Looking Back at 2012 “Through the Eye of a Needle”

As we come to the end of the holiday season and are almost to the New Year, we take the time to reflect on the magnum opus of the historian of late antiquity Peter Brown: Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD.

2012 has seen reviews of Brown’s important book in the New Republic, the New York Review of Books, and in the UK in BBC History Magazine, The Guardian, The Literary Review, and The Times Literary Supplement, to list just a few.

Why the interest in how Christianity and conceptions of wealth changed over a period of a two hundred years a few millenia ago? With ongoing discussions about how much each of us owes society (whether we’re talking holiday gifts or taxes and the so-called fiscal cliff), the issues around giving and our beliefs couldn’t be more timely–and it certainly can’t hurt that Brown is the top scholar to draw connections between the ancient past and today. As Glen W. Bowersock writes in the New Republic:

It is exciting to watch a historian who has already written so extensively on Late Antiquity absorb so much new scholarship, revise his old reviews, and re-imagine the world we thought we knew from him. . . . Through the Eye of a Needle is a tremendous achievement, even for a scholar who has already achieved so much. Its range is as vast as its originality, and readers will find everywhere the kinds of memorable aperçus and turns of phrase for which its author is deservedly famous. . . . There can be no doubt that we are in the presence of a historian and teacher of genius.

In his piece “A Masterpiece on the Rise of Christianity” in the New York Review of Books, Garry Wills (who also selected the title as his book of the year in the Chicago Tribune) says:

To compare it with earlier surveys of this period is to move from the X-ray to the cinema….Every page is full of information and argument, and savoring one’s way through the book is an education. It is a privilege to live in an age that could produce such a masterpiece of the historical literature.

Writing in his five-star online review at Christianity Today, Peter Leithart affectionately calls the book “deliriously complicated,” and goes on to write:

As usual, Brown leaves no stone unturned in his search for insight and evidence. … He paints a colorful social setting for early church debates about theology and ethics without becoming reductively sociological, and often overturns accepted mytho-history in the process. He quietly draws on contemporary theory but typically lets ancients speak for themselves because his aim is to introduce us to an exotic world. Through it all, he focuses on the masses of details by treating attitudes, beliefs, and practices about wealth as a ‘stethoscope’ to hear the heartbeat of late Roman and early Christian civilization. … Brown has captured the rough texture of real history. It is testimony to the success of Brown’s subtle, provocative, and beautifully written book.

Across the pond, Tom Holland champions Peter Brown and the book in History Today, BBC History Magazine, and Twitter. In History Today, Holland calls Brown the “greatest living historian of late antiquity.” He goes on in BBC History Magazine:

Through the Eye of a Needle is the crowning masterpiece of Peter Brown, the great historian who virtually invented late antiquity as a periodisation. The book’s theme might seem specialised: the evolution of attitudes towards wealth in the last century and a half of the Roman empire in the west, and the century that followed its collapse. In reality, like so many of Brown’s books, it gives us a world vivid with colour and alive with a symphony of voices. It is not only the most compassionate study of late antiquity in the west ever written, but also a profoundly subtle meditation on our own tempestuous relationship with money.

Meanwhile, Peter Thornemann of the Times Literary Supplement calls it “[O]utstanding. . . . Brown lays before us a vast panorama of the entire culture and society of the late Roman west.” And at The Guardian, Tim Whitmarsh writes,”His sparkling prose, laced with humour and humanity, brings his subjects to life with an uncommon sympathy and feeling for their situation.”

Through the Eye of the Needle has also been selected as a best book of the year at the Institute of Public Affairs blog, among others. Doubtless, the interest in the origins of how society balances faith and finances will continue well into 2013 and we would do well to heed the fascinating lessons of Brown’s much-lauded work.

To learn more about the author and his latest book:

bookjacket

Through the Eye of a Needle
Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD
By Peter Brown

New Literature Catalog!

We invite you to be among the first to check out our new literature catalog! http://press.princeton.edu/catalogs/lit13.pdf

Of particular interest is the fourth edition of The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, which no reader or writer of poetry will want to be without. Also be sure to note Simon Gikandi’s Slavery and the Culture of Taste, co-winner of the 2011 Modern Language Association’s James Russell Lowell Prize. The catalog also features our Essays in the Arts series including Alexander Nemerov’s stunning Wartime Kiss: Visions of the Moment in the 1940s and Leonard Barkan’s examination of the deliciously ambiguous history of the relationship between words and pictures, Mute Poetry, Speaking Pictures.

Forthcoming titles you’ll want to add to your reading list include the expertly rendered Italo Calvino: Letters, 1941-1985 selected and with an introduction by Michael Wood, Reiner Stach’s riveting Kafka biographies, and Ruth R. Wisse’s fascinating No Joke: Making Jewish Humor.

If you’re interested in hearing more about our literature titles, sign up with ease here: http://press.princeton.edu/subscribe/ Your email address will remain confidential!

We’ll see everyone at the meeting of the Modern Language Association January 3-6 in Boston, MA. Come visit us at booth 508! Be sure to stop by at 4:30 p.m. Friday, January 4th for a celebratory reception with the editors of the fourth edition of The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics—the most comprehensive and authoritative poetry reference for more than four decades. Wine and cheese will be served!

New Ancient World Catalog!

Be among the first to check out our new ancient world catalog! http://press.princeton.edu/catalogs/ancient13.pdf

Of particular interest are some of our new and forthcoming titles including Peter Brown’s masterpiece, Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD, and Marcus Tullius Cicero’s entertaining common sense guide, How to Run a Country: An Ancient Guide for Modern Leaders selected, translated, and with an introduction by Philip Freeman. Sara Forsdyke offers a fascinating new perspective in Slaves Tell Tales: And Other Episodes in the Politics of Popular Culture and Ancient Greece, Peter S. Wells challenges existing views in How Ancient Europeans Saw the World: Vision, Patterns, and the Shaping of the Mind in Prehistoric Times, and Ian Morris resolves some of the biggest debates in global history in The Measure of Civilization: How Social Development Decides the Fate of Nations.

Also, be sure to revisit the winner of the 2012 Charles J. Goodwin Award of Merit from the American Philological Association, Aesopic Conversations: Popular Tradition, Cultural Dialogue, and the Invention of Greek Prose, by Leslie Kurke.

If you’re interested in hearing more about our ancient world titles, sign up with ease here: http://press.princeton.edu/subscribe/ Your email address will remain confidential!

We’ll see everyone at the meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America and the American Philological Association January 3-6 in Seattle, WA. Come visit us at booth 108!

HOW CLIMATE WORKS (Part 6) — Michael Bender on Paleoclimate

Continuing with our series on talks from Princeton’s HOW CLIMATE WORKS symposium, here we see Princeton University geoscience professor Michael Bender discussing Paleoclimate. His new book PALEOCLIMATE will be availble July 2013.

Take Flight with the Crossley ID Guide: Rough-Legged Hawk

Click on the photo above to view a larger image.

 

This is a two-page spread of Rough-legged Hawks from The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors.

Dark Rough-legged Hawks are dark brown below with slightly paler underwing coverts, and dark above. The upperside of adults is mottled compared with the unmarked uppersides of 1st-years. Some adult males are a beautiful, uniform black underneath with a slaty blue sheen on the back. Adults show a dark trailing edge to the wings and a defined dark tail tip from below. The tail pattern on adult dark birds is all-dark above, or dark with multiple white tail bands. Both sexes can have tail bands, but the white bands on males are typically neat and well-defined.

1st-years have an indistinct dark tail with faint grayish broken bands that appears whitish with a smudgy dark tip from below. 1st-year dark birds also have a paler face than dark adults. Rough-legged Hawks are high-Arctic breeders. Rough-legs winter on marshes, farmland, and other open countryside, often in the harshest environments. They can often be seen soaring with wings in a modified dihedral or hovering to spot unsuspecting rodents. Any raptor sitting on the very highest snag surveying the surrounding countryside is likely to be this species.

To see ALL the sample plates from The Crossley ID Guide, click here.

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Justin Lin in the UK

Quest for Prosperity

 

Professor Justin Lin, author of ‘The Quest of Prosperity: How Developing Economies Can Take Off ’ was in the UK this week to receive an honorary doctorate from the London School of Economics. Whilst in London he took the opportunity to give two public lectures, the first at the Overseas Development Institute and the second at LSE.  Please follow the links to catch up with either of these.

HOW CLIMATE WORKS (Part 5) — David Archer on the Global Carbon Cycle

Renowned University of Chicago geophysicist David Archer discussed the Global Carbon Cycle. We published the book of the same name, THE GLOBAL CARBON CYCLE, in the Fall of 2010.

New Philosophy Catalog!

Be among the first to check out our new philosophy catalog! http://press.princeton.edu/catalogs/phil13.pdf

Of particular interest are some of our new and forthcoming titles including John M. Cooper’s Pursuits of Wisdom: Six Ways of Life in Ancient Philosophy from Socrates to Plotinus, Steven Nadler’s The Philosopher, the Priest, and the Painter: A Portrait of Descartes, Brian Leiter’s Why Tolerate Religion?, and Robert Audi’s Moral Perception. We’re also publishing a new textbook, Logic: The Laws of Truth by Nicholas J.J Smith, an essential for undergraduates and graduates seeking a comprehensive and accessible introduction to the subject, and a new paperback edition of Elizabeth Anderson’s Imperative of Integration. Also be sure to note our ever-growing collections of works by and regarding Isaiah Berlin and Søren Kierkegaard, which now includes reissues of titles by and about Kierkegaard and a launch of a digital edition of his writings in celebration of the 200th anniversary of his birthday.

If you’re interested in hearing more about our philosophy titles, sign up with ease here: http://press.princeton.edu/subscribe/ Your email address will remain confidential!

We’ll see everyone at the meeting of the American Philosophical Association December 27-30 in Atlanta, GA. Come visit us at booth 208!

89.3 KPCC Southern California Public Radio discusses Yeoman’s Near-Earth Objects on AirTalk Program

AirTalk | December 10th, 2012, 10:43am

While it seems that the occurrence of natural disasters is constantly on the rise, we can all be thankful that the worst possible scenario has yet to happen. Most people think of floods or earthquakes as the worst offenders to life and infrastructure, but the most potentially damaging threat is actually hanging above our heads.

Asteroids, and other “near-Earth objects,” could wipe out every single living thing if one of them were to crash into the planet. That’s why NASA created the Near-Earth Object Program Office as an effort to detect such threats to Earth and humanity. The manager of this program, Jet Propulsion Laboratory senior research scientist Donald Yeomans, has compiled some of the insight from his work in this field into a new book.

Read the rest of the article on SCPR’s AirTalk website: Objects in telescope are closer than they appear

About Near-Earth Objects: Of all the natural disasters that could befall us, only an Earth impact by a large comet or asteroid has the potential to end civilization in a single blow. Yet these near-Earth objects also offer tantalizing clues to our solar system’s origins, and someday could even serve as stepping-stones for space exploration. In this book, Donald Yeomans introduces readers to the science of near-Earth objects–its history, applications, and ongoing quest to find near-Earth objects before they find us.

In its course around the sun, the Earth passes through a veritable shooting gallery of millions of nearby comets and asteroids. One such asteroid is thought to have plunged into our planet sixty-five million years ago, triggering a global catastrophe that killed off the dinosaurs. Yeomans provides an up-to-date and accessible guide for understanding the threats posed by near-Earth objects, and also explains how early collisions with them delivered the ingredients that made life on Earth possible. He shows how later impacts spurred evolution, allowing only the most adaptable species to thrive–in fact, we humans may owe our very existence to objects that struck our planet.

Yeomans takes readers behind the scenes of today’s efforts to find, track, and study near-Earth objects. He shows how the same comets and asteroids most likely to collide with us could also be mined for precious natural resources like water and oxygen, and used as watering holes and fueling stations for expeditions to Mars and the outermost reaches of our solar system.

Donald K. Yeomans is a fellow and senior research scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he is manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office and supervisor of the Solar System Dynamics Group. He is the author of Comets: A Chronological History of Observation, Science, Myth, and Folklore.

Take Flight with the Crossley ID Guide: Sunrise, Sunset

Click on the photo above to view a larger image.

 

One of the benefits of having so many plates devoted to one group of birds is that The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors can portray how raptors look in different types of light.

Have you ever noticed that birds look orangey at sunup or sundown? This can be confusing when trying to ID raptors based on their coloration. Be aware of this, and rely on plumage traits that are not color-related to make accurate IDs. The ability to see patterns as “shades of gray” helps. And of course, structure and manner of flight are always keys to raptor ID.

Challenge yourself to distinguish these early morning raptors.

To see ALL the sample plates from The Crossley ID Guide, click here.

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An Ai Weiwei book giveaway on Twitter, of course!

This week we have a special book giveaway on Twitter for Ai Weiwei’s new book, Weiwei-isms. We are giving away one book along with a signed bookplate from Ai Weiwei. Yes, he really did sign it!

Follow us on Twitter and re-tweet any @PrincetonUPress tweet by noon on Friday and you will be automatically entered into our random drawing. We’ll pick the winner on Friday at noon EST.

WEIWEI-ISM #166 “Before blogging, I was living in the Middle Ages. Now my feelings for time and space are entirely different.”

Find us on Twitter at:
http://twitter.com/princetonUpress

Good luck!

Weiwei-isms
Ai Weiwei
Edited by Larry Warsh

This collection of quotes demonstrates the elegant simplicity of Ai Weiwei’s thoughts on key aspects of his art, politics, and life. A master at communicating powerful ideas in astonishingly few words, Ai Weiwei is known for his innovative use of social media to disseminate his views. The short quotations presented here have been carefully selected from articles, tweets, and interviews given by this acclaimed Chinese artist and activist. The book is organized into six categories: freedom of expression; art and activism; government, power, and moral choices; the digital world; history, the historical moment, and the future; and personal reflections.

Together, these quotes span some of the most revealing moments of Ai Weiwei’s eventful career–from his risky investigation into student deaths in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake to his arbitrary arrest in 2011–providing a window into the mind of one of the world’s most electrifying and courageous contemporary artists.

We invite you to read the introduction online:
http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9924.html

Does Santa use a GPS?

Millions of children and their parents will track Santa’s progress on Christmas Eve as he moves with the sunset, from East to West. It may surprise you to learn that mathematicians also spend some time thinking about Santa’s travel plans because Santa Claus is the most efficient business traveler ever known and his navigation across the globe is a prime example of the Traveling Salesman Problem.

So, we are pleased to offer some tools to explore the TSP while you’re waiting for Jolly Old St. Nick to slide down your chimney:

Official NORAD Santa Tracker — the definitive Santa tracker, NORAD provides hour by hour reports of Santa sightings so you can chart his progress.

Santa Claus and the Traveling Salesman Problem in the Orlando Sentinel — a classic article on the Santa Claus problem from 1998. Visualized here.

Concorde TSP Solver — this app allows you to plot your own path around the world. Discover the most efficient ways to travel to all the capitols from Japan to N. America, or plot in U.S. cities to see how Santa most likely makes his way.

In Pursuit of the Traveling Salesman by William J. Cook — the definitive book on the TSP problem provides the history of TSP, the challenges to his solution, and the current research being conducted.