American History

Who Was Ben Hecht?

Adina Hoffman— Ben Hecht was “a genius,” Jean-Luc Godard declared in 1968. “He invented 80 percent of what is used in Hollywood movies today.” He “wrote stories—and he made history,” proclaimed Menachem Begin four years earlier, at Hecht’s standing room-only Manhattan funeral. When Hecht was still alive, and invariably kicking,

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The “Seriatim Practice” of the Supreme Court

Paul W. Kahn—   We can imagine a state in which courts issued judgments without explanation. The need to settle disputes requires some form of adjudicatory mechanism; it does not necessarily require explanation of the decisions. When there is explanation, the form of presentation has varied over time. The American

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Hitler and Moscow, 1941: A Counter-Factual Speculation

Stephen G. Fritz— It is mid-September 1941. The unpredictable late summer weather in Russia has turned in Germany’s favor, as has the military situation. In late August, with the nightmarish and costly fighting near Smolensk finally concluded, Adolf Hitler has ordered German armored forces turned to the south where, in

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Ep. 70 – White Women and Slavery

A look at the true role white women played in slavery and the effects that are still being felt today. Subscribe:Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | Soundcloud

The Correspondence of Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin

David Reynolds— For nearly four years, and against all the odds, Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt and Josef Stalin led the most effective alliance in history. Yet they met face-to-face only twice. Instead, the ‘Big Three’ had to communicate through secret telegrams and coded letters. They exchanged more than six hundred messages

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Multitasking Trees

Sonja Dümpelmann— Multitasking Trees Since their systematic planting throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, street trees have fulfilled various purposes in our cities. They have been considered variously as aesthetic make-up and creators of space; as territorial markers and instruments of defense, emancipation, and empowerment; as sanitizers and air conditioners;

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Why Liberalism Failed

Patrick J. Deneen— A political philosophy conceived some 500 years ago, and put into effect at the birth of the United States nearly 250 years later, was a wager that political society could be grounded on a different footing. It conceived humans as rights-bearing individuals who could fashion and pursue

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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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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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