From my list on politics and economics in preindustrial societies.
Who am I?
I've always been fascinated with history. The study of economic history allows me to combine my passion for understanding the past with a rigorous and systematic set of analytical tools. In my own work I'm interested in understanding the economic, political, and institutional transformations that have created the modern world. The books I've selected here help us better understand quite how different the past and they have proven to be invaluable to me as inspirations.
Mark's book list on politics and economics in preindustrial societies
Why did Mark love this book?
Syme was wrote about the fall of the Roman Republic in the shadow of the rise of totalitarianism.
But for me what is most interesting about this book is its use of collective biography and its argument that the rise of Caesar and Augustus is best understood as the rise of a party or a faction. Most books on the Late Republic focus on the larger-than-life personalities: Caesar, Pompey, Crassus, and Cicero. Syme focuses on structures and systematic factors.
He writes with an at times jarring cynicism. His treatment of Cicero is particularly critical for example. For Syme, all states are governed by coalitions of elites.
And the writing is unforgettable: "a monarchy rules through an oligarchy"; "at its worst, biography is flat and schematic: at its best, it is often baffled by the hidden discords of human nature... undue insistence on upon the character and exploits of a single…