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Essays

Revisiting the Adams Colony Affair in Palestine

Misadventurers From Maine

The story involves a hard-drinking lapsed actor and former Mormon abolitionist who sets off from Maine in 1866 to build a colony in Palestine. He fails spectacularly and his followers, after facing disease, bandits and financial ruin, end up on a ship home with a highly amused Mark Twain.

How the UK’s Propaganda Won Cold War Allies in Kenya

From Colonialism to Cooperation

As King Charles’ recent visit to Kenya suggests, the U.K. is beginning to acknowledge the violence of its actions during decolonization. But a focus on successful nationalist heroes over campaigns for wider social change continues a long-standing policy of allying with moderate elites.

How the Queens of Crime Fiction Developed a Modern Myth

How the Queens of Crime Fiction Developed a Modern Myth

Between World War I and the Great Depression, the murder mystery was perfected by four women writers, gaining stratospheric popularity. Amid unparalleled social change, fictional detectives offered to symbolically restore traditional values, in a new myth for a rational age.

The 1873 World’s Fair and Turkey’s European Aspirations

The 1873 World’s Fair and Turkey’s European Aspirations

At the 1873 World’s Fair, the Ottomans presented themselves as a European power, governing an empire whose diverse peoples were united by a single cohesive identity. Yet while the fair’s Ottoman exhibits made an impression, Ottoman identity foundered, and Istanbul continued to be seen as peripheral to European diplomacy.

How Broadway Helped the Zionist Revolt Against Britain

How Broadway Helped the Zionist Revolt Against Britain

In the 1940s, the Irgun and the League for a Free Palestine, with the support of leading cultural figures in the U.S., led an impressive public relations campaign that had Broadway theater at its heart, fundraising for a violent Zionist revolt against British rule.

How Pentecostal Preachers and Satanic Panic Helped Launch Nollywood

How Pentecostal Preachers and Satanic Panic Helped Launch Nollywood

In its early days, Nigeria’s modern film industry was rife with depictions of cult rituals, satanic bargains for fast cash and redemption through born-again Christianity. Behind the plots lay broad cultural changes set in motion after the oil boom and bust in the 1980s and ’90s.

How a 19th-Century Scot’s Harebrained Quest Shaped Sovereignty in Western Sahara

How a 19th-Century Scot’s Harebrained Quest Shaped Sovereignty in Western Sahara

In the 1870s, Donald Mackenzie envisioned digging a maritime channel through the Sahara from the Atlantic to Timbuktu, opening new trade routes. His pipe dream, and his legacy, would define and sometimes foment the battle over control of Western Sahara for generations to come.