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.
SOURCE: Ottawa Citizen (8-28-05)
Does History matter? Is it, as Allan Greer wrote here last week, usually presented in Canada as an "uncritical celebration" with topics bathed in "national piety?" Sometimes, it is, but not in our schools.
Most often, Canadian children are made to wallow in the sins of the past, being told of a Canada that oppressed minorities, natives and women and, moreover, despoiled the environment. It's all true, but it's only part of a much more complicated story we never tell our children.
One example: Professor Greer is right that students are taught about the internment of Japanese Canadians in the Second World War. They certainly are, over and over again, even though Japanese Canadians were not interned -- a specific term referring to the incarceration of enemy aliens whose interests are watched over by a Protecting Power....
SOURCE: Jennifer Howard in the Chronicle of Higher Education (7-8-05)
"Never was bestowed such an art/Upon the tuning of a Fart," run the opening lines of "The Censure of the Parliament Fart," one of more than 350 Stuart-era libels now available online in Early Stuart Libels: An Edition of Poetry From Manuscript Sources (http://www.earlystuartlibels.net/htdocs/index.html). Occasioned by an episode that took place in Parliament on March 4, 1607, when Sir John Croke, speaker of the House of Commons, attempted to read a message from the House of Lords, and Henry Ludlow passed gas loudly enough to be heard throughout the chamber, the poem goes on...
Bix argued in Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, which won him the Pulitzer Prize, that the emperor was intimately involved in the decision-making behind his military's ruthless campaigns. Hence Bix contends, the Emperor bore heavy moral, legal and political responsibility.
Bix explains why Japan will be unable to realize its full democratic potential without re-evaluating Emperor Showa. Bix also explores what lessons today's world leaders can learn from a study of this enigmatic figure.
At the postwar Tokyo war crimes tribunal, the Allies indicted 28 Japanese war leaders for "crimes against peace," "violations against the laws and customs of war" and "crimes against humanity," including the Nanjing atrocities in 1937-38 and the 1941 attack on...
SOURCE: Natonal Catholic Register (8-24-05)
After all, the Church’s position on this matter is clear.
Pope Paul VI called America’s use of the atomic bomb “butchery of untold magnitude.” Pope John Paul II called it “a self-destruction of mankind” and named Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Auschwitz as places marked by man’s sin that should now be places of pilgrimage.
The Second Vatican Council condemned our nation’s use of the atomic bomb. The Catechism repeats its denunciation verbatim in No. 2314:
“Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation.”
No matter how vicious the Japanese war...
SOURCE: boingboing.net (August 2005) (8-24-05)
I'm cruising into the small town of Williams, Arizona, heading for the laundromat, when my pickup truck coughs and dies, leaving me stranded at the side of old Route 66. As I pause to consider my options, my cell phone rings. The inventor of the neutron bomb is on the line.
"Charles, this is Sam," he says, sounding elderly and erudite. "Did you hear about Edward?"
In his inimitable fashion, Sam Cohen, who really did invent the neutron bomb, is notifying me that Edward Teller has died after a long series of health problems. Sam was on first-name terms with Edward for about fifty years, since the days when they worked on nuclear weapons at Los Alamos during World War II.
It occurs to me that something must be seriously wrong with the world when a former guru of American nuclear policy seems to have so much time on his hands, he can find nothing better to do than chat with...
SOURCE: Ottawa Citizen (8-20-05)
As someone who has spent 30 years researching, writing and teaching the history of Canada, I hear two main messages from my fellow Canadians about my favourite subject: 1. It's boring; 2. We need more of it.
The same people who tell you that Canadian history is a snooze will nod in agreement with newspaper reports raising the alarm over the latest Dominion Institute poll showing that the average 14-year-old doesn't know the difference between John A. Macdonald and Ronald McDonald. We need more Canadian history in the schools, they will insist, more historical content in the media. If this is to be a self-respecting country, every citizen should have the names of prime ministers and the dates of battles at their fingertips. And by the way, zzzzz...
These two attitudes...
SOURCE: WSJ (8-17-05)
The Senate is poised to sanction the creation of a racially exclusive government by and for Native Hawaiians who satisfy a blood test. The new race-based sovereign that would be summoned into being by the so-called Akaka Bill would operate outside the U.S. Constitution and the nation's most cherished civil rights statutes. Indeed, the champions of the proposed legislation boast that the new Native Hawaiian entity could secede from the Union like the Confederacy, but without the necessity of shelling Fort Sumter.
The Akaka Bill classifies citizens by race, defying the express provisions of the 14th Amendment. It also rests on a betrayal of express commitments made by its sponsors a decade ago, and asserts as true many false statements about the history of Hawaii. It should be defeated.
The Akaka Bill's justification rests substantially on a 1993 Apology...
SOURCE: Asia Times (8-18-05)
There is a new textbook out on North Korean history, written by a group of young South Korean scholars. The book is meant for those high school students and college undergraduates who for some reason want to learn more about the North (not a very common desire among the Seoul youngsters, one would think).
The textbook dedicates quite a few pages to the 1946 land reform in the North, whose radicalism is favorably contrasted with the sluggishness of similar measures in South Korea. Basically, it's true: the South Korean government of 1948-1950...
SOURCE: WSJ (8-17-05)
It is one that China's leaders will likely be increasingly tempted to use if Mr. Koizumi's party wins general elections in less than a month's time. An important part of Mr. Koizumi's revolutionary agenda is an attempt to lead Japan out of years of pacifism and toward becoming a "normal nation" -- one that is not so wracked by guilt that it is constrained from playing an international political role commensurate with its economic heft. Beijing will play the history card to try to keep this from happening.
Here's what Mr. Koizumi actually said, according to an English-language...
SOURCE: WSJ (8-16-05)
Although Prime Minister Koizumi renewed apologies to countries that the Imperial Army had invaded and colonized, Japan observed the 60th anniversary of its World War II defeat yesterday with great political unease: First, there were the tensions caused by his gamble in dissolving parliament over the rejection of his long-cherished plan to privatize the postal service. On the diplomatic front, Japan's isolation in the six nation talks in Beijing continues -- as does China's opposition to Japan's bid for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.
However, in my opinion the most important cause of the uneasiness -- though invisible and unconscious, especially in younger Japanese -- is a thorn deep in the Japanese psyche: There has been no true closure with the U.S. over World War II. On the surface, U.S.-Japan relations are at an all-time high: Prime Minister Koizumi and President Bush...
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Education (8-12-05)
In the republic's early days, Americans mythologized national heroes as men of virtue, self-reliance, and achievement to compensate for the country's short history. Washington was one of those "Great Men on a Pedestal," Ms. Henderson writes. By the 1850s, authors and essayists such as James Fenimore Cooper and Ralph Waldo Emerson furthered that view by inventing the "American Adam," a hero admired for his innocence, individuality, and idealism, Ms. Henderson writes.
But the communications revolution, combined with the...
SOURCE: FreePress.org (8-9-05)
Like Nagasaki, August 9 is an orphan of history.
And in that history, new, definitive evidence has finally surfaced that the atomic bombing there was completely unjustified.
More than 80,000 human beings perished in Nagasaki three days after at least that many died in Hiroshima.
The Bomb that destroyed this historic city was made of plutonium (Hiroshima's was uranium).
Whatever the case for nuking Hiroshima, it was far weaker for Nagasaki.
The US had already shown it had this ultimate weapon. It showed it was willing to use it. And it now...
SOURCE: WSJ (8-11-05)
China's government bitterly accuses Japan of historical revisionism, but the new Chinese leadership should also earn high marks for creative and self-serving misinterpretation of past events. Going by a recent propaganda offensive, for instance, one would easily conclude that the Chinese Communist Party single-handedly defeated the Japanese imperialists in World War II.
The fact is, of course, that when Tokyo surrendered to the American-led Allied Powers in 1945, the CCP could hardly claim victory. It was, for one, expending at least as much effort fighting the better-equipped Kuomintang (KMT or Nationalists) forces as Japanese invaders.
It's easy to see why China's ruling communists would want to savor today a triumph that eluded their predecessors 60 years ago. The disinformation campaign requires relentless media manipulation and...
SOURCE: TNR (6-23-05)
The film, which has won several German awards and has been nominated for an Oscar, triggered nervous debate in Europe over its depiction of Hitler not as a one-dimensional monster but as a flesh-and-blood person, cruel and temperamental at times, but sympathetic and even fatherly at others. In Israel, where it is officially a crime to call a Jew a Nazi, the portrayal of the ultimate Nazi as anything less than demonic is bound to arouse controversy. But Israeli audiences have responded exuberantly, praising actor Bruno Ganz and his nuanced Hitler. Interviewed on Israeli television on Holocaust Memorial Day,...
SOURCE: Wilson Quarterly (Autumn 2004)
... For Americans whose ancestors came to these shores after 1865, the Civil War has always been someone else’s history, never an intergenerational memory. Yet even—or perhaps especially—those who have no veterans in their family tree often try to establish links, connections that are no less revealing for being forced. During the past 40 years, meticulously costumed reenactors have become a conspicuous summer feature of every significant battlefield. In fact, they began to appear even before the actual veterans faded from the scene. Fantasies of reenactment, affectionately derided in Tony Horwitz’s Confederates in the Attic (1998), are one way a nation often accused of having little sense of history makes contact with the most dramatic episodes in its past....
Along with most Americans of...
SOURCE: Wa Po (8-11-05)
Ronald Reagan won because he won the only debate. He won it not because of Carter's debate performance ("I had a discussion with my daughter, Amy, the other day, before I came here, to ask her what the most important issue was. She said she thought nuclear weaponry . . .") but only because Reagan had Carter's briefing book. And Reagan had it because this columnist gave it to him.
That last accusation, for which there is no evidence, is, as he has been told, false. But he is a recidivist fibber. Last Oct. 21, on National Public Radio, he said:...
SOURCE: Guardian (8-10-05)
When it comes to a duel between DePaul university political science professor Norman Finkelstein and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz over Finkelstein's upcoming book, Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History, gigantic bombast feels like an understatement. It is a row that has spilled on to the pages of most of the nation's...
SOURCE: Japan Focus (8-10-05)
Arlington National Cemetery and Yasukuni Jinja (The Shrine of the Peaceful Land)
are symbols of the histories of the United States of America and Japan. Arlington
National Cemetery and Yasukuni Jinja have a common purpose--to honor the war
dead--but the two are very different. Arlington National Cemetery, which was
created in controversy, is today is a place of peaceful repose. Yasukuni Jinja
had very dignified origins, yet now is embroiled in disputes.
The “Yasukuni Problem” (Japanese remorse for its actions in World War II and the survival of militarism), continuing war-related litigation, and...
SOURCE: Boston Globe (8-9-05)
In honor of the anniversary of the atomic bombings, Time magazine ran gritty portraits of survivors, the shock still etched in their faces. The men and women offered their stories how they happened to turn away from the explosion and, therefore, saved themselves from being blinded, for example and the magazine soberly recorded their distance from the blast, their proximity to hell.
These kinds of testimonials are usually reserved for victims of war crimes, and while Time does not make the link directly, it does not completely resist it, either. An accompanying essay by historian David M. Kennedy notes pointedly that the United States "crossed a terrifying moral...
SOURCE: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pennsylvania) (8-7-05)
In doing so, they continue to display not only a misunderstanding of the myriad exigencies and factors which influenced Truman's decision, but also a profound ignorance of the nature of the conflict that the controversial weapons ended.
It is no surprise, however, to those who fought in it, survived it and study it that the Pacific War -- a conflict unparalleled in history in terms of its brutality, barbarism, seething hatreds and unprecedented physical devastation -- had such an overwhelmingly destructive and historic terminus.
The Pacific War was viewed differently, propagandized differently and, most notably, fought...