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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Challenges of a hometown oral history performance

One of my first oral history performance experiences was watching E. Patrick Johnson perform Pouring Tea: Black Gay Men of the South Tell Their Tales, the readers theater version of his oral history collection, Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South, at Texas A&M University.

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So, you think you know Darwin?

Charles Darwin, the English naturalist, geologist, and biologist is known the world over for his contributions to the science of evolution, and his theory of natural selection. Described as one of the most influential figures in human history, his ideas have invited as much controversy as they have scientific debate, with religious, social, and cultural ramifications.

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Tradesmen and women during the Industrial Revolution

An eclectic mix of small manufacturers, shopkeepers and service providers dominated the streetscape of towns across north-west England during early industrial revolution. Yet although these tradesmen and women constituted anything from 20–60% of the urban population, our view of the commercial world in this period tends to be dominated by narratives of particularly big and successful businesses, and those involved in new and large-scale modes of production.

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Councils and juntas in early modern Madrid

Nowadays it’s not uncommon to think of meetings as a time-consuming chore, and it was no different in the seventeenth century. During the 1660s, the count of Castrillo would complain to his wife about the long hours that he had to spend in committees. He was sometimes too busy even so much as to go to Mass, and when he was finally allowed out of the palace it might not have been until the early hours of the morning.

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Why do we love our pets so much?

Since time immemorial, humans have kept animals for companions. Pets are known to provide physical and emotional benefits, not only in terms of companionship, but also in terms of outdoor adventure, exercise, and socializing with other pet owners. As Sigmund Feud once said, “Time spent with cats is never wasted.” Dogs and cats have been particular favourites throughout the ages, with cats commonly thought to have been domesticated in ancient Egypt, and dogs from the time of the hunter-gatherers.

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Reflecting on the Armenian Genocide

April 2014 marked the centenary of the initiation of mass murders of Armenians in Anatolia—events now known as the Armenian Genocide. As Robert Melson notes in the below introduction to Holocaust and Genocide Studies’ virtual issue on the subject, Turkish governments have consistently denied that the persecutions resulted from a policy of genocide.

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John Capgrave and a medieval view of scholarship as service

John Capgrave is one of the few medieval authors whose birthday we know. As he composed his universal history known as the Abbreviation of Chronicles, he recorded that on 21 April 1393, “the friar who made these annotations was born.” And lest this entry be overlooked amidst the doings of the powerful, he inserted his personal nota bene mark, a trefoil, beside it in the margin.

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The mountains are calling and we must act

Muir knew that the wilds surrounding him not only fed his soul but sustain us all. Too many of our current elected officials have forgotten his lesson. They seek to sell off our public lands throughout my western home to view them as little more than sources of oil and gas, and to strip federal oversight that has kept these lands there for all of us, generation after generation.

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Misogyny, cheap sweets, and daydreams

Some of the most startling expressions of misogyny over the last century have been directed at girls and young women enjoying themselves. By the 1900s women were reading novels in large quantities. Heavy, three-volume works of fiction were disappearing in favour of single volumes in light bindings: paper covers were beginning to sport colourful, inviting designs.

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Raiding religion, the new normal

The 19th of April 2017 is the twenty-fourth anniversary of the 1993 Branch Davidian tragedy in Waco, Texas. The disaster began three months earlier, however, with a botched effort by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms to serve a search warrant for weapons upon a small religious community. The raid resulted in 15 casualties among federal agents, including four dead, and the deaths of six Branch Davidians.

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Where did Darwin go on the Beagle?

On 27 December 1831, Charles Darwin set off on a round-the-world survey expedition and adventure on the HMS Beagle. Captained by Robert FitzRoy, the trip (the second voyage of HMS Beagle) lasted until 2 October 1836 and saw the crew visit locations as varied as Brazil, Tierra del Fuego, South Africa, New Zealand, and the Azores.

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The power of globalization: Singapore’s economic rise

Singapore is a controversial subject, described as “The Big Apple of Asia,” or “Disneyland with Capital Punishment.” On the one hand, there are those who admire its efficient government and material accomplishments; on the other hand, there are those who deplore its antipathy to freedom of expression. We can all ask how much an authoritarian government stifles the creativity necessary to nourishing a productive society.

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Tending the roots: a response to Daniel Kerr

As a young person, I spent several hours a week learning with a group of immigrants who did maintenance work at a local golf course in Virginia. Supposedly, I was helping them learn English. I did do some of that. A lot of what I did, though, was learn.

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French hovels, slave cabins, and the limits of Jefferson’s eyes

Thomas Jefferson was a deliberate man and nothing escaped his attention. Jefferson’s eyes were powerful, lively, and penetrating. Testimonies swore that his eyes were nothing short of “the eye of an eagle.” He wore spectacles occasionally, especially for reading, but his eyes stood the test of time despite physiological decline.

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The role of smugglers in the European Migrant Crisis

Media coverage of the European migrant crisis often focuses on the migrants themselves—capturing their stories as millions escape violent conflicts and crushing poverty. In Migrant, Refugee, Smuggler, Savior, Peter Tinti and Tuesday Reitano consider the smugglers involved in transporting migrants throughout Europe. Although many smugglers are viewed as saviors, others give little regard to the human rights issues.

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