History

How the Russian State Sustained an “Empire of Difference”

Janet M. Hartley— In the late thirteenth century, Muscovy was a small, landlocked principality and a vassal state of the Mongol Empire. By the late the sixteenth century, however, it had experienced an extraordinary expansion of territory under the control of Ivan IV, who styled himself no longer grand prince

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Police Before “The Police”

Sal Nicolazzo— In his Lectures on Justice, Police, Revenue, and Arms—the precursor to The Wealth of Nations—Adam Smith defines “the objects of police” as “the cheapness of commodities, public security and cleanliness.” This broad mandate for “police”—most of which has little or nothing to do with crime prevention—may sound idiosyncratic to

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Brexit as a British State of Mind

Vernon Bogdanor— Is Britain part of Europe? Of course, geographically we certainly are part of Europe. But politically? The answer is by no means clear. Britain has long had an ambivalent relationship with the Continent. It is apparent even in the way that we speak. We speak of entering Europe

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The Zionist Revolution

Micah Goodman— Modernity burst onto the stage of history some three hundred years ago, when free thinkers of all stripes—philosophers, revolutionaries, political leaders—struck blow after blow at the traditions of the past. They strove for a future in which humanity would slough off the heavy burdens of history, including the

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Inside an Impounded Brooklyn Slave Ship with Walt Whitman

John Harris— The United States played a crucial role in the slave trade after 1850, when Brazil effectively sealed its shores to the traffic. Forced to rethink their operations, a small number of slave traders from around the Atlantic world descended on the United States, incorporating American ports directly into

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Oblivion or Glory

David Stafford— Shortly before noon on Wednesday 26 January 1921 an express train bound for Shrewsbury in England was speeding towards the small rural station of Abermule, close to the Severn river in Wales. It was on a single-track line. A safety system used by the Cambrian Railway Company involving

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A Vanished Kingdom’s Monumental Achievement

Richard Butterwick— The ancient Roman historian Sallust pronounced, “It is better to live in perilous liberty than in tranquil servitude.” But on May 3, 1791, a path beyond the Sallustian dilemma of perilous liberty or tranquil servitude was offered to old Poland, otherwise known as the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Their parliament,

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The ‘Oskar Schindler’ of Vienna

Helen Fry— 11 March 1943. In a cell at Latimer House in Buckinghamshire, two German soldiers, a lower rank infantry officer captured in Tunisia the previous year, and a paratrooper captured in Algeria a few months before, are discussing the interrogations they have undergone. The previous day, British agents had

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Looking to the Past to Find Ourselves

Michael Hattem– For a few decades, American history has played a prominent role in the most current iteration of culture wars in the United States. We saw this most recently in some of the ways that President Trump motivated his base in the 2020 presidential election. These included holding “the

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A Mirage on the Mekong

Sebastian Strangio— In the West, Cambodia is nearly synonymous with the terror and mass murder that engulfed the country in the mid-1970s, when the Khmer Rouge seized power and embarked on a radical experiment in communism. Led by “Brother Number One” Pol Pot, who dreamt of recreating the glories of

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