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Sam Haselby

Senior Editor, Aeon+Psyche

Sam is a historian of early America with a particular interest in religion and politics. He was a junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and has been a faculty member at the American University of Beirut, the American University in Cairo and at Columbia University in New York City. He helped to launch Al Jazeera America and is the author of The Origins of American Religious Nationalism (paperback, 2016). He can be found on Twitter @HaselbySam.

Written by Sam Haselby

Edited by Sam Haselby

The emancipated Empire | Aeon
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Nations and empires

The emancipated Empire

The British Empire was first built on slavery and then on the moral and economic self-confidence of antislavery

Padraic Scanlan

Being Persian | Aeon
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Nations and empires

Being Persian

To be Persian before nationalism was to belong to a generous, plural identity woven through language, kin and manners

Mana Kia

Slavery en famille | Aeon
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History

Slavery en famille

The story of Marie Aymard and five generations of her family tells an intimate history of slavery in a small French town

Emma Rothschild

Creatures of the Popol Vuh | Aeon
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Animals and humans

Creatures of the Popol Vuh

For the K’iche’ Mayans, animals were not lower beings but neighbours, alter egos and a way to communicate with the gods

Jessica Sequeira

What is ‘the West’? | Aeon
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Political philosophy

What is ‘the West’?

While the West belonged to a European geography, its name meant something. Now it is a vague invocation, laden with fear

Faisal Devji

Jefferson’s university | Aeon
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Education

Jefferson’s university

Thomas Jefferson founded a university believing it would safeguard republican freedom. Slavery was another matter altogether

Alan Taylor

Where the rivers meet | Aeon
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Spirituality

Where the rivers meet

Pilgrims have long sought in India’s holiest city an antidote to the modern West, but Varanasi is more dream than reality

Manini Sheker

The South African model | Aeon
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Human rights and justice

The South African model

What the United States and other settler societies can learn from South Africa’s push to create a nonracial democracy

Mahmood Mamdani

A fourth globalisation | Aeon
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Economic history

A fourth globalisation

A new form of trade is reshaping our world, and it’s driven by the movement of bits and bytes, not goods, around the globe

Marc Levinson

Can culture degenerate? | Aeon
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Beauty and aesthetics

Can culture degenerate?

Tempting it might be, but the idea that culture has become vacuous and banal comes with unsavoury implications

Christy Wampole

Vast early America | Aeon
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Nations and empires

Vast early America

There is no American history without the histories of Indigenous and enslaved peoples. And this past has consequences today

Karin Wulf

Plagues and empires | Aeon
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Global history

Plagues and empires

What can the decline of the Roman Empire and the end of European feudalism tell us about COVID-19 and the future of the West?

John Rapley



Recent Comments

Future reading

Sam Haselby

A friend, a productive scholar and an eager, effective user of digital media in many forms, recently posted a photo on his Facebook page. It was a picture of his seven year old daughter curled up in an armchair at night, under a light, paper book in hands, reading and absorbed entirely. “Maybe the paper book has a future after all,” he commented.

Electronic books have some irreplaceable advantages including but probably not limited to portability, search and share advantages, storage and more. My suspicion that the paper book is not obsolete however has, I think, less to do with sentimental visions of childhood, such as might be suggested by the anecdote described above, and more t...

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On the run

Sam Haselby

There is a lot of discussion today about political Islam. Much of it presumes that the reason for its role as the bearer of a certain kind of radical politics lies in some quality of the religion. In the US at least, that presumption often narrows even further to some quality of the Quran. One thing I like about Raza Rumi’s essay is how it has no time for that approach. His experience as a banker and development advocate, then journalist, in Pakistan, Rumi saw the matter as clearly political. In a casual, off-hand way, his essay identifies two drivers of political Islam in Pakistan. First, the partition from India. With Islam embroidered into its very reason for existence, Pakistan has be...

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The new history of slavery and capitalism

Sam Haselby

Joshua Rothman takes note of an important step in the historical understanding of slavery in the US. In the first decades of the 20th century, Americans were taught that slavery was a benevolent, civilizing institution, and not the primary cause of the nation’s Civil War. In 1956, the publication of Kenneth Stamp’s book The Peculiar Institution, brought a big change. WWII’s concentration camps had brought racism into disrepute, and Stamp, for this and other reasons, argued that American slavery was in fact a brutal and oppressive system, that it was the cause of the American Civil War. But Stamp also more or less portrayed American slavery as a peculiarly Southern thing. The Civil Rights ...

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The US is a failed state thanks to its system of government

Sam Haselby

Where to begin? I’d follow University of Texas law professor Sanford Levine’s plan to scrap the whole thing and have a new constitutional convention, one that draws broadly from the citizenry by lottery. There are some anti-democratic features of the present US Constitution, such as two senators from every state, that are so plainly anti-democratic as to have become sacred. California has nearly 40 million people. Wyoming has under 600,000. They each get two senators. Huh? Then there are the sclerotic internal division of powers and reform requirements Gerstle has focused on that just involve massive wastes of energy and effort, and sometimes a component of absurdity. The example Gerstle ...

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Do conservative think tanks help to balance policy debates?

Sam Haselby

This question obviously raises some deeply felt views about how an implicit politics of academics and the media express themselves in society. When posing the question, I didn’t anticipate such fervor. I can’t help but notice that those on both sides find their position so blindingly obvious that the question itself seems to them ideological. As a result, barely anyone has provided any actual examples of how academia and the media might be overwhelmingly liberal or, as a couple writers implied, neoliberal, which is right-wing if not conservative in the proper sense of the word. The answer to the question is to me not at all so simple or self-evident. While most professional academics are ...

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Beyond true and false

Sam Haselby

There are two kinds of people in the world- those who are foolish enough to believe there are only two kinds of people in the world, and the rest of us.

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Master of many trades

Sam Haselby

The best description I have read of the relationship between specialization and knowledge, in terms of how the two function in academic or scholarly research, came from a late nineteenth century philosopher of science.

He was explaining a seeming contradiction. How is it possible that a broad field of inquiry, say physics or modern literature, or even more broadly humanity as a whole, knows more and more while at the same time most of the people who have enlarged these bodies of knowledge seem from one perspective to know less and less?

There is no contradiction, he argued, and compared the scholarly or research-based accumulation of knowledge to a spotlight expanding on a w...

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Should we rename institutions that honour dead racists?

Sam Haselby

Renaming things is a blunt instrument by which to address the legacy and consequences of slavery and apartheid in the US. What effect will changing the name on building in Princeton, NJ have on the impunity with which police visit violence on African-Americans, or on mass incarceration, or on poverty? How is one to explain the discrimination and violence after one has removed references to its causes?

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Men at work

Sam Haselby

Allison Pugh’s work on masculinity helps explain some of the deep developments currently roiling US politics, in particular in the Republican presidential primary. As a group, men without advanced degrees basically no longer have a realistic chance of fulfilling the normative expectations of what it means to be a man, of providing stable long term support for their families. The consequences are profound, for their lives, that of their families, and I think increasingly for the country’s politics. Look too at the READ MORE→ See comment

Paradigms lost

Sam Haselby

Why did the Iraq War happen? Why did the Russian Revolution happen? Why did Canada and the United States, contiguous and basically simultaneous, largely Anglo settler colonial societies, have in some important ways notably different courses of historical development? Why was there a Cold War? Why did the Protestant Reformation happen? Why has Islam thrived in the past couple generations? Why did Europe in the nineteenth century rise to a level of military and political power that allowed it to dominate the world? From where does jazz come? Science is unlikely to tell us much of anything in way of answers to these and other questions about human society.

It is also fair to wonder if...

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Are coders worth it?

Sam Haselby

One could argue those 18th and 19th century Brits, with their useless Greek and Latin educations, nonetheless did rather well, if not good, on the world stage.

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