Roundup: Talking About HistoryFollow RU: Talking About History on RSS and Twitter
This is where we excerpt articles about history that appear in the media. Among the subjects included on this page are: anniversaries of historical events, legacies of presidents, cutting-edge research, and historical disputes.
SOURCE: The Daily Beast (4-21-13)
William Dalrymple is the author of eight acclaimed works of history and travel, including, most recently, Return of the King: The Battle for Afghanistan 1839-42, currently a No.1 bestseller in India. He divides his time between New Delhi and London, and is a contributor to The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, and The Guardian.
On my extended visits to Afghanistan to research Return of a King, I was keen to see as many of the places and landscapes associated with the First Anglo-Afghan War as was possible. I particularly wanted to retrace the route of the British forces’ catastrophic retreat and get to Gandamak, the site of the British last stand.
The route of the retreat backs on to the mountain range that leads to Tora Bora and the Pakistan border, the Ghilzai heartlands that have always been – along with Quetta – the Taliban’s main recruiting ground. I had been advised not to attempt to visit the area without local protection, so eventually set off in the company of a regional tribal leader who was also a minister in Karzai’s government: a mountain of a man named Anwar Khan Jagdalak, a former village wrestling champion and later captain of the Afghan Olympic wrestling team, who had made his name as a Jami’at-Islami Mujehedin commander in the jihad against the Soviets in the 1980s.
It was Jagdalak’s Ghilzai ancestors who inflicted some of the worst casualties on the British army of 1842, something he proudly repeated several times as we drove through the same passes. “They forced us to pick up guns to defend our honour,” he said. “So we killed every last one of those bastards.” None of this, incidentally, has stopped Jagdalak from sending his family away from Kabul to the greater safety of Northolt in north London.
On the day we were to drive to Gandamak, I had been told to report at seven in the morning to Jagdalak. Threading my way through a slalom of checkpoints and razor wire surrounding his Ministry, I arrived to find Jagdalak being hustled into a convoy of heavily armoured SUVs by his ever-present phalanx of Afghan bodyguards, with their walkie-talkies crackling and assault rifles primed....
SOURCE: The Root (4-22-13)
Henry Louis Gates Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and the director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research at Harvard University. He is also the editor-in-chief of The Root. Follow him on Twitter.
One of the most pernicious allegations made against the African-American people was that our slave ancestors were either exceptionally "docile" or "content and loyal," thus explaining their purported failure to rebel extensively. Some even compare enslaved Americans to their brothers and sisters in Brazil, Cuba, Suriname and Haiti, the last of whom defeated the most powerful army in the world, Napoleon's army, becoming the first slaves in history to successfully strike a blow for their own freedom.
As the historian Herbert Aptheker informs us in American Negro Slave Revolts, no one put this dishonest, nakedly pro-slavery argument more baldly than the Harvard historian James Schouler in 1882, who attributed this spurious conclusion to " 'the innate patience, docility, and child-like simplicity of the negro' " who, he felt, was an " 'imitator and non-moralist,' " learning " 'deceit and libertinism with facility,' " being " 'easily intimidated, incapable of deep plots' "; in short, Negroes were " 'a black servile race, sensuous, stupid, brutish, obedient to the whip, children in imagination.' ''
Consider how bizarre this was: It wasn't enough that slaves had been subjugated under a harsh and brutal regime for two and a half centuries; following the collapse of Reconstruction, this school of historians -- unapologetically supportive of slavery -- kicked the slaves again for not rising up more frequently to kill their oppressive masters. And lest we think that this phenomenon was relegated to 19th- and early 20th-century scholars, as late as 1959, Stanley Elkins drew a picture of the slaves as infantilized "Sambos" in his book Slavery: A Problem in American Institutional and Intellectual Life, reduced to the status of the passive, "perpetual child" by the severely oppressive form of American slavery, and thus unable to rebel. Rarely can I think of a colder, nastier set of claims than these about the lack of courage or "manhood" of the African-American slaves....
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (4-11-13)
Ken Livingstone is a former mayor of London.
It is a truism that history is written by the victors. As Margaret Thatcher's economic policies were continued after she left office, culminating in economic catastrophe in 2008, it is necessary to throw out the myths peddled about her. The first is that she was popular. The second is that she delivered economic success.
Unlike previous governments, Thatcher's never commanded anything close to a majority in a general election. The Tories' biggest share of the vote under her was less than 44% in 1979, after which her vote fell. The false assertions about her popularity are used to insist that Labour can only succeed by carrying out Tory policies. But this is untrue.
The reason for the parliamentary landslide in 1983 was not Thatcher's popularity – her share of the vote fell to 42% – but the loss of votes to the defectors of the SDP and their alliance with the Liberals. Labour's voters did not defect to the Tories, whose long-term decline continued under Thatcher....
SOURCE: Tablet Magazine (4-19-13)
After a week of warm April weather, sunny afternoons and calm evenings, Friday morning in Warsaw was grey. An easily imaginable and heavy Polish grey: cold, windy, and threatening rain.
Like all anniversaries, the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising represented the interaction between history and the public marking of time. There were ceremonial sirens, church bells, military drums, and symbolic rifle fire, all of which echoed through the open plaza between Nathan Rapoport’s iconic monument to the ghetto fighters and the newly-minted Museum of the History of Polish Jews. The silences were tense and even the weather had conspired to project solemness.
Warsaw Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz spoke of the Jewish fighters as people who may not have all been from Warsaw, but became citizens of Warsaw when they banded together. Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski spoke of the Jewish fighters as members of the Jewish nation who were also Poles — two nations living together on Polish soul — and placed their resistance between the Polish resistances against the Nazis in September 1939 and the Warsaw Uprising of August 1944; Jews and Poles fought a common enemy during the war, as they had against the Czarists.
SOURCE: The Weekly Standard (4-22-13)
Gary Kulik, who served in Vietnam as a medic, is the author of War Stories: False Atrocity Tales, Swift Boaters, and Winter Soldiers.
Nick Turse wants us to know that the killing of civilians during the war in Vietnam was “widespread, routine, and directly attributable to U.S. command policies,” that “gang rapes were a . . . common occurrence,” that the running-over of civilians by American vehicle drivers was “commonplace,” and that the American military visited upon South Vietnam an “endless slaughter . . . day after day, month after month . . . [that] was neither accidental nor unforeseeable.” It was “A Litany of Atrocities,” as one of his chapter headings has it—a litany recited by Turse with the fevered prosecutorial zeal of an ideologue....
Make no mistake: Americans committed war crimes in Vietnam, and officers covered them up. General William Westmoreland’s search-and-destroy policies and the profligate use of air and artillery fire put Vietnamese peasants at risk, and far too many died—though not all at our hands. We still await a history of war crimes committed by the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army—the “revolutionary forces,” according to Turse. And now, more than 40 years after the war, we still have no way of knowing the relative prevalence of war crimes in Vietnam as compared with other wars. Though, thanks to Rick Atkinson’s work, we now know far more about American war crimes in World War II: Berber tribesmen shot for sport, the egregious killing of German prisoners, the atrocious behavior of French colonial troops raping their way up the Italian peninsula while under Allied command.
War brings out the best and the worst in us. Former Marine commandant Peter Pace told a Citadel audience in 2006 that, as a young platoon leader in Vietnam, he called in an artillery strike on a village from which a sniper had killed a young Marine—the first man he lost. Pace’s platoon sergeant “didn’t say a word, he just looked at me.” The look was sufficient. Pace called off the strike and ordered a sweep through the village, finding only women and children. Pace’s story, as the literature of Vietnam memoirs makes clear, could be told many times over. Any fair and balanced account of American war crimes demands attention to those stories, too.
Nick Turse, however, has no interest in such stories. His unmeasured effort at exposé—relentless, indiscriminate, and cocksure in its judgment that American military policy made the killing of innocents inevitable -- exacts a high moral price....
SOURCE: NYT (4-15-13)
April 15 marks the 68th anniversary of Branko Lustig’s liberation from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp when he was not quite 13 years old. In this Op-Doc video, we follow Mr. Lustig back to Poland to visit the Auschwitz and Birkenau camps (where he was also interned) and to celebrate the bar mitzvah he could never have as a young man. [Click here or on link above for video.]
SOURCE: NYT (4-8-13)
Bill Keller is an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times. Prior to this role he was the executive editor of The Times, a role he held since 2003.
On the evening of March 31, 1987, viewers in the Soviet Union turned on their TV sets and watched (I’d bet no one turned it off) an astonishing spectacle. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, concluding a visit to Moscow, was pitted against three of the state-controlled media’s most polished propagandists. For 50 minutes, she tied them in knots, shifting between firm diplomacy and patient, school-marmish exposition, with – whenever one of the interviewers tried to interrupt – flashes of Trunchbull discipline. Even by the standards of the day – Mikhail Gorbachev’s cascade of glasnost, the thawing of the Cold War – the Thatcher interview was amazing. She articulated a peace-through-strength line on nuclear and conventional arms control, disclosing along the way facts that Soviet viewers had never read or heard in their media about their own arsenals. (A transcript is here.) She heaped praise on Gorbachev but, at a time when Gorbachev and President Reagan were indulging in talk about a world without nuclear weapons, Thatcher explained to viewers the European view that only nuclear deterrence had sustained 40 years of peace. The interview ran uncut.
Afterwards Georgi Arbatov, director of Moscow’s Institute for U.S.A. and Canada Studies and a favorite Kremlin apologist, groused to a British reporter that, by comparison with Thatcher, President Reagan seemed “more forward-looking and more realistic.” But Russians, who have an unwise taste for authoritarians, liked Thatcher’s take-no-guff style....
SOURCE: Huffington Post (4-15-13)
Peter Eisner, a veteran foreign correspondent, has been an editor and reporter at the Washington Post, Newsday and the Associated Press.
When people think of the Vatican and World War II, they think immediately of Pius XII, the controversial pontiff between 1939 and 1958. But before him, there was a little-remembered pope, Pope Pius XI, who was loudly outspoken against the Nazis and was determined to call the world's attention to their atrocities. "The Pope's Last Crusade" tells that story, along with that of the pope's partnership with an American Jesuit, which breaks new ground about war-time conspiracies within the Vatican.
Pope Pius XI had left the Vatican in late April 1938, earlier than usual for his summer retreat at Castel Gandolfo. He intended it to be an obvious snub directed at Adolf Hitler who was meeting the first week in May with Italian leader Benito Mussolini.
The pope rejected being present while the "crooked cross of neo-paganism" flew over Rome. Hitler's anti-Semitic campaign had become the pope's great preoccupation.
Many scholars think that Pius XI's crusade against Hitler, which took place in the last months of his life, could have changed course of events, possibly even the severity of later atrocities against the Jews.
As the Nazis increased their threats in their march toward war, the pope realized that it might at that moment be the Jews, but then it would be the Catholics and finally the world. He could see that the Nazis would stop at nothing less than world domination.
Pius had few allies at the Vatican, where many even believed that Communism was a greater danger than Fascism. Therefore, many prelates thought, the enemy of their Communist enemy must be their friend.
But Pius saw Hitler as an insane presence in the world and had been searching for a means of applying pressure and rallying international leaders against Nazism. It would not be easy. He was 82 years old and increasingly ill. At the same time, powerful cardinals and bishops around him feared the pope's activism against Hitler. In particular, the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, counseled caution in challenging Hitler and Mussolini. Pacelli eventually would eventually succeed Pius XI.
The pope, undeterred, reached out for help beyond the walls of the Vatican, seeking out an American Jesuit journalist, John LaFarge, who had just come to Italy. LaFarge had just written a book, "Interracial Justice," which portrayed the lives of American blacks who lived in the poorest strata of society. While LaFarge defended African Americans against the myth of racial superiority, the concept applies, he wrote, "to all races and conditions of men ... all tribes and races, Jew and Gentile alike..." (Twenty-five years later, in 1963, LaFarge stood with his friend Martin Luther King at the March on Washington.)
The pope summoned LaFarge to Castel Gandolfo on June 25, 1938. The American priest was shocked that the pope even knew his name. Pius told LaFarge he was to write an encyclical that would use the same reasoning he employed when discussing racism in the United States. It was to be the strongest statement ever made by the Vatican, in defense of the Jews and rejecting the Nazi doctrine of anti-Semitism.
Sworn to silence, LaFarge took up the papal assignment clandestinely in Paris. The pope's directive, however, had thrown LaFarge into the hazy realm of Vatican politics. The leader of the Jesuit order worldwide, Wlodimir Ledochowski, promised the pope and LaFarge that he would facilitate production of the encyclical. Privately, Ledochowski, an anti-Semite, conspired to block LaFarge at every turn.
In late September 1938, after about three months of work, LaFarge traveled to Rome with his papal mission complete. His superior, Ledochowski, welcomed him and promised to deliver the encyclical right away to the pope. He dismissed LaFarge and directed him to return home to the United States. Ledochowski did take care of the speech -- by burying it for months in Vatican bureaucracy.
The pontiff, unaware of these machinations, was stepping up his criticism of the Hitler, and Mussolini. He criticized Mussolini's imitation of systematic attacks on Jews in Germany and Austria. As in Germany, Jews in Italy were banned from attending school, from holding public positions or serving as doctors, lawyers and in other professional functions. Pius XI condemned these actions.
"Spiritually," the pope said, "we are all Semites."
In the fall of 1938, LaFarge realized finally that the pope still had not received the encyclical. He wrote a letter directly to the pope, implying that Ledochowski had the document in hand for months already. Pius XI demanded delivery, but did not receive it until Jan. 21, 1939 with a note from Ledochowski, who warned that the language of the document appeared to be excessive. He advised caution.
The pope, finally with LaFarge's text, planned immediately to issue the encyclical after a meeting with bishops on Feb. 11, in which he would condemn fascism. He worked on that speech on his own, jotting down ideas, rewriting and editing it by hand. Rumors, meanwhile, had reached Mussolini that the pope might be planning to excommunicate him or even Hitler, also a Catholic, a blow that could actually damage their popular power base.
Pius XI died on Feb. 10, 1939, a day before his planned speech. Vatican doctors said he had suffered complications of a heart attack, and despite administering stimulants, they had been unable to revive him.
Bishops in some quarters grumbled about the circumstances of his death and questioned the kind of stimulants he had been given in an attempt to revive him. Cardinal Eugene Tisserant of France, the pope's best friend and a former French intelligence officer, wrote in his diary that the pope had been murdered.
Pacelli, the secretary of state, became Pius XII, and the Vatican immediately toned down its vocal protests against Hitler and Mussolini. One historian, Conor Cruise O'Brien, the noted Irish writer and politician, in 1989 said that those months in 1938 were crucial as Hitler measured how the world would react to his campaign against the Jews.
"Had Pius XI been able to deliver the encyclical he planned, the green light would have changed to red. The Catholic Church in Germany would have been obliged to speak out against the persecution of the Jews. Many Protestants, inside and outside Germany, would have likely to follow its example."
How effective Pius XI's efforts might have been can never be known. It was only clear that he took a stance in favor of absolute morality and defended to his last breath his principles of decency and humanity, nothing more, nothing less.
SOURCE: NYT (4-13-13)
...Mrs. Thatcher was a more complex personality and contradictory politician than the true-blue-rinse, pearls-and-twin-set, Britannia-meets-Gloriana caricature so beloved by her admirers and reviled by her opponents. She achieved more as a woman in public life than ever seemed possible in her generation; but feminists reciprocated her undoubted dislike of them; and having married a rich man, she enjoyed many advantages denied to most of her gender. She also claimed to be a “conviction politician”; but before 1974, those convictions were the conventional welfare-state pieties of postwar consensus Toryism, and she won the 1979 general election by not being Labour rather than by being the Thatcherite she later became.
SOURCE: NYT (4-3-13)
SOURCE: The Historical Society (3-20-13)
When we think about the budget mess in Washington, it’s easy to focus on how it affects what’s now and what’s next. But what’s often overlooked is how budget cuts impact the study of the past. Or, how those cuts might shape history for current and future generations.
In the past year, I’ve spent many a Saturday morning at the Harry S. Truman Museum and Library in Independence, Mo., merrily panning for research gold sifting through umpteen boxes and folders. Thankfully the museum and the researcher’s reading room/library will not be closing.
But as of March 24, Truman’s old white-board home in Independence (which he far preferred to the other White House he lived in, dubbing the latter, “the great white jail”) will be closed on national holidays, Sundays and Mondays. The Noland house across the street, which once belonged to Truman’s cousins, is being shuttered for good. And though visitors can still mosey around the grounds of the family farm in Grandview, Missouri, they’ll no longer be able to tour the house....
SOURCE: NYT (4-1-13)
SOURCE: Foreign Policy (3-29-13)
Roy Robins is a writer based in Cape Town.
CAPE TOWN, South Africa — Late on Wednesday night, March 27, former South African president Nelson Mandela was admitted to an undisclosed hospital for a recurring lung infection. This is the third time Mandela has been hospitalized in recent months. He spent a weekend in hospital in early March for what the government described as a "check-up," and most of December in hospital, where he was treated for a lung infection and had his gallstones removed. The last time Mandela was seen in public was almost three years ago, at the closing ceremony of the 2010 World Cup, in Johannesburg. But that doesn't mean that he's not still everywhere.
Take his "appearance" at the kickoff this January of the 29th African Cup of Nations, an intercontinental soccer tournament held every two years. The elaborate opening ceremony, celebrating African culture, was a feast of entertainment, music, and dancing; at one point, an enormous Mandela puppet took to the stage. Dressed in the former president's trademark loose, patterned shirt, the puppet swaggered, tottered, jilted, and jived. The audience applauded, for the puppet was instantly identifiable, instantly empathic, instantly adored. Everything else on the stage -- and there was much else, including hundreds of dancers in colorful traditional dress -- could well have been invisible. Yet there was something perfectly ironic about the puppet: in its enormousness and vitality, it was somehow a better stand-in than Mandela himself, whose age and condition no longer allows him to take the stage.
The ailing former president has been squarely on South Africa's mind the last few months. At 94, he is frail and fading fast. Housebound and bedridden in his Johannesburg estate, he is rumored to be senile; some claim he no longer speaks at all. One especially devastating newspaper report, quoting his former wife, said that his "sparkle was fading."
Each time Mandela is admitted to hospital, a wall of silence goes up between Mandela's spokespeople and the ruling African National Congress (ANC) government, on the one side, and local and international media, on the other. The official ANC line is always the same: Mandela is "in good health," he is "stable," his medical examinations are "routine" -- nothing to see here, folks, move along. The unofficial line is decidedly different and, by all reasonable accounts, much closer to the truth....
SOURCE: NYT (3-25-13)
Jennifer L. Weber is an associate professor at the University of Kansas. She is the author of Copperheads, about antiwar Democrats during the Civil War, and Summer’s Bloodiest Days, a children’s book about the Battle of Gettysburg and its aftermath. She is currently working on a book about conscription during the Civil War.
When Abraham Lincoln took office in March 1861, the executive branch was small and relatively limited in its power. By the time of his assassination, he had claimed more prerogatives than any president before him, and the executive branch had grown enormously.
Lincoln’s critics witnessed his expanding power with alarm. They accused him of becoming a tyrant and warned that his assertions of authority under the guise of “commander in chief” threatened the viability of a constitutional democracy.
Lincoln ignored his foes and kept moving. And, despite lingering discomfort with some of his actions – particularly around the issue of civil liberties – history has largely vindicated him. Why?
Lincoln was elected in November 1860 with no ambition to expand presidential powers. But after Confederates fired on Fort Sumter in April 1861, he quickly called for 75,000 militia troops and ordered a blockade of Southern ports, even though a blockade suggests a declaration of a state of war, which only Congress can declare. Then he issued a call for more than 40,000 three-year volunteers, even though Congress has the constitutional responsibility to raise armies....
SOURCE: AHA Today (3-13-13)
Robert Townsend is the deputy director of the American Historical Association.
The latest iteration of the U.S. News and World Report rankings of history graduate programs appeared yesterday, prompting fresh questions about their value for the discipline.
As a measure of the relative merits of any particular department, the rankings should be viewed with considerable skepticism—especially by students applying to or selecting one program over another. For the prospective doctoral student, the primary considerations should be the fit between their intended area of research and faculty in the department, followed by the available levels of funding support. A few decimal points in a small survey should not sway your decision in one direction or another.
The rankings are based on a poll of department chairs and directors of graduate studies at history doctoral programs last fall, which asked them to rate the programs at 151 schools on a five-point scale—from 5 (“outstanding”) to 1 (“marginal”). But the faculty who fill out and receive the survey often complain that the instrument is fairly overwhelming. As one former chair reported, “when as chair I was asked to rank a whole string of departments it was evident to me how little I knew about what was going on in most of them, and how impressionistic my responses were.” That might explain why the response rate for the discipline this past year was quite low (just 19 percent).
While the rankings may be poor measures of the relative value of one program in comparison to another, they can be quite useful for heuristic purposes. When the rankings are broken into wide bands, they can be useful for demonstrating the differences—or lack thereof—between programs at the top of the disciplinary hierarchy and those at the bottom.
By breaking the rankings in to quartiles, I have been able to show that programs at the top of the rankings tend to be older and larger than the programs in the bottom quartiles. They are also much more likely to hire PhD recipients from their own tier of programs. At the same time, I have used the rankings to show that the differences in student completion rates and even hiring into the four-year colleges and universities of the Directory are relatively small (though certainly not insignificant in today’s competitive environment).
In the end, you should take the rankings for what they are—the rankings of a small number of history faculty about the perceived value of other departments. To the extent they provide a glimpse of the status hierarchy in the discipline, and some insights into the possible effects of that hierarchy, the rankings can be useful. To the extent they drive departments or schools to change their behavior to try to game the rankings, or students to select a specific program, they probably do a bit more harm than good to the ecology of the history discipline.
SOURCE: AHA Today (3-13-13)
Debbie Ann Doyle is Coordinator: Committees & Meetings at the American Historical Association.
Heritage tourism is big business. A recent report on the economic impact of the National Park Service (NPS) estimates that 279 million visits to the parks in 2011 generated $30 billion in economic activity and supported 252,000 jobs, both in the park service and in communities surrounding the parks.
While budget-minded legislators may see historic sites and preservation as luxuries that might be trimmed from an austerity budget, cultural resources offer a good return on investment. National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis notes that the parks contribute $10 to the economy for every $1 in tax money invested in the National Park Service, which “makes good stewardship sense and good business sense.”
The NPS study does not break out the percentage of economic activity generated by visitors to historic sites, but it likely comprises a significant proportion. According to Imperiled Promise: The State of History in the National Park Service, a 2012 report by the Organization of American Historians (OAH), history is a major part of the visitor experience at two-thirds of the 398 national park units. National Park Service visitor data for 2012 suggests that approximately 70 million of 282 trips to national parks were to monuments, historic sites, military parks, and battlefields. These figures do not include tourism generated by the 49 National Heritage Areas, public/private partnerships affiliated with NPS that preserve and interpret historic landscapes....
SOURCE: The American Conservative (3-26-13)
William Murchison is a nationally syndicated columnist and longtime commentator on politics, religion, and society.
We know, axiomatically, how it is with victors in one cause and another—they claim the spoils and write the history; in the latter case, untangling heroism from villainy, assigning significance to the outcomes, defining challenges still to come.
Why wonder (to the extent anyone does these days) that from many a seat in the modern classroom, America seems strikingly different from the star-spangled nation generally on view during—oh, I don’t know, the early ‘60s might do as point of departure. That was the era in which I occupied my own seat in the history classrooms of the University of Texas (currently called, due to system expansion, the University of Texas-Austin).
A few years after my graduation, with a history B.A., followed by study at Stanford for the history Master of Arts, came the tempests and upheavals of the Vietnam war-counterculture era, whose victors were… guess who?
No point leaving readers in suspense. A study by the National Association of Scholars, an organization of counter-countercultural academics in various disciplines, dedicated to “the tradition of reasoned scholarship and civil debate,” raises the timely question, “Are Race, Class, and Gender Dominating American History?,” meaning history as presently taught on college campuses. The verdict as rendered would appear to be yes; unquestionably; positively.
Race, class, and gender (formerly spelled “s-e-x”) appear to be undermining the narrative of America we once upon a time received as coherent and connected: the story of disparate colonies welding themselves into a nation of largely positive achievements, with a generally positive vision of itself and its place in the world. The newly emerging narrative concerns a nation of far more complex origins and ambitions than formerly taught, harder to understand and interpret, with darker corners, lacking the old teleology, the old sense of purpose and fulfillment.
I beg the reader: hold it right there. What’s wrong, from the standpoint of scholarship, with complexities and dark, or just darkish, corners? Is there no right or need to study and know about such? I plan to return to this matter. Meanwhile, what did the NAS report—titled “Recasting History”—actually do and say?...
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (3-25-13)
Martin Paul Eve is a lecturer in English at the University of Lincoln. His work focuses on American 20th and 21st–century fiction in addition to thinking about mutations in scholarly publishing in the academic humanities. @martin_eve
When it comes to open access in the humanities, it does not feel, to many, as though they were born open or are achieving openness but, rather, that they are having openness violently thrust upon them.
Although the open access movement has been going strong for 10 years and has had good take-up in certain scientific disciplines, such as physics, the humanities currently lack the infrastructure and funding mechanisms needed to support the transition period triggered by RCUK's (Research Councils UK) mandate. Amid erroneous circulations of fear uncertainty and doubt surrounding open licensing, the whole setup appears anarchic and shambolic to many who just want to buckle down and write their research.
While, then, many are digging their heels in, kicking and screaming, or even just more quietly worrying about the potential destruction of tried-and-tested scholarly communications systems, other groups of activists in the humanities – and also forward-thinking commercial academic publishers – are seizing the bull by the horns, seeing either an ethical imperative to openly disseminate work that would otherwise remain accessible to a relatively privileged few, or the need to change in order to salvage their business models. For these groups, the time is for praxis and their solutions are workable responses to the objections raised....
SOURCE: Huffington Post (3-25-13)
John J. Geoghegan reports on unusual inventions that fail in the marketplace despite their innovative nature. His non-fiction book, Operation Storm: Japan's Top Secret Sumbarines and Its Plan to Change the Course of World Whttp://hnn.us/node/add/hnnar II, about underwater aircraft carriers designed to attack New York City and Washington, DC, as a follow up to Pearl Harbor was published in March 2013. You can visit him at http://www.operationstormbook.com/
There are lots of reasons why a white elephant technology doesn't catch on. Sometimes the technology is ahead of its time. In other cases, no amount of time can make a misguided technology useful or attractive.
Then there's vending machines that sell books.
The first book-dispensing vending machine was built by Richard Carlile in England in 1822. Carlile was a bookseller who wanted to sell seditious works like Paine's Age of Reason without being thrown in jail. His answer was a self service machine that allowed customers to buy questionable books without ever coming into contact with Carlile. The customer turned a dial on the devise to the publication he wanted, deposited his money, and the material dropped down in front of him. It's unclear whether this was an automated process, but that didn't stop England's own automated process from convicting one of Carlile's employees for selling "blasphemous material."
The next book-dispensing machine was the Penguincubator, which appeared in London in 1937. Conceived by Allen Lane, the founder of Penguin Books, the Penguincubator dispensed classic literature in paperback form for about the same price as a pack of cigarettes (see photo below).
Lane was an iconoclastic figure in British publishing. Credited with popularizing high-quality, mass-market paperbacks, he was viewed as a radical intent on destabalizing the book industry. According to Penguin's website, the Penguincubator's origin story goes something like this:
After a weekend visiting Agatha Christie in Devon, Allen Lane found himself on a platform at Exeter station searching its bookstall for something to read on his journey back to London.... Appalled by the selection, Lane decided that good quality contemporary fiction should be made available at an attractive price and sold not just in traditional bookshops, but also in railway stations, tobacconists and chain stores.
Some reports suggest the Penguincubator was apocryphal, but it appears at least one was installed near Charing Cross Station in London much to the consternation of local booksellers.
Sir Allen may have succeeded in changing English reading habits, but the Penguincubator had little to do with it. Specifically, it was never manufactured in sufficient quantity to make an impact on the market, but that didn't stop others from expanding upon the idea....
SOURCE: The Nation (3-20-13)
Patrick Cockburn is a Middle East correspondent for The Independent and also contributes to the London Review of Books.
Ten years ago, Iraqis, even if they had originally opposed them, hoped that the US invasion and occupation would at least bring an end to the suffering they had endured under UN sanctions and other disasters stemming from defeat in the first Gulf War in 1991. Today, people in Baghdad complain that they still live in a permanent state of crisis because of sectarian and criminal violence, pervasive corruption, a broken infrastructure and a dysfunctional government. Many Iraqis say that what they want in 2013 is the same as what they wanted in 2003, which is a visa enabling them to move to another country, where they can get a job.
Baghdad was once a city where Sunni, Shiite and Christian lived side by side, conscious that they belonged to different sects but not frightened of one another. This all changed during the 2006–08 civil war, during which, at its peak, more than 3,700 Iraqis died in a single month, the great majority of them in Baghdad. “There are not many mixed areas left today,” says a Shiite woman who lives with her mother in a Sunni-majority district and tries to hide her sectarian identity from her Sunni neighbors. At the moment, she is worried that she may be asked to give evidence against one of these neighbors, who is in prison charged with murdering a Shiite man five years ago. She suspects he also left a round of ammunition in front of her house as a threat. She does not want to give evidence against him, as it would become obvious she is a Shiite, leaving her open to retaliation.
The sectarian civil war was at its most intense in Baghdad and the central provinces of Iraq, where a third of the country’s 33 million people live. It ended with a decisive defeat for the Sunnis, who were driven out of most of east Baghdad, and in west Baghdad were compressed into several large enclaves surrounded by Shiite neighborhoods. Iraqi friends say blithely that “everything is safe now,” but they don’t act as if they really believe it. They become nervous when they enter hard-core areas controlled by another community or, if living in a mixed district, they panic if there is the slightest threat, such as a hostile slogan on a wall or an anonymous leaflet. After what happened before, nobody is going to take a chance. Even today, there is a constant drumbeat of bombings and assassinations; 220 Iraqis were killed and 571 injured in February alone.
Ali Abdul-Karim, a successful real estate broker, told me he thought people were too quick to flee on hearing a rumor. But he went on to speak about the problems besetting a property sale he is trying to arrange that underline the dangerous complexities of living in Baghdad. He said his client in this case is a former intelligence captain under Saddam Hussein. He owns a bee farm in a notoriously violent Sunni area on the southern fringes of Baghdad called Arab Jabour. The captain moved out of the area because he was threatened by Al Qaeda for refusing to cooperate with them, but his 80-year-old father refuses to leave the farm. In the meantime, the captain has been imprisoned by the government because of his former membership in Saddam’s secret police....