There is only one justification for universities, as distinguished from trade schools. They must be centers of criticism.
Cotton Mather’s publications in his own lifetime amounted to more than 400 titles, and his magnum opus, on which he labored most of his life, remains unpublished: a commentary on every verse of every book of the Bible. Anyone who leaves that kind of record behind issues an irresistible invitation to historians.
In 1787, many Americans were convinced that the ‘perpetual union’ they had created in winning independence was collapsing. Six years earlier, in the Articles of Confederation, the thirteen state governments had surrendered extensive powers to a congress of delegates from each state legislature.
In 1932, the predecessor organization, the CDC, took 299 black sharecroppers from the South who had syphilis. They offered them free healthcare, hot lunches, and free burial. They said you can only come to us for healthcare. These were men who were sharecroppers, and they had syphilis. They were never told they had syphilis.
History, at its best, always tells us as much indirectly about ourselves as it does directly about our predecessors, and it is often most revealing when it deals with episodes and phenomena that we find repulsive.
You don’t need many words if you already know what you’re talking about.
The three hundredth anniversary of the Salem witch trials of 1692 comes at a time when witchcraft commands a scholarly attention that would have been puzzling in 1892 or even in 1792.
The musket could not be aimed except in a general direction; a bow in the hands of a skilled archer could regularly hit and kill an enemy completely beyond musket range.
Cotton Mather is one of those classic figures of American history who can’t be left out. One has to explain him or explain him away, redeem him or denounce him.
Liberty had many friends in the eighteenth century.