Codifying Discrimination: The Status of Women, Slaves and Freedmen in the Ancient Near East

Graham Dunbar

St. Norbert College (De Pere, Wisconsin)



figure at the top of Code of Hammurabi stele. Wiki

Writings from several thousand years ago in the Ancient Near East have the potential to give us fascinating insight into humanity’s baser instincts and values, allowing us to track the progress of “Western Civilization” from its source.  Countless law codes stress the idea of proportional retribution, especially in the case of violent crimes.  It is evident in these documents, particularly the ancient Babylonian Code of Hammurabi, that this retribution was primarily reserved for free-born adult men and that penalties for crimes against women, while not negligible, were considerably more lenient.  It is also evident in these documents that slavery in Ancient Near Continue reading


Review of Saltwater Slavery: A Middle Passage from Africa to American Diaspora

By Stephanie E. Smallwood. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007. ISBN-13: 978-0674030688p1

Centering her work on a prodigious study in primary sources, historian Stephanie E. Smallwood explores the life and experience of the trans-Atlantic slave. Smallwood’s Saltwater Slavery: A Middle Passage from Africa to American Diaspora examines pre-colonial slave trade narratives, with the swift transition to a new Eurocentric mindset. She focuses on the invaluable stories and recollections of the trans-Atlantic slaves, told through slave trader primary source material. Saltwater Slavery approaches the trans-Atlantic slave trade through a “quantitative and textual” approach (4). She pursues a prominent archival body of evidence to help readers understand the trauma African slaves bore witness to during their voyages across the Atlantic. Smallwood astutely stresses the psychological trauma of the individuals from the Gold Coast in Western Africa, bringing their valued social history to the center stage of the trans-Atlantic slave trade narrative.

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Review of Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China

ageofambition_mech_1.inddAge of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China. By Evan Osnos. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014. ISBN: 9780-374-535278

The Red Dragon that is China has experienced such rapid growth and development that it now circles around the world majestically with plumes of industrious smoke flaring from its nostrils. In this sense, China is an elegant, yet dangerous beast. Like the mighty dragons of the eras before, it is both beautiful and scary. The long slender body of the Chinese dragon twists hither and thither. This flexibility is symbolic of the numerous changes that China has undergone and the ones that it will undergo in the future to ensure its success.

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Review of Grant

p3By Chernow, Ron. New York City, NY: Penguin Press, 2017. ISBN-13: 978-1594204876

Ulysses S. Grant was hailed as the hero of the Civil War yet history remembers him only as a drunkard. Grant lived in a time when alcohol was all over America, yet the side effect, alcoholism, was shunned. Ron Chernow focuses his book, Grant, on telling the story of Grant. A man from a small town who struggled all throughout his life, but ended up being the strategic genius who managed to bring the South to surrender when all other Union generals, specifically the ‘do nothing’ generals of the eastern war campaigns, failed to do so.

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“Light of the World”: The Life and Legacy of Nur Jahan (1577-1645)

Maggie Schuster

University of Minnesota



Fig.1 1620 by Abu’l Hasan (Harvard Art Museum)

The rulers of the Mughal empire (1526-1858) used their connection to Timur (d.1405) and the Timurids to legitimize their rule over India and had always considered patronage of royal women a common practice. Timur himself claimed lineage with Genghis Khan through his wife, a relative of the Mongolian ruler, to legitimize his own rule. Because of this, female members of the Timurid and Mughal royal families were encouraged to contribute to the empire through the commissioning of charitable and non-charitable institutions. It was this convention that aided Nur Jahan, wife of Jahangir (r. 1605-1627), in her patronage of many of the Continue reading

Why Was Celebrating the Olympic Games So Important in Hellenic Culture?

Luca Ricci

University of Adelaide (Australia)


; I21K ; G20H; C18D; S25T

Discus thrower, c.400BCE, British Museum

The Olympics were not just recreational games. Rather, they served other socio-cultural purposes. Anthropological analysis of games reveals a deeper understanding of agonistic practices: not only do they underpin the social function of man within society through competition, but they also highlight the dichotomy of life and death. Celebrating the Games, in particular, was crucial because it enhanced individual prestige and, at the same time, it developed a Pan-Hellenic socio-cultural dimension. As this paper will reveal, religion in the Olympics functioned as a tool for both individual and communal expression. Continue reading

“If I Pick Flowers”: Posters, Popular Culture, and Gorbachev’s Reforms in the 1980s

James Masnov

Western Oregon University



“Shame to the drunkard” (1972)

In 1985, the new General Secretary of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, introduced sweeping reforms which altered the course and culture of Russia. His twin policies of “glasnost” (openness) and “perestroika” (restructuring) ushered in a liberalization of speech, the press, and the Soviet economy. The Soviet Union had suffered from economic stagnation for over a decade when Gorbachev took office, and lingering Stalinist-style abuses and intimidation against the population during the previous twenty years exacerbated an atmosphere of general hopelessness and pessimism. Gorbachev sought reform to strengthen the Soviet economy and inspire a renewed optimism. His policies of liberalization were not motivated by impulses to undercut or subvert Soviet Continue reading