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: OpenDemocracy ()
At the peak of the ceremonies, Queen Elizabeth II dines with her sea lords on board a huge oak-hulled vessel which now lies in dry dock at Portsmouth. HMS Victory was Nelson's flagship at Trafalgar and on her deck, at the height of the battle on 21 October 1805, Nelson was mortally wounded by the musket-ball of a French naval sniper. No wonder that Victory, the only surviving ship from the battle, is a national shrine.
But within living memory, she was not the only survivor...
SOURCE: OpenDemocracy (11-5-05)
... Some thirty years ago I was stopped in the street by a young girl who asked me for a penny for the Guy, the “Guy” being a fairly basic effigy she had propped against a nearby wall. I replied, jokingly, that I wouldn’t give her anything as I had been baptised a Catholic. “What’s that got to do with it?”, she asked. The old rhyme exhorts us to “Remember, remember the Fifth of November”, but some fundamentals about the Gunpowder Plot had clearly been forgotten – or never learned – in this urchin’s cultural milieu. This year, with the media attention which the anniversary has been afforded in Britain, there may be a heightened awareness of the story of what happened in 1605. But despite Guy Fawkes’s status as an iconic figure, one doubts if most of those attending bonfires on 5 November will have much idea of the origins of Bonfire Night.
SOURCE: NYT ()
1. After a kindly Indian named Squanto taught the Pilgrims to grow corn, the Pilgrims invited the Indians to a meal to celebrate their friendship and mutual desire to live in harmony.
2. The Pilgrims held a feast to thank God, the real hero of Thanksgiving, who had earlier arranged for Squanto to be kidnapped, brought to Europe, taught Christianity and then miraculously returned just in time to help the Pilgrims.
3. The Indians, vicious barbarians awed by the Europeans' technology, sought an alliance with the Pilgrims to get access to their steel tools and enjoy the protection of their guns.
4. The Native Americans, a peaceable people who practiced sustainable agriculture and lived as one with nature, innocently befriended the Pilgrims without realizing these imperialists would destroy their lands and wage...
SOURCE: The Sunday Oregonian (11-20-05)
(Remember the founding fathers' decisive 1845 coin toss in which Portland triumphed over Beantown.)
But early history shows such was never the case, and profits from dirty dealings worked their way into the pockets of the city's most socially righteous.
"Where do the leading businessmen, entrepreneurs, and real estate developers --many whose names today appear on street signs and monuments --fit into the generation of dirty politics?" pondered historian Dean Collins in the 1940s.
"Just about everywhere. Portland was no different from other American cities when it came to shady businessmen and respected financiers running, and often nearly ruining, a city through their hand-picked political servants. Portland only pretended it was different."
Joseph Gaston's 1911 city...
SOURCE: The Boston Globe (11-20-05)
Like New Yorkers who have never been to the Statue of Liberty, plenty of Bostonians have never darkened the doorstep of the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Dorchester overlooking Boston Harbor. I couldn't remember the last time I'd wandered through the place.
Presidential museums are strange things. They openly traffic in hagiography. We know this going in and buy our tickets anyway. (You want a real look at a guy, buy a book.) We accept an airbrushed version of a man that would otherwise insult our intelligence in exchange for a weird brew of history and nostalgia that is often as flat as day-old beer.
Not so with the Kennedy hagiography, which is endlessly fascinating because he was so much more gifted than, say, Gerald Ford is, and because the gap between our current understanding...
SOURCE: The Baltimore Sun (11-20-05)
Or so say Hanson supporters. Actually, there is considerable disagreement among historians on who established the holiday.
Hanson served as "President of the United States in Congress Assembled" under the Articles of Confederation in 1781 and '82. The Articles preceded the U.S. Constitution as an organizing document among the colonies.
Some claim Hanson, and not George Washington, was the first president of the United States. Detractors point out that, before the Constitution, there really wasn't an office of the president or, for that matter, a country to be the president of.
Whatever his presidential...
SOURCE: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (11-20-05)
Clarksdale tour guide Robert Birdsong says the singer's house --- reportedly a one-family shotgun --- has been destroyed, replaced by a salmon-colored joint with a slab porch and a satellite dish. Birdsong will take you there anyway if you ask, which people still do.
On this mild fall day, he hops down from a visitor's SUV and heads straight for the backyard. There, smack in the middle, is the stump of a shade tree under which, he says, Cooke used to sing.
This was early in his life, years before his stage show made women faint, before he became not just the prototypical crossover pop star but also a civil rights icon. Years before a gunshot ended his life in a seedy Los Angeles motel....
SOURCE: The Independent (London) (11-21-05)
The boy she gave birth to in 1870 may have laid the foundations of the world's largest superpower and been the first politician in history to put Marxism into practice, but in death he has turned out to be less potent.
Eighty-one years after his fatal stroke in 1924, his wish to be buried alongside his mother in St Petersburg's Volkovskoye Cemetery, resting place of writers, intellectuals and academics, remains controversially unfulfilled.
Instead, his painstakingly embalmed corpse, replete in its three-piece suit, continues to lie in what is purportedly a bullet-proof, blast-proof glass case in a mausoleum in Red Square in Moscow, 400 miles to the south. It is exactly where the tyrant who succeeded him (against Lenin's will), Joseph Stalin,...
SOURCE: The Gazette (Montreal) (11-21-05)
Vincent Wallace, a 29-year-old private with the 2nd Signal Company, looked around for something by which he could remember Canada's victory at the battle zone in France.
Now, almost 90 years later, that young soldier's First World War prize - a German Mauser rifle - has surfaced in Montreal and is raising questions.
The standard-issue German firearm is just one of hundreds of "military heirlooms" making their way into the public domain as Canadian veterans of the First and Second World Wars die.
The question has now become what to do with the booty.
"I think the Mauser belongs in a museum," said John Garley, 74, a Montrealer and the current owner of the weapon recovered by Wallace at Vimy Ridge.
"If we were in the United States, they (museums)...
SOURCE: The Boston Globe (11-21-05)
That feast, says Kathleen Curtin, food historian at Plimoth Plantation, was actually an agricultural celebration and quite unlike today's Thanksgiving. The historical event was made up entirely of foods that were native to this area. It took place sometime between late September and early November, lasted at least three days, and included venison and wild fowl. Other likely candidates were geese and ducks, Indian corn, wild cranberries, which were used to sharpen broths, stewed pumpkin, shellfish and yes, turkey. At least that's what...
SOURCE: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (11-21-05)
Franklin thought so highly of the turkey that he preferred it over the bald eagle when people were trying to come up with a symbol for America. The eagle, which he called a "scavenger," was not a good choice, he said.
Here's the story:
After the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, three men were appointed to come up with a national symbol. They were Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.
At first, none of them wanted a bird. Instead, they talked about ideas from the Bible and from myths. Congress didn't like their ideas, historians say. Then a lawyer from Philadelphia made a design that included an eagle.
But it took until 1782 for the final decision to be made. That's when the bald eagle became part of the official American seal.
Franklin said the wild turkey was "a...
SOURCE: Ed Week (11-1-05)
This past summer, Today Show weatherman Al Roker did a “man on the street” survey in which he asked fewer than a dozen randomly chosen people questions only slightly more difficult than “Who is buried in Grant’s tomb?” The “poll” was totally unscientific, but not totally without meaning. It revealed what scores of scientific surveys have shown in the past—that a majority of Americans are abysmally ignorant of, ironically, much of the “stuff” they spent so many years learning in school.
When asked how many states there are, a few adults replied 52 or 51. Only one teenager could name the three branches of government. None of the adults knew what the first 10 amendments to the Constitution are called. Two people put George Washington in the White House during the Civil War, and another named Lincoln as our first president.
SOURCE: The Toronto Star (11-17-05)
A Canadian filmmaker has launched a crusade to stop U.S. treasure hunters from scavenging the wreck of HMS Fantome, which many believe was returning to Halifax with loot from the White House and Capitol Building when she sank in a storm on Nov. 24, 1814.
"It is not beyond imagination to see silverware stolen from the White House end up for sale on Ebay," said John Wesley Chisholm, who hopes to make a documentary film about the site.
"The province should revoke or suspend the licence for this site. On a larger scale, the entire (Treasure Trove Act) should be abolished."
Curtis Sprouse, founder of Sovereign Exploration Associates International, scoffed at Chisholm's criticism, saying it is companies like his that help uncover history and bring it to...
SOURCE: Slate (11-14-05)
Since 1982, when Hofstra University hosted a conference on the achievements of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the school has regularly corralled scores of scholars, journalists, activists, and ex-government officials to evaluate the reigns of successive presidents. Last week it was Bill Clinton's turn. Three hundred participants and hundreds more spectators trekked out to Hempstead, Long Island, for a three-day confab titled"William Jefferson Clinton: The 'New Democrat' From Hope." The event served as both scholarly inquest and class reunion—with both the insiders (administration"alumni") and the outsiders (the rest of us) taking a first crack at...
SOURCE: Daniel Engber in Slate (11-15-05)
They asked the presidents (and their appointed representatives). First, researchers submitted written requests for information about Alito. The archivists searched through their collections for relevant material; any documents they turned up had to be sent out for review before they could be made public. According to George W. Bush's protocol for presidential record-keeping, both the current and former president must sign off for documents to be released. Either one could have claimed executive privilege and forced the archivists to withhold the pages. (In Reagan's case, a family-appointed...
SOURCE: Columbia News (11-3-05)
I went on to devote my academic career to the history of the State of Israel and the diplomacy of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Yet, throughout, I maintained this closeted...
SOURCE: Campus Watch (11-17-05)
Their obsolete and petty obsessions will be on full display when the Middle East Studies Association holds its annual meeting from November 19 to 22 at the Wardman Park Marriott in Washington D.C. The coronation of Juan Cole as MESA's new president will, for example, make the organization's public face a leading proponent of the theory that the Zionist-Likud cabal controls American foreign policy for the benefit of Israel.
Indeed, MESA's members display a disproportionate interest in Israel. Nearly 9 percent of the program-14 sessions-is devoted to something called "Israel/Palestine" and Israel, as usual, is routinely equated with South Africa. Thus, a...
SOURCE: H-Diplo (11-16-05)
I should like to offer a few comments inspired by Maarja Krusten's post on the lamentable state of federal record-keeping.
I doubt nothing of what Russell Riley writes in the _Washington Post_ about the lapsed state of record-keeping in the White House. It accords too well with what I have observed elsewhere. Neither do I doubt that political expediency has played a role there and elsewhere in the Executive Branch in permitting this state of affairs to endure for at least two decades. All this conceded, it remains that both Riley's article and Krusten's post are somewhat misleading. To wit:
(1) There is, I must stress, no reason at all to believe, as Riley and Krusten imply, that the state of record keeping is worse in the White House than elsewhere in the Executive Branch. I dare say, in fact, that it is better. Record-keeping has everywhere collapsed in the government, and not only...
SOURCE: The Gazette (Montreal) (11-16-05)
Too late, food historians say. Family dinners were more myth than reality, even in Victorian times, and women have been trying to get out of their kitchens since the early 20th century, scholars told a recent conference called What's for Dinner: The Daily Meal Through History.
The latest development in the effort to bring back the family dinner is a U.S. program called "Dream Dinners": the participants, affluent women, gather to make frozen meals that they can heat up without dirtying their state-of-the-art kitchens.
If family dinners have gone the way of the dodo, some other old food traditions are alive and well, speakers told the conference, organized by the McCord Museum and the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada.
They described how Quebecers still enjoy time-honoured dishes such as...
SOURCE: WSJ (11-15-05)
Conservative Christianity is doubtless growing in the U.S., but so is the "spiritual but not religious" demographic. This mantra seems to boil down to a critique and a desire. The critique is aimed at "organized religion," whose rites, creeds and dogmas, it is felt, fail to get to the heart of things. The desire is exactly to get to the heart of things, but by one's own devices--to experience God or nirvana or the Absolute apart from the priestly and institutional apparatus of "Sunday religion."
Trends arrive bundled with critics nowadays, and when it comes to spirituality the critics have been vocal. The most shrill are communitarians, who dismiss spiritual questing as narcissism of the worst sort--a civic cancer of navel-gazing individualism that gestated among the baby boomers and is now spreading to Generations X and Y....