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.
To most sophomores in Cora Peck's history class at Irvine High School, today is just another Tuesday.
There are no ceremonies scheduled. No moments of silence planned. And only a few students recalled the date as the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which drew the U.S. into World War II.
When you're a teenager, 1941 may as well be ancient history.
Perhaps it's paradoxical, then, that while the events of this date 63 years ago mean little to Peck's students, they do believe that the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, have afforded them an unexpected window on Pearl Harbor Day's importance to past generations.
"It has more significance to us now than it did before," said Bryan Beard, 16."We've had 9/11. We know what it means to be attacked."
Indeed, while Dec. 7 continues to pack an emotional wallop for aging World War II veterans...
Clandestine love notes between King Henry VIII and his future wife, Anne Boleyn, have been discovered in the margins of books found during the first comprehensive investigation of the king's library.
In a 16th-century Book of Hours, Henry wrote, in French, to the then woman of his desires: "If you remember me according to my love in your prayers I shall scarcely be forgotten, since I am your Henry Rex for ever." Anne replied in doggerel English verse: "Be daly prove you shall me fynde/To be to you bothe lovynge and kynde."
But the investigation, published as The Books of Henry VIII and his Wives by the British Library yesterday, also shows the king's library had a practical purpose in affairs of state. Henry VIII quoted extensively from his books to defend his actions in seeking divorce and declaring himself the head of the Church in England.
Henry's personal annotations...
The nation was at war and Eloise Strom, a young mother of two young boys, rose every morning before dark and rode an hour and a half in a car pool with five other women to work at the aircraft plant in Marietta.
At the end of a 10-hour day, she would hurry home to fight the war on another front: the grocery store.
It was World War II. Food was rationed. First come, first served. Get there late and there would be no flour, no sugar, no milk, no coffee. No hamburger for dinner tonight.
"It seemed like everything was hard in those days," recalled Strom, a spry 90-year-old who lives in Buckhead and worked in the old Bell Bomber plant.
On the 63rd anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, more efforts are being made to honor the 6 million American women who worked in war factories and, regardless of what their specific jobs might have been, became known as...
Unless they have taken a university course in history in recent decades, most Australians would be surprised to learn they inhabit one of the world's most shamefully racist countries.
The academic consensus today is that the White Australia Policy -- a series of restrictions on non-white immigrants dating from the gold rushes of the 1850s and culminating in the commonwealth's Immigration Restriction Bill of 1901 -- made this country the moral equivalent of South Africa under apartheid. Some historians even label Australia at Federation one of the"herrenvolk democracies" -- a direct comparison with the"master race" nationalism of Nazi Germany.
Moreover, the White Australia Policy purportedly lives on today. The near-unanimous opinion of an academic history conference in December 2001 was that John Howard's border protection measures tapped into deeply embedded sentiments of"blood and race" to ensure...
Historian Keith Windschuttle has turned his critical eye on the 19th-century trade in Kanakas to work the Queensland cane fields and has concluded it is a myth.
"And it's still on the school curriculum and the ABC's website, even though it has been disproved," Mr Windschuttle said.
Contrary to oral histories about the practice known as 'blackbirding', a term borrowed from the African slave trade that referred to the press-ganging of Melanesian islanders to work the cane fields, Mr Windschuttle claims the trade in slaves was exaggerated.
"There were a small number of cases around 1860, but it ceased soon after," he said.
"The government didn't want any suggestion there was a slave trade in Australia and launched several royal commissions into it.
"In the history of the labour movement, it had to be the most bureaucratic labour trade in the history of the world."
Everyone talks about the Reagan tax cuts, yet there is more to President Reagan's legacy than tax cuts. There is also his courageous and largely unappreciated willingness to fight for reductions in domestic spending.
Ronald Reagan sought--and won--more spending cuts than any other modern president. He is the only president in the last forty years to cut inflation-adjusted nondefense outlays, which fell by 9.7 percent during his first term (see table 1). Sadly, during his second term, President Reagan did not manage to cut nondefense discretionary spending, and it grew by 0.2 percent. But his record is still quite remarkable if compared to other administrations. Every other president since Lyndon Johnson serving a full four-year term did not even do as well as Reagan in his less- impressive second term.
President Reagan understood economics, and he knew...
Susan Spano, in the LAT (12-5-04):
Author Daniel Jouve likes to peer through an iron fence outside the Hotel de Coislin in Paris, where Benjamin Franklin emerged as a citizen of an independent nation. It was Feb. 6, 1778, and across the Atlantic, American colonists were fighting a bloody revolution that would last five more years.
But in terms of foreign relations, the United States was born that day in Paris, when Franklin, his diplomatic colleagues and a representative of King Louis XVI signed the Treaties of Friendship, Commerce and Alliance, making France the first nation in the world to recognize America's sovereignty.
That explains the title of Jouve's book, "Paris: Birthplace of the U.S.A.," which guides tourists to 23 sites in the City of Light bearing witness to the indispensable support France gave America in its pursuit of independence.
Alice Jouve, Daniel's wife and one of the book's co-authors, said in an interview...
When in 1754 the French built Fort Duquesne, a sturdy log fort at the Forks of the Ohio, the British perceived a deadly threat to their coast-hugging colonies.
But what seemed like French aggression to royal governors in Williamsburg and Philadelphia was more a panicky defensive move, according to historian Jonathan Dull.
Dull, who has been editing the papers of Benjamin Franklin for the past 27 years, was one of a dozen speakers recently at a French and Indian War seminar on "Cultures in Conflict." The event drew more than 100 history buffs, re-enactors, park rangers, historians and journalists to Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va. The location was appropriate. Winchester was where George Washington placed his headquarters for overseeing a chain of frontier forts built to protect British colonists from Indian raiders...
Anthony Sampson, in the London Independent (12-4-04):
Does a prime minister today really have to say something every day, to have a policy about everything, to keep flying round the world, to appear charismatic always? Wouldn't he be more effective if he said less, and kept in the background?
My question follows the results of the survey this week by academics at the University of Leeds, who asked 139 historians and political scientists to give marks to the most successful prime ministers over the past century. They reckoned the most important qualities were leadership and sound judgement. But they put the two most obviously charismatic leaders, Churchill and Lloyd George, second and third.
At the top was Clement Attlee, the post-war Labour premier who has always been seen as the most laconic and least charismatic of them all. It might seem ironic that Attlee, the "little man", the "sheep in sheep's clothing" who was the butt of...
IT WAS Australia's version of the Boston Tea Party when a ragtag band of gold-miners rose against their British colonial masters in protest at unfair taxation, igniting a chain of events that heralded the birth of democracy and independence.
Now a country in perpetual quest for a national identity is seizing on that short-lived rebellion, known as the Eureka Stockade, as the embodiment of Australia's defining moment.
Yesterday was the 150th anniversary of an incident that was largely forgotten until the 1970s but has gradually gained prominence as Australians search for national myths and symbols. It is being marked by a fortnight of celebrations including a dawn march tomorrow, numerous re-enactments, an art exhibition and a music festival.
But the bloody events of 3 December 1854, which culminated in the massacre of 30 miners, continue to be hotly debated. Passions rage about the Southern Cross flag,...
Stroll into any Parisian bookstore and you will immediately appreciate one of France's great national obsessions: America. The display shelves are crammed with books on almost every aspect of American life. In the run-up to the US presidential election it seemed as though every opportunistic French writer with any connection to America had a theory to propound or a story to sell about the world's sole hyperpuissance. There has also been a ready market for translations of those American authors - such as Michael Moore, Paul Krugman and Kitty Kelley - who have been less than complimentary about their more rightwing compatriots....
In L'ennemi Americain, a fascinating genealogy of French anti- Americanism, Philippe Roger argues that the phenomenon is best viewed as a recurrent discourse that has periodically surfaced in French thought. At different times, anti-Americanism has been trumpeted by the hard right...
The history of politics -- more, the history of human thinking -- is the history of words. Consider what happened to the word"liberal" in the United States.
It has become a Bad Word for millions of Americans. Confident that a large majority of the American people have come to regard, see, or hear the adjective"liberal" as definitely pejorative, the president of the United States found it proper and useful to affix it to his opponent in campaign speeches day after day, across this vast country. Meanwhile, his opponent thought it best not to identify himself as a liberal.
This accusatory label is reminiscent of the habit of some political speakers 50 years ago who declared that their opponents were"Communists" or"Communist sympathizers." Such a similarity, while not precise, is at least...
The names of Hans and his sister Sophie Scholl do not occupy much space in histories of World War II. Theirs was scarcely a moment in time.
Students at the University of Munich, they belonged to a small resistance movement known as White Rose. Caught distributing anti-Hitler propaganda, they were turned in by the superintendent of the university and decapitated in February, 1943.
That their names are remembered today is largely the consequence of post-war documentary accounts such as The White Rose: Munich 1942-43, published by their surviving sister Inge Scholl.
Another avenue of remembrance is a one-act opera by the distinguished German composer Udo Zimmermann, performed Sunday evening in the University of Toronto's MacMillan Theatre as part of Toronto's 24th annual Holocaust Education Week.
Zimmermann, who is also Intendant of the Deutsche Oper, Berlin, wrote the work...
The Vatican is giving"serious consideration" to apologising for the persecution that led to the suppression of the Knights Templar.
The suppression, which began on Friday, October 13, 1307, gave Friday the Thirteenth its superstitious legacy.
A Templar Order in Britain that claims to be descended from the original Knights Templar has asked that the Pope should make the apology.
The Templars, based in Hertford, are hoping for an apology by 2007, the 700th anniversary of the start of the persecution, which culminated with the torture and burning at the stake of the Grand Master Jacques de Molay for heresy and the dissolution of the order by apostolic decree in 1312.
The letter, signed by the secretary of the Council of Chaplains on behalf of the Grand Master of the Poor Fellow Soldiers of Jesus Christ and the Temple of Solomon Grand Preceptory, with a PO box address in...
Steven Gates figured his criminal past was so far behind him that his friends and colleagues would never learn of it. He was married, lived in a prestigious neighborhood in San Bernardino County, attended church regularly, had built a successful career in sales and owned a business with his wife.
Then came the breathless phone call from his mother one night: You are on the Discovery Channel, she told him.
Gates switched on the TV and discovered that all his efforts to put his past behind him had been in vain."I was horrified," Gates said in an interview."I almost threw up."
His name and photograph were shown on a program about a 1988 San Diego murder for hire in which Gates had pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact. The hourlong episode was aired several times.
Gates filed an invasion-of-privacy lawsuit but has not yet been permitted to take it to trial. In a...
Oana Lungescu, in the London Daily Telegraph (12-2-04):
It was in early 1983, on an anonymous street corner in central Bucharest, that I first met the man from the secret police. On the phone, he said he wanted to discuss a translation job and I was naive enough to meet him in the street. In his thirties, with an instantly forgettable face, he politely invited me across the road to a row of big metal doors, which looked like garages. But when he took out a key from his pocket and opened one of the doors, I got scared. As we stepped into a small room, which barely accommodated a desk and two armchairs, I realised it was a side entrance to the huge compound of the Bucharest police headquarters. The man who had taken me there was from the dreaded Securitate.
He had an offer to make. He would speed up procedures for me and my father to leave the country and join my mother, who had settled in Germany. He would also get cancer drugs for my father. Like most...
From the Chronicle of Higher Ed (12-2-04):
A glance at the fall issue of the "Michigan Quarterly Review": How a veteran learned to teach about Vietnam
Keith W. Taylor, a professor of Vietnamese cultural studies at Cornell University, writes about his 30-year journey from fighting in the Vietnam War to teaching about it.
Within a year of returning from a tour of duty in Vietnam, in 1972, Mr. Taylor began graduate study in Vietnamese history. However, rather than grapple with the country as he had left it, he focused on Vietnam's ancient history. For his own understanding of the war, he deferred to the antiwar campus left, whose arguments resonated with his own bitterness, he says.
But as an academic, he says, he felt a kind of nausea whenever he was asked to explain the conflict to students. "It was 25 years," he writes, "before I began to understand that this nausea came from the...
[Anderson and Cayton are the authors of a new master narrative of American history. This essay is adapted from the book, The Dominion of War: Empire and Liberty in North America, 1500-2000, to be published next month by Viking.]
... The rhetoric that justified the founding of the United States made inescapable connections between empire and tyranny. Perhaps for that reason, American historians have generally approached the imperial dimension of the nation's history obliquely, treating occurrences of jingoism like the war fevers of 1812, 1846, and 1898 as unfortunate exceptions to the antimilitarist rule of republicanism. No American Napoleon conquered this continent, no jackbooted legions subdued it; the United States grew by settlement. Apart from the regrettable Indian wars, the great movement west consisted of the...