Monday, May 15, 2006

I started Bury the Chains, by Adam Hochschild this weekend. I'd heard about this book quite some time ago, meant to pick it up, but then completely forgot about it until I saw Hochschild interviewed on the CBC last week. Then I remembered I wanted to read this book and picked it up on Friday.

Bury the Chains looks at what was probably the world's first organized social campaign, the campaign to abolish the slave trade in Britian during the late 1700s. What is so amazing about this is that nothing like this movement had ever happened before, and those who started it were moved to do so because of the suffering of people half a world away from them. It is a remarkable thing that we, in this modern day and age, supposedly take for granted, but when we allow things like the genocides in Rwanda and Darfur to occur, well, it seems like things haven't changed all that much.

But so far, its a fascinating book. We've met some of the major players in the movement, men who were moved by the hardships and brutality suffered by slaves, some of whom had been involved in the slave trade themselves. But most interesting of all, was that the movement was really started by, and organized by, Quakers. I had never known this and found it fascinating. These men started just about every practice we take for granted today as being part of a social, reform movement; petitions, letter-writing campaigns, fund-raising, even the forerunner to political slogan-type campaign buttons.

Anyway, I'm only about half way through it, and the main players are still organizing themselves and are gathering amunition to use against the slave trade (they found huge support in the pre-Industrial Revolution city of Manchester, one of the few cities in England whose economy was not dependent upon the slave trade) and in trying to win over all-important Anglicans (for only Anglicans could vote and be Members of Parliament) to their cause.

The sections about the treatment of the slaves and what they went through is particularly horrifying, but well balanced with the more uplifting sections about the successes the abolitionists were having. It is a good strategy in the narrative, for the brutality does not become too much that it just makes you simply want to stop reading. You experience outrage, but you want to continue to see what happens and how the inevitable end, the abolition of slavery in the British Empire, comes about.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Whew, I was right, hockey playoffs have completely screwed up my reading time. Even with my favourite teams out, I'm still watching hockey. I'm so weak :)

Plus, I've finally been able to start riding my bike into work again, so no subway to read on.

So, I haven't really started anything new since finishing Mad Merlin. In fact, I went back for a re-read on two of my favourite Arthurian books, The Child Queen and The High Queen. They're told from Guinevere's perspective, and she's not bad in these books. A little drama-queenesque, but definitely not as completely unsympathetic as she is often portrayed. And the Lancelot in these books is a hot-head, and I like that about him. These books also have a GREAT Arthur. He's definitely one of my favourite Arthur's ever; very real, very personable, very... Arthur.

But yes, I still have to launch myself into Peter David's Knight Life. That will be next.

I've also started the painstaking process of carefully re-reading (and taking notes) Le Morte D'Arthur. I've recently had this wild idea that I would like to 'prove' that Lancelot was the best knight, statistically speaking. I mean, Malory is great with listing off EVERYONE who fought in tournaments; who unhorsed who, who fought who on the ground, etc., and I thought it would be fun to go through Le Morte D'Arthur and actually do sports like stats for the various knights. If I ever did get the opportunity to go and do my Master's Degree, this is completely what my thesis would be. Yes, I'm weird :)