This page includes, in addition to news about historians, news about political scientists, economists, law professors, and others who write about history. For a comprehensive list of historians' obituaries, go here.
SOURCE: The Guardian (London) (11-30-05)
The trip also had a more immediate impact on Craig's future: a chance meeting with a Rhodes scholar led him to apply for a scholarship, which, much to his surprise, he won. He arrived at Balliol College, Oxford, in 1936 to spend two of the most important years of his life. Study with BH Sumner and EL Woodward, two of Britain's finest historians, deepened his knowledge of European affairs. After his Oxford BLitt, in 1938 he returned to Princeton, completing his doctoral dissertation a few months before the US entered the second world war. After working in the Office of Strategic Services, he served with the marines in the south Pacific.
Craig was born in Glasgow but emigrated to Canada as a child, before moving to the US. He taught at Princeton until 1961, when he went to Stanford University; in 1969, he became JE Wallace Sterling professor of humanities. At both universities, he was extraordinarily successful in the classroom. Beautifully written and flawlessly delivered, his lectures introduced generations of students to the drama of European history.
Craig's scholarship was distinguished by both depth and breadth. He first made his reputation as a historian of diplomacy and military affairs. Two collections that he co-edited, The Makers of Modern Strategy (1943) and The Diplomats, 1919-1939 (1953), instantly became standard works in the field. His first book, The Politics of the Prussian Army, 1640-1945 (1955), remains a classic still worth reading. His best known works are his history of Germany, 1866-1945 (1978), a volume in the Oxford History of Modern Europe, and The Germans (1982), a brilliantly written record of the author's fascination with German politics and culture.
He also published books on the battle of Koniggratz, the end of Prussia, Zurich in the 19th century and the great German novelist, Theodor Fontane. There are three collections of his essays: War, Politics and Diplomacy (1966), The Politics of the Unpolitical: German Writers and the Problem of Power, 1770-1871 (1995) and Politics and Culture in Modern Germany: Essays from the New York Review of Books (1999). Throughout his career, he wrote on a variety of topics, but returned again and again to the question he had first confronted in 1935: how could a country like Germany, apparently so civilised and culturally creative, become the source of unparalleled misery and destruction?
Gordon Alexander Craig, historian, born November 26 1913; died October 30 2005
SOURCE: Independent (UK) (11-27-05)
His latest comeuppance has been an episode as shabby as any and may force him to spend years in prison.
His Viennese lawyer, Elmar Kresbach, insists he has changed his mind about "the views he is so famous for" after an examination of Soviet archives led him to accept the Nazi gas chambers existed.
That line of argument may surprise Mr Irving's white supremacist friends in the United States, more accustomed to his view that "more women died on the back seat of Edward Kennedy's car at Chappaquiddick than ever died in a gas chamber in Auschwitz". They have extended numerous invitations and organised frequent books sales for him in the past few years.
Among his Stateside sponsors, according to the anti-racist Southern Poverty Law Center, have been the former Ku Klux Klan leader and one-time candidate for the Louisiana governor's office, David Duke, as well as the leading US neo-Nazi organisation, the National Alliance.
Mr Irving's US friends have been a lifeline since he brought a ruinous libel suit in 2000 against Deborah Lipstadt. She had characterised him as anti-Semitic and racist; the High Court found that the criticism was just and ordered Mr Irving to pay court costs estimated to be about £3 million.
Since then, he has reportedly moved out of his home in Mayfair into rented accommodation. He has continued to organise annual so-called "real history" conferences, but his room for manoeuvre has been significantly constrained: he is banned from entering Austria, Germany, Canada and Australia.
Even his trips to the States have been less than comfortable. In 2003, a restaurant in rural Idaho chose to cancel an event of his and close down for the day after finding out who he was and what sort of people his local fans might be. This summer he received a rare invitation to address a left-wing group in Alabama, the Atheist Law Center, only to provoke outrage among the membership and, this week, the resignation of the group president, Larry Darby.
SOURCE: The Independent (11-29-05)
'Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.'
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations General Assembly Resolution, 10 December 1948.
One of my first stories as a reporter for The Observer was a student strike in 1977 at the London School of Economics. Whenever a fellow student spoke against the strikers, they chanted, 'No free speech for fascists'. It had never occurred to me that free speech should be denied to anyone " fascist, communist or vegetarian. That was 1977, and I have since witnessed free speech denied to both those with whom I agree and those whose views repel me. But my belief in freedom of expression requires me to defend the right of both to speak. Otherwise, what is this free speech I believe in? The freedom to agree?
So, get ready. I am about to defend the right " remember, the right, not the views " of David Irving, who today languishes in an Austrian holding cell for the crime of stating a view that most of us find disgusting. He has stated that Hitler knew nothing of the genocide of Europe's Jews. It is a crank outburst here, but a crime in Austria, Germany, Poland and France. Another anti-Semitic, and much more vicious, Holocaust denier, Ernst Zundel, awaits trial in Germany on a similar charge.
Irving is a historian of the Second World War, who has uncovered important Wehrmacht documents, but defended the Nazis. He supported Zundel in court " not his right to speak, but what Zundel actually said: that the Holocaust was a myth. This places them both beyond the realm of reasonable argument. Their errors could be demonstrated in open debate " as historians have done with Irving's work. Indeed, open debate " without fear of imprisonment and fines " helps to make an open society.
Most of us spoke out in favour of someone who affirmed another genocide. The Turkish government charged the novelist Orhan Pamuk with what can only be called 'holocaust confirmation' for asserting that Turkey committed genocide against its Armenian population during and after the First World War. I think Pamuk was right, and I was among many to sign petitions for him. Turkey's citizens should not be obliged to adhere to any orthodoxy. Nor do I believe that Turkey has a right to prosecute those who accuse its armed forces of crimes against the country's Kurdish population. Outside Turkey, this is an easy (and obvious) position to assume. But within the European Community, how many in the literary and human rights worlds who rallied to Pamuk's defence have stood up for the right of two men with whom they disagree to have their say?
SOURCE: The Guardian (11-29-05)
"I refuse to bow down before the statue any longer, I have opened my eyes," said Claude Ribbe, a respected black academic and part of a governmental commission on human rights whose book, Napoleon's Crime, is published this week, on the bicentenary of the emperor's great triumph at the battle of Austerlitz this Friday.
"A kind of generalised self-censorship exists about this man in France . . . he furthered the emergence of all the racist and pseudo-scientific theories of the 19th century that were subsequently taken up by the Nazis."
A: We've got plenty of left-wingers. We've had plenty of left-wing professors at Boston University. And contrary to the statement that has been repeated in the newspapers ad nauseam, I never fired a tenured professor. Not one.
Q: Well, you can't.
A: No, it's not because you can't. You can fire a professor for serious misconduct or incompetence. For example, when [BU history professor] Howard Zinn was passing the hat in his class to let people draw their grades, and he told them in advance that there were only A's and B's in the hat, that's grounds for firing somebody. [Zinn contests this version of events.] You could certainly fire a person for that and make it stick. I wasn't about to make a martyr out of Howard Zinn, and he taught here until he finally decided to resign. It's not that you can't fire people when they have been sufficiently deficient. Howard Zinn led a group of students to disrupt a meeting of the Latin American Development Studies Program at Boston University when they had a conference on “Quo Vadis, Latin America?” And they had a couple of presidents from South America and Central America, and they had what we would probably call the treasurer, Roberto Campos, from Brazil, and Colombian President Carlos Lleras Restrepo and other very distinguished people. Well, he tried to break that up. I could have fired him for that. No question about it. That's not permitted academic behavior. I could have fired him under the criteria of the AAUP rules. So, it's just not true.
I don't mind having people disagree with me, but I think one thing that some left-wing professors don't want is anybody to criticize them. I think that I offended many people when I decimated the postures and the lies of Noam Chomsky in an article I wrote called “Poisoning the Well in Academe.” That wasn't a conservative screed on my part. That was a liberal's devotion to the truth, and the exposure of a liar, a person who assaults the mind by putting in false evidence.
SOURCE: NYT (11-26-05)
The ruling meant that Mr. Irving, 67, whose highly eccentric and widely rejected views of Nazi history have gained him worldwide notoriety, will remain in prison for at least four more weeks while Austrian prosecutors prepare an indictment against him.
Austria, which was annexed to Germany before World War II, was a part of the Third Reich until it was liberated by Soviet and American troops a few months before the Nazis' defeat in 1945. It is one of a handful of countries that have laws forbidding the expression of the opinion that the Holocaust, the Nazis' mass slaughter of Jews during the war, did not take place. Other countries with such laws are Germany itself, France, Belgium and Poland.
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (11-27-05)
Now the 1,200 inmates have been joined by an infamous foreigner; David Irving will be confined to a Josefstadt cell over Christmas and the New Year, pending trial on criminal charges deriving from his discredited views on the history of the second world war.
Irving, the controversial British historian and Nazi apologist, stands accused of denying the Holocaust happened, a criminal offence in Austria. He was barred from the country but, an inveterate risk-taker, he flew from London to Basle in Switzerland this month, rented a car and drove to Vienna.
The idea was to meet up with a bunch of student radicals from an extreme right fraternity. Their hobbies include dressing up in funny clothes and little pillbox caps, then drawing blood by slashing one another's cheeks in fencing duels. They've been at it since Bismarck's day.
The Austrian police have tape recordings and 60 pages of transcripts of two speeches Irving delivered in Austria in November 1989 and a newspaper interview he gave at the time.
The Guardian has a copy of the indictment which cites copiously from the speeches Irving made in 1989. "There were no extermination camps in the Third Reich," he declared. "Is it not time once and for all to put an end to this fairy tale of the gas chambers." Adolf Hitler "held out his hands to protect the Jews", and knew nothing of the Final Solution. Thirty thousand people were murdered at Auschwitz in Nazi-occupied Poland - as opposed to the accepted figure of 1.5 million. After the war, the Poles fabricated the gas chamber evidence at Auschwitz to match the "fantasies" of survivors. The billions paid in reparations after the war by Germany to the state of Israel were unwarranted. "That is, of course, embarrassing. It was all a huge swindle ... Why does the German people let itself be slandered thus?"
The arguments advanced may be contemptible. But are they criminal? Is the prosecution of Irving justified, or is the looming jury trial and the prospect of a 10-year jail term if found guilty an assault on free speech?
These are some of the questions being asked here. "Dragging fools and falsifiers of history before a court is unworthy of a liberal democracy today," said Christian Fleck, president of Austria's association of sociologists.
In a long commentary in the liberal Standard newspaper, he noted that the Irving case was particularly ill-judged when contrasted with Austria's poor record in apprehending ageing war crimes suspects living in the country.
SOURCE: The Daily Telegraph (LONDON) (11-28-05)
In his popular but scholarly Israelites (2001), Isserlin synthesised the social, historical, geographical and archaeological evidence of ancient Israel from the earliest beginnings to the Babylonian exile. He analysed the culture and society of the nation in the wider context of near eastern civilisations, and was delighted when the book was reviewed in a Saudi archaeological journal.
His involvement in Phoenician archaeology began in 1955, when he directed an Oxford University expedition to Motya (Mozia), a small island off Marsala, in Sicily, whose entire extent is covered with the remains of a Phoenician city destroyed in 397 BC. It took some time to gain the financial support necessary for a full-scale project, but from 1961 to 1972 Isserlin directed annual excavations there, and in 1974 published Motya: A Phoenician and Carthaginian City in Sicily, the first of three volumes.
In the field of Hebrew studies, Isserlin devoted great attention to the study of place names and to the pronunciation of ancient Hebrew. In 1971 he published a Hebrew Work Book for Beginners. At the time of his death he was revising his doctoral thesis on the place names of Palestine for publication.
Isserlin was also involved in Arabic and Islamic studies, and his interest in Arabic dialects led him to the study of Maltese. From 1963 he collaborated with Professor Joseph Aqulina, of Malta University, in carrying out an exhaustive survey of spoken Maltese dialects, eventually published in three volumes.
Benedikt Sigmund Johannes Isserlin was born on February 25 1916 in Munich, Germany. Family tradition has it that the Isserlins were descended from Rabbi Moses Isserles of Cracow, an eminent Talmudic scholar of the 16th century. Benedikt's father, Max, was a professor of psychiatry, an international authority on the effects of brain damage on language and the founder of a hospital for war invalids with brain lesions. He held consultations in his office in the family flat in Munich, and Benedikt recalled that when kleptomaniac patients left the premises the housemaid would relieve them of the items they had pocketed during their visits.
SOURCE: Independent (London) (11-25-05)
Not content with treating political, economic and (before it was fashionable) social history, and with illuminating the works of the Greek and Roman historians, he led the way in taking seriously the Hellenistic schools of philosophy, notably Stoicism, and in demonstrating the subtlety with which the history of ideas can and should be related to the political and social circumstances from which they arise and which they may affect. 'Expertise on these circumstances and on the interpretation of philosophic theories is not always combined,' he wrote. His own work showed what could be achieved when it was.
He was born in Coulsdon, Surrey in 1917, the only child of the Rev Samuel Brunt, a Methodist minister, and Eileen (nZe Blewett). His father died when he was quite young, and Peter Brunt, who never married, remained very close to his mother, who lived into his retirement. After Ipswich School, he won a scholarship to Oriel College, Oxford, in History: he did not trust his ability to compose in ancient Greek at a standard high enough to win one in Classics, the subject he went on to read. The fact is already a true indication of his primary interest in the ancient world, though the training offered by the Greats course in historiography and philosophy was also to prove of great importance for his work.
SOURCE: scotsman.com (11-24-05)
Prosecutors charged Irving earlier this week under an Austrian law that makes denying the Holocaust a crime.
The charges stem from two speeches Irving delivered in Austria in 1989 in which he allegedly denied the existence of gas chambers. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison.
Irving has changed his views on gas chambers in recent years, his attorney, Elmar Kresbach said.
"He changed some of the views he is so famous for," Kresbach said.
Kresbach said he will argue at a custody hearing that Irving should be released on bail.
It was unclear when the trial will begin.
SOURCE: NYT (11-24-05)
The cause was congestive heart failure and complications of Alzheimer's disease, his son John said.
Mr. Thorndike, the longtime editorial director of American Heritage, started the magazine with two Life colleagues, Oliver Jensen and James Parton. Mr. Jensen died in June, at 91.
A general-interest publication that recounts the American past in the style of a newsmagazine, American Heritage is published six times a year and has a circulation of 340,000. Its corporate parent, the American Heritage Publishing Company, is a division of Forbes Inc.
SOURCE: China Radio International (11-22-05)
Gavin Menzies, author of the best-selling and controversial "1421: The Year China Discovered America," claimed two more major pieces of evidence to prove his theory. He presented the new findings during his Reading Month lecture in Shenzhen on Saturday.
Menzies said the latest evidence is a Chinese map from 1418 and the ruins of a "Chinese navy base" in Nova Scotia, Canada where he spent two weeks this year.
"The site was found by Canadian architect Paul Chiasssion. His book will be published this coming March," Menzies said. During an interview with the Shenzhen Daily at his hotel Friday, Menzies showed photographs of the site, where he believed squadrons from the legendary admiral Zheng He's fleets once stayed.
"The history of the native Americans living nearby says that foreign people came in huge ships from their home on the other side of the pole, and they settled down and built the town on the promontory," Menzies said.
"When the first Europeans, Jesuit priests, reached the place, they found the (native Mi'kmaq) people writing in Chinese script," he said.
Menzies also gave as evidence of the Chinese in America 71 years before Columbus a 15th century map of the world found by a Chinese lawyer in Beijing about four years ago. "The name of the map is 'The Integrated Map of the World of Zheng He,'" Menzies said. The map includes North America, South America, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, Europe and Africa.
Menzies showed a photograph of the map to the Shenzhen Daily, but said the map couldn't be publicly shown until the results of carbon dating are announced Jan. 17.
Menzies said the paper and ink was now being carbon dated by researchers at Cambridge University in Britain and University of Waikato in New Zealand.
Menzies said parts of the Chinese map, including North America and South America, also appeared in a world map published in Venice before 1428.
"You have a Venetian map showing Alaska and North America long before Europeans got there," Menzies stressed.
"The Venetians say this map was a copy of a Chinese map," he said.
Menzies said there were about 30 to 40 ancient Chinese charts but none of them showed the world as completely as "The Integrated Map of the World of Zheng He."
[The article goes on to cite an HNN piece published by Tim Furnish debunking the claims.]
SOURCE: Matthew Abraham at logosjournal.com (Fall 2005)
... Finkelstein debunks many favored pieties, and as a result, often faces high barriers to reaching a mass audience. As a Jew and the son of Holocaust survivors, Finkelstein has been battling the U.S. Zionist establishment for decades. Beyond Chutzpah is one of those rare books that has the potential to change the nature of the debate about the U.S.-Israel-Palestine conflict because of its willingness to go where others refuse to go with a “J’accuse” —even when leading to ostracism and perpetual underemployment. Finkelstein indicts much of the U.S. intellectual culture and the cultural institutions that obstruct an accurate rendering of the historical and diplomatic record of the conflict. I suspect Mario Cuomo and Henry Louis Gates Jr., who both praised The Case for Israel, will now be asked, “Did you really read the book or understand what’s at issue in this conflict?
It’s long been recognized, within the humanities, for example, that to speak of such entities as “truths” is to make one vulnerable to the charge of being a simpleton. After all, interpretative or discourse communities determine what is “truth” based on agreement — reality is a majority vote. Even when faced with the task of owning up to gruesome realities, the utter simplicity of some phenomena in the world continue to defy the academic intelligentsia, due to such academic mainstays as the “social construction of truth,” “postmodern geographies,” and “the radically perspectival and indeterminate nature of language.” The powerful don’t have to subscribe to these norms of “intellectual integrity” anyway, often blatantly flouting them and leaving members of the “common herd” aghast when, in the defiance of all evidence, Israel is hailed as the main proponent of Middle Eastern peace despite its ongoing removal of the Palestinians from what will soon be a greater Israel.
Finkelstein described “the Holocaust Industry,” in a book of that title, distinguishing between the holocaust (the historical event) and the Holocaust (the ideological creation nurtured by Israel’s apologists to immunize the Israeli government against critiques). In Beyond Chutzpah, Finkelstein alleges that there’s anti-Semitism, a age-old form of prejudice directed against Jews that any decent person would oppose, and then there’s “anti-Semitism”—an ideologically serviceable mystery religion which accrues considerable benefits for the Israeli government. Finkelstein claims that the new anti-Semitism ends up coddling Zionist Jews, particularly American Zionist Jews, protecting them from much-deserved scrutiny in their toadying for special dispensations as oppressed “chosen people,” while in fact comprising the most privileged ethnic group in the United States. As he writes:
"Legitimate questions can surely be posed regarding when and if Jews are acting as people who happen to be Jewish or acting 'as Jews,' and, on the latter occasions (which plainly do arise), regarding the actual breadth and limits of this 'Jewish power,' but these questions can only be answered empirically, not a priori with politically correct formulae. To foreclose inquiry on this topic as anti-Semitic , intentionally or not, to shield Jews from legitimate scrutiny of their uses and abuses of formidable power (83).
Finkelstein finds that Abraham Foxman, Phyllis Chesler, Gabriel Schoenfeld, Elie Wiesel, Alan Dershowitz, and a whole host of others, have been running a lucrative extortion racket with the sole aim of shielding Israel from scrutiny as it continues an all-out assault with the United States on international law. According to Chessler’s The New Anti-Semitism, it is anti-Semitic to associate all Jews with Israel [“Anyone who does not distinguish between Jews and the Jewish state is an anti-Semite”], but by Chessler’s lights it is also anti-Semitic not to do so [“American and Diaspora Jews” must understand that “Israel is hour heart and soul…we are family” (her emphasis)] (Beyond Chutzpah, 82). Finkelstein documented in The Holocaust Industry that figures such as Edgar Bronfman (heir to the Seagrams’ fortune), Israel Singer (one-time head of the World Jewish Congress), and Elie Wiesel (holocaust survivor, and in Finkelstein’s estimation, “resident clown of the Holocaust Industry”) conspired in conjunction with the Clinton administration to conduct a “shakedown operation” against European countries in the sacred name of Holocaust survivors. In fact, as Finkelstein documents, the billions of dollars the Holocaust industry extorted from Switzerland and Poland in the name of reclaiming Jewish assets seized during WWII went not to Holocaust survivors or their families, but instead to Jewish organizations such as the World Jewish Congress and the ADL, which are U.S. front operations for the Israeli government. Hence, the Holocaust Industry has not only robbed survivors blind but also engaged in a form of ruthless grave robbery for the glorification of that massive land-based U.S. aircraft carrier, Israel.
Whenever the Israeli government faces a public-relations disaster, as it did after the ’82 Lebanon War and the Sabra and Chatila massacre, or as it did during the First and Second Intifadas, a new alarm is sounded about virulent anti-Semitism on the rise. But the more fundamental question is: How was the anti-Semitism of the Nazis transferred to Palestinians of the occupied territories? This ideological sleight-of-hand represents one of the Holocaust Industry’s triumphs. Unfortunately, since the Six-Day War, the historical record has been dominated by propaganda highlighting Jewish suffering to the exclusion of the suffering of other ethnic groups. Here, however, Finkelstein lays the ground for a rational discussion about Israel. Finkelstein shows a clear correlation between moments when the anti-Semitism alarm is rung and the needs of Israel’s apologists who deploy agitprop against anyone seeking to present a clear understanding of what Chomsky calls the “international consensus”—a reference to the fact that the United States and Israel have blocked resolution of the conflict. In polite circles, this is called the “peace process,” an Orwellian term which occludes the techniques of domination and control through which the United States and Israel stop serious peace measures, i.e., a not out-of-the-ordinary display of the power of the doctrinal system and the racism of articulate Western elites. That, in fact, according to Finkelstein is what the new anti-Semitism is all about—a desperate ploy to bury Israeli and U.S. war crimes.
Once one understands that the founding of Israel had little to do with the Holocaust; that the vast majority of Holocaust survivors—who sought to come to the U.S. but were blocked from doing so by American Jewish Zionists—were forced to migrate to Israel, in Yosef Grodzinsky’s words as “good human material” (a translation of his book’s Hebrew title—chomer ‘enoshi tov); that to describe Palestinian hatred of occupiers of Palestinian land as an expression of “anti-Semitic sentiment,” because those occupiers are Jewish, is inexplicable; and that anti-Semitism is not an ageless parasite that infects non-Jews but is instead a context-specific form of ethnic discrimination that has arisen throughout history just as other forms of ethnic discrimination; then the typical Leon Uris Exodus history becomes quite untenable. To justify Israel’s “ethnic cleansing” of the Palestinian population from the West Bank and Gaza, Israel’s apologists have had to sustain an untenable ideological juggling act, keeping several balls in the air....
[Matthew Abraham is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, where he teaches courses in Rhetoric and Writing. He was named the 2005 Rachel Corrie Courage in Teaching Award Winner by the progressive special interest groups of the Conference on College Composition and Communication.]
SOURCE: Haaretz ()
Irving, an expert on the Third Reich who has claimed that Adolf Hitler knew nothing about the systematic slaughter of 6 million Jews, was detained November 11 in the southern province of Styria on a warrant issued in 1989 that makes Holocaust denial a crime.
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Education ()
The first time I ever played my guitar in class almost ended my musical career. I was teaching American history for a year at the University of Helsinki, and as I prepared to lecture about the civil-rights movement, I decided to sing a couple of songs. I was not an accomplished guitarist. I had bought my first guitar in college, in the 1960s, and had fooled around without ever taking formal lessons for the next decade and a half.
At my first semipublic appearance back in 1978, my playing was ragged, but I managed to get through "Blowin' in the Wind" and "We Shall Overcome." When the class was over, one young woman came up to me and in her not-quite-fluent English said, "Sir, that was wonderful." I smiled expansively — then cringed as she went on: "Do you know why? Because you were so bad!" As my face fell, she realized what she had said and tried to repair the damage, going on to explain that she meant that I was not a professional, but was still willing to get up in front of a class. But her comment, however much it may have been the result of an awkwardness with English, stayed with me for years to come.
I didn't bring my guitar back to class for another 10 years. By that time I was teaching in Ohio, where I sometimes took charge of the large American history survey class, with its 360 students. I thought I had gotten a little better on my guitar in the intervening years and decided to try a couple of railroad songs like "Freight Train" and "Wabash Cannonball" as I lectured about industrialization in the late 19th century. I was nervous with an audience that size, but once again got through without embarrassing myself too badly, only to learn after that one of my teaching assistants was a good guitarist who played in a band and regarded my efforts with mild amusement. That set me back a few more years....
I took to putting the words up on the PowerPoint screen and asking my students to cross their arms, join hands, and sing along with me — just as students did in the 1960s. It was hokey, and they laughed sheepishly at first, but I felt just like Pete Seeger as I cajoled them into singing out, loud and clear, and each year they finally did, swaying back and forth with the lines together, united as they sang. Once, at the end of class, a few African-American students came up to tell me how much it had moved them to hear everybody singing along.
I've always played recordings in class, just as I have shown film clips and used slides (now with the aid of PowerPoint), for I think those resources illustrate the mood of a period better than words alone. But singing has given my teaching an added dimension. It's a way of letting students begin to feel what life was like in the past. For a generation raised on music, it helps capitalize on their interest.
It's also my way of trying to give new resonance to songs my students may have heard on an oldies station, but rolled their eyes at. And that's a part of the larger effort to get them interested in history itself.
My students humor me, to be sure, but I think it creates a kind of rapport, and an acknowledgment that our common endeavor can be fun. We can deal with critical analysis and close examination of texts in other parts of the course, and yet accept the fact that it's just fine to have a good time while we do. And oh yes, it's all right to take a chance and risk embarrassment, whether with an idea or a song.
SOURCE: South China Morning Post (11-19-05)
Anthony Seldon, the master-elect of Britain's infamous Wellington College, is more than a principal. He is a personality who has no qualms about his high profile - he believes his outside interests, and those of the staff he likes to recruit, provide inspiration to the young people in their charge.
His students at Brighton College, the school he has led for eight years, have had the chance to join audiences in current affairs TV shows while a team of former students help him research his books.
"I encourage all our teachers to have outside interests. It is terribly important," he said, adding that he had appointed a former England international women's cricket player to be Wellington's deputy headmistress. "There is no doubt my writing and the profile it has given has helped Brighton College, and brought top people into the college," he said recently in Hong Kong.
Dr Sheldon, co-founder of the Institute of Contemporary British History, is unusual for such a prolific historian, shunning academia for school life. He met his wife Joanna at Oxford University - both were involved in the theatre there, as director and actress. Despite going on to do research, they decided they were not satisfied with academic life and instead wanted to work with adolescents. And in school, they could be involved in everything, from drama to sport.
"It has got to be an incredible privilege to be given the responsibility to lead young people: to inspire people to be extraordinary, not just ordinary. You have got to know children. To me that is what being a head is about," he said.
As such, teaching is part of the job and Dr Seldon's current subjects are philosophy, religion and history. He claims to not understand philosophy, even though he studied politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford in the 1970s, and challenged his students to beat him in this year's AS-level exam. They did - he got a low B. Dr Seldon, 52, is leaving Brighton to take on the challenge of "reengineering" Wellington for the 21st century. The latter has, in recent years, been no stranger to publicity - much of it negative. It has been rocked by various sex, bullying and drug-related scandals and sliding academic performance. The worst was in 2003 when a boy filmed himself in flagrante with his unsuspecting girlfriend.
Even before he takes over as head in January, Dr Seldon has thrown himself into reforms aimed at restoring it to its former greatness. He is not shying away from radical change which he insists is in the spirit of the pioneering founders. The all-boys Wellington, granted its Royal Charter in 1853 as a national memorial to the Duke of Wellington, faces a revolution by admitting girls in all years from next September and dropping British A-levels in favour of the International Baccalaureate soon after.
SOURCE: NYT (11-19-05)
The goal is to raise about $5 million.
SOURCE: BBC News (11-19-05)
The authorities are considering whether to put him on trial for denying the Nazi mass extermination of Jews, the public prosecutor's spokesman said.
He was detained a week ago on a warrant issued in 1989 under Austrian laws that make it a crime to deny the Holocaust.
Mr Irving was stopped in the southern province of Styria, en route to Vienna.
If formally charged, tried and convicted, Mr Irving could face up to 20 years in prison, said the spokesman, Otto Schneider.
In his books, Mr Irving has argued that the scale of the extermination of the Jews by the Nazis in World War II has been exaggerated.
He also claimed that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler knew nothing of the Holocaust.
SOURCE: Chicago Sun-Times (11-18-05)
Black, 61, fraudulently funneled $51.8 million to himself and three business associates, disguising them as “non-competition agreements” when he sold several hundred Canadian newspapers and half the National Post to CanWest for $2.1 billion in 2000, according to the indictment. He lied to Hollinger shareholders at the 2002 shareholders meeting to cover it up, the indictment states.
Black and one of the associates also are accused of misusing corporate perks, including a company jet for a vacation by Black and his wife in Bora Bora, two Park Avenue apartments in New York City, and corporate funds to throw a lavish birthday party for Black’s wife at La Grenouille restaurant in New York City.
The 2000 party for Black’s wife cost $62,000. Black kicked in $20,000 himself, but stuck Hollinger International with $42,000 of the bill, even though little if any business was involved, the indictment said. Wine and champagne at the affair ran $13,935. He served 80 dinners at $195 a plate.
[Black ios the author of a recent biography of FDR that won rave reviews.]
SOURCE: Council for Advancement and Support of Education (11-17-05)
The Professors of the Year will be honored today at a luncheon at the Grand Hyatt Washington in Washington, D.C. The four national winners will speak at the luncheon after being introduced by a former student.
Outstanding Baccalaureate Colleges Professor: W. A. Hayden Schilling, Robert Critchfield Professor of English History, The College of Wooster, Wooster, Ohio. Throughout his 42-year career at The College of Wooster, Schilling has maintained a passionate devotion to student success, encouraging undergraduates to become active participants in their own education. Schilling is known for his accessibility, careful advising and compassion in dealing with student problems. He has served as a mentor to hundreds of students and has remained an integral part of many of their lives, helping them grow from bewildered freshmen to confident seniors and successful alumni.
SOURCE: NYT (11-18-05)
Dr. Ward became the fifth president of Sarah Lawrence College in 1960. He was also a member of Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller's Commission on the Higher Education of Women. He left the college in 1965 when he was named executive director of the association of professional historians, a post he held until his retirement in 1974.
He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Amherst College in 1933 and received his master's degree and a Ph.D. in history from Harvard in 1934 and 1940. He specialized in medieval European history and Elizabethan England.
He started his academic career as an instructor at Harvard and was an assistant professor at Bard College before serving as a researcher for the Office of Strategic Services in Washington in World War II.
He was a missionary in China after the war, taught at Colby College and, in 1953, was appointed a professor and head of the history department at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh.
SOURCE: Gerald Vouga in Culture Cult (12-1-04)
Barbaric kingdoms were romanticised, tyrants whitewashed, and cruel and bloodthirsty customs expunged (or simply ignored) in order to impress well-meaning western middle-classes who wanted to believe only the best about the cultures of the new, free, ‘liberated’ African states.
the romantic adventurer
Beginning as a romantic adventurer, Davidson was smuggled into Yugoslavia during World War II by the SOE (the Special Operations Executive run by the British Government). His boss was James Klugman, head of Special Ops Balkan operations at Bari, and a life-long communist and Cambridge contemporary of Kim Philby and his friends.
After the war Davidson resumed his pre-war career in journalism and worked for various national papers. He also produced his own pamphlets published by the Union of Democratic Control, a small Leftist group inherited from his father. He was available as a free-lancer for various “progressive” causes ranging from that of newly-established People’s China to the tiny anti-Salazar Portuguese Opposition in exile.
Strangely, however, considering what should have counted as his worthy and reputable Left-wing writing, the International Department of the British Communist Party warned party-members against trusting Davidson, telling them he was a Colonial Office agent. This was in the early 1950s, a time when London was seething with numerous groups of African exiles agitating for independence.
propaganda: the true vocation
It was among these exiles that Davidson discovered his true vocation. With the independence of a growing number of African states his books entered the remunerative field of required reading for students of African History on campuses throughout the world. Davidson found himself in constant demand as a lecturer, and apotheosis was reached when the BBC commissioned him to direct a highly successful TV series of doubtful scholarship on African history.
Fame and fortune came not just in the West. There were vastly greater rewards from translations in the communist world. In the Soviet Union and its satellites editions of politically acceptable works reached astronomical figures by Western standards.
There was however a royalty problem. The USSR and its vassals were not signatories to international copyright agreements and hence under no compulsion to pay royalties. Any ingenuous Western author who imagined he would automatically receive them soon realized he would have to toe the line. Davidson was perfectly aware of the constraints placed upon him. In his case they were twofold. He had to satisfy not only his communist publishers, but also his African supporters. It was probably the second who first gave him the idea of embroidering history to provide an inspiring vision of the African past.
Davidson first came into contact with African folklore in the halcyon days of négritude. Its most talented exponents were to be found in a circle around the Paris magazine Présence Africaine. One of these was the Angolan Mário de Andrade, a founder of the MPLA, (Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola, or People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola) the political party which was to rule Angola after independence a quarter of a century later.
Andrade held the highly original view that Angola, at its time of first contact with the Portuguese in the late fifteenth century, enjoyed a level of civilization equivalent to that of eighteenth-century Europe. Davidson lapped this fantasy up and proceeded to direct his research and writing towards an extravagant eulogy of pre-colonial African kingdoms, their technology, and their philosophy. This approach pleased not only Mário de Andrade but also the generality of African liberationists in exile. ...
SOURCE: AHA Perspectives (11-1-05)
The historians who were inducted into the academy are: Omer Bartov, the John P. Birkelund Distinguished Professor of European History at Brown University; John Henry Coatsworth, a former AHA president (1995) and the Monroe Gutman Professor of Latin American Affairs and director of the David Rockefeller Center at Harvard University; Victoria De Grazia, professor of history at Columbia University; Sheila Fitzpatrick, the Bernadotte E. Schmitt Distinguished Service Professor of Modern Russian History at the University of Chicago; Raul Hilberg, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Vermont; Alice Kessler-Harris, the R. Gordon Hoxie Professor of American History and department chair at Columbia University; Naomi R. Lamoreaux, professor of economics and history at the University of California at Los Angeles; Harriet N. Ritvo, the Arthur J. Conner Professor of History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Robert I. Rotberg, president of the World Peace Foundation and director of the Kennedy School of Government’s Program on Intrastate Conflict and Conflict Resolution at Harvard University; and Richard P. Saller, provost and the Edward L. Ryerson Distinguished Service Professor of History and Classics at the University of Chicago....
SOURCE: Interview in the OAH Newsletter (11-9-05)
Edward Linenthal: I first got involved with OAH through my work with the National Park Service while writing about the contested places of American battlefields. At the time, the professional meeting I usually attended was the American Academy of Religion, especially the religion in America sections. When I began attending the OAH annual meeting I found it an even more congenial intellectual home. As I moved from thinking about contested public spaces in American battlefields to writing about the making of the United States Holocaust Museum and the Enola Gay controversy, then to my immersion in the cultural aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing, I continued to work with the National Park Service on the problematics of interpretation of historic sites. OAH became a natural home, particularly, of course, given the very strong ties that OAH developed with NPS.
I had also written for the JAH on several occasions including an article on my work in public history and another on the Enola Gay controversy. When Tom Schlereth retired from editing the museum exhibition section of the JAH, Joanne Meyerowitz asked if I would be willing to become a contributing editor. I asked Kym Rice in the Museums Studies Program at George Washington to coedit this with me, and we enjoyed doing that enormously over those years. Kym is still a contributing editor for the museum exhibition review section, and she has been joined by Benjamin Filene at the Minnesota Historical Society.
JD: How has the field and profession of American history changed during your career?
EL: During my work with the National Park Service, I came to appreciate--from a nonacademic perspective--how important it is to have scholars and public historians working together to enrich the public presentation of American history. For example, new scholarship helped change the way that the significance of slavery is depicted at Civil War sites. While the Park Service initiated this, it was that push of scholarship that helped change things. I think that it can work the other way too. The absolutely stunning oral histories that NPS is collecting at Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site will become grist for the mill for historians. It is wonderful when the world of public history and academic history work together....
SOURCE: Irfan Khawaja at HNN Blog Theory & Practice (11-17-05)
For a few months now, a controversy has raged at Princeton over the possibility that Princeton might hire Columbia University’s Rashid Khalidi to serve as its (Princeton's) Niehaus Chair of Near East Studies. Generally speaking, opinion on the matter falls into three relatively neat camps: (1) those opposed because of Khalidi’s views on the Israel-Palestine issue, (2) those in favor for the same general reasons, and (3) the indifferent. For months, the controversy has consisted of partisans of camp (1) attacking partisans of camp (2) and vice versa. (Personally, I fall into camp (3).)
One opens the Nov. 15 issue of PAW with the pro-Khalidi camp responding to the anti-Khalidi's camp’s claim that Khalidi is “a pseudo-academic,” and “a person with a political agenda rather than a scholar…” The chief representative of the pro-Khalidi faction turns out to be Prof. Donner, a Princeton alum. The defense he offers of Khalidi is notable only for its astonishing illogic—illogic that does little to help Khalidi and less to enhance Donner's credibility as a witness in Khalidi's defense.
“I had the good fortune to be a colleague of Khalidi’s for almost 20 years,” Donner tells us. “I can assure [the reader] that Khalidi is truly a scholar of the first caliber, not a ‘pseudo’-anything.”
Fair enough: being someone’s colleague for 20 years can in principle give you a chance to get to know him well enough to comment on his capacities as a scholar. The trouble is, having been Khalidi’s colleague for twenty years, Donner doesn’t profess to know very much about Khalidi’s scholarship: “I do not follow the Israel-Palestine debates, or Khalidi’s writing, closely enough to know whether he has in fact declared his endorsement of a ‘one-state’ solution” to the Israel-Palestine debate.
Too bad that Khalidi’s scholarship is on…the Israel-Palestine debate. So evidently, we've learned that Rashid Khalidi is a first-caliber scholar—--from a person who's just confessed ignorance as to his scholarship. Good going.
From this brazen contradiction Donner manages to compound the effrontery by poisoning the well: “If Princeton refuses, or has already refused, even to consider inviting him to join its faculty, it will be because Princeton, not Khalidi, has a political agenda.”
A real inferential tour de force, isn’t it? A man who doesn’t know the internal workings of a job search well enough to know what decision has been made, or even whether it's been made—and doesn’t know the candidate’s scholarship well enough to know even the most elementary facts about it—has no qualms about telling us that if the candidate isn’t hired, it must be obvious to all that he was the victim of a conspiracy. Rarely has self-confessed ignorance been more skillfully transmuted into certainty. Throw an academic title around, apparently, and anything goes.
Considering Donner's performance, it gets a little nauseating when academics like him harp on the uniqueness of academic expertise and the integrity of the academic peer-review process. For an example of that, also by Donner, consider this petulant little review, originally published in the MESA Bulletin, of Ibn Warraq’s book The Quest for the Historical Muhammad. (Disclosure: Ibn Warraq is a friend of mine, and from January 2005 and June 2005, I was Executive Director of ISIS, the organization he co-founded.) Here we learn that unlike Rashid Khalidi, Ibn Warraq has an agenda that vitiates his claims to having produced a work of Donner-caliber scholarship:
Most problematic of all, however, is the compiler’s agenda, which is not scholarship, but anti-Islam polemic. The author of an earlier book entitled Why I Am Not a Muslim (1995), “Ibn Warraq” and his co-conspirator “Ibn al-Rawandi” detest anything that, to them, smacks of apologetic; for this reason they criticize harshly several noted authors for their ‘bad faith’ or ‘moral ambiguity.’
Yet this book is itself a monument to duplicity. The compiler never has the honesty or courage to divulge his identity, even though a list of contributors (pp. 551-54) gives a biographical sketch of all the other contributors who, unlike “Ibn Warraq” and “Ibn al-Rawandi”, are already well-known.
Far more serious is the fact that this book is religious polemic attempting to masquerade as scholarship. It is a collection of basically sound articles, framed by a seriously flawed introduction, and put in the service of anti-Islamic polemic dedicated to the proposition that Islam is a sham and that honest scholarship on Islam requires gratuitous rudeness to Muslim sensibilities.
I am not an expert on the historiography of early Islam, so I make no judgment about the strictly historiographical issues involved here. I do know a thing or two about the mechanics of scholarship and argumentation, however, and that's all I need to make three comments.
1. Donner assumes here that scholarship and polemic are somehow incompatible. If so, it follows that his own obviously polemical review is not scholarship, either—a predicament that raises the obvious question, “If polemics nullify someone’s claims to scholarship, why don’t they nullify the claims of Donner’s review?”
It would be an interesting task, incidentally, to apply Donner's scholarship-polemic dichotomy to Rashid Khalidi’s work. Is Khalidi's book Resurrecting Empire: Western Footprints and America's Perilous Path in the Middle East a scholarly one or a polemical one? Your call, Professor Donner—assuming you’re familiar with the book.
2. Donner accuses Ibn Warraq of “duplicity”—presumably a scholarly as opposed to polemical claim—in asserting that Ibn Warraq’s refusal to divulge his identity is a matter of cowardice. Evidently, Donner is either too stupid or too disingenuous to state the reason for Ibn Warraq’s use of a pseudonym: Ibn Warraq’s views put him in physical danger, and no one has the moral or scholarly obligation to divulge his identity if doing so would increase the risk of such danger.
Does Donner have an argument showing us either that (a) he knows that Ibn Warraq is not in physical danger or (b) that despite being in danger, Ibn Warraq is a coward for not divulging his identity? If so, I would be very interested in his having the “courage” to put the argument in print. As for (a), recall that it is Donner himself who stresses at every turn that he knows nothing about the author’s identity. How then would he know whether or not Ibn Warraq is in physical danger? He wouldn’t. But a discrepancy of that sort would only matter if the author were interested in complying with the laws of logic--or had the integrity to care about the ethics of discourse.
3. Donner complains that the Ibn Warraq book is not real scholarship, and yet admits that the book contains “basically sound” papers. The trouble, then, must rest with Ibn Warraq's Introduction. And what exactly is the trouble there? No answer is forthcoming, apart from the fact that the tone of the writing is “rude”—a remarkable claim, coming from a reviewer who has just (falsely) accused the book’s author of “duplicity,” and more or less cavalierly invited him to commit suicide. The non-specialist reader will at this point find himself wondering how the rudeness of a claim affects its claims to truth—a topic that the scholarly Prof. Donner manages neither to raise nor to answer.
Reflecting on all this, one begins to wonder a bit about things like intellectual standards and integrity—as in, “Does Donner have any?” And what are the standards of a profession that allows such a vacuous, malice-saturated and ill-written review to see the light of day? The next few sentences tell the tale: scholarship on Islam, we are told, does not count as scholarly unless it massages the tender and easily-offended sensibilities of Muslims. The answer to the question about integrity would therefore appear to be “no.”
This is the caliber of what claims the mantle of expertise in the Near East Studies establishment. Bear it mind the next time you hear some famous scholar of Near East Studies pontificating about this or that"specialized" topic while slinging his (or her) academic credentials at you, and expecting the credential-slinging to perform the task of intellectual intimidation. Try not to be intimidated for a change. Just apply the usual standards of rigor that apply to any inquiry and ask yourself whether these"informed commentators" and"experts" really measure up. You may be surprised to see what you find. And what you don’t.