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 Guardian (London) (1-16-06)
Jack Clark is 94 and still keeps pigeons at the bottom of his cottage garden in Sipson. Around him, however, is a landscape utterly transformed. At night, he stands in his dressing gown and watches a line of eight aircraft, lights ablaze, hanging in the sky like Christmas lights as they make their descent into the world's busiest international airport. A field away, a satellite dish whirs round and round. The red lights of a control tower blink over the rooftops. Sipson, a village of 700 homes, is marooned between the M4,...
SOURCE: Rocky Mountain News (1-17-06)
If young people today are turned off by the study of history - and by and large they are - it is partly the fault of the historians and educators who write the books that students read. History is most vivid and real when it highlights the extraordinary individuals, good and evil, who shaped it. But many scholars disdain such a focus, dwelling instead on culture, class and economics as the driving forces in our past.
Their impersonal approach is useful up to a point. Taken too far, however, it obscures the truth. No one has ever pointed this out more forcefully than the brilliant Milton Himmelfarb, who died this month at 87, in an essay titled No Hitler, No Holocaust.
"Hitler willed and ordered the Holocaust, and was obeyed," Himmelfarb wrote. "Traditions, tendencies, ideas, myths - none of these made Hitler murder the Jews. All that history, all those forces and influences, could have been the same and...
SOURCE: The New Zealand Herald (1-17-06)
In 1881, an unidentified man in Philadelphia made the first antiperspirant to be sold commercially, known as "Mum".
The product was originally sold through his nurse and made with zinc, but later deodorants changed to aluminium chloride after complaints of skin irritation. It was originally sold as a cream in a jar.
Helen Barnett, an employee, was inspired by the invention of the ballpoint pen to suggest a roll-on applicator, which was introduced in 1952. The use of aerosol to apply deodorant did not begin until the 1960s.
The original Mum brand has many competitors but is still going strong. Procter & Gamble spokesman Simon Prentice said the company sold about 850,000 units of Mum deodorant in New Zealand each year.
Historical records show attempts to create deodorants as far back as the ancient...
SOURCE: Los Angeles Times (1-17-06)
But the engineers were baffled: The sandbags kept disappearing into the watery breach. The pit eventually swallowed 2,000 sandbags, each weighing between 3,000 and 20,000 pounds. It was an early sign that the hurricane had opened an extraordinarily deep hole in the foundation of the storm wall, pointing to a fundamental breakdown in the engineering of the city's levee system.
Investigators recently told The Times that the 17th Street levee failed because its engineers made a series of crucial mistakes, one of which was to base the levee design on the average strength of the soil rather than on the strength of its weakest layer. The errors may reflect a loss of expertise during the 1990s, when the corps sharply downsized its soil laboratories.
The faulty soil analysis is...
SOURCE: Financial Times (London, England) (1-17-06)
The 20-year-old Queen Victoria could hardly have imagined that the business on which she bestowed these favours would one day be subject to rival bids from Dubai and Singapore, and that control of its activities might be transferred from Pall Mall - in the centre of London's club land - to the Peninsula and Orient itself. Another demonstration, it would seem, of the globalisation of world capital markets and the rise of Asia. Not quite. When P&O was founded, India and China enjoyed a much larger share of the world economy than they do today and the world capital market was in important respects more international than it...
SOURCE: The Dominion Post (Wellington, New Zealand) (1-17-06)
McNish -- who later settled in New Zealand -- helped save the lives of the expedition's 28 men, but Shackleton branded him a troublemaker and refused to recommend him for a Polar Medal, an accolade given to most members of the failed 1914-16 Imperial Trans-Antarctic expedition. Andrew Leachman, of the Antarctic Society of New Zealand, told London's Sunday Times newspaper: "The expedition is viewed as one of the greatest epics of survival. Shackleton even conceded they would not have lived but for McNish.
"By withholding the Polar Medal, Shackleton achieved the final shaming of McNish and displayed a vindictiveness that fell below his own mercurial standards of loyalty."
McNish died in New Zealand and was buried in a pauper's grave in...
SOURCE: The Columbus Dispatch (1-17-06)
B. Frank was an O.G. (Original Genius) long before his mug appeared on the $100 bill.
Every grade-school graduate knows that Franklin signed the Declaration of Independence, published Poor Richard's Almanack and flew a kite during a lightning storm.
But who knew that Franklin invented the armonica? Furthermore, what the heck is an armonica?
Here are some of the lesser-known aspects of Franklin's life:
Because you asked, the armonica is a glass musical instrument played with a wet finger -- the way one "plays" the rim of a wineglass.
Armonicas aren't around much anymore, because late-18th- and early-19th-century music fans thought Franklin's creation caused insanity and even death. Some blamed the armonica for the demise of Beethoven and Mozart, who both wrote...
SOURCE: Chicago Sun Times (1-17-06)
Ben Franklin was much more than that, of course. Take your choice: scientist, diplomat, inventor, civic booster, publishing magnate, politician, writer, celebrity, ladies' man and the most famous kite flier in history.
"He probably had more IQ points than most anyone else who has walked the American earth," said University of Pennsylvania historian Michael Zuckerman.
Philadelphia, his hometown, is planning a big party. There's a commemorative silver dollar, a commemorative beer (Poor Richard's Ale) and an endless stream of books.
A Ben Franklin traveling exhibit, "In Search of a Better World," will stop in Philadelphia, St. Louis, Houston, Denver, Atlanta and Paris. But other than a cake-and-coffee birthday party at Fox River Grove Memorial Library, not much is happening locally.
He was born...
SOURCE: Hartford Courant (1-10-06)
Yale Divinity School historian Kenneth P. Minkema wants people to see the warm, fuzzy side of Edwards, the side that wandered through fields and sat on the pristine banks of the Hudson; the side that pondered an ``appearance of divine glory, in almost everything.''
``I often used to sit and view the moon, for a long time; and so in the daytime, spent much time in viewing the clouds and sky ... in the meantime, singing forth with a low voice, my contemplations of the Creator and Redeemer,'' he wrote in a letter to his son-in-law Aaron Burr, father to the...
SOURCE: THE AUSTRALIAN (1-11-06)
According to Prime Minister John Howard, the West was targeted by extremists ''because of who we are, not because of what we have done''. There is no cause for self-examination because our enemies are driven by a ''detestation of Western values''.
Alternative explanations such as the CIA's ''blowback'' thesis, which argued that the US is reaping the unintended consequences of earlier interventions in the Middle East and Central Asia, were dismissed as condoning terrorism. There were no root causes of Islamist terror nor any need to consider the consequences of Washington's support for brutal and corrupt dictatorships in the Gulf, let alone its financial and military support for Israel's occupation of...
SOURCE: WSJ (1-11-06)
"During the campaign of 1964, [he] was our incorruptible standard-bearer," recalled William F. Buckley Jr. in his 1998 obituary of Barry Goldwater, the career senator from Arizona, 34 years after the watershed. Goldwater, of course, was defeated resoundingly on Election Day, winning only six states. "It was the judgment of the establishment that Goldwater's critique of American liberalism had been given its final exposure on the national political scene," Buckley continued. "But then of course 16 years later the world was made to stand on its head when Ronald Reagan was swept into office on a platform indistinguishable from what Barry had been preaching."...
SOURCE: LAT (1-11-06)
Now that Sharon is incapacitated, many of the same voices are mourning him — irony of ironies — as a peacemaker whose loss would make a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict harder to achieve. The current angst over Sharon's exit from power is likely to prove as misbegotten as the earlier angst over his ascension.
Like other great leaders, "Arik" Sharon altered reality so that the unthinkable became the inevitable. His continuing influence may be likened to that of Franklin Roosevelt or Ronald Reagan. Even after Roosevelt's death, World War II was won, a liberal postwar order was established and the New Deal remained intact. Even after...
SOURCE: TomPaine.com (1-10-06)
The 230th anniversary of the publication of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense—the brilliant little pamphlet whose arguments literally turned the world upside down— invites reflection both on the state of the nation to which it gave birth and on the state of the left to which it gave rise and whose many generations carried on the fight to realize the democratic vision rendered in its pages. Recalling Paine’s work should serve, as well, to remind us of not only what we stand in opposition to, but also what we stand in opposition for. And ultimately we might ask, “What would Tom Paine do?”
Born in 1737, the son of an English Quaker artisan and an Anglican mother, Paine had a career before coming to Philadelphia in 1774...
SOURCE: Weekly Standard (12-26-06)
AL QAEDA'S STATED GOAL--to reestablish the caliphate, the political leadership of worldwide Islam embodied first in the successors of the Prophet Muhammad and most recently in the four-century rule of the Ottoman dynasty--is pure, ahistorical fantasy. One way to appreciate this is to revisit the 33-year reign of the most remarkable modern caliph, Sultan Abdul Hamid II (1876-1909). An ally neither of bigoted Islamists nor of the radical secularists who ultimately deposed him, Abdul Hamid was an Islamic modernizer--and, interestingly, a friend of the United States.
Abdul Hamid emphasized the role of Islam inside the Ottoman Empire, and he emerged as the protector of Muslims around the world, from India to sub-Saharan Africa. He pressed for a new railway to the holy places of Mecca and Medina and sent emissaries to distant countries preaching Islam. Because of these policies, once called "pan-Islamism," he...
Our book "Freakonomics" includes a chapter titled "How Is the Ku Klux Klan Like a Group of Real-Estate Agents?" This chapter was our effort to bring to life the economic concept known as information asymmetry, a state wherein one party to a transaction has better information than another party. It is probably obvious that real-estate agents typically have better information than their clients. The Klan story was perhaps less obvious. We argued that the Klan's secrecy - its rituals, made-up language, passwords and so on - formed an information asymmetry that furthered its aim of terrorizing blacks and others.
But the Klan was not the hero of our story. The hero was a man...
MOZART'S skull may or may not have been rediscovered, and you probably didn't even know it was missing.
Today, live on Austrian state television, scientists from the Institute for Forensic Medicine in Innsbruck will declare definitively whether the skull held by the International Mozarteum Foundation in Salzburg in fact belonged to the man whom many consider the most sublime composer who ever lived. In what reads like a pilot for a new spinoff - "CSI: Tyrol" - forensic pathologists, employing the highest of high biotech, compared genetic material scraped from the mystery Schädel with DNA gathered from the thigh bones of Mozart's grandmother and niece.
The results, determined last year and "100 percent verified" by a United States Army laboratory, have been held secret for the broadcast of the documentary "Mozart: The Search for...
SOURCE: The Guardian (London) (1-9-06)
Britain's contribution to that event was, in the first three months of 1975 alone, 334 applications to demolish listed buildings. The rate at which these were disappearing was astonishing. It was as if the nation, for all its contemporary dismissal of modern architecture, was in a hurry to rid itself of at least two centuries of distinguished buildings as it ploughed with spectacular incompetence through the economic mire of the "decade that design forgot".
The heroes of the mid-1970s, in the world of architectural conservation, were Marcus Binney, then editor of...
By the rise of the civil rights movement, many black Southerners had been so thoroughly conditioned to be subservient that they dared not look white people in the eye, much less seek the right to vote. This posture was understandable in the Deep South, where racial violence had been a kind of blood sport. But it seemed out of place in states like North Carolina, which was not as closely associated with hard-core brutality as were states like Mississippi and Alabama.
This rosy version of Carolina history turns...
SOURCE: Mediachannel.org (1-8-06)
Ariel Sharon has been a warrior all his life so his post-surgical fight for life is nothing new. Reports that he had died were quickly supplanted by news from the operating room that the tank-like former tank commander turned Israeli Prime Minister was hanging on like some modern day Sampson although still gravely ill with millions praying for his recovery.
Few contemporary figures inspire the kind of debate, hate and adoration that he attracts.
His life has been wrapped in media mythmaking on all sides.
This is a challenge to the news world that always has to navigate through the mine fields of misinformation, myth and memory. Say something negative, and you can be labeled insensitive to a dying man or, worse, a hater, even an anti-semite. Say...