amandaAmanda Foreman

All articles by amanda

 

Historically Speaking: The Many Roads to Vegetarianism

Health, religion and animal rights have all been advanced as reasons not to eat meat. The Wall Street Journal, October 18, 2019 The claim that today’s ingeniously engineered fake meat tastes like the real thing and helps the planet is winning over consumers from the carnivore side of the food aisle. According to Barclays, the
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Historically Speaking: The Long Road to Cleanliness

The ancient Babylonians and Egyptians knew about soap, but daily washing didn’t become popular until the 19th century. The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 4, 2019 As the mother of five teenagers, I have a keen appreciation of soap—especially when it’s actually used. Those little colored bars—or more frequently nowadays, dollops of gel—represent one of the
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Historically Speaking: Fashion Shows: From Royal to Retail

The catwalk has always been a place for dazzling audiences as well as selling clothes The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 12, 2019 As devotees know, the fashion calendar is divided between the September fashion shows, which display the designers’ upcoming spring collections, and the February shows, which preview the fall. New York Fashion Week, which
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Historically Speaking: Before Weather Was a Science

Modern instruments made accurate forecasting possible, but humans have tried to predict the weather for thousands of years. The Wall Street Journal, August 31, 2019 Labor Day weekend places special demands on meteorologists, even when there’s not a hurricane like Dorian on the way. September weather is notoriously variable: In 1974, Labor Day in Iowa was
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Historically Speaking: Duels Among the Clouds

Aerial combat was born during World War I, giving the world a new kind of military hero: the fighter pilot The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 15, 2019 “Top Gun” is back. The 1986 film about Navy fighter pilots is getting a sequel next year, with Tom Cruise reprising his role as Lt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell,
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Historically Speaking: A Palace Open to the People

From the Pharaohs to Queen Victoria, royal dwellings have been symbols of how rulers think about power. The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 1, 2019 Every summer, Queen Elizabeth II opens the state rooms of Buckingham Palace to the public. This year’s opening features an exhibition that I curated, “Queen Victoria’s Palace,” the result of a
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ITV News: Queen Elizabeth visits exhibition, co-curated by Dr. Amanda Foreman

ITV News, July 31, 2019 Queen Victoria is the subject of the Summer Opening at Buckingham Palace this year. Queen Elizabeth opened the glittering new exhibition this weekend and Express Online had a private preview into how to party like it’s 1856.
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The Guardian: Feminist Queen. Show explores how Victoria transformed monarchy

Queen Victoria was responsible for a “feminist transformation” of the monarchy and initiated some of its best-known traditions, according to the curator of a new exhibition at Buckingham Palace. The Guardian, July 17, 2019  by Caroline Davies The story of how Victoria and Prince Albert rebuilt the palace into the most glittering court in Europe
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The Sunday Times: With one magnificent renovation, Queen Victoria revamped the monarchy

A new exhibition reveals how the monarch’s redesign of Buckingham Palace created a home for her family and a focus for the nation, writes its co‑curator, Amanda Foreman. The Sunday Times, July 21, 2019 Did Queen Victoria reign over Britain or did she rule? The difference may seem like splitting hairs, but the two words
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Historically Speaking: Playing Cards for Fun and Money

From 13th-century Egypt to the Wild West, the standard deck of 52 cards has provided entertainment—and temptation. The Wall Street Journal, July 18, 2019 More than 8,500 people traveled to Las Vegas to play in this year’s World Series of Poker, which ended July 16—a near-record for the contest. I’m not a poker player myself,
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Historically Speaking: Beware the Red Tide

Massive algae blooms that devastate ocean life have been recorded since antiquity—and they are getting worse. The Wall Street Journal, July 3, 2019 In H.G. Wells’s 1898 novel “The War of the Worlds,” the invading Martians bring with them a noxious red weed that suffocates the land and poisons the water. Fortunately, it dies off
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Historically Speaking: How We Kept Cool Before Air Conditioning

Wind-catching towers and human-powered rotary fans were just some of the devices invented to fight the heat. The Wall Street Journal, June 20, 2019 What would we do without our air conditioning? Given the number of rolling blackouts and brownouts that happen across the U.S. each summer, that’s not exactly a rhetorical question. Fortunately, our
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Historically Speaking: The Pleasures and Pains of Retirement

Since the Roman Empire, people have debated whether it’s a good idea to stop working in old age The Wall Street Journal, June 7, 2019 The new film “All Is True,” directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh, imagines how William Shakespeare might have lived after he stopped writing plays. Alas for poor Shakespeare, in this
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Historically Speaking: The Ancient Origins of the Vacation

Once a privilege of the elite, summer travel is now a pleasure millions can enjoy. The Wall Street Journal, June 6, 2019 Finally, Americans are giving themselves a break. For years, according to the U.S. Travel Association, more than half of American workers didn’t use all their paid vacation days. But in a survey released
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Harper’s Bazaar: Buckingham Palace is opening a new exhibition exploring the life of Queen Victoria this summer

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Queen Victoria and to celebrate, Buckingham Palace has announced a special exhibition as part of its state opening this summer, co-curated by Dr. Amanda Foreman. Harper’s Bazaar, May 7, 2019 by Katie Frost The exhibit will explore the life of the monarch and how she turned the once
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Historically Speaking: Beloved Buildings That Rose from the Ashes

From ancient Rome to modern London, great structures like Notre Dame have fallen and been built again The Wall Street Journal, May 2, 2019 A disaster like the Notre Dame cathedral fire is as much a tragedy of the heart as it is a loss to architecture. But fortunately, unlike most love affairs, a building
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Historically Speaking: Real-Life Games of Thrones

From King Solomon to the Shah of Persia, rulers have used stately seats to project power. The Wall Street Journal, April 22, 2019 “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown,” complains the long-suffering King Henry IV in Shakespeare. But that is not a monarch’s only problem; uneasy, too, is the bottom that sits on
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Historically Speaking: Overcoming the Labor of Calculation

Inventors tried many times over the centuries to build an effective portable calculator—but no one succeeded until John Merryman. The Wall Street Journal, April 5, 2019 The world owes a debt of gratitude to Jerry Merryman, who died on Feb. 27 at the age of 86. It was Merryman who, in 1965, worked with two
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Historically Speaking: The Immortal Charm of Daffodils

The humble flower has been a favorite symbol in myth and art since ancient times The Wall Street Journal, March 22, 2019 On April 15, 1802, the poet William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy were enjoying a spring walk through the hills and vales of the English Lake District when they came across a field
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Historically Speaking: Fantasies of Alien Life

Human beings have never encountered extra-terrestrials, but we’ve been imagining them for thousands of years The Wall Street Journal, March 7, 2019 Fifty years ago this month, Kurt Vonnegut published “Slaughterhouse-Five,” his classic semi-autobiographical, quasi-science fiction novel about World War II and its aftermath. The story follows the adventures of Billy Pilgrim, an American soldier
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Historically Speaking: Insuring Against Disasters

Insurance policies go back to the ancient Babylonians and were crucial in the early development of capitalism The Wall Street Journal, February 21, 2019 Living in a world without insurance, free from all those claim forms and high deductibles, might sound like a little bit of paradise. But the only thing worse than dealing with
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Historically Speaking: The Invention of Ice Hockey

Canada gave us the modern form of a sport that has been played for centuries around the world The Wall Street Journal, February 11, 2019 Canadians like to say—and print on mugs and T-shirts—that “Canada is Hockey.” No fewer than five Canadian cities and towns claim to be the birthplace of ice hockey, including Windsor,
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Historically Speaking: Unenforceable Laws Against Pleasure

The 100th anniversary of Prohibition is a reminder of how hard it is to regulate consumption and display The Wall Street Journal, January 24, 2019 This month we mark the centennial of the ratification of the Constitution’s 18th Amendment, better known as Prohibition. But the temperance movement was active for over a half-century before winning
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Historically Speaking: The High Cost of Financial Panics

Roman emperors and American presidents alike have struggled to deal with sudden economic crashes The Wall Street Journal, January 17, 2019 On January 12, 1819 Thomas Jefferson wrote to his friend Nathaniel Macon, “I have…entire confidence in the late and present Presidents…I slumber without fear.” He did concede, though, that market fluctuations can trip up
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Historically Speaking: New Year, Old Regrets

From the ancient Babylonians to Victorian England, the year’s end has been a time for self-reproach and general misery The Wall Street Journal, January 3, 2019 I don’t look forward to New Year’s Eve. When the bells start to ring, it isn’t “Auld Lang Syne” I hear but echoes from the Anglican “Book of Common
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Historically Speaking: Trees of Life and Wonder

From Saturnalia to Christmas Eve, people have always had a spiritual need for greenery in the depths of winter The Wall Street Journal, December 13, 2018 My family never had a pink-frosted Christmas tree, though Lord knows my 10-year-old self really wanted one. Every year my family went to Sal’s Christmas Emporium on Wilshire Boulevard
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Historically Speaking: The Tradition of Telling All

From ancient Greece to modern Washington, political memoirs have been irresistible source of gossip about great leaders The Wall Street Journal, November 30, 2018 The tell-all memoir has been a feature of American politics ever since Raymond Moley, an ex-aide to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, published his excoriating book “After Seven Years” while FDR was still
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Historically Speaking: How Potatoes Conquered the World

It took centuries for the spud to travel from the New World to the Old and back again The Wall Street Journal, November 15, 2018 At the first Thanksgiving dinner, eaten by the Wampanoag Indians and the Pilgrims in 1621, the menu was rather different from what’s served today. For one thing, the pumpkin was
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Historically Speaking: Overrun by Alien Species

From Japanese knotweed to cane toads, humans have introduced invasive species to new environments with disastrous results The Wall Street Journal, November 1, 2018 Ever since Neolithic people wandered the earth, inadvertently bringing the mouse along for the ride, humans have been responsible for introducing animal and plant species into new environments. But problems can
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Historically Speaking: The Dark Lore of Black Cats

Ever since they were worshiped in ancient Egypt, cats have occupied an uncanny place in the world’s imagination The Wall Street Journal, October 22, 2018 As Halloween approaches, decorations featuring scary black cats are starting to make their seasonal appearance. But what did the black cat ever do to deserve its reputation as a symbol
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Historically Speaking: When Women Were Brewers

From ancient times until the Renaissance, beer-making was considered a female specialty The Wall Street Journal, October 9, 2019 These days, every neighborhood bar celebrates Oktoberfest, but the original fall beer festival is the one in Munich, Germany—still the largest of its kind in the world. Oktoberfest was started in 1810 by the Bavarian royal
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The Sunday Times: RV There Yet?

Writer and historian Amanda Foreman took her family on an epic motorhome adventure. Would it drive them all round the bend? Crossing Devils Garden, UtahANGELA HAYS Imagining yourself behind the wheel of an RV and actually driving one are two completely different things. I discovered this shortly after we hit the road in our 30ft
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Historically Speaking: The Miseries of Travel

Today’s jet passengers may think they have it bad, but delay and discomfort have been a part of journeys since the Mayflower The Wall Street Journal, September 20, 2018 Fifty years ago, on September 30, 1968, the world’s first 747 Jumbo Jet rolled out of Boeing’s Everett plant in Seattle, Washington. It was hailed as
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Historically Speaking: Poison and Politics

From ‘cantarella’ to polonium, governments have used toxins to terrorize and kill their enemies The Wall Street Journal, September 7, 2018 Among the pallbearers at Senator John McCain’s funeral in Washington last weekend was the Russian dissident Vladimir Kara-Murza. Mr. Kara-Murza is a survivor of two poisoning attempts, in 2015 and 2017, which he believes
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Historically Speaking: The Struggle Before #MeToo

Today’s women are not the first to take a public stand against sexual assault and harassment The Wall Street Journal, August 23, 2018 Since it began making headlines last year, the #MeToo movement has expanded into a global rallying cry. The campaign has many facets, but its core message is clear: Women who are victims
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Historically Speaking: When Royal Love Affairs Go Wrong

From Cleopatra to Edward VIII, monarchs have followed their hearts—with disastrous results. The Wall Street Journal, August 8, 2018 “Ay me!” laments Lysander in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” “For aught that I could ever read, / Could ever hear by tale or history, / The course of true love never did run smooth.” What
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The Sunday Times: No more midlife crisis – I’m riding the U-curve of happiness

Evidence shows people become happier in their fifties, but achieving that takes some soul-searching I used not to believe in the “midlife crisis”. I am ashamed to say that I thought it was a convenient excuse for self-indulgent behaviour — such as splurging on a Lamborghini or getting buttock implants. So I wasn’t even aware
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Historically Speaking: In Awe of the Grand Canyon

Since the 16th century, travelers have recorded the overwhelming impact of a natural wonder. Strange as it may sound, it was watching Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon in the tragic final scene of “Thelma and Louise” (1991) that convinced me I had to go to the Grand Canyon one day and experience its life-changing beauty.
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Historically Speaking: At Age 50, a Time of Second Acts

Amanda Foreman finds comfort in countless examples of the power of reinvention after five decades. I turned 50 this week, and like many people I experienced a full-blown midlife crisis in the lead-up to the Big Day. The famous F. Scott Fitzgerald quotation, “There are no second acts in American lives,” dominated my thoughts. I wondered
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WSJ Historically Speaking: When We Rally ‘Round the Flag: A History

Flag Day passes every year almost unnoticed. That’s a shame—it celebrates a symbol with ties to religious and totemic objects that have moved people for millennia The Supreme Court declared in 1989 that desecrating the American flag is a protected form of free speech. That ended the legal debate but not the national one over how
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WSJ Historically Speaking: The Gym, for Millennia of Bodies and Souls

Today’s gyms, which depend on our vanity and body envy, are a far cry from what the Greeks envisioned Going to the gym takes on a special urgency at this time of year, as we prepare to put our bodies on display at the pool and beach. Though the desire to live a virtuous life of
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WSJ Historically Speaking: With Big Prizes Often Comes Controversy

It’s not just the Nobel: Award-giving missteps have a long history This spring, controversies have engulfed three big prizes. The Swedish Academy isn’t awarding the Nobel Prize for Literature this year while it deals with the fallout from a scandal over allegations of sexual assault and financial impropriety. In the U.S., the author Junot Díaz has stepped
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WSJ Historically Speaking: Serendipity of Science is Often Born of Years of Labor

Over the centuries, lucky discoveries depend on training and discernment One recent example comes from an international scientific team studying the bacterium, Ideonella sakaiensis 201-F6, which makes an enzyme that breaks down the most commonly used form of plastic, thus allowing the bacterium to eat it. As reported last month in the Proceedings of the
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WSJ Historically Speaking: Undying Defeat: The Power of Failed Uprisings

From the Warsaw Ghetto to the Alamo, doomed rebels live on in culture Earlier this month, Israel commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of April 1943. The annual Remembrance Day of the Holocaust and Heroism, as it is called, reminds Israelis of the moral duty to fight to the last. The Warsaw ghetto
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WSJ Historically Speaking: When Blossoms and Bullets Go Together: The Battles of Springtime

Generals have launched spring offensives from ancient times to the Taliban era ‘When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding; Sweet lovers love the spring,” wrote Shakespeare. But the season has a darker side as well. As we’re now reminded each year when the Taliban anticipate the warm weather by announcing their latest spring offensive
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WSJ Historically Speaking: How Mermaid-Merman Tales Got to This Year’s Oscars

‘The Shape of Water,’ the best-picture winner, extends a tradition of ancient tales of these water creatures and their dealings with humans Popular culture is enamored with mermaids. This year’s Best Picture Oscar winner, Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water,” about a lonely mute woman and a captured amphibious man, is a new take
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WSJ Historically Speaking: In Epidemics, Leaders Play a Crucial Role

Lessons in heroism and horror as a famed flu pandemic hits a milestone A century ago this week, an army cook named Albert Gitchell at Fort Riley, Kansas, paid a visit to the camp infirmary, complaining of a severe cold. It’s now thought that he was America’s patient zero in the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918.
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House of SpeakEasy Fifth Anniversary


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WSJ Historically Speaking: The Quest for Unconsciousness: A Brief History of Anesthesia

The ancient Greeks used alcohol and opium. Patients in the 12th century got a ‘soporific sponge.’ A look at anesthetics over the centuries Every year, some 21 million Americans undergo a general anesthetic. During recent minor surgery, I became one of the roughly 26,000 Americans a year who experience “anesthetic awareness” during sedation: I woke up. I still
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WSJ Historically Speaking: Life Beyond the Three-Ring Circus

Why ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ foundered—and what’s next The modern circus, which celebrates its 250th anniversary this year, has attracted such famous fans as Queen Victoria, Charles Dickens and Ernest Hemingway, who wrote in 1953, “It’s the only spectacle I know that, while you watch it, gives the quality of a truly happy dream.” Recently,
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