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: CBS News (12-11-06)
In other words, Cornell posits that neither side in the epic battle has got it exactly right when it comes to trying to figure out the meaning of the Second Amendment’s grotesquely ungrammatical phrase: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." The question now is whether the historian’s scholarship enters into the bloodstream of the gun debate and, if so, whether it changes either the temperature of the fight or the attitude of the judges who ultimately must referee the match.
Being the busy bureaucrats and zealous lawyers that they are, I’m guessing that the folks on New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s "criminal justice" staff haven’t studied Cornell’s thesis or figured out how exactly it will help or hurt their cause. That cause right now is suing gun sellers (both in- and out-of-state) who are accused of violating the City’s ban on bad gun sales. Six such out-of-state gun dealers agreed last week to allow a court-appointed specialist to monitor their business to prevent straw sales and other illegal activity. At the same time, 12 more dealers were sued, the New York Times reported, as the result of a program that has attracted both admirers and detractors around the nation.
Meanwhile in the nation’s capital, in a case that attracted far more attention from right-wing bloggers than it did to major media outlets, District of Columbia officials went to federal appeals court to defend their attempted ban on all pistols (and not just sawed-off shotguns or other weapons that typically have been banned in jurisdictions around the country). At the heart of that case is whether the Second Amendment confers an “individual” or "collective" right to bear arms. Paging Professor Cornell! — who argues that it does neither and whose on-the-one-hand/on-the-other-hand book should be read by the D.C. Circuit Court judges involved in the case no matter which side of the great divide they happen to fall.
The good professor sees the 2nd Amendment as little more than a hotly-debated, much-negotiated (and for that reason quite opaque) memorialization of the competing and sometimes conflicting views about guns held by delegates from the ratifying states. When James Madison began to look at recommendations to the Constitution from some of the states he saw, in Cornell’s words “that “all five (of the recommending) state conventions had recommended that the Constitution include a prohibition on standing armies in peacetime; four demanded some type of explicit protection for the right to bear arms; two affirmed the principle of state control of the militia; and two proposed limits on the use of the militia outside the state.”
Moreover, at the time, Cornell writes, “The right to keep or use firearms outside the context of the militia … did not appear on Madison’s comprehensive list of possible amendments.” That would come later, apparently during the Senate debate over which initial amendments to the Constitution would which then be submitted back to the States for ratification.
"The adoption of the Second Amendment," Cornell writes, "did not settle the meaning of the right to bear arms, nor did it end the widening disagreement over the appropriate role of the militia." See? Our government even in its nascence was generally incapable of addressing head-on the thorniest issues. ...
SOURCE: NYT (12-10-06)
A Story of Courage, Community, and War.
Nathaniel Philbrick. Viking, $29.95.
This absorbing history of the Plymouth Colony is a model of revisionism. Philbrick impressively recreates the pilgrims' dismal 1620 voyage, bringing to life passengers and crew, and then relates the events of the settlement and its first contacts with the native inhabitants of Massachusetts. Most striking are the parallels he subtly draws with the present, particularly in his account of how Plymouth's leaders, including Miles Standish, rejected diplomatic overtures toward the Indians, successful though they'd been, and instead pursued a "dehumanizing" policy of violent aggression that led to the needless bloodshed of King Philip's War.
THE OMNIVORE'S DILEMMA
A Natural History of Four Meals.
By Michael Pollan. The Penguin Press, $26.95.
"When you can eat just about anything nature has to offer, deciding what you should eat will inevitably stir anxiety," Pollan writes in this supple and probing book. He gracefully navigates within these anxieties as he traces the origins of four meals - from a fast-food dinner to a "hunter-gatherer" feast - and makes us see, with remarkable clarity, exactly how what we eat affects both our bodies and the planet. Pollan is the perfect tour guide: his prose is incisive and alive, and pointed without being tendentious. In an uncommonly good year for American food writing, this is a book that stands out.
SOURCE: Christian Probasco at Newwest.net (12-5-06)
My name is Courtney Lowery and I am the managing editor of New West.Net.
I'm writing to request you remove an article ("Patricia Nelson Limerick: A fictional interview") you posted in its entirety from New West.Net on Dec. 5. (http://hnn.us/roundup/14.html#top)
The post came from a writer who runs his own blog on New West.Net and it has been removed from our pages because it was in violation of our policies -- we do not condone fictional interviews.
I would appreciate this piece being removed from your site in a timely manner or a clarification be included with the piece explaining to your readers that the story is from Mr. Probasco and not sanctioned by New West.Net.
Thanks for your understanding in this matter and please call or write with any questions or concerns.
New West Network & Magazine*
For those to whom the name is not familiar, Patricia Nelson Limerick, professor of history and environmental studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, is the acknowledged leader of a highly influential cadre of historical revisionists known as the “New Western Historians.” Her book, The Legacy of Conquest is necessary reading for anyone with pretensions of knowing anything about modern Western history. Limerick is much praised on the back cover of her book. Howard R. Lamar, Sterling Professor of History Emeritus and former President of Yale, writes that “Patricia Nelson Limerick’s The Legacy of Conquest returns the Western American past to the mainstream of national history” and Richard White, President of the Organization of American Historians writes, “The Legacy of Conquest is going to be the most talked about and influential book in Western history in years.…(She) is one of the most engaging historians writing today.”
You might well ask, “Why not try to get a real interview with Patricia Nelson Limerick, instead of making all this up?” and I would have to answer, “It wouldn’t be nearly as fun.” So let’s get to it.
Probasco: Hello Ms. Limerick. I just finished rereading my 1988 W.W. Norton paperback edition of The Legacy of Conquest and several of your essays and interviews.
Limerick: Hold on to your copy of Legacy. You’re going to need it for a long time.
Probasco: Let’s start with a close reading of the book and the material I printed out.
Limerick: Fire away. And I don’t mean that in the old, clichéd sense. When I say “fire away,” I am only using a phrase and not necessarily giving credence to its violent, provocative implications. Let me just say, “Proceed.”
Probasco: I am turning to the introduction to Legacy and I see here on page eighteen—you say, “Americans are left to stumble over—and sometimes into—those connections, caught off guard by the continued vitality of issues widely believed to be dead.” I think that you are referring to frontier issues, and what I want to ask is, who believes these issues to be dead?
Limerick: Those who follow He Whose Name Cannot Be Spoken. I can’t say his name because I believe his thesis has been given excess respect and I don’t want to compound that. And I’d rather not use the “F” word either.
Probasco: You are talking about Frederick Jackson Turner and his seminal essay “The Significance of the Frontier in American History.” By “F,” you mean “frontier.”
Limerick: We New Western Historians compete to see who can write the longest text without employing the F word. So far the winner is Richard White whose It’s Your Misfortune and None of My Own does not once reference the F in all its 644 pages.
Probasco: In Legacy you talk about how Western studies weren’t really taken seriously back when you entered the field. You write, “the subject of slavery was the domain of serious scholars and the occasion for sober national reflection; the subject of conquest was the domain of mass entertainment and the occasion for lighthearted national escapism,” and then you continue, “Children happily played ‘cowboys and Indians’ but stopped short of ‘masters and slaves.’” Well, Ms. Limerick, don’t children still play ‘Yankees and Rebels,’ pretending they are fighting the civil war? Come to think of it, don’t adults play that game? Only they call it ‘reenactments.’ But it’s just play, isn’t it? Isn’t there just as much of an element of escapism there? Aren’t you confusing academic studies and popular culture, in essence implying that southern history is Shelby Foote and Western history is The Great Train Robbery? Weren’t there any serious Western scholars before you came along?
Limerick: No, no, no, no, no and no. When scholars of Western history left the room, real historians would snigger at them and pretend they were shooting six-shooters and arrows at each other.
Probasco: Let’s get back to the frontier. New West Historians seem to have a particular problem with that word, especially the way Turner used it.
Limerick: The F word carries a lot of baggage. It is fraught with emotional and ideological connotations.
Probasco: Unlike “conquest.”
Limerick: Exactly. The F word, shall we say, has been deep-fried in the batter of nationalistic pride. What’s the first thing you think of when you hear it?
Probasco: A region just beyond a settled area.
Limerick: Precisely. A wild borderland. A place of romantic adventure and escape.
SOURCE: NYT (12-9-06)
He died from complications of colon cancer, said his wife, the artist Jane Kaplowitz.
For half a century, Mr. Rosenblum taught in the undergraduate and graduate art history divisions at New York University, where he occupied an endowed chair as professor of Modern European art starting in 1976. For the last decade he also served as curator of 20th-century art at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Despite his illness, diagnosed in 2004, he continued his regimen of teaching, writing and lecturing until a few weeks ago.
Equipped with a traditional art historian’s education, including a Ph.D. earned at the Institute of Fine Art at N.Y.U. in 1956, Mr. Rosenblum initially made his mark in the history of 18th- and 19th-century French art. In 1974 he was one of the organizers of the landmark show “French Painting, 1774-1830: The Age of Revolution” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Perhaps his most important book was “Transformations in Late 18th-Century Art” (1967), in which he argued that Modernism did not begin with the turn of the 20th century, as formalist critics saw it, but was a far more complex phenomenon that went back to 18th-century France, when attempts were first made to refresh Western visual culture.
SOURCE: NYT (12-7-06)
The adviser, Kenneth W. Stein, a professor of Middle Eastern history and political science at Emory University, resigned his position as a fellow with the Carter Center on Tuesday, ending a 23-year association with the institution.
In a two-page letter explaining his action, Mr. Stein called the book “replete with factual errors, copied materials not cited, superficialities, glaring omissions and simply invented segments.” Mr. Stein said he had used similar language in a private letter he sent to Mr. Carter, but received no reply.
“In the letter to him, I told him, ‘It’s your prerogative to write anything you want when you want,’ ” Mr. Stein said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “That’s not why I’m resigning.”
Mr. Stein said that he admired the former president’s accomplishments but that felt he had to distance himself from the Carter Center and the book, which was published by Simon & Schuster.
“It’s an issue of how history should be written,” Mr. Stein said. “I had to distance myself from something that was coming close to me professionally.”
Deanna Congelio, spokeswoman for Mr. Carter, released a statement with his response: “Although Professor Kenneth Stein has not been actively involved with the Carter Center for more than 12 years, I regret his resignation from the titular position as a fellow.” It did not address Mr. Stein’s criticism of the book.
That criticism is the latest in a growing chorus of academics who have taken issue with the book, including Alan M. Dershowitz, professor of law at Harvard, who called the book “ahistorical,” and David Makovsky, director of the Project on the Middle East Process at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
“I was just very saddened by it,” Mr. Makovsky said. “I just found so many errors.”...
“He feels snubbed he wasn’t given any kind of acknowledgment for the work he’s done with Carter,” said Douglas Brinkley, professor of history at Tulane University in New Orleans. “It’s a bit of bruised ego and philosophical difference being displayed in public here.”
SOURCE: European Jewish Press (12-6-06)
Asghar Bukhari, a founder member of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC), last month admitted sending the letters to Irving during the year 2000.
Irving, who has been imprisoned in Austria since September 2006 for for having denied the existence of gas chambers in National Socialist concentration camps in several lectures held in Austria in 1989.
The writer came to the public eye in 1998 after he launched a libel suit against American professor Deborah Lipstadt for comments in a book called Denying The Holocaust where Lipstadt branded Irving a Holocaust denier and an anti-Semite. Irving lost the case and was soon declared bankrupt having been forced to pay the costs of the case.
SOURCE: FrontpageMag.com (12-8-06)
FP: Robert Kagan, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Kagan: Thanks. I appreciate your inviting me.
FP: I want to get your thought on the terror war and on the recent report made by the Iraq Study Group. But let's first talk about your new book. What motivated you to write it?
Kagan: I suppose my interest in the history of American foreign policy began when I worked as a speechwriter for George Shultz in the Reagan years. Although many, especially the so-called "realists", dismissed Reagan as some kind of aberration from American foreign policy -- just as they dismiss George W. Bush, my understanding of America's history led me to believe that Reagan was very much part of the true American tradition.
In the early 1990s, after the Cold War ended, an old debate over the proper course of American foreign policy re-emerged after being mostly dormant during the Cold War. Realists and many conservatives, as well as some liberals, claimed that the U.S. should return to its "traditional" approach, which was, if not isolationist, at least more passive, less inclined to "bear any burden," or as Jeane Kirkpatrick put it at the time -- a "normal" nation. I did not believe the United States ever had been, or ever could be, a "normal" nation, given the highly ideological nature of its nationhood. So, in the mid 1990s, I began a decade-long investigation into our early history to try and determine what were our real foreign policy traditions.
FP: Crystallize your main thesis for us as well as the orthodoxy you are revising.
Kagan: The common perception of 18th and 19th century American foreign policy, both for the public at large and also for the intellectual elite and foreign policy establishment, is that it was primarily isolationist. The early American settlers came to the New World to create a City Upon a Hill, separate and aloof from the rest of the world. Washington's Farewell Address, with its warning against "political connexions" with other nations, and the Monroe Doctrine, with its insistence that Europe plant no more colonies in the Western Hemisphere are both seen as reaffirmations of this isolationist "tradition." Most believe, therefore, that America's first and natural posture in the world is one of passivity and introspection. If Americans do venture out into the world, it is only because they have been attacked or faced an imminent threat.
My argument is that, on the contrary, Americans are and always have been an expansionist people. From the time of the Puritans through the end of the 19th century, Americans were aggressive territorial expansionists, willing to use force when necessary to achieve their expansionist goals. From the 18th century to the present day, Americans have been commercial expansionists, seeking markets and resources wherever in the world these could be found. From the early 19th century until the present, Americans have sought to expand their power and their influence, seeking to shape the behavior of other peoples and nations in ever widening arcs.
And from the Revolution until today, Americans have been ideological expansionists, driven by the universal principles of the Declaration of Independence. They have sought to transform the world, or at least as much of the world as they had the power to transform, to conform with American principles, ideals, as well as American interests. Their record is far from unmixed in this effort. But they have had a profound impact on the shape of the international system. And it may surprise many Americans to learn that even the founders, including George Washington, believed that in time the United States would become the most powerful nation in the world.
FP: As you say, Americans’ record is “far from unmixed” in their expansionism, but it is important to stress, is it not, that America, unlike many great powers, has brought freedom and liberty to the many lands that it touched (i.e. Germany, Japan etc.) rather than enslavement -- as in, for instance, the Soviet case. It is important to apply moral clarity to this subject, no? Otherwise a moral equivalency can develop that suggests America was and is expansionist as Saddam, Hitler and Stalin were – a notion which gravely distorts truth and history.
Kagan: It's a good question. Let me answer in two ways. First, my book Dangerous Nation, covers the 18th and 19th centuries in American foreign policy. The moral argument for American foreign policy is not so clear-cut in this period. For one thing, the United States in its first eight decades was both a liberal democracy and a slaveholding nation, which in the South required a quasi-totalitarian control not only of blacks but of whites. A good part of American expansion this period was partly, and sometimes largely, driven by a desire to spread slavery, not democracy. Then, of course, there was the matter of the Indians.
While I do not take a rosy-colored view of the Indians, who committed inhuman atrocities against one another as well as against white settlers, or a uniformly dark view of American policies toward the Indians, the fact remains that American desires for land -- justified by a Lockean liberal sense that land should be "improved" or it was wasted -- led to violent attacks on Indians, and of a ceaseless violations of treaties solemnly entered into by the U.S. government. This is what I mean by the record not being "unmixed."
This is a large part of our history as a nation.
Ironically, the intervention most often cited as a blatant act of "imperialism," the intervention in Cuba and war against Spain in 1898, was almost entirely fought for humanitarian and moral ends. And that began a fairly steady record, though again not an unmixed record, of American "expansion" for moral ends, which certainly included the two world wars and the Cold War. And here there needs to be a distinction made between the methods of expansion and the use of power and influence, on the one hand, and the goals of power and expansion. All great powers use roughly the same implements of power: they intervene and occupy foreign lands, they exert economic influence designed to shape the behavior of others to suit their own interests and principles. Aggressive dictatorships are usually more brutal in their actions than a democracy like the US, although it was the United States that dropped nuclear bombs on innocent Japanese civilians.
The distinction is not in means but in ends. I don't think it's defensible to assert that the US was not as expansionist as other powers in history. The question concerns the purposes of American expansion, which indeed, was not to enslave but to bring liberty and progress. I have always been amused by the endless debate over who started the Cold War, as if that could determine our innocence and guilt, or the justness of our policies. The truth is, both sides started the Cold War. What made our side right was not that the other guy struck first, but that the principles which we struggled for were right and theirs were wrong.
FP: So how do you fit your thesis into the terror war today? America is clearly confronting a totalitarian ideology, Islamism, which, like Nazism and communism, seeks to expand its doctrine of enslaving humans throughout the world. America is a defender of individual freedom and liberty in this case, as it was in the Cold War and Second World War. What is your angle here?
Kagan: Well, once again we have been surprised to find out that others hate us precisely because of the doctrines we aim to spread, and sometimes spread unconsciously.
Obviously, the Islamists have long felt that American power, as well as American culture, Americans' support of progress, liberalism, and modernity have undermined the conservative attempts to turn back the clock in the Islamic world. This was precisely how Metternich, Alexander, and the other conservative monarchies of Europe viewed the United States in the early 19th century. Their fear of America's revolutionary liberal doctrines made them consider the young US a "dangerous nation," hence the title of my book.
Now, when critics of American foreign policy point out that American actions in the Middle East helped spur Osama Bin Laden to action, they usually mean to suggest that the United States should stop acting in ways that offend Islamists. I would argue that:
[a] we should not stop attempting to spread our principles and our influence
[b] we could not stop it even if we wanted to, because ideological expansionism is embedded in the American DNA.
What I would suggest is that Americans stop letting themselves be surprised by the reactions they, often unconsciously, provoke in others. American actions with regard to Manchuria in the 1930s did help convince the Japanese to launch an attack of our Pacific Fleet. That does not mean we were wrong and they were justified. Nor, certainly, does it mean that Al Qaeda's actions are in any way justified. What it does mean is that, as we make our way through the world, shaping it both consciously and unconsciously to conform to our principles, we must be prepared for the reaction and prepared to act, preventively at times. We should not kid ourselves that if we only sit back passively, we will not become the target of others' anger and sometimes of their military aggression.
FP: What do you make of the Iraq Study Group’s report? What do you make of how Iraq was handled? What is the best thing, in your mind, for us to do now -- not only in Iraq in particular but in the terror war in general?
Kagan: I think the ISG report is something of a disaster. First, it does not even come close to offering a workable solution in Iraq. Their main recommendation is the rapid training of Iraqis so that they can stand on their own. Perhaps the commission has not noticed that this has been the administration's strategy from the beginning, and that it has failed.
The commission's recommendations that we seek Iran's aid in Iraq is laughable. Even Jim Baker has admitted since the report was issued that there was very little chance that Iran would be interested in a deal. But what's the harm in trying? he asks. The answer is there can be a great deal of harm when we go pandering to our adversaries from a position of weakness, begging for their help.
My fundamental belief remains, as it has for the past three years, that we need a great many more American troops in Iraq to provide the security and stability to permit Iraqis to begin the process of reconciliation. Our failure to provide security has accelerated the cycle of sectarian violence, as Shi'a, Sunni, and Kurds, unable to count on the United States for basic security, have naturally turned to their own sectarian militias for that protection.
I also believe that we need a much larger number of ground forces overall in the Army and the Marines. We have also been short-handed in Afghanistan, and who knows when we will be forced to intervene in some other region where Al Qaeda and like-minded groups set up a base for attack. It is a tragedy that this administration has failed to prepare our defenses adequately to pursue the war on terror. If this is a war, and I believe it will last a long time, then we should take the necessary steps and spend the necessary money to give us the best possible chance of succeeding.
FP: Robert Kagan, it was an honor to have you as a guest on Frontpage Interview.
Kagan: It has been a great pleasure for me. Thank you very much for inviting me.
SOURCE: WaPo (12-1-06)
The proposal, put forward by the State Department as part of a crash White House review of Iraq policy, follows an assessment that the ambitious U.S. outreach to Sunni dissidents has failed. U.S. officials are increasingly concerned that their reconciliation efforts may even have backfired, alienating the Shiite majority and leaving the United States vulnerable to having no allies in Iraq, according to sources familiar with the State Department proposal.
Some insiders call the proposal the "80 percent" solution, a term that makes other parties to the White House policy review cringe. Sunni Arabs make up about 20 percent of Iraq's 26 million people....
State Department counselor Philip D. Zelikow, author of the proposal, argued that the United States has compromised its prospects of success by reaching too far, according to the sources.
The State Department proposal, which was introduced at the second of 10 meetings and has dominated debate ever since, suggests that the United States would keep at arm's length diplomatic efforts to bridge the deep divide in Iraq between the two branches of Islam, the sources said.
State Department spokesman Tom Casey declined to comment on the proposal....
SOURCE: NYT (12-7-06)
Is anything missing? Apparently not. Socrates rates a long, considered look, but Mr. Osborne finds room for the lesser-known Cleisthenes. All the major rulers line up in good order, right down to Tony Blair and George W. Bush. Battles and wars, scientists and inventors, artists and tycoons, all get their turn in a smoothly rolling narrative that embraces Michelangelo and Fats Domino, Galileo and Dolly the sheep, the steam engine and the McDonald’s hamburger.
“Civilization” is not a recitation of greatest hits, or a checklist of events and dates. Mr. Osborne, with great skill, ties his disparate topics together into a coherent narrative, as absorbing as any novel, with felicitous turns of phrase, and tidy summations, on virtually every page. Theoretically it should be impossible to describe the life, thought and influence of Thomas Aquinas in less than two pages, but Mr. Osborne does it, showing no signs of strain. It would be hard to imagine a more readable general history of the West that covers so much ground so incisively.
But Mr. Osborne has profound doubts about his subject. His title might well have been followed by a question mark. At every point along the familiar trail of artistic achievement, scientific breakthrough and economic transformation, he stops to probe, often painfully, and to ask awkward questions. ...
As he speeds through the history of the past 20 years, Mr. Osborne goes on something of a rant, teeing off against elitist art, abstract philosophy, the injection of moral categories into foreign policy, privatization of public industries and virtually everything else in sight, including and especially Western rationalism, a guiding light for 2,500 years.
“The fundamental western belief that there are rational ways of organizing the world which will bring benefit to all has been at the root of every human-made catastrophe that has overtaken us,” he writes, “yet many of us still believe that we have a bounden duty to bring our simplistic, universalizing, ‘progressive’ systems of government, economics, education, policing, judiciary and morals to every part of every society on the planet.”
Whew. Only at the end of the book does it become clear that Mr. Osborne has been engaged in a very strange project. While painstakingly reconstructing the imposing, intricate edifice of Western civilization, he has planted a series of explosive charges. And then, when the job is done, he lights the fuses and watches as the entire thing collapses into dust.
SOURCE: NYT (12-8-06)
The cause was complications of diabetes, his daughter, Blair Tindall, said.
At his death, Professor Tindall was Kenan professor emeritus of history at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where he had taught for more than 30 years.
Professor Tindall was known in particular for his work on the rise of the New South in the first half of the 20th century. His magnum opus was “The Emergence of the New South, 1913-1945,” published in 1967 by Louisiana State University Press.
Writing in The New York Times Book Review in 1994, the historian Charles B. Dew called the book one of “the twin peaks of New South historiography.” (The other was C. Vann Woodward’s “Origins of the New South, 1877-1913,” published by Louisiana State in 1951.)
Reviewing “The Emergence of the New South” in 1968, Library Journal said that Professor Tindall “has given so full a picture in so readable a style that the work should appeal to laymen as widely as it will to scholars.”
Professor Tindall was also known for “South Carolina Negroes, 1877-1900” (University of South Carolina, 1952), which traces the fortunes of blacks in the state from the end of Reconstruction to the start of the Jim Crow era. The book was released in a new edition by the same publisher in 2003.
George Brown Tindall was born on Feb. 26, 1921, in Greenville, S.C. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Furman University in 1942; a master’s degree in history from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in 1948; and a Ph.D. in American history from North Carolina in 1951. During World War II, he served with the Army Air Force in the South Pacific....
SOURCE: AP (12-7-06)
Those to be honored at a White House ceremony on Dec. 15 [include] ...
Paul Johnson. The historian and journalist is being honored for writings that have ''captivated and educated people around the world.''...
David McCullough. The noted author and historian is considered a foremost expert on the American presidency.
SOURCE: Press Release-- NPS (11-28-06)
“Mr. Loether brings a lifetime of historic preservation experience in Connecticut to benefit these national programs,” said Antoinette Lee, the NPS Assistant Associate Director for Historical Documentation Programs.
Lee said Mr. Loether is a proven manager and a recognized expert in the National Register of Historic Places nominations, historical and architectural surveys, and the use of this information in historic rehabilitation, city planning, and research. He holds a Master of Arts degree in public policy and a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, both from Trinity College (CT.)
Mr. Loether will be responsible for managing the Federal Government’s premier historical designation programs so that they reflect the best in scholarly documentation and public use of this information. The National Register of Historic Places is the nation’s official list of properties—districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects—that are significant at the national, state, and local levels. National Historic Landmarks are acknowledged as among the nation’s most significant places that possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating and interpreting the heritage of the United States. Both programs recognize and promote preservation efforts of private organizations, individuals, and government agencies.
Deputy state historic preservation officer is part of Mr. Loether’s current title. He is also Connecticut’s Director of Culture, both titles fall under the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism. He is responsible for directing the State Historic Preservation Office and the federal National Register Program in the state. Prior to this, he was National Register specialist with the Connecticut Historical Commission where he wrote, reviewed, and edited National Register and State Register nominations and increased participation in the state’s Certified Local Government Program.
Mr. Loether headed his own firm for two years, completing historical surveys, National Register nominations, and project applications for the Federal historic tax incentives program.
He also served as Director of Technical Services at the New Haven Preservation Trust, during which time he conducted the historic resource survey of the City of New Haven, covering more than 6,000 buildings, and served as historic preservation rehabilitation consultant for the New Haven Historic District Commission. Previous to this, Mr. Loether served as Assistant Director of the Greater Middletown Preservation Trust and directed historical and architectural surveys of the Connecticut towns of East Hampton, Portland, Cromwell, and Middlefield.
SOURCE: Barton A. Myers at the website of H-CivilWar (12-6-06)
Review of The Civil War: A Concise Account by a Noted Southern Historian. Abilene: McWhiney Foundation Press, 2005. 142 pp. Maps, index. $12.95 (paper), ISBN 1-893114-49-X.
In just 137 pages of text, esteemed Civil War scholar Grady McWhiney presents his succinct narrative of the nation's most important historical event. McWhiney's final work offers readers a fast-paced yet factually packed history of the coming of the Civil War as well as a brief overview of the military activities of both Union and Confederate armies. McWhiney's long and controversial career as a southern historian will likely be remembered for his provocative interpretations about the origins of southern nationalism, especially his widely debated arguments that white southerners drew their cultural heritage from Scots-Irish-Welsh immigrants and that this Celtic heritage led Confederate troops to be more tactically aggressive during the Civil War. This final work of McWhiney's is synthetic and does not forward any major new cultural interpretations. The book's primary goal is to introduce the Civil War to a new generation of readers, an objective consistent with the goals of the Grady McWhiney Research Foundation that, according to its website, purports"to further education on topics regarding the history of the middle years of the 19th century in American history and topics in military history." In sum, _The Civil War_ is primarily a reflection on the entire era from the perspective of one who has written extensively on numerous topics in southern history and remained throughout his life an advocate for the region.
McWhiney's current work actually pulls back somewhat from his disputed earlier claims about the cultural origins of southern nationalism and Confederate military strategy. In this work, he does not reiterate his Celtic determinism as a rationale for the Army of Northern Virginia's offensive warfare. Here McWhiney blames Jefferson Davis for choosing the aggressive Confederate military policy and shields Robert E. Lee and other prominent commanders from direct blame. The author's narrative is strongest in its analysis of Confederate martial prowess, which he credits with winning many battlefield victories but also with the ultimate demise of the manpower-strapped Confederacy. McWhiney continues to assert here, as he and Perry D. Jamieson did in _Attack and Die_ (1982), that it was this penchant for the offensive that cost Confederates an irreplaceable number of men and officers. In this concise account, McWhiney even goes so far as to argue that since the Union army"had only a three-to-two manpower advantage over the Confederates" southerners could"have remained in their entrenchments and ... destroyed the federal army" (p. 93). In short, the author seems to have digested (if not completely accepted) his critics' rejection of his cultural claims for aggressive southern military policy. Nevertheless, he preserves his strongest assertions about the devastating nature of Confederate military assertiveness; he maintains that"taking the tactical offensive in nearly seventy percent of the major battles" ultimately cost the Confederacy the war (p. 95).
The volume does suffer somewhat from a particularly pro-southern interpretation of several important events during the conflict. McWhiney blames Abraham Lincoln for not seeking more accommodation with the South during the secession crisis and for not supporting the Crittenden Compromise more forcefully. He lets President James Buchanan's administration off far too lightly for letting the South go in peace, an act that some argue bordered on treason, especially in the case of Secretary of War John Floyd, who allowed vast military stores to fall into southern state government control on the eve of the war. Furthermore, McWhiney goes out of his way to emphasize that the war was really about the conflict between states' rights and federal power, even if the most important state right was the right to own human chattel. Many historians will read this analysis as simply _apologia_ for the institution of slavery that brought on the conflict. In one section, the author even questions the constitutionality of the Emancipation Proclamation as a legitimate war power permitted to the executive branch (pp. 112-113). Nevertheless, he is clearly right about the expansion of U.S. federal and executive power during the war; even if he neglects to mention that Confederate federal government went even further in centralizing executive power, as historian Paul Escott has shown. McWhiney is also quick to point out that the U.S. government failed to do enough to protect the rights of black southerners in the post-war era, yet he curiously does not mention that it was from the local and state governments in the redeemed South that they needed protection. Overall, it is McWhiney's tone, emphasis, and factual omissions that some readers will find problematic.
McWhiney's concise account also leaves out some of the less flattering dimensions of the Confederate cause. He mentions the massacre of black troops at Fort Pillow but takes great pains to minimize the event's implications for white Confederates' racial ideology. He plays down the evidence of other racial atrocities during the war entirely, despite excellent scholarly evidence to the contrary (p. 115). Although McWhiney offers a complete discussion of the Confederate debate over using black soldiers, he presents virtually no information on the approximately 180,000 black troops that served in the Union army. Two glaring absences are the lack of any discussion of the internal guerrilla conflicts across the Confederate home front and the absence of even a single paragraph on southern Unionism.
For scholars of the Civil War and the nineteenth-century American South, McWhiney's volume offers very little that is new, but it will impress upon all scholars many of the remaining lines of debate. For new students of the war, the narrative provides a quick introductory overview, albeit with a pro-southern interpretation of secession, states' rights and federal power, and actions taken by the Lincoln administration, especially regarding emancipation. With this in mind, the book still offers careful readers several interesting but often overlooked historical facts, like the statistical data on swine production in the South and the percentage of Confederate generals killed in relation to Union commanders. In sum, McWhiney's book is a fitting capstone work to his unique career as a"noted southern historian," encapsulating many of his strongest arguments and seasoned with his sympathetic southern point of view.
. Gary W. Shanafelt,"The Grady McWhiney Research Foundation" (August, 14, 2004), www.mcwhiney.org (June 2, 2006).
. Paul D. Escott, _After Secession: Jefferson Davis and the Failure of Confederate Nationalism_ (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1978).
. For a good introduction to racial atrocity, see Gregory J. W. Urwin, _Black Flag Over Dixie: Racial Atrocities and Reprisals in the Civil War_ (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 2004).
. A good reference for southern Unionism is John C. Inscoe and Robert Kenzer, eds. _Enemies of the Country: New Perspectives on Unionists in the Civil War South_ (Athens, GA: University of Georgia, 2001). For guerrilla warfare, see Daniel E. Sutherland, ed., _Guerrillas, Unionists and Violence on the Confederate Home Front_ (Fayetteville, AR: University of Arkansas Press, 1999).
SOURCE: Bob Tyrrell in the Jewish World Review (12-7-06)
[HNN Editor: Recently in the Wa Po Eric Foner opined that President Bush is the worst of the chief executives in US history: Pierce, Buchanan, A. Johnson, Harding, Coolidge and Nixon.]
... Onto this junk heap of inferior presidents he now heaves George W. Bush. Note, nowhere at "the bottom rung" does he place Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton. Carter blundered both in foreign policy and in economic policy, leaving office with interest rates at 21.5 percent, inflation at 13.6 percent and unemployment at 7.1 percent. Americans abroad were embarrassed to show their passports, and at least 52 were being held hostage in our Tehran embassy. Clinton got himself impeached by practicing the same abuse of power and ithyphallic compulsiveness that some of us reported he had practiced as a mediocre governor of Arkansas. Clinton's economy was healthy (save for its bubble), but that was mainly because he followed Republican economic policies. His plan to "grow the economy" via the reduced interest rates that he promised from a balanced budget (balanced mostly through military cuts) failed. Interest rates went up.
Foner adjudges Bush 43 guilty of all the failings of his aforementioned inferior presidents. Then he throws in an invidious comparison of Bush with President James K. Polk, whose Mexican-American War still embarrasses the Columbia University historian. Don't get him started on our acquisition of Alaska!
How does one respond to such tendentious pish-posh? It would do no good to mention Bush's vibrant economy with historically low unemployment, steady growth and a stock market at historic highs. Nor would the professor be persuaded that Bush's tax cuts brought the economy from the mild recession he inherited from Clinton and the attacks of 9/11 that he might also have inherited from Clinton. Foner utterly ignores the Bush administration's reform of the military that now allows us to project force around the globe and with little of the inter-service redundancy, thanks to retiring Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Bush has successfully pursued a war on terror, reversing Clinton's procrastination. Iraq has proven to be problematic but only because Bush is pursuing the idealism of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman in attempting to spread democracy. Had he been Machiavellian enough to topple Saddam and hand the country over to its generals or some other circle of power I doubt Foner would applaud.
The present administration has undertaken other admirable endeavors such as Social Security reform. Though now at a standstill, Bush's efforts surely will fetch the admiration of future historians. Clinton's neglect of Social Security is already under the historians' fire. May I direct Foner to James Patterson's recent volume in the Oxford History of the United States covering the Clinton years? Bush's inchoate efforts at healthcare reform are also admirable. Yet Foner remains unimpressed. He has, in his eagerness to answer a stupid question, revealed himself to be a hopeless partisan. ...
SOURCE: Gary Kamiya at Salon.com (12-6-06)
Said, who died in 2003, was born in Jerusalem, moving to the United States as a young man. A professor of English literature at Columbia University, he was also an outspoken advocate for the Palestinian cause, which made him extremely controversial. He sat on the Palestinian National Council but became an increasingly bitter critic of Yasser Arafat and resigned in 1991. (Said was probably the only person who could claim both that his office had been fire-bombed by right-wing Zionists and that his writings had been banned in the occupied territories by Arafat.) In"Orientalism," Said argued that from the beginning of Western civilization, Europeans have seen the East -- and in particular the Middle East -- as an alien and threatening Other, and have constructed a mythical and self-serving version of it. Said maintained that this version of the Arab world, which flowered in the work of British and French scholars in the late 18th century and continues to be accepted today, provided a justification for the Western imperialist projects that started with Napoleon's invasion of Egypt in 1798. Far from being objective, Said wrote, the scholars of the 18th and 19th centuries served the interests of power.
This Orientalist discourse, he maintained, is racist, condescending, controlling, dehumanizing, feminizing and"essentialist" -- that is, it asserts that there is a mysterious"essence," invariably religious, that defines the Arab world. That supposed essence, Said argued, is completely mythical and artificial, based not on actual knowledge or experience of the Arabs but purely on the West's imaginary construction. In other words, Orientalism is an enclosed system, impervious to reality and indeed designed to ignore it.
This monolithic assertion of Western villainy is based on a theoretical framework that Said derived from the French philosopher Michel Foucault. The key idea is"discourse," which Foucault defined as a system of thought that defines what can be"known." This system is inextricably linked to power in all its forms -- hence Foucault's famous formulation"power/knowledge." For Foucault and Said, it was a naive illusion to believe that knowledge can exist independent of power. Because Orientalism is a discourse, no one can really escape it: it is a trans-subjective phenomenon. But Said became dissatisfied with Foucault because his theory did not allow a way out. The other thinker to whom Said was indebted, the Italian theorist Antonio Gramsci, provided the concept of"hegemony," which allows for the possibility of resistance to inviolable discourse.
In"Orientalism," Said ranged far and wide, from famous scholars like Louis Massignon and Sir Hamilton Gibb to literary greats like Flaubert and Nerval to hosts of unknown travelers and writers. He unearthed countless examples of grandiose statements made by Westerners about the mysterious, threatening, promiscuous, God-obsessed, immutable East. These statements were not coincidental or contingent, Said argued, but reflected a universal imperialist discourse that historically governed everything any Westerner could say or think about the Arab world. As Said put it in reference to the 19th century,"It is therefore correct that every European, in what he could say about the Orient, was consequently a racist, an imperialist, and almost totally ethnocentric." To the end of his life, he believed that this view of the Arab world still held sway.
Said's book provoked a furious controversy that still rages today. With America trapped in Iraq, and with the Middle East on the verge of a regional crisis, the debate about"Orientalism" is not a merely academic one. Bush's entire"war on terror," and in particular his bizarre decision to invade Iraq, could be seen as driven by Orientalist beliefs and assumptions. Moreover, ominously and quite predictably,"Orientalist" ideas in Said's sense are beginning to pop up in the national discourse. One of the peculiar ironies of the Iraq war is that its architects used politically correct pieties to justify it. Bush and former deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz repeatedly used nameless skeptics,"who say the Arab world isn't ready for democracy," as straw men to give an idealist gloss to their plans for war. Today, disillusioned and angry conservatives are beginning to rebel against these pieties. Rush Limbaugh, as usual, gave crude voice to the inchoate beliefs of millions when he said that we should just"blow the place up." As the Iraq nightmare deepens, these opinions are likely to become louder.
At this fraught historical moment, a new book, Robert Irwin's"Dangerous Knowledge: Orientalism and Its Discontents," launches the most formidable assault on Said yet. Irwin has impeccable scholarly credentials: He teaches at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, has written on Arabic literature and art, and is the Middle East editor of the Times Literary Supplement. Irwin's book is a hybrid, both a history of the academic field of Orientalism and an all-out assault on Said's most famous book.
Irwin maintains that Said's thesis is false, the arguments he made for it dishonest, distorted and weak, and his theoretical framework self-contradictory and evasive. He charges that Said engaged in a counterfactual rewriting of history, attacking figures from earlier eras because they did not say or do what Said thought they should have. Said's entire project, in his view, is"a work of malignant charlatanry in which it is difficult to distinguish honest mistakes from wilful misrepresentations."
Irwin takes pains to point out that, politically, he is on Said's side."I have no significant disagreements with what Said has written about Palestine, Israel, Kipling's 'Kim,' or Glenn Gould's piano playing." This strengthens Irwin's position, as some of Said's supporters have argued that much of the opprobrium heaped on"Orientalism" has come from those opposed to Said's outspoken support for the Palestinian cause, thus serving as an example of the very Orientalist bigotry Said attacks. No such charge can be leveled against Irwin.
Irwin's strategy for demolishing"Orientalism" is to focus on the major figures in the field and to show that who they were, what they believed, and what their scholarship and attitudes were toward the Arab world bear no resemblance to Said's version. He devotes only one chapter to a direct critique of Said's book and in the final one considers other critics of Orientalism. The rest of"Dangerous Knowledge" presents the rich and complex history of Orientalist scholarship and the often eccentric men (and they were almost all men) who engaged in it. His goal is to use reality to dissolve the abstract and tendentious cloak of villainy that Said drapes over an entire scholarly field. It's on this empirical battleground, not in the lofty clouds of theory, that Irwin battles Said. He uses the history of Orientalism and the careers of Orientalists as a needle to let the hot air out of Said's 30,000-feet-above-facts balloon. And the result is one of the more spectacular deflatings since the Hindenburg.
Contrary to Said, Irwin reveals, the towering figures of Oriental scholarship tended to be unworldly, solitary figures, who, far from demonizing the Arab world or Islam, were sympathetic to it and were often regarded as suspiciously un-Christian by their contemporaries. Many were opposed to Western imperial designs on the Near East. Like scholars through the ages, they spent most of their time working diligently on often dry-as-dust textual or linguistic problems. They were also often slightly loony. The father of Orientalism, Guillaume de Postel (1510-1581), was, Irwin notes,"quite barmy": The"foremost expert on Arabic and Islam in Europe" also believed that a woman named Johanna was the angelic pope, the new Eve, the mater mundi who possessed X-ray vision that allowed her to"see Satan sitting at the center of the earth." Postel's weird ideas led the Inquisition to investigate him, but the Holy Office, in a kinder, gentler moment, decided that he"was not a heretic, merely insane."...
SOURCE: http://www.newsobserver.com (12-1-06)
Author Timothy Tyson said he nearly fell over when he got a phone call earlier this week with the news that he had won the 2007 Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion, a $200,000 international cash prize. The award is given jointly by the University of Louisville and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
"I'm very proud and pleased, and a little baffled," Tyson said in a phone interview Thursday from his home in Chapel Hill. Tyson is a historian at both Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill.
The book, which tells the true story of the killing of a young black man in Granville County, is not explicitly about faith. It is about pervasive racism in the South during the 1970s, which led to the acquittal of the murder defendants and provoked riots and social upheaval.
But Susan Garrett, coordinator of the Grawemeyer Award in Religion, said it speaks to a larger social issue. "Tyson is working with a systemic notion of sin," Garrett said. "Racism is a social sin. It reflects a brokenness. It's not the way God wants us to behave. The redemption is the remaking of the social system."
Named for industrialist and entrepreneur H. Charles Grawemeyer, the Grawemeyer Foundation at the University of Louisville annually awards $1 million in prizes -- $200,000 each for works in music composition, education, ideas improving world order, religion and psychology. Garrett said the religion award recognizes an idea, expressed in a book or documentary published or released within the past eight years. The winner last year was Marilynne Robinson for her novel "Gilead," about a third-generation Congregationalist minister in Gilead, Iowa, who writes a journal for his son....
SOURCE: Ralph Luker at Cliopatria (HNN Blog, where comments are posted) (12-3-06)
Update: Kennesaw State University's David Parker remembers George Tindall at his new Another History Blog. It's not just any other history blog, he says. It is theAnother History Blog.
Two years ago, we had a fine retrospective session about George's work at the SHA convention in Memphis. There, Dan Carter had copies of George's Ten Commandments for all of us. Beyond good advice – ah, Commands – they also give you a sense of his humor. Tindall's Ten Commandments began in a draft prepared by Wisconsin's William B. Hesseltine. Hesseltine, in turn, may have adapted his commandments from an earlier version by the University of Maryland's Horace Samuel Merrill. So, they're part of a tradition. Feel free to improve on Tindall's rendition, if you can:
Clio's Decalogue: The Commandments of the Muse
IThou shalt smite the Philistines hip and thigh with thy first sentence. This is the First Commandment.
SOURCE: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/ (12-3-06)
Police said Ghosh's home in an upscale Patna neighbourhood, barely 100 metres from the Pataliputra police station and a stone's throw from home commissioner Afzal Amanullah's house, was ransacked and valuables, including a computer, were stolen.
The assailants had stabbed the 53-year-old scholar and her 70-year-old maid Maltiya Devi, covered their bodies, and left.
The carnage was discovered by another daytime maid on Sunday morning, who raised an alarm when nobody responded to her knocks.
Ghosh and her sister, Tuktuk, an IAS officer, studied in Delhi University and were famous for their academic performance and activities beyond the classrooms.
Tuktuk, currently posted as special officer to Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee, rushed to Patna on Sunday for a last glimpse of her sister.
"Papiya was vigorously working to rebuild brand Bihar with her research work on Bihari diaspora,"said Shaibal Gupta, member-secretary of the Patna-based Asian Development Research Institute (ADRI) as news of the scholar's killing shocked Patna on Sunday morning. ...
SOURCE: http://www.courier-journal.com (12-2-06)
Roland notes that Clark was possessed of a "wry and pungent sense of humor." I couldn't help but remember a time many years ago when I was on a committee with the historian laureate when names were being suggested for an academic task. About one candidate there seemed to be general agreement until Clark finally spoke.
"He's a fine fellow," he remarked. "He's done some good work. But frankly, sometimes when he goes to the well and comes back, his bucket isn't quite full." Pungent indeed. The committee, needless to say, quickly settled on another individual for that assignment.
That kind of candor -- and sometimes wry humor and hyperbole -- pervades much of this autobiographical narrative. When Clarks moved into a dorm on the Ole Miss campus, it was "as dreary as any academic dwelling on the North American continent." His first impression of Limestone Street in Lexington was that it was a "grim, cluttered" place, "the ugliest one I have ever seen." And when he rode on Louisville's Watterson Expressway, it was "among the most unpleasant stretches of road on this continent."
Clark (1903-2005) led an extraordinary, outsized life. Born in Louisville, Miss., he found strength in long family roots as well as in the land. He labored two years on a dredge boat and pursued an educational trail that took him (after some summer study at the University of Virginia) to graduation from the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) in 1928.
He then went to the University of Kentucky, receiving an M.A. degree in 1929. And how did he decide to come to the Bluegrass State to study? "I literally flipped a buffalo nickel," he wrote, "and it came down on Kentucky." He began teaching at UK in 1931, and he received his Ph.D. from Duke in 1932. His tenure at UK would last until 1968....
SOURCE: http://fredericksburg.com (12-2-06)
A Marine during World War II, Bearss was seriously wounded on New Britain Island in the Pacific, and spent 26 months recuperating in hospitals--and reading about the Civil War.
After his discharge, Bearss went to Georgetown University on the GI Bill, worked as a geographer at the Naval Hydrographic Office in Washington and visited Civil War battlefields. He received a master's degree in history from Indiana University for a thesis on Confederate Maj. Gen. Patrick Cleburne. Perhaps most importantly, he became convinced that one cannot really understand a Civil War battle without walking the ground on which it was fought.
A visit to the battlefield at Shiloh proved pivotal in helping him decide to join the National Park Service as a historian. He began working at Vicksburg National Military Park in 1955. Bearss has written at least five major books on the Vicksburg campaign, including a three-volume compendium that many consider the standard work on the subject. His years in Vicksburg also included the raising of the ironclad USS Cairo from its watery grave in the Yazoo River and the establishment within the park of a museum devoted to the vessel.
The author of 13 books and a vast number of smaller works, Bearss has also studied other American conflicts, including the Revolutionary War and the Indian wars. His memory is legendary. It is said that he is capable of stepping out of a vehicle at the site of any battle that has taken place on this continent and leading a knowledgeable tour for those accompanying him. But perhaps his most important contribution to the historical profession is not unlike that of an Old Testament prophet, having trained disciples who have carried the message of the need to walk battlefields in order to understand what took place there into every corner of the National Park Service.
Since his retirement from government service, Bearss has continued to lead tours of Civil War battlefields for a variety of groups, including the Smithsonian Institution and the Blue and Gray Education Society. His tours have many repeat attendees, who call themselves the Bearss Brigade. Not unlike a rock star, Bearss has his own band of groupies. Some of the latter have taped his battlefield lectures, some of which have been edited and published here as "Fields of Honor."
SOURCE: Michael Kenney in the Boston Globe (12-3-06)
By Bob Woodward
All Governments Lie!
By Myra MacPherson
By Nathaniel Philbrick
By David Nasaw
By David Cannadine
By Dale Peterson
At Canaan’s Edge
By Taylor Branch
Justice for All
By Jim Newton
The Worst Hard Time
By Timothy Egan
The Omnivore’s Dilemma
By Michael Pollan
By Daniel Mendelsohn
The Cold War
By John Lewis Gaddis
In 1862, when the Civil War was going badly for the Union, Harriet Beecher Stowe traveled to the White House to meet with President Lincoln, who greeted her with the now-famous words "So you're the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war."
Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin," published in 1852 -- and a runaway best seller in its day -- had indeed fueled the growing anger over slavery that led to the war.
In a contrary fashion, the notable non fiction books of 2006 include several that, by detailing the military and political miscues that have marked the conduct of the war in Iraq, have been factors in turning opinion against the war.
Singling out Bob Woodward's "State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III" is not to slight the grim reports from correspondents in the field, such as Thomas Ricks's "Fiasco," or ignore the accounts of events leading up to the war, such as Lawrence Wright's "The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11."...
Whatever our nostalgic image of the Pilgrims, it does not include war. But Nathaniel Philbrick has included that word in the subtitle of "Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War," with what turns out to be good reason.
Philbrick, who has sailed the Mayflower's waters, recounts the familiar myth with style. But, wrote the reviewer, historian Jenny Hale Pulsipher, readers "will find themselves pulled into a much bigger and ultimately more meaningful story" -- the fracturing of the Pilgrim-Indian alliance that led to King Philip's War, and "the continuing legacy of dispossession and racism."
In a strong year for biographies, there is a notable "double bill" -- "Andrew Carnegie" by David Nasaw and "Mellon: An American Life" by David Cannadine.
Together, wrote David M. Shribman, the Globe's reviewer, they " represent the biographical arts at their best: distinguished biographers taking on some of the largest figures of our business, political, and cultural history" -- Carnegie, "the signature industrialist," and Mellon, "the signature banker."
And for Shribman, executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in the city where the two left their philanthropic mark, their " legacy rests more on what they gave away than on what they accumulated."...
Taylor Branch's "At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years 1965-1968" is the final volume in a magisterial study that places Martin Luther King Jr. in the context of his times.
The Globe's reviewer, Eric Arnesen, professor of African-American studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, wrote that Branch "offers a needed corrective to popular misconceptions of King's life, not merely restoring his powerful moral critique of Vietnam and poverty in America, but also reminding us just how much the now-celebrated King was criticized, dismissed, and harassed in his final years."
An equally towering figure of those times was Earl Warren. In "Justice for All: Earl Warren and the Nation He Made," journalist Jim Newton makes it clear that the momentous decisions of the Warren Supreme Court -- including Gideon and Miranda in criminal justice, Brown in school desegregation, and Griswold in reproductive rights -- were carefully shaped by Warren.
The 1930s were a time of testing for Americans, as recounted in "The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl," by Timothy Egan, the winner of this year's National Book Award for nonfiction.
Reviewing for the Globe, Carol Iaciofano called it "a powerful, deeply researched chronicle."...
War and its aftermath are the subjects of two other noteworthy books -- "The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million," by Daniel Mendelsohn, and "The Cold War: A New History," by John Lewis Gaddis.
"The Lost" recounts, with emotion-choking detail, New York literary critic Mendelsohn's search to learn how his great-uncle, and his wife and four daughters, met their deaths in Poland during the Holocaust.
The Globe's review noted that "[the] peeling away of the obscurities of time [and] penetrating into the depths" of survivors' memories give it a special place in Holocaust literature.
Reviewing "The Cold War," Michael C. Boyer, associate editor of Foreign Policy magazine, found Yale historian Gaddis's account "the most accessible distillation of that conflict yet written."
And if that brings this year's best back to the still-raging war in Iraq, consider this year's return of that book credited with starting that "great war" whose legacy remains still sore, " The Annotated Uncle Tom's Cabin." Edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Hollis Robbins, it would be a notable book in any year.
SOURCE: WaPo (12-3-06)
SOURCE: AHA Blog (12-4-06)
His colleagues at George Mason University will also hold a memorial service for him on Saturday, December 16, 2007 at GMU’s Arlington Campus. Visit the Center for History and New Media’s website for Levine to find more information on the memorial service, contribute memories, view images and video, and donate funds to help start the Lawrence Levine Prize at the Organization of American Historians.
SOURCE: http://inside.binghamton.edu (11-30-06)
J. David Hacker, assistant professor of history, received the grant as a Career Development Award from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
The total fertility rate — the number of children a woman has in her lifetime — fell from seven or eight in 1800 to slightly more than two today, Hacker said.
“It’s one of the most profound social revolutions of the period,” he said. “It has all kinds of ramifications for the social and economic history of the United States, including women’s ability to participate in the paid labor force, parental resources available for children’s education, the age structure of the population and even the future of the social welfare state.”
Declining fertility in that period was a major factor in the aging of the population. The median age of Americans rose from less than 16 years in 1850 to older than 35 in 2000, Hacker said. It is projected to reach 39.1 years in 2035.
“What’s interesting about the fertility decline is that the vast majority of it takes place before there’s modern contraceptive technology,” Hacker said. “It’s kind of ironic. Our best source of data on fertility — the U.S. birth registration system — was not in place until 1933, but at that point we’ve had almost 100 years of continuous decline in the birth rate.”
For that reason, Hacker’s quantitative study will rely primarily on data from the U.S. Census Bureau. He will describe the fertility decline in greater detail than previously possible, looking at differentials such as race, ethnicity, region and occupation. He will also explain the decline using multi-level empirical models.
“The census is quite rich,” he said. “I am employing a method of analysis called Own Child Fertility Methods, which allows me to look at women’s childbearing experience and correlate that with individual and household-level data that’s available in the population census and with county-level data available in the agriculture and manufacturing censuses.”
There’s a split in the literature about the fertility decline, Hacker notes. Economists argue that factors such as a decrease in available farmland, industrialization, urbanization and the rising costs of children are key causes. Social historians point more to culture and women’s status and role in the household. Hacker’s study, which he expects will lead to several journal articles and a book, is designed to address both of those viewpoints.
Hacker has pioneered the creation of cultural variables in the census to correlate with the fertility decline. He tracks child-naming practices as a proxy measure of parental religiosity, for instance. During the 19th century, he notes, there was an amazing secularization of the naming pool. Three-quarters of all children’s names had biblical origins in 1800, while by 1920 just a fifth had such origins.
“What I’ve shown,” Hacker said, “is that parents who rely on biblical names for their children have much larger families than parents who rely on secular names, controlling for economic and other factors.”
The 15 census microdata samples Hacker will examine include records for some 18 million individuals. “Computer technology has really aided the kind of research I conduct,” Hacker said. “There’s no way you could have analyzed 18 million cases — just 10 years ago it would’ve been difficult.”
People are late to perceive what’s happening in demography, even though it’s slow to change and has long-term ramifications, Hacker said. It is interesting to see the concerns that come up again and again throughout American history. For instance, that native-born Americans are having fewer children than immigrants. These issues arose at the turn of the 20th century and they’re resurfacing again today.
“All countries have experienced or are experiencing a demographic transition from high birth rates and high death rates to low birth rates and low death rates,” Hacker said.
“The United States is in some ways an ideal laboratory to study this both because it appears to be quite early in the adoption of conscious family-limitation practices and because of the heterogeneity of the population and its large-scale immigration.”
SOURCE: PR Newswire (12-1-06)
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Wakamiya Yoshibumi heads The Asahi Shimbun's editorial board. This article appeared in the IHT/Asahi Shimbun on November 11, 2006. It was posted at Japan Focus on December 4, 2006.]
Just after North Korea shocked the world Oct. 9 with its nuclear test, I met in Paris with French historian and political scientist Emmanuel Todd, author of Apres l'Empire (After the Empire: The Breakdown of the American Order). To my surprise, Todd, whose book prophesies the decline of the United States and points out the limits of a unipolar world, urged Japan to arm itself with nuclear weapons. Excerpts of that thought-provoking exchange follow:
Todd: Nuclear weapons are more frightening when they are unevenly distributed. Atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki because the United States alone had them. But they were not used during the U.S.-Soviet Cold War. Only when India and Pakistan both possessed nuclear weapons did they sit down to negotiate peace. Only Israel has nuclear weapons in the Middle East, and China is the only nuclear power in East Asia, so if Iran and Japan come to possess them under certain conditions, the distribution would be more balanced and stable.
Wakamiya: That is an extremely provocative view. The Hiroshima A-bomb Dome was made a World Heritage site out of a desire to abolish nuclear weapons. Rejecting nuclear weapons is part of Japan's national identity. Acquiring nuclear arms is not an option for Japan.
Todd: I chose Hiroshima as my first destination when I visited Japan. Although I understand Japanese public sentiment, the Japanese should also look squarely at the reality of the world. An even greater structural problem is the presence of two unstable systems, namely the United States and China. As I explained in "After the Empire," the United States with its military might, tends to resort to war whenever it is about to decline, saddled with huge budget deficits. And that country is Japan's only military ally.
Meanwhile, as China faces trouble at home with stagnant wages and social inequities creating tensions, it is stirring anti-Japanese nationalism to let its public vent discontent outward. Such a country is Japan's trading partner.
Wakamiya: But saying Japan should arm itself with nuclear weapons just because of such circumstances is jumping to conclusions.
Todd: Nuclear weapons are a shelter that provides safety. Once a country gains nuclear weapons, it becomes free from military alliances and will not be dragged into war. This idea is de Gaullist.
Wakamiya: But if Japan possesses nuclear weapons, it will not only cause the Japan-U.S. alliance to fall apart, but it would also cause China to grow increasingly wary of Japan and make Asia anxious.
Todd: In Japan and Germany, neither the family nor society is based on the principle of equality. Like relationships between older and younger brothers, the seniority system dominates society. In this regard, these countries are different from France, Russia, China and the Arab world. In World War II, Japan and Germany tried to become the big brothers of the world, and failed.
Postwar Japan is content to be America's little brother. It is afraid to become equal brothers like China and France.
Wakamiya: It is true that Japan was obedient to the United States, to which it lost World War II. But France, which was rescued by the United States, developed a rivalry with it. France also spearheaded the opposition to the Iraq war. How can it oppose its "benefactor"?
Todd: It is not simple rebellion, because France and the Anglo-Saxon world have been at odds with each other since the Middle Ages. The greatest reason that France possesses nuclear weapons is because it was repeatedly made a target of aggression. Nuclear weapons provided the quickest solution to its geopolitically unstable position.
Wakamiya: Statues of Charles de Gaulle and Winston Churchill stand in Paris. But Japan is under fire from neighboring countries for enshrining war criminals, including former Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, at Yasukuni Shrine. If Japan rids itself of its wartime trauma, Asia would become extremely wary of us. We have the economic strength and technology to make nuclear weapons, but have exercised self-restraint to maintain a balance.
Todd: We cannot live with the memories of World War II for millenniums. Europe is still obsessed with a sense of atonement for the Holocaust. That is why it tends to overlook the plight of Palestinians, and it is difficult to take the initiative in the Middle East. Since Japan has a strong sense of atonement for the war, even though it is a leading technological and economic power, it is unable to play a responsible role in international society. An "ethical standpoint" based on the past is not truly ethical.
Wakamiya: The real problem is the lack of strategic thinking that trades on "non-nuclear" principles. Moreover, in Japan, people who say we must not be fettered by the past tend to justify the past, just as others do with Yasukuni Shrine. Unlike you, many Japanese who are calling for nuclear armament also support continuance of the Japan-U.S. alliance.
Yet, there is no way the United States would recognize Japan's right to possess nuclear weapons.
Todd: What I found interesting about the Koizumi administration was the way it set off "nationalism for fun," by stimulating the public's nationalistic sentiments. It stuck with the prime minister's visits to Yasukuni Shrine and with territorial claims to tiny islands that are clearly of secondary importance. In a sense, it is "phony nationalism" aimed at hiding the fact that Japan is completely submissive to the United States.
Wakamiya: That's an interesting viewpoint.
Todd: First, Japan has to think what kind of relationships it wants to build with the world. I agree that perhaps it is still too early for Japan to possess nuclear weapons under existing ideologies. There will surely be big problems with China and the United States. But if Japan comes to have nuclear weapons in order not to be caught up in disputes or to escape from U.S. aggressiveness, China would likely show a somewhat different reaction.
Wakamiya: If Japan, a model student of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty framework, were to announce its intention to possess nuclear weapons, all worldwide restraints on nuclear weapons would be lost. The world would face much greater risk of nuclear weapons being used. All balance would be lost, and if international terrorist groups get hold of them, the result is unimaginable.
Todd: If you are really afraid of nuclear proliferation, you must calm down the United States. American threats make it reasonable for countries like Iran or North Korea--and perhaps others--to arm themselves with nuclear weapons. When I attended a symposium on Iraq in Berlin, an American panelist said something that threatened France. Before I knew it, I was saying, "Unlike Iraq, France has weapons of mass destruction."
Wakamiya: When Japan first supported the Iraq war, I asked a high-ranking government official why Japan could not show more fortitude. I was surprised when he answered, "We don't have nuclear weapons like France." The Japanese government should be proud to announce to the world its determination not to possess nuclear weapons. It should use its resolve as a weapon in international politics. As the only country in human history to experience the ravages of atomic bombs, Japan has an obligation to convey the tragedy of what such weapons can do. Even if urged to possess nuclear weapons, Japan should decline. There is nothing wrong with being an "odd country."
Todd: That is an interesting idea, but if a country that was attacked by nuclear weapons were to possess them, it would set off international debate about nuclear weapons. It would provide a major turning point.