Barren Metal, a Book Review


Having read E. Michael Jones’ work Libido Dominandi, where he exposes how global elites have used sexual “liberation” as a tool for political enslavement, a brilliant book, I was looking forward to reading Barren Metal which is a history of usury.  Sadly I was disappointed. This work is inferior to Libido Dominandi. I will first discuss the positive elements I found in the book and conclude with where I thought it failed.

The basic premise of the Barren Metal is that usury is the extraction of surplus value from the laborer and that capitalism is state sponsored usury. Jones here is a bit confusing as he distinguishes between two kinds of capitalism (1) free-enterprise and entrepreneurship  and (2) state sponsored usury. When most people of think of capitalism, at least on the political right, they think of definition one. What he calls state sponsored usury I really don’t think is capitalism. Obviously we have state sponsored usury in the ancient world under Greece and Rome and yet nothing like the dynamic markets of modern capitalism was seen.

This over simplification mars the book. Jones has a penchant for reductionist thinking; capitalism is usury, Protestantism is a looting operation of the Catholic Church, etc.

Jones begins his work by challenging the Weberian thesis that capitalism arose not out of Protestantism, but out of Catholic Renaissance Italy. He then spends the better part of 1000 pages blaming Protestantism for capitalism and only at the end of the book does he return to his original position. This kind of confusing and contradictory view is a major weakness of the book.

Prior to the Reformation/Renassiance, the Catholic church in the Benedictine Order valued labor over alchemy/usury in producing wealth. Together with the civil arm of the Holy Roman Empire, the German-Catholic order of anti-usury pro-labor was maintained. From here on out the basic narrative of the book is that the rise of pagan thought in the renaissance in Catholic Italy coupled with the great Schism brought on by Protestantism destroyed the Church’s ‘policy power’ to enforce laws against usury. For Jones the Protestant looting of Church property in England, in order to get the initial startup capital for economic development, was the original sin of capitalism. He argues that the rise of liberalism and its grounding of morals in human sentiments was the perfect justification for the exploitation of the working class by the capitalist elite. This breach made by English capitalism and the Reformation was compounded by Napoleon and his emancipation of the Jews. The German rationalists were the one bright spot in this period. From Kant to Hegel the Germans developed a new economic outlook based on the national economy rather than pure individual interest. This view of economics he sees carried into the Catholic social teaching of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This German-Catholic fusion is his alternative to Jewish capitalism.  The Jews and the English Protestants conspired to spread capitalism, ergo usury, throughout the world. He ends his work by discussing the implications of usury in the great 2008 economic crisis.

Jone’s critique of Empiricism is decidedly excellent. His account of the Jews bears repeating. He argues that the Jews, a diasporic people, treated gentiles as aliens and that is why they extracted usury from them. When capitalism internalized this Jewish practice it made each individual an alien to the other, destroying social cohesion. He argues that capitalism and communism are two sides of the same Jewish coin. He argues that Marx rendered the working class as a rootless cosmopolitan force, just like the Jews. The Marxist solution of abolishing property was worse than the problem of usury.

Jones’ argument is hampered by his clear ignorance of the Reformation. He argues that the Anabaptists were Lutherans, and even states later in the work that they invaded churches and smashed images. With the noticeable exception of Munster the Anabaptists were pacifists and such a bizarre falsehood seriously damages Jones’ credibility on this issue. His monomania with Protestantism is also flawed since Protestant Scandinavia and Germany did not develop the radical individualistic capitalism he condemns, ergo something other than Protestantism was the driving cause, thereby discrediting his narrative.

Jones acts as if the Catholic church would have had an alternative to Capitalism; he is quite favorable of the Jesuit Experiment in Quebec and Paraguay. Yet he never demonstrates that there was a viable Catholic alternative. The Catholic kingdoms of Portugal, Spain, France, and Austria were all as debt and usury ridden as the England he so condemns. The fact is that usury ran apace in Catholic as well as Protestant nations.

His anti-Protestant monomania is further compound by his monomaniacal fixation on Henry VIII’s nationalization of the monasteries. This, for Jones, is the original sin of capitalism; the confiscation of a thousand years of accumulated value and his justification for reducing the Reformation to merely a looting scheme. This of course is absurd. I could just as easily say the Reformation was the Roman Catholic chickens coming home to roost. During the 4th century the Catholics running the Roman Empire destroyed Pagan images and confiscated pagan temples, not unlike what Henry VIII would do 1100 years later. Given that the Catholic church was built on the accumulation of a 1000 years of classical labor it was nothing more than a looting operation. This double standard is further highlighted when he complains that English pirates, such as Sir Francis Drake, were raiding Spanish galleons, without even so much as a mention of the massive looting of Mexico and Peru, probably one of the greatest looting operations in history and far grander than Henry VIII’s. We see that in the 4th and 16th centuries the Catholic church was built on loot and plunder of an unimaginable scale, but it would be absurd to conclude from that the Catholic Church was merely a looting operation of pagan goods, as Jones implies with the Reformation.

In short Barren Metal is a deeply flawed though expansive work that leaves much to be desired.

Towards a True Economic Third Position

There are at present many efforts to create a third position in economics, most of which go from the spectrum of kooky voodoo economics such as Social Credit Theory on the right and Participatory economics on the left, and essentially socialists in third position clothing such as syndicalism and fascism. The goal of this essay is not to deconstruct these false third position models, but to offer a true third position. This will essentially be similar to distributism, though I have some objections to distributism as it is now popularly formulated. For more on that see my essay “Rethinking Christian Economics.”

The Biblical Economic Model
When we discuss what economic model we should have we first need to discuss what is the nature and end of man. If man has no nature and/or no end, then any old system should work since man would be infinitely malleable and able to fit into any system with sufficient conditioning, ergo none would be better than another. This I reject. I agree with the Shorter Westminster Catechism that, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” I will not attempt in this article to give justifications for this assumption, merely assume it as the first principle of anthropology.

If we accept this basic principle of anthropology, we then look to the Bible to see what end God directs us to. If we use biblical principles we see that many forms of economic action are condemned as sin. The most significant change would be the outlawing of usury. We see prohibitions in Leviticus 25:36-37; Nehemiah 5:7-10; Psalms 15:5; Proverbs 28:8; Ezekiel 18:8-17; Ezekiel 22:12. We see in Psalms 28:8 and Ezekiel 22:12 that God views usury as akin to extortion. There was an exception for Jews to lend money to gentiles at usury in Deuteronomy 23:20. I believe that Christ in his Parable of the Good Samaritan where the term neighbor is expanded to include not only Jews, but also gentiles closed that gap, since exchanging usury is not a form of love. We see in Luke 6:35 that Christ demands we do not lend expecting anything in return. With such evidences I think that the Gentile loophole has been closed to a complete prohibition on charging of usury.

We see in Psalms 24:1 that God owns the earth which implies that property taxes are immoral since the government has no right to extract profit from what it does not own. Eminent domain (legalized state theft of property) is immoral where we see Ahab and Jezebel in 1st Kings 21 first murdering Naboth and then stealing his property, which was given to him as a trust by his father. As we see in Proverbs 13:22 that one should leave an inheritance for one’s children which would imply that the death tax and inheritance tax is immoral. We see in Numbers 36 the right of women to inherit property. From 1st Timothy 5:3-16, in which Paul exhorts families to take care of their elders and if the widow has no family or their family is unable to care for them then the church should do so, we can derive the principle of subsidiarity: a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co-ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good.” Socialism is fundamentally evil in that, insofar as it destroys private property and establishes a welfare regime, one is correspondingly less able to maintain one’s elders.

Private property is the bedrock of civilization, as Aristotle observed, men take better care of what they possess and that private property facilitates two virtues: continence and liberality. Based on the principle that no man can live in isolation for only animals and gods can live self-sufficiently in isolation, Aristotle argues that people come together to form families and families come together to form states (in his case city-states). We see that in capitalism the individual is the focus of the economy, in socialism the collective, and in distributism the family. The family is the smallest self-sufficient unit in society and thus is the wellspring of society. The word economics comes from the two Greek words Oikos (Household) and Nomos (Law). We see that historically economics was concerned with providing enough for each household to take care of its needs. This principle of self-sufficiency is the foundation of further civilizational development and as such the economy should seek to encourage self-sufficiency. In Joshua 14 and 15 we see that God desires tribes (extended households) to have land to be self-sufficient. In fact that land is not to be sold; for with the implementation of Jubilee every 50 years and the story of Naboth, we see that God desired the dispersion of property not its concentration.

How do we Get There?
Clearly our current economic model is not distributism and is a mixture of capitalism and socialism with seemingly the worst of both. I propose three possible methods used individually or in conjunction that could allow a transition from our current mixed-economy to a distributist economy: (1) prosecuting firms for criminal action and restoring to the victims fourfold (Luke 19:8); (2) the example shown in the Peasant’s Land Bank, and (3) the Land-to-Tiller Program.

I propose that firms that have engaged in criminal action be prosecuted and their assets be redistributed to the aggrieved parties fourfold, what I call the Zacchaeus Plan. This would work to divest the corporations of their ill-gotten gain and serve to chip away at concentrated wealth.
The Peasant’s Land Bank was an effort by secretary of finance Nikolai Bunge to give the peasants access to credit to purchase land from the Boyars (nobles) and in conjunction with this effort Stolypin realized that the lack of a middle class would only aid in the fomenting of rebellion and economic stagnation. After seeing the Revolution of 1905 he correctly identified the need for agrarian form. Seeing that a middle class is founded on independent property holders they sought to purchase land from the boyars to distribute the land back to the peasants. While marred by corruption and inefficiencies the process was largely successful, and by 1913 the bank had helped the peasants acquire 46 million acres. For more on the Peasant’s Land Bank and other Russian agrarian reforms see Russian Peasants and Village Lands, 1861-1917: A Summary Compiled by Alan Kimball.

In Taiwan’s Land to the Tiller Program, property was peacefully and lawfully transferred from the Chinese landlords to the peasants. Chaing’s land reform can be understood in four parts: (1) leasing to the peasants land owned by the government, (2) reduce rent to 37.5%, (3) selling government land to peasants, (4) Land to the Tiller Program. The Land to the Tiller program transferred land from the landlords to the peasants by compensating the value of the property from the landlords with 70% of the price being paid in rice and potatoes and the remaining 30% in stocks in rising government firms.

There are many possible peaceful and lawful means by which to transfer property in a more equitable way to the people without the needless bloodshed demanded by lunatic socialists and anarchists.

How Do We Stay There?
I have basically two means by which this property regime can be maintained. Firstly, I accept Aristotle’s notion that while man’s desires are potentially infinite, the number of goods available in the world are finite, and that man’s desires should be curtailed by education. So we begin by educating people to be content with what they need. As a practical legal method I argue for a return of biblical Sabbath year and Jubilee. We see in Deuteronomy 15:1-6 that every seven years (Sabbath Year) the tribes of Israel were required by God to free slaves, admittedly only Hebrew slaves, and forgive debts. In Leviticus 25:8-12 we see that land should be returned to its original owner. In practical terms Jubilee could be modeled in using the concept of usufruct. I will use the Investopedia definition of usufruct:

“A legal right accorded to a person or party that confers the temporary right to use and derive income or benefit from someone else’s property. Usufruct is usually conferred for a limited time period or until death. While the usufructuary has the right to use the property, he or she cannot damage or destroy it, or dispose of the property.”

If we consider limiting the time period to fifty years I think we have a rough approximation of usufruct-Jubilee contract.

I assert that third position economics on both the right and the left goes from either kookiness or socialism. I propose an alternative biblical/Aristotelian distributism model. I have provided a few possibilities by which our current property regime can be legally transformed into this new property regime, and how such a regime can be maintained, which is more than any anarcho-socialist on the Left or social credit theorist on the Right can do. favicon

The Not-So-Dark Ages, Part II

In my previous essay, “The Not So Dark Ages“, I attempted to dispel certain myths and misconceptions about the Church’s relationship to science in the medieval and classical eras. The focus was primarily on the West. Now I shall be turning to the East. The atheist polemics nearly always deal with the Catholic church during this period, the fact that the Eastern Roman Empire centered in Constantinople and the Eastern Orthodox church which also resided there is so unknown as to not even be fodder for a polemic is a sign of the sad hand Byzantium has been dealt by history. The Eastern Roman Empire survived for another thousand years after the fall of the Western Empire. I will henceforward refer to the Byzantine Empire as the Roman Empire, since the Byzantines themselves never saw themselves as anything other than Roman and I will not use the term Eastern either since there was only one Roman Empire, even in 395 it had two joint emperors. It preserved much of the classical knowledge that was lost in the West and in its fall the last line of ancient Romans fled to Italy, and in the process aided the nascent Renaissance.

There is a pernicious falsehood that has been circulated by modern liberal scholars that it was the enlightened and scientific Saracens who in the dark ages gave learning to the rude and uncouth West. While there is some truth in it, that through the Arabic philosophers in Spain much learning was gleaned by the West and aided in the rise of Scholasticism, it is only a half-truth. For while the Saracens themselves were rude and uncouth barbarians pillaging the Roman Empire and the remains of the once proud Sassanid Dynasty, Constantinople, the seat of the Roman Empire, still was the leader in scholarship, its twin in the south, Alexandria, had a long history of Christian, as well as pagan scholarship. Furthermore the Persian imperial capital at Ctesiphon held the last remnants of the ancient pagan academy (in 529 AD the Emperor Justinian closed the academy and its scholars fled to the court of king Khosrau I). So with the vast ammount of pagan and Christian learning from Alexandria and Ctesiphon it was the Saracens who were the students and the Christians the teachers. If in later centuries the Saracens repaid their debt in scientific, philosophic, and mathematical discoveries let us not forget that they first paid homage to the scholars of Constantinople.

Before I discuss the great minds of the Eastern Church I feel compelled to explain a little of the importance of the Medieval Roman Empire and why it is so little regarded. The Medieval Roman Empire served two vital roles among many in service to the west: (1) it protected the nascent West from barbarian invasion and (2) preserved the light of learning in the sea of night brought on by the Germanic and later Saracen invaders. The number of invasions and invaders that assaulted the Medieval Roman Empire are too numerous to tell here, but suffice it to say there were three major enemies of the West that were either thwarted in their endeavor or as in the case of the later, succeed in a time when the West was strong enough to offer its own defense. The study of Byzantine history was quite popular in Bourbon France and 18th century Europe. It was the work of mean minds such as Voltaire and Gibbon, who in casting away the heritage of Christianity, spent their vitriol on defaming the Medieval Roman Empire. What was inaugurated by Deists was finished by Atheists, to such an extent that popular knowledge of the Medieval Romans is all but nonexistent.

In the 7th century a titanic class between Romans and Persians occurred in the near east, a war of such a scale had not been seen since the Punic Wars of republican Rome. The Persian armies at their apogee had overrun all of Roman Asia and Egypt. Though ultimately defeated by the military genius Heraclius and the stout defense of Constantinople, a formidable foe was prevented from threatening the weak and young West. The next foe would arise out of the ashes of the old, the Saracen threat would plague both the Roman Empire and the West for centuries to come, but the heaviest blows occurred on the stout walls of Constantinople where in 674-78 and 717-18 the Saracen armies were scattered in no small part due to the new weapon of Greek fire, which I will refer to later. Lastly the Turks who came in the 11th century and would ultimately overcome the Roman Empire, were delayed for centuries, which in turn bought time for the Hapsburgs to develop enough strength to rout the Turks at the gates of Vienna.

The second debt owed to the Eastern Christians is their preservation of ancient texts. We must not forget that there never was any dark age in the eastern Christendom. The Roman Empire continued on as it always had. It might not have had the luster and glory of Old Rome, but their love of the classics never abated and was safely persevered until its transmission to the West in 1453.

I will divide this period into three eras: the Lighthouse 476-867, the Macedonian Renaissance 867-1261, and the Palaeologean Renaissance 1261-1453. This is a somewhat coarse classification but I believe it fits the broad contours of Eastern Christendom’s scientific and philosophical contributions. The first period was simple enough: when all the lights of learning went out in the West and East due to two barbarian invasions, Constantinople alone stood as the beacon of light and learning to the western world. The second period includes not only the Macedonian Dynasty, but subsequent dynasties as well; the classification was more of an intellectual one than a dynastic one. The last period focuses on the last flourishing of Roman thought with the Palaeologeans until the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453.

Before the Fall

As a preface to the latter scholars two Eastern luminaries who thrived before 476 deserve mention Anatolius of Laodicea (died July 3, 283 AD) and Nemesius a fourth century thinker.

Anatolius, an inhabitant of Alexandria and later Bishop of Laodicea, was gifted in mathematics, geometry, philosophy and astronomy. Due to his erudition, a request was made by the Alexandrians for him to start a peripatetic school in their city. Eusebius reports that during the siege of the Pyrucheium or Bruchium, Anatolius was able to negotiate with the besieging Romans to allow the women, the children and the elderly of the rebels to withdrawal from city unharmed. These were rebels who had supported the Arabian queen Zenobia in her uprising against Rome. We see the triumph of Christian charity over the barbarities of war. He is noted for his use of astronomy in calculating the precise date of Easter. It is notable that the neo-platonic luminary Iamblichus was a pupil of Anatolius.

Nemesis of Emesa, the city of which he was bishop, is notable for his early description of the nature of the circulation of blood. He appears to have anticipated the work of William Harvey by 1,500 years. Yet the imperfection of his knowledge and the ignorance of the importance of his discovery led it to fall into obscurity.

The Lighthouse 476-867

When the last Roman Emperor of the West was displaced by his master of arms, Odoacer, the last vestige of Roman political rule was gone and the long night of barbarism began. I have previously recounted the heroic efforts of isolated scholars in the West to stem the tide, but in the East there was no loss of learning. In fact classical learning, flourished in the Roman Empire of the 5th and 6th centuries.

Six luminaries of this period deserve mention: John Philoponus of Alexandria, Kallinikos of Hieropolis, Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles, Hunayn ibn Ishaq and Qusta ibn Luqa.

John of Philoponus was an Alexandrian polymath who studied philology, Aristotelian philosophy and Christian theology. His scientific work can be divided into three areas: (1) broad scientific theory, (2) the study of space, and (3) the study light. According to David C. Lindberg in his Science in the Middle Ages Philoponus based his scientific inquiry on three axioms (1) one God created the universe, (2) the heavens above and the earth below operate on the same basic principles, and (3) the stars are not divine. These principles would also have been shared by Jewish and later Islamic scholars. Philoponus’ surviving works indicate that he might have studied the world on the principles of the scientific method even using controlled experiments. Using such methods Philoponus concluded that the velocity of a falling object is independent of its weight, which predated Galileo by a thousand years. Philoponus rejected the standard Aristotelian definition of motion. Aristotle argued that an object moved only under two conditions: (1) a source of imparted motion to that object and (2) that source must be in physical contact with that source. Aristotle hypothesized that the air itself must impart motion to a flying object such as a stone or arrow. Philoponus reject this notion and argued that motion of an object could be imparted motion by the motive source, and that motive energy as it is dissipated propels the object forward. In this scenario the air hinders the motion of a flying object rather than aiding it. Philoponus disproved Aristotle’s view that objects of different weight fall at different velocities by performing the same sort of experiment that Galileo would uses a millennia later.

Philoponus disagreed with Aristotle on the plausibility of a void. Aristotle believed that a void was impossible in principle. Philoponus argued that the void might not be possible in nature, but was an essential postulate in order to explain motion in a plenum. On a related topic Philoponus argued that space should be viewed in three-dimensions. His work on light hinted at some of the discoveries of Maxwell and Einstein as his work on space had hinted on the discoveries of Galileo. Philoponus’ work was largely forgotten as a result of his nemesis Simplicius who condemned him for his monophyiste views, which in 681 got Philoponus anathematized, another victim of the religious infighting that plagued the Roman Empire.

Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles should be as famous as Michelangelo and Da Vinci, but falling down the Orwellian memory hole first constructed by small minded deists like the rest of the Middle Ages they are not. These two engineers constructed the greatest architectural wonder of their age, Hagia Sophia (the Church of Holy Wisdom). Isidore was taught geometry and physics in Alexandria and later Constantinople, he was the first to organize Archimedes’ work into one complete volume. Anthemius was a geometrician and architect. Not only were these men gifted geometricians, but they were also master logisticians who were able to manage the tremendous logistical feat of bringing the materials necessary for constructing the church from around the Roman Empire and organizing the labor force to construct it. The finished church was the largest domed building in the world at that time.

Kallinikos of Heliopolis was a Syrian refuge who fled to the court of the Roman Emperor and offered his secret of what would later be known as Greek Fire, but was known to the Romans as Sea Fire. There are numerous explanations as to the chemical nature of Sea Fire, but we do know that naphtha was a key ingredient. This medieval “Napalm” would serve a vital role in repelling the Saracen siege of Constantinople in 674-8 and 717-18. This closely guarded state secret rendered Constantinople unconquerable by sea and by implication land (since it could never be starved into submission), until the Crusader siege of 1204 where the Venetian’s fleet of wooden galleys were coated with canvas and leather soaked in vinegar (one of the few means to retard Sea Fire, the other two being sand and urine) captured the city.

Hunayn ibn Ishaq a 9th century Assyrian Christian in the service of Caliph Al-Mutawakkil as the Caliph’s personal physician is notable for his study in ophthalmology and the translation of the works of Galen into Arabic. Ishaq’s Book of the Ten Treatises of the Eye was the most systematic account of eye and its functions yet given. He relied heavily on the works of Galen and contains the earliest known description of the anatomy of the eye. As personal physician to Caliph Al-Mutawakkil, Ishaq had his loyalty tested when the Caliph asked him to develop a poison for uses on the Ishaq’s enemies. Ishaq refused and was imprisoned for a year. When released, the Caliph confronted him again and threatened death if he did not perform the action. Ishaq still refused. The Caliph then revealed he had been testing the loyalty of his physician. The Caliph then asked Ishaq why he preferred death to creating the poison. Ishaq stated that he swore the Hippocratic Oath “to do no harm” and that his religion taught him to love enemies. We see again the triumph of Christian compassion in a dark age of barbarism and war. Ishaq’s voluminous translations of Greek philosophical and scientific texts in to Arabic garnered him the title of “Sheik of the Translators.”

Qusta ibn Luqa, a contemporary of Ishaq, a Melkite Christian and a master physician and translator was a key element of the Greek-to-Arabic translation that took place in the 9th and 10th centuries. While he translated into Arabic many Greek works on medicine, mathematics and geometry, he also wrote many original treatises of his own. Luqa’s De Differentia Spiritus et Animae was one of the few works not written by Aristotle that was on the reading list of natural philosophers in the University of Paris in 1254. The Islamic scholar Ibn al-Nadim says of him: “He is an excellent translator; he knew well Greek, Syriac, and Arabic; he translated texts and corrected many translations. Many are his medical writings.” As we saw in the west with the Irish and Anglo-Saxons so we see in east with Syriac Christians that it was the servants of Christ who exerted the greatest effort in preserving the classics.

The Medieval Roman Empire was the first political system to have institutionalized medical services. The first hospital was created by St. Basil in the 4th century. The church as always led the way in this effort. As I noted in my previous essay the Monastic institutions played an invaluable part in propagating hospitals and medical institutions. While it is true that classical Rome had medical institutions they were primarily military in nature and service. With the Christian system it was open to all. At first the urban centers were where the majority of these hospitals were located, but by the 9th and 10th centuries such institutions had become common in the rural areas as well. We see an organized process of education of physicians from the University of Constantinople. These hospitals were run on relatively ‘modern’ principles; physicians were required to wash their hands, patients were given private beds and instructions were given to keep the patients warm. By the 12th century separate rooms for outpatients and surgery were present. Of all Medieval Roman institutions that most resembled modern ones, the hospital system was that institution.

The Macedonian Renaissance 867-1261

While not as self-consciously organized as the Carolingian Renaissance, the Macedonian renaissance marks a flourishing of Medieval Roman art, literature and science. Under the patronage of the Emperors Leo VI “The Wise” and his son Constantine the arts flourished. One could say that Patriarch Photius I the teacher of Leo was the originator of this revival in learning and with him we shall begin our study. We shall also discuss Leo the Mathematician and Michael Psellous.

Photius I was one of the most influential patriarchs in all of the history of Constantinople; his erudition and philosophic learning have been marred by power struggles and theological disputes culminating in the Photian schism, his episcopacy and the schism named after him are not our present concern, but rather his invaluable contribution to the preservation of the classics. His magisterial work was the Bibliotheca or alternatively titled the Myriobiblos. The Bibliotheca is a collection of fragments and reviews of classical and Christian works that Photius read and preserved. Thanks to Photius’ preservation what we have of the works of Ctesias, Memnon of Heraclea, Conon, Diodorus Siculus, and Arrian we owe in part or in whole to him.

Leo the Mathematician was a 9th century polymath adept at philosophy, mathematics, geometry and medicine. He was considered a national security asset, so when Caliph Al-Ma’mun asked for Leo to study in Baghdad, the Emperor Theophilous granted Leo a school in the Magnaura (a philosophical school) in order to prevent him from leaving the empire and serving its enemies. Leo was a teacher of Aristotelian logic, a collector of a wide variety of scientific and philosophical works. His practical accomplishments were a series of signal beacons he designed in Asia Minor in order to warn of impending Saracen invasion and a series of mechanical devices placed in the imperial palace to inspire onlookers.

Michael Psellos was an 11th century scholar who wrote works of history, grammar, philosophy and rhetoric. His work the Chronographia is a historical account of the Roman Empire in the preceding century. His love of Platonism was so great that it led people to question his orthodoxy, which required his public profession of it to sway them. He restored a certain level of rigor in philosophical studies that had been lacking. He wrote on astronomy, music and medicine.

Palaeologean Renaissance 1261-1453

The actual origins of the Palaeologean Renaissance are debated; it is generally seen to have been precipitated by the re-conquest of Constantinople from the Crusaders. When in 1204 the Fourth Crusade sacked and conquered Constantinople, the Roman Empire was divided into two regions, the Despotate of Epirus and the Empire of Nicea. For nearly sixty years the Crusader Latin Empire looted what was left of the Roman Empire. When the Emperor of Nicea Michael VIII Palaiologos re-conquered Constantinople in 1261 the Roman Empire was restored and the newly invigorated people entered into their last cultural flowering. This new Palaeologean culture was focused on theological mysticism, more realism in paintings and the study and preservation of classical Greek texts. We shall discuss the work of two Palaeologean scholars, Nicephorus Gregoras and Maximus Planudes.

Maximus Planudes, a 13th century scholar, was known for his accomplishments in literature and mathematics. Unique among the Palaelogean scholars, Maximus was fluent in Latin. He translated Augustine’s City of God and Caesar’s Gallic Wars into Greek and many other classical and medieval Latin works, and his edition of the Greek Anthology was widely renowned (a collection of epigrams from classical and medieval Greek sources). Maximus two works on mathematics are The Great Calculation According to the Indians was a treatise on Hindu numerals in their Persian form and a commentary on Diophantus (a 3rd century AD Alexandrian mathematician) “Arithmetic.”

Nicephorus Gregoras was a 14th century scholar whose accomplishments were in the realm of theology, history and astronomy. His career and legacy were marred by his opposition to the dominant theology of Hesycasm and he was at odds with Queen Anna and Emperor John VI Cantacuzene. He later retired as a monk still attacking what he considered the Hesycasm heresy. His work “Roman History” was a work divided into 37 books covering the period between 1204 and 1359. Due to certain deficiencies in the work, it should be read alongside John Cantacuzene’s own works of history. His astronomical work pertains to the dating of Easter, the use of the astrolabe and prediction of solar eclipses.


We have seen the rich intellectual history of Eastern Christianity and that far from destroying classical civilization as the ilk of Carl Sagan would have you believe, it was the bosom in which classical civilization was preserved. The Italian renaissance was greatly enriched by the Greek emigres after the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453. With the fall of the “City of the World’s Desire”, the last bulwark against Islam had fallen and in the succeeding centuries Turkish forces would spread fire and sword from Austria to Ukraine. The influx of Greek emigres did not, as was formerly thought, initiate the renaissance, but their erudition and learning certainly enriched it. It all comes full circle; the ancient Roman civilization that survived in Constantinople sent its own back to Italy and in the process greatly aided in the work of rediscovering the classic texts and improving upon them. favicon

The Not-So-Dark Ages

The causal modern perception of the Middle Ages is that of an age of superstition, loss of classical learning, and general backwardness. To quote Hegel it was “smells and bells”. This view has been most popularized by Carl Sagan in his smash hit miniseries Cosmos and his book by the same name. The influence of Cosmos can also be seen in the 2009 Agora, about the life of Hypatia. He makes two rather ridiculous claims that undergird this entire anti-Christian fanaticism as it pertains to modern perceptions of the Middle Ages, that (1) the ancient pagans were proto-scientists on the verge of a scientific revolution and (2) that the knowledge-hating and bigoted Christians both burned down the Great Library and murdered Hypatia for their hatred of science, rendering her a martyr. This is absurd and the truth lies beyond the ability of the mentally challenged atheists who followed Carl Sagan. The Library was destroyed and rebuilt many times by Caesar in 48BC, Aurelian in the 270s AD, the Serapium (A temple to the god Seriphus which contained some remnant of the Library, mostly magical texts) in 391 AD by Theodosius, and in 640 by Caliph Omar. Hypatia was the sad victim of late Roman political intrigues and mob violence.

The root of this narrative of Christian war against science, in which the Medieval Era is center, is John William Draper’s History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science (1874) and Andrew Dickson White’s A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom. As lying atheists these men had no compunction in distorting and down right falsifying history. No longer taken seriously by the modern scholarship on the subject we still have legions of braindead atheists and liberals who believe this account to be gospel truth. For a sound scholarly rebuttal of this myth see Jeffrey Burton Russell’s Inventing the Flat Earth.

Having cleared the underbrush of atheist calumnies what exactly was the intellectual life of the Medieval era like? In short it was decline, preservation, and discovery. The intellectual life of Europe from about 475 to 1453 can be divided into three broad categories: 475-636, rapid decline; 636-1200, preservation; and 1200-1453, discovery. The intermediate period of preservation would have been impossible without the erudition and scholarship of Irish and Anglo-Saxons in the West and Greek scholars in the East.

I chose the first set of dates going from the fall of the Western Roman Empire until the death of Isidore of Seville; the second set of dates stretches from Isidore’s death to the birth of Peter Lombard and the birth of Scholasticism; the final period stretches from the Scholastic era to the mass exodus of Greek scholars to the west beginning the Renaissance.

Central to the narrative of the “Dark Ages” is the loss of classical learning that occurred during that period. Yet to blame Christianity for that loss is the height of absurdity, as I will show later; in fact the real source of the loss was the upheavals brought about by Germanic migrations and invasions beginning in 375 AD, with the entrance of the Huns on to the European scene. This narrative is often used as a bludgeon by atheists and liberals to discredit Christianity and as a smokescreen to their questionable treatment of scientists in, for example, the French First Republic and the Soviet Union. Central to the falsity of the narrative is that there never was a 
“Dark Age” in the Eastern Roman Empire. That empire centered in Constantinople lasted for another thousand years and the mass exodus of its scholars after the 1453 sack by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II helped to facilitate the Renaissance. In short there is not even a correlation that Christianity leads to the demise of learning.

The rest of this essay will be devoted to giving a brief overview of the intellectual life and contributions of medieval Christendom. It will be divided into two parts: (1) Western Christendom and (2) Eastern Christendom. The importance of Eastern Christendom is seldom acknowledged in the Western Christian context, let alone the secular context, and I believe the Eastern influence was great as well, if not as well known. The second part will be released in another segment.

Western Christendom

The Western Christendom can be traced back to the permanent division of the Roman Empire into East and West by the Emperor Theodosius in 395. Organized around the Roman Imperial diocese, the Western Church developed in a trajectory quite distinct from the East. While both the Eastern and Western Christians were heavily inspired by Plato, the former were more influenced by his mystical philosophy and especially the works of Plotinus, while the West was more influenced by his rational philosophy. This of course is an over-generalization as there were certainly Greek rationalists and Latin mystics, but I believe that the theological and intellectual emphases of East and West conform to the broad counters of rationalism vs mysticism. With the triumph of barbarism in 476 the west dealt with a period of historical trauma of invasion and pillage that did not subside until the middle of the 11th century. In this political power vacuum the Latin Church based in Rome and the Celtic church based in Iona filled the void. These twin Western sources of light were the main reason why not all of classical learning was lost in the West. During the early part of this decline the Irish and Anglo-Saxon church played a dominant role; but as time wore on and the endless repetition of barbarian invasion and destruction was repeated the Latin Church began to supplant the Irish in intellectual endeavors. A proto-renaissance occurred in the late 8th and early 9th century under the Frankish Emperor Charlemange and his resident master scholar Alcuin of York. Viking invasion and legal succession crises terminated this hopeful turn of events. Italy in the 13th century witnessed the birth of Scholasticism, the culmination of the Latin Medieval mind. From Italy this philosophy spread to France, England, Scotland, Flanders, and Germany. Scholasticism in like manner would give birth to modern science in the persons of Roger Bacon and Copernicus to name a few.

Period of Decline 476-636

This period witnessed the birth of Latin Medieval thought’s four great Doctors of the Latin Church; Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine of Hippo, and Pope Gregory. No less influential men include St. Patrick, Columba, Columbanus, St. Aiden, Boethius, and the man for which I end this period, Isidore of Seville.

Ambrose of Milan is the first in our list of Western thinkers. He is most well-known for his role in converting his more famous pupil St. Augustine to the Christian faith. Yet in his own right he was a man of great erudition and laid the foundation of Medieval music by giving the Western World its first antiphonal psalmody. Ambrose is probably most famous for his courageous stand against Emperor Theodosius I. After Emp. Theodosius sacked Thessalonica and slaughtered 7,000 people as punishment for their uprising, Ambrose was incensed by this outrage and denied the Emperor communion until he performed penance for the act; even to the point of rebuffing Theodosius at the door of his own church as he was about to celebrate mass. The Emperor eventually repented and performed penance for his deeds. Seldom has such courage been shown in the face of absolute power; Ambrose must surely stand as one of the most shining examples of speaking truth to power.

Jerome, a contemporary of Ambrose and Augustine was a man of letters, philosopher, theologian, and historian. He is most well-known for his translation of the entire Bible into Latin, the Vulgate. In addition to his efforts at translation he also wrote numerous commentaries on the books of the Bible. Inspired by classical authors like Plutarch and Seutonius, Jerome wrote his De Viris Illustribus which was biographical work covering the great Christians from Peter to his own day.

St. Augustine was arguably the greatest mind of his millennium. His work in all aspects of Christian theology, philosophy, rhetoric, and invention of new genres of literature are unrivaled until the Scholastic era. One of the most widely read works of Augustine is his Confessions which was the first autobiography in history. His notion of free will and grace would lead to a rich development of Protestant and Catholic thought and as secularism rendered man in the image of God, influenced atheism as well. His forays into semiotics would later influence the 20th century deconstructionists. His pioneering work on just war, the most extensive revision since Cicero, rings down the ages. The very arguments for and against the 2003 invasion of Iraq would have been inconceivable without Augustine’s contribution to this world of thought. His De Civitate Dei is a tour de force against the contradictions of ancient paganism and one of the most influential history books of all time. His notions of two kingdoms, one heavenly and the other earthy, influenced both Protestants and Catholics and his vision of the heavenly city was eventually secularized in modern socialism and Marxism. His philosophy of mind and the trinity casts a shadow that can still be seen today. For example, Augustine’s elevation of the willing aspect of God’s personality can be seen in the philosophy of Existentialism. For if God is perfected through his gratuitous will, and secular man deifies himself, then man’s greatest form of expression is when his will is also perfected. From Camus to Derrida and everywhere in between we can see the shadow of the Augustine-haunted West.

During the Ostrogothic successor to the Western Roman Empire we find a man who bridged ancient and medieval world in the West: Boethius. Boethius’ erudition extends to mathematics, logic, commentary and philosophy. Boethiu’s work in philosophy led to his formulation of the Quadrivium and the Trivium. The former pertains to arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music with the later pertaining to grammar, rhetoric and logic. His efforts at organizing and categorizing already existing disciplines influenced Western education for well over a millennium. Boethius was one of the few men of his time, in the West, who could read Greek. His efforts at translating the classical texts into Latin would be an invaluable foundation for future work.

Out of the many Briton, Irish, and Anglo Saxon monks of this period I will mention three: St. Patrick, St. Columba, and St. Aidan. The importance of these men is they transformed the British Isle from a fringe on the Roman Empire/Christendom to the cockpit of learning and science in the West, though that will occur in the second period which I will discuss later.

Patrick is famous for his conversion of Ireland, his youthful shenanigans and monkeyshines, and his courage. Patrick was kidnapped as a youth and enslaved by the Irish in the 5th century. His experiences as a slave led him in later years to free slaves and seek to abolish the trade itself. While not a great intellectual, Patrick’s courage and actions laid the foundation for the great flowering of Celtic learning in the 7th, 8th, and 9th centuries.

Columba, the son of a nobleman, from an early age was enrolled in the monastic education system, a rich and vibrant network of autonomous schools that studied Greek and Latin and preserved the classical texts. Columba founded the influential monastery at Iona. Iona is famous for its scriptorium which both preserved and produced manuscripts. Some of the most famous manuscripts were the illuminated texts, a famous example being the Book of Kells. Columba spent much of his life converting the Scots and Picts to Christianity from Scotland.

St. Aidan, a generation after the death of Columba, reconverted Northumbria to Christianity. He settled in Lindisfarne, a special dispensation from the king. From there Aidan paid for the freedom of slaves, fed the hungry, and built monasteries throughout the region.

A short place must be saved for the monastic system and its importance to the Medieval Era. The Monasticism originated in the East with hermits such as St. Anthony. The collections of wandering individuals were later organized into vibrant communities by men such as Pachomius and St. Basil. The first major Western monastic tradition was the Benedictine order. The monastic tradition was dominated by prayer, contemplation, work, service, and study. Men and women had to swear oaths of obedience, poverty, and chastity. The monastic communities themselves were self-governing and a combination of a church, a school, a hospital, agricultural center, and manufacturing center. This is not to say that all monasteries or monastic communities were composed of all these aspects, but these aspects were covered throughout the gamut of the system. The preservation of classical texts and creation of new centers of learning in the darkness brought on by repeated barbarian invasions from the 5th century to the 11th would have been almost impossible, given the absence of any unifying civil authority, to keep the light of learning alive.

With this trio of Celtic saints we see the triumph of compassion, love, and the Gospel over barbarism, violence, and hate, the triumph of learning, order, and reason over ignorance, chaos, and superstition. These were truly pivotal years in the development of post-Roman Europe and it is no exaggeration to say with Thomas Cahill that the “Irish Saved Civilization” through their steady and often unrewarded diligence to keep the flame of knowledge lit.

The last individual we will cover in this period is the polymath Isidore of Seville. I chose Isidore to end this period with, in part, because he is often termed “last of the ancient scholars.” This is true in the sense that he was one of the last Western Scholars to be proficient in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. Isidore was a man whose accomplishments are so vast and varied that one is at a loss to understand how a man of his caliber could be totally unkown even to most educated people. As a cleric he aided in the conversion of the Visigoths from Arianism to Catholic Christianity, he headed the fourth Council of Seville in 633. As a scholar he wrote the first encyclopedia, the Etymologiae (a compilation of all classical and sacred learning covering knowledge of mathematics, astronomy, mineralogy, zoology, physiology, geography, agriculture, and medicine to name a few). He wrote works on linguistics, Differentiarum libri, on the sciences, De natura rerum, and history, works on theology, De officiis ecclesiasticis and Synonima. The scope and breadth of his learning is astounding and an example of the magnificent culmination of classical and Christian learning in the “not-so-Dark Ages.”

Preservation 636-1200

This period is primarily of interest as covering the Carolingian renaissance a period in the 8th and 9th centuries where the far sighted Charlemagne sought to keep the light of learning alive and rekindle the flame of which more will be said later. The primary center of learning during this time was in the British Isles; first Irish, then Anglo-Saxon converts led the West in intellectual thought, some of whom could still read Greek and their efforts culminated in the aforementioned renaissance. During this period of preservation I will cover four individuals: the Venerable Bede, Alcuin of York, Peter of Pisa, and Johannes Scotus Eriugena.

The venerable Bede, a monk from the Monastery of Jarrow, was the first native English historian. His work, the Historia ecclesiastica gentis anglorum has earned him the title “Father of English History.” He covers the period of Julius Caesar’s invasion of the Isle to his own time. He also wrote textbooks on grammar, De arte metrica, and orthography, De orthographia. He helped popularize in the West, via histories, the principle of dating time anno domini (in the year of our Lord). Bede also contributed to our knowledge of astronomy and time with his De temporum ratione. He was a biographer and poet as well. He was a light shining in the dark after the fall of Rome.

Peter of Pisa was an 8th century grammarian who would become Charlemagne’s latin tutor. As well as teaching grammar, Peter also wrote poetry.

Alcuin of York was, if you will, the mastermind behind the Carolingian renaissance. He was invited by Charlemagne to join his entourage of scholars such as Peter of Pisa, Paulinus of Aquileia, and Abbot Fulrad. Alcuin personally educated Charlemagne’s sons and sought to curb the rude barbarism of Charlemagne’s faith and his cruel policy toward the Saxons. Through the witness of Alcuin, the “Butcher of the Saxons” responsible for slaying 4,500 of them at Verden in 783, by 797 had rescinded the death penalty for paganism. Alcuin was made head of the palace school from 782-796 with a hiatus in England from 790-93. Under his guidance the Carolingian renaissance flourished. Major advancements in grammar and learning that we take for granted were developed for the first time. Of many firsts was Carolingian miniscule. Carolingian miniscule was a form of script written in small letters, which is the direct forbearer of our modern script. Not only were the letters standardized in size and shape, but spaces between words, punctuation, and capital letters were added. The quadrivium and trivium were standardized and made the basis of education. More books were written and published in this period than in the previous centuries after Rome fell. A migration of Roman art forms to the northern regions of Europe occurred during this period laying the foundation for the later Gothic art to flourish. Musical notation in the West originates in the year 800 as a result of Charlemagne’s attempts to aid French musicians in attaining the Roman standards of music.

The 8th century scholar Johannes Scotus Eriugena was known for his questionable theology, his mastery of Greek, translation of the Pseudo-Dionysius and his revival of the dialectic method of inquiry. He was the greatest Western neo-platonic thinker since Augustine.

A brief discussion of the renaissance itself I believe is needed. Unlike the secular 16th century renaissance, the Carolingian renaissance was deeply religious and led by clerics. A vast project of collecting texts and organizing them, creating superior translations and correcting errors was an empire-wide task. The classical Latin texts were used primarily for improving one’s Latin to read the Christian texts. Education was a major focus of Charlemagne, though the primary beneficiaries were the clergy. The twin catastrophes of Viking invasions of the British Isles, which destroyed and denuded the intellectual cockpit of Western Europe and the ceaseless fighting between Charlemagne’s heirs led to the gradual failure of the Carolingian renaissance in truly transforming the Western world.

The 10th and 11th century French Pope Sylvester II (originally Gerbert d’Aurillac) was a great student of the classics and his scientific and philosophical work helped recovered some of the lost classical knowledge. When Gerbert discovered the Arabic-Hindu numeral system he paired it with the lost technology of Abacus, thereby reintroducing it to Europe. Via his knowledge of Islamic scholars, Gerbert reintroduced the amillary sphere into Western usage. We see that Pope Sylvester’s efforts in the late 10th century helped translate Islamic rediscovery of ancient Greek learning into Western civilization.

St. Victor of Hugo, a 12th century Catholic German theologian was an influential individual in laying down the intellectual framework under which modern science would develop. Hugo divided science into three fields: theoretical (mathematics, theology, and mathematics), practical (ethics, economics and politics), and mechanical (carpentry, agriculture and medicine). Hugo’s work of organizing Christian thought in such a way that included the scientific process was of great importance to the development of such thought in the West.

Discovery 1200-1453

By the middle of the eleventh century the conversion of the Norse, Poles, and Magyars coupled with Spanish Reconquista had pushed Europe’s enemies far enough away from the France, Germany, and Italy triangle that the true rebuilding of learning and civilization could be begun. By this time the Moors in Spain had abandoned their crude ways for a more sophisticated way of thinking informed by the discovery of Greek philosophy. Many 11th century geniuses such as Averroes, Avicenna, and Al Gazhali laid a foundation of Aristotelian thought that later passed into Western Europe which in turn help sparked the rise of the Scholastic movement. The Latin Scholastic era is one of the richest in Western intellectual history, but the theological works of these men will not be the subject of this paper, but their philosophical, scientific, and mathematical accomplishments. We shall look at Robert Grosseteste, Roger Bacon, Albertus Magnus, Theodoric of Freiberg and Nicholas of Cusa.

Robert Grosseteste, the Bishop of Lincoln, is one of the possible contenders for the father of scientific thought, the other being Roger Bacon. Grosseteste invented the notion of a controlled experiment, and though the original method was crude, it was vital and instrumental in the development of future scientific thought. Via Aristotle, Grosseteste developed the notion that through observing nature, one can deduce the laws that govern it. Through his work in optics and study of Boethius, Grosseteste concluded that the highest science was mathematics to which all other sciences were subordinate, a view that would dominate for centuries to come. Grosseteste wrote treatises on optics (De Iride) and light (De Luce) where he outlines a very correct view of the nature of color. It was the rediscovery of Grosseteste’s work that led to the University of Durham Ordered Universe team of scientists and historians to critically evaluate pre-renaissance science admitting it to be more advanced than previously thought.

The other contender to being the father of scientific thought is Roger Bacon. The English friar Bacon, much as Grosseteste, wrote extensively on optics. Bacon, indebted to both Grosseteste and Islamic scientists, wrote on eyesight, color, and magnifying glasses. He was an early advocate of calendar reform. He noticed that the Julian calendar had calculated the wrong number of dates in a year, this error over centuries had led to many days being added to the true date. It was not until three centuries later that Bacon’s ideas on the calendar were instituted. Bacon is also the first known Westerner to give the formula for gunpowder. He hypothesized about lighter-than-air dirigibles and actual powered flight. He observed the sun via a pinhole projector. His efforts were invaluable in advancing the frontier of learning.

Albert Magnus, famous for his theological and philosophical works, is thought to have been the first individual to isolate the compound arsenic. He reportedly heated arsenic trisulfide with soap and the result was nearly pure arsenic.

Theodoric of Freiberg, a 14th century German physicist in his study of optics, correctly described the rainbow. His work De iride et radialibus impressionibus, with use of geometry and the theories of observation, was able to describe both primary and secondary rainbows, the reversal of color in the secondary rainbow, and light paths necessary to form a rainbow. In his study of optics he correctly described the path light takes as it enters a raindrop. To simulate the droplets he made spherical glass globes and filled with water in a flask.

The fifteenth century polymath Nicholas of Cusa was renowned in his legal, philosophical, theological, and scientific writings. The subject of this paper will be his scientific work. Cusa argued that the Earth was not the center of the universe and that Earth’s magnetic poles were not fixed. He challenged the Ptolemaic view of the planets and their orbits by claiming that neither were perfect spheres. In manys was his work is a precursor to Copernicus’ work, even though Copernicus was ignorant of Cusa. In medicine Cusa argued that pulses should be counted. Cusa also observed that plants derive nutrients from the air, performed the first biological experiment, and proved that air had weight.


I have attempted in a very general way to describe the one thousand year contributions of Western Christendom. We have covered the last ancients, Augustine, Gregory, and Isidore and their accomplishments including, but not limited to semiotics, history, and the first encyclopedia, and the Irish and Anglo-Saxon monks who preserved the classical texts and led the valiant attempt at a renaissance in the early 9th century. We saw the recovery of Western knowledge and the first steps at laying the foundation for the renaissance with the Scholastics with major advancements in optics and astronomy, with respectable gains in chemistry and medicine as well. Contrary to the Carl Sagan view of history and the Draper-White view also, medieval Western Christendom was a vital and vibrant component of the Western intellectual tradition. They saved the classical texts, and improved upon them laying the foundation for the scientific revolution. We see the same process at work in Copernicus and Galileo. Their efforts would be inconceivable without the thankless work of the previous millennium. Given that this entire essay is a rebuttal of the misconceptions about medieval scholarship spread by atheists, I felt like ending with a brief note on Galileo. The standard story is that Galileo was a plucky scientist who proved the Bible wrong that the Earth was the center of the universe (even though the Bible makes no such claim), and that the Catholic church in its ignorance and superstition persecuted him and forced him to recant. The real story is a little more complicated. Galileo was not the first to propose heliocentrism; earlier Copernicus did the same with far less controversy. The controversy arose in Galileo’s confrontational attitude; he implicitly mocked the Pope in his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. Galileo also did not help his case by demanding the Catholic Church accept his position as fact when very little experimental evidence existed at that time. The problem of parallax was thought to be an argument against heliocentrism. Parallax is the fact that when you observe an object from two or more different locations it appears to change position. In Galileo’s day the optical instruments were too crude to observe the parallax between the stars, but as optics became more refined later people were able to observe the differences in location of celestial objects. So again the atheist spin doctors got history wrong. Christianity, far from being anti-scientific, is the womb that birthed science in the first place. I will end where Thomas Woods began in his book How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization by quoting Wisdom 12:21: “but thou hast ordered all things in measure, and number, and weight.” favicon

A Critical Evaluation of the New Right

The New Right has shown itself to be utterly incapable of organizing itself into any meaningful cultural force. A series of recent brouhahas (the RooshV-Krauser affair; the Aurini-Owen “breakup”, revelations that certain high-profile individuals were hiding their homosexual dispositions, etc.) proves that things are generally a train wreck. In the five years or so that the New Right has been active it has accomplished relatively nothing. I shall look at the individual components of the New Right and explain their fatal flaws and the solution to these options.

The New Right, broadly speaking, can be divided into four groups: (1) the Dark Enlightenment (DE)/Neo-Reaction, (2) the Manosphere, (3) the White Nationalists (WN), and (4) miscellaneous.

The Dark Enlightenment, an eclectic group of individuals ranging from race realists, to men’s rights advocates, to traditionalist, to transhumanists, to atheists, to nationalists, is concerned with primarily racial, sexual, and intellectual differences between people. The first problem we see with the movement is that it is all over the place. There are so many divergent interests and people that they cannot long cohere together. The perennial problem of ego wars hampers the movement, even though it is less severe than in the WN movement . Given the recent outing of undesirables it seems that the DE is composed of people of questionable character and calls into question the ability of the movement to operate for specific goals. The DE is better known for what it is against than what it is for. With the failure to engage in quality control and define itself in terms of what it is for, we should not expect much to come from the DE.

The Manosphere is largely inhabited by disgruntled males who feel that modern liberalism has shafted them. About all they stand for is getting laid and maybe building self-esteem. They are riven by personality feuds as was seen in the RooshV-Krauser debacle as well as pretentious peacocks bragging of their alleged sexual conquests. The most obvious problem with this movement is that wet pants do not a revolution make; this tendency is summarized in their slogan “Enjoy the decline”. The problem is amorous deviancy and elevating it to the summum bonum or your life is merely falling into the roles programmed for you by the Kinsean and Reich controllers. If that is you, then you are the problem.

The White Nationalists basically stand for a whites only society. They are also riven with ego wars, and are constitutionally incapable of anything more serious than sign waving protests and conferences. Greg Johnson at Counter-Currents seems to be one of the leading voices of this movement. Matt Heimbach at Tradyouth is another vocal exponent of said doctrines. The most glaring and obvious flaw in the movement is that despite all their harping about White Genocide and the need for more white babies, they are nearly all unattached, or if attached, are frequent users of family planning materials, as shown by their lack of children. So white people are dying and you don’t have any kids? That makes sense. This contradiction can be seen in Matt Parrott’s essay “Where The White Women At?”

We see that he basically makes the calculation that it is more expedient for white people to be politically active and remain single than to form families and have children; ostensibly because white women are so dysfunctional. While I agree with Mr. Parrott on his Christian defense of celibacy, I assumed such a calling was for a life of prayer, contemplation, and good works, not street activism. Maybe the WN’s should take a page out of the Christian Patriarchy movement and have large families IN ORDER TO WIN POLITICAL CONTROL. This persistent childlessness is the major reason why the WNs should not be taken seriously. If extinction is the problem, procreation is the answer, something most WNs don’t seem to get.

Miscellaneous refers to individuals who do not fit nicely in any one group. Jack Donovan is the premier representative of this group. Jack has affiliations with the DE, the Manosphere, and WNs. The real joke is that Jack is a spokesman for the New Right. Being an open homosexual, is it not ironic that people who bemoan the death of white people or the loss of traditional values turn to an agent of destruction such as Mr. Donovan? Really, sodomy is going to solve anything? Most of the miscellaneous share the same pathologies as the others. Instead of combining ideas to become a fasces, they have created a Frankenstein.

Clearly western civilization is dying. The next question is why is it dying? I will let Solzhenitsyn answer this one:

More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.

Since then I have spent well-nigh fifty years working on the history of our Revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some sixty million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.

Indeed, the godless French Revolution laid the foundations for this catastrophe. If we look at Europe in 1750 we saw a continent that (1) was racially homogenous, (2) had strong traditional values, and (3) was the intellectual cockpit of the world. It would seem all the elements of the New Right should be happy. Yet the traditional order of the Ancient Regime can be summarized in the Vichy French Motto: Travail, Famille, Patrie, or faith, family, fatherland. The traditionalist view of Faith and Family produced the flowering of European culture in the 1500 years of Christendom, only to die in the mud and blood of WW1. Any new political order must recognize the centrality of family and faith. Any collaboration with cultural Bolsheviks who advocate sodomy, fornication, drug use, and transhumanism should be shunned as unnatural and harmful. Men and women need to return to their savior, Jesus Christ, and beg His forgiveness in order to move forward. We need to move away from these sterile pretentious man-children and their incessant ego wars and return to a traditional view of life rooted in the Christian history of the West, while remembering that social activism is not a substitute for prayer, contemplation, and the performance of good works. Rather than embracing the sterile life of egoism, cheap sex, and intellectual posturing, a robust traditionalist movement needs selflessness, commitment, and integrity. We need men like Patrick and Benedict to restore the flagging fortunes of the West, as they did 1500 years ago. favicon

The Permanent Things

After a recent podcast with William S. Lind in which we discussed the nature of conservatism, I believed further explanation would be helpful. I consider the Permanent Things to be faith, family, and freedom. Faith is the foundation of all civilization, family is the vehicle by which the generations are preserved, and freedom is what makes life livable.

Faith is, referring to my earlier article “Traditionalism, The Anti-ideology”, that aspect of life pertaining to the transcendent immaterial world that undergirds reality. Plato saw this world as the world of forms. For Plato the immaterial world was the world of ratios, proportions, and order. It was a cold and abstract beauty; an impersonal beauty. The Judeo-Christian element brought a greater level of refinement to this transcendent realm. The divine was no longer impersonal, but personal. God of course contained the elements of the immaterial that Plato saw, but Plato, lacking special revelation, saw only so far. The difference between Plato and Moses was not their intelligence but their access to revelation. Faith in the usage throughout this essay is not to be understood as faith in any particular Christian doctrine, but the general Christian belief that Jesus Christ is the sole master of man’s affairs and that from Catholic to Protestant to Orthodox men have tried to glorify Christ in word, music, and architecture.

Man can understand the divine in one of two ways : (1) natural revelation and (2) special revelation. Natural revelation is those aspects of the divine revealed through the natural world and discernible through unaided human reason. For example the propositions that God exists, God is good, the universe had a beginning (hence was created), the universe was not created five minutes ago with the appearance of age or nothing outside the contents of my mind exist. Special Revelation is that portion of divine revelation revealed through God’s spoken word (Moses on Mt. Sinai) and his written word (Holy Scripture).

Faith, particularly the Christian faith, is the bedrock of Western Civilization; the period from 313 to about 1914 is known as Christendom. This is the period in which the principles of the Gospel were the air men and women breathed. The central feature of Society from Ohio to Kent to White Russia was the Church. God, His Word, and His ministers were given the sort of respect and prestige that is today given to scientists and athletes. This culture generated the greatest minds in history in every conceivable field. Through faith Newton and Mendel pioneered physics and biology. By Faith Dante, Milton, and Tolstoy wrote works of literature that steal one’s breath. By faith Handel and Bach wrote sublime music. By faith Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles engineered Haiga Sophia, Bernardo Rossellino engineered St. Peter’s and Christopher Wren engineered St. Paul’s. Faith is the warp and woof of Western civilization and its greatest cultural, moral, and artistic accomplishments are inconceivable without it.

Family is the cellular level of society. No viable social unit exists below it. By viable I mean able to (1) reproduce itself and (2) pass on its values to the next generation. For obvious reasons homosexuality and contraception are not viable. The family according to Aristotle is that unit in society by which man’s needs are met. This is related to the original meaning of economics, which is a compound work from oikos (household) and nomos (law), or household law. Economics was the study of how families provided the basic needs of life for the community. For the purposes of this essay family is composed of minimally one man and one woman united in a monogamous relationship. The family is fundamentally an economic unit. It is necessary to raise self-controlled disciplined individuals who are able to contribute to the well-being of society. Aristotle as well as C.S. Lewis believe that ideally families should be attended with a modest land base. This view is also Biblical as can be seen by referring to my four-part essay on Christian economics. As an economic unit the family must be self-sufficient (hence the need for a modest land holding, a yeomanry if you will), must be defended by the force of law and social convention and must be seen as the building block of civilization.

We can look at men like Mozart, who in order to aggravate his father would play a musical note and then not finish it; his father would without fail stop what he was doing and go to the piano and finish it; or Pascal; or Pat Buchannan to see the necessity of and positive influence of connubial tranquility in the formation of great men of Western Civilization. The clear failure of any post Christian alternative to the family, single-mothers from the inner city, homosexual unions and general pick-up culture which leads to a sterile, loveless, crime-ridden world, demands a return to the tried and true method of civilization-building monogamous households.

Freedom is not as is commonly misconceived as having a plurality of choices. Freedom–true freedo–is being free to live as man was intended. From Aristotle we derive the notion of teleology which is a compound work from the word telos (goal) and ology (study) or the study of goals. Man has a goal and the Greeks understood that goal to be eudaimonia, or flourishing/fulfilment, and for the schoolmen as beatitude. True freedom is man acting in accordance with his purpose. That purpose being most perfectly comprehended in Christ. Man’s end, to quote the Westminster Catechism, is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever. Or as Augustine said: “Thou hast prompted him, that he should delight to praise thee, for thou hast made us for thyself and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in thee.” Through the freedom of conforming to man’s natural end, however imperfectly, Western Civilization has produced music that reaches the most sublime heights of ecstasy, literature that moves and nourishes the soul, and moral truths that ended human sacrifice, gladiatorial games, slavery, and cannibalism. No social movement in history has ever achieved the social, moral, cultural, and intellectual results of Western Civilization, which in turn is inconceivable without Christianity.

So, what are the permanent things? Faith, Family and Freedom; these form three legs for the stool of western civilization and remove any one of them and Western civilization falters. Remove all three, as we have currently done, and Western civilization will die, to be replaced no doubt with cannibalistic Africans, human sacrificing Mestizos, and scimitar-wielding Muslims. favicon

Origins of the First World War, part IV

The source of this blackout is the Rockefeller Foundation and the Council on Foreign Relations. While the original intent of the blackout was to cover up the true history of the Second World War, a concomitant result was that the First World War was covered up as well.

The Committee on Studies of the Council on Foreign Relations is concerned that the debunking journalistic campaign following World War I should not be repeated and believes that the American public deserves a clear and competent statement of our basic aims and activities during the Second World War. What is contemplated is not a nationalistic treatment, but rather a history, with the issues and problems presented by an American historian for an American public.”1

What the Rockefellers call “journalistic debunking” most call truth telling, and whoever thinks that the history written under the CFR-Rockefeller cabal is not nationalistic and hagiographic needs to have their head examined. The fact that the list of “respectable historians” to be utilized in this revisionist cabal excludes both Charles Beard (the most respected US historian of the first half of the twentieth century and American Historical Association member) and Charles Tansill, shows these men for what they are: charlatans. Why would two of the most qualified historians in the US not be consulted on so august an endeavor? Only if the intent was to deceive and obfuscate. Such an end was seen by Charles Beard who wrote in the Saturday Evening Post:

“The Rockefeller Foundation and the Council on Foreign Relations…intend to prevent, if they can, a repetition of what they call in the vernacular “the debunking journalistic campaign following World War I.” Translated into precise English, this means that the Foundation and the Council do not want journalists or any other persons to examine too closely and criticize too freely the official propaganda and official statements relative to “our basic aims and activities” during World War II. In short, they hope that, among other things, the policies and measures of Franklin D. Roosevelt will escape in the coming years the critical analysis, evaluation and exposition that befell the policies and measures of Woodrow Wilson and the Entente Allies after World War I.”2

Sadly Beard was right: not only has Roosevelt escaped the net of truth, but Wilson’s lies were placed back in as well.

I have endeavored to cite and reference men of the highest echelons of power and reputation: economists, men of letters, statesmen, generals, etc. to show that many thoughtful men have given careful thought to the origins of the First World War and that if anybody should bear the sole weight of war guilt it should be France, with Russia as a close second. Yet the hacks and quacks who teach history jealously guard the true secrets of the war and through a complex system of filtering and disinformation spread, known as peer review, this cabal of silence is maintained at the expense of both posterity and, more importantly, the truth. favicon


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1 The Rockefeller Foundation Annual Report 1946, 188-89.

2 Charles Beard, former president of the American Historical Association Who’s to Write the History of the War?, Saturday Evening Post, p. 172. October 4, 1947.)

Origins of the First World War, part III

As to the nature of this second nefarious alliance we will turn to next, but suffice it so say Britain recklessly provoked an unnecessary conflict with a nation that was acting in a perfectly rational way i.e., expanding its global markets and seeking to produce a navy able to protect its merchant marine.

The French motivation for war was simple revanchism or revenge over their defeat in 1870 and restoration of Alsace-Lorraine. John Maynard Keynes explains it thus:

So far as possible, therefore, it was the policy of France to set the clock back and to undo what, since 1870, the progress of Germany had accomplished. By loss of territory and other measures her population was to be curtailed; but chiefly the economic system, upon which she depended for her new strength, the vast fabric of iron, coal, and transport must be destroyed. If France could seize, even in part, what Germany was compelled to drop, the inequality of strength between the two rivals for European hegemony might be remedied for many generations.1

The effectively unknown work of George Frost Kennan, The Fateful Alliance: France, Russia and the Coming of the First World War, is the most thorough work on the Franco-Russian alliance in the English speaking world. His account of a vengeful France and expansionist Russia colluding to plot a World War is a very dark read.

The essentials are this: (1) in 1890 the Kaiser did not want war with any of his neighbors, (2) certain Generals and Politicians in France wanted war to regain Alsace-Lorraine, (3) Russia wanted to settle old scores with Austria and Turkey, but needed Germany out of the picture first and (4) both sides sought the complete dismemberment of the German nation.

As to the alleged bellicosity of the Kaiser, Mr. Kennan has this to say:

Such expressions of peaceful intent were all right in their way, and they were probably quite sincere on the part of the Kaiser, who, while he liked to boast about Germany’s military strength, did not actually wish to see it employed in a highly destructive war between great powers. But (as Caprivi should have known, for Schweinitz had repeatedly emphasized the point in his dispatches) these expressions failed completely to satisfy Giers’ need for something more specific, in writing – something that would have committed not only Caprivi’s successors but, by implication, those of the Tsar and Giers as well, to the continuation of the recent relationship.”2

While one can charge the Kaiser of a grave diplomatic error and ignoring the wisdom of Bismark to court Russia to isolate France, he was not guilty of deliberately fomenting hostile feelings with Russia nor of wider European conflict at large.

The two chief architects of this general European conflagration were the Frenchman Boisdeffre and the Russian Obruchev. In the July 1891 meetings between these two men on the possibility of an offensive alliance between France and Russia, a very revealing comment was made by both men.

And what, he (Obruchev) then asked would be the equivalent aims of the French?

Boisdeffre’s answer was instantaneous: the recovery of Alsace-Lorraine.

Obruchev was suspicious. “Would you not also,” he asked, “wish to extend your bourders to the Rhine and to break up Germany?” (One sense here the effects of Giers’ warnings against Russia’s associating herself with any such far-reaching aims.)

Boisdeffre, in response to this sally, was evasive. One would first have to know what success one had on the field of battle. “Let us begin by beating them; after that it will be easy.”3

We see clearly the intentions of France and Russia to form a coalition that, they hoped, would lead to the dismemberment of Germany. Such thoughts of dismemberment were also shared by Tsar Alexander III who said, after being confronted by Giers over the new alliance with France:

We must correct the mistakes of the past and destroy Germany at the first possible moment.” With Germany broken up, he agreed, Austria would not dare to move.

Giers, gathering his courage in the face of this unexpected statement, put the question: “But what would we gain by helping the French destroy Germany?”

“Why, what indeed?” replied the Tsar. “What we would gain would be that Germany, as such, would disappear. It would break up into a number of small, weak states, the way it used to be.”4

The aggressive intentions of this treaty were seen by the Russian diplomat Lamsdorf who wrote:

This commitment they are demanding of us would give the French a carte blanche for adventures and for the provocation of conflicts in which it would be hard to distinguish who had really started the affair; and then we are obliged to support them with an army of 800,000!” 5

From these secret communiques it is clear that French and Russian governments sought, without any legitimate recourse or prior precedent, the total annihilation of a fellow great power. While one can sympathize with France’s desire to reclaim Alsace-Lorraine, the fact that lunatics like Boisdeffre and later Poincaré would plan a World War of annihilation as a means to regain this land is insanity of the first degree.

We see that only a lunatic could perceive Germany’s actions as aggressive and threatening, given the great press of foes at gathering around her, France and Russia were plotting a war of annihilation and eventually dragooned Britain into their skullduggery and yet all of this, and more has been kept hidden from the public. favicon


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1 John Maynard Keynes, The economic consequences of the peace (Harcourt, Brace & Howe, 1920), 36.

2 George F. Kennan , The Fateful Alliance: France, Russia, and the Coming of the First World War, (Pantheon Books, 1984), 44.

3 Ibid pg 95

4 Ibid pg 153-54

5 Ibid 153

Origins of the First World War, part II

As we can see from the production figures any claim that Germany was trying to challenge the Royal Navy is ludicrous. The question then arises: how did the arms race begin? As was hinted at above it was the result of a criminal triumvirate of Lord Balfour, Milliner, and First Lord of the Admiralty Sir Reginald McKenna.

The root cause of England’s warrantless provocation of Germany is found in the private writings of the US diplomat Henry White and his conversation with Lord Balfour in 1907:

“Balfour (somewhat lightly): “We are probably fools to not find a reason for not declaring war on Germany before she builds too many ships and takes away our trade.”

White: “You are a very high-minded man in private life. How can you possibly contemplate anything so politically immoral as provoking a war against a harmless nation which has as good a right to a navy as you have? If you wish to compete with German trade, work harder.”

Balfour: “That would mean lowering our standard of living. Perhaps it would be simpler for us to have a war.”

White: “I am shocked that you of all men should enunciate such principles.”

Balfour (again lightly): “Is it a question of right or wrong? Maybe it is just a question of keeping our supremacy.”

This view that England wanted to eliminate a trade rival was accepted by the renowned economist John Maynard Keynes:

“The politics of power are inevitable, and there is nothing very new to learn about this war or the end it was fought for; England had destroyed, as in each preceding century, a trade rival; a mighty chapter had been closed in the secular struggle between the glories of Germany and France.”

It should not be forgotten that after the end of the First World War, a massive trans-Atlantic revisionism took place in the US, UK, and France thoroughly debunking many of these myths, only for those same myths to re-entrench themselves in the post-World War II era. (*)

The hysteria directed against Germany began in 1909 with the Great Naval Scare. When First Lord of the Admiralty Sir Reginald McKenna made ludicrous claims that Germany was intending to build eight dreadnoughts rather than the four stated in the April 1908 German Naval Law3, he spread hysteria throughout the British Isles. He claimed that Germany could build dreadnoughts faster than the British and would outstrip them in naval production at current rates. The heights of hysteria can be seen in the twin predictions made by McKenna and Lord Balfour in April 1912; the former claimed Germany had 17 dreadnoughts and the latter 21-25. The ridiculousness of these estimates can be seen by the fact that at the onset of the First World War in 1914 Germany had only 13 dreadnoughts4.

The ‘evidence’ for these fantastic figures came from H.H. Mulliner. Mr. Mulliner was the managing director of Coventry Ordnance Works. Desiring more orders from the government he fabricated a series of hysterical predictions that Germany would rapidly outpace Britain in dreadnought production. Due to the slump in naval production, a result of the détentes with France and Russia, a new foe had to be manufactured to ensure government orders. The information of Germany’s feverish buildup came from one of H.H. Mulliner’s employees, a certain Mr. Carpmael. Mr. Carpmael claimed to have visited the Krupp Works and saw five to six large machines of varying degrees of competition and assumed that Germany was building or capable of building six dreadnoughts a year.5 While Mr. Carpmael’s intentions are unknown they were grist for Mr. Mulliner’s mill.

Yet as these fabulous predications were being made the truth was well known by the First Lord of the Admiralty and the King. John ‘Jack’ Fisher wrote:

“I might say “The unswerving intention of 4 years has now culminated in two complete Fleets in Home Waters, each of which is incomparably superior to the whole German Fleet mobilized for war. Don’t take my word! Count them, see them for yourselves! You will see them next June. This can’t alter for years, even were we supinely passive in our building; but it won’t alter because we will have 8 dreadnoughts a year. So sleep quiet in your beds!”6

To King Edward he wrote:

“In March of this year, 1907, it is an absolute fact that Germany had not laid down a single “Dreadnought,” nor had she commenced building a single Battleship or Big Cruiser for eighteen months.”7


There is one more piece of information I have to give: Admiral Tirpitz, the German Minister of Marine has just stated, in a secret official document, that the English Navy is now four times stronger than the German Navy. Yes that is so, and we are going to keep the British Navy at that strength, with ten “Dreadnoughts” commenced last May. But we don’t want to parade all this to the world at large.”8

Bold is mine, but as we can see the British with cold and malicious intent lied about an irenic neighbor in order to build up the Royal Navy for war with Germany to remove a trade rival. Admiral von Tirpitz claims that the British led by “Jack” Fisher compared the projected size of the Germany Navy of 1920 with the then contemporary British Navy of 1908, this bait and switch being impossible for the British people to have known about.9

The question then arises: why did Germany seek a blue water navy? In order to combat the growing strength of the Franco-Russian navies as the two nations were joined as allies. We see from JFC Fuller:

The crux of the naval question was that it had been the policy of successive British governments to concentrate popular attention on British and German expansion alone; they did not take into account the fact that Germany had other naval considerations than war against England. Her naval situation in a war against France and Russia was overlooked; yet it was the situation which was, and had been, the governing factor in her naval policy since 1900, when Admirals Tirpitz said: “We should be in a position to blockade the Russian fleet in the Baltic ports, and to prevent at the same time the entrance to that sea of the French fleet.”10favicon


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1 Alvin Nevins, Thirty Years of American Diplomacy (Harper & Brothers, 1st edition 1930), 257-58.

2 John Maynard Keynes, The economic consequences of the peace (Harcourt, Brace & Howe, 1920), 33.

3 Francis Neilson, How Diplomats Make War (B. W. Huebsch, 1915), 135.

4 Bertrand Russell, Prophesy and Dissent, (Academic Division of Unwin Hayman Ltd., 1988), 263.

5 “Background to the Dreadnought Panic – enter Mr. Mulliner.”, accessed October 2, 2014

6 Baron John Arbuthnot Fisher, Memories (Hodder and Stroughton),189-190.

7 Ibid pg 14

8 Ibid pg 16

9 Admiral von Tirpitz, My Memoirs (Dodd, Mead and Company, 1919), 269.

10JFC Fuller, Military History of the Western World, Vol. 3: From the American Civil War to the End of World War II (Da Capo Press, 1956), 176-7

Origins of the First World War, part I

The dominant myth of the First World War is the myth of German war guilt. The allies, in a self-serving spirit in the 231,st article of the Versailles Treaty, stated that:

The Allied and Associated Governments affirm and Germany accepts the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies.1

Since that time countless court historians and self-seeking shills have repeated this pabulum. There are many aspects of this narrative that are in need of revision, but I will restrict myself to two points: (1) the naval arms race with Britain and (2) French Revanchism. In both cases I will show that it was not the Germans that escalated the conflict, but the French and British which rendered the war inevitable.

A rather conventional account of the naval arms race between Britain and Germany can be seen in the Cambridge Illustrated History of Warfare:

It is hard to see much purpose in the policies pursued by Germany over the next two decades. In 1894 the Kaiser read the work of the American prophet of naval power, Alfred Thayer Mahan, and immediately concluded that Germany’s rise to the status of a world power could only occur through creation of a grand fleet. The Kaiser’s enthusiasm was undoubtedly fueled by his love-hate relationship with his British cousins. Not until 1897 did he find an admiral, Alfred von Tirpitz, who possessed both the ambition and political acumen to carry out his dreams…

He (Tirpitz) argued both that construction of a great fleet would force Britain to respect the Reich’s worldwide interests and that, because Britain and the Franco-Russian alliance held mutually hostile interests, Germany could create such a fleet without fear of British interference…

Tirpitz’s greatest mistake lay in his failure to recognize that geography had given Britain an almost unassailable naval position: the British Isles lay astride Germany’s path to the Atlantic, and it would be an easy matter for the Royal Navy to block Germany in the English Channel and across the exits from the North Sea, whilst Britain’s position also shielded its own trade routes. But nothing deterred the Germans form their course…

The continuing German naval build-up prompted Britain to form an entente with France in 1904 that resolved outstanding disagreements between the two countries. The Germans replied by causing a major diplomatic crisis over Morocco, intended to break up the growing Anglo-French friendship; instead, they only drove the two powers more closely together. … None of this caused the Germans to desist from an armaments program that endangered the Reich’s long-range strategic interests, but the increasing tense European situation did lead in 1912 to a change in emphasis.2

This nauseating self-congratulatory propaganda is par for the course when it comes to the history of the First World War. In reality, rather than an evil and or incompetent German cabal seeking to find a cause for war against Britain, it was an ugly British triumvirate of business, politics, and the navy. The whole naval arms race was a premeditated deception on the part of this triumvirate to do three things: (1) ensure British economic dominance, (2) increase naval funding, and (3) enrich well-connected businesses.

Firstly, we must understand that after the Naval Defense Act of 1889, whereby the Royal Navy was pledged to have as many as or more battleships than the next two powers, and that the British were committed to a conflict with any rising naval power, no matter how irenic their intentions.

Secondly, the sheer idiocy of claiming that German expenditures drove the arms race can be debunked by this graph:

Year Great Britain France Russia Germany
1909 £11, 076, 551 £4, 517, 766 £1, 758, 487 £10, 177, 062
1910 14, 755, 289 4, 977, 682 1, 424, 013 11, 392, 856
1911 15, 148, 171 5, 876, 659 3,215, 396 11, 701, 859
1912 16, 132, 558 7, 114, 876 6, 897, 580 11, 491, 187
1913 16, 883, 875 8, 093, 064 12, 082, 516 11, 010, 883
1914 18, 676, 08 11, 772, 862 11, 098, 613 10, 316, 264


JFC Fuller offers a fine commentary on these figures:

When the cost of Austrian and Italian new construction for 1914, respectively £4,051,976 and £3,237,000, is added, to the last on the above German figures, it will be seen that when war broke out the Triple Entente was spending on construction two and half times the amount spent by the Triple Alliance, and when France and Russia approximately two and a half times as much as Germany. How anyone could say that German naval expansion threatened England is difficult to understand; yet from 1909 on it was said again and again.4

The commentary provided by Francis Neilson, British Liberal MP provides more insight:

Now, no fair-minded Britisher can look at these figures and say that they prove in the slightest degree that Germany intended to smash Britain. The wildest notions of German naval expansion have been sedulously sown in this country for years.5

To be continued… favicon


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1 Treaty of Versailles

2 Geoffrey Parker, Cambridge Illustrated History of Warfare (Cambridge University Press, 1995), 257-8.

3 * this is a reproduction of a graph found in JFC Fuller, Military History of the Western World, Vol. 3: From the American Civil War to the End of World War II (Da Capo Press, 1956), 177.

4 Ibid

5 Francis Neilson, How Diplomats Make War (B. W. Huebsch, 1915), 146.