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.
"Whiskey," said Peter Cressy,"has played a very important role in our national history." ...
Cressy, president of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, was at Mount Vernon, standing next to a copper whiskey still and two wooden barrels labeled"George Washington Distillery," explaining his historic mission.
"This is about more than the distillery," he said."It's about bringing George Washington to life." ...
Whiskey makers love George Washington. To them, the Father of Our Country wasn't just America's first president, he was also the first ex-president to get into the whiskey-making business in a big way. And the folks at the Distilled Spirits Council think America ought to know a lot more about that.
That's why DISCUS, as the council calls itself, is funding the $1.5 million reconstruction of Washington's 1797 Mount Vernon distillery, to be completed in 2006. It's also why DISCUS summoned the...
What is a museum for?
Most art museums remain pristine repositories of beautiful objects, lovingly displayed. Science museums, by contrast, tend to worship at the altar of interactivity, wowing visitors with technology. History museums fall somewhere in the middle, and they are changing rapidly. The latest are neither mere cabinets of curiosities nor showcases for cutting-edge gadgetry. They are institutions in crisis, although interestingly so. The best of them directly confront challenges to their authority and purpose as they struggle to tell a wider range of stories to increasingly demanding and restless audiences.
These challenges are exemplified by two ambitious new museums, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, which opened in August in Cincinnati, and the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum...
... [T]he overall narrative thread of Shakespeare's life is frayed in many places, and broken completely in others.
Tying that thread back together is the goal of Stephen Greenblatt's new biography, Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare (W.W. Norton). In the book, Mr. Greenblatt seeks to combine the scholarship that has made him a central figure in the world of literary theory with the demands of a popular audience. To begin with, he says, shaping the scant facts of Shakespeare's life into a cohesive whole posed some problems....
... Mr. Greenblatt, who served a term as president of the Modern Language Association, is best known as the founder of "New Historicism" -- a school of literary criticism that reconnects literary works to the social and historical currents of their time. New...
With diplomats jetting off for marathon negotiations and editorial writers fulminating about national honor, a recent quarrel between China and South Korea had all the trappings of a modern diplomatic crisis. Except for one thing: The dispute was over a kingdom last heard from in A.D. 668.
Chinese researchers participating in a government-funded project on ancient societies in northern China had concluded that Goguryeo, in its early manifestations at least, was under Chinese dominion. Korean scholars insisted that, from beginning to end, Goguryeo was 100 percent Korean. When the Chinese Foreign Ministry, heeding its own scholars, eliminated the Korean version of history from its official Web site last April, things got serious.
The noisy clash was finally papered over last month in a five-point accord reached in Seoul after protracted discussions between Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Wu Dawei and senior officials in...
Times have changed when it comes to the mocking of presidential candidates. During the 1960 election, Art Buchwald found himself on the same podium with then-Vice President Richard Nixon and proceeded to poke fun at the Republican presidential candidate. Later the humor columnist received an irate phone call from his father. "He couldn't believe that I would make fun of the vice president of the United States," Mr. Buchwald recalls with a chuckle.
By contrast, today many voters get much of their political news from the gusher of late night jokes ridiculing President Bush and John Kerry. The change can be traced to the night of June 17, 1972, when five men with links to President Nixon's re-election campaign against George McGovern were caught breaking into Democratic headquarters at the...
A HEAD wound suffered by the Red Baron the year before his death was the underlying reason he was eventually shot down, according to a study by neuroscientists.
There has been endless speculation over who killed the 25-year-old First World War flying ace but the new study suggests that more credit is due to the British airman who grazed his skull in 1917 than to the Australian gunner who eventually brought him down in 1918.
The killing machine feared by the Allies and revered by his countrymen suffered significant brain damage to his frontal lobes when a machinegun round fired by Second Lieutenant A E Woodbridge of the Royal Flying Corps splintered his skull.
Against the advice of doctors and despite suffering nausea, headaches and fatigue, the baron was driven by a sense of duty to resume command of his"Flying Circus".
The most successful pilot of the war was still unfit to fly - his head wound had...
For two weeks, German newspapers have been charting an approaching storm. Earlier this month, the ruling Social Democratic party saw its vote collapse to 31 per cent in regional elections in the Saarland, where scarcely a decade ago it was winning absolute majorities. More ominous still, the far-right German National party (NPD), which had won no measurable allegiance there since the late 1960s, narrowly missed winning seats in the state parliament, with 4 per cent of the vote. Clearly, many Saarlanders were outraged by the welfare reform package advanced by Gerhard Schroder, the chancellor. And some lurched to the xenophobic parties of the right.
In eastern Germany, where two more state elections take place on Sunday, the outrage is more severe and the lurch will be larger. According to Forschungsgruppe Wahlen, a German election-polling firm, the NPD is registering 9 per cent in pre-election polls...
Indiana Jones he's not, but Sydney's Naguib Kanawati knows his stuff. BRAD CLIFTON reports
He carries a felt pen and a folder instead of a bull whip and there is no weathered fedora covering his neatly-styled mop of silver hair.
He spends most of his time in the library or analysing data on his office computer and has never once needed to dodge a poisoned dart or outrun a rolling boulder.
But there is one claim to fame Sydney archeologist Naguib Kanawati has over Hollywood hero Indiana Jones -- he's responsible for solving a 4000-year-old murder mystery. For the past eight years Kanawati, a 60-year-old Egyptology professor at Macquarie University, has been exclusively excavating the site of an ancient cemetery at Saqqara, Egypt. Not just any cemetery, but a burial place in the shadow of the pyramid of King Teti, a 6th dynasty Egyptian ruler.
Each year, Kanawati and a select group of...
Rasputin, the Russian monk who became the confidant of Alexandra, the Tsarina, and her husband, Tsar Nicholas II, was killed by a British agent, according to a documentary to be broadcast next month.
An investigation into his death in 1916 has concluded that he was murdered not as had been supposed by disaffected Russian aristocrats but by Oswald Rayner, a member of the Secret Intelligence Bureau who was working at the Russian court in St Petersburg.
Richard Cullen, a retired Scotland Yard commander who has been studying the case with Andrew Cook, an intelligence historian, says that a new forensic analysis and an examination of official records helped him to reach his conclusion.
"I am 99.9 per cent certain of this," said Mr Cullen, whose findings will be broadcast in the BBC2 Timewatch programme on October 1."There is a fair weight of evidence to show that Rayner was the man. We have conclusive proof that the...
The Japanese-era buildings, built to last in red brick, still peek out, stolid and fastidious, from the shadows of the new Shenyang that is soaring up all about them.
ructures like the train station and old post office here are the only physical traces that remain of the imperial period in the 1930 and 40's, when Japan envisioned Manchuria as the springboard for a conquest of all of Asia -- a model colony in an all or nothing contest between the white and yellow races.
Psychological traces from the period have proved even harder to obscure. Today, historians and novelists in Japan who want to rebuild pride in their history are reviving fantasies that the conquest was a just and noble mission to modernize Manchuria. For China, this retelling of history by its centuries-old rival has stirred a powerful resurgence of memories of atrocities and subjugation.
The debate vividly illustrates the immense gulf of...
RICHARD M. Nixon flip-flopped on China. George W. Bush embraced protectionism for the steel industry after preaching free-market principles on the campaign trail. Ronald Reagan failed to remain consistent. In the 1960's he promised not to raise taxes, adding, ''I am in concrete'' for emphasis.
Then, when he became the governor of California in 1970, he raised the tax rate and genially laughed it off. ''That sound you hear,'' he told reporters, ''is the concrete breaking around my feet.''
Among historians, such shifts in opinion -- and the public's willingness to accept them -- inspire little consternation. Reinvention, they argue, is as American as Thanksgiving and jazz. We live in a country, after all, where a Hollywood figures like Samuel Goldwyn and Louis B. Mayer could change things like names and birthdays without being called a traitor to their roots; a place where the cosmetic surgery industry hauls in more than $...
Winston Churchill had a very long political career. Until the 65th year of his life (1939) he had few successes and many failures. Some of these failures were of his own doing, byproducts of his temperament, one feature of which was his rather un-British inclination to impatience. Others were the results of bad luck and/or of his being mistrusted by others. Within the now veritable library of books about Churchill one of the best is"Churchill: A Study in Failure, 1900-1939," written more than 30 years ago by Robert Rhodes James, a very good British historian (he died prematurely, alas). It is not listed in the bibliography of"Churchill's Folly," by another British historian, Christopher Catherwood. This is not a very good book, and it is not very well written. But it deserves consideration, and not only because of the timeliness of its topic.
After the end of World War I the entire map of Eastern Europe and of the Near or...
The Picts, who have been depicted as archetypal barbarians for centuries, were actually a highly sophisticated people with an intimate knowledge of the Bible and Roman classical literature, according to new research.
Since they were first described by the Romans, the ancient inhabitants of Scotland have been depicted as illiterate, uncivilised, scantily-clad, promiscuous heathens.
However, work by world-renowned art historians has revealed the mysterious people, who occupied north-eastern Scotland between the sixth and ninth centuries, were far more culturally developed than was previously thought and are highly likely to have developed the decorative manuscript art of the time.
George Henderson, emeritus professor of medieval art at Cambridge University, and his wife Isabel Henderson, one of the world's leading authorities on the Picts, have discovered the tattooed tribes were not bloodthirsty butchers, but...
Which country should the islands called Diaoyu by the Chinese and Senkaku by the Japanese belong to, China or Japan? Currently, these islands are under Japanese control, but China also claims sovereignty over them. When signing the 1978 Sino-Japanese Treaty of Peace and Friendship, then Vice-Premier Deng Xiaoping said: "Our generation is not wise enough to find common language on this [Diaoyu/Senkaku] question. The next generation will certainly be wiser. They will surely find a solution acceptable to all."
We, the people of the 21st century, are the "next generation." Although it is doubtful that we are any wiser than our predecessors, we can at least try to improve our understanding of these issues.
A first step in that direction is a well researched book on the Diaoyu/Senkaku question, Suganuma Unryu's Sovereign Rights and Territorial...
[Colin Calloway is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News in Paonia, Colorado (hcn.org). He is professor of history and chair of Native American Studies at Dartmouth College.]
If American history west of the Mississippi begins with Lewis and Clark, then the history of the United States seems pretty simple:"Indians owned the West, and then they lost it."
History is never so simple. That some of the people Lewis and Clark met had"never seen a white man" did not mean they had not seen change.
Lewis and Clark saw a snapshot of time and place. It was a landscape that had evolved over millions of years, and an environment that had been shaped by Indian and animal life for thousands of years. By the time the...
The ship that triggered the Klondike Gold Rush when it arrived laden with tons of Yukon nuggets at the Seattle dockyards in July 1897 has been discovered off the coast of Alaska.
It's being hailed as the state's greatest shipwreck find ever, but this country's history buffs will be equally thrilled about the discovery of the S.S. Portland, the steamer that put a young Canada on the map for much of the world and became a ship of dreams for the tens of thousands of miners she carried north on a frenzied quest for riches.
The sunken vessel lies in shallow water in Katalla Bay, about 300 kilometres east of Anchorage and close to where the borders of Alaska, British Columbia and the Yukon meet.
It was first reported two years ago by an Alaskan environmentalist who was exploring the shoreline and noticed parts of a ship sticking out of the sea. In May, a team of U.S. archeologists, marine historians and other...
The Korean War is justly called a forgotten conflict, partly because the process of forgetting coincided with the war itself.
But for a truly forgotten conflict, the War of 1812 seems the one to beat.
Do you know who started it? Do you know why? Can you name two heroes from it? Do you know when it was fought?
The History Channel documentary"First Invasion: The War of 1812" answers these questions, insofar as straightforward answers are possible, and unfolds an epic of heroism, chicanery and shifting motives that could inspire Shakespeare, G.B. Shaw or John le Carre.
The simplest answer is that the war was like a Part 2 of the Revolutionary War and included a few veterans of both sides -- but no French. But then again, the French war with Britain may have been the slim edge in the eventual Yankee victory. The main U.S. adversary, again, was Britain, and each side felt the other started it.
Americans felt that...
Celtic nations such as Scotland and Ireland have more in common with the Portuguese and Spanish than with the Celts of central Europe, according to a new academic report.
Historians have long believed that the British Isles were swamped by a massive invasion of Iron Age Celts from central Europe around 500BC.
However, geneticists at Trinity College in Dublin now claim that the Scots and Irish have more in common with the people of north-western Spain.
Dr Daniel Bradley, genetics lecturer at Trinity College, said a new study into Celtic origins revealed close affinities with the people of Galicia.
He said:"It's well-known that there are cultural relations between the areas but now this shows there is much more. We think the links are much older than that of the Iron Age because it also shows affinities with the Basque region, which isn't a Celtic region."
He added:"The links point towards other Celtic...
An interview with Robin Lane Fox in Archaeology Magazine (Sept. 14, 2004):
At the University of Oxford's New College, Robin Lane Fox teaches Greek and Latin literature, Greek and Roman history, and early Islamic history. He is perhaps best known for his books The Search for Alexander and Alexander the Great: A Biography. ARCHAEOLOGY's Executive Editor Mark Rose asked him about his most recent project: advisor to the Oliver Stone production Alexander.
How did you become involved in this film?
I first became involved with the film back in March 2002 when co-producer Thomas Schühly rang me during one of my tutorials in my rooms in Oxford University and insisted I should go up to London and meet Oliver Stone. Oliver, in filming mode, does not observe public holidays and...