amandaAmanda Foreman

All articles by amanda

 

Historically Speaking: Inflation Once Had No Name, Let Alone Remedy

Empires from Rome to China struggled to restore the value of currencies that spiraled out of control The Wall Street Journal May 27, 2022 Even if experts don’t always agree on the specifics, there is broad agreement on what inflation is and on its dangers. But this consensus is relatively new: The term “inflation” only
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Historically Speaking: Typos Have Been Around as Long as Writing Itself

Egyptian engravers, medieval scribes and even Shakespeare’s printer made little mistakes that have endured The Wall Street Journal May 12, 2022 The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., is 100 years old this month. The beloved national monument is no less perfect for having one slight flaw: The word “future” in the Second Inaugural Address was
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Historically Speaking: When Generals Run the State

Military leaders have been rulers since ancient times, but the U.S. has managed to keep them from becoming kings or dictators. The Wall Street Journal April 29, 2022 History has been kind to General Ulysses S. Grant, less so to President Grant. The hero of Appomattox, born 200 years ago this month, oversaw an administration
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Historically Speaking: The Game of Queens and Grandmasters

Chess has captivated minds for 1,500 years, surviving religious condemnation, Napoleonic exile and even the Russian Revolution The Wall Street Journal April 15, 2022 Fifty years ago, the American chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer played the reigning world champion Boris Spassky at the “Match of the Century” in Reykjavik, Iceland. The Cold War was at its
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Historically Speaking: Humanity’s Long Quest to Bottle Energy

The first batteries produced bursts of power. Making them last has been the work of centuries. The Wall Street Journal April 1, 2022 Electric cars were once dismissed as a pipe dream. Now experts predict that by 2025, they will account for one-fifth of all new cars. Helping to drive this revolution is the once-humble
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Historically Speaking: Democracy Helped Seed National Parks

Green spaces and nature preserves have long existed, but the idea of protecting natural wonders for human enjoyment has American roots. The Wall Street Journal March 3, 2022 Yellowstone, the world’s oldest national park, turned 150 this month. The anniversary of its founding is a timely reminder that democracy isn’t just a political system but
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Historically Speaking: Anorexia’s Ancient Roots And Present Toll

The deadly affliction, once called self-starvation, has become much more common during the confinement of the pandemic. The Wall Street Journal February 18, 2022 Two years ago, when countries suspended the routines of daily life in an attempt to halt the spread of Covid-19, the mental health of children plunged precipitously. Two years ago, when
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Historically Speaking: A Mollusk With a Storied Past in Human Seduction

Long associated with Aphrodite, oysters graced the menus of Roman orgies, Gold Rush eateries and Manhattan brothels. The Wall Street Journal February 4, 2021 The oyster is one of nature’s great survivors—or it was. Today it is menaced by the European green crab, which has been taking over Washington’s Lummi Sea Pond and outer coastal
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Historically Speaking: Water Has Long Eluded Human Mastery

From ancient Mesopotamia to the California desert, people have struggled to bend earth’s most plentiful resource to their will The Wall Street Journal January 21, 2022 In “Chinatown,” Roman Polanski’s classic 1974 film noir, loosely based on the events surrounding the diversion of water from the Owens Valley to Los Angeles in 1913, an ex-politician
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The Sunday Times: I don’t want to fight about it but this talk of US civil war is overblown

Experts on conflict predict unrest, but America has a long way to go before it is as divided as it was in 1861 The Sunday Times January 9, 2022 Violence is in the air. No one who saw the shocking scenes during the Capitol riot in Washington on January 6, 2021, can pretend that it
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Historically Speaking: How the Waistband Got Its Stretch

Once upon a time, human girth was bound by hooks and buttons, and corsets had metal stays. Along came rubber and a whole new technology of flexible cloth. The Wall Street Journal January 7, 2021 The New Year has arrived, and if you’re like me, you’ve promised yourself a slimmer, fitter and healthier you in
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Historically Speaking: Boycotts that Brought Change

Modern rights movements have often used the threat of lost business to press for progress The Wall Street Journal November 12, 2021 Sixty-five years ago, on Nov. 13, 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Browder v. Gayle, putting an end to racial segregation on buses. The organizers of the Montgomery bus boycott, which had begun
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Historically Speaking: When Masquerade Was All the Rage

Before there was Halloween, there were costume balls and Carnival, among other occasions for the liberation of dressing up The Wall Street Journal October 28, 2021 Costume parades and Halloween parties are back after being canceled last year. Donning a costume and mask to go prancing around might seem like the height of frivolity, but
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Historically Speaking: How Malaria Brought Down Great Empires

A mosquito-borne parasite has impoverished nations and stopped armies in their tracks The Wall Street Journal October 15, 2021 Last week brought very welcome news from the World Health Organization, which approved the first-ever childhood vaccine for malaria, a disease that has been one of nature’s grim reapers for millennia. Originating in Africa, the mosquito-borne
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Historically Speaking: Dante’s Enduring Vision of Hell

The “Inferno” brought human complexity to the medieval conception of the afterlife The Wall Street Journal September 30, 2021 What is hell? For Plato, it was Tartarus, the lowest level of Hades where those who had sinned against the gods suffered eternal punishment. For Jean-Paul Sartre, the father of existentialism, hell was other people. For
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Historically Speaking: For Punishment or Penitence?

Fifty years ago, the Attica uprising laid bare the conflicting ideas at the heart of the U.S. prison system. The Wall Street Journal September 17, 2021 Fifty years ago this past week, inmates in Attica, New York, staged America’s deadliest prison uprising. The organizers held prison employees hostage while demanding better conditions. One officer and
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The Sunday Times: Texas Talibanistas, take note: freedom will win

The blow to abortion rights is shocking, but this fight is nowhere near over The Sunday Times September 7, 2021 The pro-life movement in America finally got its wish this week: a little before midnight on Wednesday, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled against temporarily blocking a Texas state law passed in May,
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Historically Speaking: The Long Haul of Distance Running

How the marathon became the world’s top endurance race The Wall Street Journal September 2, 2021 The New York City Marathon, the world’s largest, will hold its 50th race this autumn, after missing last year’s due to the pandemic. A podiatrist once told me that he always knows when there has been a marathon because
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Historically Speaking: A Legacy of Tinderbox Forests

Long before climate change exacerbated the problem, policies meant to suppress wildfires served to fan the flames The Wall Street Journal August 19, 2021 This year’s heat waves and droughts have led to record-breaking wildfires across three continents. The fires in Siberia are so vast that smoke has reached the North Pole for what is
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Historically Speaking: Let Slip the Dogs, Birds and Donkeys of War

Animals have served human militaries with distinction since ancient times The Wall Street Journal August 5, 2021 Cher Ami, a carrier pigeon credited with rescuing a U.S. battalion from friendly fire in World War I, has been on display at the Smithsonian for more a century. The bird made news again this summer, when DNA
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Historically Speaking: Diabetes and the Miracle of Insulin

One hundred years ago, a team of Canadian researchers showed that an age-old disease didn’t have to mean a death sentence. The Wall Street Journal July 22, 2021 The human body runs on glucose, a type of sugar that travels through the bloodstream to the cells where it converts into energy. Some 34.2 million Americans
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Historically Speaking: The Beacon of the Public Library

Building places for ordinary people to read and share books has been a passion project of knowledge-seekers since before Roman times. The Wall Street Journal July 8, 2021 “The libraries are closing forever, like tombs,” wrote the historian Ammianus Marcellinus in 378 A.D. The Goths had just defeated the Roman army in the Battle of
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The Sunday Times: Rumsfeld was the wrong man at the wrong time

Bush’s war supremo brought about his own worst fear: another Vietnam The Sunday Times July 4, 2021 On the whole, sacked US defence secretaries should avoid quoting Winston Churchill as they depart from the White House, in much the same way as disgraced preachers should leave off quoting Jesus as they are led away in
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Historically Speaking: How the Office Became a Place to Work

Employees are starting to return to their traditional desks in large shared spaces. But centuries ago, ‘office’ just meant work to be done, not where to do it. The Wall Street Journal June 24, 2021 Wall Street wants its workforce back in the office. Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs have all let employees know that the time is
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Historically Speaking: Whistleblowing’s Evolution, From Rome to the Pentagon Papers to Wikileaks

The exposure 50 years ago of government documents about the Vietnam War ushered in a modern era of leaks, built on a long tradition The Wall Street Journal June 12, 2021 The Pentagon Papers—a secret Defense Department review of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War—became public 50 years ago next week. The ensuing Supreme Court
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Historically Speaking: The Long Road to Protecting Inventions With Patents

Gunpowder was never protected. Neither were inventions by Southern slaves. Vaccines are—but that’s now the subject of a debate. The Wall Street Journal May 20, 2021 The U.S. and China don’t see eye to eye on much nowadays, but in a rare show of consensus, the two countries both support a waiver of patent rights
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Historically Speaking: The Winning Ways of Moving the Troops

Since the siege of Troy, getting armed forces into battle zones quickly and efficiently has made a decisive difference in warfare The Wall Street Journal May 6, 2021 The massing of more than 100,000 Russian soldiers at Ukraine’s border in April was an unambiguous message to the West: President Putin could dispatch them at any
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Historically Speaking: The Tragedy of Vandalizing the Past

The 20th anniversary of the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan reminds us of the imperative of historical preservation The Wall Street Journal April 15, 2021 Twenty years ago this spring, the Taliban completed their obliteration of Afghanistan’s 1,500-year-old Buddhas of Bamiyan. The colossal stone sculptures had survived major assaults in the 17th and
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Historically Speaking: The Long Fight to Take the Weekend Off

Ancient Jews and Christians observed a day of rest, but not until the 20th century did workers get two days a week to do as they pleased. Wall Street Journal April 1, 2021 Last month the Spanish government agreed to a pilot program for experimenting with a four-day working week. Before the pandemic, such a
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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
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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.
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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
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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
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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,
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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,
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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,
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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,
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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
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