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: http://www.tolerance.ca (10-15-07)
There is a controversy raging among American Jews which may get even hotter in the coming days. The issue arises because the U.S. Congress will once again be asked to vote for a bill recognizing the Armenian genocide of 1915. One might think that this would not be a difficult issue for the Jewish community but unfortunately several of the major Jewish organizations in the United States have seen fit to intervene against the bill.
First, let me explain to those of you who are not well acquainted with the events of 1915 that an overwhelming number of historians recognize that the Turkish government of the day engaged in the pre-meditated murder of between 1 and 1.5 million Armenians. Jewish holocaust scholars including Raul Hilberg,...
W. C. Fields, as previously noted in Sightings, once announced that he'd spent years studying the Bible, looking for a loophole. For fifty years Christian and other leaders have been reading the Bible looking for one line in it that might justify the popular philosophy of Ayn Rand, whose novel Atlas Shrugged is still selling 150,000 copies a year, fifty years after its initial publication. Despite her philosophy's frontal attack on selflessness, generosity, community-mindedness, and similar merits, Rand has made her mark in a civilization considered to have been deeply influenced by the Judeo-Christian worldview that values such virtues.
In my Oxford edition of the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, pages 862 to 1237 are"The Prophetical Books;" pages one through 159 in the New Testament are"The...
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE) (10-15-07)
Toward dusk on the evening of October 21, 1967, a burly federal marshal took hold of my feet, dragged me away from the plaza in front of the Pentagon where I had been sitting in, and pulled me down the adjacent embankment, before depositing me on the pavement of the building's north parking lot. I was then 16 years old, a high-school junior from a small town in Connecticut on my first trip to the nation's capital. I picked myself up — bruised, dusty, and choking from tear gas — and limped back across the bridge connecting Arlington, Va., to Washington.
All in all, I thought, it had been the best day of my life.
It was probably not the best day in the life of Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara — but then, it had been quite some time since he had had a good...
SOURCE: http://canadafreepress.com (10-10-07)
North America may be reviled as ‘the Land of the Infidels’, but according to Muslim Imam, al-Hajj Talib ‘Abdur-Rashid, it is the Muslims and not the seafaring Columbus who discovered it.
This tops the whopper category edging out Islam claims that Moses was not a Jew but the first Muslim.
“(A) ncient Arabic (Muslim) language maps, Native American tribes with African names and words clearly embedded in their languages, statues, diaries, artifacts, etc. destroy European imperialistic notions of history rooted in White Supremacy...those very same Muslim African explorers...who were already present in the Caribbean and North America, before the bearers of the Cross arrived,” elaborates this enlightened Imam.” (Political Mavens.com, Sept. 21, 2007).
"Once at a pre-Sept. 11, 2001 national meeting of leaders, this writer was asked something like, “Why is it that Muslim African American men so often seem angry when...
SOURCE: NYT Book Review (10-14-07)
The romantic history is a checkered one. It begins with the radiant, lighthearted Rebecca Burwell, who in 1763 spurned 20-year-old Tom, to his embarrassment. Five years later, he aggressively pursued a married woman, the wife of a close friend. The overtures continued for some time, probably into Jefferson’s marriage to Martha Wayles Skelton. Under duress he came about as close to acknowledging his lapse as have others in his situation. “When young and single I offered love to a handsome lady,” he conceded later, without noting that the lady in...
SOURCE: Blog (10-12-07)
In a sensational bit of sleuthing, Barbara Frale, a medievalist at the Vatican's Secret Archives, stumbled in 2001 on Processus Contra Templarios, a compilation of original documents dating from 1307-12 on the French trial of the Knights Templar and the Vatican's response.
Here is some background on of this longest lived of all"secret societies" from my book, Conspiracy: How the Paranoid Style Flourishes, and Where It Comes From (Free Press, 1997), pp. 57-59, to explain why this piece of medieval news still matters intensely to some people today:...
SOURCE: Vanity Fair (11-1-07)
... To be sure, Kennedy did not discount the importance of words in rallying the nation to meet its foreign and domestic challenges. Winston Churchill's powerful exhortations during World War II set a standard he had long admired. Kennedy was hardly unmindful of how important a great inaugural address could be. He asked Sorensen to gather suggestions from a variety of people, and to make the address as brief as possible. "I don't want people to think I'm a windbag," he said.
But Kennedy intuitively grasped that communicating...
SOURCE: Boston Globe (8-18-07)
THE CONTROVERSY in Watertown over the Anti-Defamation's League's anti-bigotry program, "No Place for Hate," has struck an important chord in the historical and global struggle for human rights. Moreover, it reopened a deep wound for the Armenian people, whose nation was devastated, half their population murdered, and the remainder deported in what was the first genocide of the 20th century.
The tragedy is compounded by the denial by Turkey itself. In 1915, Henry Morganthau, then US ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, worked tirelessly to bring the genocide to the world's attention and warned the US secretary of state that "a campaign of race extermination" was occurring against "peaceful" Armenians.
The New York Times published 145 articles in 1915 and stressed that what was happening to the Armenians was a...
If the resolution before us stated that fact alone, it would pass unanimously.
The controversy lies in whether to make it United States policy at this moment in history to apply a single word, genocide, to encompass this enormous blot on human history.
The United Nations Convention on Genocide defines the term as a number of actions, and I quote, “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.”
These actions include killing or causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group and deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction, in...
SOURCE: Washington DeCoded (10-11-07)
[Sheldon M. Stern, a member of the editorial board of Washington DeCoded, served as historian at the John F. Kennedy Library from 1977 through 1999. He is the author of Averting ‘The Final Failure’: John F. Kennedy and the Secret Cuban Missile Crisis Meetings (2003), and The Week the World Stood Still: Inside the Secret Cuban Missile Crisis (2005), both in the Stanford University Press Nuclear Age Series.]
For those who lived through it, the 1962 missile crisis was surely the most terrifying event of the Cold War.
After President Kennedy’s sober revelation on the evening of October 22, I was so unsettled that I took a long walk through the streets of Cambridge, Massachusetts. I thought it might be my last, or at least my last with the city’s infrastructure intact. All the while I glanced skyward, believing—incorrectly—that I would be able to see incoming, nuclear-tipped Soviet missiles before they detonated.
As a 23-year-old graduate student in history,...
SOURCE: Sydney Morning Herald (10-12-07)
This was hardly surprising. After all, Stanner's Boyer lectures took place only a year after Australians voted in a referendum to end constitutional discrimination against Aborigines. One fifth of West Australians voted against the referendum, so did 14 per cent of South Australians and 11 per cent of Queenslanders. In NSW 8.5 per cent of voters, one in 12 people, opposed recognising Aborigines.
Stanner's was the first shot in the campaign that has become known as the history wars. Battles have raged for nearly four decades over the way the colony was settled and whether or not Aborigines and Islanders were dispossessed or subjected to a form of cultural genocide as academics and politicians sought...
SOURCE: Hollywood Reporter (10-12-07)
I found myself among the hardworking, patriotic, loyal Americans who watched "The War." I wouldn't want to be "those other people."
President Bush once said that those other people cut and run. I don't want to do that. I've been accused of being too subtle a voice, so I don't want to put too fine a point on it. I'll just call them America-hating cowards.
AHCs aside, I was so hooked on Ken Burns' documentary "The War," I knew I would watch every installment. It became something of a soap opera in my house. My 12-year-old son, West, would demand to be filled in on the parts he missed -- who died, who lived, where they were. I thought about taking notes.
Everywhere I went in my travels around town, people would divide themselves into two groups -- us and the AHCs. Somehow, the AHCs always...
SOURCE: Independent (10-12-07)
Turkey's reign of terror against the Armenian people was an attempt to destroy the Armenian race. While the Turks spoke publicly of the need to "resettle" their Armenian population – as the Germans were to speak later of the Jews of Europe – the true intentions of Enver Pasha's Committee of Union and Progress in Constantinople were quite clear.
On 15 September 1915, for example (and a carbon of this document exists), Talaat Pasha, the Turkish Interior minister, cabled an instruction to his prefect in Aleppo about what he should do with the tens of thousands of Armenians in his city. "You have already been informed that the...
SOURCE: Huffington Post (Blog) (10-11-07)
So there will be considerably less bleating coming from the American people during the campaign ahead. Because six years after 9/11, six years after Ari Fleischer warned Americans they "need to watch what they say, watch what they do," six years after Graydon Carter declared the death of the age of irony, and 278 years after Jonathan Swift made his Modest Proposal that Irish children be sold as food, we find ourselves living in a Golden Age of political satire -- Maher, Stewart, Colbert, who eviscerates Bush by defending him, and Borat holding a very disturbing mirror up to America.
In June 2005, soon after the Huffington Post launched, Danielle Crittenden, one of our original bloggers, began to publish her satiric take on the secret IM sessions of, among others, George W....
SOURCE: LAT (10-11-07)
Genghis Khan and his successors - the great conquerors who built the greatest continental empire in the world - have fascinated historians and writers for centuries. Still, in practically all countries that encountered Mongolian armies, Genghis Khan has almost never been seen in a positive light and none has tried to make him its own.
Russia, which had been swept by Mongolian hordes in 1237-1240 was no exception, at least throughout Russian modern history. Both tsarist and Soviet historians invariably presented the Mongols - called Tartars by the Russians - as a great evil; and the centuries-long struggle against them was lionized in public discourse. The situation has changed in the post-Soviet era where, all of a sudden, various segments of...
SOURCE: Nation (10-29-07)
The War, directed and produced by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, is a strange, lumbering beast. In the past few weeks, it has consumed more than fourteen hours of PBS programming--in both G-rated versions and with a few curse words left in--and has generated discussions, promos, localized versions, web material, a coffee-table book and who knows what else. Burns has said that he devoted...
SOURCE: Townhall (9-26-07)
Unfortunately, the current mania for exaggerating America’s culpability for the horrors of slavery bears no more connection to reality than the old, discredited tendency to deny that the U.S. bore any blame at all. No, it’s not true that...
In a contest sponsored by The National Trust for Historic Preservation, the public will determine via online voting (which ended October 10th) how one million dollars is to be distributed among twenty-five historic Chicagoland sites. The demarcations between "sacred" and "secular" sites are not always clear—Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Cathedral clearly fits in the former category and the Independence Park clubhouse in the latter; Bohemian National Cemetery may be harder to classify. But the contest raises important issues concerning the preservation of sacred spaces, which can hardly be ignored in any urban environment.
Those that frequent Chicago Avenue just west of the Dan Ryan Expressway know St. Boniface church well; cats and pigeons know it intimately. The giant shipwreck of a building...
SOURCE: Commentary Magazing (blog) (10-11-07)
The Turkish government is furious about a vote in the House International Relations Committee condemning as “genocide” the killing of some 1.5 million Armenians by the Turks in 1915.
The issue is an old and vexing one, and I confess to not being entirely in sympathy with either side. The Turks, for a start, are absurdly worked up about a mere piece of paper condemning actions taken not by the current government of Turkey or by its immediate predecessors but by another entity entirely—the Ottoman Empire, which ceased to exist in 1922 when it was replaced by a new Turkish state headed by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. The massacres of 1915 (which were indeed an attempted genocide—see Samantha Power’s powerful book, A Problem from Hell) were carried out by the Young Turks. Therefore, the current government in Ankara could very easily say: Yes, there were terrible acts committed by the...
SOURCE: Commentary Magazing (blog) (10-11-07)
Are there people out there who take Wikipedia seriously as a source of objective information? There shouldn’t be, but unfortunately there are. In fact, lots of students use it a source of first resort. It’s so popular, that whenever you type almost any subject into Google, the first hit is usually for a Wikipedia entry.
Yet disinformation abounds, often motivated by animus or prejudice. There is, for instance, the by-now famous story of a former assistant to Robert F. Kennedy who was brazenly—and completely without foundation—accused on Wikipedia of complicity in the assassinations of both JFK and RFK. (For this sorry tale, see his article.)
A friend has now called my attention to another bizarre distortion, this one an attempt not to besmirch the character of one man but of an entire country. If you look up the Philippine War (1899-1902) you get this...