River warfare in the US Civil War

The mental images that most Americans have of the American Civil War involve the scenes of major land battles -- Bull Run, Antietam, Gettysburg. Armies marched dozens of miles, prepared encampments and defensive works, and either attacked the enemy in its own prepared defenses or awaited contact with the enemy. The picture is Napoleonic: an …

Confronting Evil in History

(free download through October 7 at https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009104265) My short book Confronting Evil in History has just been published in Cambridge Elements in the Elements in Historical Theory and Practice series edited by Daniel Woolf.  Here is the abstract: Evil is sometimes thought to be incomprehensible and abnormal, falling outside of familiar historical and human processes. And yet the twentieth …

Malcolm Muggeridge on the Holodomor

Malcolm Muggeridge (1903-1990) was a much-read English left journalist, critic, and international observer and a close friend of George Orwell in the 1930s. Muggeridge wrote an introduction to Orwell's novel Burmese Days, and along with Tony Powell, he made arrangements for Orwell's funeral in 1950. (Ian Hunter's Malcolm Muggeridge: A Life provides an excellent biographical study.)  Muggeridge was a strong supporter …

Philosophers and Marx in the 1950s

In the 1960s, as an undergraduate and eventually a graduate student in philosophy, I had the strong impression that Anglophone philosophy did not pay much attention to the philosophy and theories of Karl Marx. He was regarded as a "dead dog". His work was rarely treated in the history of philosophy in the 1950s and …

A Trump-era atrocity

The family separation debacle during the Trump presidency seemed horrible at the time. Thanks to a superb piece of investigative journalism in the Atlantic, we now know how much worse it was. Caitlin Dickerson's piece "We Need to Take Away Children" (link) provides previously unknown information about the program and the decisions that led up to …

English socialism

What were the social conditions that led many English intellectuals in the 1930s to engage in fundamental critique of the society in which they lived? Why was social criticism so profound and sustained in Britain from the time of Carlyle and Engels to the surge of English socialism in the 1930s? The answer, of course, …

HB Acton’s version of Marxism

H. B. Acton gained celebrity with the publication of Illusion of the Epoch in 1955, supposedly as a serious philosopher's even-handed exposition of the philosophy expressed in Marx's writings. Acton was not an especially influential philosopher, and he certainly does not stand in the first ranks of post-war British philosophy. He taught philosophy at the London School …

Philosophy after the Holocaust

The sustained, extended atrocities of the twentieth century -- the genocide of the Holocaust, the Holodomor, totalitarian repression, the Gulag, the Armenian genocide, the rape of Nanjing -- require new questions and new approaches to the problems of philosophy. What are some of those new questions and insights that philosophers should take up? How can …

Soviet atrocities in Ukraine, 1941

In light of the horrific information now available about atrocities committed in Ukraine by occupying Russian forces in towns such as Bucha -- rape, torture, summary execution, as well as mass deportations to "filtration camps" -- it is grimly important to recognize that there was a prior period of fantastic brutality and atrocity committed by …

Infrastructures of evil

Politicians, generals, corporate directors, and ordinary men and women had a direct relationship to the evils of the twentieth century. Individuals, soldiers, CEOs, and government administrators did various things that we can now recognize as fundamentally evil. So we might be tempted to summarize the evils of the past as "large numbers of people doing inexcusable things …

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