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: Ralph Luker (blog) (8-23-06)
SOURCE: Press Release (9-8-06)
CHICAGO, IL -- SEPTEMBER 8, 2006 – A group of leading American historians today sent the following letter to Mr. Robert Iger of ABC. Signatories include Pulitzer Prize winner Arthur Schlesinger and Sean Wilentz, Princeton University, this year's winner of the Bancroft Prize, the American history profession's highest honor. Stressing the significance of the “traumatic” events of 9/11, the signers of this letter are calling on Mr., Iger to stand up for responsible media treatments of such important historical moments and withdraw the program from circulation.
The text of the letter follows:
Dear Robert Iger: We write as professional historians, who are deeply concerned by the continuing reports about ABC’s scheduled broadcast of “The Path to 9/11.” These reports document that this drama contains numerous flagrant falsehoods about critical events in recent American history. The key participants and eyewitnesses to these events state that the script distorts and even fabricates evidence into order to mislead viewers about the responsibility of numerous American officials for allegedly ignoring the terrorist threat before 2000. The claim by the show’s producers, broadcaster, and defenders, that these falsehoods are permissible because the show is merely a dramatization, is disingenuous and dangerous given their assertions that the show is also based on authoritative historical evidence. Whatever ABC’s motivations might be, broadcasting these falsehoods, connected to the most traumatic historical event of our times, would be a gross disservice to the public. A responsible broadcast network should have nothing to do with the falsification of history, except to expose it. We strongly urge you to halt the show’s broadcast and prevent misinforming Americans about their history.
Sean Wilentz, Princeton University
Michael Kazin, Georgetown University
Lizbeth Cohen, Harvard University,
Nicholas Salvatore, Cornell University;
Ted Widmer, Washington College;
Rick Perlstein, Independent Scholar;
David Blight, Yale University;
Eric Alterman, City University of New York.
(List in formation)
The scheduling of the docudrama has raised a firestorm of criticism from educators, congressional leaders and former President Bill Clinton. For additional information on the controversy and the opposition from leading Americans, please check: http://openlettertoabc.blogspot.com/ , and http://thinkprogress.org/?tag=Path+to+911 , and http://www.firedoglake.com.
SOURCE: David White in Campus-Watch.org (9-7-06)
Juan Cole's supporters have taken to portraying the antiwar University of Michigan history professor as a victim of a neoconservative cabal that deep-sixed his job application at Yale. There's only one problem with that conspiracy theory: It's not true.
At the same time when Cole's pursuit of a job at New Haven was gaining so much attention, it turns out he was also applying for a job at Duke and getting passed over there, too. Since no one outside the halls of Duke knew about Cole's interest ? this is the first time it has been reported ? there was no" concerted press campaign by neoconservatives" such as had plagued his application at Yale; he was evidently passed up for the job on the merits.
In November 2005, Duke announced the creation of an Islamic Studies Center complete with a chaired professorship in Islamic studies, with religious-studies professor Bruce Lawrence as the Center's inaugural director. Shortly afterward, Duke began its search for a professor of modern Islamic studies, and Cole was selected as one of the four finalists. The search stretched across disciplines, and the four finalists consisted of two historians and two political scientists. Members of both departments at the university were encouraged to attend the job presentations of the finalists.
As the first finalist to visit, according to school officials, Cole's presentation was well attended. Most professors had high hopes for the lecture, which focused on Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and the Shiite democratic tradition. After all, as Malachi Hacohen, an associate professor of history, religion, and political science at Duke who attended Cole's lecture, explained,"Cole's earlier work was solid."
But according to several professors familiar with the proceedings, Cole's presentation was unimpressive. According to Hacohen,"It was one of the worst job talks I have heard in my life,""[it was] logically faulty," and"the talk seemed as if it were directed more to CNN viewers than to an academic audience." Michael Munger, chair of Duke's department of political science, explained that Cole's lecture"was just not at a level we were expecting?it was more like an undergraduate lecture."
Whereas several observers of the Yale incident cite faculty division as the principal reason for Cole's rejection (in Yale's history department, only 13 of 23 professors agreed to Cole's appointment), he eventually sank at Duke because his limited interest in academic life was so blatant. As Munger explained,"We wanted someone who had a clear commitment to internal institution building. We wanted someone who was going to build the Islamic Studies Center. And?he was honest that he wasn't that interested in that."
According to others, even Cole's supporters were eventually put off by this ambition. He was forthright about wanting to come to Duke because it's closer to Washington than is Ann Arbor, an attitude that led many of Cole's proponents to believe they were being used. As a former Duke professor of public policy explained,"The question was whether or not his commitment to being a public intellectual overrode his commitment to scholarship." At its best, after all, Duke is in the business of cultivating scholars, not television stars.
When news of Yale's rejection broke, anti-Israeli blogs erupted. Frequent Daily Kos blogger Grand Moff Texan blamed"a bunch of Israel-first, rightwing flacks [who] went and scared Yale's Jewish donors, and they in turn scared administrators at Yale. That's three groups of people right there who need to reconsider what country they live in." At TPMCafe, Richard Silverstein blamed Cole's troubles on a" concerted campaign against him from Yale Jewish donors and other Jewish neocons." And in the pages of The Nation, Philip Weiss blamed Yale's rejection on a"neocon uprising." But since"Jewish neocons" were unaware of Cole's trips to Durham, they couldn't have possibly influenced Duke's proceedings.
Making matters worse for Cole's defenders, Duke's search was chaired by Bruce Lawrence, who, like many on Duke's faculty, is known for his progressive politics. Notwithstanding the political sympathies he certainly elicited, it appears Cole's academic credentials simply did not withstand the test. And so Cole remains in Ann Arbor, and his critics await their apology.
? David White is a writer in Washington. This article was written with support from Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.
SOURCE: David Greenberg at the New Republic blog, Open University (8-31-06)
To the best of our knowledge, this blog is unlike any other out there. It's dedicated to thinking about not just the news of the day but also the news from the academy: Controversies in campus politics that warrant thoughtful discussion. Scholarship from our various disciplines that we think deserves a broader hearing. Ideas we had in doing our research that seem eerily relevant to something we read in The New York Times today. Our bloggers range widely over the political spectrum. They include both novices and old hands (as well as chastened dabblers like me).
Please let us know what you like, what you don't, and what you think we should do differently. And by all means, sit down and write back (in keeping with prevailing rules of courtesy and civility, of course).
[Contributors include: Eric Rauchway, Ted Widmer, Darrin M. McMahon, Michael Kazin, Abigail Thernstrom.]
SOURCE: Bruce Craig, writing in the newsletter of the Coalition for History (9-8-06)
The new NARA initiative is in response to an April 2006 audit report by the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) entitled "Withdrawal of Records from Public Access at the National Archives and Records Administration for Classification Purposes." During the hour-long meeting that brought together representatives of the National Coalition for History, the American Historical Association, the National Security Archive, the Federation of American Scientists, and several other groups, Weinstein explained the objectives, milestones, and progress to date for the initiative that he hopes will serve as the catalyst for declassification reform among federal agencies. The Archivist stated that all federal agencies are being encouraged to participate in and support both of these declassification initiatives.
Weinstein reported that the steering group met on 28 August at which time representatives of the 12 executive branch agencies with major declassification responsibilities discussed various strategies required to ensure the NDI's success. The Archivist stated that in subsequent meetings, the executive steering group will develop and implement detailed work plans designed to ensure that agency equities are referred and resolved to allow the maximum feasible declassification. In addition, the steering group will focus on ensuring that common referral standards are developed, redundancies are reduced, and that records are adequately reviewed for declassification so that only information that must be retained for national security purposes is withheld.
According to Weinstein, the program will establish a better means for managing referrals of classified equities between executive branch agencies. As envisioned, the new NDI program will reduce redundancies in declassification review, will promote accurate and consistent declassification decisions, will improve equity recognition across the declassification community, will develop centralized priorities and management controls around the priorities, and will make the declassification process more transparent to the public. In order to realize these goals, an interagency executive steering group has been established.
The Archivist also gave a status report on specific audit items. Weinstein stressed that since the ISOO audit report was issued, notwithstanding the ongoing Department of Energy document review pursuant to the Kyl-Lott Amendment [in which materials relating to atomic energy and weaponry are being "re-reviewed" consistent with a Congressional mandate], the practice of withdrawing documents from open shelves "has been stopped in its tracks." Weinstein stated that "today,withdrawals are extremely rare" and in order for an agency to do so it "must demonstrate a compelling case." He stated that only seven new documents had been withdrawn in the last four months and that "all of these withdrawals have been carefully noted in the opened files so that their removal is transparent to researchers and all have been handled in accordance with the audit protocol." One of the documents (from the Truman Library) has been declassified and is now back on the open shelf and agency decisions are still pending on the other items which originated from the Carter presidential library.
As a result of the findings of the ISOO audit, the Archivist stated that he requested that agencies do another re-review of the documents withdrawn during the first re-review. This effort is ongoing and the National Archives expects the vast majority of records withdrawn to be restored to public access over the next several months. For example, at the end of their work, the Air Force expects that 95 percent of their records under re-review will be released in full or redacted. By way of another example, CIA is re-reviewing 55 boxes of State Department records and expects to release in full 85 percent of their records; release in redacted form 10 percent; and withhold 5 perpcent. Additional collections will likewise be reviewed for return to the open shelves. "We regard this as encouraging news and plan to continue to hold our feet to the fire to ensure that there is no backsliding," added the Archivist. "
SOURCE: Daily Kent Stater (9-7-06)
This year already welcomes a new president and dean. Additional faculty positions have been approved in fast-growing fields such as journalism and fashion design. Those don't even touch on the routine replacements and part-time faculty the university hires every year.
In 2003, the university hired an assistant professor to teach history at its Stark campus. They thought she had the master's and doctorate degrees she claimed to have from University of Oxford in England.
Kent State officials said the case of Jaclyn A. LaPlaca shouldn't have fallen between the cracks and don't know how it did.
LaPlaca worked at Stark for two years, quit and took a job at a university in Pennsylvania in 2005, where she is currently employed.
How can the university ensure that this doesn't happen again?
What happens next
Gayle Ormiston, associate provost for faculty affairs and curriculum, said Kent State will not take any action against LaPlaca or make any policy changes when it comes to hiring faculty. The university does not know of any harm to students, he said, and any courses she taught still count.
"We (the Stark campus) employed her," Ormiston said. "We assigned her to teach. We assigned her to teach under the assumption that whatever she told us was the truth. We're not going to go back and tell the students it doesn't count."
This doesn't happen often, he said....
Someone at the Stark campus had anonymously contacted Oxford questioning LaPlaca's degree completion, Ormiston said. Frances Lannon, a principal at Oxford, contacted Ormiston in August 2005 to inform him that LaPlaca did not have a valid degree from her university. A principal is like a provost, Ormiston said. Several phone conversations and a letter were exchanged.
At this time, LaPlaca had already left Kent State and was employed at Marywood University in Pennsylvania.
LaPlaca was never granted a doctoral-level degree and her master's-level degree was revoked when she was found guilty of plagiarism, according to a letter from Lannon to Ormiston. Oxford in turn expelled LaPlaca.
The Daily Kent Stater obtained copies of this letter and all other documents in LaPlaca's personnel file through a freedom of information request....
SOURCE: Edward J. Renehan Jr. at his blog (9-5-06)
The biographer and historian William H. Harbaugh, professor emeritus of history at the University of Virginia who died in the spring of '05, was a great friend and mentor to me. His Power & Responsibility: The Life and Times of Theodore Roosevelt (FS&G, 1961) remains the very best single-volume biography of TR ever published. Meanwhile, his biography of John W. Davis - Lawyer's Lawyer (Oxford University Press, 1973) - was a finalist for the National Book Award and a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize in biography. Bill was a dear, generous and brilliant man - one who will always be much missed. He was also a highly decorated veteran of the Second World War.
What makes me think of him is that I've just been rereading a speech he gave in the Rotunda of the University of Virginia on May 6, 1970, during an action protesting both the invasion of Cambodia and the state-sanctioned murder of students, just two days before, at Kent State University. Bill's words from 1970, regarding Vietnam and Cambodia, trigger no small amount of dejavu given our contemporary situation in Iraq. I quote only portions. The entirety of Bill's remarks can be found here.
Members of the Committee, students, tourists, faculty, Billy and Rickey [his sons] and guests from the Charlottesville chapter of the FBI:
We meet in a time of despair. We have witnessed worse tragedies than the one at Kent State University Monday. We see them on TV every night - the wanton destruction by our troops and by our allies of the moment, the South Vietnamese, of the innocent peasant men, women and children of Vietnam and now Cambodia. But not until we saw on TV Monday the slaying of four of our kind did many among us finally perceive the real nature of the violence to which this nation has been committed in South East Asia for a decade and against which some among us have been protesting ever since the first teach-ins five years ago ...
... We meet at what may well be the most critical juncture in the history of the United State, and, indeed, of mankind. The crisis which prompted the designer of this architectural complex - this testament to that which is sensitive, beautiful, and creative in man and which makes the struggle to live worth sustaining - the crisis, I repeat, which prompted him to write the Declaration of Independence was nothing as compared to the one that now confronts us. Nor was the Civil War, nor World Wars I or II of comparable magnitude to the one that confronts us now. For not until our times has man possessed bacteriological and nuclear weaponry in sufficient capacity to destroy mankind.
One would think that harsh truth would have long ago inspired a reordering of the assumptions on which our foreign policy is based. But it has not. For ten years now policy scientists in the Rand Corporation and the highest councils of government have grounded their tragic advice to John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon on assumptions that are rooted in the misuse, rather the understanding, of history.
They have transformed the Munich analogy, the domino thesis, and the idea - not of national interest - but of national prestige into a kind of Holy Trinity of foreign policy making. They have not told us that for every Munich there were nine rational compromises which averted war. They have not told us that it was the failure to compromise that precipitated World War I. They have not told us that the chip-on-the-shoulder diplomacy of Cordell Hull destroyed the viability of the peace party in Japan prior to Pearl Harbor. (Nor, parenthetically, have they told us - presumably because they have not bothered to reflect on the matter - that the Asia we went to war to protect in 1941 was not even an Asia ruled by Asians. It was an Asia owned or dominated by Europeans - by Britons, Frenchmen, and Dutchmen - and run by them in the interests of their fellow Europeans. It was, moreover, an Asia which was not then, and is not now, within either the vital or the legitimate sphere of influence of the United States.) ...
The 1953 case, United States v. Reynolds, revolved around a request by three widows for access to an accident report about a military plane crash in which their husbands died in 1948. The government refused to release the requested report.
Confronted by this dispute, Fisher writes, the Supreme Court had at least two valid options. It could have ruled in favor of the widows, granting their claims for damages in full, as lower courts had done. Or it could have subjected the disputed document to in camera review to determine whether withholding was justified on security grounds.
But the Court did neither. Instead, it upheld the government's denial of the document without bothering to review it, establishing an unfortunate precedent that would resound throughout the coming decades up to the present day.
Fisher traces the fateful Reynolds case from its inception throughout the litigation process to its final resolution. And he considers the ramifications of this frequently cited case for current national security policy.
Richly detailed, the new book combines legal scholarship, critical analysis, and even some"Law and Order"-style suspense. See"In the Name of National Security: Unchecked Presidential Power and the Reynolds Case" by Louis Fisher, University Press of Kansas, September 2006:
I will introduce Louis Fisher at a September 11 event at the Library of Congress, where he will discuss the book and sign copies. Come on by:
SOURCE: Sequim Gazette (9-6-06)
One might be able to learn here, if they don’t put an eye out first.
In a sense, it is organized chaos, says Tricia Billes, Sequim Middle School seventh-grade teacher. A messy calm before the storm.
When her students enter the classroom this week, they may not know they have the state History Teacher of the Year Award winner in their midst (as named by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History). Chances are, all that’s on their minds is what chapters they may have to memorize to pass history.
But Billes didn’t get the prestigious award for nothing. She’s ready to make history come alive and to throw out the old way of interminable text memorization.
Instead of passing history, she wants students to stop and take a look around.
“I don’t want history to be reduced to dates and names,” she says. “I want them to dig deeper, get into specifics. I teach them how to write and defend a thesis … (and) look at primary sources.”
Instead of studying a dozen explorers, her students study two or three in depth and learn the impact those figures have had on the world.
It’s that kind of fervor that prompted someone — Billes doesn’t know who — to nominate her for the award last school year.
Almost reluctantly, Billes compiled a video of her teaching themes, unit plans and philosophies and sent it off to Gilder Lehrman.
“I had low expectations,” she says. “It’s incredibly nice to be recognized. Teaching is a profession where your rewards are hugs from kids. (The award) is very gratifying. I’m honored and proud.”
A lover of history, Billes wasn’t always knee-deep into history texts. A UCLA graduate, she taught computer and music classes in Los Angeles before taking a Sequim English position in 1996....
SOURCE: Press Release -- The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies (9-3-06)
The book, Saving the Jews: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Holocaust, by South Carolina divorce attorney Robert N. Rosen, was published by Thunder's Mouth Press earlier this year. Rosen has been invited to address the Roosevelt Presidential Library in Hyde Park, NY, and the Carter Presidential Library, in Atlanta, as well as other institutions.
The scholars' petition, organized by The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, criticizes Rosen for "impugning the patriotism of scholars, including Prof. David S. Wyman, who have taken issue with the Roosevelt administration's response to the Holocaust ...As scholars who have written about the Holocaust, we protest Mr. Rosen's attempt to demean the motives of reputable historians who have documented important facts about how America responded to the Nazi genocide. Does your publishing house really mean to suggest that questioning the policies of a particular administration is grounds for branding a scholar 'anti-American'? Such name-calling and invective are deplorable, false, and have no place in serious discussion of the Roosevelt administration's response to one of the greatest moral crises of the Twentieth Century."
The signatories include Rabbi Dr. Irving (Yitz) Greenberg, former chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council; Prof. Hubert G. Locke, Dean Emeritus at the University of Washington; Dr. Gregory H. Stanton, president of Genocide Watch; Dr. Michael Berenbaum, Professor & Director at the University of Judaism's Ziering Institute on the Holocaust; Prof. Blanche Cook of the City University of New York, author of the acclaimed multi-volume biography of Eleanor Roosevelt; Prof. Israel W. Charny, editor of the Encyclopedia of Genocide; Prof. Susannah Heschel of Dartmouth College; and Thane Rosenbaum, novelist and professor of human rights law at Fordham University.
For the full text of the petition and the list of signatories, call the Wyman Institute at 202-434-8994 or visit www.WymanInstitute.org
At the same time, the Wyman Institue has issued a 33-page report analyzing Saving the Jews. The report, titled Whitewashing FDR's Holocaust Record, was co-authored by Wyman Institute director Dr. Rafael Medoff; Dr. Racelle Weiman, director of the Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion; and Dr. Bat-Ami Zucker of Bar Ilan University, author of In Search of Refuge: Jews and U.S. Consulates in Nazi Germany 1933-1941.
For the full text of the report, call the Wyman Institute at 202-434-8994 or visit www.WymanInstitute.org
Highlights of the Wyman Institute's report:
* Rosen Makes False Allegations against Reputable Historians:
Rosen makes false allegations against prominent Holocaust scholars such as Deborah Lipstadt, Henry Feingold, David Wyman, and Laurel Leff. For example, Rosen falsely accuses Prof. Feingold of calling President Roosevelt "a coward," and calling the U.S.and British governments "unspeakable antisemites." He also alleges that Feingold essentially manufactured evidence to make a State Department official appear antisemitic. Rosen falsely alleges that Prof. Leff described Jewish activist Peter Bergson as the leader of the Palestine Jewish community.
* Rosen Severely Misrepresents Key Historical Facts:
--Rosen misquotes historians Richard Breitman and Alan Kraut to make it seem as if they praised FDR's response to Kristallnacht, when in fact they were critical of FDR's response. (p.78)
--Rosen manipulates immigration statistics to claim the U.S. accepted twice as many refugees from Hitler as the rest of the world combined (p.442), when in fact the rest of the world took in nearly twice as many the United States.
--Rosen falsely claims that FDR was so "incensed" by the 1939 British White Paper (which closed off Palestine to almost all Jewish immigrants), that he began pushing for the removal of Arabs from Palestine to make room for the Jews. (p.485) In fact, FDR's discussions about Arab emigration took place more than six months before the White Paper, and his response to the White Paper was very weak.
--Rosen defends FDR's failure to speak out about the persecution of Europe Jews, on the baseless grounds that verbal protests would have led to increased persecution. (pp.455-456) Rosen also defends the British White Paper, claiming that Jewish immigration to Palestine would have caused Arabs to become pro-Nazi and possibly kill Jews in the Middle East. (pp.274, 116-117)
--Rosen falsely claims that not a single prominent U.S. Jewish leader asked the Roosevelt administration to bomb the Auschwitz death camp. (pp. 404, 475) In fact, Nahum Goldmann, co-chairman of the World Jewish Congress and U.S. representative of the Jewish Agency, did ask the administration to do so, and his request is mentioned even in a document from 1944 that Rosen himself lists in one of his footnotes. Other Jewish leaders, organizations, and publications also called for bombing the death camps.
* Rosen Falsely Portrays Jewish Activists as Draft-Dodgers:
Rosen portrays the 1940s Jewish activists known as the Bergson Group as draft-dodgers. He claims that their leaders "sat out the war in America, preferring to agitate for the overthrow of the British in Palestine rather than enlist and fight Nazis themselves." (p. 303) In fact, two of the group's five leaders, Yitshaq Ben-Ami and Dr. Alexander Rafaeli, enlisted and fought in the U.S. Army (in the Battle of the Bulge and the Normandy invasion, respectively), and the other three were classified 4-F.
* Rosen Uses Other Authors' Language without Appropriate Attribution:
Saving the Jews contains at least twenty-one passages that have language identical to, or virtually identical to, language used in books by other authors. In these twenty-one passages, Rosen does not use quotation marks to indicate that the words were composed by a different author. The American Historical Association's official Standards on Professional Conduct and Statement on Plagiarism define plagiarism as "the use of another's language without quotation marks and citation." The Statement also notes: "Plagiarism includes more subtle and perhaps pernicioius abuses than simply expropriating the exact wording of another author without attribution ... a historian ... should never simply borrow and rephrase the findings of other scholars."
The Wyman Institute has alerted the American Historical Association's Professional Division concerning Rosen's book and the twenty-one passages in question.
SOURCE: International Herald Tribune (9-4-06)
In February, a Vienna state court convicted Irving of denying the Holocaust and sentenced him to three years in prison.
The Alpine country's highest court rejected the appeal during a closed session last week, APA said, citing a preliminary communication from the court.
A court spokesman did not return repeated calls for confirmation Monday, and Irving's lawyer was not immediately available for comment.
A decision on an appeal of Irving's sentence is still pending, APA reported.
During his one-day trial, Irving pleaded guilty and conceded he had erred in contending there were no gas chambers at the Auschwitz concentration camp.
"I made a mistake when I said there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz," Irving testified, at one point expressing sorrow "for all the innocent people who died during the Second World War."
Irving had been in custody in Austria since his November arrest on charges stemming from two speeches he gave in Austria in 1989 in which he was accused of denying the Nazis' extermination of 6 million Jews. He has contended that most of those who died at concentration camps such as Auschwitz succumbed to diseases such as typhus rather than execution.
The court convicted Irving under a 1992 law, which applies to "whoever denies, grossly plays down, approves or tries to excuse the National Socialist genocide or other National Socialist crimes against humanity in a print publication, in broadcast or other media."