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: NYT (12-30-06)
That was 30 years ago. Ms. Marcus’s two children, who used the Supreme Court building as their weekend playground when the project was housed there in its early years, grew up to become, not surprisingly, lawyers. One, Jonathan Marcus, argues before the Supreme Court as a lawyer in the solicitor general’s office. The other, Stephanie Marcus, handles appeals in the Justice Department’s civil division.
Now Maeva Marcus and the project’s three associate editors are getting ready to close their office in the basement of the Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building on Capitol Hill. The eighth and final volume of the “Documentary History of the Supreme Court of the United States, 1789-1800,” has gone to press. Columbia University Press, which began publishing the project’s work in 1985, will bring out the last volume in February....
Ms. Marcus, who is president-elect of the American Society for Legal History, will next turn her attention to the Institute for Constitutional Studies, a program she started in 1999. It is now housed at George Washington University’s law school and counts Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg among its academic advisers.
Among its activities, the institute brings young scholars to Washington for seminars on constitutional history. In other words, it may give a new generation the equipment and desire to uncover some of the mysteries that, even after 30 years, still remain.
SOURCE: William H. Chafe in the WaPo (12-27-06)
Nearly 16 months after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans remains devastated. In the Lower Ninth Ward (primarily black and poor), mid-city (mixed-race and middle class) and Lakeside (richer and whiter), houses are boarded up and ruined; shattered windows reveal rooms full of debris; perhaps one in 10 places has a FEMA trailer parked outside, as a few returning residents desperately try to reclaim what they have lost. Thousands of small businesses have disappeared. Even in the French Quarter, which was left largely intact after Katrina, shopkeepers despair of being able to survive given the decline in tourism. Repeatedly, people declare: "I have not received a single dollar of federal aid."
Yet in this season that celebrates the birth of a child in what today would be called a homeless shelter, a remarkable resiliency of spirit remains in New Orleans. Yes, only half the population there in August 2005 has returned. The suicide rate has increased 300 percent, and less than half of the schools and hospitals that existed 16 months ago are functioning.
But energy, engagement and love persist, creating tiny ripples of hope, from thousands of individual acts of courage -- ripples that can, in words Robert Kennedy uttered 40 years ago in South Africa, "build a current" able to topple the mightiest walls of oppression.
In the Lower Ninth Ward, more than a hundred volunteers gather in a Catholic school (St. Mary of the Angels) to help secure -- with the community -- a foothold toward starting anew. Some are college students, others grandparents and hippies. All have come to live and work with local residents. Most spend their days gutting houses so that returning residents can be eligible for federal rebuilding funds. Tearing down sheetrock infested with toxic mold is dangerous work. Others toil in the kitchen, helping members of the "Rainbow Tribe" -- a commune -- prepare Brunswick stew, macaroni and cheese, and fried chicken for 150.
No one sees this as a lark. The unpaid staff briefs workers on the hazards they will face, insisting that respirators fit snugly so that no toxins are inhaled. The kitchen crew tests every dish to be sure it has reached a temperature high enough to eliminate any chance of food poisoning. Everyone is deadly serious -- and also clearly moved by the importance of the mission. They are white and black, male and female. They respect the integrity and autonomy of the neighbors they are there to help, committed not to fall into old hierarchies of white and black, male and female....
SOURCE: Oliver Kamm (Blog) (12-13-06)
I've referred a few times on this site to a lobbying organisation called Media Lens. Media Lens purports to be a watchdog detecting bias in the press and broadcasting media. It is in reality a shrill group of malcontents who exploit the patience of practising journalists. Journalism is a public medium and its practitioners should certainly be prepared to expound their professional methods. The practice of Media Lens, however, is - in the description by Andrew Marr, the BBC's former political editor - pernicious and anti-journalistic. I explained why and how in this post a few months ago.
I described the methods of Media Lens as including "unprofessional and often comically inept exegesis". More recently I came across a near-perfect example of this type of thing, and wrote a post about it here. One of the editors of Media Lens, David Cromwell, had written to the film critic of The Independent - yes, a film critic - taking the poor man to task for not commenting, in an article about the film Flags of Our Fathers, on "the propagandistic basis for western leaders' claim of 'half-a-million' allied lives being saved by dropping atomic bombs on Japan".
Cromwell is not a historian, but, according to his organisation's web site, a "researcher in ocean circulation". His dogmatic assertions on the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki evinced no acquaintance with the historiography of the Pacific War. He even got wrong the name of his own principal cited source (about whom I shall have more to say in a moment). In the circumstances, I thought it constructive to write to the film critic, David Thomson, to assure him that Cromwell's assertions were not to be taken seriously, let alone believed. The text of my letter, including citations to recent scholarly literature debunking Cromwell's assertions may be found in the post I have linked to. I copied it to Cromwell, so he would know not only the extent of his factual errors but also the inaptness of his criticisms of Thomson. Media Lens's customary technique (as I have found when replying to emails I had assumed came from genuine inquirers) is to post on its web site private emails from journalists without first asking permission, and I was curious whether Cromwell would do so with my letter. Prudently, he didn't.
Unfortunately, Cromwell apparently didn't do either what he ought to have done. The proper course would have been for him to write again to David Thomson to apologise for having sent a hectoring letter on a subject wholly outwith Cromwell's competence. Instead, Cromwell appealed to one of his friends to bail him out, judging by this message that has been posted by Cromwell on his organisation's message board here:
We've just received an email from US historian Howard Zinn after asking him for his response to Oliver Kamm's blog entry on the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (link below). Kamm had argued that "Truman based his decision [to use the atom bombs on Japan] on estimates that American casualties in a ground invasion might surpass one million". The Eds
Sorry to take so long in getting back to you on this, but I've been traveling and just getting to my pile of correspondence.
Of course you will always find scholars with different points of view on this, because no one can say conclusively 1) how many Americans would have died in an invasion of Japan (all guesses) or 2) how soon the Japanese would have surrendered without the dropping of the bombs.
But I don't think anyone has successfully refuted Alperovitz. To say that Truman "based his decision" on the estimate of a million casulties is naive. The "million casualties" claim was after the fact, as a justification for that horrific act. It was a number pulled out of the air. Truman's mind was made up no matter what number of casualties would be involved. As General Groves himself said, Truman was like "a litle boy on a toboggan, already going downhill" no way to stop the momentum. Certainly, a lower estimate would not have changed Trumans' mind.
At most one can argue that the bombs speeded the end of the war by weeks or months. In Japan, the Emperor was supreme, and he clearly wanted to arrange surrender terms, hence the dispatch of an envoy to Moscow.
It is often said that given the Japanese ferocious defense of Iwa Jima and Okinawa they would have continued the war except for the bomb. But if they were such fanatics why would even the bomb have caused them to surrender. After all, they endured 100,000 dead in Tokyo and still fought on.
Iwo Jima is an interesting episode. Two years ago in the Journal of Military History, an army captain who had done extensive research on that battle concluded it was unnecessary, another example of the momentum of war leading to needless death.
There is no moral argument which to me is all-powerful. Even if the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended the war sooner did that justify killing several hundred thousand innocent people? Would the defenders of the bombing agree to kill 100,000 American or English children in order to shorten the war? If the answer is no, it means that Japanese children do not deserve to live as our children do. If the answer is no, one must use the word "racism" to describe the conclusion that the bombs should have been dropped.
Howard Zinn is a grand old man of the American far Left. I have only once posted a comment on this blog about him; in it I stated that "trying to reason with Professor Zinn is a near-textbook case of futility". How prophetic that was.
Zinn's best-known work is a polemical history of the United States. His scholarly contributions to the study of the Pacific War amount, so far as I am aware, to zero. (This tract, which you can read in a few minutes, contains the name 'Hiroshima' in the title but is not a work of scholarly inquiry into the conclusion of the Pacific War.) It was unfair of Cromwell to appeal to Zinn for assistance when, as I shall demonstrate, Zinn is not up to providing it. But Zinn replied, and is therefore a legitimate target.
You will note that in his message, Zinn does not even attempt to deal with the sources that I cited. Judging by the internal evidence of his message, and nothing else, I have to conclude that Zinn has never heard of that material, still less read it. I say that principally because of Zinn's assertion that "I don't think anyone has successfully refuted Alperovitz".
Gar Alperovitz is the principal populariser (though not the originator) of the theory that the A-bomb was an instrument of "atomic diplomacy". Truman dropped the bomb not to defeat Japan - which on this reading had already indicated a willingness to surrender - but to intimidate the Soviet Union. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were, in Alperovitz's view, not the concluding acts of the Pacific War but the initial acts of the Cold War.
It is technically true in one very restricted sense that no one has refuted this thesis. There is no direct evidence in support of Alperovitz's claim. There is not a single statement in the documentary record made by a US diplomat to a Soviet counterpart in 1945-6 to the effect that "you'd better not cross us, because we have the bomb". Given this paucity of evidence, Alperovitz turned his thesis into something unfalsifiable. In the words of the historian Robert H. Ferrell, who is widely regarded as the pre-eminent authority on President Truman (Harry S. Truman and the Cold War Revisionists, 2006, p. 20): "Alperovitz was reduced to relying on the powers of psychology: possession of the bomb, he declared, influenced American officials more than they knew or said."
Whatever else this is, it's not diplomatic history. Alperovitz presented a thesis, and - being unable to prove it with any documentary evidence – refashioned it to be impervious to the canons of evidence. If that were all, then Alperovitz would be merely a trivial figure. But unfortunately, it is worse than this. Historians have pointed to the fact that Alperovitz's use of source material is unscholarly. Ferrell, in the work cited, gives a sobering example (p. 21, and expounded at length in the accompanying footnote) of Alperovitz's taking a quotation from General George Marshall and then "trimm[ing] the quotation so as to give it a quite different meaning from what Marshall intended".
Alperovitz's book, "despite the appearance of meticulous documentation ... was based on pervasive misrepresentations of the historical record", declares Robert Maddox of Pennsylvania State University, in his Weapons for Victory: The Hiroshima Decision, 1995, p. 2 - and Professor Maddox proceeds to give examples. Alperovitz updated his thesis in a 1995 work, The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an American Myth. Robert P. Newman, of the University of Pittsburgh, has noted that none of the 15 Japanese rulers who testified that the A-bomb was instrumental in securing Japan's surrender is quoted accurately by Alperovitz, and the account of one of them is edited to misrepresent its intent. (I am indebted to Professor Newman for sending me material including an unpublished paper.)
In short, Professor Zinn has demonstrated something more serious than error here. He has misrepresented the state of scholarly research into the subject Cromwell sought his advice upon. But even that is less of a disqualification to his being taken seriously than his dismissal of my cited sources with the airy formulation that "of course you will always find scholars with different points of view on this". As the scholar of German history Richard Evans has put it: "The possibilities of legitimate disagreement and variation [among historians] are limited by the evidence in front of their eyes. An objective historian is simply one who works within those limits. They are limits that allow a wide latitude for differing interpretations of the same document or source, but they are limits all the same." (The quotation comes from the author's study of the David Irving libel case, Lying About Hitler, 2001, p. 250. By citing it, I am obviously not drawing a comparison between Professor Zinn and David Irving. I am making a point about the nature of historical objectivity. I am certain Zinn is an honest historian, but equally certainly – on the subject on which Media Lens has sought his advice, at least – he is an incompetent and ill read one.)
Zinn's assertion that "the 'million casualties' claim was after the fact" is refuted by the evidence I cited, and that Zinn has ignored. The leading authority on casualty estimates in the Pacific War, D. M. Giangreco (a reader of this blog and a regular correspondent), has shown from the primary sources that the figure was most certainly not constructed after the fact. In his paper "'A Score of Bloody Okinawas and Iwo Jimas': President Truman and Casualty Estimates for the Invasion of Japan", Pacific Historical Review, Feb 2003, pp. 93-132, he demonstrates that "Truman's much-derided accounts of massive casualties projected for the two-phase invasion of Japan are richly supported by US Army, White House, Selective Service, and War Department documents produced prior to the use of nuclear weapons against Japan and stretching back through the last nine months of the Roosevelt administration". In another essay (co-authored with Kathryn Moore), "Half a Million Purple Hearts", Giangreco notes that the sheer numbers of these medals produced before the conclusion of the Pacific War indicate the extent of the casualties expected in an invasion of Japan. (Correspondence related to this article can be seen here.)
If Zinn wishes to argue that the estimates of mass casualties were manufactured after the war to justify the dropping of the A-bomb, then he is making an empirical assertion that he must substantiate with reference to the primary sources that Giangreco has consulted. Zinn needs to come to terms with the evidence presented by scholars with relevant expertise. He doesn't do this, because he can't. He has no business engaging in the evasive tactics that have so impressed his admirers at Media Lens. Zinn should have said privately he wasn't up to the task, rather than publicly demonstrate that condition....
SOURCE: Press Release -- Historians Against the War (HAW) (12-27-06)
The resolution is being spearheaded by Historians Against the War and has been signed by more than 80 historians (of whom more than 60 are AHA members). It calls attention to the ways the US government has violated both AHA professional standards and the broader principles of open inquiry necessary to the health of a free society. It links these violations to the prosecution of the war in Iraq, which, along with the so-called war on terror, has been used as a pretext for denying foreign scholars entry to the United States, re-classifying formerly unclassified documents, secretly spying on internal communications, and practicing torture to secure information. ...
Should the AHA take this historic step, it would contrast with the decision at the 1969 annual meeting to squelch a much more sharply worded resolution (available on the HAW website) in opposition to the Vietnam War. We believe history will not repeat itself. To the contrary, we believe that despite the controversial nature of the resolution, the strong support of AHA members, including former presidents of the AHA and the OAH, is likely to result in its passage.
In 2004 HAW petitioned the Organization of American Historians (OAH) to investigate reports of repression involving historians. The executive committee of the OAH agreed to do so. In 2003 the OAH executive board approved a resolution sponsored by HAW in support of the right of dissent. HAW was founded in January 2003 to oppose the plan to invade Iraq.
RESOLUTION ON UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT PRACTICES INIMICAL TO THE VALUES OF THE HISTORICAL PROFESSION
Whereas, The American Historical Association’s Professional Standards emphasize the importance of open inquiry to the pursuit of historical knowledge;
Whereas, the American Historical Association adopted a resolution in January 2004 re-affirming the principles of free speech, open debate of foreign policy, and open access to government records in furthering the work of the historical profession;
Whereas during the war in Iraq and the so-called war on terror, the current Administration has violated the above-mentioned standards and principles through the following practices:
*excluding well-recognized foreign scholars;
*condemning as “revisionism” the search for truth about pre-war intelligence;
*re-classifying previously unclassified government documents;
*suspending in certain cases the centuries-old writ of habeas corpus and substituting indefinite administrative detention without specified criminal charges or access to a court of law;
*using interrogation techniques at Guantanamo, Abu-Ghraib, Bagram, and other locations incompatible with respect for the dignity of all persons required by a civilized society;
Whereas a free society and the unfettered intellectual inquiry essential to the practice of historical research, writing, and teaching are imperiled by the practices described above; and
Whereas, the foregoing practices are inextricably linked to the war in which the United States is presently engaged in Iraq; now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the American Historical Association urges its members through publication of this resolution in Perspectives and other appropriate outlets:
1. To take a public stand as citizens on behalf of the values necessary to the practice of our profession; and
2. To do whatever they can to bring the Iraq war to a speedy conclusion.
SOURCE: Stuart Jeffries in th Guardian (12-23-06)
But, writes Jorg Friedrich in his book The Fire: the Bombing of Germany 1940-45, "this tightly meshed underground construction was a landscape of insanity". Such was the incendiary impact of the bombing that heat, gases, flames and smoke whipped through the labyrinth. People panicked. In one underground corridor, 50 people got so wedged that their bodies were found fused together from the heat. Underneath the junction of Margarthenstrasse and Marienstrasse there was a steel door connecting two passageways at a right angle. Two groups of people ran towards the door from opposite sides, desperately seeking a way out of a huge subterranean oven. Each blocked the other group from going through the door and so they all died. Under Moritzstrasse, a man ran for an exit shaft, but the following crowd pulled him back and he was killed in the crush. Two hundred people pressed on this crowd from behind, so that the body could not be budged. Again, everyone died.
This was where most of the 35,000 victims of the RAF on February 13 and USAAF attacks the following day died.
Friedrich's book, a bestseller in his homeland four years ago and which now appears in English, is thick with such horror stories. They were hard for him to avoid in meticulously detailing, over nearly 600 harrowing pages, how 635,000 Germans, mostly civilian, died and 7.5 million were made homeless when British and US bombs were dropped on 131 cities and towns. "For more than 50 years after the second world war," wrote the war historian and journalist Max Hastings, "German writers remained remarkably muted about the issue of Allied bombing of their country."
The Fire is part of a growing German literature, including WG Sebald's On the Natural History of Destruction, that breaks this near silence about their wartime suffering. This is no neo-Nazi apologia (Friedrich is a former Trotskyist who hitherto spent his career indicting the Wehrmacht and the Luftwaffe for what it did to Coventry), rather an investigation of memory repressed for more than half a century. Friedrich tells me his 93-year-old mother, who experienced the bombing of Essen, cannot talk to him about what she saw: she embodies what Sebald called a "pre-conscious self-censorship, a way of obscuring a world that could no longer be presented in comprehensible terms". Surely, I ask as we sit in the gathering gloom of Friedrich's Berlin apartment, your mother must dream about the past? "I don't know. She can't talk to me about it."
For many, to mourn was not justified because of Nazi war crimes. Sebald wrote: "Some of those affected by the air raids, despite their grim but impotent fury in the face of such obvious madness, regarded the great firestorms as a just punishment."
Friedrich wants not only to put the suffering on record, but to question the moral justification for the air raids. This makes English publication fraught, at least for Friedrich, who considers some of what the British did to be war crimes. He is dreading his publicity tour: "The British have simply put a defence around this bombing campaign. It is unquestionable and yet I am questioning it."
Indeed, The Fire is being published in English by an American academic publisher, Columbia University Press. "I don't think there is any conspiracy about this," says Simon Winder, head of Penguin's history division. "I think the reason is much more lazy than that - it's just the idea of translating it may have proved too much." Winder did see a manuscript, but with another book on the subject by the historian Richard Overy commissioned, declined to take it on.
The tenor of Friedrich's book has irritated even British historians who regard the bombing as a mistake. "Everything he says in the book is true in terms of the details of the effects of the bombing," says Hastings. "It is when Friedrich speaks of 'war crimes' that I become suspicious. What worries me about Germany, and indeed Japan, today is that there is an increasing move towards the doctrine of moral equivalence, but I think it's important to reject that. It's one thing to say, as I do, that the bombing of Germany was a great mistake, and another to compare it to the killings of Jews or the appalling things the Japanese did."...
SOURCE: Press Release -- Pepperdine (12-26-06)
Pipes is the founder and director of the Middle East Forum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He received both his AB and PhD in history from Harvard University and has taught at the University of Chicago, Harvard University, and the U.S. Naval War College. He served in various capacities in the U.S. government, including two presidential appointments as vice chairman of the Fulbright Board of Foreign Scholarships and as a member of the board of the U.S. Institute of Peace.
Pipes is a nationally and internationally recognized columnist, appearing domestically in The New York Sun and in Philadelphia’s The Evening Bulletin. Abroad, his columns appear regularly in Australia, Canada, Israel, Italy, and Spain. His Web site, www.danielpipes.org, is a highly respected Internet source of specialized information on the Middle East and Islam. In addition to sitting on five editorial boards, Pipes has testified before numerous congressional committees and worked on four presidential campaigns. He is listed in Marquis’ Who's Who in America and Who's Who in the World.
“The School of Public Policy at Pepperdine is fortunate to have in residence and in the classroom someone with the stature of Daniel Pipes, with his well known expertise in the politics of Islam and the Middle East,” said James R. Wilburn, dean of the Pepperdine School of Public Policy. “We are also indebted to the John M. Olin Foundation and the William E. Simon Foundation for making this substantive addition to our students' learning opportunities. Given the impact of developments in his area of experience, our students will be greatly enriched in their understanding of and ability to deal with some of the most critical issues our civilization will face for the remainder of this century.”
The William E. Simon Distinguished Visiting Professorship at the School of Public Policy is funded by the William E. Simon Foundation and the John M. Olin Foundation. The program gives the School the opportunity to invite a series of nationally recognized and highly respected individuals to be in residence each year. Each visiting professor leads a class or seminar, devotes significant time as a resident mentor to student scholars, and leads presentations for the entire campus community.
The Pepperdine School of Public Policy is built on a distinctive philosophy of nurturing leaders to use the tools of analysis and policy design to effect successful implementation and real change. This requires critical insights balanced with personal moral certainties that only a broad exposure to great ideas, courageous thinkers, and extraordinary leaders can encourage. It prepares graduates for careers as leaders and seeks also to strengthen the institutions which lie between the federal government and the individual, including the family, religious organizations, volunteer associations, local and regional government, and nonprofit organizations.
SOURCE: WSJ (12-23-06)
2. "Jesus Through the Centuries" by Jaroslav Pelikan (Yale University, 1985).
3. "The Divine Comedy" by Dante Alighieri, translated by Dorothy L. Sayers (Penguin Classics, 1949, 1955, 1957).
4. "The Challenge of Jesus" by N.T. Wright (InterVarsity, 1999).
5. The Sources of Christian Ethics by Servais Pinckaers, O.P. (Catholic University of America, 1995).
SOURCE: Christopher Shea in the Boston Globe (12-24-06)
Yet nearly a half-century later, only five of a projected 11 volumes in the Oxford History of the United States have been completed. (The best-known, by far, is "Battle Cry of Freedom," by James McPherson, about the Civil War era, which was a major bestseller.) And, Schwarz wrote, "not only are the Americans unconscionably tardy; their entries conspicuously lack the intellectual refinement, analytic sharpness, and stylistic verve" of similar books done for Oxford, about England, by British historians.
The charge about quality is idiosyncratic -- the five books collectively have won two Pulitzers, a Bancroft Prize (a prestigious award among historians), and many good reviews. But the tardiness is irrefutable. Hofstadter died in 1970, Woodward in 1999, and the series is still only half done. Have American historians simply lost the ability--or the taste for--telling the American story on this scale?
The Oxford project has just hit another snag. With great fanfare, the publisher, in its spring 2007 catalog, announced a new volume: "Leviathan: America Comes of Age, 1865-1900," by the prolific University of Texas historian H.W. Brands. ("Here is a sweeping history of the U.S. in its epoch of greatest change," reads the catalog copy.) But this month, Oxford's executive editor, Susan Ferber, told me that "Leviathan" won't be published in the series after all. Citing private negotiations, neither she nor David M. Kennedy, a professor at Stanford and general editor of the series, would say why the book has been quietly yanked from the series, or whether Oxford will publish it at all. Brands did not respond to requests for comment.
People involved with the series give a number of reasons for its glacial progress. At nearly the moment it was getting started, for instance, women's history and "bottom up" social history were just catching on. "The palette of subjects thought to be appropriate subjects for academic inquiry just exploded," Kennedy says, and the difficulty of writing overarching narratives "went up exponentially." Some scholars who were assigned books simply couldn't find the time to master the new literature.
Unavoidable personal issues and tragedies also intervened: The author originally slated to write the volume on the Civil War, Willie Lee Rose, suffered a stroke in 1978....
Susan Ferber, the Oxford editor, says the project has picked up some fresh momentum recently. She has three manuscripts on her desk -- chapters from Wood, a draft of"What Hath God Wrought: America 1815-1848," by Daniel Howe, an emeritus professor at UCLA; and a thematic volume on foreign policy from 1776-2004, by George Herring, an emeritus professor at the University of Kentucky.
New blood has been brought in as well. Bruce Schulman, of Boston University, has been at work on the 1896-1929 volume for a few years, while Fred Anderson, of the University of Colorado, and Andrew Cayton, of Miami University of Ohio, have just been asked to take the story from 1672 to 1763. (That leaves just one book to be assigned, on the 1600s and earlier.)
Anderson's and Cayton's plans include a retelling of the history of the post-Plymouth Rock, pre-Revolutionary era -- usually treated as a dull stretch -- as a high-drama competition among the English, Spanish, and French empires for control of North America. ...
SOURCE: AP (12-21-06)
Irving said Thursday he felt "no need any longer to show remorse" for his views on the Holocaust, for which he was sentenced to three years in prison. Vienna's highest court granted Irving's appeal and converted two-thirds of his sentence into probation on Wednesday.
Upon arriving at London's Heathrow airport, he also called for a boycott of all Austrian and German historians until laws which make Holocaust denial illegal in those countries are overturned.
SOURCE: AP (12-19-06)
Professor Deborah Lipstadt, who runs the site Holocaust Denial on Trial (www.hdot.org), said she hopes the translations will provide resources to people who have no historical accounts of the Holocaust in their native tongue.
"I'm convinced that there are people in predominantly Muslim countries, especially in the Middle East, who are being inundated with Holocaust deniers' claims and don't know that the deniers are fabricating and distorting," she said in a news release.
She pointed to last week's gathering of Holocaust deniers in Iran - an event supported by Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - as evidence that such viewpoints are gaining strength throughout the Muslim world.
Robert Paul, dean of Emory College, said the university is creating a $2 million (€1.52 million) endowment to help enhance the Web site. The site's stance on anti-Semitic views could create some security concerns for the university, he said....
SOURCE: New Republic (12-20-06)
• Up until thirty years ago, American historians regularly attempted to capture the thrust of our history. Some of the best efforts came in the decades after World War II when historians were trying to reconcile America's commitment to democracy with its rejection of socialism and embrace of racism and America's rejection of imperialism with its support for an aggressive expansionism. My two favorites are Louis Hartz's The Liberal Tradition in America and William Appleman Williams's The Contours of American History. Hartz was a less felicitous writer than Richard Hofstadter but had a more profound grasp of America's enduring liberalism. Williams became best known for his revisionist views of American foreign policy, but Contours, which explains America's shift from mercantile to laissez-faire to corporate-liberal nation, is his most important book.
• I am a godless, non-practicing Jew who has always been fascinated by the Christian roots of American history and foreign policy. Perry Miller's Errand Into the Wilderness (particularly the lead essay) got me started years ago, but I am a big fan of Ernest Tuveson's Redeemer Nation (the best book on Americans' conception of themselves as a chosen people), William G. McLoughlin's Revivals, Awakenings, and Reform, Nathan Hatch's The Sacred Cause of Liberty (where he introduces the idea of civil millennialism), and Richard Fox's biography of Reinhold Niebuhr....
[Judis goes on to cite Ronald Steel's Walter Lippmann biography, Lou Cannon's biography of Ronald Reagan, President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime, Perry Miller, C. Vann Woodward, Eric Foner et al.]
SOURCE: NYT (12-21-06)
Vienna's highest court on Wednesday granted Irving's appeal and converted two-thirds of his sentence into probation. He had been imprisoned for 13 months.
The author, who has been indefinitely banned from Austria, spent the night in a detention center, said Willfried Kovarnik, head of Vienna's immigration police. He arrived at Heathrow on an Austrian Airlines flight Thursday evening after hours of delays due to fog in London.
In February, a Vienna court sentenced Irving to three years under a 1992 law that 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.''
The law calls for a prison term of up to 10 years....
Austria Frees Holocaust Denier From Jail
SOURCE: NPR (audio) (12-21-06)
[The report was written in part by former West Point historian Robert Kagan. It recommends changing the strategy of the US in Iraq. Instead of focusing on training a new Iraqi army, the US should seek to establish security for Iraqi citizens.]
SOURCE: Fred Barnes in an editorial in the Weekly Standard (12-25-06)
Why would the Keane-Kagan plan succeed where earlier efforts failed? It envisions a temporary addition of 50,000 troops on the ground in Iraq. The initial mission would be to secure and hold the mixed Baghdad neighborhoods of Shia and Sunni residents where most of the violence occurs. Earlier efforts had cleared many of those sections of the city without holding them. After which, the mass killings resumed. Once neighborhoods are cleared, American and Iraqi troops in this plan would remain behind, living day-to-day among the population. Local government leaders would receive protection and rewards if they stepped in to provide basic services. Safe from retaliation by terrorists, residents would begin to cooperate with the Iraqi government. The securing of Baghdad would be followed by a full-scale drive to pacify the Sunni-majority Anbar province.
The truth is that not all of Iraq needs to be addressed by an increased American presence. Most of southern Iraq and all of the Kurdish north are close to being free of sectarian violence. It's Baghdad that has become the "center of gravity" for the insurgency, according to Keane. And it could be brought under control by the end of 2007.
The Keane-Kagan plan is not revolutionary. Rather, it is an application of a counterinsurgency approach that has proved to be effective elsewhere, notably in Vietnam. There, Gen. Creighton Abrams cleared out the Viet Cong so successfully that the South Vietnamese government took control of the country. Only when Congress cut off funds to South Vietnam in 1974 were the North Vietnamese able to win.
Before Bush announces his "new way forward" in Iraq in early January, he wants to be assured of two things. The first is that his plan can succeed. Initial evaluations of the Keane-Kagan plan at the Pentagon and elsewhere in the government have been positive. Alone among proposals for Iraq, the new Keane-Kagan strategy has a chance to succeed. Bush's second concern is to avert an explosion of opposition on Capitol Hill. Because this plan offers a credible prospect of winning in Iraq, moderate Democrats and queasy Republicans, the White House thinks, will be inclined to stand back and let Bush give it a shot.
The sooner Bush orders the plan into action, the better chances are that next Christmas he'll be telling White House guests that winning
in Iraq is not just a goal. It could actually be happening.
SOURCE: Mother Jones (12-19-06)
Tomdispatch.com started out in November 2001 as a e-mail list of about a dozen friends and family members. Stunned at the Bush administration's post-9/11 course and sensing the calamities to come, Engelhardt started sending around clippings—framed by his own ever-lengthening commentaries—from the world press, offering perspectives on America's global actions largely absent from US coverage. In 2002 the Nation Institute gave the fast-growing list a home as a web site billed as "a regular antidote to the mainstream media." The pieces typically run into the thousands of words ("Sometimes the world just can't be grasped short.") and each week brings two or three new ones. Engelhardt ballparks the average readership of each piece at up to 100,000—not bad for basement operation run by a guy with a day job and one part-time assistant editor.
This past year the site spawned two books—one, "Mission Unaccomplished", a collection of interviews Engelhardt did with an assortment of writers (and not only lefties) whose thought he admired, the other, written by former federal prosecutor and Tomdispatch star Elizabeth de la Vega, building a legal case that Bush & co. engaged in a conspiracy to "deceive the American public and Congress into supporting the war." In his introduction to the collected interviews, "Mission Unaccomplished," Engelhardt writes, "I saw my mission, modestly accomplished, as connecting some of the "dots" not being connected by our largely demobilized media, while recording as best I could the "mission unaccomplished" moments I felt certain would come," and this statement stands as a pretty good summary of what Tomdispatch has achieved over these past five years....
SOURCE: Jonathan Yardley in the WaPo (12-3-06)
That was in the summer of 1948, a time when the South was poised at the threshold of momentous and, for many, traumatic change. The system of segregation and oppression seemed as immutable as the obligatory statue of a Confederate soldier in front of the courthouse. Blacks lived in what whites called "their place," and whites assumed they were both happy in it and uninterested in rising above it.
The next quarter-century proved just how wrong those assumptions were. How the white South responded to the civil rights movement is the subject of There Goes My Everything: White Southerners in the Age of Civil Rights, 1945-1975, by Jason Sokol, a young scholar who has done exhaustive research in primary sources and who has shown how difficult it is to generalize about white Southerners in that time of astonishing social, political and cultural upheaval. He gives all due attention to those who reacted bitterly, noisily and sometimes violently to black protest, but he also shows how some whites were embarrassed by these troublemakers and sought other ways to deal with change. Without ever losing sight of the indisputable justice and necessity of the civil rights movement, Sokol manages to understand those who were caught on the sidelines yet found their lives irreversibly altered.
The history of complex Southern feelings about the subjugated blacks in their midst is as long as the history of slavery and segregation. New evidence of this is brought to light by Joan E. Cashin in First Lady of the Confederacy: Varina Davis's Civil War. Her title is somewhat misleading, as this biography of Jefferson Davis's wife encompasses far more than the four years of the war, but it does underscore the point that Varina Howell Davis was involved in internal as well as external struggles. She doesn't seem to have questioned slavery more than occasionally and half-heartedly, but she believed that secession was foolish and the war unwinnable for the Confederacy. She supported her husband unflinchingly, as was expected of wives in that time, but she disagreed with him frequently and apparently wasn't afraid to tell him so.
To Northerners, Varina Davis was an object of ridicule and contempt, but when it came to race, the North had little about which to be proud. Many of the great New England fortunes were founded in varying degrees on the slave trade. In Sons of Providence: The Brown Brothers, the Slave Trade, and the American Revolution, Charles Rappleye tells the story of Rhode Island's most prominent family. Though he says that relatively little of the Browns' great wealth came from selling slaves, he leaves no doubt that John Brown believed "the true course to wealth came through Africa" and that disagreement over slavery drew him and his brother Moses apart. Newport more than Providence was a slave-trading city, but a basic point of Rappleye's fine book is that New England's claim to moral superiority over the South rested on a shaky foundation....
SOURCE: UPI (12-19-06)
The BBC reported that prosecutors claimed Calislar had insulted Ataturk in a biography of Ataturk's wife Latife, in which Calislar reportedly wrote that Ataturk had once fled disguised as a woman.
Calislar faced up to four years in prison for violating Turkey's law against denigrating "Turkishness."
A hold on the past
Chris Wrigley has few new perspectives to offer on AJP Taylor, the 20th century's most industrious history man, says Tristram Hunt
"I wondered whether you ever had an opening for a lively talker on current affairs in television. As you know, I can do very nicely in impromptu discussion; and if you are ever thinking of this sort of thing, I'd be grateful if you'd think of me. I realise it is a new trade, but I'm not too old to learn it." This letter from AJP Taylor - written in the hope of joining the panel show In the News - seems to embody everything we now know about the first "TV don". It is ambitious, self-regarding and typical of Taylor's utter conviction that his voice needed to be heard by the British public.
In the centenary of Taylor's birth, Chris Wrigley's biography seeks to soften this unattractive composite of his subject's character. With meticulous research, interviews and access to private papers, Wrigley has reassembled the life of the 20th century's most industrious history man. For students of diplomatic history, academic feuding and the development of the public historian in a multimedia age, it is a rich work. Unfortunately, such a project has already been performed twice in recent years. Wrigley's biography comes on the back of masterful studies by Adam Sisman and Kathleen Burk, as well as Taylor's own autobiography. And apart from an often painfully detailed chronological approach, Wrigley seems to offer little fresh. Indeed, there is much overlap in the material: down to the minutiae of both Sisman and Wrigley referencing a story of Taylor's mother being scalded by a hot water bottle.
Nonetheless, the story is a good one. In his own carefully crafted self-image, Taylor was the radical Nonconformist from Manchester whose genius paved his way to Oxford and a lifelong fight with the southern intellectual and cultural establishment - a struggle he eventually lost when Hugh Trevor-Roper pipped him to the Regius chair and Taylor was forced to find fame and money in journalism. Along the way, there were numerous wives, fights, sulks and truly great works of popular and academic history.
There was also politics. Wrigley is excellent at tracing the ideological evolution of Taylor from his late Victorian liberal inheritance to doctrinaire Marxist to Labour party supporter and CND activist. At every stage, Taylor adopted the relevant party line with communist-like rigour. So much so that when his friend Malcolm Muggeridge reported in 1933 on the true state of Soviet Russia, Taylor responded: "I really would like to say what terrible grief and pain your late articles about Russia cause your friends, but then what's the good? We all have to do pretty unpleasant things to raise money ..."...
SOURCE: Deseret News (12-17-06)
Bloch, now a noted professor of French at Yale University and director of Yale's division of humanities, has studied the tapestry and considers it to be a stunning example of the rudiments of medieval combat.
It now hangs in an angled glass case on the interior walls of the palace of the bishops of Bayeux, France.
Bloch, who spoke from his office in New Haven, Conn., is a prolific researcher and historian of medieval France. He has written numerous books, including "The Anonymous Marie de France."
The famed tapestry remained vivid in his mind for many years, until he eventually researched his own exquisite book, "A Needle in the Right Hand of God: The Norman Conquest of 1066 and the Making and Meaning of the Bayeux Tapestry."
Even though it was created at the time of the Norman Conquest, the tapestry was lost in the 15th century and didn't resurface until the 18th century. Since rivalries between England and France were ripe, it was an appropriate time for it to reappear.
Among other challenges, the document survived being used to wrap equipment wagons during the French Revolution, as well as Hitler's attempt to decode its secrets in the hope it would help him know how to successfully invade England.
In Bloch's opinion, the tapestry brings history to life.
"You have to love it to spend that much time," he explained. "The tapestry has no meaning except as people interpret it, and as it is motivated by current-day interest. There are many questions that are still unanswered and some that are perplexing. There is writing on the tapestry, but at crucial moments it doesn't tell us what is said."
Bloch believes there may have been "an unconscious wish on the part of those who made the tapestry to encourage peace and reconciliation after 1066."
He also thinks that people today often "underestimate the complexity of medieval art. It was often highly complex and self-conscious. People too often think the Renaissance was the rebirth of sophistication. I try to connect it to the classical past. The medieval period was an incredibly rich and undervalued time."
Anyone who studies the tapestry, said Bloch, is engaging in detective work. "It's a historical record with visual images of a world-shaping event. Whoever made it was interested in detail, i.e., what arms and armor were like, the type of dress people wore, the preparation of meals, the nature of battles, etc.
"Yet there are all kinds of mysterious things in it, to which we may never know the answer."
SOURCE: http://www.bwog.net (12-15-06)
[Q.]What is your course here [Limited War and Low Intensity Conflict] about?
The course here is a double headed oxymoron by title, which I love, I think it's part of what draws students to it. Really it's a course that revisits the classic works, some of the seminal works on what we've come to regard as limited war, others would call it wars of national liberation, revolutionary war, insurgency, counterinsurgency, terrorism, counterterrorism, small wars.
[Q.]Small wars. What exactly is a small war?
Well, we've spent 15 lessons in this course exploring that question. What does limited war mean? Kind of to cut to the chase, it depends on your point of view and perspective. At least as classical literature lays out, it has at least two different schools of thought. With the Western perspective, we cover it all, but we're admittedly leaning towards the First World, advanced industrial nation state perspective, we have tended to define wars as small vs. total.
The West has, for a long number of years, been challenged with the idea of not only waging limited wars but winning them, finishing them well and legitimately. I mean, kind of case in point, Iraq, Afghanistan, the global war on terrorism. So that's an important question to at least return to, if not begin with: is there actually such a thing as a small war, or is it just a matter of perspective?
[Q.]Especially if you see it as just an aspect of the global war on terror.
Exactly, or if you take it from the perspective of the Iraqis themselves, and the members of the wider neighborhood. I'm sure that the Iraq war appears at that level of the enterprise as neither limited nor low intensity.
[Q.]Is that how the US military is characterizing the war?
That's a very interesting question, and it's one that we're struggling with now, the Iraq Study Group report just came out yesterday. I've been doing some of my own research. Another great thing about being able to teach is to play off new propositions, ideas, theories with your students, and that's been a part of the course, rightly or wrongly. I've had 20 other people in the class to explore this. For me, Iraq is a very interesting case because it seems to defy our modern notion of what might constitute a small war. Iraq seems to defy all the modern categories. It's a hybrid war, some have called it, but it's definitely an internal war that has also been internationalized, which somewhat defies the standard principles. It's also a war that seems by its very nature, regardless of how it started, was going to be a grand enterprise, something beyond the notion of small. Clearly, change in Iraq was dependent on some sort of change of the Hussein Baathist regime in Iraq, either complete tearing down of that regime, or a change of the nature of how that regime governed, the latter being less likely than the former.
[Q.]As part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, going in, did you think that you'd be in the next phase of trying to figure out what to do next in Iraq?
I figured, back in 2002 when the idea of regime change in Iraq was going to be the top of our agenda, that what ever it was it was going to be a long enterprise that the US was going to be a part of, if not a lead in. My first experience on the ground in Iraq was working for General Shinseki's Operation Iraqi Freedom Study Group, the history writing campaign.
[Q.]The history writing campaign?
Right, General Shinseki was at that time still chief of staff of the army. When the invasion of Iraq became imminent, General Shinseki put together a study group of military historians, experts in different fields in the US Army, to go in as rapidly as possible after the major combat operation began to begin chronicling the ground operation as it was occurring. Not only to get that on the books as a start point for the definitive histories, but also to gather lessons from the soldiers, from the private all the way up to the four star generals in terms of what equipment was working, what was failing to work, what doctrine was working, what doctrine was failing to work. Some things we didn't think about that the test of combat tells us. Necessity is the mother of invention, particularly in warfare, and so to try to take advantage of that combative environment to innovate, to bring those lessons gathered back to maybe give them insight to the acquisition production cycle, to maybe make some immediate changes.
[Q.]Did the government take a lot of advice from the group?
A lot of the advice and the findings have been put to bear. A lot of what we see in military reorganization and transformation. There were a couple of other groups put out there to do the same, different levels in the military structure. There were some strategic studies groups send forward to focus largely on strategic lessons gathered. Our task was really more of a tactical operational level assessment. We have seen some of those changes, with the modular force concept, how we've configured our war fighting organizations to be more plug-and-play, more multi-functional, not just combative functions and capabilities, but putting in civil affairs and engineers to cover the full spectrum of requirements.
[Q.]Are you still involved in that?
I was pulled off that project in June of 2003. I was called up to the North to serve as chief of plans for General Petreius for the 101st Airborne division. It was a very interesting first year of the war for me because I was able to enter it as an observer, as an historian, kind of be the academic, which was unique....
SOURCE: http://jta.org (12-13-06)
University of Montreal professor Yakov Rabkin, whose book “A Threat From Within: A Century of Jewish Opposition to Zionism” charts the history of religious objections to Zionism, tried during Shabbat services Saturday to recite a thanksgiving blessing after crossing the ocean, but was stopped by two members of the congregation.
In a letter published in Wednesday’s Irish Times, Rabkin complained that Dublin Jews had “yet to come terms with the contradictions” between religion and ideology, and therefore were “hostile” even to writing about Jewish opposition to Zionism.
Community members said they objected not to Rabkin’s political views or scholarship, but to the fact that he was in Ireland to promote his book at the invitation of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, an anti-Israel organization regarded by many in the community as a hate group.
SOURCE: http://www.sootoday.com (12-14-06)
After seeing the film, he said his expectations were met.
"If you like action films, you should enjoy it - but if you are going to learn history, stick to your books," Aakhus said.
Apocalypto, filmed on site in the Yucatec dialect, which Aakhus said is used in the northern section of the Maya region, concerns the fate of a young man chosen for sacrifice during the decline of the Maya civilization.
Aakhus, associate dean of the USI College of Liberal Arts and professor of art, has traveled throughout Mesoamerica since the 70's and has led an annual spring break Maya Art and Culture tour since 1996.
He teaches a course on the ancient art of Mexico and has lectured on the subject in the United States and Mexico.
"The setting in the rain forest was wonderful, and reminded me of the time I stayed with the Lacandon people in Chiapas," said Aakhus.
"This group remained quite isolated into the 20th century and there is a great book about them, The Last Lords of Palenque, which I would recommend," he said.
"The indigenous hunter groups in the film may have been based on the Lacandon."
Aakhus was less impressed with Gibson's portrayal of city culture.
"I had hoped to see some great images of the Maya buildings and wonderful costumes, but I have to admit that I saw neither."
"The fabulous aspects of material culture that we see in the reliefs, paintings, and burial remains imitated for the film looked poorly conceived."
"The textiles which the Maya to this day pride themselves on looked more like rags, and the body ornament may have been jade, but looked like plastic."
He continued, "The sets and buildings showed that plaster was an important finish to the buildings but many of them were left unplastered and not properly painted."
"The high culture was portrayed as brutal and decadent which did not provide insight into the remarkable art, architecture, books, literature and advanced science of the Maya." ...
SOURCE: http://www.theday.com (12-16-06)
Anti-Communists during the Cold War, trying to rally the West against Moscow, long accused the Soviets of such outrages. But with the Soviet Union largely closed to outsiders, foreign policy conservatives and military hawks were forced to rely on testimony from dissidents and defectors.
Brent's 20-book project, “The Annals of Communism,” provides new and vivid details from documents that have been mined by hundreds of his researchers over the years, combing Soviet archives since the collapse of the totalitarian state in 1991.
It documents Soviet espionage in the United States, efforts by the Soviets to manipulate the Spanish Civil War and a history of the Gulag slave labor camps.
The research shows “the dissolution of what anybody would think of as civilization,” Brent said. “This is why I'm studying it and why I think it's so important.”
Among the piles of books and papers in Brent's New Haven office is an enlarged copy of a memo to Soviet leader Josef Stalin recommending the execution of 16,000 Polish military officers in 1940. The mass killings were carried out by gunshots to the back of the head, Brent said. “The guns got so hot, young officers brought fresh guns,” he said.
Another book in the series details self-portraits by Bolsheviks in the 1920s that began as cartoonish caricatures of each other and evolved into grotesquely vicious and pornographic images that foreshadow the show trials of the 1930s, Communist Party purges and executions of Stalin's rivals.
“If you want to talk about the banality of evil, this is it,” said Brent, who also is a professor of history and literature at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y. “Lenin and Stalin gave Hitler the blueprint.”...
SOURCE: BBC (12-18-06)
Earlier this year, the Secret Intelligence Service - popularly known as MI6 - launched its first public recruitment campaign and now even has its own website.
Last month, two serving agents gave their first ever media interviews to the BBC in an attempt to attract younger recruits to the spy service.
They spoke about enjoying aspects of the action and adventure portrayed in the Bond films.
MI6 has been shrouded in secrecy for most of its 97-year history, but now wants its history to be told to coincide with its centenary in 2009.
Professor Jeffery, who lectured for more than 20 years, says he is excited by the challenge.
All institutions, no matter how secretive, like to have their histories told, he says. However, MI6 telling its history seems "counter-cultural".
For Your Eyes Only... MI6 has always been shrouded in secrecy
At the end of the research and writing process, there will be a "filter" to comply with the necessary security constraints, but the academic insists there will be no barriers to access.
"It would be a deal-breaker if there is not full access and I have no reason to doubt that's what I will have," he says.
SOURCE: AP (12-19-06)
Calling it the second battle of Gettysburg, the letter comes as the state Gaming Control Board is expected to vote on license applicants Wednesday.
The slots parlor would be a mile-and-a-half from the border of the 6,000-acre Gettysburg National Military Park in southcentral Pennsylvania. A casino so close would sully the family-friendly and thoughtful atmosphere of the battlefields where thousands died in 1863, the historians said.
"It is our solemn duty to protect this resource, not squander it through misguided choices," said the letter, which was organized by preservation groups including the Washington-based Civil War Preservation Trust.
Among the 111 signers were James M. McPherson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "The Battle Cry of Freedom."
SOURCE: Geoffrey Wheatcroft in the NYT (12-17-06)
From the beginning, Americans liked to believe that they were free of Old-Worldly original sin, dwellers in a city on a hill who “cherished an image of themselves as by nature inward-looking and aloof.” And from the beginning, Kagan argues in “Dangerous Nation,” they were wrong. In this, the first of two volumes on the United States as an international power, he shows how America was always a player, and often a ruthless one, in the great game of nations....
It’s bad form to attribute motive or to read between the lines, but there is a long tradition of works of real scholarship that nevertheless have an ulterior purpose. Kagan has been closely associated with the neoconservative project. Right now that project isn’t looking any too rosy, and so it may be understandable if he wants to take time out and look back. He deconstructs the early texts of the Republic, suggesting that Washington’s Farewell Address was not as isolationist as its warnings about entangling “our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice” might sound. He also points out that John Quincy Adams’s 1821 Independence Day speech was a virulent republican assault on monarchical absolutism and not merely an assertion that America “goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.”
Maybe so, but we have all been reminded by recent events of where the search for monsters can lead. Will it be surprising if America soon, and at least for a time, turns inward and aloof once more?