Plus: Military moms and Game of Thrones |

May 16, 2019

By Lily Rothman

In theory, the President of the United States is the person who won the presidential election—but, as several of those in the running for the Democratic Party’s 2020 nomination have reminded voters recently, that’s not always cut and dried. These candidates are pushing to reform or abolish the Electoral College, on the idea that it shouldn’t be possible to win the race without winning the popular vote.

That possibility is likely to be familiar to Americans today from 2016 and 2000, but those aren’t the only times it’s happened. Click here to read more about every instance in which a President has won the Electoral College without taking the popular vote.

Here’s more of the history that made news this week:

Column: History's Warning on Restrictive Abortion Laws

Laws like the one just passed in Alabama would send the state "back to the 19th century," argues scholar Leslie J. Reagan

How Military Moms Changed the History of Mother’s Day

Mother's Day was introduced in the 1910s, but it took a war for the idea to really catch on. Here's what to know about the holiday's origins

The 3 Classic Episodes That Made TV Finales Matter

The finale of Game of Thrones may represent the end of the era of the 'water-cooler show.' If that's the case, it will also be part of a long history of TV-series finales changing the medium

Is Jon Snow’s Claim on GoT Stronger 'Because He’s a Man'?

Here's what real succession rules from history say

What Even Happened to the Mountain on Game of Thrones?

Here's what the real history of necromancy can tell us


May 16, 1949

70 Years Ago: Milton Berle

“Berle's success on television is a curious byproduct of repeated flops in both radio and movies—a special irony for pushy Milton Berle, who has lived his life to feed what he calls ‘my great want to conquer.’ The flops hurt deeply and worried him about his appeal to a mass audience. But they forced him into well-paid jobs in nightclubs, where live audiences kept his talents supple. Meanwhile, more successful comedians were falling into the lazier habit of peering at scripts through spectacles.” (May 16, 1949)

Read the full story

May 16, 1960

This Week in 1960: The Cold War Gets Hotter

“Francis Powers was on an intelligence mission, like many unsung pilots before him. As such, he was as much a part of the long thin line of U.S. defense as G.I.s on duty in Berlin, technicians manning missile-tracking stations behind him in Turkey, shivering weather watchers drifting through a winter on ice islands in the Arctic. As such, he, and they, were engaged in giving the free world the warning it must have if it is to protect itself from Russian attack, and the shield of intelligence it must have if it is to seek peace without the danger of being lured into a fatal trap.” (May 16, 1960)

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May 17, 1963

This Week in 1963: James Baldwin

“Last week Baldwin was in California, hopping from city to city to talk to college and high school students. Thrust from typewriter to rostrum by virtue of a widely acclaimed, blistering essay in The New Yorker, now in book form under the title The Fire Next Time, Baldwin spared his audiences nothing. He spoke not for himself but for all Negroes to all whites. ‘I hoed a lot of cotton,’ he said. ‘I laid a lot of track. I dammed a lot of rivers. You wouldn't have had this country if it hadn't been for me ... When I was going to school. I began to be bugged by the teaching of American history, because it seemed that history had been taught without cognizance of my presence. It is my responsibility now to give you as true a version of your history as I can.’” (May 17, 1963)

Read the full story


What Came Before Rick Atkinson makes the case in the New York Times that we shouldn’t stop looking to America’s Founding Fathers for guidance.

Reconsidered At Slate, Rebecca Onion argues that a popular new book on the European settling of the American West is missing a key piece of perspective.

Future Focus The Washington Post’s Lillian Cunningham looks at the potential impact of a new oral history project about Barack Obama’s presidency.

Dracarys Spencer Kornhaber at The Atlantic talks to a military historian about the real strategy that might have motivated what went down on the most recent episode of Game of Thrones.

Return Again The move to begin rebuilding Paris’ Notre Dame cathedral gets a critical look from Thomas de Monchaux at The New Yorker, who examines the meaning of historical preservation.

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