Thomas Paine: Agitator And Revolutionary

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One figure in early American history has the unique distinction of being a significant actor in both the American and French revolutions.  Thomas Paine is not widely known today (or at least not as widely known as he should be), but his career shows him to have been a man of integrity and courageous conviction.  He was born in England and moved to the American colonies as a thirty-seven-year-old adult in 1774, just as the fires of revolution began to smolder.

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An Epitaph For Fidel Castro: The Failure Of Self-Mastery

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He was from youth a strong-willed and charismatic man, certain of the correctness of his ideas and the importance of his mission. It is probably true that in the beginning he genuinely wanted the best for his country, and he was possessed of a burning desire to right the wrongs he saw all around him. Cuba under his predecessors was little more than a huge plantation, exploited at will by corrupt elites and foreign powers.  His certitude gave him a charisma which the credulity of the commons mistook for leadership.

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The Character Assassination Of Ty Cobb

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By now everyone has been reminded that the media is not infallible.  It is composed of very fallible human beings who make mistakes with the same regularity as all the rest of us.  I was recently reading a bit about something in statistics called “Galton’s Problem,” an observational dynamic named after its discoverer, Sir Francis Galton.

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The Revolutionary Reforms Of Peter The Great

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Peter the Great (1672-1725) was one of the pivotal figures of Russian history.  His reforms were a product of his personality and his vision for what he wanted Russia to become; and sometimes in history, personality matters more than those vague “historical forces” that professional historians like to imagine as controlling the destinies of men.

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Ambrose Bierce: An Influential And Underappreciated Writer

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Before Stephen King, H.L. Mencken, and H.P. Lovecraft, there was Ambrose Bierce.  He was without doubt one of the strangest figures in American literary history.  His work straddled several genres, including supernatural fiction, journalism, and literary criticism; and much of his output foreshadowed the trends in fiction and journalism of our own time.

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Benvenuto Cellini: Passion And Genius Incarnate

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Some scholars, artists, and politicians of the Renaissance just seem to embody the spirit of the age.  We find such men, say, in the humanist Lorenzo Valla or the historian Guicciardini.  Another was Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1571).  He crowded into his seventy-one years enough lusty living for two lifetimes, perhaps more, and never once in the pages of his Autobiography apologized for a single minute of it.

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The Inscrutable St. Patrick

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The first modern, comprehensive biography of St. Patrick was written by the scholar J.B. Bury, who was a professor of history at Cambridge University for many years.  As usual in a work by this great author, it is thoroughly sourced and documented, and yet retains a readability and freshness that makes it timeless.  He relates this fable that supposedly happened during the foundation of Armagh in A.D. 444.

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