The World Rushed In by J.S. Holiday: chapters 6 and 7

Sept. 13.  This morn while getting up the cattle, the men saw a catamount, but as they had no firearms with them they allowed the fellow to go off unmolested. So this is probably what comes from being over-educated. When I read the above entry in William Swain’s diary for Sept. 13, 1949, I thought ‘catamount?’  Isn’t that an archaic term for gay man? Were … Continue reading The World Rushed In by J.S. Holiday: chapters 6 and 7

A Nation Rising by Kenneth C. Davis

History is not for the feint of heart.  It’s contentious. It’s a constant struggle.  One need look no further than the recent decision of the Texas State Board of Education to see just how contentious history is in America.  William Faulkner once said, “The past is never dead.  It’s not even past.” But that’s what makes it such interesting reading. A Nation Rising by Kenneth C. Davis … Continue reading A Nation Rising by Kenneth C. Davis

A Brave Vessel by Hobson Woodward

It turns out Shakespeare’s The Tempest was based on a true story.  Who knew? Shakespeare wrote The Tempest at the end of his career– some say it contains his farewell to the theatre in one of Prospero’s speeches.  The year was 1609 and England’s Jamestown colony was the media sensation of the day.  Things had not gone well for England’s only New World colony.  London … Continue reading A Brave Vessel by Hobson Woodward

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bronx is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics and the Battle for the Soul of a City by Jonathan Mahler

1977 was a pivotal year for New York City. Mayor Beame was seeking reelection in spite of record deficits, massive layoffs, and sky-rocketing crime rates. Also in the race were Mario Cuomo, who would later become governor, the future mayor Ed Koch, and firebrand feminist liberal Bella Abzug. 1977 was the Summer of Sam, David Berkowitz, a serial killer who terrorized the city for months. … Continue reading Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bronx is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics and the Battle for the Soul of a City by Jonathan Mahler

The World Rushed In Ch. IV: Tracks of the Elephant (Ft. Kearny to Ft. Laramie)

Three things struck me from this section of William Swain’s account of his journey to the California gold fields in 1849.  The World Rushed In by J.S. Holiday compiled from the letters William Swain and his family exchanged, augmented with sections for the letters of other 49’ers to fill out the story. The firs thing that struck me this chaptert is how important it was to … Continue reading The World Rushed In Ch. IV: Tracks of the Elephant (Ft. Kearny to Ft. Laramie)

The Dancing Plague by John Waller

I found The Dancing Plague hard to believe on two levels. First, I just find it hard to believe. In July of 1518, after several years of crop failure and hard times, a plague of uncontrolled dancing broke out in the city of Strasbourg. Eventually, over 400 people fell victim to an inexplicable and uncontrollable urge to dance that lasted for days resulting in bruised, … Continue reading The Dancing Plague by John Waller

Blood and Thunder: The Epic Story of Kit Carson and the Conquest of the American West by Hampton Sides

It is possible to study history by studying the lives of certain key people in history. One of the key people in American history, at least in the history of the American West, is Kit Carson. An illiterate early pioneer, Carson was a mountain man trapper who joined the Army of the West on its 1846 invasion of Santa Fe and what became New Mexico, … Continue reading Blood and Thunder: The Epic Story of Kit Carson and the Conquest of the American West by Hampton Sides

The Shakespeare Riots by Nigel Cliff

On May 10, 1849, English actor William Charles Macready gave his last American performance as MacBeth at the new Opera house in Astor Place, New York City. Inside the theatre supporters of rival American actor Edwin Forrest shouted so loudly that the entire first act had to be performed in pantomime. Outside a crowd of 20,000 packed the streets armed with cobblestones, ready to attack … Continue reading The Shakespeare Riots by Nigel Cliff

The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, The Most Devastating Plague of All Time by John Kelly

n the bonus section of The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, The Most Devastating Plague of All Time author John Kelly discusses three people who brought the period of Europe’s Black Death to life for him. The first is Jacme De Podio, a peasant from Marseille. After Jacme’s son, grand-daughter and daughter-in-law all died from the plague, he decided he should … Continue reading The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, The Most Devastating Plague of All Time by John Kelly

Erotic City: Sexual Revolutions and the Making of Modern San Francisco by Josh Sides

Turns out, I spent my youth in San Francisco while it was in the midst of a sexual revolution and didn’t even know it. Josh Sides opens the epilogue of Erotic City with a quote from Joan Didion, whom I have also been reading a lot of lately. “Going back to California is not like going back to Vermont, or Chicago,” Joan Didion wrote in … Continue reading Erotic City: Sexual Revolutions and the Making of Modern San Francisco by Josh Sides

Mining for Freedom by Sylvia Alden Roberts

A few months ago an article by Kameron Hurley finally came to my attention via a mention on Podcastle.  “‘We Have Always Fought’: Challenging the ‘Women, Cattle and Slaves’ Narrative” makes the argument that women have always been warriors and that it’s time to start portraying them as such particularly in science fiction and fantasy.  I’m not enough of a historian to say whether or not … Continue reading Mining for Freedom by Sylvia Alden Roberts

The Pope Who Quit by Jon M. Sweeney

Celestine V became pope practically by accident.  That he abdicated just 15 weeks later was only a little more shocking than his getting the job in the first place. The time is the 1292.  The 12 cardinals who make up the College of Cardinals have gathered to elect a new pope. There were only 12 in those days.  Divided evenly between two powerful, competing factions, … Continue reading The Pope Who Quit by Jon M. Sweeney