Best of February 2015

Books

Hubert Wolf’s The Nuns of Sant’Ambrogio: The True Story of a Convent in Scandal epitomizes how history should be written for the general public. Although the PR around the book promises a look at “sex, poison, and lesbian initiation rites in a nineteenth-century convent,” this is in no way a lurid read. Sure, […]

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A tradition of institutional self-protection

One of the best things about reading history is the insight or perspective it can provide on today. I saw a perfect example over the weekend in The Nuns of Sant’Ambrogio: The True Story of a Convent in Scandal. Written by German ecclesiastical historian Hubert Wolf, the book looks at the Roman Catholic Church’s investigation […]

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Book Review: Dear Leader by Jang Jin-Sung

Significant cultural and, yes, racial differences gave rise to America stereotyping Asians as mysterious or inscrutable. While that shibboleth has justifiably faded over the years, we still occasionally find aspects of Asia enigmatic. But when it comes to North Korea “WTF?!” seems regularly justified. And although Jang Jin-Sung’s memoir of his life and escape from […]

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Book Review: Duel with the Devil by Paul Collins

Hamilton and Burr. Sounds like a law firm you might see advertised on television. And they were lawyers. But that’s not what really ties these two men together. They are Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. For history buffs, the names may bring to mind the ongoing political battles in the 1790s between Hamilton, the nation’s […]

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Book Review: Secret Lives of the Tsars by Michael Farquhar

As the recent July 4 holiday reminded, America isn’t fond of royalty — unless they’re showing up in the celebrity gossip. In fact, the Declaration of Independence lays out a laundry list of what King George III did to establish an “absolute tyranny” in the colonies. But he never went so far as to kick […]

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The Declaration of Independence in plain American

I’ve long been a fan of H.L. Mencken, the iconoclastic journalist and critic of the early 20th Century. Just last summer I read A Religious Orgy in Tennessee, a collection of his coverage of the “Scopes Monkey Trial” for the Baltimore Evening Sun. That’s why I was surprised this week to discover I was unaware […]

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