Trump and the Myth of Independence, Part 1

It's a cliché that Americans are particularly prone to idolize the wealthy. This is sometimes interpreted as a result of the once-revolutionary belief in meritocracy, an elevation of personal achievement and discipline over the sources of status prized by the ancien régime: land and lineage, culture and manners -- in short, to pick an overloaded word, … Continue reading Trump and the Myth of Independence, Part 1

Historians vs Trump, part 2: Questions for Stanley Fish

Among the books I'm reading is a work of fairly recondite early modern intellectual history. Bucking a once prevalent tendency, the author of this work is at pains to disavow any political context for the intellectual debates s/he traces. For roughly half a century, political motivations have been detected behind ideas about not only politics but also economy, religion, history, and … Continue reading Historians vs Trump, part 2: Questions for Stanley Fish

Stanley Fish, Stop Opining about History

I would have no problem with individuals, who also happened to be historians, disseminating their political conclusions in an op-ed or letter to the editor; but I do have a problem when a bunch of individuals claim for themselves a corporate identity and more than imply that they speak for the profession of history. So … Continue reading Stanley Fish, Stop Opining about History

Watching CNN on Turkey, or explanations vs. stances

Like everyone that I know online, I spent most of yesterday evening watching and/or following events in Istanbul and Ankara. And once I got home (my temporary DC home, base for a quick research/writing trip) I turned on CNN and left it on for the rest of the night. Since the First Gulf War, which gave us … Continue reading Watching CNN on Turkey, or explanations vs. stances

Hobgoblins: fear and politics in the 17th and 21st centuries

Like our own, the political culture of seventeenth-century England was shaped in no small part by its constituents' fears; it was defined, as academics might say, by its Others, its excluded, resented, suspected, oppressed. In fact, it has been argued at least since Winthrop Jordan's massive and still worthwhile study White over Black that the very same racist … Continue reading Hobgoblins: fear and politics in the 17th and 21st centuries

Seven on your side: Loss, mobility, and practical astrology in seventeenth-century London

I am not ignorant that many have written against the science I profess, But such is my candid equanimity, that I think they inveighed against the abuse rather then the true use, of so ancient, so rare, so often verified a learning, which for its practical part may challenge any. So wrote Dr. Thomas Clayton (1575-1647), … Continue reading Seven on your side: Loss, mobility, and practical astrology in seventeenth-century London