History Headlines April 8, 2013: Niall Ferguson & Douglas Brinkley Discuss Margaret Thatcher’s Legacy on CNN

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HISTORY MAKING HEADLINES

Zakaria on Thatcher: ‘In some ways she’s more consequential than Churchill’

Source: Daily Caller, 4-8-13

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher may have been even more consequential than former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, according to CNN foreign policy analyst Fareed Zakaria on “Piers Morgan Live” Monday night. Zakaria joined historian Niall Ferguson, Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass and historian Douglas Brinkley on Morgan’s show to discuss the legacy of Thatcher, who died in London on Monday of a stroke….READ MORE

Niall Ferguson: “Churchill was described rightly by that great historian A.J.P. Taylor as the ‘savior of his nation. And I think Margaret Thatcher was also the savior of her nation. You know, the others on the panel won’t know what Britain was like in the 1970s, but you and I know, Piers, that the country was in an appalling mess. And she single handedly turned that around. So she is up there second only to Churchill in my view.”

Douglas Brinkley: “First off, look, Winston Churchill is in a category all himself as British prime minister. I mean, warding off Nazi Germany is not the Falklands crisis. But the rest of the panelists I think are right. By ’79, Britain was an economic mess and she came in and really inspired Great Britain to remember it had a role in the world.”

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History Buzz November 21, 2011: David Cannadine: Leave UK history curriculum alone but teach it for longer, says U.S. historian

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

HISTORY EDUCATION NEWS

Towards the end of a typically barnstorming performance at the Hay Festival in May last year, during which Niall Ferguson had rubbished the way history was taught in this country, the spotlight was turned towards the audience to reveal that the new education secretary, Michael Gove, had snuck into the event and was sitting somewhere near the back. And after a few not entirely convincing exchanges of surprise along the lines of “Fancy seeing you here!”, “You’re marvellous”, “No, you’re marvellous”, Gove offered Ferguson a job on the spot to help reform the history curriculum….

Wisely, perhaps, Gove chose to consult not just Ferguson. Instead, using the contacts book that mysteriously opens up for new ministers, he also invited several other well-known historians, including Simon Schama and Richard Evans, to contribute their suggestions for the wholesale reform of history teaching. Somewhere not far into the process, he also asked David Cannadine, Dodge Professor of History at Princeton – and, with Ferguson and Schama, yet another of the UK’s top academic exports to the US – for his thoughts. Eighteen months down the line, Gove might rather be wishing he hadn’t.

Like Gove and Ferguson, Cannadine has also taken a profound interest in how history is taught in state schools; unlike them, he didn’t think that relying on hearsay and ideology was the best way to decide public policy. “There had been a great many theories about how history had been taught over time,” Cannadine says, “but no one had done any detailed research to provide the evidence to back them up.” So about two and a half years ago Cannadine, along with two research fellows, Jenny Keating and Nicola Sheldon, funded by the Linbury Trust and the Institute of Historical Research, set out to find the empirical data, and this week their findings are published in The Right Kind of History….READ MORE

Niall Ferguson: America’s Dumbest Budget Cut

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

Source: Newsweek, 6-26-11

Why Republicans are wrong to put fiscal arithmetic ahead of global influence.

republicans-budget-ferguson

Emmanuel Dunand / AFP-Getty ImagesPeople outside the 2012 Republican candidates debate in New Hampshire. Bring the troops home. Considering how polarized American politics is supposed to be, the consensus on this one point verges on the supernatural.

President Obama recently announced a new schedule for scaling down the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. A total of 10,000 men will come home this year and a further 20,000 by the end of next summer. The surge is over.

This is not a declaration of victory. It is a declaration of bankruptcy. “From a fiscal standpoint, we’re spending too much money on Iraq and Afghanistan,” a senior administration official told The New York Times. “There’s a belief from a fiscal standpoint that this is cannibalizing too much of our spending.”

There was a time when Republicans—and not a few Democrats—would have been dismayed by such a retreat. Yet in their televised debate just a few days before the president’s announcement, the Republican presidential hopefuls vied with one another to out-dove him….READ MORE

Richard Dawkins, Niall Ferguson: Line-up at private £18,000-a-year university

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

Source: Guardian (UK), 6-5-11

University lecturers and students reacted with dismay on Sunday after a group of leading British academics took a step towards the establishment of an elite US-style university system in the UK by launching a new private college offering £18,000-a-year courses.

AC Grayling, a professor of philosophy at the universities of London and Oxford, will welcome next year the first students to the New College of the Humanities to study for degrees in English, philosophy, history, economics and law taught by academics from Harvard, Princeton, Oxford and Cambridge.

There is a starry lineup of professorial talent: Richard Dawkins will teach evolutionary biology and science literacy; Niall Ferguson will lecture on economics and economic history; and Steven Pinker will teach philosophy and psychology.

Inspired in part by the business model of American Ivy League universities where $40,000 (£24,000) annual fees are not unusual, New College will cost double the maximum tuition fee allowed in government-funded universities. It is set up to deliver a profit to its shareholders who include the professors and a team of wealthy businessmen who have bankrolled the plan…. READ MORE

Niall Ferguson: why the West is now in decline

Source: Telegraph UK, 3-6-11

For 500 years Western civilisation was full of self-belief, but now, historian Niall Ferguson argues in his new Channel 4 series, its dominance is coming to an end.

Niall Fergurson in his new Channel 4 series, Civilization: is the West History?

Niall Ferguson in his new Channel 4 series, Civilization: is the West History? Photo: Channel 4

…Yet any history of the world’s civilisations that underplays the degree of their gradual subordination to the West after 1500 is missing the essential point – the thing most in need of explanation. The rise of the West is, quite simply, the pre-eminent historical phenomenon of the second half of the second millennium after Christ. It is the story at the very heart of modern history. It is perhaps the most challenging riddle historians have to solve.

In my new book and series, I argue that what distinguished the West from the Rest – the mainsprings of global power – were six identifiably novel complexes of institutions and associated ideas and behaviours. For the sake of simplicity, I summarise them under six headings: 1. Competition 2. Science 3. Property rights 4. Medicine 5. The consumer society 6. The work ethic.

To use the language of today’s computerised, synchronised world, these were the six killer applications – the killer apps – that allowed a minority of mankind originating on the western edge of Eurasia to dominate the world for the better part of 500 years.

This is of more than purely historical interest. For it is only by identifying the causes of Western ascendancy that we can hope to estimate with any degree of accuracy the imminence of our fall.

My conclusion is that we are already living through the twilight of Western predominance. But that is not just because most of the Rest have now downloaded all or nearly all of our killer apps. It is also because we ourselves have lost faith in our own civilisation.

Civilization: the West and the Rest (Allen Lane) costs £25 T £23 plus £1.25 p&p. Call 0844 871 1515 or click here. The series starts on Sunday 6 March on Channel 4 at 8.00pm

Niall Ferguson: My modest mission? To change the world

Source: Independent UK, 3-6-11

As his series ‘Civilisation’ – an echo of Kenneth Clark’s renowned television epic – begins tonight, celebrity historian Niall Ferguson tells Matthew Bell about the sacrifices he has had to make to build his empire

JUSTIN SUTCLIFFE

There’s no doubt Ferguson is capable of hard work: ‘Civilisation’ is his ninth book and fifth TV series in just 16 years

 

Apart from the £1.5m gift from Saif Gaddafi, which cost the London School of Economics its director on Thursday, Niall Ferguson is the flashiest bit of bling on campus right now. He certainly looks expensive, in a Savile Row suit and playboy white shirt – open-necked, of course, to offset the tan – though he pooh-poohs rumours that he earns £3m a year.

If the 46-year-old historian and Orlando Bloom lookalike seems out of place in a drab don’s cell, that’s because the world stage is more his scene these days. He’s the Laurence A Tisch professor of history at Harvard, the William Ziegler professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, and, when he’s not giving lucrative advice to hedge funds, he shares homes in Manhattan and London with his girlfriend, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born Dutch ex-MP, who lives under threat of a fatwa for holding anti-Islamic views.

Tonight, as he helpfully reminded friends by email last week, he is back on telly to present the first of a six-part series, Civilisation. It accompanies a book of the same name, a double-pronged attempt to help 16-year-olds get to grips with Western history from the 1500s to the present. It’s divided into six areas, which he calls his six “killer apps”, a gimmick so irritating they’ll surely put off all but the most bovine viewers. Actually, he agrees they are “slightly annoying”, but argues that it’s a good analogy because “outwardly these things are simple, an icon you click on, but in fact they’re very complicated on the inside – just like an app”.

Whatever. The question is: do we really need another breathy TV series repackaging the past as a sexy novelty? David Starkey, Simon Schama, Andrew Marr – haven’t we been here before? “I don’t accept that I am re-presenting stuff that has been written about extensively,” he sniffs. “Anybody who claims that this is somehow rehashed old stuff is” – sniff – “is actually libelling me. Part of my role is to be a synthesiser of material, but that is not the same thing as reheating other people’s meals.”

There’s no doubt Ferguson is capable of hard work: Civilisation is his ninth book and fifth television series in just 16 years. But for all that, he gets tetchy if you challenge his views, hinting at a monstrous ego. Ask him about imperialism, for instance, and he lets off a deep sigh before launching into a rant about how it’s “a very stupid position” to talk only about European empires (there have been many all over the world) and seek to lay the blame for all the world’s ills on them. The terminology gets even more playground when he says “most sane people” agree that one of the greatest achievements of Western civilisation was the treatment of infectious diseases, and that it’s thanks to the Empire that this knowledge spread. But his book, Empire, did argue that the British Empire was a good thing, right? “The point of that book was to explain that, like all historical phenomena, empires have benefits as well as costs. And the British Empire had quite a lot of benefits. The book never glosses over the costs, as anybody who reads it will confirm, but a good number of people with axes to grind thought it would be more fun to skip the reading and caricature the book.”…READ MORE

History Buzz, July 19-26, 2010: The FBI & Howard Zinn & Alan Brinkley Blogs “Mad Men”

HISTORY BUZZ:

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

RELATED LINKS & ANNOUNCEMENTS

THIS WEEK IN HISTORY:

  • Coventry historian helps identify Battle of Fromelles fallen: TODAY marks the 94th anniversary of the Battle of Fromelles where 30 Coventry and Warwickshire servicemen are thought to have died. More than 7,000 British and Australian soldiers died, were wounded or taken prisoner during the First World War battle in Northern France. Bodies of the dead soldiers were buried in six mass graves by the Germans but the names of many of these remain unknown…. – Coventry Telegraph (UK) (7-19-10)

IN FOCUS:

  • FBI admits probing ‘radical’ historian Zinn for criticizing bureau: FBI files show bureau may have tried to get Zinn fired from Boston University for his political opinions. Those who knew of the dissident historian Howard Zinn would not be surprised that J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI kept tabs on him for decades during the Cold War. But in a release of documents pertaining to Zinn, the bureau admitted that one of its investigations into the left-wing academic was prompted not by suspicion of criminal activity, but by Zinn’s criticism of the FBI’s record on civil rights investigations…. – The Raw Story (7-30-10)

HISTORY NEWS:

  • Teaching history may become a thing of past: As the start of a new school year approaches, not to mention the November elections, Americans face a dizzying array of fiscal, human, environmental and other crises. More than ever, our democracy requires an educated citizenry capable of analyzing the world around us and of making informed judgments. So this is why Americans — from parents to voters to policymakers – must address yet another deepening crisis, the one in history education at the K-12 level. As if the approval in May of gravely flawed social studies standards by the Texas State Board of Education is not depressing enough, the nation lost one of its most learned, passionate and effective public champions for the study and appreciation of our collective past with the passing of Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia in June. However complicated his own legacy, Byrd understood that we must invest in the future by understanding the past, which is why he used his considerable influence to sponsor the Teaching American History grants program. – Houston Chronicle, 7-31-10
  • Japan asked for annexation apology by Korean scholars: Over 1,000 scholars, writers and attorneys from Korea and Japan asked the Japanese government for a formal apology for the annexation of Korea ahead of its 100-year anniversary next month…. – JoongAng Daily (7-29-10)
  • Christopher Waldrep, Michael Pfeifer: Experts on history of lynching rebut Jeffrey Lord’s Sherrod claim: Experts on the history of lynching are criticizing an American Spectator report which claimed that Shirley Sherrod’s statement that her relative Bobby Hall was lynched was “factually, provably untrue.” Media Matters (7-27-10)
  • Construction History Society of America – Newest AHA Affiliate: The AHA welcomes the Construction History Society of America as its newest Affiliated Society…. – AHA Blog (7-20-10)
  • Niall Ferguson slams Australian immigration policy: ONE of the world’s leading economic historians has slammed Labor’s “needless pseudo stimulus” spending. Niall Ferguson has also criticised the election campaign’s “pathetic” debate over capping immigration and population growth…. – The Australian (7-27-10)
  • Historian stages sleep-ins to save SC slave cabins: When Joe McGill spreads his sleeping bag on the floor of a slave cabin, he knows that spending the night there will conjure the specter of slavery…. – AP (7-23-10)
  • Daniel Kevles, David Reynolds, Lizabeth Cohen, Sean Wilentz, Simon Schama: Sixteen economists and historians joined in a consensus statement demanding urgent action on unemployment and the faltering recovery: Fourteen million out of work! Sixteen notable economists and historians have joined in a consensus statement for The Daily Beast demanding urgent action on unemployment and the faltering recovery. Joseph Stiglitz, Alan Blinder, Robert Reich, Richard Parker, Derek Shearer, Laura Tyson, Sir Harold Evans, and other thought leaders have produced a manifesto calling for more government stimulus and tax credits to put America back to work…. – Hot Indie News (7-19-10)
  • Conrad Black to be released from prison on bail: Conrad Black will likely be out on bail within days from the Florida jail that has been his home for the last 28 months. But it’s the bail conditions that will determine where he goes next. The bail conditions will be set by U.S. District Court Judge Amy St. Eve in Chicago. St. Eve is the judge who presided over Black’s trial in 2007 and who ended up sentencing him to 78 months after a jury found him guilty of three counts of fraud and one count of obstruction of justice…. – CBC News (7-20-10)
  • Historian Orlando Figes agrees to pay damages for fake reviews: One of Britain’s leading historians, Orlando Figes, is to pay damages and costs to two rivals who launched a libel case after a row erupted over fake reviews posted on the Amazon website…. – Guardian (UK) (7-16-10)

OP-EDs:

  • Alan Brinkley: ‘Mad Men’: A Conversation (Season 4, Episode 1, ‘Public Relations’): I’m flattered to have been invited to join this conversation about “Mad Men.” Like most of us on this blog, I suspect, I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, and one of the pleasures of watching the show is being reminded of so many aspects of life in those years that now seem so much a part of the past.
    I’ve been watching the show since it began, and I’ve always been impressed by the unflinching portrayal of flawed characters whom we really want to like but are never wholly allowed to. It echoes so many parts of the culture of that era and of some of the greatest artists of the era: Cheever, Bellow, Yates, Updike, Miller, Albee, among others. And it¹s terrific on the quotidian details of the era as well ­ the clothes, the décor, the smoking, the drinking, the jargon, the sexism, the closeted homosexuality, and the casual antisemitism. Parts of it remind me of my parents. I remember the omnipresence of cigarettes and cocktails. Only later did I understand their own struggle to find a place in a world that did not come naturally to them ­ my mother, from a middle-class Jewish family, marrying a man from a lower-middle class Protestant family in North Carolina, both of them fleeing into the postwar suburban world — where backgrounds were supposed to disappear — and trying to find a place in it, not always successfully…. – WSJ, 7-25-10
  • Alan Brinkley: ‘Mad Men’: A Conversation Every Sunday after the newest episode of “Mad Men,” lawyer and Supreme Court advocate Walter Dellinger will host an online dialogue about the show. The participants include literature professor Toril Moi, political science professor David L. Paletz, media expert Evangeline Morphos, and historian Alan Brinkley. Dellinger will post his thoughts shortly after each episode ends at 11 p.m., and the others will add their commentary in the hours and days that follow…. – WSJ, 7-25-10
  • Mark Bauerlein: An Episode at Hamilton–Paquette and UrgoThe Chronicle of Higher Education (7-20-10)
  • Peter Zarrow: Me, Wang Hui, and Liberal Wishy-washy-ness: Wang Hui is a cultural historian and critic, and professor at Qinghua University in Beijing. He was for several years editor of Dushu, a serious general interest magazine perhaps roughly — very roughly — equivalent to the Atlantic monthly in the US. He is also known as a leader of the so-called “New Left” intellectuals, who highlight the costs of economic liberalization, global capitalism, and rigid Western-style modernization policies. Early this year, charges of plagiarism began to appear concerning some of some of Wang Hui’s work. He has since been subject to numerous attacks, including ad hominen blog attacks…. – The China Beat (Blog) (7-16-10)

REVIEWS & FIRST CHAPTERS:

  • Rick Perlstein’s “Nixonland” gets the digital treatment, E-Books Fly Beyond Mere Text: E-books of the latest generation are so brand new that publishers can’t agree on what to call them. In the spring Hachette Book Group called its version, by David Baldacci, an “enriched” book. Penguin Group released an “amplified” version of a novel by Ken Follett last week. And on Thursday Simon & Schuster will come out with one of its own, an “enhanced” e-book version of “Nixonland” by Rick Perlstein…. Simon & Schuster has taken the best-selling “Nixonland,” first published in hardcover in 2008 in a whopping 896 pages, and scattered 27 videos throughout the e-book…. – NYT (7-29-10)
  • Niall Ferguson: Yesterday’s Banker: HIGH FINANCIER The Lives and Time of Siegmund Warburg Niall Ferguson’s “High Financier,” the biography of the Anglo-German banker Sir Siegmund Warburg, takes us back to a different era — the 1950s and ’60s — and a different conception of banking. Profits from trading were modest, and bankers made most of their money by giving advice to clients and helping businesses to raise capital. Bankers like Warburg thought of themselves as rather like family doctors, whose job it was to get to know their clients well, understand their problems and act in their best interest — a far cry from the ethos that dominates today’s Wall Street…. – NYT, 7-30-10
  • Jane Ziegelman: In a Tenement’s Meager Kitchens, a Historian Looks for Insight: 97 ORCHARD An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement In the meantime we have Jane Ziegelman’s modest but absorbing “97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement.” The story it tells, about Old World habits clashing and ultimately melding with new American ones, is familiar. But Ms. Ziegelman is a patient scholar and a graceful writer, and she rummages in these families’ histories and larders to smart, chewy effect. Ms. Ziegelman, whose previous book, “Foie Gras: A Passion,” occupies a place at the plummier end of the food history spectrum, introduces us to the Glockners, the Moores, the Gumpertzes, the Rogarshevskys and the Baldizzis, who all lived at 97 Orchard Street, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, between 1863 and 1935…. – NYT, 7-28-10
  • Julie Flavell: Colonials Abroad: WHEN LONDON WAS CAPITAL OF AMERICA Julie Flavell’s “When London Was Capital of America” illuminates this fascinating chapter of London’s — and North America’s — past, showing how the metropolis functioned as a magnet for colonists from across the Atlantic (including the West Indies) who sought accomplishment, opportunity and commerce. An American-born scholar who is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society, Flavell has unearthed a host of stories that bring alive a previously neglected aspect of the colonial experience…. – NYT, 7-30-10
  • Geoffrey O’Brien: Saratoga Gothic: THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF WALWORTH A Tale of Madness and Murder in Gilded Age America In addition to publishing six books of poetry as well as eight of cultural history and criticism, Geoffrey O’Brien is the editor in chief of the Library of America, whose handsome, authoritative volumes now more or less constitute the nation’s literary canon. But however central the novelist Mansfield Tracy Walworth (1830-73) may be to O’Brien’s crackerjack new history of one family’s mayhem, it seems safe to say that he will not soon be joining Welty, Wharton and Whitman at the right-hand reaches of the Library’s long, august shelf…. – NYT, 7-30-10Excerpt
  • Thomas L. Jeffers: Turning Right: NORMAN PODHORETZ A Biography …Thomas L. Jeffers’s exhaustive but frustratingly uncritical biography, “Norman Podhoretz,” is most engaging in its early chapters, telling the story of how this brilliant and ambitious child of Jewish immigrants from Galicia rose from poverty in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn to become first, the star student of the great literary critic Lionel Trilling at Columbia University and then, at the age of 30, the editor of Commentary, the magazine of the American Jewish Committee and one of the two leading journals (along with Partisan Review) of the legendary New York Intellectuals…. – NYT, 7-30-10Excerpt
  • Lyndall Gordon: Explosive Inheritance LIVES LIKE LOADED GUNS Emily Dickinson and Her Family’s Feuds The tale that Lyndall Gordon unveils in “Lives Like Loaded Guns” is so lurid, so fraught with forbidden passions, that readers may be disappointed to find that no actual gun goes off in this feverish account of the Dickinson family “feuds.” There are metaphorical guns galore, including Dickinson’s self-portrait as lethal wallflower: “My Life had stood — a Loaded Gun — / In Corners — till a Day / The Owner passed — identified — / And carried Me away.” Gordon, who has written highly regarded biographies of Charlotte Brontë, T. S. Eliot and Mary Wollstonecraft, detects two patterns of “explosive inheritance” in Dickinson, who happened to have a grandmother named Gunn: eruptions in the lives and in the poems…. – NYT, 7-30-10
  • Jane Brox: Up From Darkness: BRILLIANT The Evolution of Artificial Light The lights eventually came back on, and I forgot about the burger lamp until reading Jane Brox’s “Brilliant: The Evolution of Artificial Light,” which takes us from fat to fluorescence and on into the future (beyond the bulb, that is). The book starts off promisingly, in the dim past…. – NYT, 7-30-10
  • Mark Atwood Lawrence: John Lukacs: The Heart of a Realist: THROUGH THE HISTORY OF THE COLD WAR The Correspondence of George F. Kennan and John Lukacs This powerful sense of estrangement from mainstream America pervades “Through the History of the Cold War,” a gloomy but fascinating volume containing more than 200 letters exchanged by Kennan and John Lukacs over half a century. The correspondence began in 1952, when Lukacs, a Hungarian émigré who later became a prolific historian of modern Europe, wrote Kennan to commend his view that the United States needed to resist Soviet expansion through political and economic, rather than military, means. To Lukacs’s surprise, Kennan wrote back… – NYT, 7-25-10
  • Wendy Moffat: Lives of the Novelists: E. M. Forster: A GREAT UNRECORDED HISTORY A New Life of E. M. Forster In “A Great Unrecorded History,” a well-written, intelligent and perceptive biography of Forster, Wendy Moffat attempts to explore that silence and at the same time to draw a picture of a figure who was sensitive, sensuous and kind, an artist who possessed a keen, plain sort of wisdom and lightness of touch that make him, to this day, an immensely influential novelist, almost a prophet. She uses the sources for our knowledge of Forster’s sexuality, including letters and diaries, without reducing the mystery and sheer individuality of Forster, without making his sexuality explain everything…. – NYT, 7-25-10
  • Powerful Political Figures, Historians and Scholars Assert President Calvin Coolidge’s Relevance in Today’s Politically Charged Climate in a New Book Titled, Why Coolidge Matters: A collection of 21 essays authored by an impressive bipartisan list of historians, political figures, scholars and journalists, that includes Senator John Kerry, former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, Governors M. Jodi Rell (CT) and James Douglas (VT), Ward Connerly, founder/chairman of the American Civil Rights Institute, and Jerry Wallace, Presidential archivist, among others, Why Coolidge Matters reflects a common denominator: President Coolidge’s civility, integrity, even-handedness and scrupulous attention to propriety provides much wisdom that can be applied to present day politics…. – Earth Times (7-20-10)
  • James T. Patterson’s “Freedom Is Not Enough,” reviewed by Kevin Boyle: FREEDOM IS NOT ENOUGH The Moynihan Report and America’s Struggle Over Black Family Life — from LBJ to Obama Shortly after the cataclysmic Watts riot in the summer of 1965, word spread around Washington that the Johnson administration had in its hands a secret report on the state of Black America. It had been written, said the rumors, by a little-known official in the Department of Labor: Daniel Patrick Moynihan. And it was “a political atom bomb,” according to columnists Rowland Evans and Robert Novak, “which strips away usual equivocations and exposes the ugly truth about the big-city Negros’ plight.” What followed, as Brown University historian James T. Patterson makes clear in this fine-grained study, was one of the great tragedies of postwar policy making…. – WaPo, 7-18-10
  • Alex Heard’s “The Eyes of Willie McGee,” reviewed by Michael Kazin: THE EYES OF WILLIE MCGEE A Tragedy of Race, Sex, and Secrets in the Jim Crow South The bare facts about the case of Willie McGee seem to fit the dreadful image of a legal lynching in the Deep South back when white supremacy ruled. In 1945, McGee, a handsome black truck-driver, was jailed for allegedly raping a white housewife named Willette Hawkins in Laurel, Miss. — while her husband slept in a nearby room and a small child slept beside her. Despite the improbable circumstances, McGee was convicted by an all-white jury and, after two appeals, was electrocuted in 1951….
    But Alex Heard, a veteran journalist who grew up in Mississippi, uncovers a story that is a good deal more intriguing, if less dramatic, than Harper Lee’s iconic Southern novel. The McGee case was fought out on a global terrain. That tearful young lawyer’s name was Bella Abzug. Years before she became a politician famous for big hats and robust feminism, Abzug worked for the Civil Rights Congress, a small but aggressive group with close ties to the Communist Party. The CRC, with aid from the Soviet bloc, whipped up an international outcry against McGee’s execution. Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and Dmitri Shostakovich dispatched cables of outrage, and a band of protesters chained themselves to one of the columns at the Lincoln Memorial….. – WaPo, 7-18-10
  • Bruce Cumings: Carpet-Bombing Falsehoods About a War That’s Little Understood: THE KOREAN WAR The world will be watching, and here’s a book that American policymakers may hope it won’t be reading: Bruce Cumings’s “Korean War,” a powerful revisionist history of America’s intervention in Korea. Beneath its bland title, Mr. Cumings’s book is a squirm-inducing assault on America’s moral behavior during the Korean War, a conflict that he says is misremembered when it is remembered at all. It’s a book that puts the reflexive anti-Americanism of North Korea’s leaders into sympathetic historical context…. – NYT, 7-22-10Excerpt
  • Alexandra Popoff: The Tolstoys’ War: SOPHIA TOLSTOY A Biography As Alexandra Popoff suggests in her new biography, “Sophia Tolstoy,” the countess has been maligned by history, viewed as hysterical and insanely jealous, a shrew. These misconceptions, Popoff insists (with some exaggeration), “all have one source: Chertkov. For decades, he suppressed favorable information about Sophia and exaggerated his own role in Tolstoy’s life.”… – NYT, 7-18-10

FEATURES:

  • Douglas Brinkley: Electric cars like Chevy’s new Volt are too expensive today, but they won’t be for long, if history is a guide: In 1903, most car companies were “turning out products with steep prices of $3,000 or even $4,000,” writes Douglas Brinkley in Wheels for the World: Henry Ford, His Company, and a Century of Progress. In 1903, about 12,000 cars were sold in the United States The following year, Henry Ford introduced his Model B “at a startling $2,000.” Now, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ inflation calculator only goes back to 1913. But $3,000 in 1913 is worth about $66,114 today. This BLS report suggests that average family income in 1901 was about $750. Any way you slice it, cars were very expensive. A luxury car cost about four times what a family earned in a year. What kind of future was there for the car as a democratic object?… – Slate (7-28-10)
  • Shelley E. Roff: Women workers could be found on the medieval construction site, study finds: According to a recently published study, women could be found working on construction sites, if only occasionally, including in specialized roles such as carpenters and masons. The research is found in the article, “Appropriate to Her Sex?” Women’s Participation on the Construction Site in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, by Shelley E. Roff…. – Medieval News (7-27-10)
  • Richard K. Lieberman: A 19th-Century Piano Is So Square, It’s Cool: Mr. Lieberman, a professor of history at LaGuardia and director of the La Guardia and Wagner Archives, said it had an interesting history: It survived the Civil War in Kentucky, hidden in a barn where it was not burned as troops crisscrossed the area. The family legend was that someone played “Dixie” when Confederates were within earshot. It is not known whether the same pianist struck up “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” when Union soldiers were around…. – NYT (7-25-10)
  • ‘Mad Men’ series inaccurately depicts difficulties of divorce for women in ’60s: …”As historians, most of us just love ‘Mad Men’ — it is so realistic, not just in the details, but in the gender dynamics,” said Stephanie Coontz, a sociologist and professor at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash. “But, I think in this case they’ve gotten it wrong.”
    “In 1964, Nelson Rockefeller could not run for president because he was divorced — anyone with high aspirations, unless he was absolutely besotted with love, would never have considered getting involved in a divorce.”… Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (7-25-10)

QUOTES:

  • New FDR letters could be a “trove,” says Goodwin: The writer was Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd, who decades before had been FDR’s mistress and who now was making arrangements for what would be their last meeting. Elegantly handwritten, the letter never mentions Roosevelt by name — her love letters to him had been their undoing a quarter-century earlier when Eleanor Roosevelt found them in her husband’s steamer trunk…. “Wow,” said historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of “No Ordinary Time,” a chronicle of the Roosevelts during the war. “This stuff sounds like it’s going to be very exciting. You very rarely get a whole new trove of material.”… – Star Tribune (7-28-10)
  • Geoff Wade, Edward Friedman: Zheng He: Symbol of China’s ‘peaceful rise’: “The rise of China has induced a lot of fear,” says Geoff Wade of the Institute of South-east Asian Studies in Singapore. “Zheng is being portrayed as a symbol of China’s openness to the world, as an envoy of its peace and friendship – these two words keep cropping up in virtually every reference to Zheng He out of China,” says Prof Wade….
    Zheng He was an admiral in the time of “empire”, when there were no boundaries, no frontier limits, says China expert Edward Friedman. “The expeditions were real events – Zheng’s achievements were extraordinary and a marvel of the time,” says Prof Friedman of the University of Wisconsin-Madison…. BBC News (7-28-10)
  • Brian Carso: Treason expert says release of military files on war is not treason under the law: “But, it harms our democratic process,” Carso said. “Our democratic leaders have made a decision to pursue the war effort, and while we are right to constantly debate that decision as we go forward, by the same token we shouldn’t undermine our own ability to carry out the war effort.”… – The Times Leader (PA) (7-27-10)
  • Nostalgia drives ‘Mad Men’ culture beyond small screen: Taken together, New York University’s Jonathan Zimmerman says viewers aren’t watching Mad Men because it affirms any secret sexism they might harbour, but rather because the show enables a kind of self-congratulation.
    “The well-to-do pride themselves on their notions of gender equality,” says Zimmerman, a professor of history and culture. “They look especially at Mad Men’s gender roles and say: ‘My goodness, wasn’t it barbaric back then?’” “Nostalgia is a profound emotion that affects us in a guttural way,” says Zimmerman, a fan of the AMC series. “With just a shot of a corridor or a desk or a type of car, baby boomers can quite literally relive their youth.”… Vancouver Sun (7-20-10)

INTERVIEWS:

  • Will Israel’s New Archive Policy Set Back a Generation of Scholarship? CHE asks Benny Morris: Earlier this month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu extended the classification of certain national- security related state archives for an additional 20 years…. For more on the potential implications of Netanyahu’s decision, I turned to Benny Morris, a professor of history at Ben Gurion University of the Negev…. – CHE (7-30-10)

AWARDS &APPOINTMENTS:

  • MU prof’s book recognized by the Wall Street Journal: James Tobin, associate professor of journalism at Miami University, was recently recognized by the Wall Street Journal for writing one of the five best books on inventions. Tobin’s 2003 book, “To Conquer the Air,” was ranked third, following “Longitude” by Dava Sobel and “The Making of the Atomic Bomb” by Richard Rhodes. “To Conquer the Air” is the story of Wilbur and Orville Wright in early 20th-century America and the competition they faced from other top inventors of the time, including Alexander Graham Bell and Glenn Curtiss, to be the first aloft…. – Oxford Press, 7-23-10

ANNOUNCEMENTS & EVENTS CALENDAR:

  • September 17-18, 2010 at Notre Dame University: Conference aims to bring medieval, early modern and Latin American historians together: An interdisciplinary conference to be held at the University of Notre Dame this fall is making a final call for papers to explore the issue surrounding similarities between late-medieval Iberia and its colonies in the New World. “From Iberian Kingdoms to Atlantic Empires: Spain, Portugal, and the New World, 1250-1700″ is being hosted by the university’s Nanovic Institute for European Studies and will take place on September 17-18, 2010. Medieval News, 4-29-10
  • Jeff Shesol to give Jackson Lecture at the Chautauqua Institution: Historian, presidential speechwriter and author Jeff Shesol will deliver Chautauqua Institution’s sixth annual Robert H. Jackson Lecture on the Supreme Court of the United States. Jeff Shesol will give the Jackson Lecture on Wednesday, August 18, 2010, at 4:00 p.m. in Chautauqua’s Hall of Philosophy…. – John Q. Barrett at the Jackson List (6-14-10)
  • 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.

ON TV:

BEST SELLERS (NYT):

BOOKS COMING SOON:

  • Richard Toye: Churchill’s Empire: The World That Made Him and the World He Made, (Hardcover), August 3, 2010.
  • Alexander Hamilton: The Federalist Papers, (Hardcover), August 16, 2010
  • Christopher Tomlins, Freedom Bound: Law, Labor, and Civic Identity in Colonizing English America, 1580-1865 (Paperback and Hardcover), September 1, 2010
  • Holger Hoock: Empires of the Imagination: Politics, War, and the Arts in the British World, 1750-1850, (Hardcover), September 1, 2010
  • Anna Whitelock: Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen, (Hardcover), September 7, 2010
  • James L. Swanson: Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln’s Corpse, (Hardcover), September 28, 2010
  • Timothy Snyder: The Red Prince: The Secret Lives of a Habsburg Archduke (First Trade Paper Edition), (Paperback), September 28, 2010
  • Ron Chernow: Washington: A Life, (Hardcover), October 5, 2010
  • George William Van Cleve: A Slaveholders’ Union: Slavery, Politics, and the Constitution in the Early American Republic, (Hardcover), October 1, 2010.
  • John Keegan: The American Civil War: A Military History, (Paperback), October 5, 2010
  • Bill Bryson: At Home: A Short History of Private Life, (Hardcover), October 5, 2010
  • Robert M. Poole: On Hallowed Ground: The Story of Arlington National Cemetery, (Paperback), October 26, 2010
  • Robert Leckie: Challenge for the Pacific: Guadalcanal: The Turning Point of the War, (Paperback), October 26, 2010
  • Manning Marable: Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, (Hardcover), November 9, 2010
  • Elizabeth White: The Socialist Alternative to Bolshevik Russia: The Socialist Revolutionary Party, 1917-39, (Hardcover), November 10, 2010
  • Elizabeth White: The Socialist Alternative to Bolshevik Russia: The Socialist Revolutionary Party, 1917-39, (Hardcover), November 10, 2010
  • G. J. Barker-Benfield: Abigail and John Adams: The Americanization of Sensibility, (Hardcover), November 15, 2010
  • Edmund Morris: Colonel Roosevelt, (Hardcover), November 23, 2010
  • Michael Goldfarb: Emancipation: How Liberating Europe’s Jews from the Ghetto Led to Revolution and Renaissance, (Paperback), November 23, 2010

DEPARTED:

  • Robert C. Tucker, 92, dies; scholar of Soviet-era politics and history: Robert C. Tucker, 92, whose early State Department assignment in Moscow launched a distinguished career as a scholar of Soviet-era politics and history, notably tracing the enduring impact of Joseph Stalin’s reign, died July 29 at his home in Princeton, N.J. He had pneumonia. His death was confirmed by Princeton University, where he was a professor of politics from 1962 to 1984 and the founding director of the university’s Russian studies program…. – WaPo (7-31-10)
  • Robert C. Tucker, a Scholar of Marx, Stalin and Soviet Affairs, Dies at 92 (NYT): Robert C. Tucker, a distinguished Sovietologist whose frustrations in persuading the authorities in Stalin’s Russia to let his new Russian wife accompany him home to the United States gave him crucial and influential insights into the Soviet leader, died Thursday at his home in Princeton, N.J. He was 92…. – NYT (7-31-10)
  • Peggy Ann Pascoe, 55, historian at the University of Oregon: Peggy Ann Pascoe, 55, of Eugene, Ore., died Friday, July 23, 2010, of ovarian cancer. She taught women’s history at the University of Utah from 1986 to 1996. She was the Beekman Chair of Pacific and Northwest History at the University of Oregon starting in 1996; in 2005 she also became a Professor of Ethnic S tudies at UO… – MT Standard (7-25-10)
  • Historian Carola Hicks Has Died: Carola Hicks, British historian and biographer, has passed away at age 68. Her resume included college professor, research fellow, museum curator, and of course, published author. She has published several nonfiction works…. – mediabistro (7-28-10)
  • Ramon Eduardo Ruiz: Honored scholar wrote a detailed history of Mexico: Pride in his heritage helped spark an interest in history and led Ramon Eduardo Ruiz to a life of teaching, researching and writing about the past…. – SD Union-Tribune (7-26-10)
  • Indian historian, academician dies at 84: The writings of historian A Sreedhara Menon who died here on Friday are the most important references on Kerala history…. – Express Buzz (India) (7-24-10)
  • John P. Gerber, 65, librarian and historian: John Paul Gerber of Quincy, Mass., passed away suddenly on Saturday, June 12, 2010, after a valiant year-long fight against pancreatic cancer…. – Dunn County Record (WI) (7-25-10)
  • ‘Legendary’ SD historian dies at 92: Gilbert Fite devoted a great deal of his life to uncovering and preserving South Dakota history. In doing so, he became a part of it. Fite, 92, a history professor and acclaimed author, died July 13 in Fort Meyers, Fla…. – Mitchell Republic (SD) (7-21-10)
  • George Robert Healy, 87, dies: With real sadness, I share the news that George Robert Healy died on July 8th in Auburn, Maine. He was 87. A marvelous leader and cherished friend to those who worked with him, Dr. Healy was described as “a man Thomas Jefferson would have respected.”… – College of William & Mary (7-15-10)
  • Jim Clifford: Dr. Georgina Feldberg, 1956-2010: The history community lost a great teacher, scholar and active historian this week. I had the pleasure of knowing Dr. Feldberg during my first year at York. She was one of the professors in a graduate course on the history of science, health and the environment. I learned a lot from her as a teacher and from her book, Disease and Class: Tuberculosis and the Shaping of Modern North American Society. A few weeks after I last met with her, I heard she had been diagnosed with cancer. This came as a big shock to all of us in the history of medicine field and particularly to a number of my friends who Feldberg supervised. Sadly, she finally lost her four year long battle with this disease, leaving behind her husband and daughter… – ActiveHistory.ca (7-14-10)

History Buzz July 15, 2010: William Stewart Simkins & the UT Dorm Controversy & Niall Ferguson on America’s Decline

HISTORY BUZZ:

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS:

IN FOCUS: HNN on Facebook & Twitter

IN FOCUS: July 4th Myths & History

  • T.H. Breen: The Secret Founding Fathers: Enough about Washington, Jefferson and the other Founding Fathers, says historian T.H. Breen, on July 4th we should celebrate the forgotten, ordinary men who took to the streets to fight British tyranny—and are the bedrock of our republican values…. – The Daily Beast, 7-3-10
  • T.H. Breen: ‘American Insurgents’ fired first shots of Revolutionary War: Common men — and some women, too — set the stage and paved the path that led to the Revolutionary War and America’s independence from England.
    Author T.H. Breen tells readers of “American Insurgents, American Patriots: The Revolution of the People” (Hill and Wang, $27) that a bevy of common men — and some women, too — set the stage and paved the path that led to the Revolutionary War. What’s more, they were doing it a few years in advance of the bigwigs who get the credit.
    Famous names, such as Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington owe much to others who struggled for independence in the years leading up to 1776…. – News OK, 7-3-10
  • Obama celebrates July 4th at White House barbecue: Calling the Declaration of Independence more than words on an aging parchment, President Barack Obama marked the Fourth of July on Sunday by urging Americans to live the principles that founded the nation as well as celebrate them.
    “This is the day when we celebrate the very essence of America and the spirit that has defined us as a people and as a nation for more than two centuries,” Obama told guests at a South Lawn barbecue honoring service members and their families. “We celebrate the principles that are timeless, tenets first declared by men of property and wealth but which gave rise to what Lincoln called a new birth of freedom in America — civil rights and voting rights, workers’ rights and women’s rights, and the rights of every American,” he said. “And on this day that is uniquely American we are reminded that our Declaration, our example, made us a beacon to the world.” “Now, of course I’ll admit that the backyard’s a little bigger here, but it’s the same spirit,” Obama said to laughter. “Michelle and I couldn’t imagine a better way to celebrate America’s birthday than with America’s extraordinary men and women in uniform and their families.” “Today we also celebrate all of you, the men and women of our armed forces, who defend this country we love,” he told the enthusiastic group…. – AP, 7-4-10
  • 4th of July: Facts about the Declaration of Independence:
    On July 2 the Continental Congress voted to declare independence from Great Britain and on 4th of July 1776 the same Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence. The Founding Fathers signed the document in August, after it was finished….
    Another fact about this important day in the United States of America’s history is that Thomas Jefferson (3rd U.S President) and John Adams (2nd U.S. President) both died on 4th of July 1826, when the country was celebrating 50th anniversary of the signing.
    Although the capital city of the United States of America is Washington named after the great president, George Washington, the first U.S President, did not sign the Declaration of Independence because he was head of the Continental Army and no longer a member in the Continental Congress.
    The first anniversary resulted in a huge party in Philadelphia in 1777. There were fireworks, cannons, barbecues and toasts. – Providing News, 7-4-10
  • Thomas Jefferson made slip in Declaration: Library of Congress officials say Thomas Jefferson made a Freudian slip while penning a rough draft of the Declaration of Independence. In an early draft of the document Jefferson referred to the American population as “subjects,” replacing that term with the word “citizens,” which he then used frequently throughout the final draft. The document is normally kept under lock and key in one of the Library’s vaults. On Friday morning, the first time officials revealed the wording glitch, it traveled under police escort for a demonstration of the high-tech imaging. It was the first time in 15 years that the document was unveiled outside of its oxygen-free safe…. – A copy of the rough draft of the Declaration can be viewed online at http://www.myLOC.gov….- AP, 7-2-104th of July quotes: Best Independence Day quotes and sayings:
  • The United States is the only country with a known birthday. (James G. Blaine)
  • This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave. (Elmer Davis)
  • Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves. (Abraham Lincoln)
  • We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it. (William Faulkner)
  • It is the love of country that has lighted and that keeps glowing the holy fire of patriotism. (J. Horace McFarland)
  • America is a tune. It must be sung together. (Gerald Stanley Lee)
  • The winds that blow through the wide sky in these mounts, the winds that sweep from Canada to Mexico, from the Pacific to the Atlantic – have always blown on free men. (Franklin D. Roosevelt)
  • Where liberty dwells, there is my country. (Benjamin Franklin)
  • Sometimes people call me an idealist. Well, that is the way I know I am an American. America is the only idealistic nation in the world. (Woodrow Wilson) – Providing News, 7-4-10
  • Local NYer standing up for Horatio Gates: For a 14th straight year, James S. Kaplan spent the Fourth of July walking in the middle of the night among ghosts of the American Revolution…. – NYT (7-5-10)
  • Fifth of July is also a day to celebrate, say historians: The unassuming date could also merit respect for providing a pair of tidy bookends in the United States labor movement. In 1934, police officers in San Francisco opened fire on striking longshoreman in one of the country’s most significant and violent labor clashes. On the same date a year later, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the National Labor Relations Act, guaranteeing the rights of employees to organize and to bargain collectively with their employers.
    “That’s a big moment in American labor history, absolutely,” said Joshua B. Freeman, a labor historian at the City University of New York…. NYT (7-5-10)

THIS WEEK IN HISTORY:

HISTORY NEWS:

  • Amazement at the speed and efficacy of historical scholarship in UT dorm case: Russell’s paper — published on the Social Science Research Network — drew attention to William Stewart Simkins (1842-1929), for whom a dormitory at the University of Texas at Austin was named in the 1950s. Simkins was a longtime law professor at Texas, but before that, he and his brother helped organize the Florida branch of the Ku Klux Klan — an organization he defended throughout his life, including while serving as a law professor. Russell’s paper led to public discussion in Austin of the appropriateness of naming a university building for a Klan leader. On Friday, William Powers Jr., president of the University of Texas at Austin, announced that he will ask the university system’s Board of Regents this month to change the name…. – Inside Higher Ed (7-12-10)
  • Taiwanese historian sentenced to prison for libel: Chen Feng-yang, chairperson of the history department at National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU), was found guilty of defamation charges brought by Lu Jian-rong, an ex-adjunct history professor at NTNU, after Chen allegedly attacked Lu’s reputation on NTNU’s website by calling him “a historian rotten from the roots” who is “malicious, sinful, and unforgivable” the court said…. – China Post (Taiwan) (7-9-10)
  • UMN’s graduate programs face ‘right-sizing’ in tough times: Faced with its own money troubles, the University of Minnesota is turning away more graduate students who would get financial help such as teaching positions. Still welcome are those who pay their own way or pursue in-demand studies such as biomedical sciences…. – Minneapolis Star Tribune (7-8-10)
  • Niall Ferguson: Historian warns of sudden collapse of American ‘empire’: Harvard professor and prolific author Niall Ferguson opened the 2010 Aspen Ideas Festival Monday with a stark warning about the increasing prospect of the American “empire” suddenly collapsing due to the country’s rising debt level…. – Aspen Daily News (7-6-10)
  • New Ed. Dept. report documents the end of tenure: Some time this fall, the U.S. Education Department will publish a report that documents the death of tenure. Innocuously titled “Employees in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2009,” the report won’t say it’s about the demise of tenure. But that’s what it will show. Over just three decades, the proportion of college instructors who are tenured or on the tenure track plummeted: from 57 percent in 1975 to 31 percent in 2007…. – CHE (7-4-10)
  • Review of Harvard Scholar’s Arrest Cites Failure to Communicate: A new review of the arrest of a prominent scholar in black studies at his own home last July blames the incident on “failed communications” between the police officer and the scholar…. – CHE (6-30-10)
  • University of Colorado Professor Uncovers First Holocaust Liberation Photos, Highlights Overlapping Narratives: David Shneer, associate professor of history and director of the Program in Jewish Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, benefited from that openness. He began researching the issue in 2002, when he visited a photography gallery in Moscow. The exhibition was titled “Women at War,” and Shneer noticed that the photographers’ names sounded Jewish. He asked the curator, who said, “Of course they’re Jewish. All the photographers were Jewish.” Before the war, many of those developing the profession of Soviet photojournalism were Jewish, Shneer noted…. – AScribe.org (7-1-10)

OP-EDs:

  • Sean Wilentz and Julian E. Zelizer: Teaching ‘W’ as History The challenges of the recent past in the classroom: Even before the 2008 election, debate had begun about how President George W. Bush would be remembered in American history. There were many reasons that so many people were so quickly interested in Bush’s historical reputation. Given how intensely polarized voters were about his presidency, it was natural that experts and pundits would scramble to evaluate it. Bush’s spectacular highs and lows—the stratospheric rise in his public approval following the attacks of September 11, 2001… – Chronicle of Higher Ed, 7-11-10
  • Greg Mitchell: Andrew Bacevich, His Lost Son, and Obama’s War in AfghanistanThe Nation (7-8-10)
  • Joe Conason: Sure, listen to Niall Ferguson — but always ignore his bad advice: As a celebrity intellectual, Ferguson much prefers the broad, bold stroke to the careful detail, so it is scarcely surprising that he endorsed Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan’s “wonderful” budget template, confident that his audience in Aspen would know almost nothing about that document…. – Salon (7-7-10)

REVIEWS & FIRST CHAPTERS:

  • Charles Ogletree tackles Henry Louis Gates’ arrest in new book: Harvard law professor and author Charles Ogletree, a longtime friend and colleague of Gates’, who also served as his legal counsel in the case, examines the incident and its legal and social implications in “The Presumption of Guilt: The Arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Race, Class and Crime in America.”
    The book is about much more than the arrest of an acclaimed black professor. Ogletree focuses on the long, troubled relationship between police and black men, as well as racial profiling by law enforcement and black Americans’ continuing quest for racial fairness in the criminal justice system and in everyday life. – Philadelphia Inquirer, 7-14-10
  • BARRY STRAUSS: A Failed Rebel’s Long Shadow: Now comes a distinguished contribution to the field by the British journalist and classicist Peter Stothard. “Spartacus Road” is a work of history, telling us of Spartacus’ life and legend, but it is also a travel book, as Mr. Stothard follows Spartacus’ rebellious path through 2,000 miles of Italian countryside…. – WSJ, 7-10-10
  • Niall Ferguson’s “High Financier: The Lives and Time of Siegmund Warburg”:
    There’s a saying in publishing that the only brand is the author. Unquestionably Niall Ferguson is a brand, thanks to sweeping, Big Picture, Big Idea books such as “Colossus” and “The Ascent of Money.” With Ferguson, we expect provocative interpretations of epochs, empires and civilizations. Not this time. In “High Financier,” Ferguson follows a solitary capitalist into the weeds and flowers of his financial garden. This is no failing, of course; biography is simply a different enterprise. Rather than overarching, it often must be minute and particular. And Siegmund Warburg was extremely particular…. – WaPo, 7-9-10
  • Jane Brox: Shining a light on the way artificial light has changed our lives: BRILLIANT The Evolution of Artificial Light
    But, Jane Brox asks, at what cost? Though she celebrates human ingenuity and technical advances in “Brilliant,” her history of artificial light, Brox also presents damning evidence that in our millennia-long quest for ever more and brighter light, we’ve despoiled the natural world, abandoned our self-sufficiency and trained ourselves to sleep and dream less while working more. It’s time, Brox urges, to “think rationally about light and what it means to us.” Yes, the history of artificial light has its dark side, for those who aren’t too dazzled to detect it…. – WaPo, 7-9-10
  • Christiane Bird: Book review of “The Sultan’s Shadow,” about a 19th-century Arab princess: THE SULTAN’S SHADOW One Family’s Rule at the Crossroads of East and West
    Christiane Bird’s account of the Al Busaidi sultans in Oman and Zanzibar during the 19th century is, she says, “a tale rich with modern-day themes: Islam vs. Christianity, religion vs. secularism, women’s rights, human rights, multiculturalism, and a nation’s right to construct its own destiny.” In truth those themes are not quite so visible in “The Sultan’s Shadow” as its author would have us believe, for despite her lucid prose and dogged research, the book never comes together into a coherent whole. Instead, it is an oddly arranged miscellany, some parts of which are exceptionally interesting, but she never manages to connect them to each other in a convincing fashion…. – WaPo, 7-9-10
  • Reviews of ‘Romancing Miss Bronte,’ ‘Charlotte and Emily,’ ‘Jane Slayre’ – WaPo, 7-13-10
  • Kim Washburn: New Palin Biography Aimed At 9- To 12-Year-Olds ‘Speaking Up’ Set For September ReleaseWFTV, 7-9-10
  • Jack Rakove on Gary B. Nash: The Ring and the Crack: The Liberty Bell Yale University Press, 242 pp., $24
    It would be easy to assume that the flag and the anthem have always been the central cultural symbols of our nationality. But in fact that has not been the case, writes Gary Nash, in this fast-moving and engaging history of a different and, he argues, superior, symbol: the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. The Pledge of Allegiance to the flag was not composed until 1892, eventually becoming the source of daily school recitals and occasional litigation, from the Jehovah’s Witnesses of the late 1930s and early 1940s to the atheist Michael Newdow’s more recent judicial quest. Then, too, the Stars and Stripes went through a long post-Civil War period as something less than a banner of universal nationality. Perhaps even now, lingering Southern attachment to the rival Stars and Bars may embody more than Confederate re-enactors’ cultural fondness for the Lost Cause. And while the “Star Spangled Banner” was composed back in 1814, only in 1931 did it acquire its official status as national anthem…. – TNR, 7-2-10

FEATURES:

  • Historian calls on new generation: “There’s a lot of what we do not know.” That’s what Dr. Mitch Kachun said about Collins in one of his two speeches at the Juneteenth celebration at Brandon Park on Saturday. Kachun, a professor of history at Western Michigan University, has extensively researched local African-American author and teacher Julia Collins. The professor expressed being gratified he could take part in helping to finally recognize Collins’ work after 140 years. He said his research was done so he could help better understand and appreciate her life…. – Sun Gazette, 6-20-10
  • Brian Black: A Look At The U.S.’s Man-Made Environmental Disasters: …Here are some of the country’s most notable environmental disasters with human influence, both large-scale and small-scale, and how the government has dealt with them…. – National Journal (7-8-10)
  • A walk through history: UTEP effort highlights Hispanics’ significance: As far as historian David Romo is concerned, the streets of South El Paso represent a living textbook that can help students understand the complexities of the Mexican Revolution of 1910.
    “The role of El Paso in the revolution by any criteria should be part of not only the El Paso school curriculum but the national curriculum,” Romo said. “Unfortunately, it’s mostly ignored by the textbooks.”…. – El Paso Times (7-6-10)
  • Census historian weighs in on electronic future of census: As hundreds of thousands of workers knock on doors this summer to collect information for the 2010 Census, momentum is mounting to drag future Censuses into the 21st century….
    “Using the Postal Service was an enormous innovation in 1970″ when Census forms were first mailed (previous Censuses were door-to-door surveys), says Margo Anderson, a professor of history and urban studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and an expert on Census history. “We’re 40 years later, and the mail isn’t the official way most people get their information or communicate. It’s really outmoded.”… – USA Today (7-6-10)
  • Soccer historian tells of South African soccer’s origins among political prisoners: “These men believed that there would be a free South Africa while they were still alive,” said Chuck Korr, an emeritus professor of history at the University of Missouri at St. Louis and the author of a book about the soccer league called “More Than Just a Game.”… – NYT (7-5-10)

PROFILES:

  • Easton historian worked on Emmy-nominated The Pacific: Donald L. Miller, a Lafayette College history professor, was the only person on the project who personally interviewed Eugene Sledge, one of three Marines who fought in the Pacific on whom the series is based…. – The Morning Call, 7-8-10
  • As a historian in the House, Fred Beuttler puts current events in perspective: Historians do not do breaking news. Historians do not do the latest scandal scoops, election-night projections, or instant updates of Washington’s winners and losers. So it is no surprise that the media’s demand for historians is scant. But every now and then, when the breaking political news from Capitol Hill is in dire need of historical context, journalists and politicians alike go looking for Fred Beuttler… – WaPo (7-6-10)
  • 21st-century technology helps Princeton U historian John Haldon study Byzantine era: Princeton University historian John Haldon, a leading authority on medieval Byzantine history, can’t really remember a time when history didn’t intrigue him…. These days, Haldon is a professor of Byzantine history and Hellenic studies at Princeton…. NJ.com (7-5-10)
  • Kelly Lytle Hernández: UCLA professor chronicles rise of U.S. Border Patrol in new book: However, by the middle of the 20th century, the U.S. Border Patrol had shifted its focus and was concentrating its efforts on policing undocumented Mexican immigrants, a practice that continues to this day, UCLA historian Kelly Lytle Hernández writes in “Migra!: A History of the U.S. Border Patrol” (University of California Press, 2010).
    Drawing on long-neglected archival sources in both the U.S. and Mexico, Lytle Hernández uncovers the little-known history of how Mexican immigrants slowly became the primary focus of U.S. immigration law enforcement and demonstrates how racial profiling of Mexicans developed in the Border Patrol’s enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws…. – UCLA Newsroom, 6-17-10

QUOTES:

  • Richard Norton Smith, David Greenberg: When Adversity Comes Calling, Some Actually Answer the Door: As a self-styled student of American history, Mr. Blagojevich would have a hard time comparing himself to Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy or even Gerald Ford when it comes to dealing with duress… – NYT, 7-11-10
  • Walter Wark: Spy Swaps Not a Cold War Relic: The Soviet Union is now gone, and Berlin is a single city in a reunited Germany. But, as intelligence historian Walter Wark of the University of Toronto says, the latest exchange shows that spy swaps have not gone out of date.
    “We have a tendency to forget that spying goes on as usual, and when spying goes on as usual, sooner or later there will be occasion to do a spy swap,” Wark said. “But it’s gone out of our consciousness, I think is the only thing that’s really remarkable about this. It’s not that it should happen. It’s just that kind of, with all the other dangers that we’re facing in a 21st century world, we’ve forgotten about espionage,” he said…. – VoA News (7-9-10)

INTERVIEWS:

  • Niall Ferguson aims to shake up history curriculum with TV and war games: History should be fun. More TV should be watched in the classroom, and children should learn through playing war games. The Harvard academic Niall Ferguson, who has been invited by the government to revitalise the curriculum, today sets set out a vision of “doing for history what Jamie Oliver has done for school food – make it healthy, and so they actually want to eat it”…. – Guardian (UK) (7-9-10)
  • Russian spy swap: Jeffrey Burds explainsWaPo (7-8-10)
  • Environmental historian Brian Black talks about impacts of oil spillPenn State Live (6-30-10)
  • The end of the Soviet Union was not inevitable, says Norman StoneU.S. News & World Report (7-1-10)

AWARDS &APPOINTMENTS:

  • Obama Nominates Larry Palmer, former historian, as U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela: U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday nominated Ambassador Larry Leon Palmer — formerly the US Ambassador to Honduras — as the new U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela…. – Latin American Herald Tribune (6-30-10)
  • National Park Service Names New Cultural Resources Head: National Park Service (NPS) Director Jonathan Jarvis recently named Stephanie Smith Toothman, Ph.D., as the Service’s new Associate Director for Cultural Resources… – Lee White at the National Coalition for history (6-28-10)
  • New Director of Education Named at the Smithsonian: Claudine K. Brown has been named director of education for the Smithsonian Institution, effective June 20…. – Lee White at the National Coalition for History (6-28-10)

SPOTTED:

  • James McPherson: Historian makes Gettysburg spring to life: As I prepared last week for a tour of Civil War historic sites with 40 history teachers from northwestern Minnesota, I looked at the itinerary and wondered if I would get anything out of touring battlefields….
    The day climaxed when our group of teachers, lead by General McPherson, replicated Pickett’s Charge, the famous and futile attempt by General Lee to break the Union middle by sending a mile-wide swath of 13,000 men into the teeth of the Federal guns…. – Detroit Lakes Online, 7-2-10

ANNOUNCEMENTS & EVENTS CALENDAR:

  • July 28, 2010: Evan Thomas, Award-Winning Journalist, Historian to Lecture at Ventfort Hall: Known nationally and internationally as one of the most respected award-winning journalists and historians writing today, Newsweek’s Editor-at-Large Evan Thomas will appear at Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum on Wednesday, July 28, as part of its 2010 Summer Lecture Series. He will discuss the subject of his new book, “The War Lovers: Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst, and the Rush to Empire, 1898.” Thomas will be on hand to autograph copies during the subsequent Victorian Tea…. – Iberkshires, 7-13-10
  • September 17-18, 2010 at Notre Dame University: Conference aims to bring medieval, early modern and Latin American historians together: An interdisciplinary conference to be held at the University of Notre Dame this fall is making a final call for papers to explore the issue surrounding similarities between late-medieval Iberia and its colonies in the New World. “From Iberian Kingdoms to Atlantic Empires: Spain, Portugal, and the New World, 1250-1700″ is being hosted by the university’s Nanovic Institute for European Studies and will take place on September 17-18, 2010. Medieval News, 4-29-10
  • Jeff Shesol to give Jackson Lecture at the Chautauqua Institution: Historian, presidential speechwriter and author Jeff Shesol will deliver Chautauqua Institution’s sixth annual Robert H. Jackson Lecture on the Supreme Court of the United States. Jeff Shesol will give the Jackson Lecture on Wednesday, August 18, 2010, at 4:00 p.m. in Chautauqua’s Hall of Philosophy…. – John Q. Barrett at the Jackson List (6-14-10)
  • 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.

ON TV:

BEST SELLERS (NYT):

BOOKS COMING SOON:

  • Jane Brox: Brilliant: The Evolution of Artificial Light, (Hardcover), July 8, 2010.
  • Rudy Tomedi: General Matthew Ridgway, (Hardcover), July 30, 2010.
  • Richard Toye: Churchill’s Empire: The World That Made Him and the World He Made, (Hardcover), August 3, 2010.
  • Alexander Hamilton: The Federalist Papers, (Hardcover), August 16, 2010 Christopher Tomlins, Freedom Bound: Law, Labor, and Civic Identity in Colonizing English America, 1580-1865 (Paperback and Hardcover), September 1, 2010
  • Holger Hoock: Empires of the Imagination: Politics, War, and the Arts in the British World, 1750-1850, (Hardcover), September 1, 2010
  • Anna Whitelock: Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen, (Hardcover), September 7, 2010
  • James L. Swanson: Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln’s Corpse, (Hardcover), September 28, 2010
  • Timothy Snyder: The Red Prince: The Secret Lives of a Habsburg Archduke (First Trade Paper Edition), (Paperback), September 28, 2010
  • Ron Chernow: Washington: A Life, (Hardcover), October 5, 2010
  • George William Van Cleve: A Slaveholders’ Union: Slavery, Politics, and the Constitution in the Early American Republic, (Hardcover), October 1, 2010.
  • John Keegan: The American Civil War: A Military History, (Paperback), October 5, 2010
  • Bill Bryson: At Home: A Short History of Private Life, (Hardcover), October 5, 2010
  • Robert M. Poole: On Hallowed Ground: The Story of Arlington National Cemetery, (Paperback), October 26, 2010
  • Robert Leckie: Challenge for the Pacific: Guadalcanal: The Turning Point of the War, (Paperback), October 26, 2010
  • Manning Marable: Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, (Hardcover), November 9, 2010
  • Elizabeth White: The Socialist Alternative to Bolshevik Russia: The Socialist Revolutionary Party, 1917-39, (Hardcover), November 10, 2010
  • Elizabeth White: The Socialist Alternative to Bolshevik Russia: The Socialist Revolutionary Party, 1917-39, (Hardcover), November 10, 2010
  • G. J. Barker-Benfield: Abigail and John Adams: The Americanization of Sensibility, (Hardcover), November 15, 2010
  • Edmund Morris: Colonel Roosevelt, (Hardcover), November 23, 2010
  • Michael Goldfarb: Emancipation: How Liberating Europe’s Jews from the Ghetto Led to Revolution and Renaissance, (Paperback), November 23, 2010

DEPARTED:

  • Stan Katz: Barry D. Karl and the Historical Profession: My friend and long-time historical collaborator Barry Karl died while undergoing emergency open-heart surgery in Chicago early this week. Barry would have celebrated his eighty-third birthday on the 23rd of this month — which will be the date of the first birthday of his only grandchild, Ethan. It is too bad that he could not have lived longer, but he had a long, successful and interesting career…. – Stan Katz in the CHE (7-11-10)
  • Ramon Eduardo Ruiz dies at 88; historian of Mexico and Latin America at UC San Diego: Ramon Eduardo Ruiz, a renowned historian of Mexico and Latin America whose books included in-depth studies of the Mexican and Cuban revolutions, has died. He was 88…. – LA Times (7-10-10)
  • Lawrence Holiday Harris, historian and diplomat, dies at 89: Lawrence Harris, who had careers as an American diplomat, an army officer and a college professor, visited 52 countries and every continent…. – Atlanta Journal-Constitution (7-7-10)
  • Ann Waldron, Biographer of Southern Writers, Is Dead at 85: Ann Waldron, who wrote biographies of Southern writers and books for children and young adults, but then — at 78 — decided that she’d rather concoct tales about gruesome murders on the campus of Princeton University, died Friday at her home in Princeton, N.J. She was 85…. – NYT (7-6-10)
  • Death of historian and art author Carola Hicks, 68: A famous Cambridge art historian has died at the age of 68…. – Cambridge News (UK) (6-28-10)

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

History Buzz

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

HISTORY BUZZ:

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS:

IN FOCUS:

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

THIS WEEK IN HISTORY:

HISTORY NEWS:

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

OP-EDs:

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

REVIEWS & FIRST CHAPTERS:

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

FEATURES:

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

QUOTES:

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

INTERVIEWS:

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

AWARDS &APPOINTMENTS:

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

SPOTTED:

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

ANNOUNCEMENTS & EVENTS CALENDAR:

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

ON TV:

BEST SELLERS (NYT):

BOOKS COMING SOON:

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

DEPARTED:

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