amandaAmanda Foreman

All articles by amanda

 

Historically Speaking: The Ordeal of Standardized Testing

From the Incas to the College Board, exams have been a popular way for societies to select an elite. The Wall Street Journal March 11, 2021 Last month, the University of Texas at Austin joined the growing list of colleges that have made standardized test scores optional for another year due to the pandemic. Last
Continue reading...  

Historically Speaking: Iron Curtains Are Older Than the Cold War

Winston Churchill made the term famous, but ideological rivalries have driven geopolitics since Athens and Sparta. The Wall Street Journal February 25, 2021 It was an unseasonably springlike day on March 5, 1946, when Winston Churchill visited Fulton, Missouri. The former British Prime Minister was ostensibly there to receive an honorary degree from Westminster College.
Continue reading...  

Historically Speaking: How Roses Came to Mean True Love

Our favorite Valentine’s Day flower was already a symbol of passion in ancient Greek mythology The Wall Street Journal February 13, 2021 “My luve is like a red red rose,/That’s newly sprung in June,” wrote the Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1794, creating an inexhaustible revenue stream for florists everywhere, especially around Valentine’s Day. But
Continue reading...  

Historically Speaking: The Original Victims of Cancel Culture

Roman emperors and modern dictators have feared the social and spiritual penalties of excommunication. The Wall Street Journal January 28, 2021 Nowadays, all it takes for a person to be condemned to internal exile is a Twitter stampede of outrage. The lack of any regulating authority or established criteria for what constitutes repentance gives “cancel culture,” as
Continue reading...  

Historically Speaking: Two Centuries of Exploring Antarctica

Charting the southern continent took generations of heroic sacrifice and international cooperation. The Wall Street Journal January 14, 2021 There is a place on Earth that remains untouched by war, slavery or riots. Its inhabitants coexist in peace, and all nationalities are welcomed. No, it’s not Neverland or Shangri-La—it’s Antarctica, home to the South Pole,
Continue reading...  

Historically Speaking: Awed by the Meteor Shower of the New Year’s Sky

Human beings have always marveled at displays like this weekend’s Quadrantids, but now we can understand them as well. The Wall Street Journal January 1, 2021 If you wish upon a star this week, you probably won’t get your heart’s desire. But if you’re lucky, you’ll be treated to an outstanding display of the Quadrantids,
Continue reading...  

Historically Speaking: The Martini’s Contribution to Civilization

The cocktail was invented in the U.S., but it soon became a worldwide symbol of sophistication. Wall Street Journal December 18, 2020 In 1887, the Chicago Tribune hailed the martini as the quintessential Christmas drink, reminding readers that it is “made of Vermouth, Booth’s Gin, and Angostura Bitters.” That remains the classic recipe, even though
Continue reading...  

Historically Speaking: Masterpieces That Began as Failures

From Melville’s ‘Moby-Dick’ to Beethoven’s ‘Fidelio,’ some great works of art have taken a long time to win recognition. The Wall Street Journal November 19, 2020 Failure hurts. Yet history, the ultimate judge, shows that today’s failure sometimes turns out to be tomorrow’s stroke of genius—even if it takes many tomorrows. Take Ludwig van Beethoven’s
Continue reading...  

Leaders Who Bowed Out Gracefully

Kings and politicians have used their last moments on the world stage to deliver words of inspiration. November 5, 2020 The Wall Street Journal The concession speech is one of the great accomplishments of modern democracy. The election is over and passions are running high, but the loser graciously concedes defeat, calls for national unity
Continue reading...  

Historically Speaking: Tales That Go Bump in the Night

From Homer to Edgar Allan Poe, ghost stories have given us a chilling good time The Wall Street Journal October 23, 2020 As the novelist Neil Gaiman, a master of the macabre, once said, “Fear is a wonderful thing, in small doses.” In this respect, we’re no different than our ancestors: They, too, loved to tell
Continue reading...  

Historically Speaking: The Power of Telling Stories in Pictures

‘Peanuts’ turns 70 this month, but the origins of narrative art go back to ancient Sumeria more than 4,000 years ago. The Wall Street Journal October 8, 2020 Good grief! It’s Snoopy’s 70th birthday. Charles M. Schulz’s ‘Peanuts’ comic strip made its debut on Oct. 2, 1950, and though it ended with Schulz’s death in 2000,
Continue reading...  

Historically Speaking: The Business and Pleasure of Dining Out

The food service industry will eventually overcome the pandemic, just as it bounced back from ancient Roman bans and Prohibition. The Wall Street Journal September 24, 2020 It remains anyone’s guess what America’s once-vibrant restaurant scene will look like in 2021. At the beginning of this year, there were 209 Michelin-starred restaurants in the U.S. This
Continue reading...  

Stepping out of the Shadows

Sylvia Pankhurst by Rachel Holmes, review — finally having her moment. Her mother and sister were once better known, but this fine biography shows just how remarkable the women’s rights activist was. The Times September 22, 2020 After decades of obscurity, Sylvia Pankhurst is finally having her moment. This is the third biography in seven
Continue reading...  

Historically Speaking: Women Who Made the American West

From authors to outlaws, female pioneers helped to shape frontier society. The Wall Street Journal September 9, 2020 On Sept. 14, 1920, Connecticut became the 37th state to ratify the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed women the right to vote. The exercise was largely symbolic, since ratification had already been achieved thanks to Tennessee on August
Continue reading...  

HistoricallySpeaking: How Fear of Sharks Became an American Obsession

Since colonial times, we’ve dreaded what one explorer called ‘the most ravenous fish known in the sea’ The Wall Street Journal August 27, 2020 There had never been a fatal shark incident in Maine until last month’s shocking attack on a woman swimmer by a great white near Bailey Island in Casco Bay. Scientists suspect that
Continue reading...  

Historically Speaking: The Sharp Riposte as a Battle Tactic

Caustic comebacks have been exchanged between military leaders for millennia, from the Spartans to World War II The Wall Street Journal August 6, 2020 In the center of Bastogne, Belgium (pop. 16,000), there is a statue of U.S. Army General Anthony C. McAuliffe, who died 45 years ago this week. It’s a small town with a
Continue reading...  

Historically Speaking: The American Invention of Summer Camp

Since 1876, children have looked forward to their long vacation as a time to build friendships and character. July  23, 2020 The Wall Street Journal Hello Muddah, hello Faddah,/Here I am at Camp Granada… With more than half of the country’s 14,000 summer camps temporarily closed because of Covid-19, millions of children are missing out
Continue reading...  

Historically Speaking: The Delicious Evolution of Mayonnaise

Ancient Romans ate a pungent version, but the modern egg-based spread was created by an 18th-century French chef. July 9, 2020 The Wall Street Journal I can’t imagine a summer picnic without mayonnaise—in the potato salad, the veggie dips, the coleslaw, and yes, even on the french fries. It feels like a great dollop of
Continue reading...  

Historically Speaking: Pioneers of America’s Black Press

Since the early 19th century, African-American publications have built community and challenged injustice. June 18, 2020 The Wall Street Journal It isn’t enough to have a voice, it must also be used and heard. “Too long have others spoken for us,” announced the first issue of Freedom’s Journal, the first black-owned and operated newspaper in
Continue reading...  

Historically Speaking: Golfing With Emperors and Presidents

From medieval Scotland to the White House, the game has appealed to the powerful as well as the common man. June 3, 2020 The Wall Street Journal The history of golf is a tale of two sports: one played by the common man, the other by kings and presidents. The plebeian variety came first. Paganica,
Continue reading...  

Historically Speaking: Pets and the Humans Who Loved Them

From prehistoric times to the age of Covid-19, people have looked to animals for companionship. May 7, 2020 The Wall Street Journal Americans have been adopting pets at a record pace since the pandemic began. It’s as if the crisis has intensified our need for animal companionship, which goes back a long way. Scientists agree that
Continue reading...  

Historically Speaking: Hobbies for Kings and the People

From collecting ancient coins to Victorian taxidermy, we’ve found ingenious ways to fill our free time. Wall Street Journal, April 16, 2020 It’s no surprise that many Americans are turning or returning to hobbies during the current crisis. By definition, a hobby requires time outside of work. We don’t hear much about hobbies in ancient history
Continue reading...  

Historically Speaking: Castaways and Other Lonely Survivors

From prisoners to exiles to marooned sailors, human beings have faced the ordeal of enforced solitude. April 2, 2020 The Wall Street Journal Being one’s own company can be blissful, but not when it’s involuntary. According to John Donne, the 17th-century English poet and priest, “As sickness is the greatest misery, so the greatest misery of
Continue reading...  

Historically Speaking: The Long Fight Against Unjust Taxes

From ancient Jerusalem to the American Revolution and beyond, rebels have risen up against the burden of taxation. March 19, 2020 The Wall Street Journal With the world in the grip of a major health crisis, historical milestones are passing by with little notice. But the Boston Massacre, whose 250th anniversary was this month, deserves to
Continue reading...  

Historically Speaking: Cities Built by Royal Command

From ancient Egypt to modern Russia, rulers have tried to build new capitals from the ground up. March 5, 2020 The Wall Street Journal In 1420, the Yongle Emperor moved China’s capital from Nanjing to the city then known as Beiping. To house his government he built the Forbidden City, the largest wooden complex in the
Continue reading...  

Historically Speaking: Women Who Popped the Question

Tradition holds that women only propose marriage on leap days, but queens have never been afraid to take the initiative. February 20, 2020 The Wall Street Journal An old tradition holds that every leap year, on Feb. 29, women may propose marriage to men without censure or stigma. Sources disagree about the origin of this privilege.
Continue reading...  

Historically Speaking: Plagues From the Animal Kingdom

The coronavirus is just the latest of many deadly diseases to cross over to human beings from other species. February 6, 2020 The Wall Street Journal Earlier this week, the still-rising death toll in mainland China from the coronavirus surpassed the 349 fatalities recorded during the 2003 SARS epidemic. Although both viruses are believed to have
Continue reading...  

Historically Speaking: Royal Treasures, Lost and Found

From Montezuma’s gold to the crown jewels of Scotland, some of the world’s most famous valuables have gone missing. January 23, 2020 The Wall Street Journal What sort of nitwit goes off in a snowstorm to feed leftovers to the chickens while still wearing her Christmas Day finery? In my defense, I was just trying to
Continue reading...  

Historically Speaking: The Blessing and Curse of ‘Black Gold’

From the pharaohs to John D. Rockefeller, oil has been key to the growth of civilization—but it comes at a high cost. January 10, 2020 The Wall Street Journal This January marks the 150th anniversary of the Standard Oil Company, incorporated in 1870 by John D. Rockefeller and three partners. Such was their drive and
Continue reading...  

Historically Speaking: Whiskey Is the Original ‘Cup of Kindness’

The barley fields of Scotland and Ireland gave birth to a drink that became popular around the world The Wall Street Journal, December 27, 2019 On New Year’s Eve, the song “Auld Lang Syne” urges us to “take a cup of kindness.” It’s an old Scottish saying, meaning to share a friendly tipple—presumably of single malt
Continue reading...  

Historically Speaking: Electric Lights for Yuletide

In 1882, Thomas Edison’s business partner put up a Christmas tree decorated with 80 red, white and blue bulbs—and launched an American tradition. The Wall Street Journal, December 5, 2019 As a quotation often attributed to Maya Angelou has it, ‘’You can tell a lot about a person by the way (s)he handles these three things:
Continue reading...  

Historically Speaking: ‘Sesame Street’ Wasn’t the First to Make Learning Fun

The show turns 50 this month, but the idea that education can be entertaining goes back to ancient Greece. The Wall Street Journal, November 21, 2019 “Sesame Street,” which first went on the air 50 years ago this month, is one of the most successful and cost-effective tools ever created for preparing preschool tots for
Continue reading...  

Historically Speaking: Funding Wars Through the Ages

U.S. antiterror efforts have cost nearly $6 trillion since the 9/11 attacks. Earlier governments from the ancient Greeks to Napoleon have had to get creative to finance their fights The Wall Street Journal, October 31, 2019 The successful operation against Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is a bright spot in the war on terror
Continue reading...  

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
Continue reading...  

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
Continue reading...  

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
Continue reading...  

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
Continue reading...  

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,
Continue reading...  

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
Continue reading...  

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.
Continue reading...  

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
Continue reading...  

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
Continue reading...  

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,
Continue reading...  

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
Continue reading...  

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
Continue reading...  

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
Continue reading...  

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
Continue reading...  

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
Continue reading...  

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
Continue reading...  

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
Continue reading...