History Buzz, Apr 26-May 10, 2010: Stephen Ambrose, Diane Ravitch & Niall Ferguson in the News

History Buzz

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor/Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.


Hulton Archive/Getty Images



  • Stephen Ambrose’s Work Faces New Scrutiny: The late historian Stephen E. Ambrose rose to fame on the strength of an authorized biography that he claimed included details from “hundreds of hours” of interviews with former President Dwight David Eisenhower. But Richard Rayner, a writer for The New Yorker, reports today that during his research Ambrose apparently had only limited access to Eisenhower, and that archived datebooks and other records conflict with some of the times Ambrose claimed he had sat down with the former five-star general…. AOL News, 4-26-10
  • Thomas Fleming “Channelling George Washington” Series – HNN
  • Orlando Figes Contraversay: Who gives a Figes for Orlando? – Sydney Morning Herald, 5-18-10



  • Naomi Oreskes finds that out of 928 articles on climate change, 0 challenge consensus: …A study by Naomi Oreskes, professor of history and science studies at the University of California-San Diego, found 928 peer-reviewed articles on climate change; none opposed the unanimous conclusion that human-released greenhouse gases are affecting our climate…. – Kansas City Star, 5-9-10
  • The Twitter Archive at the Library of Congress: When the Library of Congress announced this month that it had recently acquired Twitter’s entire archive of public tweets, the snarkosphere quickly broke out the popular refrain “Nobody cares that you just watched ‘Lost.’” Television tweets are always the shorthand by which naysayers express how idiotic they find Twitter, the microblogging site on which millions of users share their thoughts and activities in 140 characters or fewer.
    The purview of historians has always been the tangible: letters, journals, official documents.
    But on the other hand, says Michael Beschloss, historian and author of “Presidential Courage,” “What historian today wouldn’t give his right arm to have the adult Madison’s contemporaneous Twitters about the secret debates inside the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia?” – WaPo, 5-7-10
  • Europe pressed on slavery reparations by historians: Historians and anti-racism campaigners are to urge the countries that oversaw and profited from the Atlantic slave trade to recognise it as a crime against humanity, opening the way for reparations… – AFP, 5-4-10
  • Va. seeks balance in marking Civil War’s 150th anniversary, tapping Kennedy-era historian: …At last, President John F. Kennedy called on a 31-year-old historian to take over as the centennial’s executive director, refocusing it on sober education. Virginia has turned to the same man — James I. Robertson Jr., a history professor at Virginia Tech and a Civil War expert — to help the state avoid the same kinds of problems as it prepares to mark next year’s 150th anniversary of the start of the war…. – WaPo, 5-3-10
  • Cultural Memory and the Resources of the Past, 400-1000 research project gets funding: A new research collaboration involving historians from Cambridge is to examine how early medieval societies used the past to form ideas about identity which continue to affect our own present. The project will cover six centuries of western European history, from 400 to 1000 AD, and will investigate how earlier cultural traditions, coupled with other sources, such as the Bible, influenced the formation of state identities following the deposition of the last Roman emperor in the West in the fifth century…. – Medieval News, 4-28-10
  • Historians say state should toss proposal: Historians complained of so many problems with the State Board of Education’s proposed social studies curriculum standards that they urged Texas lawmakers Wednesday to ask the board to start over…. – Houston Chronicle, 4-28-10


  • Jonathan Jones: Is academic snobbery to blame in the Orlando Figes affair?: I have a horrible feeling that behind this disaster lies a rebirth of insular academic snobbery, the resentment of a popular historian. I find myself thinking of the episode of Peep Show in which an academic urges Mark Corrigan to write an attack on Simon Schama – “and his interesting, accessible books”…. – Guardian (UK), 4-29-10


  • New Obama book by Newsweek senior editor Jonathan Alter airs private flares of temper: President Obama may cultivate an image as the unflappable Mr. Cool, but he can get hot under the collar too, according to a new book.
    In “The Promise: President Obama, Year One,” by Newsweek senior editor Jonathan Alter, the author recounts a series of private blow-ups – including a particularly fiery one involving the nation’s top military brass…. – NY Daily News, 5-8-10
  • HISTORY Book review of “Goodbye Wives and Daughters,” by Susan Kushner Resnick: The coal-mining tragedy depicted in “Goodbye Wifes and Daughters” occurred nearly 70 years ago but is still an eerily familiar storyline in 2010. While mine safety and regulation have vastly improved, recent headlines out of West Virginia make journalist Susan Kushner Resnick’s excavation of the 1943 explosion that killed 75 men in Bearcreek, Mont., seem not so distant from present-day disasters. WaPo, 5-7-10
  • Book reviews: ‘History in Blue’ by Allan T. Duffin, ‘A Few Good Women’ by Evelyn M. Monahan and Rosemary Neidel-Greenlee: HISTORY IN BLUE 160 Years of Women Police, Sheriffs, Detectives, and State Troopers, A FEW GOOD WOMEN America’s Military Women from World War I to the War in Iraq and Afghanistan
    In “Woman in the Nineteenth Century” (1845), Margaret Fuller set out the original feminist proclamation about women’s access to work: “We would have every arbitrary barrier thrown down. We would have every path laid open to woman as freely as to man.”
    Both “History in Blue,” by Allan T. Duffin, and “A Few Good Women,” by Evelyn M. Monahan and Rosemary Neidel- Greenlee, document women’s work history and provide fascinating individual stories…. – WaPo, 5-7-10
  • Diane Ravitch: The Education of Diane Ravitch THE DEATH AND LIFE OF THE GREAT AMERICAN SCHOOL SYSTEM How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education Ravitch’s offer to guide us through this mess comes with a catch: she has changed her mind. Once an advocate of choice and testing, in “The Death and Life of the Great American School System” she throws cold water on both. Along the way she casts a skeptical eye on the results claimed by such often-praised school reformers as New York’s Anthony Alvarado and San Diego’s Alan Bersin, reviews a sheaf of academic studies of school effectiveness and delivers the most damning criticism I have ever read of the role philanthropic institutions sometimes play in our society. “Never before,” she writes of the Gates Foundation, was there an entity “that gave grants to almost every major think tank and advocacy group in the field of education, leaving no one willing to criticize its vast power and unchecked influence.”… – NYT, 5-6-10
  • Woodward book on Obama coming in September: A Bob Woodward book on the Obama administration is coming out in September…. AP, 5-5-10
  • Ruth Marcus reviews Laura Bush’s memoir, ‘Spoken From the Heart’: Laura has always seemed the more interesting Bush. Certainly, the more mysterious. With George W., what you see is what you get. He is not a complicated man. But Laura leaves you wondering about the layers beneath that serene exterior. What is she thinking? What private rebellions are simmering, what resentments submerged? What forged the bond, seemingly as strong as it was unlikely, between the librarian who named her cat Dewey, after the decimal system, and the jock-turned-oilman who was soon to turn, inevitably, to the family business of politics? Laura Bush’s autobiography, “Spoken From the Heart,” begins promisingly enough for anyone hoping to penetrate that surface…. – WaPo, 5-2-10
  • HISTORY Book review of “The War Lovers: Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst, the Rush to Empire, 1898″ by Evan Thomas: More than a century before a recent president, who had never seen combat, led the United States into war with Iraq, a pair of politicians similarly unscarred by war created the playbook that has been used ever since. The prototype conflict was the Spanish-American War of 1898, studied by every school child as America’s thunderous entry onto the world stage and its first foray into colonial rule. So much has been written about this seminal moment that journalist and author Evan Thomas faced a daunting task in undertaking “The War Lovers.” After all, what could be said that hasn’t already been covered in the some 400 or so books? Plenty, it turns out…. – WaPo, 5-2-10
  • Jim Baggott: If You Build It . . .: THE FIRST WAR OF PHYSICS The Secret History of the Atom Bomb, 1939-1949 Jim Baggott, a popular British science writer, sets out in “The First War of Physics” to tell the story of the early stages of the nuclear arms race…. – NYT, 5-9-10
  • LAUREL THATCHER ULRICH on Marla R. Miller: Star-Spangled Story: BETSY ROSS AND THE MAKING OF AMERICA Marla R. Miller, who teaches American history at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, believes that Claypoole “planted the seeds of her own mythology in the 1820s and ’30s as she regaled her children and grandchildren with tales from her youth, her work, and of life in Revolutionary Philadelphia.” In an engaging biography, Miller shows that even though the flag story is riddled with improbabilities, the life of the woman who came to be known as Betsy Ross is worth recovering. Piecing together shards of evidence from “newspaper advertisements, household receipts, meeting minutes, treasurer’s reports, shop accounts and ledgers, probate records, tools and artifacts . . . and oral traditions,” Miller connects her heroine with most of the major events in Philadelphia’s early history, from the building of the city in the years when Elizabeth’s great-­grandfather was establishing himself as a master carpenter to the yellow fever epidemic that in 1793 killed her parents.
    Through skillful use of small details, Miller sustains her repeated assertion that the future Betsy Ross was often “only a handshake away” from the men who made the Revolution…. – NYT, 5-9-10


  • From Tory to Turkey: Maverick historian Norman Stone storms back with partisan epic of Cold War world: It isn’t every day that one interviews a figure described on an official British Council website as “notorious”. That badge, which this fearsome foe of drippy-liberal state culture will wear with pride, comes inadvertently via Robert Harris. In his novel Archangel, Harris created the “dissolute historian” (© the British Council and our taxes) Fluke Kelso: an “engaging, wilful, impassioned and irreverent” maverick on the trail of Stalin’s secret papers…. – Independent (UK), 5-14-10


  • Yuan Tengfei: Celebrity Chinese historian severely criticizes Mao on state TV: “If you want to see Mao, you can go to his mausoleum at the Tiananmen Square. But don’t forget it’s a Chinese version of the Yasukuni Shrine, which glorifies Mao, under whose hands many people were massacred,” the report quoted Yuan Tengfei, a history teacher at Beijing’s Jinghua School, as saying in a 110-minute special TV lecture at the state television, CCTV. “The only thing Mao did right since he founded the new China in 1949 was his death,” Yuan was quoted as saying…. – Tibetan Review, 5-11-10
  • British political historian explains the role of class in UK elections: Steven Fielding, a professor of political history and the director of the Center for British Politics at the University of Nottingham. Mr. Fielding said that viewers who see politicians performing on television start to regard them, in a sense, as protagonists in fictional dramas. “It’s not that they confuse them with TV characters, but that they see them in the same framework,” he said. “The leaders’ debates exaggerate that by encouraging voters to focus on the minutiae rather than on the policy.”… – NYT, 4-30-10


  • “In the eyes of the majority, Stalin is a winner,” says Russian historian Nikolai Svanidze: Historian Nikolai Svanidze spoke to SPIEGEL about the reasons for Stalin’s popularity in Russia. He argues that the archives need to be opened in order to reveal the dictator’s crimes and explains why President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have very different approaches to Russian history….. – Spiegel Online, 5-6-10
  • Harvey Klehr sits down with FrontPageMag: Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Harvey Klehr, Andrew Mellon Professor of Politics and History at Emory University. He is the author of the new book, The Communist Experience in America: A Political and Social History…. – Jaime Glazov at FrontPageMag, 5-6-10
  • Q&A with Niall Ferguson: Niall Ferguson’s resumé could put you to sleep. He’s a senior fellow here, a professor of this or that there. But despite hanging out with the elbow-patch crowd, this Scottish intellectual and author smoothly blends history, finance and politics all into one understandable package. At times he is humorous, at others frightful. His relationship with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-Dutch intellectual who has a death threat looming over her head after she was critical of Islam, also lends him an air of controversy. Mr. Ferguson, whose latest bestseller is The Ascent of Money: The Financial History of the World, was in Calgary this past week as the headliner at the Teatro salon speaker series. He touched on everything from why he thinks the International Monetary Fund will soon be bailing out Britain, to why the United States must now tread carefully around the globe or risk the wrath of China. And he shared his thoughts on money and power and who he thinks will win the U.K. election…. – Financial Post, 5-1-10


  • Z Street lobbying group awards Daniel Pipes prize for peace plan: Z STREET awarded Daniel Pipes, the Director of the Middle East Forum and pre-eminent Middle East scholar, its first annual Z STREET Peace Plan Prize for his article, “My Peace Plan: an Israeli Victory.” Z STREET is a staunchly pro-Israel organization… – Press Release, 5-10-10
  • Canadian Military Historian Knighted By the Netherlands: As Canada and its Second World War allies prepare to celebrate the 65th Anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day on May 8, the Netherlands is honouring a Canadian military historian with a knighthood. Dr. Dean Oliver, director of research and exhibitions at the Canadian War Museum, has received the Dutch honour, Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau…. – Epoch Times, 5-5-10
  • Caferro and Gerstel awarded Guggenheim Fellowships: William Caferro, a professor of history at Vanderbilt University, and Sharon E.J. Gerstel, Professor of Byzantine Art and Archaeology at UCLA, have been named 2010 Fellows by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation…. – Medieval News, 4-28-10
  • Ernest Freeberg named winner of the 2010 Eli M. Oboler Memorial Award: Ernest Freeberg will receive the 2010 Eli M. Oboler Memorial Award, presented by the Intellectual Freedom Round Table (IFRT) of the American Library Association (ALA). Freeberg was selected for his book,”Democracy’s Prisoner: Eugene V. Debs, the Great War, and the Right to Dissent” (Harvard University Press, 2008)… – Press Release, 4-6-10


  • Turkish Scholar Taner Akcam Advocates Change in Policy of Genocide Denial: Dr. Taner Akcam, one of the first Turkish scholars to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide, delivered two important lectures in Southern California last week. Based on historical research, he analyzed the underpinnings of Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide and proposed solutions for its official acknowledgment…. – Panorama.am (5-11-10)
  • K.C. Johnson, Steve Gillon to appear in Bank of America ad on “History”NYT (5-5-10)


  • September 17-18, 2010 at Notre Dame University: Conference aims to bring medieval, early modern and Latin American historians together: An interdisciplinary conference to be held at the University of Notre Dame this fall is making a final call for papers to explore the issue surrounding similarities between late-medieval Iberia and its colonies in the New World. “From Iberian Kingdoms to Atlantic Empires: Spain, Portugal, and the New World, 1250-1700″ is being hosted by the university’s Nanovic Institute for European Studies and will take place on September 17-18, 2010. Medieval News, 4-29-10
  • Digital Southern Historical Collection: The 41,626 scans reproduce diaries, letters, business records, and photographs that provide a window into the lives of Americans in the South from the 18th through mid-20th centuries.
  • Oxford University Press to publish OAH’s Journal of American History and Magazine of History: Oxford University Press (OUP) is honored to have been selected by the Organization of American Historians to be the publisher of the Journal of American History and the Magazine of History…. – OUP Press Release, 5-6-10
  • Pizarro: Pulitzer Prize-winning historian to speak at YWCA event: The YWCA of Silicon Valley will feature Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin at its 20th annual fundraising luncheon this fall. Goodwin’s 2005 book on the Lincoln presidency, “Team of Rivals,” is often cited as a favorite of President Barack Obama’s. And I’d expect she’ll have interesting perspectives on current history, given that the Nov. 16 luncheon comes just two weeks after this year’s midterm elections…. – SJ Mercury News, 5-2-10




  • Kelly Hart: The Mistresses of Henry VIII, (Paperback) May 1, 2010
  • David S. Heidler: Henry Clay: The Essential American, (Hardcover), May 4, 2010
  • Nathaniel Philbrick: The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn, May 4, 2010
  • Mark Puls: Henry Knox: Visionary General of the American Revolution, (Paperback) May 11, 2010
  • T. H. Breen: American Insurgents, American Patriots: The Revolution of the People, (Hardcover), May 11, 2010
  • Alexandra Popoff: Sophia Tolstoy: A Biography, (Hardcover) May 11, 2010
  • John D. Lukacs: Escape From Davao: The Forgotten Story of the Most Daring Prison Break of the Pacific War, (Hardcover), May 11, 2010
  • S. C. Gwynne: Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History, (Hardcover) May 25, 2010
  • Steven E. Woodworth: The Chickamauga Campaign (1st Edition), (Hardcover), May 28, 2010
  • Larry Schweikart: 7 Events that Made America America: And Proved that the Founding Fathers Were Right All Along, (Hardcover) June 1, 2010
  • Spencer Wells: Pandora’s Seed: The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization, (Hardcover), June 8, 2010
  • John Mosier: Deathride: Hitler vs. Stalin – The Eastern Front, 1941-1945, (Hardcover), June 15, 2010
  • Evan D. G. Fraser: Empires of Food: Feast, Famine, and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations, (Hardcover), June 15, 2010
  • Ruth Harris: Dreyfus: Politics, Emotion, and the Scandal of the Century (REV), (Hardcover), June 22, 2010
  • James Mauro: Twilight at the World of Tomorrow: Genius, Madness, Murder, and the 1939 World’s Fair on the Brink of War, (Hardcover), June 22, 2010.
  • William Marvel: The Great Task Remaining: The Third Year of Lincoln’s War, (Hardcover), June 22, 2010
  • Suzann Ledbetter: Shady Ladies: Nineteen Surprising and Rebellious American Women, (Hardcover), June 28, 2010.
  • Julie Flavell: When London Was Capital of America, (Hardcover), June 29, 2010
  • Donald P. Ryan: Beneath the Sands of Egypt: Adventures of an Unconventional Archaeologist, (Hardcover), June 29, 2010
  • Jane Brox: Brilliant: The Evolution of Artificial Light, (Hardcover), July 8, 2010.
  • Rudy Tomedi: General Matthew Ridgway, (Hardcover), July 30, 2010.
  • Richard Toye: Churchill’s Empire: The World That Made Him and the World He Made, (Hardcover), August 3, 2010.
  • Alexander Hamilton: The Federalist Papers, (Hardcover), August 16, 2010


  • Eminent historian of Irish ascendancy ascendancy dies at 79: Mark Bence-Jones, the genealogical researcher who has died at the age of 79, was the most eminent historian of the social mores of the Irish ascendancy in its decline over the last 100 years…. – Irish Times, 5-8-10
  • Angus Maddison, Economic Historian, Dies at 83: Some people try to forecast the future. Angus Maddison devoted his life to forecasting the past. Professor Maddison, a British-born economic historian with a compulsion for quantification, spent many of his 83 years calculating the size of economies over the last three millenniums. In one study he estimated the size of the world economy in A.D. 1 as about one five-hundredth of what it was in 2008…. – NYT, 4-30-10
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