Wednesday, January 15, 2020


April 3, 2019

Dear Mr. Fitzhugh,

Hello! I just wanted to let you know that as of last week, I have been accepted into Harvard, Yale, UPenn Wharton, Stanford, University of Southern California (on a full tuition scholarship), and University of Virginia (as an Echols Scholar). I am still deciding on which institution I will attend next year, but the one thing thing that I know for a fact is that all of these options would not have been made possible to me if it were not for The Concord Review.

I just wanted to thank you for creating The Concord Review as an opportunity and encouragement for high schoolers like myself to delve into the world of research and history. The UPenn admissions officer who reviewed my application specifically complimented my caliber of writing and research in The Concord Review—something that I could have not accomplished if it were not for not only the summer program, [TCR History Camp], but also something that would not have been possible without the existence of TCR. Thanks again for everything, and hope to speak soon.


[Grace Lu, Class of 2019, Douglas S. Freeman High School,
Henrico, Virginia. Ralph Waldo Emerson Prize 2018.
Her paper on The Great Leap Forward was published in
the Summer 2018 issue of The Concord Review.]
[She chose Stanford—Class of 2023]

Monday, January 6, 2020


Good news, very good news, reached Washington’s headquarters on Thursday, January 18, [1776] when a bulky, bowlegged man with brilliant gray eyes rode into Cambridge after a two-month absence. Only twenty-five, he habitually wrapped his left hand in a silk handkerchief to conceal the stumps of two fingers amputated after the barrel of his fowling piece exploded in a hunting mishap on Noddle’s Island two years earlier. Even as a boy working in a Boston book bindery, he had impressed John Adams with “his pleasing manners and inquisitive turn of mind.” He was, the writer Washington Irving would observe, “one of those providential characters which spring up in emergencies as if formed by and for the occasion.”

This surely was an emergency, and here was young Henry Knox to announce that against stiff odds he had transported, in midwinter by boat and by sled, fifty-eight fine guns from Fort Ticonderoga and Crown Point—cannons and mortars, brass and iron. Those guns, momentarily parked twenty miles to the west on a muddy roadside in Framingham, were now his, and he was ready and eager to blow the British out of his hometown. But first he had to have a uniform tailored—no simple task for a man who eventually weighed almost three hundred pounds—since he had just learned of his new commission as a colonel in command of all Continental artillery.

In an era of improbable ascents, Henry Knox’s rise was among the least likely. At age nine, he had been forced to drop out of Boston Latin Grammar School when his father abandoned the family for the West Indies after his shipbuilding business collapsed. The boy went to work, both in the bindery and as an autodidact, teaching himself passable French and studying Plutarch’s Lives and Caesar’s Commentaries. At eighteen he joined a militia artillery company, training on brass 3-pounders under British tutelage and firing salutes for the king’s birthday. As a witness to the Boston Massacre, he testified at the subsequent trials and soon after opened his London Book-Store, peddling Bibles, law books, and almanacs in an effort, as he advertised, “to exterminate ignorance and darkness.” Knox himself was an attraction. “He was affable without familiarity, dignified without parade, imposing without arrogance,” one admirer wrote.

Within three years the shop had become “a fashionable morning lounge” for browsing British officers and well-heeled Bostonians alike, an emporium offering stationery, wallpaper, quills, flutes, Keyser’s pills, telescopes, “cordial cephalic snuff,” reading glasses, and Hill’s “never-failing cure for the bite of a mad dog.” And books: twenty volumes of Voltaire, ecclesiastical histories, the eleven-volume Complete History of England, treatises on shoeing horses and how to treat venereal disease with mercury, Tom Jones, Tristram Shandy, and various pirated Irish editions, which were cheaper than books published in England. A few weeks before the British marched to Lexington, Knox offered a shilling pamphlet on “the dispute between Great Britain and the colonies” by a precocious New York college student named Alexander Hamilton….

…Knox had covered more than seven hundred miles since leaving Cambridge, nearly half of it lugging 120,000 pounds of dead metal. The return trip from Ticonderoga had taken forty days, rather than the fifteen he’d anticipated. The journey was a feat of endurance and pluck comparable to Arnold’s anabasis through Maine, and his was a hero’s welcome at Vassall House. As he prepared for a uniform fitting and to take command of the six hundred gunners in his regiment, he tallied his expedition expenses in an account book: £521, 15 shillings, and a few pence. One day Washington would say of Harry Knox: there was “no one whom I have loved more sincerely.”

Rick Atkinson, The British Are Coming (234-237). Henry Holt and Co.. [2019] Kindle Edition.

Thursday, January 2, 2020


Winter always seemed to catch the U.S. Army by surprise. The Americans had been unprepared for winter campaigning in the Atlas Mountains of Tunisia in 1942 and in the Apennines of Italy in 1943, and they were just as unready in 1944. Even before OVERLORD, War Department queries about cold-weather preparations had been mostly dismissed with a resentful scowl by Eisenhower’s provisioners. Arctic clothing tested at Anzio was offered to SHAEF but rejected as unnecessary. The Army’s quartermaster general in mid-August had predicted that “the war would not go into another winter,” and Major General Robert M. Littlejohn, the chief quartermaster in Europe, agreed that “the serious fighting cannot long continue.” In mid-September, Hodges assured his uneasy medical officers, “Don’t you know that this war is going to be over in a few weeks?” A late requisition for winter clothing was submitted to the War Department “as a precautionary measure,” but it included only enough to outfit one army of 350,000 soldiers at a time when four American armies were fighting in western Europe.

The alarming German resilience of late October had inspired Littlejohn to urge Bradley to expedite shipments of cold-weather kit to the battlefront. “General, the weather is getting cold. Soon you will need some winter clothing,” the quartermaster told him in Luxembourg City. Bradley waved off the warning, saying, in Littlejohn’s recollection, “The men are tough and can take it.” Supply-line sclerosis and delays in opening Antwerp aggravated matters, as did the severe wear on all uniforms and equipment: even as theater commanders in late September belatedly requested 850,000 heavy overcoats—double the number contemplated just a month earlier—plus five million sets of wool undershirts and drawers, quartermasters faced a need to reclothe a million ragged U.S. soldiers, as well as 100,000 French troops and throngs of German prisoners. “We can’t fight a winter war in the same clothes that we use in the summer,” Captain Jack Golden wrote his family. “We should have learned a little last winter in Italy.”

Instead, as the Army official history conceded, “front-line troops fought through a large part of the winter inadequately clothed.” Far less than half of the requested underwear reached the theater, despite Littlejohn’s contention that “wool is essential to combat, as much as ammunition.” Shortages of wool socks in medium sizes forced Army laundries to try shrinking size 12 pairs, even as unintended shrinkage remained a galling problem, with a “high failure rate in all woolens.” Three field launderings were typically enough to ruin a pair of socks, so the Army had to buy seven million new pairs a month.

Rick Atkinson, (2013-10-22). The Liberation Trilogy (Kindle Locations 41076-41096). Henry Holt and Co...2013 Kindle Edition.

Saturday, December 28, 2019


History Today, June 2018
Explorers and Orientialists
Zareer Masani

Cultural curiosity inspired generations of British imperialists to unearth India’s past.

    For a generation brought up on Edward Said’s writings on Orientalism, it may come as a surprise that it was British Orientalists who rediscovered India’s history and artistic heritage and made it accessible to all. The Palestinian American Said knew little about India or else he might have recognized the cultural curiosity that inspired thousands of Britons to explore India’s past.

    The ‘colonial gaze,’ which Said’s followers dismiss as colonial appropriation, took the form of paintings and engravings by artists such as Thomas Daniel and William Hodges, long before Britain acquired any imperial ambitions in India.

    Then there was Sir William Jones, the polymath who contributed more than any other individual to India’s national renaissance. Alongside his day job as a judge in Calcutta (now Kolkata), the East India Company’s capital, Jones studied and mastered Sanskrit, translated its classical texts and used the language to unlock the glories of India’s long-forgotten Hindu and Buddhist past.

    Jones found Sanskrit “more perfect than Greek, more copious than Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either. I am in love with the gopis, charmed with Krishna and an enthusiastic admirer of Rama. Arjun, Bhima and the warriors of the Mahabharata appear greater in my eyes than Ajax or Achilles appeared when I first read the Iliad.”

    Unlike ancient Greece and Rome, India’s classical past had left behind no written histories, so it had to be reconstructed from lost pavilions and buried treasure. In 1784, with the active patronage of the first British Governor-General, Warren Hastings, Jones founded the Asiatic Society to take on this giant task. It became the beacon for a huge volunteer army of amateur antiquarians across the subcontinent, enthusiastic British civil and military officers, who scoured the mofussil (those regions beyond the East India Company’s control) for ruins and artifacts, wrote learned articles about them and sent their findings to be collated and studied in the Presidency cities: Calcutta (now Kolkata), Bombay (Mumbai) and Madras (Chennai).

    When Jones returned to England a decade later, his health broken by overwork, the Asiatic was taken over by his protég
é, James Prinsep, another polymath, who worked at the East India Company’s mint in Benares (Varanasi, in Uttar Pradesh). Prinsep’s labors produced the biggest breakthrough in Indian historiography, the deciphering of the long-forgotten Brahmi script, and, through it, the discovery of the Mauryan empire, which had united the subcontinent in the third century BC.


Wednesday, December 18, 2019


The reconstruction of Polska YMCA in the immediate postwar period was a classic example of what is nowadays called “civil society,” a phenomenon that has gone by other names in the past. In the eighteenth century, Edmund Burke wrote admiringly of the “little platoons,” the small social organizations from which, he believed, public spirit arose (and which he thought were threatened by the French Revolution). In the nineteenth century, Alexander de Tocqueville wrote equally enthusiastically of the “associations” that “Americans of all ages, all conditions, and all dispositions constantly form.” He concluded that they helped ward off dictatorship: “If men are to remain civilized or to become so, the art of associating together must grow and improve.” More recently, the political scientist Robert Putnam has redefined the same phenomenon as “social capital,” and concluded that voluntary organizations lie at the heart of what we call “community.”

By 1945, the Bolsheviks had also developed a theory of civil society, albeit one that was entirely negative. In contrast to Burke, Tocqueville, and their own Russian intellectuals, they believed, in the words of the historian Stuart Finkel, that “the public sphere in a socialist society should be unitary and univocal.” They dismissed the “bourgeois” notion of open discussion, and hated independent associations, trade unions, and guilds of all kinds, which they referred to as “separatist” or “caste” divisions within society. As for bourgeois political parties, these were meaningless. (As Lenin had written, “the names of parties, both in Europe and in Russia, are often chosen purely for purposes of advertisement, the ‘programs’ of parties are more often than not written with the sole purpose of defrauding the public.” 

The only organizations allowed to have a legal existence were de facto extensions of the Communist party. Even completely apolitical organizations had to be banned: until the revolution had triumphed, there could be no such thing as an apolitical organization. Everything was political. And if it was not openly political, then it was secretly political.

From that assumption, it also followed that no organized group was above suspicion.

Anne Applebaum, (2012-10-30). Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956 (148-149). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019


China Transformed by Elimination of ‘Four Olds’

By Tillman Durdin—Special to The New York Times

May 19, 1971

HONG KONG, May 18—One of the early objectives of the Cultural Revolution in China, which began in 1966 and goes on today, was to wipe out the “four olds”—old things, old ideas, old customs and old habits.

The “four olds” had already suffered setbacks in the years of Communist rule preceding the Cultural Revolution, but the Maoist leadership tried to use the new revolutionary upsurge launched in 1966 to eliminate them completely.

In the turbulent years from 1966 to 1968, what remained of old religious practices, old superstitions, old festivals, old social practices such as traditional weddings and funerals, and old ways of dress were violently attacked and suppressed.

Visual evidences of old things were destroyed, and there was an orgy of burning of old books and smashing of old art objects.

Young Red Guards invaded homes and shattered family altars that denoted continued Confucian reverence for generations of forbears. The few temples, mosques and churches still used for religious purposes were closed and put to secular use. Even those that had been left open for sightseeing purposes, such as the great Buddhist, Lama and Taoist temples of Peking, were barred and their statues, altars and other furnishings were removed.

Forbidden City Is Closed

The Forbidden City—the walled enclosure in Peking of palaces, ceremonial halls, pavilions and residential quarters from which Chinese imperial rule was exercised until 1911—was shut.

The evidence, mainly visual, during three weeks of travel by this correspondent in the east coast areas of China, indicates that the drive against the “four olds” has had sweeping effect. In not a single home seen by the writer was there any family altar, any tablets to ancestors or any representation of the old gods formerly worshipped by the Chinese masses. In as Westernized a city as Hong Kong, still under British rule, such things are still commonplace in Chinese homes.

No religious practices were discoverable during the trip in China, and guides said there were none. Religious edifices have been turned to use as schools, warehouses or recreational centers.

The Forbidden City, with its evidences of great traditional art and architecture, remains closed to the general public, and the showplace temples and mosques of Peking and elsewhere are still barred except for a few that are reportedly kept open to be shown to visiting Buddhist and Moslem delegations.

Some Art Objects on Sale

Collections of traditional Chinese art objects of second‐class quality—porcelains, jades, paintings, lacquerware and jewelry—are for sale in special shops in Peking, Tientsin, Shanghai and Canton, but only for foreign visitors. The Chinese never get a sight of these examples of a great artistic past.

Before the Cultural Revolution it was not uncommon to see women wearing traditional sheath dresses and using cosmetics. Now the old styles in women's garments are gone, and today women wear the same frumpy blue or gray trousers and jackets as men. The writer saw no use of lipstick or rouge. Dressed like men, women work alongside them in manual as well as office jobs at the same pay.

The traditional big Chinese family apparently is gone, too. Cramped living quarters and social conditions today dictate a small family composed of husband, wife and one to three children.

The only old festival observed now is at the time of the old Chinese New Year, based on the lunar cycle, and it is not called a New Year festival any longer but a spring festival. Celebrations are not the colorful traditional kind. There are holidays, but the activities then are of a political nature—political dramatic performances or politically oriented mass meetings and sports events.

No old literature, either Chinese or Western, is on sale. Instead, the bookshops are stacked with the works of Mao Tse‐tung, and the few periodicals on politics, literature, medicine and other matters that are being produced these days.

In a library inspected at Tsinghua University in Peking, the section devoted to old Chinese literature was still intact, but a look into the classic novel “Water Margin” showed that it was last taken out for reading in January, 1967.

No traditional operas, no traditional music and no traditional plays are performed these days. There are only the 10 new standard dramatic works developed during the Cultural Revolution and performed everywhere now in full or in excerpts.

Even the manners and attitudes of the people seem changed. Weddings and funerals are plain and simple without public display of any sort.

People Seem Less Polite

People seem more direct and less polite. They appear to be more motivated than before by considerations of time and of cause and effect, as in Western societies.

The exotic, the traditionally pictured and the traditionally colorful things are gone from Chinese life, at least in the areas that were visited. In the Chinese People's Republic there is no “mysterious East” any more, just workaday people following workaday routines that seem essentially familiar and ordinary to the Westerner, even though they operate within a Marxist totalitarian framework.

Old folk sayings are occasionally heard, but these have largely been replaced by the maxims of Chairman Mao. The first of January is celebrated as the real New Year's Day, and the other fixed holidays, besides the spring festival, are May Day and the October 1 National Day.

A new generation has appeared, and though much of the old China is too indelible to erase as yet, a new China with ways quite different from the old is in existence.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019


[...Outside, he {MAO} was also fulfilling his long-held goal of erasing China’s past from the minds of his subjects...]

In June [1966], Mao intensified the terrorization of society. He picked as his first instrument of terror young people in schools and universities, the natural hotbeds for activists. These students were told to condemn their teachers and those in charge of education for poisoning their heads with “bourgeois ideas”—and for persecuting them with exams, which henceforth were abolished. The message was splashed in outsize characters on the front page of People’s Daily , and declaimed in strident voices on the radio, carried by loudspeakers that had been rigged up everywhere, creating an atmosphere that was both blood-boiling and blood-curdling.  
Teachers and administrators in education were selected as the first victims because they were the people instilling culture, and because they were the group most conveniently placed to offer up to the youthful mobs, being right there to hand. The young were told that their role was to “safeguard” Mao, although how their teachers could possibly harm “the great Helmsman,” or what perils might beset him, was not disclosed. Nevertheless, many responded enthusiastically. Taking part in politics was something no one had been allowed to do under Mao, and the country was seething with frustrated activists who had been denied the normal outlets available in most societies, even to sit around and argue issues.  
Now, suddenly, there seemed to be a chance to get involved. To those interested in politics, the prospect was tremendously exciting. Young people began to form groups. On 2 June, a group from a middle school in Peking put up a wall poster, which they signed with the snappy name of “Red Guards,” to show that they wanted to safeguard Mao. Their writing was full of remarks like: “Stuff ‘human feelings!’ ” “We will be brutal!” “We will strike you [Mao’s enemies] to the ground and trample you!” The seeds of hate that Mao had sown were ready for reaping. Now he was able to unleash the thuggery of these infected teenagers, the most malleable and violent element of society….

….IN SUMMER 1966 Red Guards ravaged every city and town, and some areas in the countryside. “Home,” with books and anything associated with culture, became a dangerous place. Fearing that the Red Guards might burst in and torture them if “culture” was found in their possession, frightened citizens burned their own books or sold them as scrap paper, and destroyed their own art objects. Mao thus succeeded in wiping out culture from Chinese homes. Outside, he was also fulfilling his long-held goal of erasing China’s past from the minds of his subjects. A large number of historical monuments, the most visible manifestation of the nation’s civilization, which had so far survived Mao’s loathing, was demolished.  

In Peking, of 6,843 monuments still standing in 1958, 4,922 were now obliterated. Like the list of people to be spared, the list of monuments to be preserved was a short one. Mao did want to keep some monuments, like Tiananmen Gate, where he could stand to be hailed by “the masses.” The Forbidden City and a number of other historical sites were put under protection and many were closed down, thus depriving the population of access even to the fraction of their cultural inheritance that survived. Not spared was China’s leading architect, Liang Si-cheng, who had described Mao’s wish to see “chimneys everywhere” in Peking as “too horrifying a picture to bear thinking about.” Now he was subjected to public humiliation and abuse, and brutal house raids. His collection of books was destroyed, and his family expelled to one small room, with broken windows and ice-covered floor and walls. Chronically ill, Liang died in 1972…. 

Jung Chang, Jon Halliday, MAO:The Unknown Story [2005] 
(Kindle Locations 10092-10244). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.