Stephen Davies tackles one of the biggest of big questions: How did the world we live in — the modern world — so radically and rapidly diverge from the world of our pre-modern ancestors? A review of The Great Cities in History. A look at how lice thwarted Napoleon's invasion of Russia. What historians don't study says volumes; a case in point is widespread acceptance of the thesis that slaves did not rebel during the Civil War. Tall tales from the past: Meet the "JK Rowling of history textbooks". A soap dish that changed history: Lars Brownworth on the enduring yet seldom-appreciated significance of a seventh-century emperor's bath. The first chapter from Hysteria Complicated by Ecstasy: The Case of Nanette Leroux by Jan Goldstein. A review of Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches’ Sabbath by Carlo Ginzburg. The writing life: Gordon Wood on defending the academicians. Mysteries of the ancient world: Smithsonian reports on Stonehenge, Alexandria, Hatshepsut, the Parthenon, the Vikings, ancient Ithaca, and Easter Island. Historians despair at the thought of finding anything new about the second world war. Us and them: Human history, perhaps, was shaped mostly by walls. The first chapter from Secular Cycles by Peter Turchin and Sergey Nefedov. A review of Blood, Iron and Gold: How the Railways Transformed the World by Christian Wolmar. A review of Paul Johnson's Churchill (and more and more and more). A lost European culture, pulled from obscurity: A little-known people existing before ancient Egypt and Greece’s glory worked with metal and had an evolved visual language (and more and more). A look at the 7 most badass last stands in the history of battle.

A new issue of Lost is out. From n+1, a review of Cristina Nehring's A Vindication of Love: Reinventing Romance for the 21st Century and Julie Metz's Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal (and a response). Cornel West was in The Matrix, but cultural politics isn't a video game; Scott McLemee responds to the continuing discussion. The key to decoding the Bible is understanding its poetry: A review of A Literary Bible by David Rosenberg. A review of Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation by Silvia Federici. From CJR, Michael Massing on David Ignatius’s Helicopter Journalism: What a delight it must be to be a columnist for a major American newspaper. Christopher Hayes reviews Interesting Times: Writing from a Turbulent Decade by George Packer (and more). Days of the undead: Our fascination with horror films reflects the anxiety of the middle classes — caught between proletariat zombies and vampire toffs. Ron Rosenbaum on the dangerous mysteries of consciousness: We still need answers. Tinker, tailor, soldier, illusionist: When the CIA tried its hand at magic (and more). Still sexually confused (but not gay) ex-megapastor Ted Haggard is preaching again and his old friends, James Dobson among them, are not happy about it — forgiveness only goes so far, apparently. Death to smiley: Mary Elizabeth Williams on why emoticons need to die. The world may be getting smaller, but it's also getting a whole lot faster: A review of Time by Eva Hoffman. A review of Deconstructing Developmental Psychology by Erica Burman. Why do we make artificial snow? Uh, because we can.

From High Country News, the idea of a "nation's park" was first conceived by artist and ethnographer George Catlin; and socialism and the West: This region was built on government subsidies and aid. Preserving America and a few secrets: The John Birch Society is passionate about following the Constitution, but not so much about divulging information. A review of Bath Massacre: America's First School Bombing by Arnie Bernstein. From Tradition, Family, and Property, a look at the cult of ugliness in America. The militarization of America: William Polk on how the Pentagon came to run Washington. Who were the Anasazi? The Navajo stake a controversial claim to an ancient legacy. What after all do Americans mean when they say they love "liberty"? A review of Cheerful Money: Me, My Family, and the Last Days of Wasp Splendor by Tad Friend. A review of The Death of "Why?": The Decline of Questioning and the Future of Democracy by Andrea Batista Schlesinger. Isabel Sawhill and Ron Haskins on 5 myths about our land of opportunity. For many people "rural" is synonymous with low incomes, limited economic opportunity, and poor schools; however, a recent study found that much of rural America is actually prosperous. Green acres is the place to be: The recession is inspiring more young families and singles to head back to the country. There’s no place like hme: Fewer Americans are relocating than at any time since 1962 — that's good news for families, communities and even the environment. From Vermont Commons, a look at how with secession timing is everything (and it's all about money).

Benedict XVI, a noted liturgist himself who is no fan of the past 40 years of change, has slowly reversed the innovations of his predecessors, and says the journey toward union with the Orthodox must continue despite those who are blocking the Holy Spirit. Pope Benedict XVI and the Anglican outreach: Is Pope Benedict a closet liberal? Frank Cocozzelli on the politics of schism in the Catholic Church. A review of The Future Church: How Ten Trends Are Revolutionizing the Catholic Church by John L. Allen Jr. More on A History of Christianity by Diarmaid MacCulloch. A review of Holy Warriors: A Modern History of the Crusades by Jonathan Phillips. A review of The Crusades, Christianity, and Islam by Jonathan Riley-Smith. Tu Quoque: Ibn Warraq on Islam and the Crusades. From Homiletic & Pastoral Review, James V. Schall on the ambiguity of Islam. A review of The Theology of Tariq Ramadan: A Catholic Perspective by Gregory Baum. Islam’s Darwin problem: In the Muslim world, creationism is on the rise. Images of the Prophet Muhammad: Are they really prohibited in Islam? A review of From Fatwa to Jihad: The Rushdie Affair and Its Legacy by Kenan Malik. A review of Dying for Heaven: Holy Pleasure and Suicide Bombers — Why the Best Qualities of Religion Are Also its Most Dangerous by Ariel Glucklich. Religions' moral potential: Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's Nathan the Wise is probably the most significant parable about tolerance between Islam, Christianity and Judaism. A review of books on Jewish fundamentalism. The introduction to Covenantal Rights: A Study in Jewish Political Theory by David Novak.