Cross-cultural “Stuff”

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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Salt

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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The Other American Colonies

April 8, 2014

I struggled to come up with a title for this post that was not United States-centric*–a fact which pretty much sums up the topic at hand. For most Americans** the grade school version of history that we carry in our heads jumps from Columbus in 1492 straight to the arrival of the Puritans in Massachusetts […]

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The Invention of News

April 3, 2014

At a time when digital media is transforming the way news is delivered–and by whom– Andrew Pettegree offers a reminder that newspapers too were once a revolutionary form of delivering information. In The Invention of News: How The World Came To Know About Itself, Pettegree looks at the changing definition, use, control, and distribution of […]

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Re-Run: Cowboys and Indians, North African Style

March 4, 2014

Unlikely though it seems, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the French Foreign Legion over the last week. I bet most of you have a few stock images of the Foreign Legion in your heads: men fleeing from their past into the desert and anonymity, absinthe, burning sands and blazing sun, those funny […]

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Re-Run: Muslim Spain–The Soundtrack

February 19, 2014

The perversity of the universe being what it is, the final stages of renovating our new-old house and finishing my book proposal have collided.  Instead of driving myself mad trying to write blog posts or letting History in the Margins go blank for a few weeks, I decided to run some of my favorite posts […]

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