Category Archives: History

Posts about history and the profession of history

The Pace of Change

The pace of change, declares Jim Roberts of the New York Times, gets faster and faster. I suspect most historians would find that statement s0mewhat irritating. In a basic sense, the pace of change can’t be getting faster, unless time itself is speeding up. People still grow old at the same rate; apples still take the […]

A brief history of American money

The GOP has revived talk of a gold standard. The Wall Street Journal, which nodded approvingly when we went off the gold standard in 1972, now says “realization that America’s system of fiat money is part of its economic problem is moving from the fringes of political discussion to the center.”  There are so many […]

Colored Me

This is the marriage license of my great-great grandfather,  born in Ireland in 1854 and married to a Virginia native in 1884. His race, you’ll notice, is given as “colored.” Since when are Irishmen colored? My father found this when he started doing family history after he retired. We mostly laughed, a lot, when he […]

Going for the Gold

The Republican Party’s 2012 platform calls for the establishment of a “Gold Committee,” to explore ways of returning to the gold standard. It would also call for or conduct an audit of the Federal Reserve. The gold standard has been a favorite hobby of the GOP, off and on, for many years. The last gold […]

The Olympics, Race, and the power of Government

The Olympics send a very clear message, not about individualism, or about race, but about the importance of government. The BBC website offers a nice list of medal rankings by nation. It’s an interesting list, because of what it says about human diversity, race and culture. The US at the moment is ranked second, almost […]

The end-game of critical thinking

A friend sent me this link, from last month’s Washington Post, about the Texas GOPs Party platform calling for a ban on critical thinking. The plank in question reads: We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) […]

The necessity of algebra

Recently Andrew Hacker published an op-ed in the New York Times about Algebra. It’s extremely hard for many people, and it’s of dubious practical value, he says. We should de-emphasize it. I’m entirely sympathetic to this point of view, even though in general, I support the agenda of the traditional liberal arts. I’m one of […]

Joe Paterno’s Glasses

Ta-Nehisi Coates, my favorite public intellectual, has a good post at TheAtlantic about Penn State. In the wake of the grotesque and appalling child abuse scandal, they’ve elected to take down the statue of Joe Paterno that stood outside the football stadium. Coates thinks they should leave it up, and put explanatory text around it. […]

Higgs Boatswain

The news is full of Higgs Bosuns. Theoretical physics predicted its existence, and now thanks to the 9 billon dollar Large Hadron Collider, physical evidence, of a sort, has been produced to confirm it. I’m not a physicist, have no training at all in physics and in fact never managed to pass high school algebra. […]

The Evasive Henry Adams

Part of an occasional series series on “lesser known DC” One of the most compelling pieces of sculpture in North America sits hidden in Rock Creek cemetery in DC. It’s a statue that suits its sponsor: smart, tasteful, controlling, melancholy, arch, cryptic. It’s  a monument to decline, and silence. The story is well known to historians. […]