a few days 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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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

British interference in American politics in WWII

In The Splendid and the Vile, a moving and revealing account of Winston Churchill’s leadership during the Blitz, Erik Larson makes much of the Prime Minister’s dogged campaign to persuade Franklin Roosevelt to drag the United States into the defense of Britain. Historians concur that Churchill’s influence on the President played a major role in […]

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a few months ago

How German radar technology helped Britain win World War II

Military historians tend to agree that radar played a singularly important role in the Allied victory in World War II, arguably greater than the decoding of the German Enigma codes (and certainly greater than the atomic bomb, which only ended the war). But British and American sources tend to disagree on where the critical advances […]

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a few months ago

A true-life account of a spectacular WWII prison camp rescue

Early in 1945, as the Nazi regime began to crumble and American soldiers, marines, and sailors relentlessly pushed ever closer toward the Japanese home islands, two thousand civilian prisoners of war, mostly Americans, suffered indescribable deprivation at the hands of a sadistic prison camp commander, deep in a Philippine jungle. Their story—and that of their […]

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a few months ago

The best short history of World War II

Thousands of books have been written about World War II—”history’s greatest catastrophe.” Amazon shows more than 70,000 titles. Among them are general histories from the likes of the Smithsonian Institution, the New York Times, and unnumbered others. Although I can’t claim to have read them all, or even more than a handful, the very best […]

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a few months ago

The story of globalization told through biography

Scholars argue about when globalization first took firm hold in the world’s economy. But most agree that the entry of the Old World into the affairs of the New was the pivotal event. Before then, before the voyages of Christopher Columbus and what came to be called the Columbian Exchange, what had come before was […]

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