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: Handout from Hyperion (publisher) (5-31-06)
SOURCE: Is That Legal? (Blog) (5-29-06)
A synagogue visit last August and recent news of a contemplated visit to Israel were welcome moves; they left me hopeful that my concerns about airbrushing and avoidance of responsibility were wrong.
On Sunday, Pope Benedict visited Auschwitz and dashed those hopes.
His remarks there were a huge disappointment, and a confirmation of my worst fears about this pope and his stance toward his, and...
SOURCE: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (5-29-06)
That sounds like the opening salvo of an advocate for Intelligent Design or some other religiously driven critique of the theory of evolution.
But it actually summarizes the ideas of Jeffrey Schwartz, a noted anthropologist at the University of Pittsburgh and one of a growing group of critics of standard Darwinian theory.
Most of the recent publicity Dr. Schwartz has received has focused on his role in creating life-sized replicas of George Washington for display at Mount Vernon.
Much of his career, though, has been devoted to human evolution and the history of Charles Darwin's ideas.
In criticizing Darwin, Dr. Schwartz does not dispute his theory that humans, animals and plants evolved from other species. In fact, one of his books, "The Red Ape," argues that orangutans, not chimpanzees, are the closest evolutionary relatives of human beings....
SOURCE: Oswiecim (5-29-06)
"Words fail in this place. Only a devastated silence can stand here -- a silence that is a necessary cry to God: Why were you silent?" That's how he begins his address. Standing in front of the stone with a German inscription, he thinks of Edith Stein, whom his predecessor John Paul II beatified, "a Jew and a German, who disappeared in the horror of the night of German Nazi concentration camps, along with her sister" and who "belongs to the witnesses of the truth and goodness that hadn't perished in our people."...
The word "guilt" is never used. There is no "mea culpa," neither with regard to anti-Semitism in the Church, nor with regard to...
SOURCE: Der Spiegel (5-30-06)
In an interview with SPIEGEL, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad discusses the Holocaust, the future of the state of Israel, mistakes made by the United States in Iraq and Tehran's nuclear conflict with the West. [Excerpt]
SPIEGEL: First you make your remarks about the Holocaust. Then comes the news that you may travel to Germany -- this causes an uproar. So you were surprised after all?
Ahmadinejad: No, not at all, because the network of Zionism is very active around the world, in Europe too. So I wasn't surprised. We were addressing the German people. We have nothing to do with Zionists.
SPIEGEL: Denying the Holocaust is punishable in Germany. Are you indifferent when confronted with so much outrage?
Ahmadinejad: I know that DER SPIEGEL is a respected magazine. But I don't know whether it is possible for you to publish the truth about the Holocaust....
SOURCE: Japan Focus (5-27-06)
[It is well known that Japan’s neighbors, especially China and South Korea, are unhappy at what they see as Japan’s failure to accept responsibility, apologize and compensate victims for its wartime crimes and colonial abuses. What is less well known, however, is the Japanese state...
SOURCE: Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) (5-30-06)
Robert Hefner is Director of the Program on Islam and Civil Society at Boston University and author of Civil Islam: Muslims and Democratization in Indonesia (Princeton, 2000). This essay is based on his presentation at FPRI History Institute’s May 6-7, 2006 conference on Islam, Islamism, and Democratic Values.
We in the West have long identified Islam with Arab culture. In one sense this is reasonable enough. After all, the Quran and the canonical accounts of the actions and sayings of the Prophet Mohammed (the Hadith) are all written in Arabic, and Muslim scholars insist that a proper study of these sacred works is possible only in Arabic. The holy lands to which Muslims daily turn in prayer, and to which they are enjoined to make the pilgrimage at least once in their life if they have the means, are also located in Arab lands. And during the first century of their spectacular expansion from the Arabian...
SOURCE: New Yorker (5-29-06)
SOURCE: frontpagemag.com (5-26-06)
“The bomber will always get through …The only defence is offence. You have to kill more women and children more quickly than the enemy if you want to save yourself.” – Stanley Baldwin, November 10, 1932 “War is a nasty, dirty, rotten business. It’s all right for the Navy to blockade a city, to starve the inhabitants to death. But there is something wrong, not nice, about bombing that city.” – Marshal of the Royal Air Force, Sir Arthur “Bomber” Harris On February 13, 2005, a large crowd of Germans gathered in Dresden to mark the 60th anniversary of the Allied bombing of that city. The massive attack carried out by the Royal Air Force Bomber Command (RAF-BC) and the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) over two dreadful nights on February 13-14, 1945, killed an estimated 45,000 German civilians. It along with Hamburg, Monte Cassino, Hiroshima and Nagasaki,...
SOURCE: Wa Po (5-28-06)
The holiday's gone blurry. Now it's mostly fun (ballgames, setting up the barbecue, another day off work), but it used to be for focused recollections of the dead.
Not the dead in general, the dead in sharp particular. Half a million soldiers had died in the Civil War. When the rites were first observed in 1866, there were plenty to recall.
Each spring at the end of May, their graves were strewn with flowers, their faces brought to mind. This was deeply serious business. The fallen mustn't be forgotten. We used words like "the fallen" then. That seriousness bred art. That art would shape the country's look, and Washington's especially. Vast amounts of money, artistry and effort would be expended on its making. The beauty of the art would illumine its high purpose -- to immortalize remembrance. Strewn flowers weren't enough. The fallen would be given stone-and-metal...
SOURCE: Christian Science Monitor (5-12-06)
Once the home of a Confederate philosopher-king - a Renaissance man with an austere streak of Calvinism - T.R.R. Cobb's house had gone down through the decades as a rectory, an apartment building, and even a frat house. Finally, it was shipped off in pieces 50 miles away to Stone Mountain, where it languished under tarps for nearly 20 years, brooded over by Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and Jefferson Davis, the Confederate triumvirate whose visages are etched there in stone.
Two years ago, the return and looming renovation of the Greek Revival mansion positioned Southern heritage proponents against a neighborhood upset over losing public space to the clapboard legacy of a prominent slavery defender, whose biggest triumph was penning most of the Confederate constitution....
SOURCE: WSJ (5-24-06)
No one visiting Jerusalem can escape the gilt dome and shining tiles of the Dome of the Rock. In contrast to the sensuous solidity of the yellow-brown Palestinian masonry that surrounds it, it is a colorful, striking and architecturally unique monument on the vast platform of the Haram al-Sharif, "the Noble sanctuary," the Muslim space in the third holiest city in Islam. That space is also called "the Temple Mount," because of its association with the second Jewish Temple destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70, as its shape and many of its means of access were determined by Herod the Great's monumental creation of the first century.
The visual power and aesthetic appeal of the Dome of the Rock have made this Muslim holy place a standard feature of Israeli tourism...
SOURCE: Critical Asian Studies 38:2 (2006), 239-263 (5-1-06)
ABSTRACT: This article reassesses Soviet motives for invading Afghanistan in 1979, based on newly available archival materials, especially from the former USSR. The article argues that these Soviet documents show that the 1979 invasion reflected defensive rather than offensive objectives. Specifically, the USSR sought to restrain extremist elements of the Afghan communist party, who were undermining stability on the southern Soviet frontier. The findings of this article are at odds with with long-standing views that the invasion of Afghanistan was part of a larger Soviet strategy aimed at threatening the Persian Gulf and other western interests.
The December 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was clearly a major turning point in the history of the cold war. The invasion was the largest single military action by the Soviet Union since 1945, and the Afghan crisis had...
SOURCE: Japan Times (5-24-06)
Unfortunately, he has little or no professional knowledge of environment, anthropology, archaeology or history -- or if he does, he has kept it off his Web site and well hidden from the public.
Nevertheless, in September 2004 Roche was appointed Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, and now has "sole discretion in deciding whether any archaeological site is a national monument and what to do with it -- including authorising its demolition," according to Frank McDonald, Environment Editor of the Irish Times, writing in a March 2006 article.
And authorizing demolition is exactly what Roche has done. Not just one or two historical sites, but demolition on a grand scale: a 60-km, four-lane motorway that will condemn 700...
SOURCE: Christian Science Monitor (5-17-06)
It took trips to opposite corners of the globe to settle my opinion as to whether museums' collections represented the "preservation" or "theft" of other cultures' artifacts.
In Australia, the Melbourne Museum broadcasts this debate through a video featuring actors playing two 19th-century historical figures - a museum curator and an Aboriginal chieftain. Baldwin Spencer, who collected 5,000 objects from indigenous Aboriginals, argued that anthropology preserved history. Irrapwe, an Arrernte leader known as "King Charley," argued it was theft of culture.
Since Aboriginal law differentiates between men's and women's knowledge and prohibits entire races from even seeing their cultural icons, I left Australia secure that native cultures should reserve the absolute right to control their artifacts.
But after having recently spent months in Oxford...
SOURCE: frontpagemag.com (5-23-06)
To shy away from pointing out the deep Islamic roots of the material leads one to the impression that this material originates with the Saudi Wahhabis, when in fact it is a much broader problem within the Islamic community worldwide. If Freedom House and its allies were somehow to...
SOURCE: AlterNet (5-19-06)
Yet such sweeping proclamations never quite rung true. Those weren't the people I knew when I was a kid: the aging organic farmers, the people living on and running a commune founded long before I was born, the self-sacrificing teachers and social workers, the lawyers who gave up a big paycheck for a good cause, or my friends' parents, who managed the local Kinko's and were anything but wealthy. Those weren't the adults I later met who sometimes struck me as more radical in their ideals and extreme in their political convictions than my college classmates. Maybe these folks weren't the vanguard of the revolution, but neither were they getting rich from selling it out. Instead, they were just regular people trying to make ends meet and live by their principles.
My family spent the '80s and '90s, long after the spirit of...
SOURCE: Baltimore Sun (5-16-06)
Not too many people get doctorates in history at age 48, as I did this year.
At a time when business and technology careers are venerated, and more idealistic mid-life career-changers tend to gravitate to service professions such as theology, social work, government and teaching, U.S. history might seem like a particularly eccentric choice.
The experience impressed me, as an American, with the fundamental importance of knowing our nation's great and troubled, heroic and quirky story as almost a requisite for good citizenship.
The idea that good citizenship depends on a basic understanding of our nation's past does not mean that 300 million Americans should slog through a Ph.D. program. Yet at a time when...
SOURCE: WSJ (5-19-06)
Like the Bible but unlike Mr. Brown's novel, most of the books in the sales Pantheon have had utilitarian staying power--McGuffey's Reader, the Guinness Book of Records, Noah Webster's "The American Spelling Book," Dr. Spock's baby book and the World Almanac. Now comes "The Da Vinci Code," selling twice as many copies as the 30 million attributed to Jacqueline Susann's "The Valley of the Dolls."
"The Valley of the Dolls" was about people having sex. "The Da Vinci Code" is about Jesus leaving Mary Magdalene pregnant with his baby while he dies on the cross. So in a sense, Mr....
SOURCE: WSJ (5-19-06)
May 20 sees the 200th anniversary of the birth of John Stuart Mill, the greatest exponent of 19th-century liberalism, whose philosophy still dominates jurisprudence in the English-speaking world. Mill was a many-faceted intellectual who wrote on all aspects of philosophy, on law and morals, on political economy, and on poetry and the arts. His home-schooling at the hands of his father, the economist and historian James Mill, was a model of rigor, causing him to read and write Greek aged 6, to master Latin aged 9, and to have acquired a thorough grounding in history and mathematics aged 10, when he began work on a history of Roman government. Mill later developed a taste for poetry, acquired a perfect knowledge of French, and, despite his agnostic upbringing, read deeply in the Bible, which he believed to be one of the two Great Books, the other being Homer.