Triumph of the West 1

When I was a boy I read something about the ancient Romans which made a tremendous impression upon me. Here in Rome they used to hold ceremonies which they called triumphs… For them a triumph was a celebration held when a victorious general came back from the wars. On his return from his campaign they would put him in a chariot put a wreath of victory on his brows and then draw him through the streets in honour to the Capitol where the senate would receive him… But the Romans were a cautious and superstitious people and to avert the malice of the gods and to remind their general just who he was they put somebody else in the chariot too, a slave. From time to time the slave would lean forward and say to the general “Remember, remember thou too are human”.

Near the start of his masterly television essay on certain aspects of the history of the last 3,000 years the historian John M Roberts speaks these words. One can’t help thinking that his reference to this historical detail and his personalisation of it suggest that he, as a historian, is reminding himself of his lack of omniscience. His work is the next best thing to omniscience as suggested in AJP Taylor’s review of Roberts’ History of the World

It is unbelievably accurate in its facts and almost incontestable in its judgements.

This 1st episode (again I will admit now that I don’t have a complete set) really stands by itself as being the argument in a nutshell. The series is in classical essay form with the introduction stating all that is going to follow in brief then subsequently the deeper analysis in largely chronological sequence and finally the reiteration of the main message and if there is to be any futurology it should happen at this point too. I can’t remember whether there is or not but I expect it’s there.

There’s a lot of very powerful archive footage – only short snippets for obvious budgetary reasons and in most cases that’s all you need to keep the flow of the narrative going. It’s about 50 minutes long, the opening and closing credits are a bit clipped and at 160Mb it may take a short moment to load.

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