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: Miami Herald (5-30-08)
Primary sources are original materials that enable the historian to discover what actually happened. More than 30 years ago, my interest in local black history began with a search for original photographs, letters, documents, oral history tape recordings and other material created first-hand by individuals and groups during Miami's Jim Crow era.
Original material was brought out of long-forgotten boxes, cupboards, garages and memory. Through photographs, text and voice, the people began telling the story themselves.
Recently, a college yearbook came to my attention. It was published before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion or national origin. The Falcon 1962, Vol. 1 was...
SOURCE: National Review Online (5-30-08)
There’s an anniversary this week we might do well to recall. On May 29, 1453 — just 555 short years ago — troops led by Mehmed II broke through the walls of the ancient Christian capital of Constantinople.
Mehmed the Conqueror — as he would be known from that day forward — rode triumphantly into the city on a white horse. Soon, churches would be converted into mosques. Constantinople would become Istanbul.
“For the West this was a dark moment,” writes historian Efraim Karsh in his masterful book, Islamic Imperialism. “For Islam it was a cause for celebration. For nearly a millennium Constantinople had been the foremost barrier — physically and ideologically — to Islam’s sustained drive for world conquest and the object of desire of numerous Muslim rulers.”
SOURCE: NYT (5-29-08)
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“It’s forbidden to forbid,” proclaimed Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the French-born German Jew who led the May ’68 Paris uprising. His slogan, silly-looking now, was less important than his border-crossing identity, a rebuke to countless European silences, prejudices, taboos, lies and murders.
Now, once again, we find ourselves a generation on from the ending of a global war, the cold one of the Berlin Wall. Once again, idealism and youth involvement in politics are awakening in the United States, gathered around a thirst for change and the rejection of a status quo Bush successor. We’ll see what comes of these...
SOURCE: Historically Speaking (4-1-08)
Being asked to write for the readers of Historically Speaking feels a bit like being a plumber who, by accident, has been invited to speak to a conference of heart surgeons. For I’ve had no graduate training, in history or anything else. And sometimes I encounter an assumption that writers of history for the general public (like me) and historians inside the academy belong, like plumbers and heart surgeons, to two separate professions; each with its place, perhaps, but with an unbridgeable gulf between us.
Writers of history for the public, the assumption goes, skip over complexities, prefer heroic subjects and, like Doris Kearns Goodwin or the late Stephen Ambrose, carelessly borrow others’ words without attribution. Or they sometimes simply invent details or...
SOURCE: WaPo (5-25-08)
The last known surviving U.S. veteran of what was once called the Great War, Cpl. Frank Buckles of Charles Town, W.Va., recently toured the World War I memorial in Washington. Accompanied by his daughter and an aide, the wheelchair-bound 107-year-old rolled around the small, temple-like structure, stopping occasionally to acknowledge the applause of the small crowd that had gathered to watch. He did not comment upon the memorial's unkempt appearance -- it has been neglected for three decades -- but noticed that it honored only veterans from the city. "I can read here," he said in a soft, barely audible mumble, "that it was started to include the names of those who were local."
No one, apparently, had told him that the United States has no national World War I memorial. Buckles...
SOURCE: Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) (5-26-08)
This weekend, we mark the 140th anniversary of the first official observation of the holiday we now call Memorial Day, as established by General John A. Logan’s"General Order No. 11" of the Grand Army of the Republic dated 5 May, 1868. This order reads in part:"The 30th day of May 1868 is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers and otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land." Logan’s order served to ratify a practice that was already widespread, both in the North and the South, in the years immediately following the Civil War.
Alas, for many Americans today,...
SOURCE: Boston Globe (5-25-08)
UNTIL RECENTLY, IF you were a historian and you wanted to write a fresh account of, say, the Battle of Leyte Gulf in World War II, research was a pretty straightforward business. You would pack your bags and head to the National Archives, and spend months looking for something new in the official combat reports.
Today, however, you might first do something very different: Get online and pull up any of the unofficial websites of the ships that participated in the battle - the USS Pennsylvania, for example, or the USS Washington. Lovingly maintained by former crew members and their descendants, these sites are sprawling, loosely organized repositories of photographs, personal recollections, transcribed log books, and miniature biographies of virtually every person who served on board the ship. Some of these sites even include...
SOURCE: Nation (5-21-08)
Forty years ago this month, Father Daniel Berrigan walked into a draft board in Catonsville, Maryland, with eight other activists, including his brother, Father Philip Berrigan, and removed draft files of young men who were about to be sent to Vietnam. The group carted the files outside and burned them in two garbage cans with homemade napalm. Father Berrigan was tried, found guilty, spent four months as a fugitive from the FBI, was apprehended and sent to prison for eighteen months.
Father Berrigan, unbowed at 87, sat primly in a straight-backed wooden chair as the afternoon light slanted in from the windows, illuminating the collection of watercolors and religious icons on the walls of his small apartment in upper Manhattan. Time and age...
SOURCE: Academic Questions (3-24-08)
By the early 1990s, when I began studying the Vietnam War, the American public had largely lost interest in the history of that conflict. The Civil War and World War II were the wars that historians were advised to cover if they wanted to reach the public. Among government officials, military officers, and political scientists, Vietnam was considered irrelevant, because the United States would never get caught in protracted counterinsurgency warfare again. Iraq changed all that. Ever since the outbreak of insurgency in the former empire of Saddam Hussein, people of all persuasions have been mining the history of Vietnam for information that will support their preferred Iraq policies. Hundreds of thousands of American troops sent to Iraq and Afghanistan have received more...
SOURCE: Slate (5-19-08)
"Moreover, in our time, these threats are not diminishing … [and] in these new threats, as during the time of the Third Reich, are the same contempt for human life and the same claims of exceptionality and diktat in the world."—Vladimir Putin, May 2007
No, by citing these two quotations, I am not drawing comparisons between George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin, two vastly different men. Nevertheless, it is clear from the above that Bush and Putin, despite their vast differences, do share a common ailment: They both suffer from the inexplicable need to inject the Nazis into current political debate whether they belong there or not.
SOURCE: Editorial in english.chosun.com (5-16-08)
Just 60 years after its founding, the Republic of Korea emerged from the ruins of the Korean War and being the poorest country in the world to the world’s 13th largest economy, and it achieved democracy in the process as well. This is something that our children can be proud of. But over the last 10 years, the government has rejected this history of accomplishment and was intent on erasing it. In Kim Dae-...
SOURCE: http://www.scoop.co.nz (5-18-08)
Don't ask for what you never had,' is the underlying message made by supporters of Israel when they claim Palestine was never a state to begin with.
The contention is, of course, easily refutable. Following the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th Century, colonial powers plotted to divide the spoils. When Britain and France signed the secretive Sykes-Picot agreement in 1916, which divided the spheres of influence in west Asia, there were hardly any 'nation-states' in the region which would fit contemporary definitions of the term.
All borders were colonial concoctions that served the interests of the powerful countries...
SOURCE: Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) (5-1-08)
SOURCE: NYT (5-18-08)
... No one wishes to hear the Palestinian story. Their history has been written by the victors: Israel has thus succeeded in blotting out its “original sin,” as the French author Dominique Vidal referred to the situation. Were it not for the courageous voices of Israeli “new historians” like Ilan Pappé, the world would not have come to admit that a people had been expelled from their land in a comprehensive ethnic cleansing operation, given the name “Plan D” by Israelis.
As Israel celebrates the 60th anniversary of its independence, it is pointedly ignoring two truths: First, that there is another people, composed of the previous inhabitants of the country, who consider that anniversary to be a day of national disaster, and...
SOURCE: WaPo (5-16-08)
Washington is debating the design of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial, to be built on four quiet acres among the cherry trees along the Tidal Basin. The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts -- the final arbiter of memorial aesthetics -- recently judged a proposed, 2 1/2 -story granite sculpture of King too "confrontational," comparing it to toppled statues of Lenin.
Whatever the artistic merits of socialist realism, the memorial controversy parallels a renewed debate on King's half-carved image in our history.
As Barack Obama attempted to extricate himself from his 20-year association with the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., some Obama supporters claimed that Wright's anger is really not so different from King's -- that both preachers represent a distinguished tradition of African American outrage. King, they said, was a radical in his own way, and his message should not be...
SOURCE: Volokh Conspiracy (blog) (5-16-08)
A paper read at the meeting of the American Historical Association in Chicago, July 12, 1893. It first appeared in the Proceedings of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, December 14, 1893, with the following note:"The foundation of this paper is my article entitled 'Problems in American History,' which appeared in The Ægis, a publication of the students of the University of Wisconsin, November 4, 1892... It is gratifying to find that Professor Woodrow Wilson--whose volume on 'Division and Reunion' in the Epochs of American History Series, has an appreciative estimate of the importance of the West as a factor in American history--accepts some of the views set forth in the papers above mentioned, and enhances their value by his lucid and suggestive...
SOURCE: WashingtonDecoded (website run by Max Holland) (5-11-08)
It has often been said that lurid theories about the Lincoln and JFK assassinations have thrived because neither John Wilkes Booth nor Lee Harvey Oswald received their day in court. The concept of due process is so embedded in the American psyche, in other words, that its denial inexorably gives rise to conspiratorial explanations.
The aftermath of Robert F. Kennedy’s June 1968 assassination, however, challenges this somewhat comforting observation.
In this instance, the assassin was literally caught red-handed—tackled by Kennedy’s bodyguards moments after the shots were fired, a .22 caliber revolver still in hand. When the trial of Sirhan Bishara Sirhan...
SOURCE: New Statesman (5-8-08)
The Pentagon Papers (the 7,000-page, top-secret US government report into the Vietnam War) are proof of this: right after the Tet Offensive, the business world turned against the war, because they thought it was too costly, even though there were proposals within the government - and we know this now - to send in more American troops. Then LBJ announced he wouldn't be sending any more troops to Vietnam.
The Pentagon Papers tell us that, because of the fear of growing unrest in the cities, the government had to end the war - it wasn't sure that it was going to have enough troops to send to Vietnam and enough troops on the domestic front to quell the riots....
SOURCE: Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center (5-9-08)
It was given that honor back on May 14, 1948, because of its thick walls and small windows. As has been the situation so many days since, there was a war on. Within hours of the ceremony, the Egyptians bombed Tel Aviv, hitting a nursing home for senior citizens not far away.
About six months earlier, in November, the UN had voted to partition Britain’s Palestine mandate into two states, one Jewish and one Arab, the plan to be implemented on May 15, 1948. The Jews had accepted; the Arabs rejected.
Almost immediately after the UN voted, irregular Arab forces launched...
SOURCE: Frontpagemag.com (5-15-08)
FP: Paul Kengor, welcome back to Frontpage Interview.
Kengor: Always great to be back, Jamie.
FP: We’re here today to revisit Ted Kennedy’s reaching out to the KGB during the Reagan period. Refresh our readers’ memories a bit.
Kengor: The episode is based on a document produced 25 years ago this week. I discussed it with you in our earlier interview back in November 2006. In my book, The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism, I presented a rather eye-opening May 14, 1983 KGB...