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: Globe and Mail (Canada) (6-1-07)
University of Victoria historian Dominique Clément says today's plethora of human-rights legislation and institutions can be traced directly back to the demands by young people in the 1960s and 1970s for a Canada that would be more caring and sensitive toward their marginalized fellow citizens: the poor, the disadvantaged, homosexuals and racial minorities.
“Biology alone did not define the baby-boom generation,” he says in a paper presented at this week's Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Saskatchewan.
“The youth of the Sixties were the front-runners of a specific historical movement in which political activism and radical ideas were pronounced. Though the generation was not revolutionary, it had a revolutionary impact.”
Dr. Clément's paper weighs in on a subject that has been hotly debated for years: whether the hippies generation and their dewy-eyed embrace of Bob Dylan's The Times They Are a-Changin' actually made any difference.
He says they did. They changed the times. They didn't just make a lot of noise and then fade into middle age.
SOURCE: Austin American-Statesman (6-3-07)
So here Brinkley, his wife and three children are, settling into their big new house in Stratford Hills off Red Bud Trail, Brinkley having just left his job at Tulane University in New Orleans — where he was director of the Theodore Roosevelt Center for American Civilization and a history professor — for a new post at Rice University in Houston.
Said Rice Provost Eugene Levy, in a statement announcing Brinkley's move in mid-May: "His work on contemporary American history and politics resonates across a broad spectrum of public interest, and his interpretive commentaries in the broadcast media are informative and widely watched."
This is indeed a coup for Rice, which has made a deal with one of a relative handful of historians who are well-known outside academia, and for Austin, where Brinkley already has many friends. It also makes Brinkley arguably Austin's most prominent Hurricane Katrina refugee.
Brinkley is author of the Katrina book "The Great Deluge," which won the 2007 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year for its combination of history, journalism and survivor anger, and "The Boys of Pointe du Hoc," about a D-Day invasion battle that President Reagan invoked in speeches, now optioned as a movie by Warner Bros. Most recently, he is editor of "The Reagan Diaries" (HarperCollins), chosen for the job by Nancy
Reagan shortly after the former president's death in 2004. Regarded as well-connected and something of a media darling, Brinkley was famously spanked by Slate's David Plotz for overexposure in the aftermath of John F. Kennedy Jr.'s death. But there's no questioning his work ethic or his ambition: "I'm grabbing 20th-century America by the scruff of the neck," he said.
SOURCE: http://blog.wired.com (6-1-07)
The history-teaching part comes from playing through scenarios and answering questions about Canada's history as the game progresses. ...
SOURCE: NYT (6-1-07)
The controversy, which has divided teachers, parents and students at the Horace Mann School, a private school in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, erupted this week.
The Record, the student newspaper, published an editors’ note on Wednesday stating that the head of the school, Thomas M. Kelly, had forbidden the editors from publishing two letters and an opinion essay concerning the case of the history teacher, Andrew S. Trees.
Dr. Kelly did not respond to telephone messages left at his office late yesterday, and Dr. Trees did not respond to messages left at his home and with his parents.
Dr. Trees had published a novel last year, “Academy X,” that poked fun at the mores and foibles of affluent children and their overbearing parents at a fictional elite school. His narrator, a teacher named John Spencer, calls the school an “ethical wonderland” and laments the antics of Caitlyn Brie, a pampered student at the school.
(Reviewing the novel in The New York Times last year, Michiko Kakutani wrote, “In the early pages of this novel Mr. Trees demonstrates inklings of a Kingsley Amis-like ability to extract humor from the travails of his hapless hero, but any hopes that the book might become a ‘Lucky Jim’-ish romp are soon squashed by his preposterous plot and John’s tedious class rage at Caitlyn’s parents and their ilk.”)
Dr. Trees’s annual contract to teach at the school was not renewed for the next school year, prompting an outcry from some teachers and students.
In a letter to the student newspaper last week, a fellow history teacher, Peter P. Sheehy, wrote that the novel “has angered some because the themes and issues he explores correspond very closely to issues with which we struggle.” While some believe “the novel reflects poor taste,” he added, “such critiques do not warrant the punishment of an author or artist who says something unpopular or controversial.”
Last week, according to The Record, some 150 students signed a petition in defense of Dr. Trees...
SOURCE: Historian John Price writing at the website of Japan Focus (5-26-07)
Norman’s last act came in the wake of accusations made in the U.S. Senate that he was disloyal, a possible communist spy. This was the third round of such charges. On each occasion, RCMP and foreign affairs officials had grilled and cleared Norman of any wrongdoing. Still, the costs were heavy. The first round had prompted his recall from Tokyo in 1950; the second had led to his effective demotion in 1953.
Norman’s appointment as ambassador to Egypt in 1956 was the beginning of his comeback and coincided with the outbreak of the Suez Crisis. Exhausted by his part in advocating for a U.N. peacekeeping mission (for which Lester Pearson won the Nobel Peace Prize), Norman was suddenly faced with renewed U.S. charges. He opted to end his life rather than face continued persecution.
Born and raised in Japan, Norman studied classics at Trinity College in the U.K. before pursuing his doctorate in Japanese history at Harvard. At a time when Asian Canadians were excluded from government service in Canada, Norman’s exceptional knowledge of Japan and his language skills were rare commodities. Hired by External Affairs in 1939, Norman was posted to the Tokyo embassy in 1940. He returned to Canada in a prisoner swap after Canada declared war on Japan. At war’s end, Norman went back to Tokyo to serve on General Douglas MacArthur’s staff during the Occupation of Japan. The following year, 1946, he became head of Canada’s mission in Tokyo, a position he held until his recall in 1950.
No evidence has ever been found to justify charges of disloyalty. Still, to the extent Norman is a part of public memory at all, it is usually as a suspected spy or victim of McCarthyism. This has tended to overshadow Norman’s actual activities both as a historian and a diplomat. Fortunately, new documents written by or about Norman continue to emerge from dusty archives from Ottawa to Tokyo. They not only provide a better sense of Norman, they also reveal much about the Occupation of Japan, and Canada-U.S. collaboration in the making of the American Empire in East Asia.
George Kennan comes to Ottawa
One of the most intriguing new documents is a short memorandum written by George Kennan in May of 1948, upon his return from a field trip to Occupied Japan. Kennan had become the main U.S. spear carrier in the emerging Cold War after writing in February 1946 what later became known as the “long” telegram in which he articulated the necessity of quarantining the Soviet Union, spurning the policy of co-existence that had mainly characterized the wartime and immediate postwar relationship. His views found favor in the highest echelons of the government and military and he was placed in charge of the Policy Planning Staff, a high-powered think tank within the State Department. In reviewing U.S. policy in Japan and the preparations for a peace treaty that were then underway, Kennan aggressively pushed his view that postwar reforms had gone too far, that a peace treaty was premature, and that the Occupation should continue so that Japan’s economy could rebuild. These views found their first official articulation in a memorandum to the Secretary of State in October 1947. These preliminary observations prompted Kennan to visit Japan in March 1948.
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SOURCE: NewsHour (PBS) (5-28-07)
JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, Professor Bakhash, your wife, Haleh Esfandiari, couldn't leave Iran since December, has been in prison since earlier in May. What's the latest on her condition?
SHAUL BAKHASH, George Mason University: Well, as in the previous case, we have no information about her condition in prison. The only thing she's allowed is a very brief telephone call, usually lasting under a minute, to her mother in Tehran, in which she can ask after the health of her grandchildren and say she's OK. But we feel there's a minder standing right next to her.
So we have no idea as to her condition, and they have denied access to the family. They've denied access to the lawyers.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you hear anything through third channels?
SHAUL BAKHASH: No, so we do not know how she's being treated in prison. And this is a prison which is notorious for its interrogation methods.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Has she been charged with something?
SHAUL BAKHASH: She hasn't been officially charged with anything, but a statement by the Ministry of Intelligence last Monday implicates the Wilson Center, where she works, in this fantastical plot, so to speak, to advance a velvet or what the Iranians call a "soft revolution" in Iran.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Changing the minds of the Iranian people?
SHAUL BAKHASH: Well, so to speak. But this is -- sorry -- yes, it is criminalizing scholarly activity. This is saying, holding conferences and inviting people to give talks somehow is nefarious activity.
SOURCE: Victor Davis Hanson at National Review (5-30-07)
For many years, he was among the giants in American classics in general, and among a postwar generation of scholars in particular at Berkeley, such as J.K.Anderson, William Anderson, Steven Miller, Ronald Stroud, Leslie Threatte, and several others, whose high standards, teaching, and research made UCB the top center of classics in the world-and sadly that generation was not replaced at Berkeley by a subsequent group of such a caliber. Professor Pritchett is the sort of scholar we will not see again in our generation — if ever.
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (5-30-07)
Between recommendations for hair loss treatments, vasectomies and the musical Spamalot, Stalin's sinister portrait is currently hogging five consecutive escalator advert boards on the London Tube. "Child. Man. Monster. Find out How it Happened.'' Sebag Montefiore's new book, Young Stalin, is being plugged as the intellectual's beach read this summer, a ground-breaking work of thrilling energy and scholastic thoroughness that has turned up a wealth of new material on the early sexual, political and criminal career of Josef Stalin - never mind that it will break most people's baggage weight allowance.
Sebag, as he is generally known, is all nervous excitement - while his family are simply relieved to be out of the shadow of a murderous tyrant. "I am ashamed to say that both my children knew Stalin before they knew Thomas the Tank Engine,'' he admits. His wife, Santa, a prolific writer of romantic novels, found the blood-soaked presence of Stalin in their marriage a trial of endurance but, in a touching coda to five pages of acknowledgements, he praises her endlessly "sunny encouragement and serene charm''. All of them, he says, are now thankfully entering their own period of deStalinisation.
Santa and Sebag, a cottage industry of literary productivity, sound like characters in a novel themselves. He, a buccaneering sort of adventurer-turned-historian, youngest of four sons, his doctor father a Lithuanian Jew, his mother from Poland, not a drop of English blood in his veins. She, the daughter of an old English farming family, the Palmer-Tomkinsons, friends of the Prince of Wales, perennial source of gossip column interest.
By the time they met, he had several lives behind him - failed investment banker, novelist, self-appointed war reporter, journalist. His best man, journalist Robert Hardman, memorably described him at their wedding as a cross between Woody Allen and Biggles. Although he was starting to reinvent himself as the historian he'd always wanted to be, based on his knowledge of Russian affairs, it was a haphazard stab at being the homme serieux. Then, a friend told him about this amazing girl who worked in a perfume shop on Walton Street...
"Before Santa, I used to be the most shambolic person. I was all over the place, trying to do too many things, dating about 10 girls at the same time, travelling chaotically and missing aeroplanes, never settling down to anything, failing to meet deadlines. I was a complete mess. She grounded me. I have become very disciplined now. I would never have written the books without her. Definitely the cleverest thing I ever did was to marry Santa. Maybe it's the only clever thing I did.''...
SOURCE: http://www.thefirstpost.co.uk (6-1-07)
In Ringside at the Revolution: An Underground Cultural History of El Paso and Juarez, David Dorado Romo establishes the US Immigration Department's systematic brutality along the Rio Grande border.
Mexican visitors were forced to strip naked and subjected to 'screening' (for homosexuality, low IQ, physical deformities like 'clubbed fingers') and to 'disinfection' with various toxic fumigants, including gasoline, kerosene, sulfuric acid, DDT and, after 1929, Zyklon-B (hydrocyanic acid) - the same gas used in the Holocaust's death camps.
The ostensible reason for the US fumigation was the fear of a typhus epidemic. Yet in 1916, the year before such 'baths' were enforced, only two cases of typhus had occurred in the poorest El Paso slum.
"This is a huge black hole in history," Romo told me. "Unfortunately, I only have oral histories and other anecdotal evidence about the harmful effects of the noxious chemicals used to disinfect and delouse the Mexican border crossers - including deaths, birth defects, cancer, etc. It may well go into the tens of thousands. It's incredible that absolutely no one, after all these years, has ever attempted to document this."...