Is Canada on a well-worn path to destruction?

There are surprising commonalities in the rise and fall of 11 historic empires. Canada is on the same path

Is Canada on a well-worn path to destruction?Could Canada soon meet its end, given its many divides and increasing public debt? If Sir John Glubb is right, the answer is yes. Glubb’s 1976 work, The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival, found surprising commonalities in the rise and fall of 11 historic empires. Although they spanned 3,000 years and varied geography,…

Silent Witness of a Holocaust Suitcase

A Canadian family helped solve the mystery of a teenage girl’s life and death at Auschwitz

Silent Witness of a Holocaust SuitcaseHana Brady could be another Anne Frank except she did not leave a diary. But the suitcase that 13-year-old left behind when she died in a gas chamber at Auschwitz concentration camp continues to teach millions of children around the world the importance of respect, empathy and compassion. It bears silent witness to the agony…

A revisionist history of who won the U.S. Civil War

A controversial new book maintains that the North may have won the war, but the South won the battle of ideas

A revisionist history of who won the U.S. Civil WarThis month’s holiday celebration, much like the year in general, is one that the annals of history will always remember. For my last column of 2020, let’s explore some historical analysis that few would ever recall. Who won the American Civil War? The correct response would be: the North, Union, Union Army and/or Army of…

Adolf Hitler’s fateful mistake

If Hitler had declared war on Japan in support of the U.S., he might have kept the U.S. out of the European war. And that would have changed history

Adolf Hitler’s fateful mistakeAdolf Hitler began 1941 in a commanding position. He had 10 European conquests under his belt and just one active foe – beleaguered Britain and the members of the Commonwealth, like Canada. But by year-end, he’d added the Soviet Union and the United States to his slate of antagonists. And the declaration of war against…

Diving into man’s complicated relationship with war

Diving into man’s complicated relationship with warOn Remembrance Day, as chance would have it, I was reading Margaret MacMillan’s latest book, War: How Conflict Shaped Us. MacMillan is a Canadian historian most famous for two works connected to the First World War – Paris 1919 and The War That Ended Peace. Her new book builds on a series of lectures she…

Julius Caesar’s assassins paid the price

Some died in battle, some by suicide, and at least one after being tortured then beheaded

Julius Caesar’s assassins paid the priceEnglish author Peter Stothard’s latest book is called The Last Assassin: The Hunt for the Killers of Julius Caesar. I’ve only seen reviews but it looks like a good read. Growing up in 1950s Ireland, Caesar was one of those ancient figures who loomed large. Part of this was no more than the schoolboy’s normal…

The Congo’s great liberation turned into abject failure

How great plans quickly descended into decades of dictatorship, corruption, kleptocracy and violence

The Congo’s great liberation turned into abject failureThe year 1960 was auspicious for European decolonization of Africa. In rapid succession, no fewer than 17 countries became independent. One of them was the Central African territory previously known as the Belgian Congo. June 30 was its magic date. And given its vast natural resources, some people had high hopes. Alas, things quickly turned…

The Habsburgs: Rise and fall of Europe’s premier dynasty

They were canny, enduring and keen on expansion. In the end, however, the empire couldn't survive the First World War

The Habsburgs: Rise and fall of Europe’s premier dynastyThanks to a voluble professor of European history at University College Dublin, the Habsburgs first piqued my curiosity in the early 1960s. Then the interest lay dormant until a chance 2011 visit to the imperial crypt in Vienna’s Capuchin monastery. In operation since 1632, the crypt contains the tombs of more than 140 Habsburg royalty.…

Digging for the bones of a lost Irish hero

Digging for the bones of a lost Irish heroThe Spanish city of Valladolid has an Irish historical connection. It was there that Red Hugh O’Donnell was buried in 1602. Now, thanks to an archaeological dig aimed at finding his long-lost tomb, the connection is back in the news. Known as Red Hugh because of his hair colour, he was the kind of historical…

Hubris, conspiracy and the fall of Margaret Thatcher

The former U.K. prime minister had a radical streak and a thirst for combat that the men she led didn’t share

Hubris, conspiracy and the fall of Margaret ThatcherMargaret Thatcher had her final prime ministerial audience with the Queen on Nov. 28, 1990. Despite having won three consecutive general elections and never losing a parliamentary vote of confidence, she was evicted from office against her will. The dramatic story is comprehensively told in Herself Alone, the third and final instalment of Charles Moore’s…