Cross-cultural “Stuff”

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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August 22, 2014

Anyone who sat through a third grade social studies lesson learned that Europe’s search for pepper changed the world. Prince Henry the Navigator, Columbus, and all that. But did you know that salt played an even bigger role in world history? Unlike pepper, we can’t live without salt. It is as essential to life as […]

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Back To The Silk Roads

May 6, 2014

In response to my recent post on the so-called Silk Roads, a reader asked me what books I would recommend for someone interested in learning more about the subject. I will try to show some restraint.* Here are some of my favorite books and websites on the subject: Boulnois, Luce and Helen Loveday. Silk Road: […]

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The Crusades From Another Perspective

April 11, 2014

Recently I’ve been reading Sharan Newman’s Defending The City of God: A Medieval Queen, The First Crusade And The Quest for Peace In Jerusalem. It was a perfect read for March, which was Women’s History Month.* Newman tells the story of a historical figure who was completely new to me. Melisende (1105-1161) was the first […]

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