What a disappointment! Hardly any magazines attempted millenial summaries. Oh, there were the usual year in review articles, even a couple of looks back at the century (the Life collection of important images of the century, published in book form, was my favorite of these). But even People, usually not shy, didn’t attempt a Most-intriguing-100 -people-of-the-last-thousand-years article.
Fortunately, The Economist almost makes up for it single-handedly, with a special edition that I will be reading for weeks to come. Their Millennium special edition: Reporting on a thousand years is worth hunting out on your local newsstand, even if you normally avoid anything to do with economics.
The Economist http://www.economist.com It’s easy to spot the magazine on a crowded rack, since the cover stands out: a medieval woman in long blue gown, typing on a computer while a monk looks anxiously in at the window. The central image is surrounded by a garland with a snail, hare, squirrel, rooster and magpie. Knowing this magazine, I’m sure there is a subtle comment here on speed (fast and slow), conservatism, boasting, and an attraction to bright shiny objects. There’s another bird, too, but I don’t recognize it.
The magazine itself includes geographically-focused sections on Britain, Europe, the United States, the broader Americas (nothing on Canada, though) and Asia, and also general on topics like international politics, business, finance, science and technology.
The articles on science and technology are particularly intriguing. The lead essay explores the relationship between science and technology and the incredible increase in human population and wealth over the last one thousand years. The discussion isn’t at all simplistic: it is not just saying â€œscience made technology possible, and that led to increased wealth and population growth.â€ Instead, it explores the development of technology in different cultures and speculates about why some empires whose science was more advanced were eventually surpassed technologically by western Europe.
There’s lots more: articles on colonization and immigration, medical history, the steam engine, religion, the first play at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the founding of Hollywood… it’s an eclectic collection.
And an ambitious one, but The Economist is particularly well-positioned to bring it off. It’s a British magazine that has been published since 1834. (The Web site includes archives, but unfortunately they don’t go back that far.) Some of the most interesting quotes sprinkled through this issue come from the pages of the magazine itself: contemporary comments on the beginning of World War I were quite moving. So although there aren’t any publications that were around for the entire thousand years, at least this one was there for more than 15% of that time.