Roundup: Talking About History
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.
An interview with Francis Fukuyama conducted by Ezzat Ibrahim, in Al-Ahram (April 29-May 5, 2004):
You support the "preventive war" doctrine as a way to defend US national interests, but at the same time you believe ideological hostility to multilateralism within the US is a problem. Is there an inconsistency here?
It is impossible to rule out the occasional need for preventive action. But I think it was a big mistake for the United States not to establish the parameters of the doctrine, giving the rest of the world the impression that it was going to be, somehow, a routine element of American foreign policy.
It is something that really should be done very, very carefully, and only under very restricted circumstances. It is really something I am in favour of. It was a mistake in Iraq, but it is too late now. We have to try to make things work...
David McNeill, in the South China Morning Post (April 23, 2004):
The rain beat down last week on a forest of umbrellas filing through the modern, neon-lit streets of central Tokyo, but the message coming from inside the cavernous Kudan Kaikan Hall was an oddly old-fashioned one, reminiscent of 19th-century jingoism.
"Why are we teaching our children to hate Japan?" thundered one speaker."America, China and Britain don't teach their kids to hate their countries. We should be telling them that this is an amazing country and that they should love it with all their hearts."
Another said:"Compared with the colonial rule of the European countries and America, Japan's rule of Asia was humane. If we had not colonised Korea, America or Europe would have. We have nothing to be ashamed of."
This is the world of the Society for Textbook Reform, which organised the conference, where Japan was...
Leon Gettler, in the Australian Age (April 30, 2004):
The big music companies are in deep trouble. According to figures this month, the latest US music sales of CDs, legal downloads and DVDs have been the best for a while but it's not enough to offset the sales slump that's battered the industry over the past few years.
Dollars from world sales of recorded music fell by 10.9 per cent in the first half of last year. During the same period in Australia, CD single sales dropped 17 per cent. Globally, the record business is 16 per cent smaller than it was in 2000.
The record companies - mainly the five (tipped to become four) that now control 85 per cent of the business - blame all this on consumers deserting them for free music downloads on the internet.
In 2001, 400 independent labels signed a licensing deal with the pioneer of illegal music downloading, Napster, after the courts...
Michael Lind, in the Spectator (April 24, 2004):
Soon after the installation by the Republican-majority Supreme Court of George the Second of the House of Bush, the American people learned that they had a new Founding Father: Winston Churchill. President George W. Bush let it be known that he had placed a bust of the British statesman in the White House Oval Office he had inherited from his dad. After the attack on the World Trade Center, the President’s speeches became self-consciously Churchillian. Earlier this year, marking the opening of a Churchill exhibition at the Library of Congress, Bush observed that Churchill was not just ‘the rallying voice of the second world war’ but also ‘a prophet of the Cold War’.
Like his grand strategy, with its combination of...
Alain Ruscio, in Le Monde Diplomatique (March 2004):
Many French people dislike and resent Frances Maghrebi residents and indeed Muslims in general. Why? Those who know a little history are likely to date the antipathy from the first French colonial conquests in 1830; men who did their national service in the 1950s will tell you it began in 1954 with the start of the war in Algeria. Young Maghrebis from underprivileged suburbs blame the rightwing political leader Jean-Marie Le Pen. But each generation believes a conflict of ideas begins in its own time. It takes an effort to think beyond the present and trace contemporary phenomena to their origins in the past.
Most French people would be surprised to be told that anti-Arab racism dates from the Middle Ages, the Christian reconquest of Spain, the Crusades and even earlier. Some of the most important constituent elements of French historical...
Lila Azam Zanganeh, in the NYT (April 24, 2004):
In popular imagination, the word Timbuktu is a trip of three syllables to the ends of the earth. Today this West African city is a slumbering and decrepit citadel at the southern edge of the Sahara, in Mali, one of the poorest countries in the world.
Yet it is here that some of the most astonishing developments in African intellectual history have been occurring. In recent years, thousands of medieval manuscripts that include poetry by women, legal reflections and innovative scientific treatises have come to light, reshaping ideas about African and Islamic civilizations. Yet even as this cache is being discovered, it is in danger of disappearing, as sand and other grit are abrading many of the aging texts, causing them to disintegrate.
"The manuscripts reveal that black Africa had literacy and intellectualism...
Carl Nolte, in the San Francisco Chronicle (April 18, 2004):
Today is the 98th anniversary of the earthquake and fire that destroyed San Francisco, a time to tell old stories about what writer Will Irwin called "The City That Was," a magical San Francisco that probably never existed except in memory.
The old San Francisco, Irwin wrote, was "the gayest, most lighthearted, most pleasure-loving city on the western continent ... a city of romance and the gateway to adventure."
The reality was much different. San Francisco on the eve of the great earthquake was smoggy, dirty and corrupt, a disaster waiting to happen.
The disaster on this day in 1906 was real enough. "The entire city was relentlessly shaken and twisted," in the words of Malcolm Barker, a historian. The sound was "like the roar of the sea," said police Officer Jesse Cook; "like thunder," said Officer Michael...
William Wallis, in the London Financial Times (April 17, 2004):
Forgive thy neighbour How does a country recover from genocide? A decade after the slaughter of 800,000 Rwandans, the government is concentrating on justice for the Tutsi victims. But many Hutus suffered too and the latest measures are struggling to bridge the deadly ethnic divide...
Rwanda's history is considered too sensitive to be taught in schools, although teachers are confronted every day by their pupils' questions about the genocide. As Oswald Rutimburana at the country's Unity and Reconciliation Commission argues, the history books are filled with manipulation and lies. Infected by Rwanda's schisms, historians often display visceral contempt for each other's theses. A balanced and non-polemical version of Rwanda that could be taught in school without engendering new prejudice has yet to be written, he says.
But there is debate, out of public range, about...
Rodney Chester, in the Courier Mail (Queensland, Australia) (April 17, 2004):
Homer may have used poetic licence when he wrote his tale of the Trojan horse, and the war that razed an ancient city. Rodney Chester reports
IT HAS love, betrayal, great warriors, brilliant cunning. It is the story of the Trojan Wars and as Troy expert Dr Eric Cline, of George Washington University in the United States says, there is a reason the story continues to fascinate us.
"It's a combination of a chick-flick and a buddy movie," Cline says. "There's something for everybody."
Also, after centuries of frequently bitter academic debate, it is a story that could be true.
Archaeological evidence is pointing to the fact that Troy was, in fact, a great city -- and not one of myth -- destroyed in a brutal battle.
Such evidence also is most timely, with a BBC documentary last month revealing evidence uncovered by...
Douglas Rogers, in the Guardian (April 16, 2004):
In 1973, Sandra Hochman's documentary about the women's movement, featuring
Warren Beatty and Shirley MacLaine, caused a sensation. So why has it spent
30 years locked in a vault?
Warren Beatty looked bemused. This should have been so easy for him. He was the hottest film star in the world, the cameras were rolling and he was being interviewed by a gorgeous blonde who had the sexpot body of a 60s Brigitte Bardot. What's more, the subject was women. Or, more to the point, the women's movement. Perhaps he just wasn't prepared for the provocative questioning. When the blonde suggested to him that men might go to rehabilitation centres to be reoriented in society, his reply was rambling. She egged him on and he called her a female chauvinist. She calmly said she wasn't and he tried to sound smooth:...
Ann Beveridge, in the Daily Telegraph (Sydney, Australia) (April 16, 2004):
As a symbol of naked male beauty, power, defiance and erotic attraction, Michelangelo's David is said to be without equal. Ever since the towering white-marble colossus was first displayed in the main square of the Italian city of Florence in 1504, where it was pelted with stones by political protesters, it has inspired and inflamed human passions.
Its significance today as one of the world's greatest art treasures puts it beyond price. Yet, throughout five centuries of history, the legendary David has been a constant victim of violence and controversy.
The most recent international row surrounded the present "clean-up" of the giant figure in time for his 500th birthday later this year. It's his first wash for more than a century, and it has caused a row that has split the art world. Allegations were made that some methods, if used for...
Dr.M.A. Jayashree & Prof . M.A. Narasimhan, in Star of Mysore (April 21,2004):
...History is a record of past events including many a times, the record of the shortcomings of ancestors. How can a thing of the past, which is based on the meagre knowledge of the ‘then’, be a source of inspiration for the problems of ‘now’? Each day is a new day and the problems and challenges are also new and is it not foolish to claim that the past solutions can be of use under the present circumstances?
Another misnomer is that of not repeating the past mistakes. There cannot be a greater fallacy than this. How can one claim that man has learnt by his past mistakes when we see day in and day out the same complaints being repeated from the preAristotelian time, that the rulers are corrupt, the...
Glenn Dixon, in the Wash Post (April 17, 2004):
History painting once was a fairly straightforward affair. Whether it was Emanuel Leutze's"George Washington Crossing the Delaware" or Jacques-Louis David's"The Death of Socrates," the formula was clear: You need great men, dramatic moments, and flattering lighting.