I’m Off to the Civil War

The Legacy of the Civil War: Meditations on the Centennial
Robert Penn Warren

Lately, I’ve found myself thinking it’s time to bone up on the 1850s. In more sober moments I think I should venture even further back. I mean, all those easy-to-confuse Presidents in between Van Buren and Buchanan got up to something, didn’t they?

Premonitions of civil unrest aside, I’m also forever looking for band-aids to slap over Continue reading

Must Be the Season of the Witch

The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England
Carol F. Karlsen

Although I continue to be baffled by irony as a concept, in practice it’s an unending source of delight. And so, as the Fall semester approaches, I find myself utterly bemused as academia–a business still following a 12th-century model–attempts to reinvent itself on the fly.

A thousand flowers will bloom, no doubt, and each will have fans and foes. But until that inevitable fracas starts Continue reading

Doctor, Doctor Give Me the News

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
Timothy Snyder

Had I not misread an email notice you’d be reading something else right now.

Leave aside the preconceptions buried in that sentence, though, and turn your attention to this latest instance of what I’m thinking of calling instant publishing.

If that brings to mind the freeze-dried crystals that a college friend ate by the tablespoonful to ward off the Continue reading

Even Old New York was Once New Amsterdam

New Netherland In a Nutshell: A Concise History of the Dutch
Colony in North America
Firth Haring Fabend

It’s always easy for me, in the months when the year seems to be collapsing in on itself, to recede into a cocoon of learning. I may not much fancy human company, but I never avoid a book.

Not even one as oxymoronically subtitled as this one.

Concise history indeed. The very notion is suspect and the reality is something different altogether. Even Continue reading

Wish I Could Fly Like Superman

Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book
Gerard Jones

The fact that I could have found a song lyric about  Superman written in almost any decade from 1940 to the present tells you everything you need to know about the power and persistence of this cartoon/cultural icon. Yet despite its pretensions to helping explain how that Continue reading

Sharif Don’t Like It

The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror
Bernard Lewis

It isn’t always easy, amid all this demonizing, to remember there was a time when the world east of the Bosporus beckoned.

Even though the charges of imperialism, cultural appropriation, and intolerance stand up to some scrutiny, you can’t deny the existence or effectiveness Continue reading

A Little Bit of History

History of the United States of America
During the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson
Henry Adams

In the midst of the 2016 US Presidential election I accidentally started a stupid fight.

For me, the issue was using the proper words to describe things. For my interlocutor, the issue was reinforcing her political position. Logical fallacies like the appeal to authority are hard to miss, but I dropped the matter when Continue reading

Article I. Section 8.

Emphasis added:

“The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States; Continue reading

Losing My Religion

Neither King nor Prelate: Religion
and the New Nation, 1776-1826
Edwin S.  Gaustad

A while back I lamented the fate of philosophers. Today, I’m expressing my sympathies for historians.

I’ve always loved history; if I had known, or encountered, some of the more recent historiography  I might even have chosen it as my major. The siren song of quantification, though, drew me across campus though the underlying motivation was the same: to help me Continue reading

Kids Growing Up Too Soon

67 Shots: Kent State and the End
of American Innocence
Howard Means

The first unsupervised business trip I ever went on with a client took me from New York to Tampa, Florida. But I went by way of Ohio to pick up Larry so we could work on the plane.

You’re riveted, aren’t you?

Here’s what I discovered at dinner that night. The mild-mannered man sitting across from me, deacon in his Continue reading