Peter Brown: Humanties at its Best

The Princetonian has a write-up on historian Peter Brown. Brown is assuredly one of the greatest historians and scholars the twentieth-century produced. His scholarship is unrivaled in the field. The breadth and scope of Brown’s mastery is staggering and awe-inspiring (how is it even possible for one man to be so authoritative in both Western and Eastern Christianity, and their respective worlds?!). His command of languages is, I think, unheard of (in my experience, I can’t think of many historians fluent in more than perhaps a half-dozen languages at best, depending on his/her speciality).

More than this prodigious work, his life and his work represent, not merely the field of history at its best, but also the humanities more generally. As the humanities are increasingly under assault and the emphasis remains almost exclusively on STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), Brown serves as a reminder of the joys and wisdom that is unique to humanities.

STEM, while certainly important (I, for one, would find the lack of central air-conditioning intolerable), it is the humanities that teach us what Truth is, what it means to be human, or what it means to empathize with “the other.” The humanities pull us toward the Good and the Beautiful in a way STEM just quite can’t because of its utilitarian nature.

Those of us who toil ignominiously in the unwanted humanities could do worse than live the sort of life embodied by Peter Brown.

Alexander Hamilton and “Vigorous” Government

The examples studied exhibit a portion of what Alexander Hamilton meant when he wrote and spoke about “vigorous” government. He did not appeal to a ubiquitous national government with tentacles in all aspects of life that invalidated state sovereignty. Reasonably, he spoke for a national government that compensated for human nature and complimented the states. “Complementarity” also signified a check on state power. The accurate purpose of this “vigorous” national government is to preserve permanency and fortune for the citizenry within all states. It would do so by thwarting conflict and turmoil that is larger than one state. A confederacy, under which the United States found itself prior to the Constitution, precludes a “vigorous” national government and would thus be insufficient to respond to intrastate problems or events.

Read the rest here.

The rest of my graduate work can be here.

The Birth of the First Modern Nation

Because of Alexander Hamilton’s policies, the United States achieved heights never previously seen, and in a historically unprecedented span of time. Sylla reflects both the Netherlands and Great Britain modernized earlier, but neither did so in a three-year stretch, nor had they modernized “as completely as” America by 1800. It is to Alexander Hamilton, then, Americans must give thanks for not only entering the modern financial age, but placing the nation upon the path to define the modern financial age by being its epicenter.

Read the rest here.

Read the rest of my graduate work here.

Alexander Hamilton & James Madison

Often neglected amidst this pugilism between American titans is a corollary conflict between Alexander Hamilton and a third titan of American history, though oft overlooked – James Madison. In fact, the rupture between Hamilton and Madison is arguably more significant in that, while Jefferson was the Hamiltonian and Federalist nemesis almost from the beginning, the estrangement between Hamilton and Madison is schismatic in nature (at least from Hamilton’s perspective) and thus personal for Hamilton and there is no disagreement as that between brothers and comrades in arms. This schism turned upon Alexander Hamilton utterly misinterpretating James Madison’s philosophy undergirding the purpose of a powerful national government.

Read the rest here.

As always, you can read my graduate work here.