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: Emails to HNN (4-17-07)
Mark Kramer 4/17/07
Mark Kramer is Director of Cold War Studies at Harvard University and a Senior Fellow at Harvard's Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies.
In his commentary on the Alger Hiss case, “Hiss in History” (Apr. 16), Victor Navasky refers to General Dmitrii Volkogonov, a long-time Soviet military-political officer and military historian, who became a senior military adviser to Russian president Boris Yeltsin in the early 1990s. Specifically, Navasky writes that:
in 1992, the Russian historian general Dmitry A. Volkogonov, after ordering a search of a full range of official Russian government repositories with information about Soviet intelligence operations, including KGB files and military intelligence - or GRU files - told Hiss attorney John Lowenthal and the world, in a videotaped interview that Hiss had not been a spy. . . . Volkogonov subsequently conceded...
SOURCE: FrontpageMag.com (4-20-07)
When I first began to plan my short biography of Thomas Jefferson, I found it difficult to research the chapter concerning the so-called Barbary Wars: an event or series of events that had seemingly receded over the lost horizon of American history. Henry Adams, in his discussion of our third president, had some boyhood reminiscences of the widespread hero-worship of naval officer Stephen Decatur, and other fragments and shards showed up in other quarries, but a sound general history of the subject was hard to come by. When I asked a professional military historian—a man with direct access to Defense Department archives—if there was any book that he could recommend, he came back with a slight shrug.
But now the curious reader may choose from a freshet of writing on the subject...
SOURCE: Alternet (4-19-07)
By the time Hill...
SOURCE: Tribune Media Services (4-17-07)
A simple mistake, one that anyone could make, and isn't that true of all of them? Divorce, episodes of...
SOURCE: NewsMax (4-17-07)
"They fought like tigers," writes the CIA officer who helped train the Cubans who splashed ashore at the Bay of Pigs 46 years ago this week. "But their fight was doomed before the first man hit the beach."
That CIA man, Grayston Lynch, knows something about fighting – and about long odds. He carried scars from Omaha Beach, The Battle of the Bulge and Korea's Heartbreak Ridge. But in those battles Lynch and his band of brothers could count on the support of their own chief executive. At the Bay of Pigs, Grayston Lynch (an American) and his band of brothers (Cubans) learned — first in speechless shock and finally in burning rage — that their most powerful enemies were not Castro's Soviet-armed soldiers massing in Santa Clara, Cuba, but the Ivy League's best and brightest conferring in Washington.
Grayston Lynch put...
SOURCE: Britannica Blog (4-19-07)
In honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day this week, it’s worthy to wonder: What’s the difference between Holocaust denial in the West and Holocaust denial as practiced by the President of Iran and his followers?
In the West, Holocaust denial challenges the fundamental history of the Holocaust — gas chamber, crematoria, systematic killing of Jews, the personal participation of Hitler in imposing what the Nazis called “The Final Solution to the Jewish Problem.”
Holocaust denial in the Muslim world is part of the migration of discredited myths – including the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion and the conspiracy of world domination, the blood libel, and even the charge of deicide — which have been rejected in the post-Holocaust world by Western...
SOURCE: Independent (UK) (4-16-07)
Many of the reports last week of Kurt Vonnegut's death mentioned his most famous novel, Slaughterhouse 5, and the events that inspired it. In February 1945, the city of Dresden was devastated by several nights of air raids by British and American forces; tens of thousands were killed in the firestorm that the bombing spawned. Vonnegut was one of many Allied prisoners of war put to work clearing the dead; Slaughterhouse 5, with its science-fiction plot-devices and air of childlike simplicity, was his response to scenes of horror that challenged rational description or moral sophistication.
Putting a precise number on the dead is impossible in such circumstances. The figure given in Slaughterhouse 5, several times, is 135,000 -- as the book says, much worse than Hiroshima. On Thursday morning, the day Vonnegut's death was reported, "The Today...
SOURCE: Chicago Tribune (4-15-07)
He claimed it was about World War II, but it couldn't have been. Not really. It was Vietnam, right? Had to be. The pointlessness. The gore. The absurdity. That novel had Vietnam written all over it -- in letters stamped crisp and deep, like the data on a dog tag.
Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse-Five" (1969) was ostensibly about one war but wound up being interpreted as a commentary on another. As admirers of Vonnegut, who died last Wednesday at 84, point out, that's a common fate for a war novelist: You write about one hell, you're automatically connected to a fresher one.
"Writers have to sidestep sometimes to get people to look at things," says Bill Savage, senior lecturer in English at Northwestern University. "Any war novel is essentially about every war. What all war stories have in common is the dehumanizing effects they have on the people who fight them."
And so it was...
SOURCE: Brooke Allen at Britannica Blog (4-17-07)
In response: Mr. Novak is concerned, in his most recent posting, with drawing some very fine lines. My purpose in writing Moral Minority was rather more basic. It was, very simply, to address a statement that I had heard George W. Bush and various members of his administration make frequently, as though it was a widely acknowledged fact: “This country was founded on Christian principles.” It appeared to me that many if not most Americans believed this to be true (having vague memories of learning about the Pilgrim Fathers in school) and I felt that a very simple and basic introduction to the ideas, statements, and personal philosophies of some of the most famous and influential founders was in order. I also felt that it was important to use the Founders’ own words whenever possible, to let them speak for themselves.
SOURCE: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com (4-16-07)
... I'm on leave this year. Instead of teaching and urging seniors to read piles of books and ransack the darkest corners of JSTOR, I've been doing it myself. And I've had a little time to reflect on an issue that oddly connects the world of workshops and seminars with that of seniors writing theses: Collaboration.
In the sciences and the social sciences, collaboration is normal. In Nature and other scientific journals, the authors of articles come not as individuals but as battalions. Teams of professors, postdocs, grad students and undergraduates — sometimes several teams at several universities — carry out big experimental projects. Many practitioners of the so-called hard social sciences like demography do the same. Distinguished economists often have writing partners (to hire one great economist...
SOURCE: http://bushlibraryblog (4-14-07)
Some very lengthy observations on a rainy Saturday evening, drawn from the National Journal article (hidden from some readers of this blog behind a subscription wall) and from comments made by the Air Force historian about electronic recordkeeping. I will be interested to see if these stories about email spark additional interest in electronic recordkeeping among historians. There is plenty of food for thought, so I'll throw out some observations.
In her April 14, 2007 article, "Gonzalez on the Griddle," to which Froomkin refers, Alexis Sindlinger writes in the National Journal that in a speech in 2001, George W. Bush said "that he was worried about his private communications being preserved for history in the National Archives."
Ms. Sindlinger notes that soon after George W. Bush took office in 2001, he discovered that "the 1978 Presidential...
SOURCE: NYT (4-15-07)
What you’re really looking at is a philosophy of history. The museum was set up in 1938, when scholars still spoke confidently of mankind’s upward march from primitive culture to higher civilization. History is portrayed here as a great, unified story, with crucial pivot moments when humanity leapt forward — when people first buried their dead, when they moved from animistic faiths to polytheism, when they learned to cultivate reason and philosophy.
These days, historians hate those...
SOURCE: NYT (4-13-07)
Turkey has long tried to deny the Armenian genocide. Even in the modern-day Turkish republic, which was not a party to the killings, using the word genocide in reference to these events is prosecuted as a serious crime. Which makes it all the more disgraceful that United Nations officials are bowing to Turkey’s demands and blocking this week’s scheduled opening of an exhibit at U.N. headquarters commemorating the 13th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide because it mentions the mass murder of the Armenians.
Ankara was offended by a sentence that...
SOURCE: Spero News (4-12-07)
The new Greek textbook seems a sensible attempt to match the teaching of history to current Greek reality. Among its goals is to downplay the inevitability of national/racial/religious conflict in the Balkans, to reduce the sense of Greek victimisation by hostile outsiders and to weaken the myth that Greek national independence is a gift of the church.
Thousands of young Greek university graduates wait ten years on a roster for appointment as a schoolteacher. The pay is miserable, and they start their career in a remote village. If they looked more carefully at the Greek history they aspire to teach, they might well opt for another profession.
The Iraq on our television screens resembles late Ottoman Macedonia a century ago. When Greek, Bulgarian or Vlach freedom fighters arrived in the village in 1907, the...
Contrary to common belief in her field that even important figures in communities of the time wore earth-toned woolen clothing, Ms. Fleming writes that "hard, tough, serious individuals" -- including "men who served as royal counselors, oversaw the executions of criminals, bullied peasants, and fought and died at Hastings" -- would, on important occasions, dress "like peacocks, kitting themselves out ... in loud, shiny get-ups, dressing in robes decorated with elephants or wildcats, and sporting garish tunics banded with gold-embroidered trim."
At first, most of the silks came from Byzantium, and were hard for Europeans to come by, she says. English...
SOURCE: Nation (4-12-07)
E.M. Forster's A Passage to India ends with a poignant exchange between Aziz, a young Muslim doctor, and Fielding, a Briton sympathetic to Indians. Though Aziz is acquitted of the false charge of molesting a British woman, he is deeply wounded by the experience and wants nothing to do with the colonial race. Fielding, an old friend, seeks him out and asks why they cannot be friends again.
But the horses didn't want it--they swerved apart; the earth didn't want it, sending up rocks through which riders must pass single file; the temples, the tank, the jail, the palace, the birds, the carrion, the Guest House, that came into view as they issued from the gap and saw Mau beneath: they didn't want it, they said in their hundred voices. "No, not yet," and the sky said, "No, not there....
SOURCE: NY Post (4-8-07)
And it's not just that the institution most entrusted with preserving democratic society and Western civilization - the school system - is betraying that trust.
The really scary sentence is this: "Some teachers are reluctant to cover the atrocity for fear of upsetting students whose beliefs include Holocaust denial."
Get it? These kids are told at home or by Muslim preachers that the Holocaust never happened - teachers aren't challenging that misinformation, they're shutting up so as not to disturb a world view based on lies.
SOURCE: 2 op eds in the San Francisco Chronicle (4-11-07)
[David Gelernter is a national fellow of the American Enterprise Institute.]
Israeli government authorities are building a ramp to allow non-Muslims to reach the enormous platform atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The old ramp was condemned as unsafe and torn down several years ago. The interim ramp that replaced it was designed for short-term service only. (Muslims have their own private access routes.) The new ramp is controversial. Some ramp must be built or non-Muslims will have no way to reach the site; but leading Israeli experts say that the ramp under construction will disturb an archeological garden outside the Mount's boundaries, and ought to be moved.
Still, Muslim complaints (and blood-curdling threats) to the contrary, the new ramp poses "no risk whatsoever to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which stands about 100 meters to the east," says the eminent archaeologist Eilat Mazar of the Hebrew University and the...
SOURCE: http://www.momentmag.com (4-1-07)
As usual, Albert Einstein hadn’t dressed for the occasion. Most of the 40 or so young men waiting for him that Friday night in January at Princeton’s Murray-Dodge Hall sported the “college man’s” uniform of 1947—their best tweed sport coats and shined loafers. But their guest of honor, when he finally showed up, was wearing a baggy sweatshirt, soft-soled slippers and no socks.
Einstein padded to the front of the room to give a short talk—not about the theory of relativity, special or general, or even the unified field theory he was currently working on at the nearby Institute for Advanced Study. Rather, Einstein had a few words to share about the importance of identifying as a Jew. He “stressed that it was important for Jews to be part of a Jewish community,” a student would later recall in his notes on...
SOURCE: Column in the WaPo (4-11-07)
Then a KGB defector named Yuri Nosenko surfaces in Geneva and tells his CIA handlers that he knows the Soviets had nothing to do with Oswald. How is Nosenko so sure? Because he handled Oswald's KGB file, and he knows the spy service had never considered dealing with him.
For many spy buffs, the Nosenko story has always seemed too good to be true. How convenient that he defected at the very moment the KGB's chiefs were eager to reassure the Warren Commission about Oswald's sojourn in Russia. What's more, Nosenko brought other goodies that on close examination were also suspicious -- information that seemed intended to divert the CIA's attention from the possibility that its...