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: Global Post (8-26-09)
The Scottish Parliament was recalled from its summer holidays Monday for an emergency debate on the government's decision to release convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi on "compassionate grounds." The dying 57-year-old returned home to a hero's welcome in Libya.
The expressions of outrage from the United States, first from the families of the victims and then by President Barack Obama and most recently by FBI director Robert Mueller, raised a squall over the Atlantic. Scotland's opposition members of Parliament felt the need to add to the clamor. Scottish Justice minister Kenny MacAskill, using almost exactly the same words he used last Friday, sought to justify his decision again this week.
But the focus of the debate increasingly is on what deal over access to Libya's oil reserves the governments of the U.K. and Libya may or may not have...
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (8-26-09)
So it's over. The Kennedy era, in which the political consciousness of most of my American generation was born, ends with a lingering illness and quiet mourning, so unlike the violent deaths of Ted Kennedy's elder – and greater – political brothers.
However much the youngest sibling may be lionised in the coming days, it was John and Robert Kennedy whose lives truly electrified American politics and whose assassinations almost certainly precipitated, as Norman Mailer once claimed, a national nervous breakdown. It was that catastrophic psychic blow, Mailer argued, that gave rise to the youth culture of the Sixties, with its bizarre mixture of high idealism and narcissistic pleasure – which, as it happens, was a particularly apt memorial (even if we didn't know it then) for the Kennedy dream. Having lived through that time at Berkeley, where we more or less invented what became the international student...
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (8-26-09)
One would be hard pressed to argue that Ted Kennedy's death was a more bitter pill for the country than the deaths of his brothers before him – John, the young president whose assassination gave Americans a hard warning about the violent age they were about to enter, or Robert, the presidential aspirant who was thought at the time to be the last leader in America who might have been able to help the nation transcend that violence.
Nevertheless, the heavens have somehow conspired to make this Kennedy death, however expected it might have been, nearly as heartbreaking as those of his vigorous younger brothers. It's not just that the great cause of the last 40 years of his life, reforming America's healthcare system, sits at a perilous juncture,...
SOURCE: Nation (8-24-09)
Abdullah Abdullah, the most powerful challenger to Hamid Karzai in the presidential elections in Afghanistan, argues on his campaign website that "there can be no greater priority than regaining the trust of the Afghan people," a trust he now claims is being squandered again in voter fraud by his rivals.
While the votes are still being counted and the Electoral Complaints Commission is urging candidates not to rush into predictions and accusations, Abdullah, an ophthalmologist by training, might well be a little more forthcoming and expansive about his own history and what that would mean to his turbulent country should he be elected, or even force Karzai (no democratic paragon either) into a bitter runoff.
A political chameleon (a widely encountered species in Pakistan and India also),...
SOURCE: http://pashagypsy.blogspot.com (8-23-09)
SOURCE: PolitickerNY.com (8-18-09)
The stunning victories of Mr. Schumer and Mr. Spitzer are now the stuff of local political lore. But those campaigns also heralded the arrival of the three unknown operatives who would become the consultant kings of New York. (These days, if you’re an A-list politician, you’re almost certainly employing at least one of them.)
"I wouldn’t advise running without them," said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who has employed both Mr....
SOURCE: BBC (8-21-09)
In the second of a series of articles marking the outbreak of World War II 70 years ago, historian Orlando Figes analyses what the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact meant for Europeans in 1939 - and what it means today.
Seventy years on, the pact between Hitler and Stalin still casts a shadow over Europe. Its memory continues to divide.
For the Poles, Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians and Bessarabians, the pact began the reign of terror, mass deportations, slavery and murder which both the Nazi and the Soviet armies brought along with them when they co-ordinated their invasions of these countries in line with the pact's notorious secret protocols - by which Stalin and Hitler had agreed...
SOURCE: The Wall Street Journal (8-22-09)
The digital apocalypse continues to blight the lives of television producers, music-industry executives and newspaper publishers, all of whom are scrambling to figure out how to reconfigure their business models in such a way as to allow them to make an honest buck. They're trying to second-guess the future—so why not look back at the past? Today's new-media revolution, after all, is not the first time that technological change has laid waste to the best-laid plans of the old media. The same thing was happening 60 years ago.
Everybody in America was talking about TV early in 1949, though comparatively few Americans owned a set of their own. Network radio was still the dominant mass entertainment medium. If you wanted to listen to Bing Crosby or "The Quiz Kids," you...
SOURCE: guardian.co.uk (8-23-09)
When I was born in 1953, just after the coronation of Elizabeth II, I had a ration book. This flimsy, red cardboard log now looks like a passport to another country. Many things about that postwar Britain have become unrecognisable: cod liver oil, steam trains, rag-and-bone men, bobbies and telegram boys on bicycles and standing to attention for the national anthem at the end of cinema programmes.
Looking back, the black-and-white postwar images seem appropriate. Life in peacetime Britain was grey, threadbare, dreary and hopeless. There was a national sense of "Was this what we fought for?" As one American commentator put it, the British certainly believed they had won the war, but they behaved as though they had lost it.
Seventy years have gone by since the Second World War began and 64 since it ended. That dwindling minority of Britons, some 3 million, who lived through those...
SOURCE: BBC (8-21-09)
The 1939 Nazi-Soviet Pact is controversial even today, with historians divided over its importance. In the first of a series of articles marking the outbreak of World War II 70 years ago, the BBC Russian Service's Artyom Krechetnikov and Steven Eke analyse the significance of a treaty that helped set the scene for war.
Signed on 23 August 1939, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was accompanied by a secret protocol that detailed the reshaping of Europe's map.
Substantive talks on forming a political alliance between Nazi Germany and the USSR had begun that month.
They built on earlier discussions aimed at boosting economic co-operation, and were accompanied by military and even cultural co-operation in the form of exchanges of high-profile delegations.
The pact was signed by German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and his Russian counterpart,...
SOURCE: CNN.com (8-21-09)
The death of John F. Kennedy's sister Eunice Shriver, the founder of the Special Olympics for the developmentally challenged, has given rise to a wealth of news stories -- obituaries and otherwise -- about the recurring tragedies endured by what some call America's "royal family."
All of these comments are well intended but off the mark.
The Kennedys have been a remarkable family since its founding roughly a century ago by Joseph P. and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy. But, its members have never asked for pity or privilege. Their history has emphasized more success than tragedy. Their love of family and country stood out during some of the most cynical and selfish periods in recent American history.
Like any large family, particularly one which deservedly remained in the public eye for many decades, a large number of afflictions and setbacks, also in...
SOURCE: The Wall Street Journal (8-22-09)
This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the American National Exhibition in Moscow, a golden moment in Cold War one-upsmanship and cultural thaw. Most people know about the so-called “Kitchen Debate,” the heated exchange between Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev that took place in a model kitchen on the opening day of the fair. But most don’t have a clue of where or why it happened.
The exhibition ran from July 25 to September 4 in Moscow’s Sokolniki Park and it was packed every day with more than 50,000 wide-eyed Russian citizens. Jack Masey of the USIA was in charge of design and construction and it was Masey who brought in some of America’s most radical and avant-garde talents, including Buckminster Fuller, who designed a soaring geodesic dome that stood as a kind of ceremonial gateway and logo to the fair. (It was a 200-foot Kaiser aluminum dome with a gold...
SOURCE: Time (8-17-09)
The voice coming through the public-address system was familiar yet strange. I had not heard it in at least 27 years, not since I had traveled to the sacred Madhu Shrine in northern Sri Lanka in August 1982 when I was a child and on pilgrimage with my family: "Aandavane" ("Oh, Holy Lord" in Tamil), "Aandavane." The words spread through the church compound where half a million others had made the same journey to see Madhu...
SOURCE: Britannica Blog (8-21-09)
RSS Britannica Blog via RSS RSS Posts by Gregory McNamee via RSS print Print
Image of gmcnamee
Hawaii: A Pineapple Republic on the 50th Anniversary of Statehood
Gregory McNamee - August 21st, 2009
It is the evening of January 14, 1893, a time that is cold in New England but blustery and humid in Hawaii. There, in Honolulu, a group of New England transplants are gathered to hatch big, world-changing plans.
Earlier in the day, Queen Liliuokalani had decided to revise the constitution so that only Hawaiian citizens had the right to vote and, moreover, so that there was no property owning requirement to attain...
SOURCE: The Wall Street Journal (8-20-09)
At his passing, though, I feel compelled to correct the record (as he wrote it in his memoir, The Prince of Darkness) concerning The Wall Street Journal's extensive investigation of the crucial JFK victory over Hubert Humphrey in the West Virginia Democratic primary in 1960. At some point, someone will surely do a biography of Bob Novak, and I—considering my age—might not be around then to be interviewed. And I am perhaps the only living person who can recount what really happened in The...
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (8-21-09)
The next few months mark the 20th anniversaries of the greatest events in Europe since the end of World War Two in 1945. They include the fall of the Berlin Wall, the overthrow of Communism in Eastern Europe, the reunification of Germany and the end of the Cold War. The collapse of the Soviet Union was to follow not long afterwards. Taken together, they were a political earthquake whose tremors are still being felt.
They were heady days, as nation after nation in Eastern Europe threw out their Communist rulers and rejoined the mainstream of European democracy. The barbed wire which ran through the centre of Europe was rolled up, and Hungarians, Czechs and Poles emerged almost dazed into the daylight of a new world.
The Berlin Wall represented everything that was evil about communism and the tyranny which was its trademark. I recall watching television...
SOURCE: Moscow Times (8-21-09)
Sunday marks the 70th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, a nonaggression treaty between the two totalitarian powers of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, as well as a secret protocol that divided Eastern Europe into spheres of influence between Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin.
In May, President Dmitry Medvedev authorized a commission to investigate cases of historical revisionism of World War II to the detriment of Russia. The move followed the approval a year earlier of new school textbooks that reassessed the role of Stalin, acknowledging that he had made some errors but noting in turn his achievements and successes, particularly in the war years. Taken together, they symbolize the new Russian policy of identifying contemporary Russia with the former Soviet regime.
Last month, Russia...
SOURCE: Culture and Media Institute (8-12-09)
In fact, for 109 American soldiers, the world ended that weekend.
VFW Magazine honored those soldiers in the August 2009 cover story, “While Woodstock Rocked, GIs Died.”
Much has been made over the “half a million strong” that flocked to a dairy farm in rural New York to celebrate music and peace. Richard K. Kolb instead compared the coverage Newsweek and Time gave to the festival while shortchanging American efforts in Vietnam.
“Newsweek described them as ‘a youthful, long-haired army, almost as large as the U.S. force in Vietnam,” wrote Kolb. Time claimed Woodstock “may well rank as one of the significant political and sociological events of the age.” The same article referred to the Vietnam as...
SOURCE: The Wall Street Journal (8-14-09)
As a music festival, Woodstock was pretty much a bust.
The promoters couldn't get some of the artists they wanted—John Lennon, Led Zeppelin, the Jeff Beck Group, the Doors and Roy Rogers among them. Managers insisted on booking their unknown artists as the price to get their famous clients. Iron Butterfly didn't show up. Not enough talent was contracted for three days and nights. Hired to perform with his band the Fish, at the last minute Country Joe McDonald was asked to do a solo set to fill time. Paul Butterfield, a Woodstock resident, was an 11th-hour addition.
Drugs diminished the musicians' skills. Tim Hardin was too disoriented to open the festival. John Sebastian, also pressed into service to fill an empty slot, couldn't remember some lyrics. Expecting to perform hours later than he actually did, Carlos Santana took a hit of mescaline that kicked in while he was on stage. The Who were...