Cross-cultural “Stuff”

The Eastern Question

November 20, 2015

In the weeks after 9/11, self-described “scholar-printer” Ted Danforth struggled to understand why the attacks occurred. He found his first clue in Osama bin Laden’s statement that the attacks were revenge for the Ottoman Empire’s dismemberment after World War I and Islam’s subsequent humiliation at the hands of the West. That statement led Danforth to […]

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October 30, 2015

When we write the history of national conflicts, we tend to assume that “our” side stood united in monolithic opposition to “them”. It’s a simple and enjoyable version of history, but it simply isn’t true. Sympathizers with the “other side”* are a fact of war. Sometimes they engage in fifth column activities.** Sometimes they simply […]

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This Isn’t a Blog Post.

October 20, 2015

It’s a link to a website I discovered when I was procrastinating on my Really Big Project.*  Global Middle Ages is the home site for a group of  projects that began with a teaching experiment at the University of Texas.  The charge was “to see the world whole in a large swathe of time—as a […]

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Daughters of the Samurai

May 22, 2015

In Daughters of the Samurai: A Journey From East to West, Janice P. Nimura tells the story of three young girls, ages eleven, ten and six, whom the Japanese government sent to the United States in 1871 as part of the westernizing reforms of the Meiji Restoration that transformed Japan in the mid-nineteenth century. The […]

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“Opening” Japan–The Meiji Restoration

May 19, 2015

As I’ve mentioned before, in 1853 the United States government forced Japan to open its ports to United States merchants in a literal display of gunboat diplomacy. Commodore Perry’s act of military aggression against Japan is often given credit for dragging Japan into the nineteenth century. In fact, the real credit for Japan’s transformation belongs […]

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From The Archives: Al-Khwarizmi Does The Math

March 3, 2015

I currently have my head down trying to finish a big project that I’m excited about. Instead of driving myself crazy trying to write blog posts at the same time or, worse, “going dark” I’ll be running some of my favorite posts from the past for the next little while. Enjoy. And I’ll see you […]

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When You Take A Road Trip Through History, You Need Luggage

October 28, 2014

One of the ways you can tell that your blog is starting to gain an audience* is that you start to get random offers of content from people you don’t know. Most of it is inappropriate (though I was tempted by the gorgeous interactive map of the kingdoms in Game of Thrones). Some of it […]

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Pirates of the…Mediterranean?

October 24, 2014

In response to my recent post on nineteenth century Chinese pirate Cheng I Sao, Margins reader Davide reminded me of another highly successful pirate* and then made the provocative comment that the subject of piracy in the Mediterranean is very interesting and often  neglected by historians. Challenge accepted. It’s a big question, but let’s take […]

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Infidel Kings and Unholy Warriors

September 27, 2014

If you’ve spent much time here in the Margins, you know that I’m fascinated by historical boundaries: the times and places where two cultures meet (peacefully or, more often, not) and change each other. One of my favorite examples of a historical boundary is Islamic Spain, where Dar al Islam and Christendom met in exciting […]

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Who Was The Most Successful Pirate in History*

September 23, 2014

Any guesses?  Edward Teach, commonly known as Blackbeard?  Captain Kidd?  Captain Morgan?** Grace O Malley, aka the Pirate Queen?    Sir Francis Drake?*** None of them are even close, though Drake has the distinction of capturing what may well have been the largest prize taken in a single raid: the Spanish galleon Cagafuego.  The title goes […]

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