Berfrois

Gassy

Gassy

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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Calvin Schermerhorn: Family and Freedom

Calvin Schermerhorn: Family and Freedom

After the Sale: Slaves Going South, Eyre Crowe, 1853 by Calvin Schermerhorn When enslaved Americans confronted the intensifying market economy of the nineteenth-century United States, they faced ominous changes and serious challenges.  If they lived in the coastal upper South – Delaware plus the eastern portions of Maryland, Virginia,...

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Michael Khodarkovsky: Tales of the North Caucasus

Michael Khodarkovsky: Tales of the North Caucasus

General Aleksei Petrovich Ermolov by Michael Khodarkovsky In the early 1820s the Russian troops under General Aleksei Petrovich Ermolov marched through Chechnya leaving behind a wide swath of destruction: Villages razed to the ground, crops burned, captives and cattle seized, forests cut down, and land taken away for forts and...

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Late Imperial Russia’s “Marriage Crisis” by Barbara Alpern Engel

Late Imperial Russia’s “Marriage Crisis” by Barbara Alpern Engel

  by Barbara Alpern Engel I have always been fascinated by the personal dimensions of social and historical change, but never have been able to explore them as broadly, deeply and intimately as I am able to do in Breaking the Ties that Bound. The project began with a...

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Erik R. Seeman: Wendat Deathways

Erik R. Seeman: Wendat Deathways

Wendat scaffold burial, where corpses awaited the Feast of the Dead. From Samuel de Champlain’s Voyages et descouvertures, 1619. Courtesy of the Library of Congress by Erik R. Seeman On May 12, 1636, two thousand Wendat (Huron) Indians stood on the edge of an enormous burial pit. Near the village of...

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Céline Dauverd: Dynastic Imperialism, Mercantile Interests

Céline Dauverd: Dynastic Imperialism, Mercantile Interests

View of the City of Naples and Vesuvio from Castel Sant’Elmo by Céline Dauverd The word imperialism inevitably conjures up reflections about the relationship –or lack thereof—among western countries and let’s say Algeria, Lebanon, South Africa, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Mexico or Libya. However, these are all regions plagued by...

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Extreme Origins by Manus I. Midlarsky

Extreme Origins by Manus I. Midlarsky

by Manus I. Midlarsky Political extremism is one of the most pernicious, destructive, and nihilistic forms of human expression. During the twentieth century, in excess of 100 million people had their lives taken from them as the result of extremist violence. My recent book, Origins of Political Extremism  is a wide-ranging...

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William G. Thalmann: Argonautika, Spatial Epic

William G. Thalmann: Argonautika, Spatial Epic

Map of the Voyage of the Argonauts, from Ortelius’ Parergon, 1624 by William G. Thalmann I hadn’t intended to write a book about Apollonius of Rhodes’ Argonautika, but once I began reading and studying the poem it was difficult not to. A Greek epic poem in four books about...

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Daqing Yang: Japan’s Imperial Telecommunications

Daqing Yang: Japan’s Imperial Telecommunications

One of Japan’s blueprints for a regional telecommunications network by Daqing Yang Shortly after 12:00 o’clock Tokyo Time on August 15, 1945, the prerecorded voice of Japan’s Emperor Hirohito was broadcast from a studio in downtown Tokyo. “After pondering deeply the general trends of the world and the actual...

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S. Jonathan Wiesen: Decaffeinated Nazis

S. Jonathan Wiesen: Decaffeinated Nazis

by S. Jonathan Wiesen In the United States, there are numerous consumer products with controversial pasts. We need only think of our grocery aisles and kitchen cabinets, where racist images of Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben have only recently given way to updated, less stereotypical depictions of African Americans....

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Keep the Red Textbook Flying

Keep the Red Textbook Flying

Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels Statue, Berlin, AC-50D by Christina Morina Socialism is an old idea. The ideas and movements that can be subsumed under the term, encompassing a plethora of radical or moderate shades, have shaped the course of human history over the last two hundred years. One could argue...

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Martin E. Marty on Bonhoeffer

Martin E. Marty on Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in the courtyard of Tegel prison, 1944, Christian Kaiser Verlag by Martin E. Marty Only a zealous and informed scavenger could have found and assembled scribbled fragments which eventually became the published prison letters by the best-remembered German cleric who gave his life in the anti-Nazi cause....

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Naco Networks

Naco Networks

Round structures, Site PVN306, Naco Valley by Edward M. Schortman and Patricia A. Urban A debate that has long fascinated us concerns the ways in which political relations emerge from, and are sustained by, daily interactions among individuals of all ranks. The traditional approach in our discipline, archaeology, has tended to...

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Emily Greble: Multicultural Sarajevo, 1941-45

Emily Greble: Multicultural Sarajevo, 1941-45

Justin Neumaier by Emily Greble In fall 1941, a few months after Nazi Germany dismembered Yugoslavia and established a satellite called the Independent State of Croatia, local police in Sarajevo, a major city in the new state, hunted down a Jewish man who had been deported to a concentration...

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Logan K. Young on The Replacements

I, myself, was barely six months old when Twin/Tone put out The Mats’ Let It Be. The day, they say, was Orwellian: Tuesday, October...

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Tyranny Is a Growth Industry by Vladimir Savich and Zachary Bos

Tyranny is a growth industry. Each day brings exciting new developments. These events imprint themselves upon the world in the form of newspapers, magazines,...

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Tjoa Shze Hui: 1920s

Of the many witticisms that make up The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, one voiced by Picasso really gets under the skin. He says...

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Elias Tezapsidis on Lorentzen, Batuman, Lerner, Smallwood and Stein

Contemporary narrators feel entitled to their own realities now more than ever. The internet has created this fascinating binary, one in which individuals can...

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Henry Giardina on Bob Hope

All mythical creatures need an origin story. The Bob Hope character springs into being, Athena-like, from out of the head of Preston Sturges in...

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Mattilda B. Sycamore: Yearning From Spurning

One problem with gentrification is that it always gets worse. But then I go into a Hooters, and it’s a vintage clothing store. A...

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Alexander McGregor
Alexander McGregor: Trauma

Following World War II, the German philosopher Theodor Adorno wrote, “Nach Auschwitz ein Gedicht zu schreiben, ist barbarisch”: to write poetry after Auschwitz is...

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John Crutchfield: Chords

But music, even bad music, is a symptom of hope, is it not? Naturally one would prefer the music to be good, but any...

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Menachem Feuer on Robin Williams

Regardless of whether you are from Europe, the United States, Asia, or Africa, we can all agree that there is something special about the...

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Reality Principles: Berfrois Interviews Frank Smecker

I don't know if I ever wanted to become a theorist. I struggle with this position. For me, it's a hystericized — and therefore...

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Albert Rolls: Which (Side) Are You On, Man?

James Parker begins his review of Inherent Vice with the quip, “If Thomas Pynchon were a stand-up comedian, and Inherent Vice his newest routine,...

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Keith Doubt
Keith Doubt on Serbia

The intellectual integrity of cultural anthropology is based largely on its commitment to cultural relativism as a principled notion. Cultural relativism is the principle...

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A Gosse in Woolf’s Clothing by Andre Gerard

On May 31, two weeks after his death, and the day before Orlando was sent to the printer, Woolf noted his death as follows:...

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Andrew Gallix: Let’s Go!

Retro-futurism, as we now call it, came out of the closet in the late '70s due to the widespread feeling that there was indeed...

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