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  • Originally published 04/30/2013

    Doubt over 'volcanic winter' after super-eruption

    New research from Oxford University casts doubt on the theory that the Mount Toba super-eruption, which took place at the Indonesian island of Sumatra 75,000 years ago, could have plunged the Earth into a volcanic winter leading to the near extinction of early humans. A fresh analysis of volcanic ash recovered from lake sediment cores in Lake Malawi in East Africa shows that the eruption spewed ash much further than studies have previously found. Other theories have said that the explosive volcanic eruption may have triggered a chain of climatic events resulting in a cooling of temperatures, but this latest study finds no evidence of a significant dip in temperatures in East Africa at the time. The findings are published in the early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

  • Originally published 03/18/2013

    David Priestland: The Sun Sets on the Modern Merchant Class

    David Priestland teaches modern history at the University of Oxford. He is the author of Merchant, Soldier, Sage: A History of the World in Three Castes, new from the Penguin Press, as well as The Red Flag: Communism and the Making of the Modern World (Penguin, 2009).As we struggle to emerge from the 2008 financial crisis, we may now have enough distance to understand its real significance.Immediate judgments were often very flawed. For example, then-president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, brandished a copy of Das Kapital before the press to show his deep, structural understanding of the catastrophic events in the international markets. The implied message: Capitalism is doomed, as anyone can see. But there was no Marxist revival, and capitalism has not collapsed. Indeed, in the global East it is positively flourishing. Capitalism seems to have an assured future, at least in the medium term.