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.
It probably should have come as no surprise that Democratic candidates John Kerry and John Edwards would more than hold their own in the recent debates against President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Kerry and Edwards are both lawyers, and the thrust and parry of debating, challenging, questioning and defending should be second nature to them. Yes, among the stark differences between the two tickets in the election of 2004, here is one you might not have thought of: Two lawyers are running against two non-lawyers. That contrast means quite a bit, though not in the ways you might expect.
You probably already knew Edwards was a lawyer; he built his career -- and made millions -- suing doctors and others on behalf of seriously injured individuals. He earned his law degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. But as Kerry said during the debate on Friday,"I'm a lawyer, too." After his service in the Vietnam War and before...
Germany: The Berlin Wall returned to the German capital last week like a bad sequel. Berliners watched in disbelief as the wall rose from the dead before their eyes, days before they celebrate the 15th anniversary of its demise writes Derek Scally in Berlin.
A 200-metre stretch of the wall has been reinstated at the notorious former border crossing, Checkpoint Charlie - this time for the tourists.
"We want to remember the victims of the wall and the efforts of the Allies," said Ms Alexandra Hildebrandt, director of the nearby Wall Museum and initiator of the project.
Her Berlin Wall II has whipped up a lively controversy in the German capital, a city well used to heated historical debates.
The original 166-km long"anti-fascist protection wall", as it was officially known, was erected at dawn on August 13th, 1961, turning West Berlin into an Allied-controlled island in East Germany.
The wall halted the flow of...
The Netherlands has been plunged into a painful re-examination of its past following calls to award Dutch citizenship posthumously to Anne Frank, the teenager whose war-time diary is the most widely read document to emerge from the Holocaust.
Politicians, historians and the media are struggling to address the issue following her nomination for a television vote next month to decide the greatest Dutch person of all time.
She is among 200 candidates put forward by KRO, a television broadcaster, including Vincent van Gogh and Johan Cruyff.
Anne Frank was not Dutch, however. She was born in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1929 and came to the Netherlands in 1934. Along with countless thousands of Jews who had fled the Nazi regime, she was stripped of German citizenship in 1941.
In June 1942 she and her family went into hiding in a secret room in an Amsterdam canal house. They were betrayed to the Nazis and...
Rome: An anatomy professor yesterday gave Michelangelo an A-plus for his masterpiece David, despite one small flaw: a missing muscle in the statue's back.
University of Florence anatomy professor Massimo Gulisano, working with haematology professor Pietro Bernabei, said their measurements of the statue also debunked long-held notions that the 4.1m-high hunk of marble was out of proportion.
"Some say the feet, the hands are out of proportion. It's not true," Professor Gulisano said during a two-day conference in Florence of art historians, restorers and scientists to mark the 500th anniversary of the statue's unveiling.
"Michelangelo knew anatomy very well. There was only one error. There was a hollow where there should have been a muscle on the right side of the back."
But Michelangelo, who learned anatomy by dissecting cadavers, was aware of the flaw, Professor Gulisano added, writing in a letter that a defect in the...
More than 300 years before the Soviet Union launched its Sputnik satellites and American astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped on to the Moon, England had its own ambitious space programme.
It came in the shape of a 17th-century clergyman who drew up plans for a spaceship powered by wings, springs and gunpowder, a leading science historian will reveal this week. According to Professor Allan Chapman of Oxford University, it was the first serious attempt at a manned flight to the Moon.
The man behind the lunar mission was Dr John Wilkins, scientist, theologian and brother-in-law of Oliver Cromwell. In 1640, as a young man of 26, Dr Wilkins wrote a detailed description of the machinery needed to communicate and even trade with beings from another world.
"It was the first serious suggestion of space flight based on the best documentary evidence available to them at the time," said Professor Chapman, who will...
Teachers often forget successful classes but find their failures indelibly imprinted in their minds. I clearly recall one first-year seminar from nine years ago, on masterpieces of the human imagination.
"What," I asked,"are we to make of Plato's attempts to define justice?" A chill descended. Noses burrowed into The Republic. One student hesitantly volunteered a comment; another offered a passing observation. Something resembling a discussion followed, but most of the remarks betrayed the superficiality of the students' engagement.
They were eager to discuss their favorite movies and books, censorship, or the problem of date rape, but they shrank from theseeming irrelevance of Plato to their lives. Often the brightest students were the most subdued. Their occasional remarks showed...
Juan Cole, at his blog (Oct. 4, 2004):
Graham Larkin of Stanford has penned an important article arguing against David Horowitz's sinister proto-Stalinist social engineering project of"balancing" universities ideologically. See also my "Are Professors Too Liberal?".
Larkin's essay is especially good in pointing out that there are no obvious evaluation mechanisms for ideological balance.
If we go by opinion polls, about half of Americans reject Darwin, so Horowitz's proposal would require that half of all biologists would have to be creationists. Then, with regard to party preference, opinion polls show that at some points in the past 8 months Ralph Nader has been favored by 6% of the electorate. At other points it has been 2%. So presumably between 2% and 6% of the professors would have to be Nader supporters. Indeed, we might have to put people...
The eyes of Abdul Aziz al-Babtain filled with tears as he walked beneath the horseshoe arches of the Mezquita, one of Islam's greatest architectural jewels, and said:"When the West consider the Arabs, they should think of this."
Six months after the Madrid bombs, when Islamist extremists murdered 191 train passengers, Spain is reopening the debate over its rich Moorish history in a search for answers to why it became a target.
In the old capital of al-Andalus -the Islamic name for the Spain that the Moors occupied -the Spanish Royal Family and the Socialist Government are sponsoring a week of dialogue with the descendants of the country's former rulers.
The inspiration for the event came from Mr al-Babtain, a Kuwaiti businessman with a poetic bent, who holds biannual conferences to promote the Arab world's literary heritage.
Strolling through the famous orange tree patio of Cordoba's former mosque -a cathedral...
A skull reveals how sophisticated early medicine could be, says Nigel Hawkes
A PEASANT on the wrong end of a violent assault 1,000 years ago had his brain surgeon to thank for his survival.
The skull, unearthed from a medieval cemetery at Wharram Percy, near Malton in North Yorkshire, shows unexpected sophistication in cranial surgery in Anglo-Saxon times. Simon Mays, skeletal biologist at English Heritage's Centre for Archaeology, said:"This skull is the best evidence we have that such surgery to treat skull fractures was being performed in England at the time.
"It predates medieval written accounts of the procedure by at least 100 years and is a world away from notions that Anglo-Saxon healers were all about spells and potions."
The evidence comes from detailed analysis of the skull of a 40-year-old man, who lived in the village of Wharram Percy some time between AD960 and AD1100.
An entire cemetery was...
Three Victorian time capsules holding secrets about John Knox's House in Edinburgh were found yesterday in the foundations of a neighbouring church.
The bottles, which have been sealed since the 1850s and hold dozens of scrolls, were discovered in a stone chamber by workmen building in the foundations of Murray Knox Church at the site of the former Netherbow Centre in the Royal Mile.
Although the large glass jars are yet to be opened, historians understand the rolls of paper, which are bound in ribbon and handwritten, contain information as well as lists of names of donors who saved John Knox's House from being demolished more than 150 years ago.
During the late 1840s protesters, who started one of Scotland's first conservation campaigns, were successful in rescuing Edinburgh's oldest building by collecting sufficient money to build a church in the adjacent derelict gap site, which was used to hold up the precarious...
He Conquered most of the known world and created the biggest empire in ancient history. Yet Alexander the Great's sudden death at the age of 32 has been a mystery for centuries. Some experts say he died of malaria, others suggest a bout of typhoid caused by tainted food, or chronic liver poisoning brought on by his bacchanalia.
But the latest theory suggests he was the victim of a plot by his wife, Roxane. She is said to have poisoned him with what was then a little- known toxin taken from the strychnine plant.
The disclosure will intrigue followers of a historical whodunnit which has fascinated scholars down the ages. It may also prompt more interest in Alexander, who is making something of a comeback in the form of two new Hollywood films. Oliver Stone's movie Alexander the Great, starring Colin Farrell and Sir Anthony Hopkins, is released next month. Another blockbuster - with the same title - by the Moulin...
The leadership of the Catholic Church knows that abortion has always been around, just as there has always been adultery and murder. But, society's approach to abortion is always a matter of grave concern, and it has become more so with every passing day as the number of abortions grows upward of 40 million. Catholics are concerned about the damage such evil does to mothers, to others and to the societies of the world.
By 1973, our society became the first in the history of the world in which the leadership supported abortion as a good. In a commentary written about seven years after Roe v. Wade, noted historian and philosopher John T. Noonan, who would become a federal appeals court judge, identified four elite groups in society which comprised that leadership. Those groups, he said, are the media, the federal judiciary, the great philanthropies and the doctors, particularly those associated with the...
[Editor's Note: This year the Journal-Constitution is examining the evolution of civil rights in the South over the past six decades. This week's story is one part of that series. Perhaps this excerpt will pique further exploration by specialists or general readers .]
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was half-asleep in a hospital bed when he found out he'd won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Exhausted by a heavy speaking schedule and suffering from a respiratory infection, he had been admitted to St. Joseph's Infirmary --- then in downtown Atlanta --- for several days of rest. On the morning of Oct. 14, 1964, the phone rang and Coretta Scott King gave the good news to her groggy husband. A few minutes later, he dialed her back with a question.
"Did you just call me? Or was I dreaming?"
On Friday, the winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize will be announced in Oslo, Norway. A similar announcement 40 years...
The government of Charles de Gaulle held hundreds of foreigners, including at least three Britons, in an internment camp near Toulouse for up to four years after the second world war, according to secret documents.
The papers, part of a cache of 12,000 photocopied illegally by an Austrian-born Jew, reveal the extent to which French officials collaborated with their fleeing Nazi occupiers even as their country was being liberated. They also show that, when the war was over, France went to extraordinary lengths to hide as much evidence of that collaboration as possible.
The documents are in a mass of registers, telegrams and manifests which Kurt Werner Schaechter, an 84-year-old retired businessman, copied from the Toulouse office of France's national archives in 1991. They are uniquely precious: under a 1979 law most of France's wartime archives are sealed for between 60 and 150 years after they were written.
A subdivision in Paraparaumu has been stopped dead in its tracks by the discovery of skeletons in shallow graves believed to be more than 100 years old.
The skeletons -- believed to be of at least four or five bodies, including that of possibly a younger person -- were discovered by workmen using a digger and have historians, police and local Maori stumped.
They were found on a 20-hectare block of land between Mazengarb Rd and Southwards Complex which is being developed into 140 sections by the Pritchard Group.
Developer David Pritchard said police and the Historic Places Trust were investigating the find in conjunction with local iwi.
"The skeletons were a complete surprise," he said yesterday.
"We investigated the history of the land before we started the development. There were no historical graves registered with the Historic Places Trust and local iwi had no knowledge of them....
Near the start of the last century, US Commander Robert Peary claimed he had mastered a seemingly unreachable feat: after 20 years of trying, he had reached the north pole in 38 days - the fastest time anyone had trekked to the top of the Earth.
But how was this possible? Surely, at 54, he was too old for the way the arctic ravages the body. He had lost all his toes in previous expeditions and was travelling with a wooden sled.
Newspapers and polar historians questioned the authenticity of his claims, and for years the story has been riddled with doubt - in almost 100 years since his attempt, no team has managed to reach the north pole in less than 42 days.
British explorer Tom Avery has always believed Peary reached the north pole that day in April 1909.
The 28-year-old from Ticehurst, East Sussex, was the youngest Briton to reach the South Pole on foot on December 28 2002, and has spent two years...
In the eyes of his critics, Emperor Charles I, the last ruler of the Austro-Hungarian empire, was at best an incompetent fool, at worst a war criminal.
But in the Vatican's opinion he was a miracle-worker, and on Sunday Pope John Paul II will hold a ceremony in St Peter's Square at which Charles will be beatified, putting him on the home stretch to sainthood.
Since he became pope in October 1978, John Paul has created 482 saints and beatified another 1,337 people, more than all previous popes combined in the Roman Catholic Church's 2,000-year history.
But few individuals elevated to this status are more controversial than the last Habsburg emperor, who died in exile on the Portuguese island of Madeira in 1922 at the age of 34.
The miracle attributed to Charles concerns Sister Maria Zita Gradowska, a Polish-born Brazilian nun who is said to have recovered the power to walk in 1960 after praying to...
In 843AD, the kingdom of Scotland was created when Kenneth MacAlpine led an army of Scots to victory over the Picts.
There have even been calls for a field near Stirling where the battle is said to have been fought - which attracts scores of tourists from America and elsewhere - to be officially recognised by the Scottish Parliament as the"birthplace of the nation".
But a forthcoming book by St Andrews University historian Alex Woolf will claim that all the evidence suggests MacAlpine was actually a Pict himself and stories about him as a great Scottish war leader were made up in later centuries.
The expert in early Scottish history said contemporary sources referred to MacAlpine as"king of the Picts" and gave the same title to the four kings who succeeded him. He also said both Kenneth and Alpine were Pictish rather than Scottish names.
The first reference to a Scottish Kenneth MacAlpine fighting against the Picts...
Herzl Symposium (Oct. 3rd/4th in New Orleans)
CenterAustria of the University of New Orleans and the Program for Jewish Studies at Tulane University, with the support of the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York, jointly organized a small symposium on Theodor Herzl on the occasion of the anniversary of his death 100 years ago (3 July 1904). The symposium suggested that Herzl as a founding father of Zionism still exerts enormous influence on today's world. When his dream was realized with the formation of the Jewish state of Israel in 1948, he could not have foreseen the nature of the subsequent Israeli - Arab conflict bred by the formation of a Jewish national state.The origins, the nature and the varieties of Zionism as a response to growing wave of rabid anti-Semitism in late 19th century Europe were the focus of the symposium's discussions.
Noted British scholar and Herzl-...
During his years as national security adviser and secretary of state, Henry Kissinger wooed the Washington press corps with the flowers and chocolate of flattery and access. As Walter Isaacson writes in his 1992 biography, Kissinger, opinion columnists and the reporters who covered the State Department or the White House grew especially captivated by his charms....
All this love Kissinger spent on journalists did not go unreciprocated, as we now learn from the transcripts of his telephone conversations his secretaries and aides made in secret for Kissinger while listening in on another phone. Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request by the National Security Archive, transcripts of 3,568 conversations between Kissinger and President Nixon, U.S. politicians, world leaders, ambassadors, Hollywood...