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: Lawyers, Guns and Money (Blog) (11-12-09)
In light of my recent Andrew Jackson bashing, Matt is right to note that his status as the most odious and overrated allegedly progressive president in history is far from clear-cut. And Matt doesn't even bring up the fact that Wilson made what was almost indisputably the 20th century's worst Supreme Court appointment, a guy who dissented in the Scottsboro Boys case ("hey, the fine people of Alabama went to the trouble of providing four show trials to railroad 9 innocent defendants into the death chamber -- what do you expect?") and wouldn't even let his clerks talk to his Jewish colleagues.
Wilson's love for (and highly destructive promotion of) The Birth of a Nation reminds me of something else about presidential reputation. For my presidency course this semester, I assigned an article that compiles many of those presidential rating surveys...
SOURCE: Clayman institute for gender research (9-11-09)
“The central and county archives cover a wide range of issues that establish deep background for the current situation in China,” said Matthew Sommer, PhD, an associate professor of Chinese history at Stanford University and a Clayman Institute for Gender Research faculty affiliate. “Though we study legal cases, we are able to look beyond the law into issues of gender, sex, and family that affected ordinary people.”
Focusing on records from the Qing dynasty (1644-1912), Sommer...
SOURCE: Asia Pacific Journal (12-14-09)
Although there has been much attention given to the Japanese-Americans who were detained in the infamous detention centers of Hawaii and throughout the Western United States during World War II, virtually nothing is known about the Korean prisoners-of-war (POWs) in Hawaii in the years 1943-45. Approximately 2,700 Korean POWs were captured and brought to the Island of Oahu, where they were incarcerated until the end of the war and their repatriation to Korea in December 1945. This is a preliminary report on these Koreans based on limited data I have uncovered in the hope that other interested scholars may more fully document their experience in the future.
Plucked mostly from various Pacific islands toward the end of the war, these...
SOURCE: Biblical Archaeology Review (12-2-09)
On December 25, Christians around the world will gather to celebrate Jesus’ birth. Joyful carols, special liturgies, brightly wrapped gifts, festive foods—these all characterize the feast today, at least in the northern hemisphere. But just how did the Christmas festival originate? How did December 25 come to be associated with Jesus’ birthday?
The Bible offers few clues: Celebrations of Jesus’ Nativity are not mentioned in the Gospels or Acts; the date is not given, not even the time of year. The biblical reference to shepherds tending their flocks at night when they hear the news of Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:8) might suggest the spring lambing season; in the cold month of December, on the other hand...
SOURCE: Policy Review (Hoover Institution, Stanford) (12-8-09)
On a dark November night in 1978, 18 Chinese peasants from Xiaogang village in Anhui province secretly divided communal land to be farmed by individual families, who would keep what was left over after meeting state quotas. Such a division was illegal and highly dangerous, but the peasants felt the risks were worth it. The timing is significant for our story. The peasants took action one month before the “reform” congress of the party was announced. Thus, without fanfare, began economic reform, as spontaneous land division spread to other villages. One farmer...
SOURCE: Salem News (12-7-09)
The United States' Pacific Fleet was ravaged. The Japanese sank four battleships, three cruisers and three destroyers. Destroyed were 188 American aircraft. Wounded were 1,282 service personnel. The American death total numbered 2,402.
What took the Japanese mere minutes to do on a beautiful Sunday morning was destined to forever alter world history. The attack - a surprise and unprovoked - stirred patriotism which remains unchallenged. Public opinion, which had favored isolationism, emerged as support for direct participation in the war. The sleeping giant had indeed been rudely awakened. He was angry.
The United States did participate in war. It won wars on both sides of the globe; a feat...
SOURCE: OpEdNews (12-6-09)
I don't have a story about where I was or what I was doing on December 7, 1941, but I remember Pearl Harbor"even though I wasn't even born yet.
I heard the stories growing up. My dad remembered. He was in a bowling alley in Forest Hills, New York, when a buddy ran in and yelled “Johnnie get your gun, the Japs just invaded Pearl Harbor.” “Japs” was an acceptable word back then, even if no one knew where Pearl Harbor was. But from that day forward, no one would ever forget.
I have had the honor and privilege of meeting, and thanking, many Pearl Harbor survivors. Most were Navy men or Marines. But the Army and Air Corps were there as well and lost many men. Civilians were also on those casualty lists -- many...
SOURCE: NYT (12-5-09)
SIXTY-EIGHT years ago tomorrow, Japan attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor. In the brutal Pacific war that would follow, millions of soldiers and civilians were killed. My father — one of the famous flag raisers on Iwo Jima — was among the young men who went off to the Pacific to fight for his country. So the war naturally fascinated me. But I always wondered, why did we fight in the Pacific? Yes, there was Pearl Harbor, but why did the Japanese attack us in the first place?
In search of an answer, I read deeply into the diplomatic history of the 1930s, about President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s policy on Asia, and his preparation — or lack thereof — for a major conflict there. But I discovered that I was studying the wrong President Roosevelt. The one who had the greater effect on Japan’s behavior was Theodore Roosevelt — whose efforts to end the war between Japan and...
SOURCE: Truthout (12-5-09)
As India prepares to roll out the red carpet to multinational corporations cashing in on the country's nuclear deals with the US and others, a painful reminder has come about what collaborations of this kind can mean: the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal gas-leak tragedy on December 3, 2009.
On this day of 1984, Bhopal, capital of the central Indian State of Madhya Pradesh, turned into a "Hiroshima of the chemical industry," as the worst industrial disaster in the world has come to be known. A pesticide plant of Union Carbide located there leaked a highly toxic cloud of 42 tons of methyl isocyanate (MIC) into the air of a densely populated region. Of the 800,000 people living in the city then, 8,000 to 10,000 died within 72 hours. About 300,000 were injured and as many as 25,...
SOURCE: NYT (12-2-09)
IN the Mumbai kindergarten my son went to, the children never had to clean up after themselves; that was the servants’ job. So I really liked the school my son attended when we moved back to Brooklyn, where the teachers made the children tidy up at the end of the day. “Cleanup time, cleanup time!” my 6-year-old sang, joyfully gathering his scraps. It’s a wonderful American tradition: you always clean up the mess you made.
This is the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal gas disaster, an epic mess that started one night when a pesticide plant owned by the American chemical giant Union Carbide leaked a cloud of poisonous gas. Before the sun rose, almost 4,000 human beings capable of love and anguish sank to their knees and did not get up. Half a million more fell ill, many with severely damaged lungs and eyes.
An additional 15,000 people...
SOURCE: NYT (12-1-09)
ONE hundred and fifty years ago today, the most successful terrorist in American history was hanged at the edge of this Shenandoah Valley town. Before climbing atop his coffin for the wagon ride to the gallows, he handed a note to one of his jailers: “I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.”
Eighteen months later, Americans went to war against each other, with soldiers marching into battle singing “John Brown’s Body.” More than 600,000 men died before the sin of slavery was purged.
Few if any Americans today would question the justness of John Brown’s cause: the abolition of human bondage. But as the nation prepares to try Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who calls himself the architect of the 9/11 attacks, it may be worth pondering the parallels...
SOURCE: NYT (12-1-09)
IT’S important for Americans to recognize our national heroes, even those who have been despised by history. Take John Brown.
Today is the 150th anniversary of Brown’s hanging — the grim punishment for his raid weeks earlier on Harpers Ferry, Va. With a small band of abolitionists, Brown had seized the federal arsenal there and freed slaves in the area. His plan was to flee with them to nearby mountains and provoke rebellions in the South. But he stalled too long in the arsenal and was captured. He was brought to trial in a Virginia court, convicted of treason, murder and inciting an insurrection, and hanged on Dec. 2, 1859.
It’s a date we should hold in reverence. Yes, I know the response: Why remember a misguided fanatic and his absurd plan for destroying slavery?
SOURCE: Truthout (12-1-09)
For five days in 1999, 80,000 people from Seattle and from all over the country stopped the World Trade Organization from meeting. Despite extreme police and state violence, students, organizers, workers, and community members participated in a public uprising using direct actions, marches, rallies, and mass convergences. Longshoremen shut down every port on the West Coast. Global actions of solidarity happened from India to Italy. Trade ministers, heads of state, and corporate hosts were forced to abandon their agenda and declare the Millenium Ministerial a complete failure. We said we would shut it...
SOURCE: Times (UK) (12-1-09)
Now you see him, now you don’t. Stalin was a past master at the art of airbrushing. In one classic set of photographs, there Stalin is with his secret police chief, Nikolai Yezhov — and in the next photo, there Yezhov isn’t (he was executed in 1940, with his boss’s approval). And now, in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, the airbrushing of history seems to be all the rage again.
If you look hard enough — and we travelled for 5,000 miles around the former Soviet Union — you can find old Soviet airbrushing in concrete. Not far from the railway station in Volgograd, formerly Stalingrad, are three giant faces on the frieze of a building: Marx, Engels, and Lenin. Next to them is a strange shadow, a memory of a fourth face no longer there. Stalin’s visage was chiselled off, sometime after Nikita Khrushchev’s “secret speech” of 1956, in which he denounced Stalin to a closed session of the...