American 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

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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.

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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.

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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

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Understanding Literacy

Beth Barton Schweiger— The power of literacy’s hold on the modern imagination cannot easily be measured. One way to begin to comprehend it is to pose a question: who is against it? From local school boards to Capitol Hill to the United Nations General Assembly, the consensus that literacy empowers

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A Century of Moscow’s Meddling in US Politics

David Brandenberger— Allegations of Russian dirty tricks in the 2016 US presidential campaign often treat the issue of interference as if it were a historic, unprecedented transgression. But although the means used for such meddling (WikiLeaks, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) may have been new in 2016, the meddling itself was much

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Democratic Socialist Ideas and Social Democratic Realities

Gary Dorrien— Democratic socialism, an idea with a rich history in European politics and a slight history in U.S. American politics, is surging today in the U.S. partly because America has so little of it. European Social Democracy has helped to build the world’s most humane societies by universalizing the

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Why We Read

Azar Nafisi— Reading is like Alice running after that white rabbit, because she is curious; she wants to know more about a talking rabbit. She is prepared to take the risk and jump down that hole without knowing what she will find at the bottom of the well. This is

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Examining the Secular Age

Nicholas Wolterstorff— Recently I dipped once again into Charles Taylor’s massive A Secular Age, and one of the themes he develops there led me to reflect on the implications of that theme for the place of religion in the university—by which I do not mean the place of the study

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Adventure Capitalism and the Frontier Question

Andrew Offenburger— In 1883, an academic and traveler named William Henry Bishop posed a question on many Americans’ minds. “What is a world to do,” he asked, “when it has no longer a West?” Bishop wondered how the United States would continue to expand beyond California, following a pattern of

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