The emancipated Empire

The British Empire was first built on slavery and then on the moral and economic self-confidence of antislavery by Padraic Scanlan is an assistant professor at the Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources at the University of Toronto, cross-appointed to the Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies. He is also a research associate at the Center for History and Economics at Harvard University and the University of Cambridge. He is the author of Freedom’s Debtors (2017) and Slave Empire (2020) Britain ended its slave trade in 1807, and abolished slavery in much of its colonial empire in 1834. Four years later, Queen Victoria … Continue reading The emancipated Empire

When hope is a hindrance

For Hannah Arendt, hope is a dangerous barrier to courageous action. In dark times, the miracle that saves the world is to act Samantha Rose Hill is a senior fellow at the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities and associate faculty at the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research and the University of the Underground. She is the author of Hannah Arendt (2021) and Hannah Arendt’s Poems (forthcoming 2022), and her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, LitHub, OpenDemocracy, Public Seminar, Contemporary Political Theory and Theory & Event. Edited by Nigel Warburton As Hannah Arendt and her husband Heinrich Blücher waited … Continue reading When hope is a hindrance

A fable of ancient Greece: when the mythic universe became a rational machine

This short story is a fictional account of two very real people — Anaximander and Anaximenes, two ancient Greeks who tried to make sense of the universe. by MARCELO GLEISER Worldviews change and, with them, the way we see ourselves and our place in the universe. The transition from myth to science as an explanation for the workings of nature took place in pre-Socratic Greece, beginning around 550 BCE. At that time, the Earth was believed to be the center of the universe. The first mechanical model of the cosmos is attributed to Anaximander. Corrections to that model, by his … Continue reading A fable of ancient Greece: when the mythic universe became a rational machine

Poseidon’s wrath

Vanished beneath the waves in 373 BCE, Helike is a byword for thinking about disaster, for ancients and moderns alike. Guy D Middleton is a visiting fellow in the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at Newcastle University. His books include Understanding Collapse: Ancient History and Modern Myths (2017) and Collapse and Transformation: The Late Bronze Age to Early Iron Age in the Aegean  Edited bySam Dresser One night nearly 2,500 years ago, the people of Helike, a city in the northern Peloponnese, were in their homes. Perhaps they were winding down with a glass of watered wine or already sleeping after spending … Continue reading Poseidon’s wrath

The divine Dante

Mark Vernon is a psychotherapist and writer, and works with the research group Perspectiva. He has a PhD in ancient Greek philosophy, and degrees in theology and physics. He is the author of A Secret History of Christianity: Jesus, the Last Inkling, and the Evolution of Consciousness (2019) and Dante’s Divine Comedy: A Guide for the Spiritual Journey (forthcoming, September 2021). He lives in London. Edited by Marina Benjamin Dante Alighieri was early in recognising that our age has a problem. He was the first writer to use the word moderno, in Italian, and the difficulty he spotted with the modern mind is its limited … Continue reading The divine Dante

Plagues and empires

What can the decline of the Roman Empire and the end of European feudalism tell us about COVID-19 and the future of the West? John Rapley is a political economist at the University of Cambridge, as well as a senior fellow at the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study. His latest book is Twilight of the Money Gods: Economics as a Religion and How it all Went Wrong (2017). He lives in London and Johannesburg. Edited bySam Haselby Early in 2020, after a mysterious coronavirus emerged out of China and then raced across the globe, a quiet new year took a screeching turn. … Continue reading Plagues and empires

Exit the Fatherland

Shaking off Nazism was no simple matter: the work to create a plural and peacable Germany was prolonged and painful Helmut Walser Smith is the Martha Rivers Ingram Chair of History and professor of history at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. His books include The Butcher’s Tale: Murder and Antisemitism in a German Town (2002), The Continuities of German History: Nation, Religion, and Race across the Long 19th Century (2008) and Germany: A Nation in Its Time (2020). Edited by Sam Haselby After 12 years of fascism, six years of war, and the concentrated genocidal killing of the Holocaust, nationalism should have been thoroughly discredited. Yet it was not. … Continue reading Exit the Fatherland

800 years of rape culture

From The Taymouth Hours (Yates Thompson MS 13, folio 62r), 14th century. Courtesy the British Library Rape in the Middle Ages was seen as a routine part of women’s lives, even as it was condemned. How far have we really come? Carissa Harris is associate professor of English at Temple University in Philadelphia. She is the author of Obscene Pedagogies: Transgressive Talk and Sexual Education in Late Medieval Britain (2018). Edited by Pam Weintraub One of the most memorable lies about medieval rape appears early in Mel Gibson’s blockbuster film Braveheart (1995). As he ponders how to entice his English noblemen to live in Scotland, King Edward I declares that … Continue reading 800 years of rape culture

The road from Rome

The fall of the Roman Empire wasn’t a tragedy for civilisation. It was a lucky break for humanity as a whole Walter Scheidel is Dickason Professor in the Humanities, professor of Classics and history, and a Catherine R Kennedy and Daniel L Grossman fellow in human biology, all at Stanford University in California… Edited by Sam Dresser For an empire that collapsed more than 1,500 years ago, ancient Rome maintains a powerful presence. About 1 billion people speak languages derived from Latin; Roman law shapes modern norms; and Roman architecture has been widely imitated. Christianity, which the empire embraced in its sunset years, remains the … Continue reading The road from Rome

France is banning any short flight that can be replaced by a train trip

If you can get there within 180 minutes on the train, you won’t be able to fly. BY ADELE PETERS It takes around two hours to take a train from Paris to the city of Lyon. That train ride has a far smaller carbon footprint than flying between the cities—and now the French government plans to ban the flights, along with other short routes that take 2.5 hours or less by train, to shrink the country’s transportation emissions. Another proposal would have ditched all flights shorter than four hours than could have been replaced by train rides, but politicians compromised after … Continue reading France is banning any short flight that can be replaced by a train trip