Cultural History

The “Animal Turn” in History

By Dan Vandersommers

Over the past few years, the humanities have been confronting a paradigm shift.

After the cultural and linguistic turns of the 1970s and 1980s, ideas about language, meaning, representation, power, agency, othering, and knowledge-production redefined the humanities. Now, in 2016, new media, climate change, environmental catastrophe, terrorism, biotechnology, population growth, and globalization are destabilizing the core of the humanities. These forces are larger-than-human—they are seismic and are shifting intellectual terrain. They also require a change of perception—a new, less anthropocentric, vision for a new century.

Election Cake: A Forgotten Democratic Tradition

By Maia Surdam

Most Americans today do not think about cake when considering this year’s election. But perhaps we should. Had we been colonists in New England or denizens of the new republic, cake would likely have been on our minds and in our bodies during election season. At our present moment, when political tensions run high and many Americans wait eagerly for the arrival of November 9, one might wonder why it’s worth thinking about cake and politics.

AHA Member Spotlight: Gregory Bereiter

Gregory Bereiter is a historian at the Naval History and Heritage Command where he’s currently researching and writing about naval operations in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia, and has been a member since 2009.

AHA Member Spotlight: Kibibi V. Mack-Shelton

AHA members are involved in all fields of history, with wide-ranging specializations, interests, and areas of employment. To recognize our talented and eclectic membership, AHA Today features a regular AHA Member Spotlight series.

Kibibi V. Mack-Shelton is a tenured professor of history at Claflin University. She lives in Orangeburg, South Carolina, and has been a member since 1984.

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.

The Gift Thieves: Interpreting a Scandal in Early Modern Venice

This is the third post in a series by Jesse Hysell, one of this year’s AHA Today blog contest winners. His posts examine material exchanges between Venice and Egypt in the early modern period. Previous Posts include: Cultural Encounters and Material Exchanges in the Venetian Archives and The Politics of Pepper: Deciphering a Venetian-Mamluk Gift Exchange

My last post examined how diplomatic gift exchange between Venice and Cairo in the early modern period enabled communication and cooperation between their rulers. As I continued my research into these practices, my findings led me to confront an inevitable question: What happened to ambassadorial gifts after they had changed hands?

The Politics of Pepper: Deciphering a Venetian-Mamluk Gift Exchange

At the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana in Venice, just a few feet from Piazza San Marco, where thousands of tourists come each day to pose for pictures and eat gelato, sits a manuscript—Codice Marciano It. XI, 66—containing an invaluable account of a crucial diplomatic mission to Egypt from the 16th century. I consulted this text, which holds the only surviving version of Giovanni Danese’s eyewitness report of Ambassador Benedetto Sanudo’s embassy to the sultan in 1503. Danese, Sanudo’s personal secretary, has left us a wealth of information on the materially based forms of diplomacy that helped maintain a stable relationship between Venetians and Mamluks in the early modern period.

The Aftertaste of Empire: Food and Decolonization

By Amanda Banacki Perry

“I’m not getting curry powder at all. Being a Brit, we eat a lot of curry, and I don’t taste it in this.” As I was watching Food Network’s Spring Baking Championship, this comment by Lorraine Pascale, one of the judges on the show, jumped out at me. Her comment, which drew on a legacy of presumed British culinary expertise concerning curry, carried a clear message: Brits know their curry.[1] And yet, the process by which curry became one of the most popular dishes in modern Britain is a complicated one of imperial appropriation, invention, and transformation.