One of the deep, illuminating satisfactions of reading history is when you recognize a pattern from the past that directly corresponds to something happening in the present. Learning how that parallel story played out in the past is a little like staring into a crystal ball and seeing a possible outcome in store today. Truly, reading history is as close as humanity comes to predicting the future. The details change in every age, but in most ways, the old saying most holds true: there is nothing new under the sun.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what we can learn from these historical parallels after finishing Marc Levinson’s 2011 book, “The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America.” A few months ago, I read Levinson’s best-known work, “The Box,” and I found his ability illustrate just how truly world-changing a seemingly pedestrian technology was to be incredibly interesting. “The Great A&P” didn’t let me down either. Let me tell you why.