Gassy

gassy51

On Boxing Day of 1799 the twenty-year-old chemist Humphry Davy – later to become Sir Humphry, inventor of the miners’ lamp, President of the Royal Society and domineering genius of British science – stripped to the waist, placed a thermometer under his armpit and stepped into a sealed box specially designed by the engineer James Watt for the inhalation of gases, into which he requested the physician Dr. Robert Kinglake to release twenty quarts of nitrous oxide every five minutes for as long as he could retain consciousness.

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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

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

‘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

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

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’

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

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?

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

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

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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Eric Dursteler: Beatrice the Renegade

Harem scene, from Memorie Turche, Museo Civico Correr, Cicogna, 1971 by Eric Dursteler In 1559, a ship sailed from Venice to the Dalmatian coast. On board were a mother and her four children, including her young daughter, Beatrice Michiel. As they crossed the Adriatic, corsairs waylaid the ship and...

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Matthew Clavin: Beside Toussaint Louverture

by Matthew Clavin The last two decades have witnessed an extraordinary transformation in the writing of early American history. Where historians once assumed the exceptionalism of the new United States kept it hermetically sealed from the outside world, they now believe the early republic existed on the periphery of...

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Italy Consumes by Emanuela Scarpellini

by Emanuela Scarpellini The press has various ways of describing the current crisis afflicting many countries, including Italy. The first is usually to call it a finance crisis and blame the banks and financial intermediaries; there is talk of problems in the real economy, industry producing less and exports...

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Mark Bevir: Marxism, Fabianism, Ethical Socialism

England to Her Own Rescue, Walter Crane, 1884 by Mark Bevir “We Are All Socialists Now: The Perils and Promise of the New Era of Big Government” ran a provocative cover of Newsweek on 11 February 2009. The financial crisis had swept through the economy, and the state had...

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Jonathan Boyarin: 180 Stanton Street

180 Stanton Street by Jonathan Boyarin The fast-approaching secular year 2013 will mark the centennial of a modest building at 180 Stanton Street, on New York City’s Lower East Side, that houses Congregation Bnai Jacob Anshei Brzezan. I first entered its doors and re-learned how to place tefillin on...

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Elaine Forman Crane: Legal Matters (and Whores)

A Bellarmine Jug, or “Witch-bottle” by Elaine Forman Crane John Hammett, a Newport clerk, schoolmaster, and wife beater, may not be the most typical early American, but his experience suggests how braided law and life actually were in the era. Before his own brush with the authorities as an...

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Craig Harline: Conversion

The Conversion of Saul, Micheangelo Buonarroti, 1542-45 by Craig Harline What are the choices when a family member converts to another faith (or non-faith)? Or, takes a path that upsets the family’s perceived traditions? One good place to look for answers is Reformation Europe, where the problem of individual...

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Aaron Skabelund: Hachikō

The “Loyal Dog” Hachikō in 1934 by Aaron Herald Skabelund On the morning of 21 May 1925, a dog known as Hachikō walked with his master to a Tokyo railway station just as they had done each weekday morning for over a year since he had been adopted as...

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Marcel-Duchamp-Leaving-the-Cafe-1

Marcel Duchamp sat silent. He seemed far away, lost in reverie. Then, he spoke of the death of art, which he described as...

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Bobbi Lurie
Duchamp-smoking-through-the-cracked-glass

But I was perplexed. Marcel Duchamp didn’t order a thing to eat at the café. I assumed it was because he was dead, requiring nothing...

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fp

Earthquake metaphors have had strong currency, both political and journalistic, in the aftermath of May’s European Parliament (EP) elections. The most spectacular tremors were...

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Ernst_Ludwig_Kirchner

Both Derrida and Ronell suggest that saying yes is “telephonic,” both in the sense that it resounds over a distance and therefore always is...

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ramirez1fullsize

Unless they lived in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona or California – all former Mexican territories – most U.S. residents in the 1930s were unaware...

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MashaTheDevilProbably

The different tools used to capture the frame and the wild variety in terms of image quality, which is the way films are remembered...

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ron-sky-rat-cover

“We’ve got a problem,” says Andrew Shuta of Spork as he and Drew Burk guide me into a fancy conference room. Ron’s sitting across from...

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chinua

Many years ago, in an interview he did with Bill Moyers, Chinua Achebe was asked, “What would you want the West to do?” Achebe...

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Masha Tupitsyn
sickert

No one can love anymore because of an overabundance of reaction formation. No one wants to owe anything to their desire(s); to other people’s...

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Hearn1

How could a man born on a Greek island in 1850 be a household name in Japan today? The answer lies in the story...

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kentridge1

Jean Améry titled his renowned book on voluntary death, Hand an Sich Legen – To lay Hands on Oneself. Beyond the argument of Amery...

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letters

Several months ago, I wrote a long letter by hand to a young woman I barely knew. That sounds pretty dubious, if not to...

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Kemmler

In a move that might strike readers as odd, Derrida spends most of these lectures not on the case made by death penalty proponents,...

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proust

Although Charles Kenneth Scott Moncrieff’s translation of À la recherche du temps perdu is considered by many journalists and writers to be the best...

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