American History

A Republic If You Can Keep It

Richard D. Brown— In 1787 when Benjamin Franklin left the Constitutional Convention a lady famously asked “Well Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” “A republic,” Franklin replied tartly, “if you can keep it.” Now, 230 years later, Franklin’s observation on our Founders’ great experiment haunts us.

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What Washington Gets Wrong

Benjamin Ginsberg— At a Washington dinner party, I happened to mention to the woman seated to my right, an executive of Health and Human Services (HHS), the agency responsible for Americans’ health care, that a colleague and I had undertaken a survey of Washington officials to find out what the

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World AIDS Day: Remembering the Epidemic

Peter Selwyn— Thirty-five years ago, in the summer of 1981, the AIDS epidemic officially began. Thirty-five years can seem like a lifetime, and in many cases they were, in a sense, as young men and women died in their twenties and thirties from a disease that was relentless, devastating, and

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Podcast: A History of Things That Go Bump in the Night

On this special Halloween edition of the podcast, cultural historian Leo Braudy, author of Haunted, sat down with us to talk about the history of monsters and other scary creatures. Listen in iTunes.

The Slave Trade in the U.S. and Brazil: Comparisons and Connections

Leonardo Marques— When faced with the numbers of the transatlantic slave trade, U.S. citizens are frequently surprised by the fact that less than 400,000 enslaved Africans were carried to North America out of the more than ten million people that were disembarked by slave ships in the Americas between the

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Debunking the Myth of the American Enlightenment

Caroline Winterer— In the dark years of World War II and the Cold War, Americans invented a national mythology that we hold dear to this day: the myth of the “American Enlightenment.” Like a bomb shelter made of ideas rather than concrete, the American Enlightenment (capital A, capital E) spun

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Evading the FBI: The Weather Underground Organization

Arthur Eckstein— Weatherman—the Weather Underground Organization—was the most famous group of young people committed to revolutionary violence to emerge out of the late 1960s. In protest of American racism and the Vietnam War, they detonated more than two dozen dynamite bombs between 1970 and 1975, and hit some spectacular targets,

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A Fight Over Fundamentals: Progressivism in the Current Contest

Stephen Skowronek— The rap on Hillary Clinton’s leadership is that she fails to convey any high purpose. When she tries to rally the nation to her cause, she falls back on what has long been the common sense of American government: pragmatic problem solving, social and economic amelioration, nimble adaptations

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Podcast: The Founders’ Case for an Activist Government

The long-held belief that the Declaration of Independence calls for a small government may not be an accurate assessment. Historian Steve Pincus, author of The Heart of the Declaration: The Founders’ Case for an Activist Government, discusses the meaning of this seminal document as well as its continuing influence in

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Kentucky Renaissance: A Story told Through Photography

Brian Sholis– I first became aware of the creative life that flourished in mid-twentieth-century Lexington, Kentucky, around 2001. In quick succession I discovered Guy Davenport’s writing and Ralph Eugene Meatyard’s photographs. As I embarked on a career as a writer on art, Davenport’s essay collections became a touchstone. I was

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