The illusions of revolution – how Karl Marx misled historians…and the world…

I spotted some protestors a while back in central Wellington. “Aha,” I said to myself, “the people’s revolution is happening a century too late.” But it wasn’t. It was a group of public servants wanting a pay rise. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the western world was riven by upheaval; the radical … More The illusions of revolution – how Karl Marx misled historians…and the world…

Learning the dark truth of the human condition

Human reality is a funny thing. Society, as a whole, behaves differently from individuals – yet is made up of them. Understanding people, individually and en masse, is the raison d’etre of the social sciences. And it strikes me that conceptual realities of human nature often emerge in front of our noses, often in microcosm. I … More Learning the dark truth of the human condition

‘Blowing’ Messines ridge – a century ago today

It’s a century, this June 7, since the British blew up Messines Ridge, part of the front line of the Ypres salient where they had been wedged against the Germans since the end of 1914. The blast involved most of the 1,307,800 pounds of ammonal, dynamite, gun cotton and blasting gelatine TNT, amatol and other explosives … More ‘Blowing’ Messines ridge – a century ago today

Why history is all about trends and vectors

The other month I had an interesting discussion about historians and history. The issue came up of enthusiasts who style themselves ‘historians’ – but whose qualifications are in a totally unrelated area. What was the difference between their stuff and what I’m doing? There is a huge difference, I explained. Anybody with an enthusiasm for … More Why history is all about trends and vectors

The earthquake apocalypse – it’s coming. Probably.

Something slightly scary occurred to me the other day. Analysis of the Mw 7.8 quake that ripped through central New Zealand last November suggests it was awesomely complex. We usually imagine quakes being caused when one fault line moves. Or maybe two or three faults, because faults tend to exist in connected systems. And often, … More The earthquake apocalypse – it’s coming. Probably.

Why Yetis, Abominable Snowmen and Nessie probably don’t exist

It appears there’s a new effort to find the mysterious monster that, allegedly, lives in Loch Ness. Water taken from the loch will be DNA-analysed for its biodiversity. If there are any odd genes in it, they’ll show up. Apparently. Personally I’m sceptical. The problem with the Loch Ness Monster is that for such a … More Why Yetis, Abominable Snowmen and Nessie probably don’t exist