An Accurate Historical Understanding of the Underground Railroad

Underground Railroad activists and fugitive slaves had to improvise in response to ever-shifting circumstances. When I’ve used that line over the years in speaking to audiences about the loosely-organized network that aided runaway slaves in the pre-Civil War U.S., it has usually elicited surprise.  Since slavery ended, most Americans have come to view the Underground Railroad[…]

Flesh Made Wood: The Invention of Artificial Refrigeration

Preserving foodstuffs by mechanical refrigeration became an industrial possibility only in the 1870s and 1880s. The refrigerator is among the most familiar of household appliances. It may also be a distinctively American machine: it has long figured in the domestic sphere as a symbol of prosperity. More recently, it has become a source of ecological[…]

Guilds: Drivers of Manufacturing and Commerce in the Middle Ages

Guilds dominated local politics and influenced national and international affairs. Introduction Guilds existed throughout Europe during the Middle Ages. Guilds were groups of individuals with common goals. The term guild probably derives from the Anglo-Saxon root geld which meant ‘to pay, contribute.’ The noun form of geld meant an association of persons contributing money for some common purpose. The root also[…]

Marcus Aurelius: Philosopher Emperor or Philosopher-King?

Marcus’ goal was to become the best – most virtuous – person that he was able to become. Introduction It is very common to hear in both academic circles, as well as more close-knit Stoic circles, Marcus Aurelius (121 – 180 CE) being referred to as the philosopher king. This is not an idea that is heavily[…]