This week, we received four new history titles! These wide-ranging, fascinating books will be of interest to any history enthusiast. Keep reading to learn more.
The History of Pirates
Although there was never a universal Pirate Code, 17th and 18th century pirates in the Caribbean and elsewhere were often required to sign up to sets of semiformal rules, which became known as the Articles of Agreement. Pirate articles varied from one captain to another, and sometimes even from one voyage to another, but they generally included provisions for discipline (with death or marooning the common penalty), specifications for each crewmate’s share of treasure, and compensation for the injured. Each crew member was asked to sign or make his mark on the articles, then swear an oath of allegiance on crossed pistols or a human skull or astride a cannon.
This wide-ranging book looks at the reality of pirates’ honor among thieves, from the ancient world right up to the pirates of today’s cargo ships or luxury yachts in the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. “The History of Pirates” also examines the actions and pirate ethics of less famous pirates and their eras, such as the Japanese pirates of the 13th-16th centuries and Zheng Yi and his wife’s pirate alliance in 19th century China.
With features on particular pirates such as Blackbeard and William Kidd and how the pirate code evolved into today’s merchant shipping contracts, “The History of Pirates” illuminates the broader historical and geographical scope of piracy and provides a fascinating introduction to the reality of life on board a buccaneer ship.
The History of Punishment
Crime has been part of human society for centuries. It has been punished in many ways: from banishment to flogging and the death penalty. The History of Punishment reviews the penalties imposed in different cultures and times, addressing some intriguing questions:
• Can imprisonment reform a criminal?
• How can a punishment be made to fit the crime?
• Who should decide what is fit punishment – should the victim have a say?
This book takes a wide view of legally imposed punishment, looking at how it has been used in different societies (from Singapore to Pakistan) and different times (from ancient Greece right up to the present day). Alongside the clear and informative text, historical etchings and artworks as well as archive and press photographs offer a complete portrait of imprisonment, deportation, corporal punishment and the death penalty.
The History of Death
Death is universal, but each culture has found a different way of dealing with it. This wide-ranging book examines the compelling subject of death, funeral rites and burial in different cultures and societies, from the drama of medieval French royal funerals to the burial alive of the Dinka ‘masters of the spear’ in the Sudan, from the Egyptian pyramids to the Chinese terra-cotta army to elaborate Victorian mausolea, from the Grim Reeper to Hades and the Underworld.
Funerals can be solemn but also celebratory, drunken and even lascivious. From human sacrifice to ritual killings, from burial to cremation, from ancestor worship to concepts of the afterlife, The History of Death examines how through our passing we, in fact, define our lives.
God and the Goalposts
Crossing the goal line, with the football tucked safely in his arms, the NFL star falls on one knee, bows his head, crosses himself and utters a prayer of thanksgiving to God, giving one more example of the ever expanding connection between sports and religion.
At least it seems to be expanding. The question is: was there truly a notable surge in that relationship between sports and religion. And if there has been a surge, is it unique in history, or merely part of an ongoing ebb and flow?
This book offers a concise yet detailed account of this multifaceted association —and its implications for the ongoing game (the ultimate sport!) of trying to understand what we humans are as a species. Sports is one among many areas where religion and its concerns have played a role, and the interweave between sports and religion is as old as sports and as continuous as religion.
Contemporary instances are different from what one finds in Greek and Latin literature where gods are actively on the “playing field,” and directly leads to the first athletic competitions The discussion of biblical “athletes” offers a different religious connotation: the stories of Samson are religious in part simply because they are biblical.
The question of Islam and sports, or of Jewish success in the Olympics, or of how both Jews and Muslims manage to maintain aspects of their faiths when the athletic competitions in which they engage don’t leave space for that—or of the attitude of Judaism or Islam or Christianity to sports and physical accomplishment in general—is diverse. The discussion of Native American sports with origins in religious ritual is different still.
Moreover, “sports and religion” keeps intersecting—from different angles—sports and warfare, sports and politics, religion and politics, religion and warfare; and all these combinations intertwine aspects of art. Reading God and the Goalposts, it becomes clear that sport, in combination with religion is a major theme throughout the history of mankind.