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: Huffington Post (5-10-09)
If we are going to break out of this economic crisis, we don't need business leaders trained in business schools. We need leaders who know and understand history.
About 20 years ago, I was asked to speak to a college business class.
I told the class they should stop studying business and study history and English instead.
I was never invited back.
In business you need to understand where your market has been and where it is going. You can look at history and analyze trends.
I have a passion for history. That fire was lit by tremendous high school and college history teachers.
Chester Finn Jr., my former professor at Vanderbilt and an education guru, noted that only 31% of middle school history teachers and 41% of high school history teachers actually majored in history.
Several fields may be...
SOURCE: Mother Jones (5-1-09)
400 AD—White Huns invade region, dominate for two centuries.
642—After sacking Persia, Arab armies invade and attempt to introduce Islam.
870—Dawn of the Saffarid dynasty, whose expansive empire competes with two others for control of the wider region.
998—Turkic dynasty cements Islamic era.
1219—Genghis Khan leads Mongol invasion.
Late 14th century—Tamerlane, Khan's descendent, brings Afghanistan into his Asian empire.
1738—Nadir Shah and his Iranian army take Kandahar and Kabul.
SOURCE: Spiegel Online (5-7-09)
It was something that people across Europe could not quite believe had happened. Brutish intruders with wheel-lock pistols and long spears had been allowed to capture the Eternal City. Rome's Aurelian Walls had failed. The air in the city was filled with the prayers of desperate citizens, beseeching God to prevent a German victory.
But heaven did not intervene when, on the morning of May 6, 1527, an army of mercenaries fighting on behalf of German Emperor Charles V began to storm the capital of Christendom. Thousands of mercenaries, using crudely fashioned ladders made of laths and vine stakes, attempted to climb Rome's ancient defensive walls.
The city's defenders put up a brave fight. Powder smoke billowed from heavy cannons at Castel Sant' Angelo, the papal stronghold. Two waves of attacks were repelled.
But it was no use. At 7:30 a.m., the intruders broke through Rome's defenses and...
SOURCE: Columbia Journalism Review (5-6-09)
To some of us, it seems obvious that newspapers should respect, and even foster, the activity of reading as such—obvious and yet, given the circumstances, also mildly subversive. So perhaps it is a fitting time to rediscover Hubert Harrison (1883-1927), a left-wing “community organizer,” as we say nowadays, who once jokingly proclaimed himself “the only ‘certified’ Negro book-reviewer in captivity.”
His public debut came in 1907 with a letter to The New York Times complaining about its books coverage—arguably rendering him a...
SOURCE: Council on Foreign Relations website (5-7-09)
Recent attacks off the Horn of Africa have revived interest in piracy. There is a rich literature on the subject focusing primarily on the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Today's piracy problems share enough characteristics with their historical precursors to make an understanding of the earlier experiences useful as well as fun.
A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious
Pirates. By Captain Charles Johnson. Lyons Press, 2002.
This is the ur-text for piracy studies -- the one that started it all. As Charles Johnson's introduction notes, his work, which went through several editions, consists of profiles"of these desperadoes, who were the terror of the trading part of the world." A General History was originally published in London in 1724, just three years after the death of Bartholomew Roberts (Black Bart), one of...
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (5-6-09)
For the shrinking band of true believers, the anniversary of Margaret Thatcher's 1979 election couldn't have come at a worse time. After years in which the political and media establishment could be relied on to parrot the tale that the former Tory leader did what had to be done – however painful – to put Britain back on track, her reputation is now in ruins. It's barely 18 months since Gordon Brown felt it necessary to have his picture taken with the one-time scourge of Labour Britain and praise her as someone who "saw the need for change".
Not a mistake, even in his most self-destructive moments, the prime minister would make today. In the wake of the implosion of the financial free-for-all and corporate engorgement she unleashed, the Thatcherite diehards are struggling to rescue her name from a legacy of greed, entrenched inequality and economic failure. Her "principles of...
SOURCE: Commentary (5-1-09)
... The first report of Stone’s possible ties to the KGB came in 1992, when Oleg Kalugin, a retired KGB general, told a British journalist, “We had an agent—a well-known American journalist—with a good reputation, who severed his ties with us after 1956. I myself convinced him to resume them. But in 1968, after the invasion of Czechoslovakia . . . he said he would never again take any money from us.”
Herbert Romerstein, a former staff member of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, quoted an...
SOURCE: IraqCrisis (5-5-09)
“Nobody Thought of Culture” War-Related Heritage Protection in the Early Prewar Period
Much has been written about the U.S. military’s failure to prepare adequately for the post-combat phase of the 2003 war and about the disastrous impact such shortsightedness had on virtually every sector of Iraqi society. The failure to take steps to prevent the looting of the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad—and the less publicized, though far more devastating, ongoing looting of Iraq’s archaeological sites—must be understood within this larger short-term context of failure to protect any number of arguably more important assets. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s well-documented desire for invading forces to go in lighter and faster required jettisoning supposedly inessential forces from the first wave, and this meant there simply would be too few boots on the ground in Baghdad to...
SOURCE: WSJ (5-5-09)
Here we are, struggling to find a way out of the worst financial crisis since the 1930s, when along comes the possibility of a global influenza epidemic. Though the first concern about the new strain of A/H1N1 virus involves health, we also have to worry that a full-blown flu pandemic would intensify the world's economic problems.
Our ongoing study of economic disasters for 36 countries since 1870 suggests that this concern is well founded. In this sample, we have isolated 158 depressions -- defined as declines in a country's real per capita gross domestic product (GDP) by at least 10%. The most prominent features of these depressions are wars and financial crises. But the fourth-worst global macroeconomic event since 1870 seems to be the Great Influenza Epidemic of 1918-20. This...
SOURCE: Institute of Early American History and Culture list (5-1-09)
The Chronicle describes Houston’s interpretation: “[the above] is evidence that Franklin was not as inattentive and distant a spouse as some recent biographers have made him out to be, ‘It’s a nice reminder that this man, too, is more complex than we sometimes allow,’ he said.”
Complex indeed. The material quoted was a standard formula in Franklin’s letters to Deborah in a slightly later period, including during the last 17...
SOURCE: Washington Times (5-4-09)
The previous few months had been called the "Winter of Discontent," as per Shakespeare's "Richard III" - and it was grim, very grim indeed.
There were pickets at ports, oil refineries and manufacturers of essentials; gas supplies were disrupted and gas stations closed. Ambulance drivers went on strike - not responding to emergency calls in many areas. Hospital support staff (not doctors) decided whom to admit, and if people died, so be it. The trash collectors and gravediggers went on strike, so garbage and coffins piled up.
There were food shortages. British Rail issued the shortest press release ever: "There are no trains today." Pregnant women were denied medical services....
SOURCE: Independent (UK) (5-4-09)
Margaret Thatcher was not a Whistler etching. She did not do shades of grey. Nor do most of those who write about about her. She is either the best of Prime Ministers or the worst of Prime Ministers: the woman who saved the country or the woman who destroyed it. No one could claim that she was an insignificant figure. No one doubts that historians yet unborn will be discussing her legacy; that she will continue to ride the storms of controversy, as she did in her prime.
Thirty years ago, that all seemed so unlikely. In those days, even in the Tory party, very few people realised that she was the raw material of political greatness. Shortly after she won the leadership, Rab Butler spoke to Chris Patten. "This, ah, Thatcher woman. We don't have to take her seriously, do we?" It now seems laughable, but back then, he had a point. Ted Heath put her in his Cabinet, as the statutory woman. In three...
SOURCE: National Security Archive (5-1-09)
In early 1960, when President Eisenhower's budget director Maurice Stans was told that the U.S. Navy's Polaris missile-launching submarines...
SOURCE: David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies (5-1-09)
The book, Refugees and Rescue: The Diaries and Papers of James G. McDonald 1933-1945, authored by Richard Breitman, Severin Hochberg, and Barbara McDonald Stewart, was published this week by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Indiana University Press, The book claims to “reveal” FDR’s interest in settling large numbers of Jewish refugees in Africa or Latin America in the 1930s.
“The claims in the book are not new, and they are not evidence that FDR was seriously interested in rescuing Jewish refugees,” said Dr. Rafael Medoff, director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies. “It is well known that President Roosevelt dabbled in all kinds of pie-in-the sky resettlement schemes, but refrained from taking practical steps to implement them.”
SOURCE: Pajamas Media (5-1-09)
Now, he has, like the majority of his countrymen, become “more cynical about the prospects for a two-state solution.” He makes a basic argument: “The Palestinian national movement has never … reconciled itself to Israel’s existence as a Jewish state.” Once a supporter of the Oslo Accords, Morris has become what Goldstein calls an “embittered pessimist.” Like the shattered Israeli Left and once strong peace movement, Israelis know that they are not on the verge of peace, and that given Palestinian and Arab attitudes, the conflict may not be...