Rise Of The Ironclads: A Revolution In Naval Warfare

One of the most famous naval engagements in American history was the duel fought at Hampton Roads, Virginia, on March 9, 1862 between the ironclad warships USS Monitor and CSS Merrimack (more precisely named the CSS Virginia).  I have recently been learning much more about the details of the battle, in Richard Snow’s wonderfully entertaining Iron Dawn:  The Monitor, the Merrimack, and the Civil War Sea Battle That Changed History.  I listened to the audiobook, and wanted to convey some basic outlines of the story here.

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A Portuguese Translation Of My Essay “The Engrossed”

I was informed today that an excellent Portuguese translation of my essay The Engrossed appeared on the site Nuvem de Giz.  I very much appreciate the efforts of translator Sr. Daniel Castro, and am grateful that he found the essay to have been worthy of his efforts.  The translation can be found here.

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A Phone Call With Stalin

Stalin biographer Steven Kotkin relates this ominous anecdote in the second volume of his monumental three-volume study of the Soviet dictator’s life and times.  It shows–perhaps more clearly than any other anecdote–just how a man’s fate can hinge on a few critical moments in his life.

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A Dialogue With James Maverick

I recently had a great conversation with my good friend James Maverick, an accomplished traveler and entrepreneur, who is also the proprietor of the site MaverickTraveler.com.  It’s always a great feeling to be talking to people with whom you have something in common, and we were able to cover an amazing amount of ground in the areas of travel, culture, and books.  As James himself says:

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Heinrich Barth: An Incredible Explorer And Ethnographer

The name Heinrich Barth is almost unknown today.  But he is without doubt the greatest explorer that Germany produced in the nineteenth century, and probably even in the twentieth.  Not only did he penetrate completely unknown regions of Africa, but he kept a meticulous record of his travels, to such an extent that his published works are still useful to scholars today.  Even in his own day he did not receive the recognition that he deserved; central Africa was then so unknown even to educated Europeans that a balanced appraisal of his work was not possible at the time.  Yet a review of his life and travels leaves little doubt that he must be ranked among the bravest and most resourceful of all explorers of the African continent.

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Great Deeds Of Valor From The Fourth Crusade

Geoffrey of Villehardouin (1160–1212?) is known as one of the first important names in French historiography.  Unlike his predecessors, he was not a dry chronicler; he was a historian who participated directly in the events he described, and was reasonably objective by the standards of his day.  His book, The Conquest of Constantinople, is a moving and pious account of his involvement in the Fourth Crusade.  He was not born a nobleman; he earned his spurs as a knight through loyal service as a soldier and organizer of military campaigns.  After his withdrawal from public life, he set out to record the great events he had been a part of, much in the same way that Bernal Diaz (one of Hernando Cortes’s soldiers) and Usama Ibn Munqidh (an Arab knight of the Crusades) would do.  Great deeds of valor are rightly celebrated in every culture and in every age, because (as Sallust tells us):

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