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: http://www.sj-r.com (12-2-07)
"Generally, in a lot of race-riot stories, when resistance is present, oftentimes black resistance is viewed as black retaliation," said Anthony Landis, during a presentation he gave in the auditorium of the Howlett Building as part of the Illinois Historical Society's symposium on "The African-American Experience in Illinois."
It may have been easier for the white establishment to resume the status quo after a race riot because it believed black residents had retaliated and sought revenge against their attackers.
But black residents were merely defending themselves, Landis said. Justice still needed to be served.
Typically, said Landis, a 1990 Southeast High School graduate who is now an assistant director for the Ohio Board of Regents, race-riot scholarship examines the causes and participants of race riots.
But Landis, who contributed a 5,000-word essay on the riot for the 2006 "Encyclopedia of American Race Riots," said he is trying to plot new ground by focusing on targets of race riots.
"Who were these black people who wanted to defend their lives, their property? What kind of lives did they lead with-_in the city? What were their values? Who was this (black) community?" Landis said.
SOURCE: Michael Kenney in the Boston Globe (12-2-07)
It was the day on which Robert F. Kennedy decided he would enter the Democratic primaries for president, and Schlesinger had been involved in the high-tension huddles leading up to it. "Are you happy about this?" Kennedy asked him. Schlesinger said he was. Kennedy was not convinced. "You have some reservations, don't you?" he demanded.
Kennedy was right. Schlesinger later would explain that his reluctance had "to do with the effect [Kennedy's] decision will have on my plans to get started on volume iv of FDR."
That final volume of the Roosevelt biography never did get written, but in "Journals: 1952-2000," Schlesinger, who died in February, eight months short of his 90th birthday, has left a work of nonfiction that is unlike any other published this year, in its offbeat ruminations on the profound and the gossipy.
Reviewing "Journals," Martin F. Nolan, who covered national politics for the Globe, wrote that Schlesinger provides historic insights and anecdotes that will reverberate through the academy. Schlesinger's "sometimes stirring, occasionally sad, and often sardonic jottings," wrote Nolan, "form a labor-intensive public works project for his fellow historians and biographers. They must now revise and extend the biographies of 10 presidents, plus sundry other pols, literary lights, and the dramatis personae of People magazine." And Schlesinger's "high-octane, off-the-record revelations will likely prompt readers to "murmur 'wow!' at every page."...
Like Schlesinger's "Journals," David Halberstam's "The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War" is the posthumous legacy of a great narrative historian. In his review, historian H. W. Brands said Halberstam "approaches the story of the Korean War like a journalist, but he tells it like a historian," meaning that Halberstam, who died in April at 73 in a car accident, took as his starting point conversations with war veterans, as a reporter would, before working his way to documents and official sources.
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (12-3-07)
Sir Max's account of the latter stages of the war in Nemesis: The Battle for Japan 1944-45 was labelled "offensive" by veterans in the wake of Australia's stand against Japan after the fall of Singapore and heroic attempts to stop the Japanese advance in Papua New Guinea.
The book, which is based on first-hand accounts from Allied airmen, sailors and soldiers, as well as drawing on official state material, suggests that by 1945 morale was so poor among Australian conscripts that they were dangerously close to open mutiny.
"The last year of the war proved the most inglorious of Australia's history as a fighting nation," writes Sir Max.
The author, one of Britain's most distinguished war historians and a former editor of The Daily Telegraph, suggests that towards the end of the campaign many Australian troops felt sidelined by General Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the Pacific, and resented doing what they felt were irrelevant mopping-up operations....
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE) (12-3-07)
From the perspective of the profession, the study of gender offers a different set of temptations. It immediately removes the taint of bias, the political association with feminism, from those who explore its history. Unlike historians of women, historians of gender comfortably shelter within a widely accepted analytic focus. For young women, who sometimes fear that doing "women's history" will disadvantage them in the job market or when they come up for tenure, clothing themselves in the garb of gender provides welcome cover. For others, the possibility of marketing themselves more broadly is sufficient incentive to abandon women's history; yet others hope to find a broader audience for their first books by seeming to address more-pertinent or more-relevant issues. The idea of "gender" frees young scholars (male and female) to seek out the ways that historical change is related to the shape and deployment of male/female relations, and to search for gender implications in and around such topics as foreign policy, presidential history, and the economics of taxation.
And yet I am left to wonder what we have lost as we turn our attention to gender, for even as I embrace gender fully, I do not wish to abandon the history of women. I share the suspicion of many of my colleagues that gender obscures as much as it reveals: that in seeing the experiences of men and women as relational, we overlook the particular ways in which women — immigrants, African-Americans, Asians, Chicanas — engaged their worlds. That is particularly true in areas where the history of women is still being excavated. A glance at the two-volume compendium of Black Women in America, edited by Hine makes the point. Here the range of black women, their concentration in certain areas, and the force of their accomplishments offer powerful testimony to how our ignorance of their existence has skewed our efforts to comprehend the way in which black communities lived and thrived.
Above all, lacking a women's history, we lose the power of the individual to shed a different light — sometimes a liminal light — on historical processes. I decided to explore where that would take me in turning to a biographical study of the American playwright Lillian Hellman for my next book. Hellman was an enormously controversial figure in her day, and never more so than when she accused the liberals of the 1950s of betraying the victims of McCarthyism by not speaking up for them. The virulent attacks on her at the end of her life reflected the suspicions of a generation of intellectuals about the meaning of communism for American freedom; the attacks also illuminated the tensions of a world that was, by the 1970s, struggling to make sense of a woman who loudly and insistently claimed access to moral truth. Attention to Hellman, as a woman, reveals something about the tensions within the American left, with its anticommunist wing, that would otherwise remain obscured.
Insofar as the concept of gender masks a continuing hostility to the notion that women were actors in history, a resistance to the idea that women's activities, interests, and ideas constituted a significant portion of the motivation for organizing societies, waging wars, constructing particular kinds of economic systems, abandoning women's history would simply feed the hostility. If gender history succumbs to the temptation to see the world through the eyes of men eager to defend their own honor or establish their manhood by reserving to themselves the skilled jobs that enabled them to provide for their families, it loses the impetus to see women as agents in their own right. Unless gender history challenges the normative view of the world through the eyes of men, unless it continues to build on a growing knowledge of how women thought and acted, it could kill the goose that laid the golden egg....
SOURCE: Inside Higher Ed (12-3-07)
The language anthropologists want reinstated on secrecy – which, the resolution’s sponsor affirmed would apply to anthropologists doing work for corporations too – stipulates that “no reports should be provided to sponsors that are not also available to the general public and, where practicable, to the population studied.” Like every item of business discussed Friday other than the resolution on Iran, the resolution on secrecy was not filed for consideration 30 days in advance, as is required under association rules, and so will be submitted to the association’s executive board on an advisory basis only....
SOURCE: http://www.northjersey.com (12-2-07)
McCormick appears to have fairly broad support on campus and even in the State House, where his vocal criticism of funding cuts was not always well-received. He has his critics -- most notably those upset that he has supported the school's escalating investment in big-time football.
Still, McCormick is widely viewed as an effective leader who has worked hard to unify and elevate Rutgers.
"The university was divided into camps. He brought it together," said Gene O'Hara, a member of the university's governing board. "The challenges have been significant, but he's kept the ship afloat and moving in the right direction."
It's been a tumultuous homecoming for the 59-year-old president, who grew up in New Jersey and started his career as a history professor at Rutgers.
'Big vision' for years to come
Rutgers University President Richard McCormick hopes to transform the university's long-neglected Livingston campus into a center for professional graduate education. He envisions relocating the education and social-work schools to the campus. He also wants to work with a private developer to build a hotel and conference center.
"This is a big vision," McCormick acknowledges, "and probably won't be completed on my watch as president."
* * *
Rutgers' 19th president, Richard McCormick, has deep roots on campus, where his father was a longtime professor and university historian.
1947: Born in New Brunswick Dec. 26
1965: Graduated from Piscataway High School
1969: B.A. from Amherst College
1976: Ph.D., Yale University
1976-92: History professor, department chairman and dean of faculty, Rutgers University
1992-95: Vice provost and chancellor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
1995-2002: President, University of Washington
Dec. 1, 2002 – present: President, Rutgers University
He arrived in 2002 from the University of Washington, where he was president. In short order, he reorganized undergraduate education, dealt with a budget crunch that forced layoffs and other cutbacks, and presided over a buildup of the football program. He divorced, remarried and suffered through the death of his father, Rutgers historian Richard P. McCormick.
"I daresay more went on in his first five years here than went on in many universities," said Barry Qualls, a vice president who was tapped by McCormick to lead the undergraduate reorganization. "He's taken on issues he didn't have to take on. He's not afraid of controversy."...
SOURCE: HNN Staff (research by HNN intern Lee Winningham) (11-28-07)
More than fifty historians have now signed a statement in support of the candidacy of Barack Obama, which was posted at HNN on Monday. But they aren't the only historians to have come out early in support of a presidential candidate. Two weeks ago Princeton historian Sean Wilentz announced in an interview with a blogger that he's backing Hillary Clinton. (Why? Because "she's in the best position to be a president.")
Several historians have gone beyond mere statements of support. Earlier this year Middle East historian Daniel Pipes was named an advisor to the campaign of Rudolph Giuliani. Harvard historian Niall Ferguson appears to be playing a role in the campaign of John McCain, according to several reports. Harvard's Samantha Power has been providing advice to the Obama campaign. Two weeks ago law professor and blogger Eugene Volokh, who often weighs in on historical issues (like gun control), joined Lawyers for Fred Coalition, a group supporting Fred Thompson.
The Obama statement has drawn the attention of both bloggers and news sites. Both Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education have run stories about "Historians for Obama," as have two prominent bloggers: MyDD, one of the original liberal blogs on the Internet, and Andrew Sullivan at his blog at the Atlantic Monthly (Sullivan's cover story in the Atlantic this month celebrates Obama's candidacy as "a potentially transformational one").
Meanwhile, historians with a libertarian bent have come out in favor of Ron Paul at HNN's Liberty and Power blog.
While all this has been happening the New York Public Library announced that it has purchased the papers of the late Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., whose backing of President John F. Kennedy turned him into a Camelot celebrity.
Jeremy Cameron Young: A Historian Against Obama
SOURCE: http://www.abc.net.au (12-2-07)
The claims, reportedly made by Sir Max Hastings in his Nemesis - The Battle for Japan 1944-45, have sparked an angry response from veterans.
Today's The Age quotes Hastings as writing that the "the last year of the war proved the most inglorious of Australia's history as a fighting nation."
He says Australian regular troops were bitter about Australians who did not volunteer for service and resented being used for mopping up operations by US Pacific commander General Douglas MacArthur.
Rats of Tobruk Association president Joe Madeley has reacted angrily to the claims.
"It is an insult to all the blokes who served in the Pacific," he told The Age. "I lost good mates there."
SOURCE: China Post (12-1-07)
A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, Kagan received a master's degree there in 1963, later earning a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania. He always kept Taiwan firmly in his mind and work, focusing his thesis on the relationship between politics and culture. After his initial two-year sojourn on the island, Kagan has returned to Taiwan many times in the intervening years.
His new book, titled "Taiwan's Statesman: Lee Teng-hui and Democracy in Asia," was published by the Naval Institute Press in Maryland and is available at local bookstores and Internet book sites.
A professor emeritus of history at Hamline University in the U.S., Kagan has researched Taiwan for a long time; the detailed list of references at the end of the book shows just how much work he put in for this tome. The biography details the early life and education of Lee, as well as his time as president of the country.
Lee, who was born in 1923 and served as Taiwan's president from 1988 to 2000, makes a fascinating subject, and Kagan has certainly done his homework.
When asked what drew him to Taiwan over the years, Kagan said in a recent e-mail: "I became interested in Taiwan's struggles for democracy out of my own Jewish heritage regarding human rights and freedom, and out of my experiences in the civil rights movement in America."...
SOURCE: National Review Online (11-30-07)
The latest entry is just out: What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848, by Daniel Walker Howe. He recently took a few questions from National Review Online’s John J. Miller.
JOHN J. MILLER: Why did you choose the text of Samuel F. B. Morse’s first telegraphic message as the title for your book?
DANIEL WALKER HOWE: The quotation “What Hath God Wrought” works well for me in three ways. In the first place it calls attention to the dramatic technological changes characteristic of the years between 1815 and 1848, revolutionizing communication and transportation. In the second place, this quotation from the Bible (Numbers 23:23) illustrates the importance of religion in the history of the period. And in the third place, it calls attention to the idea that in rising to transcontinental power, the United States was fulfilling a divine providential destiny, a self-image that America shared with ancient Israel, to which the phrase originally applied. ...
MILLER: Religion is important in politics today. How does it compare with the period treated in your book?
HOWE: The political salience of religion is nothing new. To take a clear example, Evangelical Protestants have formed an important voting block within the Republican party ever since the party first appeared in 1854. What’s more, the predecessor of today’s Republicans, the Whig party of Henry Clay, John Quincy Adams, and the young Abraham Lincoln, also counted Evangelical Christians among its strongest supporters. On the other hand, in the 19th century, Catholics, especially Irish Catholics, voted overwhelmingly Democratic. Only in recent years have Evangelicals and Catholics been able to make common cause on behalf of certain issues of social morality. Of course, in the period I treat religion was important in many other ways as well. For example, most colleges had been founded to propagate a particular version of Christianity, and took that mission seriously. Religion provided a key incentive to scientific investigation, since virtually all scientists believed that the universe manifested intelligent design. Finally, most of the social reform causes characteristic of the period, notably the movement to abolish slavery, were primarily religious in motivation....
SOURCE: Jeffrey B. Spur in the IraqCrisis newsletter (12-1-07)
An expert in Iraqi manuscripts said that the Americans robbed a bunch of manuscripts in April 2003, which included a Torah [written] in leather and did not care about Iraqi warnings that Israel has been working to get them.--Reuters
This [story] is indeed an unfounded rumor, which may in part be sustained due to the demonstrable fact that the US army grabbed huge numbers of Iraqi archival materials from government ministries and other sources, and that other private entities, such as the Iraq Memory Foundation and Iraqi political parties, laid their hands on many more. But those are modern archival materials not the enormous collection of historical manuscripts comprising the Dar Al-Makhtutat Al-'Iraqiyya, or Iraqi House of Manuscripts, formerly the Dar Saddam lil-Makhtutat, the Saddam House of Manuscripts.
I had hoped that our friends at the U of Chicago IraqCrisis website would have posted my new July report on this general subject by now. In it I tried very hard to establish the current condition of these various institutions and what happened to them in 2003, with an in depth discussion of the events surrounding the assaults on the INLA, thoroughly updating the descriptions in my 2005 report. Since this has not happened, my friends at ArchNet at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have done so. It is entitled Iraqi Libraries and Archives in Peril: Survival in a time of Invasion, Chaos, and Civil Conflict, A Report
and may be found via:
Nevertheless, it would be a relief to all to have a present accounting of the status of collections of the Dar Al-Makhtutat Al-'Iraqiyya.
Jeffrey B. Spurr
Islamic and Middle East Specialist
Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture
Fine Arts Library, Harvard University
SOURCE: APril D. DeConic in the NYT (12-1-07)
The causes were related to a heart ailment, said an agent at the Jonathan Clowes Agency, which represents him.
Mr. Leigh was co-author of “The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail,” a work of speculative nonfiction that proposed that Jesus Christ fathered a child and that the bloodline continues to this day. A best seller on its release in 1982, the book gained new readers after Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci Code,” which explores similar themes, was released.
Mr. Leigh and another co-author, Michael Baigent, sued Mr. Brown’s publisher, Random House, saying that “The Da Vinci Code” “appropriated the architecture” of their book. A third “Holy Blood” co-author, Henry Lincoln, did not join the lawsuit.
In April 2006, Peter Smith, a High Court judge, threw out the claim, saying the ideas in question were too general to be protected by copyright.
SOURCE: April D. DeConic in the NYT (12-1-07)
AMID much publicity last year, the National Geographic Society announced that a lost 3rd-century religious text had been found, the Gospel of Judas Iscariot. The shocker: Judas didn’t betray Jesus. Instead, Jesus asked Judas, his most trusted and beloved disciple, to hand him over to be killed. Judas’s reward? Ascent to heaven and exaltation above the other disciples.
It was a great story. Unfortunately, after re-translating the society’s transcription of the Coptic text, I have found that the actual meaning is vastly different. While National Geographic’s translation supported the provocative interpretation of Judas as a hero, a more careful reading makes clear that Judas is not only no hero, he is a demon.
Several of the translation choices made by the society’s scholars fall well outside the commonly accepted practices in the field. For example, in one instance the National Geographic transcription refers to Judas as a “daimon,” which the society’s experts have translated as “spirit.” Actually, the universally accepted word for “spirit” is “pneuma ” — in Gnostic literature “daimon” is always taken to mean “demon.”
Likewise, Judas is not set apart “for” the holy generation, as the National Geographic translation says, he is separated “from” it. He does not receive the mysteries of the kingdom because “it is possible for him to go there.” He receives them because Jesus tells him that he can’t go there, and Jesus doesn’t want Judas to betray him out of ignorance. Jesus wants him informed, so that the demonic Judas can suffer all that he deserves.
Perhaps the most egregious mistake I found was a single alteration made to the original Coptic. According to the National Geographic translation, Judas’s ascent to the holy generation would be cursed. But it’s clear from the transcription that the scholars altered the Coptic original, which eliminated a negative from the original sentence. In fact, the original states that Judas will “not ascend to the holy generation.” To its credit, National Geographic has acknowledged this mistake, albeit far too late to change the public misconception....