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December 2011: Down and Out (Again): America's Long Struggle with Mass Unemployment (Daniel Amsterdam)

1857, the 1870s, the 1890s, 1907, 1914, 1919, 1921: The United States faced widespread joblessness in all of these years, well before the Great Depression, not to mention today's Great Recession. As legislators in Washington prepare to debate another round of stimulus spending, and as unemployment reaches record highs, historian Daniel Amsterdam looks back at how the United States has tackled major spikes in unemployment throughout its history and how American efforts have compared with those of other countries.

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November 2011: Energy Policy and the Long Transition in America (William R. Childs)

Energy has been in the news lately: The natural gas industry appears to be developing a world market; the U.S. Army is experimenting with “alternative” and “renewable” energy sources; “green” and “conservation” are being marketed as sound corporate management strategies. A half century ago the emphasis on natural gas, alternative and renewable fuels, and conservation were not in the energy policy mix in the United States. The convergence of historical trends in the 1970s, however, ushered in a “long transition” in American energy policy-making that is on-going. This month historian William R. Childs untangles a few of the many complex strands that make up the history of energy policy in America.

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October 2011: Avoiding the Scourge of War: The Challenges of United Nations Peacekeeping (Donald A. Hempson, III )

Faced with humanitarian crises, outbreaks of civil war, and working in some of the world's most unstable places, United Nations peacekeeping missions are taxed to their limit. This month, historian Donald Hempson traces the evolution of United Nations peacekeeping over more than six decades to highlight the challenges associated with an ever more robust approach to international peacekeeping and conflict resolution. The limitations of the current model force supporters of UN peacekeeping operations to confront the hard questions of whether or not the United Nations is equipped for missions that now entail more peace implementation and enforcement than peacekeeping, especially in an environment of evermore diminishing resources and international will for prolonged and complex peacekeeping initiatives.

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September 2011: The Shifting Terrain of Latin American Drugs Trafficking (Steven Hyland, Jr. )

Forty years after President Richard Nixon declared a 'war on drugs,' the countries of Central and South America remain a central battleground. Though the horrific drug violence in Mexico has captured our attention recently, the history of the trade in the region stretches back much farther. This month, historian Steven Hyland explores how illicit drugs have been one of Latin America's principal contributions to our globalized world, and how narco-trafficking has adapted to market shifts in taste and demand and global and local politics over the last century.

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August 2011: Outdoing Panama: Turkey’s 'Crazy' Plan to Build an Istanbul Canal (James C. Helicke)

Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, recently unveiled a plan so ambitious that even he calls it the 'Crazy Project.' The project aims to build a massive canal that will bypass the Bosporus waterway that bisects Istanbul—a rival to the Panama and Suez Canals in time for the Turkish Republic’s centennial celebrations in 2023. The new canal, Erdogan hopes, will overcome centuries of international intrigue over the Bosporus, facilitate trade, and reduce the possibility of shipping accidents through the heart of Istanbul. This month Origins Managing Editor James Helicke examines the international history surrounding the strategic waterway that has confounded sultans and statesmen. He asks if the 'Crazy Project' will solve the Bosporus dilemma once and for all, or if it is just plain folly.

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July 2011: WikiLeaks, and the Past and Present of American Foreign Relations (Ryan Irwin)

On a fundraising trip to California in April, President Obama was confronted by protesters demanding better treatment for Pfc Bradley Manning, who has been at the center of the WikiLeaks controversy. Private Manning has been imprisoned for passing on tens of thousands of military and diplomatic documents to Wikileaks, in one of the greatest breaches of state secrecy in the history of the United States. This month, historian Ryan Irwin looks at the WikiLeaks tempest and what it tells us about America's role in the world.

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June 2011: 'The Energy of a Bright Tomorrow': The Rise of Nuclear Power in Japan (Craig D. Nelson)

The devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan left the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant crippled and the world worrying about the consequences of this nuclear disaster. This month Craig Nelson looks at the long relationship the Japanese have had with nuclear power to explore the paradox of how the nation that suffered nuclear destruction in 1945 came to embrace nuclear energy so enthusiastically.

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May 2011: Frenemies: Iran and America since 1900 (Douglas Little )

For more than 100 years, the United States and Iran have engaged in an ambivalent relationship. Although the American and Iranian people have usually regarded each other as friends, their governments have frequently treated each other as enemies. Throughout the 20th century and into the 21st, America and Iran have butted heads over issues as diverse as oil, communism, radical Islam, and nuclear proliferation, often framing their mutual antagonism as a clash between civilization and barbarism. Yet with a new administration in Washington eager to improve U.S. relations in the Muslim world and with young men and women calling for democracy in the streets of Tehran, the old 'frenemies' may find that they have more in common than they think.

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April 2011: American Populism and the Persistence of the Paranoid Style (Marc Horger)

The Populists are back! Since the late 19th century, 'populist' is the name we've given to any American political movement that challenged either of the two major parties. But who are they, exactly? What does the label actually mean? And how has the meaning changed over the centuries? This month historian Marc Horger looks at the history of the term to put the current crop of populists in historical perspective.

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March 2011: Currency Wars, Or Why You Should Care About the Global Struggle Over the Value of Money (Steven Bryan)

In October 2010, the Brazilian Finance Minister made news by claiming an 'international currency war' had broken out. The term 'currency war' promptly became a buzz phrase with commentators and public officials warning about the dangers of these wars and their historical roots in the Great Depression. The U.S. government, in turn, has applied the idea to China, which it has accused of currency manipulation for the better part of a decade. So why does this matter? And how unusual is this all? This month, historian Steven Bryan puts currency wars in historical perspective and reminds us that currency policy is inextricably linked to national interests and that manipulation is the historical norm, not the exception.

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February 2011: A Pact with the Devil? The United States and the Fate of Modern Haiti (Leslie Alexander)

January 12, 2011 marks the grim one-year anniversary of the Haitian earthquake. In the past year, as Haitians have tried to rebuild from that disaster, they have suffered a cholera epidemic and flooding from Hurricane Tomas. Thousands remain homeless, buildings in ruins, and violence widespread. The political process offers little hope for relief. Haiti's recent, much-watched Presidential elections, like so many in its past, have been marred with accusations of fraud and corruption. Haiti is now arguably the most desperate nation in the Western hemisphere and among the most desperate places anywhere in the world. This month, historian Leslie Alexander puts Haiti's recent crises in a longer perspective and reminds us that historically the United States has often hindered, rather than helped, Haiti deal with its many challenges.

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January 2011: Where Have You Gone, Holden Caulfield? Why We Aren't 'Alienated' Anymore (David Steigerwald)

Alienation. In the 1950s and '60s, this concept was used by sociologists, psychologists, pundits, and critics to explain any number of social problems. Kids were 'alienated' from their parents and from the larger society; adults were 'alienated' from their work and from their communities. It was a powerful concept and one that defined a generation of social commentary. Now, it seems, no one is alienated anymore. Historian David Steigerwald examines what happened to the notion of alienation by looking at the roots of the idea, the way it was used, and how it has disappeared from our discussion. Perfect reading for the holiday season!

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(University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009)
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Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective
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