History Buzz: March 2011 Recap: Texas Independence at 175 — Academic Freedom, Wisconsin & William Cronon

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

IN FOCUS:

  • Celebration for 175 years of Texas independence: “The independent spirit that reigned on the Texas frontier during the era of the Texas Revolution can still be seen today throughout the state,” said Light Cummins, an Austin College history professor and the Texas state historian. “Texans today pride themselves on being independent, hard-working, innovative and no-nonsense people, all of which is reflected in our view of those who participated in the Texas Revolution.
    “Perhaps for that reason, many Texans believe that this state is different from any other in the nation in terms of its history and its heritage.”… – AP, 2-27-11
  • 175 years since Texas declared independence: Today marks 175 years since Texas declared its independence. As people across the state celebrate the creation of the Texas Declaration of Independence that took place in 1836 at Washington-on-the-Brazos, historians encourage Texans to remember the events that followed the state’s independence.
    The Texas State Historical Association’s chief historian, Randolph “Mike” Campbell, said the real piece of Texas history that forever changed the United States took place in 1846, when Texas became a state.
    “Had Texas not become a state, then you have a block on the expansion of the U.S. to the Southwest,” he said. “The whole history could have been different. When you add Texas, you have a war and then you have New Mexico, Arizona and California.”
    Although independence is definitely something to celebrate, Campbell said it was the events that followed independence that made the greatest impact on American history.
    “The fact that Texas was an independent republic before it was part of the U.S. doesn’t necessarily make it unique,” he said, “but there are very few states who can claim they were independent republics.”
    Texas Independence Day is an official holiday in the state that the historic weekly newspaper, the Telegraph and Texas Register, shows has long been celebrated. The newspaper printed the Texas Declaration of Independence in its entirety 10 days after it was created…. – READ MOREAbilene Reporter News, 3-1-11
  • TSLAC CELEBRATES 175TH TEXAS INDEPENDENCE DAY WITH CAKE, TALK BY AUTHOR H.W. BRANDS: The Texas State Library and Archives Commission is celebrating the 175th anniversary of Texas’ independence with cake, a talk and book-signing by two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist H.W. Brands at 11:30 a.m. March 2, Texas Independence Day. Brands, the third guest in TSLAC’s new Speaker Series, will discuss Texas individualism, Texas nationalism and the role of democracy in securing the state’s independence…. – Bonham Journal, 3-1-11
  • Disunion The Minds of the South: Cambridge historian Michael O’Brien explains that secession wasn’t evidence that the South didn’t have a reasoned intellectual life. In fact, it was the strongest evidence that it did. Early 1861 found the 23-year-old Henry Adams in Washington, working as the private secretary to his father, Charles Francis Adams, a representative from Massachusetts. Adams was a keen observer even at that early age, and he focused much of his attention on the Southern political delegations… – NYT, 3-4-11
  • The Civil War: Sesquicentennial Commission Briefing – CSpan, 3-8-11

HISTORY NEWS:

  • Women’s museum in D.C. again pushed: “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” That now famous quote (by historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich) is affixed to Christine Erickson’s office door at IPFW, where she is an associate history professor. Last year, Erickson says, someone scribbled a few choice words on the bumper sticker: “That’s because women didn’t do anything important.”
    Perhaps the proposed National Women’s History Museum is needed now more than ever. On Wednesday, a bill that would allow the museum’s construction near the National Mall was introduced in Congress for the fourth time since 2005…. – Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette (3-31-11)
  • Lost city of Atlantis, swamped by tsunami, may be found: A U.S.-led research team may have finally located the lost city of Atlantis, the legendary metropolis believed swamped by a tsunami thousands of years ago in mud flats in southern Spain.
    “This is the power of tsunamis,” head researcher Richard Freund told Reuters. “It is just so hard to understand that it can wipe out 60 miles inland, and that’s pretty much what we’re talking about,” said Freund, a University of Hartford, Connecticut, professor who lead an international team searching for the true site of Atlantis. To solve the age-old mystery, the team used a satellite photo of a suspected submerged city to find the site just north of Cadiz, Spain. There, buried in the vast marshlands of the Dona Ana Park, they believe that they pinpointed the ancient, multi-ringed dominion known as Atlantis…. – AP, 3-12-11
  • ‘Cultural Revolt’ Over Sarkozy’s History Museum Plans: But Mr. Sarkozy has now decided that he wants a cultural legacy after all. He has cooked up the Maison de l’Histoire de France, the country’s first national museum of French history, to open in 2015, in a wing of the rambling palace in the Marais district of Paris currently occupied by the National Archives. The idea is to distill centuries of Gallic gloire into a chronological display, supplemented by lectures, seminars and temporary shows borrowing materials from the country’s already plentiful local and regional history museums….
    “Bling-Bling history” is how Nicolas Offenstadt, a young history professor at the Sorbonne, described it. He fumed the other afternoon over a pot of tea in a genteel Left Bank cafe. “Sarkozy said this was a museum to give French people a stronger sense of identity,” he continued, “that history is the cement that binds together French people. Whose history? ‘Soul’ is not a subject for scientists and historians. It is a moral and political concept.” The very idea of a specifically French history museum is ideological, Mr. Offenstadt added. “To know about French Algeria you need to know about Algeria before France arrived there,” he explained. “If we need any history museum, it would be a world history museum, not a French history museum, to give us a real perspective on who we are, and what is France today.”… – NYT, 3-9-11

HISTORIANS NEWS:

  • OAH Supports Academic Freedom and Defends University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor William Cronon: The Executive Committee of the Organization of American Historians, led by President Alice Kessler-Harris, R. Gordon Hoxie Professor of History at Columbia University, issued a statement on March 30, 2011, supporting academic freedom and deploring the recent efforts of Wisconsin politicians to intimidate OAH member and professor William Cronon. Cronon, a professor of environmental and U.S. western history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has been thrust into the spotlight for his March 15, 2011, blog post and for a subsequent op-ed piece in the New York Times critical of the Wisconsin legislature and Governor Scott Walker…. – OAH press release, 3-30-11
  • OAH Statement: The Executive Committee of the Organization of American Historians deplores the efforts of Republican party operatives in the state of Wisconsin to intimidate Professor William Cronon, a distinguished and respected member of our organization and currently the president-elect of our sister association, the American Historical Association. As a professional historian, Professor Cronon has used his extensive knowledge of American history to provide a historical context for recent events in Wisconsin. Requiring him to provide his e-mail correspondence, as the Republican party of Wisconsin has now done, will inevitably have a chilling effect on the capacity of all academics to engage in wide public debate. The timing and character of the Freedom of Information Act request for Professor Cronon’s e-mail correspondence leave no doubt that the purpose of this request is to use the authority of the state to prevent William Cronon from freely exercising his rights as a citizen and as a public employee.
  • William Cronon: NYT Editorial A Shabby Crusade in Wisconsin: The latest technique used by conservatives to silence liberal academics is to demand copies of e-mails and other documents. Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli of Virginia tried it last year with a climate-change scientist, and now the Wisconsin Republican Party is doing it to a distinguished historian who dared to criticize the state’s new union-busting law. These demands not only abuse academic freedom, but make the instigators look like petty and medieval inquisitors…. – NYT, 3-27-11
  • Paul Krugman on Cronon e-mail case: …The Cronon affair, then, is one more indicator of just how reflexively vindictive, how un-American, one of our two great political parties has become. The demand for Mr. Cronon’s correspondence has obvious parallels with the ongoing smear campaign against climate science and climate scientists, which has lately relied heavily on supposedly damaging quotations found in e-mail records….
    Beyond that, Mr. Cronon — the president-elect of the American Historical Association — has a secure reputation as a towering figure in his field. His magnificent “Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West” is the best work of economic and business history I’ve ever read — and I read a lot of that kind of thing. So we don’t need to worry about Mr. Cronon — but we should worry a lot about the wider effect of attacks like the one he’s facing…. – NYT, 3-27-11
  • Niall Ferguson: UK school history lessons ‘lack all cohesion': The Harvard academic Niall Ferguson has warned that too few pupils are spending too little time studying history – and what they do study lacks a sweeping narrative. He offers his own lesson plan to remedy what he says is a lack of cohesion, in which pupils place six “building block” events, including the Reformation and the French revolution, into the right order. His plan aims to give pupils an overview of the years 1400 to 1914, and encourage them “to understand and offer answers to the most important question of that period: why did the west dominate the rest?” Ferguson, who has been invited by the education secretary, Michael Gove, to play a role in overhauling the history curriculum, directs the teacher to show their class a map of the world circa 1913 “showing the extent of the western empires”…. – Guardian (UK), 3-29-11
  • James Robertson: Noted Civil War Historian Retiring: Noted Civil War historian James Robertson is retiring after more than four decades at Virginia Tech. The 80-year-old Robertson will leave his job June 1. He founded the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies at Virginia Tech in 1999 and has served as its director…. – ABC News, 3-21-11
  • Kenneth T. Jackson: History stars in the house for Columbia history department fundraiser: The topic for the evening’s talk—”Empire City: Will New York Remain the Capital of the World in the 21st Century?”— would have been relevant to anyone who considers himself a New Yorker, but it seemed especially so given the well- heeled crowd. The person assigned to answer the question was Kenneth T. Jackson, a former president of the New-York Historical Society and the Jacques Barzun Professor in History and the Social Sciences at Columbia University. And the 40 or so people who were eager to get the answer, including Howard Levi, an attorney and the friend who invited me, were members of the Columbia history department’s Board of Visitors, mostly successful business people and lawyers who contribute $5,000 a year (though there’s obviously nothing preventing them from giving more) to support the department’s activities and to enjoy the privilege, several times a semester, of having some of the university’s top history stars—among them Alan Brinkley, Fritz Stern and Mr. Jackson—come to their homes to chat about their fields of expertise and their latest books…. – WSJ, 3-14-11
  • Education historian Diane Ravitch criticizes testing, says poverty hurts student success: Noted education historian Diane Ravitch today criticized a current emphasis on testing in U.S. schools, saying “we live in a time of national insanity,” during a day-long symposium on education reform in Novi.
    Ravitch had a welcome audience, getting a standing ovation before and after she spoke at the conference co-sponsored by the Michigan Education Association, the state’s largest union that represents school employees, including teachers. She said national policy makers say they want to reform education. But, what they’re really doing “is tearing education apart and demonizing teachers.”… – Detroit Free Press, 3-7-11

HISTORY OP-EDs:

  • Martha C. Nussbaum: Should Academics Join the Government?: Last month was decision time for the many academics who left their tenured jobs to work in the Obama administration. Universities standardly grant leave for at most two years, at which point a professor must either return or resign. Some, of course, can hope to be rehired later, but prudence often rules. Many of my acquaintances made the choice to return to writing and teaching. A few have stayed on. For a long time I’ve been comparing my free and sheltered life to those exposed and difficult lives, with a mixture of relief and guilt. I keep thinking of Cicero’s acerbic commentary on philosophers who refuse to serve the public realm: “Impeded by the love of learning, they abandon those whom they ought to protect.” Even worse, he accuses them of arrogant self-indulgence: “They demand the same thing kings do: to need nothing, to obey nobody, to enjoy their liberty, which they define as doing what you like.” It’s difficult not to hear that voice in one’s dreams, even if one believes, as I do, that writing itself can serve the public good…. – The New Republic, 3-11-11
  • James Tuten: OMG: Old Media Guilt: Hopelessly devoted to your mass-market paperbacks, or an early adapter of the Kindle? In the following piece, history professor and author James Tuten wrestles with guilt over falling in love with his e-reader — and muses on the future of reading and publishing.
    OMG – I love my Kindle. There, I said it. As a historian, I know well the musty scent of book mold wafting up like some pheromone of erudition from a long unopened tome. The dimly lit stacks of a library are among the most delightful places in the world for the likes of us.
    As the sort of people who are on a first-name basis with librarians, historians and English professors, historians are thrilled to hold a new book, to crack the binding and break it in like a new pair of shoes…. – Forbes Blog, 3-1-1
  • Diane Ravitch: ‘A moment of national insanity': I’m beginning to think we are living in a moment of national insanity. On the one hand, we hear pious exhortations about education reform, endlessly uttered by our leaders in high political office, corporate suites, foundations, and the media. President Obama says we have to “out-educate” the rest of the world to “win the future.”
    Yet the reality on the ground suggests that the corporate reform movement — embraced by so many of those same leaders, including the president — will set American education back, by how many years or decades is anyone’s guess. Sometimes I think we are hurtling back a century or more, to the age of the Robber Barons and the great corporate trusts…. – WaPo, 3-1-11

HISTORY REVIEWS:

  • Jan Tomasz Gross: Polish Princeton historian draws controversy over claims that Poles profited off the Holocaust: At first glance, it seems like an ordinary, innocent photograph: a group of Polish peasants holding shovels in a field on a sunny day. But look closer and you see the skulls and bones scattered at their feet. According to some historians, the photo was taken at the site of the Treblinka death camp in eastern Poland shortly after World War II and shows the peasants digging up Jewish remains in search of gold or other valuables. When it ran alongside a 2008 newspaper feature about Poland’s postwar era, most readers didn’t take much notice. But when historian Jan Tomasz Gross saw the photo, he was moved to write Golden Harvest, a controversial new book in which he argues that many Poles enriched themselves during the war by exploiting Jews, from plundering mass graves to ferreting out Jews in hiding for reward. In the book’s introduction, Gross recalls how the photo made a big impression on him. “I could not understand why it passed without echo among the [newspaper's] readers,” he writes.
    While the photo did not create much of a stir, the book — which was published in Poland on March 10 — has. Co-written by Gross’s wife Irena Grudzinska Gross, Golden Harvest charges that some Poles searched mass graves to retrieve golden teeth from the skulls of Jews murdered by the Nazis, traded glasses of water for golden coins from emaciated Jews being transported to death camps and pointed out hiding Jews to the Nazis in order to get ahold of their belongings. “Plundering Jewish property was an important element of the circulation of goods, an element of economic life, and thus a social fact, not an incidental behavior of demoralized individuals,” writes Gross about the villagers living near the death camps in Poland.
    Gross, a Princeton historian who was born and educated in Poland, became famous for his contentious 2001 book Neighbors, which chronicles the massacre of Jews at the hands of Poles in the village of Jedwabne during the Nazi occupation. The thesis of Golden Harvest again touches a raw nerve in a country that prides itself on being the only nation in Nazi-occupied Europe that did not have a collaborator government. Poland was home to about 2.5 million Jews before World War II, the second biggest Jewish population in the world, and Poles highlight the fact that they are the largest single nationality among those awarded the Israeli-based Yad Vashem institute’s title of Righteous Among the Nations for saving Jews during the Holocaust…. – Time.com, 3-22-11
  • Eric Hobsbawm, Norman Naimark: Two new books by American historians shed light on the Soviet past and those who still avoid its implications: Winter is bleak enough as it is. This year the gloom was deepened by the publication of How to Change the World: Tales of Marx and Marxism, by Eric Hobsbawm, one of Britain’s most feted historians, and, oh yes, a man who stuck with the Communist party until 1991 despite a global killing spree that took perhaps one hundred million lives. Naturally Hobsbawm’s new book has triggered the usual hosannas from the usual congregation for, to quote the Guardian, this “grand old man.”…
    But who are we to quibble, when, as his admirers like to remind us, Hobsbawm’s life has been “shaped by the struggle against fascism,” an excuse understandable in the 1930s (Hobsbawm, who is Jewish, quit Germany as a teenager in 1933), but grotesque more than six decades after the fall of the Third Reich.
    Just how grotesque was highlighted by two books that came out last year. In the first, Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin, Yale history professor Timothy Snyder describes the darkness that engulfed a stretch of Eastern Europe in the mid-20th century. He leaves only one convincing response to the question that dominates the second, Stalin’s Genocides, by Stanford’s Norman Naimark: For all the unique evils of the Holocaust, was Stalin, no less than Hitler, guilty of genocide?… – National Review, 3-18-11
  • Philip Magness and Sebastian Page: New book sheds new light on Lincoln’s racial views: As the nation celebrates the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s first inauguration Friday, a new book by a researcher at George Mason University in Fairfax makes the case that Lincoln was even more committed to colonizing blacks than previously known. The book, “Colonization After Emancipation,” is based in part on newly uncovered documents that authors Philip Magness and Sebastian Page found at the British National Archives outside London and in the U.S. National Archives…. – AP, 3-4-11

HISTORY REVIEWS:

  • Joseph S. Nye Jr., Parag Khanna: Two books on the future of power and diplomacy: “How to Run the World”, “The Future of Power” Parag Khanna, a 30-something journalist and rising star in the world of think tanks, makes the case in “How to Run the World” for what he calls “Generation Y geopolitics.” He describes the 21st century as “neo-medieval,” because now, as in the Middle Ages, “rising powers, multinational corporations, powerful families, humanitarians, religious radicals, universities and mercenaries are all part of the diplomatic landscape.” Because states no longer matter much, he says, we should dump old-style diplomacy, with its “stiff waltz of rituals and protocols among states alone,” for “mega-diplomacy . . . a jazzy dance among coalitions of ministries, companies, churches, foundations, universities, activists, and other willful, enterprising individuals who cooperate to achieve specific goals.” “Generation Y,” he promises, “will own mega-diplomacy.” The result will be a new renaissance, like the one that ended the original Middle Ages.
    Joseph S. Nye, by contrast, is a 70-something professor at Harvard and former dean of its Kennedy School of Government. As he sees it in “The Future of Power,” the old, stiff waltz is not over yet. “Today,” he suggests, “power in the world . . . resembles a complex three-dimensional chess game.” On the top of the board is military power, where states still reign supreme; in the middle is economic power, where states and non-state actors share the play; and only on the bottom do we find something like Khanna’s Generation Y geopolitics…. – WaPo, 2-28-11
  • Eric A. Posner and Adrian Vermeule: Is the Imperial Presidency Inevitable?: THE EXECUTIVE UNBOUND After the Madisonian Republic In “The Executive Unbound,” Eric A. Posner and Adrian Vermeule, law professors at Chicago and Harvard, respectively, offer with somewhat alarming confidence the “Weimar and Nazi jurist” Carl Schmitt as their candidate to succeed James Madison for the honor of theorist of the Constitution.
    According to Posner and Vermeule, we now live under an administrative state providing welfare and national security through a gradual accretion of power in executive agencies to the point of dominance. This has happened regardless of the separation of powers. The Constitution, they insist, no longer corresponds to “reality.” Congress has assumed a secondary role to the executive, and the Supreme Court is “a marginal player.” In all “constitutional showdowns,” as they put it, the powers that make and judge law have to defer to the power that administers the law…. – NYT, 3-11-11
  • ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem,’ by James Carroll: Jerusalem, Jerusalem How the Ancient City Ignited Our Modern World James Carroll is a former priest and a believing Catholic who affirms that love is the central tenet of Christian doctrine. This drives his critique of mainstream Catholic theology and what he has called “the new Catholic fundamentalism” promoted by Pope Benedict XVI. A central element in that critique is his argument that the Catholic Church (and later Protestants) was a major protagonist in the long history of anti-Judaism culminating in the Nazi mass murder of European Jewry. According to Carroll, “Anti-Jewishness was … hardwired into the Christian imagination.” The Crusades expanded the circuit board to include Muslims.
    The anti-Judaism and anti-Islam of both Catholicism and Protestantism is a central theme in “Jerusalem, Jerusalem.” But its historical ambitions are much grander than those of Carroll’s earlier books, like his 2001 best-seller, “Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews.” Here Carroll proposes that Jerusalem inspires – in the three Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam – apocalyptic fantasies that have had lethal consequences in the earthly world, past and present…. – San Francisco Chronicle, 3-11-11
  • Del Quentin Wilber: Reconstructing the Day Reagan Fell: Chaos After a President’s Shooting: RAWHIDE DOWN The Near Assassination of Ronald Reagan It has been nearly 30 years since President Ronald Reagan was shot outside the Washington Hilton Hotel on March 30, 1981. The attack is well remembered, but the details are not. One reason for the memory lapse, according to Del Quentin Wilber, the author of “Rawhide Down,” a newly revealing account of this potentially deadly attack, is that Reagan survived it so smoothly. Twelve days after being fired upon, he was back at the White House looking sensational. He ultimately enhanced his popularity by rebounding with such courage, resilience and even good cheer…. – NYT, 3-10-11
  • Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts: What Harlem Is and Was HARLEM IS NOWHERE A Journey to the Mecca of Black America “Harlem Is Nowhere,” Rhodes-Pitts’s first book, is in large part the product of the countless hours she spent poring over photographs and news clippings in the bowels of the New York Public Library’s Harlem-based research center, or “Mr. Schomburg’s labyrinth,” as she so aptly calls it. Rhodes-Pitts — and in this, unlike Alexander Gumby — does not favor “the most exceptional and the most beautiful.” She makes us privy to obscure interviews, photographs, advertisements and even obituaries. While Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Marcus Garvey, W. E. B. Du Bois, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and many other widely celebrated personages make an appearance, Rhodes-Pitts is at least as engaged by Harlem’s lesser-known players, like the proto-feminist Victoria Earle Matthews, the African nationalist Carlos A. Cooks and the fashionista-cum-wax-­museum-owner Raven Chanticleer — those whose names have not been “immortalized by way of a street sign.”… – NYT, 3-11-11
  • From ‘End of History’ Author, a Look at the Beginning and Middle: In a book to be published in April, “The Origins of Political Order,” Francis Fukuyama of Stanford University presents a sweeping new overview of human social structures throughout history, taking over from where Dr. Wilson’s ambitious synthesis left off. Dr. Fukuyama, a political scientist, is concerned mostly with the cultural, not biological, aspects of human society. But he explicitly assumes that human social nature is universal and is built around certain evolved behaviors like favoring relatives, reciprocal altruism, creating and following rules, and a propensity for warfare….. – NYT, 3-7-11
  • James Gleick: Drumbeat to E-Mail: The Medium and the Message: THE INFORMATION A History, a Theory, a Flood “The Information” offers this point-blank characterization of its author: “James Gleick is our leading chronicler of science and modern technology.” This new book goes far beyond the earlier Gleick milestones, “Chaos” and “Genius,” to validate that claim.
    “The Information” is so ambitious, illuminating and sexily theoretical that it will amount to aspirational reading for many of those who have the mettle to tackle it. Don’t make the mistake of reading it quickly. Imagine luxuriating on a Wi-Fi-equipped desert island with Mr. Gleick’s book, a search engine and no distractions. “The Information” is to the nature, history and significance of data what the beach is to sand…. – NYT, 3-6-11
  • Liel Leibovitz and Matthew Miller: The First Chinese Exchange Students: FORTUNATE SONS The 120 Chinese Boys Who Came to America, Went to School, and Revolutionized an Ancient Civilization But China has gone through previous periods of tumultuous change, as Liel Leibovitz and Matthew Miller’s “Fortunate Sons” makes abundantly clear. Their story begins with Yung Wing, who came to America in the late 1840s. The first Chinese student admitted to Yale, he returned to his homeland in 1854, determined not to be the last. Under his tutelage, 120 Chinese boys crossed the Pacific in the 1870s, intent on learning Western skills that might help their country modernize. Yet mixed fortunes awaited them on their return to a country whose Qing-era imperial rule was crumbling, where their schooling at various colleges in New England made them both influential and, in some cases, rootless and estranged… – NYT, 3-4-11

HISTORY FEATURES:

  • Charles W. Crawford: Census Lessons for Detroit From Memphis’s 1870s Loss, Says Historian: But another city, Memphis, appears to have the distinction of having once lost the highest percentage of its population for an American city of any size. In the 1870s, a series of outbreaks of yellow fever swept through the Mississippi River Valley, killing thousands of people. In 1878, the epidemic reduced the population of Memphis by perhaps as much as 50 percent. In 1878 alone, the population of about 40,000 dropped by more than half, said Charles W. Crawford, a professor who specializes in Memphis history at the University of Memphis. He said he was not aware of any other city that had lost a greater percentage of its population in one fell swoop. New Orleans lost 29 percent after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. Mr. Crawford said that an estimated 5,500 people in Memphis died in 1878 while perhaps 15,000 fled. “Everyone was crowding the steamboat landings and the railroad station,” he said. “Politicians left first.”… – NYT, 3-23-11
  • Charles Scontras: Mural of Maine’s Workers Becomes Political Target — Labor Historians Weigh In: Charles Scontras, a labor historian at the University of Maine, said: “Totalitarian regimes erase history as well. We manage to do it by indifference or neglect or for ideological reasons.” He voiced surprise that a Franco-American like the governor, whose wife was once a union steward, would take such a move when the mural honored the work that generations of Maine’s Franco-Americans had done in the shoe, textile and paper industries…. – NYT, 3-23-11
  • Annelise Orleck: Clouds Blur Fire’s Meaning: But leading historians of the fire still disagree vehemently over how much the Jewish character of the event matters. “Within the Jewish and Italian communities, it still does have a unique resonance,” said Annelise Orleck, a professor of 20th-century … – The Jewish Week, 3-9-11
  • America’s union story: Blood, struggle and bargaining for good and bad: Eighty-one-year-old labor historian Ken Germanson watches the news from home in Milwaukee every night, mystified. “All those people raising their signs, protesting,” he said. “Well, geez, what did our governor think was going to happen?” Germanson ran the Wisconsin Labor History Society for nearly two decades, an organization that teaches students about the state’s union heritage…. – CNN.com, 3-4-11
  • Why is King John always the villian in movies? Because he really was awful, say historians: Make no mistake, he was a bad king, says John Hudson, of the Institute of Medieval Studies at the University of St Andrews. “He was a very considerable failure as a king. He loses a large amount of possessions inherited, in particular lands in France, like Normandy and Anjou. He manages to surrender his realm to the pope and ends up facing a huge baronial rebellion, a civil war and a war with France. In terms of failures, he is one of the worst kings.”…
    …[I]t was the Victorians who made King John the pantomime villain he is today, says Paul Sturtevant, who is researching Hollywood depictions of the medieval period, at the University of Leeds. “The Victorians used King John as a punchbag. Prior to the 18th and 19th Century, Robin Hood was not put in a historical place. It wasn’t about the monarch at all, just Robin Hood and his adventures…. Most historians would agree he was quite a bad king but whether he was a caricature of evil is another question entirely, he says…. – BBC Magazine, 3-1-11

HISTORY PROFILES:

  • Nixon Library Opens a Door Some Would Prefer Left Closed: …Timothy Naftali, the director of the library and the curator of the exhibition, said that given the uniqueness of the Nixon presidency — starting with the fact that he was forced out of office — there was no other way to honestly depict the complicated bundle of scandals that have become known as Watergate. He said the conflict with the foundation was unavoidable.
    “It was inevitable, wasn’t it?” Mr. Naftali said. “This was a private institution with a particular point of view. It was accustomed to presenting the president in a certain light. I was coming in as a professional historian who was committed to making sure the facts were known.” Mr. Naftali said he had no interest in prolonging the disagreement with the Nixon Foundation, and declined to discuss negotiations with them. “I would actually like the healing to start,” he said. “I’m sure they are as tired of this fight as I am.”… – NYT, 3-1-11

HISTORY QUOTES:

  • Historians weigh in on the most segregated cities in America: No. 1: Milwaukee
    Main city population: 594,833
    Metropolitan population: 1,555,908
    Segregation level (dissimilarity): 81.52
    “Most of our history is very similar to Chicago, Cleveland or even Baltimore,” says Marc Levine, professor of history and economic development at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. “Every place has had the zoning ordinances, then restrictive covenants, the practices of realtors. The standard history. What makes Milwaukee a little bit different than these other places, which explains why we’re consistently in the top five and often No. 1, in segregation? We have the lowest rate of African-American suburbanization of any of these larger cities.”… – Salon.com, 3-29-11
  • Jacques Barzun: With Congress having repealed that edict last year, Columbia faculty have raised new arguments against ROTC. Some faculty members have recently circulated a petition that the military should remain banned because it continues to be a “discriminatory institution” on the basis of “many reasons from physical disability to age.” The basketball team discriminates too.
    The armed forces have drawn some of their most celebrated leaders from Columbia. Not one but four commanders in chief, including the incumbent, studied or worked there. Educating citizen-soldiers is necessary not only for the vigor of our armed forces, but for the vitality of our universities and our republic.
    Most will choose not to answer the call – that is acceptable, the natural result of relying on an all-volunteer military. What is not acceptable is denying the army the opportunity to even make that call.
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin: Bush missed chance to rally nation after 9/11: Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin told an audience at Queens University Thursday night that history could show that President George W. Bush missed a rare opportunity to rally the nation following the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001. Goodwin, a Pulitzer Prize winning author, compared the Bush administration’s response to that of President Franklin D. Roosevelt following Pearl Harbor…. – Charlotte Observer, 3-3-11

HISTORY INTERVIEWS:

  • Salon interviews David Anderson over Huckabee’s Mau Mau claims: In his new book and in two media appearances this week, Mike Huckabee has argued that Barack Obama’s behavior as president can be partly explained by his views of British colonial history in Kenya, where Obama’s father and grandfather lived. Central to Huckabee’s theory is that Obama has a different view of the 1950s-era Mau Mau uprising in Kenya than most Americans, and that that would, in turn, explain Obama’s putative hatred for Winston Churchill.
    Huckabee seems to be throwing around the exotic-sounding term “Mau Mau” every chance he gets, so I decided to talk to a historian about what actually happened in 1950s Kenya. The deeper one looks beneath the surface, the less sense Huckabee’s narrative makes. Among other things, the suppression of the Mau Mau rebellion by the British involved the use of concentration camps and systematic torture — so it’s odd for Huckabee to be taking the British side in that conflict….
    Here’s my Q&A with the historian David Anderson about all of this…. – Salon, 3-2-11
  • Dianne Ravitch On Daily Show: Testing And Choice Undermining Education (VIDEO): Last night on the Daily Show, Jon Stewart interviewed author, historian, and professor Dianne Ravitch on her new book “The Death and Life of the Great American School System.” Ravitch argued that testing and choice are undermining America’s education … – Huffington Post, 3-4-11

HISTORY AWARDS & APPOINTMENTS:

  • Historian Eric Foner one of 3 Winners of Bancroft Prize: Foner’s “The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery” is one of three winners of the coveted Bancroft Prize for history. The prize’s administrator, Columbia University, announced Thursday that the other recipients are Sara Dubow’s “Ourselves Unborn” and Christopher Tomlins’ “Freedom Bound.”… – AP, 3-24-11
  • Ramachandra Guha: Indian academic takes up top international affairs and history chair at LSE: A magisterial chronicle of India, a pioneering study of ecological movements and an award-winning social history of cricket are among the works of a scholar and writer who will take up the Philippe Roman Chair at LSE in 2011-12.
    Ramachandra Guha, a historian and biographer based in Bangalore, will succeed professor Niall Ferguson as holder of the chair in history and international affairs. He takes up the post in September…. – The FINANCIAL, 3-3-11
  • Obama awards National Humanities Medals to historians Bernard Bailyn, Gordon S. Wood, Jacques Barzun, and Stanley Katz: President Barack Obama today announced the ten winners of the 2010 National Humanities Medals, awarded for outstanding achievements in history, literature, education, and cultural policy. The medalists are: authors Wendell E. Berry, Joyce Carol Oates, and Philip Roth; historians Bernard Bailyn and Gordon S. Wood; literary scholars Daniel Aaron, Roberto González Echevarría, and Arnold Rampersad; cultural historian Jacques Barzun; and legal historian and higher education policy expert Stanley Nider Katz. The medals will be presented at a White House ceremony on Wednesday, March 2, 2011…. – National Endowment for the Humanities Press Release (3-1-11)

HISTORY ANNOUNCEMENTS & EVENTS CALENDAR:

  • Charleston’s museums finally chronicle history of slavery: Here, in this lovely town, once one of the most prosperous in the American colonies, there is no escape. In the Old Slave Mart Museum that opened in 2007, you read: “You’re standing in the actual showroom, the place where traders sold — and buyers bought — American blacks who were born into slavery.”… Slavery and its heritage are everywhere here. Charleston was one of the main colonial ports of the 18th century, dealing in rice, indigo and slaves. In 1860 South Carolina held as many slaves as Georgia and Virginia, which were at least twice its size. The genteel grace and European travels of its wealthy citizens were made possible by the enslavement of about half the population.
    The sesquicentennial of the Civil War that is about to be commemorated means that it has been nearly 150 years since American slavery was brought to an end. But even in the North, the subject is still approached with caution, delicacy and worry. It inspires profound shame, guilt, anger, recrimination and remorse, aimed in many directions for many reasons on both sides of a racial divide…. – NYT, 3-11-11

HISTORIANS SPOTTED:

  • Diane Ravitch appears on “The Daily Show”The Daily Show, 3-4-11
  • Rethinking Howard Zinn on the BU campus: Friends and colleagues of the late Howard Zinn, perhaps BU’s best known political scientist, gathered at the Castle last week to examine the legacy of the historian whose 1980 book, A People’s History of the United States, sold more than two million copies and was the inspiration for the 2009 movie The People Speak.
    The seminar, sponsored by the International History Institute and titled Reconsidering Howard Zinn as a Historian, featured short talks by three former colleagues and friends. Zinn, who died in January 2010 at the age of 87, taught in the College of Arts & Sciences political science department for 24 years. And while all three expressed obvious affection and respect for Zinn and admiration for his exceptional quest for the truth, there were several points of disagreement with the great man’s widely shared opinions…. – BU Today, 3-3-11

HISTORY ON TV:

HISTORY BEST SELLERS (NYT):

UPCOMING HISTORY BOOK RELEASES:

  • G.J. Meyer: The Tudors: The Complete Story of England’s Most Notorious Dynasty, (Paperback), March 1, 2011
  • Jack Weatherford: The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire, (Paperback), March 1, 2011
  • Bruce S. Thornton: The Wages of Appeasement: Ancient Athens, Munich, and Obama’s America, (Hardcover), March 1, 2011
  • Miranda Carter: George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I, (Paperback), March 8, 2011
  • John D. Plating: The Hump: America’s Strategy for Keeping China in World War II (General), (Hardcover), March 9, 2011
  • David Goldfield: America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation, (Hardcover), March 15, 2011
  • Matt Spruill: Decisions at Gettysburg: The Nineteen Critical Decisions That Defined the Campaign, (Paperback), March 16, 2011
  • Adrienne Mayor: The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy, (Paperback), March 22, 2011
  • Michael O’Brien: Mrs. Adams in Winter: A Journey in the Last Days of Napoleon, (Paperback), March 29, 2011
  • Dominic Lieven: Russia Against Napoleon: The True Story of the Campaigns of War and Peace, (Paperback), March 29, 2011
  • Rudy Tomedi: General Matthew Ridgway, (Hardcover), March 30, 2011
  • Kim Wilson: Tea with Jane Austen (Second Edition), (Hardcover), April 1, 2011
  • Nick Bunker: Making Haste from Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World: A New History, (Paperback), April 5, 2011
  • Nell Irvin Painter: The History of White People, (Paperback), April 18, 2011
  • Christopher I. Beckwith: Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present, (Paperback), April 21, 2011
  • Andrew F. Smith: Eating History: Thirty Turning Points in the Making of American Cuisine, (Paperback), April 22, 2011
  • Barbara Frale: The Templars: The Secret History Revealed, (Paperback), May 1, 2011
  • Alison Plowden: The Young Victoria (New), (Paperback), May 1, 2011
  • Bill Morgan: The Typewriter Is Holy: The Complete, Uncensored History of the Beat Generation, (Paperback), May 1, 2011
  • Rebecca Skloot: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, (Paperback), May 3, 2011
  • Lynne Olson: Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour, (Paperback), May 3, 2011
  • Jane Ziegelman: 97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement, (Paperback), May 31, 2011
  • Jonathan R. Dull: The Age of the Ship of the Line: The British and French Navies, 1650-1815, (Paperback), June 1, 2011
  • Jasper Ridley: The Freemasons: A History of the World’s Most Powerful Secret Society, (Paperback), June 1, 2011
  • David Howard: Lost Rights: The Misadventures of a Stolen American Relic, (Paperback), June 8, 2011
  • Kelly Hart: The Mistresses of Henry VIII, (Paperback), July 1, 2011
  • Christopher Heaney: Cradle of Gold: The Story of Hiram Bingham, a Real-Life Indiana Jones, and the Search for Machu Picchu, (Paperback), July 5, 2011
  • Eric Jay Dolin: Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America, (Paperback), July 5, 2011
  • Edward P. Kohn: Hot Time in the Old Town: The Great Heat Wave of 1896 and the Making of Theodore Roosevelt (First Trade Paper Edition), (Paperback), July 12, 2011

HISTORIANS PASSINGS:

  • Donny George, Protector of Iraq’s Ancient Riches, Dies at 60: Donny George, an esteemed Iraqi archaeologist who tried to stop the looters ransacking the Iraq National Museum after the invasion of 2003, then led in recovering thousands of stolen artifacts in the ensuing years, died on Friday in Toronto. He was 60…. – NYT, 3-15-11
  • UC Davis scholar Jack Forbes, 77, advocated for indigenous peoples: Jack Forbes, acclaimed author, activist and professor emeritus of Native American studies at the University of California, Davis, died Feb. 23 at Sutter Davis Hospital. He was 77…. – UC Davis, 2-25-11
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