Ancient History Lessons

empire.jpgI’ve been trying to brush up on some history lately. I simply don’t know everything I should in order to make my old history teacher proud of me. Ancient history is especially a weakness. And, really, I hadn’t thought of doing anything about it until I heard an interview on Book TV, which turned me on to a book I otherwise had overlooked at the neighborhood bookstore.

In Day of Empire author Amy Chua, a woman who is far smarter than I will ever be (hard to believe, I realize), argues that hyperpowers (a select number of countries that have enjoyed world dominance) rise in part because of their tolerance — their ability to attract and retain the world best and brightest — and that one factor in their fall is intolerance.

The word “tolerance” is used differently by Chua than in common parlance, but Chua clearly and articulately explains her thesis. More importantly to me, throughout the book she provides concise examinations of various empires, everything from the Romans to the British. The book is especially salient today given the debate about America’s supreme role in the world and Chua provides an interesting analysis of that topic.

I know in this summary I’ve made the book sound ambitious and, well, it is. But the prose is easy to read, not too scholarly, and I was able to follow along even given my historical deficiencies.

Given all of the interesting research Chua packed into this book, it’s also a good option if you’d like to impress friends at dinner parties.

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