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: The New Nixon (8-18-09)
President Obama and his family enjoyed and praised the beauty of Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon during their recent whirlwind western tour. And Douglas Brinkley has written a doorstopper celebrating TR’s role in creating our National Parks.
But it was RN’s Legacy of Parks program —officially announced thirty-eight years ago tomorrow, that gave the Park Service its late 20th Century legs and pioneered the Nixonian concept of bringing parks to places —especially urban places— where all people could enjoy them.
As a result of RN’s program, between 1971 and 1976, more than 80,000 acres of government property were converted to recreational use in 642 new parks.
PN launched the Legacy of Parks thirty-eight...
SOURCE: Politico (8-19-09)
In March 1948, Don Hewitt was 26 years old and working at Acme News Pictures in New York handling photographs when a friend called from CBS telling him there was a job for him there.
In 1948, CBS meant radio, and Hewitt was confused. "What would a radio network want with a guy with picture experience?" Hewitt asked.
"It's television," his friend said.
"What-a-vision?" Hewitt asked.
He was unfamiliar with the word. But he could be forgiven. Though television had been invented prior to World War II, there were only about 350,000 TVs — then called "receiving sets" — in existence in America in 1948, only 18 cities that had TV stations and very little original programming.
But 1948 looked like a good year to change that, because 1948 was a presidential election year, and TV figured it might be able to make politics...
SOURCE: The Smart Set (Drexel University) (8-17-09)
America was booming in the Gilded Age, the era after the Civil War when robber barons hammered out vast empires and enormous fortunes were made overnight in New York, Baltimore and Philadelphia. At the same time out West, American chefs were refining their own contribution to international culture: Fast food.
Of course, they were drawing on a grand tradition: As with so much else, we can blame the ancient Romans for the original idea. As excavators have found in Pompeii, busy citizens would stand at stone counters called thermapolia and shovel down fried meat or rich stews ladeled out of in vats in the counter (an early form of steam table)....
SOURCE: Daily Mail (UK) (8-19-09)
Winston Churchill was standing in front of the washbasin in his bedroom and shaving with his old-fashioned Valet razor when his son Randolph burst in.
Churchill had been prime minister for a week, taking over in a crisis as German troops were on the march, scything through Belgium and France and heading for the Channel ports.
Randolph sat and waited. Later, he described what happened next. 'After two or three minutes of hacking away at his face, he half-turned and said: "I think I see my way through." He resumed his shaving.
'I was astounded, and said: "Do you mean that we can avoid defeat?" (which seemed credible) "or beat the bastards?" (which seemed incredible). He flung his razor into the basin, swung around...
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (8-19-09)
On the dot of 7pm families and strangers took each other's hands and stepped into the main road, some carrying flags, others with lapel badges showing the swastika beside the hammer and sickle. Organisers claimed a million and a half were taking part, but from where I stood in a Lithuanian field on a sunlit evening 20 years ago this Sunday, the mood was as impressive as the numbers.
Defiance and solidarity were uppermost, as well as delight that so many people had turned out. Most were on their first political demonstration. Public protests were springing up all over the Soviet Union and its eastern European empire in 1989, but in one swoop the Baltic Way, as the vast human chain was called, had trumped the others by its size and quiet dignity.
It stretched from the Estonian capital Tallinn via Riga in Latvia to Lithuania's Vilnius. The aim was to denounce an event...
SOURCE: Britannica Blog (8-18-09)
On August 18, 1936, a 38-year-old Spanish poet named Federico García Lorca was taken from a jail cell in the city of Granada, escorted to a courtyard in the hills outside the city, and executed, along with a teacher and two anarchist bullfighters who had fought in the city’s defense against Francisco Franco’s rebellion.
His killers were Fascist militiamen whose leaders had long before targeted the poet for murder, for it was clear where his sympathies lay; he once said, after all, “I will always be on the side of those who have nothing and who are not even allowed to enjoy the nothing they have in peace.”
His killers, however,...
SOURCE: FT.com (Financial Times) (8-15-09)
One December morning in 1986, a Brazilian immigrant named Lyndon Johnson Pereira strode down the ferry dock of Martha’s Vineyard, an island south of Cape Cod in Massachusetts. A job tip had lured the young man with shaggy brown hair and blue Converse sneakers to leave Boston, where he had been working as a dishwasher for a little over a year. But as he took in the deserted streets and weather-beaten buildings, he worried he had made a mistake. “The island appeared poor, badly maintained,” a now middle-aged Pereira recalls. “I remember thinking, ‘What am I going to do here?’”
With those unsteady steps Pereira would forge a link between his home town in the backwaters of Brazil and what was, contrary to appearances, the holiday retreat of many of America’s richest and most influential citizens. During that...
SOURCE: Independent (UK) (8-18-09)
There is a widespread view among the liberal intelligentsia to the effect that Henry Kissinger, US National Security Advisor from 1969 to 1975 and Secretary of State from 1973 to 1977, was a bad man. That may even be an understatement. In this fashionable consensus, he is not just a bad man: he is a war criminal.
His alleged crimes are numerous: the bombing of North Vietnam and Cambodia; covert support for the coup against Chile's President Allende in 1973; support for assorted other obnoxious right-wing regimes; and alleged involvement (no charges for which have ever stuck) in the campaign of murder and kidnapping known as Operation Condor. His most vociferous critics, such as the journalist Christopher Hitchens, have explicitly called for him to be tried, while in 2001 a French judge tried to get him to give evidence in relation to the disappearance of civilians in Chile.
SOURCE: Britannica Blog (8-17-09)
In the global economy of plastic and petrol, anyone can sell anything, no matter how useless.
So goes the premise that has fueled capitalism for generations. Even the supposedly revolutionary 1960s, which altered so many aspects of international culture, did nothing to diminish that basic truth. Witness all the swag that came from Woodstock, the music festival (August 15-17, 1969) celebrating its 40th anniversary: posters, T-shirt, peace-dove-adorned accoutrements for the pre-Altamont aspirational generation, having only doffed Nehru jackets a few months before.
And no one ever went broke turning slogans into commodities, words...
SOURCE: BoingBoing (8-17-09)
John Graham-Cumming, a leading British computer expert who launched the campaign, said: "I think that Alan Turing hasn't been recognised in Britain for his enormous contribution because he died in his forties and almost certainly because he was gay.
"It is atrocious that we don't recognise this man and the only way to do so is to apologise to him. This man was a national treasure and we hounded him to his death.
"One of the things for people in the computing world is that he was part of the war effort but we don't give him recognition in the same way as other heroes. To me, he was a hero in...
SOURCE: Spectator (8-13-09)
Every so often for the last half-century or so, we have seen some American arriving, breathless and sweating, with the latest post from the old country. And his news is always the same. It is that Britain is finished. All washed up. No more to be seen on the world stage -- except, perhaps, as "the sick man of Europe." This Anglo-Jeremiah is sure to quote Dean Acheson's stunning aperçu of 1962 that "Great Britain has lost an empire and has not yet found a role" -- which, if it means anything, simply means that the world-historical drama is short of roles, these days, for traditional imperial powers, and that Britain wouldn't want to play it anymore even if there were such a...
[The article below, from the June 2009 issue of SEKAI (World), was written before the mid-June visit to Japan by an Australian survivor of forced labor at Aso Mining and the British son of an Aso POW who died after the war. They retraced the trail of the POW experience in Fukuoka and Kobe before meeting in Tokyo with sympathetic lawmakers from the opposition Democratic Party of Japan. Prime Minister Aso Taro refused to meet the visitors or apologize to them, but talks were held with officials of Aso Corporation, who insisted they could not confirm the presence of POWs at Aso Mining despite being shown records produced by the family firm in 1946. Seeking apologies and compensation, the visitors walked away with corporate lapel pins instead. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation provided text...
SOURCE: Examiner.com (8-15-09)
After dropping from a helicopter into an armored Wells Fargo van, where John, Paul George, and Ringo all received the gold badges they wore during the show, the group was introduced to the stage by none other than Ed Sullivan. The previous day, the Beatles had taped their final live performances for the Ed Sullivan Show, which aired throughout the rest of the year, and Ed was producing a documentary surrounding the Shea performance.
The band hooked up on a very small stage in the middle of the field, far away from the screaming girls melting into the backdrop behind homeplate, and...
SOURCE: NYT (8-15-09)
IT seems that we’ve done just about everything to get the American auto industry out of the doldrums. We’ve forced bankruptcies. We’ve exchanged cash for clunkers. But have we tried poetry?
The question is brought to mind by the story of Marianne Moore, the famous American writer, who served for a brief season as the Ford Motor Company’s unofficial poet laureate.
Moore, who died in 1972, was at the height of her literary powers in the autumn of 1955, when a letter arrived in her Brooklyn mailbox.
A Ford executive wrote that the company was launching “a rather important new series of cars,” but his team was stumped to think of a name for the latest product line. Could Moore, an icon of American letters, help them out?
Moore embraced the assignment with relish, not surprising for a poet who...
SOURCE: OpEdNews (8-14-09)
There was a time, not so long ago, when popes, kings and queens enriched themselves and built vast empires on the profits made with the sweat and blood of kidnapped men, women and children loaded on ships, stacked like sardines and reduced to slavery on plantations of coffee, sugar, cotton, cocoa, all over the Americas...
...It is within such an atmosphere of unparalleled terrorism and human decadence that a remarkable gathering of men and women took place on the small Caribbean island of Haiti, the evening of August 14-15, 1791. Known as the Bwa Kay Iman Ceremony, it is said that this revolutionary meeting brought together representatives of twenty-one displaced African nations who...
SOURCE: The Huffington Post (8-14-09)
Four decades ago, along with 499,999 others on a countercultural pilgrimage, I was headed for the Woodstock Festival of Music & Love. I was wearing my yellow leather fringe jacket for the first time. In one of the pockets there was a nice little stash of LSD. If you happen to be brand-name conscious, then you'll want to know that it was Owsley White Lightning.
The CIA originally envisioned using LSD as a means of control, but, without anybody's permission, millions of young people had already become explorers of their own inner space. Acid was serving as a vehicle for deprogramming themselves from a civilization of sadomasochistic priorities. A mass awakening was in process. There was an evolutionary jump in consciousness.
SOURCE: Independent (UK) (8-14-09)
Belfast's "Berlin wall", the mother of all the city's peacelines, exhibits no physical cracks as it stretches for hundreds of yards, keeping apart the Protestant Shankill and the Catholic Falls.
It has stood for 40 years as a monument to division, a forceful declaration that Northern Ireland's conflicting nationalities cannot be trusted to live together. A mixture of concrete, metal and wire mesh, it looms 30ft tall. Yet now some in the city have finally begun to think the previously unthinkable and to wonder how it might one day be taken down. This will not happen easily or quickly: it is in fact a project as formidable as the wall itself.
Belfast does not yet know perfect peace but things have improved so much that it is not an impossible dream to think this fixture might eventually be dismantled. A start is being made on planning how and when it might come down.
SOURCE: Alamogordo Daily News (8-13-09)
Ask Drew Gomber about the question he's asked the most after his Western history presentations and he shudders, almost irritated by the question.
"Did Billy the Kid really get killed and was he Brushy Bill Roberts?" Gomber said. "The answer is yes, he really got killed. Anyone who even looks at the record from a distance should know that."
"The Lincoln County War originated with an insurance policy. It was not a range war, it was a war between merchants."
Gomber went on to explain that a young Englishman, John Tunstall, arrived in Lincoln County seeking to go into business opposing people who had a stranglehold on the area.
"He underestimated who he was dealing with and ultimately paid for it with his life," Gomber said. "He was murdered by a duly authorized sheriff's posse. His former friends and associates got together...
SOURCE: Times (UK) (8-13-09)
At a little after 1 o’clock on Friday, August 14, 1969, I was having lunch in a London restaurant when the formidable figure of General Sir Victor FitzGeorge-Balfour, Deputy Chief of the General Staff, appeared at the table and addressed me in tones of deep reproach.
Did I not realise that a meeting would take place in Downing Street that afternoon at which, unless action was swiftly taken, the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary would agree to troops being deployed on the streets of Londonderry “in support of the civil power”? James Chichester-Clark, the Northern Ireland Prime Minister, and “a Miss Bernadette Devlin” had both sent messages to the Cabinet Office warning that the alternative was slaughter.
It was not the first request for help the Ministry of Defence had received. On the previous Sunday,...
SOURCE: Newstatesman (UK) (8-13-09)
In May 1985, two months after Mikhail Gorbachev became general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, he sent one of his cleverest generals to Kabul on an urgent, secret mission. The name of General Zaitsev is unlikely to be well known to today's Nato commanders, but perhaps it should be. Back then he was the Red Army's most senior military planner and logistics expert, and Gorbachev ordered him to provide an honest answer to the question: can the USSR win the war in Afghanistan? He returned to Moscow swiftly with a simple answer: no.
Zaitsev concluded that the only way the war could end on Soviet terms would be to seal Afghanistan's border with Pakistan and thereby prevent the movement of arms and "terrorists" from the mujahedin - the Army of God - into the country. At this point, the...