When I am researching, I try to read 100 pages a day. How I do it is I read 50 pages in the morning/afternoon and 50 pages in the evening. For the longest time I did this with ease, but lately this is often difficult. Either I am busy–but this is only occasionally a problem–or I am lethargic. Lethargy? It may sound like a made-up condition, but the thing is I have anemia, a condition which can cause symptoms like insomnia and sleeping late in the morning. And I admit it with much shame–if I am not going any place, I am apt to sleep late. Yes, I may be punctual to shul and–when I had it–my job at Breakthrough. Yet give me nothing more to do than a shower and a book to read, and I seem to let things slide. More, I had COVID-19 during this Christmas, and my psychiatrist says this can produce lethargy.
Well, for a while I had problems up to COVID-19, I was having trouble managing 50 pages. Yet this week… in reading The Napoleonic Wars: A Global History, I managed to read about 75 pages a day so far… and I believe I may be back up to 100 pages again today. Of course, I am on page 552 and there are 642 pages in the book… I was planning on reading to page 575 of the book tonight after writing this Blog… however, I may have to reread part of what I just read… in the last part it may be slipping out of my mind. However, I believe I can finish the book tomorrow… either way…
I will mention one interesting thing I have learned. The Napoleonic Wars had a major effect on the America’s. The Louisiana Territory we bought from France originally (well, in terms of European powers controlling it) belonged to Spain. Yet because of the war in Europe, France had conquered Spain and in theory controlled all the Spanish territories in the Americas. In reality, though, France could barely control Spain. So it was that Simon Bolivar–though he still cut a dashing figure–also coincided with a time of Spanish weakness while fighting France–and could be one of the rebels who cast Spain out of South America. As for Portugal, because of the French invasion, the British helped its royal family leave Europe for Brazil, where it would rule until the 1880’s.
For me this last part–the influence of the Napoleonic Wars on the America’s–is perhaps the most interesting part of the book… I know this is probably egocentric, considering the United States is the land of my birth. Certainly, there were parts of the Wars that affected countries as broadly placed as England, Russia, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Spain, and Portugal outside of the Americas. Yet to find myself in world events–at least in the case of Napoleon selling the land of the Louisiana Purchase to the United States–along with the countries I first learned about in Middle School in a class called America’s Neighbors, is for me exhilarating.
Some day I hope to read about the history of Latin and pre-Latin America. I want to write about this some in two books: Living in the Looking Glass and Once Upon a Time When the World was Young. The hero and heroine of Discovering Wonderland will take America’s Neighbors in the sequel to that book Living in the Looking Glass. Though my Middle School teacher will be in the book, he will know more than he did in real life: the fruit of my labors may even exist in his having hot cacao that the ancient Mexicans (or Aztecs) drank for the children to drink side by side with the “French Blend” of our modern hot chocolate (first concocted in the 19th century). He will begin America’s Neighbors with these samples and the words, “the world of the pre-Columbian Americans is not truly dead. It even exists in the foods we eat: the potato, the tomato, and–drumroll–chocolate. Of course, our chocolate is a little different than ours, so I will let you taste both. Then we will begin with the domestication of the potato, the sweet potato, the tomato, and the cacao bean. It will only be the next class that we get to the tribal history of the early Americas, long before the Europeans came. This class is only half about the white and African people who came to populate our southern borders.”
The other book–Once When the World was Young–focuses more on the characters of Jeffry and Sally, who married because Jeffry got Sally pregnant in their senior of High School. In the book, Jeffry ends up fighting in Vietnam as a pilot while Sally stays nearby in Japan. However, when they come home, the relevant character appears changed from the loyal little brother Jeffry remembered and loved. Billie is a college student and hippie, and his obsession is studying the Amerindians. “I want to study the good stuff, not just the tragedies of the Trail of Tears and the lesser known atrocities. I want to know about the legends that made the Amerindians great, not just their military histories. Don’t get me wrong: reading about Tecumseh and Crazy Horse is great. But I want to study is their love of the buffalo, their animal totems, their mythologies, their weaving, their bead art, and everything that made the braves tick.”
Yet that is in the distant future–although I guess I am obligated to write those two books now. For now I am trying to read The Napoleonic Wars: A Global History.