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: National Review (4-30-12)
Michael Auslin is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.
The Byzantine Empire’s long run — 1,100 years — may seem remote from the 21st century, but a reading of its history offers at least three timeless lessons. Understanding some of the fatal weaknesses in the Eastern Roman Empire may help clarify the political and economic problems that America faces today and the choices we have in responding to them.
Founded in 330 by the emperor Constantine, the eastern half of the Roman Empire was centered in Constantinople, the New Rome. By the fourth century, the empire had endured more than a century of instability, internecine warfare, and economic decline. In that context Rome’s eastern lands, arcing around Asia Minor, the Levant, and northern Africa, were especially attractive, being richer and more settled than the comparatively backward parts of western Europe. It was in part to assure continued access to these sources of wealth that...
SOURCE: WSJ (04-29-12)
Gordon Crovitz is a media and information industry advisor and executive, including former publisher of The Wall Street Journal, executive vice president of Dow Jones and president of its Consumer Media Group.
Officials in the German state of Bavaria never wanted to publish "Mein Kampf," the book written by Adolf Hitler that has been unavailable in Germany since the end of World War II. The Internet has now made them do it.
The government of Bavaria inherited the copyright to "Mein Kampf" in 1945, when the state took over the Nazi party publishing house Eher-Verlag as part of the de-Nazification program. Under German law, copyright expires 70 years after the death of the author, which in this case means in 2015.
The text is available on many websites, making it impractical to continue suppressing the book. Instead, Bavaria announced last week that it will issue an edition that includes scholarly critiques of Hitler's bitter themes of anti...
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (4-28-12)
Bruce Anderson is a British conservative political columnist.
We are approaching the 200th anniversary of the death of a largely forgotten prime minister. Yet it is odd that he should be ignored. Spencer Perceval is unique – our only prime minister to be assassinated – but he has several other claims on our attention.
For a start, he had an interesting and unconventional youth. The younger son of an extravagant earl, he had to make his own way, which he did, as a lawyer. He fell in love with the daughter of a rich businessman, who was unimpressed by the suitor’s lineage and sought to reserve his chick for a rich man. But true love prevailed. On her 21st birthday, Jane climbed out of her father’s drawing-room window and the pair eloped. They began married life in rented lodgings above a carpet shop in Bedford Row. Overcrowding pursued them. Jane Perceval bore 12 surviving children; their Downing Street must have recalled the tale of the old woman who lived in...
SOURCE: Jerusalem Post (4-25-12)
Gil Troy is Professor of History at McGill University and a Shalom Hartman Research Fellow in Jerusalem. The author of Why I Am A Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity and the Challenges of Today, his next book will be Moynihan’s Moment: The Fight against Zionism as Racism.
Rumor has it that mellowness comes with age. Golden agers are who they are. When Brian Mulroney was Canada’s middle-aged Prime Minister during the 1980s, he recalls being more thin-skinned, much less at peace with himself, than his elderly American colleague, President Ronald Reagan.
Alas, as Israel hits 64, it lacks the tranquility that should be accompanying its age. Lately, our national leaders have demonstrated a surprising skittishness. Israel’s Interior Minister feels compelled to ban an aging German blowhard whose great work dates from 1959, after he writes a pathetic propagandistic poem. And the Prime Minister, who never bothered sending an ardent Zionist like...
SOURCE: OUPblog (4-25-12)
Dennis Showalter is Professor of History at Colorado College, Past President of the Society for Military History, and the Editor in Chief of Oxford Bibliographies in Military History. Joint Editor of War in History, he specializes in comparative military history and the military history of modern Germany. His recent monographs include The Wars of German Unification, Patton and Rommel: Men of War in the Twentieth Century, and Hitler’s Panzers.
April 1940 witnessed the first, arguably the most economical, and one of the broadest-gauged combined-arms operations in modern military history. The...
SOURCE: National Interest (4-25-12)
Christopher Layne is professor and Robert M. Gates Chair in National Security at Texas A & M University’s George H. W. Bush School of Government and Public Service. His current book project, to be published by Yale University Press, is After the Fall: International Politics, U.S. Grand Strategy, and the End of the Pax Americana.
When Great powers begin to experience erosion in their global standing, their leaders inevitably strike a pose of denial. At the dawn of the twentieth century, as British leaders dimly discerned such an erosion in their country’s global dominance, the great diplomat Lord Salisbury issued a gloomy rumination that captured at once both the inevitability of decline and the denial of it. "Whatever happens will be for the worse," he declared. "Therefore it is our interest that as little should happen as possible." Of course, one element of decline was the country’s diminishing ability to influence how much or how little actually happened...
SOURCE: National Review (4-26-12)
Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal is a brilliant columnist, I almost always agree with him, and regret that I could not have written the same opinions as well as he. But I am stirred to respectful dissent by his column of April 19, which effectively announced his adherence to the heresy that Franklin D. Roosevelt did not really...
SOURCE: YDS: The Clare Spark Blog (4-24-12)
Clare Spark is a historian, with degrees from Cornell University (B.S. ‘58), Harvard Graduate School of Education (M.A.T. in Science Teaching ‘59), and UCLA (Ph.D.’93).
Liberals like to think of themselves as anti-racists, and struggle valiantly to distinguish themselves from blood and soil (Blut und Boden) Nazis, the hereditarian racists par excellence. But there are more subtle, more insidious forms of racism, because they masquerade as antiracism, for instance in one kind of “environmentalist” logic or in primitivism/exoticism. (For the racism inherent in “multiculturalism” see...
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed (4-22-12)
The distinguished historian Eric Hobsbawm referred to what has come to be known as the short 20th century, from 1914 to 1991, as the history of the relationship of the West with communism. As it took power in the Soviet Union and then spun out to influence all aspects of personal and political life, the idea of communism and the reality of Soviet influence penetrated every corner of the world. The way we write history, particularly in the United States, ranks among the least visible and yet most unfortunate consequences of the conflict. I discovered that as I struggled to write about the American playwright, activist, and, yes, one-time Communist, Lillian Hellman.
It is no...
SOURCE: The Australian (4-25-12)
Craig Stockings teaches history at the University of New South Wales in Canberra.
WHEN I published a book about the Battle of Bardia, fought in North Africa between Australian and Italian troops in January 1941, I received a letter saying I was slighting the Anzac legend and spent too much time with "trendy lefties and feminist lesbians".
"Take a break and just be proud Craig, because those old fellas fought for your right to deny their achievements," the writer said.
As a military historian I know the power of Anzac.
The legend has been a powerful and pervasive force within Australian social and cultural life for almost a century. If anything, as the last Australians with first-hand knowledge of Gallipoli have passed, Anzac imagery and sentimentality has grown stronger.
Whether we consciously recognise it or not, Australians grow up feeding on an overt and subliminal diet of Anzac. Its powerful...
SOURCE: Jerusalem Post (4-23-12)
The writer is a PhD candidate at the University of Oxford. He holds advanced graduate degrees from The Fletcher School of Diplomacy at Tufts University and the University of California, Los Angeles.
While the modern-day Republic of Turkey was founded in 1923, eight years after its Ottoman predecessors embarked on a massive and systematic undertaking to rid the empire of its Armenian population, the country today often finds itself in diplomatic spats with various Western nations over its history. Outside the periphery of geopolitics, it would be perplexing to most as to why an event that occurred nearly 100 years ago would impact relations between Turkey and the United States and various European countries. The answer lies in the annals of history.
During the First World War, while the Islamic Ottoman Empire was fighting the Allied Powers on the side of Germany, its native Christian Armenian population became a target of organized deportations and...
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (4-23-12)
George Monbiot is the author of the bestselling books The Age of Consent: A Manifesto for a New World Order and Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Britain, as well as the investigative travel books Poisoned Arrows, Amazon Watershed and No Man's Land.
There is one thing you can say for the Holocaust deniers: at least they know what they are denying. In order to sustain the lies they tell, they must engage in strenuous falsification. To dismiss Britain's colonial atrocities, no such effort is required. Most people appear to be unaware that anything needs to be denied.
The story of benign imperialism, whose overriding purpose was not to seize land, labour and commodities but to teach the natives English, table manners and double-entry book-keeping, is a myth that has been carefully propagated by the rightwing press. But it draws its power from a remarkable national ability to airbrush and disregard our past...
SOURCE: Boston Globe (4-18-12)
Jeff Jacoby has been an op-ed columnist for The Boston Globe since February 1994.
Holocaust Remembrance Day always falls during the week that follows Passover. At first glance, the two would seem to have little in common — one memorializes the millions of European Jews annihilated by Nazi Germany; the other commemorates the deliverance of the Jews from slavery in ancient Egypt.
Yet for all their obvious differences, a fundamental similarity links these two crucial chapters in Jewish history. Both were attempts at genocide — and in both cases the perpetrators justified their savageries by claiming that they were the real victims, threatened by the people they intended to wipe out.
At the Passover Seder, retelling the 3,000-year-old story, Jews read the passage from Exodus in which Pharaoh rationalizes the lethal repression he is...
SOURCE: National Post (Canada) (4-14-12)
Robert Fulford is a Toronto author, journalist, broadcaster, and editor.
SOURCE: Legal History Blog (4-12-12)
Dan Ernst is professor of law at Georgetown Law School.
As the debate over Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Court-packing plan raged seventy-five years ago, the President’s spokesmen made political hay by quoting from a speech Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes had delivered years earlier as governor of New York. “We are under a Constitution,” Hughes told an audience of 2,000 packed into a theater in Elmira, “but the Constitution is what the judges say it is.”
Ignore the original context, as FDR’s spokesmen did, and the quote fit easily into their argument in favor of the plan. Justices did not find or declare preexisting constitutional law; they made it. In making theirs, the superannuated justices of the Hughes Court drew upon the values of a bygone era. America would be better served by justices whose values originated in modern times.
Had the spokesmen wanted to take the measure of the President’s principal judicial adversary...
SOURCE: Wig & Pen (Blog) (4-4-12)
Senior Writer and Editor Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts.
As the new President of the United States headed out of the hospital...
SOURCE: The New Republic (4-11-12)
Jed Perl is the art critic for The New Republic.
Hilton Kramer, who died on March 27 at the age of 84, was a much more complicated man than is sometimes acknowledged. He was both a neoconservative cultural warrior who liked nothing better than plunging into a noisy, nasty battle and an exacting aesthete for whom life would have been impossible without the sustenance of art and literature. I certainly saw both sides of Hilton during the decade that I wrote for The New Criterion, beginning in the mid-1980s. When we went out for lunch in a little French restaurant in the West Fifties that Hilton admired for its tarnished savoir-faire, I think I recognized, behind his masklike self-confidence, traces of the young man from Massachusetts who had embraced intellectual and bohemian Manhattan with a lover’s ardor. And when I read his craziest polemics—there were times when he seemed to believe that The New York Times and The New York Review of Books...
SOURCE: CS Monitor (4-10-12)
Wei Jingsheng is one of China’s most well-known dissidents, now living in exile. He spent 15 years in Chinese prisons. In an open letter to Deng Xiaoping in 1989, Fang Lizhi called for Wei’s release.
For this great Chinese patriot to die in the American desert 22 years after he was forced into exile symbolizes the harsh truth about the ruling Communist regime which Mr. Fang often warned the world about.
For those of us whose memories have not been erased by the censorship of getting rich gloriously, Fang was a hero. In the years and months...
SOURCE: LA Times (4-8-12)
Journalist Eyal Press is the author of Beautiful Souls: Saying No, Breaking Ranks, and Heeding the Voice of Conscience in Dark Times.
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (4-10-12)
Bettany Hughes is an award-winning author, historian and broadcaster. She is a research fellow at King's College, London and a fellow of the Historical Association.