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: New Yorker (4-10-06)
SOURCE: counterpunch.org (4-10-06)
In 1968, the tragic events in the first week of April turned the world upside down. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed in Memphis on Thursday, April 4. He was there to support sanitation workers who were on strike. In a recent interview with Amy Goodman of Pacifica Radio's "Democracy Now", Harry Belafonte described the sequence of events that day. He was in Atlanta when Coretta King received the news of her husband's death. The grieving Mrs. King asked him to help select the clothes for her deceased husband's showing and funeral. She expressed her concern, like all the rest of us in America, about the aftermath of his assassination and what she could or should do. Belafonte recommended that she continue in...
SOURCE: dissidentvoice.org (4-7-06)
In one theatrical episode, evoking laughter and applause from thousands of soldiers and Marines, Fonda played the part of an aide to President Richard Nixon.
“Richard,” she exclaims. “There’s a terrible demonstration going on outside.”
Nixon replies: “Oh, there’s always a demonstration going on outside.”
Fonda: “But Richard. This one is completely out of control. They’re storming the White House.”
“Oh, I think I better call out the 3rd Marines.” Nixon exclaims.
“You, can’t, Richard,”...
SOURCE: dissidentvoice.org (4-10-06)
I can’t think for you
You’ll have to decide
Whether Judas Iscariot
Had God on his side.--Bob Dylan
The National Geographic Society has dramatically raised the curtain on the long lost “Gospel of Judas,” which depicts Judas and his action of betrayal in a positive light. It was known to have been composed by the 2nd century but a copy was only found in Egypt three decades ago. Having admirably underwritten the long process of reconstructing and translating the text, the Society has embarked on a massive public relations campaign to sell its magazine coverage, television special and two new books about the gospel. I just wish it would do so with a little more scholarly dispassion and a little less hype.
The text is described on the Geographic’s website as “a lost gospel that could challenge what is believed about the story of Judas and his betrayal of Jesus.” The video preview, to an ominous musical background,...
SOURCE: Timesonline (UK) (4-8-06)
The Classical Association meeting at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne yesterday examined our fetishes for stick-insect female bodies, and found them unclassical. Anyone who was seen any Greek art knows that Greek nude male statues tend to be very modestly endowed: there is a preference for discreet, sometimes exaggeratedly small, genitalia. Few of them measure up to the eight-fingered Milesian dildos fondly imagined by Aristophanes’ Lysistrata.
Emma Stafford, of Leeds University, argued that small penis size was equated with ideals of youth, self-control and citizenship. It was linked with the conventions of the ideal homosexual relationship, in which the younger partner was expected...
SOURCE: WSJ (4-10-06)
Modern men and women have always had a soft spot for Judas Iscariot. Unlike Dante Alighieri who in his "Inferno" consigned poor Judas to the lowest spot in hell, his head locked between Satan's jaws, our contemporaries are more likely to let him off with a slap on the wrist or, better yet, to exonerate him altogether.
It's enough to remember the 1973 play "Jesus Christ Superstar," and Judas's solo "Damned for All Time." In it Judas sings, "I have no thought at all about my own reward / I really didn't come here of my own accord." Four years later Taylor Caldwell published her novel "I, Judas," and attempted to humanize Judas, depicting him as the victim of a diabolical lie, rather than the perpetrator of divine betrayal.
The publication last Thursday of an English-...
SOURCE: AlterNet (4-10-06)
One hundred forty-one years ago today, General Robert E. Lee issued "General Orders No. 9," instructing all Confederate troops to "return to their homes." On the previous day, April 9, 1865, he had surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant, ending the Civil War.
But what if the roles had been reversed? What if it had been Lee accepting Grant's surrender? Certainly, we'd be living in a very different America today -- or would we?
Those are the questions addressed by "CSA: The Confederate States of America," currently showing in theaters around the country. The film presents an alternative history in which the nation that emerges from the Civil War becomes, by the 21st century, an exclusively Christian imperialist power, run by and for prosperous white men and regarded by most of the world as a bizarre aberration. In other words, "CSA" is a work of fiction that's...
SOURCE: tcsdaily.com (4-6-06)
On June 6, 2004, the 60th anniversary of D-Day, French President Jacques Chirac stood before hundreds of American veterans of the Allied invasion of Normandy at the American Cemetery at Colleville-Sur-Mer, where their fallen comrades are buried. Chirac pledged to the veterans that France had not forgotten their sacrifices. "To the entire American nation," he said, "...to all those men and women who paid the heavy price of those heroic days, I want to address the message of France: a message of friendship and brotherhood, of recognition and gratitude."
And he continued: "Having experienced the long ordeal of war and occupation, France is aware of all it owes to the United States of...
SOURCE: Newsweek Book Excerpt from Meacham's American Gospel (2006) (4-10-06)
Things could have gone either way. Samuel Adams of Boston spoke up. "Mr. S. Adams arose and said he was no bigot, and could hear a prayer from a gentleman of piety and virtue who was at the same time a friend to his country...
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Education (4-7-06)
I want to propose the end of American history as we have known it. "End" can mean both "purpose" and "termination," and I have in mind both those meanings. I want to draw attention to the endto which national histories, including American history, have been put. They are taught in schools and brought into public discourse to forge and sustain national identities, presenting the self-contained nation as the natural carrier of history. That way of writing and teaching history has exhausted itself. In its place, I want to elaborate a new framing for U.S. history, one that rejects the territorial space of the nation as a sufficient...
SOURCE: Slate (4-6-06)
Think murder by poison, and Lucrezia Borgia comes quickly to mind. Willful, beautiful, sexually promiscuous, and by historical reputation ruthless, she was said to rival her brother Cesare and her father, Pope Alexander VI, in jealousy, intrigue, and homicide, dispatching those who thwarted her with a dash of white arsenic in their drinks. But in a recent biography—Lucrezia Borgia: Life, Love, and Death in Renaissance Italy—Sarah Bradford has contended that Lucrezia Borgia never killed anyone. Bradford argues that Borgia's reputation was tarred by her family's political enemies in Renaissance Rome and further blackened by Victorians who disapproved of her unrestrained sexuality and strong-minded independence. Her image might have been widely restored (or smeared) by a film about the Borgias that Oscar-winning director Neil Jordan was to begin shooting next month....
SOURCE: Newsletter -- Education Gadfly (4-6-06)
History, science, and the arts are being de-emphasized by most schools in order to make room for teaching basic reading and math skills, according to a new study. Who's to blame for this? Critics of reform point to the No Child Left Behind law.
And they're right to do so--to a point. NCLB mandates that schools boost achievement in reading and math--only reading and math--or face tough consequences. The incentive has worked, to the surprise of some, but so, too, has the law of unintended consequences.
This is not the only example of that phenomenon. NCLB puts pressure on educators to get all students to a low level of proficiency, so schools ignore kids at the top of the class. The law leaves the standards-setting to the states but ties sanctions to the results, so the states ''race to the bottom'' and lower their standards. And...
SOURCE: Atlantic (4-5-06)
Hamilton Jordan, the White House chief of staff, knew immediately that the president had made a decision. Planning and practice for a rescue mission had been going on in secret for five months, but it had always been regarded as the last resort, and ever since the November 4 embassy takeover, the White House had made every effort to avoid it. As the president launched into a list of detailed questions about how it was to be done, his aides knew he had mentally crossed a line.
Carter had met the takeover in Iran with tremendous restraint, equating the national interest with the well-being of the fifty-three hostages, and his measured response had elicited a great deal of admiration, both at home and abroad. His approval ratings had doubled in the first month of the crisis. But in the following...
SOURCE: NYT (4-4-06)
It was a stormy night on the Sea of Galilee and the disciples were out in a boat, battling a contrary wind, when they saw Jesus approaching, as if a spirit. "And he went up to them into the ship; and the wind ceased," it is written in Mark 6:51. "And they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered."
Doron Nof also wondered, in a measured, scientific way. A professor of oceanography at Florida State University, he conducted an inquiry and found what might be a natural explanation: ice.
Writing in The Journal of Paleolimnology, Dr. Nof and his colleagues point out that unusual freezing processes probably occurred in the region in the last 12,000 years, icing over parts of freshwater Galilee. This has not happened in recent history, but there...
SOURCE: Historically Speaking (1-1-06)
Racing the Enemy is an opportune arrival for the increasingly beleaguered critics of the American use of atomic weapons against Japan, who, in the historians’ debate over the bomb, usually have been classified as “revisionists” (as opposed to “...
SOURCE: NYT (4-2-06)
It's possible that as the doctors worked desperately to overtake the flood of blood draining from him, he may have dreamed, as dying people are supposed to do, about his past life. We only know that he survived and cheated death — if not dementia — for another couple of decades.
Without being as speculative a biographer as Lytton Strachey was about Queen Victoria drifting off, I think it more likely that Ronald Reagan's dreams were of days and years to come. (He had had a near-death experience once before, from viral pneumonia in 1947, and wrote a vivid account of it.) Even in youth, and in abundant good health, Dutch Reagan showed a freakish ability to remember, as it were, his own future.
His teenage short stories, which I discovered in a trunk of junk in the...