The Popular Press in 1918 was Garbage Too

From Oswald Spengler’s Decline of the West, published just over a century ago. Our bad relationship with information and disinformation didn’t start with cable news or Twitter: … Man does not speak to man; the press and its associate, the electrical news-service, keep the waking-consciousness of whole peoples and continents under a deafening drum-fire of […]

Angela Merici & the Education of Women & Girls in the early 1500s

from Thomas Cahill: They were a group of well-born Lombardian ladies, led by Angela Merici, who came together to educate poor girls in the northern Italian city of Brescia. So far as I can ascertain, no one had ever thought to do this before them. In the same period, Anabaptist communities in Germany, Switzerland, and […]

Jews & Muslims on Pilgrimage Together in the 1300s

From Mark Cohen’s Under Crescent & Cross: The Jews in the Middle Ages: An aspect of Jewish-gentile sociability under Islam that seems to lack a counterpart in the Jewish-Christian world is the world of shared popular religious practices… particularly in the joint worship of saints. Here, interdenominational religiosity has its basis in the fact that […]

Primo Levi’s Hardest Thoughts on the Holocaust

From Primo Levi’s 1986 book, The Drowned and the Saved, remembering the concentration camps: On Levi’s own—and others’—guilt at having survived the concentration camps: At a distance of years one can today definitely affirm that the history of the Lagers [from Konzentrationslager, concentration camp] has been written almost exclusively by those who, like myself, never […]

Eleanor Roosevelt Finds Herself

From Geoffrey Ward’s biography of the Roosevelts comes this moving account of Eleanor Roosevelt’s Dickensian childhood, complete with neglectful mother and alcoholic father. Following the early death of both parents, the intervention of an aunt changes her life:    …[Eleanor’s father] Elliott was delighted at her birth, and called her “Little Nell” after the relentlessly […]

A Twelfth Century Love Letter: Heloise Remembers Abelard

An amazing passage from a letter of Heloise to Abelard, those twelfth-century lovers who ended up in a nunnery and a monastery after their affair was discovered. Strip away the contemporary details (their religiosity and its attendant guilt, etc.), and Heloise might be writing a blog today: In my case, the pleasures of lovers which […]

Don Henley’s Mesopotamian Connection: “The Boys of Sumer”

I’ve tried submitting this to many prestigious journals of Ancient Near Eastern history, but no one seems to believe that the following pretty much a word-for-word translation from some dusty cuneiform tablets: Nobody on the road Cuz roads ain’t been invented yet I feel it in the air Babylon stinkin like a bitch Inundated river, […]