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A Fifteenth-Century Maritime Manuscript
Edited by Alan M. Stahl

In the fifteenth century, a Venetian mariner, Michael of Rhodes, wrote and illustrated a text describing his experiences in the Venetian merchant and military fleets. He included a treatise on commercial mathematics and treatments of contemporary shipbuilding practices, navigation, calendrical systems, and astrological ideas. This manuscript, "lost," or at least in unknown hands for over 400 years, has never been published or translated in its entirety until now.

According to Peter Sloterdijk, the twentieth century started on a specific day and place: April 22, 1915, at Ypres in Northern France. That day, the German army used a chlorine gas meant to exterminate indiscriminately. Until then, war, as described by Clausewitz and practiced by Napoleon, involved attacking the adversary's vital function first. Using poison gas signaled the passage from classical war to terrorism. This terror from the air inaugurated an era in which the main idea was no longer to target the enemy's body, but their environment.

A History

Nearly every empire worthy of the name—from ancient Rome to the United States—has sought an Egyptian obelisk to place in the center of a ceremonial space. Obelisks—giant standing stones, invented in Ancient Egypt as sacred objects—serve no practical purpose. For much of their history their inscriptions, in Egyptian hieroglyphics, were completely inscrutable. Yet over the centuries dozens of obelisks have made the voyage from Egypt to Rome, Constantinople, and Florence; to Paris, London, and New York.

American public history--in magazines and books, television documentaries, and museums--tends to celebrate its subject at all costs, even to the point of denial and distortion. This does us a great disservice, argues William Hogeland in Inventing American History. Looking at details glossed over in three examples of public history--the Alexander Hamilton revival, tributes to Pete Seeger and William F. Buckley, and the Constitution Center in Philadelphia--Hogeland considers what we lose when history is written to conform to political aims.

The History of a Cambridge Landscape

Fresh Pond Reservation, at the northwest edge of Cambridge, Massachusetts, has been described as a "landscape loved to death." Certainly it is a landscape that has been changed by its various uses over the years and one to which Cantabridgeans and Bostonians have felt an intense attachment.

The Visual Culture of Violence in the Late Middle Ages

Destroyed faces, dissolved human shapes, invisible enemies: violence and anonymity go hand in hand. The visual representation of extreme physical violence makes real people nameless exemplars of horror—formless, hideous, defaced. In Defaced, Valentin Groebner explores the roots of the visual culture of violence in medieval and Renaissance Europe and shows how contemporary visual culture has been shaped by late medieval images and narratives of violence.

This startlingly original (and sure to be controversial) account of the evolution of Christianity shows that the economics of religion has little to do with counting the money in the collection basket and much to do with understanding the background of today's religious and political divisions. Since religion is a set of organized beliefs, and a church is an organized body of worshippers, it's natural to use a science that seeks to explain the behavior of organizations--economics--to understand the development of organized religion.

Why Columbus Sailed South to the Indies

Everyone knows that in 1492 Christopher Columbus sailed west across the Atlantic, seeking a new route to the East. Few note, however, that Columbus's intention was also to sail south, to the tropics. In The Tropics of Empire, Nicolás Wey Gómez rewrites the geographical history of the discovery of the Americas, casting it as part of Europe's reawakening to the natural and human resources of the South.

The Body and Violence in Mesopotamia

Rituals of War is an investigation into the earliest historical records of violence and biopolitics. In Mesopotamia, ancient (ca. 3000-500 BCE) Iraqi rituals of war and images of violence constituted part of the magical technologies of warfare that formed the underlying irrational processes of war. In Rituals of War, Zainab Bahrani weaves together three lines of inquiry into one historical domain of violence: war, the body, and representation.

A Cultural History of Arousal

In Praise of the Whip: A Cultural History of Arousal is a new history of voluntary flagellation in Europe, from its invention in medieval religious devotion to its use in the modern pornographic imagination. Working with a wide range of religious, literary, and medical texts and images, Niklaus Largier explores the emotional and sensual, religious and erotic excitement of the whip, a crucial instrument of stimulation in devotional and sexual practices.

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