In this comprehensive portrait of the women of Chechnya in modern war, Paul Murphy argues that they are the principal victims of the 1994 and 1999 wars with Russia and the present conflict with Islamic jihadists. War forced Chechen women to venture far beyond their traditional roles and advance their human rights, but the current movement championing traditional Islam is taking those rights away. The book challenges conventional thinking on why women fight and are willing to kill themselves in the name of Allah. Drawing on personal interviews, insider resources, and other materials, Murphy presents powerful portrayals of women who fight in the Chechen jihad, including snipers and the mysterious Black Widow suicide bombers, as well as women who collect intelligence, hide arms, and perform other noncombatant roles.
A narrative like no other: a cultural history that explores how cars have both propelled and reflected the American experience— from the Model T to the Prius.
From the assembly lines of Henry Ford to the open roads of Route 66, from the lore of Jack Kerouac to the sex appeal of the Hot Rod, America’s history is a vehicular history—an idea brought brilliantly to life in this major work by Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Paul Ingrassia.
Ingrassia offers a wondrous epic in fifteen automobiles, including the Corvette, the Beetle, and the Chevy Corvair, as well as the personalities and tales behind them: Robert McNamara’s unlikely role in Lee Iacocca’s Mustang, John Z. DeLorean’s Pontiac GTO , Henry Ford’s Model T, as well as Honda’s Accord, the BMW 3 Series, and the Jeep, among others.
Through these cars and these characters, Ingrassia shows how the car has expressed the particularly American tension between the lure of freedom and the obligations of utility. He also takes us through the rise of American manufacturing, the suburbanization of the country, the birth of the hippie and the yuppie, the emancipation of women, and many more fateful episodes and eras, including the car’s unintended consequences: trial lawyers, energy crises, and urban sprawl. Narrative history of the highest caliber, Engines of Change is an entirely edifying new way to look at the American story.
When most people think about the Netherlands, images of tulips and peaceful pot smoking residents spring to mind. Bring up soccer, and most will think of Johan Cruyuff, the Dutch player thought to rival Pele in preternatural skill, and Ajax, one of the most influential soccer clubs in the world whose academy system for young athletes has been replicated around the globe (and most notably by Barcelona and the 2010 world champions, Spain).
But as international bestselling author Simon Kuper writes in Ajax, The Dutch, The War: Soccer in Europe During the Second World War, the story of soccer in Holland cannot be understood without investigating what really occurred in this country during WWII. For decades, the Dutch have enjoyed the reputation of having a "good war." The myth is even resonant in Israel where Ajax is celebrated. The fact is, the Jews suffered shocking persecution at the hands of Dutch collaborators. Holland had the second largest Nazi movement in Europe outside Germany, and in no other country except Poland was so high a percentage of Jews deported.
Kuper challenges Holland's historical amnesia and uses soccer -- particularly the experience of Ajax, a club long supported by Amsterdam's Jews -- as a window on wartime Holland and Europe. Through interviews with Resistance fighters, survivors, wartime soccer players and more, Kuper uncovers this history that has been ignored, and also finds out why the Holocaust had a profound effect on soccer in the country.
Ajax produced Cruyuff but was also built by members of the Dutch resistance and Holocaust survivors. It became a surrogate family for many who survived the war and its method for producing unparalleled talent became the envy of clubs around the world. In this passionate, haunting and moving work of forensic reporting, Kuper tells the breathtaking story of how Dutch Jews survived the unspeakable and came to play a strong role in the rise of the most exciting and revolutionary style of soccer -- "Total Football" -- the world had ever seen.
In these pages, acclaimed historian Flora Fraser unfurls the story of George and Martha, brilliantly narrating the lives of an extraordinarily dedicated, accomplished, and historic couple. When they married in colonial Virginia in 1759, he was an awkward but ambitious young officer, she, a graceful, wealthy young widow. They were devoted to one another, and George was as a father to Martha’s children by her first husband. She endowed Washington with the confidence—and resources—that would aid him when elected commander-in-chief of the Continental army. During the war, Martha resolutely supported her husband, ‘the General,’ joining him every winter in headquarters; she was essential to his well-being and was a redoubtable, vastly admired figure.
After the American victory, George was elected our first president and Martha became an impeccable first First Lady. During his presidency, the two established the tenets and traditions of our highest office. This is the story of a pioneering partnership—and an enthralling narrative of our nation’s emergence onto the world stage.
Sydney and Violet: Their Life with T.S. Eliot, Proust, Joyce, and the Excruciatingly Irascible Wyndham Lewis
Largely forgotten today, Sydney and Violet Schiff were ubiquitous, almost Zelig-like figures in the most important literary movement of the twentieth century. Their friendships among the elite of the Modernist writers were remarkable, and their extensive correspondence with T. S. Eliot, Katherine Mansfield, Proust, and many others strongly suggests both intimacy and intellectual equality. Leading critics of the day considered Sydney, writing as Stephen Hudson, to be in the same literary league as Joyce, Eliot, and D. H. Lawrence. As for Violet, she was a talented musician who nurtured Sydney's literary efforts and was among the first in England to recognize Proust's genius and spread the word. Sydney and Violet tells the story of how the Schiffs, despite their commercial and Jewish origins, won acceptance in the snobbish, anti-Semitic, literary world of early twentieth-century England, and brings to life a full panoply of extravagant personalities: Proust, Joyce, Picasso, Mansfield, Wyndham Lewis, T. S. Eliot, Aldous Huxley, and many more. A highly personal, anecdote-filled account of the social and intellectual history of the Modernist movement, Sydney and Violet also examines what divides the literary survivors from the victims of taste and time.
Here is the older, wilder, darker history of a time when the land between the Atlantic and the Appalachians was contested ground, when radically different societies adopted and adapted the ways of the other, while struggling for control of what all considered to be their land.
The First Frontier traces two and a half centuries of history through poignant, mostly unheralded personal stories, like that of a Harvard-educated Indian caught up in seventeenth-century civil warfare, a mixed-blood interpreter trying to straddle his white and Native heritage, and a Puritan woman wielding a scalping knife whose bloody deeds still resonate uneasily today. It is the first book in years to paint a sweeping picture of the Eastern frontier, combining vivid storytelling with the latest research to bring to life modern America’s tumultuous, uncertain beginnings.
On June 28, 1839, the Spanish slave schooner Amistad set sail from Havana on a routine delivery of human cargo. On a moonless night, after four days at sea, the captive Africans rose up, killed the captain, and seized control of the ship. They attempted to sail to a safe port, but were captured by the U.S. Navy and thrown into jail in Connecticut. Their legal battle for freedom eventually made its way to the Supreme Court, where their cause was argued by the former president John Quincy Adams. In a landmark ruling, they were freed and eventually returned to Africa. The rebellion became one of the best-known events in the history of American slavery, celebrated as a triumph of the legal system in films and books, all reflecting the elite perspective of the judges, politicians, and abolitionists involved in the case. In this powerful and highly original account, Marcus Rediker reclaims the rebellion for its true proponents: the African rebels who risked death to stake a claim for freedom.
Using newly discovered evidence, Rediker reframes the story to show how a small group of courageous men fought and won an epic battle against Spanish and American slaveholders and their governments. He reaches back to Africa to find the rebels’ roots, narrates their cataclysmic transatlantic journey, and unfolds a prison story of great drama and emotion. Featuring vividly drawn portraits of the Africans, their captors, and their abolitionist allies, he shows how the rebels captured the popular imagination and helped to inspire and build a movement that was part of a grand global struggle between slavery and freedom. The actions aboard the Amistad that July night and in the days and months that followed were pivotal events in American and Atlantic history, but not for the reasons we have always thought.
The successful Amistad rebellion changed the very nature of the struggle against slavery. As a handful of self-emancipated Africans steered their own course to freedom, they opened a way for millions to follow. This stunning book honors their achievement.
The Heroic Heart: Greatness Ancient and Modern, by Tod Lindberg
What does it mean to be a hero? In The Heroic Heart, Tod Lindberg traces the quality of heroic greatness from its most distant origin in human prehistory to the present day. The designation of “hero” once conjured mainly the prowess of conquerors and kings slaying their enemies on the battlefield. Heroes in the modern world come in many varieties, from teachers and mentors making a lasting impression on others by giving of themselves, to firefighters no less willing than their ancient counterparts to risk life and limb. They don’t do so to assert a claim of superiority over others, however. Rather, the modern heroic heart acts to serve others and save others. The spirit of modern heroism is generosity, what Lindberg calls “the caring will,” a primal human trait that has flourished alongside the spread of freedom and equality.
Through its intimate portraits of historical and literary figures and its subtle depiction of the most difficult problems of politics, The Heroic Heart offers a startlingly original account of the passage from the ancient to the modern world and the part the heroic type has played in it. Lindberg deftly combines social criticism and moral philosophy in a work that ranks with such classics as Thomas Carlyle’s nineteenth-century On Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History and Joseph Campbell’s twentieth-century The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
Image: Women of the Gulag film poster. Fair use.
During the course of three decades, Joseph Stalin’s Gulag, a vast network of forced labor camps and settlements, held many millions of prisoners. People in every corner of the Soviet Union lived in daily terror of imprisonment and execution. In researching the surviving threads of memoirs and oral reminiscences of five women victimized by the Gulag, author Paul R. Gregory has stitched together a collection of stories from the female perspective, a view in short supply. Capturing the fear, paranoia, and unbearable hardship that were hallmarks of Stalin’s Great Terror, Gregory relates the stories of five women from different social strata and regions in vivid prose, from their pre-Gulag lives, through their struggles to survive in the repressive atmosphere of the late 1930s and early 1940s, to the difficulties facing the four who survived as they adjusted to life after the Gulag. These firsthand accounts illustrate how even the wrong word could become a crime against the state. The book begins with a synopsis of Stalin’s rise to power, the roots of the Gulag, and the scheming and plotting that led to and persisted in one of the bloodiest, most egregious dictatorships of the 20th century.- Amazon
Marianna Yarovskaya, filmmaker, in re: Women of the Gulag. Six elderly women who were teenagers when the disastrous events occurred. On Oct 18 and Oct 22, the film will be screened at the Hong Kong Film Festival. VisibleRecord.com The film was shown at the Moscow Intl Film Festival, and brought one survivor, who was able to walk. Two more remain, blind, one paralyzed. The attendee got five minutes of standing ovation. Then it was shown on Rossiya ___ TV, and Aeroflot will show the longer version starting in November. In the gulags, women were worked as hard as the men, were brutalized. In a timber camp, one woman said that if she didn’t haul back a tree she got no dinner. “Women in the camps were slaves of slaves.” No family is unaffected. Not on YouTube, but we’re selling DVDs to universities and schools. Will screen it in London next year. In the US, it’ll show at the UN Intl Festival at Stanford on October 22, several days hence. Screenings in Croatia and elsewhere. I attended a festival in South Korea – North Korean camps are carbon copies of what Stalin camps were [and note that until extremely recently, North Koreans were sold en masse by the Kim family to slave-labor timbering camps in Siberia —ed.]; in South Korea we got an audience award.
Marianna Yarovskaya is an award-winning Russian-American documentary filmmaker who is the director and producer of the 2018 Academy Award short-listed documentary film, Women of the Gulag based on the book, Women of the Gulag: Stories of Five Remarkable Lives, by Paul Roderick Gregory.
James Smithson, the scientist who started the SmithsonianIn History & Culture, Science & Nature / 19 November 2015
This portrait of Smithson painted by Henri Johns in 1816, is one of the rare images of the philanthropist scientist.
“The Smithsonian Institution”―When most people hear the name, museums, scientific research, even Dorothy’s ruby slippers and the Wright brothers’ plane come to mind. But many don’t know how, or for that matter, who created the Smithsonian. The Institution is now 169 years old, but its true beginning happened 250 years ago with the birth of a seemingly ill-fated boy named James Smithson.
Smithson (c. 1765–1829), the founding donor of the Smithsonian, was an English chemist and mineralogist. He was the illegitimate son of Hugh Smithson, the first Duke of Northumberland, and the wealthy widow Elizabeth Hungerford Keate Macie. His exact birthday remains a mystery because he was born secretly in Paris, where his mother had gone to hide her pregnancy. He was born James Lewis Macie, but in 1801, after his parents died, he took his father’s last name of Smithson.
Smithson was known as a hard-working and diligent student. He studied at Pembroke College, Oxford and received a Master’s in science in 1786. (Image: James Roberts)
Smithson never married; he had no children; and he lived somewhat as a gentleman nomad, traveling widely in Europe during a time of great turbulence and political upheaval. He was in Paris during the French Revolution, and was later imprisoned in the early 19th century during the Napoleonic Wars.
Friends with many of the great scientific minds of the time, he believed that the pursuit of science and knowledge was the key to happiness and prosperity for all of society. He saw scientists as benefactors of all mankind, and thought they should be considered “citizens of the world.”
“Science wasn’t just an interest of Smithson’s, he was a dedicated and hard-working student of the topic too,” said Pamela Henson, the Smithsonian’s historian. “He studied at Pembroke College, Oxford, and received a master’s degree in science. He was considered a “swot” – someone, who unlike most other gentlemen, stayed on campus all semester and worked incredibly hard. He was inducted into the Royal Society in 1787 after graduation, the youngest member at that time.”
Smithson was interested in almost everything and studied a wide range of natural phenomena: the venom of snakes, the chemistry of volcanoes, the fundamental nature of electricity and even the composition of a lady’s tear.
The mineral smithsonite was named in 1832 in honor of English chemist and mineralogist James Smithson, who first identified the mineral in 1802.
He published 27 papers in his lifetime, ranging from an improved method of making coffee, to an analysis of the mineral calamine―critical in the manufacture of brass, which led to the mineral being named smithsonite in his honor. In one of his last papers, he laid out his philosophy most clearly: “It is in his knowledge that man has found his greatness and his happiness. . . . No ignorance is probably without loss to him.”
Smithson was keenly aware and disapproving of England’s class differences; and although he never visited the United States, Smithson approved of what the young democracy represented: freedom and opportunity for all.
Toward the end of his life, under a clause in his will, he left his fortune to the United States. It was to be used to found “an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge…” in Washington, D.C. and it was to be named the Smithsonian Institution.
The final resting place of the Smithsonian Institution’s benefactor, James Smithson (1765-1829), is a small chapel-like room located at the north entrance to the Smithsonian Castle on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
829, and was interred nearby. It took nearly a decade for his bequest of more than $500,000 to arrive in America in the form of eleven boxes of gold coins; and with this gift, the building of the Smithsonian Institution began.
Today, Smithson’s bequest and wish that it support an educational institution has grown enormously into the world’s largest museum and research complex with 19 museums and galleries, nine research facilities, the National Zoological Park, 137 million items in its collection and research conducted in more than 100 countries around the world.
And James Smithson finally did visit America, albeit posthumously. In 1904, Alexander Graham Bell, a member of the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents, brought Smithson’s remains to the United States to rest at the Institution his gift created. His tomb rests just inside the entrance of the Smithsonian Castle, so that it is the first thing many visitors see as they begin their visit―a fitting start to exploring the Smithsonian.
Although Smithson’s papers and his vast mineral collection were all destroyed by fire in 1865, the story of his life and work has been largely recovered in the recent biography, The Lost World of James Smithson: Science, Revolution, and the Birth of the Smithsonian, by Heather Ewing. This article draws heavily upon this book.
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Tags: rocks & minerals, Smithsonian Institution Archives
A note from the Author
The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education.