Blog (Ex Urbe)

On my blog, Ex Urbe, I write essays about history, philosophy, mythology, science fiction and fantasy, movies, comics, food, and other topics.  I often discuss my research travel, especially my times in European cities including Florence and Rome.  I also post travel photography, focusing on historic sights and art.  Many of my essays are more casual examinations of topics I have been teaching or researching, ways of sharing my work in a lighter and more public setting than the classroom or academic books.

A model of the heavens, made for the Medici, at the Florentine Museum of the History of Science.
Travel photos, like this Medici model of the heavens, are another blog feature.


Recommended Ex Urbe Entries:

I also regularly post historical photos & facts on twitter as Ada_Palmer tagged #historypix


I also sometimes blog for  There I write about fiction, the craft of writing, mythology, history, literature, television, and manga & anime.


RSS The Latest Posts

  • Online talks: Apocalyptic Renaissance, Teaching Power in History, Inquisition, Rare Books May 13, 2021
    Hello, readers! The past few weeks have been very intense for me with the 2021 run of my Papal Election Simulation, but I wanted to post some links and announcements about a couple of free online talks, two recent and two upcoming.  One is today (May 13th) at 5:30 PM Central time on “The Apocalyptic […]
  • Who We Think Has the Power to Change the World? (transcript) April 16, 2021
    NOTE: An unfinished draft of this post was accidentally published for a little while on March 2nd-3rd, but it wasn’t actually ready yet then, but here’s the finished version: Hello, wonderful readers!  What I have to share today is not a polished essay, but the transcript, slightly cleaned up but mostly as given, of a […]
  • Why I Teach Machiavelli Through His Letters March 3, 2021
    Hello! It’s been a while since I posted since, as usual, many projects press, so it’s rare for me to have the time to write the kinds of polished essays I like sharing here. But I’ve been hoping to share more things, since a lot of the history work I’ve been doing lately has helped […]
  • Self-Care & Healthy Work Habits for the Pandemic July 30, 2020
    Short version: I’m posting today to share two files I made for my university. One is a Healthy Work Habits and Self-Care Guide for the Pandemic Crisis, which many people have said they found helpful and refreshingly different from others that are going around (details below).  Some bits are academia specific but most of it is […]
  • Black Death, COVID, and Why We Keep Telling the Myth of a Renaissance Golden Age and Bad Middle Ages June 4, 2020
    “If the Black Death caused the Renaissance, will COVID also create a golden age?” Versions of this question have been going around as people, trying to understand the present crisis, reach for history’s most famous pandemic.  Using history to understand our present is a great impulse, but it means some of the false myths we […]
  • Uncanny Censorship Essay & Writing POV June 3, 2020
    Below you’ll find some news, links to excerpts from Terra Ignota book 4, and a discussion of point-of-view in the craft of writing, but I’m posting today mainly to announce that I have an essay about censorship and its relationship with genre fiction in this month’s Uncanny Magazine, which is now free to read online.  […]
  • 2019 Campbell Speech + Refugee Charity Fundraiser August 19, 2019
    It was my honor last night to, for the second time, present the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, on behalf of last year’s brilliant winner Rebecca Roanhorse who couldn’t attend this year. Many have asked me to post the text of the speech, which was unluckily disrupted by automated voice recognition subtitles […]
  • Thoughts on a Bad Pain Day and How Teamwork Accumulates June 19, 2019
    I wrote 752 words of my novel after the pain set in today. I’m a writer. Getting the words down, advancing the project, is everything to me, my joy, my vocation, my activism, my chance to pay it back and pay it forward, everything. Today about 11:15 AM I felt a “bad pain day” starting […]
  • Stoicism’s Appeal to the Rich and Powerful March 27, 2019
    I was recently interviewed for a piece in the Times on why the philosophy of stoicism has become very popular in the Silicon Valley tech crowd. Only a sliver of my thoughts made it into the article, but the question from Nellie Bowles was very stimulating so I wanted to share more of my thoughts. […]
  • Milton’s Arguments Against EU Copyright Directive Article 11 and Article 13 March 24, 2019
    It’s spring 2019 and crises are coming thick and fast, but one of them which may have an extra deep, extra wide, extra lasting, and extra invisible impact is the new proposed EU Copyright Directive, whose Article 11 and Article 13 propose, among other things, to (A) radically and permanently change who owns news and […]