History

Why Jewish Writers Avoid the “Jewish Writer” Label

Adam Kirsch— Several years ago, I moderated a discussion between two novelists at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan. The setting seemed appropriate, since these were Jewish writers who wrote about Jewish characters and themes. But when I asked them if they considered themselves Jewish novelists, both answered emphatically

Continue reading…

The Rising of Croatia

Marcus Tanner— The long rule of the Turks over most of Croatia came to a sudden end in the 1680s. Responsibility for the conflict fell squarely on the Turks. In 1683 the Sultan’s Grand Vizier, Kara Mustafa, decided to revive the tradition of conquest of the previous century. Marching an

Continue reading…

America’s Long Jewish History

Jonathan D. Sarna— New Amsterdam, part of the remote Dutch colony of New Netherland in present-day New York State, was among the New World’s most diverse and pluralistic towns. A French Jesuit missionary in 1643 reported that “eighteen different languages” were spoken by local inhabitants of different sects or nations.

Continue reading…

The Emperor and His Family

Geoffrey Parker— In 1855 the French historian Jules Michelet hailed Archduchess Margaret of Austria as ‘The real “strong man” of the family’ whose efforts, above those of all others, ‘made the House of Austria great’. Rather like the eulogy of Henri Pirenne, this is an exaggeration: although the archduchess proved

Continue reading…

Oppenheim’s Library: A Window into Jewish Culture

Joshua Teplitsky— In January of 2019, Netflix launched a new television program for audiences who had enjoyed previous “home improvement” style shows about living more efficiently with greater style and less clutter called “Tidying up with Marie Kondo.” The show’s primary goal was to help people get rid of unnecessary

Continue reading…

The History of Humour

Terry Eagleton— Perhaps the single most contradictory political phenomenon of the modern world is nationalism, which ranges from the Nazi death camps to a principled resistance to imperial power. In terms of sheer political ambiguity, however, humour runs it fairly close. If it can censure, debunk and transform, it can

Continue reading…

Sparta and Athens: From Peace to War

Paul A. Rahe— In his now neglected masterpiece Marlborough: His Life and Times, Winston Churchill once hazarded the following observation: Battles are the principal milestones in secular history. Modern opinion resents this uninspiring truth, and historians often treat the decisions in the field as incidents in the dramas of politics

Continue reading…

The Gospel of Matthew: Within and Without Judaism

John Kampen— Matthew is usually regarded as the “most Jewish gospel” since it bears evidence of more direct and more informed interaction with texts, concepts, and institutions usually identified with Jewish life at the conclusion of the first century CE. While the noted connections have not always been well-informed by

Continue reading…

It’s Not About Religion

  Kathleen M. Sands— Recently, the Supreme Court decided about the forty foot “Peace Cross” that’s stood for nearly a century in Bladensburg, Maryland. For the American Legion, the Cross memorializes the dead of World War I; for American Humanists, it broadcasts an unconstitutional government preference for a particular religion.

Continue reading…

From House Telegraphs to Mobile Phones

Lee Jackson— In December 1858, Punch, the satirical magazine, imagined the next stage in the nineteenth century information revolution: the “house telegraph.” With such a device, one could be both at home and yet in constant telegraphic contact with the wider world. But was this really a good idea? A

Continue reading…