A hearty portion of Thanksgiving history, a sample of drunken Lin-Manuel Miranda, a slice of gift suggestions (and a pinch of self-promotion).

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Of course I must post some Thanksgiving history, but instead of something typical, I found a pretty good piece from our cousins in the UK. The London Telegraph took the time to explain the American holiday to its readers, and does a pretty good job of detailing everything from the history behind the holiday, why we eat turkey, why we watch parades and football, and how many of us get stuck in traffic. It also discusses how Black Friday has come to England, where an American in London can get a Thanksgiving feast, and why the holiday would never work in the UK. It is interesting to see the holiday’s history dissected from an English perspective, and you might just learn something!

More Thanksgiving history: the Civil War played a key role in the development of the holiday, which is something we do not think much about (it is all about Pilgrims and Native Americans in most people’s minds). But in a nation that is terribly divided at the moment, it might be a good time to gain some historical perspective from Antebellum America and the Civil War. The Washington Post has a good piece today  by Peter Manseau, (curator of religion at the National Museum of American History) which appropriately reminds us that the divisions we are experiencing right now are not even close to what the nation was going through in 1863 when Lincoln called for a national day of Thanksgiving. “From the beginning,” Manseau argues, the holiday  “has involved both acknowledgment of Americans’ penchant for disagreement, and celebration of the American desire to make the best out of bad situations.”

So next week is the premiere of the long-awaited episode of Drunk History in which an intoxicated Lin-Manuel Miranda tells the story of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Thankfully (just in time for Thanksgiving) we get a little teaser video today. And it is awesome.

We all love actor James (Jimmy) Stewart, right? Even if you are not a big classic movie buff like myself, surely you have at least seen him in the holiday classic, It’s a Wonderful Life. Like many actors of his generation, when WWII came he enlisted (I wonder how many Hollywood celebrities would do that now), but unlike many of them that took military jobs involving the production of film/propaganda (which did often expose them to real combat dangers), Stewart chose to get directly involved in combat by flying and leading bombing missions in Europe. He never really talked much about his experiences, but we do know that the types of film roles he took after the war changed, becoming darker and more complex. (With It’s a Wonderful Life being his first movie after the war). Anyway, all this is to point out that a new book has just been published which focuses on Stewart’s military career, and I for one have always been curious about it. If you are a movie buff and history lover like me, this looks like a good one to put on your wish list.

And speaking of good gifts for the holidays: Please allow me to remind you about the publication of the New York Times book, Disunion. (Yes, I have pointed this out before, but I wanted to remind you in time for “Black Friday” shopping!) It is a collection of short essays (perfect for coffee table or bathroom reading) about the Civil War from many varied and interesting perspectives, and with way more than just battle narratives. Some very fine historians that I greatly admire, and several of which I am friends with (including my good pal, Christian McWhirter), have contributions to the book. And yes, this is all self-serving, as I have an essay in it on a topic that I was particularly excited to get to write about. My involvement aside, it really is a fine looking book that I think Civil War and history buffs in general will appreciate (especially if they do no have much time for reading–because the essays are all in small, easily digestible sizes). It is widely available, from Amazon to your local Barnes and Noble.

Look at that! I got away with no Trump today. Happy Thanksgiving!!


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