Cliopatria: A Group Blog
Aaron Bady (∞); Chris Bray (∞); Brett Holman (∞); Jonathan Jarrett (∞); Robert KC Johnson (∞); Rachel Leow (∞); Ralph E. Luker (∞); Scott McLemee (∞); Claire B. Potter (∞); Jonathan T. Reynolds (∞)
Clinton has never quite explained how she reached this morally absolutist conclusion after having such a differing position on the issue only a few months earlier. Her comments are particularly objectionable because they trivialize the occasions in which credentials fights really were about basic issues of justice, democracy, and fairness.
Perhaps the best example of such a fight came in 1964, when the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party—a biracial group of civil rights activists—challenged the credentials of the mostly pro-Goldwater, segregationist Mississippi regulars. After considerable effort, Lyndon Johnson (who feared a disruption to the convention) and his aides brokered a compromise. The Mississippi regulars would be seated, but with two caveats: two MFDP members would receive credentials as at-large convention delegates; and racial discrimination would be taken into account in future credentials fights.
As he expected, Johnson received criticism for the deal from some liberals. To his astonishment, however, some of his Southern allies attacked the compromise as too favorable to the MFDP. Johnson’s frustration boiled over in a conversation with Georgia governor Carl Sanders, his strongest supporter among the ranks of the South’s governors. The clip below (full transcript below the jump) references Mississippi’s segregationist senators, James Eastland and John Stennis, as well as its even more segregationist governor, Ross Barnett.
The Clinton forces might want to keep 1964 in mind as they offer hyperbolic arguments about the alleged immorality of the party’s attempts to enforce its calendar in 2008.
President Johnson: What’s happening is we’re doing four or five things. Number one: we’re coming in there and seating the state of Mississippi. Every damn one of them. Now, they oughtn’t to be, Carl. They oughtn’t to …
Carl Sanders: I don’t—
President Johnson: You and I just can’t survive our political modern life with these goddamned fellows down there that are eating them for breakfast every morning. They’ve got to quit that. And they’ve got to let ‘em vote. And they’ve got to let ‘em shave. And they’ve got to let ’em eat, and things like that. And they don’t do it.
However much we love [Democratic Senators] Jim Eastland and John Stennis, they get a governor like Ross Barnett, and he’s messing around there with [George] Wallace, and they won’t let one [black] man go in a precinct convention. Now, that’s—we’ve got to put a stop to that, because that’s just like the old days, by God, when they wouldn’t let them go in and cast a vote of any kind. And you’ve put a stop to it in your state.
But we’re going to ignore that. We’re going to say, “Hell, yes, you did it. You’re wrong. You violated the ’57 law, and you violated the ’60 law, and you violated the ’64 law, but we’re going to seat you—every damn one of you. You lily white babies, we’re going to salute you.”
Blake Gopnik,"Points of Departure," Washington Post, 1 June, reviews two exhibits in Washington, DC: Jacob Lawrence's"Migration," a rare display of all 60 panels of his series at The Phillips Collection; and"Aaron Douglas: African American Modernist," an exhibit at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
George F. Will,"Caesaropapism Rampant," Newsweek, 2 June, argues that American romanticism about presidential leadership leads, inevitably, to disillusionment. In"Caesarism will do just fine," Eunomia, 26 May, our colleague, Daniel Larison, explains that George Will hasn't the faintest idea what" caesaropapism" is.
Finally, have a look at"United States History" on Cliopatria's History Blogroll. Had you asked me two years ago what was the fastest growing interest in the history blogosphere, I would probably have said"Military History." But that growth was largely fed by massive interest in the American Civil War. In the last 18 months, the American history blogosphere has grown dramatically. For American urban historians, there are blogs about Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. There are excellent blogs about American intellectual, legal, political and religious history. It's a feast!
Edward Rothstein,"Antiquities, the World Is Your Homeland," NYT, 27 May, builds on the argument of James Cuno's Who Owns Antiquity? Museums and the Battle Over Our Ancient Heritage that current interpretations of the cultural properties movement threaten the preservation of antiquities.
Ronald Radosh,"Ronald Reagan's World," NY Sun, 29 May, reviews Sean Wilentz's The Age of Reagan.
Finally, our colleagues, Rob MacDougall and Bill Turkel, and lots of other kool kids will be participating in the Center for History and New Media's THATCamp this weekend. It's a Summit Conference of the Axis of Digital Evil. I wouldn't understand a word that will be said, but I expect Rob and Bill to report back to us.
Rónán McDonald's The Death of the Critic launches a dialogue,"Who killed the literary critic?" Salon, 22 May, between Louis Bayard and Laura Miller. McDonald's book is reviewed in John Freeman's"‘Death' deals the critic a cautionary diagnosis," Boston Globe, 5 March, and John Mullan's"Literature's self-implosion," TLS, 12 March. Thanks to Mary Dudziak for the tip.
Richard Byrne and Robin Wilson,"Palestinian-American Scholar at Columbia U. Gets 2nd Chance at Tenure," CHE, 27 May, reports that, after a narrowly negative recommendation last fall on tenure for Joseph Massad at Columbia, the University has established a new ad hoc tenure review committee and will give his case a rare second look.
Edward G. Lengel,"Why Didn't We Listen to Their War Stories?" Washington Post, 25 May, explores why the stories of World War I have made little impression in American popular culture. A member of the history department at the University of Virginia, Lengel is the author of To Conquer Hell: The Meuse-Argonne, 1918. See also: John Quiggen,"The Great and Unremembered War," Crooked Timber, 29 May. Thanks to David Fahey for the tip.
Les Carpenter,"A Father's Shadow," Washington Post, 25 May, tells the sad story of civil rights hero James Bevel and his history of abusing women, including his own daughters. Several of them gathered up the courage they inherited from him and his first wife, Diane Nash, and he now faces a 15 year prison sentence. Thanks to Phil Muller for the tip.
Finally, congratulations to our former colleague, Jonathan Dresner, who has accepted an appointment at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, and to Cliopatria's friend, Brian Ulrich, who has accepted a one year appointment at Colgate University.
Jonathan Rosen,"Return to Paradise," New Yorker, 2 June, celebrates the 400th anniversary of John Milton's birth and the harvest of new work about him.
Scott McLemee,"From Plymouth Rock to Plato's Retreat," IHE, 28 May, considers how a history of sexuality in America ought to look.
"Canada Reopens Its ‘Most Disgraceful' Act," NYT, 28 May, features a new examination of the forced acculturation of Canada's native Americans between the 1870s and the 1970s. Thanks to Manan Ahmed for the tip.
Rick Perlstein's Nixonland is the subject of this week's discussion at TPM Café's Book Club.
Niall Ferguson,"The Jewish Key to Henry Kissinger," TLS, 28 May, reviews Jeremi Suri's Henry Kissinger and the American Century.
Finally, at Outside Report, my virtual son, Chris Richardson, asks three questions:
1. What American President knew the largest number of other American Presidents (who served before or after his own term)?
2. What non-presidential American knew the largest number of American Presidents?
3. What American President knew the fewest other American Presidents?
Chris offers reasonably well-informed tentative answers to the questions, but he'd like to have critical reactions from Cliopatria's readers.
There's a complete list of the artists and paintings Johnson included in his video here. The music is Yo-Yo Ma's performance of Bach's Sarabande from his Suite for Solo Cello No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007. Johnson's webpage is here.
Subsequently, Johnson created"Women in Film."
Identifying all of the subjects is a challenge! The answers are here.
Both projects drew some criticism for the monolithic aesthetic sensibility implied by Johnson's selection of subjects. More recently, he has created"Men in Film," which seems to address the criticism.
The greater ethnic diversity of his subjects in this latest effort yields some interesting morphs!
The full three minute interview is here. There is no excuse for this in American journalism. See: Jeff Feldman's"FOX Pundit Wishes for Obama Assassination, Laughs," Huffington Post, 25 May; and Josh Marshall,"Beyond Belief," TPM, 25 May.
Update: Trotta has apologized.
The first initiative came the day before the Guam caucus, when Senator Clinton gave an interview to the Guam media and said that Guam citizens should be able to vote in presidential elections: “It seems to me that it is long past time that we remedy this inequity. It doesn’t reflect American values; it is out of step with the move toward equality and full citizenship rights, and I will do everything I can to make sure the people of Guam’s votes are counted. It seems to me that it is long past time that we remedy this inequity. It doesn't reflect American values; it is out of step with the move towards equality and full citizenship rights, and I will do everything I can to make sure the people of Guam's vote are counted.” Of course, Congress cannot simply grant territories the right to vote in presidential election; such as change could be implemented only through constitutional amendment, as occurred with the District of Columbia and the 23rd amendment.
Clinton’s remarks attracted little media attention, but ABC’s Jake Tapper noticed them, and pressed the campaign for an explanation. Clinton spokesperson Mo Elleithee replied that, indeed, the senator desired a constitutional amendment to implement her Guam scheme.
Campaigning yesterday in Puerto Rico, Clinton raised the presidential voting question again, this time for Puerto Ricans. In a rally before Puerto Rican voters in Aguadilla, she affirmed, “I believe you should have a vote in picking the president.”
Perhaps the Constitution should be amended to allow Puerto Ricans and Guamanians to vote in presidential elections. But Clinton has been in the Senate for eight years, and she doesn’t seem to have raised the issue. There’s something off-putting about a U.S. senator first proposing constitutional amendments a few days before the targets of these amendments go to the polls.
Moreover, the Clinton constitutional amendments raise a host of unanswered questions. For instance, how, precisely, would electoral votes for Guam and Puerto Rico be allocated?
Guam has fewer than 200,000 people, about a third of the size of Wyoming, the least populous state. Along the lines of the D.C. amendment model, should Guam receive three electoral votes? If not, the Guam amendment would represent a break from more than 200 years of constitutional tradition. If so, the ratio of Electoral College votes to voters would be lower in Guam than in any state of the union—making Guamanians, in effect, the most proportionally influential citizens of the United States in presidential elections.
And what about Puerto Rico, whose population of nearly four million falls between that of Kentucky (eight electoral votes) and Oregon (seven)? Should Puerto Rico receive seven electoral votes? If so, is it appropriate for a territory to have more electoral votes than 20 states? If not, and Puerto Rico (like D.C. and, apparently, Guam) would only get three Electoral College votes, would Clinton suggest that the votes of individual Puerto Ricans are proportionally less important than the votes of other Americans?
And what about the Virgin Islands? Clinton seems not to have proposed a constitutional amendment to allow V.I. citizens to vote in presidential elections. Presumably that oversight wasn’t because the territory is strongly pro-Obama (he carried the primary 90-10). So what was her rationale for Guam and Puerto Rico to receive constitutional amendments, but not the Virgin Islands? Or the Northern Mariana Islands? Or American Samoa?
It appears as if the Clinton campaign is going to come up short, but perhaps Senator Clinton can work on these amendments in the next session of Congress. Somehow, however, I doubt that she’ll be as interested in making sure that Guamanians can vote for the presidency if she’s not on the presidential ballot.
Thomas Bartlett,"The Betrayal of Judas," CHE, 30 May, is a classic story of major institutions, mega-bucks, and academic superstars coalescing to get an important piece of ancient history wrong.
Susann Cokal,"‘Poor, Obscure, Plain and Little'," NYT, 25 May, reviews Ruth Brandon's Governess: The Lives and Times of the Real Jane Eyres.
Matthew Power,"The Other Half," NYT, 25 May, reviews Bonnie Yochelson's and Daniel Czitrom's Rediscovering Jacob Riis: Exposure Journalism and Photography in Turn-of-the-Century New York.
Andrew Stuttaford,"A Cabinet of Soviet Curiosities," NY Sun, 21 May, reviews Paul R. Gregory's Lenin's Brain and Other Tales from the Soviet Archives.
Christopher Caldwell,"The 54 of Us," NYT, 25 May, reviews Steve Coll's The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century.
A. N. Wilson,"V. S. Naipaul, master and monster," TLS, 21 May, reviews Patrick French's The World Is What It Is: The authorised biography of V. S. Naipaul.
Michael Shermer,"Fight for the Life Of the Mind," NY Sun, 21 May, reviews Alan Sokal's Beyond the Hoax.
Brendon Boyle,"Siege of the Ivory Tower," NY Sun, 21 May, reviews Mary Lefkowitz's History Lesson: A Race Odyssey.
Sean Wilentz,"Barack Obama and the Unmaking of the Democratic Party," Huffington Post, 23 May, continues his argument for the nomination of Hillary Clinton. Thanks to Chris Bray for the tip.
Senator Clinton has apologized for the remark. Hat tip to Kevin Murphy.
John Noble Wilford,"Project Digitizes Works From the Golden Age of Timbuktu," NYT, 20 May, introduces the project to digitize fragile 17th to 19th century manuscripts and books in Arabic script from Timbuktu. See also: the project's Aluka Blog. Hat tip.
Adam Kirsch,"Doing Battle with the Bard," NY Sun, 21 May, reviews Nigel Smith's Is Milton Better Than Shakespeare?
Joseph Lelyveld,"Looking for Naipaul," NYRB, 19 May, reviews V. S. Naipaul's A Writer's People: Ways of Looking and Feeling. Hat tip.
Ruth Franklin,"After Empire," New Yorker, 26 May, looks back at Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart.
Jonathan Mahler,"More Glory: Talking Baseball, From the '50s and '60s," NYT, 21 May, reviews Fay Vincent's We Would Have Played for Nothing: Baseball Stars of the 1950s and 1960s Talk About the Game They Loved.
Errol Morris,"The Most Curious Thing," Zoom, 19 May, continues his interrogation of photographs from Abu Ghraib.
George Packer,"The Fall of Conservatism," New Yorker, 26 May, draws on Rick Perlstein's Nixonland and Sean Wilentz's The Age of Reagan to argue that"the party of ideas" has run out of them.
Richie Robertson,"Josef Fritzl's fictive forebears," TLS, 14 May, tracks a line of degenerates in modern Austrian literature.
Francis Beckett,"Because our fathers lied," Guardian, 17 May, reviews four new books about World War I.
Benjamin Schwartz,"Waste Not, Want Everything," Atlantic Monthly, June, reviews David Kyneston's Austerity Britain, 1945-1951, the first of a multi-volume history of Great Britain after World War II, Tales of a New Jerusalem.
Science, Technology, and Global History
There are mad and beautiful things beneath the skin of the world we know, that you only see when you look at things on a planetary scale.
-- Warren Ellis, Planetary
I'm coming to think of Science, Technology, and Global History as a history of science and technology course with the brakes removed. It was Bill's creation, I should say, but he kindly brought me on board to teach the second half. Here's a tentative outline of the course, still a work in progress, and probably not yet as global as we'd like it to be. The main ideas guiding us are a critique of disciplinary divisions between the sciences and humanities--we do believe that history and science share important similarities--and also an effort to look at the histories of science and technology in a truly global or transnational way. This latter goal takes both Bill and I out of our wheelhouse, as a Canadianist and an Americanist respectively, but we are choosing to regard that as a feature rather than a bug.
The class is also inspired by"big history" or"deep history," which employs the tools of science, social science, and traditional history to study the past over extremely long scales of time. That's more Bill's problem than mine, mind you: his semester goes from the Big Bang (or maybe just the late Pleistocene) to the Enlightenment. I just have to get from Darwin to the near future. But grappling with notions of deep history (including some doubts about it--see Alun Salt's post on the subject from December for a few questions similar to my own) has been a mind-expanding treat.
The format of the class is not all that radical--students, lecture, chronological order, exams--but our guiding philosophy in planning it has been to try everything that occurs to us which might be interesting or novel or cool."What if we had a Google Jockey?""What if I lectured on phlogiston as if it were real?""What if we had our students collaborate online with a history of science class in India?""What if we got our students to critique the Civilizationtech tree?""What if we told our students to redesign the university?" Clearly we are terrible influences on one another. I expect as many of our experiments to fail as to succeed, but I doubt we will get bored.
Drudges: Professor X,"In the Basement of the Ivory Tower," Atlantic Monthly, June, explains why"the idea that a university education is for everyone is a destructive myth." I taught, once, in the tower's basement and can recall one class of students I thought might be more productively herded off into a convict labor camp. Thanks to Manan Ahmed for the tip.
Fire Fred: Eighteen months ago, we learned that a) Fred Ruhlman, who teaches history at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, claims a doctorate from a degree mill, the American University of London, and b) because of plagiarism, the University of Tennessee Press had withdrawn his book on the Confederacy's Andersonville prison from publication. I e-mailed my friend, Jim Russell, who chairs the department, to ask why Ruhlman was still teaching there. Jim didn't answer me. Spring 2008, Fred's still teaching history at UT, Chattanooga, and we learn that Ruhlman occupies time in class by reading the textbook to the students. So, I e-mailed Jim again. No answer, of course. The department could surely hire people with doctorates from honorable programs, who are not convicted plagiarists and who have some sense that time in class can be better used than reading the textbook to the students.
Mass Murder: Charles J. Hanley,"Mass Killings in South Korea in 1950 Kept Hidden from History," Huffington Post, 18 May, reports that the Rhee regime's murder of tens of thousands of South Koreans at the outset of the Korean War is only now being openly acknowledged in the country.
Yonatan Eyal,"George Bancroft, Brief life of a public historian: 1800-1891," Harvard Magazine, May/June, sketches a central figure in Eyal's recent book, The Young America Movement and the Transformation of the Democratic Party, 1828-1861.
Claire Cohen,"Revealed: The amazing pictures of Britain in colour for the very first time," Daily Mail, 27 April, reproduces colour photographs of London, Cornwall, St. Ives, and Oxford, 1913-1924. Hat tip.
The Washington Post's Book World, 18 May, features reviews of three books about the capital's history: Jonathan Yardley reviews Fergus M. Bordewich's Washington: The Making of the American Capital, David Greenberg's"Tribe of Scribes" reviews Robert Schlesinger's White House Ghosts: Presidents and their Speechwriters, and Ted Widmer's"Kennedy's Voice," reviews Ted Sorensen's Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History.
Jim Newton reviews Rick Perlstein's Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America for the LATimes, 18 May.
Finally, at Blog Them Out of the Stone Age, Mark Grimsley notes that, entering its 8th decade, the Munich analogy is"the most overworked historical analogy of the 20th century" and Brett Holman says that we need a variant of Godwin's Law dealing with it.
Michael Dirda reviews Albert Camus' Notebooks, 1951-1959 for the Washington Post, 11 May.
Sharon Steel,"Steam Dream," Boston Phoenix, 15 May, looks at the origins of steampunk subculture.
Finally, Juan Cole's"Is Obama the Apostate, or is Bush?" Informed Comment, 15 May, replies to Edward Luttwak's"President Apostate?" NYT, 12 May. There's a difference between"groupthink" and"informed comment."
Recently, I've been thinking about a handful of" concept courses," probably because the school year just ended and so right now I'm about as far from facing a real classroom as the calendar lets me get. My next couple of posts, then, will be ideas for university classes that are interesting (to me at least) to think about and with. How they'd really work in practice, how they'd get approved by an education policy committee, whether I'd be qualified to teach them, are all of less importance than the notions themselves, the fragile but lovely potential of shiny soap-bubble ideas.
Here's the first:
The Great Game: Simulation, Gaming, and History
In time, those unconscionable maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guild struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following generations ... saw that the vast map was useless, and ... delivered it up to the inclemencies of sun and winter. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are tattered ruins of that map, inhabited by animals and beggars.
-- Jorge Luis Borges,"On Exactitude in Science"
I've talked before about my interest, and at the same time my doubts, around simulation gaming as a way of teaching history. The map is not the territory, as they say, and a perfect simulation would require rewinding and replaying the past itself. Even the best simulation game, I argued before, becomes more and more about itself and its own assumptions the more you play. The discussions I'd really like to foster in a classroom are the ones faced by the designers, rather than the players, of a game. What factors and options should we include? What behaviors might be allowed or encouraged? How do we tweak the simulation and to what end? What is the logical scale at which to simulate a given event? (A student of mine made the casual observation, to me pregnant with significance about war and American popular memory, that there are umpteen top-down strategy games about World War II, but that computer games about the Vietnam War are invariably first-person shooters.)
This course would have three braided strands. The first would be a history of simulation games and of ideas about the simulation of history, from China's go and India's chaturanga, to medieval pageants and tournaments, to the Prussian kriegspiel and mechanical merry-go-rounds. We'd zero in on the zenith of simulation in the mid 20th century: nuclear strategy games at RAND, economic games at the Harvard Business School, and the electronic computers for which the simulation of war was the first true killer app. The second strand would be a critical analysis of simulation itself. We'd take apart some modern computer games and some older efforts at simulation to figure out what they do and don't say about history and causation. Why do we so often play at war and so rarely at peace? Can sim games only recapitulate drum-and-bugle history? If every move in the game alters actual history, what standards are there for judging a simulation plausible or realistic? The third strand would be to enlist the entire class in creating a game that simulates some moment or aspect of history, whether from scratch or by modding a sufficiently customizable game engine. Could we create a game of class conflict: Howard Zinn's A People's Civilization? How about a game simulating race and gender history: Gail Bederman's Manliness and Civilization? Or, inevitably, Michel Foucault's Madness and Civilization, a game about social systems of power and knowledge that simulates simulation itself?