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 Fleming is the author of "The Illusion of Victory: America in World War I" and the forthcoming "Mysteries of My Father: An Irish-American Memoir." He is a member of HNN's board of directors.]
In Jersey City, Election Day was a lot more important than St. Patrick's Day. The voting booth was where we learned to tell the Protestant establishment that the Irish-Americans might be nowhere but they had no intention of staying there.
The man who did most of the telling in Jersey City was a tall, lean Irish-American named Frank Hague. He put together what students of the subject consider the ultimate political machine. Unlike other bosses, Hague refused to make nice with Hudson County's Protestant powers. He forced the railroads to pay millions in city taxes they had avoided for decades with the help of the Republican Party. This was...
Frontpage Interview’s guests today are Barry Rubin and Judith Colp Rubin, co-authors of the new book, Hating America: A History. Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center of the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, Israel. He is also editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. Judith Colp Rubin is a journalist who has reported worldwide for several different North American publications and was publisher/editor-in-chief of Women's International Net Magazine. The couple also co-wrote Yasir Arafat: A Political Biography.
FP: Rubins, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Judith Colp Rubin: Great to be here.
FP: Anti-Americanism has always been with us. You talk about the six phases of historic anti-Americanism. How did they...
A little over a year ago, USA Today ran an editorial against H.R. 3077, the Title VI reform bill for the program that lavishes federal subsidies on area studies in universities. (Readers of this space know that I've been an ardent supporter of Title VI reform, and particularly of an advisory board that would match the program's priorities with national needs.) The premise of the editorial: Why, Title VI is humming along just fine! Take a look at the University of Michigan, for example. The y're helping the U.S. government to understand terrorism, and they've boosted their Arabic enrollments tenfold! Michigan and the others have their shoulders to the wheel, producing Arabic translators for government service! Can't Congress just leave well enough alone, and trust the profs for a change?
The absurdities embedded in this editorial so incensed me that I had a...
... The accumulated evidence of France's flaws can be compelling, but what pale stuff this is compared with Francophobia's French counterpart! Next month, the University of Chicago Press will publish a book that attracted much attention when it first appeared in France, in 2002: "The American Enemy: The History of French Anti-Americanism" by Philippe Roger (the translation is by Sharon Bowman).
Mr. Roger, who teaches at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, almost single-handedly creates a new field of study, tracing the nuances and imagery of anti-Americanism in France over 250 years. He shows that far from being a specific reaction to recent American policies, it has been knit into the very substance of French intellectual and cultural life.
While American Francophobia can seem transient, news...
You will not be seeing Deborah Lipstadt on C-SPAN. The Holocaust scholar at Emory University has a new book out ("History on Trial"), and an upcoming lecture of hers at Harvard was scheduled to be televised on the public affairs cable outlet. The book is about a libel case brought against her in Britain by David Irving, a Holocaust denier, trivializer and prevaricator who is, by solemn ruling of the very court that heard his lawsuit, "anti-Semitic and racist." No matter. C-SPAN wanted Irving to "balance" Lipstadt.
The word balance is not in quotes for emphasis. It was invoked repeatedly by C-SPAN producers who seemed convinced that they had chosen the most noble of all journalistic causes: fairness. "We want to balance it [Lipstadt's lecture] by covering him," said Amy Roach, a producer for C-...
Some scholars study the atomic age by researching the bomb makers. Others delve into the physics of the nucleus, or the relations between East and West in the cold war.
Dr. Charles K. Wolfe listens to country music. In fact, he is a leading scholar of the country music of the atom bomb, a genre that flowered almost immediately after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II and faded away by the early 50's.
For Dr. Wolfe, the bomb songs are a "bizarre" expression of a major theme in American folk music, the relationship of people and technology.
Often, these songs tell of a brave man overcoming the dehumanizing force of machinery, as in "The Wreck of the Old 97," the classic song about a runaway train.
"Americans have a kind of love and hate relationship with technology," Dr. Wolfe said in an...
Roger Makhlouf (3-15-05):
[Roger Makhlouf is an American-Lebanese Linguistic scholar, with an BS &MS in Electrical Engineering, an MBA and an MA in International Relations.]
One has to be attentive to details in order to get closer to the truth.
The widespread custom of the media in referring to the Middle East as “the Arab World” only contributes to solutions that are incompatible with the region’s history. In reality the region comprises many ethnically and culturally diverse countries including Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and several North African nations. The West has made it easy for itself to package the whole region under one name and treat it as a homogeneous entity, maintaining foreign policies by Western Europe and the United States vis-à-vis the Middle East that have resulted in one failure after another. It is now time to do our homework in order to bring about a peace which is the fruit of justice and fairness.
[Mr. Greenberg is a professor at Rutgers University. His book, Nixon's Shadow: The History of an Image, was recently published in paperback by W.W. Norton.]
It's rare for a scholarly conference to make the newspapers. It's rarer for a conference to make the papers when it never takes place. But that's what happened recently when the Richard M. Nixon Library & Birthplace in Yorba Linda canceled a symposium on Nixon and the Vietnam War that it had planned to sponsor with Whittier College.
The cancellation provoked an uproar. The library claims that tickets weren't selling well enough, but most observers see political motives at work — more of Nixon's old concern with shaping his reputation.
For years the Nixon Library has seemed more intent on waging a campaign to improve the late president's image than on portraying him accurately. When the library opened in 1990, its then-director, Hugh Hewitt, announced it...
[Homi K. Bhabha is a professor of English and American literature, and chairman of the program in history and literature, at Harvard University. This essay is adapted from his introduction to a new edition of Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth, to be published next month by Grove Press.]
... Is The Wretched of the Earth now only a historical and scholarly artifact? In the era of globalization, is it a relic of nationalistic struggle? Or do Fanon's insights transcend the particulars of his time? Might they help us make sense of today's global political and economic tensions?
It's hard to revel in Fanon's dreams while wrestling with his political ethic of violence. Combine the religiousness in Fanon's language of revolutionary wrath "the last shall be the first," "the almighty body of violence rearing up" -- with...
The following statement is circulating at Columbia University. It was forwarded to HNN on 3-9-05.
During the past several months, Columbia University has been subjected to an extraordinary series of attacks impugning its reputation as a center of learning that welcomes students and scholars with a diverse range of points of view and similarly diverse backgrounds, loyalties, and commitments. Many of the allegations that have been made during this campaign--allegations that have attempted to create the impression that an atmosphere of intolerance exists at Columbia--are blatantly false. In many ways, they betray a failure to understand the mission and character of research universities and their contributions to modern life.
Columbia, like a number of its peer institutions, is a great center of teaching, inquiry, and research. Its primary missions are to transmit knowledge and to generate new knowledge. Thriving research universities in the United States have...
Jim Gilcrhist, in the Scotsman (3-11-05):
SITTING on historian Simon Sebag Montefiore's desk in London is a medical report which describes, minute by minute, the last hours of a sick 73-year-old man.
They detail his incontinence, his spasms, his last gasps - and also severe stomach haemorrhaging. Normally, such a document would be of little significance except to immediate family, a record of just another tired old human's messy terminal moments. But the collapsed old man was Joseph Stalin, one of the most merciless despots the world has known, and that yellowing, mundanely typed account takes on new and seismic significance when it reveals hitherto suppressed details which suggest that the dictator just might have been murdered.
In Who Killed Stalin?, a BBC2 Timewatch dramatised documentary tonight, Sebag Montefiore, author of the award-winning Stalin: The Court of the Red Czar, looks at evidence, unearthed after half a century, which suggests...
Almost 30 years ago I came to possess a little piece of computer history. At the time, it seemed to me a fairly straightforward handwritten letter acknowledging my request to terminate an apartment lease, with instructions on how I could recover my security deposit. What I did not know then was that my landlord, a fellow with the unforgettable name of J. Presper Eckert, was a pioneer of the digital era, a co-inventor of one of the first operational electronic computers.
The idea that this note might qualify as a historical artifact dawned on me a couple of weeks ago as I examined the 254 lots in the "History of Cyberspace" collection auctioned at Christie's on Feb. 23. The earliest items were from the brilliant minds of the pre-computer age like Charles Babbage, the 19th-century visionary who...
Anne C. Bailey, assistant professor of African history at Spelman College, in African Voices of the Atlantic Slave Trade: Beyond the Silence and the Shame, published by Beacon Press, as excerpted in the Chronicle of Higher Education (3-10-05):.]
In southern Ghana along the stretch of land off the Atlantic coast formerly known as the old Slave Coast, now known as Eweland, on many a night the striking rhythms of the drums can be heard from many miles away. They are so sure, so insistent in telling their story. With the Ewe talking drum leading the pack, stories of long ago are revealed one by one.
Yet we do not know the whole story. Here and on the other side of the Atlantic, in fact wherever people of African descent are to be found, there is a deafening silence on the subject of slavery and the Atlantic slave trade. All that remains are fragments, which, like the scattered pieces of a broken vase, do not represent the whole. Under the silence are palpable sighs...
Mike McKee, in the Recorder (3-9-05):
As a renowned expert on the Vietnam conflict, Larry Berman knows volumes about opposition to U.S. government policies.
Now, he's leading a fight of his own.
For more than a year, the UC Davis professor has been seeking access to president's daily briefs, or PDBs, for three scattered days during Lyndon B. Johnson's administration.
Berman says the documents would shed light on the Tet offensive and other lingering mysteries of the Johnson administration. But the feds claim the documents contain sensitive material essential to national security, and they've refused to release them.
Refusing to take no for an answer, Berman has filed suit against the Central Intelligence Agency, the guardian of all PDBs, to get the documents he wants and to try to change the agency's blanket policy of refusing to declassify the daily briefs of any presidential administration.
"I don't want to sound corny, but I...
James G. Hershberg, in the Journal of Cold War Studies (Vol. 6, No's. 2 & 3, Spring and Summer, 2004):
What options did John F. Kennedy consider after his aides informed him on 16 October 1962 that the Soviet Union was secretly deploying medium-range nuclear-capable missiles in Cuba? In most accounts, his options fell into three categories:
1. military: an attack against Cuba involving a large-scale air strike against the missile sites, a full-scale invasion, or the ªrst followed by the second;
2. political-military: a naval blockade of Cuba (euphemistically called a “quarantine”) to prevent the shipment of further “offensive” military equipment and allow time to pressure Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev into withdrawing the missiles; or
3. diplomatic: a private overture to Moscow to persuade Khrushchev to back down without a public confrontation.
Kennedy ultimately chose the second option and announced it on 22 October in his nationally...
The Afroamerican Studies program at the University of Colorado – Boulder (CU) purports to examine African-American culture in a number of ways, including—as its website declares—through the study of: “diasporas, history, fine arts, the fight for racial equality, and other cultural aspects.” Established in 1969 as CU’s first race-based educational program, it eventually formed the foundation of the university’s Ethnic Studies...
[Mr. Stephens is a member of the Journal's editorial board.]
Remember Japan Inc.? If you were a semi-sentient consumer of news in the 1980s, it was hard to avoid the impression that Japan would soon overtake the U.S. in global economic clout, if its corporations didn't just purchase the country outright. They've got Rockefeller Center! They're gobbling up Hollywood! Chalmers Johnson, Clyde Prestowitz and other soi-disant experts pronounced sagely on the invincible Japanese model of industrial organization, while the media supplied a diet of stories about how companies such as Sony or Honda remained world-beaters, year-in and year-out.
Now consider the amazing media about-face in recent weeks on Iraq. Prior to Jan. 30, dateline Baghdad was dateline Götterdämmerung. Now it's dateline Democracy. Bombs are still...
David McNeill, in Japan Focus (March 2005):
[David McNeill prepared this article for Japan Focus. He is a Tokyo-based journalist and teacher, and a coordinator of Japan Focus.]
Saotome Katsumoto was 12 when he heard the familiar rumble of B-29 bombers.
“It was a midnight air raid, but unlike anything we had experienced before. The planes flew in very low, so low you could see the fires reflected in their undercarriages, and they dropped mostly incendiaries. The fires started everywhere and we tried to fight them, but there was a strong, northerly wind fanning the flames. All around me people were on fire, writhing in agony.”
Sixty years ago today, on March 10 1945, the US abandoned the last rules of warfare against civilians when 334 B-29’s dropped close to half a million incendiary bombs on sleeping Tokyo.
The aim was to cause maximum carnage in an overcrowded city of flimsy wooden buildings; an estimated 100,000 people...
]Bruce Montgomery is an associate professor and faculty director of archives at the University of Colorado. His writing on presidential papers has appeared in Presidential Studies Quarterly and the American Archivist.]
When Allen Weinstein took the oath of office as the ninth archivist of the United States last month, he seemed to allude to the controversy that preceded his appointment and to hint -- perhaps unintentionally -- at the impossible position that any chief archivist now faces.
"In April," he said in his brief remarks, "we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of National Archives independence. Under national archivists during both Republican and Democratic presidencies, the tradition of non-political and highest professional attention to the work involved has been the norm. It will continue to be so...