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.
As every school child knows, there have been ravens at the Tower of London since time immemorial, and if they ever leave, the monarchy and the tower itself will fall.
The story is one of the most cherished of the tower's tales, and the current seven ravens stalk about the groundsvery much as if they own the place.
It is impossible to say what bearing the ravens' health will have on Britain becoming a republic, but one thing does seem certain - they have only been there for a little more than 100 years.
A historian has scoured the records for 1,000 years, and can trace the ravens back no further than the late 19th century. Geoff Parnell, official Tower of London historian and a member of the Royal Armouries staff, is convinced they are merely a typical piece of Victorian romance.
Worse, Dr Parnell has found the statement in the records"there are none left" - and yet...
[Barbara Kay is a columnist for the National Post of Canada.]
Re: Sally Avery Bermanzohn's Through Survivors' Eyes: From the Sixties to the Greensboro Massacre (Vanderbilt University Press, 2003)
On November 3, 1979, in Greensboro North Carolina, members of the Ku Klux Klan, joined by several members of the American Nazi party in what the media later called the United Racist Front, gunned down a group of unarmed anti-Klan demonstrators in what the survivors have memorialized as the Greensboro Massacre. Five demonstrators four of whom were white and one black -- died in the incident, while nine others were injured.
The incident began and ended in eighty-eight seconds at the start of a widely publicized and press-attended march, which as captured on videotape. Its designation as a...
Gerald Russello, in the WSJ (Nov. 15, 2004):
Mr. Russello is a fellow of the Chesterton Institute at Seton Hall University.]
The Habsburgs are back. Although the family has been out of power since 1918, the beatification of Charles I Habsburg of Austria (1887-1922), the last ruler of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, has touched off an international controversy. Two years ago, Pope John Paul II began the process and credited Charles's "heroic virtue" and his efforts to bring an early end to World War I. John Paul further expressed his hope that Charles (who succeeded his great-uncle Francis Joseph I in 1916, and died in exile six years later at the age of 35) would "serve as an example, especially for those with political responsibilities in Europe today," as a statesman who emphasized the vocation of political leadership and devotion to peace.
Many people saw the decision as either wrong-headed or somewhat sinister. Some...
LAST year, the Oxford University historian Robin Lane Fox, the author of a much-admired 1973 biography of Alexander the Great, found himself astride a horse, carrying a wooden lance, thundering through the desert dust with scores of mounted companions as Alexander's greatest conquest unfolded.
The setting was an uninhabited stretch of Morocco - far from the Persian village of Gaugamela in present-day Iraq, where the historic battle occurred in 331 B.C. And the messianic warrior Mr. Fox followed wasn't the 25-year-old Alexander but the actor Colin Farrell, who plays the lead in Oliver Stone's "Alexander," which has its premiere on Nov. 24.
Still, as the horses advanced and the cameras rolled, Mr. Fox felt epiphanies flow through him. After decades of researching often...
"The 9/11 Commission Report" -- which chronicles the government's handling of terror threats and is a finalist for the coveted National Book Award -- is drawing criticism from historians and writers who say it does not deserve a literary prize.
Critics call the best-selling report an inappropriate choice because: (1) it was written by committee, (2) it avoids placing blame and (3) it tells the story of the Sept. 11 attacks in an inappropriately dramatic and entertaining narrative.
These are precisely the features for which the report has been lavishly praised. What some see as strengths, others call flaws.
Controversy over the report, published this summer, has only increased since a panel of judges headed by San Francisco author Diane Middlebrook plucked it from a field...
Fifty years ago this past April , Martin Luther King, Jr. preached his first sermon as the new pastor of Montgomery's Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. He was 25 years old.
One month later, on May 17, 1954, the United States Supreme Court, in Brown v. Board of Education, unanimously declared that segregated schools violated the Constitution's promise of equal protection.
Two months later, on July 17, 1954, construction began at Disneyland. Sadly, today Brown's promise is still lost in fantasy land. The Magic Kingdom remains closed to children of color in America.
There can be no mistakethose 50 years since Brown have seen the fortunes of black America advance and retreat, but the decision is always cause for sober celebration, not impotent dismay.
We celebrate the brilliant legal minds who were the...
Showing unusual courage, the Smithsonian has charged onto the controversial battleground of America's wars -- and generally done well.
The National Museum of American History exhibition opening today to mark Veterans Day is the first overview of U.S. military history the Smithsonian has ever mounted. Indeed, the museum says, it is"the most comprehensive exhibition of military conflicts in American history." Some might be put off by the loaded title,"The Price of Freedom: Americans at War." But behind that red-state rubric is a well-balanced show, with enough combat gear to please the warriors, enough emphasis on casualties and Indians and blacks and women to comfort the loyal opposition, and enough balance to satisfy most historians.
If nothing else, here's your chance to see -- among hundreds of other artifacts -- Gen. Philip Sheridan's black battle horse Winchester, stuffed and on regal...
I always thought it rather quaint that some Southerners insist on calling the Civil War the War Between the States. I live in the Shenandoah Valley, where the war isn't really over and Gen. Thomas"Stonewall" Jackson and the Confederate States of America are still a presence. So I have been careful to use both names so as not to appear biased because I grew up in Massachusetts.
But, curious about the alternative name, I decided to do some checking.
What I found was more than 40 other names by which the war was known, including Mr. Lincoln's War, the Yankee Invasion, the Second War for Independence, the War of Northern Aggression, the War for Southern Freedom, the War for States Rights, the War Against Slavery, the War for the Union and, my favorite, the Recent Unpleasantness.
The federal government most often used the War of the Rebellion in its official papers, publishing the...
"Think of him as an early Schwarzenegger," our guide says to describe the reputation of Hercules, the mythical ancient Greek hero.
Of course everyone knows about Hercules, but this reference to a contemporary strongman is one of the entertaining touches that spice the otherwise erudite commentary of Dr. Claudio Castiglione, who has been giving tours of Valley of the Temples since 1979.
Located in Agrigento, a city on the southern shore of Sicily, the Valley of the Temples is built on the crest of several hills.
The ancient buildings have miraculously survived 2,500 years in a region known for natural disasters, such as volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, and for countless wars.
One of only two UNESCO World Heritage sites on Sicily, the Valley is one of the must-sees on a visit to this majestic, tri-cornered island but is little known outside of Sicily.
Taiwan is turning its back on its founding father Sun Yat-sen by relegating him to be part of ancient Chinese history instead of Taiwan's.
Beginning next year, high school students will have separate books for ancient China's history and the island's history.
And Dr Sun, leader of the 1911 revolution that overthrew the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) and led to the founding of the Republic of China (ROC), is not found in Taiwan's history. Currently, schools use only one textbook for the 'national history of ROC'.
Taiwan, formally known as the ROC, split from the mainland in 1949 when nationalist troops lost a civil war to the communists and fled to the island.
Education Minister Tu Cheng-sheng on Tuesday said his staff had made a mistake in placing Dr Sun and the 1911 revolution in 'ancient' history, but he insisted that the late revolutionary and his exploits were...
[Editor's Note: This is a longer than normal posting.]
There are no uniforms for these battles, nor are the casualties particularly heavy this time around. They are certainly not the focus of attention at a new $16 million, 18,200-square-foot exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History.
But there are signs of scarring, if not open wounds, and they affect the impact of this permanent exhibition, which opens on Veterans Day. The exhibition is ''The Price of Freedom: Americans at War'' and is billed as this country's first comprehensive exhibition of its military history, and is a major step in the redesign of the Smithsonian.
It is astonishing that something like this has not been done before. With David Allison as its curator and Christopher Chadbourne and Associates as the designer, the exhibition is an ambitious, if flawed, chronological account of...
The seat of the Reformation has been unearthed - and it turns out to be a toilet seat. German archaeologists have discovered the toilet on which some historians believe Martin Luther wrote the famous 95 Theses that launched the Protestant Reformation. The sixteenth-century Augustinian monk, Catholic priest and university professor is the historical godfather of evangelical Christianity, which is the focus of so much attention today.
Historians have averred for years that the Protestant Reformation's founding father wrote his revolutionary theses while on das klo, as the Germans call it. But they did not know where the object was until archaeologists discovered the stone building after stumbling across the remains of an annexe of his home in Wittenberg, south-west of Berlin.
"This is a great find," Professor Stefan Rhein, director of the Luther Memorial Foundation said,"particularly because we'...
When the bugle's blast fades and the silence sets in during tomorrow's Remembrance Day ceremony, one Canadian veteran's thoughts are sure to turn to his key role in the dramatic chase and sinking of Bismarck, the mighty German warship that terrorized Allied naval forces before she went down in flames on May 27, 1941.
Alberta-born Gaynor Williams, 83, a retired engineer now living in Ottawa, was a 19-year-old navigator aboard a Royal Air Force float plane when he and his fellow crewmen caught sight of the"pride of the German fleet" southwest of Ireland and shadowed it for five nerve-wracking hours.
Mr. Williams' story is little known in this country, chiefly because he was the lone Canadian in an RAF aircraft at the centre of an otherwise wholly British assault on the German super-ship.
Bismarck had already destroyed the flagship of Britain's navy, HMS Hood, in a North Atlantic showdown...
A national survey of attitudes toward war on the eve of Remembrance Day has revealed a sharp division between Quebec and the rest of the country on the merits of Canada's participation in the Second World War, and on the probable cause of any future global conflict.
In a poll of 2,027 Canadians conducted by Environics for the Association for Canadian Studies, respondents from Quebec were about three times as likely to say Canada showed too much support for the war effort against Nazi Germany and its allies.
And only Quebecers ranked U.S. foreign policy ahead of Middle East terrorism as the No. 1 threat to spark the next world war.
The survey will be discussed at an academic conference this week in Montreal that coincides with Remembrance Day. A poll of this size is considered accurate to within 2.2 percentage points 19 times out of 20.
Jack Jedwab, a McGill...
A move to grant an amnesty to owners of looted antiquities in Italy was condemned as a licence for tomb robbers by conservation experts yesterday.
The measure exonerates those who own stolen items of archaeological value provided that they pay the State 5 per cent of the value. Salvatore Settis, a prominent art historian and former government adviser, said that this was a shameful move that amounted to"a pardon for anyone who has stashed away illegally acquired treasures".
"Not only is crime not being punished, it is actually being rewarded," Professor Settis said."This is a cynical and irresponsible licence to kill the archaeological patrimony of Italy. A gigantic treasure hunt is about to begin."
Italian police have sought to curb the illegal trade in antiquities during the past decade in collaboration with police and art experts in London, the centre of dealing in stolen artworks...
Visitors to Germany's reunited capital do not have to look far to find the"Berlin Wall". At sundown, near the city's former Allied crossing, Checkpoint Charlie, floodlights glare on a 600ft stretch of white concrete barrier, eerily reminiscent of the real thing.
To drive home the solemnity of the spot, hundreds of man-sized wooden crosses have been embedded in stone around it in memory of the 1,065 East Germans killed by Communist border guards while trying to escape to the West during the 28 years the wall stood.
Yet today's"wall" is a phoney, finished only a fortnight ago, the brainchild of the director of the city's privately run Checkpoint Charlie Museum, who insisted it was important to build a memorial"so people don't forget".
At first, the project was dismissed by German politicians and historians as a garish piece of"Disneyland" that should never have been put up."The...
Jennifer Chen, in the Ottawa Citizen (Nov. 8, 2004):
These are two stereotypes Norm Christie hopes to shatter in For King & Country, a six-part series that begins tonight on the History Channel.
"A lot of the preconceived notions are just complete nonsense," said Christie, a military historian and the show's host.
While other countries such as Australia and the United States are hyper-aware of their military history, Canada is "way, way behind," he added.
For King & Country is the sequel by Breakthrough Entertainment to a 2001 series on Canada's involvement in the First World War.
Canadians, Christie said, should know more about their own country and the cost of war.
"When they see what we have done in the past, it will serve to rekindle some of the nationalism that seems to have gone dormant."
The series visits locations around the world, from lesser-known...
The past decade or so has seen an explosion of titles about World War II. The Civil War, of course, has been keeping publishers busy for almost a century and a half. But the conflict without which the others would not have been possible--the American Revolution--seems a poor stepchild.
We are oddly uncurious about the military side of the war that made us a nation. While the founders are an inexhaustible seam of rich ore that biographers ceaselessly and productively mine, the battles, the generals and, especially, the soldiers dwell for the most part in literary obscurity.
Except, that is, in the works of Richard Ketchum, whose latest volume, "Victory at Yorktown" (Henry Holt & Co.), came out last month. It is Mr. Ketchum's fifth narrative of the Revolution. He began writing about the war in the '50s, when he produced "...
... The scholarly landscape of the Great War has been more thoroughly churned up than any in history: we know about the war of tactics and blunder, of donkeys and lions, boredom and muddy death. Yet there is one aspect of the war that remains oddly suppressed, partly because the participants themselves preferred not to discuss it: namely the vast legacy of multigenerational sorrow left by the carnage.
In an extraordinary new study, 14-18: Understanding the Great War, the French historians Antoinette Becker and Stephane Audoin-Rouzeau argue that European society has never fully come to terms with the sheer scale of the personal bereavement involved: ten million dead soldiers, perhaps six million orphans and three million widows. Scarcely a family in Europe was untouched by loss, yet often the sadness was repressed, or channelled into official forms.
Governments deliberately set out to prevent...
This is "Indian season," José Barreiro - a senior editor at Indian Country Today - notes dryly. Between Columbus Day and Thanksgiving, the news media and schools dust off their American Indian stories in a sort of Black History Month for natives.
Despite that somewhat contrived focus, the attention is not unwelcome, many natives say. It's an opportunity to temper romanticized views about Indians and provide a more just telling of history, one that acknowledges the history of their demise following Columbus's arrival on the continent.
The battle over how the story should be told in schools, museums, and other public settings - and how the darker aspects of these holidays as seen from a native point of view should be acknowledged - came to a head in 1992, the year of Columbus's quincentennial. What emerged from the worldwide protests and boycotts of those celebrations was...