Plus: Citizenship Day and new products of the 1960s |

September 19, 2019

By Lily Rothman

These days, “right” and “left” are useful—and ubiquitous—terms for key political ideas in the U.S. and beyond. But there’s nothing inherent about those directions that would indicate which is more conservative and which is more progressive. So how did they come to mean what they do?

As TIME’s Madeleine Carlisle explains, the story starts during the French Revolution, continues into the Bolshevik Russia, and then picks up in 20th century American life. But the connotations haven’t always stayed the same. Click here to learn more about the evolution of “left” and “right,” and what people throughout history have really meant when they use those words.

In other news, TIME's new climate change newsletter, One.Five, connects the dots between today's top stories and the race to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5°C. Subscribe here with one click to get it in your inbox every other week.

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

Citizenship Day Used to Be Called 'I Am an American Day'

Here's how it came to be—and why it changed

Scholar: Being an American Has Always Been Complicated

“We welcome you,” President Truman declared in his 1952 Citizenship Day address, “not to a narrow nationalism but to a great community based on a set of universal ideals”

The Violence Against Women Act Was Signed 25 Years Ago

Here's how the law changed American culture

How Dr. Benjamin Spock Changed American Parenting

His book helped usher in a fundamental shift

The Native Americans Who Helped the Underground Railroad

Native American assistance to freedom seekers in the Midwest has largely been erased from Underground Railroad studies. Here's why


Sep. 19, 1960

Today in 1960: New Tools of the ‘60s

“The new machine needs an operator to show it only once how to do an intricate job. In the process its computer brain jots down symbolic numerical notes, thereafter can work automatically from ‘memory’—or learn a new task just as quickly. In the machine and tool industry, where techniques change so slowly that an exposition is held only twice a decade, the numerical-control machines brought forth a babble of superlatives, such as ‘the sunburst of a new era,’ ‘a stupendous breakthrough.’ Where it now takes a day to ‘set up’ a lathe or other machine before it can begin turning out parts, the new machines can be ready to work in minutes, switch easily from one job to another.” (Sept. 19, 1960)

Read the full story

Sep. 19, 1955

Today in 1955: Thurgood Marshall

“In the bright, lush September of 1955, in a day of confidence—as in a time of despair—the central problems of U.S. whites and Negroes again blended into one: how to shape law, government, customs, practices, schools, factories, unions and farms in ways more consistent with man's nature and man's hopes. How, within the enduring framework of U.S. society, to let one change call forth another in some reasonably harmonious order. One of the most important changes on the U.S. scene in September 1955, as the nation's children trooped back to school, was the astounding progress of racial desegregation… The name indelibly stamped on this victory is that of Thurgood Marshall, 47, counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.” (Sept. 19, 1955)

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Sept. 20, 1943

This Week in 1943: Bob Hope

“When Hope went to Hollywood, he lugged with him $300,000 in annuities. Today he easily makes twice that much a year—at least three pictures at $125,000 each, around $7,500 a week from his broadcasts. He has no artist's denseness in handling cash. When a business agent asked a bank official to try to swing him the management of Hope's affairs, the official remarked: ‘Bob Hope should be handling yours.’" (Sept. 20, 1943)

Read the full story


To Read or Not to Read Alison Flood at The Guardian reports on what appears to be the discovery of John Milton’s own notes on an early copy of Shakespeare’s first folio.

Buried Treasure For BBC Travel, Jessica Bateman accompanies Eleni Korka, a Greek-American archaeologist, on a trip to the city of Tenea—an ancient site that Korka helped uncover.

In the Streets In light of the ongoing protests in Hong Kong, Mike Ives and Elsie Chen at the New York Times look back at the lessons of deadly riots that swept the region in 1967.

Lone Star The October issue of Texas Monthly takes on the fight over how to tell the state’s story. Here’s Christopher Hooks’ deep look at what one historian calls the “really big gap between the advances in the field of history and what’s represented in Texas public history.”

For the Record At Stat, Andrew Joseph profiles the effort of a group of historians to preserve the documents that come out of opioid lawsuits, for the benefit of future research.

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