Passion for History

Harper’s, a renowned leftist US monthly, has had authors as illustrious as Jack London, John Stuart Mill, Mark Twain or Hunter Thompson. Harper’s former editor, Lewis Lapham, who left the magazine in 2006, has recently started a new project with a highly original program: Lapham’s Quarterly will take current political or cultural topics and present them against a background of historical thought. As Lapham writes in his editorial,

About the methods of pacifying cities bloodied by civil war, I learn more from Machiavelli’s Discourses or the Memoirs of William Tecumseh Sherman than from the testimony of General David Petraeus or the commentary on Fox News. When I see Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani being bundled around the country in a flutter of media consultants fitting words into their mouths, I think of the makeup artists adjusting the ribbons in Emperor Nero’s hair before sending him into an amphitheater to sing with a choir of prostitutes.

To get an impression of what this is all about, don’t miss the magazine’s blog, aptly called Déjà Vu (unfortunately as yet without RSS feed). Click on the pictures in one of the blog entries to summon the ghosts of the past.