Augustus Roman Kings Geneology Roman Republic Tetrarchs

Imperial Confusion: Stages of Roman Government and Expansion

As I made my way through the second season of Netflix’s Roman Empire (reviewed last week), a line from its narrator (the always delightful Sean Bean) brought me up short. Describing Rome in the middle of the first century BC, the show states that “Rome was not yet an empire, but a Republic.” I snorted with laughter; an old nemesis of mine had reared its ugly head yet again. In an effort to perhaps lessen the spread of this idea, I took to my keyboard in an attempt to explain exactly why I was so bitterly amused, and in so doing shed light on one of the more misunderstood aspects of Roman history: the stages of its government.... Read More
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Echoes in the Ivory Tower: The Second World Youth Congress and the Conflicts of Academia and Society

As the 2018-2019 academic year kicks off, I can’t help but think back to my May research trip to Vassar College. All last year, I had a tenuous relationship at best with my thesis work on the World Youth Congress Movement (1936-1939), confident of the project’s potential but confounded by how to assert the significance […]... Read More
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Far from Home: A Crazy Tale of Myth and Memory in Downtown San Francisco

One hot afternoon this June, Heather and I made our way up to San Francisco from our new(ish) home in the ‘South Bay.’ It was, and still is, our first full summer out here in the Bay Area, and we wanted to see the sights, take in the ambiance, and check out the legendary San Francisco Pride events. While strolling around the green space outside City Hall, I was intrigued to see a statue from behind that seemed to beholding an animal. This was indeed the case, and as my surprise at seeing a miniature lion in a statue’s arms began to register, I was floored by an even bigger realization: this was a statue unlike any I had before seen in America.... Read More
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What’s in a World War? A Point/Counterpoint

What if I told you that what we know as the First and Second World Wars should really be known as the Second and Third, or even the Third and Fourth? Our habit of only identifying the conflicts that took place from 1914-18 and 1939-45 as ‘world wars’ betrays a modern arrogance, that somehow the world only reached the capacity for global conflicts recently, within the last century. My own work with imperial history has indicated that this is far from the truth... Read More
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The Why of It All, Part II: The Worst Question in History

“What was the American Civil War about?” This question has bedeviled American historians and, indeed, the American public for over a century. Its battlefields are endless, and, for many people, the answer that you provide determines whether you are a Knowledgeable or Ignorant Person. I’ve certainly been involved in more than my share of skirmishes, so it probably isn’t a surprise to hear me say that I hate this question. What may be surprising, however, is my reasoning.... Read More
And Now, Youth Ilma

Modern Youth, Remarkable Woman: The Life and Times of Viola Ilma

In the last two years, we’ve seen incredible political action undertaken by students and other young people. From the #Resistance to the #NoMore movement, Millennials have found themselves called into action to defend their future against the forces of reaction. Their work is not without precedent; America has a deep but often forgotten tradition of […]... Read More
Youth Demands a Peaceful World

Infiltrated! Reds in the World Youth Congress

It’s been some time since I’ve written here about my research on the World Youth Congress Movement. I’m still chipping away and just got back from a trip to Amsterdam, Manchester, and London, where I was trawling around archives in search of evidence of the nature of the relationship between liberal internationalists and communist youth. […]... Read More
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Not all Fantasy: Game of Thrones and its Historical Inspiration

As has been written elsewhere, George R. R. Martin took inspiration for his epic fantasy from the history of England, particularly the War of the Roses, a contest for the throne of England in the late medieval era that pitted the northern York family against the southern Lancasters for control of England’s throne. However, his wider world of Essos and Westeros is inspired by human history as well. Today, I’m going to examine the historical inspirations for the Valyrian Freehold, or just Valyria, the dragon-taming empire that controlled much of Essos and whence the Targaryen family came to build Dragonstone in the Narrow Sea centuries before Aegon the Conqueror and his sister-queens conquered the Seven Kingdoms.... Read More
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Looking Back: A 2017 Historical Retrospective

With 2017 behind us, the staff of Concerning History took some time to speculate what the events of this year might mean to people in the future. As the job of the historian is to consider the past, this task is naturally beyond our expertise and abilities. Nonetheless, we think that a preliminary consideration would be worthwhile for what it says about the experience of living through this year. Throughout our conversation, we’ll be guided by the following question: What will future historians talk about when they talk about 2017?... Read More
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Theory made Literal: Star Wars and Concepts of Empire

For a student of historical empires, it is always fascinating to see how the word 'empire' is used in less academic circles, particularly the nebulous realm that is popular culture. So often in fantasy and science-fiction media, polities and leaders are given titles meant more to convey a sense of majesty or malevolence than to reflect any accurate picture of the structure of the state in question.... Read More