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The Unlikely Paths of Grant and Lee

One hundred fifty years ago, in Appomattox Court House, Virginia, Ulysses S. Grant won the Civil War. His chief opponent, Gen. Robert E. Lee of the Confederate States, had surrendered, all but ending the rebellion that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives but freed millions more. But this was just the beginning of Grant’s career. Show More Summary

Killing Conspiracy

Fifty years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, 59 percent of Americans still believe it was the work of a conspiracy. I was once among them. Back in the early 1970s, as a high school senior and college freshman, IShow More Summary

It’s Not About Your Cat Photos

Since last week’s revelations about the NSA, skeptics have questioned whether expansive intelligence powers might really lead to civil liberties abuses. From a historical perspective, there’s no need to ask: Such abuses have occurred...Show More Summary

Somewhere, J. Edgar Hoover Is Smiling

On March 8, 1971, a handful of activists broke into the FBI’s field office in Media, Penn., and made off with a stack of incriminating documents. Over the next several months, they began to publish what they had learned. In the pre-Internet...Show More Summary

The Director of the Theater of Horror

This is an excerpt from The Faithful Executioner: Life and Death, Honor and Shame in the Turbulent Sixteenth Century, written by Joel F. Harrington and out now from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. In the medieval era, public executions were meant to accomplish two goals: first, to shock spectators and, second, to reaffirm divine and temporal authority. Show More Summary

How Texas Could Mess With Us

By last Friday, three days after the re-election of President Obama but before the final tally of electoral votes had been confirmed, a curious phenomenon was already taking place on the "We the People" website, which the Obama White House set up in 2011 as an easy way for Americans to petition the executive branch for the redress of grievances. Show More Summary

The Lincoln Laws

In 1861, the Southern states seceded from the Union. Lincoln and other Northern leaders saw secession as treason and the South’s leaders and soldiers as criminals who should be caught, tried, and hanged. At the same time, to preventShow More Summary

Wiretaps and Weathermen

This article is excerpted from the book Enemies: A History of the FBI by Tim Weiner. Richard Nixon came to power with a soaring vision of world peace. If he succeeded, he thought he could reunite a nation at war with itself. If he failed, he feared the United States itself might fall. His hopes hinged on secret government in America. Show More Summary

Gorgeous Plates from an Early-20th-Century German Encyclopedia of Minerals 

The illustrations below come from German scientist Reinhard Brauns' 1903 book, Das Mineralreich (The Mineral Kingdom). Google Books offers the English translation of this two-volume work, which has 73 colored plates in total. A reviewer...Show More Summary

“Pewter Dish (?) with Handle”

Smithsonian Magazine’s website featured this object back in August, saying: An 18th-century bedpan isn’t all that different from one today. Then, it was round and made of pewter with a handle. In an era before plumbing and bathrooms, the bedpan could be gently heated and slipped under the covers of a sickbed. Show More Summary

Olmec relief looted 45 years ago found in France

An Olmec relief chiselled off a rock face in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas in the early 70s has surfaced in France and was officially returned to Mexico in a ceremony at the Mexican Embassy in Paris. The relief was discovered at the archaeological site of Xoc and dates to between 1,150 and 900 [...]

Time inevitably marches on….

Ten years ago today–September 24, 2005–I made the first post on this blog. 1395 posts later, I’m still here. I had been intrigued by the concept of blogging, which was still a relatively new phenomenon, and I saw a blog as an opportunity...Show More Summary

Early American History Schedules at the M.H.S.

The Massachusetts Historical Society has announced its schedule of seminars for the upcoming academic year. These come in four series: on early America, environmental history, urban history, and the history of women and gender.I’ve picked out those that relate to colonial and federal America. Show More Summary

Medieval bones found under 1950?s Westminster Abbey lavoratory

Demolition of a 1950s block of bathrooms outside Westminster Abbey’s Poet’s Corner has revealed scores of human skeletal remains dating to the 11th and early 12th century. The lavatory block is being removed to make way for the Abbey’s first new tower in almost 300 years, a subtle addition nestled behind the buttresses of the [...]

The Heartbreaking Posters That Convinced Americans to Help Displaced Syrians During WWI 

The American Committee for Relief in the Near East, which put these posters in circulation in the last years of World War I, began in 1915 as the American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief, and was formed as a humanitarian response to the Armenian genocide and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. Show More Summary

History’s True Warning

The cantor is a vivid presence in any Jewish congregation, responsible for song, often a man with an outgoing personality and a sense of social engagement. Such a cantor was Eleazar Bernstein, who lived with his wife Martha and their three children in the southwestern German city of Zweibrücken in the 1930s. Show More Summary

Saturday Events at Minute Man Park and the Wayside Inn

On this Saturday, 26 September, Minute Man National Historical Park is hosting open houses at its Battle Road Homes in Lexington, Lincoln, and Concord. At the Captain William Smith House, the Lincoln Minute Men will conduct drill and musket-firing programs between 10:00 A.M. Show More Summary

Teaching the Confederate Flag Controversy

Schools across the United States are dealing with the question of what to do about displays of the Confederate flag on campus. Last week around…

Explaining the coup in Burkina Faso

The background to the 17 September 2015 coup in Burkina Faso and its rapid conclusion. Why did the Presidential Guard think they would succeed?

Getty and Armenian Church reach agreement over stolen Bible pages

Five years ago, the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America filed a $105 million lawsuit against the J. Paul Getty Museum alleging that the museum was wrongfully in possession of seven pages ripped out of the 13th century Bible that belongs to the Church. Now the parties have come to an agreement: [...]

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