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: Susan L. Rosenbluth, the editor of JVO, in the Jewish Voice and Opinion (12-1-06)
“Here is my challenge to Neve Gordon: I visit Israel frequently, and am easily available for service of process. I invite Gordon to sue me for essentially restating in my own words what Prof Plaut has said: It is my opinion that Neve Gordon has gotten into bed with neo-Nazis, Holocaust justice deniers, and anti-Semites. He is a despicable example of a self-hating Jew and a self-hating Israeli,” wrote Mr. Dershowitz.
Dr. Gordon, a BGU senior lecturer with special interests in “Political Theory, Human Rights, and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” based his suit against Dr. Plaut on an Internet email posting after Dr. Gordon wrote a positive (Mr. Dershowitz called it “a fawning”) review of the book Beyond Chutzpah by Norman Finkelstein in Ha’aretz.
While Mr. Finkelstein does not deny that the Holocaust occurred, he regularly minimizes the number of survivors and refers to many of them as “hoaxes” and “hucksters.” He has accused Elie Wiesel of lying about his past.
Who Wrote the Book?
In 2003, when Mr. Dershowitz, an ardent, eloquent, and not always uncritical defender of the Jewish state, published his well-received book, The Case for Israel, Mr. Finkelstein initially suggested the book, which has been described as a proactive defense of Israel and almost an amicus brief to the court of public opinion, had been written by the Israeli Mossad.
When Mr. Dershowitz produced his hand-written manuscript, Mr. Finkelstein changed his story and claimed that, in the book, Mr. Dershowitz had plagiarized information and ideas from Joan Peters’s From Time Immemorial, a claim most scholars—including Harvard’s own investigative team—dismissed.
The charge appears again in Beyond Chutzpah, which, according to Mr. Finkelstein “copiously documents that The Case for Israel is among the most spectacular academic frauds ever published on the Israel-Palestine conflict.”
Some say the animus between Messrs Dershowitz and Finkelstein prompted the latter to title his new book Beyond Chutzpah as a surly tweak at Mr. Dershowitz’s 1991 best-seller Chutzpah....
SOURCE: Newsday (12-4-06)
Freelance historian James Patrick Lynch said the 79 acres, known as the Westwood property, were legally handed over by the Shinnecocks as part of a 1659 restitution agreement for arson crimes committed by a few tribal members. Lynch said the land was signed over then by tribal leader Wyandanch, a Montauk. That claim led several Shinnecocks in the courtroom to raise their eyebrows at each other, but tribal leaders did not respond later to requests for comment.
"The Shinnecocks have not maintained a continuous and exclusive use of the Westwood lands in Southampton," said Lynch, who in previous hearings acknowledged he has never found a valid American Indian land claim out of several from California to the East End.
But the Shinnecocks' lawyer, Christopher Lunding of Manhattan, said he will call a Yale University historian who will show that the original land purchase from the tribe was invalid. Lunding said land purchases from American Indians were prohibited by the General Court of the Colony of Connecticut, which had authority over that part of Long Island at the time.
"The deeds under which they say it was sold were void," Lunding said.
"That is not an argument that has been made by the tribe at any point in history prior to this case," answered Michael Cohen, lead attorney for the Town of Southampton.
SOURCE: Janet Maslin in the NYT (12-4-06)
He has written or edited more than a dozen books about the Civil War and is the director of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College. He lives on an exquisitely situated Gettysburg farm near Cemetery Ridge and about a mile from the site of Pickett’s Charge. “The Gettysburg Gospel” includes a picture of the farm too.
Is this scholarship, or is it everything but the kitchen sink? Both. But it adds up to fascinating monomania. As Professor Boritt well knows, the hallowed ground of Gettysburg has been much stampeded by generations of experts, and Lincoln fever rages now more than ever. New turf simply does not exist.
So he has chosen to focus on one crucial moment in this president’s history and examine it from every angle. He seeks to capture the atmosphere in which the Gettysburg Address was delivered, the changing meaning of the speech over time, the minutiae that surround its provenance and the amazing ways in which it has been garbled, misquoted and willfully misunderstood.
He has the background and authority to make “The Gettysburg Gospel” as interesting to Civil War experts as it will be to neophytes. Professor Boritt’s bona fides include blurbs from Doris Kearns Goodwin and Ken Burns. Conspicuously missing: Garry Wills, whose Pulitzer Prize-winning “Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America” would seem to have fully covered every aspect of the speech and its delivery.
But Professor Boritt has the temerity to suggest that there is more to be said, and that Mr. Wills’s interpretation is at times excessively scholarly. While expressing great admiration for Mr. Wills’s analysis of the Gettysburg Address, he places it at one end of the spectrum....
SOURCE: Jamie Glazov interviews Max Boot at frontpagemag.com (12-4-06)
FP: Max Boot, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Boot: Thanks for the invitation to share my views.
FP: What motivated you to write this book?
Boot: I wrote War Made New to provide historical perspective on the challenges we face in coping with warfare in the Information Age. Ever since America's victory in the 1991 Gulf War--a victory made possible by stealth aircraft, smart bombs, GPS locators, and other advanced technologies--there has been a lot of heated debate over how and whether the U.S. military should transform itself to meet future threats.
I don't have any easy answers, but I do try to introduce ordinary readers to this important discussion by looking at how previous Great Powers have coped with epochal changes--the Gunpowder Revolution (1500-1700), the First Industrial Revolution (1850-1914), the Second Industrial Revolution (1917-1945), and now the Information Revolution (1970 to the present). To make this debate more vivid and less theoretical, I build my narrative around a series of battles, starting with the French invasion of Italy in 1494 and concluding with the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, which illustrate the changing nature of warfare.
There has been a great deal written on these subjects, of course. But much of it is in the specialized literature and unfamiliar to the normal reader. War Made New tries to bring together a lot of writings on disparate subjects—ranging from the distant past to the near future, and from warfare to politics to economics—in a single, readable narrative. That is something no one else has attempted, at least not recently.
FP: Can you talk a bit about how revolutions in military affairs have changed the world?
Boot: Revolutions in Military Affairs (RMAs) have played a central role in shaping the history of the past 500 years. The Gunpowder Revolution led to the rise of the West, because European states proved more adept than their rivals in harnessing cannons, muskets, multi-masted sailing ships and other breakthrough technologies. In 1450, at the dawn of the Gunpowder Age, Europeans controlled only 14% of the world’s land surface. By 1914, following not only the Gunpowder Revolution but also the Industrial Revolution, the sphere of European control had swelled to 84% of the world. This was in many ways the big story of the last 500 years.
But not everybody within Europe benefited equally. Gunpowder armies were much more expensive to equip, train, and maintain than the knights who had wielded power in the Middle Ages. Feudal lords didn’t have enough money to compete effectively in gunpowder warfare. This required the resources of a super-lord—a king or queen. Thus the dictates of the battlefield proved a powerful impetus for the growth of nation-states. In the words of one political scientist, “War made the state, and the state made war.” Many small states were left behind by this process. From Scotland to Navarre, from the Italian city states to Poland, countless political entities that could not harness effective military power were either temporarily or permanently swallowed up by their more powerful neighbors. In fact the map of Europe is still largely set in the pattern drawn in the Gunpowder Age.
The two Industrial Revolutions placed fresh strains on states and forced them to become even more effective in mobilizing military power—or pay the consequences. A number of states that were powerful in the Gunpowder Age were not able to industrialize effectively and collapsed by the end of World War I, the major war of the First Industrial Age. Think of the Romanoffs, Habsburgs, and Ottomans: all ancient dynasties swept away. Outside of Europe, the First Industrial Age furthered the European hegemony of the world. But by the time the Second Industrial Age was well under way (the 1940s), Europeans had succeeded in spreading their destructive technology and their even more destructive ideologies (nationalism, communism, etc.) to the farthest corners of the planet, thereby undermining the very empires they had founded. Thus Europeans wound up losing a series of colonial wars to their former subjects.
The Information Revolution--which has its origins in advances in computer technology dating back to the 1940s but which got going in earnest in the late 1970s--has already produced its share of upheavals. You can argue about why the Soviet Union collapsed when it did but surely a large part of the explanation is that we had a Silicon Valley and they did not. By the early 1980s the Soviets realized they were falling further and further behind the United States in the application of computer technology for economic and military purposes. They tried to reform but failed, precipitating the collapse of the Soviet Empire. The United States, in some measure due to its mastery of Information Age warfare (demonstrated so convincingly in the 1991 Gulf war), was left standing alone atop the world as an undisputed hegemon.
This is of course only a brief survey of the impact of RMAs and it’s possible to quibble with this interpretation or that, but it is hard to dispute that these upheavals have been major moving forces throughout history—a role that they continue to play.
FP: What challenges does America face in coping with Information Age warfare?
Boot: America is the undisputed master of conventional warfare in the Information Age. No one can stand against our armed forces in a “fair” fight. Those who have tried, whether Saddam Hussein or Slobodan Milosevic, have wound up defeated and on trial for their lives. Our undisputed primacy in conventional conflict is largely due to the lead we have taken in applying information technologies to the battlefield. No one else has such an array of precision-guided munitions (“smart bombs”), surveillance systems (JSTARs, AWACS, Predators, Global Hawks, etc.), communications networks, command posts, and other sophisticated systems to match those employed by the United States. The use of these technologies, operated by smart, dedicated volunteers, has allowed the U.S. to smite such adversaries as the Serbian and Iraqi armies at scant cost to itself.
Unfortunately, our smarter enemies have learned from such experiences that it is fruitless to oppose the United States on a conventional battlefield. They are pursuing other strategies, ranging from acquiring weapons of mass destruction (Iran, North Korea ) to employing terrorist tactics (al Qaeda, Hezbollah), to negate our firepower superiority. There is nothing new about this; regular armies have been frustrated by irregular warfare since the days of Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar. What’s new today is the scope and destructive potential of our foes. Unlike most past guerrillas, they are no longer confined to one country or one region. Today insurgents can operate around the world, thanks to the proliferation of the Internet, cell phones, jumbo jets, and other Western technologies. Our Islamist foes are in fact waging a global insurgency against the West.
This presents a novel challenge for which the American armed forces and the American government more broadly are not well configured. Our institutions were designed to wage conventional, nation state adversaries in the Industrial Age—in World War II and the Cold War. They were not designed for combating bands of super-powerful terrorists organized in loose-knit networks.
One of the major themes of War Made New is that it’s not enough to acquire first-class technology. You also need the right organizational structure, training, and leadership to take advantage of that technology. When it comes to Information Age warfare, our enemies have in some respects made the transition more effectively than we have. We need to turn our rigid government hierarchies into more adaptive, decentralized networks able to keep up with our enemies.
The campaign waged in Afghanistan in the fall of 2001—chronicled in War Made New—suggests how effective a more nimble military can be. A few hundred special operators backed up by the world’s most advanced technology helped the Northern Alliance to topple the Taliban in just two months. Unfortunately our military has seldom been so improvisational—or so effective—in the years since. That’s something we should try to correct.
FP: What would your advice be to the American administration in its military efforts in the terror war in general and in Iraq in particular?
Boot: War Made New doesn’t lay out an agenda for how we should retool the government for the war on Islamist terror networks, but let me suggest a few ideas here.
For a start we need to make the interagency process more effective—to get various government departments, such as State, Defense, and CIA, to work more closely together. The lack of such cooperation proved a major hindrance in Iraq. This may require legislation along the lines of the 1986 Goldwater Nichols Act, which brought greater unity to the different branches of the armed forces.
Another urgent priority: to create a government agency tasked with rebuilding war torn societies. Since the end of the Cold War, we have been engaged in nation-building an average of once every 18 months under both Republican and Democratic administrations. Think of Panama, Somalia, Haiti, northern Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq. Yet each time we have had to start from scratch, because we do not have a cadre of experts devoted to such work. Much of the burden falls on the armed forces, which is not well trained for this task. We paid a heavy price in Iraq for our lack of preparedness: the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance charged with running postwar Iraq was created just two months before the invasion took place. To avoid such fiascos in the future, we need a permanent agency that develops plans for dealing with potential trouble spots years in advance and has a cadre of experts, civil as well as military, on call.
We also need to enhance knowledge of foreign languages and cultures within not only our armed forces but also within other branches of governments. This is another weakness exposed by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. To correct it, we need a multifaceted effort akin to the crash program we undertook early in the Cold War to enhance knowledge of Russia and China. We need to upgrade language training from elementary school to college; to change curricula at military schools to emphasize learning about foreign countries; to send more military officers to study abroad; to ease the frenetic pace of job-hopping within the military where officers are often moved after two or three years in one assignment, and thus don’t have time to become really expert in another country; and to reward officers who acquire in-depth knowledge of foreign lands. (Foreign Area Officers are worth their weight in gold, but they qare often slighted by promotion boards that favor combat leaders above all.) We also need to revise anachronistic security clearance procedures that make it difficult or even impossible to hire for sensitive positions people who have spent years living in foreign countries or who have relatives living there.
There is much more that needs to be done in other areas such as improving Information Operations (the Pentagon has no assistant secretary in charge of this vital area), expanding the size of the active duty army and Marine Corps, beefing up civil affairs and psychological warfare detachments, and increasing the number of special operators.
Above all we need to realize that few if any insurgencies have ever been defeated simply by killing insurgents. This is a mistake we made initially in Iraq, where we focused too much on “kinetic” operations instead of on providing basic security and economic development to the people. We managed to capture Saddam Hussein and to kill Abu Musab Al Zarqawi but it made little difference in the long run. We need to be careful not to repeat this same mistake in the broader war on Islamist terrorism. Manhunting has its place but it’s not going to be enough to win this struggle. To do that we need to support more effective governance structures throughout the Muslim world to prevent radicals from gaining power. That is a giant task, and one for which the U.S. government is not very well configured right now. President Bush and his successors need to continue the process of reform (internal and external), whatever happens in Iraq.
FP: Max Boot, thank you for joining us.
Boot: My pleasure.
SOURCE: http://www.civilrights.org (12-4-06)
Civilrights.org: So how did you find out that you were selected for the Civilrights.org book club? What were your thoughts when you found out?
James Loewen: I have no idea how I found out....My reaction was, "I’m delighted." Because the civil rights community, if you will, is one of the most important audiences for "Sundown Towns." And the reason for this is, first of all, the civil rights community might do something about it, and second of all, to my surprise the civil rights community on the whole doesn’t know about sundown towns. I have asked at least eight civil rights lawyers, for instance, if they knew that at least one town in the south – and perhaps as many as four or five or six whole counties – threw out their black population in response to Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. And they had utterly no idea that that had happened. Now, that’s a response to Brown that’s a whole lot more hostile than Prince Edward County, Virginia, which merely closed all its schools. You know they got rid of the whole black population. Is that actionable? I would think so. I would think it’s still actionable.
Another reason I want to reach the civil rights community is that I think the court, particularly the Supreme Court, did not know about – put it this way, did not take judicial notice of – the sundown suburbs of Detroit when it decided Bradley v. Milliken. And if it had known about them it could not have claimed, as the key justice, I think Potter Stewart it was, in his deciding opinion claimed that the suburbs were all-white for "unknown and perhaps unknowable reasons." Well, the suburbs were all white for sundown policies, and this is clear after you read my book. So maybe there is some way to go after that decision and get it re-adjudicated. Certainly, that decision has left Detroit and the Detroit metropolitan area screwed to this day. And Detroit is the most segregated metropolitan area, it has the most downtown abandonment, and it had until the last five years the most sundown towns. Many of them have just recently broken and black folks can now live safely in at least three of the five Grosse Points, for instance, and in Dearborn, and in some of the others. But the damage has been done over the last several decades.
CR.org: Looking at your books, "Lies Across America," "Lies My Teacher Told Me," and "The Truth about Columbus" it is safe to say that you have a very sharp focus on telling the truth about American history. What drives you to write these kinds of books?
JL: My interest in history particularly grew from my first fulltime teaching job, which was at Tougaloo College in Tougaloo, Mississippi, next to Jackson, Mississippi. 1968-1969 was my first year teaching there full-time. I was assigned to teach the courses I expected to be teaching in sociology, but I also was assigned to teach a section of the freshman social science seminar. This was a class invented by the history department and required of all first-year students. And it introduced them to – you know the drill – sociology, anthro, poly sci, econ, psych, in the context of African American history. Made sense; 99 percent of our students being African American.
Now that’s the same chronology as American history, so second semester begins right after the civil war with, of course, Reconstruction. Second semester began. I had a new seminar, a new group of students. I didn’t want to do all the talking that first day of class, so I asked them, “Okay, what is Reconstruction, what happened then?”
And I will always remember this event. It was an “ah-ha” experience, or perhaps better an “oh no” experience. Sixteen out of seventeen of them said “that was the period right after the Civil War when blacks took over the government of the southern states but they were too soon out of slavery, so they screwed up, so white folks had to take control again.”
I sat there stunned. There are of course at least three direct misstatements of fact – I would call them lies – in that sentence. Blacks never took over the governments of the southern states. All of the southern states had white governors throughout the period; all but one had white legislative majorities. Second, the Reconstruction governments did not screw up. Mississippi, in particular, had probably the best government during Reconstruction than it had at any later point in the 19th century. Throughout the south, the Reconstruction governments wrote better state constitutions than any constitution the southern states have ever had, including those that they labor under today, and so on.
And so therefore, white folks didn’t take control to end it. Instead a certain group of whites took control at the end of Reconstruction: white racist Democrats using KKK tactics. In fact, it was of course the original Ku Klux Klan.
So I thought, "What must it do to you to believe that the one time your group was center stage in American history they screwed up?" Can’t be good for you. How could you come to believe this? I mean, if it’s true that’s another matter, you have to deal with it; you have to come to terms with it, figure out why this happened. But it did not happen. This is what we in sociology call BS or “bad sociology.”
And so I proceeded to try to get historians in central Mississippi to write a better textbook, because I visited black schools, with black teachers, and all black students – this was just before massive school desegregation in the Deep South – and I watched them teaching white supremacist history, because they were just teaching the book, particularly in, of course, Mississippi history, which was required in 5th grade and again in 9th grade.
I couldn’t get anybody else to write it. So finally after a year and a half I got a grant. I got together some students and faculty at Tugaloo, and some students and faculty at Millsaps College, the nearby white college, and together we wrote a new history of Missisippi. We had to sue the state to get it adopted. The lawsuit is called Loewen et al v. Turnipseed et al. But we did win.
But that whole escapade proved to me that history can be a weapon; that it can be used against you and that it had been used against my students.
By the way, the civil rights community might be interested to know, that our initial civil rights attorney associated with us from the beginning was Mel Leventhal, who was then the husband of Alice Walker and famous in his own right as the attorney who won Alexander v. Holmes, the case that desegregated the Deep South. And then after he moved to New York, our new attorney was Frank Parker, who became very famous as probably the number one voting rights lawyer in the United States before his death....
SOURCE: Editor & Publisher (12-1-06)
Foner opens by noting that such rankings have long been a favorite among historians, with changes in rankings (Truman up, Teddy Roosevelt down, etc.) setting off near-seismic rumblings. He describes some of the consensus losers, for example: "At a time of national crisis, Pierce and Buchanan, who served in the eight years preceding the Civil War, and Johnson, who followed it, were simply not up to the job. Stubborn, narrow-minded, unwilling to listen to criticism or to consider alternatives to disastrous mistakes, they surrounded themselves with sycophants and shaped their policies to appeal to retrogressive political forces....
"Even after being repudiated in the midterm elections of 1854, 1858 and 1866, respectively, they ignored major currents of public opinion and clung to flawed policies. Bush's presidency certainly brings theirs to mind."
Then there's Nixon, "mostly associated today with disdain for the Constitution and abuse of presidential power. Obsessed with secrecy and media leaks, he viewed every critic as a threat to national security and illegally spied on U.S. citizens. Nixon considered himself above the law.
"Bush has taken this disdain for law even further. He has sought to strip people accused of crimes of rights that date as far back as the Magna Carta in Anglo-American jurisprudence."...
SOURCE: NYT (12-3-06)
Mr. Ignatieff, who is also a well-known author and broadcaster, returned to Canada just last year after spending three decades in Britain and the United States. His lack of connections within the Liberal Party and Canada in general seemed to play a role in his defeat. He led for the first two of the four convention ballots. But unlike Mr. Dion, he was unable to attract endorsements from other significant candidates as they dropped from the race.
On the final ballot, Mr. Dion gathered 54.7 percent of the 4,605 delegates’ votes compared with 45.3 percent for Mr. Ignatieff.
SOURCE: Ruth Rosen in the San Francisco Chronicle (12-3-06)
Bettina Aptheker's engrossing memoir,"Intimate Politics," is about breaking free -- emotionally, politically and intellectually -- from her father, Herbert Aptheker, the most famous Marxist historian in the United States, whose 1943 book"American Negro Slave Revolts" shattered the image of happy, complacent slaves.
She adored her political, erudite father, who was a well-known Communist."When I was a little girl I wanted to be just like my father," Aptheker writes."Whatever he did, I did, or tried to do." And one thing that Herbert Aptheker did extremely well, according to Bettina, was to deny any reality he didn't want to acknowledge.
Emulating her father, then, meant sharing his denial of the many questionable political realities, evading intellectual complexities she could not yet articulate, ignoring her own feminist observations of women's lives, restraining her sexual desire for women and, most of all, repressing childhood memories of her father's sexual abuse.
Determined to be his loyal, perfect daughter, Aptheker writes that she repressed this memory, so that she could function in her father's world. Her denial allowed her to become one of the few female leaders of the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley in 1964 and to play a major role in the trial of her childhood friend and comrade Angela Davis, who was acquitted of murder charges. Her denial of her deepest desires and memories also allowed her to marry and raise two children.
But denial eventually catches up. Outside, Bettina Aptheker appeared confident and productive. Inside, she lived with constant anxiety and serious depression."Incest survivors know despair," she writes."It is not your ordinary run-of-the-mill despair. ... It's a different feeling. All through childhood, all through my twenties, I had this feeling. It was bottomless, endless, bone-deep, down to the marrow. I choked on it, fell prostrate with it. It was connected to a self-loathing so deep, so limitless, so without end that suicide seemed the only possible relief."
As she began to sift through her childhood materials and memories to write this book, Aptheker suddenly remembered what she had repressed all those years. The memory was not recovered by therapy; it just suddenly appeared, and she collapsed to the ground:
"My father and I played other games too, beside baseball. I was three or four years old when we began playing 'choo-choo train.' ... My father was behind me, and then the train arrived 'at the station,' and we had to wait for the 'passengers' to get off and on. Our train rocked back and forth, back and forth, and my father had his right arm tightly around me. He was the 'locomotive' even though he was behind me. Our train shuddered just before it was supposed to leave 'the station,' except it didn't leave. ... And then he stood me up and we went into the bathroom and he washed me off, very gently. It didn't hurt. He never hurt me. And I knew not to tell. As I grew bigger we played different games, but they all had the shudder. Older still, I knew it was not a game. I still knew not to tell because he told me 'terrible things will happen.' My father stopped molesting me when I was thirteen and we moved to a new house."
Soon after I read this shocking revelation, a colleague asked me whether it was really necessary for her to reveal this incest to the world. The answer, I believe, is that Bettina Aptheker's life and intellectual biography make no sense without understanding what she suffered and repressed. Although she describes this incest in one short account, it is a thread running through her efforts to become her own person.
Her revelation is not an act of vengeance. Nor does she write with rancor, but rather with boundless love and forgiveness that grew as she acknowledged her love for women, embraced feminism and moved in new intellectual directions. She never brought it up for discussion with her father. On the contrary, it was Herbert Aptheker, during the last year of his life, who asked if he had hurt her during her childhood. She told him the truth, and assured him that she had long forgiven him. He believed her, but couldn't remember the events. Gradually, that changed:"After his heart attack, still in the hospital, he said, 'you've forgiven me.' It wasn't a question. It was a statement. I said, 'Yes, I have forgiven you.' He made the statement repeatedly in the months following, reassuring himself. That was how I came to realize that he had hid own knowledge of the incest. It was always present in his consciousness, just under the surface, as it had been in mine."
To be a successful and loyal daughter, Bettina Aptheker needed to repress these childhood memories. As she freed herself of her father's rigid Marxist worldview, she gained a new freedom to integrate a feminist analysis into her intellectual work, to embrace aspects of her Jewish heritage, as well as Buddhist practices, and to create a lasting partnership with a woman who"taught her the meaning of hope."
Though she describes episodes of debilitating despair, Aptheker's stunning memoir is not primarily about incest; it is ultimately a political, intellectual and emotional story of one woman's redemption. Once read, it is not easily forgotten.
SOURCE: Chicago Tribune (12-2-06)
Dr. Leopold, 94, died Thursday, Nov. 23, in Evanston, an NU spokesman said.
Dr. Leopold, a Manhattan native with a gilt-edged academic resume, specialized in American diplomatic history and taught at Northwestern until 1980. For the last 17 years at NU, he was the William Smith Mason professor of history and taught a small-group discussion class on the history of American foreign policy.
He was a popular professor whose classes invariably filled up quickly despite a deserved reputation as a tough grader. "In a period of grade inflation, he never relented to the pressure to inflate his grades," said Steven Harper, a former student who is writing a biography of the professor due out next year.
Throughout his teaching career, Dr. Leopold, a lifelong bachelor, lived in a university apartment shared with graduate students. Retired history professor Clarence Ver Steeg recalled that Dr. Leopold readily accepted dinner invitations from married colleagues but said his focus was always on students. He maintained a steady correspondence with many long after they graduated.
"He was a person who attended to his students, particularly his undergraduate students," Ver Steeg said. "He was a great one for keeping in touch with students. They became an extended family for him."
Among those taking classes taught by Dr. Leopold were former U.S. senator and presidential candidate George McGovern, and current U.S. Rep. James Kolbe (R-Ariz.)....
SOURCE: Robert Townsend at the AHA blog (11-30-06)
Of course, a student strictly interested in earnings will probably find the average starting salaries for students with professional degrees more appealing. Business majors earned an average of almost 25 percent more out of college than history majors, and the salaries for students with science and engineering degrees were significantly higher.
These differences seem to diminish a bit over time. According to a new federal survey of college graduates who received their baccalaureate degrees in the 1992–93 academic year, history majors were earning an average of $54,662 ten years after the degree. That was just $1,000 less than the average for all fields, and well above the average of for those who majored in one of the other humanities ($48,162) or education ($39,424).
The gap in average salaries between men and women who majored in history is rather troubling, however. Men reported an average salary of $62,662, while female history majors reported an average of just $42,364. That 48 percent gap is almost twice the difference for graduates from other humanities fields. And unlike students in most of the other fields, the gap did not really narrow when we filter the data down to graduates with full-time jobs.
SOURCE: AHA Blog (11-28-06)
SOURCE: Atlantic Monthly (12-1-06)
Joyce Appleby is a professor emerita of history at the University of California at Los Angeles and a past president of the American Historical Association. Her works include Thomas Jefferson; Inheriting the Revolution: The First Generation of Americans; and A Restless Past: History and the American Public , a collection of essays and addresses published last year.
H. W. BRANDS
H. W. Brands is the Dickson, Allen, Anderson Centennial Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin. He has written biographies of Benjamin Franklin, Theodore Roosevelt, and Andrew Jackson, and his most recent book is The Money Men: Capitalism, Democracy, and the Hundred Years’ War Over the American Dollar.
Robert Dallek is the author of Franklin D. Roosevelt and American Foreign Policy, 1932–1945, which won the Bancroft Prize; a two-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson; and An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963. This spring, HarperCollins will publish his new book, Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power.
Ellen Fitzpatrick is the Carpenter Professor of History at the University of New Hampshire. Her works include History’s Memory: Writing America’s Past, 1880–1980 and Endless Crusade: Women Social Scientists and Progressive Reform.
DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN
Doris Kearns Goodwin won the Pulitzer Prize for No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roose velt: The Home Front in World War II. She is also the author of The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys; Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream; and most recently Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, which won the Lincoln Prize.
JOHN STEELE GORDON
John Steele Gordon is the author of Hamilton’s Blessing: The Extraordinary Life and Times of Our National Debt and The Great Game: The Emergence of Wall Street as a World Power, 1653–2000. His most recent book is An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power.
DAVID M. KENNEDY
David M. Kennedy is a professor of history at Stanford University and the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929–1945. He won the Bancroft Prize for Birth Control in America: The Career of Margaret Sanger.
Walter McDougall is a professor of history and international relations at the University of Pennsylvania. He won the Pulitzer Prize for The Heavens and the Earth: A Political History of the Space Age. His other works include Promised Land, Crusader State: The American Encounter With the World Since 1776;Let the Sea Make a Noise: A History of the North Pacific From Magellan to MacArthur; and most recently Freedom Just Around the Corner: A New American History, 1585–1828.
Mark Noll is the McAnaney Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame. His works include The Civil War as a Theological Crisis; The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield, and the Wesleys; and America’s God, From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln.
GORDON S. WOOD
Gordon S. Wood is the Alva O. Way University Professor and a professor of history at Brown University. He won the Pulitzer Prize for The Radicalism of the American Revolution and the Bancroft Prize for The Creation of the American Republic, 1776–1787. His latest book is Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different.
SOURCE: NYT (12-1-06)
In his new memoir Mr. Hughes chronicles the first installment of that journey from provincial boyhood to urbane adulthood. The volume begins with a horrifying car accident that Mr. Hughes suffered, at the age of 60, in May 1999 — an accident conjured in all its bloody awfulness with unnerving, Goyaesque detail — and then flashes backward to his youth in Sydney in the 1940s and 50s.
By virtue of his kinetic language and restless, observant eye, Mr. Hughes is close to incapable of being boring, but this uneven book is not one of his better efforts. His descriptions of Australia here lack the historical depth of field displayed in his stunning history of that country, “The Fatal Shore,” and his asides about various artists lack the fierce critical acuity displayed in his galvanic study of Goya (2003) and his 1990 collection of essays, “Nothing if Not Critical.”
As for his personal reminiscences, they run the gamut from the riveting to the banal, from the marvelously entertaining to the category of simply T.M.I.: too much information. His descriptions of friends, family members and acquaintances can be colorfully Dickensian, but his excursions into self-analysis often feel forced and oddly lumpy....
The trouble with “Things I Didn’t Know” is that the reader knows there is a pony there, can even see the nose and tail of the pony from afar, but after going to the trouble of trying to see the pony up close, discovers that Mr. Hughes has only half-finished the job of excavating the poor beast.
SOURCE: Proctor on the NYT op ed page (12-1-06)
WHEN the former K.G.B. agent Alexander V. Litvinenko was found to have been poisoned by radioactive polonium 210 last week, there was one group that must have been particularly horrified: the tobacco industry.
The industry has been aware at least since the 1960s that cigarettes contain significant levels of polonium. Exactly how it gets into tobacco is not entirely understood, but uranium “daughter products” naturally present in soils seem to be selectively absorbed by the tobacco plant, where they decay into radioactive polonium. High-phosphate fertilizers may worsen the problem, since uranium tends to associate with phosphates. In 1975, Philip Morris scientists wondered whether the secret to tobacco growers’ longevity in the Caucasus might be that farmers there avoided phosphate fertilizers.
How much polonium is in tobacco? In 1968, the American Tobacco Company began a secret research effort to find out. Using precision analytic techniques, the researchers found that smokers inhale an average of about .04 picocuries of polonium 210 per cigarette. The company also found, no doubt to its dismay, that the filters being considered to help trap the isotope were not terribly effective. (Disclosure: I’ve served as a witness in litigation against the tobacco industry.)
A fraction of a trillionth of a curie (a unit of radiation named for polonium’s discoverers, Marie and Pierre Curie) may not sound like much, but remember that we’re talking about a powerful radionuclide disgorging alpha particles — the most dangerous kind when it comes to lung cancer — at a much higher rate even than the plutonium used in the bomb dropped on Nagasaki. Polonium 210 has a half life of about 138 days, making it thousands of times more radioactive than the nuclear fuels used in early atomic bombs....
That's a question American historians are still struggling with, 141 years after an assassin's bullet ended the life of the 16th president.
To George M. Fredrickson '56, Ph.D. '64, the foremost American scholar on the history of race, Lincoln was neither - and both. He was "big enough to be inconsistent," the working title of a book Fredrickson is writing for Harvard University Press.
Fredrickson, the Edgar E. Robinson Professor of U.S. History Emeritus at Stanford University, was at Harvard this week to deliver three lectures on the puzzle of Lincoln and race, sponsored by the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research.
In his first lecture, on Nov. 14, "A Clash of Images," Fredrickson sketched a brief history of the shape-shifting views of Lincoln and race held through the years by American historians, commentators, and ordinary citizens.
The second lecture (Nov. 15) tracked Lincoln's political path through the Illinois of the 1850s. The future president grew up in "the most negrophobic" of the newer states, said Fredrickson, a place where slavery and blacks were hated equally.
In his third Du Bois Lecture today (Nov. 16), Fredrickson examines a Lincoln whose views on race evolved and matured in the moral cauldron of the Civil War.
"Every field of history has its heroes," and Fredrickson is one on the issue of race, said Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Victor S. Thomas Professor of History and chair of African and African American Studies. Introducing him at the first lecture, she said, "I can't even think of a class that I don't assign one of your books."
It was 30 years ago that Fredrickson first addressed the conundrum of Lincoln and race, in an essay whose title suggested Lincoln's racial ambivalence toward black Americans: "A Man, but not a Brother."
His renewed pursuit of the question, he said, will outline a "more complex" picture of Lincoln and race, drawn from Lincoln's own words, and from diaries and memoirs of his contemporaries.
"Every generation invents a new Lincoln," said Fredrickson - a fact that makes the historiography of Lincoln's views on race a tangled tale.
After the war, came decades of praise for Lincoln as the "Father Abraham" who led blacks out of slavery. Booker T. Washington, in 1891, called Lincoln "the great man, that first American."
But just a few years later, writer Thomas Dixon in his 1905 novel "The Clansman" portrayed Lincoln as a model white supremacist, a Southern gentleman who opposed black suffrage and favored colonizing ex-slaves.
By 1922, a few cracks appeared in the way black Americans viewed Lincoln as well. In that year, W.E.B. Du Bois expressed what Fredrickson called "mixed and unsettled feelings" in an essay about Lincoln and race, though he also praised Lincoln as "big enough to be inconsistent."
From the 1930s to the 1950s, Fredrickson said, American historians did not excoriate Lincoln for his racial views, but simply recorded episodes of seeming bigotry in a matter-of-fact way.
By the 1960s, there was a "dramatic turn" in views of Lincoln, said Fredrickson. On the one hand, Martin Luther King Jr. saw him as an icon for the emerging civil rights struggle. On the other hand, Malcolm X - a believer then only in black saviors - told black Americans to take down their pictures of Lincoln.
Among historians at the same time, there was open dissent regarding Lincoln's true views on race. Some dredged up the Kentucky-born president's sometimes - to modern ears - insulting remarks about the black race, and his advocacy of sending ex-slaves off to colonies in Africa or the Caribbean. They saw Lincoln as too cautious and conservative, a reluctant emancipator.
By the late 1970s and early 1980s, views of Lincoln among historians had swung back to being more sympathetic, with a flawed Lincoln being given credit for good intentions, said Fredrickson.
But a spate of recent books have appeared, reviving a kind of historians' civil war over Lincoln's racial views.
Among historians arrayed on the favorable side is Richard Striner. His 2006 book, "Father Abraham: Lincoln's Relentless Struggle to End Slavery," attempts to demolish the periodically popular views of Lincoln as a racist and as a reluctant emancipator.
Striner reminds the reader of an 1864 public letter, in which Lincoln wrote: "If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong."
On the other hand, historian Lerone Bennett Jr. excoriates the 16th president for his views on race, with an anger visible in the title of his controversial 2000 book, "Forced Into Glory: Abraham Lincoln's White Dream." Lincoln's views of colonization, Bennett argues, supported a form of "ethnic cleansing."
In the same camp, Michael Lind's 2005 book, "What Lincoln Believed," draws a picture of the great emancipator as a lifelong segregationist who had a low opinion of the intellectual capacities of black Americans. Lind sees Lincoln as an advocate of democratic republicanism, said Fredrickson, "though a white version of it."
In this fray of Lincoln historiography, Fredrickson hopes his new book will offer a more nuanced look at Lincoln's views on race, and on the racial environment the president grew up in and evolved beyond.
Between the two warring views of Lincoln - savior of race or racial bigot - there is, said Fredrickson, "a third possibility": that Lincoln's attitude changed significantly during the war years, when he came to see "blacks as potentially equal citizens."
Still, Lincoln had a "very mixed record" on the issue of race, said Fredrickson.
Undeniably, the 16th president had a lifelong hatred of slavery as an institution. But in the end, Fredrickson said, "this did not make him a racial egalitarian."
SOURCE: Jacob Laskin at frontpagemag.com (12-1-06)
The course description also suggests that the course portrays the history of black Americans, even contemporary black history, as a struggle against oppression. Thus, the themes the course purports to explore include “ways for the black community to survive discrimination and oppression” and how “black people have managed to sustain themselves in the face of almost constant adversity.” Moreover, according to the course description, “what brings together nearly all representatives of the black experience are the common efforts to achieve the same goals: the elimination of racism, the realization of democratic rights and greater social fairness within a racially pluralistic society, and achievement of cultural integrity of the black community.”
The claim that American society continues to discriminate against blacks is an opinion, rather than a fact, and an academic course should be expected, at the very least, to provide contrary perspectives on the black experience. The course does not do so. Instead, it is based primarily on the writings of the more radical black thinkers, who hold to just this view of the United States. For instance, a text frequently used throughout the course is Let Nobody Turn Us Around: Voices of Resistance, Reform and Renewal: An African-American Anthology, is an anthology of writings edited by the course's professor, Manning Marable. Marable is a member of the “central committee” of a Communist splinter group called the Committees on Correspondence. The latter half of his anthology is devoted almost exclusively to the writings of radical activists. Among them are essays by “black Bolshevists,“ including one by communist poet Claude McKay paying tribute to the “freedom” and the support for “the Negro” in Soviet Russia. Other communist writers include Langston Hughes and Paul Robeson, as well as former Black Panther Party members Stokely Carmichael, Angela Davis, and Huey Newton. In obvious sympathy with these writers, the book omits all mention of the Black Panther Party's racist platform and its record of crimininality, including drug trafficking, rape, extortion and murder, explaining instead that the party's “armed confrontations with police and the free educational and the health-care programs they sponsored for poor communities conferred upon the Panthers an almost legendary status.” Likewise, an introduction to an essay by Mumia Abu Amal describes the death-row inmate and convicted cop-killer as “America's most celebrated and controversial prisoner on death row.” Beyond such blatantly polemical works, students are encouraged to watch films and visit the websites of anti-prison activists. These include films like Critical Resistance to the Prison Industrial Complex, made by the far-Left Video Activist Network, and websites like www.thetalkingdrum.com, which rail against the “prison industrial complex.”
Having absorbed -- without the benefit of differing scholarly perspectives -- the course's underlying claim that Black Americans remain victims in modern-day America, students are required to apply this knowledge to becoming political activists. This is the transparent aim of the “service-learning” component of this course. In order to better understand the “theory you are exposed to in the classroom and throughout the assigned texts,” students are required to volunteer with four pre-approved organizations that work with the black community. Through this work, students can “understand your social responsibility.” (Emphasis in the original.)
Because, in the ideological schema imposed of the course, Black communities are “oppressed,” students are informed that by volunteering they will be “empowering those who have no voice.” Apparently, the fact that a leading presidential contender, Barack Obama is Black, as is the Secretary of State, does not reflect the contrary. Accordingly, students can volunteer with the Harlem Education Activities Fund, where they can take part in the so-called “Social Identity Program.” Alternatively, students may volunteer with Harlem Fifty, an organization that works with young Black men who have spent time in prison for criminal activity. The idea behind this experience, according to the course description, is to train students to see Black Americans not as individuals responsible for their own actions but as victims of unjust policies.
An integral part of the volunteer project is the creation of an open space in which Columbia students and Harlem Fifty's young Black men can discuss the impact of the African American experience in the United States. They are the effects of many of the policies inflicted on African American communities, and together, you will be able why and how this has come about.
Once the volunteer project is completed, students are required to write a “reflection paper” relating the political themes promoted in the course to their community activism. “Crucial to writing a successful reflection paper is the ability to connect theory and practice,” the course description notes. So as to arrive at predetermined political conclusions, students are asked to consider a series of purposely leading questions. The following are some examples:
Where you able to find any connection between the history of African Americans in the United States and what the students or trainees you worked with currently experience in their daily lives?
How have your experiences in the community helped you learn about structural racism today?
In what way did you encounter structural racism at your organizations or with the people you worked?
What change is needed for the groups of people you worked with?
How can this change be accomplished: with individual action or collective action--within the system or challenging the system?
What privilege did others bring? What systems are the sources of such privilege? How are you or others disempowered by your/their lack of such privilege?
Whether there is in fact “structural racism” should be a question not an assumption or point of departure for an academic course. By grading students on the basis of political criteria, the course establishes arbitrary standards that have no place in an academic setting. That the course promotes one-sided political views is objectionable enough. That students' grades depend on the extent to which they embrace its political line is a travesty of the educational enterprise.
Professor Marable combines political activism and classroom instruction in another course he teachers in the African Studies department, “Critical Approaches to African American Studies” (G4510y). The course description reveals Professor Marable's view that the principal goal of African American Studies is to train students for political activism: Black Studies is “prescriptive,” presenting theoretical and programmatic models designed to empower black people in the real world. By its very nature, it requires a “praxis” - the unity of critical analysis and social action, the production of new ideas, not merely designed to interpret the world, but change it.
This course description is repeated almost verbatim from Professor Marable's introduction to Dispatches from the Ebony Tower: Intellectuals Confront the African American Experience, a book that is also required reading for this course. In it, Professor Marable writes there is “a practical connection between scholarship and struggle, between social analysis and social transformation.” Marable further describes African American Studies as a “means to dismantle powerful racist intellectual categories and white supremacy itself,” and states that “black studies must…be an oppositional critique of the existing power arrangements and relations that are responsible for the systemic exploitation of black people.”
Professor Marable's motivations are political not academic. Accordingly, he does not assign readings that challenge his radical critique of American society, as an academic professional would, but provides students with a menu of texts that reinforce his ideological prejudices and promote their agendas. These texts include his polemic Living Black History: How Reimagining the African-American Past Can Remake America's Racial Future. In this book, Professor Marable rejects the historical “master narrative” that American society has extended certain rights and benefits to its black citizens. On the contrary, according to Professor Marable, American society is “historically organized around structural racism.” Marable calls for “popular resistance to the new racial domain” that in his view “oppresses' blacks in modern America.
One can detect the indelible stamp of political advocacy in many other courses in the department. The course “Black Intellectuals Seminar: Pan-Africanism and Internationalism, 1900-1975” (AFAS C3936) is billed not as an academic survey of pan-African ideology but as a recruitment to this very cause. “The overall aim of the course is for students to gain structured, critical, but appreciative knowledge of and insights into the variety of Pan-African ideas and intellectuals,” explains the course description. That the aim of a properly academic course is not to encourage students to think in specific ways about the subjects under discussion is nowhere mentioned, and other courses demonstrate equivalent ignorance on this score.
The course “Topics in the Black Experience Seminar: The Novels & Career of Toni Morrison,” (AFAS C3930/003) is not a critical survey of the author’s work, as one might expect in an academic course, but a blatant exercise in hagiography: In the course description, Morrison is declaratively described as “the greatest African-American writer of the 20th century whose place in the American literary canon is “above many white American male authors.”