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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • History

Thinking disobediently?

A person who “thinks disobediently” can be invigorating, maddening, or both. The life and writings of Henry David Thoreau have provoked just such mixed reactions over time, scorned by some; cherished by others. What seems bracingly invigorating can also seem an off-putting mannerism.

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American Exchanges: Third Reich’s Elite Schools

In the summer of 1935, an exchange programme between leading American academies and German schools, set up by the International Schoolboy Fellowship (ISF), was hijacked by the Nazi government. The organization had been set up in 1927 by Walter Huston Lillard, the principal of Tabor Academy in Marion, Massachusetts. Its aim was to foster better relations between all nations through the medium of schoolboy exchange.

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The origins of the war in Ukraine [timeline]

The fall of the Soviet Union meant independence for Ukraine, and radically altered the shape and power structures of Eastern Europe. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 was the culmination of a number of growing fissures and collisions in the region—between Russia and Ukraine, but also between Europe and Russia, and Russia and the United States. Michael Kimmage, a historian and former diplomat who served on the Secretary’s Policy Planning Staff at the U.S. Department of State where he handled the Russia/Ukraine portfolio, looks at the origins of this conflict dating back to 24 August 1991.

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Alice Mustian’s scandalous backyard performance

The year 1614 was an eventful one for the London theatre world. Shakespeare’s Globe playhouse, rebuilt after having burned to the ground during an ill-fated performance of Henry VIII, was reopening its doors.

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Explore the history of Asia in ten stops [interactive map]

Embark on a captivating journey through pieces of the rich tapestry of Asian history with this interactive map of reading suggestions. Within these ten works, readers will encounter a rigorous examination of the historical trajectories, socio-cultural dynamics, and geopolitical intricacies that have characterized much of Asia’s evolution across epochs.

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African American religions and the voodoo label

In 1932, an African American man named Robert Harris killed his tenant on a makeshift altar in the back of his home in Detroit, Michigan. Harris, who was allegedly part of Detroit’s burgeoning Black Muslim community, described the murder as a human sacrifice to Allah. Harris was put on trial for murder; however, following some bizarre courtroom rants during which he referred to himself as a “king” and the murder as a “crucifixion,” Harris was declared insane and sent to an asylum.

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Faith in God, themselves, and the people: Black religious activist-educators

I started my first seminar on Radical Pedagogy, reflecting with students on a provocative blog entitled “10 Reasons Septima Clark was a Badass Teacher.” Beyond the shock value of using badass in a divinity school setting, the students were curious about why I started with this lesser known (if not completely unknown) figure from the 1950s Civil Rights era.

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The first women’s shelter in Europe? Radegund’s Holy Cross

‘With the passion of a focused mind, I considered how to advance other women so that—the Lord willing—my own desires might prove beneficial for others. […] I established a monastery for girls in the city of Poitiers. After its foundation, I endowed the monastery with however much wealth I had received from the generosity of the king.’

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Cosmopolitan, cad, or closeted Catholic?

Having just arrived via ferry to the Dutch town of Sluis in mid-May 1611, William Cecil, Lord Roos (1591-1618), promptly exposed his “privy member” (penis) to what one assumes were rather surprised townsfolk.

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Living Black in Lakewood: rewriting the history and future of an iconic suburb [Long Read]

In the annals of American suburban history, Lakewood stands as an icon of the postwar suburb, alongside Levittown, NY, and Park Forest, Ill. Noted not only for its rapid-fire construction—17,500 homes built from 1950-1953—it was also critiqued for its architectural monotony, alarming writers at the time who feared that uniform homes would spit out uniform people. That worry quickly faded when the demography of Lakewood began to change.

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cover image of Durers Lost Masterpiece

Albrecht Dürer and the commercialization of art

Dürer´s “Praying Hands” are so iconic, but most people know little or nothing about the painting for which it partly served as a study. Looking at the story of that painting shows us a different Dürer from the arrogant, assured manipulator of new media he is often said to have been. It also opens a new window onto his time and the commercialisation of art

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