I’ve watched the film National Treasure twenty more times than I probably needed to, but I can’t ignore my fascination with the history of the US presidents. In the movie, the directors place a strong emphasis on the importance of historical documents and artifacts, and a working knowledge of the importance and content of these items, to help the main protagonists complete a centuries-long treasure hunt.
Alan Turing’s personal mathematical notebook went on display a few days ago at Bletchley Park near London, the European headquarters of the Allied codebreaking operation in World War II. Until now, the notebook has been seen by few — not even scholars specializing in Turing’s work. It is on loan from its current owner, who acquired it in 2015 at a New York auction for over one million dollars.
In 2015, nearly 1.25 million people in the United States were arrested for the simple possession of drugs. Moreover, America’s “War on Drugs” has led to unprecedented violence and instability in Mexico and other drug-producing nations. Yet in spite of billions of dollars spent and thousands of lives lost, drug abuse has not decreased.
A widespread belief persisted, not for centuries but for at least two millennia, that when world history turned, it did so on a few days or hours of intense violence, in major battles waged and won by great captains of special courage and genius. The ascent or toppling of dynasties and empires could be explained by a singular clash of arms so complete that the winner dictated the political and cultural direction taken by the loser.
I have been working on preservation of Southern Queer history for ten years, and I have never felt the urgency that I feel at this moment to make certain it is safe and available. I think many archivists would agree that urgency is an undercurrent of most of the work that we do since so much information is lost when people die or move or leave their work.
Of the many known unknowns about the life of Phillis Wheatley (1753?–1784), the first published African American poet, one of the greatest has been her husband’s character. Until very recently, all we’ve had to go on were two very brief nineteenth-century accounts of John Peters (1746?–1801). The first depicts him as a failed grocer with an aspiration to gentility, who married Phillis in April 1778, and who abandoned her as she lay dying in desperate poverty six years later.
Lacking in love or not, the Greeks’ and Romans’ celebration of marriage was still marked by particular customs. Some of their marital traditions form the roots of modern practices today. For instance, while the Romans might not have gifted diamonds and other “bling” as frequently as suitors do now, an intending husband did solemnize his engagement with a kiss and an iron ring.
Information ecosystems are normally thought of as consisting of collections of facts that float in and out of one’s life, usually in a structured way. We routinely receive and use at work, the news regularly viewed on our smart phones, and for children, whatever they are taught in school. If we did nothing different in the way we live our lives, a predictable supply of information would enter our world, data that we need in order to not change the way we live.
From dreams of Prince Charming or dashing doctors in white coats, to the lure of dark strangers and vampire lovers; from rock stars and rebels to soulmates, dependable family types or simply good companions, female fantasies about men tell us as much about the history of women as about masculine icons. The timeline below highlights ten heartthrobs, fictional and real, that set hearts aflutter over the decades.
The first dynasty of Roman emperors, collectively known as the Julio-Claudians, knew how to make headlines. From the frequent accounts by contemporary and later writers of their use of torture, rape, and murder to the more recherché ways of humiliation and abuse such as seeking to appoint a horse as consul (as the historian Cassius Dio says of Caligula), there is little to suggest that the administration of justice was very high on their agenda.
This time of year is often filled with images of romance, hearts, and cupid’s bows, but not all love stories end in happily ever after. Who among us hasn’t had their heart broken, or felt the sting of rejection once (or twice)? But we all know that life without love (even if it’s painful) isn’t much of a life. As Charles Darwin once said, ‘Much love much trial, but what an utter desert is life without love’.
Since the end of the Second World War, it’s been difficult to talk about nationalism in Europe as a force of progress. Nationalism, which seemed to reach its logical conclusion in violent fascism, has appeared anathema to liberalism, socialism, and other ideologies rooted in the Enlightenment. It’s been seen as the natural enemy of tolerance, multiculturalism, and internationalism.
“Will the Prime Minister provide a commitment today that no part of the great repeal bill will be subject to English votes for English laws?” This seemingly technical query – will have reminded Theresa May that, amidst the turmoil and drama of the current political moment, a powerful English question is now salient in British politics. But these questions of parliamentary procedure and tactics are really the tip of the iceberg.
We know more about Geoffrey Chaucer’s life than we do about most medieval writers. Despite this, it’s a truism of Chaucer biography that the records that survive never once describe him as a poet. Less often noticed, however, are the two radically different views of Chaucer as an author we find in roughly contemporaneous portraiture, although the portraits in which we find them are themselves well known.
Christopher Marlowe was born in February of 1564, the same year as Shakespeare. He was the son of a Canterbury shoemaker, and attended the King’s School there. With fellowship support endowed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, young Marlowe matriculated at Corpus Christi College in Cambridge University in 1580 and received the BA degree in 1584.
On 6 February 2017, François Truffaut (1932-1984) would have been 85 years old. As it was, he died tragically from a brain tumor at the age of 52, thus depriving the world of cinema of one of its brightest stars. His legacy, nevertheless, continues, being particularly evident in his influence on the current generation of filmmakers.