“The Hinge Factor: How Chance and Stupidity Have Changed History” by Erik Durschmied
I finished this book awhile ago and part of the delay in posting about it was that it was not all that memorable. I had somewhat high hopes about this book when I saw the list of topics (listed below) because I was hoping that I would glean some new knowledge of the topics I already knew but that didn’t happen.
The book is set up by chapter and each chapter covers an event in history. At the end of each chapter, there are three paragraphs: “What If…”, “The Facts”, and “The Hinge Factor”. These three paragraphs are basically just a waste of space. The “What If…” section basically takes the Hinge factor and says what if it didn’t happen. The manner in which this is done is elementary at best because most readers would probably already have asked themselves that question during the chapter. For example, for the chapter “A Rabble with Barefeet”, this covers the battle at Agincourt. The “What If” statement reads:
“What if-it hadn’t rained that night before the battle? Henry V’s archers would have been trampled into the ground under the impact of the lances, and the Hundred Years War would have ended half a century earlier.”
Now maybe it’s because I generally do not like to speculate but I think this seems a rather large supposition to be making based on one of many battles in this war.
“The Facts” section basically summarizes everything the audience just finished reading. This is also done in the most basic language possible. The same goes for the “Hinge Factor” section which tells you basically the title of the chapter expanded to put it into perspective. For the same chapter above, it reads:
“The Hinge Factor at Agincourt was the weather, a field of battle made heavy by rain, and the fatal disregard by nobility of a socially inferior enemy.” (I included the bold and italics because the author did.)
These are all points he calls out at least once throughout the 22 pages of this chapter and in the case of the rain, multiple times.
Durschmied writes these sections as if the reader is either unintelligent or didn’t actually read the chapter. Either way, I found it insulting and eventually just started skipping over them all together.
The topics themselves are pretty well-known for the most part. There were a couple in there that I wasn’t as familiar with but most of these the reader has already learned or read about so my recommendation would be if you are new to history or have a very basic grasp of history, this book is probably meant for you. If you have studied history in any form of detail, you can probably skip this book and not miss anything.
1. A Wooden Horse: Troy, 1184 BC
2. The Loss of the True Cross: The Hattin, 4 July 1187
3. A Rabble with Bare Feet: Agincourt, 25 October 1415
4. A Barrel of Schnapps: Karansebes, 20 September 1788
5. A Fistful of Nails: Waterloo, 18 June 1815
6. The Fourth Order: Balaclava, 25 October 1854
7. Three Cigars: Antietam, 17 September 1862
8. Two Counts and One Prince: Koniggratz, 3 July 1866
9. A Fair Fight: Spioen Kop, 24 January 1900
10. A Slap on the Face: Tannenberg, 28 August 1914
11. The Sting of a Bee: Tanga, 5 November 1914
12. Der Halte Befehl: France, 21 May 1940
13. A Shark on the Loose: North Atlantic, 27 May 1941
14. The Sorge Enigma: Moscow, 6 December 1941
15. One Man’s Death: Vietnam, 31 January 1968
16. And the Wall Came Tumbling Down: Berlin, 9 November 1989
17. The Zero Factor: The Gulf, 17 January 1991
Has anyone else read this? What did you think?
I’ve put a temporary hold on “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “The Class of 1846” to read very quickly “Rising Sun, Falling Skies” by Jeffrey R. Cox. Cox is based here in Indianapolis and is doing a book signing and discussion on Saturday, May 31st from 2-4 pm at Indy Reads Books (click here for a link to their website). I’m pretty excited about it and so far has proved a pretty good read. I’ll be posting a blog about this adventure over the weekend.
Until then, happy reading!!