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The massacre at Paris

When the church bells rang out in Paris on Saint Bartholomew’s Day, 24 August 1572, they heralded a massacre. At dawn, on royal orders the Catholic civic militia assassinated the admiral Gaspard de Coligny and other Protestant leaders. Their cry that “the king wills it!” preceded thousands of killings of Protestants in cities across France during the month that followed.

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Putin and patriotism: national pride after the fall of the Soviet Union [excerpt]

Following the fall of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Putin undertook the formidable task of uniting a restless and disorganized Russia. Throughout the early 1990s, the national narrative behind USSR’s regime remained unclear—causing national pride to deteriorate in the confusion. In the following excerpt from The Long Hangover, journalist Shaun Walker sheds light on how Putin used Russia’s victory in World War II to reestablish patriotism within the new Russia.

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First things first

I seldom, if ever, try to be “topical” (I mean the practice of word columnists to keep abreast of the times and discuss the words of the year or comment on some curious expression used by a famous personality), but the calendar has some power over me. The end of the year, the beginning of the year, the rite of spring, the harvest—those do not leave me indifferent.

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ORE Latin American History

When the kids outsmarted the dictators

Decades before the internet was invented, young Argentines documented police brutality without iPhones, met and discussed their movement without social media, and even protested repression without marches. How? Through another of the most powerful and subversive media ever devised: rock music.

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Glioblastoma’s spectre in the Senate

With his right arm extended – pausing for just a moment – Senator John McCain flashed a thumbs-down and jarred the Senate floor. Audible gasps and commotion followed. At 1:29 am on 28 July, Senator McCain had just supplied the decisive “Nay” vote to derail the fourth and final bill voted on that night. With that, a seven-year pursuit to undo the Affordable Care Act had collapsed.

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How well do you know your December celebrations?

n many countries throughout the modern world, December has become synonymous with the celebration of Christmas. Despite this focus, there are many other December celebrations including the Buddhist Rōhatsu and Jewish Hanukkah, secular festivities such as Kwanzaa and Hogmanay, and ancient Roman rituals such as Saturnalia. Discover some fascinating (and lesser-known) facts on these December celebrations.

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The war on Christmas: a two thousand year history [timeline]

Is there a war on Christmas? Yes. And it’s been fought for almost two thousand years. Since their earliest incarnation, Christmas festivities have been criticized and even outlawed. In the timeline below, historian and Christmas expert Gerry Bowler takes a look at this long history—from nativity protests in 240 through the billboard wars of 2014.

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Of microbes and Madagascar

Microbes are everywhere. On door knobs, in your mouth, covering the New York City Subway, and festering on the kitchen sponge. The world is teeming with microbes—bustling communities of invisible organisms, including bacteria and fungi. Scientists are hard at work cataloging the microbial communities of people, buildings, and entire ecosystems. Many discoveries have shed light on how culture and behavior shape these communities.

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Christmas on 34th Street: a history of NYC department stores [excerpt]

Each year, department stores in New York City decorate their windows with ornate holiday displays. Taking on festive themes with dazzling lights, crystals, and figurines, these stores aim to entice shoppers and encourage passers-by to get into the holiday spirit. In the following excerpt from Greater Gotham, Mike Wallace discusses the history of these famous department stores and their connection to the economy of New York City.

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Newton and the perils of the imagination

In the 17th century, there were two contradictory attitudes to the imagination or ‘phantasy’. For many it was valued as the source of wit and invention; but for others it was the basis of deception, superstition, and mental illness. It was John Calvin, a century earlier, who had warned that the mind was a dungeon and a factory of idols. English puritan writers followed in his wake, cautioning against the seductive tendencies of the unregenerate imagination

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Race, gender, and flash photography

The cover of Flash! shows a smiling African-American woman, who holds a Graflex Speed Graphic camera. The flash bulb, invented at the very end of the 1920s, was rapidly adopted by both professional and amateur photographers. The star of this particular image, however, is less the photographic equipment than the woman who holds it. She signals the intertwined presence of race, gender, and flash photography.

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The word “job” and its low-class kin

This post is in answer to a correspondent’s query. What I can say about the etymology of job, even if condensed, would be too long for my usual “gleanings.” More important, in my opinion, the common statement in dictionaries that the origin of job is unknown needs modification. What we “know” about job is sufficient for endorsing the artless conclusions drawn long ago. It would of course be nice to get additional evidence, but there is probably no need to search for it and no hope to dig it up.

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A holy revolution

With hundreds of churches built, rebuilt, or restored in the nineteenth century, they can be found nearly everywhere today. Out of thousands of possible choices, below are five characteristic specimens — four small churches and one large synagogue — that explain Victorian belief.

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Three millennia of writings – a brief history of Chinese literature

Chinese scholars traditionally have considered the Han fu-rhapsody, Tang shi-poetry, Song ci-song lyrics, and Yuan qu-drama, as the highest literary achievements of their respective dynasties. However, Chinese literature embraces a far wider range of writing than these four literary genres. Explore a treasure trove that offers rich information about Chinese society, thought, customs, and social and political movements

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Allowing the past to speak

Beginning in January a new editorial team will take over the OHR, bringing in some fresh voices and new ideas. Before we hand over the reins, we asked the new team, composed of David Caruso, Abigail Perkiss, and Janneken Smucker, to tell us how they came into the world of oral history. Check out their responses and make sure to keep an eye on our social media pages in the coming weeks for more.

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