You’ll be relieved to know that the parties and the five-minutes-of-fame radio talks are pretty much over, here at least. I don’t think that even I could take more than a week or so, fun as it certainly is. At this point I feel like a nice couple of days in bed to recover.
Dream on. For now comes the rather more serious – and frankly more lasting -- side of raising the book’s profile. That is, going out and talking about it. First stop, on Thursday, is the London Review Bookshop for a gig with one of my colleagues in Cambridge, Chris Clark.
Chris works on the history of Germany and recently wrote a history of Prussia that won loads of prizes. We thought it would be fun to talk about first about the Romans, but then about the idea of “triumphalism” a bit more widely. So do come.
Of course, Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” moment is likely to be on the agenda – which was typically Roman in its amateur dramatic style. I hadn’t realised until a few weeks ago that the aircraft carrier he landed on was just off San Diego, I thought he was in at least somewhere near the Gulf. Caesar would have loved the stunt.
But we hope to open it up a bit beyond the “US = Rome (or does it?)” debate.
There’s not only the Thatcher vs Archbishop of Canterbury row about whether we should have a Falklands triumph (should we or should we not pray for the enemy dead?). There’s also how we chose to celebrate the end of World War II. As I said in the book, there were no exotic or bedraggled prisoners marched through the streets then. That’s happily been banned by international law. But in the London parades, as the newspaper reports of the time make clear, some of the foreign allies seem to have provided the “colour” that used to be offered by the prisoners. There was plenty of finger-pointing, for example, at the Greek soldiers in their skirts. It wasn’t actually very comradely.
The Moscow parade, imaginatively recreated on the left, used German standard instead of live captives.
But Chris has got some marvellous stuff on Prussian triumphs (or sometimes “triumphs avoided” which are often more interesting), so I am spending a few snatched minutes trying to learn how to tell my Frederick the Greats from my Frederick the Firsts. Plenty of howlers lying in wait there, I fear.
All this is followed the next week by some of the same in the USA (that’s the great benefit -- or the cost , depending on how you see it -- of having a US publisher). I’m doing lectures for the Laurel Society the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and at the Getty Villa (a return to old haunts, there). The slightly scary bit is the discussion about the book with Niall Ferguson, the now Professor at Harvard (but once of Peterhouse, Cambridge) who wrote Empire – which I shall have certainly read by the time I get off the plane.
Why slightly scary? Well not just because Ferguson is stratospherically well known; actually everyone says he’s dead nice. It’s more the fact that in the US, it’s not so clear that the “US=Rome” debate is quite so easy to side-step and there seems, for me, quite a high risk of more than just a howler over a Prussian king. So there’s a lot of extra reading for the plane, like Cullen Murphy’s Are we Rome: the fall of an empire and the fate of America, which I’ve not yet got my hands on.
But don’t worry, there is a great party planned for afterwards. So I’ll be able to recover in the usual way.
And this is the end of these tales of self-promotion...promise!