Beaver Believers?

27 Jun

Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter.

If you’ve interacted with me at all in the last several weeks, I might have mentioned that beavers have transparent eyelids so they can see underwater! That they secrete a musky oil that contains the active ingredient in aspirin! That a half-mile-long structure built by beavers is visible from space! That an ancient member of the beaver family the size of a small black bear once roamed much of the modern-day United States! (To find out just how seriously the U.S. considered using beavers as a defensive weapon of sorts during the Cold War, you’ll have to read the book.)

But none of those facts are what converted me into a “Beaver Believer,” as the group of scientists, land-managers, and environmentally minded folks who are working tirelessly to bolster beaver populations around the U.S. are known. It’s not that beavers need our help—the animals are not even remotely endangered, though their numbers are also nowhere near what they were before Europeans arrived in North America—but we certainly need them.

This is part of Kate Wheeling’s Pacific Standard lead-in to her interview with author Ben Goldfarb and his new book Eager. You may read the entire interview here.

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A History of Pizza

26 Jun

Fast food outlet: a Neapolitan pizza seller, 19th century.

Pizza is the world’s favourite fast food. We eat it everywhere – at home, in restaurants, on street corners. Some three billion pizzas are sold each year in the United States alone, an average of 46 slices per person. But the story of how the humble pizza came to enjoy such global dominance reveals much about the history of migration, economics and technological change.

So begins Alexander Lee’s concise “slice” of the history of pizza. You may read the rest of his piece at History Today here.

Evangelical Fear Elected Trump

24 Jun

White conservative evangelicals in America are anxious people. I know because I am one.

Our sense of fear, perhaps more than any other factor, explains why evangelicals voted in such large numbers for Donald Trump in 2016 and continue to support his presidency.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and essayist Marilynne Robinson once wrote, “Fear is not a Christian habit of mind.” The great poet of the Jersey shore, Bruce Springsteen, sings, “Fear’s a dangerous thing. It can turn your heart black you can trust. It can take a God-filled soul, and turn it to devils and dust.”

So begins my friend historian John Fea’s brief history of white evangelicals and fear. It is based in large part on his new book, Believe Me. You may read the rest of this Atlantic piece by him here.

Romans 13 and Political Theory: An Interview with Micah Watson

23 Jun

At the Twelve, Debra Reinstra inteviews a political science colleague at Calvin College on thinking well–thinking Christianly, so to speak–about being a citizen in light of the U.S. Attorney General’s invoking of Romans 13 in regard to U.S. immigration policy. You may read the interview (it is not lengthy) here.

Government Boarding Schools Once Separated Native American Children From Families

21 Jun

Carlisle Indian School

In 1879, U.S. cavalry captain Richard Henry Pratt opened a boarding school in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. But it wasn’t the kind of boarding school that rich parents send their children to. Rather, the Carlisle Indian Industrial School was a government-backed institution that forcibly separated Native American children from their parents in order to, as Pratt put it, “kill the Indian in him, and save the man.”

Over the next several decades, Carlisle served as a model for nearly 150 such schools that opened around the country. Like the 1887 Dawes Act that reallotted Native American land, or the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ 1902 “haircut order”specifying that men with long hair couldn’t receive rations, Native American boarding schools were a method of forced assimilation. The end goal of these measures was to make Native people more like the white Anglo-Americans who had taken over their land.

So begins Becky Little’s concise historical reminder at History.com of Indian Boarding Schools. You may read her entire post here.

Yes, your ancestors probably did come here legally — because ‘illegal’ immigration is less than a century old in the U.S.

21 Jun

Yes, your ancestors probably did come here legally — because 'illegal' immigration is less than a century old

When Nathalie Gumpertz arrived in New York in 1858, she was 22, single and ready to build a life in her new country. Without thinking twice about her legal status, she got off the boat, made her way to the Lower East Side (then known as Klein Deutschland, or “Little Germany,” due to the preponderance of German immigrants in the neighborhood) and eventually married, had four kids and settled at 97 Orchard St., the historic tenement house that is now the heart of the Tenement Museum, where I serve as president.

More than six decades later, in 1925, Rosaria Baldizzi arrived in New York to join her husband Adolfo at the same building, 97 Orchard. Baldizzi had a cloud hanging over her head that would remain there for the next two decades, one that Gumpertz never worried about: She had not entered the U.S. legally, and therefore had to worry about possible deportation.

What happened to make these two women’s experiences so different? In the years between their arrivals, “illegal” immigration was invented.

So begins Kevin Jennings’ brief history in the Los Angeles Times of U.S. immigration law. You may read the rest of his piece here.

The Redemption of Ulysses S. Grant

20 Jun

Every now and then a past American president undergoes a radical change in historical reputation. The starkest case was probably that of Harry Truman who was single-handedly rehabilitated twenty-five years ago by David McCullough’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning biography. By contrast, Thomas Jefferson has had rough innings recently at the hands of liberal historians who once lauded him but now focus on his long, profitable—and mealy-mouthed—entanglement with slavery.

The latest candidate for redemption is Ulysses S. Grant. The process has been underway for a couple decades already but surely has hit full stride now, courtesy of America’s favorite biographer, Ron Chernow. Also a Pulitzer winner for his work on George Washington and a prime source for the endlessly popular stage musical, Hamilton …

So begins historian James Bratt’s review of Chernow’s biography of U.S. Grant. You may read the rest of the review at the Twelve here.

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