Friday, April 18, 2014

Theme: History

  • In 1980, Lady Isobel Barnett was found guilty of stealing a can of tuna and a carton of cream and fined about £75. Barnett was a very public figure. For a decade or more, from the early nineteen-fifties, she had been a regular on the English version of “What’s My Line?” and on BBC Radio’s “Question Time.” Often assumed to be an aristocrat (actually, her title came from her husband, who was the mayor of Leicester), she was a quintessential lady — fine-featured, well dressed, and always with sensible, moderate opinions about the world and its doings. She embodied British deceny, uprightness, and charm.Read more
  • In the cold war years, Japan forged a contradictory relationship with its erstwhile occupiers, the United States. On the one hand various capillaries of Japanese society burned with resentment towards a Western capitalism that forced upon it a new diet of humility and economic subordination – perhaps best represented in a literal sense by the new diet of milk and bread – while on the other hand, as audiences for sumo fell by over a third, stadiums could not find enough places for Japanese fans of baseball. Read more
  • Progress is never inevitable, even in reform eras. The United States at the turn of the twentieth century was in a progressive mood. It was a time in which the nation’s leaders tackled some of modern life’s most vexing problems: from taming rapacious industrialization to ensuring a clean food supply to cleaning up political corruption, American progressives were seeking a more harmonious and salubrious national life. But for African Americans, even those closest to progressive national leaders, this was a period of disappointment and devastation.Read more
  • In 1983, Andre Schiffrin and Sara Bershtel, then of Pantheon Books, asked me to write a book on poverty for a new series on the politics of knowledge. The intended audience was non-specialist readers and college students. Reading extensively on the topic, I was struck by the repetitive quality of the literature: discussions of poverty revolved around the same themes stated and combined in different ways leaving the impression that there did not seem much new to say. Read more
  • The field of South Asian urban history has a rich history of examining India’s major urban centers. Numerous astute studies of Delhi, Bombay (Mumbai), and Calcutta (Kolkata), for example, have contributed to our understanding of not only the rapid urbanization (and later suburbanization, as explored in the remarkable collection of essays that appeared in a recent special edition of Urban History [February 2012]) of the subcontinent, but the human and economic development that has shaped the region as well.Read more
  • Man

    Upon arriving at the White House, Douglass found “the stairway was crowded with applicants … and as I was the only dark spot among them, I expected to have to wait at least half a day.” But within two minutes he was ushered into the president’s office, where he found Lincoln seated “in a low armchair with his feet extended on the floor, surrounded by a large number of documents and several busy secretaries.” Lincoln immediately put his visitor at ease. “I know who you are, Mr. Douglass; Mr. Seward has told me all about you,” the president said. “Sit down. I am glad to see you.”Read more
  • Nineteenth century New York City lawyer and diarist George Templeton Strong was a man of intensely felt opinion. Charitable, and on some issues progressive, he nevertheless could not abide the idea of women entering his beloved profession of law. He heartily approved when, in the late 1860s, his alma mater, Columbia College (today New York City’s Columbia University) refused to admit women law applicants. But a small group of women dared to imagine themselves lawyers and defeated the George Templeton Strongs of the legal profession.Read more
  • Historians are notoriously reluctant to give yes-or-no answers to any question, and this one is a particularly apt candidate for an ambivalent response. Marx certainly made lots of hostile comments about Jews in his correspondence, whether about his encounters with obscure individuals or in regard to his relations with his pupil and rival Ferdinand Lassalle. In his 1844 essay “On the Jewish Question,” he denounced Judaism as a religion encouraging haggling, greed, obsession with money and a whole host of obnoxious capitalist attitudes.Read more
  • Benjamin Robert Haydon, the artist who helped bring the Elgin marbles to the British Museum, was scathing about portraiture. It is, he declared in 1817, ‘one of the staple manufactures of the empire. Wherever the British settle, wherever they colonise, they carry and will ever carry trial by jury, horse-racing, and portrait-painting.’ His list of imperial products might also have included Joseph Banks (1743-1820), who is celebrated as one of Australia’s founding fathers. Read more
  • Most people have heard of the Council of Trent, and probably most of what they have heard is negative. It was a church council convoked to condemn the Reformation. It initiated a repressive epoch in Catholic countries and opposed everything good in the burgeoning “modern world.” It launched the dreaded Counter-Reformation. Beyond such clichés, few can venture. Like most clichés, these are badly misleading.Read more
  • Gay marriage supposedly interferes with “traditional marriage,” say its opponents. “We have at least 6,000 years of recorded history on our side,” remarked Kris Mineau, president of the conservative group Massachusetts Family Institute. People like Mineau assume that the traditional definition of the family is stable, unvarying and ancient. Read more
  • So this is the thing. I’ve been breathing a long time but, driven by the objective of writing a book, only recently started deliberately thinking about it. We commonly view breathing as a pedestrian automatism, but I try to imagine how this simple physiological function was once perceived as miraculousRead more
  • With this beautifully modest sentence Greene excavated one of the most essential and enduring myths of the Cuban Revolution. Following the sheer, inviolable force of gravity that brought Fidel Castro to power in 1959, so much freedom was promised to the people, who in turn expected so much liberty, and yet the revolutionary soil proved infertile.Read more
  • The lone survivor of traditional Western European ‘scientific’ culture is science. It has survived because it is now the handmaid of technology, without which contemporary civilization would collapse utterly. Anyone who doubts this should try to get a research grant for genuinely “pure” research.Read more
  • While there are a number of plausible labels that might be attached to the 20th century, in terms of social history it was clearly the age of the working class. For the first time, working people who lacked property became a major and sustained political force. Read more
  • Professor Christopher Clark speaks about the July Crisis of 1914 and the chain of events that led to the outbreak of World War One.Read more
  • Nearly a decade ago, I sat in a class entitled, quite simply, “Corporations,” taught by Vijay Prashad at Trinity College. Over the course of the semester, I was amazed at the extent of Prashad’s knowledge, and the complexity and erudition of his style. He has since authored a number of classic books that have gained recognition throughout the world.Read more
  • It occurred to me that Genesis is such a supreme fiction, or perhaps it is the supreme fiction in western culture, which begat many others. For thousands of years this book has been the mirror or lamp that reveals what reality consists of – regarding the nature of human existence, the cosmos, and God. Or, to put it differently, the meaning of life, the universe, and everything.Read more
  • Page 1 of 51|2|3|4|5|
Copyright ©