Rubicon by Tom HollandRead about the other entries on the list.
The week before the Brexit vote I decided to start rereading Tom Holland’s Rubicon (Abacus), his excellent popular history of the dying years of the Roman republic. I thought it would be bracing to spend some time in a world where the twists and turns of popular politics really could spell carnage. The mess we are now in has faint echoes of the death throes of the republic: personal vendettas that spill over into political chaos; populists who pander to the crowd and then don’t know how to silence it; foolhardy gambles and buyer’s remorse. But in truth, our politics is very different: the stakes are so much lower. We reach for Roman analogies – “Et tu, Gove?” – but we don’t really mean them. Civil wars in ancient Rome resulted in slaughter followed by famine. Politicians who fell out of favour could find their tongues nailed to the door of the senate. I suppose we should count our blessings.
If there is comfort to be had in reading about a time when bad political choices meant death and ruin, there is also a serious warning in Rubicon. Some commentators who fear the worst of contemporary democracy talk about the risk of a descent into fascism. This seems...[read on]