April 2004 Read

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In late June 1863, the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia were both on the move. Robert E. Lee had successfully convinced Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy, that the best chance for their hopes for victory (or at least intervention by a foreign power such as Great Britain) was to take the battle to “those people.” On July 1st, his scouts unexpectedly encountered some Union cavalry on the outskirts of a small Pennsylvania village. What followed over the course of the next three days changed, or perhaps sealed, the course of American history. This event is expertly portrayed in Shelby Foote’s classic, Stars in their Courses. From the fields of rural Pennsylvania, here is this month’s read. (more…)

Add comment March 28th, 2007

March 2004 Read

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Robert Kaplan is a frequent contributor to The Atlantic magazine, and the author of several books on war-ravaged regions of the world including the Baltics (Balkan Ghosts), the eastern Mediterranean (Eastward to Tartary), and Afghanistan (Soldiers of God). However, my favorite piece is An Empire Wilderness, in which Kaplan turns his attention to North America in which he produces a travel narrative filled with observations on our past, present, and potential future. The result is a commentary on our society from an American who has spent a great deal of time witnessing and thinking about political, social, and religious struggle and change in other parts of the world. From a border crossing near you, here is this month’s read. (more…)

Add comment March 28th, 2007

Daniel Boorstin Dies at 89

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In 2004, the great American historian Daniel Boorstin died after a long and prestigious career. In addition to winning the Pulitzer Prize for The Americans: The Democratic Experience in 1974, Boorstin served as the 12th Librarian of Congress from 1975 to 1987. Here is a brief of this great American. (more…)

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America’s Most Endangered Places

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In the late 1940s, a grassroots effort among environmental advocates and leading historians led to the formation of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It was officially launched when President Truman signed legislation creating the National Trust on October 26, 1949. (more…)

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Our 100 Most Important Documents

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The National Archives and Records Administration has launched an initiative designed to “promote public exploration of how our understandings of rights and responsibilities have changed over time.” Our Documents: A National Initiative on American History, Civics, and Service is composed of a website (http://www.ourdocuments.gov/), and primary & secondary classroom materials and competitions geared towards improving civic awareness. One of the interesting aspects to this project is the listing of what the project deems the 100 most influential documents in our nation’s history. This list can be found here. Included in the list are Richard Henry Lee’s resolution calling for a definitive break with England (1776), the Dred Scott decision (1857), and Germany’s Surrender at the end of World War II (1945). Each entry includes a high-resolution image of the document, a full description of its context, and links to further reading. (more…)

Add comment March 28th, 2007

Hannibal the Carthaginian


Believed by many military historians to have been the greatest general ever to have lived, there is precious little information about the man the Romans called “The Mad Carthaginian.” Why? Because Hannibal and his small yet devoted army instilled so much fear in the Roman Empire that Rome decreed all references to Hannibal be “purged from memory, lest others be inspired.” Still, his name and campaigns against Rome remain legendary, bordering on mythical. A brief look at the life and times of Hannibal. (more…)

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September 2003 Reads

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In 1508 Michelangelo Buonarroti received a commission from Pope Julius II to re-paint the ceiling of the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel. Given Michelangelo’s inexperience with the art of fresco, his selection was a curious choice by Julius. However, it turned out to be an inspired one, though not by any conscious vision by either man. In Ross King’s The Pope and the Ceiling, the story of one of the world’s foremost masterpieces is brought to life. (more…)

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July 2003 Reads


Ever wonder what it would have been like to sail aboard an explorer’s ship? With the help of one man’s incredible photography (and resolve), we have the ability to see the pictorial history of one expedition, that undertaken by Sir Ernest Shackleton in 1914. From the ice floes of Antarctica, to the skies over Europe, here are July’s reads. (more…)

Add comment March 5th, 2007

June 2003 Reads

For those of us who don’t have the longest attention span, a compendium offers a welcome diversion. Collections of essays and book excerpts offer a diversity of subjects, and give you a sense of which books or subjects might be worth more investigation. Two of my favorite authors, John McPhee and David McCullough, both offer such books. From the history of the birch-bark canoe, to profiles of the very first airplane pilots, here are this month’s reads. (more…)

Add comment February 13th, 2007

May 2003 Reads


One of the most interesting things about From the Holy Mountain by William Dalrymple is the fact that the author’s great-great-uncle helped relieve various monastic libraries in Athos of priceless religious manuscripts on a trip to the area in the 1840′s. From the former Byzantine empire, to recent Latin American political history, here are this month’s reads. (more…)

Add comment February 13th, 2007

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