A Final Charge?

(the second chapter of Shell Games)   A Final Charge?   Glass Connors was standing mere feet from Bonnie Prince Charlie on the last battlefield of the Jacobite Scots the moment the earth collapsed upon them all, at Culloden, on April 16, 1746. He survived the day, and longer, to eventually become a small part…

A River Ran Between Them

February 28, 2016   Sunday I found something very interesting as I entertained myself late in the night at the Whitney Turning Point house.  Remember that John Peckham–your John Peckham, first Peckham in America–as best as it is understood, married first to a Mary Clarke that was the sister of John Clarke.  John Clarke was…

Who Does Donald Trump Compare To, Nate Silver?

March 1, 2016  Tuesday Dear Mr. Silver, I have a historical question that I hope might be raised during a podcast or chat. Rarely, if ever, do I hear Trump placed in historical context, and I’ve been trying to square Donald Trump with past outsider firebrands in American history.  Who might everyone think Trump best…

Geertz and the Value of Thick Discription

written July 9, 2009   Unsatisfied with the usual, surface manner of anthropological study and interpretation, Clifford Geertz, in Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight, suggests a new vantage of study, in which he borrows the term “thick description.” The value of thick description, in comparison to the “thin description” of simply defining a…

Lovejoy, Curti & the History of Ideas

written June 30, 2009   Arthur Lovejoy presents the history of ideas in his seminal work, The Great Chain of Being, as a continuous copying of old mantras in which rarely an original, “distinct” thought surfaces (4). Much of this derives from the confusion of world’s “isms” that must be broken apart and dissected into…

The Times Were A’Changin’… to Fit Profit Margins and Gauge Moral Worth

written June 11, 2009   “Time discipline,” as discussed by E. P. Thompson in “Time, Work-Discipline, and Industrial Capitalism,” addresses the shift of concepts brought about from early industrialization, from “task orientation” and “general irregularity” possible in an agrarian-yeoman society to a structured, “time-oriented” labor construct. Further, time discipline was the tool of an often overly…

Carl Schorske and Creating a Future Without a Past

written July 28, 2009   Carl Schorske cites Karl Marx in his study of Vienna: “when men are about to make revolution, they fortify themselves in the past.”1 Yet what if no past is available? The dream of rational liberalism, birthed in Austria following the 1848 revolution, could not be sustained in the cultural sphere…

Bedeviled by “Devil”

written August 6, 2011   What are we to do with something like Devil in the White City?  It’s won an award for Best Fact Crime, and labeled as History, but reads with enough dramatic, pulpy push that it could be taken to the beach.  It’s this tension between professional and lay you put your…

Incidentals

written June 4, 2016   Cornelius Cochran, besides having a rocking name, was known by my mother’s side of the family as the brightest known fruit on their limb, the polished family relation you set out for guests.  Cornelius, you see, was a 19 year-old farm boy on his family’s homestead near Blandford, Massachusetts on…

He’s Still Remembered Reverently By Used Car Dealers

written April 25, 2012     Was Abraham Lincoln “great”? This question was posed to us by Dr. Hansen in January. We could have said yes: he of the five dollars, toys logs, and marbled thrones.  But that would have left a lot of time to fill.  What Dr. Hansen was trying to suggest was…

That Reminds Me of a Story: Lincoln’s Metaphors and His Audience

written February 2012 Amid the backwoods of Indiana and Illinois Abraham Lincoln received a formal education that was meager, to be kind. With less than a single year in a schoolhouse, Lincoln himself was years later critical of pioneer curriculum.[1] Apart from these “blab schools” Lincoln relied on his own hunger for reading the few…

More than Might: Gilgamesh and Rethinking Acceptable Power in Ancient Mesopotamia

written September 2009 The corrupting influence of power is older than the ancient peoples of Mesopotamia,and the Epic of Gilgamesh provides a window into this ancient struggle over what is acceptable kingly leadership and what, if any, responsibilities does a king have for his subjects? Gilgamesh follows the (possible) maturation process of Uruk’s young ruler,…