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: British Library Press Office (11-12-07)
The Award is presented annually by the Scone Foundation to recognise an archivist or archival researcher who has made a considerable contribution to the profession and who has provided important support to scholars conducting research in history and biography. Stanley Cohen, President of the Foundation, said that he established the award when he realised that there were no programmes to recognise outstanding archivists. Dr Eskander is the fifth recipient of the award.
Dr Eskander used the opportunity of his acceptance speech to urge the US Government to return Iraqi documents seized by the US military since they belonged to the Iraqi people and represented an important part of Iraq's heritage. Stanley Cohen, President of the Scone Foundation, introduced him by offering a general review of the importance of archives in a free and open democratic society, and deploring the Bush Administration's Executive Orders which reversed a presumption of disclosure for one of secrecy that will constrain public access to presidential documents.
The Award was presented to Dr Eskander by Andy Stephens, Secretary to the British Library Board. The British Library has hosted Dr Eskander's diary blog on its website at http://www.bl.uk/iraqdiary.html.
Stephens said:"Saad Eskander has succeeded single-mindedly in restoring the INLA to a semblance of professional normality while operating under quite unimaginable odds. Against the breakdown of civil society in Iraq he has maintained a clear sense of the importance of national archives to the development of a democratic and secular society. His is a quite remarkable achievement".
This report concludes that students in social science PhD programs are well prepared for their careers in a number of ways, but they need additional training in essential professional competencies and they need support for career preparation in order to fully utilize the knowledge and analytical skills they acquired during doctoral education. For this reason, policy recommendations at the end of this report call for a paradigm shift in PhD education. Funders, policy makers, disciplinary associations, universities, and graduate faculty need to recognize that the PhD in the 21st century is preparation for employment.
SOURCE: Inside Higher Ed (11-30-07)
Those were among the issues considered Thursday when the rank and file of the American Anthropological Association had a first chance to question members of a panel that on Wednesday evening released a report on the issues raised by doing anthropological research for the military or security agencies. In an official session with the authors of the report, scholars asked a series of tough questions, but there was no open rebellion against the findings.
But Thursday night, at a discussion sponsored by anthropologists seeking a tougher stance than the panel suggested, scholars expressed considerable anger and dismay over the report, with some anthropologists suggesting that they organize a protest of their own organization. The discussion was sufficiently heated that a graduate student who spoke to the group to defend the concept of scholarly engagement with the military was crying at one point, and at another point, the audience applauded the suggestion that any anthropologists who work with the military should be kicked out of the organization.
SOURCE: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr (11-30-07)
Yoshiaki Yoshimi, a professor of modern Japanese history at Chuo University in Tokyo, made the remark at a forum here organized by the Association for Korean Modern and Contemporary History and Northeast Asian History Foundation.
The remark comes as criticism mounts over the Japanese government's failure to properly apologize for the atrocities committed against sex slaves and compensate the surviving victims.
SOURCE: http://www.kois.go.kr (11-29-07)
The Japanese euphemistically referred to the sex slaves as ¡°ianfu¡± (comfort women).
Yoshimi Yoshiaki, a professor of modern Japanese history at Tokyo¡¯s Chuo University plans to reveal data indicating that 51.8% of the comfort women were Koreans at an international conference on comfort women held at Seoul¡¯s Press Center on Friday.
The Japanese professor analyzed Imperial Army medical records for venereal disease treatment from 1940 and concluded that if the percentages of women treated reflected the general make up of the total comfort women population, Korean women comprised 51.8 percent, Chinese 36 percent and Japanese 12.2 percent.
¡°The fact that Korean and Chinese women showed high rates for diseases attests to the fact that the soldiers mainly took advantage of women from colonized regions. It also shows there was sharp discrimination toward foreign woman especially.¡±
Yoshimi, also the author of the book ¡°Comfort Women,¡± believes the number of comfort women to range from 80,000-200,000 although more research should be made. In such case, the number of Korean victims likely range from 40,000- 100,000.
SOURCE: AP (11-29-07)
Johnson, the hyper-prolific British historian, gives the trio and other famous heroes the same book-length treatment he did for historical figures in "Intellectuals" and "Creators." This is essentially a quick tour of Western hero history by biographical essay -- more than 3,000 years in 299 pages. The lens is made even wider by Johnson's definition of a hero as someone who over a long period is "enthusiastically regarded as heroic by a reasonable person, or even an unreasonable one."
That generous definition allows him to include Marilyn Monroe in the chapter after Winston Churchill. But really, it could have allowed him to include Alan Greenspan and Kelly Ripa, too, if he wanted.
The pleasure in this book comes not from any grand theory of heroism, but from good short sketches. Johnson nicely describes Walter Raleigh using his thumb to judge the sharpness of the executioner's ax about to swing through his neck and Mae West cagily accruing power in misogynist Hollywood.
Johnson has a keen eye for character details (literally true in the case of latter-day subjects he met, such as Ronald Reagan) and sprinkles the book with fun tidbits: Wittgenstein was a superb whistler; Margaret Thatcher worked hard to keep her hair just so.
Truck loads of books have been written about Abraham Lincoln, but Johnson is gifted enough to capture him in nine words: "He was a good man on a giant scale." And of Scotland's bloody past, he writes "we have to imagine a tartan version of Afghanistan."...
SOURCE: Martin Kramer at his blog: Sandbox (11-23-07)
Instead, he does two things. First, he hails Hillary as "a great supporter of Israel throughout her career." He cites her "impeccable voting record" in the Senate, her advocacy for Red Cross recognition of Magen David Adom, her accolades in the Orthodox newspaper The Jewish Press, and so on. But all this begs the question that I asked: Why does the Foreign Affairs piece send an equivocal message about Israel? Why is it inconsistent with other statements she's made? "Who is the real Hillary, behind the triangulation?" I asked. "Who knows?" Perhaps Forman knows which of her statements express the real Hillary, and which ones to discard. But what are the rest of us supposed to do, those who aren't Democratic party insiders like him? Take his word for it and ignore the contradictions?
Second, Forman accuses me of double standards. I'm critical of Hillary, he claims, for proposing the very same diplomatic agenda now being pursued by the Bush Administration at Annapolis. Forman:
If this passage [of Hillary's essay] were truly objectionable, surely Kramer would say the same about the Bush Administration's efforts to broker Israeli-Palestinian agreements at Annapolis. And what, Mr. Kramer, are we to think of Condoleezza Rice's assertion that "We appear to be on course to prepare seriously for continuous ongoing negotiations," and that "I can really say without fear of contradiction that everybody's goal is the creation" of a Palestinian state?
Perhaps the biggest discernable difference in Kramer's eyes is that Clinton's comments were made by a Democrat--and political foe--while Rice's were made by a Republican political ally. Mr. Kramer is a member of Rudy Giuliani's foreign policy team.Well, Mr. Forman, you obviously haven't been a big reader of mine, or you'd know that I haven't hesitated to criticize the Bush Administration when I've deemed it to be wrong-headed. Four years ago, I dissented from Bush's first big democracy speech, and compared him to Jimmy Carter. I did it again after Hamas won Palestinian elections in January of last year. Last June, I appeared at a conference in Prague hours before the President did, and challenged him on the same issue. In a profile over the summer, I was quoted (accurately) as saying: "I saw myself in a debate mode with President Bush" over democracy promotion. So I've called them as I've seen them all along.
As for Annapolis, I haven't written about it, but I've spoken about it. So here, for the record, is what I said on October 19, at a closed event of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The panel was devoted to the Middle East in the 2008 elections, and I shared the podium with Ambassador Dennis Ross. I always speak from prepared remarks, and this is what I said:
Many of the candidates have records of strong support for Israel. But the more relevant question is who has learned from 9/11 to put the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in proper perspective, and not overvalue the "peace process" as a panacea. Giuliani spoke to this in his Foreign Affairspiece, where he wrote this:I provide input to the Giuliani campaign, not output, so I speak only for myself when I say that Annapolis seems to me a textbook case of how not to move forward.
"The Palestinian people need decent governance first, as a prerequisite for statehood. Too much emphasis has been placed on brokering negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians--negotiations that bring up the same issues again and again. It is not in the interest of the United States, at a time when it is being threatened by Islamist terrorists, to assist the creation of another state that will support terrorism. Palestinian statehood will have to be earned through sustained good governance, a clear commitment to fighting terrorism, and a willingness to live in peace with Israel. America's commitment to Israel's security is a permanent feature of our foreign policy."
This was misinterpreted in some of the press to mean that Giuliani opposes a Palestinian state. He didn't say that, but he does dissent from the overvaluation of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The war against radical Islam takes precedence. A Palestinian state won't necessarily contribute to winning it, and such a state could ally itself with our enemies, if it doesn't rest on the firm foundations of good governance and fighting terror.
Significantly, Giuliani affirms that the Palestinians have yet to earn their state. This was once the position of the Bush Administration, which seems of late to have abandoned it in a go-for-broke gamble. So we see Secretary of State Rice in Ramallah announcing that "Frankly, it's time for the establishment of a Palestinian state," and that such a state is "absolutely essential for the future, not just of Palestinians and Israelis but also for the Middle East and indeed to American interests." To judge from the situation on the ground, frankly, it may not be the time, nor is it clear in what way this state's creation is absolutely essential to US interests.
As we've seen time and again, such statements only free the Palestinians from doing what needs to be done to earn their statehood. Only by pushing the so-called political horizon back, not forward, is there any chance the Palestinians will run to reach it. The over-privileged "peace process," as traditionally configured, has had the opposite of its intended effect, making the two-state solution still more remote. It needs to be re-engineered.
My critic, Ira Forman, is a professional party hack, so he's written the only thing he could have written. I'd urge voters, especially those with a keen interest in Israel, to do what I've done: think independently, judge the policies offered by candidates for their cogency and consistency, and make a choice without regard to party. It's the American way.
SOURCE: Prensa Latina (11-28-07)
The film, produced by Mexican Alejandra Ochoam, had support from the Lam Culture House Center, and parallels a photo exhibition by Silvia Martinez entitled "Siguiendo los pasos de Eusebio" (Following Eusebio's Footsteps).
La Jornada daily states that Leal has tirelessly worked for over 30 years rescuing Havana, without selling or privatizing, and has made long-term moral and spiritual investments.
From that effort ambitious programs have emerged, like children's rooms in museums, residential homes for the elderly, and the need to build a primary school next to the museum.
The documentary "Leal al Tiempo" (Leal on Time) is not a biography or a story of his academic and professional work, but of Leal the dreamer, the daily reported.
SOURCE: http://www.worldpress.org (11-28-07)
Johal: I just read your book over the weekend. How did you come up with the idea to write a contemporary response to George Grant's iconic Lament for a Nation?
Byers: The motivation was intensely personal. Like many Canadians, I had internalized George Grant's message: Canada as an independent country had ceased to exist.
Grant based that conclusion on what he called "continental capitalism," the increased integration of the Canadian economy into the U.S. economy, and "global modernism," the overwhelming cultural hegemony of things like Hollywood and Motown. For people of my generation, that thesis and explanation seemed pretty compelling. When I left Canada in 1992, there was no reason to think Grant was wrong. We did a couple of significantly independent things—for instance, we stayed out of the Vietnam War—but the fear of being subsumed by the American project was always prevalent and widely accepted, and certainly felt in the 1988 Free Trade debate.
In your book, you said that you voted for Brian Mulroney in 1984. But you were disenchanted with Canada by 1988 and, certainly, by the time you left the country in 1992. Was it Prime Minister Mulroney's "When Irish Eyes are Smiling" song-and-dance routine with Ronald Reagan, or what was it?
It wasn't just that. It was the end of the Cold War, the seeming triumph of the American model, American economic hegemony. The sense that the future was very much centered around the U.S. People of my generation were looking to the U.S. When I finished law school at McGill, the best students were destined for New York and Washington.
But then, something happened that made me rethink my assumptions. Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's decision to stay out of the Iraq War was a direct contradiction of Grant's thesis. At that time, in 2003, George W. Bush was a remarkably popular and powerful president. It seemed inconceivable that Canada could have said no to the U.S. But we did.
There was also the realization that I wanted my kids to grow up somewhere other than Durham, North Carolina, USA.
Trudeau was more independent and Mulroney moved closer to the U.S. In terms of how Canada has engaged as a player in the international system, what do you see as the broad trend which reflects how Canada has misdirected its foreign policy?
Let's look at climate change, the number one challenge facing humanity today. Brian Mulroney did very little, though he recognized it as an issue. Chrétien used Kyoto to burnish his image, but, in fact, did very little. Now Stephen Harper is doing very little and engaging in smoke-and-mirrors with his emissions intensity policy.
With climate change, Canada has consistently refused to lead. We are just coasting along in the slipstream of the United States and the Bush administration. This issue, that lends itself to Canada's multilateral and compassionate place in the world, this opportunity to be a leader, is being lost.
We have been flaunting our legal obligations under the Kyoto Protocol and done very little to develop policies that differ from those of the United States.
Could you speak about Paul Martin's tenure as prime minister and Canada's shift in foreign policy during his tenure, especially related to the Middle East?
Paul Martin was prime minister very briefly and hardly the most decisive of leaders. He continued Canada's foot-dragging on climate change. His tenure also saw a badly thought-through decision to volunteer for the most dangerous mission in Afghanistan, in Kandahar.
The shift from Canada's traditionally neutral position regarding Israel and its neighbors was altered under Martin's watch.
Overall, there was a lack of independent analysis, though there was a pretty concerted effort to dress it all up as distinctly Canadian and progressive.
The best example of this concerns the celebration of Canada's success in getting the concept of a "Responsibility to Protect" into the 2005 U.N. World Summit Declaration. The only reason we got it there is because we caved: we took the substance out of the concept and agreed that it would act merely as a guideline for U.N. Security Council action. That's not leadership; it was a move designed to impress domestic audiences and nothing else....
SOURCE: Joe Kaufman at FrontpageMag.com (11-29-07)
On Wednesday, November 21, 2007, the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) held a press conference at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) calling on FAU’s President and Board of Trustees to issue an apology concerning an incident where a girl was allegedly spit on by an FAU employee. CAIR, a group tied to extremist activity, used the unfortunate incident as an opportunity to demean and curse Middle East and Counter-Terror expert, Dr. Daniel Pipes.
Last month, on October 30th, Daniel Pipes came to FAU to give a lecture entitled ‘Vanquishing the Islamist Enemy.’ While Pipes spoke, a decent-sized group of protestors, which included members of CAIR, FAU’s Muslim Student Organization (MSO), and ANSWER, a left wing anti-war group, gathered outside the venue to hold signs and give out flyers denouncing him as a “racist” and “Islamophobe.” Pipes is an outspoken critic of radical Islamist organizations, exposing their various terrorist ties, so groups like CAIR and the MSO, a member organization of the national Muslim Students Association (MSA), work hard to discredit him, even if it means using rhetoric that is beyond the pale.
Evidently, during the protest, one of the demonstrators, Sana Akhtar, was allegedly spat upon by an attendee, who happened to be an FAU employee. [According to FAU, the woman had “feigned” spitting.] The attendee thought better of her actions and apologized for the incident, and Akhtar did not press charges. Normally, that would be the end of it, but when it comes to CAIR, it’s just the beginning. CAIR saw the spitting episode as an opportunity to go after Pipes. The organization issued a press release that it was holding a press conference at the entrance to the university.
The press conference consisted of about 17 supporters, the majority of which were from CAIR, the MSO and ANSWER, which stands for Act Now to Stop War and End Racism. The event was supposed to be about getting the university to issue an apology to a girl who had got spat upon. However, when one views the amount of statements made against Dr. Pipes at the press conference, he/she will begin to understand that the reason for it taking place had nothing to do with the girl and everything to do with the bashing of Pipes.
At the conference, the following exchange took place between a reporter and the Executive Director of CAIR-Florida, Altaf Ali:
Reporter: “Could you kind of very briefly describe the incident and what the issue is?”
Ali: “Apparently, there’s an FAU employee that actually spat on a student that attends this university.”
Reporter: “Do you know what initiated that or how that happened?”
Ali: “Well, apparently the Muslim student was protesting one of the leading Islamophobia speakers in America, by the name of Daniel Pipes, and by peacefully protesting this hateful individual, one of Daniel Pipes’ supporters spat on this Muslim student.”
Ali began an interview with another reporter stating the following: “This student here, she was attending the radical – peaceful – organization against someone that hates – you know – hates against Islam.”
Lana Shehadah, a Florida International University (FIU) law student that works with the MSO at FAU, started her interview by saying: “My name is Lana Shehadah, and I’m involved in this because we had found out that Daniel Pipes was coming to school. He has a reputation for being very racist, spreading derogatory comments about people.”
Emmanuel Lopez, an organizer for ANSWER and an FAU student, told the following to the same reporter: “We feel that this is the general atmosphere of this college campus – of college campuses around the country – and just a general attitude in the United States, where it has become acceptable for this anti-Arab, anti-Muslim sentiments, which has brung fear. We feel that this is something that comes from the top and from right wing ideologues like Daniel Pipes...”
It seems that the protest that was held against Pipes, at his lecture – which was described by the media as an “uncontroversial speech” – for CAIR, was not enough to defame him. The group needed to call a press conference in the guise of a serious subject, in order to further the anti-Pipes hate. CAIR, in truth, has created a circus on the back of the FAU administration, using a sideshow of a girl that claimed she was spit on. This type of exploitation and deception is nothing new for CAIR.
CAIR’s stated motive for its founding, in June of 1994, to “concentrate on combating anti-Muslim discrimination,” was dubious at best. CAIR, at the time, had been a member organization of the Palestine Committee, a group dedicated to supporting Hamas from America that was led by then-head of Hamas, Mousa Abu Marzook. This duality – CAIR the good-hearted civil rights group vs. CAIR the terror front – has left many in a state of confusion.
Whenever CAIR does anything, no matter how genuine it looks on its face, the intent must be questioned. Make no mistake, strip CAIR of the civil rights b.s. and all you are left with is an anti-American, anti-Israel, terrorist supporting apparatus that is attempting to worm its way into America under the veil of perceived anti-Muslim bias. Hopefully America’s leaders, including FAU President Frank Brogan, will not allow themselves to be taken in by the lie that is CAIR.
SOURCE: Inside Higher Ed (11-29-07)
“We do not oppose anthropologists engaging with the military, intelligence, defense of other institutions or organizations,” the report says. “Neither, however, do we advocate that anthropologists actively seek employment or funding from national security programs. We see circumstances in which engagement can be preferable to detachment or opposition, but we recognize that certain kinds of engagement would violate the AAA Code of Ethics and thus must be called to the community’s collective attention, critiqued and repudiated.”
The panel called for the association to take a series of steps to clarify what may or may not be ethical. For example, it urged that the standards of informed consent should be changed to “develop specific language regarding work with vulnerable populations and contexts in which consent may not be free, voluntary, or non-coerced.”
Generally, the panel stuck to broad principles and did not rule in or out categories of work. For example, while the report talks about the importance of openness, it does not rule out the possibility that anthropologists might conduct classified research that could be ethical. One hypothetical in the report is offered as an example to show how difficult it may be to declare individual projects unethical just because they violate a particular value of scholars (in this case openness). The report asks: “What if an anthropologist wants to help U.S. special forces troops deliver medical aid to people in northern Afghanistan and works with them to develop a plan, but is constrained from publishing an account of the work?”
SOURCE: Oliver Kamm at his blog (11-11-07)
When taking his leave of The Nation in 2002, its longstanding columnist Christopher Hitchens remarked that the magazine was"becoming the voice and the echo chamber of those who truly believe that John Ashcroft is a greater menace than Osama bin Laden". This was altogether too kind, I feel: the magazine has nothing like so reasoned a message.
Take The Nation's"Liberal Media" columnist, Eric Alterman, a professor of English and of Journalism. Readers of The Guardian's"Comment is Free" site can sometimes find Alterman commenting on American politics, as in his judgement a few months ago that:
Well, I think you have be some combination of crazy, ignorant, dishonest or ideologically obsessed to believe that Islamic fundamentalists want to kill us because of"who we are" rather than"what we do", but on their lists of grievances, the never-ending presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia, coupled with US support for the Israeli occupation of the West Bank would rank one and two.
The never-ending presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia ended (barring a few training personnel) in 2003. The US continues to press for the creation of a sovereign Palestine. Osama bin Laden has hardly kept secret his assurance that"every Muslim, the minute he can start differentiating, carries hate toward Americans, Jew, and Christians: this is part of our ideology" ('Interview with Usama bin Laden’, December 1998, included in Anti-American Terrorism and the Middle East: A Documentary Reader, eds. Barry Rubin & Judith Colp Rubin, Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 156). And, by the way,"fundamentalism" is a term used properly only when discussing movements within Protestantism.
But Alterman outdoes himself when writing for a domestic audience. In his current Nation column he adduces, as an instance of media bias, a subject I fear I need to return to:
When Enola Gay pilot Paul Tibbets died November 1, the New York Times repeated Tibbets's contention that"It would have been morally wrong if we'd have had [the atomic bomb] and not used it and let a million more people die." That virtually no reputable historian would put the casualty figure for a US invasion of Japan anywhere near that high (leaving aside the question of whether an invasion would have been necessary) was not mentioned in the story.
What can you say? The most charitable explanation I can give is that Alterman is (unlike the late General Tibbets) sufficiently ethnocentric not to take into account the deaths of Japanese civilians that would have resulted from a conventional invasion and blockade of the home islands, sufficiently casual not to distinguish between deaths and casualties, and entirely unaware of research by American and Japanese historians published in the last 20 years concerning the conclusion of the Pacific War. I can name off the top of my head at least a dozen leading historians in this field who would concur with Tibbets's judgement, owing to their knowledge of Japanese military preparations on Kyushu, the Americans' experience of battle at Okinawa and Iwo Jima, the casualty estimates used by the Truman administration, the number of American medals struck in anticipation of the appalling costs of a conventional invasion, and other factors.
One of my regular correspondents, the military historian D.M. Giangreco, wrote a definitive paper on the administration's casualty estimates, published as"'A Score of Bloody Okinawas and Iwo Jimas': President Truman and Casualty Estimates for the Invasion of Japan", in Pacific Historical Review, Feb 2003, and reprinted in Hiroshima in History: The Myths of Revisionism, ed. Robert J. Maddox, 2007, pp. 76-115. From his scrutiny of primary sources, he observed:"Truman's much-derided accounts of massive casualties projected for the two-phase invasion of Japan are richly supported by US Army, White House, Selective Service and War Department documents produced before the use of nuclear weapons against Japan and stretching back through the last nine months of the Roosevelt administration."
In his paper, Dennis quotes from a letter to him by George F. Kennan, the most significant figure in US diplomacy in the past century and chief of policy planning to General George Marshall immediately after the War. Writing in 1997, Kennan concurred:"I have no doubt that our leaders, General Marshall among them, had good reason to anticipate a casualty rate of dreadful and sickening proportions in any invasion of Japan." After the publication of his paper, Dennis also received the views of Arthur Schlesinger Jnr (quoted in a letter by Dennis published in The Journal of Military History, January 2004):"The Pacific Historical Review paper is a masterful job of historical research and argument.... You have demolished the claim that President Truman's high casualty estimates were a postwar invention."
Previously I've offered to debate publicly with anyone who dissents from the heroism of General Tibbets in the European and Pacific theatres of WWII, but Alterman makes it much easier for me. I challenge him to debate publicly the proposition, which I infer from his article he must be advancing, that Arthur Schlesinger Jnr and George F. Kennan were not"reputable historians". (How fortunate, from Alterman's point of view, that he introduced the weasel word"virtually" to cover himself. It certainly has a huge amount of work to do.)
That, I fear, is not all. Alterman goes on to remark (emphasis added):
Similarly, the obituary [of Paul Tibbets in the NYT] recounted the furor over the 1995 Enola Gay exhibition at the Smithsonian--in which veterans' groups pressured the museum into censoring the exhibition's relatively fair-minded historical presentation of Harry Truman's decision to drop the bomb on two civilian cities--but failed even to refer to the fact that the veracity of the Smithsonian's original presentation was never seriously questioned by historians.
I invite Alterman to read, as he plainly hasn't, the study of this dispiriting affair by another of my correspondents, Robert P. Newman, Enola Gay and the Court of History, 2004. Professor Newman took the trouble to examine the entire museum archive about the controversy. He concluded that (p. 133), in the dispute between the museum and protesting veterans' groups, the museum had"offered not facts, but a fraudulent account of Japan's willingness to surrender. In any unbiased historiographic evaluation, the veterans win hands down."
The mother of ironies is that Alterman's article purports to dissect media bias. I've often argued with reference to the BBC that the greatest source of media"bias" is not design but ignorance. I couldn't wish for a more convincing demonstration of the point than Alterman. There is collateral evidence that nothing in the way of questions, let alone independent thought, will deflect him from the answer he first thought of. He begins his piece by quoting a character in Tom Stoppard's play Rock 'n' Roll:
"The propaganda paper and the capitalist press arrive at the same relation to the truth.... Because 'all systems are blood brothers'.... Giving new meanings to words is how systems lie to themselves, beginning with the word for themselves--socialism, democracy.... An invasion becomes fraternal assistance."
Alterman comments:"Whether Stoppard had the US media and the invasion of Iraq in mind I cannot say, as he did not grant my interview request."
The notion that the Czech-born Stoppard might possibly have been writing about the Soviet invasion of Czecholslovakia in 1968 is clearly impossibly reductionist for a certain type of media commentator, for whom Iraq is the prism through which all art and politics are to be interpreted. No wonder Stoppard declined the interview request.
SOURCE: Eric Alterman at his blog, Altercation (11-27-07)
Speaking of me, I often have trouble deciding which attacks on me in the blogosphere demand responses and which I am elevating to an importance they do not deserve by doing so (in addition to wasting my time). But I see that in the past few days, I've been attacked as an anti-Japanese racist by a right-wing blogger, attacked as an anti-black racist by a left-wing blogger, quoted favorably by right-wing anti-Semites, attacked by Naderites, and attacked in Commentary by"Jamie Kirchick," who I continue to maintain does not really exist but was invented as a sock puppet/imaginary friend, Lee Siegel-style, by the friendless Marty Peretz. The usual criteria I employ in these cases is to try to ignore the attacks if they appear in a place in which I would never have heard of the blogger or would have no reason to believe them if I had. (I learned the latter lesson the hard way with Gawker.) I see no point in responding to a figment of Marty Peretz's imagination or a hard-core Naderite or the anti-Semites, among others. And as for the right-wing blogger, I never heard of him either, but he's gotten some pickup among right-wingers, and I now I see that my friends at History News Network have now both run it and linked to it. I wonder if they know who he is or why he should be taken seriously, as I sure don't.
But since they are definitely a place I think people should be able to trust, have, and put the racism charge in the headline, now twice, I feel compelled to respond to the racism point, at least (as I simultaneously express my disappointment in HNN's judgment on this score). Regarding my alleged anti-Japanese racism, this Kamm fellow writes,"The most charitable explanation I can give is that Alterman is (unlike the late General [Paul] Tibbets) sufficiently ethnocentric not to take into account the deaths of Japanese civilians that would have resulted from a conventional invasion and blockade of the home islands..."
This charge is both so silly and ironic as to be funny -- at least it would be were HNN not giving it undeserved credence. Remember, General Tibbets is the guy whose Times obit quoted him as saying,"I wanted to kill the bastards." Later in the obit, he is quoted saying,"I viewed my mission as one to save lives." So clearly, Mr. Tibbets wanted to save some lives, and obliterate others. I think it's a pretty fair assumption that the lives he wished to save were American, and the lives he wished to obliterate were Japanese. I do not condemn him for this, I merely point it out. What is so silly as to be funny is the fact that this Kamm fellow seems to think that Tibbets is the great anti-enthocentric humanitarian in this story who is so much more sensitive to the value of the lives of Japanese civilians that he should be giving yours truly sensitivity lessons. (Just about everyone killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were civilians, by the way. The U.S. military wanted it this way for"demonstration" purposes. And President Truman explicitly lied to the nation when he referred to Hiroshima as"a military base," in his radio speech of August 9, 1945, here.)
But leaving aside both this and the feelings of the late Mr. Tibbets, the point is that I was addressing the issue of American casualties, rather than Japanese casualties, in my column because that's what the issue was. Whenever the discussion of whether an invasion was necessary, Mr. Tibbets' view not merely the typical one, but the only politically palatable one. The focus was always exclusively on the likelihood of U.S. casualties in the case of an invasion. Any politician who expressed any sympathy for those poor Japanese civilians would have been run out of town on a proverbial rail. The point for virtually all Americans at the time of this debate was to"kill the bastards," and hence, there was little debate or discussion over the firebombing of Tokyo, also designed to obliterate civilian lives. Hence, this Mr. Kamm fellow is attacking my column for merely addressing the historical issue in question, which, hello, is what historians do.
And by the way, I've never taken a position on whether the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima was necessary or not. I do think the one on Nagasaki was gratuitous, but in the case of this column, I was merely calling attention to what struck me as the Times' myopia in reporting it, as well as its mistaken inference that the historical record supported Mr. Tibbets' contention, which is clearly does not.
SOURCE: http://marshallfoundation.org (11-28-07)
Generally recognized as one of the world’s foremost authorities on the life and career of George Catlett Marshall, Bland was working on the sixth volume of the Marshall Papers when he died. The Marshall Papers is the principle publications project of the George C. Marshall Foundation in Lexington.
In addition to the Papers, Bland also edited George C. Marshall Interviews and Reminiscences and George C. Marshall’s Mediation Mission to China. He was the author of numerous articles and monographs on Marshall and Marshall – related topics, such as the Cold War, the Marshall Plan, the Truman Doctrine, and Averill Harriman.
Bland was an engaging and sought – after lecturer. In October he was the keynote speaker at the dedication of the new George C. Marshall Conference Center at the U.S. State Department in Washington. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called Bland’s remarks “insightful and relevant.” Earlier this year Bland gave a series of lectures on the Marshall Plan in Turkey at the invitation of the State Department. He frequently spoke at professional meetings – both in this country and abroad, historical societies, government conferences, and civic groups.
In addition to his work at the Marshall Foundation, Bland served as managing editor of the Journal of Military History for 19 years....
SOURCE: Andrew Romano at Newsweek blog (11-16-07)
[Wilentz:] I think Hillary is important because the election really is the culmination of what's been a 40 year struggle for the Democrats to rediscover who they are. A 40-year struggle against what we'll call Nixon-slash-Reaganism. And, simply put, she's in the best position to be a president. Which is to say, she understands how American politics works. She understands the trajectory of American political history for the last 40 years because she's lived it in a way that the others haven't, really. She's seen it at all levels, from Arkansas to Capitol Hill. The country needs someone who can take us beyond this struggle--this long, long fight we've been having.
You seem to be saying that only Hillary can take us beyond Baby Boomer politics because only she's lived through it. But Obama's argument is that he represents a post-Baby Boomer politics, and that he's not bogged down, like Hillary, in those old conflicts.
I think the whole idea of Baby Boomer politics is the problem. That concept. I'm very disappointed in that. There's no such thing. You cannot enter this moment and make a new departure unless you understand what you're departing from. And that's what she understands. She's not proposing some sort of vaporous, virtuous new thing that she's going to conjure out of thin air. American political life doesn't work that way. She's not going to go "presto, change-o, everything's different." We all know that's fantasy.
[Q.] So you don't find Obama's meta-arguments against "politics as usual" particularly convincing?
[Wilentz:] You cannot have a president who doesn't like politics. You will not get anything done. Period. I happen to love American politics. I think American politics is wonderful. I can understand why people don't. But one of the problems in America is that politics has been so soured, people try to be above it all. It's like Adlai Stevenson. In some ways, Barack reminds me of Stevenson.
[Wilentz:] There's always a Stevenson candidate. Bradley was one of them. Tsongas was one of them. They're the people who are kind of ambivalent about power. "Should I be in this or not... well, yes, because I'm going to represent something new." It's beautiful loserdom. The fact is, you can't govern without politics. That's what democracy is. Democracy isn't some utopian proposition by which the people suddenly rule. We're too complicated a country for that. We have too many interests here. You need someone who can govern, who can build the coalition and move the country forward. You hit on something that's really my pet peeve about the others. Edwards the same way, except he doesn't condemn the politics of the '60s, rather he talks about the special interests...
[Q.] A populist slant.
[Wilentz:] Oy vey. Let's be real here about how American politics works. It's a posture. It makes people feel good, but it's not reality. They should be part of the party. The party is complicated, like a weird bird with so many wings it sometimes doesn't know how to fly. But I don't think any one of them can lead the way she can....
SOURCE: Reuters (11-26-07)
The library announced on Monday it had bought some 250 boxes, or nearly 300 linear feet in library parlance, from Schlesinger's estate for an undisclosed amount, safeguarding his journals and correspondence with world leaders for use by researchers and historians.
The price has been kept confidential, a library spokeswoman said.
The collection includes manuscripts, research files, phone logs, sound recordings, videos, date books and clippings from the mid-1930s to 1998, documenting monumental events from a man with a front-row seat to history.
NYT news story
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE) (11-28-07)
In Iowa, Rachel P. Caufield, an associate professor of politics and international relations at Drake University, has made the 2008 presidential race a key topic in her honors class about satire.
Her students, for instance, have examined political cartoons involving the candidates as well as talk-show host Stephen Colbert’s brief dabbling in the presidential race.
“The goal is to get students to think analytically about the methods, forms, and function of satire as a form of political communication and rhetoric,” Ms. Caufield said.
Every four years, the University of New Hampshire offers a course devoted to studying the state’s traditional first-in-the-nation presidential primary.
The history course, being taught this semester, includes discussions of what presidential campaigns are doing right and wrong, their workings behind the scenes and how voters react to them, according to The New York Times. Students also quiz guest speakers....
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (11-26-07)
After pushing and shoving their way through the doors into the hall, around 20 demonstrators staged a sit down protest and began chanting at the debating table.
The two controversial speakers had arrived early, accompanied by bodyguards, in a bid to avoid confrontation with the protesters.
As he arrived, Mr Irving, who had been invited seven times before and each time the invitation had been withdrawn, said: "I'm very glad to be here."
Fearing bloody clashes between the protesters and far-right groups Thames Valley Police had drafted in large numbers of officers to control the demonstration.
SOURCE: Inside Higher Ed (11-27-07)
But in a move that is unusually early and specific, a group of prominent historians on Monday issued a joint endorsement of Barack Obama’s bid for the presidency. The endorsement, released through the History News Network, was organized by Michael Kazin, a professor of history at Georgetown University, and Ralph E. Luker, a historian who is one of the leaders of the popular history blog Cliopatria. The scholars who signed included two past presidents of the American Historical Association — Joyce Appleby of the University of California at Los Angeles and James McPherson of Princeton University — and many other A-list scholars in the field.
Officials of the AHA (which was not a party to the endorsement) and several other long-time observers of the discipline said that they could not think of a comparable example of historians collectively taking a stand in a political race in this way. Historians, either through formal and informal groups, have spoken out about many issues, but they tend to be more closely tied to their field, such as appeals on behalf of historians abroad in countries where their rights are threatened, demands for easing visa rules so scholars can enter the United States, and so forth. A list of such actions by historians is on the History News Network site.
Officials with the John Edwards campaign said that they knew of individual historians backing their candidate, but did not have a formal group. The Clinton campaign did not respond to an inquiry. The Republican campaigns have not been active in seeking academic support, although they too have individual backers and in at least one case a semi-formal group of backers. The Fred Thompson campaign has a Lawyers for Thompson group that includes a Legal Professors Committee, several of whose members are prominent bloggers in the law professor world....
SOURCE: BBC (11-24-07)
Despite opposition, the Oxford Union Debating Society members voted by a margin of 2 to 1 to continue to extend an invite to the BNP's Nick Griffin.
David Irving, who was jailed for Holocaust denial, will also be invited.
The move was opposed by the Oxford Student Union and the university's Muslim and Jewish societies.
The said it was important to give people of all views a platform.
Luke Tryl, president of the Oxford Union Debating Society, said "the men were not being given a platform to extol their views, but were coming to talk about the limits for free speech".
"They will be speaking in the context of a forum in which there will be other speakers to challenge and attack their views in a head to head manner," he said.
Deborah Lipstadt: Muddled Reasoning
SOURCE: Peter Steinfels in the NYT (11-24-07)
Mr. Kaplan makes that argument in “Divided by Faith,” just published by Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. The book’s subtitle is “Religious Conflict and the Practice of Toleration in Early Modern Europe.” The crucial word is “practice.” Compare it with “idea” in “How the Idea of Religious Toleration Came to the West” (Princeton, 2003), a recent overview of the same history by Perez Zagorin.
In his account, Mr. Zagorin, an emeritus professor of history at the University of Rochester, moves swiftly from St. Augustine’s case for the persecution of heretics to the Protestant Reformers, who challenged the Roman Catholic monopoly on doctrinal authority but not the belief in using coercion to defend true teaching. Finally, Mr. Zagorin marches through his pages a regiment of champions of religious toleration....
This is a familiar kind of triumphal history. It pits the forces of progress, i.e., those who share our modern values, against the forces of resistance, i.e., those who don’t. Whatever the struggle, each step mounts another rung on a single ladder leading, by natural stages, to ourselves.
Mr. Kaplan, a professor of Dutch history at University College London and the University of Amsterdam, does not set out to refute this account but to shift the focus, from elite thinkers and theories to popular beliefs and behavior.
His first achievement is to convey the communal nature of early modern religion. Every town and village was a microcosm of the body of Christianity. Civic rituals were not separate from sacred ones. Daily, weekly and seasonal time had a religious dimension. Communal welfare depended on divine wrath or favor, which might bring on flood, famine or bountiful harvest. Tolerating heretical deviations was a high-stakes business.
“It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg,” Jefferson could write in 1781. A century earlier, such individualism was unthinkable to most Europeans. Indulging heresy, as Mr. Kaplan points out, threatened not only to pick their pockets but also to endanger their souls.
Contrary to the once-popular notion that religious toleration rose steadily from the Middle Ages through the Protestant Reformation and on to the Enlightenment, Mr. Kaplan maintains that religious toleration declined from around 1550 to 1750....
SOURCE: AHA Blog (11-26-07)
Some particularly interesting past episodes that can now be viewed online include interviews with:
- David Kennedy,Stanford University History Professor
- Michael Korda, Author of IKE: An American Hero
- James Billington, Librarian of Congress
- Andrew Ferguson, Author of Land of Lincoln
- Lonnie Bunch, Director of the National Museum of African American History & Culture
- Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia
- Allen Weinstein, Archivist of the United States
- David McCullough, Author & Historian
- Richard Baker, U.S. Senate Historian
See all past Q & A episodes here.
To view these episodes download RealPlayer for free.
SOURCE: Japan Today (11-27-07)
Hirofumi Hayashi, professor at Kanto Gakuin University in Yokohama, said he conveyed the view in a statement submitted to the Japanese government's textbook-screening panel, which is considering requests by publishers to reinstate references about the Japanese military's role in forcing civilians to commit mass suicide.
Hayashi said he responded to a request from the Textbook Authorization Council, which advises the education minister and had asked a number of researchers on the battle to file their opinions.
Opinions from researchers, including Hayashi, will be used in screening requests from six textbook publishers to reinstate references about the Japanese military's role in the mass suicide, government sources said.
In the statement to the panel, Hayashi said, "The question is not whether there was an order from the military but the process that resulted in driving Okinawa residents to commit mass suicide." The residents committed suicide "effectively under the military's order," he said.
SOURCE: Jaime Antúnez at http://www.zenit.org (11-27-07)
Jaime Antúnez Aldunate, editor of the Chile-based review Humanitas, is the author of "Filosofía de la historia en Christopher Dawson" (Philosophy of History in Christopher Dawson), a man he says was the best Catholic historian of the 20th century. The book is available in Spanish from Ediciones Encuentro.
In this Interview with ZENIT, Antúnez reflects on the main principles of Dawson's thought and how his reflections can be applied to modern culture. Dawson lived from 1899 to 1970.
Q: In your book, you make it clear that Dawson the historian can also be analyzed as Dawson the philosopher.
Antúnez: Indeed, he can. No one could deny the depth and originality of a significant number of his philosophical intuitions springing from a meditation on history, even if they sometimes lack a certain systematic nature.
I looked specifically at his writings on the meaning of human acts. I must say that on the subject of the philosophy of history, Dawson is a strenuous defender of what he calls metahistory -- his own and most genuine field of thought -- an area in which history, theology, sociology, political science, anthropology, art and philosophy cohabit and complement each other.
The concept of culture has particular relevance in Dawson's metahistory. This concept is a common thread throughout his body of work and enriches his thought. It is based on a well-balanced equation of material elements, covering everything from geography to spiritual elements.
This formula surpasses the imbalance that had arisen from various philosophical determinisms, such as materialism that denies the importance of the spiritual realm. In Dawson's equation the spiritual factor -- the final guarantee of human liberty -- always prevails.
For Dawson, the synthesis of a culture is obtained on the level of rationality, with the highest expression of rationality being the intelligibility of religion. More specifically, he suggests that the light provided by Judeo-Christianity to understand history finds its natural fulfillment in the presence of the divine: God has first revealed himself to human beings and has later become human through the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity. Incarnation and Trinity constitute, therefore, the core of Dawson's metahistory....
W: My parents were both born in Imperial Austria, my mother in Krakow and my father in southern Poland, and I myself spoke Polish until the age of 10. My mother came from a Modern Orthodox family, studied horticulture at university, and moved in artistic circles. My father was a doctor. In September 1939 they took a vacation and, because of a sense of foreboding that they had, they went eastward. Well, this turned out to be an eight-year vacation in hell! They entered territory held by the Red Army in the western Ukraine and, by 1942, they had reached Khazakstan, where I was born a few years later…. After the Polish-Soviet repatriation agreement, they returned to Krakow in 1947 but soon found out that they were living in a Jewish graveyard. They acquired Costan Rican passports (on the black market) and in 1948, we reached Paris and eventually London, where we settled and I was brought up.
C: How did growing up in Britain influence your view of Jewish issues and antisemitism?
My first experience of antisemitism was in Britain. In the 1950s, this was a normal part of the landscape. Jews were “bloody foreigners,” but I wasn’t rattled by it. All the teachers at my grammar school were influenced by anti-Jewish prejudices. So, in order to achieve, you had to outperform. I earned my first two degrees at Cambridge, where jokey upper class humor against Jews was part of the scene. My fellow undergraduates knew almost nothing about the history of the Jewish people. At Cambridge I met George Steiner, who lambasted the insularity there. His wife, who was an American, became my supervisor.
In 1966-68 I studied at Stanford, then returned to Europe where I participated in the Paris student revolt, and then in 1969-70 I came to Israel for 16 months. Here I became the literary editor of New Outlook, which was founded by Martin Buber. I had a lot of contact at that time with people associated with MAPAM, which was the main component of the Marxist Zionist left. I was very critical of the euphoria and hubris at that time in Israel right after the Six-Day War.
C: And what did you do next?
I went back to the University of London for a doctorate in 1971, and chose to work on Socialism and the Jewish Question in Central Europe. I began to deal with documentation from Germany and Austria. I had studied with George Mosse, who influenced me at that time, and recommended that I examine the holdings of the Wiener Library in London for sources on the Third Reich. In 1974, I became the director of research and editor of the library’s journal for the next seven years! There I was in a German-speaking environment and in fact, I had spoken German from the age of seventeen or eighteen, having learned it from my grandmother. For her, and her generation, the German language represented high culture, the culture of Germany and Austria, the Viennese culture that they were attracted to.
C: You have done scholarly historical work on the situation of Jews in Vienna. What does that have to tell us about the history of antisemitism and the development of modern Jewish history? Wasn’t Vienna during the late nineteenth century and up to the 1930s a real laboratory for the effort at assimilation?
W: Yes, it was a fascinating laboratory for assimilation, but also for world destruction, in the 1930s. That, by the way, is the title of my most recent book, which examines the fateful dialectic of assimilation in Central Europe. The more intensely Jews sought to become integrated into that culture, the more extreme the antisemitic response, which ultimately assumed genocidal forms. But I’ve always had a special interest in late Habsburg Vienna, which was a cosmopolitan, polyglot environment, a multinational setting in which German was the lingua franca. I have been fascinated by that. It was a European Union in miniature, it was an empire which had to perform a difficult balancing act, and which unraveled due to the ethnic nationalisms which were constantly in conflict with one another. Within that unique framework, Jews were highly influential in science, culture and the economy (less so in politics)....
Accordingly, a very distinguished historian, Princeton 's expert on the Renaissance, is speaking up. Not known for ideology or pamphleteering, Anthony Grafton takes pains not to oversell the relevance of his subjects. He favors patient historical work and writes in a moderate mode. Recently he looked up from his Renaissance research to see how things are going today. Alert to contemporary controversies and mildly allusive about events in America, he stops short of issuing indictments. Grafton seems to be writing in the haze of "where there's smoke there's fire," but clearly sees enough to issue cautionary words.
His article in the November 5th New Republic, entitled "Say Anything," refers to what he has learned from the transcripts of those Inquisitors and witch-hunters. He knows enough to say enough about the practical ineffectiveness of torture. Americans, we were always told, do not torture for a number of reasons: Torture violates our moral codes, including those based on religious notions that humans are made in the image of God; religious leadership is almost unanimously against torture, and America is a religious nation; for us to torture is to enter a dangerous game, since if we torture we have no moral claim to demand that "the other," our enemies, should not torture our people when they are captured; and we are a practical people and like to work with things that work. Grafton concentrates on this last piece, the ineffectiveness of torture.
He notes that four centuries ago, as now, the tortured will "say anything" to get the pain to stop, which means anything that the tortured thinks the torturer wants to hear. And what the torturer hears is almost never right or useful. Grafton reports on the work of younger historians who are finding that "torture—as inflicted in the past—was anything but a sure way of arriving at the truth." He tells how, in unimaginable pain, some tortured Jews were broken and finally "filled in every detail that Christians wanted." Nowadays, he says, "no competent historian trusts confessions wrung by torture that confirms the strange and fixed ideas of the torturer." Grafton's conclusion: "Torture does not obtain truth…it can make most ordinary people…say anything their examiners want." Moral: "it is not an instrument that a decent society has any business applying…Anyone who claims otherwise…stands with the torturers" of long ago. And that, Grafton has made quite clear, is not a good place to stand.