Apologies to Thucydides: Understanding History as Culture and Vice Versa
Thucydides' classic work on the history of the Peloponnesian War is the root of Western conceptions of history—including the idea that Western history is the foundation of everyone else's. Here, Marshall Sahlins takes on Thucydides and the conceptions of history he wrought with a groundbreaking new book that shows what a difference an anthropological concept of culture can make to the writing of history.
Sahlins begins by confronting Thucydides' account of the Peloponnesian War with an analogous "Polynesian War," the fight for the domination of the Fiji Islands (1843-55) between a great sea power (like Athens) and a great land power (like Sparta). Sahlins draws parallels between the conflicts with an eye to their respective systems of power and sovereignty as well as to Thucydides' alternation between individual (Pericles, Themistocles) and collective (the Athenians, the Spartans) actors in the making of history. Characteristic of most histories ever written, this alternation between the agency of "Great Men" and collective entities leads Sahlins to a series of incisive analyses ranging in subject matter from Bobby Thomson's "shot heard round the world" for the 1951 Giants to the history-making of Napoleon and certain divine kings to the brouhaha over Elián Gonzalez. Finally, again departing from Thucydides, Sahlins considers the relationship between cultural order and historical contingency through the recounting of a certain royal assassination that changed the course of Fijian history, a story of fratricide and war worthy of Shakespeare.
In this most convincing presentation yet of his influential theory of culture, Sahlins experiments with techniques for mixing rich narrative with cultural explication in the hope of doing justice at once to the actions of persons and the customs of people. And he demonstrates the necessity of taking culture into account in the creation of history—with apologies to Thucydides, who too often did not.
What people are saying - Write a review
We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.
Adi Qereitoga allies American April Athenians Athens Bau and Rewa Bau’s Bauan bêche-de-mer brother Cakau Cakaudrove canoes chieﬂy clan conﬂict Cuban death Eagleston Elián empire enemies father ﬁfth century ﬁg ﬁghting Fiji Fijian ﬁrst ﬂeet forces genealogy gods Gonzalez Greek Hellenic helots Hocart human Hunt ibid individual inﬂuence island Jaggar January kava killed king’s kingdom kingship land Lasakau Levuka Lyth Macuata Messenian Miami missionary mother Nabaubau Nakelo ofﬁce Peloponnesian Peloponnesian War political Ratu Cakobau Ratu Qaraniqio Ratu Raivalita Ratu Ta¯noa relations Rewa Rewa Delta Rewa king Rewa’s Rewan Ro Coka¯nauto Ro Kania Ro Veidovi Roko Tui Bau Roko Tui Dreketi royal rulers ruling chiefs sacred king sacriﬁce signiﬁcance sister social society Spartans speciﬁc structural Suva Thomson Thuc Thucydides tion Tongan town tradition Tui Kaba uterine nephew Vanua Levu vasu Verata Viti Levu Viwa Vunivalu Vunivalu of Bau warriors Wilkes WMMS/L
Page 6 - has more yams than he wants, let him exchange some of them away for pork or gnatoo. Certainly money is much handier, and more convenient, but then, as it will not spoil by being kept, people will store it up, instead of sharing it out, as a chief ought to do, and thus become selfish ; whereas, if...