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: Voice (UK) (7-27-06)
I approached Liverpool’s infamous Penny Lane half
expecting be blinded by bright camera lights flashing
from the cameras of those hoping to archive their
visit to the lane made famous by the Beatles in 1967
with the No2 hit of the same name.
Surprisingly an eerie silence greeted me, accompanied
by an idle breeze that spiralled past me and worked
its way down the lifeless, residential road. I found
it hard to believe that this quiet suburban street had
become the subject of the recent media hysteria.
Penny Lane, named after the wealthy slave trader James
Penny, was one of seven streets in Liverpool that
faced renaming after a local councillor made public
its links to the slave trade. The proposal,
spearheaded by Woolton councillor Barbara Mace was
intended to mark the bicentenary of the abolition of
SOURCE: Philadelphia Weekly (7-26-06)
The 19 homes on the cul-de-sac were similar in appearance—all single-story rectangular boxes with flat roofs, broad windows, natural wood siding and tubular metal chimneys soaring toward the sky. Certainly, these houses designed by the renowned architectural firm Montgomery...
SOURCE: Slate (7-24-06)
The opening scene of The History Boys—the Alan Bennett drama that, against the odds, has been enjoying Broadway success—shows a clever but cynical young historian advising British members of Parliament on how to sell a nasty bill that would restrict trial by jury. Irwin (no first name is given) suggests to the MPs that if they reassure their citizens that all crimes will meet with swift punishment, they can portray the bill as bolstering, not diminishing, civil rights. "Paradox works well and mists up the windows, which is handy," Irwin, drawing on his experience as a television historian, condescendingly explains. " 'The loss of liberty is the price we pay for freedom' type thing."...
SOURCE: Boston Globe (7-23-06)
What the suburbs never seem like is a setting for history. Dismissed as places without a sense of place, they also seem timeless, in a bad sense: Except for the square footage, what separates the Levittown of the 1950s from a new cookie-cutter subdivision? But though the subject doesn't have the sexiness of the Civil War or Jacksonian democracy, a growing number of historians are taking a close look at the `burbs.
``In any history of postwar America, the suburbs deserve center stage," write Kevin M. Kruse, an associate professor of history at Princeton, and Thomas Sugrue, a historian at the University of Pennsylvania, in their introduction to ``The New Suburban History" (Chicago), a new...
SOURCE: Truthout (AlterNet) (7-22-06)
SOURCE: Time (7-19-06)
This book is really off the sports beat. How did you come to write it?
I was tooling around the Internet, looking for ideas. I was on one of those on-this-date-in-history websites. I got up to July 30, 1916, and it was: "Terrorist Attack in New York Harbor Destroys Most of Downtown Manhattan." And I'm like, "Are you kidding me?" I hadn't heard anything about it.
SOURCE: New Politics Summer 2006) (7-1-06)
Veterans of Weather (as well as some fans) seem to be on a drive to rehabilitate, cleanse, and perhaps revive it -- not necessarily as a new organization, but rather as an ideological component of present and future movements. There have been signs of...
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed (7-21-06)
As far back as I can remember, I have been fascinated by what has been called the "Black Power" movement. As a young boy in the 1980s, I sat mesmerized before public-television documentaries about the civil-rights struggles of the 1960s. But for me that decade truly came alive through the powerful, often fleeting images of Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, Kathleen Neal Cleaver, and Black Panthers, who seemed bolder and more glamorous than anything I had ever seen. In college I devoured books and articles about the movement, with its mysterious and taboo aura.
However, the more I continued to read (and by now in graduate school), the more frustrated I became by the paucity of material that took its...
SOURCE: NY Review of Books (7-19-06)
Gregor Dallas's 1945: The War That Never Ended can be read as setting the scene for this discussion. The Second World War cleared away the European empires, actual and aspiring, leaving the United States and the Soviet Union as the two contending superpowers. The collapse of the Soviet Union concluded the "unfinished business" of the war, by leaving the United States...
SOURCE: H-Diplo (7-20-06)
Eric Alterman, When Presidents Lie: A History of Official Deception and Its Consequences (New York: Viking, 2005).
Roundtable Editor: Thomas Maddux
Reviewers: Carolyn Eisenberg, Lloyd Gardner, Tom Nichols, Melvin Small, Randall Woods
Introduction by Thomas Maddux, California State University, Northridge
When did the first U.S. President lie to the American public about matters of war and peace, the focus of Eric Alterman’s study? Since George Washington did not have to face an investigative press, an independent prosecutor, or 24/7 television commentators, he probably relied more on withholding information on negotiations with England and France than public deception. Since I haven’t visited my lecture notes on Washington’s diplomacy for sometime, I welcome examples from H-Diplo members. I do recall Bradford Perkins’ lectures at the University of Michigan, particularly the degree to...
SOURCE: Counterpunch (7-19-06)
[Vicente Navarro is Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at the Pompeu Fabra University, Spain, and The Johns Hopkins University, USA. In 2002 he was awarded the Anagrama Prize (Spain’s equivalent to the Pulitzer Prize in the USA) for his denunciation of the way in which the transition from dictatorship to democracy has been engineered, in his book Bienestar Insuficiente Democracia Incompleta, De lo que...
SOURCE: Common Dreams (7-17-06)
One way to measure the fears of people in power is by the intensity of their quest for certainty and control over knowledge.
By that standard, the members of the Florida Legislature marked themselves as the folks most terrified of history in the United States when last month they took bold action to become the first state to outlaw historical interpretation in public schools. In other words, Florida has officially replaced the study of history with the imposition of dogma and effectively outlawed critical thinking.
Although U.S. students are...
SOURCE: Common-Place.org (7-1-06)
I have a friend who’s always ranting about the fact that historians can no longer handle a good scholarly fight. Mea culpa. Wimp. Coward. That’s me. I have never written anything that put a shot across another historian’s bow. My first book was about a subject historians don’t much care about: language. Insofar as it got any play, it was among the lit crit crowd. And my subsequent work has been tame to the point of cowardly solicitude. I would place most of it in a genre who’s origins lay with the very curse my friend believes to have been visited upon historians. That genre—usually referred to as microhistory—has little ambition at all when it comes to disproving another scholar’s thesis. It is, abashedly, about telling stories that, much like short stories, somehow move the reader by evoking distant experience and place. It also inclines toward the blatantly...
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed (7-17-06)
... When Disney died on December 15, 1966, according to his obituary in Variety, he had earned 31 Oscars, six Emmys, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and was under serious consideration for the Nobel Peace Prize.
The first soot in the pixie dust was thrown by the film critic Richard Schickel in The Disney Version: The Life, Times, Art, and Commerce of Walt Disney (Simon and Schuster, 1968). In Schickel's revisionist retelling, Disney was not the fairest of them all. The avuncular front concealed a miserly control freak whose capitalist pursuit usurped "the two most valuable things about childhood — its secrets and its silences."
Since Schickel, Disney criticism and scholarship has been more likely to ink a picture of Scrooge McDuck...
SOURCE: WSJ (7-17-06)
Though he continued his ultimately successful fight to win the Cold War, Reagan achieved nothing new--practically nothing--after the Iran-contra scandal broke in 1986. His presidency was crippled. The Republicans had lost the Senate. His nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court in 1987 was defeated, partly because of feeble White House support. His veto of a transportation bill was overridden.
The question was innocent enough, but it reflected a broader pattern of misrepresentation of Ronald Reagan's record in the White House that has become not only widespread but widely accepted. Reagan was, I believe, one of the greatest presidents of the 20th century, but many of the things that both liberals and...
I would like to respond to Sadao Asada’s review of my book, Racing the Enemy [published in Journal of Strategic Studies 29/1 (February 2006) 169–71]. He raises two important interpretive questions: whether or not there was a ‘race’ between Truman and Stalin, and which event, the atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki or the Soviet entry into the war, played a more decisive role on Japan’s decision to surrender.
On the first issue, I find peculiar Asada’s criticism that ‘two weeks are not long enough to sustain Hasegawa’s thesis [on the race].’ Whether a 100-meter dash, or a marathon, a race is a race, irrespective of the duration. Moreover, I depicted the ‘race’ in a longer time span. Stalin’s frantic preparations for the war by transporting troops and equipment to the Far East under the cloak of neutrality and exploiting Japan’s attempt to terminate the war through Moscow’s mediation to delay Japan’s surrender is one...
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed (7-14-06)
The theologian Thandeka tells of being faced with a daunting request during her first meal with a woman she had recently met. The new acquaintance, a descendant of the New England elite, urgently wanted to know "what it felt like to be black." Trusting in the sincerity and openness of her questioner, but knowing that racial understanding had to also involve self-knowledge, Thandeka proposed that the woman play the "race game" before the two met again. The game, as described in Thandeka's brilliant 1999 book Learning to Be White: Money, Race, and God...
SOURCE: WSJ (7-12-06)
At the 1880 Republican Convention in Chicago, as James Garfield beat Ulysses Grant for the presidential nomination, the post of running mate was still open. Among the candidates was Blanche Bruce, 39-year-old senator from Mississippi and a key player in the party. In his home state, he occupied positions crucial to local influence--county sheriff, tax assessor, school superintendent, county commissioner. In the balloting by convention delegates, Bruce placed fifth in a field of nine, a showing strong enough to grant him a high place in Garfield's administration should the GOP win. But even a lesser tally might have been judged a triumph. After all, Bruce was black.
The episode is one of many striking tales in the rambling but informative "The Senator and the Socialite," Lawrence Otis Graham's chronicle of three generations of the...
SOURCE: WSJ (7-13-06)
Suppose that a man with Bill Clinton's charisma and wayward habits were the son of Billy Graham and had become the most famous liberal preacher in the country. He might be something like a contemporary equivalent of the 19th-century superstar pastor Henry Ward Beecher.
Though surpassed in fame by his sister, "Uncle Tom's Cabin" author Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry Ward Beecher became renowned for his antislavery campaigns before the Civil War and thereafter was regarded as America's most influential cleric in an age of public piety. Then in 1875 he was tried on charges of adultery with the wife of a famous protégé. For a year he stood at the center of a bad-publicity maelstrom before the case was dismissed due to a hung jury. His charm was so great that he survived with his reputation only slightly tarnished.
SOURCE: Forward (7-7-06)
On July 12, France will celebrate the centennial of the acquittal of Alfred Dreyfus, the Jewish military officer whose false indictment on a charge of treason set off a political scandal in the country.
In a certain light, it would seem that the Dreyfus Affair — and the environment in which it emerged — has long since been buried. Yet Dreyfus has remained an iconic part of the political landscape in France. Even the openly antisemitic leader of the extreme rightwing National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen, has taken to comparing himself with the wronged officer. Indeed, recent acts of anti-Jewish violence over the past few years have prompted direct invocations of the persecution of Dreyfus. The most horrific of these was this...