Category: History

Five Rules for Studying History

Remember that all historians are biased – read multiple perspectives  “History” is a product of human beings. History of the same events and people may be done (will be done) differently from generation to generation. Sometimes, due to advances in archaeology or new discoveries of old texts, history done 500 years after the fact will […]

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Landlords Then Vs. Landlords Now

I expect I’ll be a landlord of some kind some day, and so I think about how I might choose to operate. And I must conclude that landlords used to be a lot more epic than they are now. The “landlord” used to literally be a lord, for one thing. How cool is that? Let’s […]

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Heroes of Character vs. Heroes of Ideology

I grew up reading biographies of great men who had defined American and British history – people who lived long ago, and who despite their deep flaws, still managed to live lives of significance and personal character. I’m talking of course about people like Theodore Roosevelt, George Washington, Robert E. Lee, and Abraham Lincoln. These […]

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Feel Challenge, Not Pride, from Your Heritage

If you were born in America, you were gifted with quite a heritage: explorers, craftsmen, warriors, statesmen, sailors, writers, and artists from Henry David Thoreau and Thomas Jefferson to Meriwether Lewis and Thomas Edison. Should you take pride in that heritage? (Set aside the bad heritage – and there is plenty of it – let’s […]

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The (Older) American Dream

When most of us hear of “the American dream,” we think of a house in the suburbs with a little white picket fence. How did the American dream get so lame? There was another American dream before that (as there have been many over time). It was the dream of 40 acres of land – […]

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Amor Fati, But for the Past

It takes as much equanimity to accept the past as it does to accept the future. Friedrich Nietzsche (I think) introduced the notion of “amor fati,” or “love of fate” as a way for humans to reconcile themselves to the uncertainty of the future and the disasters it may bring for each of us. The […]

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Words are the Ultimate Hand-Me-Downs

It’s funny the words you guess when you’re playing Boggle, or Scrabble, or word-games like that. Some of them you don’t even know the meaning of until you look them up. One my opponent tried was “ween”, which derives from old Germanic roots through to an old English origin. It means “to think/to be of […]

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The Joy of Continuity

This afternoon I prepared some fields for planting with a 60+ year old farm implement. We had to spray some WD-40 on the bolts, add a couple, and adjust the heads, but it otherwise worked great. Just this morning I reinstalled a 50-60 year-old mirror that used to hang in my grandmother’s dining room, drawing […]

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There’s the Curse of Clutter, But There’s Also the Gift of a Full Attic

It can be a pain to inherit the overwhelming clutter of another generation. And my generation (or perhaps generation X) will have perhaps adopted enough minimalist habits that it will pass on less of itself to the next kids to come along. I suppose that’s alright – decluttering has its benefits. But those of us […]

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The Overlap of History

Not everyone is living in the same decade. This is one of the most fascinating things you learn as you delve more deeply into the present and the past. It’s easy to assume when you read about the 1940s, for instance, that everyone was living in our stereotypical idea of the mode of living for […]

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A Good Response to Coronavirus Fears? Read More History

The new coronavirus (N-COV 2019) has already caused terrible suffering in China, and it looks set to wreak havoc on life abroad and in the United States, as well (see this piece in The Atlantic on why infection is likely) It’s likely to overwhelm hospitals, contribute to shortages, and disrupt the financial markets. I’ve been […]

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The Appeal of Steampunk

Steampunk, n. a genre of science fiction that has a historical setting and typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology. Tonight I finished a rewatch of the early 00’s Disney film Treasure Planet, a retelling of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island which replaces the high seas with outer space and combines Victorian culture and […]

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You Can’t Fight Your Descendants’ Battles for Them

I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.” – John […]

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History You Can Use

Old farm trucks, typewriters, guns from several wars ago, clothes handed down across three generations, silverware and dishes, old houses – all of us have some pieces of history which blend into our lives in some way. Of course, we probably don’t think of these things we use as historical artifacts. That’s probably because museums […]

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The Burden of Small Chances

Tonight I rewatched an old war movie classic with my Dad: 1976’s Midway, starring Charlton Heston, Henry Fonda, and a who’s who of 60s and 70s stars, with a score (very much like the same year’s Star Wars) by John Williams. Sometimes war movies are blunt, explosive affairs. This one had violence, but it was […]

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Every One of Your Actions Sets a Precedent

I wonder whether scientists like Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer had any inkling in their youth that their work in physics would one day be used to produce nuclear weapons. Yet by cooperating with the government that produced these weapons, these men (even Einstein, more indirectly) created the forces that could destroy all life on […]

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Lead a Life That Confuses the Archaeologists

If you want to lead a good life, a good rule of thumb is to live a life that is not merely the product of your age. Your life shouldn’t be reducible to the dominant forces and trends of your surrounding culture. In other words, your life’s footprint shouldn’t be easy for the archaeologists and […]

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The Problem with “Here I Stand, I Can Do No Other”

“Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.” According to some tellings, this is how Protestant Christian reformer Martin Luther responded to demands that he recant positions which the established Church of his time considered heretical. This is a badass speech, and it’s archetypal in our society. It’s the speech […]

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The Wheat and Tares Grow Up Together: Morality and Judging Historical Eras

Is the 21st century a time of great moral progress? Or is it a time of decadence? Ask different people and you’ll get different answers. In my view, the answer is “both.” On one hand, humans are progressing. The internet and software are breaking down barriers between people and people groups. Racism, sexism, homophobia, and […]

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Trade Peer Pressure for Past Pressure

“Tradition means giving a vote to most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. . . Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.” – G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy Peer pressure is shockingly sneaky. Despite all the warnings against it, I’ve […]

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Default Holidays Suck: A Case for Making Up Your Own Holidays

Not having a holiday can make a month pretty bleak. Take January. With the exception of MLK Day (many workers don’t have the day off) and New Year’s Day (which might as well be a December holiday), we have nothing. It’s just cold as hell and full of work. Or even look at February. Again, […]

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The Call to Entrepreneurship and Our Excuses

Think starting up your dream business is a daunting task? Imagine going straight from being on vacation to starting up a complex refugee rescue mission under the nose of the Nazis – with no prior experience and no preparation. That was 29 year-old stock broker Nicholas Winton’s entrepreneurial story. From 1938 to 1939, Winton successfully […]

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A Tip of the Hat to the Forgotten Defenders of 1939-40

You probably don’t know about the 9-hour German invasion of Denmark on April 9th, 1940. But like all historical events, this little “blip” on the radar of history involved real men and women. They were people, too, just like our own grandfathers and great-grandfathers who experienced the life-defining challenge and tragedy of this time in human history. I learned […]

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You Are Another Generation’s Reward

“For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” – Matthew 13:17  What if I told you that a long time ago, millions of people hoped that you would exist? I happened to tune in […]

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Biographies Are Reminders of the Bigness of Life

If you ever for a moment feel bored with your existence, you need to start reading more biographies and autobiographies. Humans have a breadth of potential beyond what you can appreciate day to day. Through the stories of others, you get to see see that your way of living isn’t the only one that’s possible. Besides […]

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The Foggy Facemask of (Fake) War: Paintball, Tactics, Skill, and Luck

Today I went to a paintball course for what must have been the first time since my elementary or middle school days. I found myself just as fired up as I’m sure I was back then (if not more so), with all my military history and tactical knowledge bubbling up. As I watched teams play […]

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How To (and How Not To) Remember Armistice Day on Its 100th Anniversary

Over 16 million humans died in the war that ended this day 100 year ago – on November 11, 1918. This is Armistice Day a hundred years later, and it should not go unremembered. Death like that deserves mourning, and peace from that deserves honor. But there are right and wrong ways to commemorate this day. This […]

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The Bourgeois Virtues of Piano Recitals

Tonight I was listening to some Baroque-period music on the radio, and it took me back – not to the 17th century, but instead to my early childhood. It’s so rare to hear classical music of this kind these days, but it’s not rare to see children playing these kinds of (simplified) pieces at piano […]

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A Critique and a Defense of Mythologizing the Past

Was Abraham Lincoln really a moral leader who saved the United States and ended slavery? Did George Washington really save the Continental Army and win the American revolution? Was Thomas Jefferson really a forward-thinking liberalizer? Alluring Myth vs. Disappointing Fact The stories of men like these are quintessential examples of how many people mythologize the past. Many of […]

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Why Entrepreneurs Should Be Studying Anthropology

“Anthropology is the study of humans and human behaviour and societies in the past and present.” – Wikipedia “Everything old is new again” and “there is nothing new under the sun.” It’s hard to think that these could be the unofficial slogans of innovations in human wellbeing, but (increasingly) they are. Thought leaders like Gary Vaynerchuk have observed how the open and […]

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