Roger Atwood, "The real lessons of Easter Island," TLS, 19 October, reviews Terry L. Hunt's and Carl Lipo's The Statues That Walked: Unraveling the mystery of Easter Island.
David S. Reynolds, "An Angry Prophet," WSJ, 22 October, reviews Tony Horwitz's Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War.
Michiko Kakutani, "Two-Sided Man Gets Two New Biographies," NYT, 24 October, reviews Robert Douglas-Fairhurst's Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist and Claire Tomlin's Charles Dickens.
Fred Siegel, "Lyrical Leftist, Dogged Idealist," WSJ, 24 October, reviews Vivian Gornick's Emma Goldman.
On the eve of the opening of Steven Spielberg's new film, The Adventures of Tintin, Simon Kuper's "Tintin and the war," FT Magazine, 21 October, re-examines charges against the Belgian cartoonist/collaborationist, Georges Remi, whose pen name was Hergé.
Fang Lizhi, "The Real Deng," NYRB, 10 November, reviews Ezra F. Vogel's Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China.
TLS editor Sir Peter Stothard first published a very critical assessment of Robert Hughes's Rome on 19 June. Ten days later, Mary Beard's review for the Guardian found so many "howlers" in the book that she told readers to skip its first 200 pages. Stothard returned to the attack in September's Australian Book Review: "In his lengthy account of the history of Rome, Robert Hughes is doubly, gloriously, and disgracefully careless." The full-throated attack is reprinted here, where Stothard seems to demand that Hughes reply.
Charles C. Mann, "How the Potato Changed the World," Smithsonian, November, is adapted from Mann's 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created. M. J., "The benefits of early money-laundering," Economist, 21 October, reviews "Money and Beauty: Bankers, Botticelli and the Bonfire of the Vanities," an exhibit at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence. David Wooten, "Revolution in the heavens," TLS, 19 October, reviews Steven Shapin's and Simon Schaffer's Leviathan and the Air Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the experimental life (new edition); and Robert S. Westman's The Copernican Question: Prognostication, skepticism, and celestial order.
Colin Jones and Emily Richardson, "Madame de Pompadour: The Other Cheek," History Today, November, explore obscene cartoons of Madame de Pompadour, Louis XV's favourite mistress. Paula Young Lee, "Vivent Les Animaux," Slate, 21 October, compares "the animal panic of 18th-century Paris with Zanesville, Ohio."
James Fenton, "Everywhere Man," Atlantic, November, reviews Laird M. Easton, ed. and trans., Journey to the Abyss: The Diaries of Count Harry Kessler, 1880-1918. Mike Dash, "The Battle of Broken Hill," Past Imperfect, 20 October, recounts an attack, early in World War I, by Afghan workmen who rallied under the flag of Turkey on a train of vacationing Australian picnickers.
James J. Sheehan, "Hitler's Last Gasp," NYT, 21 October, reviews Ian Kershaw's The End: The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler's Germany, 1944-45.
Jonathan Lopez, "A Stranger to Himself," WSJ, 15 October, Roberta Silman for the Boston Globe, 17 October, and Michiko Kakutani, "The Persona and the Palette," NYT, 20 October, review Steven Naifeh's and Gregory White Smith's Van Gogh: The Life. Ariella Budick, "Portrait of Decline," Slate, 25 September, and Barry Schwabsky, "Vacant, Limpid, Angelic: On Willem de Kooning," Nation, 18 October, review "de Kooning: A Retrospective," an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan.
Alonzo Hamby, "When Ike Took Charge," WSJ, 20 October, reviews Jim Newton's Eisenhower: The White House Years. Eric A. Posner, "Casual with the Court," The Book, 24 October, reviews Kevin J. McMahon's Nixon's Court: His Challenge to Judicial Liberalism and Its Political Consequences.
David Barboza, "The Man Who Took Modernity to China," NYT, 21 October, reviews Ezra F. Vogel's Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China.
Jacob Silverman, "Free Radical," Tablet, 19 October, reviews the new documentary film, Paul Goodman Changed My Life. Matt Labash, "Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride," WSJ, 15 October, reviews Jann Wenner, ed., Fear and Loathing at Rolling Stone: The Essential Writing of Hunter S. Thompson.
Dwight Garner, "Peering Beyond a Monologist's Stage Presence Into His Uncensored Mind," NYT, 17 October, reviews Nell Casey, ed., The Journals of Spalding Gray. Raymond Beauchemin reviews Robert J Wiersema's Walk Like a Man: Coming of Age with the Music of Bruce Springsteen for The National, 21 October. Janet Maslin, "Making the iBio for Apple's Genius," NYT, 21 October, and WSJ Staff for the WSJ's Speakeasy, 23 October, review Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs.
"For nearly 21 minutes, the camera moves gently around Winslow in a recording studio as he impersonates the noises of 32 typewriters. Inter-titles announce the dates of the respective machines' manufacture, their brand and model number. It is an absorbing feat of mimicry. From the frantic clucking and strenuous creaking of his ‘1895 Barlock Mod. 4', through to the ping-pong sounds of the ‘1954 Hermes Mod. Baby', and concluding with the ‘1983 Olympia Monika Deluxe', Winslow produces a percussive tour de force that could take its place alongside the Dada sound poetry of Raoul Hausmann or Kurt Schwitters and the cartoon exuberance of voice actor Mel Blanc. Although not apparent in the film itself, Uriarte filmed The History of the Typewriter … in the Berlin studio of the industrial noise band Einstürzende Neubauten, who pioneered the use of customized instruments and machinery in the early 1980s.
"Winslow performs with precision and concentration, as if executing a particularly torturous piece of chamber music punctuated by moments of impish irreverence. His performance conjures images of a secretary trotting out a dictated letter on 1932's cutting-edge technology (the inappropriately named Remington Noiseless Portable), or a hack bashing out copy on his newsroom Triumph. (In fact, Uriarte recorded Winslow's imitations of vintage machines from collections in Germany and Switzerland as they were being used to type out the title of the film.) The techniques Winslow uses to achieve the ‘lost' noises are fascinating to observe: by grasping the two microphones like twin pan pipes, gnawing them like corncobs, or grappling, swiping and variously pushing them against his teeth and lips, he produces a glorious vocabulary of fricative letter-hammering, space-bar thuds, platen-knob twisting and carriage-return shunts that seems to encompass chicken-pecking, machete-slashing, strangulation, tap-dancing and QWERTY beat-boxing." Max Andrews, "Ignacio Uriarte," frieze, April 2010. Hat tip.
"Winged words," Economist, 15 October, reviews The Iliad of Homer, trans. by Richmond Lattimore, The Iliad, trans. by Anthony Verity, The Iliad, trans. by Stephen Mitchell, and Alice Oswald's Memorial. Alec Ash interviews "Norman Stone on Turkish History," The Browser, 20 October, for his recommendation of five essential books about it.
Alex Knapp, "Yes, Shakespeare Really Did Write Shakespeare," Forbes, 19 October, attempts to settle the issue.
Frank Viviano, "The Eunuch Admiral," California, Fall, about Zheng He, a 15th-century Chinese admiral; and Sterling Lord, "When Kerouac Met Kesey," American Scholar, Autumn, by their literary agent, are The Browser's leading candidates for favorite article of the month. You can vote among the top 10 here.
The new Common-Place is up, with new work in ante-bellum American history by Jennifer Brady, Kevin Butterfield, Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, and others. Every generation seems to discover Herman Melville's Moby Dick anew for itself. For this one, see, for example: Matt Kish's One Drawing for Every Page of Moby Dick, Jamie L. Jones, "Blogging Moby Dick," Common-Place, October, Todd Gitlin, "The Grand Programme," The Book, 19 October, a review of Nathaniel Philbrick's Why Read Moby-Dick?, and Philbrick, "The Road to Melville," Vanity Fair, November, an adaptation from the book.
Michael Bernhard, "The Leadership Secrets of Bismarck: Imperial Germany and Competative Authoritarianism," Foreign Affairs, 16 October, reviews Jonathan Steinberg's Bismarck: A Life.
Michael Ratner and Michael Steven Smith, "Who Killed Che?" Guernica, October, draws on documents published in Ratner's and Smith's Who Killed Che? How the CIA Got Away with Murder to illuminate the question.
"Liberalism and Occupy Wall Street," TNR, 17 October, is an on-going TNR symposium, featuring Paul Berman, Todd Gitlin, David Greenberg, Michael Kazin, and others.
This clip comes from a recently-released 1 March 1973 meeting between Nixon, Henry Kissinger, Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin, and Simcha Dinitz about Middle Eastern affairs. In this section, the President functions as an amateur diplomatic historian, offering his perspective on the tension between realism and idealism in US foreign policy, and how that pattern applied to Woodrow Wilson and the Versailles Treaty.
(A note: the overall quality of the recording sometimes isn’t that great.)
President Nixon: Well, we work toward the ideal, but we have to work for it pragmatically. That’s really what it comes down to.
President Nixon: Woodrow Wilson, you know . . . He was probably the most religious, idealistic man ever to ever sit in this office. But before it all, when it finally came down to it—he had great impact. He brought us into the war, the Fourteen Points—again, when he goes over to the Versailles Conference, the pragmatists of Europe gobbled him up in about two bites.
Prime Minister Golda Meir: Yes.
President Nixon: And the world was very unsafe as a result, correct?
As a matter of fact, I think if the Versailles Treaty had come out differently, that you’d never [have] had a Hitler. You know? You really look what produced that fella—it had to start with Versailles. It had to start with Versailles. You can’t take a . . .
If, for example, the attitude toward the Germans after World War I had been the attitude that we took after World War II, there might have been a different situation.
Henry Kissinger: But I think Versailles was either too soft or too tough. [Unclear cross-talk.]
President Nixon: I thought it was too tough, actually.
Kissinger: But it was . . . It . . . It created the possibility of humiliating the Germans, while not [unclear] them enough.
President Nixon: You can’t do that. If you’re going to humiliate somebody, you must destroy him. Otherwise, he’s going to be able to destroy you. You never strike the king unless you kill him.
Kissinger: That’s true. [Unclear] France, which had been demoralized by the war, because Russia couldn’t come to . . . So Versailles was a disaster.
President Nixon: That’s right.
"Lately, Mr. Cain has risen in the polls, buoyed by Tea Party populism, which is curious because when the word 'populism' was coined, in 1890, it meant opposition to a monopoly on wealth held by businessmen and bankers."
No, no, no, no, no, and wrong on both ends. A Harvard historian and the editors of the New York Times op-ed pages don't know any history between them? The Populists weren't simply opposed to wealth, or to a monopoly on wealth, or to businessmen, or to bankers. You can read the Omaha Platform yourself. You have to read all the way to the second sentence of the preamble for this: "Corruption dominates the ballot-box, the Legislatures, the Congress, and touches even the ermine of the bench." Weird that people who just hated rich people used their first formal political statement to talk about political corruption, yeah? It's almost like they were angry at the government, which, you know, hold on a minute, I'm sensing the presence of a theme that I've heard somewhere else.
The Populists didn't simply hate wealth; they hated their (accurate) sense that the fix was in, that private wealth was derived from, and served by, public corruption. They hated crony capitalism. Agrarian populism wasn't proletarian -- it was substantially a movement of the rural petit bourgeoisie, smallholders who wanted to thrive as profit-seeking property owners. Here's the last sentence of the first paragraph of the preamble: "From the same prolific womb of governmental injustice we breed the two great classes—tramps and millionaires."
The Populists were concerned with "governmental injustice" and the wealth it produced, not with wealth itself. Keep going through the Omaha Platform (emphasis added):
"The national power to create money is appropriated to enrich bondholders; a vast public debt payable in legal tender currency has been funded into gold-bearing bonds, thereby adding millions to the burdens of the people....the supply of currency is purposely abridged to fatten usurers, bankrupt enterprise, and enslave industry....We have witnessed for more than a quarter of a century the struggles of the two great political parties for power and plunder, while grievous wrongs have been inflicted upon the suffering people. We charge that the controlling influences dominating both these parties have permitted the existing dreadful conditions to develop without serious effort to prevent or restrain them. Neither do they now promise us any substantial reform. They have agreed together to ignore, in the coming campaign, every issue but one. They propose to drown the outcries of a plundered people with the uproar of a sham battle over the tariff, so that capitalists, corporations, national banks, rings, trusts, watered stock, the demonetization of silver and the oppressions of the usurers may all be lost sight of. They propose to sacrifice our homes, lives, and children on the altar of mammon; to destroy the multitude in order to secure corruption funds from the millionaires."
And so on. The Populists liked industry and enterprise -- see the statement above about the enslavement of those positive things. They hated dishonest enterprise, industry that made money as clients of state power. They hated the way that a "vast public debt" served the interests of private wealth. This should all be sounding familiar, and please do notice what organization's logo appears on the website where you log in to manage your foodstamp benefits. All your base are belong to us -- more poverty makes more wealth for Wall Street.
Going back to the Omaha Platform, move past the preamble and look at the platform: "Second.—Wealth belongs to him who creates it, and every dollar taken from industry without an equivalent is robbery. “If any will not work, neither shall he eat.” The interests of rural and civic labor are the same; their enemies are identical."
So here we have people who thought that "wealth belongs to him who creates it," and who were horrified by the enslavement of industry and enterprise. And Jill Lepore tells you that "populism" meant "opposition to a monopoly on wealth held by businessmen." No it didn't, and in many ways, the Tea Party expresses the populist sentiment of the actual Populists.
This is most certainly not to say that the Tea Party are the Populists reborn. Again, from the preamble to the Omaha Platform: "We believe that the power of government—in other words, of the people—should be expanded (as in the case of the postal service) as rapidly and as far as the good sense of an intelligent people and the teachings of experience shall justify, to the end that oppression, injustice, and poverty shall eventually cease in the land."
That's not Tea party politics. But the Tea Party's sense that the fix is in, that dirty government serves private wealth, is entirely comparable to Populist views of the relationship between corrupt political parties and private wealth. It's not even slightly "curious" to use the term "populist" to describe people who oppose government bailouts of private corporations.
The reductive coding of political movements as "left" or "right" overdetermines our conclusions about them. Try to notice what people are saying, then analyze it on its own terms, without the weight of a facile label.
Mary Carole McCauley, "Walters researchers decode the secrets of the Archimedes Palimpsest," Baltimore Sun, 14 October, and Edward Rothstein, "Finding Archimedes in the Shadows," NYT, 16 October, feature the Archimedes Palimpsest, on exhibit now in "Lost and Found: The Secrets of Archimedes" at Baltimore's Walters Art Museum.
Scott McLemee, "Mad – or Just Angry?" IHE, 19 October, reviews Aloys Winterling's Caligula: A Biography.
Jill Lepore, "Forget 9-9-9. Here's a Simple Plan: 1," NYT, 15 October, recalls Henry George, the original man with a plan.
Richard Pipes, "Trotsky the Jew," Tablet, 17 October, reviews Joshua Rubenstein's Leon Trotsky: A Revolutionary's Life.
Philip Hensher reviews Max Hastings's All Hell Let Loose: The World at War, 1939-1945 for the Guardian, 13 October. John Gooch, "Mussolini's diaries and the ‘treasure of Dongo'," TLS, 17 October, reviews Mimmo Franzinelli's Autopsia di un Falso: I diari di Mussolini e la manipolazione della storia, I Diari di Mussolini, 1939, Veri o presunti, and Claretta Petacci's Verso il Disastro: Mussolini in guerra, diari, 1939-1940, Mimmo Franzinelli, ed.
Nathan Heller, "What She Said," New Yorker, 24 October, reviews Brian Kellow's Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark and Sanford Schwartz, ed., The Age of Movies: Selected Writings of Pauline Kael.
When Matt Yglesias thought he found a Straussian in David Brooks, Ben Alpers was skeptical and Andrew Sullivan took notice. "I know Straussians," Sullivan wrote. "Straussians are friends of mine. David Brooks is not a Straussian."
Karl W. Giberson and Randall J. Stephens, "The Evangelical Rejection of Reason," NYT, 17 October, challenges the anti-intellectual positions of fellow evangelicals. The argument draws on work in their new book, The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age.
Finally, congratulations to Stephanie McCurry, who has won the Gilder Lehrman Center's Frederick Douglass Prize for her book, Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South.
The Giant's Shoulders #40, the history of science carnival, is up at Gurdur's Stranger In An Even Stranger Land.
Dan Ephron, "Blood in the Holy City," Daily Beast, 17 October, reviews Simon Sebag Montefiori's Jerusalem: The Biography.
Michael Maiello, "The Optimistic Science," Daily Beast, 14 October, reviews Sylvia Nasar's Grand Pursuit: The Story of Economic Genius.
Steven Sherwood, "Science controversies past and present," Physics Today, October, argues that controversy over global warming follows a course similar to those of other "inconvenient truths" from physics.
Adam Kirsch, "Seeing Double," Tablet, 11 October, reviews Samantha Baskind's and Larry Silver's Jewish Art: A Modern History.
Jordan Smith, "The Philosopher of the Post-9/11 Era," Slate, 17 October, reviews John Patrick Diggins's Why Niebuhr Now?
Haleh Esfandiari, "The End of Illusion," The Book, 17 October, reviews Arash Hejazi's The Gaze of the Gazelle: The Story of a Generation, the story of the Iranian regime's failure to convince a new generation of its people.
Finally, over on Tumblr, you may have missed "Presidential Pickup Lines".
Thirty-five years ago, Robert Gross published a remarkable social history of Concord, Massachusetts in the Revolutionary era. Minutely examining local records, Gross built a rich and precise social picture of the town, showing how local relationships worked and how people understood their world. On a foundation of a great deal of carefully examined evidence, Gross described a group of people who intended only one kind of revolution, and didn't mean to make corresponding social, economic, or cultural changes, hoping and expecting to go on living the way their parents had lived. Here's his conclusion about the nature of the violent revolution that the people of Concord helped to make:
"The men of 1775 had not gone to war to promote change but to stop it. Most would have preferred to ignore events in distant London -- to pay loyalty to their king while going about their own squabbling business. But the outside world would not leave them alone. Boston kept sounding the tocsin, the British threat kept pressing closer and closer to home. Always in the background there was the town's downward slide, heightening the inhabitants' fears of the future and undermining their old, cherished ways -- even a father's hold over his sons. Finally, they were forced to act if they wished to retain their traditional life. Indeed, they did. They rose in fury against the assault on their autonomy, and at the peak of the Revolutionary movement they were attached more strongly than ever to the ideals and values of the past. They would restore order to their lives by clinging to custom -- and making revolution."
That paragraph makes me feel joy in my bones. Radically, violently, people made a revolution to preserve the past, to cling to the old ways, to restore a fading order. Human action was complex, ambiguous, giving and taking, advancing and receding, revolutionary and reactionary. Change and preservation tangled into one another, in a fluid mix of shifting intentions.
"A fundamental war has been waged in this nation since its founding, between progressive forces pushing us forward and regressive forces pulling us backward.
"We are going to battle once again...
"Yet the great arc of American history reveals an unmistakable pattern. Whenever privilege and power conspire to pull us backward, the nation eventually rallies and moves forward."
This couldn't be more of a cartoon if Elmer Fudd ran through it waving a shotgun. This is what a public intellectual looks like in the 21st century United States? What an embarrassment.
In the November issue of Vanity Fair -- the magazine that was the Huffington Post before the Huffington Post was the Huffington Post -- James Kwak and Simon Johnson ("K+J") build a case against the Tea Party as anti-Hamiltonian, and therefore as an enemy of order and progress. William Hogeland does a nice job with the mess of K+J's narrative, so I won't spend much time discussing the foolishness of their premise and the lazy dishonesty of their technique. What interests me is the why.
Johnson and Kwak make a case for government debt as the foundation of stability, order, and progress; when governments borrow and spend, nations grow. Government borrowing and spending is progressive; opposition to government borrowing and spending is regressive. End of story.
So here's James Kwak at K+J's blog, just two weeks ago: "There was a time when the main purpose of this blog was to explain just how some government policy or other official action was designed to benefit some large bank under the cover of the public interest. In a bit of nostalgia, I wrote this week’s Atlantic column on the Freddie Mac–Bank of America story reported on by Gretchen Morgenson. It’s clear that Bank of America got a sweetheart deal from Freddie. The question is why...It’s amazing that after three full years of our government trying to give Bank of America money at every possible opportunity, it’s still a basket case."
So, 1.) people who oppose the metastasization of debt-funded federal spending are foolish atavists who hate America and oppose progress, and 2.) many federal policies and actions are designed to benefit private corporations "under the cover of the public interest." You cannot believe both of those things without performing extraordinary gymnastics to trick your own mind. James Kwak sees the corporatist oligarchy, knows what it is, and thinks you're unpatriotic and dumb if you want to take away its credit card. Oh, that thing is there to rip you off -- wait, why are you trying to stop it?
In a similar feat of narrative dissonance, Barack Obama tells a story about America in which we must reduce wealth inequality, restore fairness for the middle class, and restrain the rapid expansion of exceptional private wealth. One way to do that, he argues, is to use federal borrowing to fund infrastructure programs that will put people to work. In recent speeches, Obama has revealed his model for this restoration of income equality through redistributive federal spending: the Transcontinental Railroad. if that juxtaposition doesn't make you burst into laughter, read this and try again.
My growing sense is that this failure of perception -- building an idea of government as an agent of order and fairness on a foundation of a reality in which government serves and has always served the creation and maintenance of great private wealth and class privilege -- emerges from the need of a status group to display symbols of it own identity. What's the matter with Kansas? Oh, reader, it's not like us. Backwards red state morons are against progress, and thank goodness we're smarter than that. See also.
The fundamental political premise of liberal intellectuals is that greater federal intervention in the economy will produce greater order and decency; a greater centralization of economic power will produce a broader diffusion of fairness. This is like believing that gasoline will extinguish fire. It is, simply, crazy. And they know it, on some level: James Kwak tells you that the federal government serves private interest under the cover of public interest, and Barack Obama tells you that his model for redistributive infrastructure spending is a nineteenth century boondoggle that poured endless slop into the trough of private wealth. He should give his next "pass this jobs bill" speech at Leland Stanford's mansion.
How do smart people convince themselves to believe deeply and incontrovertibly insane things? I think they do it by a need to define themselves, particularly in the context of institutional decline and personal status anxiety. Academia is imploding; an army of young scholars marches toward a future of corporatized multiversities that measure the effectiveness of their growing pool of adjunct lecturers by comparing their cost to their output. The need to become distinguished, smarter than, grows with the collapse of the model at the center of intellectual life. James Kloppenberg told a roomful of historians than Barack Obama is a towering intellectual figure of great sophistication, and therefore a great deal like us; the room burst into applause.
The emergence of a distinct status group of intellectuals in the twentieth century United States, Christopher Lasch wrote, was "part of a much more general development: the decline of the sense of community, the tendency of the mass society to break down into its component parts, each having its own autonomous culture and maintaining only the most tenuous connections with the general life of the society -- which as a consequence has almost ceased to exist."
The performance of intellectual status -- the setting off, the ostentatious performance of horror at the Tea Party, the laughable Vanity Fair essay about how concern about growing debt and four trillion dollars a year in federal spending is an anti-American assault on the Founding Fathers -- feeds its own origins and causes. Intellectuals are isolated from the larger society, and so more urgently signal their isolation from the larger society, and so are more isolated from the larger society.
Lasch again: "Once you reject the view of historical progress that means so much to people on the left, their sense of themselves as the party of the future, together with their fear of being overwhelmed by America's backward culture, becomes an object of historical curiosity, not the axiomatic premise from which political understanding necessarily proceeds."
There is no intellectual class, and no fundamental conflict between it and a middle American habit of anti-intellectualism. History is not a story of a struggle between the forces of progress and the forces of regression. Intellectuals are not uniquely the forces of progress. People on both sides of that purported divide recognize that our federal government is a deeply corrupt oligarchy. James Kwak sees what the Tea Party sees. And he should let himself realize it.
ADDED LATER: Precisely on time, here comes Robert Reich. You cannot find a more crude and facile argument about historical progress than this one.
Robert Kagan, "Nation-Building, Our National Pastime," NYT, 14 October, reviews Jeremi Suri's Liberty's Surest Guardian: American Nation-Building From the Founders to Obama.
Simon Johnson and James Kwak, "Debt and Dumb," Vanity Fair, November, v. William Hogeland, "Hamiltonians in ‘Vanity Fair' Get Whiskey Rebellion, Tea Party, Hamilton Himself Way Wrong; Or: How Liberalist Consensus Fails Both History and Politics," Hysteriography, 11 October, and Hogeland, "All I'm Trying to Say Here," ibid., 14 October. Thanks to Chris Bray for the tip.
Christopher Benfey, "A Keats Brother on the American Frontier," NYT, 14 October, reviews Denise Gigante's The Keats Brothers: The Life of John and George.
Joseph Epstein, "Dynasts of the Daily Press," NYT, 13 October, reviews Megan McKinney's The Magnificent Medills: America's Royal Family of Journalism During a Century of Turbulent Splendor and Amanda Smith's Newspaper Titan: The Infamous Life and Monumental Times of Cissy Patterson.
Martha C. Nussbaum, "Gandhi and South Africa," Nation, 12 October, reviews Joseph Lyleveld's Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India.
Michael Hiltzik, "What the New Deal Accomplished," Slate, 13 October, is excerpted from Hiltzik's new book, The New Deal: A Modern History.
Holly Case, "Innocents Lost: On Postwar Orphans," Nation, 11 October, reviews Tara Zahra's The Lost Children: Reconstructing Europe's Families After World War II.
Saul Austerlitz reviews Gershom Gorenberg's The Unmaking of Israel for The National, 14 October.
Matt Taibbi, "My Advice to the Occupy Wall Street Protesters," Rolling Stone, 12 October, offers the protest movement a five plank platform.
[Cross-posted at Airminded.]
On 29 March 1939, Croydon airport was the site of an extraordinary scene, as the Daily Express reported:
NEARLY 400 Jewish refugees streamed into Croydon in a succession of air liners yesterday -- the biggest influx the airport had ever experienced.
They came from Danzig, the Polish Corridor, Cologne, Berlin, Vienna, Switzerland -- all over Europe.
Most of them were allowed to enter the country [...]1
For example, David Herbst was allowed to stay when his wife Leishi, a former Austrian tennis star, showed up and was able to prove that Herbst 'had money in English Banks'.
[...] when some were told they would have to go back to the Continent in the morning they burst into piteous cries.
One man from Cologne dropped to his knees and pleaded, in tears, with the immigration authorities.
Wailing, he fell on his face and broke his nose. Afterwards he threatened to commit suicide.
He said his father had been taken away manacled and then shot and he believed he would be dealt with in the same way if he returned to Germany.2
Herbst's travelling companions were in the same situation. The thirteen of them had chartered a Danish tri-motor for £600 to fly them out of Warsaw (one source says Cracow). Herbst got to go home with his wife; but the other twelve were detained by the police overnight.
"Nobody knows who the people are. They are a mystery crowd," it was stated by an official. "Many had little money and could not give satisfactory reasons why they should be allowed to land in England."3
I assume the official was talking about legal reasons why the refugees should be allowed to land, rather than just being utterly dense; the reasons why they were fleeing were quite clear. Two weeks earlier, after threatening to bomb Prague off the map, German troops had been allowed to march in, occupying the Czech portions of Czechoslovakia which remained afterthe cession of the Sudetenland the previous year. Germany ended Czechoslovakia, taking Bohemia and Moravia for itself; Hungary took Carpatho-Ukraine and Slovakia became independent. This meant that suddenly Czech Jews (and those, like Herbst, who had fled from Austria after the Anschluss a year earlier) were subject to Nazi racial discrimination.
There were (possibly?) conflicting stories about why there was a flood of refugees right now, though: that from 1 April a new visa system would apply to Czechs entering Britain, or that from that date Czechs would be treated as Germans, or that they would need permission from Germany to leave. But whatever the reason, the last aeroplanes did land on 31 March, carrying, among others, 91 year old Frau Krampflicek, a 'Czech Jewess' whose family lived in Manchester.4 About 150 refugees arrived that day, with 3 being detained. The day before there had been 241, with 20 detained; on the first day 257, 10 detained.5
The problem was that refugees qua refugees had no automatic right of entry to Britain. In keeping with poor law principles, refugees would only be allowed to stay if it could be shown they would not be a burden to the public purse. If they could show they had funds to support themselves, that was enough. In the cases of Herr Herbst and Frau Krampflicek they had family already in Britain. Many of the other refugees had sponsors of one sort or another, who would ultimately be responsible for their welfare. Those who were told to leave had little money left, and no family or sponsors in Britain; they were just desperate people.
Like the people on the flight from Warsaw. Hilde Marchant (late war correspondent in Spain) reported for the Express that they resisted being put back on the aeroplane back to Copenhagen, where they had already been refused entry and would presumably be deported again:
The men refused and cried: "We will be shot."
One asked for the Czech Consul. Another offered money, but they all had to be dragged out of the hall on to the tarmac.
One man was carried into the plane.6
Another man escaped the airport entirely 'across the Purley-way, over the grounds of the swimming pool and through some factories', but was picked up by a police car.7...
"Great Obituaries," The Browser, 2011, is a roundup of gems in the year's Anglo-American press.
Aram Bakshian, Jr., "Hard-Headed Idealist," WSJ, 13 October, reviews Richard Brookheiser's James Madison.
Libby Copeland, "Are Americans Secretly Homesick?" Slate, 12 October, reviews Susan J. Matt's Homesickness: An American History.
Jackson Lears, "American Oracle," Commonweal, 21 October, reviews John Patrick Diggins's Why Niebuhr Now?
Michael Dirda reviews The Letters of Samuel Beckett: II, 1941-1956, edited by George Craig, et al., for the Washington Post, 12 October.
Daphne Merkin, "Shades of Gray," bookforum, Sept/Nov, reviews Nell Casey, ed., The Journals of Spalding Gray.
John B. Judis, "No Confidence," The Book, 13 October, reviews Ron Suskind's Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President.
The Oral History Association is meeting in Denver this week. I assume there will be discussions about the Boston College subpoenas, and I invite anyone attending the meeting to send me reports about those discussions to be posted here. I can be reached at cbray (at) ucla (dot) edu. Or just post a comment here.
Sharon Howard has an excellent roundup of "Ada Lovelace Day: Women in the history of science, medicine and technology," Early Modern Notes, 8 October.
Peter Thonemann, "Children in the Roman Empire," TLS, 12 October, reviews Christian Laes's Children in the Roman Empire: Outsiders Within and Véronique Dasen and Thomas Späth, eds., Children, Memory, and Family Identity in Roman Culture.
Helen Brown reviews Dava Sobel's A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionised the Cosmos for the Telegraph, 11 October.
"Helen Castor on She-Wolves," Guardian, 10 October, interviews Castor about the "pleasurable pain" that went into her book, She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth.
Ruth Franklin reviews Art Spiegelman's MetaMaus for the TNR, 5 October.
Norma Clarke, "Women's lives at war," TLS, 12 October, reviews Virginia Nicholson's Millions Like Us: Women's lives in war and peace, 1939–1949.
Eric Miller reviews Daniel T. Rodgers's Age of Fracture for Books & Culture, October.
Randy Dotinga for the CSM, 3 October, and Amy Finnerty, "The Photo That Exposed Segregation," NYT, 7 October, review David Margolick's Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock. Margolick, "The Many Lives of Hazel Bryan," Slate, 11 October, is adapted from his new book.
Sarah Shin, "Slavoj Žižek at Occupy Wall Street: "We are not dreamers, we are the awakening from a dream which is turning into a nightmare", Verso, 10 October, has an imperfect "transcript" of Žižek's remarks. The You Tubes, Part 1 and Part 2, at the bottom are more reliable. See also: Andrew Hartman and Ray Haberski at U. S. Intellectual History, 11/12 October.
Finally, congratulations to the finalists in the National Book Awards, 2011, for nonfiction: Deborah Baker for The Convert: A Tale of Exile and Extremism, Mary Gabriel for Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution, Stephen Greenblatt for The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, Manning Marable for Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, and Lauren Redniss for Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout.
While I was working up a recent conference paper I had to spend some quality time with the documents of Carolingian-era Girona for the first time. I've avoided Girona for two reasons: firstly, and most importantly, when I began my Ph. D. it was only just fully in print and those volumes weren't in libraries I could easily access, whereas since 2003 everything from the area between 817 and 1000 has been collected handily in two volumes of the Catalunya Carolíngia.1 From the fact that these two volumes encompass four counties' material, as opposed to the two counties in three thicker volumes I usually work from for Osona and Manresa,2 you'll maybe guess reason two, that there really isn't very much compared to the frontier areas, which also speaks of reason three, I wanted a frontier, and Girona has never been one except for a brief period in its existence, 785 to 801, when it was number one Carolingian base for further campaigns into Spain. The city has arguably never been that important again, which may explain its weird fascination with Charlemagne, a ruler who never went there and none of whose documents it preserves.3
There is also the factor that what I do has become increasingly focussed on having original documents. This is partly because it's much easier to tell whether they've been messed about with subsequently (or indeed not—sometimes they're just weird, and you can't tell in a copy which was true), but it's also because copying tends to be selective and so you only get certain things. Now, at Urgell, at Vic, and at a few places outside Spain, St Gallen for example, the fact that there was a cartulary later compiled doesn't mean that the relevant archive got rid of their originals; but this does seem to have happened a lot elsewhere, and sadly Girona is one such case. From the state of the transcriptions, it is easy to think that this might be because they were already becoming hard to read, not just in terms of script though garbling does show that this was a problem, but also in terms of words being missed out, I presume because of fading. Anyway, the preservation is selective: whereas elsewhere in Catalonia and in Spain I would usually expect a tenth-century archive to be say, forty per cent sales, thirty-five per cent donations, fifteen per cent other stuff (wills, hearings, royal precepts, papal Bulls, letters, oddities), at Girona we basically only have precepts, Bulls and hearings.4 But the hearings are often kind of fun.
These too can be selective, of course. Have a look at this for the confusion of recording only what's necessary:
In the judgement of Viscounts Ermido and Radulf and also in the presence of Otger and Guntard, vassals of the venerable Count Unifred, and also the judges who were ordered to judge, Ansulf, Bello, Nifrid, Guinguís, Floridi, Trasmir and Adulf, judges, and the other men who were there in that same placitum with those same men. There came Lleo and he accused Bishop Godmar, saying that that same aforesaid bishop unjustly stole from me houses and vines and lands and courtyards that are in the villa of Fonteta, in Girona territory, that my father Estable cleared from the waste like the other Hispani, wherefore I made my claim before the lord King Charles so that, if it were so, he might through his letter order for us that the aforesaid bishop should return the aforesaid aprisio to me, if he were to approve. And while the aforesaid bishop, rereading, heard this letter, he sent his spokesman who might respond reasonably in his words in this case. Then I Lleo summoned that same mandatory of the aforesaid bishop, Esperandéu by name, because Bishop Godmar, whose rights he represented, stole my houses and courtyards and vines and lands that are in the villa of Fonteta or in its term, which I was holding by the aprisio of my father or I myself cleared, so that same aforesaid chief-priest did, unjustly and against the law. Then the above-said viscounts and judges interrogated that same above-said mandatory of the above-said chief-priest as to what he had to answer in this case. That man however said in his responses that he had his possession by legal edicts from that same Lleo, which that same Lleo had made before the above-said judges, that as for those lands for which the above-said chief-priest and his mandatory had previously appealed him, which are in the above-said villa, another man had cleared those houses from the wasteland and not him or his father, but whatever his father had or held in benefice in the selfsame villa or in its term, he had this from the late Count Gaucelm. (The fourteenth-century building that replaced the Sant Feliu de Girona which was the ultimate beneficiary in this case.)
And while Esperandéu was presenting that profession in the court, that I Lleo had made and confirmed with my hands without any force, and it was found to be legally written, then I Lleo claimed before the above-named persons that Esperandéu brought this profession to be re-read by force, and that he made the claim of that same Lleo by force. I Lleo responded to myself and I said that in truth I had never been able to have [the properties]. Then they ordered my profession thereof to be written of the things which I...
Jean Bethke Elshtain, "Remembrance of Things Blessed," American Conservative, 5 October, reviews Garry Wills's Augustine's Confessions: A Biography.
Michael Barone, "Life May Differ In Your Region," WSJ, 10 October, reviews Colin Woodard's American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America.
Troy Patterson, "Prohibition," Slate, 30 September, and Michael Kazin, "What the Temperance Movement and the Anti-Abortion Movement Have in Common," TNR, 3 October, review Ken Burns's and Lynn Novick's documentary, Prohibition.
Nigel Jones reviews Wade Davis's Into The Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest for the Guardian, 7 October.
Ron Rosenbaum, "Faustian Bargain," Tablet, 10 October, reviews Alvin Rosenfeld's The End of the Holocaust.
Iljitsch van Beijnum and Jaume Barcelo, "Cutting the cord: how the world's engineers built Wi-Fi," ars technica, 10 October, tracks the engineers overcoming remarkable obstacles.
Tomiko Brown-Nagin, "Historians on Wall Street Protests and "Class Warfare" in U.S. Politics: A Comment," Legal History Blog, 10 October, has a roundup of historians' commentary on the Occupy Wall Street protests: Gary Gerstle, Beverly Gage, Jonathan Zimmerman, Juan Cole, Steven Reich, Michelle Drumbl and more. Elsewhere, see: James Livingston, Mark Naison and David Weinfeld.
Pantheon Books published MetaMaus on October 4th. There is additional material from the book and bonus DVD on Art Spiegelman's Facebook page: Facebook.com/ArtSpiegelman.