History Buzz: April 11, 2010: Historians Weigh in on Congress Passing Health Reform & Confederate History Month

April 11, 2010: Historians Weigh in on Congress Passing Health Reform & Confederate History Month

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS:

    This Week’s Political Highlights

  • Alan Brinkley concerned about “current surge of fear and loathing toward Obama”: “There was a lot of hatred in the 1930s,” says Alan Brinkley, the Columbia University historian and expert on populist movements. But the current surge of fear and loathing toward Obama is “scary,” he says. “There’s a big dose of race behind the real crazies, the ones who take their guns to public meetings. I can’t see this happening if McCain were president, or [any] white male.” – Newsweek (4-9-10)
  • Obama learning from LBJ, according to presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin Newsweek (3-26-10)
  • Pelosi may enter history as one of the great House speakers, according to scholars: “She may get a stellar entry in the history books, but that entry will not include the word ‘bipartisan,’ ” said John J. Pitney Jr., a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College….
    “There is nothing to strengthen a politician like a big victory,” said Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian at Princeton University…. – LA Times (3-23-10)
  • Republicans kick off repeal attempt, says Julian Zelizer: “You have a window where they can try to raise doubts about what’s about to happen,” says Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University in New Jersey…. “No one would have imagined the conservatives would be so energized a year after 2008,” says Mr. Zelizer. “Now we’re talking about a possible Republican takeover of Congress. And they almost killed Obama’s biggest program.” – CS Monitor (3-22-10)
  • States’ rights a rallying cry for lawmakers and scholars: “Everything we’ve tried to keep the federal government confined to rational limits has been a failure, an utter, unrelenting failure — so why not try something else?” said Thomas E. Woods Jr., a senior fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, a nonprofit group in Auburn, Ala., that researches what it calls “the scholarship of liberty.”… – NYT (3-16-10)

IN FOCUS:

  • Virginia governor amends Confederate history proclamation to include slavery: After a barrage of nationwide criticism for excluding slavery from his Confederate History Month proclamation, Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) on Wednesday conceded that it was “a major omission” and amended the document to acknowledge the state’s complicated past. A day earlier, McDonnell said he left out any reference to slavery in the original seven-paragraph proclamation because he wanted to include issues he thought were most “significant” to Virginia. He also said the document was designed to promote tourism in the state, which next year marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. However, Wednesday afternoon the governor issued a mea culpa for the document’s exclusion of slavery. “The proclamation issued by this Office designating April as Confederate History Month contained a major omission,” McDonnell said in a statement. “The failure to include any reference to slavery was a mistake, and for that I apologize to any fellow Virginian who has been offended or disappointed.”… – WaPo, 4-7-10

THIS WEEK IN HISTORY:

HISTORY NEWS:

  • James McPherson: As Texas messes with history, worry that it’ll multiply: A lot of attention has been focused on Texas in recent weeks, because state officials decided to rewrite social studies curriculum and force kids to learn a distorted view of the country’s past….
    “One can only regret the conservative pressure groups and members of the Texas education board that have forced certain changes in high school history textbooks used in the state.”… – WaPo (4-5-10)
  • Some right-wingers ignore facts as they rewrite U.S. history: The right is rewriting history. “We are adding balance,” Texas school board member Don McLeroy said. “History has already been skewed. Academia is skewed too far to the left.”…
    “History in the popular world is always a political football,” said Alan Brinkley , a historian at Columbia University… – McClatchy Newspapers (4-1-10)
  • Free Guide to Texas Social Studies Revision Process from University of Texas: The Center for History Teaching & Learning has published a simple and informative free guide to the ongoing K-12 social studies revision process. Texas Social Studies Simplified explains what is going on, why it matters, who is involved, and when the process will be done. It also corrects the many errors circulating in the media about the revision process…. – UTEP Center for History Teaching & Learning (3-31-10)
  • History Coalition Submits Congressional Testimony on FY 2011 NARA & NHPRC Budgets Lee White at the National Coalition for History (3-30-10)
  • Headed for Auction: Back-Channel Gloom on Revolutionary War: “Such a pittance of troops as Great Britain and Ireland can supply will only serve to protract the war, to incur fruitless expense and insure disappointment,” Burgoyne added in a letter in the collection that will be auctioned beginning next month by Sotheby’s in New York. “Our victory has been bought by an uncommon loss of officers, some of them irreparable, and I fear the consequence will not answer the expectations that will be raised in England.” NYT (3-22-10)
  • Niall Ferguson: ‘Rid our schools of junk history': A leading British historian has called for a Jamie Oliver-style campaign to purge schools of what he calls “junk history”. Niall Ferguson, who teaches at Harvard and presented a Channel 4 series on the world’s financial history, has launched a polemical attack on the subject’s “decline in British schools”, arguing that the discipline is badly taught and undervalued. He says standards are at an all-time low in the classroom and the subject should be compulsory at GCSE.
    Ferguson makes the comments in an essay to be released this week. It begins: “History matters. Many schoolchildren doubt this. But they are wrong, and they need to be persuaded they are wrong.”… – Guardian (UK) (3-21-10)
  • Book by religion historian Wendy Doniger draws criticism by Hindus: Wendy Doniger, a professor of the history of religion at the University of Chicago, has drawn the ire of some Hindus who regard her scholarship as sacrilegious. During a lecture in London in 2003, someone in the audience threw an egg at Doniger to express disagreement with her interpretation of a passage in the Ramayana, a sacred epic… – Inside Higher Ed (3-17-10)
  • Students protest tenure denial to historian Ronald Granieri: On Monday night, nine College seniors in the final stages of writing their honors theses gathered on the third floor of Van Pelt Library. They wanted answers. The seniors are part of a 17-person History honors thesis class that is leading a charge to protest the tenure denial of their thesis seminar advisor, Ronald Granieri. An assistant professor of modern European history, Granieri was recently denied tenure in his second and last chance to apply for the standing. He originally applied last year in his sixth year of teaching at Penn…. – The Daily Pennsylvanian (3-16-10)

OP-EDs:

  • Bill Kovarik: Feudalism in Appalachia: Underground mining is inherently dangerous, but it’s more dangerous now than it needs to be. We don’t know yet the fully explanation for this week’s accident, but several themes are apparent in historic perspective…. – NYT, 4-7-10
  • Sean Patrick Adams: Tragedy’s Deep Roots: Coal mining has always been a dangerous endeavor, regardless of its historical context. The 19th-century coal miners that I study trudged through rat-infested shafts and through dirty pools of standing water to bore holes in coal seams, pack in black powder, and set off a controlled (hopefully) blast to loosen the coal…. – NYT, 4-7-10
  • Why do more people listen to economists than historians?: David Brooks wondered in his New York Times column last week if economists shouldn’t try to become more like historians. That was interesting to read, given that I had just spent time with a bunch of historians (and a few other humanities professors) who were wondering how they could become more like economists…. – Harvard Business Review (3-31-10)

REVIEWS & FIRST CHAPTERS:

  • Making It Look Easy at The New Yorker: David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, is not one to waste an opportunity. After attending John Updike’s funeral in Massachusetts in February of last year, he stopped by Harvard Law School to interview some of President Obama’s old professors. Despite the exhaustive newspaper coverage of the 44th president, Mr. Remnick suspected he had something to add. “I wrote it simply to see if I could do it,” Mr. Remnick, 51, said in an interview. “Is it really going to interest me, or is it just going to feel like a guy that went to law school, big deal?” Mr. Remnick kept writing, and the result is his sixth book, “The Bridge,” due out Tuesday. The 672-page biography examines Mr. Obama’s life and racial identity, with strands on Kenyan politics, legal scholarship, his mother’s doctoral dissertation on Indonesian blacksmithing, even a transcript of a recording of the teenage Mr. Obama joking with his buddies…. – NYT, 4-5-10
  • Seeking Identity, Shaping a Nation’s: “The Bridge,” the title of David Remnick’s incisive new book on Barack Obama, refers to the bridge in Selma, Ala., where civil rights demonstrators were violently attacked by state troopers on March 7, 1965, in a bloody clash that would galvanize the nation and help lead to the passage of the Voting Rights Act. It refers to the observation made by one of the leaders of that march, John Lewis, that “Barack Obama is what comes at the end of that bridge in Selma” — an observation Congressman Lewis made nearly 44 years later, on the eve of Mr. Obama’s inauguration. And it refers to the hope voiced by many of the president’s supporters that he would be a bridge between the races, between red states and blue states, between conservatives and liberals, between the generations who remember the bitter days of segregation and those who have grown up in a new, increasingly multicultural America… – NYT, 4-6-10
  • Jonathan Yardley reviews “Anything Goes,” by Lucy Moore: ANYTHING GOES A Biography of the Roaring Twenties … If “Anything Goes” is anything, it’s a nitpicker’s delight. As history, it’s something else. – WaPo, 4-4-10
  • Book review: ‘Valley of Death,’ by Ted Morgan: VALLEY OF DEATH The Tragedy at Dien Bien Phu That Led America Into the Vietnam War Ted Morgan, a retired journalist who has written numerous works of history, has now given us two books in one: an intricate, compelling narrative of the horrifying battle of Dien Bien Phu, which raged from March 13 to May 7, 1954, near the Vietnamese-Laotian border, and a parallel account of deliberations among French, American and British leaders over the impending catastrophe and what to do about it while the battle raged, and of the Geneva negotiations that eventually created North and South Vietnam. The battle account draws mainly on reminiscences and primary sources, while the diplomatic one uses memoirs and secondary works effectively…. Morgan gives us military history of a very high quality at both the strategic and tactical levels…. – WaPo, 4-4-10
  • Historic moments in Dakotas by former SDSU professor: …In a new book, “Prairie Republic – The Political Culture of Dakota Territory, 1879-1889,” South Dakota native and historian Jon K. Lauck comes to Turner’s defense by chronicling what he calls the “genuine democratic moments” of thousands of settlers that he said were the seed and soil of statehood.
    In doing so, Lauck attempts to balance and challenge the themes of Yale historian Howard R. Lamar’s 1956 “Dakota Territory – 1860-1889, a Study of Frontier Politics.” Lamar’s work remains a seminal piece of American history, part of a critical examination of the American West during the mid- to late 20th century…. – Argus Leader (3-25-10)
  • Nominations for the least-accurate political memoir ever written: Has Karl Rove played fast and loose with historical fact in his new memoir “Courage and Consequence”? History will decide. But recollections invariably differ — perhaps never more so than in political memoirs. And Rove’s isn’t the first to spark debate over what is the true tide in the affairs of men. In that spirit, we asked a variety of people to name the least accurate political memoirs ever written…. -
    JAMES K. GALBRAITH, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin and author of “The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too.”
    DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, professor of history at Rice University and author, most recently, of “The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America.” – WaPo, 3-19-10
  • Historic win or not, Democrats could pay a price, according to historians WaPo (3-21-10)

FEATURES:

  • The historian Tony Judt says being paralysed by a wasting disease has made his mind sharper: “It’s not as though I could try being dumb and compare the two sensations,” he says. “But I have to assume it’s a blessing … [although] I’m not sure that it’s mental sharpness that has kept me going so much as sheer bloody-minded willpower — or else the sort of ego that adapts well to overachieving.”… – Times Online (UK) (4-4-10)
  • Pessimism back in fashion in historical circles: Niall Ferguson, one of the more important economic historians of our time, is projecting a fiscal disaster in the United States that will match the one Greece is facing at the moment. He says that, according to White House projections, gross public debt will exceed 100 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). That worries him a great deal… – Business Times (3-30-10)
  • Religion is now the hottest topic for American historians: The study of religion is too important to be left in the hands of believers. So claims David A. Hollinger, a professor of American history at the University of California at Berkeley, in his response to religion emerging as the hottest topic of study among members of the American Historical Association (AHA)…. – Christianity Today (3-11-10)

QUOTES:

  • Presidential unpredictability can be a good thing for the nation: Presidential historian Michael Beschloss says that Kennedy “feared that the changing political environment was making it more difficult for Americans to practice the kind of leadership that had shaped our past.” Kennedy meant that politics had become too expensive, mechanized and “dominated by professional politicians and public relations men.” – Scripps Howard, 4-5-10
  • Tom Mockaitis Historian of terrorism worried about rise in militia groups: “It doesn’t take a lot of fringe elements in a country this size to do an enormous amount of damage,” said Tom Mockaitis, professor of history and terrorism expert, DePaul University. “What worries me is not the lunatic fringe. It’s the larger core of soft support in which these fish can swim, and say they draw energy from this larger pool of anger,” said Mockaitis…. ABC News (3-30-10)
  • Historians ask which American war has been the longest: Host Bob Schieffer noted that milestone during the March 22, 2010, edition of CBS’ Face the Nation. “March 19th was the seventh anniversary of the Iraq invasion, which began our longest war,” he said. We wondered if it really has been America’s longest war…. – St. Petersburg Times (3-22-10)
  • Historians blast proposed Texas social studies curriculum: “The books that are altered to fit the standards become the best-selling books, and therefore within the next two years they’ll end up in other classrooms,” said Fritz Fischer, chairman of the National Council for History Education, a group devoted to history teaching at the pre-college level. “It’s not a partisan issue, it’s a good history issue.”…
    “I’m made uncomfortable by mandates of this kind for sure,” said Paul S. Boyer, emeritus professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of several of the most popular U.S. history textbooks, including some that are on the approved list in Texas… – WaPo (3-18-10)

INTERVIEWS:

  • Award-wining historian Natalie Zemon Davis talks to American Prospect: Natalie Zemon Davis will be awarded the 2010 Holberg International Memorial Prize on June 9 for the way in which her work “shows how particular events can be narrated and analyzed so as to reveal deeper historical tendencies and underlying patterns of thought and action.” Davis describes her work as anthropological in nature. Rather than tell the political story of a time and place, concentrating on an elite narrative, Davis’ work is often from the point of view of those less likely to keep records of their lives. TAP spoke with Davis, an 81-year-old professor emerita of history at Princeton University and current adjunct professor of history at the University of Toronto, about her innovative approach to history…. – The American Prospect (4-9-10)

AWARDS &APPOINTMENTS:

  • New AHA Executive Director: Jim Grossman to Succeed Arnita Jones: The American Historical Association is pleased to announce that Dr. James Grossman, currently Vice President for Research and Education at Chicago’s Newberry Library, will succeed Dr. Arnita Jones as the Association’s Executive Director. Dr. Jones will retire at the end of August… – AHA Blog (3-19-10)
  • University of Toronto historian wins prestigious Holberg Prize: Natalie Zemon Davis, professor emerita from Princeton University and now a University of Toronto history scholar whose books have reached a wide audience, has won one of the world’s top academic prizes. The Holberg Prize – established by the Norwegian parliament in 2003 and worth $700,500 US – is awarded for outstanding scholarly work in the arts and humanities, social sciences, law or theology. Philosopher Ian Hacking, also of the University of Toronto, won the prize last year… – EurekAlert (3-16-10)

ANNOUNCEMENTS & EVENTS CALENDAR:

  • Major New Russian Archive for World War II: Head of Rosarkhiv Andrei Artizov has announced plans to create an enormous new archive to unite all Russian materials relating to the Second World War. Slated for completion by the 70th anniversary of victory, i.e. 2015, the new collection will include 13 million files…. – Dave Stone at the Russian Front (3-22-10)
  • Project to digitize Canada’s 1812 artifacts: Sarah Maloney has a passion for history. The Port Colborne resident, who has a master’s degree in history from the University of Western Ontario, was one of two people hired to by Brock University to carry out its 1812 Online Digitization Project.
    In the work carried out, Maloney and the other assistant on the project took more than 20,000 photos of artifacts and documents from RiverBrink Art Museum, Grimsby Museum, Jordan Historical Museum, Port Colborne Historical and Marine Museum, Niagara Historical Society and Museum and Niagara Falls museums, which includes Lundy’s Lane Historical Museum. One thousand items revolving around the war will eventually be online at www.1812history.com and our ontario.caas well. More than 800 items can be seen on those websites now and the project wraps up at the end of the month…. – Welland Tribune (Canada) (3-15-10)
  • Princeton University: Symposium explores race and the Obama presidency Tuesday, April 13, 2010, 1 p.m. · Frist Campus Center, Multipurpose Room A: Princeton scholars in the fields of African American Studies, politics, religion, sociology and history will come together Tuesday, April 13, at the University for the symposium “Race, American Politics, and the Presidency of Barack Obama.” The event, which is free and open to the public, will take place from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Multipurpose Room A of the Frist Campus Center on the Princeton campus, followed by a public reception.
    Speakers and panelists at the symposium will include Glaude; Larry Bartels, professor of politics and public affairs and director of Princeton’s Center for the Study of Democratic Politics; Daphne Brooks, associate professor of English and African American studies; Kevin Kruse, associate professor of history; Douglas Massey, professor of sociology and public affairs; Imani Perry, professor of African American studies; Jeffrey Stout, professor of religion; and Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs. – Princeton

ON TV:

  • HBO sought Easton professor’s expertise for ‘The Pacific’ war series: A simple question from his 6-year-old granddaughter inspired Easton historian Donald L. Miller to start writing about World War II. Miller, a Lafayette College history professor, has since written three books on the history of World War II. That led him to his latest project, as historical consultant and a writer for HBO’s “The Pacific.”…
    Miller says he was “very pleased” with how the series turned out. He describes it as “very violent, explosively emotional and tremendously gut-wrenching.” “What drew me into the study of war is people are at both their best and worst,” he says. “People do things they didn’t think they were capable of doing. There are tremendous acts of heroism and acts of barbarism.” – Allentown Morning Call (3-14-10)
  • C-SPAN2: BOOK TV Weekend Schedule
  • PBS American Experience: Mondays at 9pm
  • History Channel: Weekly Schedule

BEST SELLERS (NYT):

BOOKS COMING SOON:

  • Simon Dixon: Catherine the Great, (Paperback) April 6, 2010
  • J. Todd Moye: Freedom Flyers: The Tuskegee Airmen of World War II, (Hardcover) April 12, 2010
  • Seth G. Jones: In the Graveyard of Empires: America’s War in Afghanistan (Paperback) April 12, 2010
  • Nick Bunker: Making Haste from Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World: A New History, (Hardcover) April 13, 2010
  • Dominic Lieven: Russia Against Napoleon: The True Story of the Campaigns of War and Peace, (Hardcover), April 15, 2010
  • Timothy J. Henderson: The Mexican Wars for Independence, (Paperback) April 13, 2010
  • Hampton Sides: Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin, (Hardcover) April 27, 2010
  • Max Hastings: Winston’s War: Churchill, 1940-1945, (Hardcover) April 27, 2010
  • Bradley Gottfried: The Maps of Gettysburg: An Atlas of the Gettysburg Campaign, June 3 – July 13, 1863, (Hardcover) April 19, 2010
  • Kelly Hart: The Mistresses of Henry VIII, (Paperback) May 1, 2010
  • Mark Puls: Henry Knox: Visionary General of the American Revolution, (Paperback) May 11, 2010

DEPARTED:

  • James F, McMillan, Scottish historian of France, dies at 61: PROFESSOR James F McMillan, Richard Pares Professor of History at the University of Edinburgh, has died at the age of 61. He was an outstanding scholar, an inspirational teacher, a brilliant academic manager and a wonderful colleague: the word “collegial” might have been coined to describe him. The Scotsman (UK) (3-15-10)
  • Kenneth Dover, a Provocative Scholar of Ancient Greek Literature, Dies at 89: Kenneth Dover, an eminent scholar of ancient Greek life, language and literature who became known for his willingness to break longstanding taboos in print, from his frank descriptions of sexual behavior (both the Greeks’ and his own) to his baldly stated desire to bring about the death of a vexing Oxford colleague, died on Sunday in Cupar, Scotland. He was 89… – NYT (3-13-10)
  • Professor Jack Pole’s reassessment of American ‘exceptionalism': Professor Jack Pole, the historian who died on January 30 aged 87, was a pioneering figure in the study of American political culture whose challenge to the notion of American “exceptionalism” ignited a debate that has yet to burn out… – Telegraph (UK) (3-13-10)
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