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: HuffPo (3-28-11)
Here's John Adams on Thomas Paine's famous 1776 pamphlet "Common Sense": "What a poor, ignorant, malicious, short-sighted, crapulous mass." Then comes Paine on Adams: "John was not born for immortality."
Paine and Adams may have been alone among the founders for having literary styles adequate to their mutual disregard. "The spissitude [sic!] of the black liquor which is spread in such quantities by this writer," Adams wrote of Paine, "prevents its daubing." Paine:...
SOURCE: History.com (3-30-11)
Snowball Fight: On Opening Day in 1907, the New York Giants faced off against the Phillies at New York City’s Polo Grounds after a heavy snowstorm. When the Giants fell behind, disgruntled fans began flinging snowballs onto the field, forcing the umpire to call a forfeit in the Phillies’ favor.
Presidential Pitches: On the first day of the 1910 season, William Howard Taft became the first president to throw the ceremonial first pitch. Since then, every president besides Jimmy Carter has thrown at least one ceremonial first ball for Opening Day, the All-Star Game or the World Series.
Rival Riot: Brooklyn’s Washington Park was the scene of an Opening Day riot on April 11, 1912. With the Brooklyn Dodgers down 18-3 to their rival, the New York Giants, fans stormed the field and delayed the game, which was eventually called on account of darkness in the sixth inning.
SOURCE: WSJ (3-19-11)
Thomas Sully is unique among American painters for the quiet yet theatrical intensity of his work and his ability to draw the viewer into the drama. His "Passage of the Delaware" (1819) masterfully and accurately captures a moment of supreme importance to the American Revolution. That moment comes at about 3 a.m. on Dec. 26, 1776. The sky is ominous, as it is snowing. A half-rooted, blighted tree well symbolizes America's predicament.
After a disastrous defeat in New York, Gen. George Washington, with the remains of his rag-tag army, has fled south. There is talk of replacing him as commander of the Continental army. Congress has evacuated Philadelphia and moved to Baltimore. Thomas Paine, in camp with the troops, has penned the words "These are the times that try men's souls."
Yet all is not lost. A staff officer with Washington on the morning of Dec. 26 records in his diary: "I have...
SOURCE: American Spectator (3-28-11)
With policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic slashing public spending and searching for ways to reduce military budgets, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has just begun construction of a splendiferous new $1.38 billion headquarters on a 100-acre site in Brussels. Designed by Chicago architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, renowned for luxurious commercial buildings including the tallest in the world, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the futuristic new NATO offices will feature eight sweeping wings covering 2.7 million square feet. Glass-walled elevators overlooking cavernous atriums showering natural light. Ecologically correct grass growing on the roof. Seventeen conference rooms. A range of amenities from cafeterias, restaurants, and banks, to shopping, sport, and leisure facilities. Pentagon staffers, eat your hearts out.
The architects wax rhapsodic,...
SOURCE: History.com (3-24-11)
[History in the Headlines is a regular feature on History.com]
One hundred years have passed since the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of March 25, 1911, which killed nearly 150 New York City workers and helped expose poor working conditions and inadequate fire safety measures in American cities. Find out how newspapers across the country reported on the tragedy.
New York Tribune: March 26, 1911
This New York Tribune cover story from March 26 provides a detailed account of the horror that unfolded the day before, citing numerous officials and survivors. It describes the mad rush for the elevators, the collapse of the building’s sole fire escape and the horrific sight of some 50 women leaping to their deaths. In a statement excerpted in the article, Fire Chief Edward Croker...
SOURCE: Commentary (3-28-11)
In late 2010, several organizations with mysterious names made impressive claims on the world’s attention. During a two-day period in the first week of November, more than a dozen parcel bombs arrived at embassies in Athens and at the offices of leading politicians in three European cities. Only one exploded, burning a mail handler, but European capitals went on high alert, and international mail to and from Greece was halted for 48 hours. Police soon arrested two suspects who were identified as members of a terrorist group called the Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei, with more to follow in the ensuing weeks.
In early December, an organization calling itself Anonymous launched disabling attacks on the websites of corporations that had ceased facilitating donations to the whistleblower group WikiLeaks. For the second time in a year, Anonymous slowed down or took offline...
SOURCE: The Weekly Standard (3-28-11)
[Ronald Radosh, coauthor of The Rosenberg File, is an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute and a blogger for Pajamas Media. Steven T. Usdin is the author of Engineering Communism: How Two Americans Spied for Stalin and Founded the Soviet Silicon Valley and “The Rosenberg Archive,” a historical timeline at www.wilsoncenter.org/cwihp/rosenberg.]
Three years ago, Morton Sobell gave an interview to Sam Roberts of the New York Times that surprised readers and stunned many who continued to believe that Sobell and his more famous codefendants, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, were innocent victims of political persecution who had never spied for the Soviet Union.
Roberts’s piece was published on September 12, 2008. It reported that Sobell had “dramatically reversed himself” and “admitted for the first time that he had been a Soviet spy.” Sobell had also implicated Julius Rosenberg. Roberts asked “whether, as an electrical...
SOURCE: The Atlantic (3-27-11)
The moment of truth for vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro was her debate against George H.W. Bush on October 11, 1984.
How would she, a three-term member of Congress, stand up against the man who had been ambassador to China and the U.N, headed the CIA, and for the previous four years served as vice president of the United States?
The high command at the headquarters of presidential candidate Walter Mondale may have been worried. Her own campaign staff may have been concerned. But one person was utterly self-confident: the candidate herself.
I was fortunate to have worked closely with Geraldine Ferraro on this historic debate. In mid-September of 1984, the Mondale campaign asked Anne Wexler (former senior advisor to President Carter) and Bob Barnett (former Mondale Senate staffer and already a...
SOURCE: American Conservative (3-24-11)
In the Midwest it is still considered bad form to talk politics or religion in polite company. The region’s religious, ethnic, and political diversity makes it sensible to keep one’s views a private matter—or at least between family and good friends—lest one start a quarrel with the neighbors. But since the mid-1970s Michele Bachmann and others like her have been smashing these polite traditions to pieces. She cannot separate religion and politics in her worldview: doing so would leave her faith incomplete and her life along with it. There is no “wall of separation” or compartmentalization. Bachmann would not be who she is without her faith driving her politics—and there are many others who feel the same way....
Conservative Republicans in Minnesota after 1938 were a minority of a minority. In the elections of that year Harold Stassen won the first of three terms as governor, ushering in the...
SOURCE: Salon (3-24-11)
Maine Gov. Paul LePage has ordered state workers to remove from the state labor department a 36-foot mural depicting the state's labor history. Among other things, the mural illustrates the 1937 shoe mill strike in Auburn and Lewiston. It also features the iconic "Rosie the Riveter," who in real life worked at the Bath Iron Works. One panel shows my predecessor at the U.S. Department of Labor, Frances Perkins, who was buried in Newcastle, Maine.
The LePage administration is also renaming conference rooms that had carried the names of historic leaders of American labor, as well as former Secretary Perkins.
The governor's spokesman explains that the mural and the conference-room names were "...
SOURCE: skidelskyr.com (3-23-11)
History has no final verdicts. Major shifts in events and power bring about new subjects for discussion and new interpretations.
Fifty years ago, as de-colonization accelerated, no one had a good word to say for imperialism. It was regarded as unambiguously bad, both by ex-imperialists and by their liberated subjects. Schoolchildren were taught about the horrors of colonialism, how it exploited conquered peoples. There was little mention, if any, of imperialism’s benefits.
Then, in the 1980’s, a revisionist history came along. It wasn’t just that distance lends a certain enchantment to any view. The West – mainly the Anglo-American part of it – had recovered some of its pride and nerve under US President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. And there was the growing evidence of post-colonial regimes’...
SOURCE: Newsweek (3-20-11)
He’s 86 now, his eyebrows silver and his legs weakened by Parkinsonism, a vascular disorder akin to Parkinson’s disease. But as George Herbert Walker Bush approaches his twilight years, he is beginning to get his due.
President Obama last month awarded him the Medal of Freedom. On March 21, Bush will be feted—by Bill Clinton, no less—at a major Kennedy Center event in Washington honoring his contribution to volunteerism through the Points of Light Foundation. Qualities once branded as vices—his civil tone, willingness to reach across the aisle, even his sway with Mideast strongmen—suddenly seem more like virtues in a world weary of attack politics and confronting a cascading series of global crises....
“At the time, [Bush’s style] didn’t seem to be leadership qualities to the public. Some even saw it as weakness,” says Roman Popadiuk, a national-security spokesman in the Bush White...
SOURCE: LA Times (3-20-11)
The Triangle fire, a garment factory blaze that killed 146 people 100 years ago this week, was the worst workplace disaster in New York City until the fall of the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001. Yet despite the fire's place in history, many Americans know nothing about it.
Those who died in the March 25, 1911, fire were mostly young Jewish and Italian women and girls, new immigrants who risked their safety in horrendous sweatshop conditions making women's garments. Foremen frequently locked workers into their workrooms to make certain they didn't take breaks or pilfer cloth; this ensured that for many trapped inside, there was virtually no escape when the blaze began.
The victims either...
SOURCE: Jerusalem Post (3-20-11)
I have been exposed to Palestinians since I was in first grade in Al- Hassa, Saudi Arabia. They were the most dedicated and intelligent among all my instructors, from elementary to high school. When I was attending New York-based SUNY Maritime college (1975-1979), I read a lot of books about Palestinians, Arabs and the Israelis. I have read every article about the many chances the Palestinians missed to solve their problem, especially the Camp David agreement between Egypt and Israel. I have seen and read about the lives of Palestinians in the US and other places. They are very successful in every field.
At the same time, I saw the Arab countries at the bottom of the list in education and development. And I ask the question: What if the Palestinians and Arabs accepted...
SOURCE: New Republic (3-14-11)
Alexis de Tocqueville once wrote that all the great events of the past 700 years—from the Crusades and English wars that decimated the nobles, to the discovery of firearms and the art of printing, to the rise of Protestantism and the discovery of America—had the ineluctable effect of advancing the principle of equality. Political scientist Samuel Huntington went further and identified several historical waves of democratization. The First Wave began with our own revolution in 1776, which was quickly followed by the French Revolution. The Second Wave followed the victory of the Allies in World War II.
The Third Wave, according to Huntington’s thesis, was a global process that began in 1974 with the fall of the military government in Portugal and the death in 1975 of Francisco Franco, followed in both countries by successful democratic transitions. It then spread to Latin America, Asia,...
SOURCE: Foreign Policy (3-11-11)
As the world debates how best to stop the slaughter in Libya, it's worth remembering that the United States has successfully countered Muammar al-Qaddafi's military before.
Qaddafi has a track record of misadventures extending back to the Libyan revolution, which brought him to power at the head of a military junta in 1969. He supported terrorism all over the world and had a penchant for stirring up trouble in Africa. In the late 1970s he sent troops to support Ugandan President Idi Amin, who was under assault from opponents coming from Tanzania. And in 1983, he launched a massive invasion (by African standards) of his neighbor to the south, Chad.
Chad was of no particular importance to the United...
SOURCE: WaPo (2-17-11)
No American hero, with the possible exception of George "I Cannot Tell a Lie" Washington, has been more encrusted with myth than Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln did boast virtues that required little embellishment. He rose from obscurity through hard work, self-education and honesty. He endured venomous criticism to save the Union and end slavery. He died shortly after his greatest triumph at the hands of an assassin. But tall-tale-tellers have never hesitated to rewrite Lincoln's biography. On Presidents' Day, it's well worth dispelling some perennial misconceptions about the man on the $5 bill.
1. Lincoln was a simple country lawyer.
This durable legend, personified by...
SOURCE: Foreign Policy (3-4-11)
Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi is well known now for the abuses he has inflicted on his own people during more than four decades of brutal rule in Libya, but few remember the vast campaign of carnage and terrorism he orchestrated across West Africa and Europe when he was at the height of his powers.
Nor are his more recent alliance with Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and his long-standing relationship with Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua -- both of whom are busy trampling their constitutions and moving toward dictatorship -- well understood. And the fact that all three governments support the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a terrorist group that produces more than half of the world's cocaine and two-thirds of the cocaine entering the United States, is usually ignored...
SOURCE: National Interest (3-8-11)
While Colonel T. E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia") sympathized with Armenian aspirations for sovereignty and, indeed, in a map he drew up after the Great War of a desirable Middle Eastern share-out of the Ottoman Empire he provided for an independent Armenia (in Cilicia), he was also party to the prevalent anti-Armenian prejudices of his day.
Lawrence was a member of the British delegation to the 1919 postwar Paris peace conference. On November 3 he told Frank Polk, the American "Commissioner" in Paris, that the Armenians were prone to lend "money at exorbitant rates of interest" and took "the Turks' land or horses in security for payment," and this at least in part explained the Turkish atrocities against them during World War I.
But there was another factor. "Armenians," he told...
SOURCE: Spiegel Online (3-8-11)
It's hard to think of a more peaceful place in the Middle East than the calm and orderly port town of Sohar in Oman, where hibiscus bushes bloom year-round and residents relax over water pipes and tea. All of this was true until Sunday, Feb. 27, when 2,000 men staged a protest at a large roundabout. The police shot and killed at least one protester. He and his fellow protesters had demanded higher wages and complained about rampant corruption in the government of Sultan Qaboos bin Said, 70.
Until Thursday, Feb. 24, Qatif, an oasis city in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province, was distinguished mainly by palm trees, sand and -- ever since the world's largest oil field was discovered there 60 years ago -- oil. But then a group of Shiites took to the streets to demand the release of three of their fellow Shiites. King Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz, 86, had never experienced anything quite like it in his...