amandaAmanda Foreman

All articles by amanda

 

Insuring Against Disasters

Insurance policies go back to the ancient Babylonians and were crucial in the early development of capitalism 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 the insurance industry is trying to conduct
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The Invention of Ice Hockey

Canada gave us the modern form of a sport that has been played for centuries around the world 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, Nova Scotia, which has an entire museum
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Unenforceable Laws Against Pleasure

The 100th anniversary of Prohibition is a reminder of how hard it is to regulate consumption and display 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 its great prize. As the novelist Anthony
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The High Cost of Financial Panics

Roman emperors and American presidents alike have struggled to deal with sudden economic crashes 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 even the best governments. Jefferson was prescient:
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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 for the Wall Street Journal 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 Prayer”: “We
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Trees of Life and Wonder

From Saturnalia to Christmas Eve, people have always had a spiritual need for greenery in the depths of winter 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 in Los Angeles, where you could buy
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The Tradition of Telling All

From ancient Greece to modern Washington, political memoirs have been irresistible source of gossip about great leaders 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 in office. What makes the Trump administration
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How Potatoes Conquered the World

It took centuries for the spud to travel from the New World to the Old and back again For the Wall Street Journal 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 roasted, not
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Overrun by Alien Species

From Japanese knotweed to cane toads, humans have introduced invasive species to new environments with disastrous results 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 arise when a non-native species encounters no
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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 For the Wall Street Journal’s “Historically Speaking” column 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
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Historically Speaking: When Women Were Brewers

From ancient times until the Renaissance, beer-making was considered a female specialty 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 family as a celebration of Crown Prince
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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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WSJ 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 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 the future of commercial air travel, complete
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WSJ Historically Speaking: Poison and Politics

From ‘cantarella’ to polonium, governments have used toxins to terrorize and kill their enemies 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 were intended as retaliation for his activism
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WSJ Historically Speaking: The Struggle Before #MeToo

Today’s women are not the first to take a public stand against sexual assault and harassment 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 of sexual harassment and assault still face
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WSJ Historically Speaking: When Royal Love Affairs Go Wrong

From Cleopatra to Edward VIII, monarchs have followed their hearts—with disastrous results. “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 audience would disagree? Thwarted lovers are indeed
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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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WSJ 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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WSJ 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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WSJ Historically Speaking: Remembering the Pueblo: Hostages as Propaganda Tools

The Pueblo incident, involving the North Korean takeover of a spy ship, turns 50 Fifty years ago, on Jan. 23, 1968, North Korean forces captured the U.S. Navy spy ship Pueblo in international waters. North Korea took 82 crew members hostage (one was killed in the attack) and subjected them to 11 months of sporadic torture
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“Stories from the Royal Collection” on BBC Radio 4 19.01.17


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WSJ Historically Speaking: The First Fixer-Upper: A Look at White House Renovations

Rude visitors, sinking pianos and dismayed presidential residents This year marks the bicentennial of the public reopening of the White House after the War of 1812, when the British burned the executive mansion and sent President James Madison fleeing. Though the grand house has legions of devotees today, its occupants haven’t always loved the place. The
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WSJ Historically Speaking: The Long and Winding Road to New Year’s

  The hour, date and kind of celebration have changed century to century With its loud TV hosts, drunken parties and awful singing, New Year’s Eve might seem to have been around forever. Yet when it comes to the timing and treatment of the  holiday, our version of New Year’s—the eve and day itself—is a relatively recent
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WSJ Historically Speaking: The Ancient Magic of Mistletoe

The plant’s odyssey from a Greek festival to a role in the works of Dickens and Trollope Is mistletoe naughty or nice? The No. 1 hit single for Christmas 1952 was young Jimmy Boyd warbling how he caught “mommy kissing Santa Claus underneath the mistletoe last night.” It may very well have been daddy in costume—but,
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WSJ Historically Speaking: Kylo Ren, Meet Huck Finn: A History of Sequels and Their Heroes

The pedigree of sequels is as old as storytelling itself “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” may end up being the most successful movie sequel in the biggest sequel-driven franchise in the history of entertainment. That’s saying something, given Hollywood’s obsession with sequels, prequels, reboots and remakes. Although this year’s “Guardians of the Galaxy 2” was arguably
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The Sunday Times: Social-media addiction and self-harm: why teenage girls are in crisis

Raising girls has never been simple, says the historian Amanda Foreman. But now, more than ever, they need strong maternal support The most talented woman I have encountered suffered from such low self-esteem that she couldn’t bear to look at herself in the mirror. Still, she always presented a glamorous facade to the world, successfully
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WSJ Historically Speaking: Short but Tasty History of Pumpkin Pie

An odyssey from colonial staple to political emblem to holiday standby Pumpkin pie may not compete with its apple-filled rival for most of the year, but on Thanksgiving, it’s the iconic dessert, despite often resembling a giant helping of baby food. As a slice of Americana, the pie has a history as complicated as the country
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WSJ Historically Speaking: A History of the Unloved Electoral College

Opponents have ranged from John Adams to Richard Nixon. Why has the system survived? The 2016 election results caused plenty of bitterness—not the least of which had to do with the Electoral College. Donald Trump won the presidency a year ago this week but lost the popular vote—something that has happened a handful of times in
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WSJ Historically Speaking: The Power of Pamphlets: A Brief History

As the Reformation passes a milestone, a look at a key weapon of change The Reformation began on Oct. 31, 1517, when Martin Luther, as legend has it, nailed his “95 Theses” to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany. Whatever he actually did—he may have just attached the papers to the door or delivered them to
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WSJ Historically Speaking: A Brief History of Protest in Sports

From angry gladiators to Suffragette sabotage Oct. 5, 2017 1:39 p.m. ET Sports and protest often go together: As soon as someone makes a call, somebody else is disputing it. But in recent weeks, the really big clashes have happened off the playing fields, as President Donald Trump and others criticized football players kneeling during the
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The Sunday Times: Amanda Foreman: public schools shun classic novels

A bestselling biographer fears Austen and Dickens have been forsaken to boost results Sian Griffiths, Education Editor Top public schools including Eton and Marlborough have been accused of “shutting children out of their literary heritage” by failing to teach classic novels. The academic and writer Amanda Foreman is campaigning to return classic novels by authors such
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WSJ Historically Speaking: A Brief History of Driving on the Left

Over the centuries, plenty of empires and nations have driven on the left side of the road Fifty years ago this month, on Sept. 3, 1967, the world turned upside down in Sweden. Or rather it went from left to right: On that day, the Swedes abandoned 200 years of left-hand traffic, or LHT, to switch
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WSJ Historically Speaking: The Psychology and History of Snipers

Sharpshooters helped turn the course of World War II 75 years ago at the Battle of Stalingrad The Battle of Stalingrad during World War II cost more than a million lives, making it one of the bloodiest battles in human history. The death toll began in earnest 75 years ago this week, after the Germans punched
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The Daily Mail: ‘WHAT BOOK would historian Amanda Foreman take to a desert island?’

. . . are you reading now? The Dry, by Jane Harper. The hero, Aaron Falk, is a Melbourne-based federal agent, whose life has settled into a narrow furrow of work and more work. However, he harbours a dark past that comes back to haunt him after his childhood friend inexplicably kills himself and his
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WSJ Historically Speaking: ‘A Brief History of Brinkmanship’

In 1956, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, explaining how America could use the threat of nuclear war in diplomacy, told Life Magazine, “The ability to get to the verge without getting into the war is the necessary art…. If you try to run away from it, if you are scared to go to the
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WITF TV Picks for the week of August 20, 2017

Sunday August 20 at 9:00pm – Endeavor on Masterpiece – Follow Endeavour, who while struggling with Joan Thursday’s sudden departure, is consumed by a nightmarish hunt for a serial killer. He must race against time to find the connection between a chess-playing “thinking” machine and a baffling drowning. Monday August 21 at 9:00pm – NOVA
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The Sunday Times: The Real Value of a University Degree

In four days’ time several hundred thousand 18-year-olds will be having a collective freakout. Finally, after weeks of sweaty waiting, they will receive their A-level results. You may be one of those waiting. Or you may be one of the relatives and friends bracing themselves for impact. Either way, there’s a date with destiny at
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WSJ Historically Speaking: A Brief History of Lemonade

The lemonade stand has symbolized American childhood and values for more than a century. Norman Rockwell even created a classic 1950s drawing of children getting their first taste of capitalism with the help of a little sugar and lemon. Yet like apple pie, the lemonade stand is far older than America itself. The lemon’s origins
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WSJ Historically Speaking: Austen, Anonymous Writers and History

It is a truth universally acknowledged that “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen —who died 200 years ago this month—is one of the most romantic and popular tales ever written. Behind the global adoration she enjoys today lies the irony that in her own time Austen’s name never appeared on her books.
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