A while back, I wrote about several history blogs that I enjoy reading. I promised to return with the work of more exemplary history bloggers (or in some cases teams of bloggers), and here are the results. All of these blogs share the virtues of delivering unexpected, informative, and entertaining history content.
• The Literary Detective. It looks like Paul Collins abandoned this eccentric blog on the history of books, culture,and other inspired nonsense in the fall of 2010, but there’s still plenty here to read dating back many years. Even better, his current website archives many of the playful and eye-opening articles he’s written for New Scientist, Slate, The Believer, The New York Times, and many other publications. A professor of nonfiction writing at Portland State University, Collins is one of my favorite writers, and his book Not Even Wrong is a moving account of autism in the family. To sample his work, start with this blog post on 19th and 20th century aquatic pedestrianism.
• Retronaut. Go here to see startling and often unbelievable images from the history of architecture, fashion, science, medicine, advertising, and a range of other topics. There’s usually no text — no problem, because the pictures speak for themselves. Chris Wild heads this entertaining exploration of visual artifacts from our past. A month or two ago I was dumbfounded by these eerie images he published from the unpacking of the Statue of Liberty in 1885.
• Beverly in Movieland. Beverly Gray is a biographer, screenwriter, and teacher, and her blog sharply sketches moments and careers from the history of film. A former colleague of B-movie director Roger Corman (the subject of one of Beverly’s books), she’s especially good on events of the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s. I’ve known her for several years through the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and I’m always impressed by the depth of her knowledge of films and movie people. Beverly is not one to shy from making controversial judgments, as in her recent post — one of my favorites — on the late movie composer Marvin Hamlisch.
• Executed Today. Every day, we learn from this long running blog, is the anniversary of some notable person’s execution. The subject matter is not so much capital punishment as it is the varied ways that rebels, heroes, and fools become the victims of governments, fanatics, and law enforcers. These stories illuminate millenia of history. The blog’s author, who wants to remain anonymous (and who wouldn’t after wading through so many fatal tales of people who went out on a limb) deftly mixes serious scholarship with the gruesome details we all want. Check out the recent post on Josef Jakobs, a German spy who in 1941 became the last person executed in the Tower of London.
Please let me hear your favorites.