Here are a few interesting articles and pieces we found around the web this week. If you come across something that other intellectual historians might enjoy, please let us know in the comments section.
Jennifer Young, “An Emancipation Proclamation to the Motherhood of America” (Lady Science)
Adrian Daub, “The Forever Chancellor” (n+1)
Edwin E. Moise, “Lyndon Johnson’s War Propaganda” (New York Times)
Adrienne Rose Bita, “The story of America, as told through diet books” (The Conversation)
Rhys Griffith, “Brief Encounters with Jean-Frédéric Maximilien de Waldeck” (Public Domain Review)
Jeet Heer, “Charles Manson’s Science Fiction Roots” (TNR)
Sarah Marshall, “The Trials of a Pioneering Abortionist” (TNR)
Sara G. Miller, “How Did an Opera Singer Hit the Highest Note Ever Sung at the Met?” (LiveScience)
I am writing this in the City of Light.
Some say fashion was born in Paris. Others argue that it was born in Renaissance Italy, or Ming China, or — as a product of convergent evolution — simply appeared everywhere, like mushrooms after the rain. Historiographic debates aside, Paris continues to hold a special place in our imagination. Jean-Baptiste Colbert supposedly declared, “Fashion is to France what the gold mines are to Peru.” In “The Empire of Fashion and the Rise of Capitalism in Eighteenth-Century France,” William Sewall wrote, “If we conceptualize eighteenth-century capitalism properly, that is, as inextricably bound up with an ever expanding empire of fashion, we may find that it was — after all — a key source of the era’s epochal political and cultural transformations.” Whether or not Colbert actually made that statement, it sounds right to us. We are living in a world made by capitalism, and we’ve grown accustomed to thinking of ourselves as consumer agents.
This time of year, the streets of Paris are clogged with shoppers. It is truly a heaven–or hell, depending on your perspective–of consumption. In the eighteenth century, Paris was also a major center of fashion production. Luxury goods were designed and finished right here, in Parisian ateliers. In the 19th century, the Parisian brand was so alluring that American designers and producers had trouble competing with imported French goods. Hind Abdul-Jabbar‘s piece in the Fashion Studies Journal notes that after the passage of the McKinley Tariff Act in 1890, dress smuggling became a full-fledged industry, and smugglers came up with an impressive range of tactics to outsmart Customs House inspectors.
But what does it mean for contemporary Paris to be a “center of fashion”? Like New York, Paris continues to be a center for design and marketing, but very little production actually takes place in either New York or Paris these days. (Because there is so little manufacturing in New York’s Garment District now, the city has proposed to do away with existing zoning restrictions that protect fashion- and apparel-related businesses.) But maybe – in this age of division between signifier and signified – it no longer matters where things are made? In this brief interview, Valerie Steele makes a case for Paris’s continued economic importance, arguing that the French luxury conglomerates continue to play an important role in our 21st-century economy of desire, by spinning inchoate desires into beautiful, shimmering, tangible things. The objects may have been manufactured elsewhere, but the dreams are still spun right here.
Glenda Gilmore, “Colin Kaepernick and the ‘Myth’ of Good Protest,” (NYTimes)
James Meek, “Passionate Politics,” (LRB)
Darryl Robertson, “Rediscovering Hip-Hop’s Early Years: An Interview with Joseph Ewoodzie,” (Black Perspectives)
And, finally, a podcast series: “Thinkers Guide to the 21st Century,” is a talk series coordinated by the International History Laureate at the University of Sydney and Sydney Ideas. Scholars such as Glenda Sluga, Dirk Moses and Thomas Adams speak about topics including “The New International Order,” and “Feminism in the Age of Populism.” It is well worth a listen.
Lizzie Wade, “How taming cows and horses sparked inequality across the ancient world” (Science, AAAS)
Yeon Jung Yu, “The Moral Code of Chinese Sex Workers” (Sapiens)
An essay debate with articles by Penny Spikins, Bilinda Straight, Catherine E. Bolton, and Marc Kissel and Nam C. Kim, “Why Are Humans Violent?” (Sapiens)