a couple of days ago

The last living former slave tells his story

From 1927 to 1931, cultural anthropologist and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston interviewed the last living former slave in the United States and prepared an account of his life for publication. The manuscript never found a taker until 2018, when acclaimed novelist Alice Walker arranged for it to be brought into the light of day. We’re […]

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last week

How the Western democracies stumbled into war with Nazi Germany

The events of the years 1937 through 1941 appear fixed in time. It seems foreordained that Britain, France, the US, and the USSR would have gone to war with Nazi Germany under any circumstances. But that was assuredly not the case, as historian Benjamin Carter Hett makes abundantly clear in his illuminating portrayal of the […]

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a couple of weeks ago

An absorbing biography of Moe Berg, baseball player and WWII spy

Moe Berg (1902-72) was one of the most confounding men who ever donned a glove in Major League Baseball. He graduated magna cum laude from Princeton, earned a law degree from Columbia, and studied linguistics at the Sorbonne. Berg had a fair command of six foreign languages and could understand many more. He pored through […]

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4 weeks ago

The startling Nazi plot to kill FDR, Churchill, and Stalin

Novelists including Ken Follett, Jack Higgins, Alan Furst, and Philip Kerr have indulged us with thrilling accounts of spies and saboteurs in World War II. Rarely, though, have they managed to equal in their fiction the sheer audacity of the real-world Nazi plot to kill FDR, Churchill, and Stalin which unfolded in Tehran late in […]

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last month

How America lost its way and ended up at war with itself

Here is the story of how America lost its way and came to elect a man who rejects democracy itself. For nearly half a century, the broad-based liberal consensus that grew out of the New Deal produced robust economic growth, rich corporate profits, and an expanding middle class enabled by a powerful labor movement. But […]

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last month

The WWII technology breakthrough with the proximity fuse

You can’t help knowing that the atomic bomb was a product of World War II and greatly influenced its outcome. If you’ve read a little, you’re aware that radar played a decisive role in the war as well, implemented both in the air, at sea, and on land. But it’s less likely you’ve heard about […]

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last month

Barack Obama’s memoir is a literary tour de force

You might expect a political memoir to offer up a smorgasbord of self-justification and score-settling. Many such autobiographical works are that and little more. But that is most assuredly not the case with Barack Obama’s A Promised Land. In this first of two planned volumes, the forty-fourth President eloquently conveys what it’s like to live […]

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last month

Who knew that street addresses meant so much?

So, it turns out that street names and house numbers are a pretty big deal. We’ve only got them because of the troubled and sometimes violent circumstances that brought them into being. In fact, we tend to be ignorant of what addresses really mean. And while those of us who have addresses take them for […]

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a couple of months ago

A scholar surveys armed conflict through the ages

Toward the end of Margaret MacMillan‘s impressive survey of armed conflict through the ages, she poses a question attributed to Pancho Villa: “What is the difference between civilized war and any other kind of war?” In fact, it might be said that most of the three hundred pages in War could be said to dramatize […]

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