Margaret Thatcher and the end of apartheid

The Thatcher-Nelson Mandela relationship is a reflection of how very different people can evolve a respectful, albeit wary, understanding

Margaret Thatcher and the end of apartheidMargaret Thatcher isn’t a name most people associate with the end of South African apartheid. But Thatcher biographer Charles Moore begs to differ. And he devotes a lengthy chapter in his third volume about the former British prime minister to making his case. As Moore tells it, Thatcher’s goal was to convince the white South…

Adolf Hitler’s fateful mistake

If Hitler had declared war on Japan in support of the U.S., he might have kept the U.S. out of the European war. And that would have changed history

Adolf Hitler’s fateful mistakeAdolf Hitler began 1941 in a commanding position. He had 10 European conquests under his belt and just one active foe – beleaguered Britain and the members of the Commonwealth, like Canada. But by year-end, he’d added the Soviet Union and the United States to his slate of antagonists. And the declaration of war against…

Diving into man’s complicated relationship with war

Diving into man’s complicated relationship with warOn Remembrance Day, as chance would have it, I was reading Margaret MacMillan’s latest book, War: How Conflict Shaped Us. MacMillan is a Canadian historian most famous for two works connected to the First World War – Paris 1919 and The War That Ended Peace. Her new book builds on a series of lectures she…

Early takeaways from the U.S. election

Early takeaways from the U.S. electionLet’s begin with a caveat: As of writing – Friday – the vote counting still isn’t finished in the U.S. So these observations are a tad provisional. That said, here are my takeaways of Tuesday’s United States election: The Democratic wave didn’t happen The anticipation was for a sweeping Democratic win on all three levels.…

The “smart money” is on a Donald Trump exit. But …

The only polling company to call the 2016 election right is calling for another Trump victory

The “smart money” is on a Donald Trump exit. But …Let’s start by noting my track record regarding Donald Trump. I got it wrong in 2016. I initially gave him little chance of winning the Republican nomination. I even speculated about his dropping out before voting began. Then I was astonished to see him win the general election. It wasn’t a matter of believing the…

Was Oliver Cromwell the Great Satan?

Some historians argue that the reality is more nuanced than the legend and that he played a significant role in the creation of modern England

Was Oliver Cromwell the Great Satan?When last week’s column referred to Oliver Cromwell as the “Great Satan,” my tongue was in my cheek. But many people do think of him in those terms. So let’s take a look at the man, his works and his historical reputation. Cromwell (1599 to 1658) rose to prominence during the 1640s. Starting as a…

Julius Caesar’s assassins paid the price

Some died in battle, some by suicide, and at least one after being tortured then beheaded

Julius Caesar’s assassins paid the priceEnglish author Peter Stothard’s latest book is called The Last Assassin: The Hunt for the Killers of Julius Caesar. I’ve only seen reviews but it looks like a good read. Growing up in 1950s Ireland, Caesar was one of those ancient figures who loomed large. Part of this was no more than the schoolboy’s normal…

Presidential health coverup much easier to pull off in 1944

Roosevelt was much sicker than anyone let on during the election campaign. In fact, he died just a few months into his new term

Presidential health coverup much easier to pull off in 1944A few days ago, a Toronto radio newscaster used the word “unprecedented” while describing the drama around U.S. President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis. And it’s true. No previous election had such a story just weeks before going to the polls. That’s because 2020 is a more transparent world. In 1944, Franklin D. Roosevelt – the…

Memories of Walter Reuther, an American labour giant

Reuther had his finger in everything from labour negotiations to legislation to civil rights to election campaigns

Memories of Walter Reuther, an American labour giantAmity Shlaes’ Great Society is a chronicle of the United States in the mid-20th century. And reading it reminded me of Walter Reuther, a once famous name I’d almost forgotten. Reuther was a hugely influential player in organized labour and Democratic politics. With the United Auto Workers (UAW) as his power base, he had his…

A guaranteed annual income is complicated

Richard Nixon and Pat Moynihan had a plan to end poverty. In the end, it was far too complicated, and languished and died

A guaranteed annual income is complicatedWhether it’s called a guaranteed annual income or a universal basic income, this currently fashionable idea isn’t new. And the fact that it hasn’t happened yet is a tipoff to the associated complexities. One of the earliest proponents was an American right-winger. In 1962’s Capitalism and Freedom, libertarian economist Milton Friedman proposed what he called…

John Turner’s poisoned chalice

Succeeding Pierre Trudeau came with own baggage. As a result, Turner, a former golden boy of the Liberals who died Saturday, never fulfilled his promise

John Turner’s poisoned chaliceSeveral years ago, I found myself standing beside John Turner outside a Toronto church after a Christmas concert. He was alone and nobody was paying attention to him. It seemed strangely anonymous for a man who’d been prime minister, not to mention a one-time golden boy of Liberal politics. Then again, Turner was a guy…

The perpetual fascination with Robin Hood

The bawdy, brutal outlaw of the original ballads doesn’t fit with the noble figure of popular mid-20th-century presentations

The perpetual fascination with Robin HoodAs historical figures go, Robin Hood is a source of perpetual fascination. Mind you, I use the term “historical figure” very loosely because there’s no convincing evidence that he ever existed. Or at least not in anything resembling the legend we’re familiar with. While the earliest written stories date back to ballads printed in the…

Will the 2020 presidential election be a rerun of 1980?

Like Jimmy Carter in 1980, Donald Trump is an incumbent who needs to raise doubts about his rival

Will the 2020 presidential election be a rerun of 1980?William A. Galston writes a weekly column for the Wall Street Journal. He’s partisan – a liberal Democrat – but invariably worth reading. Once you know where he’s coming from, you can apply the appropriate filters. And there’s often a significant element of plausibility in his analysis. Galston’s first September column lays out his take…

The power life of a medieval heiress

The combination of Isabel de Clare’s inherited wealth and William Marshal’s earned status made for a fortuitous pairing

The power life of a medieval heiressThe teenage Isabel de Clare was a desirable prize in the late 12th century marriage market. As the heiress to substantial lands in Ireland, Wales, England and Normandy, she had much to offer. Both sides of her pedigree contributed to this inheritance. Isabel’s father was Richard de Clare, popularly known as Strongbow. He came from…

The 1960 Olympics were spectacular in more ways than one

Wilma Rudolph, Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali), Peter Snell and Herb Elliott were the brightest stars in Rome

The 1960 Olympics were spectacular in more ways than oneSixty years ago this week, the Summer Olympics kicked off. From Aug. 25 to Sept. 11, Rome was the centre of international sporting attention as athletes from more than 80 countries competed for glory. And there was more happening than athletic competition. The Second World War had only concluded 15 years previously and the selection…
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