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 Morning Delivery (personal blog of Bill Lucey) (8-11-09)
This Saturday marks the 40 year anniversary of Woodstock, the musical extravaganza that touched off America’s``Cultural Revolution’’, coming as it did in the same year John Lennon recorded ``Give Peace a Chance’’, nearly a month after a race riot in York Pa. led to the shooting death of a black woman; and four months after U.S. troop levels had swelled to 543,400 during the Vietnam War.
Oddly enough, the festival never actually took place in Woodstock N.Y. at all.
Promoters Michael Lang, John Roberts, Arthur Kornfeld, and Joel Rosenman, hoped to hold the festival in upstate New York, but had trouble landing a suitable venue. Their attention then turned to Wallkill, where they stumbled into even more problems. As late as July, Bethel, a hamlet in the Catskill Mountains, 60 miles southwest of Woodstock in Sullivan County was finally...
SOURCE: PajamasMedia (8-10-09)
I last wrote about the controversy over the book Spies some time ago. Now, once again, it is time to turn to the ongoing debate once more. It seems that it never ends, despite the belief of some people that questions like whether or not Alger Hiss was guilty is of interest only to people over 60.
Of particular interest is the continued use of the term “McCarthyism” to describe serious historians who have concluded, based on careful research, that a lot of people accused of being Soviet agents in the 1950’s turned out to have been the real thing. This is the tactic I mentioned that was used by the writer Amy Knight in a lengthy review of their book that was in the Times Literary Supplement on June 26th.(not available on line) Knight referred in passing to the “McCarthyite style” of John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr. As Knight saw things...
SOURCE: The Atlantic (8-9-09)
Here, you are alone with your thoughts. Sri Lanka is in general a less panicky, less frantic, less intrusive version of India. Only rarely are you hassled. And Kandy, up in the hills, away from the crowded coastal highway, is a concentrated version of the country’s charms.
Alas, when you fall in love with a place, you encounter its history, which is often tragic. In fact, Kandy has remained seedily quaint, its monuments and ambience unravaged by mass tourism, only because Sri Lanka has experienced more than a quarter century of civil war between ethnic Sinhalese Buddhists and Hindu Tamils. And the origins and conduct of that savage conflict have drawn, in many ways, from the same emotional wellsprings as the tradition of worship at Kandy’s tranquil Buddhist shrines.
Buddhism holds an exalted place in the...
SOURCE: BBC (8-12-09)
The three existing Geneva Conventions, which relate to the immunity of medical personnel on the battlefield and the treatment of prisoners of war, were extensively revised in 1949.
The fourth Geneva Convention, which stipulates that warring parties have an obligation to protect civilians, was added.
The fourth convention in particular was born out of the horrors of the World War II - not just the appalling atrocity of the concentration camps, but the deliberate starvation of the city of Leningrad, and the indiscriminate bombing of Dresden and Coventry.
The conventions received widespread international support from the start, and today all 194 states have ratified them.
Unfortunately, signatures on paper have not led to respect for the conventions, and research conducted by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) - which is the guardian of the conventions - shows that civilians...
SOURCE: The Jewish Daily Forward (8-11-09)
In the aftermath of World War II, roughly 250,000 Jews — most of them Holocaust survivors — lived in displaced persons camps in Europe. Many of these people were attracted to Zionism, and about two-thirds of them eventually would move to British Mandate Palestine or to Israel. In his new book, “Finding Home and Homeland: Jewish Youth and Zionism in the Aftermath of the Holocaust” (Wayne State University Press), Avinoam J. Patt, who holds the Philip D. Feltman Chair in Modern Jewish History at the University of Hartford, explores the role that Zionism played in the lives of the refugees, particularly among the younger generation. Peter Ephross spoke with Patt recently about Zionism’s appeal to displaced persons, and the controversy stoked by Israeli historians on the topic.
Peter Ephross: You focus your book on youth in the DP camps. Why did you decide to...
SOURCE: Findlaw.com (8-7-09)
My late friend Ron Silver, the actor and political activist, once asked me a question that I have continued to think about ever since. On the afternoon of his last New Year's Eve, when he surprised me by coming to California, he wanted to know if I had found any great "big history" books.
Diagnosed with a fatal form of esophageal cancer and having already lived beyond his physician's expectations, Ron was visiting to say good-bye to friends and spend quality time with family, as he departed the mortal coil with the extraordinary grace and dignity that included his usual good humor and concern about others. Except for the side effects accompanying the periodic experimental drug treatments, he said he felt surprisingly good. Thus, when he was not with family and friends, he was doing a lot of reading.
Ron was smart and well-read. For spiritual guidance and comfort, he had immersed himself in...
SOURCE: Moscow Times (8-11-09)
It has often been said that defeat is an excellent teacher. But this rarely applies to victory. Perhaps this is true because rather than teaching, victory tends to make the victor dizzy with success. Take, for example, Russia’s victories over Napoleon and Hitler, after which the army’s development and modernization was halted for 50 years. The post-World War II Soviet military strategy, which focused on maintaining tens of thousands of tanks and from 3 million to 5 million army personnel, was a glaring anachronism in the nuclear age.
Considering this historical legacy, Russia’s leaders deserve credit for having drawn certain lessons from last year’s victory over Georgia. Putting a halt to the wave of patriotic chest-thumping and jingoistic cheers following Russia’s victory in the Georgia war, the Kremlin began planning a major restructuring of the country’s outdated, highly...
SOURCE: Gay City News (8-6-09)
The very first homosexual publication to have appeared with any regularity in the US was Vice Versa, which surfaced in Los Angeles in June 1947. It was produced by a secretary at RKO Studios who called herself Lisa Ben, an anagram for “lesbian,” and it lasted for nine issues. It “fluctuated from 14 to 20 stapled pages consisting of play and film reviews, poetry, fiction, and pointed social commentary through a ‘Queer as It Seems’ department.” Only ten copies were produced and distributed to a close circle of friends who in turn were to pass it on to others.
This is one of the nuggets of largely forgotten gay history to be gleaned from “Pre-Gay L.A.” by C. Todd White, a visiting professor...
SOURCE: Baltimore Sun (8-9-09)
In February, America celebrated the bicentennial of its most revered president, Abraham Lincoln. Its most controversial president - Richard M. Nixon - resigned 35 years ago today.
Richard Nixon fascinates me. This began when his old nemesis Alger Hiss visited one of my classes at the Johns Hopkins University, and grew when I worked for former Rep. Helen Bentley, once an official in the Nixon administration. Along the way, I devoured every Nixon biography I could find.
Sharing this news typically elicits offers of intervention from concerned friends. Eventually, people ask me why.
First, Mr. Nixon led an epic life. He ascended from freshman congressman to vice president in just six years. He is one of only two Americans to run on a national ticket five times. He dodged multiple attempts by a hostile establishment to write his political...
SOURCE: http://www.thebigmoney.com (Click here to see slideshow.) (8-7-09)
In "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man," Henry Louis Gates writes, that many black Americans think that "the soft drink Tropical Fantasy is manufactured by the Ku Klux Klan and contains a special ingredient designed to sterilize black men." He then demolishes this and other conspiracy theories while recalling America's troubled racial history, and its hope of overcoming it. When his arrest and reconciliation rekindled that history, we thought of these 1970s ads, however contemporaneously clumsy, which represented corporate America's first broad attempts at dialogue with Afro-America.
The driver in this 1975 McDonald's (MCD) ad is clearly "on the job." The truck, the spare tire behind the men, the clipboard all scream it. This is "targeted" advertising: usually created by different...
SOURCE: NYT (8-5-09)
On Aug. 15 to 17, 1969, hundreds of thousands of people, me among them, gathered in a lovely natural amphitheater in Bethel (not Woodstock), N.Y. We listened to some of the best rock musicians of the era, enjoyed other legal and illegal pleasures, endured rain and mud and exhaustion and hunger pangs, felt like a giant community and dispersed, all without catastrophe.
A year after the riots at the Democratic convention in Chicago, expectations about large gatherings of young people were so low that this was considered a surprise. Although the festival didn’t go exactly as planned, it was, as advertised, three days of peace and music. That made Woodstock an idyll, particularly in retrospect, even though it was declared a state disaster area at the time.
“Not withstanding their personality, their dress...
SOURCE: Truthdig (8-9-09)
President Richard Nixon resigned on Aug. 9, 1974, in the wake of the Watergate scandal and the revelations of his “abuses of power” and obstruction of justice. For his involvement in criminal activities, Nixon earned his unique epitaph: an unindicted co-conspirator.
As the nation watched events unfold from 1972 to 1974, a host of then-famous names passed before us: Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Dean, Mitchell, Colson, Haig, Ziegler, Liddy, Hunt, Kleindienst, Magruder, Agnew, and so on. But the burglars, assorted presidential aides, congressional investigators and prosecutors now have faded into the mists of history—spear carriers at best. Only the principal remains in our consciousness for his achievements and his misdeeds.
In 1974, more...
SOURCE: Huffington Post (8-7-09)
Yesterday, I explored the decades-long suppression of film footage of the the full effects of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 64 years ago this week. But that censorship and cover-up of the full impact, and ramifications, of the new weapons began within hours of the first use.
On Aug. 6, 1945, President Harry S. Truman faced the task of telling the press, and the world, that America's crusade against fascism had culminated in exploding a revolutionary new weapon of extraordinary destructive power over a Japanese city.
It was vital that this event be understood as a reflection of dominant military power and at the same time consistent with American decency and concern for human life. Everyone involved in...
SOURCE: World Affairs (8-7-09)
Nineteen eighty-nine was a most extraordinary year. There are other years that are imprinted on historic memory, but most of them were occasions for horrible events (1917 or 1939) or disappointing ones (1789 or 1848) or the conclusions of great tragedies (1648 or 1945). The year 1989 was that rare moment when dramatic things happened that were overwhelmingly beneficent. As we watched the world change before our eyes, we learned many things. Looking back today on how the world has evolved in twenty years since that momentous time, we can distill several additional insights.
The economist Robert Heilbroner wrote in 1989: “Less than 75 years after it officially began, the contest between capitalism and socialism is over: capitalism has won.” This outcome reflected a startling...
SOURCE: The Primate Diaries (8-6-09)
The problem with this narrative is that military estimates at the time (later found to be exaggerated) came nowhere near that level. Furthermore, it has since been revealed that Japanese officials had approached US representatives to consider their surrender on two conditions: that the Emperor be allowed to remain and that some territory be retained by the Japanese.
Writing in the conservative foreign policy journal Diplomatic History, J. Samuel...
SOURCE: The Huffington Post (8-6-09)
In the weeks following the atomic attacks on Japan 64 years ago, and then for decades afterward, the United States engaged in airtight suppression of all film shot in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the bombings. This included footage shot by U.S. military crews and Japanese newsreel teams. In addition, for many years, all but a handful of newspaper photographs were seized or prohibited.
The public did not see any of the newsreel footage for 25 years, and the U.S. military film remained hidden for nearly four decades. I first probed the coverup back in 1983 in Nuclear Times magazine (where I was editor), and developed it further in later articles and in my 1995 book with Robert Jay Lifton, Hiroshima in America and in a 2005 documentary Original Child Bomb.
As editor of Nuclear Times in the early 1980s, I met Herbert...
SOURCE: Spiegel Online (8-5-09)
The rundown headquarters of the Solidarity (Solidarnosc) trade union in Gdansk makes it hard to imagine that this was where a crucial turning point in world history has its roots.
Two wall fragments are on display in front of the entrance. One is from Berlin, and the other is part of the masonry wall that once surrounded the city's Lenin Shipyards. It is the same wall that a young Lech Walesa -- a troublemaker who stood his ground against the communists -- is said to have scaled in 1980 before becoming leader of the strikes held by shipyard workers.
An arrow -- painted in the red-and-white colors of both Poland and Solidarity -- points from the section of the shipyard wall toward the imported section of the Berlin Wall. A sign reads "Path of Freedom," and the message is clear: Without Lech Walesa and his comrades-in-arms, the Berlin Wall would have never fallen. Many Poles believe that the world has...
SOURCE: Wall Street Journal (8-6-09)
On this day 64 years ago, an American B-29 named the Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb over the city of Hiroshima. We know that as many as 80,000 Japanese died instantly. We know the city was pulverized, and we know that an estimated 100,000 additional people died later from radiation poisoning. We also are aware that the Hiroshima bomb, and the Nagasaki bomb dropped three days later, ushered in the atomic era....
...At the time that the bombs were dropped, battle-hardened G.I.s were being rotated from Europe back to the U.S. and then sent on to staging areas in the Pacific. The first wave of the invasion under the command of Gen. Douglas MacArthur was scheduled to land in November 1945, with a second wave in March 1946. Hospitals were being quickly built in the Mariana Islands to accommodate the thousands of expected wounded. What Americans eventually...
SOURCE: TomDispatch.com (8-3-09)
As a young man, I was probably not completely atypical in having the Bomb (the 1950s was a great time for capitalizing what was important) on my brain, and not just while I was ducking under my school desk as sirens howled their nuclear warnings outside. Like many people my age, I dreamed about the bomb, too. I could, in those nightmares, feel its searing heat, watch a mushroom cloud rise on some distant horizon, or find myself in some devastated landscape I had never come close to experiencing (except perhaps in sci-fi novels).
Of course, my dreams were nothing compared to those of America's top strategists who, in secret National Security Council documents of the early 1950s, descended into the charnel house of future history, imagining life on this planet as an eternal potential holocaust. They wrote in those...
SOURCE: TomDispatch.com (8-5-09)
I can't help myself. I still think it's worth bringing up, even for the 64th time. I'm talking, of course, about the atomic obliteration, at the end of a terrible, world-rending war, of two Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on August 6 and 9, 1945, whose anniversaries -- if that's even the appropriate word for it -- are once again upon us.
In this, at least, I know I'm not a typical American: Hiroshima and Nagasaki still seem all too real to me. As the child of anti-nuclear activists, I was raised to pay attention to two...