Wednesday, January 12, 2022

distant shock waves...................

      To do justice to that story—particularly on the pre-history side of the hourglass—the chains of cause and effect have to run at different scales.  Some events have short-term causes, like that exploding cannon or the direct hit on the mainmast.  But other causes roll in more slowly, like those that ultimately brought so much treasure aboard the Mughal ship, or the ones that ultimately incentivized a small band of human beings to deliberately become pirates.  A full account of the events demands that you break out of the boundaries of period histories and traditional biographies.  You have to jump around in time to get the facts right.  Linear chronology makes for good popular storytelling, but it doesn't always capture the deep causes that drive history.  Some causes are proximate, in the moment.  Some are echoes of distant shock waves, still reverberating a hundred—or a thousand—years later.

-Steven Johnson,  Enemy Of All Mankind:  A True Story of Piracy, Power, and History's First Global Manhunt

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