History

1919: A Poilu Comes Home

Edward M. Strauss— Mobilized in August 1914 at age 35, infantry Corporal Louis Barthas spent almost four years in the trenches. After his health collapsed in early 1918 he served in rear echelons, guarding German POW’s and training young French conscripts in Brittany. He remained in uniform after the November

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National Emergencies and the Rise of Presidential Unilateralism

Benjamin Ginsberg— President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to help provide funding for a border wall has touched off a furious controversy with many commentators pointing to what they see as another abuse of power by Trump. Unfortunately, though, President Trump is merely following the well-worn path of unilateral

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The 50th Anniversary of Portnoy’s Complaint

Bernard Avishai— Irving Howe famously said that the cruelest thing one could do with Portnoy’s Complaint was “read it twice.” But why reread it when the first time was unforgettable? Back when the book was published, exactly 50 years ago, I knew people who sat around in coffee shops, student unions,

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Who Was King Arthur?

Nicholas J. Higham— Chapter 56 of the History of the Britons, written in North Wales in 829-30, presented Arthur as a warrior who, with divine aid, led the Britons to victory against the Saxon (i.e. English) invaders.   ‘Then in those days Arthur fought with the kings of the Britons against

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Ep. 68 – A Natural History of Beer

Grab a cold one as we discuss the history and science of beer. Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | Soundcloud

The Shadow of the Present

Tony Spawforth— As I write about the remote past, I never feel that history has repeated itself. Even so, there are times when the Greek and Roman worlds seem to offer an eerie prefiguring of the present. Democracy In 415 BC the adult males who made up the politically empowered

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The Center of the Universe

Marcia Bartusiak- Walk into an open field on a clear, moonless night. Overhead, sparkling stars are sprinkled across the sky. All of them seem equidistant from you—and no one else—and you are lulled into imagining yourself at the center of the universe. For nearly five hundred years, astronomers have struggled to

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Reconstructing Seapower

Andrew Lambert— In the late 1880s, American strategist and historian Alfred Thayer Mahan coined the term “sea power” by purposefully splitting the word “seapower,” a direct translation of the Greek thalassokratia, to sustain his agenda. The Greek word had been used by Herodotus and Thucydides to describe states which were

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Armistice Attire

Guy Cuthbertson— When the fighting on the Western Front ended on November 11, 1918, and people celebrated wildly back at home, unusual outfits featured prominently in those celebrations. Flags became clothing, and there was plenty of improvised fancy dress. Adults and children dressed as the Kaiser, for instance, or students

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Political Tribalism: The Art of Divide and Rule

Michelle Baddeley— How did Donald Trump manage to become president? If we look to psychology for an explanation, we can understand Trump as the populist leader of a modern-day tribe of voters. These voters define themselves according to a specific set of attitudes. On social media, they have a level

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