The Right Man In The Right Place Can Make All The Difference

There are times in history where the right man in the right place can make all the difference.  Accidents of fate, the changing circumstances of fortune, and the randomness of events all conspire to turn predictability into uncertainty; yet a man of learning, vision, and character may, at times, interpose himself in the middle of these whirlwinds and by his actions change the course of history.  It happens all the time.

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How Benito Mussolini Took Power

Quintus Curtius

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Stalin biographer Stephen Kotkin spends several pages of his book discussing the lessons to be learned from Mussolini’s seizure of power in Italy in the early 1920s.  It was something that happened gradually, in stages, when institutions that should have been able to bring him to heel did nothing, either due to their own lack of resolution or tacit support of his power grab.

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What Were A Medieval Serf’s Feudal Obligations?

Sometimes I think historians have exaggerated the misery of the medieval serf in Europe.  I would not want to exchange my lot for his, of course, but it is a useful exercise to examine in detail just what his feudal obligations were.  There is no strict definition of “feudalism,” as it varied in time and place; but it found its fullest expression in medieval France.  To understand why it developed, we must appreciate the profound insecurity and chaos that most of Europe was plunged into after the fall of the western Roman Empire.  At that time, security and peace mattered more to the common man than his freedom; and the system worked well considering the environment of the times.

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The Painted Books Of The Maya: Surviving By A Hair

Sometimes the precious things of this world survive by just a hair.  Just a hair.  The difference between victory and defeat, between survival and ruin, between conquest and destruction, between glory and despair:  these are not differences of tremendous magnitude.  They are fine-line distinctions.  And when I say fine-line, I mean very fine.  Fortune loves to play games with us, and when she casts her dice to predict our fate, the outcome often hangs by a hair.  By such threads does the fate of man so perilously hang.

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The Incredible Life And Explorations Of John Ledyard

Of all the explorers and travelers I have written about, few are as fascinating and as little-known today as the American adventurer John Ledyard.  He lived from 1751 to 1789, during the seminal years of American history; and his travels across the globe (especially in Russia and Siberia) mark him out as a man who deserves far more recognition than he has received from posterity.  In fact, as I was researching his life in preparation for this article, I could hardly believe that his name had sunk into such undeserved oblivion.  Let us give him his due now.

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Separate Your Opponent From His Source Of Strength

When we are dealing with an opponent of substantial power, we should try to cut him off from his source of strength.  If he can be made incapable of drawing on his strengths, he will be weakened; and so weakened, isolated; and if isolated, destroyed.  Everything has a source of strength, whether we are talking about a person, an animal, a machine, a group, a nation.  So the first step will be to identify this power source.

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The “Voyager” Program: Mankind’s Most Distant And Awesome Explorations

We have in these pages chronicled the feats of great explores of previous eras.  Yet our own era has witnessed what is perhaps the greatest, most awe-inspiring feat of exploration in the history of the man on earth:  the Voyager program that explored the outer solar system.  This was to be an exploration much different in kind from the great expeditions of old.  There were no pack mules, native guides, or recalcitrant companions; but there were the same incredible risks of environment and circumstance that have accompanied exploration from the time the Phoenicians first circumnavigated Africa.  The Voyager probes were man’s first tentative steps to walk beyond the confines of his own planet.  Perhaps when the long perspective is finally taken by our remote descendants, the Voyager program will rank among the most the most significant event in the history of our species.

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