American History

How Many Trails of Tears Were There?

Jeffrey Ostler— When Donald Trump recently tweeted that he looked forward to seeing Elizabeth Warren “on the trail,” everyone knew he was mocking Warren’s claim to Cherokee ancestry by making a joke out of the Cherokee Trail of Tears—the 1838-39 forced march of Cherokees from their homes in Georgia to

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Rethinking the History of Religious Freedom

Robert Louis Wilken— In the Supreme Court case Minersville School District v. Gobitis, 1940, that upheld compulsory pledging of allegiance to the U.S. flag in schools, Justice Felix Frankfurter, writing for the majority, said: “Centuries of strife over the erection of particular dogmas as exclusive or all-comprehending faiths led to

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How the Iowa Writers’ Workshop Saved Kurt Vonnegut’s Fledgling Career

David O. Dowling— In mid-1960s suburban Cape Cod, Kurt Vonnegut—whose ink sketches and signed monographs now command up to $5,000 each—was unknown and his books were out of print. “I was rescued by Paul Engle’s Writers’ Workshop in the mid 1960s,” Vonnegut recalled, “and he didn’t know me, and I

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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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