An American Journalist Under Castro’s Shadow

by David Ariosto

For David Ariosto, the island of Cuba is an intriguing new world, unmoored from the one he left behind. From neighboring military coups, suspected honey traps, salty spooks, and desperate migrants to dissidents, doctors, and Havana’s empty shelves, Ariosto uncovers the island’s subtle absurdities, its Cold War mystique, and the hopes of a people in the throes of transition. Beyond the classic cars, salsa, and cigars lies a country in which black markets are ubiquitous, free speech is restricted, privacy is curtailed, sanctions wreak havoc, and an almost Kafka-esque goo of Soviet-style bureaucracy still slows the gears of an economy desperate to move forward.

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Posted in Modern History

Recovering History’s Most Expensive Turtle

by Peter Laufer

The clash of old and new in Yunnan Province, China, is mind-numbing. Ancient Buddhist temples vie for attention with massive infrastructure projects around the provincial capital, Kunming: parades of towering apartment blocks, superhighways and bullet trains. One ancient that seemed gone without a trace was the gentle Yunnan box turtle, Cuora yunnanensis. Hunted—as are turtles and tortoises worldwide—for pets, food and medicine, the shy animal disappeared.

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Posted in Contemporary History

Christmas in 1920s America

by Maia Chance

In 1921, Frances Lester Warner described a Christmas Eve scene in Boston with “red and white crystal” in shop windows, “lights gleaming on the slippery cross-streets, throngs of last-minute shoppers” and “bright posters still cheerfully advising us to do our shopping early.” She wrote of a “tall Santa Claus, bearded and red-cheeked, scarlet-coated, white-furred, with a sprig of holly in his cap,” of girls ringing Salvation Army bells, gaily-colored Christmas magazines on the newsstand, wreaths for sale at the flower stall, and a peddler on the corner selling glossy holly from a crate.

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Posted in Early Modern History, Modern History

Therese Anne Fowler’s A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts

by Therese Anne Fowler

Alva Smith, her southern family destitute after the Civil War, married into one of America’s great Gilded Age dynasties: the newly wealthy but socially shunned Vanderbilts. Ignored by New York’s old-money circles and determined to win respect, she designed and built nine mansions, hosted grand balls, and arranged for her daughter to marry a duke. But Alva also defied convention for women of her time, asserting power within her marriage and becoming a leader in the women’s suffrage movement.

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Posted in Early Modern History, Modern History

Hitler’s American Friends: Charles Lindbergh and ‘America First’

Charles Lindbergh

by Bradley W. Hart

On September 11, 1941, one of America’s most famous celebrities took to a stage before a raucous crowd in Des Moines, Iowa.

This was famed aviator Charles Lindbergh—nicknamed Lucky Lindy—addressing a crowd of America First supporters three months before Pearl Harbor. For months, Lindbergh had been traveling the country giving similar speeches opposing U.S. entry into the war in Europe. Tonight’s speech was different, though. There were, he told the crowd that evening, three groups that had conspired to draw the country into the conflict: “the British, the Jewish and the Roosevelt Administration.” Together, he continued, these groups had executed a plan to draw the country into war gradually by building up its military and then manufacturing a series of “incidents” to “force us into the actual conflict.”

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Posted in Modern History

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