Commentary and articles on books and historic news

Articles & Commentary

Lead illustration by Illustrations by Jan Feindt for The Chronicle article "Gin, Sex, Malaria, and the Hunt for Academic Prestige" by Charles Kingllustrations by Jan Feindt for The Chronicle

Gin, Sex, Malaria, and the Hunt for Academic Prestige

The Chronicle Review

How the misadventures of Margaret Mead, Reo Fortune, and Gregory Bateson shaped anthropology. “A living room in Grantwood, N.J., has a good claim to being the birthplace, in the late 1920s and early 1930s, of a new science of humankind. Amid the demands of advising and fund-raising, the chair of the Columbia University anthropology department,…

The Decline of International Studies

Foreign Affairs

Why Flying Blind Is Dangerous “In October 2013, the U.S. Department of State eliminated its funding program for advanced language and cultural training on Russia and the former Soviet Union. Created in 1983 as a special appropriation by Congress, the so-called Title VIII Program had supported generations of specialists working in academia, think tanks, and…

Refugees of the Bosphorus

Slate

Istanbul, 1944: A Bloomingdale’s executive and a future Pope teamed with Jewish intelligence agents to save hundreds of Eastern European Jews.  “Excerpted from Midnight at the Pera Palace: The Birth of Modern Istanbul by Charles King. Out now from W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. In the blustery February of 1944, a raven-haired Bloomingdale’s executive found himself…

Happy Captive Nations Week!

Slate

It’s that time of year when we are supposed to celebrate one of the weirdest artifacts of the Cold War. “Given the tragedy of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and the war in Gaza, you would be forgiven for having missed the fact that we are now in the middle of America’s annual Captive Nations Week….

Forgetting Odessa

Slate

The people of this great Ukrainian port city have a long record of getting their history wrong. Sometimes, that isn’t a bad thing. ” ‘People are worried now more than ever. You hear shooting in the streets, and barricades are going up. … The police are doing nothing or even going over to the side…

How the Horrors of Crimea Shaped Tolstoy

The New Republic

How a War Made the Great Russian Novelist “Leo Tolstoy was 26 years old when he first saw the ramparts of Sevastopol. The weather in Crimea in the early winter of 1854—subtropical, cool but not cold—was a paradise compared with the harsh snow and ice farther north. The city itself, though, was in chaos. The…

Crimea, the Tinderbox

The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — The Russian military intervention in Ukraine’s autonomous republic of Crimea has brought relations between the United States and Russia to their lowest level in a quarter century. It has transgressed the sovereignty of one of the most populous countries in Europe, violated the terms of a diplomatic agreement to respect Ukraine’s borders, and…