough and Marshall Bernadotte was dismissed on the spot. After many setbacks and successful counters by Archduke Karl, Napoleon was able to slowly turn the tide. Marshals Massena and Davout and General MacDonald, under Eugene Beauharnais, were critical to the turn. Both sides exhausted, the Austrians fled north. A few days later the French caught up to the Archduke and he gave in, requesting an armistice. Emperor Franz, Archduke Karl’s brother, removed him from command. Both sides lost nearly 40,000 men, but Napoleon held the field and kept Austria in its place.
A History of Russia Finished the chapter on the politics of modern Russia. It ended with a discussion of foreign policy. In brief, Russia wanted to get back to its high standing it had in the Soviet era. Yeltsin and Putin did not want the west to look on Russia as a dead empire or third world country. Clinton pushed the limits a bit far. All of the Warsaw Pact countries ended up joining NATO, and many eastern European countries became members of the EU. Russia of course saw this as encroachment. Russia intervened to stop US bombings in the two Yugoslavian wars of the 90s. 9/11 humbled the US a bit, and Putin sympathized with the struggle against radical Islam. Now Russia is a major player again, especially in its control of much oil and gas that goes to Europe. With its neighbors, things aren’t all so great. Russia has had for decades an ally in its Belorussian lapdog Lukashenko. Things were tenser and have only gotten worse in Ukraine. The west and east meddle in Ukrainian elections to get a favorable leader. This book was written before the civil war and taking of Crimea, so relations are at an all time low. I remember watching on the news the Russian invasion of South Ossetia in Georgia in 2008, so there are still some Soviet tendencies in Putin. I think mainly Russia has been trying to forge an alliance with China as opposed to the west, which is a good move. They are the new powerhouse, like it or not.

November 18th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte The Austrians had destroyed both bridges across the Danube, and so the French were stuck on the southern Vienna side. Two bridges were hastily built so that Napoleon could deliver a quick blow against Archduke Karl. A large island, Lobau, was chosen to use for the crossing. The Austrians were on to his plan, and on May 20th, 1809, before all the French troops could reach the mainland, the Austirans attacked. The two day battle of Abern-Essling ended in French defeat. Marshal Lannes was hit by a cannonball and died after having his leg amputated. Napoleon was inconsolable. The French retreated back to Lobau and rebuilt a bridge to Vienna. Archduke Karl, per usual, did not press his victory and the French were able to recover in the capitol.

November 17th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte Napoleon’s eastern holding were falling apart. Jerome’s Kingdom of Westphalia and other German states were in upheaval and multiple plots were made against King Jermone and the French. None of these succeeded, and the French barely held on to the German lands. Brother Louis, the crazy king of Holland, deluded himself into thinking he was Dutch and was barely interested in helping Napoleon. His wife, Josephine’s daughter, had managed to escape to Paris and had their son, who she kept in France. Napoleon was to adopt this boy and take care of him, knowing his brother was unstable. Meanwhile, warfare in Bavaria and Austria began. The Marshalls and troops taken from the Danube for Spain marched back towards Austria. Overall, Napoleon was succeeding and took Vienna. Despite this, the states of the Confederation of the Rhine began to ally themselves with Austria to throw off French rule.
A History of Russia More about the Putin years. It just talked a more about what was already covered. Putin continued the centralization of power in the presidency, restricted the electorate by making political parties get a certain percentage of the vote before they could enter the legislature, and tried to weak extra-political power such as the wealthy oligarchs. The oligarchs were men who made a lot of money in the chaos of the 90s. The economy did really well until 2008, especially due to the high prices of oil. Maybe the biggest internal problem was a decade of combating the Chechens. There were many terrorist attacks in Moscow and other cities throughout the decade, and the Chechen capital was destroyed. The point was to show the strength of the state and warn anyone else who might seek to leave Russia. A Russian puppet government was set up in the region afterwards. The army was in poor condition, as we saw in the first Chechen War, but Putin increased military spending significantly. He also allegedly “reformed” the army, but I’m pretty sure that today they still abuse recruits and the suicide rates are high. That’s Russia.

November 16th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte I’m shocked I forgot to write yesterday. We’ll see what I can remember. The book discussed more about the Iberian war. After the initial disaster, a second campaign was launched in which Napoleon personally appeared. He pulled in soldiers from various eastern and central European divisions and brought in 140,000 early recruits from the 1809 and 1810 conscription classes. Things were not going well in the army, and not only would some Marshalls refuse to cooperate with each other, some would ignore direct orders from Napoleon himself. Like Egypt, he was bogged down with almost no information about the surrounding terrain. After various atrocities, suppressing of guerrillas, and sieges, the French retook the major cities of Spain and by December 1808 could claim to “control” the kingdom again. Due to the above mentioned of Marshal ineptitude, Napoleons schemes for Portugal never got off the ground. Returning to France, he found a hostile country. Many recruits were deserting before they leave the country, and rumors were about that Austria was mobilizing for war. Earlier in the year, there was a meeting with the tsar, who while playing the second fiddle to Napoleon, was slowly biding his time to take revenge for his country and the insults to the Prussian royal family. If Napoleon is counting on Russia’s support against Austria, he’s in for a surprise. The worst surprise for him in Paris was to find Fouche and Talleyrand working together, hoping for a plot to topple Napoleon. Both were seeking to end the non-stop warfare, but their plot was sniffed out before it could even begin. Napoleon is in for a tough year.
A History of Russia We’re now in the modern era. This penultimate chapter deals with the presidencies of Yeltsin and Putin (the first time around). It sounds like the 90s were pretty rough in Russia. After the collapse of the USSR, the Russian economy did not get much better. Yeltsin was adamant about opening up a market economy and aggressively forced it. The Russian state had a strong executive and weaker bicameral legislative, but strong executive power seems to be a constant in Russian history. Over his 8 years of presidency, 1991-1999, his popularity plummeted, despite being re-elected. The legislature combated him every step of the way, with the “progressives” only getting a quarter of the seats. Communists and nationalist parties made up about 50% of the legislature. The economy only got worse. On top of that, the province, or whatever they call them in Russia, of Chechnya declared its independence, and war broke out. The weakened army embarrassingly could not suppress this uprising, a bloody conflict ended with the acknowledgment of Chechnian autonomy. In 1998, a global economic crisis started in Asia and had a large impact on the unstable Russian economy. Oil prices also dropped, which was half of Russia’s output. A second war in Chechnya broke out with similar results. On New Year’s Eve 1999, Yeltsin resigned and his Prime Minister Putin, who was a bit of an unknown, was named acting president. He was then properly elected with over 50% of the vote and re-elected with over 70%. People like Putin. Russia, like many other countries, is more or less a fake democracy. There is active suppression of information that is unfavorable to the state. Putin is like a modern Napoleon, arresting the dissidents he doesn’t want around and putting forward a view that is government is legitimate and chosen by the people. Maybe in an open democracy, people would still elect him. Who knows? During his tenure the economy improved, and that tends to be enough for people. The Russian constitution only allowed (I think Putin changed this now) two consecutive terms, so in 2008 he was replaced by Medvedev. There are still 60 or so pages more, but this is essentially where my political awareness begins, internationally at least.

November 14th, 2021

A History of Russia We finally get to see the Soviet Union collapse. The Gorbachev years, 1985-1991, seem to be a bit contradictory. It's sort of hard to follow how a government collapses. Gorbachev himself seemed an idealist but also unsure and unable to commit. He wanted to rebuild Soviet society to essentially kill the vice and apathy. He wanted to bring in economic and political reforms, but hesitated between working with the liberal and conservative sides of the party, alienating both. He also began to change the government, removing single party rule and other oppressive clauses in the constitution. At the same time, he was abandoning the party and creating more power in the new office of the presidency of the USSR. Then there was also a presidency of the Russian Soviet Republic, which seemed to slowly be recognized as the official government of Russia. In 1990, Yeltsin was the president of this office. Nationalistic movements were gaining power in the more open Gorbachev years, and their Soviet Republics began to push their supremacy over the USSR. Starting with the Baltic states, they began to declare their independence from the USSR. The Warsaw pact countries in 88/89 began to force out their pro-Soviet Communist parties and turn toward democratic governments. Gorbachev refused to use the military to suppress these uprisings, and thus they succeeded. The Red Army was the only thing that kept the system alive for as long as it did. Despite the attempted reforms of Gorbachev and moving more towards a market economy, the economic situation got worse. Inflation was through the roof and there still many shortages of basic necessities. Maybe they shouldn't have been using half of the economy for the military. Things got worse, there was a military coup that deposed Gorbachev and met huge opposition. 3 days later, he was back, but by the end of 1991 he resigned. Not much of a resignation when your country is more or less non-existent any more. Too little, too late for poor Gorbachev. Though good riddance to the USSR. It only existed through force and fear. The democratic socialists of western Europe have the superior system and don't need to kill millions in order to exist.

November 13th, 2021

A History of Russia

Finished the chapter on the post-Stalin years. It continued with a short discussion on “The Thaw”, which was a lessening of the oppressiveness and intolerance of the Stalin years. Millions of people were released from Gulags and prison and some were posthumously “redeemed”. Political freedom and press freedom were not on the menu, but light dissent was tolerated. There was a longer section on foreign policy during this 30 year period. Malenkov, and then Bulganin and Khrushchev, were more open to communication and cooperation with Western countries. Khrushchev pressed his luck with the Cuban Missile Crisis and found out that the USSR could not place such extreme pressures on the US. The chapter doesn’t mention anything about the US in Turkey, maybe it wasn’t such a big deal. Relations with the West improved for a time, but worsened with the East. They lost standing and butted-heads with China, and the Warsaw Pact countries were pressing for more independence. Czechoslovakia had uprisings in the 50’s and 60’s that were suppressed by the Soviets, and more brutally in Hungary. The Soviets intervened in Poland often and sponsored a military coup. Overall, the USSR was losing its grip on the East. In 1979, to support the Afghan Communist revolutionary government, the USSR invaded and began a 10 year war that lowered their international standing even more. That’s when the US and Osama started a long friendship.

The last chapter before the collapse of the Soviet Union is about society and culture. It tries to cram a lot of diverse information and a period with a rapidly changing society in a short chapter. A lot of it has already been discussed. The initial Soviet years were more revolutionary and idea in the sense that there was more support for women, workers, and minority groups. The Stalin era saw the suppression of this, encouraging women to focus on the home and children, taking rights from workers and moving towards a top-controlled economy and factories, and keeping a leash on any sort of nationalist movement. The post-Stalin years relaxed a little, but not much. Nothing would approach the era of the revolution. Education followed the Empire system, but with a wider reach and stronger focus. Literacy improved rapidly and schools spread quickly for ages 7-17. The Communist party focused on putting a Marxist-Leninist spin and a pro-Russian emphasis on any subject they could. The education was heavy on the sciences and math, which is evident in the many scientific achievements of the year. They didn’t mention the Communists changing the alphabet, which seems like a big deal to me. I can’t imagine the English alphabet changing any time soon, though it could use some alterations. The sciences were in pretty good shape under the Soviets, though they suffered from doctrine and dogma. The dialectic had to be applied and unfounded theories that supported Marxist ideology sometimes overshadowed reality. The arts were stifled. Anything that veered from the party line of socialist realism, or was too heady for the “working class” had to be rewritten. All the good stuff had to be published outside of the USSR. Religion was adamantly suppressed, as the Communists were militant atheists. The majority of people remained religious, however. A limited degree of religious worship was eventually allowed. Overall, it seems like a depressing time and place. It’s hard to comprehend what living in a censored society would be like, as it is very dissimilar to life in the US. Here you can pretty much say anything, no matter how stupid or offensive. Sure, you may get some hate and death threats, or “canceled” as they like to say today, but with the internet it all can be side-stepped.

November 12th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte The invasion of Iberia has an interesting beginning. Portugal had been an ally of England for a century after the marriage of a Portuguese princess to King Charles II. To keep his Continental Plan in full effect, Napoleon gave the Portuguese king an ultimatum, which he complied with. A disappointed Napoleon invaded anyway and the royal family left for Brazil. The Peninsular War began in November 1807 with Junot leading his army into Portuguese with no food or water and arrived with 2000 out of 25,000 in Lisbon, according to this book. He did not do much to secure the country, and this would lead to the to English easily gaining a foothold in Portugal. In Spain, the royal family was in shambles and constantly plotting against each other. The King and his son oscillated between requesting French military support and then turning it down. The King abdicated for his son and then tried to take it back. The royal family met in France for Napoleon to try to reconcile everything, and Napoleon ended up getting an agreement to make himself ruler of Spain and kept the royal family hostage in France. Napoleon, after asking Lucien, Louis, and Jerome, convinced Joesph to be King of Spain. Caroline and Murat would takeover as King and Queen of Naples. Joesph would come to regret this, as Spain was in uprising of this French heretic king forced on them. Rioting led to killings, and General Dupont ended up surrendering his 20,000 men after getting bogged down with loot. Then King Joseph fled Madrid and on the run. Clearly things were not going as Napoleon had thought they would, though he had a history of poor planning. Now he’s stuck in his own little Vietnam and too proud to leave.

November 11th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte The last chapter closed up describing the peace between France, Russia, and, at the insistence of Russia, Prussia. Negotiations turned a hostile Tsar Alexander I into a doting admirer. Talleyrand was nearby but personally excluded from the negotiations. The treaty left France and Russia as the leaders of Europe and Russia was roped into Napoleon’s continental plan and other schemes. The Grand Duchy of Warsaw was to remain a satellite of the King of Saxony, who was a pawn of Napoleon. France’s new kingdoms were acknowledged, and Prussia was given some small potatoes back, though Friedrich Wilhem III was mostly kept in the dark. Napoleon’s insistence on remaining in eastern and central Europe were the final straw for Talleyrand, and he resigned. Various other cabinet shifts resulted in good men like Talleyrand and Berthier being replaced with poor substitutes. Napoleon was to play the diplomat in the capital for a time, though his Continental Plan will lead to more warfare with England. Already English ships are bombarding Copenhagen and taking their frigates. There isn’t much the French can do after Trafalgar.
A History of Russia Continued the chapter on the post Stalin years. This bit went on about the economy. Very boring. There were some gains, Khrushchev tried to spread the workload out form Moscow to incentivize the other districts, agriculture did not grow as needed. The 70s saw shortages and stagnation. There were a bunch of more 5 year plans and even a 7 year. Zzz.

November 10th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte After Jena and Auerstaedt, Napoleon entered Poland and became infatuated with a countess. Meanwhile, the Polish aristocracy implored him to give Poland its independence after the Third Partition split all of its lands between Austria, Prussia, and Russia. Napoleon eventually created the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, though did not give it independence. The Russians then launched a campaign to force the French out of Poland. The Russo-Prussian and French forces met in Eylau and fought in a blinding snowstorm. It was a bloody battle and both sides suffered extremely heavy casualties. The Russians withdrew hours before the French planned to withdraw, and once the French realized the Russians had left, turned to chase them. Napoleon had to call on the planned recruits for 1807 and 1808 in order to cover his losses. The summer of 1807 saw a second battle outside Koenigsberg, at Friedland. This turned out to be a decisive French victory. The French were able to move north and take the fortified city of Koenigsberg. With the main Russian army defeated, the tsar sought peace. The author must begrudgingly give this as a victory to Napoleon and not just on account of luck.
A History of Russia The history is going well into living memory. Since many people alive today lived through this, it isn’t often written as history but more as “news” which still resonates today. That said, I don’t know much about the post-Stalin USSR. This chapter is about the Khrushchev years up to Gorbachev’s. I should say Malenkov was the first party secretary post-Stalin, but he dropped out quickly. Khrushchev, an old revolutionary, denounced Stalin and Stalin’s cult of personality, and many of the horrible acts. His acknowledgment of past, recent atrocities is refreshing from a political leader is refreshing, though it was probably more for his own gain. Though his speech was not public, it got around, and it would be hard to back the hardline Staliners. Khrushchev had his rival for power, secret police head Beria, executed and began to put his reforms forward. He tried to promote and improve agriculture, give a little more freedom to the press and revoke a lot of Stalin’s oppressive systems. He was pushed out in 1964 for “age” and the Brezhnev years began. This was the time for the next generation of Communists, for those who grew up during but were too young to participate in the revolution and civil war. They stepped back from Khrushchev’s attempted reforms and focused on “stability”, but ended up with stagnation. They took steps backwards and were more oppressive than Khrushchev, bringing the KGB back into prominence, but with less terroristic tendencies. Brezhnev was general secretary until he died in1982. Then there was Andropov, who seemed like he would’ve been more oppressive, but then died after around a year. Chernenko was next but also died after around a year. This second generation was very aged now and dying out. In 1985, Gorbachev, one generation younger, was elected by the Politburo as general secretary.

November 9th, 2021

Napleon Bonaparte Napoleon’s interference in German affairs slowly raised the ire of the dawdling King of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm III. He and his German allies organized the Confederation of the Rhine and reorganized the 300+ municipalities, duchies, kingdoms etc of the Holy Roman Empire into 39. The final straw for Prussia was the inclusion of Saxony, their rival to the south. Friedrich Wilhelm gave an ultimatum to Napoleon, who was already on the march with his army towards Prussia. The armies eventually met on October of 1806. Two battles were fought on the same day. Napoleon’s larger army had easily routed the smaller Prussian army at Jena, while Marshal Davout’s significantly smaller army held out against Friedrick Wilhem’s main army at Auerstaedt. Important Prussian generals lost their lives, and Friedrich Wilhem was not up to snuff without them. Davout was reinforced and they took the day. The French continued their march and entered Berlin as the Prussian armies surrendered one by one. Also during this time, Talleyrand was working on a peace treaty with England that turned out to be extremely favorable to the French, acknowledging Napoleon as king of Italy, Louis as king of Holland, Joseph as king of Naples and other important concessions. Napoleon then refused to ratify it. War with England will continue. Probably not a good move, but peace was unlikely to last, regardless.

November 8th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte The Battle of Austerlitz was one of Napoleon’s greatest victories, though the author wants the reader to be aware that Napoleon may have had no real plans going in and that a great deal of luck was involved. Certainly, this is possible. Napoleon is lucky that he only had the combined Russian, Prussian, and Austrian forces to his front and that the 2nd Austrian army did not move to his real. Napoleon was outnumbered and could not fight on two fronts. And one can say Napoleon was lucky that the enemy fell into the trap. Napoleon had left the heights empty to entice the Allies into looping around his right flank (though the author claims he also just didn’t have enough men) in order to separate the Allied divisions. The Allies could have attacked the other flank, or straight into the thinly spread center. But the trap was sprung and there was no hope for the attackers. Napoleon had given orders to spare no one, and 15,000 allied soldiers were killed. He had even turned artillery on men retreating over a frozen pond to shatter the ice. A cruel man. Napoleon returned a hero and placed harsh terms on the Austrians. The German allies of Napoleon were given various Austrian territories and other Hapsburg lands. Emperor Franz had to acknowledge French takings in Campo Formio and Napoleon’s kingship in Italy. Much money was brought in to the French coffers and Napoleon continued to plot to reorganize the territories of Austria and the Holy Roman Empire, despite Tallyrand’s attempts to keep peace and stability in Eastern Europe.
A History of Russia We’re moving quicker and quicker into living history. Though I was not alive for it, there are still many people who remember the post-war Stalin years. Obviously, the USSR did not allow free elections in its conquered nations. It backed communist dictatorships throughout. The countries that already had strong Communist parts, like Tito’s Yugoslavia, were more of a thorn in Stalin’s side than an asset. Nationalism was stronger than international party unity. Also in these years, the Chinese Communist party won its civil war, creating essentially a second capital of Communism. Within the USSR, there were two more 5 year plans with more of the same. Improve heavy industry, rebuild, and force the peasants into collective arrangements to control them. The party would continue to have a hard time bringing the massive peasant population into the fold. The USSR also was brutal towards minority “suspect” ethnic groups, such as Volga-Germans, Cossacks, and various Central Asian groups, deporting them and sending many to labor camps. The Gulags were full to the brim in the post war years, with millions dying in them. What can you say, Stalin was a jerk. Stalin’s last years also saw the creation of NATO and the UN, the Berlin Airlift, the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, and the Korean War. It was a busy time in the international scene. Then he died.

November 7th, 2021

A History of Russia The next chapter covers Soviet foreign policy and the war years. World War 2 is one of the most discussed “historical” periods, so very little of this information is new. The beginning of Soviet foreign policy, after Trotsky moved to the war ministry, was anticipating a global revolution. This never developed, as Lenin explained, because the working classes of the west were pleased with consumer goods made available by the subjugation of colonial nations. The plan turned towards preventing invasion and forging non-aggression or defensive treaties with France, eastern European countries, and even Germany. In the late 20s Britain and other countries began to recognize the Soviet government, though the US and several eastern European countries would not until the 30s. The Soviets lessened their hostile views towards capitalist countries with the rise of fascism in Europe, though this did not stop them from taking any advantage of expanding their spheres of influence in the east. They look Bessarabia from Romania, invaded Poland, forced the Baltic states into the USSR, and started war with Finland in a territory grab. It's no wonder several of these countries joined the Nazis in the invasion of Russia. I believe general opinion in the US at the time was “hopefully they'll wipe out each other”. After getting whooped at the beginning of Barbarossa, the Nazis got held up in a multi-year siege of Leningrad and got pushed back by Zhukov outside Moscow. The Nazis did better in the south, where the next year they made it to Stalingrad, though they got bogged down and Hitler refused to retreat. This cost him an army. I guess it's recognized that if the Nazis were less gung-ho about their racial ideology, they could've have fairly easily convinced the locals to rise against the Soviet government. However, they were too busy shooting them in ditches and giving them CO poisoning in trucks. It's also necessary to mention the Russian atrocities, such as massacring Poles in the Katyn forest, letting the Nazis annihilate the Warsaw uprising, and untold acts committed against German civilians. Just for good measure, fire bombing and atomic bombings were war crimes and those who authorized attacks on civilian targets should've been hanged at Nuremberg too. Up next are the final years of Stalin.

November 6th, 2021

A History of Russia The Stalin era began with the abandonment of the New Economic Policy and the first of the Five Year Plans. The Communist party focused on quickly industrializing Russia, especially heavy industry. In this they were successful and became 2nd to the US in many industries, while simultaneously bringing electricity to various new locations in the wide country. A less popular aspect was the forced collectivization of agriculture, which ended all private ownership and took much of the produce away from the peasant class. After intense opposition, Stalin lessened the forcefulness of this program and also let peasants use a small plot of land for private use. This brought many more peasants into the program. This program, however, initially led to mass starvation and millions died, especially in Ukraine. Many Ukrainian historians today believe this was an intentional genocide, though we’ll never know. It was probably more a result of indifference to their lives or deaths as opposed to planned murder. One reason for the mass support of this program was to stick it to the rich peasants, or kulaks. Many kulaks ended up in forced labor camps with their entire families. Forced labor was a big theme in Stalin’s plans, and his Communist purges of the mid to late 1930’s filled the camps. The vast majority of the Lenin era Bolsheviks were eliminated, many army officers, and even a million of the 2+ million regular party members were arrested. Similar to the French Reign of Terror, Stalin acted as the Committee of Public Safety and anyone who was a member of an unfavored group, or just happened to be in a region where the arrest quota hadn’t been met, was in mortal danger. Anyone who has read Orwell’s 1984 will readily see the inspiration. The second Five Year Plan focused on military mobilization, especially after Hitler’s 1933 rise to power, but it also brought more focus on consumer goods. Stalin’s propaganda focused heavily on “happiness”. The third Five Year Plan was interrupted by the Second World War. In 1936, Stalin created a new constitution to replace the original 1922(?) constitution. This essentially legitimized single party rule and outlawed deviation from it. It created some arbitrary Soviets and Congresses and mainly acted as propaganda. Stalin and the Communist party never intended to act within the law.

November 5th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte Napoleon began his campaign crossing the Rhine in various locations and forcing Baden, Bavaria, and other German states into alliances. The author loves to point out any mistakes made by Napoleon, such as his unprepared supply lines, lack of wagons, extra guns, and winter clothes. There were a lot of names dropped and Corp numbers which I don’t recall. The Austrians were divided into several armies and Russia was sending an advance guard while preparing the remainder of the army. The French were able to surround one Austrian army at Ulm which resulted in its surrender. The French moved further west, and Napoleon’s goal was to destroy as many armies separately before they could join and outnumber his. Meanwhile, Prussia had joined the war and was slowly mobilizing. Murat however followed his own course and marched on Vienna, which accomplished nothing. This allowed The Russians to retreat north and caused a great delay. He then agreed to an armistice which allowed the Russians to retreat further. Napoleon was furious. The armies were converging near the town of Austerlitz in Moravia. Meanwhile, instead of retreating from a superior force, Napoleon was devising a trap for the enemy.
A History of Russia Despite what seemed like insurmountable odds, the Red Army won the civil war. Though looking a bit deeper, the odds were more likely to be in their favor. The Allied coalition essentially did not nothing but occupy some border regions and provide minimal support for the Whites. The Allied soldiers and sailors themselves often had no desire to be there and several mutinies were recorded. The wars against Poland and other countries seeking independence were serious, but not a threat to Russia. Poland succeeded in its war and sought no further gains. The other bids for independence could be crushed one by one. The Whites were far from a unified front and by the poorer classes were viewed as worse than the Communists. The Whites often wanted to restore the status quo, taking the gains away from the peasants and workers and crushing independence seekers. The Communists also had Moscow and Petrograd along with all the war supplies. An interesting note is that there was also a “Green” movement, which were armed peasants or anarchists who wanted neither government interfering in their lives. After this war, the country was in famine and the economy was a fraction of its pre-1914 size. Workers and peasants led uprisings throughout the country, who wanted a multi-party government and power to the local Soviets. Lenin devised a New Economic Policy, which as a retreat from Communist policy in that it allowed some private enterprise and helped landlords profit. Not everyone in the party agreed with this plan, but it was successful. After Lenin died in 1924, the party was fractured and there was a power vacuum. There was a more militant “left”, with its most famous leader Trotsky, a “right” who wanted to “win” the peasants and working class over instead of forcing them at gun point, led by Bukharin, and there was Stalin, who was in charge of membership. Stalin, who could fill the party with his own supporters, got rid of the left before turning on the right and then declared that there would and could be no dissenting from the party line. No more factions. It was thus that Stain gained control of the Communist party. Unlike many members at the time, he thought the “world-wide revolution” was a silly concept, and that Russia could maintain a socialist country on its own accord.

November 4th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte The last chapter finished with a story of Jerome Bonaparte. He was a naval officer who more or less abandoned his post in the Caribbean and sailed for America. In Maryland, he met a young woman and tried to get married. French law did not permit him to get married without parental consent, due to his age. However, he did it anyway. All of his family, besides Napoleon, approved. Napoleon was enraged because he did not get to marry his brother into some other foreign aristocratic family. Jermone and his wife eventually tried to sneak into France, but Napoleon gave his brother an ultimatum of exile with his wife or a prince’s future. Jerome chose wealth and never saw his wife again, who was forced to sail to England and back to America with their child. The next chapter picks up where Napoleon abandoned the plan for invading England and began to march into Germany. After declaring himself King of Italy and other provocative measures, the Third Coalition of England, Austria, Russia, and Sweden declared war. France was still in financial ruin and banks were beginning to collapse. It is here in late 1805 where Napoleon needs to win his war before his empire is undone.

November 3rd, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte Not much pertinent information in this chapter, just more about Napoleon’s strange character. In short, he bought an estate next to Joesph’s out of jealousy, hit on Junot’s wife while Josephine was away, and ruined his secretary’s life after he resigned. Essentially, he’s a weird jerk with no friends and doesn’t mind the fact that nobody likes him. The only thing he hates is someone leaving him behind or denying him.

November 2nd, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte The story of the French navy continues with Villeneuve sailing to Caribbean, doing nothing, and fleeing from Admiral Nelson to Spain. Horatio Nelson was pursing with a singleness of purpose after Villeneuve managed to set sail from France to the Atlantic. Villeneuve had received changes to Napoleon’s plans in the Caribbean and again in Spain, but had overall complied with none of his orders. An irate Napoleon ordered Decres to replace Villeneuve, who had got wind of this news and set sail from Spain before he could be removed from command. He did not get far before Admiral Nelson caught up at the Cape of Trafalgar, leading to the famous battle. The French fleet was trounced, and Nelson lost his life but not a single ship, ending any hope of invading England. Napoleon had wasted two years, millions of francs, and made terrible decisions along way. For a demonstration, he forced his Boulogne transport fleet to sail during a storm, losing many ships and hundreds of sailors. But before Trafalgar, he had already given up. The Grande Armee was marching west.

November 1st, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte The chapter on Napoleon’s coronation finished and mainly described the actual moment of coronation, with the famous scene of Napoleon’s self-crowning. The next chapter describes further Napoleon’s plans for the invasion of England. There is a lot in this book about something that never happened. Essentially in 1805, Napoleon went through 9 separate plans for invading England and various naval movements in Ireland, the Caribbean, and India. The latter two would be detrimental to the economy of England, so we’ll see if anything comes of them. It also goes to great lengths to explain the poor standing of the French navy and the utter incompetence of the Admiral at Boulogne, Villeneuve.
A History of Russia I read part of the next chapter about the first decade, or “Pre-Stalin”, Soviet era. It’s pretty confusing and complicated. The proper elected National Council, or whatever it was called, finally was inaugurated but without a Bolshevik majority. They had 25%, and overall the various socialist groups had somewhere around 75%, but it wasn’t enough for them to resume control. Somehow they managed to dissolve the council and transfer power to the various soviets around the control. War with Germany was ended thanks Lenin, who convinced Trotsky and other Bolsheviks to take a very unfavorable deal that gave independence to Poland, Finland, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Belorussian, Ukraine, and possibly more. There was also opposition from many different groups, such as conservatives, liberals, nationalists, Mensheviks, Social Revolutionaries (whatever SR stands for) and eventually even the left-wing SRs. This led to uprisings, assassinations, and civil war, with the above groups being condensed into the “White” label. The Whites were also assisted by Britain, France, the US, Japan, and various other nations. This was also a confusing period, but it is worth noting that the Tsar and his family were killed at this time, and it is not known whether this was ordered by Lenin or not. The Communist party was also contradictory and full of “double-think”. For example, they want to give power to the peasants, yet robbed them of their food and forced them to work. They believed national groups had a right to independence, yet invaded various countries and forced them into the USSR. They believed in utopian worker’s right to self determination and democracy, they consolidated everything to state enterprise and became more and more authoritarian. Like I said, this period is hard to grasp.

October 31st, 2021

A History of Russia The first chapter on the Soviet Union gives a brief overview of Marxism and Leninism. It just talks about the “dialectic materialism” of the communists and Marx's ideas about the progression of history as defined by class struggles and economic systems. Lenin adapted this and modernized it. He added an emphasis on the rural peasants, ignored by Marxists in favor of the urban working class, and focused on colonialism and the international effect of capitalism. Despite the unscientific qualities and moralism of populism and utilitarianism of Chernyshevsky, Leninism had its roots in the movements and the Bolsheviks were inspired by the People's Will's violent and terroristic tendancies. It's worth noting that while Mensheviks and other socialists admired the egalitarianism of universal democracy, Lenin said the Communists did “fetishize” democracy, using it only as a tool to further their revolutionary agenda. I'll had to actually read about it, but Lenin's ideas on the colonial aspects of capitalism seem legitimate, though the Soviet Union did not really do away with these ideas. They were equally guilty of trying to expand and control their sphere of influence. I guess this is what makes them “state capitalists” as opposed to proper socialists.

October 30th, 2021

A History of Russia

I finished the chapter on culture between the Crimean and Great wars. It continued about art, which I’m not interested in. In music, this time is best know for Tchaikovsky. I saw the Philadelphia Orchestra perform some Tchaikovsky and it was not for me. I guess I’m more of a baroque kind of guy. In regards to thoughts/philosophy, there were many movements. I can agree with the utilitarians/populists in their view that the happiness of the individual is paramount, with the understanding that the best society is also one that makes the most people happy. This can be interpreted in many ways. Does democracy achieve this goal? Does a benevolent autocrat? Does socialism? It leads to many arguments. Its open-endedness could be a strength as it is not tied down to a certain ideology. You also had liberals, conservatives, socialists, and Mensheviks and Bolsheviks. Society was being pulled in many directions, though that is probably a constant in most societies, even the most oppressive.

Also read the chapter on the 1917 revolution and the end of the empire. It did not take much to kill the empire. Mass strikes and protests in March (February Julian) intensified over several days as Petrograd Cossacks refused to break up the strikers. Nicholas II abdicated for himself and his son in favor of his brother Michael. The Duma had created a provisional council which was now to govern the country and Michael abdicated in favor of the council. This was an extremely liberal council who immediately established universal suffrage and planned for a new national council. They even abolished capital punishment, something the Freest Country in the World can’t manage to do. However, they didn’t end the war and they didn’t help the working class and peasants with their immediate needs, food and land. The council replaced ministers and slowly became more socialist. A general Kornilov, representing the right wing, tried to expunge the socialists and help Kerensky’s ministry, but was treated as a usurper and troops were mobilized against him. The peasant and working class grew angrier and in July led more mass strikes demanding for the Soviets to take the government, to no avail. As the situation deteriorated, Lenin appeared in Petrograd in November (October Julian) and the Soviet took over the council. This was repeated in Moscow and other cities and the Soviet era had begun.

October 29th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte In 1804, Napoleon was “elected” by the Senate to be Emperor and “elected” by the people. Of course the Senate was coerced, or filled with Napoleon’s yes-men, and the election results of the population were fraudulent. Power is half façade. This chapter mostly delved into the personal consequences of the establishment of the Empire for Napoleon. Lucien, already written off, was not included. Their mother, with no mutual love between her and Napoleon, spend the coronation in Rome with him. Jerome was also kept to the side because he was a bit of a wild card. Older brother Joesph was not included in succession, nor his daughters, and was enraged. His jealousy was assuaged a little with a Prince’s title and a future kingship, I believe in Spain. Unless Napoleon had children, the throne would pass to the sons of Louis, who by this point was completely insane. The depth of his insanity not known to his brother, Louis was given Joesphine’s daughter in marriage, and she was to be emotionally and mentally tortured. Their marriage did result in sons, one of whom would be the future Napoleon III of the Second Empire. Napoleon’s sisters despised Joesphine and resented his control over their lives. It’s not often you pity Napoleon.

October 28th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte Read more about the planned invasion of England. Not much was going right. Napoleon had picked a poor location for a harbor, which had to be built from scratch and under English bombardment. Ship building was slow because the government was not paying the contractors and armies were being sent to locations where not a single barracks existed. Napoleons Chief of Staff and War Minister Berthier was fortunately competent enough to provide for the army. Money was still being extorted from the Italians and the Dutch, who essentially provided the whole of the current French navy. The French coasts were essentially undefended and British ships were able to get very close for their bombardments. Napoleon micromanaged the affair until the coast through the Netherlands was fitted with large batteries to keep the British at bay. All of this cost and exorbitant amount of money that the French did not have. War in general is a complete waste of money. How often do preparations lead to nothing, or gains lost and the status quo maintained? Defense is an understandable cost, within reason, but an offensive war will leave most destitute and provide profit for a select few.

October 27th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte I continued the chapter on the renewal of hostilities between France and England. It went on about naval affairs, which are dull. Napoleon planned to invade England with 120k troops on some modified river boats. Not only were these boats never tested, but they didn’t even have ports close enough to launch a viable invasion with them. Napoleon could not be convinced otherwise. He conscripted works and forced loans out of individuals from France and Belgium. The “independent” Batavian Republic, the Netherlands, was forced to provide almost half of the warships, while their ports were forcefully closed to English trade. Robbed and with their income devastated, the Netherlands had no choice but to give in to Napoleon. Could England have prevented this? If all the Dutch ships were to go over to England before being taken by the French, this would have crippled the French invasion fleet. But then a French army would of course march into the Netherlands, not counting any standing army that was already there. An English army would also be required to repel this. Probably not very feasible.

October 26th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte War continued with Austria and England. Austria had recaptured much of its Italian territories in 1800-1801, and Napoleon spend his time extorting millions of francs from wealthy French, Dutch, Belgian, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese to raise an army. He then led a second Italian campaign, taking generals from Egypt to help fight. This culminated in the battle of Marengo, which started off terribly for the French. Something like 18k French against 38k Austrian nearly ended in French surrender, but a last-ditch counterattack penetrated the Austrian lines and became a total victory. The Austrians requested an armistice which led to a peace treaty, and the agreements of Campo Formio were reconfirmed. Shortly after this, the French expedition in Egypt surrendered. Despite their overwhelming success, the English were just as war-weary as the French and agreed to the Peace of Amiens. The English gave up much of the captured territory while the French were to remove troops from Egypt and certain Italian territories. In 1802 or 1803, Napoleon passed his Constitution of Year X and was also elected as Consul another 10 years. Both were more cases of voter fraud by his brother Lucien, but the image is all that mattered to Napoleon. In 1802/3, instead of taking the time of peace and repairing France after years of chaos, Napoleon was looking for ways he could wage war in England itself.

October 25th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte First Consul Napoleon declared after becoming consul, “The Revolution is over.” Abolishing the last constitution, he promised the people the right to property, equality, and representation. While he tried on the first two counts, democratic representation was what he spent the rest of his career trying to suppress. He and his State Council worked on and enacting in 1804 the Civil Code, which was the law of the land and became the laws of several other European countries. I believe it is the basis of a few modern constitutions still. I’ve only read a little about it before, but in comparison to the wide range of opinions on Napoleon as a person and general, his Civil Code is looked upon favorably. He considered it the most important work of his life. During this time was the Concordat, or the normalizing of relations between France and the Vatican. This was solely to pacify the Catholic population, as Napoleon was indifferent to any form of religion. This took a major weapon away from the Bourbons and Louis XVIII, who for the last decade were the bastion of French Catholicism. Napoleon enacted the Legion of Honor, which was controversial and appalled Jacobins, and expanded conscription and education. Education was to be uniform and controlled by Napoleon himself. War was also to continue.
A History of Russia I started the chapter on culture of the post-emancipation era. It repeated again how education expanded after the death of Nicholas I and how it got a big boost under Alexander II’s left-sympathizing early years. Then there was a bit on the maths and sciences. It was mostly just naming various mathematicians and scientists who had major contributions or some who had done important work that was overlooked by the rest of Europe. The main section was on literature. There was a continuation of the 19th century’s golden age with writers like Turgenev, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy. I’ve never read any of their work. I started War and Peace but got distracted and started reading something else. I should follow up the Napoleon book with that. Then there was some talk of a “silver age” at the end of the century with writer’s like Chekhov. That was the end of the interesting part. It closed literature with poetry, but I really couldn’t care less about poetry. Verse is really not my bag. Prose I can get behind.

October 24th, 2021

A History of Russia Today's chapter was about economics and society from Alexander II to end of Nicholas II, or 1861-1917. The economics is rather boring, just information on industrialization and the rise of capitalism. A majority of Russian industry was invested or partly owned by the French, German, or British. Most of the industrial growth was organized by the government, as there was not really a “market” in Russia which would incentivize the wealthy into investing. For society, it went on at great lengths on the rural peasants. After their emancipation, they mostly carried on their communal life. The communes, with their regular redistribution of land, may have kept individuals from being personally invested in a plot and gave no incentive of making improvement. Population skyrocketed and there were no technological adaptations needed to feed more people. They were also heavily taxed. This led to much unrest and uprisings against landlords. Land reform in the first decade of the 1900s permitted peasants to take land and leave the commune, which around 25% of the population had done by the war. During this time, there was a large increase in the urban working class. Like many other countries at this time, urban living conditions were deplorable and working conditions were unfair. The government passed some working reform conditions and after 1905 legalized unions, but there was constant struggle with the owners and the government/police. Strikes were regular. Good. Power to the people. If the government would treat people like humans and not machinery, there would be much more rational action and less emotional. The moderate socialists would be able to represent the people, but unfair practices cause people to turn to radicals such as the Bolsheviks. Urban life also let to the working class becoming cultured and literate. Education makes people more aware of just how awful they're being treated.

October 23, 2021

A History of Russia The next chapter discussed the Revolutions of 1905 up to, not including, the Revolution of 1917. As mentioned, during the end of the century many factions of liberal and socialist groups rose in opposition to the government. The government tried to organize “unions” of peasants who they though would be loyal to the tsar. A group had marched towards the Winter Palace in January1905 to ask the tsar to address their grievances, when police shot at them and killed 130 people and wounded many others. This event is known as “Bloody Sunday”. The tsar, who was not in St. Petersburg at the time, began to lose loyalty of even the peasants. Various uprisings occurred through the year and a country wide strike in October led to some concessions by the tsar. A national elected Duma with legislative powers was to be setup. In reality, the tsar did not give up much power nor change his opinions on autocracy. The Duma had a mass majority of left wing deputies, but the first two were dissolved by Nicky. After changing the elections such that the Duma would be mostly gentry and right wing and no minorities, the 3rd and 4th Dumas were to serve out their terms. During this time, the rapprochement of Russia and France went further, and France brought in Great Britain, forming the Triple Entente. Britain and Russia came to some agreements in Central Asia and tensions subsided. The main event of this era is obviously the First World War. After being humiliated by Austria when it seized Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Russia was blocked from occupying the Bosporus, the tsar was determined to not suffer further humiliation. When Austria gave Serbia an ultimatum after the assassination of the Archduke, Russia backed its fellow Slavic country. Its worth noting that the Russian Empire as a “Slavic” nation had less than 50% native Russian speaks. Lumping in Ukrainians, Belorussians, and Poles, you would be able to achieve a Slavic majority, but not a Russian one. But Austria declared war on Serbia and we know how it went from there. Russia suffered terrible defeats in 1914 and 1915 with the population back home suffering terrible shortages and inflation. While they made some gains into Germany, Austria, and Turkey in 1916, they were to loose much territory afterwards. Soldiers, some sent to the front even without guns, were poor conscripts who began to oppose the war and desert in large numbers. The tsar came to the front to rally the troops, with the tsarina and Rasputin left in the capitol. In December 1916, Rasputin is killed by a conspiracy of nobles. There is talk of a coup, but before this can occur, the lower classes begin their own revolution. If you can't tell, I'm very interested by this period of European history.

October 22nd, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte This chapter was interesting but there’s not much information to retain about it. It’s mostly a narrative about many assassination attempts after the coup. What the author called Chouans, or western/Breton royalist and rebels, were behind several. Some of these were backed by the English government. That’s pretty much all I got out of it.

October 21st, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte This chapter was more about Fouche. It went on about how he was a sadistic man only interested in gaining absolute power for himself. He had no interest in socializing or society but was a beloved family man. Despite the animosity between him and Napoleon, they got on great together. He was not very principled and, like a chameleon, hid behind the prevailing view of the day. I guess I get it, though I cannot support the sadism. Massacre innocent people in order to loot the town is now something I can get behind. Sure, with absolute power, you’re going to have to kill some people. You won’t keep power for long if you let people get away with undermining your authority. But letting mobs form in the streets to chop up nuns with knives is not a way to cement power. Mob rule will eventually turn against you and swallow you up. Look at Robespierre. Fouche probably survived because he massacred in the provinces and could return to Paris and adapt to the new regime. What a jerk.

October 20th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte This next chapter discusses Fouche, the minister of police in Napoleon’s regime. Pure human garbage, he started off as a teacher in an Oratory before the Revolution. He ended up in politics and changed sides many times, starting off as a Mirabeau-esque constitutional monarchist, then a Girondin, then an extreme Jacobin. During the Reign of Terror, he was in Lyons destroying the church and executing thousands of the gentry. After the fall of Robespierre, he became the minister of police under the Directory. In this role, his main job seemed to be stomping out the Jacobin extremism he recently killed thousands of civilians for. While plotting to overthrow the Directory and become head of the government, he learned of Napoleon’s similar scheme. Despite their mutual hatred, they needed each other to succeed, and Napolean depended greatly on Fouche’s spying and maintaining of order. Fouche’s second, Dubois, was in charge of similar information gathering and protecting the individuals of the government and Bonaparte clan. I guess there’s more to follow on him.
A History of Russia After Alexander II’s assassination, his son Alexander III became tsar. Alexander III was not like his father and very against reforms to the autocratic state. He worked to undo a lot of his father’s work, but died in 1894. During this time there was a large growth in Russian nationalism and oppression of non-Orthodox religious groups. Jews were forced to live in certain locations and were the victims of many pogroms. Even the loyal Finns were treated as second class citizens, which led to rebellion and disdain for Russia. The alliances between Russia and Germany and Austria-Hungary fell apart. Russia and Austria were vying for the same land of the Balkans. Bismark tried to keep an alliance with Russia, but he was forced out in 1890 and Alexander’s nephew, Kaiser Wilhelm II, did not have the same love for Russia. In response, Russia and France, also an isolated country, began to form an alliance. British was hostile towards Russia over its Central Asian expansion; both had an interest in Persia. Nicholas II became tsar after the death of his father, and was a softer, weaker, very religious man, but still had the same ideas of autocracy. He tried to organize peace conferences for all of Europe, but not much came of it besides a few “rules of war”. One major outcome was the establishment of an international court in the Hague. This chapter ends in 1905, a year of revolution. Before that, there was an embarrassing war with Japan. Russia had stepped into Manchuria and was working land out of China which Japan was trying for. Japan destroyed two Russian fleets and took their Chinese holdings. The Treaty of Portsmouth gave Japan land on the mainland, but not everything Japan was seeking. Japan would not forget the unfair treatment it got from Western powers as a result of this war.

October 19th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte I got distracted again. I’m really losing my stride. Let’s see what I remember. It finished discussing Napoleon’s brother Lucien, who had a long fall from grace. A staunch Jacobin, he often clashed with his brother with no remorse. Due to his flaunting of wealth and other scandals, he was demoted to ambassador to Spain, agreed to a peace treaty, after accepting millions of dollars in diamonds and paintings, which was then rejected by Napoleon. He then secretly fled back to France, married a new mistress, and fled to Italy. The next chapter discusses Talleyrand and his rise to power, eventually becoming Director, then Napoleon’s Foreign Minister, and being very close to him despite they divergent opinions on foreign policy.
A History of Russia The remaining bits of the chapter on Alexander II covered some uprisings in the 60s and 70s and foreign policy. Despite the reforms of Alexander, he was not that much of a progressive. The reforms gave people the idea that more would be on the way. There were peasant uprisings and uprisings in Poland, which wanted more autonomy. This was put down by the Russian army, though much of Europe was in support of Poland. The Romanticism of the 40s gave way to realism and nihilism in the 60s. This younger generation wanted no part in the established systems and rules of society. Some of this group were "populists" who tried to appeal to the peasants, but this backfired. The peasants were overall not interested and often reported them to the police. A fringe group of these revolutionaries were determined to undermine the government through assassinating the tsar and many attempts were made. Ultimately, Alexander II would be killed in 1881, though the chapter did not end with this. It mentioned it once in the beginning, so I assume the chapter on Alexander III will begin with it. In foreign policy, the tsar was supportive of Bismark's Prussian consolidation of Germany and gained an ally in anti-Polish sentiment and other interests. Austria was mainly forgiven for its Crimean War actions after its defeat by Bismark. Russia expanded largely into the east, getting land from China that would contain Vladivostok, but sold its North American holdings to the US. Russian consolidated its Caucus territory and expanded more into the Central Asia region, towards Persia. There were rebellions in the Balkans the led to war with Turkey. A long and costly war ended with the Treaty of Berlin, which gave Romania more land and became and independent country, as did Serbia and Montenegro. Austria was allowed to occupy Bosnia and Herzegovina as compensation for the creation of large Slavic territory on its border. Bulgaria, where the conflict began, was left as an autonomous region within Ottoman territory. We know that peace in the Balkan will not last!

October 18th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte I got distracted again and left my desk to avoid having to answer the front door. From what I remember of this chapter, it discussed a little of Napoleon’s new consulship. Sieyes’ constitution was adopted, before he and the third consul were pushed out and replaced. There were three weak legislative houses: one that proposed legislation, one that debated it, and one that voted on it. Eventually the prosing house, the only one with real power, was filled with Napoleonic cronies. The real power rested in Napoleon’s State Council, which proved so effective that it remained the basis of French executive power ever since. This information was followed by some narrative about Joeseph and Napoleon’s relationship, and the successes of Joeseph in politics. Eventually he was eclipsed by Napoleon, despite being the older brother and head of the family. What made things worse was when the important job of minister of the interior was given not to Joesph, but to younger brother Lucien. Lucien had next to no education or experience, but was rewarded for his role in the coup as President of the 500. Due to his general ineptitude, this will prove to have been a big mistake on Napoleon’s part.
A History of Russia The reign of Alexander II is covered in this chapter. He is best known for the emancipation of the serfs in 1861. It took several years of planning on how to accomplish this, and how to compensate the gentry owners. The serfs got a bit of a bad deal since they ended up with less land and had to overpay for it. The land was distributed to peasant communes, not individuals, so their day to day lives were the same minus the forced labor. An interesting note in the chapter was that at about the same time, 52 million Russian peasants were peacefully emancipated, while in the US there was a bloody war for 4 million slaves. Sometimes the autocrats beat the democrats. There's your freedoms. There were some other reforms, too. I just don't remember them. So far, Alexander II seems alright, though I know it doesn't end so well for the poor guy.

October 16th, 2021

A History of Russia This chapter was about culture of the first half of the 18th century. It focused a great deal on literature, as this century was really the golden age of Russian literature. The most notable writer of this era was Pushkin. Others include Gogol and Krylov, and Dostoevsky began writing during this period. Realism and Romanticism dominated the genre. Satire of the upper classes was also popular, exemplified by Griboedov’s “Gore ot uma”. Other topics included the growth of education under Alexander I and its subsequent stifling under his brother. Theater was still growing, as was dance such as ballet. A large section was about various philosophical groups of the era. It mainly discussed Slavophiles, influenced by German Romanticism, who believed in some sort of purity of Orthodox and Slavic society and strongly favored authoritariaism to keep society pure. Another group was the Westernizers, influenced by Young and Old Hegeliansim, who generally supported individuality and abhorred serfdom and other forms of oppression. The latter is a broad category that included anarchists, like Bukinin, socialists, and liberals.

October 15th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte The coup occurred over two days, with the first day mainly involving having Barras and the other Directors resign, deploying troops and leaflets, and getting the 500 and Ancients out of town. The next day, 19 Brumaire, was not so easy. Lucien Bonaparte, president of the Council of 500 (despite being 6 years younger than the legal minimum age), was not able to control the mostly Jacobin deputies. The Council of Ancients, despite being more well controlled, also put up a defense. This dragged on, and Napoleon and Sieyes waited upstairs for hours with no knowledge of the proceedings. Napoleon, impatient as ever, walked addressed the Ancients and gave a pathetic speech. Then he marched into the irate Council of 500 and was met with pure vitriol. One deputy even grabbed him by the collar. At this point, the Bonaparte brothers left and weakly attempted to rile up the troops. Eventually Murat ordered them to charge against he 500 and break up the session. Later the Ancients forced through some legal proceedings that abolished the Constitution of Year III and established the Consulship. Despite the poor show, Napoleon pulled off his coup. The next chapter jumps a year and talks about Joesph Bonaparte and a treaty with the Americans avoiding war. I think it will then jump back to the beginning of the Consulship.
A History of Russia This was a rather boring chapter about economics and society in the first half of the 19th century. There was some growth. More factories were built, they became more industrialized, there were railroads, etc. Like the rest of Europe, but worse. That's pretty much why they lost the Crimean War. The growth was not quick enough compared to Francea and England. Possibly it was strangled by the absolutism. Population grew, there were more ethnic groups after all the conquests, free labor was on the rise. Serfdom will be abolished soon. Let's see where that goes.

October 14th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte I didn’t retain much of what I read today. It was mostly just setup to Napoleon’s coup. Thanks to Barras’ care or indifference, Napoleon was not charged with desertion. The chapter then goes to lengths of the plotting between Napoleon, Talleyrand, Sieyes, and various other politicians. Barras, knowing full well what is going on, does nothing because he thinks Napoleon is too popular a figure, and Sieyes too influential. Sieyes and Napoleon absolutely hate each other, but slowly agree to work with each other to achieve their goals. At this point Sieyes uses his influences to get the Ancients to replace (illegal) the general in charge of Parisian forces with Napoleon. The Ancients and 500 then vote to move out of the city to avoid a phony Jacobin plot to St. Cloud. I believe the coup will occur the next day, with some bungling.

October 13th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte Sieyes seems to be a hard Jacobin who kept to himself in order to avoid the axe. He somehow managed to avoid the Jacobin purges after the Constitution of Year III came about and managed to become a director. Following many military defeats by the Second Coalition, France was unstable. There were royalist, “communist”, and other uprisings throughout the country. Sieyes was looking for a general to help him orchestrate a coup d’état to abolish the directory and establish a dual consulship. Reluctantly, he had to look towards Napoleon, who just happened to arrive from Egypt. General Barras was another revolutionary who avoided death by the Committee of Public Safety and became a Director. He orchestrated his own purges of Jacobins and other undesirables, having ejected other directors he did not want. Before all this, he was the General responsible for Napoleons rise to fame and rapid promotions. His Directory was looked as corrupt and decadent, and many Parisians saw it as a decline in the government. The power struggle between these two men will come to a head as Napoleon makes his way back to Paris.
A History of Russia Nicholas I was a big supporter of the status quo. Despite victory wars with Turkey and Persia, he did not press his victory, so that the empires may remains stable. He was opposed to the 1830 French Revolution and Belgian Revolution, though could not act because other nations recognized them. He did put down rebellions in Poland and the Ottoman Empire. He prepared to march on France during the 1848 revolution, but revolution spread far too quickly. His attention was required in the east. He had to put down Romanian, Polish, and Hungarian nationalists, all to keep the status quo and legitimate governments in power. The Crimean War is still confusing. There was some spat in the Holy Land between Catholics and Orthodox(es), which turned into the Russians trying to be protectors of all Orthodox in Ottoman territory. This somehow led to war between the Russians and Ottomans, and for some reason the British and French intervened on the side of the Ottomans. They apparently were sick of Russia putting their nose in everyone’s business, and may have been exacting difficult demands to start a conflict. The Austrians, semi-hostile to the Russians, blocked the border between Russia and the Balkans. Russia and Turkey waged war in the Caucuses, with the Russians doing well, while eventually the British and French (and Sardinians) invaded Crimea. This turned into a year long siege of Sevastopol, during which time Nicholas I died. After the surrender of the city, his son Alexander II and the allied powers signed a peace treaty. I don’t thin much came of it other than Russia losing some land, but Russia’s international standing had fallen significantly.

October 12th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte Unexpectedly, the Turks with a British and Russian naval escort were able to coordinate an attack on the Egyptian coast. Napolean was able to quickly organize a defense, pulling troops from all over the country. With the Turks dug-in on the beach, the French launched an artillery and calvary assault that drove them into the sea, with 4000 Turks drowning in attempts to flee. Shortly after this victory, Napolean with 4 ships fled the country, abandoning Egypt to Kleber. Kleber would be assassinated in the next year, and ultimately the French would surrender to England in 1801. Despite all his failures and mistakes, he is greeted by the French population as a hero. Before the coup, there is a chapter on Emmanuel Sieyes, a priest turned revolutionary politician.

October 11th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte Napoleon’s Syrian campaign did not last long. There’s not much to say. There were some unexpected fortresses along the way in the Sinai and they took Gaza pretty easily. The Battle of Jaffa started with the beheading of a French envoy and ended with the massacre of 2000 Arab POWs. During this time the region is suffering from an outbreak of the plague. The siege of Acre went horribly for the French. Despite them being the invaders, and thus the bad guy, I find myself rooting for them. It probably helps that I already know they lose. The French are unable to break through the walls of Acre. In spite of this, Napoleon claims victory and starts a long march back to Cairo, after losing 3 generals and 4000 men. Once reaching Cairo, it seems he will be planning his return to France and his coup.
A History of Russia I began the chapter on Nicholas I today. He was quite different from his older brother. He was a much more orderly and military man compared to Alexander’s flip-flopping compassion. A true autocrat, he distrusted both the aristocrats and the peasants alike. He had no interest in the systems that diverted power from him and create several departments to enact his will. One of these were the secret police, or the Third Department. I feel like I’ve heard of that before. Nicholas was also behind notoriously terrible censorship, stifling the literature and even music of the day. I look forward to reading about the Crimean War. That’s one of those strange blindspots where I’ve heard much about it, yet still don’t really know anything.

October 10th, 2021

A History of Russia This chapter was about the reign of Alexander I, who usurped the throne and accidentally caused the death of his father. He was more liberal than his father, and would likely have been Catherine the Great's heir had she planned a little better before dying. Despite being more liberal than his father, he didn't do a whole lot of liberal things. He founded many schools and universities and replaced Peter the Great's governing system with various ministries. It would seem that the two wars with France put him off to the liberalizing and pushed him further into the old authoritarianism. In 1806 or 1807, after the Third Alliance was defeated by Napoleon, Russia was left as a major power, yet still somewhat subservient to France. They were forced to participate in the blockading England, a traditional ally and economic partner. Napoleon's establishment of the Grand Duchy of Warsaw from Prussian Poland also did not look promising for Russian Poland. This led to Napoleon's 1812 invasion, which we all know started off well but ended in a long retreat from Moscow and 400,000 dead French and allied soldiers. Napoleon most likely did not plan well, as usual, and only thought of the fighting. In between the wars, a man of low-class origins, Mikhail Speransky, was Alexander's right-hand man. He submitted many reform proposals and even a written constitution, but little came of it immediately. His constitution would have broken the country up into districts with various levels of legislature, with a national Duma, and some federalization/self-government of provinces. These ideas were taken up decades later, even up the 1917, which obviously was too late to do much. Alexander tried to set up some alliances after the war with the other great powers, in a pseudo-EU fashion, but it didn't really work out. He died mysteriously in 1825, or, as rumors said, became a hermit and reappeared 40 years later. His oldest brother was skipped over for marrying a non-noble, so the next brother Nicholas became tsar. During the end of Alexander's reign, some educated officers formed societies to promote further westernization and individual rights, including the abolition of serfdom. This culminated, after Alexander's death, in the Decemberist protests which tried to force the middle brother Constantine on the throne. Of course this failed, the protest was dispersed with artillery and the leaders executed. Thus begins the reign of Nicholas I.

October 8th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte The book keeps going on about how nobody likes Napoleon and how Napoleon doesn’t like anybody. There were a few pages on the arguments between him and General Kleber, now governor of Alexandria, which escalated to Kleber’s resignation, which of course Napoleon would not forgive. I’m glossing over some things, but that’s how I remember it. Then the book tells about an uprising in Cairo after Napoleon planned to tax religious lands, which had never been done in the 1000 year Muslim history of Egypt. This turned in to street-to-street fighting, with the Arab insurgents fortifying a Mosque. After a day or two, French artillery was able to decimate the stronghold and razed it to the ground. A few hundred French were killed, and a few thousand Cairo citizens. A few hundred more Arabs were beheaded for their roles in the uprising. So much for winning the hearts and minds.

October 7th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte Finished up the aftermath of the Battle of Abukir Bay and Napoleon’s blatant lies sent back to the Directory. He seems to have had no shame when it came to hiding from blame. I guess when your ego is that big, it is a non-issue. Only your image and desires matter. This was followed up with some information on the ongoing struggle for supremacy and governing of Egypt. Some institutes and councils were set up to steer the country, but the Mameluke armies and other raiders were still at large. Outside the captured cities, the country was very deadly for the French. They had very little support from the natives. With the fleet destroyed, there was no hope of returning to France. With a black spot on his record, it was during this time that Napoleon starts to plan further conquest of the Middle East. Also, his wife is still cheating on him. Napoleon is a sad little man.

October 6th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte The Battle of the Pyramids is much less eventful than its name sounds. More or less one repulsed, though brave, Mameluke cavalry charge and the whole army collapsed. Napoleon was able to get Cairo to surrender that same day. A week or so later, the British fleet finally found the French fleet. The French had not left Abukir Bay since the July 3rd landing, unable to enter the shallow and outdated Alexandria docks. Not wanting the to abandon the army, Admiral Brueys stayed in place instead of finding safer, more distant waters. Stuck in place for weeks with little food, much of which was taken by Napoleon, the crews were weak and dwindling. Napoleon, famous for his empty promises, said food would be coming. However, by August 1st the British attacked immediately after finding the French position. The fight raged through the night and next day, with the French surrendering the 3rd. The book says July 3rd, which is not the first error I’ve found in it. The author previously said something that had taken place in Louis XV’s reign had taken place in Louis XVI’s. You’d think times and dates would be of high importance in a history book. Anyway, the French fleet was essentially destroyed.

October 5th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte There was more information on the first 3 weeks or so of Napoleon’s Egypt campaign. Most of it was describing the unpreparedness and incompetence of the army, with men dying for hunger and thirst, cavalrymen and transport without horses, and no maps to speak of. They slowly spread throughout the Nile delta, taking towns between long, deadly marches in the desert, while being raided by Bedouins and Arabs. After a battle or two with the Mamelukes, the French army marches towards Cairo, before the army collapses, for a coup-de-grace for the control of the country.

October 4th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte Mostly a continuation of the journey to Egypt, the French navy stopped to take Malta along the way. As a result of some cunning espionage, Napoleon knew the formidable and unconquerable fortress was barely occupied by, and after some pretense of not being able to get fresh water, launched a short attack. The Knights and Maltese surrendered after only a few hours and the island became a Napoleonic republic. During all this, Admiral Nelson’s English fleet had not only caught up to Napoleon, but reached Alexandria before him, and left after finding no sign of the French. This led to Napoleon, after reaching Alexandria, to changing his plans and foolishly attempted to land in the middle of a severe storm. With dozens of men drowned and no provisions, the French marched on Alexandria and took the city after a few hours. While he proclaimed that only the Mamelukes were their target and that all Egyptian property and institutions would be spared, there is no way he could have guaranteed that without executing hundreds of soldiers. Even then, many of his soldiers were to face death by hunger or thirst in the unproviding desert.
A History of Russia Finished the chapter on culture. There were some notes on literature as social commentary, the sciences, and the arts. There was a great borrowing and advancements gained from Western technology. Apparently, there was a brilliant Russian scientist in the first half of the 18th century named Mikhail Lomonosov, born a peasant. I'll have to look into him a little more. Also, this century saw a Westernization of architecture and some great works, including the entire city of St. Petersburg. Western arts were introduced at this time, such as opera, theater, and ballet. What starts off as imitation will become famously Russian in the 19th century.

October 3rd, 2021

A History of Russia

The next chapter was a short one about economics and society in the 18th century. I have very little interest in economics; I find it dry and boring. Like everywhere else in the world, Russia became more industrialized and had more international trade. Not much more to it than that. As mentioned before, the peasant class sank lower and lower throughout the century as the 1% aristocratic class consolidated more power over them and gained the legal right to force more labor or good from them. Although Paul created a law that limited the number of days a serf was required to work for the landlord, there was no way to enforce it. One interesting point is the decline in the position of the priestly class. Catherine the Great secularized church lands in 1764, and priests as a result became poorer and essentially depended on charity from the even poorer peasants. Russia significantly expanded its borders this century, and gained many different ethic populations. Germans, Jews, Poles, Muslims, Cossacks, and various Asian groups were now under the dominion of the emperor, but the state was, in general, largely tolerant or indifferent. This was a per-nationalistic era, so there was no great push for the Russification of minority groups. This will be a problem of the next century.

Also started a chapter on 18th century culture. Education was an important project for Peter the Great, who founded several higher institutions of learning. He was very focused on science and technology, though there were also military academies. He also replaced the Cyrillic numeral system with the Arabic. I had no idea a Cyrillic system existed; I assumed they used Roman numerals like other European countries. I think it is based on an old Greek system, most likely borrowed from the Byzantines. Apparently it still has use in Orthodox texts. Interesting! Education came under further prominence with the reign of Catherine the Great, who adapted the Austrian model of Joseph II to Russia. This brought elementary schools and higher levels of schooling to the empire. She even founded schools for girls. It's nice to see what good things international cooperation can bring about. Russian language also came into its own, become a more literate language and asserting itself in the face of the dominant Church Slavonic. It seems literature was building a strong foundation, though I think the 19th century is where the peak of Russian literature will be found.

October 2nd 2021

A History of Russia This went over some of the international events that occurred during Catherine’s reign. The main concern was expansion of Russian territory. A couple of wars with the Ottoman’s earned Russia Crimea and some land on the coast of the Black Sea. Also discussed were the partitions of Poland, which I did not know there were three of. Poland at this time had a very powerful aristocratic “parliament” and a king, who I believe was elected, with very little power. This parliament had some odd rules that led to chaos and disorder, which Austria, Prussia, and Russia used as pretenses for invading and taking some land. In the 1790s, after two partitions, the Poles starting getting it together and had a whole new constitution, which a hereditary monarch and two legislative houses, the lower house which was composed of the middle class. This sounds very similar to the British model, or a European style of the new American constitution. Some of these Poles, I don’t know how many, had fought in the American Revolution. Poland, unfortunately for them, was not given enough time to implement to let is new system flourish, and all the lands were lost to the the strong monarchies it was surrounded by. The chapter ends on the Catherine’s son, Paul’s, short reign, who brought a sort-of counter “revolution” to Catherine’s Enlightenment inspired reign. He is probably best known for joining the Second Coalition against France, leaving, then allying with Napoleon. It seems everyone hated him, and he was killed in a coup. His son Alexander I becomes tsar, we enter the 19th century.

October 1st, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte Some more filler info about the lead up to setting sail to Egypt. Somehow, they managed to get it together and move out. There was some information on the number of ships, types of ships, but I wasn't really interested. I never cared much for naval history. There were a few pages about Gaspard Monge, a scientist who became a close friend of Napoleon in Italy. He seems to have been an interesting man, but an extreme Jacobin of the Robespierre type. I do not like or agree with the Jacobins. Bloodshed and massacre will not bring equality. The attempt to appeal to the lowest rungs of society and use them as an army to force your will is disgusting. Direct democracy is mob rule and a horrible idea. I can't imagine living in Paris at that time and not developing a strong distaste for the masses, like Napoleon did.

September 30th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte I got distracted and don't really remember what I read. Not a whole lot happened. Still no invasion of Egypt yet. Napoleon was going to go to some conference in Austria, but acted like a hot-head and the Directory changed their minds. Seems like it was a bad idea to begin with. I never met the guy, but I get the feeling you can tell after one conversation that you wouldn't be able to trust Napoleon behind your back.

September 29th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte The author uses too many exclamation points. I think that's bad form. It's interesting how much a short-sighted and delusional man like Napoleon was able to accomplish. He had some crazy ideas about war with England, invading Britain, India, and Egypt all at the same time. He should have known how unrealistic that would be after barely succeeding in Italy, which did not require any sort of navy. Yet somehow, he still finds a way to make it out on top. I guess the cunning side outweighs the dreamer side. After 7 years of war, it's shocking that France even found a way to take Egypt, though I already know it won't end well for them. The warfront constantly expands, and even though half the men who started the war were sent to the guillotine, a war started is hard to stop.

September 28th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte A rather boring chapter today. The author misused the word "literally". It kind of drones on about Napoleon concluding peace with Austria at Campo Formio, which is interesting, and goes through his summoning to France and abandoned invasion of England, which is not. It's just setting up for the invasion of Egypt. The Treaty of Campo Formio was a big deal, removing Austria from the war and legitimizing French conquests of Lombardy, Belgium/Netherlands, and territories up to the Rhine. I also like that it was essentially signed out of spite after Napoleon caught wind that he was to be sent back to France. I don't know of many instances in history where a war is ended out of spite.

September 27th, 2021

Napoleon Bonaparte Read about end of Napoleon's campaign in Italy against the Austrians. It seems there was a lot of gambling and luck that resulted in one Austian army surrendering before Napoleon turned towards Vienna. There's no chance he could've have taken Vienna and probably would have lost everything behind him once he left the area, but I guess war weariness got to the Austrians and a settlement was agreed to. Fortuna fortes adjuvat or whatever they say. Obviously Napoleon is competent, but could another man with equal determinedness have accomplished this victory? Probably. Throwing men to the meat grinder is easy if you're indifferent to their lives. I would have like more maps of the campaign. There is one large, general map, but it lacks terrain and many towns mentioned, especially in the Papal States. More detailed, smaller scale maps would have been better.
A History of Russia Read about Catherine the Great, and I feel that there will be a lot more of her coming. For an autocrat, she does seem rather "enlightened". A lot of forward progress in one direction, but a lot of backwardness as far as classes go. Another case of helping the nobility to the detriment of the lowest classes. It got me thinking about how the lowest wrung of people should be treated in society. Of course, any sort of hereditary class is unacceptable. Merit and ability need to determine where one goes. I'm not even opposed to the idea of keeping people tied to the land or a location. Forcing it is bad. Coercion is a bit more acceptable, but people should be attracted to the idea. You most likely could get people in this country to sign a contract where they stay in some sort of factory town for a few years, and if you give them nice things for free, no rent, they'd re-sign. I enjoyed reading about Pugachev's Rebellion, 1772-1774. A cossack pretending to be Peter III, Catherine's dead husband, he roused all the peasants/serfs, ethnic minorites, and religious oppressed into essentially burning the countryside. I always enjoy when someone pretends to be a dead claimant to the throne. Earlier in the beginning of the 17th century, I believe there were three separate people pretending to be Ivan the Terrible's dead son. It never ends well.

September 26th, 2021

A History of Russia I wrote something and accidently hit backspace twice on the browser, wiping out what I wrote. The lesson learned here is to write it in notepad first, then copy it onto here. Since I can't organically reproduce what I had already written, I will be brief. I read the chapter on the reigns of the 6 emporers between Peter the Great and Catherine the Great, 1725-1762. There were a few interesting things of note. A lot of Peter's work was undone, such as his compulsive gentry service and his strong merit system for military and civil ranks. The rank system survived, though people who went to "officer school" could jump the ranks, and his rewards of nobility to higher ranks were removed. Thus the gentry became closed and was no longer obligated to serve the state. This robbed the "middle" classes, merchants or artisans, from access to the upper classes. The lowest classes, peasants and serfs, sank lower and lower into what was essentially slavery. I did not know about any of these tsars really, only hearing of Catherine the Great's husband Peter III. It was a very haphazard line of succession. I also did not know that under Elizabeth, Russia had done very well in the Seven Year's War. They had even occupied Berlin, although all this work was undone by Peter III's exiting the war.


Updated 12/29/21