OTD in History… July 4, 1863, the Union breaks the Confederacy in half with victory at the Siege of Vicksburg

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

OTD in History… July 4, 1863, the Union breaks the Confederacy in half with victory at the Siege of Vicksburg

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Source: Wikimedia Commons

On this day in history July 4, 1863, the Union breaks the Confederacy in half with victory at the Siege of Vicksburg during the Civil War. The Vicksburg Campaign lasted between May 18 and July 4, 1863. Union Major Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and his Army of the Tennessee aimed to take the fortress city of Vicksburg, Mississippi from Confederate General Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton and his Confederate Army of the Mississippi. First, on May 16, Grant won the Battle of Champion Hill against Pemberton. Then Grant attempted two major assaults on the Confederate strategic stronghold Vicksburg on the Mississippi River, on May 19 and 22 forcing Pemberton to retreat back to Vicksburg. In the three weeks in May, Grant won five battles with the Confederates and took 6,000 prisoners. For forty days, from May 25, Grant and his 70,000 troops surrounded the city, when supplies ran out Pemberton and his 25,000 soldiers finally surrendered on July 4.

The Battle of Gettysburg and the Siege of Vicksburg are considered major turning points in the Civil War. Once Vicksburg was captured, the Confederacy lost the Mississippi and contact with their Western states, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas. The lost made it impossible for the Confederacy to win the war ever. As Civil War historian, James McPherson recounts in his book Battle Cry of Freedom, “The Fourth of July 1863 was the most memorable Independence Day in American history since that first one four score and seven years earlier. Far away in Pennsylvania, the high tide of the Confederacy receded from Gettysburg. Here in Mississippi, white flags sprouted above rebel trenches, the emaciated troops marched out and stacked arms, and a Union division moved into Vicksburg to raise the stars and stripes over the courthouse.” (McPherson, 636)

The city’s residents were not as upset to see Yankees as would be presumed. The Union soldiers broke into speculators’ stores and allowed the residents to take what needed. Still, the ridicule would prevent Vicksburg from celebrating the Fourth of July for 81 years. The siege broke the city and the Confederacy giving the North an even more decisive victory than in Gettysburg, preventing the South from even employing a successful defensive war against the Union. McPherson concludes, “The capture of Vicksburg was the most important northern strategic victory of the war, perhaps meriting Grant’s later assertion that ‘the fate of the Confederacy was sealed when Vicksburg fell.’” (McPherson, 637) Although the war would last less than two more years, it was more a Northern assault on the South, punishing them for their rebellion than anything else; the Union could not lose the war.

READ MORE

McPherson, James M. Battle Cry of Freedom. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

 

Advertisements

OTD in History… July 3, 1863, Civil War Battle of Gettysburg ends

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

OTD in History… July 3, 1863, Civil War Battle of Gettysburg ends

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Source: Library of Congress

On this day in history July 3, 1863, the Civil War Battle of Gettysburg ends after three days of fighting; it was the largest battle on American soil. Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia with 75,000 soldiers met new Union General George Meade’s Army of the Potomac with 83,000 soldiers on July 1 and engaged in an unplanned battle. Lee was coming off a decisive victory at Battle of Chancellorsville in May and was making his second attempt to invade the North. It would prove a costly mistake for the Confederacy and the crucial victory the North needed.

On the first day, the Confederates were able to push the Union back but over the next two days, the outnumbered Confederates were never again able to break the Union’s lines. On the third day, Lee made his last attempt to break the Union center on Cemetery Ridge, where General George Pickett led 15,000 Confederate troops in Pickett’s Charge against 10,000 Union soldiers, suffering a striking blow within a couple of minutes with 7,000 troops killed or wounded. By the end of July 3, 28,000 Confederates and 23,000 Union soldiers were killed in the battle. Lee retreated to the Potomac and Virginia and never attempted to invade the North again.

The battle was a turning point in the war, from which the Confederates would never recover. As Civil War historian James McPherson indicates in his book Battle Cry of Freedom, “Lee and his men would go on to earn further laurels. But they never again possessed the power and reputation they carried into Pennsylvania those palmy midsummer days of 1863. Though the war was destined to continue for almost two more bloody years, Gettysburg and Vicksburg proved to have been its crucial turning point.” The blood-soaked battleground would become a cemetery and on November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln dedicated the battlefield burial ground giving his Gettysburg Address. Lee would surrender in April 1865 ending the war.

READ MORE

McPherson, James M. Battle Cry of Freedom. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

OTD in History… June 30, 1936, Margaret Mitchell’s epic of the old South Gone with the Wind published

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

OTD in History… June 30, 1936, Margaret Mitchell’s epic of the old South Gone with the Wind published

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history June 30, 1936, Margaret Mitchell’s epic Southern Civil War drama Gone with the Wind is first published, the best-selling book earns first-time author Mitchell a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1937, and 80 years later has $30 million in sales and is second only to the Bible. Mitchell, a reporter at the Atlanta Journal, started writing the book while she was recovering from a leg injury in 1926. In secrecy, Mitchell drew on stories she heard of the old south from her childhood, combined with meticulous research to write her over 1,000-page drama spanning the antebellum, Civil War and Reconstruction periods. Almost immediately after publication, Hollywood film producer David O. Selznick paid Mitchell, a then-record $50,000 for the film rights, setting his sights on making the biggest blockbuster ever made in Hollywood.

Three years later on July 1, 1939, and after five months, filming wrapped up on the movie version of Gone with the Wind. The making of the movie was a production almost as long as the book. Selznick would wait two years to secure Clark Gable from MGM, Metro Goldwyn Mayer, who would distribute the film. Selznick would also go through multiple screenwriters, scripts, cinematographers, and directors before filming was complete. Principal photography began on January 26, and post-production ended November 11, 1939.

The race to fill the role of Scarlett would capture the media and public’s attention, the 1938s version of a reality show “Search for Scarlett,” with over 1,400 women including every high profile actress in Hollywood vying for the role until, British film actress Vivien Leigh, tested for it in December 1938. Selznick called Leigh his “Scarlett dark horse,” making it easier to choose her was his brother Myron Selznick was Leigh’s agent. Selznick would finally choose 25-year-old Leigh for the role.

Rounding out the other major roles were Clark Gable as Rhett Butler, Scarlett’s third husband, Leslie Howard as Scarlett’s unrequited love, Ashley Wilkes, and Olivia DeHavilland as his cousin and wife and Scarlett’s sister-in-law and best friend. The film’s cost went out of a control, and it was the most expensive ever made to that point. An early rough preview screening in September 1939, left the “audience cheering,” as David Thomson observed in biography Showman: The Life of David O. Selznick for Selznick it was “was the greatest moment of his life, the greatest victory, and redemption of all his failings.”

In December 1939, Gone with the Wind had a star-studded opening in Atlanta, Georgia at the Loews Grand Theatre, where 300,000 attended, topping off a three-day event celebrating the film and the Confederacy. The four-hour film would go on to win then a record ten Academy Awards out of 13 nominations, two of which were honorary. Among its wins includes Best Picture, Best Director (Victor Fleming), and Best Adapted Screenplay. Best actress went to Vivien Leigh playing Mitchell’s heroine Scarlett O’Hara and supporting actress to Hattie McDaniel, the first African-American to win an Academy Award for her portrayal of Scarlett’s beloved Mammy, a slave.

The book was controversial at the time for its romanticizing of the Antebellum and Confederate South, its language describing slaves, inclusion of the racist Ku Klux Klan, it’s sexualized depictions of marital rape and childbirth, and its most famous phrase “Frankly my dear I don’t give a damn” uttered by Rhett Butler to Scarlett. Selznick toned down most of the racist language but the stereotypes remained. The movie is the biggest money-making film of all time when inflation is factored in and considered one of the best films ever made. It was re-released several times including on June 26, 1998, when it was remastered in its original format. Even up to the book and movie’s 75th anniversary, commentators acknowledged its racism but put it into context.

Now as the movie is approaching its 80th anniversary, Gone with the Wind is again controversial. With the Confederate monument removal movement after the 2015 Charleston church shooting and the violence at Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017, many are questioning Gone with the Wind’s portrayal of the secessionist south and slavery as a racist ode to the Confederacy. So far, 110 Confederate monuments have been removed, and there are calls to remove Gone with the Wind as well. Last August 2017, the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis, Tennessee, that played the movie each year for the past 34 years, declined to do so because of the film’s racial “insensitivity.” The move caused an outcry on social media for the beloved book and movie.

The cancellation of the screening made journalists question should the book and movie be part of the movement? The results were divided between those they believe it should be retired versus those who understand the film in its context and that it was not a political position on the South but about the individual characters and Scarlett O’Hara’s journey. The problem is many do not see Gone with the Wind as a work of fiction, not history. In 2008, preeminent reconstruction historian Eric Foner noted in a Washington Post book review, “The work of historians, however, has largely failed to penetrate popular consciousness. Partly because of the persistence of old misconceptions, Reconstruction remains widely misunderstood. Popular views still owe more to such films as “Birth of a Nation” (which glorified the Klan as the savior of white civilization) and “Gone With the Wind” (which romanticized slavery and the Confederacy) than to modern scholarship.”

African American writer Angelica Jade Bastien writing in Vulture called Gone with the Wind a “Cinematic Monument to the Confederacy” but concludes, the characters’ “great capacity for racism exists in tandem with their own admirable qualities, making them frustratingly human and trickier to demonize.” While Harvard Professor Cass R. Sunstein writes in the Atlantic, “Finding Humanity in Gone With the Wind The classic novel shows that individual lives cannot be reduced to competing sets of political convictions.” Sunstein does not see Gone with the Wind as political like the Confederate flag, and concludes, “It would be a mistake to disparage the sad magic of half-forgotten songs. Americans have good reason to remember the sweetness, and the deaths, of the countless real-world Tartletons — and never to dishonor those who grieve for them.”

On the opposite side, New York Post opinion writer Lou Lumenick in his article from 2015 believes “Gone with the Wind’ should go the way of the Confederate flag,” and argues it should be retired to museums. Lumenick finds “The more subtle racism of “Gone with the Wind’’ is in some ways more insidious, going to great lengths to enshrine the myth that the Civil War wasn’t fought over slavery — an institution the film unabashedly romanticizes.” While Ed Kilgore writing in 2017 concurs, declaring, “Yes, Gone with the Wind Is Another Neo-Confederate Monument.” In his New York Magazine article, where he argues that Gone with the Wind is “a neo-Confederate political symbol” not “an innocent piece of brilliant cinema and anachronistic history that’s under attack by the forces of political correctness,” as film critic Kyle Smith described it.

The debate over Gone with the Wind and its canceled screening is part of a greater trend where political correctness is going overboard on movies and books that depict a time where there were racial insensitivities. This includes a Biloxi, Mississippi public school district removing To Kill a Mockingbird from its reading list, and most recently the American Library Association removing author Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from a children’s book award. Classic books and movies with racial insensitivities are opportunities to be taught critically and in the context of the times, but we cannot selectively erase offensive history, if we do, we will be left with nothing to read or learn from our past.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

OTD in History June 17–19, 1856, the first Republican Convention nominates John C Frémont for president

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

OTD in History June 17–19, 1856, the first Republican Convention nominates John C Frémont for president

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history June 17–19, 1856, the first Republican Party convention convenes at the Musical Fund Hall, Philadelphia nominating John C. Frémont (California) for president and William L. Dayton (New Jersey) for vice-president on the second ballot. The Republican Party emerged after the Whig Party crumbled over the issue of expanding slavery in the new territories in 1854 creating an anti-slavery platform. At the 1856 convention, Abraham Lincoln unsuccessfully sought the vice-presidential nomination only to lose the ballot.

The 1856 campaign had a backdrop of the violence not seen in a peacetime, with Bleeding Kansas and Bleeding Sumner, the canning of Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner after his “harlot slavery” speech by Congressman Preston S. Brooks on the Senate floor. Frémont would go to battle in the election against Democrats and eventual victors James Buchanan and John Breckenridge, and former President Millard Fillmore with Andrew Donelson on the Whig- American Party tickets. Four years, later Lincoln would be the Republican Party’s nominee for presidency succeeding to take them to the White House, however, keeping their promise the Southern states seceded from the Union, leading to the Civil War.

In 1854, Democratic Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois and President Franklin Pierce devised the Kansas-Nebraska Act to open up the territories for settlement. The act, however, repealed the Missouri compromise of 1820, which created boundaries for the entry of slave and free states from the Louisiana Purchase Territory along the Mason Dixon line, keeping a balance of one slave and one free entering the union at a time. The Compromise of 1850 moved closer opening New Mexico and Utah territories to slavery.

With the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the territories would decide if they want to enter the union as free or slave states advocating the right of popular sovereignty. The act said, “When admitted as a state or states, the said territory, or any portion of the same, shall be received into the Union, with or without slavery, as their constitution may prescribe at the time of their admission.” The Whig Party could not coalesce on the issue, with the Southern Whigs supporting the act and the Northern Whigs opposing the act.

In response, anti-slavery Whigs had a number of meetings in the mid-western states to protest the Kansas-Nebraska Act. On February 28, 1854, they decided to organize a new political party, which would unite in opposing the expansion of slavery. On March 20, 1854, the alliance of Conscience Whigs, Free-Soilers, and Anti-Slavery Democrats met in Ripon, Wisconsin, met and formed the Republican Party. On July 6, at a meeting Jackson, Michigan, the Republican Party formally launched. In February 1855, the Baltimore Republicans met resolving, “There should be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except for the punishment of crime, in any of the Territories of the United States.”

The chairmen opened the first Republican nominating convention telling the delegates, “You are here today to give a direction to a movement which is to decide whether the people of the United States are to be hereafter and forever chained to the present national policy of the extension of slavery.” The first Republican convention featured 600 delegates primarily representing the Northern and Border States (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, and District of Columbia). The convention treated the Kansas territory as a full state with full voting privileges.

When Salmon P. Chase of Ohio and William H. Seward of New York withdrew their names prior to the vote, explorer and former California Senator John C. Frémont became the front-runner for the presidential nomination, securing it on the second ballot. Lincoln tried for the Vice Presidential candidacy against William L. Dayton, a former senator from New Jersey, who opposed the Compromise of 1850, who ended up capturing the nomination; Lincoln was second place in the voting.

Bleeding Kansas, the violence between free soil and slave supporting settlers in Kansas was a major campaign issue. The Republican’s first party platform advocated “Congress to prohibit in the Territories those twin relics of barbarism — Polygamy and Slavery.” They wanted to repeal of Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Fugitive Slave Act, and abolish slavery in the District of Columbia

The party demanded the immediate admission of Kansas into the Union as a free state, opposed the extension of slavery into the territories. The Republicans used the campaign slogans, “Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Speech, Free Men, and Frémont,” and “Fremont and Freedom, Principles NOT Party.”

Republicans faced a disadvantage with donations and only appearing on the ballot of four border-states and not at all in the deep Southern slave states. Democrats charged them as “Black Republicans,” and threatened to secede from the Union if they are elected. Robert Toombs expressed, “The election of Fremont would be the end of the Union, and ought to be.” Governor Henry Wise of Virginia declared privately, “If Frémont is elected there will be a revolution,” and publicly prepared the militia. (McPherson, 159)

Historian James M. McPherson in his epic on the Civil War “Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era” wrote, “The campaign generated a fervor unprecedented in American politics…. The turnout of eligible voters in the North was an extraordinary 83 percent… While this passion mobilized a large Republican vote, it deepened the foreboding that drove many ex-Whigs to vote for Buchanan or Fillmore.” (McPherson, 159–161) Fremont would win 11 out of the 16 Northern states in the November election.

Fremont’s trailblazing campaign in the middle of an increasingly divided nation would set the stage for Lincoln’s successful Republican run in 1860. As John Bicknell in his book “Lincoln’s Pathfinder: John C. Frémont and the Violent Election of 1856” argues, “But in 1856, the Pathfinder who had made his fame following in the footsteps of others would, after all, blaze a trail. His campaign unique in the annals of politics to that time showed the way to victory for another candidate, a man less reticent personally and more prepared temperamentally for the rigorous challenge of a national crisis. Where John C. Frémont led, Abraham Lincoln would follow.” In 1860, however, all the Democrats threats about secession with a Republican president would come to fruition. In no time, Southern state by state seceded, forming the Confederate States of America and launching the country to a Civil War that for once and for all solved the slavery question.

SOURCES & READ MORE

Bicknell, John. Lincoln’s Pathfinder: John C. Fremont and the Violent Election of 1856. Chicago Review Press, Incorporated, 2017.

Boller, Paul F. Presidential Campaigns: From George Washington to George W. Bush. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2004.

Gienapp, William E. The Origins of the Republican Party, 1852–1856. New York [etc.: Oxford University Press, 1987.

McPherson, James M, and David M. Kennedy. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2003.

Schlesinger, Arthur M., Fred L. Israel, and Gil Troy. History of American Presidential Elections, 1789–2008, 3-Volume Set. New York: Infobase Pub, 2011.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

OTD in History… June 16, 1858, Abraham Lincoln delivered his House Divided Speech on slavery

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

OTD in History… June 16, 1858, Abraham Lincoln delivered his House Divided Speech on slavery

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history June 16, 1858, Abraham Lincoln accepted the Illinois state Republican nomination for Senator, where he delivered his “House Divided” speech, about the future of slavery in which he declared, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” Lincoln would be facing off against Democrat Stephen A. Douglas in the election. Lincoln worked on the speech for weeks, memorized it, and delivered his half-hour message to the Republican State Convention in Springfield, Illinois. Lincoln used the gospels “a house divided” theme to emphasize the breaking point that slavery was sending the country.

Lincoln believed that Douglas’ 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act, allowing the territories to decide whether they would be slave or free and the Supreme Court’s 1857 Dred Scott decision protecting Southern slave owners bringing their slaves in Free states, as pushing that slavery would be accepted throughout the nation. Lincoln would lose against Douglas in round one but would go on to win the presidency in 1860. His House Divided speech’s doomsday view did not foreshadow, however, that in two years slavery would not expand but the slave states succeed pushing the nation to Civil War, with the Union on the line.

Lincoln faced a tough battle to win, at that point the state legislature voted for Senators, and the public only voted for their legislators. Republicans were also grateful to Douglas, while Republican journalist Horace Greeley advocated in his New York Tribune that Republicans vote for Douglas rather than Lincoln. The Republican platform at their convention “rebuffed” Douglas as historian Eric Foner noted in his book The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery; instead, “It called for barring slavery from all the territories and denounced the Dred Scott decision and the entire idea of the ‘extra-territorial operation’ of slave law.” (Foner, 99)

The “House Divided” speech is considered one of Lincoln’s best and most historically memorable along with the Gettysburg and his second inaugural addresses. He was warning the Republicans against compliance regarding the expansion of slavery, arguing the status quo could not “stand,” and that the government had the power to end slavery. Lincoln’s most notable part of his speech quoted the biblical “house divided,” notably in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew. Lincoln, however, was not the first American politician to use the line to describe the danger slavery posed to the Union, Texas Senator Sam Houston used a similar line “A nation divided against itself cannot stand,” when debating the Compromise of 1850 regarding slavery in the newly acquired territories during the Mexican-American War.

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery, will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the states, old as well as new — North as well as South. Have we no tendency to the latter condition? Let any one who doubts, carefully contemplate that now almost complete legal combination — piece of machinery so to speak — compounded of the Nebraska doctrine, and the Dred Scott decision.”

Lincoln divided his speech into three parts. The first was the “House Divided” introduction on the meaning of Republicanism in opposition to slavery and its expansion. The second section was the proslavery conspiracy facilitated by the courts and government but mostly his opponent Douglas. The third and last section was the “living dog” one, where Lincoln refuted that Douglas was an antislavery leader because he opposed and voted with Republicans against the Lecompton Constitution that would have made Kansas a slave state.

Lincoln argued that all three branches of government were pushing back the divisions between slave and free states that have been instituted since the American Revolution and that the compromises that have kept the country balanced were destroyed by Douglas’ act. While the Supreme Court was invading in the Free State’s laws outlawing slavery, Lincoln believed that popular sovereignty and the Dred Scott decision would allow slavery to expand. As historian Don E. Fehrenbacher indicated in his book, Prelude to Greatness: Lincoln in the 1850’s, Lincoln regarded the territorial problem as just the point of contact in a larger and more fundamental mental struggle.” (Fehrenbacher, 78) The larger picture was not just how slavery was dealt with in new territories and states, but as Lincoln later said in a March 1, 1859 speech, “this whole matter of right or wrong of slavery in the Union.” (Fehrenbacher, 78)

In the second section, Lincoln looked at the two events, the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Dred Scott decision as a conspiracy to expand slavery; although they did not come to fruition in the spring of 1858, they seemed a possibility. Lincoln blamed Douglas, Presidents Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan, and Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney as conspiring together. While historian David H. Donald indicates in his book Lincoln, the second section was “designed to show that Douglas was part of a dangerous plot to nationalize slavery.” (Donald, 207)

As Fehrenbacher analyzes Lincoln was “exercising the politician’s privilege of overstating his case.” Fehrenbacher believes that Lincoln agreed his assertion could not be proved; however, “popular sovereignty” made the “nationalization of slavery” a possibility. Donald, however, argues, “Lincoln probably genuinely believed in this alleged proslavery conspiracy among Northern Democratic leaders because he so totally distrusted Douglas…. But his charge of conspiracy was not based on fact.” (Donald, 208) Foner indicated that the conspiracy “had become standard fare among Republican circles.” (Foner, 101) To Fehrenbacher there is a distinct connection between the house divided passage and the conspiracy in Lincoln’s address, “Just as the first step towards the ultimate extinction of slavery was the thwarting of efforts to extend it, so the first step towards nationalization of slavery was the blunting the moral opposition to it.” (81)

Lincoln argued that the country could go either way, but a vote for Douglas because of his advocacy of popular sovereignty would push the country towards morally accepting slavery. As Lincoln pointed out, “Auxiliary to all this, and working hand in hand with it, the Nebraska doctrine, or what is left of it, is to educate and mould public opinion, at least Northern public opinion, to not care whether slavery is voted down or voted up.” Lincoln would continue to use the image as Douglas complicit in the “proslavery conspiracy” as he ran for president against him in 1859 and 1860.

In the third section of his speech, where he claimed, “a living dog is better than a dead lion.” Lincoln warned Republicans against viewing Douglas as an anti-Slavery leader, telling them, “Clearly, he is not now with us — he does not pretend to be — he does not promise to ever be. Our cause, then, must be intrusted to, and conducted by its own undoubted friends — those whose hands are free, whose hearts are in the work — who do care for the result.”

Fehrenbacher argues the “immediate purpose” of the “House Divided” Speech was “A matter of practical politics it was an attempt to minimize the significance and impact of Douglas’s anti-Lecompton heroics and to demonstrate the folly of diluting Republican convictions with the watery futility of popular sovereignty-in short to vindicate the nomination of the Republican candidate for the Senate in Illinois.” (Fehrenbacher, 83) Donald seemed to have concurred that Douglas was the enemy, concluding, “Thus the three sections of Lincoln’s house-divided speech had the inevitability of a syllogism: the tendency to nationalize slavery had to be defeated, Stephen A. Douglas powerfully contributed to that tendency. Therefore, Stephen A. Douglas had to be defeated.” (Donald, 209) Foner agreed but focuses just on slavery, writing, “Lincoln’s point in the House Divided Speech was not the imminence of civil war but that Illinois voters, and all Americans, must choose between supporting and opposing slavery.” (Foner, 100)

The speech made Lincoln appear as a “radical,” to both his party and to Douglas, who used it against Lincoln, accusing him of being a fanatic that would advocate racial equality. The two candidates would go on to debate three times during the campaign known as Lincoln-Douglas Debates. In the end, the Democratic majority in the state legislature worked in Douglas’s favor garnering him 54 to 46 votes, however, Lincoln would use his speech and campaign to launch himself on the national stage. In 1860, he would beat Douglas this time in the presidential campaign. Lincoln’s foreshadowing would come to fruition, just not as he argued it would. The nation, the “house divided against itself cannot stand,” and did not as the Southern slave states seceded from the Union upon Lincoln’s election, launching the country into a civil war that finally put an end to the slavery question, with the country entirely free of slavery.

SOURCES

Donald, David H. Lincoln. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1996.

Fehrenbacher, Don E. Prelude to Greatness: Lincoln in the 1850’s. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 1962.

Foner, Eric. The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery. New York: W.W. Norton, 2012.

Lincoln, Abraham, Henry L. Gates, and Donald Yacovone. Lincoln on Race & Slavery. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

House Divided Speech

Springfield, Illinois, June 16, 1858


Even Lincoln’s friends regarded the speech as too radical for the occasion. His law partner, William H. Herndon, considered Lincoln as morally courageous but politically incorrect. Lincoln read the speech to him before delivering it, referring to the “house divided” language this way: “The proposition is indisputably true … and I will deliver it as written. I want to use some universally known figure, expressed in simple language as universally known, that it may strike home to the minds of men in order to rouse them to the peril of the times.”
On June 16, 1858 more than 1,000 delegates met in the Springfield, Illinois, statehouse for the Republican State Convention. At 5:00 p.m. they chose Abraham Lincoln as their candidate for the U.S. Senate, running against Democrat Stephen A. Douglas. At 8:00 p.m. Lincoln delivered this address to his Republican colleagues in the Hall of Representatives. The title reflects part of the speech’s introduction, “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” a concept familiar to Lincoln’s audience as a statement by Jesus recorded in all three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke).

The speech created many repercussions, giving Lincoln’s political opponent fresh ammunition. Herndon remarked, “when I saw Senator Douglas making such headway against Mr. Lincoln’s house divided speech I was nettled & irritable, and said to Mr. Lincoln one day this — ‘Mr. Lincoln — why in the world do you not say to Mr. Douglas, when he is making capitol out of your speech, — ‘Douglas why whine and complain to me because of that speech. I am not the author of it. God is. Go and whine and complain to Him for its revelation, and utterance.’ Mr. Lincoln looked at me one short quizzical moment, and replied ‘I can’t.'”

Reflecting on it several years later, Herndon said the speech did awaken the people, and despite Lincoln’s defeat, he thought the speech made him President. “Through logic inductively seen,” he said, “Lincoln as a statesman, and political philosopher, announced an eternal truth — not only as broad as America, but covers the world.”

Another colleague, Leonard Swett, said the speech defeated Lincoln in the Senate campaign. In 1866 he wrote to Herndon complaining, “Nothing could have been more unfortunate or inappropriate; it was saying first the wrong thing, yet he saw it was an abstract truth, but standing by the speech would ultimately find him in the right place.”

Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Convention.

If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and howto do it.

We are now far into the fifth year, since a policy was initiated, with the avowed object, and confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation.

Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only, not ceased, but has constantly augmented.

In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed.

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.

I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.

It will become all one thing or all the other.

Either the opponents of slavery, will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.

Have we no tendency to the latter condition?

Let any one who doubts, carefully contemplate that now almost complete legal combination — piece of machineryso to speak — compounded of the Nebraska doctrine, and the Dred Scott decision. Let him consider not only whatwork the machinery is adapted to do, and how well adapted; but also, let him study the history of its construction, and trace, if he can, or rather fail, if he can, to trace the evidence of design and concert of action, among its chief architects, from the beginning.

But, so far, Congress only, had acted; and an indorsement by the people, real or apparent, was indispensable, to save the point already gained, and give chance for more.

The new year of 1854 found slavery excluded from more than half the States by State Constitutions, and from most of the national territory by congressional prohibition.

Four days later, commenced the struggle, which ended in repealing that congressional prohibition.

This opened all the national territory to slavery, and was the first point gained.

This necessity had not been overlooked; but had been provided for, as well as might be, in the notable argument of “squatter sovereignty,” otherwise called “sacred right of self government,” which latter phrase, though expressive of the only rightful basis of any government, was so perverted in this attempted use of it as to amount to just this: That if any one man, choose to enslave another, no third man shall be allowed to object.

That argument was incorporated into the Nebraska bill itself, in the language which follows: “It being the true intent and meaning of this act not to legislate slavery into any Territory or state, not to exclude it therefrom; but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States.”

Then opened the roar of loose declamation in favor of “Squatter Sovereignty,” and “Sacred right of self-government.”

“But,” said opposition members, “let us be more specific — let us amend the bill so as to expressly declare that the people of the territory may exclude slavery.” “Not we,” said the friends of the measure; and down they voted the amendment.

While the Nebraska Bill was passing through congress, a law case involving the question of a negroe’s freedom, by reason of his owner having voluntarily taken him first into a free state and then a territory covered by the congressional prohibition, and held him as a slave, for a long time in each, was passing through the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Missouri; and both Nebraska bill and law suit were brought to a decision in the same month of May, 1854. The negroe’s name was “Dred Scott,” which name now designates the decision finally made in the case.

Before the then next Presidential election, the law case came to, and was argued in, the Supreme Court of the United States; but the decision of it was deferred until after the election. Still, before the election, Senator Trumbull, on the floor of the Senate, requests the leading advocate of the Nebraska bill to state his opinionwhether the people of a territory can constitutionally exclude slavery from their limits; and the latter answers: “That is a question for the Supreme Court.”

The election came. Mr. Buchanan was elected, and the indorsement, such as it was, secured. That was the second point gained. The indorsement, however, fell short of a clear popular majority by nearly four hundred thousand votes, and so, perhaps, was not overwhelmingly reliable and satisfactory.

The outgoing President, in his last annual message, as impressively as possible, echoed back upon the people the weight and authority of the indorsement.

The Supreme Court met again; did not announce their decision, but ordered a re-argument.

The Presidential inauguration came, and still no decision of the court; but the incoming President, in his inaugural address, fervently exhorted the people to abide by the forthcoming decision, whatever might be.

Then, in a few days, came the decision.

The reputed author of the Nebraska Bill finds an early occasion to make a speech at this capital indorsing the Dred Scott Decision, and vehemently denouncing all opposition to it.

The new President, too, seizes the early occasion of the Silliman letter to indorse and strongly construe that decision, and to express his astonishment that any different view had ever been entertained.

At length a squabble springs up between the President and the author of the Nebraska Bill, on the mere question of fact, whether the Lecompton constitution was or was not, in any just sense, made by the people of Kansas; and in that squabble the latter declares that all he wants is a fair vote for the people, and that he cares not whether slavery be voted down or voted up. I do not understand his declaration that he cares not whether slavery be voted down or voted up, to be intended by him other than as an apt definition of the policy he would impress upon the public mind — the principle for which he declares he has suffered much, and is ready to suffer to the end.

And well may he cling to that principle. If he has any parental feeling, well may he cling to it. That principle, is the only shred left of his original Nebraska doctrine. Under the Dred Scott decision, “squatter sovereignty” squatted out of existence, tumbled down like temporary scaffolding — like the mould at the foundry served through one blast and fell back into loose sand — helped to carry an election, and then was kicked to the winds. His late jointstruggle with the Republicans, against the Lecompton Constitution, involves nothing of the original Nebraska doctrine. That struggle was made on a point, the right of a people to make their own constitution, upon which he and the Republicans have never differed.

The several points of the Dred Scott decision, in connection with Senator Douglas’ “care-not” policy, constitute the piece of machinery, in its present state of advancement. This was the third point gained.

\ The working points of that machinery are:

First, that no negro slave, imported as such from Africa, and no descendant of such slave can ever be a citizen of any State, in the sense of that term as used in the Constitution of the United States.

This point is made in order to deprive the negro, in every possible event, of the benefit of this provision of the United States Constitution, which declares that–

“The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States.”

Secondly, that “subject to the Constitution of the United States,” neither Congress nor a Territorial Legislaturecan exclude slavery from any United States Territory.

This point is made in order that individual men may fill up the territories with slaves, without danger of losing them as property, and thus to enhance the chances of permanency to the institution through all the future.

Thirdly, that whether the holding a negro in actual slavery in a free State, makes him free, as against the holder, the United States courts will not decide, but will leave to be decided by the courts of any slave State the negro may be forced into by the master.

This point is made, not to be pressed immediately; but, if acquiesced in for a while, and apparently indorsed by the people at an election, then to sustain the logical conclusion that what Dred Scott’s master might lawfully do with Dred Scott, in the free State of Illinois, every other master may lawfully do with any other one, or one thousand slaves, in Illinois, or in any other free State.

Auxiliary to all this, and working hand in hand with it, the Nebraska doctrine, or what is left of it, is to educate and mould public opinion, at least Northern public opinion, to not care whether slavery is voted down or voted up.

This shows exactly where we now are; and partially, also, whither we are tending.

It will throw additional light on the latter, to go back, and run the mind over the string of historical facts already stated. Several things will now appear less dark and mysterious than they did when they were transpiring. The people were to be left “perfectly free” “subject only to the Constitution.” What the Constitution had to do with it, outsiders could not then see. Plainly enough now, it was an exactly fitted niche, for the Dred Scott decision to afterward come in, and declare the perfect freedom of the people, to be just no freedom at all.

Why was the amendment, expressly declaring the right of the people to exclude slavery, voted down? Plainly enough now, the adoption of it would have spoiled the niche for the Dred Scott decision.

Why was the court decision held up? Why even a Senator’s individual opinion withheld, till after the presidential election? Plainly enough now, the speaking out then would have damaged the “perfectly free” argument upon which the election was to be carried.

Why the outgoing President’s felicitation on the indorsement? Why the delay of a reargument? Why the incoming President’s advance exhortation in favor of the decision?

These things look like the cautious patting and petting of a spirited horse, preparatory to mounting him, when it is dreaded that he may give the rider a fall.

And why the hasty after indorsements of the decision by the President and others?

We can not absolutely know that all these exact adaptations are the result of preconcert. But when we see a lot of framed timbers, different portions of which we know have been gotten out at different times and places and by different workmen — Stephen, Franklin, Roger, and James, for instance — and when we see these timbers joined together, and see they exactly make the frame of a house or a mill, all the tenons and mortices exactly fitting, and all the lengths and proportions of the different pieces exactly adapted to their respective places, and not a piece too many or too few — not omitting even scaffolding — or, if a single piece be lacking, we can see the place in the frame exactly fitted and prepared to yet bring such piece in — in such a case, we find it impossible not to believe that Stephen and Franklin and Roger and James all understood one another from the beginning, and all worked upon a common plan or draft drawn up before the first lick was struck.

It should not be overlooked that, by the Nebraska Bill, the people of a State, as well as Territory, were to be left “perfectly free” “subject only to the Constitution.

Why mention a State? They were legislating for territories, and not for or about States. Certainly the people of a State are and ought to be subject to the Constitution of the United States; but why is mention of this lugged into this merely territorial law? Why are the people of a territory and the people of a state therein lumped together, and their relation to the Constitution therein treated as being precisely the same?

While the opinion of the Court, by Chief Justice Taney, in the Dred Scott case, and the separate opinions of all the concurring Judges, expressly declare that the Constitution of the United States neither permits Congress nor a Territorial legislature to exclude slavery from any United States territory, they all omit to declare whether or not the same Constitution permits a state, or the people of a State, to exclude it.

Possibly, this is a mere omission; but who can be quite sure, if McLean or Curtis had sought to get into the opinion a declaration of unlimited power in the people of a state to exclude slavery from their limits, just as Chase and Macy sought to get such declaration, in behalf of the people of a territory, into the Nebraska bill — I ask, who can be quite sure that it would not have been voted down, in the one case, as it had been in the other.

The nearest approach to the point of declaring the power of a State over slavery, is made by Judge Nelson. He approaches it more than once, using the precise idea, and almost the language too, of the Nebraska act. On one occasion his exact language is, “except in cases where the power is restrained by the Constitution of the United States, the law of the State is supreme over the subject of slavery within its jurisdiction.”

In what cases the power of the states is so restrained by the U.S. Constitution, is left an open question, precisely as the same question, as to the restraint on the power of the territories was left open in the Nebraska act. Put thatand that together, and we have another nice little niche, which we may, ere long, see filled with another Supreme Court decision, declaring that the Constitution of the United States does not permit a state to exclude slavery from its limits.

And this may especially be expected if the doctrine of “care not whether slavery be voted down or voted up, shall gain upon the public mind sufficiently to give promise that such a decision an be maintained when made.

Such a decision is all that slavery now lacks of being alike lawful in all the States.

Welcome, or unwelcome, such decision is probably coming, and will soon be upon us, unless the power of the present political dynasty shall be met and overthrown.

We shall lie down pleasantly dreaming that the people of Missouri are on the verge of making their State free; and we shall awake to the reality, instead, that the Supreme Court has made Illinois a slave State.

To meet and overthrow the power of that dynasty, is the work now before all those who would prevent that consummation.

This is what we have to do.

But how can we best do it?

There are those who denounce us openly to their own friends, and yet whisper us softly, that Senator Douglas is the aptest instrument there is, with which to effect that object. They wish us to infer all, from the facts, that he now has a little quarrel with the present head of the dynasty; and that he has regularly voted with us, on a single point, upon which, he and we, have never differed.

They remind us that he is a great man, and that the largest of us are very small ones. Let this be granted. But “a living dog is better than a dead lion.” Judge Douglas, if not a dead lion for this work, is at least a caged and toothless one. How can he oppose the advances of slavery? He don’t care anything about it. His avowed mission is impressing the “public heart” to care nothing about it.

A leading Douglas Democratic newspaper thinks Douglas’ superior talent will be needed to resist the revival of the African slave trade.

Does Douglas believe an effort to revive that trade is approaching? He has not said so. Does he really think so? But if it is, how can he resist it? For years he has labored to prove it a sacred right of white men to take negro slaves into the new territories. Can he possibly show that it is less a sacred right to buy them where they can be bought cheapest? And, unquestionably they can be bought cheaper in Africa than in Virginia.

He has done all in his power to reduce the whole question of slavery to one of a mere right of property; and as such, how can he oppose the foreign slave trade — how can he refuse that trade in that “property” shall be “perfectly free” — unless he does it as a protection to the home production? And as the home producers will probably not ask the protection, he will be wholly without a ground of opposition.

Senator Douglas holds, we know, that a man may rightfully be wiser to-day than he was yesterday — that he may rightfully change when he finds himself wrong.

But can we, for that reason, run ahead, and infer that he will make any particular change, of which he, himself, has given no intimation? Can we safely base our action upon any such vague inference?

Now, as ever, I wish not to misrepresent Judge Douglas’ position, question his motives, or do ought that can be personally offensive to him.

Whenever, if ever, he and we can come together on principle so that our great cause may have assistance from his great ability, I hope to have interposed no adventitious obstacle.

But clearly, he is not now with us — he does not pretend to be — he does not promise to ever be.

Our cause, then, must be intrusted to, and conducted by its own undoubted friends — those whose hands are free, whose hearts are in the work — who do care for the result.

Two years ago the Republicans of the nation mustered over thirteen hundred thousand strong.

We did this under the single impulse of resistance to a common danger, with every external circumstance against us.

Of strange, discordant, and even, hostile elements, we gathered from the four winds, and formed and fought the battle through, under the constant hot fire of a disciplined, proud, and pampered enemy.

Did we brave all then to falter now? — now — when that same enemy is wavering, dissevered and belligerent?

The result is not doubtful. We shall not fail — if we stand firm, we shall not fail.

Wise councils may accelerate or mistakes delay it, but, sooner or later the victory is sure to come.

History Buzz November 19, 2013: Abraham Lincoln’s ‘Gettysburg Address’ on the 150th Anniversary – Full Text

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

Abraham Lincoln’s ‘Gettysburg Address’ on the 150th Anniversary — Full Text

Source: ABC News, 11-19-13

PHOTO: Abraham Lincoln (1809 - 1865), the 16th President of the United States of America.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

— Abraham Lincoln

Nov. 19, 1863

History Buzz July 1, 2013: The Battle of Gettysburg – 150 years later

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

The Battle of Gettysburg150 years later

Source: CBS News, 7-1-13

The Civil War was the first conflict to be documented on film and early photographers captured thousands of images of the tragedies of war….READ MORE

History Buzz March 5, 2012: James McPherson: Returns to Gustavus College as Civil War Sesquicentennial Scholar

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

James McPherson: Returns to Gustavus as Sesquicentennial Scholar

Source: Gustavus News, 3-5-12

James McPherson

Sesquicentennial Scholar and 1958 Gustavus alumnus James McPhersonGustavus alumnus, Civil War historian, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author James McPherson ‘58 will return to his alma mater April 15-17 as a Sesquicentennial Scholar.

Besides visiting several History Department classes during his visit to campus, McPherson will speak publicly during the College’s Monday, April 16, daily chapel service at 10 a.m. in Christ Chapel. His talk will be titled “Two Sesquicentennials: New Beginnings” and will address how the founding of Gustavus provided leadership for a people making a new beginning in a new country and compare it to the new beginnings for Americans – black and white, Northern and Southern – generated by the Civil War. Following his talk in Christ Chapel, McPherson will sign books in the President’s Dining Room in the C. Charles Jackson Campus Center from 10:30-1130 a.m. McPherson’s chapel talk will be live-streamed on the Gustavus website. Both the chapel talk and book signing are free and open to the public.

On Tuesday, April 17, McPherson will speak at Interlachen Country Club in Edina at an event that is also open to the public. McPherson’s lecture will be titled “Why the Civil War Still Matters” and will address the ways in which the war’s impact on America is still being felt today. Those interested in attending this event, which will include a reception at 4:30 p.m., McPherson’s lecture at 5 p.m., and a book signing at 6 p.m., should RSVP by going online to gustavus.edu/go/mcpherson, or by contacting the Gustavus Office of Alumni Relations at 507-933-7511….

For more information about McPherson’s visit to Minnesota as Gustavus Adolphus College’s Sesquicentennial Scholar, go online to gustavus.edu/go/mcpherson or contact Gustavus Professor of History Greg Kaster at gkaster@gustavus.edu.

History Buzz January 26, 2012: Huntington Library acquires trove of Lincoln, Civil War telegrams, codes

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

Huntington acquires trove of Lincoln, Civil War telegrams, codes

The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens purchases a collection of telegrams from Abraham Lincoln and Union generals, plus code books.

Source: LAT, 1-26-12

A long-unknown, 150-year-old trove of handwritten ledgers and calfskin-covered code books that give a potentially revelatory glimpse into both the dawn of electronic battlefield communications and the day-to-day exchanges between Abraham Lincoln and his generals as they fought the Civil War now belongs to the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens.

The collection, acquired in a private sale on Saturday and disclosed Wednesday, includes 40 cardboard-covered albums of messages that telegraph operators wrote down either before sending them in Morse code, or transcribed from telegraphic dots and dashes at the receiving end. There are also small, wallet-like booklets containing the key to code words Union commanders used to make sure their messages would remain unfathomable if intercepted by the Confederates.

“This opens up some new windows that we haven’t really been able to look at. It’s a major find,” said James M. McPherson, a Princeton University historian who won the Pulitzer Prize for his 1988 study “Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era.” Had it been available while he was researching his 2008 book, “Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief,” McPherson said, “it would have enriched my own work.”

PHOTOS: Lincoln treasure trove

“Anyone doing research on the Union war effort and the communication between the nerve center and field operations would now go to the Huntington to look at all this,” he added, and it also could be important for students of communications technology and cryptographic codes.

The cardboard-covered telegraphic ledgers of up to 400 pages had been stowed away by Thomas Eckert (1825-1910), a pioneering telegraph operator who ran the U.S. military‘s telegraph office at the War Department in Washington, D.C., from 1863 to 1867. The collection also includes ledgers from 1862, when Eckert served as telegraph chief for Gen. George McClellan’s Army of the Potomac.

The Eckert collection’s existence wasn’t known to historians and archivists until December 2009, when an owner who’d bought it from Eckert’s descendants put the documents — 76 books in all — up for auction in New York City. The collection sold for $36,000, including a buyer’s premium, according to a record of the sale on the website of the Bonhams & Butterfields auction house.

Huntington officials said the library’s collectors’ council committed funds on Saturday to buy the Eckert collection from a dealer in White Plains, N.Y., adding to substantial Civil War holdings that include the world’s third-largest archive of Lincoln’s documents, behind only the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, Ill. The Huntington declined to give the purchase price….READ MORE

History Buzz January 25, 2012: James Davis: Civil War lecture to be history professor’s last at Illinois College

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

Civil War lecture to be history professor’s last at IC

Source: Jacksonville Journal-Courier, 1-25-12

Illinois College invites the community to attend a presentation on how Illinois College and the Jacksonville community were involved in the Civil War.

Historian and Illinois College Professor Emeritus of History James Davis will be speaking on the subject 7 p.m. Wednesday in Room 6 of the Kirby Learning Center. This will be the last chance to attend a lecture by the retired professor before he moves to Michigan this spring.

The program is free and will feature the activities and events associated with the Civil War along with subtopics that include life in the town and college during the war, roles played by Jacksonville and IC during the war, and the impact of the war on the community and nation.

Davis specializes in 19th century American history and has authored three books, including “Frontier Illinois and Dreams to Dust,” which was nominated for four awards including the Parkman Award and the Bancroft Prize.

As a faculty member since 1971, Davis was the first to earn the Harry Joy Dunbaugh Distinguished Professor Award twice (1981 and 1993) and has taken students to do research in places like the Library of Congress and the National Archives. He has also taken students on trips to the Soviet Union, France and other countries, as well as to Civil War battlefields.

During his time at IC, Davis has received a number of grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities including three grants to direct Summer Seminars at the college on the American frontier for teachers from all over the country and two grants to study Russian art and architecture in Russia.

History Buzz December 9, 2011: George C. Rable: On Civil War’s 150th anniversary, historian reflects on religion’s role

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

HISTORY BOOK NEWS — Sesquicentennial Update: Civil War at 150

George C. Rable: On Civil War’s 150th anniversary, historian reflects on religion’s role

Source: Catholic News Agency, 12-9-11

Religion had a “pervasive” role in American life at the time of the United States’ Civil War, one historian says, explaining his “fascinating” discoveries about the roles Catholics played.

“One of the things that surprised me was that there were certain dominant ideas, regardless of particular religious affiliation. Ideas about providence, ideas about sin, ideas about judgment. Those were common themes that crossed religious traditions,” George C. Rable, a history professor at the University of Alabama, told CNA on Dec. 7.

“Religion was absolutely pervasive when Americans tried to explain the causes, and the course, and the consequences of the Civil War.”

The year 2011 marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War, which lasted from 1861 to 1865.

The conflict remains a central event in American history. It preserved the union of the states and emancipated the slaves, both actions which Christians saw at the time as providential.

Differences about slavery and whether it was a divinely inspired institution helped divide the Protestant churches before and during the war. Some contemporary Catholic observers saw these divisions as a religious fault.

Prof. Rable, author of the 2010 book “God’s Almost Chosen Peoples: A Religious History of the American Civil War” (Univ. of North Carolina Press, $35), read many northern Catholic newspapers from the period for his research.

“One argument that they make is that essentially Protestantism caused the war. You might say that that is a peculiar idea, but their point was that Protestants are inherently divisive and schismatic. Had the nation been entirely Catholic, they said, the nation would never have divided.”…READ MORE

Robert Korstand: Black leaders to speak at Furman University forum on Civil War and civil rights

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

Source: Greenville Online, 7-24-11

U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, civil rights activist Cleveland Sellers and Isabel Wilkerson, the first black woman to win a Pulitzer Prize, will speak during a Furman University series on the Civil War and civil rights that will run from Tuesday until Aug. 16.

John W. McCardell Jr. will discuss “The Legacy of the Civil War: What about the War is Worth Remembering.”

A talk titled “Fighting Jim Crow in the Day-to-Day Life of Black Southerners” will be presented by Robert Korstand, a professor of public policy and history at Duke University.

Clyburn and Sellers will be on a panel for “Traveling the Road to Civil Rights.”

On Aug. 16, Furman University President Rodney A. Smolla will discuss “The Evolving Meaning of ‘Civil Rights’ in Contemporary America.”

Wilkerson, who just published her book “The Warmth of Other Suns,” will be involved in a panel titled “Moving Forward on the Path of Equality in South Carolina.”

Smolla said recently that he planned to increase the number of minority students at Furman and that some of those results would begin showing up in this fall’s class. He also said he planned to increase the number of scholarships to minorities.

Also on Aug. 16, a panel on “Equal Justice and Opportunity” will be held.

Historian A.V. Huff, professor emeritus of history at Furman, will host the program, a university spokeswoman said.

The summer series is co-sponsored by Furman’s Riley Institute and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Furman.

Each session will be held on a Tuesday at the Younts Conference Center on the university’s campus and they are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m.

For information, call 864-294-2998.

Josh Howard: North Carolina Civil War history might need a rewrite

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

Source: NC News & Observer, 7-22-11

Josh Howard’s work as a research historian at N.C. Archives and History debunks two cherished myths about the Civil War.

For more than a century, North Carolina clung to a pair of Civil War distinctions thought sacred: It sent the first Confederate killed in battle, and it sacrificed 40,275 men – the most in the South.

Only part of that may still be true.

On the 150th anniversary of the war’s first shots, a new state study pulls together the scattered, error-riddled records of North Carolina’s Civil War dead and shows the following:

A Virginia captain beat Pvt. Henry Lawson Wyatt, a 19-year-old from Tarboro, to the grave by nine days;

North Carolina’s casualty list is actually closer to 32,000, possibly 35,000 if you count those still missing from the records and lumped into the “probable” category. Whether that’s the highest is unclear;

The war killed about a quarter of the state’s men of military age. More died of typhoid fever and chronic diarrhea than bullets. Some even died of spider bites and lightning strikes.

The point of the study isn’t to debunk any points of pride, said Josh Howard, the study’s author and a historian with the state Office of Archives and History. He started the study six years ago assuming the 40,275 figure was accurate.

“It’s not that we’re trying to destroy them,” he said. “Every household in North Carolina lost somebody in the war, or at least knew somebody. We as North Carolinians owe it to them to get it right, to demonstrate the huge loss the state took.”

In all likelihood, North Carolina still ranks first in fallen Confederates. If records in Raleigh are wrong, it’s a good bet the rest of the Southern states have inaccurate counts, too. Second-place Virginia, also reviewing its count, is moving much closer to North Carolina in the number of dead.

Descendants and admirers of the dead aren’t upset about the findings.

“It’s always good to get it right,” said John Huss of Raleigh, a local camp officer with the Sons of Confederate Veterans. “But we still might be first.”

Praising the dead

Turning casualties into bragging rights may sound macabre by modern standards, but Howard’s study illustrates how Southern states used the measurement of their dead as a yardstick showing who gave the most to the cause. At the end of the war, with so many dead, North Carolina needed a symbol.

Wyatt became a powerful one. Howard’s study documents the portraits hung in the state library during the 1880s, and the collectible baseball-style cards that circulated with his likeness. Even today, his bronze statue appears on the Capitol lawn,rifle at the ready.

When Virginia protested that Capt. John Q. Marr had preceded Wyatt in death, North Carolinians disputed the claim by concluding that Marr had perished in a mere skirmish while Wyatt fell at the Battle of Big Bethel.

Similarly, the Capitol grounds monument to the Confederate dead facing Hillsborough Street boasts that North Carolinians were last to leave Appomattox.

“North Carolina has always been looking for ways to claim that it is unique and it is better,” said Larry Tise, history professor at East Carolina University, “that it is first in so many things.”

Howard’s study takes it further: High fatalities didn’t inflate the egos of Southern generals after the war; they boosted state pride.

“Sacrifice equated honor,” he wrote.

But in the days after the war, as the federal government tried to tally the dead, they worked with Confederate records captured from fleeing officials, many of which were lost. Few of those counting had much enthusiasm for the job at the war’s end, and the 40,000 became accepted truth ….READ MORE

David Detzer: The Battle of Bull Run, the Civil War’s first taste of horror

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

Source: CS Monitor, 7-21-11

An interview with historian David Detzer sheds light on the Battle of Bull Run, the first battle of the US Civil War, fought on July 21, 1861.

Donnybrook

The Battle of Bull Run would be the first battle of an incredibly bloody war, a conflict that hardly anyone imagined would last very long or leave so many bereaved.

Visitors will flock to Manassas Battlefield National Park near Washington D.C. this month and contemplate the 150th anniversary of the first battle of the Civil War. Amid grassy fields and old houses, they’ll stare up at memorial statues, peer at cannons, and hear from guides about military strategy.

I made my own visit to the battlefield last month with a friend whose ancestors fought for the Confederacy and who remembered her Southern grandmother insisting on referring to the war as “The Recent Unpleasantness.” We stood and tried to imagine the First Battle of Bull Run, also known as the First Battle of Manassas.

But we couldn’t smell or see or hear the chaos: The smoke, the screams of horses and men, the booms of cannons, the crackle of trees on fire. Our imaginations only went so far.

But now I’ve gained a more detailed portrait thanks to a fine 2004 book about the first major skirmish of a war that would turn so many places – Antietam, Gettysburg, Vicksburg – into emblems of death.

“Donnybrook: The Battle of Bull Run, 1861” by David Detzer, translates the bewildering intricacies of warfare while exploring the lives of those who fought, those who sent them there and those left back at home. (The book is part of Detzer’s trilogy about the early days of the war.)

In an interview, I asked the Connecticut-based historian to talk about the nation’s lessons from the first battle of an incredibly bloody war, a conflict that hardly anyone thought would last very long or leave so many bereaved….READ MORE

Sesquicentennial Update: Great Civil War books stand out

Great Civil War books stand out as readers try to satisfy an endless fascination

Source: Cleveland Plain-Dealer, 5-29-11

Here’s a startling fact:

“Books about the Civil War have accumulated at the rate of more than a title a day since fighting erupted at Fort Sumter in April 1861,” writes historian Gary Gallagher in his introduction to a massive bibliography about the conflict.

Somewhere between 60,000 and 80,000 titles have rolled off the presses, and a reader could go broke or blind engaging with the new ones timed to mark the sesquicentennial.

“We as a nation are completely compulsive on the Civil War,” observed Jerald Podair, a professor of history and American studies at Lawrence University. “I tell my classes that bad books on the Civil War sell better than good books about just about everything else.”

The regional and internal qualities of the war, its incredible drama, its Shakespearean cast of characters and the fact that the conflict could have gone either way feed our bedrock fascination. So does a continuous tug to resolve the war’s ultimate meanings….

Experts tend to single out a few books repeatedly as the gold standard for general readers.

Here are six titles that rise:

  • “Battle Cry of Freedom” by James M. McPherson.
  • “The Civil War: A Visual History” edited by Jemima Dunne and Paula Regan.
  • “The Killer Angels” by Michael Shaara.
  • “Personal Memoirs” by Ulysses S. Grant.
  • “This Republic of Suffering” by Drew Gilpin Faust.
  • “A Stillness at Appomattox” by Bruce Catton.

Gary W. Gallagher: How the Northern view shaped the Civil War

SESQUICENTENNIAL UPDATE: CIVIL WAR AT 150

Source: Charlotte Observer, 5-22-11

Revisionist history argues that U.S. loyalists valued the Union itself more than the idea of emancipation or turning slaves into citizens

Historian Gary W. Gallagher writes that Northerners “believed victory over the slaveholders confirmed the nation….” COURTESY OF HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS

More Information

Nonfiction

The Union War
Gary W. Gallagher
Harvard University Press, 215 pages

Americans’ obsession with the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War brings to mind the Civil War Centennial celebration a half-century ago when Bruce Catton and Allan Nevins dominated Civil War scholarship. Then, as now, the Civil War stood as our nation’s defining national drama, our version of Homer’s “Iliad.” Yet the conflict’s causes and meanings often seem confused and controversial because, as Fergus W. Bordewich explained recently, “Passions and myths die hard.”

In his revisionist “The Union War,” University of Virginia historian Gary W. Gallagher argues, “Attachment to Union, more than any other factor by far, motivated loyal citizens bent on defeating the rebellion.” Gallagher insists that most white Northerners fought for the Union because they subscribed to the interconnection of liberty and Union and disdain for secession articulated by Sen. Daniel Webster in his famous speeches of 1830 and 1850.

Gallagher seeks to correct what historian David W. Blight terms the now prevalent “emancipationist” historical memory of the war. Northern citizen-soldiers fought to preserve the Union, not to end slavery or to transform chattels into citizens. While mindful of slavery’s complex and deleterious role in fomenting disunion, Gallagher emphasizes the centrality of Northerners’ devotion to the idea of the Union of their grandparents and their parents….READ MORE

Quick Overview From VA Tech Civil War Conference

Source: Times News, 5-22-11

It has been a long time since I had an early morning class. However Saturday I was up before the sun to get to the campus of Virginia Tech by 8:30 am to listen to some of the best Civil War professors in the county discuss “Military Strategy in the American Civil War”.

The event was the 2011 Signature Conference by the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission and I knew I was in the right place when I arrived because one of the first things I noticed in the parking lot was a Virginia Sesquicentennial car tag that read HQ ANV (Headquarters, Army of Northern Virginia). The next thing I noticed was the line at Cassell Coliseum. You would think the Hokies were playing.

I had many reasons I wanted to attend this conference but at the top of the list was the chance to hear James I. “Bud” Robertson, Jr. Robertson is retiring as Alumni Distinguished Professor from Tech in just a few days and his being chairman of this event is one of his last official acts at the university.

Many people know Robertson as a professor, his Civil War classes routinely have 300 students, while others would know him for his appearances on Blue Ridge Public Television or for the many Civil War books he has written.

Robertson’s book on Stonewall Jackson, one of my favorite books, won eight national awards and was used as the basis for the movie “Gods and Generals” in which he was chief historical consultant for the film. On the DVD you can select a track to listen to Robertson’s comments during the movie.

While Robertson was the first, and last, to speak he was not the only speaker in an all-star line-up of historians. Second up was Dennis Frye, the chief historian at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, with some fascinating insights into the importance of Harpers Ferry and how close the first major battle of the war came to being fought there. Richard Sommers, a teacher at the U.S. Army War College, rounded out the first session.

The second morning session covered “Military Strategy in the Eastern Theater” and feature Gary W. Gallagher, Joseph Glatthaar and Sommers. I have Gallagher’s classes from the University of Virginia on video and snacked on popcorn while watching them. Glatthaar is a distinguished professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a specialist in American Military History.

When lunch time came several folks, including myself, quickly grabbed bagged lunches provided and returned to our seats to hear the Stonewall Brigade Band perform. The band was formed in Staunton Virginia in 1855 as the “Mountain Saxhorn Band” but when war broke out they all volunteered for service and became the Stonewall Brigade Band. They are the nation’s oldest continuous community band and even have, and play occasionally, period instruments.

The first afternoon session, “Military Strategy in the Western Theater”, with Richard M. McMurry, Stephen Woodworth and William C. Davis went into what made up the western theater, the loss of Kentucky to the Union, the Mississippi River and how problems between Joseph E. Johnston and Jefferson Davis influenced Confederate plans in the west. Several of you might recognize William C. Davis from his many appearances of Blue Ridge Public Television.

The finial session was “Forgotten Elements off the Civil War” and featured a surprise in that the first speaker of this session, John M. Bowen, was not a historian but a veterinarian and equine specialist. Bowen spoke on horses in the Civil War, the difficulties of caring for them and the large number of them that were killed.

Continuing in the somewhat unusual theme of the finial session Davis detailed the influence of weather on the war and Robertson addressed the importance of water to the war effort and its effects on the troops….READ MORE

James McPherson: Princeton professor brings perspective to conflict that split nation

Sesquicentennial Update: Civil War at 150

HISTORY PROFILES:

Source: The Times of Trenton, 4-3-11

382998_2_$$ttjame00.JPGPrinceton University History Department Professor Emeritus James McPherson in his home in Princeton, March 2, 2011. (Cie Stroud for The Times)

(Editor’s note: First of three parts.) The occasion may have escaped the notice of most people, but there’s a sesquicentennial going on. That is, a 150th anniversary of — in this case — the Civil War. One hundred and fifty years ago this month Confederate troops fired on a Union-held fort in Charleston, S.C., the opening salvo in a four-year war that would claim 620,000 American soldiers’ lives and end the nation’s legal endorsement of slavery.
Considering that Princeton historian and Pulitzer prize-winning author James McPherson filled over 900 pages of his book “Battle Cry of Freedom” with the history and fallout of the Civil War, it would be folly to draw overly generalized conclusions about it here, even 150 years later. But one thing is certain, particularly for McPherson. The myths surrounding the war persist. One in particular.
“There was a myth that prevailed for a long time as a central theme among especially white southerners that slavery was not the reason that they went to war,” McPherson said during an interview at his Princeton home. “That’s an example of a big myth and it’s still circulating today.
“By this point, 98 percent of historians agree that slavery was the principal reason of the secession. Without slavery there wouldn’t have been a war.
“All one needs to do to see that slavery was the main cause of secession, and therefore of the war that followed, is to read the declarations of secession conventions, speeches to those conventions and newspaper editorials supporting secession,” he added. “They all pointed to the issue of slavery as the reason.”…READ MORE

Civil War 150: Every corner of nation was touched

Figures show how changes still felt today

Source: Scripps Howard News Service, 3-26-11

SH11A060CIVILWAR150 Jan. 12, 2011 -- Burned rail cars and gutted buildings in the center of Richmond, Va. in April 1865. At the Civil Warís end, 90 percent of the Southís rail lines had been destroyed along with most of its mills and warehouses. But 1870 census data show much of the physical damage of the war had been repaired, although the expansion of rail and industry in the North and West was much greater than in the former Confederacy. (SHNS photo courtesy Library of Congress) (civil war)SH11A060CIVILWAR150 Jan. 12, 2011 — Burned rail cars and gutted buildings in the center of Richmond, Va. in April 1865. At the Civil Warís end, 90 percent of the Southís rail lines had been destroyed along with most of its mills and warehouses. But 1870 census data show much of the physical damage of the war had been repaired, although the expansion of rail and industry in the North and West was much greater than in the former Confederacy. (SHNS photo courtesy Library of Congress) (civil war)

SH11A062CIVILWAR150 Jan. 12, 2011 -- An overview of the U.S. Capitol, its dome still under construction, during the 1861 inauguration of Abraham Lincoln as president. The political climate created by Southern secession and the Civil War put Republicans in unchallenged control of the federal government and allowed the Congress to enact many laws that impacted how the nation developed and grew over the next 150 years. (SHNS photo courtesy Library of Congress) Editors: This photo is small. (civil war)SH11A062CIVILWAR150 Jan. 12, 2011 — An overview of the U.S. Capitol, its dome still under construction, during the 1861 inauguration of Abraham Lincoln as president. The political climate created by Southern secession and the Civil War put Republicans in unchallenged control of the federal government and allowed the Congress to enact many laws that impacted how the nation developed and grew over the next 150 years. (SHNS photo courtesy Library of Congress) Editors: This photo is small. (civil war)

Contributed photo/Library of Congress Wounded soldiers on stretchers and crutches sitting outside a makeshift Union hospital are attended by a volunteer nurse in May 1964 in  Fredericksburg, Va. The Civil War was the bloodiest conflict in American history. Of some 4 million men who enlisted, at least 620,000 died — two-thirds from illness rather than combat — and several hundred thousand more were wounded, many with lost limbs.Contributed photo/Library of Congress Wounded soldiers on stretchers and crutches sitting outside a makeshift Union hospital are attended by a volunteer nurse in May 1964 in Fredericksburg, Va. The Civil War was the bloodiest conflict in American history. Of some 4 million men who enlisted, at least 620,000 died — two-thirds from illness rather than combat — and several hundred thousand more were wounded, many with lost limbs.

SH11A059CIVILWAR150 Jan. 12, 2011 -- A Virginia family fleeing fighting in 1864 sits outside their home with a wagon packed with all the belongings they could carry. Four years of Civil War displaced hundreds of thousands of people, white and black, North and South, and many had not completely resettled by the time the 1870 census was taken. (SHNS photo courtesy Library of Congress) (civil war)SH11A059CIVILWAR150 Jan. 12, 2011 — A Virginia family fleeing fighting in 1864 sits outside their home with a wagon packed with all the belongings they could carry. Four years of Civil War displaced hundreds of thousands of people, white and black, North and South, and many had not completely resettled by the time the 1870 census was taken. (SHNS photo courtesy Library of Congress) (civil war)

Although the Civil War was 150 years ago, echoes from the first shots on Fort Sumter continue to reverberate across America.

While largely considered a fight between North and South, the impact of the Civil War extended far beyond the Mason-Dixon Line.

A Scripps Howard News Service analysis of census data from 1860 and 1870 illustrates just how deeply the conflict and its aftermath touched virtually every corner of the nation, often in surprising ways.

The census figures show how the bloodiest war in America’s 235-year history not only freed 4 million people held as slaves and ended the Confederate insurrection, but in many ways defined the nation that exists today.

In the war years (1861-1865) and after, Congress established national policies affecting education, financial institutions, trade and transportation as well as civil rights that shaped national development and identity.

“The government expanded the economy very fast with the war, but the government itself also grew and became more activist in many areas,” said Heather Cox Richardson, a Civil War historian at the University of Massachusetts, Andover. “In many respects, there was this release of energy across the country that had been held back by the slavery question.”

The 1860 census statistics underscore what schoolrooms have long taught: 23 Union states with two-thirds of the population and most of the manufacturing capacity held a distinct advantage over the 11 Confederate states that were largely rural and agricultural.

The South in 1860 had about 18,000 manufacturing establishments employing roughly 100,000 people; the Union had 110,000 factories with more than 1.2 million workers.

The South’s agricultural wealth was substantial, but still less than the North’s. Southern farmland was worth more than $2 billion out of $6 billion for the whole nation. The value of people held as property was estimated at $2 billion to $3 billion.

After four years of fighting mostly in the South, two-thirds of the Confederacy’s ships and riverboats were destroyed, along with 90 percent of the region’s rail lines and thousands of bridges, mills and shops.

Out of some 4 million who enlisted, at least 620,000 Union and Confederate soldiers and sailors died more than twice as many due to sickness than in battle. About one in five white men in the South died during the war, changing social dynamics from marriage prospects for women to management practices on farms.

Yet the 1870 census also shows that, in some respects, the devastation of the war was quickly being reversed. In every Southern state but Virginia, there were more manufacturing establishments employing more people and producing material of greater cash value than before the war, although the growth was far behind that seen in the North and West.

“You know how Scarlett O’Hara goes into the sawmill or lumber business after the war in Gone with the Wind? There’s a good bit of truth in that fiction,” said William Blair, a professor and director of the George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center at Pennsylvania State University. “A lot of whites did try to diversify beyond the plantation into manufacturing, mining and timber.”

There were thousands more farms across the South after the war, mainly homesteads claimed by former slaves from abandoned or government-seized plantations. In the next decades, the number of farms would decline again as white owners reclaimed land and tenant farming or sharecropping became an agricultural norm that would last into the 20th century. Because of the changed status of the slaves and because the prices of the region’s major cash crop of cotton were in long-term decline, the cash value of farms in Southern states was half or even a quarter of what it had been in 1860…READ MORE

David Blight: American historian discusses Civil War’s 150th anniversary

Source: WMU News, 3-10-11

The sesquicentennial of the Civil War and its implications for American history are topics of a free lecture at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 22, in the Fetzer Center Auditorium on the campus of Western Michigan University.

Photo of Dr. David Blight.American historian Dr. David Blight will deliver the annual H. Nicholas Hamner Lecture. He is professor of American history at Yale University and director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition.

Blight is the award-winning author of “A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including their Narratives of Emancipation” and “Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory.” He also has written, edited and co-edited numerous other published works. His current projects include writing a book on the anticipation of the 2011-15 Civil War sesquicentennial that is rooted in the work of Robert Penn Warren and compares the 100th anniversary of America’s most pivotal event to its 150th. He has begun work on a new, full biography of Frederick Douglass that will be published by Simon and Schuster by 2013….READ MORE

Rhodes College Acquires Shelby Foote’s Personal Papers and Library

Source: Monsters & Critics, 3-4-11

Shelby Foote’s ties to Rhodes College were strong.  They are evident in the 1982 honorary degree that he received from Rhodes, the notes of the lectures he gave at the college in 1988 and the 1991 Rhodes Omicron Delta Kappa Leadership Honor Society pendant that hung on the bulletin board above his desk.      Shelby Foote’s ties to Rhodes College were strong. They are evident in the 1982 honorary degree that he received from Rhodes, the notes of the lectures he gave at the college in 1988 and the 1991 Rhodes Omicron Delta Kappa Leadership Honor Society pendant that hung on the bulletin board above his desk. 

Rhodes College President William E. Troutt announced today that the college has acquired the 2,350-volume book collection, personal papers and diaries, handwritten book drafts and maps, and memorabilia of famed novelist and Civil War historian Shelby Dade Foote Jr. (1916-2005).

According to the official release from the University, many of the books from Shelby Foote’s personal library are rare, including signed first edition novels by William Faulkner, Eudora Welty and Walker Percy. Some of these items had been on loan to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After the acquisition, the books were returned and are now part of the Shelby Foote Collection at Rhodes College.

Foote’s hand-drawn Civil War map 

Foote’s hand-drawn Civil War map

Shelby Foote’s ties to Rhodes College were strong.  They are evident in the 1982 honorary degree that he received from Rhodes, the notes of the lectures he gave at the college in 1988 and the 1991 Rhodes Omicron Delta Kappa Leadership Honor Society pendant that hung on the bulletin board above his desk.

Rhodes was approached about the opportunity to acquire the collection and, under the leadership of President William Troutt, moved quickly to develop a proposal that met the needs of Huger Foote, maintained the integrity of the entire collection and enhanced the academic resources at Rhodes. The college took ownership of the collection in November 2010, thus permanently joining Foote’s legacy to Rhodes.

A boon for historians

The papers of Shelby Foote, including his correspondence with his fellow writers, his drafts and notes for both his published and unpublished literary works, and his personal memo books and calendars will be of great use to potential Foote biographers and scholars of American literature.

Likewise, the large collection of Foote family letters—many from the nineteenth century—will be of tremendous value to historians of the American South.  And the research notes, manuscripts and hand-drawn maps associated with The Civil War will be invaluable to historians attempting to examine the writing of this renowned work.

“How delighted and grateful I am that my father’s collection, which is so dear to my heart, will be housed here in the Barret Library at Rhodes. When setting out to find a permanent home for the collection, I knew one thing clearly that I would be guided by what I believed would be my father’s wishes,” said Huger Foote, son of Shelby Foote.

Adds Foote, “My father’s collection is large and full of treasures. When studying it, one discovers the vast and varied world of my father’s creative and intellectual life. It was important to me that the entire collection be kept intact and preserved in its full integrity to inspire and, I think, amaze this and future generation of scholars. Rhodes shared this vision. . . . There’s an old Irish Proverb which says ‘May the Roads Rise to Meet You,’ and here they have done exactly that.”

He went on to say “I’ve always known that parting one day with my father’s collection, under any circumstances, would be difficult, but now it gives me enormous pleasure and great peace of mind to announce that the collection will be here at Rhodes where I can remain close to it and yet share it with the world. I think we all feel equally blessed to have it here. In short, Rhodes College is the perfect home for my father’s collection. Thank you, Rhodes, and thank you Memphis.”…READ MORE

Founded in 1848, Rhodes is a private, co-educational college of liberal arts and sciences. For more information, please visit www.rhodes.edu.

History Buzz: February 2011 Recap: Reagan Centennial — President’s Day — Civil War at 150

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:

     

  • Ronald Reagan’s legacy at 100, from 3 very different perspectives: Had he lived just a few years longer, Ronald Reagan would have turned 100 this Sunday. In his memory, the nation will honor his mark on history – and debate his legacy. His widow, Nancy Reagan, will lay a wreath at the Reagan library in California, where the 40th president was buried when he died in 2004 at the age of 93. A group of F-18s from the USS Ronald Reagan will salute him from the air.
    In Washington, the city where he made his greatest impact, politicians will salute his tenure. One of them is President Barack Obama, who, though a liberal who yearns to undo much of Reagan’s domestic record, admires the way Reagan changed the course of history….
    Sean Wilentz is a professor of history at Princeton University and the author of the book “The Age of Reagan.” He wrote there that while he was sometimes critical of Reagan’s leadership, after deep study of his record, “my views have ripened over time.” In an interview, Wilentz said Reagan was the most important political figure of the last 30 years. He includes him in august company. “In American political history, there have been a few leading figures … who for better or worse have put their political stamp indelibly on their time,” Wilentz wrote in his book. “They include Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt – and Ronald Reagan.”… – Kansas City Star, 2-3-11

IN FOCUS:

A House Divided

     

  • A House Divided: News & Views about the 150th anniverary of the American Civil War “A House Divided” is a blog dedicated to news and issues of importance to Civil War enthusiasts across the country and around the world. Blogger Linda Wheeler and a panel of respected Civil War experts will debate and dissect historical issues and explore new concepts. Wheeler will also report on conferences and seminars, find little-known battlefields and sites to explore, keep track of local, national and international stories of interest to readers and provide advice on upcoming events…. – Ongoing Civil War coverageOur Civil War panel of expertsTweeting the War

Tweeting the Civil War: The Washington Post is tweeting the Civil War, in the words of the people who lived it — from journals, letters, official records and newspapers of the day. Follow us.Escape from Ft Sumber

Mary Hadar: Escape from Ft. Sumter: As preparations for war increase, the women and children who have been living at Fort Sumter leave on board the steamer Marion, bound for New York. Their safe passage was negotiated by Maj Anderson, commander of Fort Sumter, with South Carolina’s Gov. Pickens. Follow our tweets of the Civil War day by day in the words of the people who lived it… – WaPo, 2-3-11

  • Gordon Wood: Revolution and its seeds are still defining nations: And it looked as though Virginia would soon join the rush toward abolition. As Gordon S. Wood, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and history professor at Brown University, points out, Virginia had more abolition societies than all of the Northern states combined….
    But Wood, who spoke Friday in Williamsburg, described how a chasm between the North and the South began to widen after the Revolution. Spurning slavery, the North turned into maybe the most commercialized society the world had ever known, one that celebrated labor as none had before.
    At the same time, the South celebrated, well not exactly sloth, but sitting back and letting someone else work for you. It’s true that not everyone in the South owned slaves. Many whites planted and picked their own cotton. But the idea that they might make enough money to buy someone to work for them was almost universal, Wood told me in a phone interview last week.
    “These two societies were going to clash,” he said, “and I think the threat posed by Lincoln’s election was very scary to the Southerners.”… – Hampton Roads, 2-21-11
  • Virtual president’s desk enlivens JFK’s 1800s desk: A new online feature called The President’s Desk is giving people a chance to learn more about John F. Kennedy’s life and administration. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library is introducing its latest project on Monday morning at the library’s museum in Boston…. – AP, 2-22-11
  • Elizabeth VanderVen: The Chinese Zodiac Explained: “The purpose of the New Year is to sweep away all the old and anything unpleasant,” Dr. Elizabeth VanderVen, an assistant history professor at Rutgers … – FOX 4 News, 2-4-11

HISTORY NEWS:

     

  • Photos: America’s last WWI vet: He quit school at 16, bluffed his way into the Army, and didn’t gain notoriety until much later in life. These are snapshots from along the way. Frank W. Buckles died early Sunday, sadly yet not unexpectedly at age 110, having achieved a singular feat of longevity that left him proud and a bit bemused…. – WaPo, 2-28-11
  • James N. Gregory: Dust Bowl migration sparks history project: It was once called another name — a negative term of the era. “Olivehurst was known as ‘Little Oklahoma,'” James N. Gregory said. “It was a very poor community of self-built homes.” Gregory, a history professor at the University of Washington and the author of “American Exodus: The Dust Bowl Migration and Okie Culture in California,” spoke about the subject that the Sutter County Historical Society is researching…. – Appeal-Democrat, 2-19-11
  • Sheldon M. Stern: Report Gives a Majority of States Poor Grades on History Standards: A majority of states received failing or near-failing grades on the quality of their standards for teaching history in K-12 schools, according to the latest review Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader from the Washington-based Thomas B. Fordham Institute.
    In “The State of State U.S. History Standards 2011,” the research and advocacy group says the average grade across all states was barely a D. The majority—28 states—received scores of D or lower and only one state, South Carolina, earned a straight-A score. 

    “If students are not going to get the history in K-12, they’re not going to get it at all,” said Sheldon M. Stern, a historian formerly with the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston and one of the study’s co-authors. “The irony in the whole thing is that it’s not very difficult… – Edweek, 2-16-11

  • Archivist of the US Announces NARA Reorganization Plan: Recently, Archivist of the United States David Ferriero marked his first year in office and many of the initiatives he began since taking the helm are starting to bear fruit. Last summer, Ferriero created a staff task force to draft a plan for the “transformation” of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Ferriero recently unveiled Charting the Course, the reorganization plan for “reinventing” the National Archives…. – Lee White, National Coalition for History, 2-14-11
  • Leslie Harris: Emory examines its ties to slavery University organizes conference for colleges to examine racial past: Emory University history professor Leslie Harris leads the Transforming Community Project, which promotes discussions about race. Emory is confronting its past ties to slavery… – AJC, 2-6-11
  • National Archives have Jacqueline Kennedy’s pink suit, but hat is missing: An expanded collection of Kennedy treasures and trivia was unveiled this month at an exhibit as well as online to coincide with the 50th anniversary of JFK’s inauguration; it includes the fabric of his top hat (beaver fur) down to his shoe size (10C). But missing and hardly mentioned are what could be the two most famous remnants of Kennedy’s last day. The pink suit, bloodstained and perfectly preserved in a vault in Maryland, is banned from public display for 100 years. The pillbox hat – removed at Parkland Hospital while Jacqueline Kennedy waited for doctors to confirm what she knew – is lost, last known to be in the hands of her personal secretary, who won’t discuss its whereabouts…. – WaPo, 2-4-11
  • The Google Art Project Makes Masterpieces Accessible to All: Gone are the days of jet-setting to galleries in Manhattan, Florence, London, or Madrid. As of yesterday, all you need to become a museum maven is an Internet connection. Google Art Project, the brainchild of a small group of art-happy Google employees, brings the Street View technology of Google Earth and Google Maps inside 17 museums around the world. The roster includes The Uffizi, the Tate Britain, The Met, MoMA, and the Van Gogh Museum.
    The Google Art Project collection, as a whole, consists of 1,000 works of art by more than 400 artists, and this is only the beginning. Google hopes to add more museums and works of art to its virtual dossier soon…. – The Atlantic, 2-2-11Google Art Project
  • Bay Area antiquities experts fear Egyptian looters took massive toll on treasures: “Damage to or theft of these pieces is not just tragic for Egypt, but for the whole world,” said Renee Dreyfus, curator of antiquities for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, which hosted the traveling Tutankhamun exhibit at the M.H. de Young Museum in 2009.
    “These things are part of our world heritage, where much of what we consider the civilized world began,” she said. “They are part of everyone’s history.”… – Oakland Tribune, 2-1-11

HISTORIANS NEWS:

     

  • Professors to walk out of classrooms Tuesday: According to the TAA, the march could be a turning point in the protest of Gov. Scott Walker’s bill, showing the city and the nation that some of the UW-Madison faculty wants to protect the collective bargaining rights of public sector workers.
    333 UW-Madison faculty members signed a letter addressed to Walker, state legislators and citizens of Wisconsin, which was released Sunday. It states their support for collective bargaining rights for all workers.
    Associate history professor William Jones signed the letter and said he supports the faculty’s march to the Capitol.
    “There are several aims [of the letter],” Jones said. “One is to register our support for the principal of collective bargaining as a right and as a democratic process that’s been established both in the U.S. and around the world, as a fundamental human right.” … – Daily Cardinal, 2-22-11
  • Dominic Sandbrook accused of “recycling” the work of other historians in latest book: …[H]erein lies the most troubling flaw of [Dominic Sandbrook’s “Mad As Hell: The Crisis of the 1970s and the Rise of the Populist Right” one that won’t be apparent to the casual reader. It’s only by consulting the book’s footnotes that one discovers, by looking inside the books he cites, that Mr. Sandbrook shamelessly and repeatedly cannibalizes the work of others, offering what could be generously called a 400-page mash-up of previous histories of the 1970s.
    Take this passage, where Mr. Sandbrook, in vivid prose, describes the 1976 bicentennial celebration in Boston: “As the orchestra reached the climax of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, the church bells pealed, howitzers thundered, fireworks sent shards of color wheeling through the sky, and red, white, and blue geysers burst from a fireboat behind the Hatch shell.”
    These aren’t Mr. Sandbrook’s words but two sentences grafted together—one from a 1976 Time magazine article (“As the orchestra reached the climax of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, howitzers boomed, church bells pealed”), the other from J. Anthony Lukas’s “Common Ground” (“geysers of red, white, and blue water burst from a fireboat behind the band shell”)—with a bit of strategic re-editing. Both sources are named in the book’s footnotes, but in the text the sentence is passed off as the author’s own…. – WSJ, 2-12-11
  • Thomas DiLorenzo: Loyola professor faces questions about ties to pro-secession group: A Loyola University Maryland economics professor is denying ties to a group that endorses a second Southern secession after he came under fire from a Missouri congressman because of the alleged association. Thomas DiLorenzo, a Loyola professor since 1992, was in Washington on Wednesday to testify at a House subcommittee hearing on the Federal Reserve Bank. But Rep. William Lacy Clay, a Democrat from St. Louis, quickly raised questions about DiLorenzo’s ties to the League of the South, which is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center…. – Baltimore Sun, 2-11-11
  • Jan Gross and Irena Grudzinska Gross: Publisher defends book on Polish plunder of Jews: A Polish publishing house is defending its decision to publish a book that says some Poles actively profited from Jewish suffering during the Holocaust – a claim that challenges a national belief about Polish actions during World War II.
    “Golden Harvest,” by Princeton academics Jan Gross and Irena Grudzinska Gross, argues that rural Poles sometimes sought financial gain from Jewish misfortune in a variety of ways, from plundering Jewish mass graves to ferreting out Jews in hiding for rewards.
    Gross said the starting point of the book is a photograph showing Polish peasants digging up human remains at the Treblinka death camp just after the war in a search for gold or other treasures that Nazi executioners might have overlooked. Scattered in front of the group are skulls and bones…. – WaPo, 2-9-11
  • Scholarly Reportage: Fad or Movement?: Most academics are content to teach their classes and publish their research – usually for a small number of scholars in their subfield. Yet, there have always been academics who want to reach a much larger audience, to have influence beyond their classrooms, scholarly journals and the faculty club. For them, the call to become a public intellectual is strong. But as long as there has been this desire to “cross over,” there has also been a tension between those who do and those who do not.
    Scholars who manage to break beyond the narrow scholarly niche are often derided as mere popularizers, lacking the disciplinary rigor of their more professional colleagues. To some, they are lightweights who jump onto the latest in intellectual fashion and leave no lasting mark on intellectual life or academia. And this is largely because, crossing over, or, as my agent calls it, ‘going trade,’ too often means consciously leaving disciplinary concerns behind, as writing and speaking beyond a narrow academic community requires new skills and a much more interdisciplinary approach…. – Inside Higher Ed, 2-10-11
  • Va. historian denies tampering with Lincoln pardon: An amateur Virginia historian is denying allegations by the National Archives that he changed the date on a presidential pardon issued by President Abraham Lincoln. Seventy-eight-year-old Thomas P. Lowry of Woodbridge, Va., said Monday that he was pressured by federal agents to confess. The Archives says Lowry has confessed to using a fountain pen to change the date on a pardon by Lincoln from 1864 to 1865. The change made it appear that Lowry had discovered a document languishing in the Archives that was likely Lincoln’s final official act before he was assassinated…. – AP, 2-7-11
  • In Arguments on Corporate Speech, the Press Is a Problem: In the year since the Supreme Court handed down its 183-page decision in Citizens United, the liberal objection to it has gradually boiled down to a single sentence: The majority was wrong to grant First Amendment rights to corporations. That critique is incomplete. As Justice John Paul Stevens acknowledged in his dissent, the court had long recognized that “corporations are covered by the First Amendment.” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority, listed more than 20 precedents saying that.
    But an old and established rule can still be wrong, and it may be that the liberal critique is correct. If it is, though, it must confront a very hard question. If corporations have no First Amendment rights, what about newspapers and other news organizations, almost all of which are organized as corporations?…
    Eugene Volokh, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, has reviewed the historical evidence. The bottom line, he said, is this: “If ordinary business corporations lack First Amendment rights, so do those business corporations that we call media corporations.”… – NYT, 2-7-11

HISTORY OP-EDs:

     

  • Scott Casper: Rebranding Mount Vernon: Today, of course, Washington is again at the center of the presidential pantheon. For that he can thank an unlikely group of allies: former slaves who worked at Mount Vernon in the late 19th century and who helped shape our modern beliefs about him — but only by hiding his complicated views on slavery behind the illusion of an Old South plantation. Everything about the restored Mount Vernon was designed to render Washington a noble but approachable figure…. – NYT, 2-21-11
  • Diane Ravitch: Why should teachers have unions?: As I write, thousands of teachers are staging a protest in the state capitol in Wisconsin against proposed legislation by Gov. Scott Walker that would destroy their collective bargaining rights. Others stand with them, including members of the Green Bay Packers and other public sector workers, even those not affected by the legislation, namely, firefighters and police. Gov. Walker demanded that the teachers pay more for their health benefits and their pension benefits, and they have agreed to do so. But that’s not all he wants. He wants to destroy the union…. – WaPo, 2-22-11
  • Julian Zelizer: What’s wrong with presidential rankings: Since the late 1940s, it has been an American custom for pollsters and publications to release a ranking of U.S. presidents.
    Usually based on a survey of historians and journalists or of the public, the ranking informs readers about who the “best” and “worst” presidents are. In an age when we are constantly desperate to craft Top 10 lists for every part of our lives, this approach to political history is appealing.
    But rankings don’t tell us much about presidential history. The rankings are weak mechanisms for evaluating what has taken place in the White House…. – CNN, 2-21-11
  • Ravitch: Public schools are not chain stores: Last week, the New York City Department of Education received permission from the city’s Panel on Educational Policy, or PEP, to close an additional two dozen public schools because their scores are too low. The city has now closed more than 100 schools and opened hundreds of new ones. The consent of the PEP was never in doubt…. – WaPo, 2-9-11

HISTORY BOOK NEWS:

     

  • Adam Arenson: The making of America’s most dangerous city: About this blog: St. Louis has earned a dubious distinction again this year – named by U.S. News and World Report as the nation’s most dangerous city. What is it that puts St. Louis in the forefront of American crime? Adam Arenson looks to history for an answer. In his book, “The Great Heart of the Republic: St. Louis and the Cultural Civil War,” recently released by Harvard University Press, Arenson charts the quest of St. Louisans to make their city the cultural and commercial capital. But their efforts ultimately failed and decisions taken as far back as the Civil War have repercussions today, as Arenson, an assistant professor of history at the University of Texas at El Paso, reveals here…. – 2-24-11
  • New Rumsfeld memoir criticizes Rice, other members of Bush administration: But history professor Jack Rakove warns that Rumsfeld’s writings should be viewed with a cautious eye. “Historians are universally suspicious of memoirs,” Rakove said. “The great danger of memoirs is that they’re inherently self-serving, and they can be selective.”… – Standford Daily, 2-24-11
  • Grace Elizabeth Hale: Why are today’s rebels Republicans?: Now, those standing against the status quo have a decidedly different outlook: they are conservatives, fundamentalists, Tea Partiers. How did this shift come about? Why are today’s rebels Republicans? Grace Elizabeth Hale explores the nature of the outsider in American culture in her book “A Nation of Outsiders: How the White Middle Class Fell in Love with Rebellion in Postwar America,” recently released by Oxford University Press. Here, Hale, an associate professor of history and American studies at the University of Virginia, delves into the impulses that drive both conservative and liberal rebels…. – WaPo, 2-8-11
  • Exploring the failures of the Andrew Johnson presidency: Gordon-Reed’s latest book, Andrew Johnson: The American Presidents Series / The 17th President, 1865-1869 (Times Books, $23), touches on issues of race as she examines Johnson’s role in putting the nation back together after the Civil War.
    In one sense, Andrew Johnson’s life was a tale of success. He rose from illiterate tailor’s apprentice to become president of the United States. “One of the things that I wanted to come across in this book was that he was a person of tenacity and perseverance,” Gordon-Reed said in a phone interview from her home in New York. “It’s a very American story. It’s hard to imagine that a person of his standing would rise to the highest office in the land, but he did.”
    But his life was also a story of failure. Focusing on Johnson’s presidency, Gordon-Reed aims to show how ill-suited Johnson was both to succeed Abraham Lincoln, one of America’s greatest presidents, and to heal a nation that the Civil War had torn apart. She argues that by attempting to reconcile with Southern whites, Johnson abandoned millions of newly freed slaves and lost the trust of congressional leaders.
    “Johnson is considered one of the worst presidents,” Gordon-Reed said. “The interesting thing is that he was a talented man.”… – Philly Inquirer, 2-8-11
  • Jan Gross: Book on Holocaust stirs controversy: Mr Gross, a history professor at Princeton University, told the Associated Press that he wished to tell the story of the war as it happened…. – Warsaw Business Journal, 2-9-11

HISTORY REVIEWS:

     

  • HISTORY REVIEW BY KEVIN BOYLE: Lawrence Goldstone’s “Inherently Unequal”: INHERENTLY UNEQUAL The Betrayal of Equal Rights by the Supreme Court, 1865-1903 “Constitutional law,” Lawrence Goldstone says toward the end of “Inherently Unequal,” is “simply politics made incomprehensible to the common man.” It’s meant to be a sound bite, a clever coda to a cautionary tale of justice corrupted and denied. But it speaks to a cynical strain that runs through this history of the late 19th-century American struggle to define the boundaries of racial justice – and that makes Goldstone’s story darker than it ought to be…. – WaPo, 2-25-11
  • Douglas Waller: Douglas Waller’s “Wild Bill Donovan,” on the OSS spymaster: WILD BILL DONOVAN The Spymaster Who Created the OSS and Modern American Espionage The episode, recounted by Douglas Waller in this superb, dramatic yet scholarly biography, tells a great deal about the man who built a far-flung intelligence organization from scratch in the midst of World War II. Courageous but reckless, always itching to be in the center of the action, Donovan was smart, tough and seemingly endowed with boundless energy…. – WaPo, 2-25-11
  • Anabasis Alexandrou: Paths of Glory: THE LANDMARK ARRIAN The Campaigns of Alexander It’s an irresistible story. Certainly Plutarch, who included this description in his masterly biography of Alexander in the second century A.D., couldn’t resist it. But he did scruple to note that not all historians accepted this account of inebriate vandalism. One who didn’t even consider it worthy of mention was Lucius Flavius Arrianus, a younger contemporary of Plutarch better known as Arrian. For him, Alexander’s burning of the palace at Persepolis — then and now a shocking act of destruction — was carefully deliberated public policy, a symbolic seal on an official campaign of vengeance: it was his own idea to pay the Persians back in kind for the burning of the Athenian temples in 479 B.C. and, Arrian wrote, “for all the other wrongs they had committed against the Greeks.”… – NYT, 2-25-11
  • RAYMOND ARSENAULT: Shades of White: THE INVISIBLE LINE Three American Families and the ­Secret Journey From Black to White In an illuminating and aptly titled book, “The Invisible Line,” Daniel J. Sharfstein demonstrates that African- Americans of mixed ancestry have been crossing the boundaries of color and racial identity since the early colonial era. An associate professor of law at Vanderbilt University and an author with a literary flair, Sharfstein documents this persistent racial fluidity by painstakingly reconstructing the history of three families. In a dizzying array of alternating chapters, he presents the personal and racial stories of the Gibsons, the Spencers and the Walls. The result is an astonishingly detailed rendering of the variety and complexity of racial experience in an evolving national culture moving from slavery to segregation to civil rights… – NYT, 2-25-11
  • Jeff Greenfield: With a Few Tweaks, Shaking Up History THEN EVERYTHING CHANGED Stunning Alternate Histories of American Politics: JFK, RFK, Carter, Ford, Reagan In his shrewdly written, often riveting new book, “Then Everything Changed,” the veteran political journalist Jeff Greenfield ponders some smaller-scale and more plausible what-ifs: three events, he says, “that came within a whisker of actually happening.” What if an actual attempt on John F. Kennedy’s life, shortly after his election to the White House, had succeeded? What if Sirhan Sirhan had been thwarted in assassinating Robert F. Kennedy in 1968? What if President Gerald R. Ford had corrected a misstep in the 1976 presidential debates and defeated Jimmy Carter?… – NYT, 2-28-11
  • WALTER ISAACSON, Bettany Hughes: Wise Guy: THE HEMLOCK CUP Socrates, Athens and the Search for the Good Life For the most part, Hughes is successful, and even when not, she’s fascinating. What we get in “The Hemlock Cup” is many books interlaced: a biography of Socrates; a gritty description of daily life in Athens; a vivid history of the Peloponnesian War and its aftereffects; and — as an unexpected delight — a guide to museums, archaeological digs and repositories of ancient artifacts, as Hughes takes us by the hand while ferreting out her evidence. At one point we travel with her to the rear of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England, to study a scrap of papyrus — Fragment 4807 — in the Sackler Library. It contains some lines, apparently by Sophocles, casting light on what life may have been like during the Peloponnesian War… – NYT, 2-20-11
  • Jonathan Gill: Yardley reviews Jonathan Gill’s “Harlem”: HARLEM The Four Hundred Year History from Dutch Village to Capital of Black America Gill, a historian who has taught at Columbia and is on the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music, has done a stupendous amount of research, some of which might best have been left in his files. Though his “Harlem” certainly is authoritative and exhaustive, in addition to being well-written and perceptive, it also is exhausting and would have gained from being cut by at least 50 pages. Many of the details of Harlem’s political life could have been set aside, and some of the portraits of its most notable and familiar figures – Malcolm X, Bayard Rustin, Marcus Garvey, Father Divine, Langston Hughes, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. et al. – would have lost nothing by being briefer…. – WaPo, 2-17-11
  • Timothy Beal: “The Rise and Fall of the Bible”: Rethinking the Good Book American Christians buy millions of Bibles they seldom read and don’t understand: In his new book, “The Rise and Fall of the Bible: The Unexpected History of an Accidental Book,” religion professor Timothy Beal describes all the angst and doubt that Bible reading provoked in him during his youth, as well as the frustration many American Christians experience as a result of their own encounters with the book. This doesn’t prevent them from buying truckloads of the things — Beal notes that “the average Christian household owns nine Bibles and purchases at least one new Bible every year” — but actually reading them is another matter. Beal believes that’s because today’s Christians are seeking a certainty in their holy book that simply isn’t there, and shouldn’t be… – Salon, 2-13-11
  • Three books on the gulf oil spill: Just six months after BP stopped the oil that had been flowing into the Gulf of Mexico, a gusher of books about the spill has begun to wash ashore. The first wave includes three very different approaches to the disaster that riveted the nation most of last summer…. – WaPo, 2-11-11
  • Dominic Sandbrook: Carter, Reagan and Freaky Times: MAD AS HELL The Crisis of the 1970s and the Rise of the Populist Right The cultural politics of the 1970s is irresistible to historians, the way the decade’s dance music is irresistible to D.J.’s at weddings. Thus a book like Dominic Sandbrook’s “Mad as Hell: The Crisis of the 1970s and the Rise of the Populist Right” arrives in bookstores every six months or so. Nixon, Ford, Carter: there’s little greatness there, but these presidencies are so familiar that you can hum nostalgically, dismally along…. – NYT, 2-15-11
  • Gwen Ifill reviews Donald Rumsfeld’s memoir, “Known and Unknown”: Donald Rumsfeld has chosen all of the above in “Known and Unknown,” a hefty and heavily annotated accounting and defense of his life in public service. But hand-wring he does, in repeated blasts of Rumsfeldian score-settling that come off as a cross between setting the record straight and doggedly knocking enemies off pedestals. The book is full of little nuggets like that, but at its heart, it is a revenge memoir. Most readers who came to know of Rumsfeld during the last stage of his remarkable career as secretary of defense for George W. Bush will not be surprised at the tone that runs through much of the book. Rumsfeld, according to Rumsfeld, was prescient, clear-headed, loyal and almost always right…. – WaPo, 2-6-11
  • BIOGRAPHY REVIEW BY WIL HAYGOOD Peter Firstbrook’s account of Obama’s roots, “The Obamas”: Even at this halfway point in his presidential term, Barack Obama already belongs to the publishing ages. The sweeping and poignant arc of his life – and his race-defying presidency – guarantees that books upon books will be written about him. We’ve already seen a healthy number. There have been tomes, but mostly the books are Teddy White-like riffs by journalists offering behind-the-scenes accounts of campaign intrigue or life in the White House.
    In “The Obamas,” Peter Firstbrook, a British documentary filmmaker turned writer, all but ignores the American side of the Obama story and plows into the Kenyan landscape, and family genealogy, of the Obama clan. The president’s father, Barack Obama Sr., was Kenyan, a member of the Luo tribe.
    Firstbrook has written a strange and well-meaning hybrid of a book. There are long stretches of oral histories, given by close and distant Obama relatives and buttressed with often numbing historical detail on Kenyan wars and tribal political intrigues. You will learn not only about those intrepid explorers Henry Morton Stanley and David Livingstone, but also far more than you need to about the ritual of lower-tooth extraction for Luo boys…. – WaPo, 2-6-11
  • Two books on military-industrial complex: For example, if a 22nd-century citizen were to puzzle over the phrase “military-industrial complex,” which recurs in virtually all political and military histories of the 20th and early 21st centuries, he would be well-advised to examine one of the largest and most powerful participants in this “complex,” Lockheed Martin, subject of William D. Hartung’s careful, meticulously documented book “Prophets of War.” President Dwight Eisenhower, not one celebrated for memorable phrases, coined this one. It refers, of course, to the production of armaments – missiles, drones, submarines, etc. – regardless of whether they may be needed….
    The phrase “military-industrial complex” has stuck. Eisenhower himself remains indistinct in the public memory, framed at different times in his life by the photographer Richard Avedon as an amiable, distrait old duffer and by biographers who portray him as a clever politician. His campaigns and policies represented a form of Republicanism no longer recognizable to his successors: There was a fierce independent streak in him, as James Ledbetter demonstrates in “Unwarranted Influence.” He had always been something of a stealth thinker, even in the Army, when he kept his own counsel on opinions that his superiors might have regarded as unorthodox. Few commentators on the 34th president’s mind and methods have more rigorously considered the evolution of Eisenhower’s preoccupations than Ledbetter has…. – WaPo, 2-6-11
  • Adam Goodheart Reviews: Daniel Rasmussen: Violence and Retribution: AMERICAN UPRISING The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt Early in January 1811, along the same riverbank, a small army of Louisiana slaves had briefly faced a small army of slaveholders. It was, as described in “American Uprising,” Daniel Rasmussen’s chilling and suspenseful account, the culmination of a signal episode in the history of American race relations…. – NYT, 2-6-11Excerpt

HISTORY FEATURES:

     

  • James D. Robenalt: Harding’s defender Ohio’s presidents all underrated, Cleveland history buff contends: History is in the eyes of the beholder, whose point of view might conflict with that of another beholder.
    For example, Cleveland lawyer and historian James D. Robenalt says this about Marion’s Warren G. Harding: “He was a damned good president, and he did a number of things that he’s just not getting credit for.”
    Yet that’s not the record Larry J. Sabato beholds.
    Told of Robenalt’s assertion, Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia and one of the nation’s pre-eminent presidential scholars, responded: “Look, I’m sure he’s not really defending Warren Harding. That would be very difficult to make a case for.”
    Yes, Professor Sabato, Robenalt actually is defending Harding…. Columbus Dispath, 2-20-11
  • Top 10 presidents: In 2010, Siena College asked 238 presidential scholars to rank the 43 commanders in chief:
    1. Franklin Roosevelt
    2. Teddy Roosevelt
    3. Abraham Lincoln
    4. George Washington
    5. Thomas Jefferson
    6. James Madison
    7. James Monroe
    8. Woodrow Wilson
    9. Harry Truman
    10. Dwight Eisenhower
  • Pat Nixon portrayed as combative in biography: Pat Nixon was long regarded as the subservient political wife who wanted only to help her husband President Richard Nixon achieve his goals for the nation. But a new biography portrays the first lady as willful and combative in her relationship with her husband and his top advisers. She waged “a battle to retain control over her responsibilities,” writes Mary C. Brennan in “Pat Nixon: Embattled First Lady,” due out next month from the University Press of Kansas. “She found herself engaged in almost constant warfare with her husband and some of his advisors . . . and she refused to give up without a fight.”… WaPo, 2-14-11
  • ‘Raw Deal’: Historian makes waves with scathing look at Franklin D. Roosevelt: For more than half a century, biographers have treated Franklin Delano Roosevelt with Rushmore-like reverence, celebrating the nation’s 32nd president as a colossus who eased the agony of the Great Depression and saved democracy from Nazi Germany. Which never sat right with historian Burton Folsom Jr….
    The result was “New Deal or Raw Deal?,” a scathing 300-page counter-narrative that has made Folsom a conservative hero and placed him squarely in the midst of a roiling debate over America’s past, the nature of history and, some say, its manipulation for political ends…. – LA Times, 2-12-11
  • Clashing versions of Lithuania’s history and how to treat it: Since 1991 scholars from all sides have been unravelling the murderous details, meticulously comparing sources and providing a nuanced account of its interlocking causes, including prejudice, outside incitement, revenge and cowardice. But for some campaigners, mostly from abroad, the historical reckoning has been both too slow and too soft. They detect a sinister pattern of neglect of Jewish sites, foot-dragging over restitution, harassment of Holocaust survivors in an investigation of alleged atrocities by Jewish partisans and an ultranationalist approach to history that belittles the Holocaust.
    This discontent led to a public protest and bitter exchanges at a recent academic conference in London sponsored by the Lithuanian embassy (part of a year of official commemoration of the Holocaust). The campaigners read a letter denouncing both the Lithuanian government and international efforts to put Nazi and Soviet crimes on a similar footing.
    That prompted a spirited rebuttal from historians and other conference participants, and not least from Irena Veisaite, a Holocaust survivor and leading member of Lithuania’s small Jewish community. She found herself in the unusual position of being berated by a campaigner against anti-Semitism, a British-born film-maker and academic called Danny Ben-Moshe.
    Ms Veisaite and her allies deplore the glorification of the LAF. They ascribe more blame to clumsiness than to malice in the Lithuanian authorities’ actions. What worries them is hardening attitudes on both sides. Some Lithuanians feel that over-zealous foreign Jewish critics put too little store by reconciliation. “We are squeezed between two Talibans,” says Sarunas Liekis, a Yiddish-studies professor from Vilnius. The same obstinacy that plagues Lithuania’s relations with Poland, he says, lies behind politicians’ refusal to reverse their mistakes on Jewish issues…. – Economist, 2-20-11
  • Anne Midgette reviews ‘Nixon in China,’ finally on stage at the Metropolitan Opera: IN NEW YORK When John Adams’s opera “Nixon in China” had its world premiere in 1987, it was provocative, edgy, audacious. 24 years later, it’s come to the Metropolitan Opera and, along the way, become a Modern Masterpiece. Wednesday night’s premiere was a big event: The crowd was lively, star-studded, and abuzz. It marked not only the Met’s first performance of this opera, but also the company debuts of Adams, who conducted, and Peter Sellars, who came up with the original concept and directed the original production, and who has, incredibly, moved from enfant terrible to veteran maverick without ever before having directed at this venue…. – WaPo, 2-3-11
  • Men, women flip the script in gender expectation according to survey co-designed by Stephanie Coontz: A new portrait of single Americans, drawn from a major new survey, suggests the attitudes and behaviors of today’s singles are quite unlike their counterparts just a few decades ago…. “Men are now expressing some traditionally female attitudes, while women are adopting some of those long attributed to men,” says biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, who helped develop the survey with social historian Stephanie Coontz and Justin Garcia, a doctoral fellow with the Institute for Evolutionary Studies at Binghamton (N.Y.) University. “For me, as a historian, it’s just amazing confirmation about what has changed in the last 40 years,” says Coontz, professor of history and family studies at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash…. – USA Today (2-2-11)

HISTORY PROFILES:

     

  • Faculty Spotlight: Greg Aldrete, professor of history and humanistic studies: Greg Aldrete, professor of history and humanistic studies, stands with his group of UW-Green Bay students who assisted with his Linothorax project, a project replicating the lightweight linen armor of the ancient Greeks to demonstrate the advantages.
    Award-winning UW-Green Bay Professor of history and humanistic studies Greg Aldrete has landed another prestigious National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship for the 2012-2013 school year.
    The grant enables Aldrete to spend a year concentrating on research, rather than teaching, and working on his book, “Riots in Ancient Rome.”
    His proposal for the book states that ancient Rome seems to have been a riotous lot. For the 575-year period from 200 B.C. to A.D. 375, there are at least 154 episodes of unruly, collective behavior. The worst of these resulted in pitched battles in the streets, hundreds of deaths, widespread looting, acts of arson and even the lynching of leading magistrates of the state. Due to such incidents, Rome has often been characterized as a lawless and violent place. Its inhabitants, especially the poor, have been portrayed as disorderly and fickle. The reality, according to Aldrete, is considerably more complex…. – Fourth Estate, 2-23-11
  • Richard Gamble: Professor discovers a home, and its personality: Sometimes, the old house groans and the floorboards creak. When it does, Richard Gamble picks up his coffee cup and listens intently. “This house tells me something new about itself everyday,” he said, looking in the direction of the noise. “It is almost as if it is a living personality.”
    In July of 2008, Gamble, an associate professor of history, bought an 1882 Victorian-style house in downtown Hillsdale. Between teaching, traveling and writing he has spent the past two and a half years learning about his new house and working hard to restore and renovate it.
    The project surprised Gamble, who never planned to own an old house like it. Gamble unexpectedly began to look for a home in May of 2008…. – Hillsdale Colegian, 2-17-11
  • Jill Lepore on Writing Current History: Professor Lepore sees herself as a public historian who “has a civic obligation to contribute to the public debate, not just [to] be … entertaining.”… – Harvard Crimson, 2-14-11
  • Niall Ferguson: visionary or crank?: Niall Ferguson is among Britain’s most valuable exports – a feted international academic with seats at Harvard, Stanford, the Harvard Business School and the LSE; he has also had spells at Oxford and Cambridge. His tomes sell in their millions; his TV shows are an engaging mix of self-confidence and charm. It’s a multi-media combination that consistently places him on lists of ‘influential people’ across the globe. Everywhere except for Britain, where he’s seen as a neo-conservative oddity…. – Spectator (UK), 2-22-11

HISTORY QUOTES:

     

  • Gary Nash: The President’s House in Philadelphia tells a story of early U.S. presidents The new President’s House and its exhibit, “Freedom and Slavery in Making a New Nation,” on Independence Mall…. The site honors the location and importance of the original mansion, but it also addresses the subject of slavery in early U.S. history. Gary B. Nash, a professor emeritus of history at UCLA, and the lead historian for the exhibit, said, “A whole cloud of historical amnesia is going to be swept away. This story speaks to the themes of the Liberty Bell … [which] connects to liberty and slavery being conjoined at our nation’s birth.”… – LAT, 2-20-11
  • Yoav Di-Capua: Texas expert: Egypt’s fate key to Mideast: Mubarak’s fate could affect variety range of Mideast issues and US interests, says UT historian. Yoav Di-Capua, an associate professor of history at the University of Texas, specializing in modern Arab intellectual history…. – Austin American-Statesman, 2-13-11
  • Presidential bios have resonance in the press — three historians cited in NRO article on presidency: …No man had a greater influence on the presidency than its original occupant. “The office of the presidency was not only forged by George Washington,” says historian Ron Chernow, who recently published a one-volume biography of the first president. “One can make the argument that the office was forged for George Washington.” At the Constitutional Convention in 1787, most delegates assumed he would be the first executive, and they outlined the president’s responsibilities in the Constitution with him in mind — that is to say, rather vaguely. Unlike the lengthy Article I, which enumerates the legislature’s tasks, Article II is short and vague…. Thomas Jefferson, however, gave the office much more of a populist flavor, says historian Gordon Wood. “He saw himself as speaking for the people; I don’t think Washington saw it that way at all,” Wood observes. Unlike Washington, who held weekly levees reminiscent of those held by European courts, “Jefferson really threw all that out and opened himself to the people” — sometimes answering the White House’s door in his slippers…. By saving the American experiment, Lincoln allowed a future president, Theodore Roosevelt, to turn an agrarian republic into a world power. “Roosevelt made the presidency into the office of an international statesman,” says historian Edmund Morris, who recently released the final installment of his three-volume biography of the 26th president. Roosevelt succeeded in this effort largely because of his cosmopolitan personality. He had four grand tours of Europe before serving as president, spoke German and French fluently, and boasted an enormous range of international acquaintances. “The climax of his presidency was the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906, which he got for mediating the end of the Russo–Japanese war,” Morris notes. “To date, he’s the only president who’s ever been asked to mediate a foreign war.”… National Review, 2-19-11
  • Robert Hunter: ISU history prof: U.S. should be flexible with the Middle East: An ISU history professor said the U.S. government should be more flexible with its Middle Eastern policies in the wake of continued unrest in the region.
    “[Our government] is going to have to be more diplomatically nimble and more sophisticated in how we deal with these countries,” said Robert Hunter, who has lived and worked in Egypt. “They’re going to be less willing to do what we want all the time.”… – Indiana Statesman, 2-17-11
  • Douglas Brinkley: Effort to block national monuments may undermine future national parks: “National monuments are usually way stations to national parks, places so popular that they became national parks: They are national treasures and huge economic engines,” said Douglas Brinkley, author of a bestseller on Theodore Roosevelt and a new book, “The Quiet World,” on efforts to control land exploitation in Alaska and stave off species extinction.
    “In an America filled with lobby groups and selfish agendas, you can’t just save a place for one presidency,” Brinkley added…. “Sponsors of efforts to curb Presidential authority under the Antiquties Act are some of the same people in Congress who promote executive power in other realms,” Brinkley notes…. Seattle PI, 2-20-11
  • Simon Schama: cuts will make history preserve of the rich: Schama said he was uneasy that “sciences and subjects, which seem to be on a utilitarian measure useful, have retained their state funding, while the arts and humanities are being stripped of theirs.”…
    In a thinly veiled attack on PM David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg, Schama said: “It behoves those people who were themselves educated at places like Westminster, and Eton – or in my case, Haberdashers’ – to understand the damage that you can do to British culture by making it essentially a wealthy pursuit.”
    He also slammed some fellow academics, adding: “You have to work very hard to make history boring, and there are plenty of people in the institutions who do a brilliant job of making it boring…. – Telegraph (UK), 2-20-11
  • Paula Fass: Ensuring Domestic Tranquillity During Sleepovers: “My impression is that sleepovers are a phenomenon of the suburbs and they started taking off in the ’50s and ’60s,” said Paula Fass, a professor of history…. – NYT, 2-7-11

HISTORY INTERVIEWS:

     

  • H.W. Brands on American Presidents: Today is Presidents Day in the U.S. In honour of the occasion, bestselling historian H W Brands introduces five excellent presidential biographies
    You were among the distinguished historians invited to advise President Obama during his first year in office. Do you believe that the stories of past presidencies contain clues to solving the problems of the present? As a historian, I think that being aware of the what’s occurred in the past—what’s worked in the past, what hasn’t worked in the past—does provide some guidance for the present…. – The Browser, 2-21-11
  • David Driskell: Artist, educator, curator to the stars: David Driskell is a painter, printmaker, collagist, professor emeritus, writer, collector, consultant, curator, art historian and nice guy. This polymath, originally from North Carolina, is a specialist in African-American art and also makes quite a bit of it himself. He is a pre-eminent voice in publicizing African-American artists through history, so much that he has a center named after him at the University of Maryland. He took a break from hanging out with friends Bill Cosby and Oprah to talk to WEEKEND about art and life…. – Yale Daily News, 2-17-11
  • John McMillian: High Times for Wikileaks, Bath Salts and Egyptian Democracy: A Review of Smoking Typewriters — the Sixties Underground Press and Rise of Alternative Media in America: The arrests and office ransackings of journalists in Egypt resonates a little bit more deeply with American history professor John McMillian: the same kind of intimidation and outright sabotage of revolutionary dissent occurred just two generations ago in a more familiar country — the United States…. – East Bay Express, 2-11-11
  • John C. McManus: How Revolutions Go Viral: A Historian’s Perspective on Egypt and Tunisia: As revolt in the Middle East has spread from Tunisia to Egypt, with additional unrest in Jordan and Yemen, the uprising echo past political revolutions, says a historian at Missouri University of Science and Technology.
    Dr. John C. McManus, an associate professor of military history at Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T), says the recent uprisings are similar to past revolutions. Just as the American Revolution inspired France to win its own independence and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 spread throughout the former Soviet bloc, revolutions can become viral, McManus says… – Newswise, 2-4-11
  • Laurence Reisman: Q&A with historian, presidential biographer Douglas Brinkley: Historian Brinkley uses research to opine on political questions such as did Reagan have Alzheimer’s while in the White House?
    Perhaps it’s sheer coincidence that presidential author and Rice University professor Douglas Brinkley will pinch-hit for the Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan Saturday night as part of The Emerson Center’s Celebrated Speakers Series. But timeliness is everything. Brinkley, author of two books on late President Ronald Reagan, will speak on the eve of the 40th president’s 100th birthday.
    Brinkley’s interests and expertise are varied. He’s written numerous books on presidents, and about all sorts of other Amertican history, from Rosa Parks and Hurricane Katrina to Hunter S. Thompson and Dean Acheson. He’s even taught college history classes by taking students cross-country on buses…. – TC Palm, 2-1-11

HISTORY AWARDS & APPOINTMENTS:

     

  • Philip Gleason: Honoring the Historian: Philip Gleason, professor emeritus of history at the University of Notre Dame and the country’s pre-eminent historian of American Catholicism, will receive an honorary degree from the University of Dayton this spring…. – University of Dayton – News Home, 2-22-11
  • Prestigious Lincoln Prize goes to Eric Foner: Prominent historian Eric Foner will receive the 2011 $50,000 Lincoln Prize for his book, “The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery” according to an announcement this morning by prize sponsors Gettysburg College and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. He will receive the award on May 11 at the Union League Club in New York. Foner, the DeWitt Clinton professor of history at Columbia University, wrote in Fiery Trial about the evolving attitude of Lincoln toward slavery and slaves as the Civil War unfolded. The 16th President, who always said he abhorred slavery, initially sought to eradicate it by promoting colonization of other countries by former slaves. Later he changed that opinion and sought full citizenship for African Americans in this country…. – WaPo, 2-10-11
  • Steve Hindle: Huntington Library names new research director after world-wide search: Steve Hindle, a history professor at England’s Warwick University, was named Monday to succeed Robert “Roy” Ritchie on July 1 as director of research at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens…. – Pasadena Star-News, 2-7-11
  • Dr. Eric Miller receives 2011 Book Award from Christianity Today: Congratulations to Geneva College Associate Professor of History Dr. Eric Miller for receiving Christianity Today’s 2011 Book Award for History/Biography in honor of his latest book, Hope in a Scattering Time: A Life of Christopher Lasch (Eerdmans, 2010).
    Hope in a Scattering Time: A Life of Christopher Lasch is the first published biography of Christopher Lasch, historian, social critic and author of The Culture of Narcissism. The book has received positive reviews from a number of national sources such as the The Weekly Standard and the Commonweal. Alan Wolfe of The New Republic says, “This is anything but a quickly written effort to explore the relationship between a thinker and his times. Miller has not only dug deeply, he has also pondered carefully…. I never met the man, but thanks to this book I now feel that I have. I could not be more grateful to Miller for facilitating the introduction.”… – Geneva College, 2-7-11
  • Historian Allison Blakely Appointed to Humanities Council: The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has announced that historian Allison Blakely has been appointed to the National Council on the Humanities. Blakely was nominated by President Barack Obama on August 5 and confirmed by the Senate December 21. Blakely is a professor of European and Comparative History at Boston University and previously taught at Howard University for 30 years. He is the author of Blacks in the Dutch World: The Evolution of Racial Imagery in a Modern Society; Russia and the Negro: Blacks in Russian History and Thought and numerous scholarly articles on Russian populism and the various European aspects of the Black Diaspora…. – Lee White, National Coalition for History, 2-1-11
  • David L. Preston: Citadel historian wins distinguished book prize: David L. Preston, associate professor of history at The Citadel, won the prestigious Albert B. Corey Prize for 2010 for his recent work, “The Texture of Contact: European and Indian Settler Communities on the Frontiers of Iroquoia, 1667-1783.” The Corey Prize recognizes the best book on Canadian-American relations or on the history of both countries. The prize is awarded every two years by the American Historical Association and the Canadian Historical Association, the two premier professional organizations for historians in the United States and Canada…. – Media Newswire, 2-7-11

HISTORY ANNOUNCEMENTS & EVENTS CALENDAR:

     

  • Bruce Catton papers now indexed online at the University of Wyoming: An inventory of papers and correspondence of Bruce Catton, widely regarded (along with Shelby Foote) as the most popular of America’s Civil War historians, is now accessible online through the University of Wyoming American Heritage Center. There are no access restrictions on the materials for research purposes, and the collection is open to the public…. A description and inventory for this collection [is now] accessible at http://rmoa.unm.edu/docviewer.php?docId=wyu-ah04032.xml/University of Wyoming, 12-20-10
  • Black history catalogued at new U. of C. website: ….On Friday at the University of Chicago’s Joseph Regenstein Library, researchers unveiled a new website intended to make it easy for the public and scholars alike to locate these African-American artifacts as well as a host of others in the city from the same period in history…. The website is the “cutting edge portal into discovering primary source materials to study and know black Chicago’s history from the 1930s to the 1970s,” said Jacqueline Goldsby, a former U. of C. professor who headed up the three-year project…. – Chicago Sun-Times, 12-11-10uncap.lib.uchicago.edu
  • Camelot’s archives, available with the click of a mouse: During a 1962 news conference, a reporter asked President John F. Kennedy if he’d consider locating his presidential library in Washington, D.C., after leaving the White House so scholars and historians would have the broadest possible access to it. No, he replied playfully, “I’m going to put it in Cambridge, Massachusetts.”…
    A four-year, $10 million effort to digitize the JFK Library and Museum’s archives, making hundreds of thousands of documents, photographs, and recordings available online, is nearing completion of its first phase. A formal announcement will come Jan. 13, one week before the 50th anniversary of JFK’s inauguration, at a press conference in the nation’s capitol.
    “Access to a Legacy,” as the project is called, marks the first time a presidential library established in the paper age has fully committed itself to the digital era. The amount of material to be posted online in January is huge — 200,000 pages of text, 1,500 photos, 1,250 files of audio recordings and moving images, and 340 phone conversations totaling 17 1/2 hours — but represents just a small portion of the collection….
    Presidential historian Robert Dallek, who has made liberal use of the Kennedy archives, said the primary payoff is reaching the largest possible international audience. “What this means is, people in Japan or Germany can have access to [JFK’s] office files, and that’s a splendid step forward.” Other presidential libraries will probably follow suit, he added, “because they don’t want to expire, so to speak. Plus, there’s still tremendous interest in subjects like World War II, Vietnam, and the New Deal.”… – Boston Globe (11-28-10)
  • THE NEW-YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY MAKES ITS MOST IMPORTANT COLLECTIONS RELATING TO SLAVERY AVAILABLE ONLINE: Rich trove of material becomes easily accessible at www.nyhistory.org/slaverycollection The New-York Historical Society is proud to announce the launch of a new online portal to nearly 12,000 pages of source materials documenting the history of slavery in the United States, the Atlantic slave trade and the abolitionist movement. Made readily accessible to the general public for the first time at www.nyhistory.org/slaverycollections, these documents from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries represent fourteen of the most important collections in the library’s Manuscript Department….
  • Understanding the Iran-Contra Affairs,” is the only comprehensive website on the famous Reagan-era government scandal, which stemmed from the U.S. government’s policies toward two seemingly unrelated countries, Nicaragua and Iran. Despite stated and repeated denials to Congress and to the public, Reagan Administration officials supported the militant contra rebels in Nicaragua and sold arms to a hostile Iranian government. These events have led to questions about the appropriateness of covert operations, congressional oversight, and even the presidential power to pardon…. – irancontra.org
  • Thousands of Studs Terkel interviews going online: The Library of Congress will digitize the Studs Terkel Oral History Archive, according to the agreement, while the museum will retain ownership of the roughly 5,500 interviews in the archive and the copyrights to the content. Project officials expect digitizing the collection to take more than two years…. – NYT, 5-13-10
  • 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.

HISTORIANS SPOTTED:

     

  • Yvonne Haddad: Georgetown professor speaks on Muslim identity, politics: On Wednesday night, Yvonne Haddad, a professor of the history of Islam and Christian-Muslim relations at Georgetown University, presented a public lecture titled “Islamophobia and the Reconstruction of Muslim American Culture” to a group of approximately 50 students and community members in Robertson Hall.
    “What my talk will be about is how we moved from Islamophobia into a coalition of groups in order to find a space for Muslims in North America,” Haddad said at the start of her talk. “What you have is Muslims now engaged in the political process. They feel very comfortable being American and feel very comfortable criticizing American foreign policy. This would not have been possible 10 years ago.”
    Haddad gave an extensive account of the troubled history of Islam’s relations with Christianity, discussing the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition and the Protestant Reformation. Daily Princetonian, 2-24-11
  • Michael Rawson: Environmentalist historian Rawson lectures on Boston’s urban growth: Michael Rawson, an assistant professor of history at City University of New York’s Brooklyn College, spoke at Bowdoin on Wednesday night about his recent book, “Eden on the Charles: The Making of Boston.” The lecture took place in Main Lounge in Moulton Union. Rawson is an environmental historian who focuses on the urban environment…. – Bowdoin Orient, 2-18-11
  • Samuel Moyn: Columbia Univ professor lectures on human rightsThe Brandeis Hoot, 2-11-11
  • Emory ‘regrets’ slavery ties, holds conference on topic: The founders of Emory University owned slaves. They used slave labor to build the campus. Their pro-slavery views helped drive the North-South schism in the Methodist Episcopal Church leading up to the Civil War. The university’s slave legacy doesn’t end with the antebellum era. In 1902, the college forced a professor to resign for an article he wrote condemning lynching. Fast forward to 2003 when a professor’s use of a racial slur led to campus-wide debates. That incident spurred self-reflection…. – Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2-3-11

HISTORY ON TV:

HISTORY BEST SELLERS (NYT):

UPCOMING HISTORY BOOK RELEASES:

     

  • Molly Caldwell Crosby: Asleep: The Forgotten Epidemic That Remains One of Medicine’s Greatest Mysteries, (Paperback), February 1, 2011
  • Jonathan Gill: Harlem: The Four Hundred Year History from Dutch Village to Capital of Black America, (Hardcover), February 1, 2011
  • Amy Louise Wood: Lynching and Spectacle: Witnessing Racial Violence in America, 1890-1940, (Paperback), February 1, 2011
  • David Eisenhower: Going Home to Glory: A Memoir of Life with Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961-1969, (Hardcover), February 2, 2011
  • Frederick Brown: For the Soul of France: Culture Wars in the Age of Dreyfus, (Paperback), February 8, 2011
  • Donald Rumsfeld: Known and Unknown: A Memoir, (Hardcover), February 8, 2011
  • Holger H. Herwig: The Marne, 1914: The Opening of World War I and the Battle That Changed the World, (Paperback), February 8, 2011
  • Christopher Corbett: The Poker Bride: The First Chinese in the Wild West (Reprint), (Paperback), February 8, 2011
  • Justin Fox: The Myth of the Rational Market: A History of Risk, Reward, and Delusion on Wall Street, (Paperback), February 8, 2011
  • Julia P. Gelardi: From Splendor to Revolution: The Romanov Women, 1847–1928, (Hardcover), February 15, 2011
  • Lucy Moore: Anything Goes: A Biography of the Roaring Twenties, (Paperback), February 22, 2011
  • Sarah Rose: For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World’s Favorite Drink and Changed History, (Paperback), February 22, 2011
  • David Strauss: Setting the Table for Julia Child: Gourmet Dining in America, 1934-1961, (Hardcover), February 26, 2011
  • 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 REMEMBERED:

     

  • Meiqing Zhang: Prof dies after long illness: Meiqing Zhang, a senior lecturer in East Asian studies who had taught Chinese since 1988, died Saturday after a long illness.
    “It is a huge loss for Brown and especially for East Asian studies,” said Dean of the Faculty Rajiv Vohra P’07. She was a “highly regarded figure in the field of Chinese language pedagogy,” according to a statement on the East Asian studies website…. – Brown Daily Herald, 2-24-11
  • Dame Judith Binney dies: The historian and widely-respected scholar passed away last night. She was Emeritus Professor of History at Auckland University. Dame Judith was a member of the Arts Council and the Historic Places Trust and a pioneer in New Zealand history…. – Newstalk ZB, 2-15-11
  • Michael Harsegor, Israeli medievalist, dies at 87: Tel Aviv University Professor Michael Harsegor, one of Israel’s most-prominent historians, passed away on Thursday at the age of 87. For decades Harsegor taught history at Tel Aviv University and was considered an expert on Late Middle Ages European History. He was most well-known to the Israeli public for hosting the long-running Army Radio program “historical hour”…. – Jerusalem Post, 2-10-11
  • Ernst Presseisen, 82, a Temple professor: Ernst L. Presseisen, 82, of Center City, an emeritus professor of history at Temple University and a Holocaust survivor, died of complications of pneumonia … – Philadelphia Inquirer, 2-9-11

Sesquicentennial Update: Marking Jefferson Davis’s Confederate Inauguration

Source: NYT, 2-20-11

One hundred and fifty years and one day later, the South did it again.

Jeff Haller for The New York Times

People gathered for the Confederate Heritage Rally in front of the Capitol in Montgomery, Ala., on Saturday.

Related in Opinion

Before a cheering crowd of several hundred men and women, some in period costume and others in crisp suits, an amateur actor playing Jefferson Davis was sworn in as president of the Confederacy on the steps of the Alabama Capitol on Saturday, an event framed by the firing of artillery, the delivery of defiant speeches and the singing of “Dixie.”

The participants far outnumbered the spectators, but it was to be the largest event of the year organized by the Sons of Confederate Veterans and one in a series of commemorations of the 150th anniversary of the Confederacy and the War for Southern Independence. (Referring to the Civil War as anything other than an act of unwarranted Northern aggression upon a sovereign republic was rather frowned upon.)

The Sons’ principal message was that the Confederacy was a just exercise in self-determination that had been maligned by “the politically correct crowd” through years of historical distortions. It is the right of secession that they emphasize, not the cause, which they often describe as a complicated mix of tariff and tax disputes and Northern attempts to politically subjugate the South…READ MORE

History Buzz: January 16, 2011: AHA Recap — Virginia Textbook Controversy — Civil War at 150 — Historians Reflect on Arizona Shootings

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:

  • American Historical Association’s (AHA) 125th Annual Meeting / Conference: Daily RecapsHistory Musings
  • Producers already pitch Kennedy project elsewhere: After the History channel said it would not air a controversial miniseries on the Kennedy family, producers were already seeking another television home.
    The Showtime pay cable network has been approached to air the eight-part series, a spokesman said on Saturday. Eight years ago, Showtime aired a movie about President Reagan that CBS had made but decided not to broadcast when it faced pressure from some of that former president’s family. Showtime won’t make a decision about the Kennedy miniseries until its executives have a chance to see it, spokesman Richard Licata said….
    A concerted effort was made to quash the series. Liberal filmmaker Robert Greenwald collected 50,000 petitions urging History not to air it, and he produced a short film condemning the project on a website, stopkennedysmears.com. He had been given an early script, which included one scene where President Kennedy tells his brother Robert about his need to have sex with other women. Former Kennedy aide Theodore Sorensen also harshly condemned the film, saying scenes in the script where he was depicted didn’t actually occur. History also likely felt corporate pressure. The network is owned by the A&E Television Networks, which itself is owned jointly by NBC Universal, the Walt Disney Co. and the Hearst Corp…. – AP, 1-8-11
  • History network pulls plug on Kennedy project: The History Channel will not air a controversial miniseries it produced about the Kennedy family, saying the multimillion project that had become the network’s most expensive on record did not fit the “History brand.”
    The eight-part series had already been completed, and starred Greg Kinnear and Katie Holmes as President John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jackie. But during its production, critics like former Kennedy administration aide Theodore Sorenson attacked the scripts as inaccurate. The role of producer Joel Surnow, a political conservative, also drew suspicion from fans of the Kennedy family.
    “We have concluded this dramatic interpretation is not a fit for the History brand,” the network said in a statement late Friday. History, in its statement, said the decision was made after viewing the series in its totality. “We recognize historical fiction is an important medium for storytelling and commend all the hard work and passion that has gone into the making of the series, but ultimately deem this as the right programming decision for our network,” History said in a statement…. – AP, 1-8-11
  • ‘Kennedys’ gets pulled: A&E Television Networks will not broadcast the miniseries “The Kennedys’’ on the History Channel this spring. The network has canceled the series starring Greg Kinnear as John F. Kennedy and Katie Holmes as Jackie Kennedy, concluding it was “not a fit’’ for the History Channel, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “Upon completion of the production of ‘The Kennedys,’ History has decided not to air the eight-part miniseries,’’ a rep for A&E told the trade publication. The multimillion dollar project has been the subject of controversy since it was announced in December 2009. Developed by Joel Surnow, the conservative co-creator of “24,’’ the project was criticized by some Democrats and Kennedy historians. The miniseries is still set to air in Canada on March 6, and will still be broadcast internationally. – Boston Globe, 1-8-11
  • History Channel Pulls ‘The Kennedys’; Says Controversial Miniseries ‘Not a Fit’: Ambitious miniseries was set to air this spring; stars Greg Kinnear and Katie Holmes, and producer Joel Surnow were told today of cancellation.
    In a surprise move, A&E Television Networks has canceled plans to broadcast The Kennedys, the ambitious and much- anticipated miniseries about the American political family that was set to air this spring on the History channel.
    “Upon completion of the production of The Kennedys, History has decided not to air the 8-part miniseries on the network,” a rep for the network tells The Hollywood Reporter in a statement. “While the film is produced and acted with the highest quality, after viewing the final product in its totality, we have concluded this dramatic interpretation is not a fit for the History brand.”
    The multi-million dollar project—History and Lifetime president and general manager Nancy Dubuc’s first scripted miniseries at the network and its most expensive program ever—has been embroiled in controversy since it was announced in December 2009.
    Developed by Joel Surnow, the conservative co-creator of 24, along with production companies Asylum Entertainment and Muse Entertainment and writer Stephen Kronish, the project drew fire from the political left and some Kennedy historians. Even before cameras rolled, a front-page New York Times story last February included a sharp attack from former John F. Kennedy adviser Theodore Sorenson, who called an early version of the script “vindictive” and “malicious.”
    History and parent A&E said at the time that the script had been revised and that the final version had been vetted by experts. Indeed, the script used in production had passed muster with History historians for accuracy.
    Despite the controversy, History was able to recruit a big-ticket cast to the project, announcing in April that Greg Kinnear (John F. Kennedy), Katie Holmes (Jackie Kennedy), Barry Pepper (Robert F. Kennedy) and Tom Wilkinson (Joe Kennedy) would co-star. The actors and CAA, which reps both Kinnear and Holmes, were told this afternoon of the cancellation. Surnow also was told today.
    No advertisers had registered complaints or concerns with the miniseries, confirms an A&E spokesperson, but the content was not considered historically accurate enough for the network’s rigorous standards. So an air date, which had not been announced but was planned for spring, was scrapped.
    “We recognize historical fiction is an important medium for storytelling and commend all the hard work and passion that has gone into the making of the series, but ultimately deem this as the right programming decision for our network,” a rep tells THR in the statement.
    The miniseries is still scheduled to air in Canada on March 6, and will still be broadcast internationally…. – The Hollywood Reporter, 1-8-11

HISTORY NEWS:

  • Va. Board Of Ed Wants To Improve Book Review Process: The Virginia Board of Education will review two error-filled textbooks to determine whether they’re fit to be used in the state’s schools.
    At its Thursday meeting, the board directed Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia Wright to come up with a process to help the board decide whether the two books, both published by Connecticut-based Five Ponds Press, should be included on a list of approved books. The board adopted the directives as a motion made by board member David Foster of Arlington.
    The board also asked Wright to ask experts to review all Five Ponds textbooks included on the approved books list and seek potential remedies from the publisher for school divisions that purchased the books. The books are the fourth-grade textbook, “Our Virginia: Past and Present” and the fifth-grade book, “Our America: To 1865.” – WY Daily, 1-15-11
  • Va. withdraws approval of textbooks: The Virginia Board of Education on Thursday withdrew its approval of two elementary school history textbooks, which a panel of historians found to have dozens of errors. On Thursday, the Board of Education also ordered a review by experts of any other approved textbooks published by Five Ponds Press. The company currently has four world history books which are approved for use in the state’s classrooms. Those books passed the state’s textbook review process, in which panels of reviewers, often elementary school teachers, verified that the books cover each of the Standards of Learning themes. Experts in particular subject matters also sometimes review books…. – WaPo, 1-13-11
  • Virginia Textbook Controversy: Publisher Will Replace VA Textbooks For Free — Board of Education Withdraws Approval: The publisher of this textbook will replace it at no cost to school divisions, due to errors found in two books. In response to criticism of errors found in its textbooks, Five Ponds Press announced Tuesday it intends to replace all copies of “Our Virginia” and “Our America: To 1865” for free…. – Williamsburg Yorktown Daily, 1-13-11
  • Business Metaphor Still Ascendant at AHA: it was difficult to escape the conclusion, during the American Historical Association’s annual meeting here over the weekend, that higher education is in the throes of a crisis. Panels used the word “crisis” to describe the state of the job market for historians, the state of public universities, and the state of higher education in general. And the enemy was consistently identified as the ideology and analytical tools of business.
    For example, the scarcity of faculty jobs in history — 569 this year, which marked the smallest number in two decades — was driven by more than simple laws of supply and demand, argued Martin Mulford, a self-described “rogue scholar” and former businessman, during a Saturday session, “The Academic Job Market: Finding Solutions in a Time of Crisis.” The lack of history jobs has been hastened and worsened by a larger trend of hiring adjuncts and contingent faculty instead of full-time faculty in the interest of cost-cutting, he said. This reflects a larger transformation of the role of business in higher education, which he likened to the shift from being a stepchild to the head of a household. “This is a problem of the colonization of the academy by business,” said Mulford…. – Inside Higher Ed (1-11-11)
  • Turns Out, Jobs for Historians Are…History: While Wednesday’s ADP number for December was surprisingly strong, skeptical strategists emphasize that this US labor market remains in a state of disarray.
    How about the well educated among us? How are our PhD-carrying comrades navigating this lousy labor market? Interestingly, it depends on the area in which they specialize. According to a new report by Inside Higher Ed, historians have it rough: During the 2009-10 academic year, the number of positions listed with the American Historical Association dropped by 29.4%. That follows a 23.8% drop the year before. Last year, the association announced that the number of listings it received — 806 — was the smallest in a decade; this year’s total of 569 marks the smallest number in 25 years…. – Minyanville, 1-6-11
  • Historians Continue to Face Tough Job Market: The job market for historians continued to deteriorate last year, although there is reason to hope it may be poised to rebound somewhat, according to a report released on Monday by the American Historical Association. The report, published in the group’s Perspectives on History, a newsletter, in advance of its annual conference this week, said the number of jobs posted with the association fell by more than 29 percent—from 806 to 569—during the 2009-10 academic year. Since two years ago, when the association posted an all-time high of 1,059 job openings, the number of jobs advertised with it has dropped by more than 46 percent, to the lowest level in 25 years.
    The report does contain a glimmer of hope: Looking at the current academic year, it found that the number of job advertisements posted as of December 1 was up by more than 21 percent from the same period a year earlier. The report also offers an important caveat to its findings: Not all of the jobs available in the discipline are listed with the association, and some “are advertised only in The Chronicle of Higher Education or H-Net, for instance.”… – Chronicle of Higher Education, 1-3-11
  • Historians Expose Error-Filled Virginia Textbooks: In the version of history being taught in some Virginia classrooms, New Orleans began the 1800s as a bustling U.S. harbor (instead of as a Spanish colonial one). The Confederacy included 12 states (instead of 11). And the United States entered World War I in 1916 (instead of 1917). These are among the dozens of errors historians have found since Virginia officials ordered a review of textbooks by Five Ponds Press, the publisher responsible for a controversial claim that African-American soldiers fought for the Confederacy in large numbers during the Civil War.
    Our Virginia: Past and Present, the textbook including that claim, has many other inaccuracies, according to historians who reviewed it. Similar problems, historians say, were found in another book by Five Ponds Press, Our America: To 1865. A reviewer has found errors in social studies textbooks by other publishers as well, underscoring the limits of a textbook-approval process once regarded as among the nation’s most stringent…. – AP, 1-3-11
  • Carol Sheriff: Virgina History Textbook Inaccuracies Controversy: It’s a textbook case of getting it wrong. A Virginia elementary school textbook will soon be history after a college professor and parent, caught more than one mistake in it. Turns out the errors she spotted were not the only ones. Some of the glaring errors had to do with African-Americans and the Civil War. These and dozens of other errors can be found in the textbook handed out to thousands of Virginia fourth graders. Problems with the book ‘Our Virginia: Past and Present’, published by Five Ponds Press, first surfaced last October, as reported by the Washington Post, when the mother of one student, a college history professor, spotted several lines on page 122.
    “It was particularly jarring when I got to this one passage that was so at odds with what historians have been saying about who participated in the Civil War,” said William & Mary Professor Carol Sheriff, a parent of one student.
    The book says thousands of southern blacks fought in the confederate ranks, something not supported by mainstream Civil War scholarship. But it’s the next line that’s just plain wrong: “including two black battalions under the command of Stonewall Jackson.” The textbook actually, does note that it wasn’t ’til 1865 that African-Americans could legally serve in the confederate army. It also tells children that Stonewall Jackson died in 1863. The error about blacks serving in the confederate army was outrageous to many in academia… – CNN, 12-30-10

HISTORIANS NEWS:

  • James McPherson: Battle Over the Battlefields: One hundred and fifty years after the start of the Civil War, we’re still fighting. This time it’s development vs. preservation—and development’s winning. The Battle to Preserve History “There has to be a reasonable balance,” says James McPherson, the foremost living Civil War historian and professor emeritus of history at Princeton. “If you preserved every square foot of battlefield in Virginia, there wouldn’t be much land left. There’s a tendency among preservationists to want to save everything, but realistically there have to be compromises.”
    One place McPherson isn’t willing to compromise, however, is the Virginia Walmart, a 140,000-square-foot supercenter the company wants to build in Orange County on a parcel that’s been zoned for commercial use for 37 years. The bloody May 1864 encounter fought there was the beginning of the end for the Confederacy. In Grant’s first battle since becoming chief of the U.S. Army, he pounded Lee and began driving him south toward Richmond. Historians say his army’s “nerve center,” including his own headquarters, was located on and near the Walmart site, which is also across the street from the entrance to the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park…. – Newsweek, 1-13-11
  • AnneMarie Luijendijk: A flax merchant from Egypt! Owner of 4th century New Testament papyrus identified: A Princeton University researcher has identified the owner of a New Testament papyrus that dates to the time of Constantine the Great…. “It is the first and only ancient instance where we know the owner of a Greek New Testament papyrus,” writes Professor AnneMarie Luijendijk in an article recently published in the Journal of Biblical Literature. “For most early New Testament manuscripts, we do not know where they were found, let alone who had owned them.”… – Unreported Heritage News, 1-2-11
  • After 130 years, will Billy the Kid finally get a governor’s pardon?: Outgoing New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is considering a pardon for celebrated outlaw Billy the Kid. An informal e-mail poll shows support. But time is running out.
    Public perception regarding the Kid is split into two camps, says Paul Hutton, a history professor and Old West expert at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque: “people who see him as this homicidal maniac and [others] who see him as a romantic character fighting for justice against a corrupt New Mexico system.”
    Hutton says most historians agree that Billy the Kid’s life was not as violent as the legend suggests and that he was a product of his unwieldy times of government corruption and vigilante justice. “He certainly felt solving problems with a gun was the way to go, but that was the world in which he lived in,” he says. “The forces of authority in 1877 New Mexico were nothing to brag about.”… – CS Monitor, 12-29-10

HISTORY OP-EDs:

  • DISUNION: One-hundred-and-fifty years ago, Americans went to war with themselves. Disunion revisits and reconsiders America’s most perilous period — using contemporary accounts, diaries, images and historical assessments to follow the Civil War as it unfolded…. – NYT, Disunion
  • James Loewen’s “5 Myths about why the South seceded” Washington Post’s Most Viewed: James Loewens’ op-ed in the Washington Post “5 Myths about Why the South Seceded,” published last Sunday, has become the most viewed article at their website, garnering more than a half a million views as of Monday, and combined with print views, now more than a million views:
    One hundred fifty years after the Civil War began, we’re still fighting it – or at least fighting over its history. I’ve polled thousands of high school history teachers and spoken about the war to audiences across the country, and there is little agreement even about why the South seceded. Was it over slavery? States’ rights? Tariffs and taxes? As the nation begins to commemorate the anniversaries of the war’s various battles – from Fort Sumter to Appomattox – let’s first dispense with some of the more prevalent myths about why it all began…. – WaPo, 1-9-11
  • Simon Schama: An America Lost in Fantasy Must Recover Its Dream: As it says goodbye and good riddance to 2010, is America also saying so long to depression, both the economic and the psychic varieties? Is double-dip now just another way to get your hot fudge sundae? Riding the Metro North commuter train from Pleasantville to Grand Central Station on the last weekend before Christmas, you’d certainly suppose so. The consumer confidence index had been rising for two straight months now and most of it seemed to be on board, wallets bursting to get in on the action. Heavy-set thirtysomethings on parole from suburbia, fists popping cans of Bud Lite, boomed to all who wanted to hear (Ben Bernanke maybe?) that they were “gonna do some serious shopping DAMAGE dude!” In the month before Christmas Grand Central turns into a retail bazaar, and to the strains of jingle tills vendors selling silk scarves, Thai and Polish jewellery, hammered leather goods and fancy stationery were all doing brisk trade to elbow-working crowds…. – Financial Times (UK), 12-23-10
  • Paul Kengor: Stalin’s dupes, past and present: It’s customary at year’s end to share our favorite news items from the year past – from happy moments to outrages. As a professor and historian, I tend to highlight things I fear are lost to American education. To that end, I’ve become somewhat of a pessimist, especially as I observe what the next generation is not being taught. So, my enduring “news item” of 2010 falls under the category of historical outrage, though it is redeemed somewhat by another item considerably more positive. I’d like to link them here as a teachable moment.
    My outrage of 2010: the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va., erected a statue of Josef Stalin, architect of the Great Purge, Ukrainian famine, gulag, war on religion and upwards of 60 million deaths. We learned about this travesty, thanks to the vigilant work of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, which has the heroic goal of trying to educate Americans about the forgotten holocaust committed by communists. The group created a website (Stalinstatue.com) to call attention to this moral-historical slander. The site featured a petition to remove the statue, with thousands of signatures from all over the world. Addressed to the National D-Day Memorial Foundation and to President Obama‘s secretary of the interior, it demanded that the “true history of World War II must be protected from distortion and misinformation.”… – The Washington Times, 12-28-10

HISTORY REVIEWS:

  • Peter L. Bergen: Determined to Strike: THE LONGEST WAR The Enduring Conflict Between America and Al-Qaeda For years, I tried to read every new novel about how 9/11 affected our lives. Some were very thoughtful, but I always came away unsatisfied, feeling that the authors had worked hard but had somehow fallen short. As I read the stunning first section of Peter L. Bergen’s new book on the war between the United States and Al Qaeda, I realized I had been looking in the wrong genre. None of the novels were as effective or moving as “The Longest War,” which is a history of our time.
    Bergen, a national security analyst for CNN, impressively covers it all: Al ­Qaeda’s aspirations and its 9/11 attack, the Bush administration’s panicky response, the subsequent invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the crucial and continuing unhelpful role of Pakistan, and the terrorist episodes in London and Madrid. Other books, most notably Bob Woodward’s series on the wars as viewed from Washington, have bitten off big chunks of this story, but Bergen’s, to my knowledge, is the first to credibly cover the global sweep of events over the last 10 years, exploring not just American views but also Al Qaeda’s…. – NYT, 1-16-11
  • PSYCHOLOGY REVIEW BY STEVEN F. HAYWARD: Putting George W. Bush on the psychologist’s couch: Dan P. McAdams, a professor of psychology at Northwestern University, offers one of the first comprehensive psychological profiles of Bush in “George W. Bush and the Redemptive Dream.” To his credit, McAdams tries not to pre-judge Bush, and he avoids making moral or political judgments about the president’s major decisions. McAdams will further disappoint Bush-haters in his measured rejection of several pop-psych themes, such as that Bush was in thrall to an Oedipal rivalry (though he does think a desire to avenge his father in Iraq was a factor). But in the end, McAdams’s framework sinks into a mire of professional jargon that tells us more about contemporary theory than about the former president…. – WaPo, 1-14-11
  • Chappaqua’s Kenneth Jackson is the executive editor of the second edition of “The Encyclopedia of New York City,” which boasts some 5,000 entries spanning 1,561 pages: Chappaqua’s Kenneth Jackson was first approached about assembling a New York City encyclopedia in 1982. The late Edward Tripp, a former editor-in-chief for Yale University Press, pitched the idea. “I thought it would be fun, and I was teaching New York City history,” says Jackson, a historian at Columbia University and the book’s executive editor. “It took a little while to get it going.” Officially, it took about 13 years, as the first edition of “The Encyclopedia of New York City” hit bookshelves in 1995. Heaped with critical acclaim, it sold out its first printing before it was published, and seven more printings followed. Some 75,000 copies have been sold to date. But a lot’s happened since then. New stadiums have been built for the Yankees and Mets. AirTrain and E-ZPass have become transportation norms. And the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, changed everything…. – LoHud, 1-16-11
  • Dark Tales Illuminate Haiti, Before and After Quake: “Haiti Noir,” released last week, has taken on new resonance amid the first anniversary of the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake that killed 300,000 people and left over one million homeless. While only 3 of the 18 stories deal with the earthquake directly, Edwidge Danticat, the volume’s editor, said many were filled with reminders of what was lost.
    “I had this fear that the stories would lose their relevance,” said Ms. Danticat, the most widely known contemporary writer to come from Haiti. “But the post-earthquake neighborhoods have a new intrigue. Some of these stories are elegies to lost, broken and destroyed neighborhoods.”… – NYT, 1-10-11
  • NYT 100 Notable Books of 2010NYT, 12-5-10
  • NYT: The 10 Best Books of 2010: Stacy Schiff: CLEOPATRA: A Life: With her signature blend of wit, intelligence and superb prose, Schiff strips away 2,000 years of prejudices and propaganda in her elegant reimagining of the Egyptian queen who, even in her own day, was mythologized and misrepresented.
    Isabel Wilkerson: THE WARMTH OF OTHER SUNS: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration: Wilkerson, a former national correspondent for The Times, has written a masterly and engrossing account of the Great Migration, in which six million African-Americans abandoned the South between 1915 and 1970. The book centers on the journeys of three black migrants, each representing a different decade and a different destination. – NYT, 12-12-10
  • Glenn W. LaFantasie: The top 12 Civil War books ever written: One great book for each month of 2011, the sesquicentennial of the War Between the States. In any event, here are a dozen books that, for me, tell the story of the Civil War with literary elegance, intellectual gusto and enormous flair….
    12. “The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War” by Bruce Catton
    11. “Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America”: by William E. Gienapp
    10. “Lincoln’s Men: How President Lincoln Became Father to an Army and a Nation”: By William C. Davis
    9. “Grant and Sherman: The Friendship That Won the Civil War”: By Charles Bracelen Flood
    8. “Chancellorsville 1863: The Souls of the Brave”: By Ernest B. (“Pat”) Furgurson
    7. “Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam”: By Stephen W. Sears
    6. “Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches From the Unfinished Civil War”: By Tony Horwitz
    5. “Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory”: By David W. Blight
    4. “This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War”: By Drew Gilpin Faust
    3. “Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era”: By James M. McPherson
    2. “The Destructive War: William Tecumseh Sherman, Stonewall Jackson, and the Americans”: By Charles Royster
    1. “A Stillness at Appomattox”: By Bruce Catton — Salon, 12-26-10
  • An American turning point: Review of Jim Murphy’s ‘The Crossing’: THE CROSSING How George Washington Saved the American Revolution (Juvenile History) George Washington was not the world’s most confident leader in June 1776. He turned to Patrick Henry after the Continental Congress voted for his appointment and said, “From the day I enter upon the command of the American armies, I date my fall, and the ruin of my reputation.” Fortunately, he guessed wrong, as author Jim Murphy clearly explains in “The Crossing.” By focusing on Washington’s initial self-doubt and tactical mistakes, the book makes his boldness and leadership in December 1776 all the more impressive. Amid mass desertions, foul weather and lack of equipment (including adequate shoes), Washington devised a plan to surprise the enemy and deliver a victory to the beleaguered Revolutionary cause… – WaPo, 1-5-11
  • Alan Riding: Nazi occupation, when the City of Light had its darkest hour: AND THE SHOW WENT ON Cultural Life in Nazi-Occupied Paris “And the Show Went On” deserves a comparable success. It is certainly one of the finest works of serious popular history since the heyday of Barbara Tuchman…. – WaPo, 1-5-11
  • Boastful and bullying to the end: Reading Edmund Morris’s “Colonel Roosevelt” is a rewarding journey, as it must also have been for its author, who concludes his three-volume saga begun in 1980 with publication of “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt.” “Theodore Rex” (2001) covered the middle years. “Colonel Roosevelt” begins with the ex-president in Africa, having, in 1908, installed in office his acolyte William Howard Taft. Roosevelt was prevented from running again by a pledge he had made in the 1904 campaign. Taft’s mission was to advance Roosevelt’s progressive blueprint…. – WaPo, 1-2-11
  • Tony Judt: Elegy for England, Book Review – The Memory Chalet – By Tony Judt: THE MEMORY CHALET Tony Judt ranges back over his life, particularly his youth in England, in these autobiographical fragments.
    “The Memory Chalet” bears little resemblance to the densely researched works of history that preceded it, but some of its preoccupations were hinted at in “Ill Fares the Land,” Judt’s post-illness overview of the state of contemporary politics. His trenchant analysis was supported, naturally, by statistics and citations, but there were a couple of places where the book moved into warmly personal focus. One was where he reflected on the diminishing importance of “visual representations of collective identity”: London’s black taxis, school uniforms, postmen’s uniforms…. – NYT, 1-3-11Excerpt
  • Samuel Moyn: The Last Utopia traces the history of human rights policy: Human rights—the notion that the protection of the immutable rights and freedoms of every individual on the planet supersedes all other concerns—did not always enjoy this prominent place in our political debate. Most historians have located the ideology’s origins in previous eras, from the ancient Greeks and Hebrews to the Enlightenment to post-World War II. In his erudite new book, The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History, Samuel Moyn proposes a more recent source. He argues that it was only in the 1970s, when other utopian ideologies—socialism, anti-colonialism, and anti-communism—fell by the wayside that human rights assumed its stature as the ultimate moral arbiter of international conduct.
    As Moyn tells it, human rights might trace its philosophical lineage to earlier times—few ideas emerge from the intellectual womb as orphans—but its dominant role was not assured until a particular point in time. He takes issue most forcefully with the belief that human rights’ ascension was an answer to the extermination of European Jewry. “Contrary to conventional assumptions, there was no widespread Holocaust consciousness in the postwar era, so human rights could not have been a response to it,” he writes…. – Slate, 1-1-11

HISTORY FEATURES:

  • Son Suggests Reagan Had Alzheimer’s as President: Ronald Reagan’s son suggests in a new book that his father suffered from the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s disease while he was still in the White House. The memoir quotes excerpts from Ron Reagan’s book “My Father at 100,” published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA)….
    But Reagan says the issue of his father’s health should not tarnish his legacy as the nation’s 40th president. “Does this delegitimize his presidency? Only to the extent that President Kennedy’s Addison’s disease or Lincoln’s clinical depression undermine theirs,” Reagan writes. “Better, it seems to me, to judge our presidents by what they actually accomplish than what hidden factors may be weighing on them.” He continues: “That likely condition, though, serves as a reminder that when we elect presidents, we elect human beings with all their foibles and weaknesses, psychological and physiological.”… – AP, 1-15-11
  • Journey to Remember: Stepping onto the platform of a Victorian-era train station here, you wouldn’t know you are standing over the foundation of Harpers Ferry’s original armory and arsenal buildings…. In April 2011, our country marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Fort Sumter, which most historians consider to be the start of the Civil War (although, technically, the first shots were fired at Sumter in January 1861).
    One can argue, however, that Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry really was the first shot, says James McPherson, Civil War historian and professor emeritus of history at Princeton University. “It vastly intensified Southern fears of Northern anti-slavery forces, and Brown’s martyrdom by hanging increased anti-slavery sentiments in the North,” McPherson says….
    “What happened here in 1859 caused a panic across the country,” says Caroline Janney, a Purdue University history professor. “While the majority of white northerners denounced Brown’s actions, there was enough mixed reaction (church bells ringing in his honor, newspapers praising him) to cause a stir among white southerners.”
    A massive slave rebellion long had been one of the South’s great fears. “As the 150th anniversary of the war approaches, we should seek to avoid the pitfalls that beset the Civil War’s centennial, which was mired in racism and Cold War politics,” Janney says. That does not mean we should avoid controversial topics such as slavery….. – Town Hall, 1-16-11
  • Robert Caro remembers the moment when he could finally start writing his biography of Robert Moses: [A] reporter invited Mr. Caro to join her for a sneak peek at the budding musical, “Robert Moses Astride New York,” a work in progress that will have its world premiere in a one-night-only free performance at 7 p.m. on Saturday at the World Financial Center in Lower Manhattan….
    To be sure, the musical is considerably less comprehensive than Mr. Caro’s 1,286-page 1974 book, “The Power Broker,” which follows Moses’ career as city parks commissioner and chairman of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority. “Robert Moses Astride New York” moves through major chapters of history in just a few stanzas, and the piece to be performed Saturday is only a sampling of what the composer, Gary Fagin, ultimately hopes will become a full-fledged production featuring additional characters like the neighborhood activist Jane Jacobs and Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia…. – NYT, 1-13-11
  • US historian: Millions of Turks suffered during Ottoman Empire’s collapse: A map prepared by Justin McCarthy, professor of history at the University of Louisville in the United States, shows that the breakup of the Ottoman Empire set thousands upon thousands of forlorn refugees on the move — including Ottoman Muslims.
    Since most Western chronicles of this era focus only on those of the Christian faith who suffered, the Turkish Coalition of America (TCA), which is based in Washington, D.C., has published an annotated map displaying the travels of 5 million Ottoman Muslims who were displaced from the Balkans. the Caucasus and Crimea from 1770-1923. The map also records and provides historical context for the 5 million Ottoman Muslims who died from 1864-1922 in the wars that were fought to dismantle the Ottoman Empire…. – Todays Zaman, 1-13-11
  • Bill Betts: Indiana historian tells story of Armstrong County namesake: From his career as a surveyor for the Penn family to becoming the “Hero of Armstrong County,” retired Indiana University of Pennsylvania English professor and history author Bill Betts of Indiana provides a comprehensive view of the life and accomplishments of Gen. John Armstrong in a biography of Armstrong published by Heritage Books being released this month. “Rank and Gravity, The Life of General John Armstrong of Carlisle” will soon be available for purchase online at Heritage Books of Westminster, Md, and at Amazon.com.
    “The book is the first, and long overdue, biography of this very important colonial figure, one of the most notable and consequential of 18th-century Pennsylvania,” said Betts. “I think it will be of great interest to the people of Armstrong County, especially in Kittanning.”…. – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 1-15-11
  • Baby Boomers rocked our pop culture, says Steve Gillon: When historians at the end of the 21st century look back at the impact of 20th-century Baby Boomers on entertainment and the arts, two things will stand out: TV and rock and roll….
    Steven Gillon, resident historian at the History Channel and a professor at the University of Oklahoma, says, “We still have episodes of ‘Leave It to Beaver’ playing in our heads – it accounts for our desire to re-create a world that was always imaginary…. – Arizona Republic, 1-2-11
  • Stanley Harrold: Prof examines role of border states in Civil War: A South Carolina State University professor goes beyond the traditional understanding of the Civil War’s causes in his new book. History professor Stanley Harrold explores the conflict and bloody violence over slavery in the border states in his latest book, “Border War” (University of North Carolina Press)…. – The Times and Democrat, 12-21-10

HISTORY PROFILES:

  • Rodolfo Acuña: Cal State Northridge professor caught in Arizona controversy: Rodolfo Acuña’s Mexican American history book, first published four decades ago, has become fuel for Arizona politicians targeting ethnic studies programs…. – LAT, 1-13-11
  • William Fitzhugh: The Concord Review — Journal Showcases Dying Art of the Research Paper: William H. Fitzhugh publishes The Concord Review, featuring research papers written by high school students. “Most kids don’t know how to write, don’t know any history, and that’s a disgrace,” Mr. Fitzhugh said. “Writing is the most dumbed-down subject in our schools.”
    His mood brightens, however, when talk turns to the occasionally brilliant work of the students whose heavily footnoted history papers appear in his quarterly, The Concord Review. Over 23 years, the review has printed 924 essays by teenagers from 44 states and 39 nations.
    The review’s exacting standards have won influential admirers. William R. Fitzsimmons, Harvard’s dean of admissions, said he keeps a few issues in his Cambridge office to inspire applicants. Harvard considers it “something that’s impressive,” like winning a national math competition, if an applicant’s essay has appeared in the review, he said…. – NYT, 1-8-11
  • Daniel Rasmussen: New book chronicles largest slave revolt in U.S. history: While many are familiar with the stories of uprisings led by Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey and John Brown, a significantly fewer number of people know the story of revolutionaries Charles Deslondes, Harry Kenner, Kook and Quamana who led a group of enslaved Africans toward a vulnerable New Orleans during the annual Mardi Gras celebration in hopes of gaining their freedom. That is about to change. American Uprising The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt, a new book written by Daniel Rasmussen and slated for an early January 2011 release tells the story of the planning and execution of this uprising and its aftermath.
    Rasmussen, a recent Harvard University grad, says he began researching and writing the book about three years ago after stumbling upon the story of the revolt while working on his senior thesis. “In a lot of history about slavery there were only three sentences about this revolt, the largest slave revolt in America,” he told The Louisiana Weekly. “Very little was known about it. The more I came upon this in different books, I said to myself ‘I’ve got to figure this out.’ I’ve done a fair amount of investigative journalism so the idea of looking into something that other people didn’t know about and I think some people have consciously tried to keep secret was really intriguing to me.”… – Louisiana Weekly, 12-27-10

HISTORY QUOTES:

  • Obama speech recalls Reagan: “It was different than Clinton at Oklahoma City or Reagan after the Challenger crash, but it was equally important for his presidency,” said presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, who has written books on Reagan as well as Presidents Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and both Roosevelts. “Remember, he took some shots when he first took office, and that has bred caution in his speechwriting,” added Brinkley. “The Oval Office speech on the BP spill was boilerplate. Even the Fort Hood eulogy, while heartfelt, was pretty unmemorable. But this was a great presidential speech. This was a serious, transformational moment in his presidency.”… – Politico, 1-14-11
  • Bernanke Saved the World From Another Great Depression, Niall Ferguson Says: U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke saved the global economy from falling into a great depression by presiding over an historic increase in the size of the central bank’s balance sheet, said Harvard’s Niall Ferguson. “He turned the Fed into the biggest hedge fund in history,” said Ferguson, an historian at Harvard University, in a speech delivered at a conference in Copenhagen hosted by the Skagen Fund. “He bought stuff that no central bank has ever bought before. He bought utter garbage and in doing so, I believe he saved us from a great depression.”… – Bloomberg News, 1-12-11
  • Brian Black: Oil Spill Commission report could shape industry’s future: Brian Black, a professor of history and environmental studies at Penn State Altoona, also views the spill and the study as a turning point in taming the oil industry. “I hope that when I teach about this event in 10 years, I will cite the commission and then trace how our energy transition picked up steam from 2010 forward, and Big Oil was brought under more regulation and monitoring than ever before,” Black said. “The problem is that being in the eye of such change often makes its overall trajectory hard to discern.”… – NOLA.com, 1-10-11
  • Joseph Palermo: U.S. assassination attempts not that rare: Joseph Palermo, an expert on political history at California State University in Sacramento, said the struggling U.S. economy, combined with the polarizing hype created by the 24-hour news cycle, means conditions were ripe for the shooting of a congresswoman in Arizona on Saturday. “People are very quick to try and pretend that the political assassination is very rare,” he said in an interview with Postmedia News. “Sadly, the truth is, it’s a very common element of any society, especially the United States.”… – Montreal Gazette, 1-11-11
  • Chester Pach and Julian Zelizer: Obama’s Choice Of Daley Fits Mold For Embattled Presidents Bringing in an outside critic to run his operation might help change the narrative of the presidency: “He reflected the more moderate wing of the GOP that felt Reagan had gone too far in his budgetary policies that were busting the deficit,” Julian Zelizer, an expert on American political history and professor at Princeton University, wrote in an email. “In this case, the criticism [Baker had made of Reagan’s policies] was in some ways a positive for his later appointment as chief of staff since it signaled that Reagan had moderated his views by bringing in someone who held different perspectives into his inner circle.”
    “Daley is a Democratic centrist who believes that the center is where his party can thrive and win,” says Chester Pach, a history professor at Ohio University who has written histories of the Nixon, Reagan, and Lyndon Johnson presidencies. “It seems as if Obama has similar views. Maybe he’s come to that conclusion only since Nov. 2.” – Newsweek, 1-6-11
  • E.J. Dionne Jr. Quotes Gordon Wood in Washington Post op-ed: Yet as Gordon Wood, the widely admired historian of the Revolutionary era has noted, we “can recognize the extraordinary character of the Founding Fathers while also knowing that those 18th-century political leaders were not outside history. . . . They were as enmeshed in historical circumstances as we are, they had no special divine insight into politics, and their thinking was certainly not free of passion, ignorance, and foolishness.”… – WaPo, 1-3-11

HISTORY INTERVIEWS:

  • Douglas Brinkley: 2010 In Review: The Year For White Americans: America ends the decade with its first black president, and census numbers have revealed that the country isn’t so black-and-white anymore. Hispanics and Asians are increasing in numbers compared to an aging white population. Historian Douglas Brinkley reflects on what’s shaking up the status quo….
    Prof. BRINKLEY: Well, I think the big change was when Barack Obama got elected president. It seems surreal to a lot of white Americans. Nobody ever thought the country was ready to have an African-American as president, let alone one with only a modest background in politics. He was quite young, and with a name like Barack Hussein Obama. The right thought that this was a guy they’d be able to, you know, dissolve on the campaign trail, and instead he beat John McCain and was sworn in in this historic inauguration. And you had, as first family in the White House, a black family…. – NPR, 12-30-10Mp3 Download

HISTORY AWARDS & APPOINTMENTS:

  • John Welsh: Centennial Professor of History, University of Penn: Richard R. Beeman has been appointed the John Welsh Centennial Professor of History in the School of Arts and Sciences. As a historian of the American Revolutionary Era, Dr. Beeman’s research focuses on aspects of America’s political and constitutional history in the 18th and 19th centuries. He has written seven books and is currently working on his eighth, which is focused on the Continental Congress. His latest, The Penguin Guide to the United States was published by Penguin Press in August. His book, Plain Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution (Random House, 2009) won the George Washington Book Prize and the Literary Award of the Philadelphia Athenaeum. He has also written several dozen articles…. – University of Penn Almanac, 12-21-10

HISTORY ANNOUNCEMENTS & EVENTS CALENDAR:

  • Thomas J. Sugrue: Barack Obama and the Burden of Race, January 21, 2011 at the Miller Center: THOMAS J. SUGRUE is the David Boies Professor of History and Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. Sugrue is the author of Not Even Past: Barack Obama and the Burden of Race (2010) and Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North (2008), a Main Selection of the History Book Club and a finalist for the 2008 Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His first book, The Origins of the Urban Crisis (1996), won the Bancroft Prize in American History, the Philip Taft Prize in Labor History, the President’s Book Award of the Social Science History Association, and the Urban History Association Award for Best Book in North American Urban History and was selected a Choice Outstanding Academic Book, an American Prospect On-Line Top Shelf Book on Race and Inequality, and a Lingua Franca Breakthrough Book on Race. This colloquium will be hosted by Brian Balogh, with comments from Claudrena Harold of UVa’s Corcoran Department of History. RSVP required to 434.243.8726 or gage@virginia.edu. – Miller Center Colloquium Paper PDF
  • David Bell: French history expert visits MSU for Distinguished Lecture Series: The Institute for the Humanities Distinguished Lecture Series returns for the spring semester at Mississippi State Jan. 27 with a presentation from noted Princeton University professor and author David Bell. An expert on the early modern history of France, Bell will discuss his latest book, “The First Total War: Napoleon’s Europe and the Birth of Warfare as We Know It.” The free, public program is at 4 p.m. in the university’s McCool Hall atrium.
    Prior to joining the staff at Princeton where he earned a doctorate, Bell taught at Yale and Johns Hopkins. In addition to holding the Andrew W. Mellon Chair in the Humanities, he was dean of faculty in the School of Arts and Sciences…. – MS State, 1-14-11
  • UT Austin launches new website “Not Even Past”: The History Department at UT Austin is launching an informative, interactive history web site today, January 10. Not Even Past provides current historical writing to a popular audience. For history buffs who want reading recommendations and short, interesting, digestible stories every day, the website offers a meaningful, dynamic, and ongoing conversation about History in the form of text, audio, and video histories on subjects that span the globe. The site is designed for anyone who is interested in history, from an avid reader of history to a history film aficionado. The content and “picks” are written by the department’s 60-person faculty with additional input from the graduate students. Notevenpast.org is rich with book and film recommendations, video interviews, podcasts, online commentary, and even virtual classes (free) every semester. You can learn from exceptional faculty and dialog with other history aficionados and Texas Exes, enrolled globally…. – Notevenpast.org
  • Readex to Launch Ethnic American Newspapers from the Balch Collection, 1799-1971: Ethnic American Newspapers from the Balch Collection, 1799-1971, will be released by Readex, a division of NewsBank, in spring 2011. Featuring more than 130 fully searchable newspapers in 10 languages from 25 states—including many rare 19th-century titles—this online collection will provide extensive coverage of many of the most influential ethnic groups in U.S. history. With an emphasis on Americans of Czech, French, German, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Jewish, Lithuanian, Polish, Slovak and Welsh descent, this unique resource will enable students and scholars to explore often-overlooked aspects of this nation’s history, politics and culture…. – Readex Press Release, 1-5-11
  • Bruce Catton papers now indexed online at the University of Wyoming: An inventory of papers and correspondence of Bruce Catton, widely regarded (along with Shelby Foote) as the most popular of America’s Civil War historians, is now accessible online through the University of Wyoming American Heritage Center. There are no access restrictions on the materials for research purposes, and the collection is open to the public…. A description and inventory for this collection [is now] accessible at http://rmoa.unm.edu/docviewer.php?docId=wyu-ah04032.xml/University of Wyoming, 12-20-10
  • Black history catalogued at new U. of C. website: ….On Friday at the University of Chicago’s Joseph Regenstein Library, researchers unveiled a new website intended to make it easy for the public and scholars alike to locate these African-American artifacts as well as a host of others in the city from the same period in history…. The website is the “cutting edge portal into discovering primary source materials to study and know black Chicago’s history from the 1930s to the 1970s,” said Jacqueline Goldsby, a former U. of C. professor who headed up the three-year project…. – Chicago Sun-Times, 12-11-10uncap.lib.uchicago.edu
  • Camelot’s archives, available with the click of a mouse: During a 1962 news conference, a reporter asked President John F. Kennedy if he’d consider locating his presidential library in Washington, D.C., after leaving the White House so scholars and historians would have the broadest possible access to it. No, he replied playfully, “I’m going to put it in Cambridge, Massachusetts.”…
    A four-year, $10 million effort to digitize the JFK Library and Museum’s archives, making hundreds of thousands of documents, photographs, and recordings available online, is nearing completion of its first phase. A formal announcement will come Jan. 13, one week before the 50th anniversary of JFK’s inauguration, at a press conference in the nation’s capitol.
    “Access to a Legacy,” as the project is called, marks the first time a presidential library established in the paper age has fully committed itself to the digital era. The amount of material to be posted online in January is huge — 200,000 pages of text, 1,500 photos, 1,250 files of audio recordings and moving images, and 340 phone conversations totaling 17 1/2 hours — but represents just a small portion of the collection….
    Presidential historian Robert Dallek, who has made liberal use of the Kennedy archives, said the primary payoff is reaching the largest possible international audience. “What this means is, people in Japan or Germany can have access to [JFK’s] office files, and that’s a splendid step forward.” Other presidential libraries will probably follow suit, he added, “because they don’t want to expire, so to speak. Plus, there’s still tremendous interest in subjects like World War II, Vietnam, and the New Deal.”… – Boston Globe (11-28-10)
  • THE NEW-YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY MAKES ITS MOST IMPORTANT COLLECTIONS RELATING TO SLAVERY AVAILABLE ONLINE: Rich trove of material becomes easily accessible at www.nyhistory.org/slaverycollection The New-York Historical Society is proud to announce the launch of a new online portal to nearly 12,000 pages of source materials documenting the history of slavery in the United States, the Atlantic slave trade and the abolitionist movement. Made readily accessible to the general public for the first time at www.nyhistory.org/slaverycollections, these documents from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries represent fourteen of the most important collections in the library’s Manuscript Department….
  • Understanding the Iran-Contra Affairs,” is the only comprehensive website on the famous Reagan-era government scandal, which stemmed from the U.S. government’s policies toward two seemingly unrelated countries, Nicaragua and Iran. Despite stated and repeated denials to Congress and to the public, Reagan Administration officials supported the militant contra rebels in Nicaragua and sold arms to a hostile Iranian government. These events have led to questions about the appropriateness of covert operations, congressional oversight, and even the presidential power to pardon…. – irancontra.org
  • Thousands of Studs Terkel interviews going online: The Library of Congress will digitize the Studs Terkel Oral History Archive, according to the agreement, while the museum will retain ownership of the roughly 5,500 interviews in the archive and the copyrights to the content. Project officials expect digitizing the collection to take more than two years…. – NYT, 5-13-10
  • 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.

HISTORIANS SPOTTED:

  • American Historical Association’s (AHA) 125th Annual Meeting / Conference: Daily RecapsHistory Musings

HISTORY ON TV:

  • Robert E. Lee PBS special airs on Jan. 3, 2011 @ 9pm: The local PBS stations will present a 90-minute documentary on the life of Robert E. Lee tomorrow evening at 9:00 p.m., the first of a series of three programs in the “American Experience” series, kicking off the Sesquicentennial observance which begins this year. The program was duly dissected by Washington Post writer Hank Stuever, who seemed to bend over backwards in his desire to NOT like it, with grudging admissions here and there that at least there had been no “biographical bombshells, undiscovered offspring or recently unearthed documents.”… – Washington Times, 1-20-11
  • C-SPAN2: BOOK TV Weekend Schedule
  • PBS American Experience: Mondays at 9pm
  • History Channel: Weekly Schedule

HISTORY BEST SELLERS (NYT):

UPCOMING HISTORY BOOK RELEASES:

  • T. Harry Williams: Lincoln and His Generals, (Paperback), January 11, 2011
  • Robert Wright: Our Man in Tehran: The Truth Behind the Secret Mission to Save Six Americans during the Iran Hostage Crisis and the Ambassador Who Worked with the CIA to Bring Them Home, (Hardcover), January 11, 2011
  • Jay M. Shafritz: Classics of Public Administration, (Paperback), January 14, 2011
  • Petra Pertici: Battle of San Romano: A Day in History, (Paperback), January 16, 2011
  • Alan Bennett: Captain Roy Brown: The Definitive Biography, Including His Encounter with the Red Baron, Manfred von Richthofen, (Hardcover), January 16, 2011
  • Douglas Brinkley: The Quiet World: Saving Alaska’s Wilderness Kingdom, 1879-1960, (Hardcover), January 18, 2011
  • Lawrence Goldstone: Inherently Unequal: The Betrayal of Equal Rights by the Supreme Court, 1865-1903, (Hardcover), January 18, 2011
  • Michael G. Long: Marshalling Justice: The Early Civil Rights Letters of Thurgood Marshall, (Hardcover), January 18, 2011
  • Edward G. Lengel: Inventing George Washington: America’s Founder, in Myth and Memory, (Hardcover), January 18, 2011
  • Ron Reagan: My Father at 100, January 18, 2011
  • Deborah Blum: The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York, (Paperback), January 25, 2011
  • Peter N. Stearns: World Civilizations: The Global Experience (New Edition), (Hardcover), January 28, 2011
  • Barbara F. Stokes: Myrtle Beach: A History, 1900-1980, (Paperback), January 28, 2011
  • Donald A. Clark: The Notorious “Bull” Nelson: Murdered Civil War General (1st Edition), (Hardcover), January 31, 2011
  • Michael D. Coe: The Maya (Eighth Edition), (Paperback), January 31, 2011
  • Molly Caldwell Crosby: Asleep: The Forgotten Epidemic That Remains One of Medicine’s Greatest Mysteries, (Paperback), February 1, 2011
  • Jonathan Gill: Harlem: The Four Hundred Year History from Dutch Village to Capital of Black America, (Hardcover), February 1, 2011
  • Amy Louise Wood: Lynching and Spectacle: Witnessing Racial Violence in America, 1890-1940, (Paperback), February 1, 2011
  • David Eisenhower: Going Home to Glory: A Memoir of Life with Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961-1969, (Hardcover), February 2, 2011
  • Frederick Brown: For the Soul of France: Culture Wars in the Age of Dreyfus, (Paperback), February 8, 2011
  • Donald Rumsfeld: Known and Unknown: A Memoir, (Hardcover), February 8, 2011
  • Holger H. Herwig: The Marne, 1914: The Opening of World War I and the Battle That Changed the World, (Paperback), February 8, 2011
  • Christopher Corbett: The Poker Bride: The First Chinese in the Wild West (Reprint), (Paperback), February 8, 2011
  • Justin Fox: The Myth of the Rational Market: A History of Risk, Reward, and Delusion on Wall Street, (Paperback), February 8, 2011
  • Julia P. Gelardi: From Splendor to Revolution: The Romanov Women, 1847–1928, (Hardcover), February 15, 2011
  • Lucy Moore: Anything Goes: A Biography of the Roaring Twenties, (Paperback), February 22, 2011
  • Sarah Rose: For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World’s Favorite Drink and Changed History, (Paperback), February 22, 2011
  • David Strauss: Setting the Table for Julia Child: Gourmet Dining in America, 1934-1961, (Hardcover), February 26, 2011
  • 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:

  • Oleg Grabar: Historian Who Studied Islamic Culture, Dies at 81: Oleg Grabar, a historian of Islamic art and architecture whose imposingly broad range and analytical subtlety helped transform the Western study of Islamic culture, died Saturday at his home in Princeton, N.J. He was 81… – NYT, 1-12-11
  • Kevin Mark Britz, 56, dies of cancer: Center of Southwest Studies Director Kevin Mark Britz died after a yearlong battle with cancer Friday, Jan. 7, 2011, at his home in Durango. He was 56…. – Durango Herald, 1-11-11
  • In Memoriam – Norman Cooke, RIC emeritus professor: Norman H. Cooke of Glocester, associate professor emeritus of history, died at the Philip Hulitar Center on Dec. 26. He was 86. Cooke began at RIC as an assistant professor in 1961, and retired in 1986…. – Rhode Island College, 1-6-11
  • Memorial service set Jan. 8 for history professor emeritus Robert Kingdon: Robert McCune Kingdon, Hilldale Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, mentor of generations of Reformation scholars and path-breaking historian of the Reformation, died on Friday, Dec. 3, 2010. He will be missed by many friends, colleagues and students whose lives he touched over the years. He was the preeminent American historian of the French Reformation…. – University of Wisconsin-Madison, 12-27-10
  • Irwin Abrams. professor at Antioch, dies at 96: Irwin M. Abrams, a longtime professor of history at Antioch College, a pioneer in the field of peace research and a global authority on the Nobel Peace Prize, died on Dec. 16 at the Friends Care Center, just a block away from the house on Xenia Avenue where he had lived for almost 60 years. He was 96. Abrams, who had not been ill, had become frail in recent years. He died peacefully, just as he had lived his life, according to his daughter, Carole Morrill, who was his primary caregiver…. – Yellow Spring News, 12-23-10

James McPherson: Battle Over the Battlefields

Source: Newsweek, 1-13-11

One hundred and fifty years after the start of the Civil War, we’re still fighting. This time it’s development vs. preservation—and development’s winning.

Richard T. Nowitz / CorbisGallery: The Battle to Preserve History. Click to view our photos of battlefields that are under the gun—or have already seen acreage eaten up.

The Battle to Preserve History

A casino could soon sit near the Gettysburg battlefield, the bloodiest encounter on American soil. A Walmart supercenter may shadow the Wilderness battlefield in Virginia where Gen. U. S. Grant kept his headquarters when he first fought Gen. Robert E. Lee. And Washington, D.C.’s suburban sprawl is slowly strangling the rural lands where the Civil War’s first crucial battles were fought. It’s an ironic situation: as battlefield sites across the country prepare for an expected onslaught of visitors connected to the Civil War’s 150th anniversary, many of them are shrinking away, acre by acre.

April 12 will mark the sesquicentennial of the start of the war, and governments and citizens across the country are gearing up to commemorate it. Visitation at Civil War–related national parks has already been on the rise, increasing 6.4 percent between 2008 and 2009 after mostly flat numbers in prior years. The National Park Service has reworked its approach to teaching the war’s history to make it more focused on causes and effects. In anticipation of the anniversary, PBS plans to re-air Ken Burns’s landmark documentary on the war, and The New York Times and The Washington Post have already launched special commemorative blogs and news coverage. All the while, however, development at sites around the country is destroying Civil War battlefields at a frantic rate—30 acres a day, according to the Civil War Trust (CWT), a leading heritage conservation group—fast enough to eat up what’s left of the Gettysburg battlefield park in just seven months. “[Battlefield visitors] don’t want to see the parking lot where their ancestors once fought that’s now a shopping center,” says Jim Campi, policy director of CWT. “They want to walk through the woods and see the cannon and the fence lines.”

This month, two high-profile conflicts over further development on the sites of major battles will come to a head. Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board officials are expected to decide whether to allow a casino several miles southwest of the Gettysburg battlefield.. The Mason-Dixon Resort and Casino has become a cause célèbre for Civil War buffs, who have held it up as the best example of crass commercialism making inroads into the “hallowed ground” where more than 51,000 soldiers died. And in Virginia, a judge will hear arguments in a suit that aims to prevent the planned Walmart that is—depending on whom you ask—either adjacent to or on the Wilderness battlefield. These two standoffs are part of a larger debate that raises many of the same questions as the mosque controversy in lower Manhattan: What constitutes hallowed ground, what can you build near or on it, and how soon is too soon?

“There has to be a reasonable balance,” says James McPherson, the foremost living Civil War historian and professor emeritus of history at Princeton. “If you preserved every square foot of battlefield in Virginia, there wouldn’t be much land left. There’s a tendency among preservationists to want to save everything, but realistically there have to be compromises.”

One place McPherson isn’t willing to compromise, however, is the Virginia Walmart, a 140,000-square-foot supercenter the company wants to build in Orange County on a parcel that’s been zoned for commercial use for 37 years. The bloody May 1864 encounter fought there was the beginning of the end for the Confederacy. In Grant’s first battle since becoming chief of the U.S. Army, he pounded Lee and began driving him south toward Richmond. Historians say his army’s “nerve center,” including his own headquarters, was located on and near the Walmart site, which is also across the street from the entrance to the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park….READ MORE

%d bloggers like this: