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: Independent (9-28-07)
But first the nonsense had to be got out of the way. Not just the history – Nazi reliance on a dodgy document. But the historiography: credulous readers' reliance on Margaret Murray's fiction of witchcraft as Christianity's ancient religious rival. Cohn, the most modest and gentle of men, swept her 1921 romance The Witch-Cult in Western Europe into the dustbin. His weapons were, as in all his inquiries, patience, scrupulous testing of evidence and empathy into minds of very different cultures, all backed with formidable linguistic skills.
It was as a linguist, not a historian, that he had begun his academic career. The son of a Jewish father and a Catholic mother, Cohn had graduated from Christ Church, Oxford, with a First in Modern Languages. Wartime service in the Intelligence Corps may have reinforced his interest in the persecutors and the persecuted and ultimately in the ambition to write their history....
SOURCE: http://www.cdispatch.com (9-28-07)
Michael Beschloss was no personal friend of Johnson's or his family. But for a while he became a little Johnson-like, as he recorded the bits and pieces of the life and times of the former president most people aren't familiar with in “Reaching for Glory: Lyndon Johnson's Secret White House Tapes, 1964-1965.”
Beschloss is a historian.
“Michael Beschloss reminds us that the art of the historian shouldn't be much different than the art of the fiction writer,” Dr. Tom Richardson, dean of Mississippi University for Women's College of Arts and Sciences and Eudora Welty Chair in Humanities, said Thursday night at the university's 2007 Welty Gala as he introduced Beschloss as the night's guest speaker.
Beschloss reminds everyone of what really matters, said Richardson noting the “whos” matter much more than the “whens” and “wheres.”
And Beschloss took a few moments to share about the whos, offering some tidbits of history he's learned during research.
Inspired by a James Bond film, Johnson bought an amphibicar, said Beschloss.
“One way he used it was, if you were a new member of the Johnson staff, he'd say ‘Let's take a ride in my car.' You wouldn't exactly say no,” he offered.
Johnson would head straight for Lake Lyndon B. Johnson.
“At which point, Johnson would invariably say, ‘The brakes have failed. We're going to die,'” Beschloss continued. It was a test, he said, to see if in crunch time the aides would try to save the president first or themselves; 100 percent of them tried to save themselves....
SOURCE: Press Release--Fordham (9-24-07)
“It’s so good to be back,” says Rowe, who lives near the Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art dedicated to the art and architecture of the Middle Ages. It is a favorite spot for her, as she also teaches in Fordham’s medieval studies program. “It’s the greatest place in the world to be an art historian.”
Rowe has been at Fordham’s Department of Art History and Music on the Rose Hill campus since the fall of 2004, two years after receiving a doctorate in art history at Northwestern University. She spent nearly 20 years away from New York, studying languages and art at Oberlin College, the University of Texas at Austin and in Florence, Italy, where she discovered her passion for medieval art. She previously held visiting faculty positions at the University of Notre Dame and Middlebury College, and was an adjunct assistant professor at DePaul University. ...
SOURCE: Jim Davila at paleojudaica.blogspot.com (9-27-07)
... whatever the specific facts, the way Abu El-Haj presents her arguments sometimes fall into patterns that raise concerns.
She has been widely criticized for her use of anonymous sources, and she does cite these an awful lot. In many cases she is telling an anecdote or relating that someone expressed an opinion and it makes little difference who said it (e.g., pp. 199, 211, 212, 236, 251, 252). But other cases involve testimony about important matters and serious accusations and it does seem inappropriate that these should be anonymous. Examples are the eyewitness testimony to details of the Israeli demolition of the Maghariba Quarter (p. 165); the accusation by an archaeologist that a "right-wing colleague" "was constantly labeling Christian sites Jewish" (p. 233); an archaeologist reporting on encounters with haredim at certain archaeological digs (p. 258); archaeologists giving contrasting views of the situation regarding the haredim and archaeology (pp. 260-62, 263); the anonymous accusation concerning the use of the bulldozer at Jezreel (p. 306 n. 12); and the accusation that at an unnamed excavation bones were excavated from a Muslim cemetery and not recorded and that anonymous volunteers reported that this had also happened in the previous season (p. 318 n. 17). Note also the claim of the author that clearly non-Jewish human remains were hidden on an excavation on which she participated, but she does not not say which excavation (p. 268).
There is also some argument by insinuation. Conclusions by others are presented in such a way that we seem to be expected to assume they are wrong, but the reasons for rejecting them are never spelled out, nor are corrections and better readings of the evidence offered. These include the skeptical references to "Israelite" pottery and architecture on p. 118; to Herodian architecture on pp. 134-35; to "Israelite" Jerusalem in the late Iron Age on pp. 138-39; and references to the comments of Amnon Ben Tor and others about the logic of Jewish interest in ancient Israel and the perceived Arab lack of interest in their past on pp. 252-53. This is really a matter of tone, but the tone in these passages is unhelpful.
To conclude, Facts on the Ground makes some interesting observations about how nationalism and politics have fed into and fed off of Israeli archaeology. But these observations are offered in the context of an extreme perception of Israel as a colonial state, and I suspect that, whatever readers think of this viewpoint, the book's tendenz is so transparent that no one's mind will be changed one way or another by reading it. When it talks about things I know about, it consistently slants the presentation of the evidence according to this tendenz so that the conclusions are predictable and not very interesting. This book makes no contribution to the archaeology of ancient Palestine or what it can tell us about the history of ancient Israel. Others can decide whether the book makes a contribution in some other area.
SOURCE: Columbus Dispatch (9-28-07)
Phillip Bebb, 66, was stabbed to death Monday at his home in Athens. His son, a 32-year-old graduate student, is charged with the killing.
Mark Ellwood, a 30-year teacher at Thomas Worthington High School, said he caught his love of history in Bebb's introductory western civilization class.
By the time Ellwood graduated in 1971, he was hooked. After a school trip to Europe with Bebb and another professor, he recalled, "I began to recognize just a little bit about how limitless the study of history is."
After becoming a teacher, Ellwood stayed in contact with Bebb and always found him generous with his time. At Worthington, Ellwood carries on his mentor's legacy by taking advanced-placement history classes to Europe every other year.
"The thing that I remember the most is that you could not, unless you were a hardened rascal, sit in his class and not get excited," Ellwood said.
Bebb took early retirement in 2004 but still taught an occasional class.
Gifford Doxsee, a history professor at OU until 1994, had an adjoining office to Bebb's for years but lost touch after retiring. A few days before Bebb's death, the friends ran into each other in an Athens restaurant.
"Mostly we talked about his impending trip to Italy," Doxsee recalled, noting that Bebb spoke Italian fluently and traveled there often....
SOURCE: Alex Kotlowitz in the Chicago Tribune (9-29-07)
There's a moment recounted in William Prochnau's book "Once Upon a Distant War," a riveting account of the young war correspondents in the early days of the Vietnam War, when Halberstam ran into Gen. Joseph Stilwell. Halberstam had just written a front-page story for the Times suggesting that the Viet Cong were making extraordinary gains in the Delta. Stilwell told Halberstam, "I took apart [your story] line by line and you got it dead wrong." To which Halberstam replied, "General, you're a liar." Would that, could that, happen today?
Halberstam went on to write "The Best and the Brightest," a scathing indictment of those who led us into Vietnam. It has become the bible among a generation of journalists. George Packer, who has covered the Iraq war for The New Yorker, wrote of how during his first summer there, "among reporters in Baghdad, 'The Best and the Brightest' kept coming up in conversation, making it clear that any historical account that may be written about the origins of this new war will have only one model."
Halberstam was the antidote to the world of blogging and to the proliferation of pundits. Halberstam, for sure, had fixed opinions, which in his deep, voluminous voice sometimes seemed as if they were emanating from God himself. When in 1979 he heard that the University of Chicago had chosen to honor McNamara with an award, he remarked:
"What are they giving him the award for? Increasing international understanding with the North Vietnamese from 35,000 feet?"...
SOURCE: Deborah Lipstadt at her blog (9-30-07)
According to the Guardian, David Irving, whom it described in a headline as"Discredited" is planning a" comeback" speaking tour. [The paper also described him as a"Historian"... though I can't say why].
What Irving has to say will not make deniers happy.
First, of course, he engages in his traditional antisemitism, telling the paper that
"the Jews were responsible for what happened to them during the second world war and that the 'Jewish problem' was responsible for nearly all the wars of the past 100 years:"The Jews are the architects of their own misfortune, but that is the short version A-Z. Between A-Z there are then 24 other characters in intervening steps."His rant reminds me of statements by someone he seems to lionize, Hitler, in that he blames Jews for every war in the last 100 years. [Korea? Iran-Iraq? Eritreia-Ethiopia? Somalia?]
But what he says about the Holocaust is really going to upset his denier pals:
"that a document, which he is 80% sure is genuine, suggests that 2.4 million Jews were killed in Poland, but goes on to claim that the gas chamber at Auschwitz was fake."
Even as he says that at Sobibor, Belzec, and Treblinka about 2.4 million Jews were killed by men in control of Heinrich Himmler, he whitewashes the Germans by claiming that the killers were"mostly Ukrainian mercenaries."
Pressed to say whether he now accepted that there had been a Holocaust [I am not sure why what he accepts or does not is important] he engages in one of his traditional antisemitic swipes by saying he was"not going to use their trade name."
Then apparently still finding it necessary to protect Hitler, he claims the German leaders was" completely in the dark" about the programme.
The fact is that David Irving has made so many twists and turns in his claims that even I, who is pretty familiar with them all, has a hard time keeping track of them all.
The only way he gets attention is by swerving in one direction and then the other.
I wonder if this acknowledgment would have gotten him dis-invited from the Iran denial conference had he not been in jail in Austria....
He has truly become, as I describe him in History on Trial, the court Jester.
SOURCE: Laurel Thatcher Ulrich in the NYT (9-30-07)
Here are the stories of three women making history. One was a poet and scholar attached to a French court, another was an American activist, the third an English novelist. None was a historian in the conventional sense, but all three were determined to give women a history. The settings in which they worked were radically different. The problems they faced were surprisingly-disturbingly-the same....
SOURCE: Michael Kimmelman in the NYT (9-30-07)
... It is tricky to draw analogies with wars of the past, but sometimes comparisons invite themselves. The Germans repeatedly told the Allies they had no soldiers or weapons in the Abbey of Monte Cassino. Julius Schlegel, a Nazi lieutenant colonel, had evacuated manuscripts and art treasures from it. Fridolin von Senger und Etterlin, the German commander of the Gustav Line — a former Rhodes scholar at Oxford and an Italophile like most educated Germans, who used to stroll up Monte Cassino with his walking stick surveying the troops and chatting with peasants — had scrupulously followed orders to keep his soldiers far from the building.
here were countless nooks in which to dig foxholes and bunkers and make oneself invisible. It was obvious why the enemy hadn’t needed to occupy the abbey on the top of the hill, where in fact they would be more exposed.
But German artillery and gunfire raining endlessly down from the mountain caused Allied troops to imagine that the monastery was the cause of their misery: it was the only thing they could clearly see. One day two American generals flew a Piper Cub over it and believed they spotted Germans in the courtyard. Another general flew by and saw nothing, and a French commander, Gen. Alphonse Pierre Juin, pleaded with the Americans to spare the building, saying an attack was folly.
Those in charge didn’t want to listen. “This monastery has accounted for the lives of upwards of 2,000 American boys,” reported an American Army Air Corps lieutenant colonel to his superiors the day before the attack. “The Germans do not understand anything human when total war is concerned. This monastery MUST be destroyed and everyone in it as there is no one in it but Germans.”
Mr. Atkinson said: “Crummy intelligence leads to crummy tactical decisions. There was a lot of bad intel floating around and a lot of cherry-picking of it.”...
SOURCE: Daily Show (9-28-07)
SOURCE: NYT (9-29-07)
The cause was heart failure, according to the Jacob A. Holle Funeral Home in Maplewood, N.J.
In 1967, Mr. Noble, then an administrator at the Metropolitan Museum with a fervent interest in antiquities, discovered that three large, supposedly ancient terra-cotta Etruscan warriors were forgeries.
In a 1970 article in The New York Times, Mr. Noble explained how he made the discovery: “One day I walked around to the derrière of one of the warriors and took a penknife and, yes, took off a piece about the size of a pin.”
With analysis and testing, Mr. Noble recognized a substance in the glaze as a chemical that first came into use in the 19th century. He determined that the sculptures, which were thought to be about 2,500 years old at the time, had actually been forged in Italy between 1914 and 1918.
SOURCE: AP (9-28-07)
Penguin had sued Brinkley, who is also a history teacher at Houston's Rice University, because he failed to finish the book in time to publish it this month on the 50th anniversary Kerouac's autobiographical novel "On the Road."
Brinkley, reached Friday in New Orleans, said he and Kerouac's estate, which gave him access to the writer's papers, had divided the $200,000 advance evenly. He said the estate's executor, John Sampas, has agreed to return its half as well.
George Tobia, lawyer for Brinkley and the Kerouac estate, said he spoke to Penguin's lawyer, Alex Gigante, and the dispute was resolved.
Penguin issued a statement Friday saying that since suing Brinkley two days earlier to recover the advance, both sides have "reached a tentative settlement in principle, which they hope to finalize shortly."...
SOURCE: Newsletter of the New York American Revolution Round Table (9-28-07)
SOURCE: http://www.finalternatives.com (9-27-07)
Ferguson, a history professor at Harvard University, also teaches at Harvard Business School and specializes in economic and financial history. In addition to his academic duties, Ferguson is a widely-known commentator and columnist, especially for his defense of the Iraq war. A proponent of counterfactual, or “what-if”, history, Ferguson also generated controversy for his alleged defense of British imperialism. Ferguson has also taught at the University of Oxford and New York University.
SOURCE: http://www.buffalo.edu (9-27-07)
Stapleton, associate professor of history in the College of Arts and Sciences, joined the UB faculty this semester as the director of the Asian Studies Program. She comes to UB after 14 years at the University of Kentucky, during three of which she served as director of the Asia Center.
"I'm a historian with a focus on modern China, particularly the period when the old empire was collapsing and people were trying to start up a new political system," says Stapleton. "Most of my research is about how social institutions, political institutions, cultural expectations and gender roles changed in that period as China was transformed from an empire to a republic. My main interest is in this transformation: how the old way of life responded to the challenges of Western-style capitalism and new cultural influences."
Stapleton recalls that the first time she traveled to Asia was as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan in 1983. "I was really impressed with Taipei," she notes of the academic year she spent in the capital of Taiwan. "It was so much different from Detroit and cities I knew. There were people on the sidewalks all the time, vendors selling food at 2 a.m., tons of public transportation."...
SOURCE: Daily Californian (Berkely student newspaper) (9-27-07)
But last night at Zellerbach Hall, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Garry Wills argued that Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address remains as relevant in the 21st century as it was during the Civil War.
Speaking to about 600 people, Wills discussed his book, “Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America,” touching on the religious and political circumstances that surrounded the president and his famous speech.
“This too is a time of great trouble in many ways. ... There have been some hellish things about religion and politics lately,” Wills said. “Lincoln was always trying to calm people down in times of religious fervor. He tried to expel fanaticism in times of war.”
Wills’ book is featured this year in UC Berkeley’s On the Same Page program. Around 6,000 copies were mailed to incoming freshmen and transfer students over the summer with the goal of stimulating campuswide discussion of a single literary work, program organizers said.
The book garnered a Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award more than a decade ago.
SOURCE: Daily Beacon (9-27-07)
The lecture titled Slouching Toward Armageddon, Boyer spoke on Biblical prophecy belief in modern America and the ways those beliefs have evolved since the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.
Boyer's speech was part of the Center for the Study of War and Society in the history department. Kurt Piehler, the director of the center, said Boyer is a leading academic on the American response to the atomic bomb.
He's definitely on the top-10 of American historians,? Piehler said.
SOURCE: http://allafrica.com (9-27-07)
Speaking at the III International Meeting of Angola's History that started on Tuesday at Talatona Conventions Centre, Cornélio Caley said that at the moment Angola has experts capable of being engaged on the continuous research of the country's culture and history.
"There is much to be investigated on matters ranging from the period before the arrival of colonialism, the struggles of resistance against colonial occupation, national independence and the current period, and the debate shows that Angolans are paying special attention to the collection of data about the reality of the Angolan people", added the entity.
Cornélio Caley pointed out oral information as one of the greatest sources for writing the Angolan history, as 75 percent of population still rely on it.
SOURCE: Seattle PI (9-27-07)
Out the window went the young nation's dignified unanimity of the George Washington years. In came vitriol and attack politics as Thomas Jefferson faced John Adams. And the contest was decided by just three electoral votes -- still the closest election in American history.
That fascinating election is brought vibrantly to life by Edward J. Larson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, in "A Magnificent Catastrophe" (Free Press, 276 pages, $27).
Larson's lively approach is signaled in the opening lines of his book describing the Founding Fathers: "They could write like angels and scheme like demons."
One of the surprising elements of the landmark 1800 election turns out to be that neither Jefferson nor Adams actually campaigned for office. That left the election wide open for combative smear campaigns in the rollicking partisan press that makes today's media seem tame by comparison.
Another fascinating element of the story is that the campaign's brutal tone ended what once had been a close friendship between Adams and Jefferson. A grinding personal rivalry took its place.
Finally, the 1800 election resulted in a tie between Jefferson and Aaron Burr that threw the election out of the electoral college and into the House of Representatives. There, 34 rounds of seesaw balloting went back and forth between Jefferson, Burr and Adams, with backdoor scheming of Olympian dimensions, before Jefferson finally emerged triumphant.
Larson, who used to spend part of his time along Puget Sound, has since moved on to dual professorships in Georgia and California. His dramatic new book seems destined to earn him even more readers in a country that, in recent years, seems to have an unquenchable appetite for true tales of the Founding Fathers.
SOURCE: http://www.newswise.com (9-26-07)
They said the Yankee general died on a surgeon's table in July 1864, shortly after a rebel cannonball ripped his arm from his body. Since Southerners billed the Civil War as a personal battle between Grant and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, the Union leader's death certainly showed the South would win, thus proving its superiority.
Not only did "they" spread good news of Grant's agonizing, bloody death, but reports also were dispersed about the North's stock market collapse and England's and France's decision to support the Confederacy.
These non-events didn't make the cut for students to read in modern history books, not that Confederate soldiers and civilians would have cared. They were spreading the tall tales as a means of survival--to keep Southern morale high and to help convince themselves their preferred reality existed.
The actual reality of Confederate rumors is the topic of a new book by Jason K. Phillips. An assistant history professor at Mississippi State University, his "Diehard Rebels: The Confederate Culture of Invincibility" is scheduled for November release by the University of Georgia Press.
In addition, one section of his book has been included in the prestigious "Best American History Essays of 2008." Titled "The Grape Vine Telegraph: Rumors and Confederate Persistence," it is among only about 10 selected from among several thousand articles for inclusion by the Organization of American Historians, the premier professional society of American historians.
Phillips, a 2003 Rice University doctoral graduate, said research into rumors of the 1861-65 conflict traditionally has generated very little scholarly activity. As a result, research required a detailed analysis of period newspapers, soldiers' personal journals and other documents.
And, to find something similar with which to compare, he found it necessary to locate the research of Harvard University psychologists on rumors propagated nearly a century later by World War II soldiers.
Though rooted in American historical study, his scholarship contains threads of psychological and sociological investigations. A central theme of his search revolves around why some Confederate soldiers continued to fight and expected to win after so many successive defeats.
"They believed there was no way God would let them lose a war to people who seemed so barbaric," Phillips said of his findings....
SOURCE: Harvey Kaye in the Guardian (9-28-07)
Ken Burns, America's premier documentary filmmaker, clearly recognizes the profound political character of his work. Introducing the companion volume to his new PBS television series The War, he observes: "How fortunate it is that we in the United States are stitched together [not only] by words and ideas, but also by memory."
And yet, as he also recognizes, at times of crisis, America's social fabric comes undone, and we find ourselves gazing back "uneasily into the void that has ... destroyed so many other promising experiments." With those crises in mind, he essentially proclaims his calling: "In those moments, it becomes necessary to reinvigorate what we share in common, and to ignore those polarizing impulses that inevitably afflict us all. ... One antidote to this misery of misunderstanding and division is memory."
A fine sentiment. How unfortunate it is, then, that Burns ignores the democratic political ideals, the social movements of working people and the New Deal initiatives that encouraged Americans - in spite of the injustices that marked the nation's life and war effort - to join with the British and the Soviets to pursue the long, terrible war against Nazi Germany, fascist Italy and imperial Japan. In doing so, he undermines his professed task and obscures his protagonists' most critical legacy.
America's foremost "public remembrancer," Burns has produced a host of critically acclaimed films for public television, most notably The Civil War, Baseball and Jazz. Underwritten by the National Endowment for the Humanities, General Motors, Anheuser-Busch and the Bank of America, and promoted by every means imaginable, including community events and preview screenings coast to coast, The War is his most powerful work yet.
Emotionally drained after doing The Civil War and worried about getting pegged as a producer of military documentaries, Burns says he resisted making The War. But moved by the Greatest Generation phenomenon of the late 1990s and the accelerating passage of those who constituted that generation (among them his own father) - as well as the reported ignorance of high school students about the second world war - Burns took it on.
He resolved to tell the story not from the vantage point of the statesmen and generals, but "from the bottom up," from the perspective of those who did the actual fighting and of those on the home front who provided them with food and materiel and anxiously awaited their return.
Focusing on four towns - Waterbury, Connecticut; Mobile, Alabama; Luverne, Minnesota; and Sacramento, California - Burns spent six years collecting film footage and newspaper stories, securing personal correspondence and diaries, and taping interviews with veterans or their survivors. The visuals are extraordinary, the personal histories are moving and the editing and narration deftly connect the intimate recollections and the "progress" of the global conflict.
The selected communities not only allowed Burns to capture America's regional and ethnic diversity (though somehow he failed originally to involve any Mexican Americans); it also enabled him to explore the racism that dictated a segregated military, erupted in mob violence in the nation's leading industrial centers and propelled the Roosevelt administration to issue Executive Order 9066, which "transferred" all Japanese Americans from the West Coast to internment camps in the country's interior (while young Japanese-American men, born in the US, patriotically enlisted to serve in a segregated - and in time, most highly decorated - army combat regiment!).
Burns pulls no punches. His narrator, actor Keith David (who happens to be the current voice of US Navy recruiting ads), regularly reports the number of casualties on both sides of every battle (which, including civilian deaths, globally totaled 60 million, more than 400,000 of them Americans) and his storytellers, the veteran soldiers, sailors and airmen, testify to the death, destruction and utter brutality of the war - brutality that brutalized the finest of men. Atrocities by Japanese and German troops instigated atrocities by Americans, though on a far lesser scale. And a generation of young Americans would carry not only the physical damage of war through the remainder of their lives, but also the mental and spiritual damage.
Still, framed by the imperial army's slaughter of Chinese civilians and the Nazis' grand scheme to wipe out European Jewry - and Hitler's plans to attack and occupy the United States, which The War also details - Burns's work gives ample testimony to the fact that while it was no more a "good" war than any other was, it was definitely a "necessary war."
In every media interview he gives, Burns preempts the inevitable questions about the current war in Iraq by pointing out that he began his project before the 2003 invasion. And diplomatically refusing to make any comparisons, he insists that "there's not a political bone in this film."
One can understand Burns's need to not alienate his sponsors. Yet one cannot help but wonder if his desire to avoid the politics of the present did not also severely shape his telling of the past, for, as much as he attends to America's racial injustices, he drains America's second world war generation of any real political commitments or aspirations.
Burns's narrator appreciatively states that Roosevelt redirected the energy of the New Deal to the war effort, and Burns's now-elderly storytellers recall how FDR's voice inspired them. Yet we hear nothing about what the New Deal entailed and why it mattered. We also never hear FDR pronounce the "four freedoms" or call for a second bill of rights for all Americans.
We never hear about the hundreds of thousands of housewives who volunteered to police local businesses in support of wartime price controls. And we never hear about labor unions, whose membership during the Depression grew from three to nine million, and during the war to 15 million. Burns makes no reference to A. Philip Randolph's AFL Pullman Porters and the March on Washington Movement that pushed FDR to integrate the war industries, or the CIO's policy of biracial unionism.
We need to know about those things to better comprehend how, in the wake of a devastating and in critical ways persistent depression, Americans - of every colour and ethnicity - were both ready and eager to fight not only imperial Japan, the country that attacked them at Pearl Harbor, but equally and, all the more aggressively at the outset, Nazi Germany and fascist Italy. ....
SOURCE: Patricia Cohen in the NYT (9-27-07)
“That could be the cover of my book,” Susan Faludi said. She was visiting the Historical Society’s exhibition of photographs and artifacts from the World Trade Center attacks and talking about her work “The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America,” out next week from Metropolitan Books....
Her reporting would seem to add up to a sequel to her 1992 best seller, “Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women,” which won the National Book Critics Circle Award. But Ms. Faludi goes a step further. She fits the post-9/11 conservatism into a 300-year-old tradition of “cultural re-engineering,” in which the humiliating failure of frontiersmen to protect their women and children from Indian raiders has been revised to portray “iron-clad valor on the part of white men and crinoline helplessness on the part of white women,” as she wrote in an essay for The New York Times earlier this month.
Yet can one reach back to America’s colonial days to explain a 21st-century phenomenon? After all, the classic narrative of the brave cowboy — samurai, knight, prince, soldier, peasant, mild-mannered reporter, starship pilot, hobbit — who rescues endangered women and children is a staple of cultures all over the world. And the shame of defeat and invasion has figured much more prominently in the histories of many other countries than in the history of the United States.
Ms. Faludi said that each culture “shapes its own myths in a specific way based on its own historical dramas.” Other countries, she said, “have an ancient tradition of customs, rituals, and a deep-rooted sense of identity.”
“It’s different for us because we’re so young as a nation,” she added. No matter that the United States has been mostly impervious to attacks on its soil: “American settlers’ vulnerability is “our founding trauma.”
The psychological approach will no doubt encounter skeptics. John Demos, a historian at Yale whose work on American history is cited in “Terror Dream,” said he considered Ms. Faludi a “very powerful thinker,” but said, “I’m dubious of the whole notion of a national psyche, which harbors deep unconscious traumas across the centuries.”
Basing his comments on Ms. Faludi’s Times essay, Mr. Demos said the way frontier stories changed over time is “part of a much larger movement to change gender stereotypes and roles.”...
SOURCE: HNN Staff (9-26-07)
I recognize that in writing about Joseph Smith in a balanced, sensible voice I may perplex readers. They will naturally ask: How can an educated, scholarly person believe Smith's stories? The seeming disjuncture is, however, an aspect of contemporary cultural diversity. The man who pumps our gas may pray to Mecca five times a day and believe that Gabriel carried Muhammad to Jerusalem in the night. The shoe salesman may think Christ will come again and take his saints into heaven. Lots of people believe Jesus was resurrected two days after dying on the cross. We have to make conversation, neighborly or scholarly, with people who harbor beliefs we do not countenance. It is more difficult for scholars with their severe convictions about rationality to converse with people they think are beyond the pale, but the social realities of our time require it.
In a review of Bushman's book, Jan Shipps, Professor Emerita of History and Religious Studies at Indiana University–Purdue, traces the difficult path of the new Mormon historians in the post-war era.
The new historiography of Mormonism built on the work of four notable historians without graduate training in history—Bernard DeVoto, Dale L. Morgan, Fawn McKay Brodie, and Juanita Brooks—who published significant works on the Mormon past in the 1940s and 1950s. All four had"Mormon DNA," as Lavina Fielding Anderson put it in writing about another prominent LDS scholar. Unlike most practitioners of the new Mormon history, with the exception of Brooks, whose status as a good Mormon housewife was never challenged, these precursors were distanced from the church.
And Bushman? He wanted to write the first of a projected 16 volume history of the Mormon Church. Deseret Books wanted to publish it. But then, says Shipps, Boyd Packer, a Mormon apostle, squelched the idea:
[Packer] apparently spoke for several of the Brethren when he issued a strong word of counsel to those writing in the new mode. Presented as a public address at BYU in August 1981 and afterward published in BYU Studies, his"The Mantle Is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect" cautioned that"there is no such thing as an accurate, objective history of the Church without consideration of the spiritual powers that attend this work." He said that"some things that are true are not very useful." Some things"are to be taught selectively and some ... are to be given only to those who are worthy." Packer warned that scholars who follow the tenets of their profession"regardless of how they may injure the Church or destroy the faith of those not ready for 'advanced history' [place themselves] in great spiritual jeopardy."
Nonetheless, says Shipps, Bushman persisted in writing professional histories of the Church. After his retirement from Columbia he joined the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Church History. In his biography of Joseph Smith Bushman, says Shipps, puts Smith in the context of his times better than anybody else ever has.
Still, Bushman's account has generated a very mixed response among Latter-day Saints. Traditional scholars who are DNA Mormons, such as Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Richard Bennett, and Martha Taysom, regard the book with unusual reverence, seeing it, in Mormon terms, as"a marvelous work and a wonder."51 Yet perhaps because it is so forthcoming about the parts of the prophet's life that do not fit into an essentially benign account of the beginnings of Mormonism, the book has generated remarkable angst among Latter-day Saints at BYU and elsewhere, including the halls of the LDS Church's administrative offices and the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City.52 A prophet who had an alcoholic father and who married ten women who were already married to other men simply cannot be squeezed into a movie designed for potential converts or even into a public relations portrait of the man who was responsible for the production of a"New Testament of Jesus Christ." At a less obvious but equally angst-inducing level, Bushman's frank discussion of the unconventional beliefs that separate Mormonism from every other existing form of Christianity creates difficulty for the Saints who are anxious to show that the divide between Latter-day Saint Christians and evangelical Christians is not very wide.
SOURCE: Timothy Noah in Slate (9-26-07)
It was the last recorded act of official anti-Semitism by the United States government. Boy, was it ever recorded! On Sept. 24, the presidential recordings program at the University of Virginia's Miller Center of Public Affairs released transcripts of Nixon White House tapes concerning the unauthorized publication in the New York Times and the Washington Post of the Pentagon Papers. Some of these conversations were previously transcribed by the nonprofit National Security Archive, but many were not. Among the previously untranscribed conversations is President Nixon's historic inquiry into a topic unrelated to Daniel Ellsberg's leak: How many Jews were employed at the Bureau of Labor Statistics?
Loyal readers of this column are aware of my fascination with this repulsive episode. The Miller Center's new transcriptions are accompanied by audio, allowing us not merely to remember this squalid transaction but to relive it. Kenneth J. Hughes, the Miller Center's Nixon tapes editor, has kindly furnished Slate with the memo traffic concerning the Jew count, including a never-before-published memo by White House personnel director Fred Malek confirming the planned transfer of three Jews to less-visible jobs and the effective demotion of a BLS deputy with a Jewish-sounding surname. Malek, today a very wealthy investor, remains active in Republican politics; this past April, he was named national finance co-chair of John McCain's presidential campaign. Last year, Malek was edged out by an octogenarian real-estate tycoon to become owner of the Washington Nationals baseball team, despite strong local support. I have my suspicions the Jew-counting episode was a factor in baseball Commissioner Bud Selig's choice, though that isn't the official story....
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE) (9-26-07)
On Monday, Juan Cole went after Israel's foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, for "grandstanding at the UN." His beef is not only with Ms. Livni but also with her father, Eitan Livni, who in pre-state Palestine was a leader of the Irgun. The organization was infamous for orchestrating the attack on the King David Hotel, in Jerusalem, in 1946 in an effort to drive the British out of Palestine.
"One wonders if Livni regrets her own father's having been elected to parliament as a member of the Likud Party," Cole asks. He then proceeds to question whether the apple has fallen very far from the tree: "Her government fired 1.2 million cluster bomblets into Lebanon last summer, mainly in the last days of the war.... That is an act of naked terror fulfilling no war aim, and Lebanese children are still being killed by the bomblets."
After mixing it up in the comments section on Cole's blog, Yaakov Lozowick, director of the archives at Yad Vashem, has posted a lengthy open letter to Cole on Lozowick's blog.
SOURCE: Scott McLemee at the website of InsideHigherEd.com (9-26-07)
Now, my highest qualification for testing a digital tool is, perhaps, that I have no qualifications for testing a digital tool. That is not as paradoxical as it sounds. The limits of my technological competence are very quickly reached. My command of the laptop computer consists primarily of the ability to (1) turn it on and (2) type stuff. This condition entails certain disadvantages (the mockery of nieces and nephews, for example) but it makes for a pretty good guinea pig.
And in that respect, I can report that the folks at George Mason University’s Center for History and New Media have done an exemplary job in designing Zotero. A relatively clueless person can learn to use it without exhaustive effort....