Author Archive

Unforeseen Consequences

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If our principles are right, why should we be cowards? Lucretia Mott Ah, but which principles. High minded reformers don’t always see eye to eye. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson may have both… Continue reading

Making War on Cultural Heritage

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  … the enemy makes a wilderness and calls it war. Richard Harding Davis, NY Tribune, witness to the burning of Louvain, 1914 Cultural treasures disappear at a disheartening rate, often due to… Continue reading

Tea, Taxes, and War

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Historians suggest a variety of causes for the Opium Wars. Some declare the cause to be “extraterritoriality,” the refusal of one sovereign nation, in this case, the United Kingdom, to allow their citizens… Continue reading

The Prince of Fraud

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In an era of British imperial expansion, with limited social mobility at home, men with ambition, energy, and imagination looked to the wide world for opportunities to make their fortune. It didn’t seem odd… Continue reading

Orkney and the Hudson’s Bay Company

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Folks from the Orkney Islands in Scotland impacted the exploration and settlement of Canada by Europeans heavily, particularly through their close connections to the Hudson’s Bay Company. It isn’t difficult to understand why… Continue reading

Malacca and the World in 1511

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The wide reach of history weighs on me since my visit to Malacca last month when one date in particular sparked my curiosity: 1511. The ruins of a Portuguese fort in that UNESCO World… Continue reading

The Natchez Trace

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Once young men routinely floated their goods—products of the farms and settlements of newly formed states and territories—down the Ohio, Wabash, and Illinois rivers to the Mississippi and on to New Orleans. They… Continue reading

The Artist Who Dressed As She Pleased

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Rosa Bonheur dressed in trousers when women were still trussed in corsets. She required permission from the prefect of police to do so, but she was unapologetic about her choices. She lived her… Continue reading

The Anatomist and the Body Snatchers

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The longer I look at the 1830s, the more I am fascinated by the collision of science, commerce, and social change. There are few colorful characters from that period that exemplify these more… Continue reading

A Few Wise Men

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One question is, how many? Last week Lin Manuel Miranda posted about his son’s celebration of La Víspera de Reyes, the eve of the Three Kings’ Day to social media. He introduced me… Continue reading