In 1978, Knopf published American historian Barbara Tuchman’s book A Distant Mirror: the Calamitous 14th Century. It was a history of Europe in the 1300s, and centering on France and England, it follows the life and fortunes of Enguerrand de Coucy, a member of the French nobility.
The author placed a quote from John Dryden at the head of the manuscript: “For mankind is ever the same and nothing is lost out of nature, though everything is altered.”
This idea of continuity is the essence of Tuchman’s approach to history as she explores the similarities between the aftermaths of two great deaths. She sees in the decades following the Black Death of 1348-50 and the Great War of 1914-18 a similar catalogue of trials; economic chaos, social unrest, high prices and profiteering, frenetic gaiety and wild expenditure, social and religious hysteria, greed, avarice, and bad government are all revisited.
Her history centres on the fact that “qualities of conduct that we recognise as familiar amid these alien surroundings are revealed as permanent in human nature.”
In short, people don’t change, and as Voltaire says: “History never repeats itself; man always does.”
Tuchman also refers to the French historian, Perry: “Certain ways of behaviour, certain reactions against fate, throw mutual light upon each other.”
How people react to a lack of certainty always elicits the same responses, from the earliest histories that we know of until today. Repeatedly, we see the same virtues, the same vices, fears and aspirations; they are just expressed with different brushes on different grounds. What motivated people when they were creating the earliest cultures that we have (so far) found are the very same things that motivate them now, at the dawn of the digital age.
Almost everything published here has its roots somewhere in history; often with a focus on science, and sometimes not. Often literal and fact-based, and sometimes surreal or imaginative. Whatever form the texts take, the common thread is history, as they show us so clearly that people really do not change and have never changed.
And in all those shared motivations and shared experiences, ranging from the unstoppable torrent of the science and change of today back to the time of the Upanishads, lies a wealth of knowledge, insight and data which clearly deserves to remain relevant, and not fade away, into the obscurity of the neglected past. This intention, to keep some ideas and thoughts available to readers and researchers, is the reasoning and motivation behind the inclusion of most of the non-fiction and science texts published here. It’s why there are books by and about Antoine Bechamp, by Nikola Tesla, and why Guy Wrench’s accounts of Hunza diet (The Wheel of Health) and his survey of society’s relationship with the soil in Reconstruction by Way of the Soil are included. The name of Jagadis Bose should be known to every science student on the planet for his work on measuring life energy and response to stimuli, and Eugene Marais’ The Soul of the White Ant, which on so many levels deserves to have been completed, is a masterpiece of observation.
All of which goes to explain A Distant Mirror as the name of this publishing imprint. The past and present are a mirror to each other; and this is what Tuchman was getting at in the title of her book (which, it must be pointed out, is an outstanding read, and highly recommended).
From award-winning historical fiction by Sandra Worth in her Rose of York trilogy and Wendy J. Dunn’s Dear Heart and The Light in the Labyrinth, to Mark Lichterman’s epic sagas of Americana, the focus is also on history. And as always, people never really change.
As for the logo, this fellow is the outline of a piece of dried and split wood which looks enough like a Teutonic wood spirit to earn him a gig as the Distant Mirror mascot. If Jagadis Bose is right, the notion of similarities reaches a lot further into existence than just people; he talks about the measurable forces that unite not just all biological matter, but also the animate and inanimate. Everything shares the same ground. Om tat sat.
Publishing ideas and submissions are always welcome. If you look around, you’ll see what happens here: Paper books, Kindle and epub versions, and articles. If you have a manuscript or an idea that seems like it might fit in, contacts from like-minded souls are always a good thing. Welcome, and here is the contact form.
– David M.
A Distant Mirror