Was Richard the Lionheart gay?

The debate is perhaps just a reflection of our modern obsessions and fails to put events in their proper historic perspective

Was Richard the Lionheart gay?England’s most famous medieval monarch, Richard the Lionheart, died 820 years ago this April. Wounded while besieging a castle in western France, he succumbed to gangrene. Strangely, though, despite his being the most famous European warrior of his time, one of the major modern talking points about him pertains to his sexuality. Specifically, was he…

Queen Victoria’s foreign policy man was larger than life

Were Lord Palmerston alive today, he’d most certainly be a Brexiteer

Queen Victoria’s foreign policy man was larger than lifeFor devotees of the TV series Victoria, the introduction of foreign secretary Lord Palmerston was a season three highlight. And given Palmerston’s dominant role in British foreign policy between 1830 and 1865, his introduction was historically apt as well as dramatically interesting. Purists, though, might take issue with the casting. Although Laurence Fox’s performance is…

The rise and fall of a legendary Hollywood duo

Comedy masters Laurel and Hardy are the subject of a new biopic that tells a story of triumph and despair

The rise and fall of a legendary Hollywood duoLaurel and Hardy’s Hollywood heyday was before my time. I started going to the movies in the early 1950s, by which point their cinematic status had been eclipsed by other comedy duos like Abbott and Costello and Martin and Lewis. Still, the new biopic Stan & Ollie strikes nostalgically resonant notes. One of the more…

The rise and fall of a Native American empire

The Comanches were very adaptable and formidable. But nature, politics, economics and immigration eventually undid them

The rise and fall of a Native American empireIt’s easy to think of the European arrival in North America as an unremitting story of Native American retreat. But as Finnish historian Pekka Hamalainen explains in The Comanche Empire, reality was more complicated. Empowered by the European introduction of the horse and the gun, the Comanches did very well for a long time. In…

The day the music died?

Buddy Holly died 60 years ago, but his music has not faded away – even if the nature of rock tours has changed dramatically

The day the music died?To quote Don McLean’s song American Pie, Feb. 3 marks the 60th anniversary of the day the music died. The reference, of course, is to the 1959 plane crash that killed rock ’n’ roller Buddy Holly, two other performers and the pilot of the four-seater plane in which they were travelling. I remember the event…

Lack of competition pushes up your cost to use the Internet

Canada is among the world’s leaders when it comes to restrictive foreign ownership rules, and the digital realm is no exception

Lack of competition pushes up your cost to use the InternetMany of the close to 90 per cent of Canadians who subscribe to home Internet plans will begin to see their monthly bills go up next month by, it appears, $2 to $9 a month. It could be more and if you’re on a locked-in plan you might not feel the impact right away. But…

Endeavour’s voyage of enlightenment added a hemisphere to the world

And, according to author Peter Moore, the endeavour attitude is characterized by dreaming of our better angels, not by acquiring more stuff

Endeavour’s voyage of enlightenment added a hemisphere to the worldMy daughter choreographs reading that plays to my whimsical non-fiction interests through Christmas gifts of books. This year, I carefully opened a beribboned volume by British author Peter Moore entitled Endeavour: The Ship and Attitude that Changed the World (2018). Right away, I recognized Endeavour as James Cook’s ship on his first epic voyage of discovery…

Building strong communities with education, innovation – and craft beer

James and Deborah Fallows hopscotched across America to understand what makes the best of Our Towns thrive

Building strong communities with education, innovation – and craft beerMy son, the thoughtful curator of my must-reads non-fiction list, has done it again. For Christmas, he gave me the American bestseller Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey into the Heart of America. The book, published in 2018, was written by award-winning The Atlantic Monthly journalists James and Deborah Fallows. The Fallows have made significant public…

What kind of legacy are you leaving in your wake?

The message of It’s a Wonderful Life rings true because it speaks of powerful universal truths that will never change

What kind of legacy are you leaving in your wake?Celebrated American filmmaker Steven Spielberg said, “It’s a Wonderful Life shows that every human being on this Earth matters – and that’s a very powerful message.” Released in December 1946 (the same month Spielberg was born) and set in the first half of the 20th century, this film has been a Christmas favourite for generations.…

The last Blockbuster in America

The free market only sustains a faltering enterprise for so long. Consumer demands rapidly change, new products are always waiting

The last Blockbuster in AmericaJust about every year before Christmas, I sit down next to my wonderfully decorated tree, often with a beverage in hand, and clean up my computer files. Inevitably, I’ll unearth a few column ideas I didn’t get around to writing. This year, I found one older topic that I’ve decided was still intriguing enough to…
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