Cultural History

Thanks, Prohibition! How the Eighteenth Amendment Fueled America’s Taste for Ice Cream

This past May, my classmates and I were discussing the latest fad in summer indulgences: wine ice cream. Ice cream and alcohol have been commonly paired in the past as a trendy treat, and wine ice cream is just the most recent innovation of the classic American dessert. In addition to being tasty, however, wine ice cream is perhaps the culmination of a coupling that has deep roots in history. In fact, it is clear that America’s favorite dessert—ice cream—must thank Prohibition for its variety and lasting popularity.

Cultural Encounters and Material Exchanges in the Venetian Archives

One of the strangest and most fascinating source encounters I have experienced so far while working in the Venetian archives concerns the role of food in the records of a set of diplomatic missions to Cairo. In one case, in the early morning of December 17, 1489, at the citadel of Cairo, Pietro Diedo, the Venetian ambassador to Egypt, delivered an assortment of gifts to the Mamluk sultan Qaytbay.

The Practice of Book History: Between and Beyond Disciplines

newbooksIt has been about eight months since I finished my master’s thesis—a book history and critical edition of James Fenimore Cooper’s 1840 historical novel, Mercedes of Castile. It proved to be marvelous meat for my thesis. In the course of my research, I gained insight into Cooper’s love both for his wife and his new novel: in one of his letters he tells her, “You are my Mercedes”—referring to the idolized heroine and namesake of the novel. I learned about the press wars Cooper was embroiled in, which may have adversely affected sales of the novel; gained insight into the publication practices of Philadelphia publishers Lea & Blanchard by exploring their archives at the Pennsylvania Historical Society; and saw Cooper’s vast popularity reaffirmed by a variety of translations and illustrated editions that swiftly followed the first editions.