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.
National Council for History Education (4-19-05) to "Make History Strong in Our Schools":
Good afternoon. I thank you, Ms. Anderson and the National Council for History Education, for hosting today's "Make History Strong in Our Schools" Day event to raise awareness of the importance of history education in the Nation's schools. I am heartened by everyone's attendance today. I am pleased at the opportunity to share the stage with historical luminaries of the likes of George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, so brilliantly recreated for us by the costumed interpreters from Colonial Williamsburg.
Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison lived in a revolutionary time, a revolution fed by their own eloquence and erudition. Of them, President John F. Kennedy said, "Remember that our nation's first great leaders were also our first great scholars....
The Associated Press looked into some of the highlights and low points from nearly 20 centuries of papal history and came up with this list.
Among the sources for the research was"Lives of the Popes" (HarperSanFrancisco) by the Rev. Richard P. McBrien:
- FIRST POPE: The Apostle Peter.
- LONGEST REIGNING POPE: Peter, according to Roman Catholic tradition, though there are no agreed dates for his reign. He also was the first martyred pope.
- SECOND-LONGEST REIGN: Pius IX (1846-1878), nearly 32 years. John Paul II (1978-2005) ranks third.
- SHORTEST REIGN: Urban VII, 12 days (1590). He caught malaria during the election and was never crowned. John Paul I's tenure lasted just 33 days in 1978, but his was not even among the 10 shortest reigns.
One Chinese protester at last week's anti-Japan demonstrations delighted in scuffling with the police every time they half-heartedly tried to block the road. The high-school dropout with dreadlocked hair looked like your typical anti-establishment rebel. But then, what was such a "rebel" doing at a flag-waving nationalist rally?
This was just one of the many contradictions that stood out on that warm Saturday afternoon, as I walked among some 10,000 Chinese on their way to besiege the Japanese Embassy.
One of a series of nationwide protests against Japan's bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council -- and a number of controversial history books that allegedly whitewash Japan's wartime actions -- by some estimates the march in Beijing was the largest since the pro-democracy protests of...
... Black-studies programs at many public universities are having trouble attracting students and are suffering from budget cuts that have whittled down their faculty ranks. Meanwhile, classes with African-American perspectives are cropping up in departments like history, women's studies, and English, diluting the need, some say, for separate black-studies departments.
"It's a struggle for survival," says Edmond J. Keller, a professor of political science at the University of California at Los Angeles who teaches African-American studies.
To stay alive, black-studies departments at many public universities are scrambling to reinvent themselves. They are changing their names to "Africana" and "African diaspora" studies and broadening their courses from a focus on black Americans to black people in...
Last week--April 12, to be exact - was the 60th anniversary of the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. "I have a terrific headache," he said, before collapsing at the Little White House in Warm Springs, Ga. He died of a massive cerebral hemorrhage on the 83rd day of his fourth term as president. His hold on the nation was such that most Americans, stunned by the announcement of his death that spring afternoon, reacted as though they had lost a close relative.
That more wasn't made of this anniversary is not just a matter of time; it's a measure of the distance the U.S. has traveled from the egalitarian ideals championed by F.D.R. His goal was "to make a country in which no one is left out." That kind of thinking has long since been consigned to the political dumpster. We're now in the age of Bush, Cheney and DeLay, small men committed to the...
The battle over abortion, now flaring again with the prospect of change at the Supreme Court, has been raging for so long that its origins have been largely lost to time and myth. During the 32 years since the court decided Roe v. Wade, the right to abortion has become so entwined, both in political discourse and in the public mind, with women's rights in general that it is tempting to assume that the middle-aged men who voted in 1973 to overturn state abortion laws thought they were striking a blow for women's equality.
The collected papers of Roe's author, Justice Harry A. Blackmun, show a more complicated reality, illuminating what turns out to be a highly tenuous connection between the abortion cases and the cases on women's equality that reached the Supreme Court simultaneously in the early 1970's.
The Library of Congress, following Blackmun's instructions, opened his papers to the public in March of last year, on the fifth...
David Oshinsky, in the LAT (4-10-05):
[David M. Oshinsky is a history professor at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of"Polio: An American Story," published this month by Oxford University Press.]
Randy Boswell, in the Montreal Gazette (4-11-05):
Downfall, an Oscar-nominated German film about the last days of the Third Reich, is being condemned by historians for what they call its "sympathetic" portrayal of the Nazi general believed to have ordered the murders of dozens of Canadian prisoners during the invasion of Normandy.
Wilhelm Mohnke, who died in 2001 in Germany after failed efforts by Canadian investigators to have him tried for war crimes, was accused of committing the single worst battlefield atrocity in Canada's military history: the execution of 35 soldiers captured shortly after the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944.
At least 30 more Canadian PoWs are alleged to have been killed on Mohnke's authority, including the machine-gunning of three surrendered soldiers in a case that was thoroughly documented by the Canadian War Crimes Investigation Unit in the 1940s.
Mohnke was also accused of ordering the deaths of 80...
Bill Broadway, in the Washington Post (4-9-05):
As the College of Cardinals prepares to convene April 18 to elect a new leader, U.S. Catholics know there is little chance that one of their own will succeed Pope John Paul II.
Yet many hope the new pontiff will hear cries for change in how the Vatican operates. They want a leader who will encourage greater communication among all levels of the hierarchical church, a "democratization" that ranges from the election of bishops to increased involvement of laity in parish operations. Such change is possible because it involves governance rather than doctrine, according to canon lawyers and church historians. Calls for a Catholic Church that allows female priests, supports a woman's right to choose abortion and permits married couples to use contraception will go unheard because they would require changes in church teaching, analysts say.
More openness -- a chance for laity to...
Marc Nadeau, in the Ottawa Citizen (4-9-05):
[Marc Nadeau is a PhD student in theology at the Universite de Sherbrooke ( Quebec), where he researches the influence of religion in the administration of George W. Bush.]
John Paul II's pontificate revamped, as one of its major achievements, a rather modest relationship between the Vatican and the United States. Generally distant from one another, the two states interacted sparsely during the decades following the Italian unification of 1870 right up to the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan as U.S. president.
Historically, American public opinion was fervently opposed to the U.S. government being intertwined with the papacy. Catholics were negatively perceived as sharing a dual loyalty to Rome and to Washington. But there were eloquent exceptions. During the Second World War, the U.S. established channels with the Vatican in the interest of defeating the Axis. In the aftermath, president Harry Truman and...
In a surprisingly fine editorial last week about the crisis at Columbia University, the New York Times wrote that a university report investigating student complaints about Middle East studies"is deeply unsatisfactory" because it was"so limited." The"Ad Hoc Grievance Committee Report," the paper observed, focused on faculty intimidation of students, ignoring that the students primarily resented"stridently pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli bias on the part of several professors."
That the Columbia administration preferred to deal with bad...
[Kenneth L. Woodward, a contributing editor at Newsweek, is working on a book about religion and American culture since 1950.]
ACCORDING to an old Vatican proverb, popes come and go but the Roman Curia remains. The latter can be said of the news media as well. In the long pause between papacies, journalists have two tasks: the first is to assess the significance of the pope who has died, and the second is to appraise those cardinals most likely to take his place. Now, with a week to go before the cardinals meet to choose a successor, perhaps a look at how the press handled these assignments in the past can shed some light on what to expect in the future.
Of the popes who reigned in the last half-century, two were easy for journalists to peg. Both Pius XII (pontiff from 1939 to 1958) and, to a lesser extent, Paul VI (1963-78) were...
They’ve plotted and deceived, they’ve been warlike, corrupt and power-hungry and they’ve sired children they shamelessly promoted: the history of popes, as cardinals mull who will succeed John Paul II, is decidedly murky.Such accusations can in no way be levelled at John Paul II, who died April 2 after a 26-year pontificate that inspired and enthralled many. But it was not always so.
“The history of the papacy is the history of one of the most momentous and extraordinary institutions in the history of the world,” says Eamon Duffy in a study of popes entitled “Saints and Sinners.”
As cardinals go into seclusion from April 18 to elect the next head of the Roman Catholic Church, they have a rich history of sinning...
Tiananmen Square's 1989 peaceful demonstrations were a violent uprising; Tibet had no claim to independence when China invaded in 1951; millions of Chinese did not die during the famine caused by the Great Leap Forward; the United States started the Korean War by invading the peninsula; special FBI agents repress American workers.
China's recent indignation at Japan for approving textbooks that allegedly mispresent history exploded over the weekend in riots in some Chinese cities. Japan could do more to own up to its past. But the quick and cursory glance above at how China itself treats history shows that its own distortions are of a far greater magnitude than Japan's.
The most recent paroxysms of self-righteousness in China, and in South Korea too, were touched off last week by the Japanese government's...
[Philip Terzian is Books & Arts editor of The Weekly Standard. ]
AGAINST GEORGE F. KENNAN, who died last week at the age of 101, "there was no official complaint, / And all the reports on his conduct agree / That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a saint." He was not just "the nearest thing to a legend that this country's diplomatic service has ever produced" (Ronald Steel), but "a phenomenon in international affairs" (the New York Times), as well as "our greatest diplomat" (Richard Holbrooke). Even in an age of casual superlatives, this is high praise indeed. And not least among Kennan's long list of distinguished admirers was Kennan himself. In the late 1980s, after he had publicly complained that the United States government had not adequately honored...
This is an excerpt from the statement Joseph Massad made on March 14, 2005 before the committee at Columbia University investigating charges of intimidation in the Middle East studies program:
I have prepared a statement to read to you. I would be happy to answer your questions afterwards. Before I begin, however, I want to ascertain that as professor Katzneslson has informed me, the only complaints that your committee has heard about me are the two complaints that the press reported from my students, namely the complaint by Noah Liben and the complaint by Deena Shanker. As for the complaint by Tomy Schoenfeld, who was not my student, I presume, his case is irrelevant to this body, as your mandate states that “as a result of the expression of concern by a number of students that they were being intimidated by faculty members and being excluded from participating fully in classroom discussions because of their views,” you are...