Let My People Go!: Using Historical Synchronisms to Identify the Pharaoh of the Exodus

0615687946.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Let My People Go!: Using Historical Synchronisms to Identify the Pharaoh of the Exodus by Steven Collins
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The debate on if the Bible is historical comes down to one event for proponents on both sides, The Exodus, not only if it happened but when. Let My People Go!: Using Historical Synchronisms to Identify the Pharaoh of the Exodus by Steven Collins combines what the Biblical text says with the historical record that Egyptologists and other historians have pieced together from numerous ancient sources in search of the man who Moses confronted.

Collins begins by examining the variables of the problem at hand from the actual Biblical account of events as well as the geographic extent of place names used, the propagandic nature of Pharaonic Egypt, and the on-the-ground facts that modern Egyptologists have constructed to get at actual history behind the propaganda. Using the Biblical account of the events from the time of Joseph to Joshua’s conquest of Canaan, in particular the consequences and impact of the Exodus events on Egypt, Collins looked to see if they matched up with Egyptian and wider Middle Eastern history at anytime to see if the Bible was historically accurate. Using this “synchronism” method, Collins pinpointed the 18th Dynasty’s rise as an anti-Semitic, due to the foreign Hyksos, empire that reached the Euphrates to it’s suddenly rapid fall internationally with domestic upheaval as seen with Akhenaten to the era that matched most of the points of reference. Collins then eliminated one-by-one the established candidates of the 18th Dynasty, as well as Ramesses II given popular culture, that Biblical scholars and mainstream Egyptologists put forward as the Pharaoh of the Exodus then showed how the “synchronism” timeline didn’t match the historical timeline. Collins ends the main body of the text with establishing Thutmose IV, the last Pharaoh of the powerful Thutmosid empire before it’s dramatic decline under his son Amenhotep III and grandson Akhenaten, as fitting perfectly the events of the Bible to go with the historical record.

In roughly 142 pages filled with text as well as tables and charts, Collins puts forward his case for the Pharaoh of the Exodus. Overall the scholarly portion of this monograph is very good for familiar with the Bible and the general history of the era, yet Collins unfortunately tried to find a middle ground between his main audience of Christians (fundamentalists or otherwise) and general readers that did not work as he explained a tad too much for one and too little for the other. The short length of the book and its layout between the covers were also problematic. In lengthening the book to explain certain things like the avenue of mainstream research he was comparing the Biblical events to and the leading Egyptologists behind them, even if those same individuals find the Exodus dubious; the book’s layout was unfortunately a mess considering it had very informative tables and charts, but those items were times with the text explaining them and at others back in the appendixes resulting the use of numerous bookmarks or looking back and forth.

Let My People Go! is an informative look at the Biblical narrative of the Israelite sojourn in Egypt, the Exodus, and the beginning of the Conquest in comparison to the mainstream view of ancient Egyptian and Middle Eastern history. While Steven Collins brings a lot of knowledge to the subject and does well to bring it across to the reader, his efforts are undercut by length and layout of the book which doesn’t do justice to his argument.

Discovering the City of Sodom

The Histories (Herodotus)

1593081022.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Histories by Herodotus
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A generation had no living memory of the greatest danger that the Greeks had ever lived through, but one man decided to change all that and gift posterity with a new genre. The Histories written by Herodotus details 80 crucial years from the rise of the Persian Empire to the defeat the remnants of Xerxes expedition and the events that led to the latter.

Using knowledge gleamed from extensive travel across the ancient world Herodotus begins his historical narrative by giving the ‘legendary’ encounters between the peoples of Europe and Asia before delving into the more ‘historical’ events that lead to Xerxes’ grand expedition. Herodotus details the history of the kingdom of Lydia that was the first to conquer populations of Greeks, those in western Anatolia, and how its great king Croesus lost his war to Cyrus the Great thus placing those same Greeks under the rule of Persia. The history of the Medes and their conquest by the Persians is related then the subsequent history of the Persian Empire until the Ionian revolt which led to the intervention of Athens and setting the stage for Darius expedition to Marathon. Intertwined with the rise of Persia was Herodotus relating the events within various Greek city-states, in particular Athens and Sparta, that contributed to the reasons for first Darius’ expedition and then to Xerxes’. Eventually his narrative would go back and forth between the two contending sides throughout the latter conflict as events unfolded throughout 480-479 BC.

The sheer volume of material that Herodotus provides is impressive and daunting for a reader to consider. Not only does he cover the political and military events, but numerous past historical and general culture aspects as well as lot of biographies and antidotal digressions that add color to the overall piece. Given that this was the first history ever written it’s hard to really criticize Herodotus—though Thucydides apparently had no problem later—but some digressions I wish Herodotus had left out or not heard at all.

The Histories by Herodotus is one of classic historical works that needs to be read by anyone who enjoys reading history. Whether or not you love the style of writing or even the topic, this book is important because it literally is the first history book.

The Rise and Fall of the British Empire

031216985x.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Rise and Fall of the British Empire by Lawrence James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The largest empire in history ended less than a century ago, yet the legacy of how it rose and how it fell will impact the world for longer than it existed. Lawrence James’ chronicles the 400-year long history of The Rise and Fall of the British Empire, from its begins on the eastern seaboard of North American spanning a quarter of the world to the collection of tiny outposts scattered across the globe.

Neither a simple nor a comprehensive history, James looks at the British Empire in the vain of economic, martial, political, and cultural elements not only in Britain but in the colonies as well. Beginning with the various settlements on the eastern seaboard of North America, James describes the various colonies and latter colonial administrators that made their way from Britain to locations around the globe which would have an impact on attitudes of the Empire over the centuries. The role of economics in not only the growth the empire but also the Royal Navy that quickly became interdependent and along with the growth of the Empire’s size the same with the nation’s prestige. The lessons of the American War of Independence not only in terms of military fragility, but also politically influenced how Britain developed the “white” dominions over the coming centuries. And the effect of the liberal, moralistic bent of the Empire to paternally watch over “lesser” peoples and teach them clashing with the bombast of the late-19th Century rush of imperialism in the last century of the Empire’s exists and its effects both at home and abroad.

Composing an overview of 400-years of history than spans across the globe and noting the effects on not only Britain but the territories it once controlled was no easy task, especially in roughly 630 pages of text. James attempted to balance the “positive” and “negative” historiography of the Empire while also adding to it. The contrast between upper-and upper-middle class Britons thinking of the Empire with that of the working-class Britons and colonial subjects was one of the most interesting narratives that James brought to the book especially in the twilight years of the Empire. Although it is hard to fault James given the vast swath of history he tackled there were some mythical history elements in his relating of the American War of Independence that makes the more critical reader take pause on if the related histories of India, South Africa, Egypt, and others do not contain similar historical myths.

The Rise and Fall of the British Empire is neither a multi-volume comprehensive history nor a simple history that deals with popular myths of history, it is an overview of how an island nation came to govern over a quarter of the globe through cultural, economic, martial, and political developments. Lawrence James’s book is readable to both general and critical history readers and highly recommended.