Berfrois

Society for the Confused

Society for the Confused

Drawn by caricaturist John Leech, the illustrations of Gilbert Abbott à Beckett’s The Comic History of Rome are a Victorian fever dream of ancient Rome.

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We Built This City

We Built This City

Paris Commune, 1871 by Jonathan Moses Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution, by David Harvey, Verso, 206 pp. It would be impossible to cover here the range of ideas in Harvey’s recent book, Rebel Cities, but it is worth considering one of its...

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In the early modern period, horniness and sexual insatiability are classic female attributes…

In the early modern period, horniness and sexual insatiability are classic female attributes…

Frenzy of Exultations, Władysław Podkowiński, 1894 by Justin E. H. Smith I’ve observed before that until at least the early 19th century, ‘orgasm’ did not mean what it does for us today. In La philosophie zoologique of 1809, for example, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck uses the term to describe something like...

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Rachael Mclennan: Anne Frank

Rachael Mclennan: Anne Frank

Most obviously, writing a novel in which Anne Frank in invoked in any way necessitates that Auslander’s work engages with the difficult ethical questions attendant on any fictional discussions of the Holocaust: questions which have been considered vital ever since Theodor Adorno’s claim that it would be barbaric to...

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Well After 999

Well After 999

by Justin E. H. Smith I am in Iceland for the first time in many years, for no better reason than that Icelandair offers extended stopovers on transatlantic flights at no additional cost. I cross the Atlantic as casually as one might take the subway from borough to borough,...

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Donald Raleigh: Generation Sputnik

Donald Raleigh: Generation Sputnik

Saratov School no. 42, graduation night, 1967 by Donald Raleigh Until recently, my office on the fourth floor of Hamilton Hall at the University of North Carolina (UNC), Chapel Hill, was the only one along the corridor not occupied by someone affiliated with Carolina’s distinguished Southern Oral History Program...

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Patrick Downey on Jack “Legs” Diamond

Patrick Downey on Jack “Legs” Diamond

Jack “Legs” Diamond is little remembered today, but for the last eighteen months of his life he rivaled Al Capone as the most famous gangster in Prohibition Era America. Whereas Capone was famous for being the CEO of the largest criminal enterprise in the U.S., Jack was famous for...

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Ernst Freud’s Modern Architecture by Volker Welter

Ernst Freud’s Modern Architecture by Volker Welter

by Volker M. Welter In 1992, when I was working as an architectural historian for an architectural firm located in Berlin, I stumbled across the name of architect Ernst L. Freud. At that time, my task was to conduct research for an architectural historic report on a large country...

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Koxinga’s War by Tonio Andrade

Koxinga’s War by Tonio Andrade

This February marked the 350th anniversary of an important but forgotten war: the Sino-Dutch War of 1661-1662. The Dutch, who’d defeated the British, the Portuguese and the Spanish, whose guns and military practices were famous throughout Europe, found themselves outfought, out-led and outmaneuvered by a Chinese warlord named Koxinga,...

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Imperial Ventriloquism and Other Magic Tricks

Imperial Ventriloquism and Other Magic Tricks

The centennial anniversary of the First World War provides a fitting opportunity to review the literature devoted to the origins of the conflict.

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Empire

Empire

Why, in 2011, think about empires? We live in a world of nation-states — over 200 of them, each with their seat in the UN, their flag, postage stamps and governmental institutions.

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Frank Müller on Emperor Frederick III

Frank Müller on Emperor Frederick III

‘Fritz and Vicky’, on their honeymoon, Windsor, 1858 by Frank Lorenz Müller It was only after her husband, the German Emperor Frederick III, had finally died on 15 June 1888 that his widow, Empress Victoria, allowed herself to buckle under the weight of almost unbearable grief. Throughout the many...

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Nico Slate: Satyagraha on the Spot

Nico Slate: Satyagraha on the Spot

by Nico Slate On Thursday November 17, a few days after Occupy Wall Street protesters were evicted from Zuccotti Park, a poster emerged declaring “mass non-violent direct action” to “shut down wall street,” “occupy the subways,” and “take the square.” While the reference to “non-violent direct action” reminded me...

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Anne Schutte: Gender and Monastic Release

Anne Schutte: Gender and Monastic Release

by Anne Jacobson Schutte A desperate nun, thrust against her will into a convent by cruel parents, cannot obtain release. Such is the prevailing image of involuntary female monachization in early modern Europe. The engraving reproduced above comes from Denis Diderot’s novel La Religieuse ‒ begun in 1760, published...

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‘Gitmo in the present millennium is no departure at all’

‘Gitmo in the present millennium is no departure at all’

Etching of the first American soldiers to land on Guantanamo Bay during the Spanish-American War, c.1898 From The Nation: With every year, the US naval base at Cuba’s Guantánamo Bay becomes less of a place and more of a concept, one that seems to have sprung from a vacuum...

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Women of the Cistercian Order by Anne Lester

Women of the Cistercian Order by Anne Lester

Cistercian nuns in chapel, detail from frontispiece, Pierre de Blois, La Sainte Abbaye, Central France (possibly Maubuisson) or North Eastern France (Lorraine), ca. 1290. The British Library Board, BL Yates Thompson MS 11, fol. 1v. Reproduced with kind permission by Anne E. Lester To call it a parchment page does not...

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Why do supernatural experiences matter for history?

Why do supernatural experiences matter for history?

Heroldsbach, 1949, via From The Hedgehog Review: In the 1950s, in the midst of what came to be known as the Economic Miracle, West Germany was positively deluged with other wonders: mysterious healings, mystical visions, rumors of the end of the world, and stories of divine and devilish interventions...

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Lisa Rosner: To Burke

Lisa Rosner: To Burke

Burking Poor Old Mrs Constitution Aged 141, William Heath, 1829 by Lisa Rosner What could possibly link Britain’s Catholic Relief Act of 1829, the first in a series of Parliamentary reforms leading to full Catholic emancipation, with the horrific Burke and Hare anatomy murders? The answer is a series...

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Carolina Armenteros on Joseph de Maistre

Carolina Armenteros on Joseph de Maistre

Joseph de Maistre, Karl Vogel von Vogelstein, c.1810 by Carolina Armenteros Centuries after his death, the name of Joseph de Maistre (1753-1821) can still trigger shudders. To non-specialists, it evokes Catholic zealotry, reaction incarnate, the taste for violence and the praise of war. After all, this is the Counter-revolutionary...

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Oliver Farry on Michel Houellebecq

The peculiar circumstances surrounding the publication of Michel Houellebecq’s latest novel constitute a case study in how even the biggest literary news stories are,...

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McKenzie Wark
Information in Chains

“Information wants to be free, but is everywhere in chains.” The development of the forces of production took a qualitatively different turn when information...

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Bobbi Lurie
Bobbi Lurie: Organic Fortune

isis - ebola - obama hit by halal truck (where is duchamp?)

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Bharat Azad
Bharat Azad Meets Adair Turner

In a quiet office tucked away in Mayfair – over a long table so white I am hesitant to even place my fingers on...

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Andre Gerard: Light Here, Shadow There

The deeper one looks in To the Lighthouse the more one sees. The more one listens the more one hears. Homer, Shakespeare, Conrad and...

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Claudia Landolfi: Europe’s Colonial Perversion

The aftermath of a violent act or after a sharp change of political horizons is also a crisis of imagination and language. The rupture...

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Jerry Moore: Feverish Rivers

I learned that Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff had been a Nazi when I was in a Santa Marta supermarket. I had just stepped into the Exito...

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Lauren Berlant
Lauren Berlant flies

Most of the writing we do is actually a performance of stuckness. It is a record of where we got stuck on a question...

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Robyn Ferrell on Balthus

The pitfalls of identification, hero-worship, envy and malice can beset the most patient writer in the throes of five hundred-plus pages of attention to...

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Michael Munro on Spinoza

Immanence is not philosophy, nor philosophy immanence. But there is in the passage from one to the other a modification of sense that is...

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David Beer
David Beer: Broadcastwerk

Writing at sometime around 1930 or 1931, Walter Benjamin suggested that the voice on the radio is a like a visitor in the home,...

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Rose Barnsley: Young, Gifted and Žižekian

At nineteen, it is easy to think that all you're missing is the right movement. But there is something about the young left wing...

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Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei: Rama’s And

While local journalists were once again busy regurgitating worn-down, coma inducing positions about yet another spectral appearance of Enver Hoxha at the celebration of...

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Playing the Percentages: Berfrois Interviews Danny Dorling

The portrait of the 1% in your book is one of sociopathic, power-hungry narcissists with a striking lack of empathy. This may seem antagonistic,...

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