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Encounters

Why Has America Named So Many Places After a French Nobleman?

The Marquis de Lafayette's Name Graces More City Parks and Streets Than Perhaps Any Other Foreigner

"Marquis de Lafayette" engine panel painting, Lafayette Hose Company of Philadelphia. Ca 1830-1849. Image courtesy of Division of Home and Community Life, National Museum of American History.

By Laura Auricchio
June 22, 2017

If you live in the United States, you’ve probably come across a county, city, street, park, school, shop, or restaurant named for Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834), the most beloved French hero of the American Revolution. In New York City, my home town, I’ve spotted three different Lafayette Avenues, one Lafayette Street, a Lafayette playground, and four public sculptures of the Marquis. Although there’s no official count, Lafayette probably has more American locations named for him than any …

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Encounters

The American Revolution Story Has a Hole the Size of Spain

While the Marquis de LaFayette Gets a Share of the Glory, Names Like Gardoqui and Gálvez Are All But Forgotten

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By Larrie D. Ferreiro
November 29, 2016

Americans like to think of our nation as exceptional in nature, a dramatic break from all that came before it. Being exceptional, it’s inconvenient to acknowledge that two European powers provided invaluable assistance in our struggle for independence from Britain. So we usually don’t. The American origin story thus has scrappy colonists fighting the British alone, with little outside help except for France’s Lafayette, and a cameo by General Rochambeau at the very end. But Americans could have never won …

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Places

The Quebec Battle That Opened the Door to America

By Beating Back the French in 1759, British Colonials Defeated a Big Obstacle to Their Own Independence

MacLeod LEAD

By D. Peter MacLeod
August 2, 2016

You can go to Quebec City, about 100 miles from the nearest U.S. border crossing, for the spectacular scenery, fine dining, great museums, and strolls through neighborhoods that date to the beginning of the 17th century.

Or you can go for the American history. Those who know of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham—fought September 13, 1759 on a plain named for the early French settler Abraham Martin—often remember it as a fight between a French army commanded by Lieutenant …

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Encounters

How the Lowly Mosquito Helped America Win Independence

The Blood-Sucking Insect Has Played a Leading Role in the Rise and Fall of Empires Throughout History

FILE - In this Jan. 27, 2016, file photo, an Aedes aegypti mosquito is photographed through a microscope at the Fiocruz institute in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil. A new study suggests the worrisome Zika virus apparently has been in Brazil at least a year longer than experts previously thought.  Some experts have speculated the virus first came to the Americas sometime in 2014. But the new study, led by Brazilian researchers, concludes Zika landed in Brazil a year earlier.  (AP Photo/Felipe Dana, File)

By John R. McNeill
June 14, 2016

In recent months, millions of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes have been at work spreading the Zika virus in South and Central America. This summer, millions more, all capable of conveying the virus, will flit and bite throughout the southern U.S. Congress just approved funding to battle its spread. This is not the first time a mosquito-borne virus has broken loose in the Americas and it will not likely be the last. Indeed, mosquitoes and viruses have shaped the history of our …

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Ideas

Let’s Not Pretend That ‘Hamilton’ Is History

America's Founders Have Never Enjoyed More Sex Appeal, but the Hit Musical Cheats Audiences by Making Democracy Look Easy

HAMILTON - Public Theater/Newman Theater - 2015 PRESS ART - Lin-Manuel Miranda and the company - Photo credit: Joan Marcus

By Nancy Isenberg
March 17, 2016

Hamilton is the hottest show on Broadway, filled with hip-hop songs, R&B rhythms, and tri-cornered hats. Its multi-racial cast portrays the pantheon of Revolutionary greats, and for many a starry-eyed critic this sing-along with the founders offers “a factually rigorous historical drama.” Those are the words of Jody Rosen in The New York Times, and he is not alone. As an academic who spent years studying Aaron Burr before producing a scholarly biography, I can say emphatically that rules of …

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Ideas

Ben Franklin Was One-Fifth Revolutionary, Four-Fifths London Intellectual

The Enterprising Philadelphian Was a Longtime Royalist and a Late-Blooming Rebel Who Infused the American Project with English Ideals

Benjamin Franklin in London image

By George Goodwin
March 3, 2016

Two hundred and fifty years ago, in February 1766, Benjamin Franklin, the most famous American in London, addressed the British House of Commons. His aim, which he achieved triumphantly, was to persuade Parliament to repeal the Stamp Act, the legislation that had usurped the power of the colonial assemblies and caused the first major breakdown in relations between Britain and its American colonies. Franklin was determined to heal the breach; unlike most British politicians, he understood the American continent’s vast …

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Artifacts

The Laptops That Powered the American Revolution

Always on the Go, Our Founding Fathers Waged Their War of Words From the Mahogany Mobile Devices of Their Time

Bemis on laptops LEAD

By Bethanee Bemis
February 23, 2016

Delegate to the Continental Congress. Commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. General Washington’s aide-de-camp. Secretary of state. President of the United States. Secretary of the treasury. During their lifetimes, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and Alexander Hamilton epitomized the role of American Founding Father, all of them heavily involved in the birth of the new United States and the shaping of its government and future. Between them, they performed some of the most important tasks in forming our nation, but for all …

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Ideas

The Marquis de Lafayette’s Great American Love Affair

Why a 19-Year-old Frenchman Traded Versailles for Valley Forge

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By Laura Auricchio
January 16, 2015

The 19-year-old Marquis de Lafayette had met only a handful of Americans when he signed up to join General George Washington’s army, but he felt certain that the people of the United States were as honorable as the cause of freedom for which they fought. Their idealism was intoxicating, and its hold on Lafayette reminds us of a time when the young United States seemed to promise a brighter future for all mankind.

Lafayette was hardly the only Frenchman of his …

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