January 2013

The Making of the First World War: A Pivotal History

January 24, 2013

  Despite its title, The Making of the First World War: A Pivotal History by historian Ian F. W. Beckett is not another account of the events leading up to World War One.  Instead Beckett is concerned with what he describes as “pivot points”: decisive moments that affected not only the course of the war […]

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Word With a Past: Silhouette

January 22, 2013

I’m poking around in the long eighteenth century these days and stumbling across lots of surprising tidbits. Take silhouettes. I had long known that charming likenesses cut from black cardstock became a popular and affordable alternative to oil portraits in the mid-eighteenth century. To the extent that I thought about the word at all, I […]

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You pays your money, you takes your choice….

January 17, 2013

Right now I’m reading a Big Fat History Book dealing with tenth century Europe.* In recent years I’ve spent a lot of time circling the boundaries of medieval Europe: the Carolingian Renaissance, Irish monks, Viking raiders, Pope Sylvester II, Muslim Spain, Muslim Sicily, the Islamic world in general. My current reading is making it clear […]

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On The Map

January 15, 2013

Speaking of maps, as I believe we were, I recently spent several happy days with a book that straddles the intersection between cartography and history. Simon Garfield, author of the bestselling Just My Type, once again takes a subject that seems the province of a small group of enthusiasts and opens it for a larger […]

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An Islamic Map for a Christian King

January 10, 2013

  Most maps made in twelfth century Europe were based on tradition and myth rather than scientific information. The only practical maps were mariners’ charts that showed coastlines, ports of call, shallows and places to take on provisions and water. Roger II, the Christian king of Sicily, wanted a map of the known world that […]

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In Search of Hiawatha

January 8, 2013

Several months ago, on a visit to Fort Michilimackinac, I was startled to read an exhibit sign that referred to Hiawatha as a real person. As far as I knew, Hiawatha was the fictional hero of a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem: “By the shore of Gitche Gumee” and all that. On the other hand, as […]

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Road Trip Through History: Thinking About the Bucket List

January 4, 2013

My Own True Love and I recently sat down to synchronize our calendars for the coming year–a terrifying process. (We already have things scheduled well into September? Really?) As always, it gave me the travel itch and made me think about the places I really, really want to see. Some of them have been on […]

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Road Trip Through History: Bath

January 1, 2013

Having spent many hours enthralled by the novels of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, I was excited to arrive in Bath, our last stop in England. It was thrilling to have lunch in the Pump Room, to stroll through the Assembly Rooms where some of my favorite heroines danced the quadrille, and to see the […]

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