Why Tariffs Have Backfired Throughout American History

As a U.S. Trade War With China Escalates, the Only Guarantee Is Unexpected Aftershocks

In a truly iconic scene from the 1980s comedy Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, a high school economics teacher played by Ben Stein fails to elicit even a muscle twitch from his seemingly catatonic pupils as he queries them—“Anyone…Anyone?”—about the Hawley-Smoot Tariff of 1930.

Hilarious as this scene may be in the film, it recurs frequently in real life, not simply in classrooms but in many other settings, whenever the subject of tariffs comes up. It is both ironic and unfortunate that many Americans find tariffs too boring to care about …

The Savvy Press Agent Who Invented Buffalo Bill

"Arizona John" Burke Perfected the Art of Hype That Converted a Bison Hunter Into a Symbol of National Character

To appreciate the wonder and luster of a star in the sky, one must look off to its side—“averted vision,” it is called.

So it was in the late 19th century …

How Chicago Lifted Itself Out of the Swamp and Became a Modern Metropolis

By Building Canals, Laying Sewers, and Jacking Up Buildings, the Windy City Spurred Its Miraculous Growth

In 1833, Chicago was a wilderness outpost of just 350 residents, clumped around a small military fort on soggy land where the Chicago River trickled into Lake Michigan. The site …

The Black Freedom Colonies of Appalachia Where Former Slaves ‘Could Speak Their Minds’

Though Their Stories Are Still Overlooked, African Americans in Mountain Communities Like Liberia, South Carolina Are Emerging From History

Beneath the brush on the sloping hillside facing the Blue Ridge Mountains in upper Pickens County, South Carolina, lay a hand-carved soapstone tombstone bearing a simple inscription: Chanie Kimp/Died/Aug. 6, …

The Notorious, Mixed-Race New Orleans Madam Who Turned Her Identity Into a Brand

By Repackaging the Myths of the Tragic Octoroon and the Self-Made Woman, Lulu White Crafted a Persona That Haunts Beyoncé's "Formation"

In 2016, music and pop-culture idol Beyoncé released the album Lemonade to rapturous reviews. As a historian of New Orleans, I was especially intrigued by the video for one of …