Machiavelli’s The Prince has been outsold since its publication (1532) by only one other book: the Bible. The popularity of this “how to” manual for governments, CEOs, and mid-level bureaucrats and managers striving to claw their way to the top is undisputed. Problem is: most erudition on Machiavelli and his writings ends up in (more…)

History has a horrible problem. As Joyce Appleby put it, “there ARE the records of the past and there IS the interpretation of those records. The gap between them is the source of concern.”[1] First of all there are the records themselves. If you’re a historian then you are always aware that there are never enough of them. Records, quite frankly, (more…)

David Ramsay, the eighteenth-century American historian, popped up in my dissertation the other day. Ramsay, attributed by historiographers to the “Whig School of History,” is best known for his books on the American Revolution. To my surprise, Ramsay had much to say about the central figure in my dissertation, Admiral John Byng. In his 1779 book (more…)

This past semester, I tasked students with creating a podcast based on their historical research. Students were to choose just one family from the University of Virginia’s digital archive, Valley of the Shadow. Recently, someone asked me, “How’d it go?” and this simple question prodded me to (more…)

The foundation of History is reading. Without the attention to text, the discipline struggles. I know we, as teachers, strive to make it visual, exciting, and somewhat accessible – but at the end of the day, (more…)

Four billion dollars buys a lot of perception: that’s how much money was spent this midterm election. Two outcomes are known, a) the Republican Party has majorities now in both houses of Congress, and b) when it came to progressive ballot measures Americans voted like liberals. So yes to the “party of no,” but on the other hand, yes to gun control, access to abortion clinics, hikes in the minimum wage, gay rights, and the legalization of marijuana.

Oh, America – land of the schizophrenic doodles, what can one conclude? (more…)

I don’t remember where I read it, but I do remember who it was: Jeffrey Perl, professor of literature. “History begins at the moment of recognition,” he quipped. Immediately, almost reflexively (because that’s how historians read), I began to switch those words about. If “History” begins when we recognize it, then “History” ends when (more…)

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