While We’re Making Historical Comparisons Using the Italian Penisula…

In the Sunday NY Times, Chrystia Freeland has an excellent piece drawing similarities between the closure of Venice’s economy and political system by its elite families and today’s U.S. If we’re making such historical comparisons, something I wrote a while ago about the decline and fall of Rome also seems appropriate. Nations have a lot of ruin in them (as Adam Smith put it), but that ruin is not inexhaustible.

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3 Responses to While We’re Making Historical Comparisons Using the Italian Penisula…

  1. if you haven’t, please check out *The Fall of Rome: And the End of Civilization* it is shorter than goldsworthy’s book (i’ve read both, along with peter heather’s stuff), and more interesting to a typical scientist.

    • Thanks, I’ll check it out. Although the other part about Goldsworthy that I like is the idea that the Empire slowly faded away even after it officially fell.

      • that’s a huge debate within the late antique field. in general contemporary historians and archaeologists lean toward the change/evolution model instead of collapse. heather & ward-perkins are attempting to resurrect the collapse model. i’ll leave heather to the side since he’s a narrative historian focused on texts. ward-perkins though uses a materialist tack, and shows exactly the nature of the rupture in economic output between pre and post fall western empire. e.g., the british countryside didn’t have as much pollution as it did during the roman empire until the 18th or 19th centuries! though there is some truth to the gradualist narrative, especially when you focus on cultural phenomena. i think we have don’t have a good 1-2 sentence verbal description to property characterize happened. but why should we? it was a big fucking empire that lasted ~1,000 years in some form of continuity.

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