History is not Hollywood, a wise teacher once told us. He was trying to explain that the Great Trek, which he was teaching at the time, was not a Saturday afternoon matinee about glamorous figures on covered wagons traversing spectacular landscapes.

Old reactionary that he was (and an admirer of John Wayne), he never let a good story go critically unexamined. He had little time for Bismarck’s bullying and scheming, yet taught the old German intriguer with sympathy in spellbinding lessons on the unification of Germany...

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