The Birth of American Finance
December 07, 2012

How Alexander Hamilton and a Swiss anti-Federalist created our country's capitalist system.

The Secret Inner Lives of Bodybuilders, and other films
October 05, 2012

Reviewing 'You’ve Been Trumped,' 'How to Survive a Plague,' and 'Teddy Bear.'

The Known Unknowns
June 07, 2012

The Inner Life of Empires: An Eighteenth-Century HistoryBy Emma Rothschild (Princeton University Press, 483 pp., $35)  BY A RURAL SCOTTISH river on an early summer’s day in 1771, someone makes a catch: a package wrapped in cloth, and inside the cloth, a baby boy, and on his tiny sodden body “the marks of violence” that may have caused his death. It does not take long to identify a suspect, the infant’s mother, who works in a nearby household. She is brought to the local sheriff’s court, interrogated, and charged with the murder of her son. Every suspect, by definition, invites doubt.

Where Do We Come From?
February 08, 2012

Democratic Enlightenment: Philosophy, Revolution, and Human Rights, 1750-1790 By Jonathan I. Israel (Oxford University Press, 1,066 pp., $45) I. There’s something about the Enlightenment. Today, few educated men and women spend much time debating whether Western civilization took a disastrously wrong turn in the High Middle Ages. They do not blame all manner of political ills on Romanticism, or insist that non-Western immigrants adopt Renaissance values. But the Enlightenment is different. It has been held responsible for everything from the American Constitution to the Holocaust.

Our Troops Abroad: What Does a Soldier Need to Read?
June 11, 2011

I fell in love with the BBC Radio 4 program “Desert Island Discs” years ago while living in Scotland, a place that felt a little like a desert island to me, on my own in an unfamiliar place really for the first time. The premise of the show, which first aired in 1942, is that a celebrity guest selects eight records, together with a book and a luxury item, that he or she would most wish to have if marooned on a desert island.

Volcanic Ash Clouds and the European Economy
May 24, 2011

Volcanic ash is back. No, not a weird new band. For the second year in a row, a volcano in Iceland is spewing ash into the sky. Last year, ash from Eyjafjallajökull (or, as newscasters called it, "the Iceland volcano," "the volcano in Iceland," and any other possible phrase that didn't involve pronouncing Eyjafjallajökull) closed airspace over twenty European countries. This year, the ash is coming not from Eyjafjallajökull, but from nearby Grímsvötn, again cancelling flights in England, Scotland, and Ireland.

Stanley Kauffmann on Films: Acting, Globally
January 27, 2011

A Somewhat Gentle Man Strand Releasing The Housemaid IFC Films Every Day Image Entertainment Stellan Skarsgård is unique. He is a truly distinguished actor with a truly undistinguished face.

The Heir
July 20, 2010

Is Qaddafi's hip, globe-trotting son for real?

Labour and Capital
May 07, 2010

WASHINGTON—Britain produced an electoral earthquake all right, but not the one so many expected. The real lessons have less to do with two-party systems than with how economic change has challenged old strategies on both the right and the left. The Conservatives under David Cameron came in first with the most votes and the most seats.

The Animator
December 19, 2009

Charles Dickens Michael Slater Yale University Press, 696 pp., $35 I. For a long time, everyone has known that Paris was the capital of the nineteenth century, the city where the modern was invented: the society of the spectacular. But everyone was wrong. The capital of the nineteenth century was London. Think about it. Walter Benjamin’s symbol of the Parisian modern was the arcade. The arcade! In London-according to the social campaigner Henry Mayhew, there were 300,000 dustbins, 300,000 cesspools, and three million chimneys.