Historians as presidential advisors?; New Orleans & a brutal case of Jim Crow violence; Lizzy Borden’s philanthropy; parole denied in two historic cases; King Arthur’s birthplace found?


I’m going to be really curious about what kind of feedback pieces this gets, if any: There is an essay today in The Atlantic which promotes “applied history,” arguing that presidents need to appoint a “Council of Historical Advisors.” We all know that historians are uncomfortable with the old cliche, “those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” and I am afraid that such a council would have political motivation to “cherry pick” evidence and practice agenda-driven history. Still, I find this suggestion interesting and worthy of debate. Personally, I think at the very least having a professional historian or two present at cabinet meetings wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

Over on We’re History, Joshua Rothman has a new essay about an explosive and tragic event that happened in 1900 in New Orleans. I’d never heard of Robert Charles before, but this brutal story is captivating and way too eerily similar to current events. It is a violent and sobering piece.

Also on We’re History, they have a “this day in history” piece about the infamous Lizzie Borden, revealing a little known side of her. Since I was a young teen, I’ve had a morbid curiosity about her case, and a visit to the murder site a few years ago still sticks with me (if you have never been, I highly encourage it. But it’ll shake you up). Her case, and the sensationalism that surrounded it, offer a very interesting window into many aspects of the Gilded Age (I know at least one professor that uses the Borden case as a lecture on the Gilded Age). All of this is given attention in this essay by Steven Cromack, but it ultimately focuses on something many are unaware of—Lizzie’s post-trial life and her philanthropy that is still benefiting one organization to this very day.

Speaking of infamous murderers: in the last two weeks we have seen justice served in two high profile and historic cases. First, California Governor Jerry Brown overturned the parole of one of Charles Manson’s disciples for her involvement in the 1969 murders. Then yesterday we learned that the last living convicted murderer in the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham was denied parole. Hopefully, both of them will die where they belong.

A recent archeological discovery in England has some wondering if it is the birthplace of legendary King Arthur. Of course we don’t know if the dude was an actual person, but those that believe he was are intrigued by this new find. The researchers, meanwhile, did not set about to either prove or disprove his existence, but have uncovered what appears to have been a pretty impressive palace and building complex in the area where Arthur is said to have been born. More importantly, the site is yielding valuable information about the little understood period just after the collapse of  the Roman Empire’s  administration of England.

Check out this local news video out of NY, featuring a full sized exact replica of a 17th century ship that is currently plying the waters of the Hudson Valley. Its normal base is in Delaware, where it is a floating classroom/museum. I’d love to see that thing sailing and/or to climb aboard!



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