Gerald Ford blew his chances to be Reagan’s running mate

During 1980’s Republican convention, backroom negotiations and media speculation over a running mate dominated

Gerald Ford blew his chances to be Reagan’s running mateIn July 1980, U.S. Republicans met in Detroit to formally nominate their ticket for the upcoming presidential election. It wasn’t supposed to be an eventful gathering. Ronald Reagan, the former movie star and California governor, had vanquished an array of opponents during the primary season and was thus assured of the top spot. The only…

Statue-toppling and the narrowness of righteous minds

Just because someone else’s history makes you uncomfortable doesn’t give you a moral licence to erase it from public space

Statue-toppling and the narrowness of righteous mindsIf I were a Brit – which I’m not – I’d be materially annoyed at the vandalization of Winston Churchill’s statue and the related attempts to remove it from its perch in London’s Parliament Square. And in keeping with today’s enthusiasm for rhetorical hyperbole, I’d be tempted to consider it the thin end of the…

Floyd Patterson: the boxer who came back

Written off as a hopeless case, he brought a ruthless, coiled fury to the ring, taking back the world championship

Floyd Patterson: the boxer who came backOn June 20, 1960, 25-year-old Floyd Patterson did something that hadn’t been done before. He became the first man to ever regain the world heavyweight boxing championship. Others had tried – including legendary figures like Jack Dempsey and Joe Louis – but none had succeeded. Conventional wisdom speculated that perhaps it couldn’t be done. Although…

The Habsburgs: Rise and fall of Europe’s premier dynasty

They were canny, enduring and keen on expansion. In the end, however, the empire couldn't survive the First World War

The Habsburgs: Rise and fall of Europe’s premier dynastyThanks to a voluble professor of European history at University College Dublin, the Habsburgs first piqued my curiosity in the early 1960s. Then the interest lay dormant until a chance 2011 visit to the imperial crypt in Vienna’s Capuchin monastery. In operation since 1632, the crypt contains the tombs of more than 140 Habsburg royalty.…

Digging for the bones of a lost Irish hero

Digging for the bones of a lost Irish heroThe Spanish city of Valladolid has an Irish historical connection. It was there that Red Hugh O’Donnell was buried in 1602. Now, thanks to an archaeological dig aimed at finding his long-lost tomb, the connection is back in the news. Known as Red Hugh because of his hair colour, he was the kind of historical…

Finding new value – and a great back story – in an old film

D-Day the Sixth of June was based on an award-winning novel by Canadian journalist Lionel Shapiro

Finding new value – and a great back story – in an old filmTurner Classic Movies marked the American Memorial Day weekend by showing a string of war films, one of which was D-Day the Sixth of June. Released in 1956 and based on a novel published the previous year, I’d seen it at the local cinema in Dublin, Ireland, more than 60 years ago. Back then, I’d…

Bringing the Architect of the Holocaust to justice

Was Adolf Eichmann a monster or just a loyal officer in a role that largely revolved around establishing train schedules?

Bringing the Architect of the Holocaust to justiceOn May 23, 1960, Israel announced the capture of Adolf Eichmann. An undercover Israeli security services team had snatched him 12 days earlier in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and smuggled him out of the country by air. The story was an immediate international sensation. If you were only moderately conversant with the Holocaust, you might never…

Hubris, conspiracy and the fall of Margaret Thatcher

The former U.K. prime minister had a radical streak and a thirst for combat that the men she led didn’t share

Hubris, conspiracy and the fall of Margaret ThatcherMargaret Thatcher had her final prime ministerial audience with the Queen on Nov. 28, 1990. Despite having won three consecutive general elections and never losing a parliamentary vote of confidence, she was evicted from office against her will. The dramatic story is comprehensively told in Herself Alone, the third and final instalment of Charles Moore’s…

The unlucky end of an American war deserter

Private Eddie Slovik, executed 75 years ago, didn't deserve his fate

The unlucky end of an American war deserterIf you’re rewatching Downton Abbey on PBS, you’ll know the plotline about the cook’s nephew who was shot for desertion during the First World War. And such things did occur. For instance, the British and Commonwealth military executed 306 men in those circumstances. They were, as the stark phrase put it, shot at dawn. The…

The Year 1000: a look at globalization’s roots

Author Valerie Hansen demonstrates that the concept of international trading networks and linkages goes back a very long way

The Year 1000: a look at globalization’s rootsValerie Hansen is an American academic who teaches history at Yale. She also writes books, of which 2012’s The Silk Road is perhaps the best known. Hansen’s latest book is The Year 1000. Provocatively subtitled When Explorers Connected the World – and Globalization Began, it’s a recounting of interconnectedness in the five centuries between 1000…
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