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: Guardian (UK) (9-29-08)
Roy and Lesley Adkins's many books include Trafalgar, which tells the story of the war at sea in Napoleonic times, and their latest book Jack Tar, looking at life in the navy in Nelson's era.
"Vice-admiral Lord Horatio Nelson was perhaps the ultimate tragic hero, who died in his hour of triumph at the Battle of Trafalgar (October 21 1805). He held the position of national hero throughout the 19th century to become the best-known figure in British history. Few people have had more books written about them than Nelson – over a thousand so far, and yet there always seems to be newly discovered material or a new way of approaching the subject to justify another book. On this, the 250th anniversary of his birth, here are some of the best."
1. Nelson: Britannia's God of War by Andrew Lambert
To have any hope of understanding the man himself and his enduring celebrity...
SOURCE: Nixon Blog (9-26-08)
Leading up to tonight’s debate, articles and blog posts too numerous to count have repeated the accepted wisdom that Richard Nixon lost in 1960 for one reason: Because he performed poorly– or, rather, looked unwell — in the first of his debates with John F. Kennedy.
The folks at Gallup aren’t quite as definitive in their view:
Gallup trends show that Kennedy and Nixon were about tied among registered voters in August and September polls leading up to that debate. Immediately after it, Kennedy was ahead by 3 percentage points, and ahead by 4 points by the time the fourth debate was held in late October. Given Kennedy’s ultimate margin of victory in the popular vote of only two-tenths of a percentage point, it is clear the debates didn’t produce a major shift in the structure of the election, but this debate-period...
SOURCE: Japan Times (9-28-08)
So spoke Georgi Arbatov to American journalists in the 1980s, when his country, the Soviet Union, was going through the throes of perestroika (restructuring and reforming). Arbatov, founder of the USA and Canadian Institute in Moscow, adviser to Soviet leaders Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov and Mikhail Gorbachev, and confidant, throughout his long career, to a gamut of figures from German Chancellor Willi Brandt and Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme to Henry Kissinger and George H.W. Bush, has dedicated his life to domestic reform at home and positive diplomacy with the outside world.
Last year, he published his autobiography, "Detstvo Otrochestvo Voina (Childhood, Adolescence, War)," which I have just finished reading. As far as I am aware, the book has yet to be translated into any foreign language; and, publishers take note: This book affords stunning insights into the...
SOURCE: BBC (9-27-08)
In September 1966 an American spy satellite flew over a Soviet naval base on the Caspian Sea and took a series of photographs. This being the height of the Cold War, the results created quite a stir among the American intelligence community, because they showed an object, more than 100m long with inexplicably stubby, square wings, quite unlike anything they had seen before.
Their first guess was that this was a conventional aeroplane, possibly a seaplane, but one that was incomplete and much bigger than any aircraft the US had.
But when the pictures were examined more closely, intelligence analysts calculated that, even if completed, it would actually fly really badly....
SOURCE: National Association of Scholars (9-24-08)
No, sorry, speaking fluent French is not really what we had in mind by “diversity.” Do you by chance play the xylophone? What’s that? History scholarships? You mean something geared specifically towards outstanding high school history students? Ho! Ho! Good one.
SOURCE: WashingtonDecoded (website run by Max Holland) (9-11-08)
One big fat clue escaped all notice during the many years of guessing. It appeared in The Washington Post on June 17, 1973, a year to the day after the break-in and 10 months before Woodward and Bernstein’s 1974 best-seller, All the President’s Men, introduced the American public to Deep Throat. If this clue in plain sight had been remembered, it’s unlikely that “Who Was Deep Throat?” would have ever surpassed “Whatever Happened to Judge Crater?” as the national guessing game. It all but pointed the finger at W. Mark Felt because it indicated where Deep Throat worked in the federal government: the FBI.
In the late spring of 1973, just as Watergate was bursting open, a distinguished Washington...
SOURCE: New Republic (10-8-08)
... There is a whole culture in America that has believed the innocence of the Rosenbergs as doctrine and dogma. The texts of this culture are not scrupulous histories because such histories would undermine its beliefs. They are, instead, one novel and one play, fiction being more amenable to false history, both these cases being tales of the Rosenbergs' innocence. The narrative is E.L. Doctorow's The Book of Daniel, a best-selling book of the 1970s. The drama is Tony Kushner's phantasmagoric Angels in America, which won the Pulitzer Prize and features Ethel haunting the last days of Roy Cohn, who had been on the legal team prosecuting the Rosenbergs and boasted in his autobiography of convincing the judge to sentence them to death, an ugly boast about an ugly deed by an ugly man. The position of these literary works tells you something about the culture in which they still shine.
So what is the bunker...
SOURCE: http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it (9-23-08)
This is the first time that Joseph Ratzinger, as pope, has spoken out so directly about his great and controversial predecessor. He will speak about him again next October 9, at the Mass that will be celebrated on the 50th anniversary of his death.
The address by Benedict XVI made an even greater impact in that his judgment of the actions of Pius XII coincides with the relatively positive views expressed by the Jews of the Pave the Way Foundation.
Also during these same days, a book has been released in Italy by Andrea Riccardi, a professor of Church history and the founder of the Community of St. Egidio. His book is also very...
SOURCE: Jamie Glazov at frontpagemag.com (9-23-08)
FP: Larry Schweikart, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Schweikart: Hello again. This is getting to be regular. People will talk.
FP: People are already talking about it sir.
Today I would like to follow up on our last interview about your new book. One of the communist spies that you didn’t focus in on in 48 Liberal Lies is Alger Hiss. How do the college textbooks deal with him?
Schweikart: One of the worst offending textbooks, David Harrell et. al.’s Unto a Good Land, mentions Hiss on no fewer than four pages (more than...
SOURCE: national review online (9-22-08)
‘The Building which they built will never cease to be a cause of hypocrisy and doubt in their hearts, unless their hearts are cut to pieces. And Allah is all-Knowing, All Wise. Verily, Allah has purchased from the believers their lives and their properties; for a price, for theirs shall be Paradise. They fight in Allah’s cause, so they kill and are killed.”
This passage is from the Quran — Surah 9, verses 110-11. It occurs in Part 11 of the 30 parts of the Quran. Is this numerical echo of 9/11 pure coincidence? Maybe not.
After all, Surah 9, “Taubah” (Repentance), is the only chapter of the 114 chapters in the Quran that does not open with the salutation “In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate.” This is a purposeful elision, as there can be no mercy, no compassion for us infidels. This...
SOURCE: Times (UK) (9-23-08)
His voice shaking, Thabo Mbeki bid farewell to the presidency and the people of South Africa on Sunday, saying thank you in eight of the country's official languages. A personal tragedy for the President, it may prove a momentous turning point, Shakespearean in its grand political drama and flawed personalities.
Coriolanus - the Roman general too proud to beg for votes from the common people - is said to be Mr Mbeki's favourite play, but Friday's meeting of the African National Congress (ANC) leadership was more like Julius Caesar. It was Mr Mbeki's Ides of March as, one after another, “comrades” - as they still like to refer to each other - plunged their knives in. If nothing else, the unseemly haste of this political murder shows the depth of his unpopularity and the bitterness of the enemies he has sidelined....
SOURCE: Independent (UK) (9-17-08)
Eighty-nine years after he died in a flu pandemic, the body of Sir Mark Sykes was dug up last week – in the hope that his uniquely preserved remains may help provide a weapon against the killer virus.
At a solemn service before sunset in a rural Yorkshire churchyard eight days ago, a battered lead-lined coffin was reburied hours after being opened for the first time in 89 years. As prayers were recited, samples of the remains of Sir Mark Sykes, the aristocratic diplomat and adventurer whose grave had been exhumed, were being frozen in liquid nitrogen and transported to a laboratory with the aim of saving millions of lives.
During his life, Sir Tatton Benvenuto Mark Sykes succeeded – quite literally – in leaving his mark on the world map. As the British government's lead negotiator in a secret 1916 deal with France to carve up the Ottoman Empire, he laid the groundwork...
SOURCE: Special to HNN (9-21-08)
While Americans are focused on the 2008 Presidential election, it is important to note that this year also marks the bicentennial of James Madison's election as the fourth President of the United States of America. There are interesting parallels between the two events: national security is an issue of paramount import to this election, and our country was invaded in 1812 while Madison was president. As we compare partisan tickets and the qualifications of running mates, it is worth noting that it was in 1808 when a President and Vice President ran on the same ticket for the first time in our new nation.
We all learned in U.S. History class that it was James Madison who worked tirelessly for the ratification of the Constitution and wrote a third of...
SOURCE: Harvard Crimson (9-18-08)
Earlier this month, there appeared in my mailbox in New York City what seemed like an interesting white paper, “The Research Library in the Digital Age.” It was written by Robert Darnton, Carl H. Pforzheimer university professor and director of the Harvard University Library, and was forwarded to me by Frances D. Ferguson, chair of the Overseas Committee to Visit the University Library.
It seemed to hit all the points that have so excited me about the transformations underway at the Harvard libraries and in many of America’s great research libraries—indeed those that enabled me to write my latest book.
At least until I arrived at this passage where Professor Darnton describes his early career as a newsman in Newark, New Jersey:
“Having learned to write news, I now...
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (9-21-08)
Sunday marks the 65th anniversary of the midget submarine raid on the Tirpitz, one of the most courageous acts of the Second World War. James Delingpole meets surviving hero Commander John Lorimer.
'I had BBC Scotland round again the other day. Fourth bloody time they've been. I said: 'The only reason you want to talk to me is I because I won't be alive much longer…'"
Sitting at the home in rural Ayrshire he shares with his wife, Judy, Commander John Lorimer, DSO, sucks amusedly on his pipe – an erect, alert, irreverent 86-year-old not at all resembling a man who's going to keel over soon.
Well might a fellow be cheerful who has lived so far beyond his expected span. Sixty-five years beyond it, to be precise, for it was in September 1943 that he set off on a mission from which none was thought likely to return: Operation Source – the mission to...
SOURCE: The American Conservative (9-22-08)
Connoisseurs of homicidal book reviews have long treasured the virtuosic evisceration that British immunologist Sir Peter Medawar performed in 1950 on Teilhard de Chardin, that once fashionable Gallic mountebank. Of Teilhard’s The Phenomenon of Man, Medawar remarked, “its author can be excused of dishonesty only on the grounds that before deceiving others he has taken great pains to deceive himself.”
Sir Peter’s slashing verdict inevitably comes to a mind confronted with the work of currently hip British neocon Andrew Roberts. The historian has an influential admirer in George W. Bush, who after meeting Roberts in a London restaurant invited him to a second date in the White House. “To prove how serious he was,” Vanity Fair’s Vicky Ward reported, “Bush wrote down his personal phone number.” Roberts’s website boasts that at their later meeting, “he and his wife spent 40 minutes alone with...
SOURCE: Spiegel Online (9-18-08)
A number of Islamic associations have put a quick end to their collaboration with a professor -- and trainer of people who are supposed to teach Islam in German high schools -- who has expressed his doubt that Muhammad ever lived. Islam scholar Michael Marx spoke with SPIEGEL ONLINE about what lies behind the debate and the historical person of the Prophet.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Marx, someone studying Islam learns that the Prophet Muhammad was born on the Arabian Peninsula in A.D. 570 and died in Medina in A.D. 632. Is there any reason for doubting that this is true?
Michael Marx: Those are provisional dates that we should hold on to until there are better figures. The Islamic sources are rich with material about the person of the Prophet and his life story. Some of it is has elements that are somewhat mystical. But we can generally rely on the solid core of Islamic tradition.
SOURCE: LAT (9-17-08)
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed 55 years ago, on June 19, 1953. But last week, they were back in the headlines when Morton Sobell, the co-defendant in their famous espionage trial, finally admitted that he and his friend, Julius, had both been Soviet agents.
It was a stunning admission; Sobell, now 91 years old, had adamantly maintained his innocence for more than half a century. After his comments were published, even the Rosenbergs' children, Robert and Michael Meeropol, were left with little hope to hang on to -- and this week, in comments unlike any they've made previously, the brothers acknowledged having reached the difficult conclusion that their father was, indeed, a spy. "I don't have any reason to doubt Morty," Michael Meeropol told Sam Roberts of the New York Times.
With these latest events, the end...
SOURCE: Historians Against the War blog (9-18-08)
The most recent issue of the AHA’s Perspectives on History (September 2008) has a lead article by the organization’s president, Gabrielle M. Spiegel, titled, ”Getting Medieval”: History and the Torture Memos. It is about neomedievalism - a “cache of analogies about the medieval nature of contemporary non-state actors, including terrorists, which subsequently influenced the reasoning behind the legal judgements expressed by the authors...
SOURCE: Times (UK) (9-17-08)
The hidden ruins of an ancient lagoon city that was the ancestor of Venice have been unearthed by scientists using satellite imaging. The outlines are clearly visible about three feet below the earth in what is now open countryside.
Venice was a powerful maritime power during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. It seemed, however, an unlikely spot to choose for a leading world power, stretching across 118 small islands in the marshy saltwater Venetian lagoon.
Historians agree that the explanation is that Venice was founded on the islands by refugees from Roman cities such as Ravenna, Padua and Aquileia as they fled from invasions, first by Attila the Hun in the 5th century and then, a century later, by the Lombards, as the final remnants of the Roman Empire crumbled.
However, Paolo Mozzi, a researcher at the University of Padua...