Latest Blog Posts

  • Movie Review: Moonrise Kingdom

    (From time to time I intend to review books and films of historical events or historical fiction.) Three for the price of one! This review is in three parts: a review of Wes Anderson’s new film, a separate consideration of the soundtrack, and then a few words about my memories of being a pre-teen in [...]

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  • Memorial Day

    Off and on over the past several years, I’ve researched my father’s family name, trying to hook up my great grandfather C. S. Amsden of Milbank, South Dakota with the Isaac Amsden who arrived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1630s. Thanks to some others who were on a similar trail, I was able [...]

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  • The Great War Comes Again

    When I was a small child, my father took the opportunity of the 100th anniversary of the American Civil War to collect and read a number of books on the subject: most notably Bruce Catton’s Centennial History, and my favorite at the time, the American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War. He took a [...]

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  • Can Physics and Philosophy Get Along?

    Uh-oh. Metaphysics. It’s like sugar-coated nicotine and caffeine snacks. Can Physics and Philosophy Get Along? – NYTimes.com. Here again I find the question silly — I thought this had all been worked out some years ago. The more the implications of quantum physics (at one end of the scale) and black holes (at the other) [...]

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  • Easy Useless Economics

    This is exactly the kind of thing I hope to be doing more of myself on this site: Easy Useless Economics – NYTimes.com. Krugman always does a great job of skewering boneheaded ideology in the present by remembering how boneheaded the same ideas turned out to be in the past.

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  • A Brief History of Education

    This article by Peter Gray in Psychology Today is several years old now, but it seems a good place to start thinking about history education — a history of education. It explains in broad strokes the development of ‘compulsory’ education. My own less than happy experience in California public schools, and my difficulties explaining to [...]

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  • Evidence and Atlases

    One of my most treasured posessions is my battered set of Colin McEvedy‘s first four Penguin Atlases, Ancient, Medieval, Modern and Recent history. Together, the four volumes cover the period from 50,000 BCE to AD 1980. Starting at about 1500 BCE, there is a map every 50 to 100 years. The series is unapologetically Euro-centric, [...]

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  • Diocletian and Inflation

    For some time, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has been advocating increased (rather than decreased) government spending to get us out of the Great Recession (or Second Depression, or whatever it is being called these days). And for almost as long, critics have been challenging his historical arguments (mostly based on 20th Century examples) by [...]

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  • Amateurs

    The word amateur comes from a Latin word meaning ‘lover.’ In modern parlance, it stands in opposition to the word ‘professional.’ The basic difference in today’s common usage is that the professional does what they do for money while the amateur does it for the love of doing it. This usually implies that the professional [...]

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