Weekend Reading

Each weekend we’ll provide a round-up of links to some recent blog posts on history.

Holbein, Erasmus
Hans Holbein the Younger, Erasmus (1523)

• Expect to see more and more films set in ancient Greece, as the present-day government of that country has been trying to alleviate its debt problem by slashing fees for film and photography permits at sites like the Acropolis.

• A major new archeological find near Istanbul “has the potential to become a ‘library of Constantinople.'”

• Why King John (of Magna Carta fame) might not have been entirely the bad guy medieval chroniclers made him out to be.

• And why Erasmus is not only the “Prince of the Christian Humanists” but one of the great advocates of Christian liberal arts. (H/T Nathan Gilmour)

• More than a century before Jack Johnson, Joe Louis, and Muhammad Ali, a former slave named Tom Molineaux fought a boxing match whose social and cultural significance transcended sports. At the same time, writes journalist Brian Phillips, “so much about the fight feels familiar today, from the role of race to the role of the media, that if you had to name a date, you could make a good case that December 10, 1810, was the moment sport as we know it began.”

John Turner on Samuel Brown’s In Heaven as It Is on Earth: Joseph Smith and the Early Mormon Conquest of Death: “…an unusual and remarkable book… Brown offers fresh insights into a whole host of flashpoints within the study of early Mormonism: treasure-hunting, Smith’s translations of ancient texts, the endowment ceremony, and plural marriage.”

• How one general kept the Union Army from adopting repeating rifles in 1861. If not for his obstructionism, could the Civil War have ended at or before Gettysburg?

Condominiums in modern history! No, not “condos.” But those rare territories over which more than one country exercises sovereignty.

• The story of Charles Guiteau, assassin of Pres. James A. Garfield.

• 130 years of Eastman Kodak history in photographs (what else?), after the venerable company filed for bankruptcy. (H/T Cliopatria)

• The return of flapper fashion to the runways inspired this brief history of women’s clothing in the Jazz Age. (H/T Randall Stephens)

Tuskegee Airmen Poster
War bonds poster featuring one of the Tuskegee Airmen

• Depicting the infamous “Rape of Nanjing” by Japanese soldiers in 1937, The Flowers of War (starring Christian Bale) didn’t get a Best Foreign Language Film nod from the Oscars, but it was China’s highest grossing film last year. (H/T Historical Society Blog)

• The story of the Tuskegee Airmen is an important one, and begging to be made into a great movie… But critics sure don’t seem to think that Red Tails is that movie. Go back and see how HBO handled the same topic in 1995, with a superior cast that included Laurence Fishburne, Courtney B. Vance, and Andre Braugher.

• And Marc Wortman points out that the Tuskegee pilots weren’t the first African-American aviators of note. (H/T Cliopatria)

• Of the sixteen women who served in the 84th U.S. Congress (still, believe it or not, the highest number), none was more fascinating than Koya Knutson. Gilbert King tells the remarkable story of this representative from Minnesota’s then-9th district who struggled with the Democratic establishment and endured physical abuse from her alcoholic husband. (This is actually from the very end of 2011, but it’s too good not to pass along.)

Six memorable moments from the last fifty years of State of the Union addresses.

• The debate over the 4th grade U.S. history textbook for Virginia continues. Meanwhile, one important session at the American Historical Association meeting in Chicago asked whether the history textbook even had a future:

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