Episode 13: The Gift

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

Let us join the professor who takes his pleasure in the past, James Daybell, and the doctor who is the fount of knowledge of former times, Sam Willis, as they unwrap the unexpected history of the gift.

From the New Year’s gift roll of 1577 and silent political networks, to Cicero and emancipation and slavery in ancient Rome, the gifted duo travel with Captain Cook and discover Hawaiian God’s of War (who may or may not resemble the Muppet’s Sam the Eagle, or possibly Mr Punch), and then on to the whaling communities of Massachusetts, and finally to Italy and the Mafia. Who knew that giving a gift was actually all about dyadic exchange relationships composed of affiliations of debt and obligation – kind of takes the shine off of one’s Christmas presents. Is there, after all, such a thing as a free gift? And beware those people who turn up to dinner with TWO bottles of wine (and flowers, and chocolates….) – it’s a power thing!

‘Noli equi dentes inspicere donati’ (St. Jerome, The Epistle to the Ephesians – 10th book of the New Testament – translates as ‘do not look a gift horse in the mouth)

‘Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. And today? Today is a gift. That is why we call it the present.’ (Alice Morse Earle)

 

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