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: The Australian (9-21-05)
The first to appear was written by Keith Windschuttle, a former Marxist academic turned independent neo-conservative writer. Hot on the heels of his controversial revision of the "black...
SOURCE: The Australian (9-21-05)
Blainey revealed himself as a pessimistic conservative, observing Australia's once impressive economic achievements and vibrant democracy threatened by a poor work ethic and a low sense of individual responsibility in a rights-mad society.
Since the '60s, Blainey had led the cheer squad with impressive surveys and analysis of successful Australian enterprise conquering "the tyranny of distance" and charting the relentless expansion of the mining industry. Despite The Triumph of the Nomads, which praised Aborigines for exhibiting a kind of European...
SOURCE: This interview was provided by the Publisher, Perseus Books (9-20-05)
Q: Why did you choose The World Was Going Our Way as the title of this book?
A: Because that is precisely what Moscow and in particular the KGB thought was happening a generation ago. Now that the Soviet Union has fallen apart, we all take for granted the inevitability of that collapse. It’s very difficult remembering how different things seemed thirty years ago. The U.S. had suffered a humiliating defeat in Vietnam which left it feeling more uncertain of its role in world affairs than at any other time since the end of World War II. And its own intelligence agency was being pilloried in Congress, in the media, and in the court of worldwide public opinion thanks to the Church Committee hearings on CIA misdeeds. This was a period when the great majority of the American people believed the CIA had killed an American president—JFK—so imagine how easy it was for the KGB to go up to leaders in the third world and say, “Even the...
... Let me finish here by returning to the San Felipe or Okeechobee hurricane [of 1928] with which I began because it takes us into the Twentieth century and because in the storm’s different impact in Florida and Puerto Rico we can see how some of themes I have suggested were played out. Leadership in both societies had a vision of an ideal future and in both places they were willing to use the disaster as tool to create an ideal future. By 1928, the American National Red Cross was functioning –a story in and of itself--and its reports and efforts in both areas provide considerable information on the impact and on the nature of reconstruction envisioned.
In Puerto Rico, while immediate mortality had been kept relatively low, the San Felipe storm had left about a third of the 1.5 million population homeless. Most of the $40 million in property loss had been to privately-owned properties. There were those in the...
SOURCE: LA Times (9-18-05)
A hurricane had come, Hurston wrote in 1937, and the levees that contained the Everglades' Lake Okeechobee couldn't stand up to the storm. The "beast had left its bed.... He seized hold of his dikes and ran forward until he met the [cabins]; uprooted them like grass and rushed on after his supposed-to-be conquerors." A 10-foot wall of water chased the near-dead across the lowlands, "rolling the dikes, rolling the houses, rolling the people in the houses.... The sea was walking the earth with a heavy heel."
Hurston might have been writing about real events. A 1928 hurricane forced Lake Okeechobee over its banks, killing more than 1,800 people, and she lived...
SOURCE: The Gazette (Montreal) (9-18-05)
The little girl was named Margaret Hayworth, and two days before, in the presence of Premier Mitch Hepburn of Ontario, most of his cabinet, some federal MPs and hundreds of other mourners, some prominent, many just ordinary people, she was laid to rest. She was the first victim of the Second World War to be buried in Canada.
She had died of wounds received when a German U-boat sank the British liner Athenia on Sept. 3, just hours after Britain had declared war on Hitler's Reich. Many Canadians were among the 1,300 people on board, bound for Montreal, and dozens of Canadians were among the 118 people who were lost. A similar number of Americans also died.
The Glasgow-built Athenia was well known in Montreal. She had been laid down...
SOURCE: Lehighton (PA) Times-News (9-14-05)
Holy Cross Cemetery is a mere half dozen miles from my Havertown home… a quick drive down Lansdowne Avenue. An early burial ground of the Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Holy Cross plays host to hundreds, if not thousands, of Irish and Italian immigrants; a common inscription on many a weathered tombstone reads something like, “Born County Cork 1846.”
Had I not taken a book called “The Devil in the White City” with me to the Shore this summer, I might never have known that Holy Cross is also the final resting place of America’s first bona fide mass murderer. According to author Erik Larson’s 2003 bestseller about the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, Herman Webster Mudgett, alias Dr. H.H. Holmes accomplished most of his killing in a suburban-Chicago building he called his “Castle.” The Castle combined businesses, such as a pharmacy, a restaurant and a small hotel with a Boris Karloff-like basement containing a...
SOURCE: LA Times (9-19-05)
Einstein, a visiting professor at Caltech at the time, was walking across campus with an earthquake expert, Beno Gutenberg. They even were talking about seismic research. But when the magnitude-6.4 temblor struck, the absent-minded scientists were so engrossed in conversation that neither noticed the shaking.
"There was an earthquake someplace?" Gutenberg, a partner with Charles Richter in developing the Richter scale, supposedly replied when a passerby mentioned the tremor. Einstein piped in, "What earthquake?"
That story is found in the Caltech Archives Oral History Project, a rare storehouse of interviews filled with anecdotes about giants of American scientific and engineering history. Drawn from the memories of more than 200 retired professors and others with long ties to Caltech, the oral histories provide glimpses of the interviewees' lives...
SOURCE: The Irish Times (9-19-05)
Cllr Kenny, a brother of the Fine Gael leader, was officiating at the launch in Castlebar of Emile - a Culture 2000 project involving Sweden, Italy, Poland, the Czech Republic and Ireland.
The US ambassador to Ireland, James C Kenny, whose grandparents emigrated from Mayo in 1907, was a special guest. The project was simultaneously launched in the five participating countries. Emile has redressed a serious vacuum in the Republic's knowledge-base of emigration to America, and also informs contemporary issues around immigration and integration, according to Irish co-ordinator Austin Vaughan, who is Mayo county librarian.
To date, the main collections of emigrant letters have been held in the Public Records Office, Northern Ireland and the Centre for Migration Studies, Omagh.
The five Emile participants...
SOURCE: The Denver Post (9-19-05)
Yet since his murder on an early spring morning in 1888, Duggan has lain in an unmarked grave in Denver's Riverside Cemetery.
Not for much longer.
On Saturday night, at a benefit in Leadville's Tabor Opera House, a group of local history buffs raised $2,200 toward completing a headstone for Duggan.
"This guy is an unsung hero. He really transformed a depraved Leadville," said fundraising organizer Gail Lindley.
"He brought law to a lawless town. As a fallen officer, he deserves the honor and respect of a memorial stone."
Duggan was 39 when he was gunned down from behind. The murder was never solved.
Duggan, 5 feet 5 inches tall, was the tough battler who took over for Leadville's murdered marshal at the behest of silver baron and Leadville Mayor Horace Tabor...
SOURCE: Christian Science Monitor (Boston, MA) (9-20-05)
Today sandwiches are a staple in lunchboxes across America. Here's a little trivia about one of our favorite midday meals:
A form of the sloppy Joe sandwich probably originated in the 19th century. Hamburger meat was popular for cooking dinner because it was inexpensive and could be easily mixed with other ingredients (often fillers that could "stretch" the meat to feed more people). The sloppy Joe, also called a loose-meat sandwich, was served in restaurants in the 1930s and...
SOURCE: Japan Focus (9-1-05)
My university students were dumbstruck. We stared at each other in silence for a long moment. All right, I conceded, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed by American warplanes 60 years ago. But only conventional bombs were used and only a few hundred people were killed. Another uncomfortable silence.
Then I admitted it was a ruse. The students seemed to collectively exhale in relief. The tragic reality, of course, is that hundreds of thousands of Japanese died as the result of the two atomic bombings.
The brief classroom exercise helped students imagine how citizens of Asian countries victimized by Japanese colonialism, invasion and atrocities during World War II...
SOURCE: LAT (9-17-05)
Conventional wisdom in publishing these days holds that, in order to be commercial, any book on the founding of the United States has to be "a story of triumph," an 18th century "Seabiscuit." Muddying the picture by suggesting, for example, that slavery had a lot more to do with the forging of the Constitution than is generally assumed creates a story of failure. Failure does not sell.
Americans certainly have been treated to a number of rosy portrayals of the framers in recent years, although they follow two distinct and often opposing streams. First and most obvious is what academics dismissively refer to — generally in a sentence with "McCullough" in it — as popular history. Popularizing, it is said, stresses portraiture instead of analysis and presents a superficial,...
SOURCE: History Now (9-15-05)
During the period leading up to the Civil War, black women all over the North comprised a stalwart but now largely forgotten abolitionist army. In myriad ways, these race-conscious women worked to bring immediate emancipation to the South. Antislavery Northern black women felt the sting of oppression personally. Like the slaves, they too were victims of color prejudice; some had been born in Northern bondage; others had family members still enslaved; and many interacted daily with self-emancipated people who constantly feared being returned South.
Antislavery women such as Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman were only the most famous of the abolitionists. Before either of these heroines came on the scene and before antislavery was an organized movement, black women in local Northern communities had quietly turned to activism through their church work, literary societies, and benevolent...
SOURCE: Atlantic Monthly (10-1-05)
When Abraham Lincoln came to the stage of the 1860 state Republican convention in Decatur, Illinois, the crowd roared in approval. Men threw hats and canes into the air, shaking the hall so much that the awning over the stage collapsed; according to an early account, "the roof was literally cheered off the building." Fifty-one years old, Lincoln was at the peak of his political career, with momentum that would soon sweep him to the nomination of the national party and then to the White House.
Yet to the convention audience Lincoln didn't seem euphoric, or triumphant, or even pleased. On the contrary, said a man named Johnson, observing from the convention floor, "I then thought him one of the most diffident and worst plagued men I ever saw."
SOURCE: Slate (9-8-05)
This has been the summer of "intelligent design." In August, President Bush endorsed this revamped version of creationism, and this week a Pew Forum poll found that fewer than half of Americans accept Darwin's theory of evolution. This widespread rejection of seemingly established truths has shocked many observers. After all, didn't the Scopes trial resolve this 80 years ago?
The anniversary of the "Monkey Trial" provides an occasion to remember that it didn't really settle what we assume it settled. Popular memory of the trial, reinforced by the 1960 movie Inherit the Wind, made it seem that evolution was triumphant and fundamentalism vanquished, but in fact the result was much more ambiguous. Anti-Darwinism didn't die in Dayton, Tenn., in July 1925—it just retreated...
SOURCE: WSJ (9-12-05)
So it may come as a surprise that in a new survey of scholars ranking the presidents, Mr. Bush finishes almost exactly in the middle of the pack. He ranks No. 19 out of 40, and he rates 3.01 on a 5-point scale, just a hair's breadth above the middlemost possible figure. But this is no gentleman's C. Mr. Bush's rating is average because it is an average, of rankings given by 85 professors of history, politics, law and economics.
Most such scholarly polls have a strong liberal bias, reflecting academia's far-left tilt. But this survey--conducted by James Lindgren of Northwestern University Law...
SOURCE: LA Times (9-14-05)
At that time, Texas and 30 other states had laws, dating from the 19th century, that made an abortion a crime unless it was performed to save the mother's life.
Georgia, like California, had revised its laws in the late 1960s to permit abortion in specific circumstances: if the mother's health was endangered, if the pregnancy was caused by rape or if the fetus had a severe defect.
The newest member of the Supreme Court, Justice Harry A. Blackmun, saw much to like in the revised abortion laws. A lawyer who greatly admired doctors, he had been general counsel for the Mayo Clinic in his home state of Minnesota before becoming a federal appellate judge.
He believed that doctors needed to have leeway to do medically necessary abortions. In the court's first...
SOURCE: LA Times (9-14-05)
In an era of hip-hop and reality TV, it is difficult to grasp the hold this man had on Americans. He was the most beloved person of his day, the country's first multimedia star.
Damon Runyon wrote in tribute that he was "America's most complete human document. One-third humor. One-third humanitarian. One-third heart."
In "a time grown too solemn and somber," President Franklin D. Roosevelt would say, he "showed us all how to laugh."
Today this man is remembered dimly, if at all. But in Pacific Palisades, his descendants and admirers are working with architects and curators to change that. They are restoring the ranch where he spent his final years.
The process, say those involved, is about...
SOURCE: The Independent (London) (9-14-05)
Stretching from the Arctic to the Black Sea, the barbed wire and watchtowers erected during the Cold War came to symbolise the brutal post-war division of the Continent.
But what was once sinister is now merely intriguing. An ambitious plan is underway to turn the 4,500-mile stretch that was once the dividing line between East and West into a tourist trail.
Spanning the strictly controlled Finnish-Russian border and winding through the former Soviet satellites of the Baltics, the trail will criss-cross the old front line between East and West Germany, and then follow the path of the Danube. Nothing like this has ever been tried and, though cycling its entire length would take more than two months, organisers believe sections of the Iron Curtain trail will become a magnet for everyone from hikers to historians.