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 (8-15-11)
Ethan Allen was at various times: reckless speculator, captain of the continent's largest paramilitary force, outlaw with a £100 bounty on his head, American Revolutionary commander, prisoner of war, best-selling author, radical Deist philosopher, and founding father of Vermont. Despite this remarkable life, and despite a time when biographies of America's Founding Fathers fall from the presses like rotten apples from a tree, in the last half-century only one full-length biography had been written about Ethan Allen. How could this be?
As Ethan Allen: His Life and Times, a new and frustrating biography by Willard Sterne Randall, shows, Allen is hard to write about. He poses a challenge not so much because he is different from more famous Founders like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, or Benjamin Franklin but because he resembles them perhaps a bit too much—in ways most Americans prefer not to think about.
Like Washington, Allen was self-taught. Like Jefferson, he...
SOURCE: SPIEGEL International (8-15-11)
Klaus Wiegrefe writes for Der Spiegel where he has been in charge of its contemporary history section since 1997.
Former German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer was known not to mince his words when it came to the Soviets and their allies. He labelled the communist superpower the "deadly enemy," called Kremlin Chief Nikita Khrushchev "a brutal fighter" and referred to East Germany as a "concentration camp."...
SOURCE: Moscow Times (8-15-11)
Nina Khrushcheva, author of Imagining Nabokov: Russia Between Art and Politics, teaches international affairs at The New School and is a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute in New York.
History’s milestones are rarely so neatly arrayed as they are this summer. Fifty years ago this month, the Berlin Wall was born. After some hesitation, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev allowed his East German counterpart, Walter Ulbricht, to erect a barrier between East and West Berlin in order to ensure the survival of communism in the entire Soviet bloc. By that...
SOURCE: WSJ (8-15-11)
Mr. Lehrman is chairman of the Lehrman Institute.
On the afternoon of Friday, Aug. 13, 1971, high-ranking White House and Treasury Department officials gathered secretly in President Richard Nixon's lodge at Camp David. Treasury Secretary John Connally, on the job for just seven months, was seated to Nixon's right. During that momentous afternoon, however, newcomer Connally was front and center, put there by a solicitous president. Nixon, gossiped his staff, was smitten by the big, self-confident Texan whom the president had charged with bringing order into his administration's bumbling economic policies.
In the past, Nixon had expressed economic views...
SOURCE: Newsweek (8-14-11)
Robert Dallek is a presidential historian.
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 shooting. He had fired on his agency’s own planes, which were trying to protect the...
SOURCE: City Journal (8-11-11)
Guy Sorman, a City Journal contributing editor, is the author of Children of Rifaa: In Search of a Moderate Islam and many other books.
The moment you arrive at the airport in Cairo, you discover how little Egypt—the heart of Arab civilization—is governed by the rule of law. You line up to show your passport to the customs officer; you wait and wait and wait. Eventually, you reach the officer . . . who sends you to the opposite end of the airport to buy an entry visa. The visa costs 15 U.S. dollars; if you hand the clerk $20, though, don’t expect any change, let alone a receipt. Then you make the long hike back to the customs line, where you notice that some Egyptians—important ones, apparently—have helpers who...
SOURCE: American Conservative (8-10-11)
Donald W. Livingston is professor of philosophy at Emory University and the author of Philosophical Melancholy and Delirium: Hume’s Pathology of Philosophy.
The conservative political tradition is usually thought to begin with Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France. Burke observed that the Revolution did not aim at reforming society but at overturning the entire social and political order and replacing it with one grounded in man’s natural “reason.” He offered this quote from a leader in the National Assembly: “All the establishments in France crown the unhappiness of the people: to make them happy they must...
SOURCE: The World Today (Chatham House) (8-10-11)
Professor Michael Cox is an Associate Fellow, Americas, Chatham House, and Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics.
Having seen off the Soviet Union ten years earlier, and having then experienced what can only be viewed as one of the more successful economic decades in its over two hundred year history, America at the start of the new millennium looked to be riding high in an international system where it clearly faced challenges and problems but no serious threat worthy of the name. So powerful did it in fact seem that few could even remember that rather anxious little moment just before the end of the Cold War when writers like Paul Kennedy had been talking earnestly about the republic's inevitable decline over the longer term. A nation with deficits as large as the US, and carrying the imperial burden that it did, simply could not go on running the world's affairs. There was only one way for it to go - and that, he concluded, was...
SOURCE: LA Times (8-9-11)
Rick Perlstein is the author of Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America.
Last month, a federal court ruled that the testimony Richard Nixon made to the Watergate grand jury in the summer of 1975 should be unsealed and released to the public. The decision has the potential to settle finally the question of whether the nation's 37th president was a criminal.
The grand jury testimony, which Nixon gave in San Clemente, was the only time in history he was required by law to be honest about Watergate....
SOURCE: NYT (8-8-11)
FEW Olympics are as famous as the 1936 Berlin Games, whose 75th anniversary falls this month. The publicity that accompanied the competition, held under the watchful eye of Adolf Hitler, supposedly tamed the Nazi regime, if only temporarily — a story that has since justified awarding the Games to places like Soviet Moscow, Beijing and Sochi, Russia, host of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
But much of that story is myth. Indeed, the Olympics gave the Nazis a lesson in how to hide their vicious racism and anti-Semitism, and should offer today’s International Olympic Committee a cautionary tale when considering the location of future events.
When the committee awarded the Olympics to Berlin in 1931, Hitler was not yet in power. But by 1936 there was little question that anti-Semitism and...
SOURCE: NYT (8-2-11)
THIRTY years ago today, when he threatened to fire nearly 13,000 air traffic controllers unless they called off an illegal strike, Ronald Reagan not only transformed his presidency, but also shaped the world of the modern workplace.
More than any other labor dispute of the past three decades, Reagan’s confrontation with the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, or Patco, undermined the bargaining power of American workers and their labor unions. It also polarized our politics in ways that prevent us from addressing the root of our economic troubles: the continuing stagnation of incomes despite rising corporate profits and worker productivity.
By firing those who refused to heed his warning,...
SOURCE: Financial Times (UK) (8-2-11)
Gideon Rachman was appointed Chief Foreign Affairs Columnist and an Associate Editor of the Financial Times in July 2006.
By the time this column is published I will be on holiday in France, and the US might finally have stepped back from the abyss of debt default.
Viewed from Europe, the American financial uproar is baffling. It is not just the entirely avoidable nature of the crisis. It is also its timing. The entire European political calendar is constructed around the idea that nothing ever happens – or should be allowed to happen – in August.
The drama that surrounded the emergency eurozonesummit in Brussels in late...
SOURCE: Special to HNN (8-1-11)
Lee P. Ruddin is Roundup Editor at HNN.
The Atlantic alliance has been forged anew with the Obamas’ recent state visit to the UK. While the ceremonial side of things including a 41-gun salute was to be expected, the Prime Minister and President serving up barbecued sausages in Downing Street’s newly acquired ‘Rose Garden’ and high-fiving during a game of ping-pong in south London was certainly not. Neither was the phrase ‘special relationship’ expected to crop up in virtually every speech and interview during the forty-fourth president’s two-day stay, and yet it did, which signals that the romance is back on track after the rocky patch during...
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed (7-31-11)
Americans face a unique challenge today in defining their identities. Globalizing markets have connected us with faraway peoples and places, allowing us to buy cheap goods manufactured in nations with limited labor and environmental protections. Globalization has also spurred heavy migration and a demand for freer international trade. Our identities may follow markets, reducing the centrality of the nation-state in our lives.
Is it a good thing for our identities to be globalized? I would argue no. Progressive politics, including the redistribution of wealth between the...
SOURCE: The Atlantic (7-30-11)
Michael Cohen is a Senior Fellow at the American Security Project. He is currently writing a book on the 1968 presidential election.
Who were the best and worst presidents in American history? It's the sort of barstool conversation bandied about amateur historian and policy nerds like myself on a semi-regular basis. But as this question has come up in recent weeks around the blogosphere it got me thinking about a slightly more discrete question: Who are the best and worst foreign policy presidents of the last 100 years?
After reaching out to host of historians, foreign policy experts, academics and various think tankers here's one stab at answering a question which, in many respects, has no right answer. How you choose the best and worst foreign policy President depends in large measure on what values inform your vision of what a good foreign policy looks like. If you're a foreign policy idealist, Wilson would seem pretty good; a foreign policy realist...