The Two Men Who Ruled the Underworld of Old Shanghai

by Paul French

Shanghai, 1930s: It was a haven for outlaws from all over the world; a place where pasts could be forgotten, fascism and communism outrun, names invented, and fortunes made—and lost.

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Posted in Modern History

Robert Todd Lincoln—Blessed and Cursed

by Philip Jett

Robert Todd Lincoln did not resemble his famous father. At seven inches shorter and quite a few pounds heavier, many who met him were disappointed. He lacked the ability to spin a tale like his father, often referred to as an “unsympathetic bore.” Yet, after his brothers died at ages three, eleven, and eighteen, Robert became the only living legacy of the most popular U.S. president.

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Posted in Modern History

The Real Women Who Inspired Downton Abbey

by Anne de Courcy

Towards the end of the nineteenth century and for the first few years of the twentieth, a strange invasion took place in Britain. The citadel of power, privilege, and breeding in which the titled, land-owning governing class had barricaded itself for so long was breached. The incomers were a group of young women who, fifty years earlier, would have been looked on as the alien denizens of another world—the New World, to be precise. From 1874—the year that Jennie Jerome, the first known ‘Dollar Princess’, married Randolph Churchill—to 1905, dozens of young American heiresses married into the British peerage, bringing with them all the fabulous wealth, glamour and sophistication of the Gilded Age.

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Posted in Modern History

Henry James, the Bowery, and New York Jews

by Alice Sparberg Alexiou

In 1904, at the apex of his career, Henry James came home from Europe for the first time in more than 20 years. He’d written many books—Daisy Miller, The Wings of the Dove, What Maisie Knew, Portrait of a Lady, The Golden Bowl—about his favorite subject: people like himself, genteel ex-patriots who’d embraced the luxury and ambiance of the Old World. He had looked at every facet of his obsession with Americans living abroad, and rendered their nuances into his gorgeous but often infuriating prose, with its too-long, overly embedded sentences. This was the idiom of an American writing in English, and living on the Continent. But now, James, back in the rude, fresh New World, had a whole new angle for viewing his compatriots.

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Posted in Modern History

The History Behind the Mystery: Maze Master

by Kathleen O’Neal Gear

A reporter once told me that our library could pass for a crime lab.  Skulls detailing the history of humanity line the shelves and perch on pedestals, beginning with a diminutive acrylic cast of Australopithecus afarensis, running through a variety of Homo erectus examples, then on to the impressive skulls of Neandertals, who had larger brains than modern humans, and finally through a selection of prehistoric human skulls from cultures around the world. The neatly defined sections of books beneath the skulls are devoted to the chronology of human evolution.  As anthropologists, my husband Michael and I are fascinated by the long journey of Homo sapiens.  The question every anthropologist wants to answer is: What are we and how did we come to be?

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Posted in Ancient History, Modern History

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