Although Bernard Bailyn is one of the most distinguished historians in the Western world, he is not as well known as he should be. He rarely appears in the popular media, and he has never published a book that has sold millions of copies. But all those who are seriously interested in the history of early America know his work. He has authored a baker’s dozen of major books, edited at least a half-dozen more, and written numerous important articles.
For Coco Chanel, the Duchess of Windsor’s declaration that “you can’t be too rich or too thin” was holy writ. Born into poverty in 1883, she was worth the equivalent of almost $1 billion before she was 50. To the age of modernism, she contributed a streamlined female silhouette that radically transformed the shape of women’s bodies: By jettisoning armors of undergarments and pounds of voluminous fabric, she created a fashion that cloaked women with an explicitly modern identity.
In 1732, Jonathan Swift wrote a friend that, while he had lost all hope of favor with those in power in Dublin, he had won “the love of the Irish vulgar” and inspired “two or three dozen signposts of the Drapier in this city.” Here, he was referring to Dublin’s gratitude for the eloquent stand he had taken against a debased halfpence, a stand that constituted one of the first stirrings of Irish nationhood—albeit a distinctly Anglo-Irish nation:
We'll all be discussing for quite a while the substance, context, and implications of yesterday's speech by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. I thought I might just offer a personal note on what most struck me yesterday, sitting in the gallery of the House of Representatives.
Seventy years ago, on March 1, 1945, Franklin Roosevelt assured a war-weary nation that a new era of international peace and democratic government was at hand. The accords signed just weeks earlier at the Yalta Conference, he told Congress, laid the foundation for postwar cooperation between the Soviet Union and the democratic West.
There he is on the cover of Sgt. Pepper, tottering between Carl Jung and Fred Astaire, breathing fumes over Marilyn Monroe’s bare back and William Burroughs’s bald pate. Edgar Allan Poe, the original Man in Black—before Johnny Cash, before the Beatles in Hamburg, before the bohemians in Paris. The first American rocker, the steampunk wild man, bound for death or glory, and getting both.
Why should I, an elderly literary gent who spends much of his time reading, talking, and writing about Shakespeare or W. B. Yeats, spend an hour every weekday watching a soap opera? How odd is it that after a hardworking class teasing out the syntax and ambiguities of Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale, or some complicated Yeatsian lyric, I come home at noon to plunge wholeheartedly into a world not of language but of characters, of people I like or dislike? After warning students not to “identify” with Prospero or with J.
This past week I decided to change living arrangements chez Epstein. I turned my office into a den and our spare bedroom into an office. Sounds simple enough. I soon realized that I would have to hire professional movers to lug a couch, a weighty television set, and several bookcases and a few file cabinets from one room to another in our apartment. I was prepared to do so, and to pay the expense, which came to $288 plus $60 in three $20 tips for the men who did the lugging.
A noted historian of modern Germany, Richard J. Evans has entered the lists of historical combatants in recent years as a sharp opponent of counterfactual history—also known as “what ifs.” His entry into this particular fight, one that’s as enjoyable to witness as it is important to understand, shouldn’t be surprising, for, as the author of an earlier work on historical thinking, practices, and findings—In Defense of History (1999)—he’s given sustained, deep, and wide-ranging thought to the labors of his professional tribe.
In one of his more whimsical short stories, the late Israeli satirist Efraim Kishon pits two characters against one another in a game of “Jewish poker,” a game “played without cards, in your head, as befits the People of the Book.”The rules are simple: Whoever thinks of a higher number wins the round. In the end, one character, sure of his triumph, reports that he has thought of infinity. The other, not to be outdone, cries, “Ben-Gurion!” and takes the pot. Both players accept that there can be no higher.
Muslim political and religious leaders in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which is partitioned between a “Republic of Serbs” and a “Muslim-Croat Federation,” have taken firm measures to stop agitation and recruitment for ISIS.
The country’s incoming college students have been exhorted, repeatedly, to major in something “useful,” rather than something intellectual. The idea is that there is a split between “useful” majors, which teach a specific skill (like marketing, computer science, or architecture) and “useless” majors, which are designed to impart, gasp, knowledge (think the humanities, natural sciences, etc). Major in something “useful,” the argument goes, and expect to be showered in riches. Those who major in something “useless,” meanwhile, can look forward to a future on the unemployment line.