Tuesday, March 21, 2006

12 Books Which Changed The World

Melvyn Bragg 's soon-to-be-aired ITV programme will include

• The Origin of Species (Charles Darwin, 1859)

• The first rule book of the Football Association (1863)

• William Shakespeare's First Folio (1623)

• Principia Mathematica (Isaac Newton, 1687)

• The Wealth of Nations (Adam Smith, 1776)

• William Wilberforce's Commons speech, 12 May, 1789

• King James Bible (1611)

• Patent specification for Arkwright's spinning machine (1769)

• A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (Mary Wollstonecraft, 1792)

• Experimental Research in Electricity (Michael Faraday, 1855)

• Married Love (Marie Stopes, 1918)

• Magna Carta (1215)

To which I as an Englishman of a certain age am bound to parrot like an imbecile:

Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you? Did she die in vain? Brave Hungarian peasant girl who forced King John to sign the pledge at Runnymede and close the boozers at half past ten! Is all this to be forgotton? My friends, it is not John Harrison Peabody who is on trial here today but the fair name of British justice, and I ask you to send that poor boy back to the loving arms of his poor white-haired old mother a free man! I thank you!

Anthony Aloysius St. John Handcock

Hancock's Half Hour No. 41 “twelve Angry Men”

Bless! This person has transcribed the whole C[h]arter but clearly been effected by listening to H-ancock :

I confess to not having read Magna Carta until just now. If indeed that was what I was reading and not something else.

Any mention of its name would probably pass by the minds of the more senior members of the current American Administration, as would the name Thomas Paine, who must be a contender for the 12. I like this Vindication of Thomas Paine by Robert G Ingersoll written in 1877.

One or two, at the mention of angry men in the Galton and Simpson script, might twig the great American film starring Henry Fonda.

Magna Carta probably has had a big effect on people, the world, since its writing, but few realise it.

A commenter in Samizdata, quotes 1066 and All That:

Magna Charter...was invented by the Barons on a desert island in the Thames called Ganymede. By congregating there, armed to the teeth, the Barons compelled John to sign the Magna Charter, which said:

1. That no one should be put to death, save for some reason - (except the Common People).

2. That everyone should be free - (except the Common People).

3. That everything should be of the same weight and measure throughout the realm - (except the Common People).

4. That the Courts should be stationary, instead of following a very tiresome medieval official known as the King's Person all over the country.

5. That 'no person should be fined to his utter ruin' - (except the King's Person).

6. That the Barons should not be tried except by a special jury of other Barons who would understand.

Magna Charter was therefore the chief cause of Democracy in England and was therefore a Good Thing for everyone (except the Common People).

to which - in rebutal of all those who say the interweb is worthless - comes a reproachful comment further down about it being Rumymede not Ganymede ! At least with the telephone there is a chance of sensing a touch of irony. Happily, the mishmash of irreconcilable agendas, incommensurability of values, (i), half-truths, misunderstood jokes and simple confusion which are part of normal life are echoed on the interweb.

If you follow the comment stream to the end there, in essence, it is, I suppose.


Is there no work which was originally written in a language other than English which could be included in this list? Or is it to be English books which changed the world? Fair enough.


Kins Collins has made what would seem to be an irrefutable point about mathematics :

I consider mathematics to have a unique and superior place among the sciences, it being the sole human intellectual endevor [sic.], whether art, science, or religion, that is truly cumulative, in the sense that what the ancient Greeks discovered is till valid today.


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