Last weekend, the New York Times published an extraordinary investigation into one of history’s most odious debts: the payments Haiti made to French slaveholders in return for recognising its independence. The idea of compensating slaveholders for the loss of ‘their property’ – i.e. the people they could no longer enslave – was offensive and mind-boggling from the moment it was floated. In rejecting such a proposal in 1809, the Haitian revolutionary leader Henri Christophe asked:

Is it conceivable that Haitians who have escaped torture and massacre at the hands of these men, Haitians who have conquered their own country by the force of their arms and at the cost of their blood, that these same free Haitians should now purchase their property and persons once again with money paid to their former oppressors?

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26 May 2022

One Night in Turin

Natasha Chahal

Lyon warming up, ignoring the boos of the Barcelona fans

Turin for English football fans is synonymous with Italia 90 and Paul Gascoigne’s tears but for the 32,257 people at the Allianz stadium on Saturday it meant something else entirely. Ordinarily the Allianz is home to the Juventus men’s team but last weekend’s fixture was Olympique Lyonnais Féminin v. FC Barcelona Femení in the UEFA Women’s Champions League final. Women’s football tends to be marketed to children and the women’s liberation movement, which is nice and infuriating in equal measure.

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24 May 2022

High North

Tom Stevenson

On 18 May, Finland and Sweden applied to join Nato. There are very few countries in the world that can plausibly claim to have tried to conduct a principled form of foreign policy. Two of them are now seeking to join a military alliance composed of states with long histories of aggression and war crimes. If completed, the Nordic expansion of Nato would leave only three states of any size – Ireland, Austria and Switzerland – to keep up the tradition of European neutrality.

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23 May 2022

Inside Baseball

Jeremy Bernstein

Roger Angell, the New Yorker writer and editor, died on Friday at the age of 101. He was one of the first people I met when I became a staff writer for the magazine in 1962. I didn’t know much about him except that he seemed to have an understated elegance which I thought was characteristic of the New Yorker. I later learned that his mother, Katharine Sergeant Angell White, had been the magazine’s first fiction editor.

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20 May 2022

Heart and Hood

Niela Orr

Kendrick Lamar’s recent single ‘The Heart Part 5’ samples ‘I Want You’, Marvin Gaye’s torch song for Janis Hunter. The 1970s saw Gaye whipsaw from socially conscious poet (What’s Going On, 1971) to lover man (Let’s Get It On, 1973) to lovelorn Janis-stan (I Want You, 1976). (Maybe he was all of these things at many times in his life, as David Ritz’s biography suggests, but his public-facing self seemed to transform with each new record.)

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19 May 2022

Astonishing Devotion

Matt Foot

The home secretary, Priti Patel, spoke this week at the annual conference of the Police Federation of England and Wales in Manchester. ‘Nobody does a harder job or a better one than the police,’ she said. ‘And no one does more, in my view, to make our country great. And nobody gives greater public service.’ The opening section of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, which received royal assent last month, enshrines a new ‘police covenant’. Introducing the idea in February 2020, Patel said: ‘Too many officers are paying the price for their astonishing devotion to public duty … This covenant is a pledge to do more to recognise the service and sacrifice of our police and to deliver the urgent practical support they need.’

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18 May 2022

Aristotle’s Four Causes

Eli Zaretsky

According to Aristotle, we cannot understand something unless we understand what causes it, but ‘cause’ for Aristotle was a complex, multi-layered concept. In the case of the present war between Ukraine and Russia, Aristotle would have described Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as the efficient cause – the immediate precipitant – but would have argued that a fuller understanding must include the material history of Europe; the form given to that history by the Second World War and its long aftermath, which left the US in effective control of the continent; and the overall or final direction of history at stake in the conflict. I want to focus here on the form given to the conflict by America’s preponderant role in European politics.

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