Magazine article Humanities

Editor's Note

Magazine article Humanities

Editor's Note

Article excerpt

The great fear of those in the business of promoting the humanities is that people will realize we have nothing new to say. It's not actually true that we have nothing new to say, but even if it were, well, that would be a problem only if the only things worth saying were new. And that is not the case.

Many old things bear repeating, just as some new things may not be worth saying in the first place. But, as an editor, what I like most of all is when an important old story takes a new turn.

Take the letter Anna Maria Gillis writes about in this issue: It's from the famed explorer and humanitarian Dr. David Livingstone to Horace Waller, his friend and later biographer in England, and has just been made legible 139 years after the fact.

Written in the margins and across the text of magazine pages using homemade ink, because Livingstone had run out of both paper and ink, the letter has been subjected to spectral imaging and mathematical analysis to extract the words from its previously muted pages. Next the BritishAmerican team of researchers is going to decipher one of Livingstone's field diaries.

Also new are a number of discoveries made in recent decades concerning the true scope of the transatlantic slave trade. As James Williford explains, historians for a long time could only guess at the number of Africans kidnapped/ shipped across the ocean, and sold at auction. Now, in the digital age, the compilation of disparate collections has made it possible to quantify this gross injustice. …

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