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: Daily Beast (8-30-11)
Historian Andrew Roberts' latest book, The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War, was published in the U.S. in May. His previous books include Masters and Commanders and A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900. Dr. Roberts is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
Brunhilde Pomsel, Joseph Goebbels’s former secretary, has finally, at age 100, broken a 66-yearlong vow of silence and spoken to the...
SOURCE: Foreign Policy (8-29-11)
David J. Rothkopf blogs for Foreign Policyandis the author of Running the World: The Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power.His next book, due out in early 2012, is Power, Inc.: The Epic Rivalry Between Big Business and Government—and the Reckoning That Lies Ahead.
Recently, I've started to get calls from reporters doing pieces on the upcoming 10th...
SOURCE: LA Times (8-26-11)
Eve Weinbaum is director of the Labor Center and an associate professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Rachel Roth is director of communications and foundation support at the National Network of Abortion Funds and the author of a book on women's rights.
Today we celebrate the anniversary of female suffrage, a victory that took more than 70 years of political struggle to achieve. After women won the right to vote in 1920, socialist feminist Crystal Eastman observed that suffrage was an important first step but that what women really wanted was freedom. In an essay titled "Now We Can Begin," she laid out a plan toward this goal that is still relevant today.
Eastman outlined a four-point program: economic independence for women (including freedom to choose an occupation and equal pay), gender equality at home (raising "feminist sons" to share the responsibilities of family life), "...
SOURCE: American Spectator (8-29-11)
Thomas J. Craughwell is the author of The Greatest Brigade: How the Irish Brigade Cleared the Way to Victory in the Civil War (Fair Winds, 2011) and Stealing Lincoln's Body (Harvard University Press, 2007).
Civil war historians and enthusiasts will argue over the greatest Confederate general, or whether...
SOURCE: WaPo (8-26-11)
Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) has been a member of the House of Representatives since 1987.
Forty-eight years ago Sunday, when Martin Luther King Jr. was about to make his historic speech on the National Mall, I was huddled close to the statue of Abraham Lincoln, tapping on a portable typewriter, making last-minute changes to my own speech. As the newly elected chair of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, speaking at the March on Washington was one of my first important actions. Dr. King spoke tenth; I was sixth. Today, I am the last surviving speaker from the march.
When I think back on that day, and the hundreds of thousands of people who responded to the call to march on Washington, there is no question that many things have changed. Then, Martin Luther King Jr. was a controversial figure taking risks so that...
SOURCE: Financial Times (UK) (8-25-11)
The author is a former FT Moscow bureau chief.
Russians sometimes say it is impossible to predict anything in their country – even the past. The heroes of one era are airbrushed from the next. The brave advances of one leader are denounced by his successors as hare-brained schemes. It is often difficult, as Boris Pasternak once wrote, to distinguish victories from defeats.
This constantly shifting historical kaleidoscope applies to the failed hardline Communist party putsch of August 1991 that rapidly led to the unravelling of the Soviet Union a few months later. Over the past 20 years, those shattering events – which led to the disintegration of an empire, an economy, an ideology and a political regime – have caused ceaseless controversy. They have been variously interpreted, and endlessly reinterpreted,...
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (8-23-11)
Robert Hopkins lives in Munich.
Last Sunday, I was walking from the main station in Munich to the Neue Pinakothek art gallery. But I never got there. On the way, I discovered a new detailed information board with a map showing the location of many former Nazi buildings in the area known as Maxvorstadt, to the north of the city centre, and I decided to investigate.
This showed both existing buildings and the sites of buildings destroyed in the bombing raids on the city during on October 2 and 3 1943 and on January 7 1945. Nearby is another information board with details of the new Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism, planned to open at the end of 2013 on the site of the former so-called Brown House, the Nazi Party HQ in the city.
Naturally, such a centre will inevitably attract neo-Nazis but it is good that this did not stop those who initiated the project...
SOURCE: National Interest (8-24-11)
Geoffrey Wheatcroft is an English journalist and author, whose books include Yo, Blair! (Politico’s Publishing, 2007), The Strange Death of Tory England (Allen Lane, 2005) and The Controversy of Zion (PerseusBooks, 1997), which won a National Jewish Book Award .
For God’s sake do not drag me into another war,” said the Reverend Sydney Smith in 1823.
I am sorry for the Spaniards—I am sorry for the Greeks—I deplore the fate of the Jews; the people of the Sandwich Islands are groaning under the most detestable tyranny; Bagdad is oppressed . . . Thibet is not comfortable. . . . The world is bursting with sin and sorrow. . . . Am I . . . to be eternally raising fleets and armies to make all men good and happy?
That witty and humane clergyman had lived through a time of troubles: the American rebellion followed by the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, strife over more than twenty years at terrible...
SOURCE: Berkeley Blogs (8-24-11)
Samuel J. Redman is a Ph.D. candidate in history at UC Berkeley. He is also an academic specialist at the Regional Oral History Office (ROHO) of the Bancroft Library. At ROHO, he is the lead interviewer for the Rosie the Riveter/WWII American Homefront oral-history project. His dissertation examines the use of human remains for the purposes of research and display in the United States.
In a recent post for The Berkeley Blog, Professor Robert Reich proposes that the federal government respond to our ongoing recession by initiating a new Works Progress Administration (WPA). Almost seventy years having passed since the closing of the original New Deal “alphabet agencies,” recent oral history interviews can help us better comprehend the ongoing impact of these programs. A major aspect of the New Deal was the creation of over 100 federally-sponsored offices, so...
SOURCE: NYT (8-23-11)
Lawrence Downes is a member of the editorial board of the New York Times.
The death of Jerry Leiber, the lyricist who brought us “Stand by Me,” “Yakety Yak” and other early rock ’n’ roll classics, gives us a moment to pause and give thanks for sugar cane. Sugar cane led to a great wave of Chinese immigration to Cuba, which, through a roundabout process of musical pollination, put an idea into the heads of Mr. Leiber and his collaborator, Mike Stoller, when they were still teenagers breaking into the business in Los Angeles.
The story goes like this. In the 1940s, a musician in Havana, Kiko Mendive, records “Chinito, Chinito,”...
SOURCE: WSJ (8-23-11)
Mr. Lipsky was editor of the Forward from 1990 to 2000.
The annual reading of George Washington's letter to the Jews—which took place this weekend at the Touro Synagogue in Newport, R.I.—will echo with extra significance this year, as a campaign is now under way to make the original letter available for public viewing.
The campaign was launched earlier this year by the Jewish Daily Forward after the newspaper discovered that Washington's letter—in which he vowed that the new American government would "give to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance"—is locked away in storage by an owner who is loath to share access with the rest of his countrymen.
Neither the Forward nor anyone else is suggesting that the owner, who bought the letter in 1949, is not within his rights. The letter is,...
SOURCE: Newsweek (8-23-11)
From a transport ship floating in Cuba’s Bay of Pigs, CIA operative Grayston Lynch knew the U.S. mission to overthrow Fidel Castro was faltering. The Cuban exiles he had brought with him had abandoned their posts, so he grabbed the boat’s recoilless rifles and machine guns and began firing at the aircraft overhead.
On a day of chaos and infamy in April 1961, Lynch would soon understand the consequences of his...
SOURCE: The Atlantic (9-1-11)
The eighth-grade students gathering on the west lawn of the state capitol in Sacramento were planning to lunch on fried chicken with California’s new governor, Ronald Reagan, and then tour the granite building constructed a century earlier to resemble the nation’s Capitol. But the festivities were interrupted by the arrival of 30 young black men and women carrying .357 Magnums, 12-gauge shotguns, and .45-caliber pistols.
The 24 men and six women climbed the capitol steps, and one man, Bobby Seale, began to read from a prepared statement. “The American people in general and the black people in particular,” he announced, must...
SOURCE: San Jose Mercury News (8-13-11)
EDITH SHEFFER is assistant professor of history at Stanford University and author of "Burned Bridge: How East and West Germans Made the Iron Curtain" (Oxford University Press, September 2011).
Fifty years ago, on August 13, 1961, the Berlin Wall went up overnight. It immediately became a chilling icon of political repression. Yet on its semicentennial it is time we recognize how the wall's strength came as much from concrete as from the society that supported its creation. As fortified borders proliferate around the world today, such as those between the U.S. and Mexico and the Israeli "security fence," Germany's story warns us that walls can permeate the culture with enduring and even deadly consequences.
As East Germany built the Berlin Wall to stem the mass flight of East Germans to the West, it became a flash...
SOURCE: Moscow Times (8-23-11)
Alexander Golts is deputy editor of the online newspaper Yezhednevny Zhurnal.
There is an old saying about the Soviet army: After every victory, the slackers are rewarded and the heroes are punished. This expression came to mind in connection with the 20th anniversary of the 1991 coup attempt. Analysts on television and the radio talk about the standard heroes: the Muscovites who set up blockades and threw themselves at the tanks and Boris Yeltsin, then-president of the Soviet Russian Republic, who led the movement against the coup plotters. For hard-line Communists, even the conspirators are heroes to this day because they selflessly tried to save the Soviet empire from collapse, we are told.
But there has...
SOURCE: Foreign Policy (8-17-11)
David Kenner is assistant editor at Foreign Policy.
Lebanese politics, for the past six years, has in large part revolved around competing stories. In the wake of the February 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, the country's political factions have struggled to provide a more persuasive account of who killed the iconic Sunni leader and why, and how the perpetrators carried out the operation. The latest chapter in this growing opus came today, with the release of the U.N. Special Tribunal on Lebanon's long-awaited indictment.
Much of this version of the story was already...
SOURCE: WSJ (8-18-11)
Mr. Marmon reported on Congress for the New York Times. His new book, The Cheaters: America's Political Sex Scandals, will be published next year.
Rebel forces in Libya raised their nation's old red, black and green banner over two more towns this week, from which they're now preparing to attack Tripoli. As they move to reclaim Libya from 40 years of tyrannical rule, we should recall that our flag was raised there two centuries ago, marking America's emergence as an international military power.
After our Revolutionary War, the Barbary Coast pirates—based in Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco—were a major foreign-policy crisis for the new United States. Since the 13th century those marauders had attacked European ships in the Mediterranean, freeing crews and cargoes only after receiving...
SOURCE: Atlantic (8-15-11)
Lane Wallace is an author, pilot and entrepreneur who has written several books for NASA. She won a 2006 Telly Award for her work on the documentary, Breaking the Chain.
Fifty years ago this week, the division of Germany into East and West was, literally, etched in stone with the erection of the infamous Berlin Wall. While the wall stood, there were any number of memorials to its brutality, cost, and tragedy -- crosses and flowers marking where loved ones had been shot by the guards on the Wall, attempting to cross from East to West. Nobody, of course, tried to flee across the other way.
SOURCE: Moscow Times (8-16-11)
Dmitry Trenin is director of the Carnegie Moscow Center. His most recent book, Post-Imperium: A Eurasian Story, was published this summer.
Chinese leader Zhou Enlai may have been correct when he told U.S. President Richard Nixon in 1972 that it was too early to determine the impact of the French Revolution, but 20 years is usually enough to assess the importance of most historical events. It is also sufficiently close to remember what actually happened and to feel the elapsed period. Yet three days in August 1991 that changed the course of world history are still a cause of confusion and...
SOURCE: Moscow Times (8-17-11)
Peter Rutland is a professor of government at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. Philip Pomper is author of Lenin’s Brother: The Origins of the October Revolution.
Twenty years after the August 1991 coup that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union, it is worth revisiting the puzzle of the Soviet Union’s abrupt demise. Which individual more than any other should be held responsible for the Soviet collapse? The usual answers would be Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev (for liberals) or U.S. President Ronald Reagan (for conservatives). But in reality, only one figure deserves the credit: Josef Stalin.
Stalin is often portrayed as an evil strategic genius who took advantage of the weakness of the West and...