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 Republic (12-12-07)
The key moment in the History Channel's "1968 with Tom Brokaw" comes when Brokaw interviews my onetime colleague, the historian Alan Brinkley. Brokaw prompts Brinkley, "The left went too far, excessive in its behavior on a daily basis?" Brinkley replies, obligingly, "Well, there were excesses on the left, needless to say--" and then: Wham! Down comes the editor's digital X-Acto knife. We don't hear the end of that sentence, nor do we hear any real historical analysis in the rest of Brokaw's two-hour film, whose secret subtitle is "How Hippies Ruined America."
The documentary rests on a sound, if familiar, premise: The critical year in modern American politics was 1968. Look back one...
SOURCE: Newsweek (12-17-07)
Her leap propelled her to freedom. She grew up to be a 5-foot-1 chemist who, 26 years later, led the development of a bomb efficient at killing America's enemies in Afghanistan's caves. As a result, fewer American soldiers have had to enter those caves to engage Osama's fighters. This is Anh Duong's story.
The U.S. Navy took her and her family to Subic Bay in the Philippines. Next stop was a refugee camp in Pennsylvania. After five months this Buddhist family was adopted by the First Baptist Church in...
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (12-11-07)
It also helps children to understand what it means to be British. In France and America, history reinforces their national pride. America, indeed, has a Museum of History in Washington, as does Germany in Berlin.
Such a museum in this country would show the position of Britain as a world power and as a European power, and what over the centuries it has given the world. It would also demonstrate how Britain came together as a nation.
National pride should not just be a matter of cheering cricketers, rugby and football players. In modern times the basic freedoms that we live by - free speech, no arbitrary arrest, free democratic elections and universal suffrage are the gifts we have given to many...
SOURCE: Britannica Blog (12-10-07)
... For decades there has been a systematic debasement of the role that knowledge plays in an education. This was exemplified for me in a talk I recently heard by a well-known education professor who said that he didn’t care if kids knew the kind of “trivial pursuit” question of where Kansas is. What he cared about, he said, was whether kids could “think critically” about the causes and effects of the Civil War. Any student of American history could have told him that knowing the location of Kansas is integral to understanding the causes of the Civil War. But by pushing for a system of...
SOURCE: Washington DeCoded (12-11-07)
Newspapers constantly make mistakes.
Anyone who works on an issue that makes news knows this. Reporters, in their haste to convey the gist, invariably gloss over nuances that mean everything to the people who follow an issue closely. Complexities are reduced to inaccurate simplicities, that is, when there is any kind of effort to describe them at all.
Yet sometimes it is not reporters’ fault. A case in point was the recent release of tens of thousands of historical records from the Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library. The release was portrayed as if it were the Nixon Library’s initiative, when in fact, the most arresting documents only came to light because of the diligence of individual requesters and independent institutions, like the National Security Archive.
The November 28 release totaled approximately 122,800 pages of records, which were made publicly available for...
SOURCE: Japan Focus (12-6-07)
A crop of new movies released to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Nanjing Massacre is set to again dredge up the controversy about one of the 20th Century’s most notorious events. How will Japan react?
One way to learn what happened in one of history’s most noxious but disputed episodes is to ask Mizushima Satoru. After what he calls “exhaustive research” on the seizure of the then Chinese capital by Japanese troops in 1937, estimated to have cost anywhere from 20,000 to 300,000 lives, Mizushima offers a very precise figure for the number of illegal deaths: zero.
“The evidence for a massacre is faked,” explains the president of right-wing webcaster Channel Sakura. “It is Chinese communist propaganda.” For support, he brandishes a book containing what he says are dozens of doctored...
SOURCE: Times (London) (12-7-07)
Demonstrating the relevance of history is the goal of the History and Policy website, a collaboration of Cambridge University, the Institute of Historical Research and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. This involves a network of historians and 60 short briefing papers on topics such as climate change and national identity.
What history can contribute was the theme of a lively symposium in the Churchill Museum in London on Wednesday. Professor David Reynolds argued that historians could help via case studies from the past, such as by providing a larger sense of process, beyond the short-termism of normal politics; and thinking in time. The right question, he said, was not “What’s the problem?”, but “What’s the story?” – meaning: “How did we...
SOURCE: Boston Review (11-1-07)
... The once “forgotten founder” [Alexander Hamilton] is now the subject of a PBS American Experience feature, which aired in the spring and is likely to live on in classrooms on DVD. Between scenes of bewigged actors reciting their characters’ written prose in awkward soliloquy, Chernow and a raft of other historians relate an even more vaulting story than those told in the exhibit and the biographies. Some of the talking heads give Hamilton virtually sole credit not only for founding the American financial system, but for the country’s very nationhood.
There’s a wonkish side to the Hamilton revival too. Certain policy writers, way ahead of the curve, have been contributing to its torque, shooting Hamilton’s legacy past history buffs and toward the halls of power. In 1997 David Brooks and...
SOURCE: Japan Focus (11-24-07)
... Despite their desire to isolate the Japanese in Hawai’i and the fact that Hawai’i was the most obvious place for a ‘fifth column’ to exist ... only about 1,700 key community leaders were ever evacuated from Hawai’i and interned on the mainland (National Archives, RG210 and Office of the Secretary of War, RG107). Why were the majority of Japanese-Hawaiians spared the fate of the mainlanders?
The fact that Japanese constituted the largest ethnic group and Chinese a second large group, was among the reasons why ideas about the ‘inscrutable Oriental’ and fear of the ‘yellow peril’ were not felt as strongly in the Hawaiian Islands as they were on the mainland. Another reason was their integration into the local culture. From the early twentieth century, it was predominantly Japanese and Hawaiian cultures that merged to...
SOURCE: American Prospect (11-22-07)
Indeed, from television (where Mad Men has faithfully recreated the furnishings, boozy smell, and chronic sexual dishonesty of the New York executive suite circa 1960), to the celebrated 50th anniversary of Jack Kerouac's On the Road, to the current political debate, we seem to be awash in 1950s nostalgia. While most of the Republican presidential candidates have life experiences more reminiscent of The Ice Storm than The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, all invoke a vision of the patriarchal, orderly family of post–World War II suburban fantasy. And in their approaches to the world, all recreate that combination of belligerent, can-do triumphalism with mortal terror not seen since the decade of duck-and-cover drills, before...
SOURCE: International Herald Tribune (12-3-07)
So the Spanish cardinal says to the young King Juan Carlos, "Your Highness, there is good news and there is bad news." The king naturally asks for the good news first. The cardinal answers, "Generalissimo Franco is dead." The king is pleased to hear it. "What's the bad news?" he asks. "The bad news is — you have to tell him."
The assumption in 1975, the year of Francisco Franco's death, was that he would live forever. Hence the joke. The ruthless leader of the Fascist forces that overthrew the Republican government during Spain's bloody Civil War, Franco had outlived his allies and enemies both, and an air of invincibility clung to him. The Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939, still has an analogous indelibility in the broader mind. In part because of writers like Hemingway and Orwell, and legends of the International Brigades, including the American Abraham Lincoln...
SOURCE: International Herald Tribune (12-3-07)
We are all out there, at different times and on different days, always looking. It's a search for information, it's a search for family, and, in the end, a search for self.
We know all the Web sites, like ArmyAirforces.com and b24proboards, and a handful of others. We use them to reach out, ask questions, exchange information and hunt again for more information.
One is looking for friends of his uncle, listed as KIA in 1943; another for fellow crew members of a father or grandfather. In many cases, the person he or she is looking for never came back from this World War II. Or, if he did, he never talked about it, and now it is too late to ask.
So, we look and we seek, because we want to find out more about our families, more about a war that is ever more distant, and more, ultimately, about ourselves....
SOURCE: Britannica Blog (12-4-07)
Thanksgiving puts a smile on the face of cranberry farmers, poultry farmers, sweet-potato farmers, and bookies. Valentine’s Day gives the executives at Hallmark a warm fuzzy feeling. Come Mother’s Day, florists are the happiest people in town, having jacked up their prices by orders of magnitude that would bring a federal suit down on any other industry. Easter is a...
SOURCE: FrontpageMag.com (12-3-07)
“Suffocate the bitch.”
It was June 27, 1950, when these savage words were spoken to a hangman behind the thick, grim walls of Prague’s Pankrac Prison in communist Czechoslovakia. The unfortunate soul the executioner was instructed to make suffer as much as possible before her death that day was Czech national heroine and anti-communist dissident, Milada Horakova.
“Don’t break her neck in the noose” – “Suffocate the bitch - and the others too” was the full, hideous text of hatred spoken just before the extinguishing of Horakova’s life.
On the day before her execution on trumped up charges of treason and espionage, the 49-year-old woman and Czech democrat had received a heart-wrenching visit on death row from her 16-year-old daughter and only child, Jana, who, to this day, remembers her mother’s “enormous courage...
SOURCE: Renehan Blog (12-2-07)
During September of 1868, barely a month after the death of his wife Sophia, 74-year-old mogul Cornelius Vanderbilt made the acquaintance of two sisters with whom he was to have a complex and absurd relationship for several years going forward.
Victoria Woodhull was a 30-old clairvoyant and spiritualist. She was also a onetime prostitute. Victoria's nubile, 22-year-old sister, Tennessee Claflin, known as Tennie, shared a similar professional history. Tennie claimed expertise as a practitioner of medicinal magnetism and manual manipulation of the limbs.
The two had been born in Ohio. They spent their...
SOURCE: Jerusalem Post (11-29-07)
Six months ago - on May 16 - The Jerusalem Post featured a report about our book Foxbats over Dimona: The Soviets' Nuclear Gamble in the Six-Day War. Our book challenged the almost universal consensus on the origins and conduct of the conflict that has shaped the Middle East ever since.
We demonstrated that the crisis and war of May-June 1967 were deliberately instigated by the USSR, which jointly with Egypt and Syria planned to provoke Israel into a first strike. This would brand Israel as the aggressor and legitimize a direct Soviet military intervention to assist an Arab counterattack. One of the Kremlin's main motives, and a factor that determined the timing, was the Soviets' intent to prevent Israel from attaining nuclear weapons.
In that Post report, historian Michael Oren became the first of several critics who disparaged our thesis on the grounds that they (or we) had not found "any documentary...