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Tag Archives: History

How little i know

All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror by Stephen Kinzer is a book i first read a few years ago and again re-read last year. It’s the only book i read on the events that led to the overthrow of Mohammad Mossaddegh in 1953 and the establishment of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi as the absolute ruler of Iran until the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

If you had asked me what happened it would have been very clear in my head. The American and British were instrumental in the 1953 events and Obama’s recent acknowledgment of the part played by the USA in the coup re-affirmed my belief. I should say, re-affirmed my belief in my own knowledge.

Yet it only took an article in the last Foreign Affairs issue, with the title What Really Happened in Iran, to cast doubt on the things i know. The author claims that the CIA and MI6 did play a part but that it was the Iranians and disaffection with Mossaddegh’s reign that led to his overthrow.

While reading the article i kept thinking “no, no that’s not how it happened.” But how i do know?

I’m basing all my arguments on a single book written by a journalist. Should i be comforted that it is critically acclaimed book? My absolute certainty about what happened is now simply “probably”. How do i fix that? Doing my own research is not a realistic option. By reading more books? How do i decide which books to read?

It made me realise how little i know about so many things i’m so sure about and it comes after reading this post I’m Just Realising How Stupid We Are.

I’ve learned that there’s a strong correlation between knowledge and humility.
People who spend 10 minutes on Google studying monetary policy think they have it all figured out, while people with Ph.D.s and decades of experience throw up their hands in frustration. The more you study economics, the more you realize how little we know about it.

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Posted by on June 23, 2014 in Antidote, Books

 

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Ascribing responsibility and the interpretation of history

Again, an older post but appropriate with the current events in Cyprus.

“Indeed, isn’t the whole business of ascribing responsibility a kind of cop-out? We want to blame an individual so that everyone else is exculpated. Or we can blame a historical process as a way of exonerating individuals. Or it’s all anarchic chaos, with the same consequence. It seems to me that there is – was – a chain of individual responsibilities all of which were necessary but not so long a chain that everybody can simply blame everyone else. But of course, my desire to ascribe responsibility might be more a reflection of my own cast of mind than a fair analysis of what happened. That’s one of the central problems of history, isn’t it sir? The question of subjective versus objective interpretation, the fact that we need to know the history of the historian in order to understand the version that it being put in front of us.”

Adrian Finn

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2013 in Quotes

 

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Ascribing responsibility and the interpretation of history

“Indeed, isn’t the whole business of ascribing responsibility a kind of cop-out? We want to blame an individual so that everyone else is exculpated. Or we can blame a historical process as a way of exonerating individuals. Or it’s all anarchic chaos, with the same consequence. It seems to me that there is – was – a chain of individual responsibilities all of which were necessary but not so long a chain that everybody can simply blame everyone else. But of course, my desire to ascribe responsibility might be more a reflection of my own cast of mind than a fair analysis of what happened. That’s one of the central problems of history, isn’t it sir? The question of subjective versus objective interpretation, the fact that we need to know the history of the historian in order to understand the version that it being put in front of us.”

Adrian Finn

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2012 in Books

 

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What is history?

“History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation”

Adrian Finn

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2012 in Books

 

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