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.

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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

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

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