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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • History

Why are world food problems so hard to solve?

More than 20 million people in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia, and northeast Nigeria are now facing extreme hunger, with the potential for not just widespread death, but also the deepening of long-term political and military crises in East Africa. United Nations humanitarian coordinator Stephen O’Brien has called this food crisis the world’s greatest humanitarian crisis since 1945.

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Looking for Toussaint Louverture

I have a confession to make: I have a personal obsession with the Haitian revolutionary hero Toussaint Louverture, which has taken me from continent to continent in search of the “real” Toussaint Louverture. My pilgrimage started outside Cap-Haïtien, Haiti’s second-largest town, in the suburb of Haut-du-Cap, where Toussaint Louverture was born a slave in what was then known as French Saint-Domingue.

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Did you know these 10 fascinating facts about museums?

Collections of art, scientific instruments, historical relics, and peculiarities have attracted the curiosity and imaginations of people around the world since ancient times. The museum as an institution developed in antiquity and evolved over the years to encompass and celebrate all aspects of human society, science, art, and history. Museums are vital to the study […]

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David Hume: friendships, feuds, and faith

Who exactly was David Hume? He was a Scottish historian and philosopher (best known today for his radical empiricism), who prided himself on his reputation as a man of the utmost moral character.

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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on birds, poetry, and immigration

On 26 February this year, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the most popular poet America has ever had, turned 210. The lines from Longfellow everyone remembers, often without knowing who actually wrote them (“into each life a little rain must fall”; “Let us, then, be up and doing”; “Each thing in its place is best”), point to an author who wanted to help us live our lives, not exactly change them.

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Learning to read emotions in oral history

The most recent issue of the OHR featured two stories on understanding emotion in oral history interviews. In one piece, Julian Simpson and Stephanie Snow asked what role humor plays in healthcare, and how to locate it in oral history. In another piece, Katie Holmes asks how to locate historical emotion during an interview and how to interpret these feelings.

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Edwin Muir and a story of Europe

While reading recently British Library correspondence files relating to the poet Edwin Muir—the 130th anniversary of whose birth will be on 15 May this year—I was struck, as I have often been, by the important part played in his development as man and poet by his contact with the life of Europe—a continent that is currently high on the agenda of many of us with a possible British Brexit in view.

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Hamilton: the man and the musical

For the past two years, the hip-hop musical Hamilton has been the toast of New York, winning all the awards—Grammies, Tonis, and even a Pulitzer Prize—and grossing higher receipts than any Broadway show in history. It’s coming to London later this year, November 2017, and judging by the interest and hype is already guaranteed to be a sell-out success for years to come.

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The presence of the past: selective national narratives and international encounters in university classrooms

The question of how to remember past events such as World War II has long become official business. Governments, intent on sustaining unifying national narratives, therefore choose what and how the past should be remembered and told, for example through teaching history at secondary schools and memorials/museums. For how states choose to remember tells us something important about how they see themselves.

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The role of women in the life of Frederick Douglass

Although Frederick Douglass captures his journey into freedom and political influence in his autobiographies, he reveals little about his private life. Douglass’s carefully crafted public persona concealed a man whose life was more complicated than he would have liked us to think. Women played key roles in guiding him throughout his turbulent life—from helping him escape slavery to solidifying his role as an abolitionist and suffragist.

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The historical roots of Iran: an interview

In April 2017 Bridget Kendall, former BBC diplomatic correspondent and now Master of Peterhouse, Cambridge, interviewed Michael Axworthy, author of Iran: What Everyone Needs to Know® about the history of Iran, the characterization of Iran as an aggressive expansionist power, and the current challenges and developments in the country today. Below is a transcribed version of part of the interview.

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George Washington: the great mind behind early America

Throughout history, George Washington has been highly regarded for his common sense and military fortitude. When it comes to the Founding Fathers, his intellectual pursuits have been overshadowed by Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Alexander Hamilton—who are conventionally considered the great minds of early America. Despite his relative lack of formal education, Washington remained an avid reader throughout his life.

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Ottonian queenship: powerful women in early medieval Germany

In 2008, archaeologists working on the cathedral at Magdeburg, in eastern Germany, opened an ancient tomb and rediscovered the bones of an Anglo-Saxon princess called Edith. She had died in the year 946, aged only about 30. Her remains were brought across the North Sea for scientific tests which verified the identification via tests on her tooth enamel, indicating that the bones belonged to someone who had grown up drinking water from the chalky landscapes of southern Britain.

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Punishing Peccadilloes? Illicit sex at the early Stuart courts

At the Tudor and early Stuart royal courts, the careers of influential politicians and courtiers often depended on the preferences of the monarchs: being in the king’s good graces often mattered as much or more for advancements than ability and training. The personality and quirks of the rulers affected many aspects of a courtier’s life, including what today might be considered the most private: their sex lives.

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