I’ll fight you with one language tied behind my back

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A certain Cassonet went off for Christmas communion and then apparently off to dine. He came home to find the strike plate (gâche) of his door broken. Agitated, incensed and apparently blaming some Frenchman for the property damage, he began spouting imprecations against all the refugees who had poured into Geneva, saying that it would […]

Setting the Price of Wine

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Wine was of course culturally important throughout Christian Europe, though as a foodstuff it was primarily a southern food, being an expensive imported product in the north. Geneva, as with language and law, lay near the traditional dividing line between the north and the south. But with the Rhône river running to the south, wine […]

Where Sixteenth-Century Genevans Kept Their Reading Material

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Half of what I know, I learned while reading on the john. That’s probably an understatement, but I’m not sure of how to accurately assess the true number. I don’t want to bore anyone with my hygiene habits, but it does raise a burning question for early-modern historians: did denizens of Jean Calvin’s Geneva read […]

The Courting Stick

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I was looking for some information on “bundling” because I was writing about the common custom of having sex between engagement and marriage and wanted to distinguish this custom from the courting custom of bundling (essentially sleeping together fully clothed, perhaps under supervision, during the courting process). Anyway, I came across mention of a courting […]

Meets Expectations (a one-sentence novel)

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As I sat in front of the television in my bathrobe eating cold soup straight from the can, I was struck by the feeling that I was not going to exceed my father’s expectations. Epilogue. My hopes were renewed when I noted that at least I had taken time to dig a spoon from the […]

Hitler, Bush and Historical Accuracy

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“An evil exists that threatens every man, woman and child of this great nation. We must take steps to insure our domestic security and protect our Homeland.” This quote, according to hundreds of pages on the web, is by Adolf Hitler from a 1933 (or 1932 or 1922 on some pages) announcement of the creation […]

Ludlow Amendment, the Draft, and a culture of war

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I’m reading the somewhat disappointing book Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How They Changed America 1789-1989 by Michael Beschloss. I’ll have to do a complete review, but in brief, the disappointing part is that in most episodes, I get to the end and think “Oh, it’s over.” Somehow it reads a bit like a core […]

The Great Catchphrases of Presidential Administrations

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It seems that every great president says or provokes a succinct quote or two that somehow define his administration for years to come, catchphrase that “tag” their time in power and their era. My memory only goes back so far, and I’m a European not American history, so I’m sketchy on pre-Nixon examples. But I’ve […]

Lost Lessons from the War on Communism

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One would think that, having spent the second half of the twentieth century fighting one protractrated struggle against an implacable ideological enemy, we might have learned something. The Bush administration’s actions would seem to indicate that we did not. What should we have learned? That in a war of ideals, ideals that are not practiced […]

John Calvin Joins The Ranter in the War on Christmas

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NEWSFLASH: The Ranter has declared war on Christmas! Or at least Bill O’Reilly and John Gibson and the other genius right-wingers at Faux News believe that liberal, left, secularists like The Ranter have declared war on Christmas. I hate to disappoint, so I have created a “Make war on Christmas, not Iraq” bumper sticker. Joining […]