The Economist runs an end-of-year double issue each December, so that its journalists can spend Christmas with their families instead of explaining to the rest of the world how the bracing effect of market forces can make us all richer and happier. The double issue contains a number of special articles, longer than usual, on all sorts of different subjects—usually in historical perspective. Among the modern and contemporary subjects that feature this year:
- Japan’s Citizen Kane, Matsutaro Shoriki: disgraced policeman, newspaper owner, baseball entrepreneur, war criminal, nuclear lobbyist.
- The great fraudster Gregor MacGregor, who pulled off the greatest confidence trick of all time in the 1820s when he invented an entire country for the unwary to invest in.
- The assassination of Song Jiaoren, a Chinese nationalist and modernizer, in 1913.
- The historic background to the current dispute between China and Japan over the Senkaku or Diaoyu Islands.
- The catastrophic nineteenth-century war that killed most of Paraguay’s population and almost all of its men.
- The controversy in the Orthodox Church, a hundred years ago, that led to the Russian Czar water-cannoning the monks of a monastery on Mount Athos.
- And, looking back a bit further, the lessons of the Holy Roman Empire (which lasted from 962 to 1806 CE) for the European Union.
There’s a weekly limit of six articles for non-subscribers like me, and that’s already seven. But there are some others that are worth looking at, like the one on the ‘Mardi Gras Indians‘ in New Orleans.
Meanwhile, a quote from the Simpsons:
Homer: “Look at me, I’m reading The Economist! Did you know Indonesia is at a crossroads?”
Homer: “It is!”
(Thanks to Wikipedia for that one.)