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 (5-16-12)
Daniel Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution. © 2012 by the author. All rights reserved.
The year 1880 saw the publication of a book that ranks as the single most important study of Islam ever. Written in German by a young Jewish Hungarian scholar, Ignaz Goldziher, and bearing the nondescript title Muslim Studies (Muhammedanische Studien), it argued that the hadith, the vast body of sayings and actions attributed to the Islamic prophet Mohammed, lacked historical validity. Rather than provide reliable details about Mohammed’s life, the hadith, Goldziher established, emerged from debates two or three centuries later about the nature of Islam.
(This is like today’s Americans debating the Constitution’s much-...
SOURCE: Herald Dawn (5-10-12)
Dr Ayesha Jalal is the Mary Richardson Professor of History at Tufts University and author of The Pity of Partition: Manto as Witness to History (Princeton University Press, forthcoming).
Any attempt to fathom the murderous hatred that erupted with such devastating effect at the time of the British retreat from the subcontinent, Saadat Hasan Manto remarked, had to begin with an exploration of human nature itself. For the master of the Urdu short story this was not a value judgement. It was a statement of what he had come to believe after keen observation and extended introspection. Shaken by the repercussions of the political decision to break up the unity of the subcontinent, Manto wondered if people who only recently were friends, neighbours and compatriots had lost all sense of their humanity. He too was a human being, “the same human being who raped mankind, who indulged in killing” and had “all those weaknesses and qualities that other human beings have.” Yet...
SOURCE: NYT (5-16-12)
SOURCE: The New Republic (5-4-12)
Philip Kitcher is John Dewey Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University and the author, most recently, of The Ethical Project (Harvard University Press). This article appeared in the May 24, 2012 issue of the magazine.
...Since the 1960s, historians have worked—and debated—to bring into focus the events of the night of February 13, 1945, in which an Allied bombing attack devastated the strategically irrelevant city of Dresden. An increased understanding of the decisions that led to the fire-bombing, and of the composition of the Dresden population that suffered the consequences, have altered subsequent judgments about the conduct of war. The critical light of history has been reflected in the contributions of novelists and critics, and of theorists of human rights. Social and political changes, in other words, followed the results of humanistic inquiry, and were intertwined with the reconciliatory efforts of the citizens of Coventry and Dresden. Even...
SOURCE: WSJ (5-14-12)
Mr. Oren is Israel's ambassador to the United States.
This year Israel is celebrating . . . a series of accomplishments that have surely exceeded the expectations of its most visionary founders. It is one of the most powerful small nations in history. . . . [It] has tamed an arid wilderness [and] welcomed 1.25 million immigrants. . . . The Israelis themselves did the fighting, the struggling, the sacrificing in order to perform the greatest feat of all—forging a new society . . . in which pride and confidence have replaced the despair engendered by age-long suffering and persecution.
So Life magazine described Israel on the occasion of its 25th birthday in May 1973. In a 92-page special issue, "The Spirit of Israel," the magazine extolled the Jewish state as enlightened, robustly democratic and hip, a land of "astonishing achievement" that dared "to dream the dream and make that dream come alive."
Life told the story of Israel's birth...
SOURCE: Stratfor (5-15-12)
George Friedman is an American political scientist and author. He is the founder, chief intelligence officer, financial overseer, and CEO of the private intelligence corporation Stratfor.
New political leaders do not invent new national strategies. Rather, they adapt enduring national strategies to the moment. On Tuesday, Francois Hollande will be inaugurated as France's president, and soon after taking the oath of office, he will visit German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin. At this moment, the talks are expected to be about austerity and the European Union, but the underlying issue remains constant: France's struggle for a dominant role in European affairs at a time of German ascendance.
Two events shaped modern French strategy. The first, of course, was the defeat of Napoleon in 1815 and the emergence of Britain as the world's dominant naval power and Europe's leading imperial power. This did not eliminate French naval or imperial power, but...
SOURCE: NYT (5-14-12)
SOURCE: Foreign Policy (5-11-12)
Uri Friedman is an associate editor at Foreign Policy.
The Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud, who was very close with his mother, once remarked that "people who know that they are preferred or favored by their mother give evidence in their lives of a peculiar self-reliance and an unshakeable optimism which often seem like heroic attributes and bring actual success to their possessors."
Whether you subscribe to Freud's theories or not, it's certainly true that some of the world's most powerful rulers have had fascinating relationships with their mothers -- some surprisingly loving, others ambivalent or just plain bitter. Alexander the Great's power-hungry mother,...
SOURCE: LA Times (5-6-12)
Tom Hayden, a longtime activist and former member of the California Legislature, taught a UCLA class on student-led democracy movements this year.
"We are people of this generation, bred in at least modest comfort, housed now in universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit."
Those were the opening words of the Port Huron Statement, which I helped draft 50 years ago this summer as the founding document of Students for a Democratic Society. The statement, written in the idealistic early days of the New Left, laid out a vision for a nation in which racial equality would be finally achieved, disarmament embraced and...
SOURCE: BBC (5-10-12)
Stephan J Kramer is General Secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.
Contrary to what some people may think, there is, at present, no general prohibition against the publication of Adolf Hitler's book.
The reason it has been possible to ban new editions is purely technical. After World War II, the state of Bavaria became the owner of parts of Hitler's property which had been confiscated by the occupying powers - including the copyright to the dictator's publications.
Thus Bavaria has been able, so far, to use its discretion and block new editions. However, the copyright expires in 2015.
The only imaginable way to continue the existing ban beyond 2015 would be explicit legislation to this effect - a complicated process which might even run into constitutional difficulties and fail to clear the hurdle of the Constitutional Court.
What a triumph for the Nazis this would be...
SOURCE: WSJ (5-9-12)
Mr. Herman is a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. His newest book, Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II, was published this week by Random House.
If President Obama still wants to turn our economy around, it's time for him to act more like Franklin Roosevelt—but not in the way he might think. It takes a special kind of courage for a president to abandon a failed approach to economic policy and then embrace its opposite. Yet, faced in May 1940 with America's greatest foreign policy crisis since the nation's founding, that's exactly what Franklin D. Roosevelt did. FDR—architect of the New Deal and outspoken opponent of Big Business—was forced by the collapse of Europe's democracies under Hitler's blitzkrieg to turn to the corporate sector to prepare America for war.
Roosevelt had almost no choice. In 1940, the United States had the 18th-largest army in the world, right behind tiny...
SOURCE: Troy Media (5-9-12)
Troy Media columnist Pat Murphy worked in the Canadian financial services industry for over 30 years. Originally from Ireland, he has a degree in history and economics.
TORONTO, ON, May. 9, 2012/ Troy Media/ – There was a time when it was fashionable to think of history in terms of the influence of great men. The 19th century Scottish essayist and historian Thomas Carlyle was clear on this, noting that “The history of the world is but the biography of great men.”
It’s a view that no longer prevails. Still, individuals can make a significant impact in specific situations. So let’s ask a question: What, if anything, would have been different had Dwight Eisenhower gone ahead with his plan to divorce his wife and marry Kay Summersby?...
Given the prevailing values, Eisenhower’s image as the All-American war hero would certainly have been tarnished. And absent that special status, it’s difficult to see how he could have been elected president. In fact, he...
SOURCE: The Atlantic (5-9-12)
Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.
Yes! This previously unknown tidbit, it turns out, was the discovery of a guy in Milwaukee who had happened to take a day off work -- and then happened (serendipity!) to visit a circus graveyard in Delavan, Wisconsin -- and then happened (serendipity again!) to visit the Lincoln Library in Springfield, Illinois -- and then happend (serendipity...
SOURCE: The Atlantic (5-9-12)
Andrew Cohen is a contributing editor at The Atlantic and legal analyst for 60 Minutes. He is also chief analyst and legal editor for CBS Radio News and has won a Murrow Award as one of the nation's leading legal analysts and commentators.
When we think back upon the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s we usually think of the marches and the fire hoses, of Martin Luther King and Eugene "Bull" Connor, of Brown v. Board of Education and...
SOURCE: LA Times (5-9-12)
Robert Zaretsky teaches French history at the Honors College of the University of Houston and is coauthor of France and its Empire Since 1870.
SOURCE: National Interest (5-9-12)
John T. Shaw is a vice president and congressional correspondent for Market News International. He is the author of Richard G. Lugar: Statesman of the Senate: Crafting Foreign Policy From Capitol Hill, recently released by Indiana University Press.
SOURCE: Spiegel Online (5-8-12)
Sven Böll, Christian Reiermann, Michael Sauga and Klaus Wiegrefe write for Der Spiegel.
It was shortly before his departure to Brussels when the chancellor was overpowered by the sheer magnitude of the moment. Helmut Kohl said that the "weight of history" would become palpable on that weekend; the resolution to establish the monetary union, he said, was a reason for "joyful celebration."
Soon afterwards, on May 2, 1998, Kohl and his counterparts reached a momentous decision. Eleven countries were to become part of the new European currency, including Germany, France, the Benelux countries -- and Italy.
Now, 14 years later, the weight of history has indeed become extraordinary. But no one is in the mood to celebrate anymore. In fact, the mood was downright somber when current Chancellor Angela Merkel met with her Italian...
SOURCE: American Conservative (5-7-12)
Scott Galupo is a writer and musician living in Virginia.
Un homme serieux. The phrase, found in a Newsweek column written by Joseph Alsop after Richard Nixon’s second inauguration, recurs frequently in Thomas Mallon’s engaging new historical novel, Watergate. Alsop believed that Nixon was un homme serieux in at least three senses:
The literal meaning is, of course, ‘serious man.’ Less literally, but more accurately, it means a man who has to be taken seriously. Less literally still, but more accurately in terms of the President’s thinking, it means a tough man, a hard man, a man not to be pushed around.
Each of these shades of meaning was intensely present in Nixon. He was a man of high intellect, an accomplished statesman—also something of, well, a crook.
What accounts for this whiplash-inducing quality of Nixon’s—this ability to mingle high purpose with common thuggery?..
SOURCE: Chicago Reader (5-8-12)
Michael Miner has been a Chicago journalist since 1970.
BradleeThe excerpt from a new biography of Ben Bradlee that ran the other day in New York magazine is a long story that turns on a small remark about Watergate. As far as the history of Watergate is concerned, what Bradlee apparently said in 1990 is revisionism of utter insignificance. Besides, history is constantly being tinkered with. But among journalists, Watergate is mostly myth, and in myth the quests are forever noble, the deeds forever daring, and virtue forever triumphant. If you’re remembered as a slayer of dragons, you won’t want it to come out that you used rat poison.
The story is called "The Red Flag in the Flowerpot." The cast of characters consists of Ben Bradlee, editor of the Washington Post at the time of Watergate and father figure to Bob Woodward, young and relentless...
SOURCE: WSJ (5-6-12)
Mr. Berkowitz is a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. His latest book is Israel and the Struggle over the International Laws of War (Hoover Press, 2012).