Tolstoy’s Theory of History

I’ve been really enjoying listening to the unabridged War and Peace (I’m listening to a reading by Neville Jason) as a commuting book. It’s episodic enough to be good when listened to in half hour increments, and it’s good enough to be a pleasure to hear while not so stylistic in its prose as to be make one feel as if one ought to be reading it rather than listening. However, this morning I hit one of Tolstoy’s chapter long theory-of-history sections, and was startled at how little sense it made. This is a chunk of Book 9, Chapter 1:

From the close of the year 1811 intensified arming and concentrating of the forces of Western Europe began, and in 1812 these forces—millions of men, reckoning those transporting and feeding the army—moved from the west eastwards to the Russian frontier, toward which since 1811 Russian forces had been similarly drawn. On the twelfth of June, 1812, the forces of Western Europe crossed the Russian frontier and war began, that is, an event took place opposed to human reason and to human nature. Millions of men perpetrated against one another such innumerable crimes, frauds, treacheries, thefts, forgeries, issues of false money, burglaries, incendiarisms, and murders as in whole centuries are not recorded in the annals of all the law courts of the world, but which those who committed them did not at the time regard as being crimes.

What produced this extraordinary occurrence? What were its causes? The historians tell us with naive assurance that its causes were the wrongs inflicted on the Duke of Oldenburg, the nonobservance of the Continental System, the ambition of Napoleon, the firmness of Alexander, the mistakes of the diplomatists, and so on. Continue Reading


Bishop John Carroll, Joshua Barney and the Bonapartes

One of the difficulties that I often experience when preparing a post on a historical topic for the blog, is deciding what to leave out.  Oftentimes I have far more material than I can put in a post, unless I want to transform the post into a treatise.  In the case of my recent post on Joshua Barney, American naval hero of the American Revolution and the War of 1812, I had to leave out quite a bit on his life.  One portion that I think might be of interest to our readers is his involvement with Jerome Bonaparte, brother to Napoleon Bonaparte.

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Pat Robertson, Haiti and History


For the benefit of Mr. Robertson.  The Haitians revolted during the French Revolution and the reign of Napoleon I.  The Haitians were never ruled by Napoleon III (1852-1870), having their independence recognized in 1825 by France.  Although Voodoo has been sadly ubiquitous in Haiti, there is no evidence of a pact between Satan and Haitian insurgents, although Robertson is not the only person to propound this myth, which is quite common in some evangelical circles.  A good article debunking this myth is here and here.  This of course is far from the first time that Pat Robertson has said something factually challenged and insulting, although considering the vastness of the tragedy, Robertson expounding his kook theory at this point as Haiti mourns countless dead and lies prostrate is truly beneath contempt.  Certain Catholic religious orders enjoin silence for the good of the souls of their members.  Mr. Robertson could benefit by following their example.

For those wishing to donate to Catholic Relief Services for Haiti, here is a link.