Power & Greed

Power & Greed

A Short History of the World

Book - 2002
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What has driven human beings throughout history? This lively, fascinating book deals with the nature of human greed and the eternal quest for power that, in every era and culture, has determined the outcome of world events. In a fast track through time, Gigantès introduces on the one hand the great rule-makers for a just society, such as Moses, Solon, Jesus and Muhammad, and on the other, the rule-breakers, or the 'Grand Acquisitors'. The latter use every trick to get more than their fair share - from the warring chieftains of early societies to the robber barons of the nineteenth century and, in our own times, the emergence of the superpower states. Gigantès examines the dramatic consequences of their actions, from Crusades, revolutions and the conquering of continents, to wars, recent events in the US and a world that is turning more and more into a global village.
Publisher: London : Constable, 2002
ISBN: 9781841195537
Branch Call Number: 909/Gig 359401 1
Characteristics: xiii, 258 p
Alternative Title: Power and greed


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Nov 24, 2011

Power and Greed by Philippe Gigantes.

At first, I thought this was a book that takes itself seriously. There’s a vintage cartoon from Punch showing Napoleon and some English fop carving the globe up into spheres of influence as though it were some kind of colossal ham: an illustration of greed and power if ever there was one.

I started reading this book expecting it to be a real work of history. It had the trappings of a serious work. It had an extensive bibliography, something you don’t see too often.

The concept Gigantes claims to intend to explore, the concept of the grand aquisitors, those who change or break the rules to their own benefit. Frankly, another name for this book could just as easily have been: “History’s Biggest Bastards”. And many of history’s biggest “acquisitors” are to be met in this book. There’s Mao Tse Tung and Martin Luther; Napoleon and Confucious. The concept sounded like a good basis for a work of history.

But pretty soon the negative baggage started to pile up. This book is by turns flippant and almost juvenile. It often rushes through events as though they were nothing more than a series of accidents in time, a kind of historical shopping list, a kind of play-by-play at a Leafs game.

This book is almost like a grade ten history essay: lots of people and events are kind of free-floating, not connected, to the rest of the flow of events in time. The context is missing.
You’ve got to wonder whether Gigantes takes his history seriously. When was the last time you encountered a book purporting to be serious history written, (by mistake?) in the first person.

A junior student contemplating setting out to research Jesus or Justinian would find a nicely written chapter but much of what is written is written, must be written, in a kind of tongue-in-cheek humour that could get that poor student into a good bit of trouble.

This book comes with ringing endorsements on the cover but then you gotta remember, it’s the publisher and author that get to pick them. A second opinion is advised.
The book is amusing in a simple kind of way.

As for me, I gave the book a disgusted heave-ho.

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