a couple of 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 couple of months ago

A brilliant account of the 1918 flu epidemic

A century ago a pandemic disease far more lethal than COVID-19 killed an estimated fifty to one hundred million people around the world—as many as one out of every twenty people then alive. The 1918 flu epidemic erupted during a war that had already killed tens of millions and at a time when medical science […]

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a couple of months ago

Racism still kills

Fear and violence directed against “the other” are as old as humanity itself. Antisemitism with its two thousand-year-old history may be the most ancient large-scale manifestation of “otherism” in a form widely recognized today. And racism, as we know it in the West, appears to have originated in the fifteenth century when Portuguese raiders first […]

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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

Jerry Brown: politician, would-be monk, “man of tomorrow?”

For nearly half a century, Jerry Brown has confounded the people of California with the contradictions rooted so deeply in his personality. We’ve long known that it would be simplistic to pigeonhole him as either liberal or conservative. But the inconsistencies are more profound than that. Throughout his many years in public office, he felt […]

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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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a few months ago

The facts, just the facts, about the world as it really is

In the closing months of his life, as pancreatic cancer worked its painful way through his system, the legendary lecturer Hans Rosling (1948-2017) labored with his son and daughter-in-law to compile the lessons he had spent decades teaching about the state of the world. The result was this compact and entertaining little book that seeks […]

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a few months ago

A critical but admiring biography of Nancy Pelosi

She has one of the most recognizable names in America. Yet far too few Americans have more than the most trivial understanding of who she is and where she comes from. And that ignorance is compounded by a relentless, years-long smear campaign by the Right Wing—a campaign that has only intensified since the 2018 Congressional […]

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a few months ago

Start here to understand Jews in America

Some of the most remarkable figures in the history of the United States during the first half of the twentieth century were first- or second-generation Jews who had emigrated from the Russian Empire. The social historian Stephen Birmingham (1929-2015) told their colorful story in “The Rest of Us” more than forty years ago. But his […]

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