Thomas Paine, painted by George Romney, 1792 / Wikimedia Commons

Thomas Paine and the Clarion Call for American Independence by Harlow Giles Unger, 2019 — When I read through the eloquent works of Thomas Paine many years ago, I was struck by the degree to which the words seemed to flow like lightning from his pen. Common Sense contained all the pent-up thoughts he was eager to share (yet denied by circumstances) from his entire 40 years of existence. It might be said that he was the most unlikely hero of the revolution. A longtime excise officer and tax collector for the British government, Paine’s life was marked by a…


Wikimedia Commons

The Wright brothers’ lives evoke all the right clichés and platitudes of the amateur inventor. They had no formal scientific training or engineering education, just an insatiable curiosity and a seemingly innate understanding of the problem they sought to solve. Their lives are the antithesis of the swaggering, drama-filled biography which normally wins plaudits and sells books. They were single-minded, private, proud but humble, and a bit enigmatic to all but the closest family and friends. This is hardly fertile grounds on which to write a great biographical work. …


Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight, 2018 — Among the many interesting facts I learned from this magnificent book is that Frederick Douglass truly relished the political and moral fight. His greatest ambition was to be “in the arena” (to use the famous injunction of Teddy Roosevelt), shaping events and not just reacting to them. That does not absolve him of his many faults, including his deeply wounded pride — which he turbulently inflicted on those around him — and the vacillation in his political thinking. But if there is a singular theme of moral clarity running…


“Revolutions are not always brought about by a gradual decline from bad to worse. Nations that have endured patiently and almost unconsciously the most overwhelming oppression often burst into rebellion against the yoke the moment it begins to grow lighter. The regime which is destroyed by a revolution is almost always an improvement on its immediately predecessor, and experience teaches that the most critical moment for bad governments is the one which witnesses their first steps toward reform.”

- Alexis De Tocqueville in The Old Regime and the Revolution

“Russians have never been free. There is no precedent for it…


We are arguably living in an age of rising political reaction. Why then, asks Mark Lilla, is the reactionary mind so poorly understood? There is a surfeit of books on political revolution — why they happen, what makes them so seductive, and why, eventually, they consume themselves — but a dearth of good analysis on political reactions, “just the self-satisfied conviction that it is rooted in ignorance and intransigence, if not darker motives.” Outside observers have tried to explain the apotheosis of reactionary movements in terms of narrow materialistic forces such as colonialism, inequality, and demographic change. These explanations are…


Nearly a decade after it was first published, The Quants by Scott Patterson remains one of best introductions to the history of the financial crisis for those seeking to broaden their understanding beyond the facile discourse on radio and TV. Starting with the burgeoning quant revolution in the 1960s, Patterson chronicles the last several decades of high finance in the baleful light of the 2008 crisis. …


Source: Associated Press

“I shall never be able to understand how it happened,” the novelist Rebecca West once said about the First World War. “It is not that there are too few facts available, but that there are too many.” Contemporary observers were likewise bewildered by the sudden outbreak of war. The call for mobilization, as someone said at the time, was like a “peal of thunder out of a cloudless sky.” The uniquely depersonalizing and enigmatic nature of the war lends itself to this kind of visceral language.

Jacob Stutsman

I am a freelance writer based in Michigan. You can contact me at jstutsman21 at gmail.com.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store