Why Ancient Plague Didn’t Lead to Widespread Epidemics as in the Medieval Era and Beyond

People caught and died from plague long before it caused major epidemics like the Black Death in the middle ages. Introduction One of civilization’s most prolific killers shadowed humans for thousands of years without their knowledge. The bacteria Yersinia pestis, which causes the plague, is thought to be responsible for up to 200 million deaths[…]

Justinian’s Plague (541-542 CE)

The outbreak continued to sweep throughout the Mediterranean world for another 225 years, finally disappearing in 750 CE. Introduction During the reign of the emperor Justinian I (527-565 CE), one of the worst outbreaks of the plague took place, claiming the lives of millions of people. The plague arrived in Constantinople in 542 CE, almost[…]

Ancient Persian Government

Cyrus drew on earlier models of Akkadian and Assyrian administration and greatly improved them. Introduction The government of ancient Persia was based on a highly efficient bureaucracy which combined the concepts of the centralization of power with the decentralization of administration. The Achaemenid Empire (c. 550-330 BCE) founded by Cyrus the Great (r. c. 550-530[…]

A History of Ancient Persia

The Persians settled primarily across the Iranian plateau and were established by the 1st millennium BCE. Introduction Persia (roughly modern-day Iran) is among the oldest inhabited regions in the world. Archaeological sites in the country have established human habitation dating back 100,000 years to the Paleolithic Age with semi-permanent settlements (most likely for hunting parties)[…]

Reichskommissariat Ukraine: The Nazi Occupation in 1941

Before the German invasion, Ukraine was a constituent republic of the Soviet Union. Introduction During World War II, Reichskommissariat Ukraine (abbreviated as RKU) was the civilian occupation regime (Reichskommissariat) of much of Nazi German-occupied Ukraine (which included adjacent areas of modern-day Belarus and pre-war Second Polish Republic). Between September 1941 and August 1944, the Reichskommissariat[…]

The ‘Grand Alliance’: Churchill and Stalin during the Second World War

In the end the story of the Grand Alliance and its denouement in the cold war is quite simple. The alliance of Britain, the United States and the Soviet Unionduring World War II is often presented as a fragile necessity. The alliance was forced into existence by Hitler and fell apart as soon as Nazi Germany was defeated.[…]

Shi Huangdi: First Ancient Emperor of a Unified China

The Qin Dynasty he founded gave its name to China. Introduction Shi Huangdi (l.259-210 BCE/r.221-210 BCE, also known as Qin Shi Huang, Qin Shih Huandi, Shi Huangti or Shih Huan-ti) was the first emperor of a unified China. Shi Huangdi means `First Emperor’ and is a title, not a proper name. The Qin Dynasty he founded[…]

How Ancient China’s Mengzi Came Up with Something Better Than the Golden Rule

Care about me because you see how I am not really so different from others you already love. There’s something I don’t like about the ‘Golden Rule’, the admonition to do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Consider this passage from the ancient Chinese philosopher Mengzi (Mencius): That which people are[…]

Article II, Section 4: A Brief History of Impeachment

The sparse history has given Congress relatively few opportunities to flesh out the bare bones of the constitutional text. The final section of Article II, which generally describes the executive branch, specifies that the “President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States” shall be removed from office if convicted in an impeachment[…]

The Violent Language of Andrew Johnson

The 10th article of impeachment against Andrew Johnson in 1868 was about his language and conduct over the course of his term. By Jamelle Bouie There’s precedent for making transgressive presidential speech a “high crime or misdemeanor.” The 10th article of impeachment against Andrew Johnson in 1868 was about his language and conduct over the[…]

The Roots of Patriotic Ideology in Ancient Rome

The deep roots of the word “patriot” lie in Roman antiquity. A distinction is often drawn between the terms patriot and patriotism. The former is seen as an older usage, traceable back to the ancient Roman republic, while the latter is viewed as an eighteenth-century neologism. Patriotism, as in most ideological “isms,” is therefore often[…]

The Economy of Ancient Greece

Direct taxation was not well-developed in ancient Greece. Introduction The economy of ancient Greece was defined largely by the region’s dependence on imported goods. As a result of the poor quality of Greece’s soil, agricultural trade was of particular importance. The impact of limited crop production was somewhat offset by Greece’s paramount location, as its[…]

Tyranny as the Inevitable Outcome of Democracy in Ancient Athens

Power belonged to anyone who could harness the collective will of the citizens directly by appealing to their emotions. Introduction Plato, one of the earliest thinkers and writers about democracy, predicted that letting people govern themselves would eventually lead the masses to support the rule of tyrants. When I tell my college-level philosophy students that[…]

A History of Europe after the Fall of the Berlin Wall

The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union accelerated the push for deeper European integration. By Jeanne Park Introduction The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 laid the groundwork for new institutions, new states, and, in some cases, new conflicts. In the three decades since the end of Germany’s[…]

How Hitler Went from Fringe Politician to Dictator

He went from fringe political to chancellor of Germany within a few years and from chancellor to dictator in a matter of months. From Fringe Politician to Chancellor For most of the 1920s, Hitler was a fringe-party rabble-rouser. In 1923, as the leader of the tiny Nazi party, he incited a violent attempt to overthrow the government and got[…]

The First World War through a Camera Lens

Soldier photographers would capture the day-to-day routine of military life. The Great War was the first conflict that would be comprehensively documented by amateur photographers. While professional lenses had captured scenes from the Crimean and the American Civil War, this was the first time that large numbers of serving men took cameras into the frontlines[…]

Authority in Ancient Rome: Auctoritas, Potestas, Imperium, and the Paterfamilias

Examining various types of authority which spanned across centuries and covered all facets of Roman life. By Jesse SifuentesArtist and Historian Introduction Authority in ancient Rome was complex, and as one can expect from Rome, full of tradition, myth, and awareness of their own storied history. Perhaps the ultimate authority was imperium, the power to command the Roman army. Potestas was legal power belonging[…]

The Julio-Claudians: First Dynasty of the Roman Empire

Romans obsessed on the concept of family lineage: the family was the most important thing in one’s life. Introduction The Julio-Claudians were the first dynasty to rule the Roman Empire. After the death of the dictator-for-life Julius Caesar in 44 BCE, his adopted son Octavian – later to become known as Augustus (r. 27 BCE[…]

Watergate and Nixon’s ‘Saturday Night Massacre’

The political and public reactions to Nixon’s actions were negative and highly damaging to the president. Introduction The Saturday Night Massacre is the name popularly applied[1] to the series of events that took place in the United States on the evening of Saturday, October 20, 1973, during the Watergate scandal. U.S. President Richard Nixon ordered[…]

VP Spiro Agnew’s War on the Press during the Nixon Administration

When Vice President Spiro Agnew gave a speech in 1969 bashing the press, he fired some of the first shots in a culture war that persists to this day. Introduction Americans witnessed an unprecedented event 50 years ago: live television coverage on all three national networks of a speech by the vice president of the[…]

Westcar Papyrus: The Art of the Story in Ancient Egypt

In the manuscript, each of Khufu’s sons speaks in turn, telling their own tale for their father’s entertainment. Introduction The ancient Egyptians enjoyed storytelling as one of their favorite pastimes. Inscriptions and images, as well as the number of stories produced, give evidence of a long history of the art of the story in Egypt[…]

The Neanderthal Diet—From Teeth to Guts

Some populations of Neanderthals were definitely more carnivorous than others. By Dr. Anna GoldfieldArchaeologist One of the more tenacious misconceptions about Neanderthals is that they were exclusively meat eaters. Sure, in some of the colder regions of Europe plant food would have been very seasonally limited, so meat was almost certainly a large part of[…]

Neanderthal Legs and Feet—Suited to Sprinting

Even genetics support the idea that Neanderthals were better sprinters than runners. By Dr. Anna GoldfieldArchaeologist If you’re like me, you view long-distance running as a somewhat unrealistic aspiration and see those people who do it well as remarkable creatures. The truth, though, is that Homo sapiens are well-designed for loping along for long distances[…]

Kristallnacht 80 Years On: Some Reading about the Most Notorious State-Sponsored Pogrom

Eight decades on, the thought of the state encouraging people to attack groups of citizens is hard to believe. Here are some books that might help. Introduction On the evening of November 9 1938 a Nazi pogrom raged across German and Austrian cities. Nazis branded the atrocity with a poetic term: Kristallnacht or “Crystal Night”.[…]

The Mass Destruction of Jewish Homes during ‘Kristallnacht’

Most histories highlight the shattered storefronts and synagogues set aflame. But it was the systematic ransacking of Jewish homes that extracted the greatest toll. By Dr. Wolf GrunerShapell-Guerin Chair in Jewish Studies and Professor of HistoryFounding Director, USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide ResearchDornsife College of Letters, Arts and SciencesUniversity of Southern California Introduction[…]