Gerald Ford blew his chances to be Reagan’s running mate

During 1980’s Republican convention, backroom negotiations and media speculation over a running mate dominated

Gerald Ford blew his chances to be Reagan’s running mateIn July 1980, U.S. Republicans met in Detroit to formally nominate their ticket for the upcoming presidential election. It wasn’t supposed to be an eventful gathering. Ronald Reagan, the former movie star and California governor, had vanquished an array of opponents during the primary season and was thus assured of the top spot. The only…

Statue-toppling and the narrowness of righteous minds

Just because someone else’s history makes you uncomfortable doesn’t give you a moral licence to erase it from public space

Statue-toppling and the narrowness of righteous mindsIf I were a Brit – which I’m not – I’d be materially annoyed at the vandalization of Winston Churchill’s statue and the related attempts to remove it from its perch in London’s Parliament Square. And in keeping with today’s enthusiasm for rhetorical hyperbole, I’d be tempted to consider it the thin end of the…

Floyd Patterson: the boxer who came back

Written off as a hopeless case, he brought a ruthless, coiled fury to the ring, taking back the world championship

Floyd Patterson: the boxer who came backOn June 20, 1960, 25-year-old Floyd Patterson did something that hadn’t been done before. He became the first man to ever regain the world heavyweight boxing championship. Others had tried – including legendary figures like Jack Dempsey and Joe Louis – but none had succeeded. Conventional wisdom speculated that perhaps it couldn’t be done. Although…

The Habsburgs: Rise and fall of Europe’s premier dynasty

They were canny, enduring and keen on expansion. In the end, however, the empire couldn't survive the First World War

The Habsburgs: Rise and fall of Europe’s premier dynastyThanks to a voluble professor of European history at University College Dublin, the Habsburgs first piqued my curiosity in the early 1960s. Then the interest lay dormant until a chance 2011 visit to the imperial crypt in Vienna’s Capuchin monastery. In operation since 1632, the crypt contains the tombs of more than 140 Habsburg royalty.…

Digging for the bones of a lost Irish hero

Digging for the bones of a lost Irish heroThe Spanish city of Valladolid has an Irish historical connection. It was there that Red Hugh O’Donnell was buried in 1602. Now, thanks to an archaeological dig aimed at finding his long-lost tomb, the connection is back in the news. Known as Red Hugh because of his hair colour, he was the kind of historical…

Finding new value – and a great back story – in an old film

D-Day the Sixth of June was based on an award-winning novel by Canadian journalist Lionel Shapiro

Finding new value – and a great back story – in an old filmTurner Classic Movies marked the American Memorial Day weekend by showing a string of war films, one of which was D-Day the Sixth of June. Released in 1956 and based on a novel published the previous year, I’d seen it at the local cinema in Dublin, Ireland, more than 60 years ago. Back then, I’d…

Bringing the Architect of the Holocaust to justice

Was Adolf Eichmann a monster or just a loyal officer in a role that largely revolved around establishing train schedules?

Bringing the Architect of the Holocaust to justiceOn May 23, 1960, Israel announced the capture of Adolf Eichmann. An undercover Israeli security services team had snatched him 12 days earlier in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and smuggled him out of the country by air. The story was an immediate international sensation. If you were only moderately conversant with the Holocaust, you might never…

Hubris, conspiracy and the fall of Margaret Thatcher

The former U.K. prime minister had a radical streak and a thirst for combat that the men she led didn’t share

Hubris, conspiracy and the fall of Margaret ThatcherMargaret Thatcher had her final prime ministerial audience with the Queen on Nov. 28, 1990. Despite having won three consecutive general elections and never losing a parliamentary vote of confidence, she was evicted from office against her will. The dramatic story is comprehensively told in Herself Alone, the third and final instalment of Charles Moore’s…

The unlucky end of an American war deserter

Private Eddie Slovik, executed 75 years ago, didn't deserve his fate

The unlucky end of an American war deserterIf you’re rewatching Downton Abbey on PBS, you’ll know the plotline about the cook’s nephew who was shot for desertion during the First World War. And such things did occur. For instance, the British and Commonwealth military executed 306 men in those circumstances. They were, as the stark phrase put it, shot at dawn. The…

The Year 1000: a look at globalization’s roots

Author Valerie Hansen demonstrates that the concept of international trading networks and linkages goes back a very long way

The Year 1000: a look at globalization’s rootsValerie Hansen is an American academic who teaches history at Yale. She also writes books, of which 2012’s The Silk Road is perhaps the best known. Hansen’s latest book is The Year 1000. Provocatively subtitled When Explorers Connected the World – and Globalization Began, it’s a recounting of interconnectedness in the five centuries between 1000…

The legend of Davy Crockett

Disney’s 1950s version of the life of King of the Wild Frontier was, well, mostly historically correct

The legend of Davy CrockettIf you were a child in the 1950s, the chances are that Davy Crockett was briefly a part of your life. On December 15, 1954, the ABC television network broadcast the first episode of a new Disney mini-series loosely based on his exploits, two more episodes followed in January and February 1955, and a concluding…

Beware of bias in the social sciences

Liberal bias among researchers has implications for the quality of the research

Beware of bias in the social sciencesWhen it comes to discussion of public policy, the term evidence-based has assumed mantra status. Those who deploy it immediately grab the high ground, inoculating their views against criticism from the less informed – which generally translates into anyone who disagrees with them. It’s a neat trick if you can pull it off. Contrarians, mind…

A close-up look at J.F.K. on the campaign trail

Primary, a 1960 documentary, shows Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey battling it out in the Wisconsin primary trenches

A close-up look at J.F.K. on the campaign trailI recently came across a gem on the Turner Classic Movies schedule. Called Primary, it’s a 1960 documentary. The film is ostensibly a fly-on-the-wall record of the final days of Wisconsin’s 1960 Democratic presidential primary. In an era with far fewer such contests, it pitted U.S. Sen. John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts against U.S. Sen.…

Recalibrating globalization in a pandemic age

Who defines what’s essential and should thus be sourced domestically, even if it’s more expensive to do so?

Recalibrating globalization in a pandemic ageAutarky is an uncommon word that’s become a lot more common lately. It defines the extent to which a country chooses to be self-sufficient, thereby abjuring international trade. Typically, autarky is seen as an impoverishing thing. And it usually is. But in the current debate, it’s a red herring of the highest order. In order…

Exiting the lockdown with care and intelligence

Recognizing the devastating consequences of allowing the COVID-19 lockdown to go on indefinitely, Austria is gingerly moving forward

Exiting the lockdown with care and intelligenceSebastian Kurz is Austria’s 33-year-old chancellor. He’s also one of Europe’s most interesting political leaders. And as Austria takes its first steps towards exiting the COVID-19 lockdown, he’s putting himself out front again. First, a backgrounder on Kurz. With his youth, charisma and all-round media savvy, Kurz may superficially strike Canadians as an Austrian version…
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