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: Post Carbon Institute (11-8-10)
SOURCE: Financial Times (UK) (12-21-11)
The writer was British ambassador in Moscow from 1988 to 1992.
On Christmas Day 1991 we were still wearing our funny hats and eating our mince pies when Mikhail Gorbachev came on television to tell the world that he had resigned as President of the Soviet Union. We looked out at the Kremlin on the other side of the Moscow River. The Red Flag was fluttering down for the last time.
So many hopes have been dashed since then. But that is no reason to abandon hope itself. Much of what is going on in Russia today is deeply unattractive. But contrary to what you might gather from the western press, Russia is not the Soviet Union. It is comparatively open and prosperous. Russians travel abroad in their hundreds of thousands. There are more Russians than Germans on the internet. And now the Russians who voted so enthusiastically for...
SOURCE: WSJ (12-20-11)
Ms. Kirkpatrick, a former deputy editor of the Journal's editorial page, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. Her book on North Koreans who escape and the people who help them will be published next year.
A few minutes after the news of the death of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il flashed across computer screens on Sunday night—Monday morning on the Korean Peninsula—I received an email from a North Korean defector. The man, who is now living in Seoul and is a Christian, was exultant: "God blesses all of us," he wrote. The defector's sentiments will be shared by many, especially his long-suffering countrymen.
The best-known aspect of Kim Jong Il's legacy is a nuclear North Korea. During his rule, which began in 1994 after the death of his father Kim Il Sung, the younger Kim accelerated the nuclear-weapons and ballistic-missile programs initiated by the elder Kim. He went on to proliferate both technologies to Iran, which today would not be on the brink...
SOURCE: WaPo (12-19-11)
Michael Gerson was a speechwriter for President Bush and is now a columnist for the Washington Post.
As the heroes of the Cold War walk off into the mist — Ronald Reagan, then John Paul II, now Vaclav Havel — each departure makes that world more distant and foreign. But it is too early for forgetfulness, which would also be ingratitude.
Once in a nightmare, European dissidents lived in prison, in whole nations that were prisons. They were confined to mental hospitals by governments sustained through the promotion of mass delusion. They were forced to make confessions of imagined crimes by regimes that were criminal enterprises.
And then the government of Czechoslovakia went a step too far. In 1976, it arrested a band called The Plastic People of the Universe for offenses against cultural conformity...
SOURCE: Foreign Policy (12-19-11)
Alan Wolfe is professor of political science and director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College. He is author and editor of more than 20 books, including, most recently, Political Evil: What It Is and How to Combat It.
...[F]or all his dreams of glory, Kim Jong Il was no Hitler. And the decidedly ignominious, if not pathetic, way that once powerful leaders in North Africa and the Middle East lost their power should remind us it is one thing to run corrupt and oppressive regimes -- and another entirely to deploy an astonishingly powerful military apparatus in the service of world conquest and the elimination of an entire race of people. The hawkishly inclined want us to believe that the United States cannot have an enemy unless he is deemed to be a carbon copy of the bad guy against whom the good war was fought. But Hitlers, thankfully, are rare....
SOURCE: NYT (12-19-11)
Most of us recall lobotomies as they were depicted in the movie “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest”— horrifying operations inappropriately used to control mentally ill patients. But in the 1950s, surgeons also used them to treat severe pain from cancer and other diseases.
Now a Yale researcher has uncovered surprising new evidence of a famous patient who apparently received a lobotomy for cancer pain during that time: Eva Perón, the first lady of Argentina, who was known as Evita. The story is an interesting, sad footnote in the history not only of lobotomy, but...
SOURCE: Pravda.ru (12-13-11)
Elliot J. Corn is Professor of History at Brown University and author of Mother Jones: The Most Dangerous Woman in America, Hill and Wang, New York, 2001.
"A torrent of applause broke out and turned into an uproar when a little woman walked to the podium. Her face, marked by age, could be anyone's grandmother, but it was the grandmother of hundreds of thousands of miners ... Listening to her speak, her influence on these polyglot hordes is understood. She had the strength, spirit and above all, the flame of indignation. It was divine wrath incarnate."
This is how the writer Upton Sinclair, famous for his novel about the slaughterhouses of Chicago (The Jungle), describes Mother Jones. He adds: "She told endless stories of adventures, the strikes led by her, of her speeches, meetings with presidents, governors, heads of industry and prison camps.
She had traveled around the whole country...
SOURCE: Globe and Mail (Canada) (12-15-11)
John Sainsbury is a professor of history at Brock University.
A hundred years ago, the British Empire reached its zenith. At least it did in pomp and circumstance, even as its foundations were beginning to crumble. The defining event was the Great Durbar in Delhi, when, on Dec. 12, 1911, King George V was crowned Emperor of India.
It was a brilliantly choreographed ceremony, designed to give visible expression to the British conception of India as an enduring hierarchy of loyal subjects. As magnificently dressed maharajas, nawabs and other notables paid homage to their Emperor King, the emergent force of Indian nationalism – and India’s dire economic problems – could be temporarily disregarded.
[Is] empire ... now a taboo subject? No. ... Enlightening conversation about empire has shifted from what empire means in terms of ideology to the more neutral ground of what it means in terms of communal and personal experience.
...[F]or balanced views of...
SOURCE: Democracy: A Journal of Ideas (12-13-11)
Tom Perriello is a former member of Congress and conflict analyst who has conducted research in Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, and Darfur.
The use of force always entails grave dangers and human costs, and progressives have been leery particularly since the Vietnam era of supporting it, even to prevent or end mass atrocities, repression, and other systematic human suffering. Wise leaders will always remain wary of war. But wisdom also requires us to acknowledge two dramatic changes in our ability to use force for good. First, in a single generation, our ability to intervene without heavy casualties has improved dramatically. Second, the range of diplomatic and legal tools for legitimizing such interventions has likewise expanded. During this same period, we have been reminded tragically of the real and staggering human cost of inaction, most notably in the 800,000 lives lost in Rwanda. The tendency to feel less moral responsibility for the results of inaction and to...
SOURCE: TIME (12-13-11)
Tim Padgett is Miami and Latin America Bureau Chief for Time magazine.
Panamanians are doing their best to register indifference to the return of Manuel Noriega. The 77-year-old former military dictator, drug-trafficking convict and all-around banana-republic creep, who’s been rotting behind bars in Florida and France since the 1989 U.S. invasion of Panama, was flown home Dec. 11 to begin serving 60 more years in prison for ordering the murders of political opponents in the 1980s. By collectively shrugging, his countrymen would like the rest of the world to think that Panama has moved well beyond those tropical strongman days, into a functioning, institutional democracy in which Noriegas are museum pieces.
Unfortunately, Panamanians are only fooling themselves, not us. While Panama can be commended for holding credible presidential elections since Noriega’s downfall, and ...
SOURCE: Jerusalem Post (12-12-11)
Caroline Glick is an American-Israeli journalist for Makor Rishon and is the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post.
Last Friday, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, did something revolutionary. He told the truth about the Palestinians. In an interview with The Jewish Channel, Gingrich said that the Palestinians are an "invented" people, "who are in fact Arabs."
His statement about the Palestinians was entirely accurate. At the end of 1920, the "Palestinian people" was artificially carved out of the Arab population of "Greater Syria." "Greater Syria" included present-day Syria, Lebanon,...
SOURCE: NYT (12-11-11)
Jorge G. Castañeda is a professor of politics and Latin American and Caribbean studies at New York University, who served as foreign minister of Mexico from 2000 to 2003.
IN a Bertelsmann Foundation study on social justice released this fall, the United States came in dead last among the rich countries, with only Greece, Chile, Mexico and Turkey faring worse. Whether in poverty prevention, child poverty, income inequality or health ratings, the United States ranked below countries like Spain and South Korea, not to mention Japan, Germany or France.
It was another sign of how badly Americans are hurting their middle class. Wars, famine and violence have devastated middle classes before, in Germany and Japan, Russia and Eastern Europe. But when the smoke cleared and the dust settled, a social structure roughly similar to what existed before would always resurface.
No nation has...
SOURCE: The Atlantic (12-10-11)
New York Dozen author Michael J. Crosbie is an architect and chair of the Department of Architecture at the University of Hartford. He writes frequently about architecture and design for a variety of print and online publications.
Nearly 15 years after President Clinton signed legislation for the construction of a memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King on Washington, D.C.'s National Mall, the finished work was dedicated in October. The memorial is on the south side of the mall, on the edge of the Tidal Basin overlooking the Jefferson memorial. If you draw a straight line from the Jefferson to the Lincoln memorial, the King memorial is about halfway between them.
The memorial is intended to be entered from the corner of Independence Avenue and West Basin Drive, which is unlikely, because most pedestrian traffic approaches the memorial from farther east on Independence (the way I walked in), or from the FDR memorial to the south. If you arrive at the memorial the way...
SOURCE: openDemocracy (12-11-11)
Dan Clayton is Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. He is currently completing a book (co-authored with Gavin Bowd) entitled Impure and Worldly Geography: Pierre Gourou and Tropicality.
Four days ago President Barack Obama marked the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor with some well worked homilies: of drawing, “strength from the example set by these [American] patriots and to honour all who have sacrificed for our freedoms” - the survivors of that calamity “remind[ing] us that no challenge is too great when Americans stand as one."[i]Today we reflect on a date less amenable to being commemorated from a position of national strength and self-assurance: 11 December 1961, the date when USNS...
SOURCE: WSJ (12-10-11)
Mr. Godwin is the author of The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe.
A frail Nelson Mandela, now 93, has gone back to Qunu, his ancestral home in rural Transkei, and his handlers have announced his withdrawal from public view. Even while he lives, unseemly squabbles have flared over the TV rights to his funeral.
Since he officially retired in 2004, Mr. Mandela has concentrated on his foundation, the charity that is already his earthly embodiment. It owns his archives and mementos and controls his endorsements, which it uses to raise money for social-justice projects. There is even brand Mandela—a fashion line called 46664 after his prisoner number. The clothes feature an embroidered outline of his palm. Meanwhile, his grandchildren are launching "Being Mandela," a TV reality show that is being pitched in the U.S. as a "docu-soap" with an anti-Kardashian philanthropic twist.
Globally, Mr. Mandela, who emerged from 28...
SOURCE: LA Times (12-11-11)
Daniel Yergin's new book is "The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World." He received the Pulitzer Prize for his history of oil, "The Prize."
One day in 1948, Caltech chemistry professor Arie Haagen-Smit took a break from trying to decipher the mystery of the flavor of the pineapple. He stepped outside his lab for a breath of fresh air but instead found himself enveloped in what he called "that stinking cloud" of smog. At the time, there was a bitter debate as to what caused smog. So Haagen-Smit decided to put aside his pineapples (he had already worked out the taste chemistry of onions, garlic and wine and had identified the active agent in marijuana) to try to solve the source of smog.
What he discovered explains why plug-in electric cars — the Leafs,...
SOURCE: WSJ (12-8-11)
Mr. Roberts, a historian, is author most recently of The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War (Harper, 2011).
On Dec. 12, 1911, a century ago, the British Empire reached its apogee at the Delhi Durbar (Hindi for "court"). Half a million Indians, including all the ruling princes and nobility of the subcontinent, came to Delhi to celebrate the coronation of their new King-Emperor, George V. More than 100,000 of them assembled in the vast Coronation Park outside the city. The King-Emperor made the surprise announcement that the capital was to be transferred from Calcutta to Delhi.
"The ceremony at its culminating point exactly typified the oriental conception of the ultimate repositories of imperial power," recorded The Times of London. "The monarch sat alone, remote but beneficent, raised far above the multitude, but visible to all, clad in rich vestments, flanked by radiant emblems of authority, guarded by a glittering array of troops,...
SOURCE: The Berkeley Graduate (12-7-11)
Editor’s Note: This blog entry is the first in a series from the Regional Oral History Office (ROHO). ROHO houses thousands of oral history interviews conducted since 1954. Some of those interviews, including many with Berkeley students, faculty, and staff recall the events of 70 years ago today – the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
UC Berkeley on December 7, 1941
In a series of recent oral histories with UC Berkeley alumni, the Regional Oral History Office (ROHO) has recorded the recollections of individuals who were students at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor – December 7, 1941. Many of them teenagers late in 1941, they are now...
SOURCE: The Daily Beast (12-7-11)
Marc Wortman is the author of The Millionaires' Unit and The Bonfire. He is writing a book on the events of the year leading up to the U.S. entry into World War II. For more on Marc, go to marcwortmanbooks.com.
There are moments when an individual holds history in his hands, and 1941 was a year of such moments. Takeo Yoshikawa knew that this was his.
Late in the evening of December 6, 1941, Yoshikawa sat at his desk in Honolulu’s Japanese Consulate. The vice consul prepared to send out his final message to Tokyo. Looking younger than his 27 years, Tadashi Morimura—his name since he landed nearly nine months prior—thought about how to boil down what he had seen that day. In his mind’s eye, he could instantly bring the Pearl Harbor basin, seven miles off, into view. He saw the 39 United States warships, the...
SOURCE: American Spectator (12-7-11)
Mark Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington, D.C. and author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church.
In the American psyche there's never been an event like Pearl Harbor, 70 years ago this week. Of course, 9/11 comes closest, but it followed decades of America's strategic involvement in the world as a superpower, including the Cold War, Korea, Vietnam, and later the Persian Gulf War and Balkans' conflicts, among others.
Pearl Harbor followed two decades of virtual U.S. strategic isolation from most of the world's great conflicts. Most Americans had recoiled from World War I by firmly adhering to isolationism, non-interventionism, pacifism, or various combinations of all three. Clergy of the dominant Mainline Protestant churches, post-WWI, flocked to pacifism, reinforced by the liberal, utopian, "Social Gospel" theology then ascendant in the churches. A 1931 survey...