a day ago

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 weeks 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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3 weeks ago

The secret mission to stop the Nazi atomic bomb

A Nazi atomic bomb? The fear that Werner Heisenberg, Otto Hahn, and other Nobel-winning German physicists would develop nuclear weapons for Adolf Hitler began to seize hold in the upper reaches of the American government when Albert Einstein’s letter to President Franklin Roosevelt arrived in the White House in August 1939. The Bastard Brigade: The […]

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4 weeks ago

The extraordinary Soviet spy who gave Stalin the bomb

Ben MacIntyre is one of the most prolific producers of nonfiction books about espionage in the English language. Of the thirteen books he’s written to date, nearly all are about spies, saboteurs, and partisans, and five of those books have been made into documentaries by the BBC. In his latest venture, MacIntyre tells the tale […]

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last month

In Chocolate Wars, what’s gone wrong with business

One of the best ways I’ve found to explore the factors that influence the grand sweep of modern history is to examine the stories of individual companies, industries, and commodities. And among the books I’ve found that have helped the most are The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How It Transformed […]

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last month

How the Republican Party became Donald Trump

Amazon lists more than 1,000 books about Donald Trump. And only two US Presidents—George Washington and Abraham Lincoln—account for more (over 2,000 in each case). But Trump hasn’t even completed a single term in office, and there are lots more books to come. One of the latest, and in its way most surprising, is the […]

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last month

Understanding America’s polarization and how we got to now

Does the Red State-Blue State analysis of recent US elections make sense to you? Or pointing to the difference between Republicans and Democrats to explain election outcomes? Colin Woodward doesn’t think either one is useful in explaining how and why we vote as we do. Nor, in his opinion, are the boundaries that define our […]

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last month

The unconditional Japanese surrender in WWII

Three-quarters of a century after the end of World War II, FDR’s policy to demand unconditional surrender from Germany and Japan may seem simply logical. After all, in an era of total war, the only guarantee that either nation wouldn’t sufficiently recover to attack again was total Allied control over their system of government following […]

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a couple of months ago

The famous dictionary that threw out the rules of grammar

My mother went ballistic when Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language appeared in 1961. She’d taught English for a time during the Depression. Then, there was a right way and a wrong way to express yourself. Rules were rules—and English teachers knew exactly what they were. But even back then the linguists […]

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a couple of months ago

A scholar of Right-Wing politics dissects the Trump coalition

Here’s America’s leading scholar of Right-Wing politics with an up-to-the-minute analysis of the contending forces that have seized hold of the Republican Party. Because, as UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Rosenthal explains in Empire of Resentment, conservatism comes in many flavors, of which the following are the most prominent: Neoliberalism advocates letting free-market capitalism loose on the […]

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