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: Baltimore Sun (7-30-06)
When Harrison Ford came to Annapolis in 1991 to shoot a few scenes for Patriot Games, he shadowed Symonds for a couple of days to sample the life of a civilian history professor at the military college. And when the movie was shot, they used his classroom.
That brought some ribbing from fellow professors, who joked that Symonds - like Jack Ryan, the CIA agent turned academy history professor whom Ford was playing in the film - was a former spy.
"I am not and have never been a member of the CIA," Symonds said with a chuckle, noting that he worked in the academy's history department for almost 30 years before retiring in 2005. He became professor emeritus this year.
Lately, he has been the subject of renewed interest among his peers, but not for any mysterious past employment. Last month, Symonds was awarded the prestigious Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt Naval History Prize for Decision at Sea: Five Battles that Shaped American History.
The book focuses on five "crucial engagements" in U.S. history and how they "manifest the transformation of technology and weaponry that revolutionized Naval combat," according to a written statement from the Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, one of the three associations that sponsor the $5,000 award.
The engagements are: "the Battle of Lake Erie; the duel between the Monitor and the Virginia; Manila Bay; Midway; and the Persian Gulf operation Praying Mantis." ...
SOURCE: John Sutherland in the Guardian (7-25-06)
"It's not to suggest that the people I'm talking about - Blair, and to a lesser extent, Bush - don't have genuinely good intentions. I don't doubt their bona fides. It's not accusing them of the bald hypocrisy of professing good intentions and underneath it being somehow greedy and power-crazed. What I focus on is the real value, or outcomes, that their good intentions have. In the political world what counts is consequences. So the contrast, or double standard I discern, is not that between good and bad intentions but between good intentions and bad consequences."
Where, from the historian's point of view, have major players such as Bush and Blair gone wrong since 9/11?
"They have allowed their faith that their personal values are the right values - together with a burning desire that we must appreciate that - to become uncoupled from thinking about consequences. In fact, it's slightly more complex. I actually think Blair-Bush are fully aware that good intentions by themselves aren't enough, but they think, for example, that in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan, where things have gone wrong, their good intentions compensate for what's gone wrong. That's the double standard I'm talking about."
Are they hypocrites?
"It's not the crudest kind of hypocrisy - where, for example, you try to persuade people that you're something that you're not. The Michael Moore view of George Bush would be an example of that. Underneath the fine words, Moore pictures a power-crazy oil baron. That is specifically not the kind of hypocrisy I'm accusing Blair and Bush of. What I perceive is the hypocrisy of simultaneously wanting to be judged by one standard, while knowing that standard - the standard of good intentions - isn't enough to justify and explain what they're doing. The lesson of history is that, in the end, good intentions add nothing to the consequences by which you will finally be judged.
"Blair is certainly aware of that and of the hypocrisy involved when, for example, he says about the Iraq war, 'I want you to know, and I want you to rely on the fact, that I did all this in good faith' while, at the same time, asserting, 'This action can only be judged by history.' Those two positions, which he has simultaneously taken up, are wholly incompatible. They point in two different directions. Blair's hypocrisy, so to call it, is that he is fully aware of the contradiction, yet the whole effort of his political rhetoric is to try and bind the positions together."
Has Blair learned what you call the lessons of history?
"New Labour have a reputation for being very present-centred and not that much concerned with history. But when you look at Blair himself and the language he uses to justify what he does, it's usually steeped in it. I don't think he's guilty of Orwellian double- speak, nor do I think he's deliberately rewriting history to cast himself in a good light. I think what he is actually doing is using history in two ways - it's what I call the double standard again, and if you study his speeches it goes back to 9/11. Simultaneously he wants us to believe that after 9/11 everything has changed. But, on the other hand, there are these enduring lessons of history that we can valuably refer to: we can, for example, make crude analogies with Hitler to illustrate what course must be taken, post-9/11. What he is trying to do is to have it both ways."
Is Blair more aware now of the judgment of history than he was in 1997? "I would say that the impact of 9/11 on him was to make him more conscious of the fact that he was playing politics in what was going to be judged, historically, a crucial era, and that he personally was going to be judged in a broader perspective than he might have been otherwise. That's then been coupled with his nagging suspicion that his legacy is not going to be what he wished, post-Iraq."...
SOURCE: Wa Po (7-31-06)
In pinstriped pants, a white-and-blue striped shirt and red tie, he stood on a small sliver of concrete median at a hot and humid intersection. With every passing car, he waved his hands and peered into the windows with a smile, as if to say: C'mon, give me something -- a wave, a honk, anything.
This is what you have to do when you are going against the odds, he explained after two hours of arm-numbing waving. This is what you do when you are lesser known, out-moneyed and looking for a fighting chance.
This is how you run the race of an underdog.
For more than 30 years, Lichtman, 59, has studied politics -- as a history professor at American University, an analyst for CNN and an author. Known in some circles for his guides to predicting presidential elections, he has spent his career observing politics from the outside. Now, as one of 18 Democratic candidates for Maryland's open U.S. Senate seat, he is looking for a way in.
It's hard to ignore a man standing at Route 1 and East West Highway at 7 a.m., waving directly at you and pointing to a half-dozen volunteers -- each holding signs with his name -- at all four corners of the intersection.
About half of the drivers responded with some kind of acknowledgment -- a honk or wave back. Some ignored him. One trucker threw an empty bottle at him.
This was about par for the course.
For weeks, Lichtman has owned the intersections of Montgomery and Prince George's counties. It is part of the guerrilla, grass-roots style of his campaign. He has not come close to matching the millions in campaign funds of U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D). Neither does he have the name recognition of Cardin or former NAACP president Kweisi Mfume. He trails both in polls.
So he spends most days passing out fliers during rush hour in Metro stations, hand-waving at intersections and knocking on doors. The recent Hyattsville offensive was the starting point of a 16-hour day that would take him from Bethesda to Baltimore, with few breaks in between....
SOURCE: NYT (7-29-06)
The cause was cancer, his family said.
From 1977 to 1987, Dr. DeVries directed the University of Pennsylvania’s dig at Gordion, where members of the staff of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the university have been at work since the 1950’s. Gordion is about 55 miles southwest of Ankara.
Dr. DeVries was an expert in Greek pottery and trade ware of the first millennium B.C. and was interested in the relationship between Greece and Anatolia in the Iron Age.
In recent work, he and others used pottery and artifacts to redate an early catastrophe in Gordion, which was believed to have been destroyed in Midas’s time, about 700 B.C. By coordinating stylistic studies of pottery with radiocarbon dating of seeds found in the same ground layers, the archaeologists concluded that the destruction probably took place between 800 B.C. and 825 B.C., or a full century before Midas, after which the city was rebuilt.
SOURCE: NYT (7-29-06)
Her death was announced by the Jamaica Information Service, which did not give a cause. She was hospitalized in Toronto after collapsing late Tuesday night.
A social commentator who liberally used Jamaican patois and made famous the Jamaican catchphrase “Walk good,” she brought an overwhelming talent to the stage, radio, television and movies. She also was a presenter on the BBC’s Caribbean Service.
Louise Bennett, known to her fans worldwide as Miss Lou, was born on North Street in Kingston on Sept. 7, 1919, the only child of Cornelius Bennett, a baker, and Kerene Robinson, a dressmaker. Her father died when she was young, and she was reared mostly by her mother.
Ms. Bennett was educated in Jamaican schools, and though she was fond of literature, she once described herself as “an average student.”
SOURCE: Email from Rachelle Lacroix of the National Book Festival (7-28-06)
I thought your audience might be especially interested in learning about the Festival as the following historians and authors are expected to attend:
Kai Bird & Martin J. Sherwin - 2006 Pulitzer-prize winning co-authors of American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer
Taylor Branch - Pulitzer-prize winning author of Parting Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63, Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-65 and At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years 1965-68, a three-volume account of the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King Jr.'s role
Douglas Brinkley - Professor of history and director of the Roosevelt Center at Tulane University and author of The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast
Andrew Carroll - Founder of the Legacy Project, a wartime correspondence preservation project and author of the New York Times best-selling book War Letters: Extraordinary Correspondence from American Wars
Bruce Feiler - New York Times best-selling author of seven books including Walking the Bible, Abraham and Where God Was Born: A Journey By Land to the Roots of Religion
John Hope Franklin - Duke University professor of history emeritus and author and editor of 17 books including the best-selling From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans
Robert Remini - Historian of the House of Representatives and author of over 20 books including the three-volume biography The Life of Andrew Jackson
The Book Festival Web site will also provide regularly updated rich media content, such as webcasts and podcasts, for those who can't attend in person: http://www.loc.gov/bookfest/.
Bringing together over 70 award-winning authors with booklovers and fans from around the country, the sixth annual National Book Festival invites individuals of all ages to participate. Organized and sponsored by the Library of Congress and hosted by First Lady Laura Bush, this free cultural event attracts 100,000 book lovers each year.
This year the Festival will take place Saturday, September 30th 2006 from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m on The National Mall (Between 7th and 14th streets) in Washington, DC.
If you could provide HNN readers with a link to the National Book Festival Web page, we would be most appreciative as this is the forum where they can find everything they need to know about this year's event: http://www.loc.gov/bookfest/.
Also, the following link goes directly to the National Book Festival Online Press Room. Here, you will find links that provide digital video clips of First Lady Laura Bush inviting attendees to the 2006 National Book Festival, author comments via audio and video, and a host of information that might be relevant for the Cultural Tourism DC audience...feel free to use any and all of it.
Main National Book Festival Online Press Room Link: http://loc.gov:8081/bookfest/pressroom/video.html
2006 National Book Festival Video Sound Bites from Laura Bush, James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress,
and various attending authors: http://loc.gov:8081/bookfest/pressroom/video.html
Press release, attending author list, and event fact sheet: http://loc.gov:8081/bookfest/pressroom/text.html
2006 attending author photos and past event photos: http://loc.gov:8081/bookfest/pressroom/images.html
In addition to the D.C. festivities, WashingtonPost.com will host a series of text-based, online chat discussions that can be viewed daily, starting Monday, September 25 at www.washingtonpost.com <http://www.washingtonpost.com/> . Through this opportunity, viewers can not only submit questions in advance or during the live discussion, but can also view authors’ responses while the program is airing live or at a later date on WashingtonPost.com’s online discussion archive. Again, a full list of scheduled chats, as well as participating authors, illustrators and poets can be found on the Festival’s website at www.loc.gov/bookfest <http://www.loc.gov/bookfest.com> .
I know the HNN audience shares your passion for history and we hope you'll share the included information about the authors attending the National Book Festival with them. If you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Please let me know if you decide to feature any of this information on HNN.
Rachelle Lacroix, on behalf of the National Book Festival
SOURCE: Email sent to HAW members (7-27-06)
SOURCE: Mark Mayerson (blog) (7-21-06)
Paul Johnson is no lightweight. He's authored books such as The Birth of the Modern, Intellectuals, and A History of the English People. That's why it's so disappointing that his latest book, Creators: From Chaucer and Durer to Picasso and Disney, is thoroughly wretched when it comes to talking about animation.His Disney chapter is chock full of errors that could easily have been fixed. His bibliography lists Hollywood Cartoons by Barrier, Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life by Thomas and Johnston, The Art of Walt Disney by Finch and The Art of Animation by Bob Thomas, so how is it that basic errors have crept into the text?
Besides the factual sloppiness, there is uncritical research. Anything in print must be true. Johnson's description of the Disney strike is as follows.
As he employed a good many intellectuals, artists, and writers who at that period leaned overwhelmingly toward the left, this produced tension at the Disney Studios and, in 1940, led to a strike aimed either at forcing Disney to make pro-Communist propaganda cartoons or at shutting the studio down. Disney defeated the strike, with some help from J. Edgar Hoover's FBI, and pursued his own individual way until his death.
Johnson's source for this is Marc Elliot's Walt Disney: Hollywood's Dark Prince. It's a bad source and the quote above is demonstrably false on several counts. Disney lost the strike as the company had to recognize the union. The strike was about issues like wages and had nothing to do with the content of the films. Nobody, including the strikers, wanted the studio shut down.
In the introduction, Johnson says that, "Walt Disney needed to wash his hands, sometimes thirty times in an hour." That isn't sourced, but can anybody really take that seriously? How could he run the company unless he carried around a portable sink? I'm tired of authors who have made their reputations elsewhere thinking they're qualified to write about animation. And I'm tired of mainstream publishers like HarperCollins simply accepting whatever they're handed because of the author's reputation. If Johnson made this many mistakes in his chapters on Chaucer, Shakespeare, Austen, Eliot, Hugo or Dickens, you can be sure that an editor would catch them. But, hey, it's only animation.
SOURCE: Jacob Laskin at frontpagemag.com (7-28-06)
The surreal politics of this war finds Saudi Arabia attributing “full responsibility” to Hezbollah and calling on the terrorists to “alone shoulder the crisis they have created;” it finds Kuwaiti journalists lauding the “operations of Israel in Gaza and Lebanon [that] are in the interest of people of Arab countries and the international community,” even as hundreds of American professors rush to denounce Israel for firing back at genocidal killers sworn to her destruction.
More than 1,000 such professors have signed a petition that is currently circulating on American college campuses. Written in the name of “academics who condemn Israel's aggression against Lebanon and Gaza,” the petition waxes indignant about Israel’s alleged crimes, including a “brutal bombing and invasion of Gaza,” and “acts of Israeli state terrorism” in Lebanon.
More noteworthy, however, is what the petition does not say. Not only is there no mention of Hamas or Hezbollah, but reading the petition one might conclude that terrorism plays no part in the current conflagration. Instead the petition calls for the immediate release of jailed terrorists, euphemistically described as “Palestinian and Lebanese political prisoners,” and effectively erases the role of anti-Israel terrorism in precipitating the current by asserting that “Israel's destructive and expansionist policies are primarily to blame for the seemingly perpetual ‘Middle East crisis.’”...
Dr. El Guindi, an Egyptian-born professor of anthropology at the University of Southern California, has alleged that “Israel is engaged in practices muted by the media: massacres and genocides, trafficking of human organs, genetic experimentations, inhumane torture.” Hamas’s most zealous propagandists could not improve on the inflammatory rhetoric. And much like them, El Guindi has never offered any evidence for the charges, relying on innuendo and conspiracy theories to make her case. Failing that, she considers terrorism the answer to the Palestinians’ woes. In contrast to the petition, which at least condemns the killing of civilians in Israel even if it absolves the actual murderers, El Guindi has embraced anti-Israel terrorism as an acceptable form of “resistance.” Of Palestinian terrorism, she has written that “[i]t is a universal and legitimate right,” one appropriate to “colonized people.”
Similar sentiments frequently issue from Middle Eastern Studies departments. In keeping with tradition, the most notorious of these departments, Columbia’s department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures (MEALAC), boasts no fewer than four representatives in the recent petition. Most prominent among them is Hamid Dabashi, the Columbia professor of Islamic studies who despises not only Israel, which he views a “ghastly state of racism and apartheid,” but also Israeli Jews, to whom Dabashi ascribes a “vulgarity of character that is bone-deep.” His crude bigotry notwithstanding, Dabashi has his followers at Columbia, among them the Iranian-born Golbarg Bashi, a visiting scholar and a protégé of Dabashi specializing in “anti-colonial theory” and “black and Third World feminisms,” whose name likewise appears on the petition. Other MEALAC faculty who endorsed the petition are Suhail Shadoud, a Syrian professor of Arabic language, and Jeffrey Sacks a lecturer in Arabic who in recent years emerged as a leading advocate of divestment from Israel at Columbia. MEALAC’s reputation as a hotbed of political extremism is plainly well deserved.
Although the petition attracted the support of many disgruntled Arab and Muslim academics--such as New York University professor Sinan Antoon, an Iraqi exile who has written that “America tattoos its imperial insignia into the bodies of Iraqi children”--it also underscored the fact that some of Israel’s most unscrupulous antagonists are themselves of Jewish ancestry, including three of the most prominent signatories: MIT’s Noam Chomsky; Norman Finkelstein of DePaul; and Joel Beinin of Stanford University.
Why these professors would sign on to a petition assailing the “psychic terror of the Israeli military campaigns in Gaza and Lebanon” while maintaining a studied silence on the actual terror that was its cause is readily explained. Chomsky is a longtime defender of Hezbollah, a sympathy born of a common hatred for the United States and Israel and demonstrated most recently when the aging radical traveled to Lebanon to pledge his support for the Shiite terrorist militia and to defend its refusal to disarm and, implicitly, to carry on its campaign of targeting Israeli civilians. Along with Chomsky, Beinin has urged that Hezbollah be regarded as an “activist” movement rather than as a terrorist group. Finkelstein, for his part, has little interest in the activities of terrorist organizations, preferring to focus on what he calls the far more egregious “state terrorism” supposedly practiced by Israel.
Behind the obscene double standard set forth in the petition, wherein Israel is attacked for defending its right to exist and terrorists escape all blame, is a conviction, all too common among the academic Left, that Israel’s very existence is both regrettable and undesirable. Thus Judith Butler, another Jewish academic who signed the petition, has declared against Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, writing that “political sovereignty based on religious status is misguided, undemocratic, and discriminatory, in principle and in practice.” (That this is precisely the end sought by Hamas, Hezbollah and their terrorist brethren is a contradiction conveniently ignored by Butler.) Another signatory, Marguerite Rosenthal, a professor of Social work at Salem State College, is an activist with a radical group calling itself Jewish Women for Justice in Israel Palestine, which blames Israel for the 60-year war waged against it. Sighing over the “desperate suicide attacks by Palestinians,” the group claims that “[f]ifty years of conflict have increasingly compromised the ideals that contributed to Israel's founding.” In the eyes of Rosenthal and countless others who committed their signatures to the petition, Israel alone can do wrong.
Of the more than twenty professors contacted for comment about the petition by FrontPageMag.com only one, NYU’s Sinan Antoon, responded. But rather than explain why he supported a petition demanding that Israel cease defending itself, while urging no such restraint on terrorist groups seeking its annihilation, Antoon attacked FrontPageMag.com contributor Daniel Pipes, whom he called “fascist and racist,” saying that the magazine‘s association with Pipes made it “fruitless to engage.”...
SOURCE: Scott Jaschik in Inside Higher Ed (7-27-06)
Last month, El Mawla went home to Beirut. His visa and passport needed to be renewed and he wanted to see his family. He never thought he’d have difficulty returning to Earlham to prepare for the fall semester. But even as U.S. citizens are now being evacuated, the situation is different for El Mawla and other Lebanese citizens, even those like him who have a full-time teaching job at an American college. Not only can’t he rely on U.S. help to get out, but El Mawla can’t take the route through Syria that others are using to escape. Some of his writings have offended Syrian authorities (he has called for democracy in the country) so he is not welcome there.
The Internet is not reliable in Beirut right now, but El Mawla was able to get online briefly Wednesday to answer some questions about his situation. As frustrated as he is, he said he is pleased to be with his loved ones in Beirut, and not thousands of miles away. “I couldn’t imagine this situation with me in the U.S.A. and my family caught alone in war,” he said. He’s anything but isolated right now. Five other families (siblings and brothers-in-law and their families) have moved into his family’s home, as many have fled the southern portion of Lebanon, where fighting is most intense. On Wednesday, reports of the collapse of cease fire talks were particularly worrisome because he has a brother who remains in the south and El Mawla’s children are moving about in Beirut....
El Malwa — who earned his Ph.D. in Islamic civilization from the Sorbonne in 1984 — spent most of his career teaching about Islamic philosophy, interfaith relations and issues of war and peace at Lebanese University. Much of his work focused on what might fit into the field of peace studies in the United States, but he noted that “we don’t have peace studies” in Lebanon. In fact El Malwa uses a surprising word ("militant") to describe what it means to apply peace studies in Lebanon, whether or not one is affiliated with such a department.
“War was and is my first enemy,” said El Malwa. “This is my first war as a peace studies professor, but not as an activist and militant for peace and justice. The first lesson here is that war tests our commitment and struggle for peace and justice. It is not enough to speak about peace — you have to act and to act in a situation of war. This is the very important aspect of being a peace studies professor. We are not only academics and intellectuals — we are also militants and activists putting our lives and our education and teaching into practice....
SOURCE: Scott McLemee at HNN blog, Cliopatria (7-23-06)
When I say that there"has been a controversy" over this claim, the stress should be on has -- because the debate is now over.
SOURCE: John Tierney in the NYT (7-25-06)
These terrorists consider themselves men of honor, and unfortunately they are — by their own definition. We in the West can call them barbaric, which they also are, but they’re following an ancient social code, even if we can’t recognize it anymore.
The best guide to this code is James Bowman’s new book, “Honor: A History,” which is not a quaint collection of stories about dueling noblemen in Heidelberg. If the obsession with defending one’s honor seems remote now, it’s not because the urge has disappeared. We’ve just forgotten how powerful it is.
In the West we’ve redefined “honorable” as being virtuous, fair, truthful and sincere, but that’s not the traditional meaning. Honor meant simply the respect of the local “honor group” — the family, the extended clan, the tribe, the religious sect. It meant maintaining a reputation for courage and loyalty, not being charitable to enemy civilians. Telling the truth was secondary to saving face.
This “tyranny of the face” continually frustrates Westerners trying to understand the Middle East. When I interviewed villagers in Iraq, I discovered we usually had separate agendas: I wanted the facts, but the villager wanted to avoid embarrassing either of us. So he would tactfully search for the answer that would both please me and not dishonor his family....
The problem today, as Bowman sees it, is that the whole concept of defending one’s honor has been devalued in the West — mocked as an archaic bit of male vanity or childish macho chest-thumping. But if you don’t create a civilized honor culture, you risk ending up with the primitive variety.
“The honor system in Arab culture is the default honor system, the one you see in street gangs in America — you dis me, I shoot you,” says Bowman, a scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. “We need a better system that makes it honorable to be protective of those who are weaker instead of lording it over them.”
When you’re confronted with an honor culture like the one in the Middle East, there are two rules to keep in mind. One is that you are not going to placate the enemy with the kind of concessions that appeal to Western diplomats. “Hezbollah is fighting for honor, to humiliate the enemy, not for any particular objective,” Bowman says. “Israel has no choice in what it’s doing. Nothing short of victory by either side will change anything.”
SOURCE: Kevin Matthews in the UCLA International Institute (7-21-06)
CNES hosted a conference July 10–11, 2006, to mark the arrival of JMEWS on campus, with help from CSW and UCSB and with Hale and Gallagher as organizers of panels. Published by Indiana University Press, JMEWS is the official publication of the international Association of Middle East Women’s Studies (AMEWS). The journal has secured four years of funding from the UCLA Office of the Dean of Social Sciences.
SOURCE: Michelle Grattan in the Australian Age (7-23-06)
Governments like to call "summits" on every damn thing. Still, the August 17 one-day Australian History Summit might at first blush seem an odd enterprise. Not, however, if you are John Howard and your agenda includes fixing how Australia teaches its story.
It mightn't match his industrial relations obsession, but Howard has been preoccupied with history teaching, which he sees as part of the "history wars", for a long time. (Remember, Janette Howard is a former history teacher.)
Howard's most recent Australia Day speech urged "root and branch renewal". For many years, he said, fewer than a quarter of senior secondary students had taken a history subject, and only "a fraction" of those took Australian history.
And "too often, it is taught without any sense of structured narrative, replaced by a fragmented stew of themes and issues". As well, history had "succumbed to a postmodern culture of relativism where any objective record of achievement is questioned or repudiated".
In July 1996, lashing into Paul Keating for the "partisan reinterpretation of Australia's past", the new PM declared "we would benefit as a nation if there were a greater awareness of the historical forces that have shaped our development" and of individuals' contributions. The past needed to be understood "on its own terms", not judged by "our own contemporary standards" (a reference to the "Stolen Generation" argument).
Bishop is running the summit but Howard, expected to drop in, is keeping a close eye on it....
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed (7-24-06)
In the spring, Informed Comment took center stage in another arena — Cole's own career. After two departments recommended him for a tenured position at Yale University, a senior committee decided last month not to offer him the job after all. Although Yale has declined to explain its decision, numerous accounts in the news media have speculated that Cole's appointment was shot down because of views he expressed on his blog. We asked seven academic bloggers to weigh in on Cole's case and on the hazards of academic blogging.
The Lessons of Juan Cole, by Siva Vaidhyanathan
The Politics of Academic Appointments, by Glenn Reynolds
The Trouble With Blogs, by Daniel W. Drezner
Exposed in the Blogosphere, by Ann Althouse
The Invisible College, by J. Bradford DeLong
The Attention Blogs Bring, by Michael Bérubé
The Controversy That Wasn't, by Erin O'Connor
Juan R.I. Cole Responds
[Glenn Reynolds is a professor of law at the University of Tennessee. His blog can be found at http://instapundit.com]
Bloggers Daniel W. Drezner and Jacob T. Levy were recently denied tenure at the University of Chicago, and it was widely thought to be because of their blogging. Now Juan Cole has lost out on an appointment at Yale, and it's widely thought to be because of his blogging. I'm not a regular reader of Cole's blog, and while I think his hostility to the Bush administration is excessive, that hardly seems grounds for not hiring someone, or the universities would be largely empty of faculty members.
Does Internet fame necessarily spell academic doom? Given that hiring and tenure decisions in higher education are usually made by committees, and that strong public opinions voiced on any subject will probably offend at least one member of a committee, the results are likely to be a negative. Though the academy gives lip service to academic freedom, it's quite clear that a candidate's expressed views, and politics generally, are often important factors in hiring or tenure decisions.
Is that a bad thing? It depends. Jacques Pluss was fired from Fairleigh Dickinson University after it became known that he was a member of the National Socialist Movement. (He claimed his neo-Nazi affiliation was for research.) Not many people seem to have been upset by his case. One doubts that an admitted member of the Ku Klux Klan would do well, either. On the other hand, far less controversial beliefs, including opposition to affirmative action or the belief that senior faculty members should teach heavier loads than colleagues who produce more scholarship, might well stand in the way of hiring or tenure at many institutions. Expressing such ideas on a blog merely ensures that they are Google-searchable if anyone bothers to check.
My own feeling is that blogging is like most hobbies — something that should be peripheral to hiring and tenure decisions. (Has anyone been denied tenure because of a preference for wet over dry flies? Probably somewhere, sometime, but it's not common.) When blogs focus on topics at the core of scholars' expertise, of course, they're likely to play a bigger role in evaluating academic fitness, fairly or unfairly. Obviously, fraud or plagiarism on a blog is still fraud or plagiarism. But smaller matters probably shouldn't play much of a role. When blogged comments produce prejudice or bias on the part of hirers, well, I don't like that,but so long as hiring decisions are subjective, that sort of thing is unavoidable. We can hope, however, that faculty members will be aware of their own prejudices and open-minded enough to rise above them. Sometimes those hopes will be fulfilled.
[Erin O'Connor is an associate professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania. Her blog can be found at http://erinoconnor.org.]
The Juan Cole controversy struck me as essentially uncontroversial: Cole is free to write what he wants on his Web log, Informed Comment; Cole's readers are free to criticize his writing and to criticize Yale for considering hiring him; Yale is free not to hire Cole. In the absence of evidence that Yale capitulated to a political campaign to sink Cole's appointment, there seemed nothing else to say. But plenty has been said nonetheless, much of it along the lines of the comment by Zachary Lockman, president-elect of the Middle East Studies Association, that the opposition to Cole's appointment was "an assault on academic freedom and the academic enterprise."
Assuming that pro-Israel ideologues badgered Yale into rejecting Cole, Cole's defenders have proceeded according to two flawed assumptions: that blogs written by academic job candidates should be off limits to hiring committees, and that public debate about academic personnel processes threatens academic freedom. Both assumptions betray confusion about what academic freedom is — and what it is not.
Had the University of Michigan — where Cole is a full professor — sought to suppress his blog, it would have violated his academic freedom. But academic freedom is not freedom from criticism, nor is it freedom from judgment. And deciding whether to hire an academic is very different from continuing to employ one. Hiring is evaluative; it requires judicious criticism and definitive judgment.
Yale's search committee, according to one member quoted in the Yale Daily News, only considered Cole's scholarly writing. But what if Informed Comment did inform Yale's decision? There still would be no assault on academic freedom. Cole's Internet status as Middle East expert emanates from his academic position as Middle East expert; as a public intellectual, he is better known for his blog than his scholarship. In deciding whether to invest in the entire intellectual package Cole represents, Yale could legitimately have considered Informed Comment.
The real issue here is how little faith Cole's defenders have in academic procedure. They ascribe enormous power to outside critics, who, they believe, can sink appointments with columns and letters. They also ascribe enormous spinelessness to administrators, who, they imply, cannot maintain integrity when debate surrounds controversial candidates. The undocumented claim that a "neocon campaign" scuppered Cole's appointment masks an unacknowledged condemnation of academic ethics. It makes no sense to blame Cole's critics for Yale's — entirely hypothetical — failure....
REPONSE BY JUAN COLE
The question is whether Web-log commentary helps or damages an academic's career. It is a shameful question. Intellectuals should not be worrying about "careers," the tenured among us least of all. Despite the First Amendment, which only really protects one from the government, most Americans who speak out can face sanctions from other institutions in society. Journalists are fired all the time for taking the wrong political stance. That is why most bloggers employed in the private sector are anonymous or started out trying to be so.
Academics cannot easily be handed a pink slip, but they can be punished in other ways. The issues facing academics who dissent in public and in clear prose are the same today as they have always been. Maintaining a Web log now is no different in principle from writing a newsletter or publishing sharp opinion in popular magazines in the 1950s.
The difference today is that, because of Internet neutrality (which may not be long with us), an academic's voice is potentially as loud as or louder than those of corporate-backed pundits. Occasionally, my Web log has generated as many as 250,000 unique hits and over a million page views per month. Entries have also been sent in e-mail messages in numbers that cannot be traced. My Web log is, for the moment, certainly a mass medium.
The ability to speak directly and immediately to the public on matters of one's expertise, and to bring to bear all one's skills to affect the public debate, is new and breathtaking. I have had some success in explaining the threat of Al Qaeda and suggesting how it should be combated, and have addressed U.S. counter-terrorism officials on numerous occasions on those matters. And then there is Iraq, about which I was one of the few U.S. historians to have written professionally before the 2003 war. In the summer of 2003, when the general mood of the administration, the news media, and the public was unrelievedly celebratory, I warned that a guerrilla war was building and that powerful sectarian forces such as the movement of Moktada al-Sadr were a gathering threat. I gained a hearing not only with broad segments of the public but also at the highest levels of the U.S. government....
SOURCE: Donna L. Cole in The Capital (7-10-06)
An abolitionist and a scholar of history, whose destinies, though so very different from one another, brought them to the same place. And now the path of the student and that of the slave have met in New York City.
Tim Shenk, of Annapolis, went to New York by way of Columbia University. A 2003 graduate of the Severn School, Mr. Shenk is a history major entering his junior year at Columbia.
Frederick Douglass, of Maryland's Eastern Shore and later Baltimore went to New York by way the Underground Railroad in his escape from slavery.
This summer Mr. Shenk has been completely immersed in the life and times of Frederick Douglass.
Mr. Shenk is one of 15 students, chosen from more than 300 applicants, to participate in a six-week history scholar program at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History in New York City.
"These are the brightest young historians in America," said Professor James G. Basker, president of the Gilder Lehrman Institute, which sponsors the program and promotes the study of American history. "We see them as a kind of Rhodes Scholar among history majors."
Given that a program which focuses on research, tours of archives, and seminars conducted by eminent historians may not appeal to the average college student on summer break, it's a sign that nothing about Mr. Shenk is average.
"I was somewhere in the top 10 percent of my class," said Mr. Shenk, who had a 4.0 grade point average at Severn.
Back to his summer fun, Mr. Shenk, along with the other Gilder Lehrman History Scholars will be compiling a Frederick Douglass reader, containing reproductions and transcriptions of original documents, along with historical introductions. Primary use will befor teachers and students.
Each of the students involved in the program, all juniors and seniors, are responsible for one chapter.
"My chapter will focus on Frederick Douglass' time abroad in the U.K. and the way it affected his impression of racism and freedom in America," Mr. Shenk said....
SOURCE: LAT (7-23-06)
But Ari has yet to obtain a U.S. visa. He hears rumors that he has been accused of "terrorist" connections, although no one has told him anything directly. "It's all very secretive," Ari, 44, wearing the modified bowler hat favored by traditional Indians, said during a recent interview at an upscale cafe in this Andean capital. "We really don't know what's behind this." Representatives of the U.S. Embassy here declined to comment on the matter, citing privacy concerns.
But Ari's lawyer speculated that his client had been linked, unfairly, to the U.S.-bashing indigenous movement associated with Evo Morales, Bolivia's first Indian president and a critic of Washington.
Ari's case has become somewhat of a cause celebre in U.S. academic circles, prompting a letter-writing campaign to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and condemnations of the visa delay as an assault on scholarly freedom.
Ari's lawyer, Michael Maggio, says his client's visa has been held up -- and his student visa canceled -- on hazy national security grounds, an increasingly common occurrence since the Sept. 11 attacks. Ari is among hundreds, perhaps thousands, of foreign intellectuals, businesspeople and others languishing in visa limbo, apparently blacklisted and left to wonder what has triggered the suspicion, rights activists say.
"Waskar is one of many people caught in this web," said Maggio, a Washington attorney who is taking Ari's case on a pro bono basis. "What I've told Waskar, and his many supporters here at Georgetown and in Nebraska, is that you've got to hunker down for a long and difficult struggle."
One U.S. official here, who declined to be named, acknowledged that such reviews could take a long time, but declined to be more specific when pressed about Ari's case.
Although Ari and President Morales share an Aymara ancestry, Ari's political views appear more moderate than those of Bolivia's outspoken chief executive. Ari says he has not joined the president's political party and has openly questioned some of his policies, even as he acknowledges that Morales has been a vivid symbol for the Americas' indigenous masses.
Specifically, Ari has criticized Morales for allying himself with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Cuba's Fidel Castro, the most high-profile U.S. adversaries in the hemisphere. Ari, who openly admires the freedoms and academic opportunities available in the United States, has urged closer U.S.Bolivian ties.
"I would like President Morales ... [to] work more for better relationships with other democracies of the world, including the largest democracy of the world," he said in a recent e-mail.
In Bolivia, Ari often has been accused of being too close to the United States, where he studied for a decade and has many friends. His frequent trips north made him suspect in certain indigenous circles in his homeland, where there is deep mistrust of Washington.
"Don't become white," he recalls a well-known indigenous leader warning him once. Ari has sometimes heard the epithet "Gringo Aymara."
But his very independence has made him a popular choice as an analyst for Bolivian news agencies and Western media outlets eager for an English-speaking expert to comment on his nation's turbulent politics. The U.S. Embassy here even invited Ari this year to sit on a panel comparing populist movements in the United States and Bolivia.
The University of Nebraska, which filed the "expedited" petition for Ari's work visa more than a year ago, continues to stand behind him and has canceled classes and found fill-in teachers.
"We remain committed to his appointment," said Patrick Jones, an assistant professor. "We have decided to leave the post open for him indefinitely and continue to hope that he will be able to join us in the near future."
Ari says he accepted the position at Nebraska, which has a strong ethnic studies department, over four other job offers in the United States. In the meantime, he is teaching at his alma mater here, the Greater University of San Andres, Bolivia's largest public institution.
The visa delay has forced Ari to spend more time in his homeland than he has in a number of years. He says he has learned a great deal, even though the teaching workload is three times larger -- for about one-fifth of the pay -- than it would be at Nebraska, leaving little time for research.
"Life continues," Ari said. "In Bolivia I am a public intellectual. I'm always participating in discussions, giving interviews.... I am gaining an audience. People have an interest in what I'm saying. So, in a sense, I am living in a good moment."
The Aymara scholar still holds out hope that he will be able to move to Nebraska and take up his professorship, intellectually fortified by his forced exile in his homeland. He exhibits no hard feelings and continues to admire much about the United States.
"I feel bad that these things have happened, that someone like me can fall into such a sad situation," Ari said. "But I recognize these things really aren't against me, but are part of a more complex process that is happening in the United States....
"I have hope that one of these days, the situation will change, and people will realize this has all been an injustice."
SOURCE: Press Release -- Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History (7-21-06)
The finalists are: Steven Deyle for “Carry Me Back: The Domestic Slave Trade in American Life” (Oxford University Press); Richard Follett for “The Sugar Masters: Planters and Slaves in Louisiana’s Cane World, 1820–1860” (Louisiana State University Press); and Rebecca J. Scott for “Degrees of Freedom: Louisiana and Cuba after Slavery” (Harvard University Press).
The $25,000 annual award for the year’s best non-fiction book on slavery, resistance and/or abolition is the most generous history prize in its field. The prize winner will be announced following the Douglass Prize Review Committee meeting in September, and the award will be presented at a dinner at the Yale Club of New York on February 22, 2007, as the capstone of Black History Month.
This year’s finalists were selected from a field of nearly 80 entries by a jury of scholars that included Mia Bay (Rutgers University), Larry E. Hudson, Jr. (University of Rochester) and Jane Landers (Vanderbilt University).
The Frederick Douglass Book Prize was established in 1999 to stimulate scholarship in the field by honoring outstanding accomplishments. Previous winners were Ira Berlin and Philip D. Morgan in 1999; David Eltis, 2000; David Blight, 2001; Robert Harms and John Stauffer, 2002; James F. Brooks and Seymour Drescher, 2003; Jean Fagan Yellin, 2004; and Laurent Dubois, 2005.
The award is named for Frederick Douglass (1818–1895), the one-time slave who escaped bondage to emerge as one of the great American abolitionists, reformers, writers and orators of the 19th century.
Deyle’s “Carry Me Back” is an exhaustive study illuminating the depth and scope of the domestic slave trade in antebellum America and establishing definitively the importance of that trade in the nation’s history. The author identifies a scale of involvement in the trade that borders on a national complicity and exposes the growing tensions—national, sectional and local—triggered by a shifting involvement in the trade in human beings. By showing how its leaders utilized thoroughly modern and successful methods of business organization, he makes the case that the interregional trade was a quintessentially American enterprise.
Follett’s “The Sugar Masters” explores a central question that has long preoccupied leading scholars on slavery: How did masters and slaves combine modern and pre-modern values in a workable and profitable manner? Follett argues that Louisiana slaves adapted to mechanization largely because a “grossly exploitative” compensation system ensured that worker power was channeled away from unified class action. As sugar planters looked outward to an expanding global economy, harnessing the methods and ideas of modern industrialization, he reasons, the enslaved were shaping the world of the plantation—making it more humane as they fought to preserve a more traditional value system with family and community at its core.
Scott’s “Degrees of Freedom” is an examination of the road to freedom taken by two slave societies and their construction of post-emancipation communities in Cuba and Louisiana. Scott tells the story of the black struggle on both sides of the Gulf, their support for each other’s revolutionary efforts, and the ultimate capitulation of the Republican Party leadership at the moment it might have supported the creation of egalitarian societies in Louisiana (and the South as a whole) and in newly independent Cuba.
The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition, a part of The MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale University, was launched in November 1998 through a generous donation by philanthropists Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Its mission is to promote the study of all aspects of slavery, in particular the Atlantic slave system, including African and African-American resistance to enslavement, abolitionist movements and the ways in which chattel slavery finally became outlawed.
In addition to encouraging the highest standards of new scholarship, the GLC is dedicated to the dissemination of knowledge through publications, conferences, educational outreach and other activities. For further information on events and programming, contact the center by phone (203) 432-3339, fax (203) 432-6943, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
SOURCE: NYT (7-22-06)
What viewers will see and hear when the series is broadcast in September 2007 is an open question.
A new Public Broadcasting Service policy that went into effect immediately when it was issued on May 31 requires producers whose shows are broadcast before 10 p.m. to adhere to tough editing requirements when it comes to coarse language, to comply with tightened rulings on broadcast indecency by the Federal Communications Commission.
Most notably, PBS’s deputy counsel, Paul Greco, wrote in a memo to stations, it is no longer enough simply to bleep out offensive words audibly when the camera shows a full view of the speaker’s mouth. From now on, the on-camera speaker’s mouth must also be obscured by a digital masking process, a solution that PBS producers have called cartoonish and clumsy.
In addition, profanities expressed in compound words must be audibly bleeped in their entirety so that viewers cannot decipher the words. In the past, PBS required producers to bleep only the offensive part of the compound word.
Since May 31, bits of dialogue have been digitally obscured about 100 times in four PBS programs, most often in two episodes of the music documentary “The Blues.”
Mr. Burns, in an interview, said he was not worried that his work, which he called a “very experiential take on the Second World War,” would be affected by the policy, noting that while the series includes some “very graphic violence,” there are just two profanities, read off camera.
But several other senior public broadcasting executives said “The War” was likely to become a test case for PBS and the F.C.C....
Now he'll be writing a column for Time Magazine. His columns will appear on a regular basis (but on no set schedule) on the web. His first Time column,"Toying With Terror Alerts?" appeared on July 7.
Marshall has actually been writing for the MSM for years. His pieces have appeared in the NYT, the Atlantic, and Foreign Affairs.
SOURCE: Kleeb Campaign Website (7-1-06)
Scott's great-grandfather, Albert Kleeb, was born in a dug-out outside of Broken Bow, Nebraska, before the turn of the century. He once hiked three days to earn 20 ewes and a dollar in exchange for his farm goods. This windfall was to be the origins of the Kleeb family farm and ranch, which stood outside of Broken Bow for nearly 100 years. It was here, listening to his grandfather's homesteading stories - tales of neighbors coming together to build a new home, or to dig a well - that Scott came to cherish the values and traditions of Nebraska. And it was here, as he saw the impact of government investments in rural electrification, highways and agricultural infrastructure, that he learned how government can help change lives for the better....
At college, Scott wasted no time getting back to his Plain State roots. He worked as a ranch hand in Eastern Colorado and Nebraska during summers and vacations, and even became a bull-rider on the rodeo team. During this period, Scott watched with growing alarm as the consolidation of farms and ranches left large sections of countryside depopulated. He saw the vibrant rural communities he remembered from his youth lose businesses, families and - in some cases - their very identity. By now, his family's ranch had itself been sold and consolidated into a larger operation. But some members of the Kleeb family continued their involvement in ranching as part of the McGinn Ranch Company, and Scott became an active part of that ranch's operations. (Scott on Agriculture)
Determined to help reverse rural decline, Scott set his sights on a career in public service. He became president of the local chapter of College Democrats and served as a lead campus coordinator for Gene Nichol's campaign for the United States Senate. After graduating summa cum laude, he applied and was accepted to graduate school at Yale University—a school long recognized for its pioneering research in the issues of the American West. Recognizing that the health of Plain State agriculture today is tightly linked to political and economic developments around the world, Scott pursued a Masters Degree in International Relations. For his doctoral dissertation, he focused on the history of American cattle ranching. Most of his research was done from the back of a pick-up, as he traveled through every state west of the Mississippi, listening to the stories of farmers, ranchers and small-town workers. (Scott on Working Families)...
NEWS RELEASE 7-1-06
On the strength of your contributions, a Democratic candidate has jumped to a strong early lead in campaign funds for the first time in the history of 3rd district congressional races.
The Omaha World Herald reported Friday that Scott Kleeb has an estimated $277,069.22 cash-on-hand, compared to an estimated $105,000 cash-on-hand for his Republican opponent Adrian Smith. They reported that more than $80,000 of Smith's total cash-on-hand was raised through his Grand Island Fundraiser with Vice President Dick Cheney.
“We’re very happy with this result, which represents the grassroots contributions of Democrats, Independents and Republicans alike,” Kleeb for Congress Campaign Manager Ryan Hughes said Monday. “I think people recognize that Scott Kleeb offers an independent and articulate voice in support of rural economies, alternative energies, local control of schools, and improved access to health care, among other important issues.”
“In talking to 3rd district voters, one thing you hear again and again is the need for an independent voice in Congress,” Hughes added. “A lot of people have been turned off by Adrian Smith’s inexplicable decision to take $400,000 from the Club for Growth special interest group -- a group that wants to abolish the department of agriculture.”
But make no mistake, the Club for Growth knows they have nothing to gain from an independent 3rd district congressman. They can triple Adrian Smith's campaign war chest overnight and think nothing of it. And that is surely what they will do when they learn that Adrian is trailing Scott nearly 3-to-1.
To make a donation and stand up to D.C. special interests, go to: http://www.scottkleeb.com
"Can You Repeat That Please?"
Our phones have been ringing incessantly as news media around the state -- most of whom expected to find Adrian Smith well ahead at this juncture -- race to cover this unexpected development. On Monday, Scott gave interviews to a dozen radio stations and two TV stations. Tomorrow morning, Scott will give a live interview on the program Midwest Opinions starting at 7:35 Mountain Time (the interview will be simulcast in the Ogallala area on AM930 and Hot Country 106.5FM).
Scott has emphasized that you don't get where we are today by appealing to narrow interests.
"Nebraskans are looking for an independent voice in Congress," he said Monday. "They want someone who can speak for Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike. They want someone who will take a good idea and run with it -- no matter where it comes from. And they want someone who will stand up to special interests, no matter how powerful they may be.
"That's what it means to represent the 3rd district of Nebraska."
Now is not the time to rest! We are in control of this race. Let's stay in control. Please consider a contribution of $20, $50 or $100 today.
To make a donation, go to: http://www.scottkleeb.com
Fueling the Future
Scott completed his "Energy Independence Tour" with a stop at the Sutherland Ethanol Plant and a tour, yesterday, of the construction site for a new ethanol plant in Ord. The Sutherland plant is one of the oldest in the district, but plant manager Troy Gavin spoke with pride about how he and his team have transformed it to one of the most efficient plants around. Standing next to Gavin was plant engineer Trampas Osborne. "Everybody who works here has got a little heart, blood and soul in this place," Osborne said.
The Kleeb Campaign wants to do its part to support the ethanol industry. We would like to lease an E85 campaign vehicle to transport out campaign team and volunteers around the district from now until November. But we need your help. To lease the vehicle and set aside money for fuel, we have set a target of raising $8,500 by July 25th. Help us fuel the future of this campaign and the future of the 3rd district. Contribute what you can today.
Bernard Berenson was an intellectual and social celebrity. An American-born, Lithuanian Jew, whose parents had immigrated to Boston but who himself had gravitated towards European civilisation, he had become a ground-breaking art critic, but had also sullied his reputation in some quarters by deriving a substantial income from certificating works of art for dealers selling to wealthy Americans (he made $80,000 in 1909 alone). Nonetheless, he was considered a sage, to whose homes in Italy numerous intellectual and social figures made pilgrimage.
Trevor-Roper (who was given an introduction to Berenson by the latter’s sister-in-law Alys Russell, Bertrand Russell’s ex-wife) had read his way out of a gloomy, conventional childhood. He was a research fellow at Oxford in 1940 when he published his first book, Archbishop Laud, aged 26; he spent the war in intelligence and wrote a definitive report on Hitler’s fate, which formed the basis of a bestselling book, The Last Days of Hitler; and during the 1950s he emerged as a scourge of mediocre Oxford dons, a prolific book reviewer and essayist, mainly for this paper and the New Statesman, and the dynamic force in English historiography.
Trevor-Roper visited BB, as he called him, and Nicky Mariano (Berenson’s female secretary and permanent companion after the death of his wife) a dozen times — either at I Tatti, his villa outside Florence, or at Casa al Dono, his mountain retreat at Vallombrosa. He wrote to BB and Nicky (who would read his letters aloud to her increasingly frail charge) from 1948 to 1959. For seven of those years he wrote to them more than half a dozen times, often at a fair length. Beset with the travails of old age, BB could manage only short replies offering snippets of gossip or recommending books and eagerly inviting further correspondence....
SOURCE: Alice M. Sohn in a Letter to the Editor of the NYT (7-17-06)
To the Editor:
Re “Schoolbooks Are Given F’s in Originality” (front page, July 13):
Similarities between two history texts are not, as Wendy Spiegel, a spokeswoman for the textbook publisher Pearson Prentice Hall, maintains, “absolutely an aberration” — as a more extensive examination of texts in any field would verify.
Prof. Allan Winkler, a co-author of “America: Pathways to the Present,” says the words in question are not his, and surely they aren’t; they are the words — and probably many of the ideas — of the generic “contributors” who wrote the book and who would have slanted it to meet the market demands and so made it a success.
But it is the professor’s name that appears on the cover; it is the professor who is widely regarded as the author. The same author who accepted responsibility for the words that brought him royalty checks cannot now absolve himself of responsibility for the words that now bring him embarrassment.
Alice M. Sohn
Pensacola, Fla., July 14, 2006
SOURCE: News Today (7-6-06)
As a historian of Law and Jurisprudence, Frederic William Maitland has an immortal place in the historic Hall of Fame. To quote Peter Gay and Victor G Wexler: As a historian of Law, Maitland has earned the respect and won the admiration of his colleagues throughout the world. For his devotion to his vocation, the fine qualities of his works, and his intense awareness and understanding of the skills and temperament required of the professional historian, Maitland has, in fact, often been called the historian's historian. But to limit thus the range of his appeal is to do great injustice to his captivating style, which makes all that he has written on subjects as abstruse and technical as exists in legal history delightful reading, even for non-specialists.
Maitland was of the view that it was the historian's proper assignment and even duty not only to discover what men have done and what they have said in the past but also to determine as far as possible what they could or would have thought. In order to achieve this aim, the historian must conquer the almost insurmountable barriers of time and place which separate him from his subject. As a historian, Maitland has been praised for his ability to grasp and articulate the great central themes underlying the development of the common law, and his ability to penetrate and render the inner meaning of words. He enjoyed being a historical detective, sifting through masses of often contradictory and confusing sources to find historical truth. Despite his respect for the English common-law tradition, Maitland was not an antiquarian. He actively supported the major law reform efforts of his day.
The earliest and the most enduring influence that helped to shape Maitland into the historian that he became was that of his grandfather, the Reverend Samuel Roffey Maitland, who was Librarian to the Arch Bishop of Canterbury and the author of several distinguished books on Ecclesiastical History, including 'The Dark Ages' (1844). The elder Maitland convinced his grandson that the greatest obstacle to historical knowledge was the fallacy of an anachronism: the application of modern language and concepts to the life of the Middle Ages. To quote Frederic William Maitland in this context: As difficult as the task may be, the historian must try to divest himself of the associations and circumstances that constitute his own frame of reference if he hopes to achieve the goal of understanding the mentality of a distant Age....
SOURCE: chronicle of Higher Ed (7-17-06)
After spending 30 years as a public historian for various historical agencies and ultimately for the U.S. Department of State, I decided to go back to Brown to finish what I had started so long ago. But when my essay was published last year, I was having trouble finding a teaching job. I had gone on a few interviews, but after applying for positions at more than 50 departments, I had received no word at all from most of them.
Disappointed and depressed, I wondered if age discrimination might be a factor. But I had no real evidence of that. I was just thinking out loud -- in this case, in print. In my column, I cited a 1996 study from the American Historical Association that found age discrimination all too rife in history-department searches.
My essay seemed to hit a nerve. I heard from many other older graduate students and Ph.D.'s, most of them in the humanities, who thanked me for my comments and revealed that they were in the same boat, unable to find work in academe.
But then I started to feel a little guilty. For no sooner had my essay appeared in The Chronicle than I received a job offer. It was for a temporary post at the University of Maine at Farmington. Several people at the university -- including the president, the provost, and the head of the search committee looking to fill a one-year appointment in history there -- saw my essay at precisely the same time that I applied for the position.
The president, Theodora Kalikow, later told me that she had thought after reading my column, "He's the kind of person we should get up here." She was amazed when the search committee selected me to fill the temporary position, and I must confess that she welcomed me with an enthusiasm that made it seem as if we were old friends....
SOURCE: Timothy Garton Ash in the Guardian (7-13-06)
What have I learned? The most interesting things, to me, were not any of the views expressed but the occasional nuggets of fact, or pointers to possible facts. Belsam posted a riveting extract from a 1996 manifesto for "national greatness conservatism" by the neoconservatives Bill Kristol and Bob Kagan, with added links for convenience. Thank you, belsam, whoever and wherever you are. Erbkon suggests that "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" is actually a corruption of "cheese-eating surrender mongers", as delivered in a heavy Scottish accent by Groundskeeper Willie in an episode of The Simpsons. I also liked the story from bessaroth about a New York Times reporter climbing up Iwo Jima hill to ask US war hero Chesty Puller: "Sir, can you tell us what you're fighting for?" Promptly came the answer: "$235 a month." I doubt that it's true - was Chesty Puller even at Iwo Jima? - but it's a nice story.
Yet to find these buried nuggets you have to take an exhausting five-mile trek through a seemingly endless swamp of views - some intelligent, others stupid, some well-informed, others ignorant, some polite, others abusive. How could the trek be made easier and more rewarding? One helpful device would be to enable users to rate contributions, from one to five stars, as happens in some other discussion forums. So as a subsequent reader you could go swiftly hopping through the swamp, from marked mound to mound. In the archived version, those contributions that got fewer than, say, two stars, might appear only as a link. You could still follow the development of the debate, but without having to stumble over so much garbage along the way....