The Chummy, Populist, Progressive Golden Age of Pirates

From Colin Woodard’s The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Then Down: The Golden Age of Piracy lasted only ten years, from 1715 to 1725, and was conducted by a clique of twenty to thirty pirate commodores and a few thousand crewmen. Virtually [Read More…]

How History’s Most Popular Board Game Helped Defend The Free World

By the end of World War II, more than 35,000 Allied POWs had escaped from German prison camps. And more than a few of those escapees owe their breakout to a classic board game: During World War II, the British secret service hatched a master plan to smuggle escape gear to captured Allied soldiers inside [Read More…]

Was the Alaska Purchase a Good Deal?

When Secretary of State William H. Seward purchased Alaska from the Russian Empire in 1867, the press dubbed the expansionist effort “Seward’s Folly.” Since then the conventional wisdom has been that history vindicated Seward and his $7.2 million investment. But a paper by economist David Barker argues that the acquisition wasn’t necessarily beneficial for the lower forty-eight: [Read More…]

The Shape of Our Buildings Shape Us

In the journal Anamnesis, Wilfred McClay has an insightful analysis of urbanism and its relationship to conservatism. McClay notes that during World War II the British House of Common was destroyed by the German air force—and Winston Churchill had a very definite opinion about how it should be rebuilt: Churchill did not have a professional [Read More…]

Ben Franklin Did Everything

Maira Kalman posts a charming illustrated story about Ben Franklin and the nature of invention: I don’t think he was ever bored. He saw a dirty street and created a sanitation department. He saw a house on fire and created a fire department. He saw sick people and founded a hospital. He started our first lending [Read More…]

Why Food Insecurity Was One of the Most Important Causes of WWII

During World War II the U.S. consented to feed the world, says George Russell, and then taught much of it how to feed itself: Today’s world of plenty is a relatively new phenomenon. There is only one generation left that remembers hunger as a possibility in the industrialized world, and they are quickly dying off [Read More…]

Sin and the Historian

John Fea on how Christian belief in human sin could influence the work of historians: The historian Herbert Butterfield informed us that “if there is any region in which the bright empire of the theologians and the more murky territory of the historians happen to meet and overlap, we shall be likely to find it [Read More…]