September 2011

Splitting the Difference

September 30, 2011

“Split the difference” is My Own True Love’s favorite way to solve a difference of opinion.  It’s a pretty effective tactic when you’re negotiating a contract, eyeing the last piece of pie, or deciding what time you need to leave the house to catch a 6:00 AM flight.  Win-win. When it comes to settling geopolitical […]

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History on Display: Windows on the War

September 27, 2011

There are plenty of good reasons to visit the Art Institute of Chicago:  the Impressionist collection, the Chagall window, the under-appreciated collection of South Asia art, the gift shop.  But the Art Institute usually isn’t my first choice for a history lesson.  In fact, it doesn’t generally take much to set me off on the […]

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Who made the map of the modern Middle East?

September 23, 2011

The simple answer is:  Great Britain.  You want the long version? In The Makers of the Modern Middle East   historians T.G. Fraser, Andrew Mango, and Robert McNamara tell the story of how today’s Middle East was created from the remains of the Ottoman Empire during the peace negotiations at the end of the First World […]

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Déjà Vu All Over Again?: Attack on the British Garrison in Kabul, 1879

September 21, 2011

As I believe I’ve mentioned before, the British government in India was always paranoid about the possibility of Russian influence on the northern border of Afghanistan.  (Some of the most paranoid even thought the Russians were behind the Indian Mutiny of 1857. *) In 1878, the amir of Afghanistan pushed British buttons when he accepted […]

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Déjà Vu All Over Again? Attack on British Garrison in Kabul, 1841

September 16, 2011

The story I’m about to tell is confusing. It’s about people you’ve never heard of, some of whom make bad decisions. In the end, people die and nothing much changes. In short, it’s a story about the West and Afghanistan. In 1838, Dost Muhammad Khan was the Amir of Afghanistan. He had seized the throne […]

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A Crusade by Any Other Name….

September 8, 2011

Sometimes the name you give to an historical event says a lot about where you stand in relation to that event.  Is it the Civil War, or the War of Northern Aggression?   The Sepoy Rebellion, the first Indian war of independence, or (my personal choice) the violence of 1857? Other times, what you call an […]

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Word With a Past: Mausoleum

September 6, 2011

When King Mausolos of Caria * died in 353 BCE his widow decided to honor him by building a marble tomb more wonderful than any building known to man.  (We’ve seen this kind of thing before.  Taj Mahal anyone?)  She sent to Greece for the best architects and sculptors.  When it was completed the Mausoleum […]

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White Gold: Sugar in the New World

September 1, 2011

In The Sugar Barons: Family, Corruption, Empire, and War in the West Indies Matthew Parker, author of Panama Fever and Monte Cassino: The Hardest Fought Battle of World War II, uses the rise and fall of the sugar dynasties of the West Indies as a framework for the intertwined histories of sugar, slavery, the industrial […]

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