Two articles from the Washington Post have, over the last few days, finalised a new content idea I’ve been having for a while for this place.
First up came a quick overview of the ongoing dispute between Greece and Macedonia over who “owns” Alexander the Great, and then today up pops an article about yesterday’s elections in Moldova, describing the failure of the Communist Party to win as a victory for “Pro-West parties”.
Of course, it’s all a lot more complicated than that – not just the present-day politics, but also the history, in both cases stretching back centuries. And the press, with precious little interest in “foreign” news at the best of times, rarely manages to give much historical context beyond the superficial. (“Oh yeah, Moldova – that used to be Communist, right? Or is it still Communist? God knows – but it’s probably something to do with the Cold War. That’ll do.”)
But, let’s face it, few of us – even those of us who studied history at university – have a solid enough grasp of Europe’s past to know the basic backstory to *every* ongoing dispute. We can always make guesses – neighbours are always likely to come into conflict, after all – but the specifics are often lost. Hell, there’s a good chance that – thanks to the usually national-focus of most history teaching in schools and universities – that large chunks of European history are entirely unknown by many readers, be it the Early Modern big beasts of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Spanish Netherlands, or the lost realms of Europe, the Venices, Savoys, Anjous, Brandenburgs, Wallachias, Achaeas, Trebizonds and the rest.
With all the politicians off on holiday for the next few weeks – and being, as I am, bored rigid with all the petty political squabbles – this looks like a good time to start adding to this site’s long-neglected “Culture” and “History” sections with a few (hopefully) handy introductory articles providing a slightly more coherent and considered bit of context to current events than you’ll find on Wikipedia. Plus, just for fun, the odd look at more obscure and forgotten bits of Europe’s history and culture, like my piece on wannabe European states from a while back. A good excuse to expand my knowledge and justify sitting back with a few books – expanding my knowledge was the whole point of starting to blog, after all.
Sound good to you? Or should I stick to politics?