Showing posts from 2017

July 4th - A Celebration of Ideas... and Manuscripts

Today is July 4th, Independence Day in the United States, a holiday on which we Americans collectively reflect on a manuscript penned several hundred years ago. The ideas set down on vellum by some of the most brilliant political philosophers of the 18th century (chief among them talented polymath Thomas Jefferson) created the framework for a government that has ensured 241 years (so far) of peace and stability (with these exceptions and this bloody exception). Naturally, it is the ideas and ideals contained within the text that we celebrate as we commemorate the birth of the U.S. But we also meditate on the physical documents which constitute the Charters of Freedom: The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, all of which are preserved by the National Archives. 

John Trumbull's famous painting The Declaration of Independence

To understand the deep meaning to be found in seeing (and perhaps even touching or owning) original historical manuscripts, on…

A World War II Reading List

My book club recently read The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz by Denis Avey. Since such a regular part of my my day job is reading and writing about World War II and the Holocaust, I usually shy away from the subject during my free time. But this memoir was a gripping read. Avey's first-hand accounts of fighting in Africa, multiple captivities as a POW (and several daring escapes) definitely gave me a new perspective on the conflict. It also got me thinking about some other books about World War II I have read recently and enjoyed.

Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler & Stalinby Timothy Snyder: One of the best works I've read about the complex power dynamics between Germany and Russia and their designs on the territories situated between them. Bloodlands illustrates that the German ideology of Lebensraum, by which colonization eventually led to mass murder of Slavic people to the east, was rooted in a much longer history, and helps us better understand how such Na…