Groundbreaking Travel Book: Eothen

This morning I finished off what is known as the first "modern" travel writing book--Eothen by William Kinglake, a British guy who travelled throughout the Near East in the 1830s.  ("Eothen", I learned, means "out of the East.") The book was innovative for its time because the author didn't just produce an encyclopedic summary of the characteristics of the countries he visited (e.g., history, climate, terrain).  Rather, he decided he would write about his own interaction with the people he met and his general impressions and experiences there, because he can write authoritatively about this and because this was what was most important to him.  Interestingly, this might be, in a way, one of the first "blogs," although this book was not brief or simplistics--and I definitely had to force myself through several chapters of it.

I heard about Eothen when I read how Winston Churchill was asked how he had learned to write so well (Churchill won a nobel prize for literature after WWII).  Churchill simply responded:  William Kinglake.  I found that the book is extremely well written and the author is very funny in, I suppose, a 19th century kind of way.  I was also struck by his desire to be civilized and principled--in his Western, British way--when he was confronted with all kinds of lying, deceit and trickery that frankly is more common in non-Western countries.

Sidenote: Francis Schaeffer had an amazing insight when he pointed out that certain countries, regions and peoples don't follow the "rule of law" simply by accident.  You look at the countries where rules are obeyed by and large (and consequently business thrives more because people keep their promises) and corruption is limited and you will see that these countries are primarily ones which the protestant reformation strongly influenced:  Switzerland, Germany, Scandinavia, Great Britain, The Netherlands, and the USA.

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