How Gene Tunney brought down a boxing legend and an era

He beat Jack Dempsey twice to become heavyweight champion – and his staid personal style foreshadowed the end of the Roaring ’20s

How Gene Tunney brought down a boxing legend and an eraLast week’s column argued that Jack Dempsey’s July 1919 winning of the world heavyweight boxing championship prefigured the celebrity-obsessed Roaring ’20s. If so, Gene Tunney’s dispatching of Dempsey in 1926 and again 1927 can be viewed as a harbinger of the decade’s end. To be sure, the party didn’t come to a shuddering halt until…

Jack Dempsey and the birth of the Roaring ’20s

The boxer was a prime example of the ascension of celebrity, perhaps rivalled only by baseball’s Babe Ruth

Jack Dempsey and the birth of the Roaring ’20sThe case can be made that the Roaring ’20s actually began 100 years ago this month. On July 4, 1919, Jack Dempsey won the world heavyweight boxing title from Jess Willard in Toledo, Ohio. Waged in a purpose-built outdoor arena with an ambient ringside temperature of around 100F (37C), the fight is considered one of…

The unsung heroes of Waterloo

The Longest Afternoon, by historian Brendan Simms, provides depth, nuance and new insight

The unsung heroes of WaterlooAlthough I considered myself reasonably well informed about the June 1815 Battle of Waterloo, the critical role of the King’s German Legion (KGL) and La Haye Sainte slipped below my radar. That’s been rectified by The Longest Afternoon, a slim volume from historian Brendan Simms. Simms, born in Dublin and educated at Trinity College, is…

Believe it or not: There was once a plan for a Franco-British union

From the failed Franco-British Union during the Second World War to Brexit, some things are just meant to fail

Believe it or not: There was once a plan for a Franco-British unionIn these contentious Brexit days in the United Kingdom, it’s strange to remember that there was once a plan for a Franco-British Union. No, I’m not making that up. However short-lived, the plan was real. On June 16, 1940, the British cabinet approved a “declaration of indissoluble union” to this effect: “France and Great Britain…

A political party that ignores its base jeopardizes its future

Examples can be found around the world – including in Canada – and the scenario is being played out again in the U.K.

A political party that ignores its base jeopardizes its futureRunning for the United Kingdom Conservative leadership, Boris Johnson claims that his party faces “extinction” if it fails to deliver Brexit. Political rhetoric being what it is, this could be dismissed as self-interested hyperbole. But while Johnson may exaggerate, the threat he envisages isn’t conjured out of thin air. There’s ample evidence that many habitual…

Canada’s first political sex scandal was really a dud

Gerda Munsinger, allegedly a low-level Soviet spy, was sexually involved with at least one, and possibly two, cabinet ministers

Canada’s first political sex scandal was really a dudI’d been in Canada for just a few months when the Munsinger affair broke. In March 1966, John Diefenbaker – the former Progressive Conservative prime minister – was berating Liberal cabinet minister Lucien Cardin in the House of Commons on the subject of government laxity regarding security. Exasperated, Cardin struck back by raising the Munsinger…

The unexpected rise of Margaret Thatcher

Into the U.K.’s Winter of Discontent came a woman of sharp edges and a clear mind about how change would be managed

The unexpected rise of Margaret ThatcherOn May 3, 1979, United Kingdom voters trooped to the polls and produced a result that nobody would have countenanced a mere five years earlier. Defeating the sitting Labour government, Margaret Thatcher led the Conservatives into a lengthy sojourn in office. The novelty derived from the U.K. never having had a female prime minister, let…

The thrilling days of cliff-hanger serials

From Congo Bill to Zorro, they were fertile ground for a youngster's imagination as we waited for next week's derring-do

The thrilling days of cliff-hanger serialsBecause my lifelong affair with the movies began at the tail end of the film serial era, I missed most of what’s been described as the genre’s golden age. But I did experience the thrill of watching a story evolve week to week. It was great stuff, or at least that’s how it appeared at…

The primary function of U.S. presidential primaries

The process should help uncover the blemishes in a candidate – providing the other choices shine through

The primary function of U.S. presidential primariesJeb Bush recently suggested that someone ought to run against U.S. President Donald Trump in next year’s presidential primaries. It would, in Bush’s estimation, be good for the Republican Party. The underlying logic is simple. Rather than being a real Republican, Trump is an interloper who executed the political equivalent of a hostile business takeover.…

Joey Smallwood’s campaign to transform Newfoundland

Force-feeding economic modernization is a tricky business, even for a Father of Confederation

Joey Smallwood’s campaign to transform NewfoundlandAfter leading the 1940s movement to bring Newfoundland into Confederation, Joey Smallwood went on to win six consecutive elections and served as the province’s premier for just shy of 23 years. It’s not the longest run for a provincial premier – Nova Scotia’s George Murray, Alberta’s Ernest Manning and Ontario’s Oliver Mowat edge Smallwood on…
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