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…

A dose of COVID-19 reality

We need to put the numbers in context, take a close look at Germany's health-care system and be prepared to exit the lockdown

A dose of COVID-19 realityLast week’s column was my first on COVID-19. Here are some further thoughts. Numbers in context A perpetual peeve relates to raw numbers being headlined without reference to the relevant denominator. If you don’t have that context, you get a potentially misleading story. COVID-19 deaths are a striking example. There’s been much focus on the…

COVID-19 will prompt a rethink of globalization

In the wake of COVID-19, we need to reconfigure our economy and society so they are less vulnerable to external shocks

COVID-19 will prompt a rethink of globalizationAmerican historian Frank Snowden pulls no punches. He says the “coronavirus is emphatically a disease of globalization.” And the most severe blows strike at cities that are “densely populated and linked by rapid air travel, by movements of tourists, of refugees, all kinds of businesspeople, all kinds of interlocking networks.” In this respect, the virus…

Are Trump and Sanders two sides of the same coin?

Their experiences in gaining traction as presidential candidates certainly suggest so, even if their ideologies are markedly different

Are Trump and Sanders two sides of the same coin?Despite appearing to be polar opposites, do U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders actually have a lot in common? Are they perhaps two sides of the same coin, two peas in a pod? Let’s consider. The hostile takeover Neither Trump nor Sanders emerged as presidential candidates with the blessing of party establishments.…

Flu pandemic of 1918 brutal, virulent killer

One hundred years ago, a flu pandemic swept across the world, killing tens of millions of people, particularly those in the prime of life

Flu pandemic of 1918 brutal, virulent killerFrom the wet and windswept northwest of Ireland to rural southwestern Ontario, the flu pandemic of 1918 to 1920 was remorseless. My mother and my wife’s father lost siblings to an illness where death might come within 24 hours of first symptoms. And sometimes it was particularly brutal. Historian John Barry has described it this…
1 2 3 7