RealClearHistory Articles

10 Horrific Ways to Die

Brandon Christensen - August 16, 2018


The state of Nebraska recently executed a man using, for the first time, an opioid called fentanyl. The execution has garnered considerable scrutiny by the press, as the execution was a bit unusual. For starters, the legislature of Nebraska voted to abolish the death penalty in 2015, only to have it overturned by a plebiscite in 2016. To further complicate matters, drug-making companies have refused to sell their products to states that execute criminals, thus making lethal drugs incredibly expensive and hard to obtain.

The constitution of the United States prohibits the government from engaging in cruel and unusual punishment. Over the years, activists have used this prohibition to outlaw certain types of execution methods and, indeed, stigmatize execution itself (your correspondent, for example, is against the death penalty). Yet a quick study of history shows that the American Founders had other, much more brutal, methods of cruel and unusual punishment in mind when they introduced the Bill of Rights to the American people.

Here are the 10 most brutal execution methods in history:

10. Crucifixion. We might as well start off with the most famous form of execution. Governments, local, imperial, and everything in between, would crucify criminals by either nailing their limbs onto a cross or simply tying said limbs to a cross. Then, the cross would be hoisted up and the criminal would be on display for all to see. Sometimes, the agent in charge of carrying out the execution would break the legs of the criminal with a big stick. Sometimes, the agents of the law would stab the criminals as they hung from their cross, not to kill the criminal but to make him (or her) more uncomfortable. Plenty of ancient societies used crucifixion for punishment, which is almost understandable, but you’d think this form of punishment would be outlawed by now, right? Wrong! The Japanese used crucifixion as an execution method as late as World War II, and the Soviets are rumored to have crucified German civilians on the Eastern Front, but crucifixion didn’t end then, either. In Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and the United Arab Emirates, crucifixion is one of the many privileges these governments set aside for themselves. The Islamic State has crucified enemies, too. Crucifixion has also been used by the Burmese government on pro-independence rebels, and by the Ukrainian government on pro-Russia rebels. Yikes.

Emmett Till, A New Investigation, and Vindication of T.R.M. Howard

D.T. Beito & L.R. Beito - August 9, 2018


Recent news that the Justice Department will reopen the Emmett Till murder case represents a belated vindication of a (now forgotten) civil rights legend: Dr. T.R.M. Howard (1908-76).  After an all-white jury acquitted Till’s killers (who later admitted their guilt in exchange for money) in September 1955, no black leader pushed harder for the federal government to take up the case with additional charges. 

As he made these demands, it was hard for anyone to ignore someone of Howard’s accomplishments. Born in rural poverty in western Kentucky, he had risen to wealth in the all-black town of Mound Bayou, Mississippi as a surgeon and entrepreneur.  His enterprises included a thousand-acre plantation, a home construction firm, an insurance company, the first swimming pool for blacks in Mississippi, a restaurant with a beer garden, a small zoo, and a hospital that gave affordable care to tens of thousands. 

 In 1951, Howard organized the Regional Council of Negro Leadership (RCNL), which led a successful boycott of service stations that refused to provide restrooms for blacks. The RCNL weaved together an agenda of self-help, entrepreneurship, thrift, and voting rights and was instrumental in introducing such leading activists of the 1960s as Medgar Evers and Fannie Lou Hamer into the civil rights movement. 

 In 1954, Howard pushed aggressively for implementation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education striking down school segregation. The RCNL’s aggressiveness prompted a racist backlash led by the “Citizens Councils,” which included both economic pressure and such acts of terrorism as the 1955 murders of two of Howard’s RCNL associates and friends, Rev. George W. Lee in May and Lamar Smith in August. 

10 Places That Should Join the U.S.

Brandon Christensen - August 8, 2018


It’s been 59 years since a state was admitted into the American republic. The flag of the world’s most powerful country has been adorned with 50 stars for almost six decades now. On Aug. 21, 1959, the Territory of Hawaii was admitted as the 50th state in the union, joining the Territory of Alaska (which joined in January of that same year) as the last two territories of the republic to join as full-fledged states.

That’s a long stretch to go without new stars, and it’s high time to start thinking about adding some more to Old Glory. Annexation shouldn’t be done via conquest or coercion, of course, but neither should the possibility of expanding American constitutionalism (and the liberties protected therein) beyond its current borders be shied away from. Annexing new states means federation, and federation means ceding some sovereignty (“costs”) in exchange for some perceived benefits, which could range from more accurate representation in Congress to better military protection to fuller access of American markets.

Before the objections and insults begin to fly, your correspondent would direct you to the esteemed work of James Bryce, one of the most respected historians of the late 19th century, who, as a British citizen, wrote the post-Civil War equivalent of Alexis de Tocqueville’s pre-Civil War Democracy in America. Bryce’s massive treatise, first published in 1888 (with subsequent editons in 1910 and 1914), on the United States was titled, simply, The American Commonwealth (you can find it here [https://www.libertyfund.org/books/the-american-commonwealth]) and is best known for providing a snapshot of an America that stood in stark contrast to Tocqueville’s egalitarian description. To Bryce, the industrial revolution had made mincemeat out of the early republic’s agrarian ideals, and the vast inequality that confronted Americans was augmented by the territorial expansion of the United States westward through a constitutional framework that, by design, made territorial expansion difficult. Bryce pointed out the problems Americans faced in a manner that was so collected, and so thorough, that his treatise earned him the admiration of Americans on both the left and the right for two generations (until the end of World War II).

Stay with me here.

10 Craziest Murders in Recent History

Brandon Christensen - August 2, 2018


On Aug. 4, 1892, a wealthy local businessman and his wife were found murdered in their home. Andrew and Abby Borden has been butchered with an axe, and Andrew’s daughter, Elizabeth, was the prime suspect. The ensuing trial, which found Elizabeth (“Lizzie”) not guilty, aroused strong feelings throughout the entire country.
In honor of these famous axe murders from the late 19th century, here is a list of the 10 craziest murders in recent history:

10. Nicole Simpson and Ron Brown. In 1994, OJ Simpson, the famous football player and television broadcaster, was arrested and charged with the murders of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman. Simpson was acquitted in 1995 after a lengthy trial that included a televised car chase and several racially charged incidents inside the courtroom. The trial galvanized the American public and OJ Simpson became loathed by more than just fans of the New York Jets and UCLA Bruins.

9. Laci Peterson. In 2003, a former bar owner and current fertilizer salesman, Scott Peterson, was arrested and charged with the murders of Laci Peterson, his wife, and their unborn child. During the course of Peterson’s trial, the numerous affairs of both Petersons came to light, as well as the name of the unborn child (“Connor”). Peterson was eventually convicted of both murders, and currently sits on death row in San Quentin State Prison.

8. William Woodward Jr. California is not the only state in the union to have crazy murders committed in it. In October of 1955, Ann Woodward, the wife of banking heir William Woodward Jr., shot and killed her husband in their Long island home. Ann swore that she thought William was a burglar and she was acquitted, but William’s mother, who thought Ann was a “gold digger,” (her previous trades before being a socialite were as an actress and showgirl), publicly claimed that Ann had deliberately murdered her son. While Ann was considered innocent by the law (she never had to go to trial), her husband’s death followed her for the next 20 years, which included many flings with younger men and banishment from high society, until she swallowed a cyanide pill in 1975. The Woodward’s two sons, who were in the house at the time of the killing, both committed suicide later in life.

Ten World War II Prison Camps in America

Brandon Christensen - July 20, 2018


A few months back I wrote a column highlighting ten of the worst Japanese-run prison camps in the Philippines during World War II. I thought it would only be fair to highlight 10 of the worst American-run prison camps for the Japanese in the U.S. during World War II.

As a quick historical reminder, the United States government, under the direct orders of Democratic president Franklin D. Roosevelt, imprisoned hundreds of thousands of Americans and recently immigrated foreigners for the crime of being Japanese or German (the Italians got some flack, too, but less so than the other two), or for having a Japanese or German surname.

The vast majority of these imprisoned people were Japanese or Japanese-American. In fact, the total amount of interred German or German-American prisoners was roughly 11,000, and the number of Italian or Italian-Americans much smaller than that.

Internment camps themselves were a new concept for the U.S. government. Sure, there had been forcible relocations of Native Americans for centuries prior to World War II, but none of those horrific crimes involved strategically removing American citizens and their families from one area of the country to another until a war ended (when the removed citizens would then – in theory – be allowed to return home). The Roosevelt administration eventually created three types of camps for prisoners: temporary camps, internment camps, and detention centers. The detention centers, run by the Department of Justice, housed the most suspicious prisoners, and it is the detention centers that deserve the most focus. So, without further ado, here are the ten harshest WWII prison camps in the U.S.:

Shedding Light on 10 Ancient Civilizations

Brandon Christensen - July 16, 2018


You already know about ancient Egypt and her pyramids, ancient Greece and her philosophers, ancient China’s order, ancient Rome’s splendor, and ancient Babylon’s conquering armies. But what about their neighbors? It hardly seems plausible that these ancient civilizations were alone, and archaeological and historical research is illuminating our distant past more and more these days.

For your pleasure and amusement, here are 10 ancient civilizations you should know more about:

10. The Sumerians. You may have heard of Sumeria tangentially, but how much about them do you really know? Sumeria was the first known ancient civilization in Mesopotamia, otherwise known as the “Fertile Crescent” or modern-day Iraq. Situated along both the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, the region has been fertile for millenia, and the Sumerians were the first to take advantage of their good luck. Gilgamesh was their hero-king, and they were eventually absorbed into various Babylonian and Assyrian populations after thousands of years in existence.

9. The Assyrians. Speaking of the Assyrians, they were neighbors of their more famous rivals, the Babylonians, and often traded places with them (as well as the Sumerians) as regional hegemons of the Fertile Crescent. The Assyrians rubbed shoulders with the likes of not only their regional rivals but ancient Egypt and various, smaller kingdoms in ancient Greece and the Caucasus region (present-day Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, etc.).

10 Gold Rushes You Should Know About

Brandon Christensen - July 12, 2018


Gold! Gold! Gold! What is it about this precious metal that causes such a rush among human beings? Throughout history, the discovery of gold veins has sparked mass movements of people and capital to hitherto unknown parts of the world. Gold rushes have been documented as far back as ancient Rome, but most of the major gold rushes occurred during the modern era, which runs roughly from 1500 AD to the present.
The most famous gold rush in American history is the California Gold Rush of 1849, (RealClearHistory covered it recently), but the history of gold rushes deserves a bit more scrutiny. Why on earth would a precious metal cause so much upheaval in population transfers, in spending on infrastructure, and on violence and property rights adjudication? Here are 10 gold rushes in history that deserve more attention:

10. Klondike Gold Rush (1896-99), Yukon Territory, Canada. Let’s start with Canada’s most famous gold rush. While gold was discovered in 1896, the Klondike was so hard to reach (the Canadian government required each potential miner to travel with a year’s worth of supplies before embarking on the journey) that the gold rush didn’t really get going until 1898. By then, the gold rush had sputtered out when a new vein of gold was discovered farther north, in Nome, Alaska, but not before the local Native population was removed (for their own protection, of course) and subsequently died out on their newly-established reservation. British Columbia, just a bit south of the Yukon Territory, had numerous, smaller-scale gold rushes throughout the 19th century, and if I were a betting man I’d say that there’s plenty more gold them thar hills.

9. Otago Gold Rush (1861-64), Otago Hills, New Zealand. Located in southern New Zealand, the Otago Gold Rush of 1861-64 kicked off a frenzy of mining activity in the mid-19th century, just as the American Civil War was getting underway. The rush is known not for its conflicts between indigenous and European settlers (the local Maori clans had long been pushed out of the Otago region), but between European and Chinese miners and between miners and farmers in the region (the farmers had, of course, pushed out the Maori). Unlike some of the larger gold rushes of the 19th century, the Otago Gold Rush did not lead to massive population upheavals or infrastructure projects, but the issue of property rights makes this gold rush ripe for research.

8. Victoria Gold Rush (1851-69), Victoria, Australia. Australia’s most famous gold rush, the Victorian Gold Rush, launched the state into global prominence and established Melbourne as one of the most important financial centers in the 19th-century world. Millions of people rushed into the region and began digging for that most precious of metals. Few got rich. Most people instead turned to homesteading and agriculture, and the Australian state of Victoria became the powerhouse of Australia. Democracy in Australia is said to have gotten its roots during the Victoria Gold Rush, as did White Australia, a racist and xenophobic government policy that lasted well into the 20th century, thanks mostly to the riots that occurred between European and Chinese miners.

Top 10 Terrorist Attacks in History

Brandon Christensen - July 5, 2018


When World War I broke out in Europe in 1914, the American government officially stayed neutral, and while many in Washington and along the eastern seaboard harbored strong feelings for the United Kingdom, the U.S. government found it hard to convince the general American population of the war’s benefits, mostly due to the presence of a massive German population in the republic’s middle section (America’s first “silent minority,” the Germans encompassed roughly one-tenth of the entire population of the U.S. in 1914).

To make matters worse, the German government established the first terror cell in the United States in 1915, two years before the two countries would officially go to war with each other. The German terrorists were targeting munitions factories, horse farms, and railroads due to the fact that the United States, while officially neutral, was sending massive amounts of supplies to the British and French.

Woodrow Wilson was determined to drag the United States into the war, and the terrorist cells were as good excuse as any. Instead of rehashing the details of America’s entrance into World War I, and the results of that entrance, I thought I’d draw your attention to 10 terrorist attacks that deserve more attention.

10. Air France Flight 139: June 27 - July 3, 1976. On a hot summer day near the end of June in 1976, a flight from Tel Aviv was hijacked by Palestinian militants and left-wing Germans and diverted from Paris to Benghazi, Libya and then to Entebbe International Airport in Uganda, an East African country then ruled by dictator Idi Amin. The ensuing carnage - four dead hostages, one dead Israeli commando (Benjamin Netanyahu’s older brother), seven dead hijackers, and 45 dead Ugandan soldiers - belies the insane nature of the whole terrorist act. Conservative Palestinians and German anarchists joined forces with the anti-colonial leaders of Libya and Uganda (Muammar Gaddafi and Idi Amin) to hijack a French commercial flight from Israel and threaten to execute all of the Israelis on board unless their demands were met. The Israeli military then got involved and virtually destroyed the Soviet-built Ugandan air force, and the Kenyans living in Uganda were slaughtered or purged from Ugandan territory by Uganda's security services because the Kenyan government was an ally and trading partner of Israel’s. Wow.

10 Greatest Moments in World Cup History

Brandon Christensen - June 28, 2018


Russia 2018 is already shaping up to be a classic affair, with defending champion Germany just ousted by South Korea in the first round (Germans never seem to perform well in Russia), and longtime heavyweights like Italy (4-time champions) and the Netherlands (3-time runners-up) failing to even make the tournament. Regional giants like Ghana, Algeria, and Cameroon in Africa, and the United States in North America, also failed to make the tournament. Asia’s five teams have all been eliminated as the second round begins. Africa’s only hope is now (as of June 27) Senegal.

These crazy results should be reason to celebrate the World Cup, of course, and the beautiful game of soccer, but are also a good way to remind readers that the World Cup is still the place in sports where favorites rarely lose and minnows rarely survive. Tim Wigmore, a longtime sports analyst from England, has a piece in FiveThirtyEight explaining why Europe and Latin America continue to dominate soccer despite policies undertaken by FIFA to create more parity in the World Cup, and Branko Milanovic, an economist at CUNY’s Graduate Center, has an excellent piece explaining why corruption has gone hand-in-hand with attempts to democratize the game of soccer.

But I digress. Here are the 10 Greatest Moments in World Cup History:

10. Maradona’s Double. Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal against England in the 1986 World Cup (hosted by Argentina) consistently ranks as one of the greatest highlights in World Cup history. And why not? Maradona punched the ball into the back of the net and brazenly claimed afterwards that it was the hand of God that had pushed the ball through, and not his own. There is a good case to be made, though, for Maradona’s second goal of the same match, one that saw the attack-minded midfielder dribble the ball from deep within his own side’s territory all the way to the foot of England’s net, where he beat the goalkeeper with ease and solidified Argentina’s 2-1 victory over the English side, and scored the most memorable goal in World Cup history.

RealClearHistory's Summer Reading List

Brandon Christensen - June 21, 2018


Summertime is here and that means it’s book reading season! RealClearHistory has just the list for you, and it’s peppered with fiction to go along with the (historical) facts. Without further adieu, here are 10 books you need to read this summer:

10. Grass Roots: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Marijuana in America  (2017) by Emily Dufton.

I’ve yet to read this one, but I’ve heard nothing but good reviews. Dufton, who holds a PhD in American Studies from George Washington University, turned her dissertation into one of the most interesting books of the year (it was published in December of 2017). (And, no, I don’t smoke pot, at least not anymore…

9. Empire of Guns: The Violent Making of the Industrial Revolution (2018) by Priya Satia.

10 Most Important Russo-Turkish Wars

Brandon Christensen - June 14, 2018


Last weekend RCH delivered the 10 Most Important Battles in Ottoman History, sans those fought against (and with) the Russians, due to the fact that the two empires were such bitter rivals. From the late 16th century to the end of World War I - a span of roughly 350 years - the Russians and the Turks fought each other in contests for imperial dominance over the Balkans, the Black Sea, the Caucasus, and the straits of the Bosporus and Dardanelles.

Today, the Balkans are a hodgepodge of independent nation-states, the Black Sea and the Caucasus are dominated by Russia, and the straits of the Bosporus and Dardanelles are colloquially referred to as the “Turkish straits.” So the 350-year rivalry went unresolved. To complicate matters, the predecessor state of the Ottoman Empire’s main power base, Turkey, allied itself with the enemy of the Russian Empire’s predecessor state, the Soviet Union, and the countries remained locked down in a Cold War for another half century after their empires collapsed.

Today, both countries are governed by strongmen with aspirations of reviving their countries’ old empires. Vladimir Putin, the leader of the Russian Federation, and Recep Erdoğan, the leader of Turkey, are close geopolitical associates, and the two of them work closely with a third strongman, Ayatollah Khomeini, who governs the predecessor state of the Persian Empire (a rival contemporary of both the Russian and Ottoman empires), Iran.

Turkey’s slide into despotism has been marked internationally by a willingness to part ways with the values held by members of NATO (its Cold War ally) and the European Union, and closer working relationships with Russia and Iran. This slide may be overblown by analysts. Turkey has, since its founding in 1923, always been a bit more authoritarian than its Western allies, and Turkey’s democracy has been marred by coups and counter-coups throughout its short history as a republic. Russia, for its part, became the main ethnic and territorial base of a superpower, the Soviet Union, during the Cold War before scrambling to rebuild itself after the U.S.S.R.’s collapse in 1991. Democracy has never been able to gain a solid foothold in the land of the Russians.

10 Battles That Shaped the Ottoman Empire

Brandon Christensen - June 7, 2018


On June 4, 1915, the Third Battle of Krithia was fought between the Ottoman Empire and its Allied enemies, composed of mostly French and British troops. The Ottomans won, handily and somewhat surprisingly. The Allies had to retreat and regroup as a result, and the Balkans campaign had to go through a more careful re-think by Allied strategists.

World War I marked the end of the Ottoman Empire, of course, but the “sick man of Europe” had more fight in it than many Western historians give it credit for. Scholarship on the Ottoman Empire has improved over the years, but there is still plenty of opportunity () to do more. The Ottoman Empire spanned three continents, after all, and lasted for 623 years.

The Ottoman Empire was actually one of three multi-ethnic, multi-religious empires in Europe that perished as a result of World War I, along with Austria-Hungary and tsarist Russia. To the east of the Ottomans were two other, long-lasting empires, the Persian empire ruled by the Qajar dynasty (which perished in 1925) and the Mughal empire of India (which perished in 1857). These eastern empires are referred to by many historians as “gunpowder empires” and they controlled the Eurasian trade routes that Chinese and especially European merchants used for exchanging goods and ideas. Here are 10 battles that shaped the Ottoman Empire:

10. Battle of Ankara: July 20, 1402. This battle, which the Ottomans lost, ceded to Timur and his realm leadership of the Muslim world. It also plunged the empire into chaos, and led directly to the Ottoman Interregnum, a devastating 11-year civil war. The battle itself included war elephants, Christian vassals from the Balkans, and was the only time in the 500-year history of the empire that a Sultan was captured in battle (he died after three months in captivity). The Ottoman Empire, far from being the major player it eventually became, got a taste of what it was like to fight major battles against major foes.

10 Best NBA Teams That Didn't Win a Title

Brandon Christensen - May 31, 2018


So, it’s Cleveland-Golden State again. As a fan of the game, I’m ecstatic. As a fan of the NBA, I’m ecstatic. Golden State dug deep and showed why it’s the reigning champion, coming back from 15 down in Houston to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Cleveland dug deep and showed why it’s been to four straight Finals, overcoming a rocky regular season and powerful challenge from the (injury-depleted) Boston Celtics. The two best teams in the league have earned their place in the NBA Finals.

Basketball is young, but its history is rich and inspiring. Hoops might someday soon rival soccer as the world’s most popular sport (see: Asia). The game can also be depressing if you’re rooting for the losing team, especially when some of these losing teams are so darned good. Thirteen NBA franchises have never won a league championship. But that list would have been expected. Instead, we offer you 10 teams that, in the moment (or decade) had a great shot at winning it all, but couldn’t close the deal.

10. Houston Rockets (2013-current). I had to do it. With a record of 271-139 since the 2013-14 season, the Rockets have the best teams in the NBA for five seasons. Mike D’Antoni’s run-and-gun offense, and killer defense, combined with James Harden’s Jordan-esque points output, gave the Rockets the 1-seed in the ruthlessly competitive Western Conference after a 65-win season this year. They haven’t been able to get past Golden State, though. The Warriors have bounced Houston from the playoffs in three of the last five years, including twice in the conference finals. Ouch.

 9. Denver Nuggets (1982-89). The 1980s were dominated by the Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers, but a number of great teams could have won a title if the ball had only bounced that way instead of the other. The ‘80s Denver Nuggets are just one such team. Led by a “Big 3” of their own, composed of Alex English, Dan Issel, and Kiki Vandeweghe (a UCLA product), the Nuggets featured a high-powered offense and two seasons with more than 50 wins. Doug Moe’s teams never seemed to find their rhythm in the postseason, but that didn’t stop opponents and their fans from grinding their teeth and biting their nails when the Nuggets came to town.

Britain's "Cooperation" With India a Power Play

Joshua Curiel - May 27, 2018


Shashi Tharoor, an Indian politician, who served for 29 years at the United Nations, ultimately becoming undersecretary general, has been highly critical of empires – and with good reason. Tharoor was particularly critical of the British Empire, which he believed plundered India for all it had to offer in order to benefit the British.

Tharoor’s argument is supported by the fact that, “ironically, the British used raw material and exported the finished products to India and the rest of the world, the industrial equivalent of adding insult to injury.” This process of eliminating the skilled workforce in India got rid of competition as the Indians were simply unable to compete with machines in either cost or speed.

However, it was not wholly detested by the Indians, some of whom could not have afforded the finished products before this time, but were now able to afford those products manufactured by the British. Furthermore, the economic situation in India was abused by very few in the East India Company, and became a much fairer system once the British government took full control in 1858. Yet the system still concentrated on benefiting the elite few. Once the idea existed that the Indians should have a greater say in economic issues the “upper-caste” Hindus then dominated these newly established governmental positions. They showed themselves to be “more receptive” and subsequently they bolstered their political and economic influence by securing new positions.

These new reforms were aimed at helping the economy. On the whole, they took into consideration India’s need to adapt and modernize, and to be brought into the new era of industrialization so as to have a more effective relationship of cooperation with the British. Yet, these reforms were undoubtedly questionable as they were carried out with British interests first  They were, however, reforms nonetheless. It may be argued that India, by means of these economic reforms, had been unwittingly drawn into Britain’s own strategic calculations; and that competition with the French and the Russians for overseas territory. Britain’s involvement in India increased in the hope that India’s cooperation would benefit its imperial ambitions.  

10 Longest Bridges in the World

Brandon Christensen - May 23, 2018


On May 27, 1937, 200,000 people gathered in the streets of San Francisco to celebrate the grand opening of the Golden Gate Bridge, a milestone achievement in engineering at the time and one of the world’s modern wonders. At over 4,000 feet long, the Golden Gate Bridge today does not even register on any list of longest bridges in the world. Below is the list of Top 10 longest bridges in the world today. As you read it, ponder carefully the future as well as the past. Behold!

10. Manchac Swamp Bridge (120,000 ft). Located in the great state of Louisiana, this bridge was completed in 1979 and is claimed by some to be the longest toll-free bridge in the world. It’s part of Interstate Highway 55, so it’s road-based, and the coolest (or scariest) part is that most of it goes over water. The piles of the bridge go as deep as 275 feet in some parts!

9. Wuhan Metro Bridge (124,000 ft). The Wuhan Metro Bridge links the massive Chinese city of Wuhan (10.6 million) together. Wuhan, located in the populous Hubei province, was only the fifth city in China to have a metro rail line built. The bridge was built in 2009 (the initial line, Line 1, was completed in 2004) and, because of Wuhan’s location along the Yangtze and Han rivers, spans over massive amounts of water. Wuhan is a major transportation hub in China and was the wartime capital of the country during the Japanese invasion.

8. Lake Pontchartrain Causeway (126,000 ft). The Causeway was completed in 1969 and held the world record for the longest bridge over water until 2011, when the Jiaozhao Bridge, in China, was built. The Causeway connects Metairie, an immediate suburb of New Orleans to Mandeville, in what is commonly referred to as the North Shore. It is the the last American bridge on this list.

Tracing India's "Cooperation" With Britain

Joshua Curiel - May 20, 2018


British involvement in India developed mainly through the cooperation of India’s people. However, coercion led to compliance and this may yet be interpreted as cooperation. From a social perspective the British had no choice but to successfully adapt in India in order to gain both trust and ultimately cooperation. Without this cooperation, the British would not have been able to remain in India.

Yet, in the later years of the Raj, there was in fact, much less social mixing. This was in part, due to the arrival of Victorian women in India (1820s). Economic cooperation must also have been substantial otherwise the British would not have remained there. Nor would the British government have taken financial risks with India.

But economic cooperation was tantamount to the Indians robbing their own country. The Indian population cooperated largely through the paying of taxes to the East India Company beginning 1765. This made very little difference to the Indians themselves, as they were already used to paying taxes. The difference was that these taxes were fixed under British rule highlighting the inequities in this system.

Within the Mughal Empire, the British did not take poor harvests or financial difficulties into consideration when collecting taxes. Political cooperation was necessary early on, thereby acknowledging Britain’s legitimacy in its exercising of power in India. Increasing British involvement and political cooperation are inexorably linked. This cooperation varied greatly from province to province. Those Indian Princes who cooperated were slow to realize the consequences of their growing entanglement with the British.

10 Dictators Who 'Gave Up' Power

Brandon Christensen - May 17, 2018


Dictatorships. This type of government has no parliament with teeth, or a judiciary with bite. It’s a one-branch show run at the top by a dictator and his trusted yes-men. Corruption via overly complicated legislation runs rampant. Opposition parties are banned. Trade with the outside world is usually banned or heavily regulated. It’s an insult used in the West to hurl at electoral opponents. Blahblahblah. You know what a dictatorship is, and many scholars and journalists today are concerned that this form of government is flowering at the expense of the much-harder-to-maintain liberal democratic system. Vladimir Putin just won an “election” with 77 percent of the Russian vote. Viktor Orbán and his party in Hungary hold 133 out of 199 seats. Recep Tayyıp Erdoğan is packing the Turkish judiciary with Islamists. Poland’s Mateusz Morawiecki is, along with his party, working hard against the secular Western values of the European Union, which Poland voluntarily joined in 2004.

In the West, populism runs rampant. Trump governs the United States with a wicked wit. The collapse of the German political center has rocked European politics. Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro is promising good things to come if elected. In the U.K., Brexit and Theresa May. Venezuela and the Bolivarian socialist bloc is authoritarian and dissent routinely falls on deaf ears.

In China, the ongoing market-based revolution there has not yet led to a democratic one. If anything, with Premier Xi’s new constitutional amendment giving him tenure for life, it represents a backslide into authoritarian dictatorship.

Scholars have, since the end of World War II, tried to make sense of dictatorships. Hannah Arendt stands out as the best and brightest of the fold. Born in Germany to Jewish parents in 1906, Arendt dedicated her adult life to exploring the nature of power. (Shree Agnihotri, a budding legal theorist at NYU’s law school, has the best recent essay on Arendt’s arguments.) To soothe your anxiousness about the state of the world, here is a list of 10 dictators who "voluntarily" relinquished their power:

10 Things You Didn't Know About the Dutch Empire

Brandon Christensen - May 9, 2018


The Dutch are curt and outspoken. I can think of no better introduction to their empire than this: “Here are 10 things you didn’t know about the Dutch Empire.” Enjoy!

10. The Dutch Empire is considered to be, by many historians, the precursor to the British, and then American, empires of the 19th and 20th centuries due to the fact that the Dutch had a toehold on four continents (Asia, Africa, North America, South America) by 1630 (!). The global empire that the Dutch established was commercial-based (the world’s oldest stock exchange was established in Amsterdam in 1602), and had a democratic political order on the home front. A good way to remember this point is to group the United Provinces (the official name of the Netherlands during its global empire) with the United Kingdom and United States. See what I did there?

9. The Dutch Empire started out as a small republic struggling to secede from the powerful Empire of Spain. Once the Dutch earned their freedom, 80 years after first initiating a war against Spain, they set up a republic that influenced the American framers immensely, though in an almost entirely negative way (James Madison, in the Federalist Papers, was especially harsh on the Dutch constitution). The republic of the United Provinces was constantly struggling between centralized factions (the Orangists), which wanted a more powerful executive branch, and decentralized factions (the Republicans), which wanted more sovereignty for the states that composed the Dutch republic.

8. One of the Dutch Republic’s stadtholders, William of Orange, ruled the United Kingdom as monarch for 17 years. William of Orange (known as William III in England and William II in Scotland) was responsible for initiating the Glorious Revolution (1688-89) in the United Kingdom, which kicked off, among other things, the political thought of John Locke. William’s father-in-law was a Catholic and ruled the U.K. unpopularly before William, along with his English wife, Mary, decided to launch an invasion from the Netherlands and overthrow his father-in-law in order to reestablish a Protestant-friendly regime. The combined power of the British and Dutch led to end of Irish rebellion and injected renewed vigor into the conflict with Catholic France. Ironically, William’s reign over both countries led to more republicanism in each of them, with the British Parliament gaining power at the expense of the crown, and the Dutch Republicans gaining leverage over the Orangists and their stadtholders.

10 Deadliest Riots in U.S. History

Brandon Christensen - May 2, 2018


The Haymarket Riot kicked off on May 4, 1886, after a bomb thrown from the crowd exploded in front of a squadron of policemen. All in all, 11 people died, making the Haymarket Riot one of the least deadly riots in American history.

You read that correctly. The infamous labor riot at Haymarket Square in Chicago was one of the least deadly riots in American history. But if the famous Haymarket Riot of the late 19th century doesn’t even come close to cracking the Top 10, which riots do, and why are they so much bloodier than the more famous labor clashes?

The answer is this: Race riots have been deadlier, and they have been the bane of America’s social stability since the 13 original states federated. In fact, institutionalized racism has been a horrific burden on the otherwise extraordinary case of the United States as an experiment in self-governance.

Adding to the race riots are clashes between nativist groups and immigrants. Race and immigration easily trump organized labor's struggles when it comes to mob violence in the United States, and without further ado, here are the 10 deadliest riots in American history.

10 Little-Known Fascist Governments

Brandon Christensen - April 26, 2018


Benito Mussolini, dictator of Italy, was murdered by a mob on April 28, 1945, after 23 years of fascist governance in Italy. Mussolini, his mistress, and many of the fascist party’s top leaders were murdered in cold blood without trial. That’s no way to bring down a government. Even Saddam Hussein, the Nazis and the Japanese were given trials. So, as bad as Mussolini was, his end was not fair in any sense of the word. It would be wise to remember that even tyrants and despots, along with murderers, rapists, terrorists, and pedophiles still have a right to a fair trial in free countries. This long-observed law is often misconstrued as a weakness by many non-Western observers, but make no mistake: A fair trial is a cornerstone of Western civilization.

Mussolini’s vulgar end is the inspiration for this weekend’s Top 10 list: Fascist governments you  may not know about. Fascism is a complicated system of governance and ideology, and one that, in part because its adherents lost World War II, is often used as pejorative by the victors of the same war (the liberals and the socialists). I mentioned some of the best contemporary essays on fascism at the Historiat last month, which you can read for yourself here . (Historiat, by the way, was relaunched after a three-year hiatus and features twice-weekly blog posts, one from myself, and one from the far more learned Richard Brownell, so be sure to stop on by and say ‘hi’.)

For this list I am focusing on aspects of fascist governance, rather than ideology, so anti-Semitism, for example, does not count, nor does anti-Bolshevism, or contempt for the messiness of the democratic system.

Fascist states are characterized by the following: One party governance; private property is tolerated so long as it serves the state and not the individual; corporations are tolerated so long as they serve the interests of the state and not shareholders; and economic nationalism is pursued not through free trade but via trading blocs based around a shared identity (mythical or not). This was Mussolini’s vision for fascistic governance, and while the Nazis added a German twist to fascism, many other countries attempted to follow Mussolini’s line of reasoning.