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: Moscow Times (6-27-12)
Peter Reddaway is professor emeritus of political science at George Washington University. Stephen F. Cohen is professor of Russian studies at New York University.
Many Western observers believe that President Vladimir Putin's authoritarian regime has in effect banned a Russian edition of a widely acclaimed 2007 book by the British historian Orlando Figes, "The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia." A professor at London's Birkbeck College, Figes himself inspired this explanation. In a 2009 interview, he suggested that his first Russian publisher dropped the project due to "political pressure" because his study of Stalin-era terror "is inconvenient to the current regime." Three years later, his explanation continues to circulate.
We doubted Figes' explanation at the time — partly because excellent Russian historians are themselves...
SOURCE: National Interest (6-25-12)
Paul R. Pillar is director of graduate studies at Georgetown University's Security Studies Program and a former national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia.
Every generation has its own defining historical events that shape its attitudes toward current events. Members of later generations easily become disdainful of what they regard as preoccupations with the past. This pattern comes through in an article by James Mann about the different generations represented in the Obama administration's foreign policy apparatus. Mann divides the administration team into a Vietnam generation, which does not want to repeat the misery of that war, a post-Vietnam generation that believes the first generation's reaction to the war made the Democratic Party look too...
SOURCE: American Interest (6-21-12)
Eliot Cohen, a former counselor of the U.S. Department of State, teaches at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and is the author of Conquered into Liberty: Two Centuries of Battles along the Great Warpath That Made the American Way of War, from which this essay is adapted.
On September 10, 1814, John Quincy Adams, son of the second president of the United States and destined to become its fifth, the most accomplished American diplomat of his generation (and perhaps the most able in American history), conversant in half a dozen languages, was, as usual, dissatisfied with his colleagues, his compatriots, his predicaments, and most of all, himself. He had just turned forty-seven, noting in his diary that "two-thirds of the period allotted to the life of man are gone by for me." As he contemplated the days of...
SOURCE: WaPo (6-22-12)
James Mann is author in residence at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. This article is adapted from his new book, The Obamians: The Struggle Inside the White House to Redefine American Power.
SOURCE: WaPo (6-22-12)
David Leavitt is a professor at the University of Florida and the author of The Man Who Knew Too Much: Alan Turing and the Origins of the Computer.
SOURCE: National Review (6-25-12)
John O’Sullivan is editor-at-large of National Review.
SOURCE: The Tennessean (6-23-12)
Elizabeth Gritter, Ph.D., teaches U.S. history at Middle Tennessee State University and is an expert on the civil rights movement.
The Hon. H.T. Lockard would have turned 92 tomorrow. When he passed away last December in Memphis, he received little statewide or national attention despite his service as the first African-American Cabinet member in Tennessee and as a key player in the civil rights movement.
I had the privilege to conduct interviews of Judge Lockard and correspond with him from 2000, when I was an undergraduate, until shortly before his death. His interest and encouragement of me as a young scholar mirrored how he mentored young lawyers, especially African-American ones, throughout his career.
Born in Lauderdale County, Tenn., Judge Lockard served in the Army during World War II, including a stint in France, where he studied at the University of Paris, Sorbonne. Afterward, he completed his undergraduate education at LeMoyne College in...
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (6-23-12)
Eamon Duffy is Professor of the History of Christianity at Cambridge. His latest book, 'Saints, Sacrilege and Sedition: religion and conflict in the Tudor Reformations’, is published by Bloomsbury.
For five centuries England has been in denial about the role of Roman Catholicism in shaping it. The coin in your pocket declares the monarch to be Defender of the Faith. Since 1558 that has meant the Protestant faith, but Henry VIII actually got the title from the Pope for defending Catholicism against Luther. Henry eventually broke with Rome because the Pope refused him a divorce, and along with the papacy went saints, pilgrimage, the monastic life, eventually even the Mass itself – the pillars of medieval Christianity.
To explain that revolution, the Protestant reformers told a story. Henry had rejected not the Catholic Church, but a corrupt pseudo-Christianity which had led the world astray. John Foxe embodied this...
SOURCE: Foreign Policy (6-19-12)
Steven A. Cook is the Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is the author of The Struggle for Egypt: From Nasser to Tahrir Square.
SOURCE: Jewish Ideas Daily (6-20-12)
Carole Fink, currently a Distinguished Fulbright Scholar in Israel and Humanities Distinguished Professor Emerita at The Ohio State University, is the author of three books and more than fifty articles on 20th-century European and Jewish history.
Walther Rathenau was neither a typical German Jew nor a traditional German statesman. Born into a wealthy industrialist family that had disowned its Jewish beliefs and practices and gaining political office late in life, Rathenau was the quintessential outsider. He was also a man of contradictions: outgoing and solitary, ambivalent about his Jewishness and German-ness, a technocrat who embraced spiritualism but advocated state regulation to achieve the common good.
SOURCE: Interview in Slate (originally in New Scientist) (4-30-12)
E.O. Wilson is a Harvard sociobiologist. His latest book is The Social Conquest of Earth....
SOURCE: Daily Star (Lebanon) (6-15-12)
Edward Mortimer was director of communications at the office of the U.N. secretary-general from 2001 to 2006.
For months we have been told that Syria is "on the brink of civil war." Now the head of United Nations peacekeeping has admitted the obvious. Civil war of the most ruthless kind is already there.
President Bashar Assad is not ready to leave, and still has significant support – both inside the country, mainly among minorities who fear that the sequel to his fall will be similar to what Iraq has gone through since 2003, and among foreign powers ranging from Russia to Iran and its satellites in Iraq and Lebanon.
The Syrian opposition, for its part, believes things have gone way beyond the point where dialogue with the regime is possible or acceptable – and it too has powerful foreign backers in the region (Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar) as well as more hesitant ones in the West....
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (6-18-12)
Khalil Gibran Muhammad is director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, part of the New York Public Library.
For a man of humble origins who might have lived life as most do – without fame or notoriety – Rodney King will go down in history as a seminal figure in the evolution of America's criminal justice system. He died yesterday, only hours before thousands marched silently to protest against abusive police practices in New York City; even in death, he found himself in the midst of an historic moment.
In 1991, the 25-year-old construction worker with a drink problem and a tendency to drive too fast was severely beaten...
SOURCE: Foreign Policy (6-16-12)
Robert D. Kaplan is chief geopolitical analyst at Stratfor. This article is adapted from his forthcoming book, The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate.
Perversity characterizes Pakistan. Only the worst African hellholes, Afghanistan, Haiti, Yemen, and Iraq rank higher on this year's Failed States Index. The country is run by a military obsessed with -- and, for decades, invested in -- the conflict with India, and by a civilian elite that steals all it can and pays almost no taxes. But despite an overbearing military, tribes "defined by a near-universal male participation in organized violence," as the late European...
SOURCE: National Review (6-15-12)
Fred Thompson is a former senator, presidential candidate, and minority counsel to Senate Republicans during the Watergate scandal.
The Washington Post recently sponsored a panel discussion marking the 40th anniversary of the Watergate scandal. The event featured players in that drama of long ago, so I was there, along with Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, Ben Bradlee (the Post’s editor at the time of Watergate and the guest of honor at this discussion), John ...
SOURCE: Democracy: A Journal of Ideas (6-15-12)
E.J. Dionne Jr. is the chair of the Democracy Editorial Committee and a columnist for The Washington Post. He is also a professor at Georgetown University and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. This essay is drawn from his new book, Our Divided Political Heart.
Progressives should ask why conservatives are so eager to paint themselves as the true heirs of the American tradition, and why those on the left side of politics—usually ready to do battle with the right on many fronts—have not felt the same sense of urgency when it comes to popular understandings of the American story.
I emphasize the word “popular” because many superb American historians, simply by virtue of their efforts to present the American story accurately, have brought home the flaws in partisan readings of our story even as they challenged the...
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (6-13-12)
Peter Oborne is the Daily Telegraph's chief political commentator.
SOURCE: American Spectator (6-14-12)
SOURCE: National Review (6-14-12)
Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (Woodstein for our purposes) now claim, in a Washington Post piece, that Nixon was "far worse than we thought," and accuse him of conducting five "wars": against the anti-war movement, on the media, against the Democrats, on justice,...
SOURCE: NYT (6-10-12)
Jane Mendelsohn is the author of “I Was Amelia Earhart” and “American Music.”
THERE was a picture of Amelia Earhart in the newspaper. Actually, it was in this newspaper. I read the accompanying article while riding on a train from New Haven to New York when I was in my mid-20s. Although I had graduated a few years earlier, I was still living in the town where I’d gone to college. New Haven was cheap, and book reviews paid money back then. This was in the early ’90s. The train was quiet. No one had a cellphone. The article in the newspaper said that a search party believed it had found a piece of Earhart’s plane on an atoll in the Pacific. And maybe a piece of her shoe.
I didn’t know much about Amelia Earhart, but the idea of her surviving on a desert island, even if only for a little while, appealed to me, sang to me, waved furiously to...