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06 August

History Book Reading Group: Blood of Tyrants – Before Reading


Blood of Tyrants Book

I’m starting a new book today.  I won it on a giveaway from the History Book Club.  If you would like to read along with me here is the reading schedule I will be following.  I’m starting the week one reading a little early today.  As with all books, when I start reading I first read the outer cover.

Back Cover

For Blood of Tyrants: George Washington & the Forging of the Presidency this means I’m reading reviews from other scholars.  All of the are promising.  My greatest concern with history books is that they will be dry so when I read the quotes on the back of the book I’m looking for ones like these:

  • “…page-turning historical thriller…”, says Amy Chua author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Day of Empire and World on Fire
  • “Logan Beirne demonstrates … this fresh and stimulating history of the American Revolution…”  James McPherson author of Battle Cry of Freedom and Crossroads of Freedom
  • In describing Washington: “…a long dead, white make, slave-owning aristocrat of the 18th century…” William Eskridge Jr. author of A Republic of Statutes and descent of George Eskridge the godfather of George Washington
  • “…prepare to be shocked, amazed and educated.”  Hon. Michael W. McConnell, Stanford Law professor, director of Stanford constitutional Law Center and former federal judge

Not bad huh?  Sounds like good reading.  That last one I like a lot.  I might have to steal it!

Listen to the Author Introduce the Book

Another great way to be introduced to this book is to let the author doing the talking.  In the podcast New Books in History the host interviews authors about their new books.  Thats just what happened with Logan Beirne.

Watch Beirne discuss his book with William Eskridge Jr. on C-SPAN’s Book TV.


Inside Cover

After I read the front and back cover I move on to the inside cover, since this is a hardcover book, and I see the overview of the book.  As I read, how this book will go over just how Washington made the rules of war up as he went along, I wonder if he will discuss Nathan Hale the brave young captain that stepped forward to be America’s first spy.  I’m learning a little bit about him while I write the September newsletter.  If you are not already subscribed, its free and you can sign up on the top right of this page.

Lastly I take a look at the inside back cover which introduces us to the author and gives us his background.  As you would guess Beirne’s background is chalked full of awards and prestigious universities.  But I found the last paragraph the most interesting:

Logan’s passion for the Revolution is in his blood-he is the directly descended from Revolutionary War patriots and his family tree includes the “Fathers of the Constitution,” James Madison.  Some of Washington’s papers were discovered in a storage chest belonging to one of Logan’s ancestors.

28 April

The Thirty Years War the Video


So here is the promised video.  All I did was create some slides to go along with the audio from the podcast.  I hope this is okay.  I’m looking for better ways to do this in the future, if you have any suggestions I would like to hear them in the comments.  I had some trouble viewing the video in Safari (try play in pop-up), but it works fine in Chome.  Let me know if there are issues with other browsers.  Thanks!


01 February

Feb 1, 1884 – Oxford Dictionary debuts


In 1857 the members of the Philological Society of London decided that the available english language dictionary were terrible.  They thought they could do better.  They new it was a huge project, but they didn’t know just how bad it was going to get.

The project proceeded at a snails pace.  It wasn’t until 1879 that the Society made a deal with the Oxford University Press and James A.H. Murray to begin on a new English Dictionary.

It was to be a 4 volume work, 6,400 pages in all.  It would include English language vocabulary from Early Middle English Period (1150 AD) to present.  It was estimated that the project would take about 10 years.  But 5 years later, they had only reached ‘ant’.  By Feb 1, 1884 they had published the first part of the dictionary.

In April 1928 the last volume was published.  It was no longer a 4 volume, 6,400 page work.  The project had ballooned into a 10 volume 400,000 page work.

Further Reading:

Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages – This book is about a man who spends a year reading the OED.  This is on my list of books to read and I’m looking forward to it.  From the book description: “Shea shares his year inside the OED, delivering a hair-pulling, eye-crossing account of reading every word.”

Concise Oxford English Dictionary: 11th Edition Revised 2008 – Take a go of it yourself and read the OED cover to cover.  If you do please let me know what you thought of the project.

In this video is the Yale University Library and Oxford University Press sponsored a panel lecture on October 1, 2008 to celebrate the 80th birthday of the Oxford English Dictionary, the comprehensive dictionary of the English language. The speakers were Fred Shapiro, Simon Winchester, Jesse Sheidlower, and Ammon Shea, and each brought unique and engaging insights to this discussion of the history, function, and future of the dictionary.