The story of Alexander the Great has inspired conquerors and would-be conquerors throughout history. Alexander’s sweep through the Middle East and Central Asia left behind evidence of his mark on history—namely, in the several cities that he founded, and that sprung up to govern the kingdoms he left behind.
Opium’s role in the history of East Asia has been well-documented, most notably perhaps in Julia Lovell’s definitive 2011 book The Opium War. This, and others like it, deal with the issue mostly from the perspective of the consuming countries, in particular China; Thomas Manuel’s Opium Inc. is noteworthy in focusing just as much on the producer: India.
Alexander McCall Smith, of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency fame, has moved, literarily if not literally, from Africa and Scotland to Sri Lanka. He has placed the story of his latest novel The Pavilion in the Clouds, on the grounds of a tea plantation in colonial Ceylon.
Loyalty to family. Trusting instincts. The will to survive. These virtues are deeply embedded in a mature Dutch teenager, Annika Wolter. Her attributes prove useful as she navigates typical coming-of-age insecurities and a blossoming romance with a handsome lieutenant in 1939 Batavia, Java.
In the 11th-century Persian classic Book of Alexander, the great world conqueror goes to the farthest reaches of the world, only to have a wiseman show him what he was looking for, in a mirror—self-awareness. But as Edmund Richardson shows here in his powerful retelling of the life of Charles Masson, we do not live only to know ourselves. We are social animals and we care very much what others think about us. Alexander’s quest led, if not to gnostic knowledge, then to undying fame. Masson’s quest for Alexander’s lost city in the Hindu Kush ended in poverty and obscurity. What did Masson lack that other great explorers and archaeologists had?
In an essay in Open magazine in 2017, Roderick Matthews, a freelance writer who studied history at Balliol College, Oxford, criticized Shashi Tharoor’s book Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India for its one-sided, wholly negative view of British rule in India.
History is commonly thought to be a subject about discovering the past in terms of exploring the origins and beginnings. Manan Ahmed Asif has previously written about resisting the need to look for beginnings and focusing on belonging.