The Information is a sweeping historical / scientific / technological account of information across time and disciplines. From talking drums, language, DNA, telegraphs, and bytes to Claude Shannon, Charles Babbage, Ada Byron, Samuel Morse, Alan Turing, Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins and…
Title: Where God Was Born
Publication Info: HarperAudio (2005)
Feiler’s book is a unique combination of travelogue, history, theology, and personal growth. Feiler documents his journeys to Israel, Iraq, and Iran to visit the sites of places mentioned in the Hebrew scriptures. There’s a lot of interesting discussion of the Israelites and the…
Author: Reza Aslan
Title: Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
Publication Info: Random House (2013)
I’ve not read a lot about the historical Jesus so this short summary of his life and times was engaging and enlightening. ”His times” is an important part of the title as few historical documents survive outside the scriptures (canonical and otherwise)…
Author: Amy S. Greenberg
Title: A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln, and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico
Publication Info: Knopf (2012)
Like many Americans, I know very little about the Mexican War, which is a shame since what I learned from this one-volume history, we Americans keep repeating the same mistakes our nation made in this war. Greenberg writes a…
Believe it or not it’s been three years since I posted how much I hate Daylight Saving Time, and particularly the night in which we must “spring forward” the clock 1 hour. I’m not looking forward to waking up tomorrow and dragging myself through the day.
I’ve nothing new to write, but here are my previous four posts on the topic:
This wonderfully researched and well-written history, explores the making of Boston by focusing on the social and environmental factors that shaped the city, its human ecology. There are five sections of the book:
Photo of New Haven after the Blizzard of 1888.
Makes me think of two things:
1. All the people who say “OMG it’s snowing, what about global warming” (whether they’re serious or joking) need more historical perspective.
2. Look how clean that sidewalk is. Imagine if the priority today was to make sure that the city was a safe place to walk after the storm instead of just digging out cars.
Podcast of the Day
Our political system is dysfunctional by design.
Also, Jackson ignored the Supreme Court to forcibly relocate the Choctaw, Cherokee and other nations, resulting in the Trail of Tears. So, fiscal responsibility and genocide!
Exactly. They said he was a Democrat they could agree with, after all.
The historical conditions have changed greatly, but overall the first Democratic President Andrew Jackson would most certainly align with modern day Republicans, while the first Republican President Abraham Lincoln would find himself more comfortable with the modern day Democrats.
MEMORANDUM TO: The American People
FROM: A Historian
CC: Candidates, Think Tanks, Warriors of the Internet Comment Boards
SUBJECT: Um, actually there was welfare when the United States was founded
I would go on, of course, to flesh this statement out with some background, evidence, and precision. I would point out that poor laws came to North America almost with the first British settlers, and that a large welfare state developed in almost every English municipality. I would cite figures showing that poor relief comprised more than half of most municipalities’ budgets before the 1820s, when school and road costs grew large enough to match poor relief. I would feel compelled to mention that poor relief could mean a poorhouse, but more often some combination of cash, food, clothes, firewood, doctor’s attention, medicine, or even full-time nursing care. I would highlight how significant local taxes were to most early Americans, compared with much lower state taxes and almost non-existent federal taxes.
This would lead to the obvious comparisons. Americans spent more than half of their taxes on poor relief when George Washington was president, compared to 12% on the federal “safety net” today, or 55% if you include Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Unlike today’s contributors to Social Security and Medicare, however, most taxpayers (read: property owners) in 1789 would not have expected to benefit from poor relief in their lifetimes. They could depend on it, though, if they ever met with a financial catastrophe. I would almost certainly quote historian Elna Green’s witticism, that so many grocers, doctors, wood-hewers, etcetera made money from the town by helping the poor that the poor law system should be called the “welfare/industrial complex.” 
Finally, I would point out one big difference between early America and the present: Today’s welfare is largely federal while early America’s was largely municipal. In fact, I think the local nature of early American welfare is the reason why so many policy analysts overlook welfare’s past. They just don’t look at the state and local levels of government.
My fantasy memo is not a prelude to some specific policy prescription for the present day. I just wish that when we do bring history to the argument, we use a reasonably correct version. As an historian writing about pre-Civil War poor relief, I find myself cringing almost every time the history of welfare surges into public discourse. Usually, there is a 300-year hole in the story. For colonial American and U.S. history, that is a pretty big hole!"
Vive Pierre Lallement!