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.
Timothy Noah, in the Ottawa Citizen (12-30-04):
The precise midpoint of the 21st century's first decade will arrive on Saturday. You'd think by now the English-speaking world would have given this decade a name.
Back in the early 1980s, The New York Times tried to pre-empt all future uncertainty by pronouncing it the "ohs." But nobody bit. Robert Thompson, president of the Popular Culture Association, told Harry Wessel of the Orlando Sentinel that a consensus term would start to jell before the end of 1999. More than a year later, Andy Bowers of National Public Radio (and now Slate) was still taking suggestions. Four additional years have passed since then. Half of the 21st century's first decade is gone and still no one knows what to call it.
The most logical candidate is a term often used to describe the first decade of the 20th century: the "aughts." But despite heavy promotion from journalists and others, it's never caught on. (...
Reverend Jesse Lee Peterson, at frontpagemag.com (12-29-04):
[Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson is the Founder and President of BOND (the Brotherhood Organization of A New Destiny). He is also the author of the book SCAM: How the Black Leadership Exploits Black America.]
While public officials, schools, and the ACLU worked overtime this year to ban every vestige of Christmas from the public square, the recently invented holiday known as Kwanzaa is gaining in popularity among black Americans. These occurrences are not unrelated.
In an earlier time, blacks held a strong faith in God. But over the past 40 years, the black community has largely let God slip away. Sure the community has maintained the outer trappings of religion, but the solid morality at its core is nearly gone.
Enter a God-hating black racist named Ron Karenga. Born Ron Everett on a poultry farm in Maryland, Everett invented Kwanzaa in 1966, based on...
John Kay, in the London Financial Times (12-28-04):
'Do they know it's Christmas?', the charity record from Band Aid, reminds us that the rich of the world have been celebrating and the poor have not. This is not because Christmas is a festival of the rich but because it is a Christian festival. The affluent Japanese are the main exception to the general rule that rich countries have a Christian tradition and poor countries mostly do not. The Japanese have not been celebrating Christmas either.
This critique may sound like pedantry of a sort that could be perpetrated only by the kind of people who do not know it is Christmas and spend that day penning columns for the Financial Times. But the observation contains a clue to the causes and cures of world poverty that may be more significant than Band Aid's emotional appeals.
The relationship between religious tradition and economic development was first explored 100 years ago by...
Nobody knows where the Christmas Truce of 1914 began. Nor is it certain, even today, whether the truce began in one spot and spread, or broke out simultaneously in many places, the convergent evolution of numberless human hearts.
What is known is that 90 years ago today -- four months into what would eventually be called World War I -- thousands of British, French and Belgian soldiers spent a cold, clear, beautiful Christmas mingling with their German enemies along the Western Front.
The mysterious beginnings are fortunate. For want of the name of the first person (probably German) who proposed fraternization, or the place where it occurred (probably somewhere in Flanders), the Christmas Truce has acquired the aura of a miracle. In lacking a hero or sacred site, it has kept a single emotion at its core -- the desire for...
Fritz Lanham We normally think of childhood as being a stage in the history of an individual. What does it mean to say that childhood itself has a history?
Steven Mintz We assume that human beings in the past were just like us, except, like Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic, they wore different clothes. One of the most important lessons of history is that the past is a foreign country and that people are fundamentally different from us. So one of our challenges is to try to understand people who resemble us physically but who psychologically and emotionally are utterly different.
So to say that childhood has a history is to say that the way our parents lived, the way our grandparents...
William B. Waits, in the NYT (12-23-04):
[William B. Waits is the author of"The Modern Christmas in America: A Cultural History of Gift Giving."]
FINDING the perfect gift has long been a national pastime. But the celebration of Christmas, and the culture of gift giving that accompanies the holiday, have changed significantly in America over the years. Economic and social pressures have transformed how, and with whom, we celebrate Christmas, altering it from a holiday that was at times illegal, or limited to adult parties, or a gift-giving child-centered extravaganza like today's.
There are several popular misconceptions about the origins of the American version of the holiday. To start, Christmas was actually suppressed in New England's colonial days. The Puritans found no affirmative command to celebrate Christmas in the Bible and, being good Calvinists, frowned on the celebration. They even outlawed it for a time during the 17th century....
James Kurth, in the introduction to the winter 2005 issue of Orbis:
A hundred years ago, at the beginning of the twentieth century, it was a commonplace among the political, social, and intellectual elites of the United States that America had been decisively shaped by its British origins. The British settlers in North America, the place of the American colonies within the British empire, and the revolution of those colonies against that empire had created a distinctive people, which Tocqueville had called "the Anglo-Americans."  This distinctive people in turn had created a distinctive political and social system, i.e., "democracy in America."
Of course, by the early 1900s, vast numbers of non-British immigrants had transformed an Anglo-American population into a multiethnic one or, as we would say today, into a multicultural society. But anyone could see and say that America-with its English language, common-law tradition, Protestant...
From the outside it is an unpromising sight. The brickwork of the three-storey building is scarred with black scorch marks from last year's looting, and the cold concrete wall and floors are still bare where the furniture and fittings were stripped away. Only the sign above the entrance was spared, a blue-tiled mosaic announcing to the few who still visit: The House of Books and Documents.
This had been one of Iraq's greatest treasures: a national library that held ancient works of Arab literature, a vast archive of Ottoman-era grandeur, the papers of the British-sponsored monarchy and latterly the obsessively recorded and often chilling evidence of the past 30 years of Ba'ath party rule. The daylight burning of the library, which the invading US military did not protect, was one of the first costly failures in the post-war chaos of occupation last year.
Now it is slowly being restored. But in a country where recent...
Last month, Iran banned the sale of National Geographic Society publications to protest against the"Arabian Gulf" inclusion. The issue has also caused widespread protests by Iranian intellectuals, historians, students and expatriate Iranians. Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, who inaugurated the exhibition of ancient and historical maps, said the name of the Persian Gulf could not be changed."Presenting historical evidences here is merely for the sake of reiteration," he said. National Geographic said it recognised Persian Gulf as the primary name but used Arabian Gulf alongside it to make is easier for users searching for that designation.
The single most important fact about the birth of Jesus, as recounted in the gospels, in one that receives almost no emphasis in the American festival of Christmas. The child who was born in Bethlehem represented a drastic political challenge to the imperial power of Rome. The nativity story is told to make the point that Rome is the enemy of God, and in Jesus, Rome's day is over.
The Gospel of Matthew builds its nativity narrative around Herod's determination to kill the baby, whom he recognizes as a threat to his own political sway. The Romans were an occupation force in Palestine, and Herod was their puppet-king. To the people of Israel, the Roman occupation, which preceded the birth of Jesus by at least 50 years, was a defilement, and Jewish resistance was steady. (The historian Josephus says that after an uprising in Jerusalem around the time of the birth of Jesus, the Romans crucified 2,000 Jewish rebels...
Long before Hastings, Bannockburn and Waterloo, another battle shaped England's national destiny -but its location has been a mystery for more than 800 years.
The bloodbath at Brunanburh in AD937 is often cited as the moment when Englishness was born, as the main Saxon tribes united for the first time to defeat an invasion force of Scottish, Welsh and Norwegian Vikings from Dublin.
Now research suggests that this epic confrontation took place by what is now a golf course on Merseyside, a millennium before the Beatles and football put the area on the international tourist map.
Beyond the belching towers of Stanlow oil refinery in the narrow Wirral peninsula lies the village of Bebington, a suburb of Birkenhead.
"This is where I believe the fighting took place," Steve Harding said, gazing out across Bebington heath. Professor Harding, 49, is a scientist and a Wirral native, who...
Naval historians fear that valuable records at the National Maritime Museum in London could be thrown away and lost to future researchers during a major reorganisation of its huge collection of documents and artefacts.
The world-famous museum in Greenwich has received more than pounds 1million funding in extra Government to help modernise its archive and in many cases digital records will replace traditional card indexes.
Members of MARHST, an internet forum to which 380 leading maritime historians and researchers from all over the world belong, are worried that some documents could be lost in the drive to computerise records.
Now the museum has decided to hold a seminar in Greenwich on March 23 where members of MARHST and others with an interest in maritime history will be able to discuss the reorganisation and air their concerns.
Roy Clare , director of the museum...
Edward Rothstein, in the NYT (12-21-04):
Museums always make use of the past for the sake of the present. They collect it, shape it, insist on its significance. When that past is also prehistoric, when its objects come to the present without written history and with jumbled oral traditions, a museum can even become the past's primary voice.
But what if that prehistoric past is also claimed by some as a living heritage? Then disagreements about interpretation develop into battles over the museum's very function.
That was the result, for example, at the Smithsonian Institution's $219 million National Museum of the American Indian, which opened in September in Washington and calls itself a "museum different." George Gustav Heye's extraordinary collection of 800,000 tribal American objects is put in service of contemporary Indian cultures with tribal guest curators determining how their heritage is to be presented. The result is homogenized pap...
The consensus about Oliver Stone's Alexander is that the film's splashy gay motifs could not overcome the stilted dialogue, ludicrous Irish-brogue and Count Dracula accents, and excruciating minutes of dead screen time devoted to model-like poses, secretive eye contact, and soap-opera double entendres. Stone's apparent hope was that he could garner media hype by overt homosexual scenes of kissing and hugging, and by candor about same-sex relations: The world's first global conqueror was really more a sensitive and feminine creature of the bedroom and banquet hall than a great captain of blood and iron.
In reality, the movie proved not so much scandalous as boring. The problem with Stone's lurid sexual narrative is not his historical inaccuracies, but the movie's obsession with sexual intrigue, which causes much of Alexander's amazing story to be lost....
A BIOGRAPHY which claims that President Abraham Lincoln was homosexual has provoked fierce criticism and prompted complaints that attempts to “out” historical figures have gone too far.
The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln, to be published by Simon & Schuster next month, says that the president who won the American civil war and ended slavery had affairs with young men.
While homosexual campaigners have made similar suggestions in the past, the book by Clarence Tripp, a psychology professor, will propel them into the mainstream for the first time.
Tripp, who helped Alfred Kinsey, the controversial researcher, to carry out surveys of sexual behaviour in the 1940s, began his work on Lincoln after attending an American Historical Association conference in 1990. It debated whether Lincoln and three other presidents — George...
[Editor's Note: In 1999 Larry Kramer, the AIDS activist and writer, claimed to have come into the possession of a secret diary by Joshua Speed that proved that Speed and Lincoln were lovers. Speed and Lincoln shared the same bed for four years when they were living on the frontier. Both were in their twenties.]
... Kramer doesn't pretend to be a Lincoln scholar or even an objective researcher. ("I have read all the biographies, and they are full of shit," he spits, and derides Pulitzer Prize-winning Lincoln scholar David Herbert Donald as "some dried old heterosexual prune at Harvard.") He's an unabashed gay rabble-rouser, beating the bushes of history to find gay heroes. But if he really does have the new primary sources he claims to, even the staunchest defenders of Lincoln's heterosexuality may be forced to reconsider. Kramer claims to...
Resurrecting a four-decade old debate questioning the sexual orientation of President Abraham Lincoln, a new book asserts — based largely on circumstantial evidence — that the 16th president was gay.
“The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln,” written by the late Dr. C.A. Tripp, is slated for publication early next year according to a spokesperson for Free Press, the book’s publisher.
Tripp, who was a clinical psychologist, had worked closely with the controversial sexologist Alfred Kinsey. Using Kinsey’s famous scale that ranks the homosexual component of an individual from 0 to 6, Tripp wrote that, “By this measure Lincoln qualifies as a classical 5 — predominately homosexual, but incidentally heterosexual.”
The author died just two weeks after he completed his book.
A forthcoming book claims that the sixteenth president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, was a homosexual, based on evidence ranging from a post-assassination interview with Lincoln's stepmother to a poem about gay marriage written by the Civil War leader.
The book, entitled "The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln," will be published on Jan. 11 by The Free Press, a Simon & Schuster company. It was authored by C.A. Tripp, associate professor of psychiatry at the State University of New York, and a researcher who worked closely with Alfred Kinsey on studies concerning human sexuality.
I think that his homosexuality was not noticed by either his wife, or many of his friends, which is one reason why we are only finding out about it today."
Tripp died at the age of 83, just two weeks after...
If the loving heart of the Great Emancipator found its natural amorous passions overwhelmingly directed toward those of his own sex, it would certainly be a stunning rebuke to the Republican Party’s scapegoating of same-sex love for electoral purposes. And a forthcoming book by the late Dr. C.A. Tripp — The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln, to be published in the new year by Free Press — makes a powerful case that Lincoln was a lover of men.
Tripp, who worked closely in the 1940s and 1950s with the groundbreaking sexologist Alfred Kinsey, was a clinical psychologist, university professor and author of the 1975 best-seller The Homosexual Matrix, which helped transcend outdated Freudian clichés and establish that a same-sex affectional and sexual orientation is a normal and natural occurrence.
In his book on...
[Mr. Kimball is managing editor of The New Criterion. He was interviewed by Jamie Glazov.]
FP: Mr. Kimball, welcome to Frontpage Interview. It is a pleasure to have you here.
Kimball: It is a pleasure to be with you.
FP: First things first, what inspired you to write this book?
Kimball: The primary inspiration was the spectacle of the damage being done to the study of art by academic art historians. In many ways The Rape of the Masters is a rescue operation: it aims to rescue art from the clutches of those who seek to enlist art in some extra-artistic political campaign. There are really two parts to my effort. One is polemical: I want to describe, and discredit, the various efforts by academics to sabotage art. My...