johnmfrench + history   154

Editorial Visions | Lapham’s Quarterly
How the editors of popular magazines like Ladies' Home Journal, Cosmopolitan, and McClure's once harbored grand ambitions for transforming society through the power of their publications.
magazines  history  gender  journalism  education 
4 days ago by johnmfrench
How Feminists Became Democrats - POLITICO Magazine
An adapted section of Sam Rosenfeld's "The Polarizers," about how the ideological consolidation of the parties pushed feminizes out of the Republicans.
history  feminism  women  gender  PSC_217  polarization  politics 
11 days ago by johnmfrench
Historicizing the Self-Evident: An Interview with Lorraine Daston - Los Angeles Review of Books
Interview with Daston, mainly about her work on the idea of probability and attempts to automate or mechanize judgment, which are precursors to algorithmic decision-making systems today.
science  history  history_of_ideas  probability  math  automation  algorithms  technology  objectivity  reason  rationality 
9 weeks ago by johnmfrench
The Amazing Resiliency of White Wealth - CityLab
On the ability of whites to regain lost welsh after the civil war, and the laws and actions that prevented African Americans from making similar gains.
race  history  economics  inequality  civil_war  racism 
december 2019 by johnmfrench
The Invention of Thanksgiving | The New Yorker
Phil Deloria on the myths and realities of Thanksgiving, and the role the myth has played in American culture and history.
thanksgiving  history  indians  native_americans 
december 2019 by johnmfrench
How Segregation Caused Your Traffic Jam - The New York Times
Connects the use of highways in urban areas to construct "boundary vacuums," separating white and black residents, to persistent traffic problems in Atalanta and other cities today.
segregation  history  race  racism  cities  urban_planning  transportation  power_in_city 
august 2019 by johnmfrench
From ball pits to water slides: the designer who changed children’s playgrounds for ever | News | The Guardian
On Eric McMillan, whose design for a playground in Ontario Place, in Toronto, created a new, but short-lived, paradigm for playgrounds, based on exploration and autonomy, with spaces and equipment that could be used in multiple ways.
history  children  playgrounds  play  safety  design 
august 2019 by johnmfrench
Other People’s Photographs
How viewing photos without historical or social or personal context may prompt surprising interpretations.
photography  luc_sante  photo  history 
july 2019 by johnmfrench
[no title]
Short essay by Kyle Westphal on 1939 film "The City," for the National Film Preservation Board.
cities  urban  film  history  power_in_city  preservation 
february 2019 by johnmfrench
When the Camera Was a Weapon of Imperialism. (And When It Still Is.) - The New York Times
Teju Cole's final (!) On Photography column, on the use of photography by colonial powers to catalogue their domain and display their authority.
history  photography  teju_cole  colonialism 
february 2019 by johnmfrench
The British Once Built a 1,100-Mile Hedge Through the Middle of India - Atlas Obscura
On the "Great Hedge of India," built by the British in the 19th century to help enforce the salt tax.
india  history  colonialism  infrastructure 
december 2018 by johnmfrench
Haint Blue, the Ghost-Tricking Color of Southern Homes and Gullah Folktales - The Awl
On the practice of painting porch ceilings "haint blue," a light blue color, to deceive vengeful spirits. The idea is drawn from Gullah folklore.
history  design  culture  color  gullah  south  race 
december 2018 by johnmfrench
The Ugly History of Beautiful Things: Perfume
Perfume as a combination of beautiful and disgusting.
history  senses  smell  scent  perfume  nature 
december 2018 by johnmfrench
Demolishing the California Dream: How San Francisco Planned Its Own Housing Crisis | Collectors Weekly
On the use of zoning and other regulations to maintain racial segregation, and how that policy precipitated he housing shortage in San Francisco.
history  housing  segregation  racism  zoning  urban_planning  power_in_city 
november 2018 by johnmfrench
The Lifespan of a Lie – Trust Issues – Medium
On the Stanford Prison Experiment, which continues to be referenced and taught as an example of the effect of situational pressures on individual behavior, despite deep and well-known flaws and even outright lies told by Zimbardo about how the experiment progressed.
history  psychology  prisons  behavior 
june 2018 by johnmfrench
Here be Witchcraft - LASSCO - England's Prime Resource for Architectural Antiques, Salvage and Curiosities
Blog post from an architectural salvage company about apotropaic marks— symbols intended to ward off evil, carved, painted, or burned into the beams or walls of homes built in the 16th and 17th centuries.
magic  religion  architecture  buildings  history 
may 2018 by johnmfrench
The Man Who Led the Harlem Renaissance—and His Hidden Hungers | The New Yorker
Review of a biography of Alain Locke, who promoted and helped publish many of the writers and artists of the Harlem Renaissance, but whose relationship to them and the debates of the day was strained and full of tensions.
harlem_renaissance  alain_locke  writers  writing  race  history  literature  book_review  biography 
may 2018 by johnmfrench
How Arrow-Wielding Men Mapped Britain in the 1940s - Atlas Obscura
On a recently-discovered archive of photos of people marking "revision points" for the British ordnance map, using large wooden arrows to point to the specific landmarks. Weird and interesting.
maps  history  photogprahy  surveying  cartography  infrastructure 
april 2018 by johnmfrench
Kay Boyle Knew Everyone and Saw It All | Humanities
Capsule biography and critical appraisal of the writer Kay Boyle, who was part of the "Lost Generation" of the 1920s and 30s (though she rejected this label). Well-known and regarded by both ears and critics, she has mostly fallen off the map now.
writers  writing  literature  history  women  kay_boyle 
april 2018 by johnmfrench
“Black Panther” and the Invention of “Africa” | The New Yorker
Jelani Cobb on Black Panther and the idea of a united Africa that connects all black people. He's not at all critical of this idea, which I found surprising.
movies  film  black_panther  race  history  africa 
march 2018 by johnmfrench
CABINET // Language at the End of the World
On rongorongo, the undeciphered writing system of Easter Island. Apparently developed in response to seeing European writing, the time between its development and its loss was remarkably short.
history  language  writing  easter_island 
february 2018 by johnmfrench
How the Index Card Cataloged the World - The Atlantic
On the invention of the index card as a means of keeping track of large quantities of information, which the author attributes to Linnaeus, who began using slips of paper of a standard size for each new species.
science  history  indexing  cataloguing  information  informationoverload 
december 2017 by johnmfrench
Why Richard Avedon’s Work Has Never Been More Relevant - The New York Times
Kind of a review of a reissue of Avedon's "Nothing Personal," but also a defense of him against the assumption that he was mainly or merely a fashion photography. I have to admit, this is more or less what I thought, so I need to take another look.
photogprahy  photographers  richard_avedon  book_review  race  history  james_baldwin 
november 2017 by johnmfrench
The Neo-Confederate Haunting American Liberalism | Dissent Magazine
Review of the book "The House of Truth: A Washington Political Salon and the Foundations of American Liberalism," by Brad Snyder, but focused on the figure of Gutzon Borglum, a regular attendee at the "House of Truth," was liberal Washington political salon, and also had close and friendly relations with the KKK, designed the Confederate monument at Stone Mountain, and was generally in favor of a form of American nationalism that had, at least racial overtones. Author of the review more or less takes it for granted that ANY American nationalism must, by definition, have racial overtones, which is not clear to me.
history  nationalism  book_review  art  liberalism  gutzon_borglum 
november 2017 by johnmfrench
The Emperor’s New Music | Lapham’s Quarterly
Really interesting piece about the use of folk songs by Chinese rulers as a kind of barometer for public attitudes toward their regimes. Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE) created a Music Bureau (Yuefu) to collect and perform these songs, possibly at least partly for this reason. He also became enamored of a young eunuch named Li Yiannian, who composed many songs for the court and was made head of the Yuefu until losing the emperor's favor.
china  history  music  politics 
october 2017 by johnmfrench
The Man the Presidency Changed - POLITICO Magazine
Shortish piece on Chester Alan Arthur's shift from machine functionary to civil service reformer.
history  president  government  corruption  civil_service  machine_politics  psc120 
september 2017 by johnmfrench
Finding North America’s lost medieval city | Ars Technica
Long piece on Cahokia and its excavation. Archaeologists think the city was built primarily as a spiritual center, as part of some kind of religious revival movement, with economic concerns secondary. At its height in 1050 BCE, it has as many as 30,000 people. Many unanswered questions about why, after about 400 years, most of that population left.
archaeology  science  history  native_americans  cahokia 
september 2017 by johnmfrench
From Ptolemy to GPS, the Brief History of Maps | Innovation | Smithsonian
Very brief history of maps and mapping, with some vague speculation about how GPS and turn-by-turn directions affect our ability to navigate.
maps  cartography  technology  GPS  history 
july 2017 by johnmfrench
Story of cities #27: Singapore – the most meticulously planned city in the world | Cities | The Guardian
How Lee Kwan Yew planned and built Singapore virtually from the ground up (thanks to bombing during WWII that wiped the slate clean, so to speak), creating a city that works very well, but only through continued strict regulation of the behavior of its residents.
cities  history  urban  urban_planning  governmentality  power_in_city 
june 2017 by johnmfrench
Woodcuts and Witches | The Public Domain Review
One the importance of easily-reproduced woodcut illustrations for spreading ideas about witchcraft in early modern Europe— and feeding the hysteria that led to the trial and execution of those accused of its practice.
art  witches  witchcraft  magic  religion  history  law 
may 2017 by johnmfrench
Could history of humans in North America be rewritten by broken bones? | Science | The Guardian
New research on mammoth bones found in California may suggest that homo sapiens were present in the Americas as long as 130,000 years ago. The evidence suggests that the bones were "processed," meaning broken or smashed with stone tools, which may also be present at the site. Significant questions remain about the dating of the bones, as well as the hypothesis about how they were broken. If confirmed, this would also lead to questions about how these humans got there— whether over the Bering land bridge, or by water from Asia on some kind of boats.
archaeology  anthropology  history  native_americans 
april 2017 by johnmfrench
Jill Lepore on the Challenge of Explaining Things | Public Books
Really interesting interview with Jill Lepore, focusing mainly on how communications technology affects the quality of political information and debate. She suggests, among other things, that party realignments in the US usually accompany changes in communications technology.
history  writing  technology  jill_lepore 
april 2017 by johnmfrench
A publisher of one's own: Virginia and Leonard Woolf and the Hogarth Press | Books | The Guardian
Unfortunately short piece about the Hogarth Press, started by Virginia and Leonard Woolf in 1917. The first output was hand-set by the Woolfs on a hand-cranked press.
books  writers  writing  publishing  history  virginia_woolf 
april 2017 by johnmfrench
Darwin's Early Adopters | Public Books
Really interesting review easy on Randall Fuller's "The Book that Changed America," about the impact of "The Origin of Species." In particular, Fuller argues that Darwin provided abolitionists with a counterargument to the theory of polygenesis.
books  book_review  darwin  evolution  science  history 
april 2017 by johnmfrench
How economic boom times in the West came to an end | Aeon Essays
Marc Levinson argues that the end of the Great Compression, though possibly kicked off by the oil embargo, was ultimately not the result of any particular policies, but the fact that technological innovations that had boosted productivity were largely one-time events, and the newer innovations of the latter part of the 20th century were more disruptive and didn't produce the same kinds of wide-spread benefits.
politics  history  economics  inequality 
february 2017 by johnmfrench
How did Europe become the richest part of the world? | Aeon Essays
Argues that the "Great Enrichment" of Europe occurred through a combination of fragmented politics and competition between states, on the one hand, and the easy sharing and transfer of knowledge among a small, educated elite, on the other.
europe  history  economics  enlightenment  science 
february 2017 by johnmfrench
Neanderthals Were People, Too - The New York Times
Really fascinating story about, firstly, recent evidence that has changed our understanding of Neanderthals, which now appear to have been a distinct human group that lived alongside our own ancestors. It's as much about misconception and the way we extrapolate too far from too little evidence, and the ways in which this extrapolations reflect our own concerns and preoccupations.
neanderthals  anthropology  archaeology  paleoanthropology  history  science 
february 2017 by johnmfrench
How Think Tanks Became Engines of Royal Propaganda – Tablet Magazine
Describes the rise of independent research centers, specializing in legal and historical documents, and their later co-optation by the state, especially Colbert in France during the reign of Louis XIV.
think_tanks  intellectuals  governmentality  history  france 
february 2017 by johnmfrench
Love and Black Lives, in Pictures Found on a Brooklyn Street - The New York Times
A photo album found in the trash leads to the story of a black family, and neighborhood, in post-WWII Brooklyn.
history  family  photogprahy 
january 2017 by johnmfrench
Cipher War - The Verge
About efforts, lasting more than a century, to decipher the Indus Valley script, found mostly in thousands of very short fragments on clay tablets. Now using machine learning techniques to detect patterns; there is debate, though, about whether the script represents language, per se, at all, or e.g., a method of accounting, listing the names of gods, etc. So, the question is whether the patterns found are the right kinds of patterns for a linguistic system or not.
language  indus_valley  writing  communication  artificial_intelligence  india  history  archaeology 
january 2017 by johnmfrench
How statistics lost their power – and why we should fear what comes next | William Davies | Politics | The Guardian
On the connections between statistics and the power of the state, and the growing perception of statistics as an elite form of evidence, detached from the experiences of "real people." Leads to a preference for anecdotal and narrative forms of evidence, which are particular and rooted in a real life.
politics  statistics  history  data  big_data  narrative  evidence  science  governmentality 
january 2017 by johnmfrench
They Called Her Mrs. Sherlock Holmes – Narratively
An excerpt of a book about Grace Humiston, first female U.S. District Attorney, and her investigation of the disappearance of Ruth Cruger in New York in 1917.
history  crime  women 
january 2017 by johnmfrench
Martha Matilda Harper, the Greatest Businesswoman You’ve Never Heard Of | Atlas Obscura
Harper opened the first public hair salon, was among the first to make a business of hair care rather than hair styling, and may have been the first franchiser, opening 500 salons all over the world run almost entirely by relatively poor women.
history  women  gender  business  hair  beauty 
january 2017 by johnmfrench
Semaphore: The World’s First Telegraph | Amusing Planet
Short article about Europe's semaphore towers, a kind of "optical telegraph" for relaying messages over long distances by positioning wooden beams and relaying the positions from tower to tower.
communication  technology  history  codes 
january 2017 by johnmfrench
This 3,500-Year-Old Greek Tomb Upended What We Thought We Knew About the Roots of Western Civilization | History | Smithsonian
Describes the discovery near Nestor's palace at Pylos of an intact grave from about 1400 BC. The style of the burial and the artifacts found in it suggest that, rather than Mycenaean kingdom simply replacing the Minoans through conquest or Minoan collapse, the two cultures existed together in a network of mutual influence.
archaeology  history  ancient  greek 
january 2017 by johnmfrench
‘We Couldn’t Believe Our Eyes’: A Lost World of Shipwrecks Is Found - The New York Times
Describes the discovery of over 40 shipwrecks, ranging from the 19th century to the Byzantine era (!), all extremely well-preserved by the low-oxygen environment of the Black Sea off of Bulgaria.
archaeology  shipwrecks  history  science 
december 2016 by johnmfrench
Laser Scans Unveil a Network of Ancient Cities in Cambodia - The New York Times
A project using LIDAR to scan the area of Angkor, revealing a much larger, more complex city than previously supposed.
archaeology  history  cambodia  lidar  technology 
september 2016 by johnmfrench
Incredible discovery of intact female figurine from neolithic era in Turkey | Ars Technica
One of those female figures with exaggerated hips and breasts, common in the middle east, found perfectly intact, over 8000 years old. Turns out they most probably are NOT fertility goddesses, but stylized representations of respected older women from he society.
archaeology  turkey  women  history 
september 2016 by johnmfrench
Checkmate for a broken republic: on Benjamin and Brecht
Review of a book about the friendship of Bertolt Brecht and Walter Benjamin. I hadn't known that Benjamin killed himself because he was blocked from leaving Europe as the Nazis advanced.
walter_benjamin  bertolt_brecht  writers  literature  history  WWII  book_review  biography 
september 2016 by johnmfrench
The rise and fall and rise of the GIF
Too-brief history of the GIF format, seeking to explain how it went from an emblem of bad web design to the visual language of the internet.
gifs  formats  images  internet  technology  history 
august 2016 by johnmfrench
The No. 1 Song in Heaven — The Ringer
The story of Harvy Fuqua, leader of the Moonglows and author of their hit "Sincerely," and his exploitation by the payola DJ Alan Freed.
music  history  music_industry  race 
july 2016 by johnmfrench
Dime After Dime: A Gripping History of Claw Machines | Mental Floss
More or less what it says, although it's mostly focused on the earlier "digger" type of machine, which predominated until the 1970s.
games  arcade  history 
july 2016 by johnmfrench
The Past Hundred Years Of Gender-Segregated Public Restrooms
Describes how the public restroom has long been a site where social roles are contested, and not just gender. Sounds a little bit like a gender studies textbook at times, but still full of good information.
bathrooms  LGBTQ  trans_rights  civil_rights  sexuality  gender  history  homophobia 
may 2016 by johnmfrench
Lord Acton and History | Open Letters Monthly - an Arts and Literature Review
Biographical sketch of Lord Acton, Victorian historian and scholar. Very interesting, complicated guy, who saw liberty as the highest end of political society but supported the Confederacy in the US Civil War, arguing that slavery was necessary for democracy.
history  biography  victorians  lord_acton  historian 
may 2016 by johnmfrench
The Battle Over the Sea-Monkey Fortune - The New York Times
Describes the legal battle over the right to sell Amazing Live Sea Monkeys. Involves a Jewish Neo-Nazi, his former exploitation-film-star widow, and the cross-breeding of brine shrimp for longer incubation.
law  trademark  sea_monkeys  weird  history  marketing  scams 
may 2016 by johnmfrench
Famed Architect Philip Johnson’s Hidden Nazi Past | Vanity Fair
More or less what it says. Describes how Johnson became close to the German propaganda machine, wrote articles for fascist newspapers in America, and affiliated himself (more or less) with Huey Long and Father Charles Coughlin, ( a fascist-leaning priest with a radio show the drew millions of listeners).
history  architects  architecture  fascism  philip_johnson  nazi  WWII 
april 2016 by johnmfrench
The Tragic History of RC Cola | Mental Floss
How RC almost became a real contender in the American soda market, but was brought low by fear of cyclamate.
food  soda  history  business  marketing  health 
april 2016 by johnmfrench
Segregation Now - ProPublica
Heartbreaking, enraging story about how school segregation, in particular in the South, has grown worse wince the end of the 1980s, when many school districts began to seek, and receive, release from court orders designed to force integration.
race  racism  segregation  education  history  law  PSC_235 
april 2016 by johnmfrench
‘Shuffle Along’ and the Lost History of Black Performance in America - The New York Times
John Jeremiah Sullivan's fascinating capsule history of the radical politics of performance and entertainment around the turn of the century, approached through the ongoing revival (sort of) of one of the earliest successful all-Black musicals.
theatre  performance  race  history  music 
april 2016 by johnmfrench
Joseph Brodsky, Darker and Brighter | The Nation
Review of a new biography of Brodsky, written in English but now published only in Russian. Interesting mostly for the contentiousness over Brodsky's image, and the disconnects between his life in America and his life and reception in Russia.
poetry  poets  writers  literature  history  cold_war  soviet_union  russia  joseph_brodsky 
april 2016 by johnmfrench
Where’s George Is Not Made Of Money - Digg
The rise and (possible, slow) fall of Where's George, and the online community that formed on the site's forums.
culture  internet  social_media  technology  money  history 
march 2016 by johnmfrench
How a detachment of U.S. Army soldiers smoked out the original Ku Klux Klan.
Matthew Pearl describes a federal operation to root out the KKK in York County, South Carolina. This was ultimately successful, and the Klan effectively disappeared for about 40 years, until "Birth of a Nation" sparked a resurgence.
history  KKK  racism  federalism  civil_war 
march 2016 by johnmfrench
Sound Blaster: How Sound Cards Took Over Computing
Why we used to need sound cards, and how Creative Labs became the dominant provider of them.
technology  history  computers  sound 
february 2016 by johnmfrench
How a Basket on Wheels Revolutionized Grocery Shopping
The story of Sylvan Goldman's invention of the shopping cart in the 1930s, as a way to prompt customers at his Piggly Wiggly store in Oklahoma to buy more.
business  economics  shopping_cart  history  inventions  inventors 
february 2016 by johnmfrench
Reinventing the Suitcase by Adding the Wheel - The New York Times
Celebrates the 40th anniversary of the invention of rolling luggage in 1970.
history  inventions  inventors  luggage  travel 
february 2016 by johnmfrench
The Most Precious Cargo for Lighthouses Across America was a Traveling Library | Atlas Obscura
Describes the lighthouse library system, which used maintenance ships to circulate crates of books between lighthouses to give isolated keepers something to occupy their time.
lighthouses  history  reading  books 
february 2016 by johnmfrench
The Talented Mr. Huxley | Humanities
Interesting piece about Aldous Huxley, making the case that he should be read beyond "Brave New World." Interesting tidbit: both Huxley and C. S. Lewis died on the day that JFK was assassinated.
aldous_huxley  writers  literature  history  biography 
november 2015 by johnmfrench
Bee Wilson reviews ‘Malevolent Muse’ by Oliver Hilmes, translated by Donald Arthur · LRB 5 November 2015
Review of Hilmes's new biography of Alma Mahler (as I always think of her), which places much more emphasis on her antisemitism and her desire to "brighten" the (mostly) Jewish artists with whom she had relationships.
history  biography  music  composers  artists  alma_mahler 
november 2015 by johnmfrench
Crusader Chic | Lapham’s Quarterly
On the impact of fashions and textiles from the Muslim world on clothes in Europe. Some funny bits about ninth century Fatimid garments being identified as worn by Mary, or robes with Qur'anic texts written on them (called a tiraz) being used to bury Christian saints.
fashion  clothes  crusades  history  islam 
october 2015 by johnmfrench
Gloria Steinem’s Life on the Feminist Frontier - The New Yorker
Decent, if not terribly critical, profile of Steinem, occasioned by the publication of her new book.
feminism  gender  history  gloria_steinem  profile 
october 2015 by johnmfrench
Memories of Things Unseen - The New York Times
Teju Cole, insightful as always, on photographs of things that no longer exist, photography as a medium of retention, and more generally on the relationship of photography and memory.
photogprahy  memory  history  art  teju_cole 
october 2015 by johnmfrench
'This Goes All the Way to the Queen': The Puzzle Book that Drove England to Madness | Hazlitt
Fascinating piece about Kit Williams's book "Masquerade," which contained a puzzle that led to a gold rabbit hidden somewhere in the U.K. Examines the phenomenon of the book as an instance of apophenia, because people began finding incredibly complex and esoteric symbols and codes in it, when in fact the actual puzzle was relatively simple and required no extra knowledge or research beyond what was actually in the book itself.
art  books  history  codes  apophenia  psychology 
october 2015 by johnmfrench
Why Can’t We Stop Talking About New York in the Late 1970s? - The New York Times
Ultimately somewhat unsatisfying take on the fascination with 1970s NYC, which concludes that the reason is that the kind of intellectual and artistic ferment that characterized the city in those days is impossible in a safe, expensive Manhattan. It seems to me that we have to recognize an element of sheer romanticism in this as well.
history  new_york  cities  art  artists 
september 2015 by johnmfrench
The Diminutive Genius of Max Beerbohm - The New Yorker
Nice profile of Beerbohm, a bit less defensive and unambiguously admiring than Lopate's in the NYRB.
writers  writing  history  literature  essays  max_beerbohm  adam_gopnik 
august 2015 by johnmfrench
John Gray: The Friedrich Hayek I knew, and what he got right - and wrong
Kind of nice piece on both Hayek and Keynes, showing in particular how Hayek differed from some of his later followers, and that he had some important insights into the limits of central economic control that remain valid despite the problems with many of his prescriptions for remedying economic crises.
economics  hayek  keynes  history  political_theory 
august 2015 by johnmfrench
History of Icons – a visual brief on icon history by FUTURAMO
Well-presented history of OS icons, from the first Xerox GUI to contemporary smartphone interfaces.
design  computers  icons  history 
july 2015 by johnmfrench
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