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: Blog of paulmitchinson.com (1-23-06)
But there’s a wee problem. Just who instigated the conspiracy? According to “Rendezvous with Death,” a new documentary by German filmmaker Wilfried Huismann, it was Cuban intelligence. According to Lamar Waldron’s Ultimate Sacrifice, it was the Mob. According to Joan Mellen’s A Farewell to Justice, it was the CIA.
Now I’m not qualified to judge the relative merits of these scenarios. But Mellen’s book, a biography of New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, interests me for a peripheral reason.
Some years ago I was doing research for a journal profile of Ralph Schoenman, a radical activist whose activities have spanned the globe for decades. (The article was never published, for reasons I won’t go...
SOURCE: Slate (1-20-06)
But post-Days of Heaven, Malick dropped out of sight. He refuses to be photographed, hasn't given a real press interview in more than 30 years, and fields whatever questions do cross his path with a vague, "Uh, I guess I don't want to talk about that." The Thin Red Line (1998...
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (1-17-06)
Their resulting bestseller, Vengeance, was a detailed account of Israel's response to the Munich massacre. In September 1972, PLO terrorists introducing themselves as the hitherto unknown group Black September stormed the Israeli dormitories at the Olympic village and took hostage a dozen members of the Israeli team. They demanded the release of their comrades from Israeli prisons. After two days of negotiation, a failed rescue attempt by German police left 11 Israelis and five terrorists dead. Israel's prime minister, Golda Meir, summoned General Zvi Zamir, the head of Mossad, and...
SOURCE: USA Today (1-20-06)
Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., seeking an almost certain re-election to that seat this year but with both eyes on her party's presidential nomination in two years, charged that the Bush administration "will go down in history as one of the worst that has ever governed our country."
She's wrong. As a serious student of politics and history in high school and college and a close observer as a journalist for more than a half-century, these presidents were the five "worst" in my book:
*Andrew Jackson, (D) 1829-37
*James Buchanan, (D) 1857-61
*Ulysses S. Grant, (R) 1869-77
*Herbert Hoover, (R) 1929-33
*Richard Nixon, (R) 1969-74
It's very unlikely Bush can crack that list in his remaining three years in office.
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (1-20-06)
Last week came purported evidence that the Chinese admiral Zheng He sailed his great fleet of junks round the world a century before Columbus, Da Gama and Magellan. An 18th-century copy of a map dated 1418 has emerged from a Shanghai bookshop, depicting North and South America, Australia and Antarctica. The map was bought by a Chinese lawyer, Liu Gang, and was reportedly to go on display on Tuesday in London's Maritime Museum. (The museum denies all knowledge of it.) The map challenges the customary Euro-centric version of global discovery and can thus rely on a weight of political correctness in support. It appears to stake China's claim to have "discovered" America first.
This comes as a surprise to those of us who know for a fact that America was discovered by Prince Madoc...
SOURCE: Australian (1-20-06)
ACADEMIC history has been under threat and perhaps in decline for some time. In part, this is due to an overall decline in arts faculties and a consequent search for relevance, funding and position in enterprise universities which are increasingly geared for vocational training rather than broad education.
But there are other factors at work. The rise of postmodernism and theory in arts faculties, later in Australia than elsewhere, where the decline has commenced, has discredited what little education there is on offer.
Australian history has become particularly problematic for the academics. After a flourishing period from the 1960s to the '80s, when academic historians such as Manning Clark gave a strong lead in publishing, now, frequently, it is the non-academic writer who captures the market.
Perhaps the best example of...
SOURCE: LAT (1-22-06)
At a recent family gathering, my cousin-in-law, Janice, asked me to respond to complaints she'd read over and over again about "Munich," the Steven Spielberg film I co-wrote with Eric Roth, which she hadn't yet seen.
The movie is stirring up a lot of controversy, which I anticipated when I agreed to work on it. I even considered it a side benefit that my mishpocheh, my family, an occasionally argumentative bunch, would have fresh subject matter for the discussion part of our next few Seders. Matzo balls might be flung, but arguing is good for the digestion.
In the last month, the co-creators of "Munich" have been accused of being apologists for the Palestinians, apologists for Israel, defamers of Palestinians and of...
SOURCE: NYT (1-20-06)
The substance is history. The abuse is taking some of its most brutal and shameful chapters - slavery, the Holocaust, the massacre of American Indians - and exploiting them for whatever issue happens to land on the agenda.
Not that Mrs. Clinton invented the technique. She merely followed a well-worn path when she went to Harlem and likened the House of Representatives to a plantation, because, she said, its Republican leaders squelch dissident voices.
Did the senator serve history well (never mind the obvious question of whether not being able to speak up was truly the worst hardship endured by plantation slaves)?
"What she is doing is insulting anybody who suffered" during slavery, said William B. Helmreich, a sociologist at the City College of New York and...
SOURCE: Newsweek (1-23-06)
You may regard numbers as drab, but they can fascinate by illuminating the past in two ways. One is to confirm, qualify or contradict things we think we "know." For example, we all "know" that the Civil War was hugely murderous. But do we grasp how murderous? In 1860 the United States...
SOURCE: WSJ (1-20-06)
All the more so because over this 25-year period prosperity has been the rule, not the exception, for America--in stark contrast to the stagflationary 1970s. Perhaps the greatest tribute to the success of Reaganomics is that, over the course of the past 276 months, the U.S. economy has been in recession for only 15. That is to say, 94% of the time the U.S. economy has been creating jobs (43 million in all) and wealth ($30 trillion). More wealth has been created in the U.S. in the last quarter-century than in the previous 200 years. The policy lessons of this supply-side prosperity need...
SOURCE: Slate (1-18-06)
The recent avalanche of Abraham Lincoln books announces the ever-closer approach of Lincoln's 200th birthday. (Lay in some extra bunting: Lincoln and Charles Darwin were born on the same day, Feb. 12, 1809.) The year 2005 began with C.A. Tripp, in The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln, freely speculating about Lincoln's alleged "homosexual side" and with Ronald C. White Jr., in The Eloquent President, reminding us that this self-educated son of a small-time farmer evolved against all odds into an accomplished prose stylist. The year ended with Joshua Wolf Shenk inviting us to ponder Lincoln's Melancholy, a broader state of soul-suffering than what we now call "depression," and with Doris Kearns Goodwin, in Team of Rivals, refocusing attention on Lincoln the politician and president...
SOURCE: Weekly Standard (1-19-06)
A MEMORIAL SERVICE for former senator Eugene J. McCarthy was held last Saturday at the National Cathedral in Washington, and former president Bill Clinton was there to eulogize him. This was not surprising: President Clinton will probably be present to eulogize every other boomer icon, whenever photographers are permitted, for as long as his health permits. What was surprising, though, was that Clinton credited the senator, who died last month, for turning the country against the Vietnam War--the operative word being "credited."
"It all started when Gene McCarthy was willing to stand alone and turn the tide of history," said the forty-second president of the United States.
But "to stand alone and turn the tide of history" is the kind of language generally reserved for the likes of Churchill's warnings about Hitler at a time when no one wanted to hear...
SOURCE: Communication to HNN ()
In a recent HNN posting of a lecture given to the American Historical Association in Philadelphia (Was Anything Learned from Vietnam? 1/9/06, by Dr. Carolyn Eisenberg), a passionate presentation was made on the relationship between the war in Iraq and our experience in Viet Nam over three decades ago. One might expect such inputs to be based on reasonably sound grounds of historical fact, or at...
SOURCE: NYT (1-17-06)
Around the same time [as"our culture's enshrinement of subjectivity], biographies became increasingly infected with personal agendas. There was biography as pretentious exercise in deconstruction (Wayne Koestenbaum's"Jackie Under My Skin"), biography as spin job (Andrew Morton's"Diana: Her True Story"), biography as philosophical manifesto (Norman Mailer's"Portrait of Picasso as a Young Man") and biography as feminist polemic (Francine du Plessix Gray's"Rage and Fire: A Life of Louise Colet"). While some of these authors were candid about what they were up to,...
SOURCE: NYT (1-17-06)
AMERICAN history is short on 300th birthdays. Which is only one reason to salute Ben Franklin, who had the foresight to have been born three centuries ago today. It was one of many generous acts for his country. He makes us feel we have a history.
As a man of science, Franklin lamented that he had been born too soon. (A beautiful woman 40 years his junior generally elicited the same regret.) But he could not truly quibble with chronology. In America's seminal story, birth order was on his side. He was already a father - and a thriving publisher - when Adams and Washington were in swaddling clothes. He retired from the printing business when Jefferson was 4. He had flown his kite when Madison was an infant; by the time Hamilton was born he had turned to politics, and proposed a first plan for colonial union. He could have been...
SOURCE: WSJ (1-17-06)
SOURCE: International Herald Tribune (1-16-06)
The official celebration of his birthday draws tributes to the end of legal segregation, reprises of landmark oratory and varied appraisals of problems for minorities. Yet despite America's high-stakes national commitment to advance free government around the world, Americans consistently marginalize or ignore King's commitment to the core values of democracy.
His own words present a vast and urgent landscape for freedom. "No American is without responsibility," King declared only hours after the 1965 "Bloody Sunday" repulse of voting rights marchers in Selma, Alabama.
"All are involved in the sorrow that rises from Selma to contaminate every crevice of our national life," he added. "The struggle in Selma is for the survival of democracy everywhere in our land."
SOURCE: New Yorker (1-23-06)
SOURCE: The Independent (London) (1-16-06)
The block once formed part of the bulletproof windscreen of an American fighter bomber flown by 21-year-old Ronald Potter, whose P47 "Thunderbolt" plane was shot down 61 years ago during a Second World War dogfight with a German Messerschmitt.
Yesterday Uwe Benkel, a mild-mannered social security office manager in his forties, presented the chunk of windscreen and other bits of retrieved plane wreckage to Kerry Potter, the 62-year-old son of the pilot of the American plane. He travelled to Germany from Alaska for what was an emotional ceremony.
"Kerry Potter is deeply...
SOURCE: scotsman.com (1-17-06)
CHRISTMAS Day brought Professor Simon Schama and his 15-part History of Britain into the living room, and this has now whetted my appetite for a similarly robust examination of our own past from BBC Scotland.
No doubt BBC Scotland would claim that this is territory already tilled. In 2001, it broadcast a ten-part series, In Search of Scotland,...