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: Slate (5-30-11)
SOURCE: Newsweek (5-29-11)
Janine Di Giovanni’s next book, Ghosts by Daylight: Love, War, and Redemption, will be published by Knopf in September.
SOURCE: Jerusalem Post (5-31-11)
SOURCE: Salon (5-29-11)
Glenn W. LaFantasie is the Richard Frockt Family Professor of Civil War History at Western Kentucky University. He is working on a book about Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant.
When Abraham Lincoln was elected president on Nov. 6, 1860, most Americans had only a vague idea of what he looked like. Engravings of his likeness had been published in various newspapers around the country, mostly in the North, but some of these illustrations purposely distorted his facial features (the modern version of airbrushing) or simply failed to render accurately his less-than-handsome countenance. In 1856, an Illinois editor, who saw Lincoln in person as he gave a speech, remarked that the politician was "crooked-legged, stoop-shouldered ... [with] anything but a handsome face."
Lincoln was aware of his homeliness. One popular story, which might be apocryphal, claimed that a political opponent called Lincoln "two-faced" during a public debate. Without missing a beat,...
SOURCE: The American Interest (5-29-11)
Walter Russell Mead is the Henry Kissinger senior fellow for US foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World. He also writes a blog for the American Interest.
...The Americans who served, suffered and died in Iraq — and who still serve there today — changed the world and won a great and a difficult victory. No account of their service, no commemoration of the dead that ignores or conceals this vital truth is enough.
To celebrate a momentous victory in Iraq is not to acknowledge that President Bush was right to go into Iraq when and how he did; it is not to justify or excuse the years of poor choices and strategic fumbling before the President found the generals who knew how to win. (One can say the same thing, of course, about President Lincoln. Like most great leaders, he failed his way to triumph.) I...
SOURCE: The Nation (5-29-11)
John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Beat since 1999
When the role of media as not just an observer but as shaper of our politics was barely discussed outside academic circles, Gil Scott-Heron gave us, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” still the savviest critique of the disengaged and disengaging character of broadcast news—and the crisis of commercialism....
Heron,who has died at age 62 after a long battle with drugs and disease, is being hailed as the “godfather of rap.” And it is easy to make the case for his influence on Grandmaster Flash, Public Enemy and dozens of other artists -- including Kanye West, whose latest album features a long except from Scott-Heron’s “Who Will Survive in...
SOURCE: LA Times (5-27-11)
In one sense, the U.S. solicitor general's recent admission of his office's wrongdoing wasn't really news. After all, commissions courts and investigators long ago established that various government agencies and officials fudged or withheld facts during World War II in order to sweep all people of Japanese descent — American-born citizens as well as immigrants — out of California and parts of three other Western states.
Congress, the president, state and local officials and the military rode a wave of war hysteria to support the politically...
SOURCE: LA Times (5-29-11)
Andrea Wulf's book "Founding Gardeners — The Revolutionary Generation, Nature and the Shaping of the American Nation" is published by Knopf.
As America's gardeners dig, plant, weed and grow lettuce, beans and tomatoes in their vegetable plots this summer, they are part of a tradition that harks back to the beginnings of the United States. Just by working on a compost pile this weekend, you'll be in good historical company.
The first four presidents of the United States — George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison — were all utterly obsessed with manure and recipes for compost. Adams even jumped into a stinking pile when he was America's first "...
SOURCE: WSJ (5-28-11)
Mr. Hornfischer is the author of three works of World War II history: "The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors," "Ship of Ghosts" and, most recently, "Neptune's Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal."
Bob Hagen knew the worst of battle while serving on destroyers in the Pacific during World War II. He saw action at Guadalcanal. He was the gunnery officer on the USS Johnston when it was hit hard in the Battle Off Samar near the Philippines on October 25, 1944. For two hours he directed the ship's main guns, firing gamely at an overwhelming enemy. A Japanese shell turned two officers standing on the flying bridge, 10 feet below his station, into a pink mist. When the order to abandon ship came across, Hagen found himself floating in shark-infested waters watching the Johnston sink. His best friend, the ship's doctor, Robert Browne, was still aboard, refusing to seek safety until all the wounded had been evacuated. Hagen saw Browne re-entering the...
SOURCE: NYT (5-26-11)
JANUARY was the 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s birth, and the planet nearly stopped turning on its axis to recognize the occasion. Today is the 100th anniversary of Hubert H. Humphrey’s birth, and no one besides me seems to have noticed.
That such a central figure in American history is largely ignored today is sad. But his diminution is also, more importantly, an impediment to understanding our current malaise as a nation, and how much better things might have been had today’s America turned out less Reaganite and more Humphreyish....
Humphrey made his national political debut in 1948 when, as mayor of Minneapolis and a candidate for Senate, he headed the Minnesota delegation to the Democratic National Convention. There he led a faction insisting the platform include a federal fair employment commission, a controversial goal of the civil rights movement....
It was Humphrey’s misfortune to inherit the presidential nomination in 1968, with the Democratic...
SOURCE: Jerusalem Post (5-25-11)
The writer is a former Knesset employee.
In 1915-16, during World War I, the Turks were responsible for the massacre of as many as 1.5 million Armenian inhabitants of the Ottoman Empire. Among the first to warn about the nature and scope of the atrocity was Aaron Aaronsohn– the renowned agronomist from Zichron Ya’acov who established the Nili spy ring, which in the course of the war collected information about Ottoman military movements and other strategic issues and passed it on to the British authorities.
Several of Aaronsohn’s relatives and colleagues...
SOURCE: Dissent Magazine (5-24-11)
Peter Dreier teaches politics at Occidental College.
When the makers of Hollywood movies, documentary films, or TV news programs want to evoke the spirit of the 1960s, they typically show clips of long-haired hippies dancing at a festival, protestors marching at an antiwar rally, or students sitting-in at a lunch counter, with one of two songs by Bob Dylan—“Blowin’ in the Wind” or “The Times They Are a-Changin’”—playing in the background.
Journalists and historians often treat Dylan’s songs as emblematic of the era and Dylan himself as the quintessential “protest” singer, an image frozen in time. Dylan emerged on the music scene in 1961, playing in Greenwich Village coffeehouses after the folk music revival was already underway, and released his first album the next year. Over a short period—less than three years—Dylan wrote about two dozen politically oriented songs whose creative lyrics and imagery reflected the changing mood of the postwar baby-boom...
SOURCE: The Daily Beast (5-23-11)
Charles Lachman is executive producer of Inside Edition and the author of The Last Lincolns: The Rise & Fall of a Great American Family. His new book, A Secret Life: The Sex, Lies and Scandal of President Grover Cleveland, will be published August 1.
Arnold Schwarzenegger. John Edwards. Grover Cleveland?
It's true. In the annals of illegitimate children born to powerful politicians, President Grover Cleveland must rank uppermost. While Schwarzenegger made it with the maid and John Edwards betrayed his wife with a woman who...
SOURCE: WSJ (5-24-11)
William McGurn is a Vice President at News Corporation who writes speeches for CEO Rupert Murdoch. Previously he served as Chief Speechwriter for President George W. Bush.
Today Ameen Rihani and the Little Syria neighborhood of lower Manhattan have largely been forgotten.
That's a pity. In his day, the Lebanese-born author and activist was a world figure—and the New York neighborhood where he once lived was a vibrant testament to America's immigrant experience. In our day, Rihani's unapologetic embrace of American-style freedom for the Arab people dovetails nicely with President Obama's call for a new, Middle Eastern diplomacy that makes it clear that "America's interests are not hostile to people's hopes."
If so, a statue of this Arab-American in lower Manhattan would be a powerful start.
The statue is the dream of Todd Fine, a Harvard grad who now works to promote Rihani's writings. The site Mr. Fine has in mind would be near Trinity Place and...
SOURCE: openDemocracy (5-23-11)
David Hayes is deputy editor of openDemocracy, which he co-founded in 2000. He has written textbooks on human rights and terrorism, and was a contributor to Town and Country (Jonathan Cape, 1998). His work has been published in PN Review, the Irish Times, El Pais, the Iran Times International, the Canberra Times, the Scotsman, the New Statesman and The Absolute Game.
A great artist’s landmark birthday tends to be a retrospect. Here too Bob Dylan, born on 24 May 1941, extends the pattern of a lifetime in subverting expectations. For the American singer and songwriter, whose pioneering work in the 1960s made him the most influential figure of popular music in that decade, became in his own 60s if anything even more famous than he had been in his meteoric 20s.
The media deluge that surrounds his 70th birthday - tributes, articles and profiles galore,...
SOURCE: NYT (5-23-11)
SOURCE: Publishers Weekly (5-23-11)
Kate Culkin is an assistant professor of history at the Bronx Community College in New York City.
"Any topic worth writing a book about has people who will be interested in it, if they know the book exists. The trick is to reach them."
The title of Harriet Hosmer's 1908 obituary in the Boston Globe was "Most Famous of American Women Sculptors." Another obituary, however, expressed surprise that she had not died years before. I have wrestled with that dichotomy—that Hosmer was both a celebrity and a forgotten figure—as I have written and promoted my book, Harriet Hosmer: A Cultural Biography, published by the University of Massachusetts Press last November...
Despite choosing an academic press, I still believe Hosmer's dramatic story has a lot of appeal to a general audience, if people get to learn about it. To ensure people do, I have tapped into the spirit of Hosmer herself, who was a great self-promoter. I set up a Facebook page and a...
SOURCE: Globe and Mail (5-22-11)
Canada officially celebrates Monday the birthday of Queen Victoria, a figure who casts a large shadow (not only metaphorically) over the origins of our country. The statutory holiday is our oldest secular observance, established by the Legislature of the Province of Canada in 1845. During Victoria's reign, the idea of Canada took shape, and a nation from sea to sea was established in 1867, with Confederation. There's a good reason Victoria is the most common place name in Canada that is derived from a person's name.
But Victoria Day should stand for more than that, for more too than the official observance in Canada of her great-great-granddaughter Elizabeth II's birthday, and for much more than what it is called in some in parts of the country: May two-four, after a case of 24 beers. It should be celebrated as a symbol of the birth of many of the ideas that define our world. The list is astonishing, and the inheritance of the Victorians is perhaps the greatest influence of...
SOURCE: LA Times (5-23-11)
Peter Kornbluh is a senior analyst at the National Security Archive and the author of "The Pinochet File." Marc Cooper is a journalism professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism; in 1973 he was a translator for President Salvador Allende, and lived through the military coup.
Nearly 40 years after the violent military coup in which he perished, the remains of former Chilean President Salvador Allende will be exhumed in Santiago on Monday under the supervision of an investigating magistrate and a team of forensic experts.
The exhumation is part of an attempt to determine once and for all whether the...
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed (5-22-11)
Writers closely identified with the Holocaust rarely escape their literary cells. Elie Wiesel has written 57 books—try naming a few of them besides Night. When Imre Kertész, the Hungarian-Jewish novelist and Auschwitz survivor, won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2002, the Swedish Academy understandably cited his "writing that upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history," even as Kertész, the first Hungarian to win the prize, expressed hope that it might more generally shine light on the "ignored literature of Hungary."
And then there is Primo Levi. When he plunged to his death down the stairwell of his Turin apartment building on the morning of April 11, 1987, only minutes after answering the doorbell of his third-floor apartment and thanking the concierge for...