The Effect of Cultural Differences in the Roman Empire on the Art of Ancient Rome

This essay attempts to show how the expansion of the Roman Empire led to acculturation – the transfer of values and customs from the Romans to the other peoples that became part of the Empire. I argue that, although the Romans copied the art of other civilizations, as the Empire expanded to less developed societies, “Romanisation” – the spreading of Roman culture throughout the Empire – took place, and this was reflected in the art of those peoples living on the fringes of the Empire.

A Comment on Thomas L. Friedman’s (2016) New York Times article: “Donald Trump Voters, Just Hear Me Out”

Friedman makes an attempt to communicate with Trump’s electoral base by appealing to rational arguments: Trump is not a decent person; his policies to help the working class are a façade, etc. I argue that he fails because, although his supposed target audience is “Middle America” (blue–collar workers), his real audience is more intellectual – the kind of person who would read The New York Times. Friedman falls into the same trap that led to Hilary Clinton’s defeat by preaching to the converted: a middle-class America that might appreciate Friedman’s invention of the word “STEMpathy”. Trump voters voted against “the establishment”; Friedman is getting his articles read by it.

Monarchs and the Nobility as Patrons of the Enlightenment

The Enlightenment, stretching from the latter half of the 17th century to the start of the French Revolution, marks a philosophical turn away from the obscurantism imposed by the Church during the Middle Ages. Two major classes – the clergy and the aristocracy – wielded power over the mass of the people. The king served as a guarantor of the status quo, ideologically protected by the dogma known as the ‘divine right’ of kings to govern. The exercise of reason posed a serious threat to the established order. Given that the French Revolution may be seen as the culmination of enlightened thinking, it is odd to imagine that the very classes threatened by the enlightened thinkers were prepared to patronise them. It was in the interests of the privileged classes to curry favour with them out of fear of possible exposure in the press, and also to show them off as acquisitions which convey the prestige of the patron. This essay attempts to show how patronage varied throughout Europe.

The Political Situation in Iraq: A Snapshot from 2016

This essay attempts to assess the political situation in Iraq from a viewpoint in 2016. The political situation is extremely volatile and, given the major political events which have taken place on the world stage – the election of Trump, increasing tensions between Russia and the West, and Turkey’s unpredictable politics – any analysis can only be a snapshot of the way things are at a given moment. The essay looks at the antagonistic internal forces (Sunnis, Shias and Kurds); the geopolitical strategies of the major political world powers dating from the Sykes–Picot agreement involving the British and the French to the present–day involvement of the major world powers of Russia and the USA; the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL); and the prospect of a federal solution to the problem. The essay posits the problem of dealing with ISIL as the fundamental problem for the political future of Iraq.

The Effect of Technological and Scientific Advances on French 19th Century Painting (Extract)

This essay looks at the effect of 19th century scientific and technological discoveries on French painting. The most obvious advancement was photography which, although it initially threatened painting, later freed the artist from the need to recreate what could be seen. Other inventions also helped, including the metal squeezable tube and newer more gelatinous paints which prevented smudging.

The Importance of being Earnest: Social Criticism through Humor

Most of the literature written on the subject of humor in Wilde’s work concentrates on its psychological aspects or on the literary devices which make the humor work. In this essay, little attention is paid to either those psychological aspects or the literary devices. Instead, the essay provides a sociological approach to the play and focuses on the society that Wilde was attacking through humor. It is important to understand that late Victorian society was benefitting and suffering from the effects if the Industrial Revolution. The two major moneyed classes – the old landowning class and the bourgeoisie, the new capitalist class which had thrived on industry – now jostled for prestige in high society. In particular, Wilde exposes the landed gentry as being contemptuous of education, pretentious and overpreoccupied with appearances.

John Locke and Political Power (Extract)

Locke is recognised as one of the most prominant empiricists of the early Enlightenment but he was also a strong believer in liberty. It is possible to separate his philosophical ideas from his political beliefs but, I argue,  there was more room for religious faith for the rationalists than for the empiricists. The Church was the dominant power, along with the monarch, in the 17th century, and Locke had to contend with ideologues of power such as Robert Filmer. Filmer argued that kings ruled by divine right thus unifying the two most powerful forces. So Locke, who believed that the people had a right to revolt against an unjust king, had to tread carefully.