Outside Interests

English history
I have been in love with the history of England ever since I was a child reading the works of Thomas Costain, and over the years I have been lucky enough to be able to spend a lot of time traveling in the country.

Hadrian's Wall in northern England:

Dover Castle contains sites from every era of English history, from the Roman lighthouse and Saxon church pictured here to a high medieval castle and a network of tunnels and gun emplacements burrowed through the cliffs during the Napoleonic Wars and World War II.

The view from Barnard Castle in Yorkshire:

Horses turning the millstone in Middleham Castle eventually dug a circular trench in the ground a couple of feet deep:

The reconstructed Globe Theater nestles near its original site in the midst of modern London, across from St. Paul's Cathedral, where this photo was taken:

The stage of the Globe Theater

Human Rights

The modern concept of individual human rights began developing in Western Europe in the 17th century and achieved widespread recognition during the cultural movement known as the Enlightenment during the 18th century. Although this conception developed in a particular culture in a particular era, the eagerness with which it has been embraced by individuals from cultures around the world, from South Africa to China to Iran, shows that this new understanding of individual human dignity has been a significant step for our whole species. Twenty years ago I helped organize a campus chapter of Amnesty International at Elmira College, and I am still the faculty advisor to the group.

The Holocaust
The development of a conception of individual human rights does not necessarily mean that human rights are always respected, of course, and the past century has seen violations of human rights on an unprecendented scale, aided by more efficient technologies and political structures. Genocide is the most egregious violation of human rights, and the most systematic instance of genocide in history was the Holocaust of 1941-45. The question of how and why large numbers of people have willingly participated in extensive programs of ethnic cleansing and/or genocide is one of the crucial issues of our age, and it is an important focus in the Term III course I teach on The Holocaust and 20th-Century Genocide.

In the spring of 2008 I visited Prague, a beautiful city with its own fascinating history of cosmopolitanism and anti-Semitism, and went one day to Terezin (Theresienstadt), the site of a concentration camp, and also the site of the "model ghetto" for the Third Reich, where the SS brought the Red Cross to see how distinguished Jews were supposedly living happy lives in their old age (while behind the scenes, the people received starvation rations and tens of thousands were shipped out to Auschwitz).

Views of Prague

The Maisel Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of Prague. The Jewish Quarter was a ghetto where all of Prague's Jews were required to live until the early 19th century

The Jewish Cemetery in Prague. The city officials permitted the Jews only a small area to bury their dead, so the cemetery grew upward, layer by layer, until it became twelve layers deep and reached a level a full story above the surrounding streets. It is so crowded with gravestones because each time a new level was added, the gravestones from below were moved to the top.

The entrance to the concentration camp at Terezin


The bunks in a barracks that housed 600 men

A street in the ghetto at Terezin (Theresienstadt)