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.
Thomas Hoving, in a letter to the editor of the NYT (12-17-04):
[The writer was director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1967-77. ]
The first Tutankhamun exhibition of 1976-79 was hatched for political reasons and to make money. It was Richard M. Nixon's idea to show America that Egypt was a friend. The Metropolitan Museum of Art was asked by Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger to choose the pieces and organize the six-city show.
From the start, the president of the Organization of Antiquities in Egypt demanded all admissions money. I explained that the National Gallery could not by law charge admission, and that the Metropolitan had recently begun a pay-what-you-wish general admission, banning charges for special shows.
I suggested that the Egyptians allow the Metropolitan to select and make reproductions of dozens of objects in the Cairo Museum to be sold in the American museums. We agreed that the Egyptian government would receive 100...
Matthew Continetti, in the Weekly Standard (12-13-04):
"LOOK AT THIS," said Antonio Burr. "Look at what they're selling." Standing in the gift shop of the New-York Historical Society on Manhattan's Upper West Side, Burr held a magnet to the light. On it were portraits of his ancestor Aaron Burr, the third vice president of the United States, and Alexander Hamilton, the first secretary of the treasury, whom Vice President Burr killed in a duel 200 years ago. Each man's portrait stared coldly at the other's.
It was a dull gray day in late October, and Burr had just spent an hour walking through "Alexander Hamilton: The Man Who Made Modern America," the blockbuster, $5 million bicentennial exhibition that opened in early September and will close on February 28. The show portrays Hamilton as a giant--a leading champion of the Constitution, the Founding Father of America's financial institutions, the visionary who saw that the United...
[Duncan Currie is an editorial assistant at The Weekly Standard.]
THE GHOSTS OF 1917 have not been laid to rest." That's how Orlando Figes closed A People's Tragedy, his magisterial history of the Russian Revolution. Figes was writing in the mid-1990s, at a time when the success of democracy in ex-Soviet bloc nations did not seem a fait accompli.
Sound familiar? Of course it does. The spirit of the day touts Ukraine as ground zero for liberty-loving peoples everywhere. To borrow from an oft-used dictum, we are all Ukrainians now. And the democratic "Orange Revolution" may well reverberate throughout the former Soviet Union. At least Russian liberals hope so. Moscow's meddling in the Ukrainian election has become a stark emblem of Vladimir Putin's anti-democratic--and increasingly anti-Western--...
Turkey has reacted angrily to a demand by France that it accept responsibility for a"genocide" against Armenians nearly 80 years ago, which is thought to have influenced the Nazi Holocaust.
Michel Barnier, the French Foreign Minister, insisted that Turkey must officially recognise the 1915 genocide before it joins the European Union.
Historians believe that Turkish authorities orchestrated the killing of 1.5 million Armenian Christians, who were indigenous inhabitants of Turkey, in a brutal attempt to make an ethnically pure nation. However, the Turkish Government has always said that only a small number were killed in spontaneous acts of violence.
M Barnier said:"In the course of the accession negotiations, France will ask for a recognition of the tragedy at the outset of the 20th century. When the time comes, Turkey should face up to the requirement of remembrance. The European...
Old soldiers, and serving ones, have been campaigning hard in Scotland to save Scottish regiments from merger. An announcement is expected from Geoff Hoon, the defence secretary, today.
The campaign has been vigorously supported by much of the media in Scotland, recalling regimental histories going back to the 18th century. Typical is the columnist Magnus Linklater:"Merely reciting their names: Black Watch, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, Royal Scots, King's Own Scottish Borderers, is enough to stiffen the sinews, to summon up the whiff of cordite at Waterloo, or the thin red line at Balaclava. You cannot divorce emotion from the memories of great battles fought, or lives bravely sacrificed."
Most Scots are brought up on such stories of martial tradition, of Scottish regiments, especially the Highlanders, in the thick of bloody battles. But there is an alternative history, though one heard...
The inauguration fell during a time of war and national turmoil. Soldiers were dying in a shadowy conflict half a world away. The televised images were horrific.
The election had been bitter, nasty and close. Protesters clamored that American soldiers, some of them accused of atrocities, should come home.
So when the president delivered his inaugural speech, he set out a theme of peace, harmony and vision. He chose warm, healing words, often drawn from biblical images, and used them to soothe the nation's troubled heart.
"The greatest honor history can bestow is the title of peacemaker," he intoned."This honor now beckons America -- the chance to help lead the world at last out of the valley of turmoil. . . . We are caught in war, wanting peace. We are torn by division, wanting unity. . . . to a crisis of the spirit, we need an answer of the spirit."
Thus spoke Richard...
Samuel Pepys may have been the best-known chronicler of the 17th century but he was not the only one. The passionate views of others affected by the turbulent events of the Civil War are revealed in more than 900 pamphlets being given to the British Library today.
Bound into 17 giant volumes by their unknown owner or owners, they were effectively the beginnings of the popular press in Britain and document the turmoil of a time when many citizens feared the overthrowing of the king might trigger the end of the world.
Stories of miraculous sea-monsters and traumatic natural events like volcanic eruptions were gathered eagerly as evidence of the danger of disrupting the perceived natural order by rising up against the monarchy. Other pamphlets, ranging from four to 16 pages long, address such issues as king, Parliament and the law, religious divisions and toleration, and betray clear Royalist...
Was Abraham Lincoln a gay American?
The subject of the 16th president's sexuality has been debated among scholars for years. They cite his troubled marriage to Mary Todd and his youthful friendship with Joshua Speed, who shared his bed for four years. Now, in a new book, C. A. Tripp also asserts that Lincoln had a homosexual relationship with the captain of his bodyguards, David V. Derickson, who shared his bed whenever Mary Todd was away.
In"The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln," to be published next month by Free Press, Mr. Tripp, a psychologist, influential gay writer and former sex researcher for Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey, tries to resolve the issue of Lincoln's sexuality once and for all. The author, who died in 2003, two weeks after finishing the book, subjected almost every word ever written by and about Lincoln to minute...
Twenty-three years ago, Israeli fighter pilots destroyed the Osiraq nuclear reactor and made a profound statement about global nuclear proliferation. In light of the recent preventive regime change in Iraq, a review of this strike reveals timely lessons for future counterproliferation actions. Using old, new, and primary source evidence, this thesis examines Osiraq for lessons from a preventive attack on a non-conventional target. Before attacking Osiraq, Israeli policymakers attempted diplomatic coercion to delay Iraq’s nuclear development. Concurrent with diplomatic actions, Israeli planners developed a state of the art military plan to destroy Osiraq. Finally, Israeli leaders weathered the international storm after the strike. The thesis examines...
[Kunal Parker is Associate Professor of Law, Cleveland State University.]
Anthropologists have long sought to establish a relationship to the discipline of history. In the United States, this effort may be traced at least as far back as the work of A. L. Kroeber (1966). However, with the explosion of interest in colonialism that gripped the U.S. academy in the 1980s and 1990s, it received especially influential articulations in the work of Bernard Cohn (1990) and John and Jean Comaroff (1992).1
For both Cohn and the Comaroffs (very explicitly for the latter), the need for anthropology to establish a relationship to history was part of the effort to rehabilitate anthropology after the anti- colonial critiques the discipline sustained in the 1970s and 1980s. Following these critiques, anthropologists were told to shed their colonial baggage as scholars...
John Wilkes Booth, skulking by the bushes outside the faux White House, will be the first test of true Lincoln buffs visiting the grand new Lincoln museum that opens this April in Springfield, Ill. How many will resist darting over immediately to leer at the assassin's lifelike figure rather than pausing thoughtfully at Lincoln's rustic beginnings at a nearby replica of his birthplace?
Such are the questions already in the air as the new museum installs cutting-edge verisimilitude. There'll be cannons that smoke, theater seats that rumble in sync with filmed battle depictions, and dozens of lifelike Lincolns and contemporaries waiting like docents, contriving to fulfill the museum's goal of a more powerful, "in your face" brand of history.
Detractors already are hooting about the Disneyfication of Old Abe in the...
We tend to think of the Renaissance as a movement confined to a European intellectual elite during the 15th and 16th centuries. Wrong on all counts, according to Professor Steve Hindle, who is to be a leading figure in a research project linking Warwick University with the Newberry Library in Chicago. Over three years, British and American historians, classicists and linguists will seek to re-examine the social depth, the geographical breadth and the historical length of a period that saw the rebirth of classicism in art, philosophy and literature.
"I would argue that it was a much longer period than previously thought," says Hindle, who is based at Warwick's Centre for the Study of the Renaissance."Yes, its origins were in late 14th-century Italy, with the rediscovery of classical texts, especially Plato's. But its influence was still evident in New England from the 1620s onwards. By the 18th century, the...
A few weeks ago, a pair of studies found that Democrats vastly outnumbered Republicans among professors at leading universities. Conservatives gleefully seized upon this to once again flagellate academia for its liberal bias.
Am I the only person who fails to understand why conservatives see this finding as vindication? After all, these studies show that some of the best-educated, most-informed people in the country overwhelmingly reject the GOP. Why is this seen as an indictment of academia, rather than as an indictment of the Republican Party?
Conservatives have a ready answer. The only reason faculties lean so far to the left is that deans, administrators and entire university cultures systematically discriminate against conservatives.
They don't, however, have much evidence to back this up. Mostly, they assume that...
A lifelong Mormon, church teacher and author said Wednesday he faced excommunication after he was accused of apostasy for publishing a book questioning the origins of the Book of Mormon.
A church disciplinary council near Salt Lake City was scheduled Sunday to take up charges against Grant Palmer, whose book,"An Insider's View of Mormon Origins," had come under scrutiny by church authorities since it was published two years ago.
In his book, Palmer traced scholarly challenges over the last 30 years to a number of fundamental teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including the story that its founder, Joseph Smith, had been led by the angel Moroni to a set of golden plates in 1827 from which Smith translated the Book of Mormon.
Palmer is the latest Mormon scholar to face excommunication. In 1993, the church excommunicated five prominent scholars for their views on...
"Every now and again 'R' would have a fit of jealousy and indeed I personally witnessed one such occasion. One morning, she waited for us in the grounds of Villa Torlonia the Mussolini residence in Rome , hidden amongst the trees. All of a sudden, there she was in front of the car signalling to me to stop.
"She was in her dressing gown and she appeared upset. With a dramatic gesture, she flung open the car door, in the process displaying what little clothing she wore underneath her dressing gown, and then I could hear her perfectly as, sobbing, she shouted at Mussolini: 'So then, it's all over between us'?"
The above comes from the diary of Ercole Boratto, the man who for 20 years from October 1922 to July 1943 was the personal driver to Il Duce, Benito Mussolini. Written in 1945 and 1946, Boratto's diary has never gone into the bestseller list for the good reason that for the last 58 years or so it has...
This Christmas will mark the 90th anniversary of one of the truly remarkable events in the history of modern warfare: when soldiers from the world's most powerful armies, locked in a conflict that would eventually cost millions of lives, decided that they wanted to take a few days off from killing each other in honor of the season. Surprisingly, there doesn't seem to be a single all-encompassing site dedicated to the Christmas Truce of 1914 on the Web - but with a bit of poking around, many of the details can still be found online.
One of the most common misconceptions about the truce concerns its very existence. Some believe it was an isolated incident made larger in the telling, or even a fantasy created out of whole cloth and preserved by romantics and pacifists. The first stop in this modest collection (a 1998 article by Historian Malcolm Brown for the BBC) puts that fallacy to rest, and...
The Smithsonian Institution has selected a roster of high-profile corporate leaders, including media empress Oprah Winfrey and the chairmen of American Express, Merrill Lynch, IBM and Time Warner, to lead the effort to establish the country's first comprehensive museum on African American life.
The Smithsonian Board of Regents yesterday appointed 19 executives to the founding Council of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is scheduled to open in 2013. They also named a group of scholars to an advisory committee that will oversee the content of the White House-backed museum.
In the early stages of planning, the council will be involved in"every aspect of development," said Sheila Burke, the Smithsonian deputy secretary and chief operating officer. Yet the expertise of the members indicates that fundraising will be a primary concentration.
By noon, a small crowd gathers at the roadside. They peer down into the wide, shallow pit where Angel Fuentes leads a team of young scientists crouched on their hands and knees, carefully unearthing the bones and secrets of Spain's wartime past.
Maxima Perez, 71, clutching a black handbag, is waiting for the body of her father, Pablo, to be exhumed."Que pena, que pena," she says over and over, holding a hand to the side of her face as if to contain her pain. Fernando Garcia Hernando expects to find the remains of his grandfather, a man he never knew. Diego Pena cradles his infant son and also wonders about an unknown grandfather; he asks many questions.
The dead here have been buried for more than half a century.
They are among tens of thousands of Spaniards executed by Fascist forces loyal to Gen. Francisco Franco in the country's 1936-39 civil war. They were tossed into unmarked mass...
Where is my grave?
In my tail, answered the Sun.
In my throat, answered the Moon.
-- Federico Garcia Lorca
Lorca, Spain's greatest 20th century poet, was dragged from a home here in the dead of an August night in 1936, and shot dead by Fascist forces loyal to Gen. Francisco Franco.
The bodies of Garcia Lorca and three other men killed with him -- two bullfighters and a teacher with a limp -- were heaved into a low ditch, in a valley near an olive grove north of Granada, and left there.
It was barely a month into the Spanish Civil War, and thousands of people would meet a similar fate.
Given his fame and the global admiration that has been accorded Garcia Lorca, he would seem the consummate symbol for a new movement to locate the hidden graves of Franco's victims and provide proper burials.
Proponents, including relatives of the men...
The contents of two notebooks written by former South African president Nelson Mandela when he was jailed on Robben Island have been revealed.
The letters were made public at the same time as news broke of Mr Mandela's only surviving son being in a critical condition in a Johannesburg hospital.
A spokeswoman from the Nelson Mandela Foundation said Makgatho Mandela's illness was a private family matter and would not reveal any details.
The notebooks contain 70 letters written to family and friends between 1969 and 1971, South Africa's Sunday Times newspaper reported.
In the letters, Mr Mandela reveals how much he missed those people closest to him.
Retired police officer Donald Card presented the former president with the two black-jacketed notebooks in September.
Mr Mandela wrote the letters during the early years of his sentence on the...