Today’s news features several stories bearing on immigration to the US, international migration, and refugees around the world. How would you describe the present moment? Is there something distinctive about this juncture in time—an immigration crisis—or is that an exaggeration? How should we be responding?
Even when set aside the other border states, Palmyra’s history is distinctive, not least because of its extraordinary economic basis. That power proved both a blessing and a curse. In the 3rd century AD, the city stood at a crest of a wave, leaving it superbly placed to benefit from the near collapse of the Roman Empire between about 240 and 270. Just how appallingly bad those years were is difficult to exaggerate. Upstart emperors came and went with depressing rapidity; at least fourteen reigned between 235 and 270, all of whom died violently, except for two fortunate souls who succumbed to plague. The currency collapsed. In 251, the Emperor Decius died fighting Scythians and Goths, and in 260, his successor Valerian was defeated and captured (at Edessa) by the Persian king, who exhibited his Roman counterpart as a trophy and plaything.
The book is . . . particularly good medicine for the times we find ourselves in, where there exists a burgeoning faction in American Internet Letters wishing to claim the Greek world as a sort of masculine daydream, and one in eminent need of recovery as such. Reading Ladies’ Greek, one immediately stumbles into a momentum that amounts to zeitgeist, into a world peopled by women thinking through their encounter with everything from irregular verbs to Pindar, making alphabet puns, writing doggerel poetry (in Greek of course), being praised as the sex with more skill in translation (so hinted The Athenaeum in 1865). If you didn’t know better, you could wonder how you could have missed it all until now.
Like Thomas Jefferson, Franklin thought that the Bible contained good moral advice even as he rejected the traditional Protestant doctrine that it is the “only rule for faith and practice.” Nevertheless, he knew it “backward and forward,” and was able to use it to great effect in his polemical writings. When he launched a campaign to encourage Pennsylvania’s government to fund a militia in 1747, he reminded his readers that God provided us with the Bible “for our reproof, instruction and warning” and that his Word clearly requires rulers to defend their subjects—by military force if necessary.
The central fact in understanding “Nigerian organized crime” is the extreme inadequacy of the formal state, and the (justifiable) public contempt in which it is held. Persistent misgovernment has resulted in mass poverty and desperation, forcing ordinary people to venture outside the law to achieve simple survival. As a vampiric élite battened upon the nation’s wealth, educated and enterprising younger people were increasingly driven to seek their fortunes overseas, and most did their honest best to advance through legitimate means. For a minority, though, the riches to be won through criminal enterprise proved enormously tempting, and the global nature of the Nigerian Diaspora offered wonderful opportunities for illicit transnational commerce.
War is . . . so interwoven into the fabric of contemporary life that civilians hardly notice it anymore . . . . It hasn’t always been this way. Michael Kazin’s brilliant new book, War Against War: The American Fight for Peace, 1914-1918, lends credence to the old saying, “the past is a foreign country.” It tells the remarkable story of how, one hundred years ago, a diverse coalition of Americans struggled to keep the nation out of the Great War.
The importance of historical accuracy and moral clarity in speaking of World War II and the origins of the Cold War cannot be overstated. These defining events shaped the next half century and their significance continues on today…. It is vital that the major events and participants in these gigantic conflicts be well understood. Indeed, such a clear understanding would surely benefit those who are charged with managing the American relationship with a revisionist, authoritarian Russia in the 21st century, whatever the significant differences between Stalin and Vladimir Putin.
Ferreiro argues convincingly that the French and Spanish were preparing for the American Revolutionary War well before the British colonies could have ever imagined it. Following the French and Indian War (1754-1763), British patriotism in the colonies was high. The British had driven the French out of North America and in doing so calmed the fears of all liberty-loving Protestants on the continent. The French began plotting their revenge before the ink on the Treaty of Paris (1763) was dry . . . . They sent spies to America to study how the British colonists were responding to the series of revenue-raising taxes . . . levied upon them by Parliament. The intelligence gathered from these efforts convinced the French and their Spanish allies that an American revolution resulting in independence was a distinct possibility. Should such a revolution occur, it would provide these European powers with an ideal opportunity for payback.
The last voyageurs were a group of recently graduated high school students, five high school teachers, a priest, and a playwright who traveled 3,300 miles over a period of eight months in 1976, trying their hardest to re-create the lifestyles of 17th-century French explorers . . . . The original voyageurs were the riverine version of frontiersmen. They crisscrossed North America in birchbark canoes, mostly transporting furs but also sometimes naturalists, physicians, Jesuit missionaries, and more. The “last voyageurs” weren’t transporting furs, but knowledge.
Two recent books offer windows into the role of moderates in American politics. Historian David S. Brown’s Moderates focuses on this theme with mixed results. Though Michael Wear’s Reclaiming Hope is primarily a memoir of a young staffer’s work for Barack Obama, he ends up offering practical insights into the need for political moderation. Together, these books show readers the perils of extreme party polarization and point toward a different model of politics.