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Astral Codex Ten Podcast

Aug 22, 2022

Finalist #15 in the Book Review Contest

[This is one of the finalists in the 2022 book review contest. It’s not by me - it’s by an ACX reader who will remain anonymous until after voting is done, to prevent their identity from influencing your decisions. I’ll be posting about one of these a week for several months. When you’ve read them all, I’ll ask you to vote for a favorite, so remember which ones you liked.]

I bought this book because of its charming title: 1587, A Year of No Significance: The Ming Dynasty in Decline.

A year of no significance? It's not often a history book makes me laugh, but that did. Sure, many history books investigate the insignificant, but your typical author doesn't call your attention to it.

This book, by Ray Huang, was first published in the early 1980s; I came across it only recently as a recommendation on The Scholar's Stage (a blog which I found through some link on ACX/SSC a while back.)

A little backstory: in my younger days, I thought it might be fun and useful to learn the entire history of the world. To that end, I started with accounts of archaeology and prehistory, then the ancient civilizations, classical antiquity, and so on until I lost momentum somewhere around Tamerlane and the Black Death.

Probably the biggest thing I learned is that human history is little more than 5000 years of gang war.