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: Telegraph (UK) (12-10-08)
As we mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights today, I want to take a small liberty and say something about one of the UN's founders – Winston Churchill. I believe Churchill would have raised a glass of Pol Roger both to the anniversary and the judges who ruled last week that the records of two men, both innocent, should not be retained on our national DNA database.
Churchill's primary motivation for supporting the codification of our rights as citizens was his desire that we should never again witness anything like the grotesque abuse of power by the Nazi state. I am not suggesting any analogy between the DNA database and Nazi repression, but I think Churchill's ire in this instance would have been directed at state officiousness and its intrusion into our daily lives. He understood that totalitarian power can develop when the little pigeon-steps that a...
SOURCE: WSJ (12-7-08)
At a time when Jew haters in the Islamic world have become more assertive than ever, Berlin's Center for Research on Anti-Semitism is concentrating on a different group: the "new enemies of Islam."
Who exactly belongs to this category is not clear from the center's latest publication, the "Yearbook for Research on Anti-Semitism." But the potential danger is supposedly known: "The fury of the new enemies of Islam is similar to the older rage of anti-Semites against the Jews," writes Prof. Wolfgang Benz, the institute's director. The center will present its new findings today at a conference in Berlin titled "Concepts of the Muslim Enemy -- Concepts of the Jewish Enemy."
It is certainly necessary to oppose the demonization of Muslims and discrimination against them, which often...
SOURCE: Slate (12-8-08)
... Although he discusses some of the academic issues that lay at the heart of the Yale project, the point of Inside the Stalin Archives is somewhat different: Brent is less interested in what his series meant for Western academics and more interested in explaining the strange atmosphere of post-Soviet Moscow, and in particular the ways in which Russia's twisted past continued to shape its present.*
Elsewhere—in East Germany, for example—the collapse of communism meant that the archive doors swung wide open, and researchers of all kinds flooded inside. But in Moscow, each archive (state, party, military) made its own decisions about which documents to release and to whom to release them. Some, among them the Russian state archive, where gulag documents are kept, were relatively...
SOURCE: Britannica Blog (12-9-08)
SOURCE: WSJ (12-8-08)
The scene is glitzier than Steve Jobs releasing the latest iProduct: a black-tie gala in the Jade Room of New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, attended by Rockefellers, Vanderbilts and a representative of the queen of England. What's being launched? A 54-volume set of books, with 443 works by 74 authors totaling 32,000 pages of small type.
These were not just any books, but "Great Books of the Western World," marketed by Encyclopaedia Britannica. The authors included Aristotle, Aquinas, Milton, Locke, Hume and Mill along with some especially dense texts such as Apollonius' "On Conic Sections." The celebrities who bought the special Founders' Edition at $500 per leather-bound...
SOURCE: WSJ (12-5-08)
On Dec. 7, 1941, 353 Japanese planes launched from six aircraft carriers destroyed most of the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. That morning, 2,402 American servicemen were killed. Until Sept. 11, 2001, this was the highest number of casualties in an attack on the United States.
But 67 years and three generations later, memory fades. And some Japanese are actively trying to rewrite their country's history.
Just over a month ago, the head of Japan's Air Force, Gen. Toshio Tamogami, was fired by Prime Minister Taro Aso after he entered and won the grand prize in a history essay contest in which he advanced some very interesting ideas. Among other things, Gen. Tamogami wrote that President Franklin Roosevelt entrapped Japan into carrying out Pearl Harbor, that Japan never waged a war of aggression, and...
SOURCE: National Parks Traveler Online (12-8-08)
In at least one case, the answer seems to be"yes," because the Great Depression played a key role in saving the Yorktown Battlefield from private development.
Back in the mid-1920s, prosperous Americans were becoming increasingly interested in leisure activities, and good train service, a growing highway network and budding air travel made weekend trips more practical for the well-heeled. A sleepy historic village in southeastern Virginia caught the attention of real estate developers looking for a site for a golf-based resort.
The gently rolling terrain, view of the nearby York River, and relative proximity to large population centers made the area a fine site for the Yorktown Country Club, and at that time the place where America finally achieved victory in its quest for independence...
SOURCE: Times (UK) (12-8-08)
In the bar of an Edinburgh hotel, Geoff Palmer is hooting with laughter. After decades toiling away in the drinks industry, that most masculine of trades, he is amazed to find he is suddenly something of a ladies' man.
A year ago, he gave a lecture on Scotland and the Caribbean slave trade to 2,000 women from the Church of Scotland Guild. They were enraptured; now wherever he goes, a tweedy woman will be ready to accost and tell him how wonderful he is. “There's nowhere to hide, they always find me,” he laughs.
It seems faintly ridiculous that such a engaging man should be cast as a fully paid-up member of the awkward squad. Yet Palmer has recently become a thorn in the side of the SNP administration, one of the fiercest critics of Homecoming Scotland, its £5 million tartan, golf and whisky tourism initiative for 2009 which has been aimed at people described as expatriate “affinity Scots”.
SOURCE: Informed Comment (Blog run by Juan Cole) (12-7-08)
Britt does not mention that the 600s were the era in which the Orthodox Caliphs of Islam took greater Syria and Egypt away from Byzantium; these lands were later ruled by the Umayyad Empire. Indeed, within the first century after Islam was founded, its adherents spread out with lightning speed to take over the southern third of the old Roman Empire, as well as the entirety of the Sasanid Empire of Iran. The Muslim conquests after 632 CE are rivaled in history for their speed and...
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (12-7-08)
Sixty years ago this week, on December 10, 1948, Eleanor Roosevelt unveiled a document she described as "the International Magna Carta for Mankind". This was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, an imperishable statement of the elemental liberties that all individuals should enjoy, irrespective of the kind of government to which they are subjected.
Because some of its provisions have been adopted by the European Convention on Human Rights and enshrined in British law by the Human Rights Act, they have caused controversy. The Conservatives worry that the rights of the victims of crime are overlooked and promise a "British bill of rights". The universal declaration, however, is far removed from the nuances of this debate. The rights it seeks to assure are elemental: the right to property...
SOURCE: http://themoderatevoice.com (12-2-08)
And for good reason.
The release of some 200 hours of Nixon White House recordings is going to provide a treasure chest of inside glimpses into the man who helped usher in the politics of polarization and who helped dismember 1950s-early-1960s consensus politics - a trend that many hope will be reversed with the new, presumably more post-partisan Obama administration. Tidbits trickling out now about Nixon as preserved on tape aren't exactly going to bolster Nixon's image among the public - or among historians who'll shape future generations' perceptions.
Journalists are now going through tapes and the parts that have come out so far (within just a few hours) are revealing. NBC offers these:
On July 1, 1971, Nixon instructs Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman to have someone break into the Brookings Institution...
SOURCE: Huffington Post (Blog) (12-3-08)
In the liberal bastion of New York City's Upper West Side, this rendering of presidential disrepute is generally considered a ghastly understatement. The last fifty years? one resident asked the Huffington Post. How about our nation's history? Why limit it to the United States?
And yet, with this crowd as a backdrop, the proposition of Bush's terribleness was debated on Tuesday night. Spicing up matters: arguing the defense was none other than the architect of the Bush presidency, former adviser Karl Rove.
It promised to be a provocative if not potentially awkward scene -- Bush's so-called "brain" appearing before a crowd whose members considered him complicit in terrible political, if not criminal, misdeeds. And in this regard the affair -- an Oxford-style debate sponsored by the organization, Intelligence-squared -- didn't disappoint.
Over the course...
SOURCE: Daily Star (Lebanon) (12-3-08)
I recently took part in a public debate with Paul Keating, Australia's former prime minister. He is an interesting man, a genuine intellectual driven by his inner demons both to flay those who pay insufficient credit to his transformational role in Australian politics and to expose what he regards as waffle and myths.
This regularly engulfs him in controversy, but it can serve an educational purpose. Recently, for example, he denounced the idea that Australian sacrifices in the Gallipoli campaign of 1916 during World War I had somehow made and redeemed his nation. For him, Australia came of age later, at Kokoda, often called Australia's Thermopylae, when a small group of young soldiers resisted the advance of Japanese army divisions that seemed set to take Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea and...
SOURCE: Forbes.com (11-29-08)
It's astonishing and a little horrifying that America's elites know so little about their country's history. Case in point: Jared Bernstein of the Economic Policy Institute. Jared is an influential left-ish economic polemicist and a sometime adviser to Barack Obama on economic affairs. I've debated with Jared dozens of times over the past several years, but what happened this week was especially disturbing.
On Monday night, I told Larry Kudlow about the story of the first Thanksgiving.
I explained that the first Thanksgiving was a celebration of abundance after a period of socialism and starvation. It seems Bernstein never heard about this chapter in U.S. history; he called it an "exercise in revisionist history." Admitting that he had never read the memoirs of Plymouth governor William Bradford, he nevertheless dismissed the story as untrue. But the...