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: Newsday (4-21-08)
The Oyster Bay organization was ripped off before, but at that time managed to keep it quiet.
Former director Edward Renehan Jr. of Rhode Island, who is accused in the theft of four historic letters, provided information earlier this month that made public secret information about the prior case, according to people involved in the new case.
When Bonnie Jean Gable was TRA office manager about 15 years ago, she was accused of embezzling more than $100,000 to finance a theater group, sources said. Rather than prosecute Gable, who had spent the money and had few assets, the TRA agreed to place a lien on trust funds Gable stood to inherit.
The association and Renehan also tried to negotiate a settlement, the TRA and Renehan's lawyer said. The TRA wanted him to make restitution and return other artifacts the group believes are still in his possession. But Renehan maintains he has no other artifacts, so the TRA went to the Nassau County district attorney's office, and Renehan was indicted last month for stealing a letter written in 1918 by Roosevelt. He is due back in court today.
The Gable case became public when a statement prepared by a Manhattan publicist was sent to Renehan friends who heard about the letter investigations....
SOURCE: NYT (4-20-08)
While working on his book, Mr. Persico obtained from Lucy Mercer’s granddaughters a bound copy of a lecture Roosevelt gave at Milton Academy in May 1926, on the flyleaf of which is an inscription saying, “I dedicate this little work, my first, to you.” The granddaughters also gave Mr. Persico some letters that Franklin wrote to Lucy beginning in 1926 on the letterhead of the Fidelity and Deposit Company of Maryland, where he was then a vice president. The letters are chatty rather than romantic, but as Mr. Persico points out, they’re also unusually specific about his whereabouts at certain times and also about Eleanor’s absences. Some historians have suggested that all through the 1920s and ’30s, Roosevelt was on such a tight leash, guarded by his secretary, the vigilant Missy LeHand, that he couldn’t possibly have strayed. But Mr. Persico reads these letters as possible plans for liaisons.
As for Eleanor Roosevelt, Mr. Persico leaves little doubt not only that she was devastated by the discovery of the affair but that she continued to love her husband to the end. She was crushed all over again to learn that Lucy Mercer had returned to Franklin’s life, and it took her a while to forgive her daughter, Anna, who had engineered some of their meetings.
SOURCE: China View (4-18-08)
"I think westerners are poorly placed to push for a boycott of the Olympics," he told Xinhua.
"It is imperative that the Olympic flame remains a symbol of rapprochement between peoples," he said.
Agbobli said he does not understand why Western politicians have taken to meddling in China's internal affairs under the guise of defending the Tibetans.
"Any responsible government should, when violence reaches a certain degree, take appropriate action," Agbobli said, referring to the recent riots that erupted in the Chinese autonomous region of Tibet.
The renowned Togolese scholar expressed the hope that China will organize a successful Olympic Games, which will bring together people from around the world.
SOURCE: Network of Concerned Historians (NCH) (4-19-08)
In addition to 62 codes of ethics for historians and others (please see circular of last week), the Network of Concerned Historians website (http://www.concernedhistorians.org) also contains 71 legal cases that for one or another reason are of importance to historians. Most are available in English, some also in French, Spanish, or another language. These cases come from international courts or national supreme courts.
They involve the following countries: Andorra (1), Argentina (1), Australia (1), Austria (7), Belgium (1), Bosnia-Herzegovina (3), Bulgaria (6), Canada (2), Chile (1), France (9), Germany (11), Greece (1), Honduras (1), Netherlands (3), New Zealand (1), Poland (1), Romania (2), Rwanda (2), Slovakia (3), Switzerland (3), Turkey (6), United Kingdom (3), Uruguay (1), and Western Sahara (1).
The questions of importance to historians they raise include: academic freedom; amnesty laws; apology of war crimes; archival information, including preservation of, content of, and access to; book ban; commissioned history; defamation, including posthumous defamation; destruction of cultural momuments and sacred sites; dissemination of separatist propaganda; duty of successor regimes to investigate and prosecute; erasure of evidence for genocide; freedom of information; genocide, including denial of, and incitement to; historical treaties; lapses of time after an event; less immunity for politicians; nondisclosure of sources; peaceful assembly; privacy, including posthumous privacy; protection of personality; racial discrimination; right to know; right to mourn; right to the truth; scattering of ashes; terra nullius; wills.
Please send any legal cases of importance to historians (or a link to them) that you may be aware of to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you and with best wishes,
Antoon De Baets
SOURCE: Laura Wilkinson in the Daily Star (4-18-08)
That coalition forces have behaved with such blatant disregard toward these ancient monuments flies in the face of the 1954 UNESCO Resolution outlining the criteria for the protection of cultural sites in the event of armed conflict.
After five years of occupation, these stories have become awfully familiar. At the same time, the weight given to Iraq's ancient artefacts suggests how Orientalist international attitudes toward Iraq's art and cultural production are.
The neglect of Iraq's modern artisitic production - wrapped up in the campaign to destroy any remnants of the Baathi regime, and therefore Iraq's collective memory - was the central theme of Shabout's resounding lecture.
Shabout supports her argument with clear evidence and scholarly consideration. Those drawn to her lecture by its title and program synopsis perhaps assumed that her main interest was the looting of Iraq's Modern Art Museum and the subsequent trafficking of its works.
At the beginning of her talk, Shabout admits she's tired of talking about this subject, and instead speaks with passionate urgency about the need to expose the "systematic campaign to erase Iraq's collective memory."
Aided by a series of slides, Shabout demonstrates how the process of building a new, "democratic" Iraq entails the razing of public monuments, therefore the "erasure of collective memory."
Shabout argues that this massive campaign, initiated by L. Paul Bremer - US presidential envoy to Iraq and top civil administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) - and the CPA's Iraqi interlocutors, is not only disrespectful but dangerous for the future of Iraq. "You cannot just erase a people's history, and memory," she says.
As she illustrates, Saddam Hussein's public monuments were often hideous but, she argues, they still ought to survive, to bear witness to this era that the Iraqi people lived through.
The "Hands of Victory" for example, removed in February 2007 by the Committee for Removing Symbols of the Saddam Era, is a series of arches in the shape of swords, their bases formed by Iranian helmets. Meant to depict the putative Iraqi victory in the Iran-Iraq war, the piece may not be particularly attractive, but it is still history.
Shabout suggests alternative policies be explored, such as housing such structures in museums - although she admits that, given the present security situation, people are more concerned with day-to-day survival than anything else....
SOURCE: Eric Alterman in the Nation (5-5-08)
One need not look far in our culture to grasp the relevance. In a recent New Yorker article, Jane Kramer recounts an audacious attempt by a coterie of right-wing Jews to interfere with the tenure process at Columbia's Barnard College. The case concerned anthropologist Nadia Abu El-Haj, the daughter of a Long Island Episcopalian mother and a secular Palestinian Muslim father, whose 2001 book, Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society (University of Chicago), examined the role of archaeology in alleged biblical validation of the Jewish claim to Israel/Palestine. The tenure question proved a purely academic one in every sense of the word. Her book was recognized by the Middle East Studies Association of North America as one of the winners of its 2002 Albert Hourani Book Award. In addition, El-Haj had been approved by three separate tenure committees before reaching the final one.
That's when a group led by an American-born West Bank settler named Paula Stern, who owned a small technical writing business, emulating campaigns by the likes of David Horowitz and Daniel Pipes and their organizations Campus Watch and FrontPage magazine, started making motzira. She created an Internet petition calling on Columbia to reject El-Haj, insisting that her scholarship was substandard and corrupted by an alleged hatred of Israel. Denying El-Haj tenure became a cause célèbre among this community of right-wing Jews, neoconservative adventurers and pseudoscholars, much as preventing Yale from hiring the much-admired Middle East historian (and blogger) Juan Cole had galvanized a similar group in 2006. The targets this time were Columbia alumni, in particular, large donors.
The campaign was a house of sand from the start. In October 2007 Larry Cohler-Esses, editor at large of the Jewish Week, with Richard Silverstein of the Tikun Olam weblog, debunked Stern's charges, and she admitted that the information contained in her petition might not be "100 percent accurate." Her admission was consistent with the observation of Jonathan Boyarin, whom Kramer describes as an Orthodox Jewish academic and El-Haj's friend, that the underlying motivation of the motzira-makers was a desire to express their Jewishness through an uncompromising defense of the Jewish state. Boyarin said he could not identify a single "reasoned, progressive scholar who's on the same side as those guys" in their attempt to undermine El-Haj's scholarship and deny her tenure.
To be honest, I know nothing about the quality of El-Haj's anthropological arguments or of her feelings about Israel. Regarding the former, how fortunate I was not appointed to her tenure committee. And regarding the latter, well, so what? Have we really reached the point where a person's politics, alleged or no, are somehow relevant to determining the worthiness of his or her scholarship? And if so, why stop at scholarship? Shouldn't auto mechanics or oral surgeons be asked to fill out political questionnaires before we hire them as well?
And what are we to make of scholars like Pipes, Columbia epidemiologist Judith Jacobson, Barnard religion professor Alan Segal, former SUNY Purchase archaeology lecturer Alexander Joffe and others associated with the misnamed Scholars for Peace in the Middle East who have joined such efforts to intervene in the time-honored tradition of politically disinterested tenure?
The antics of Horowitz--direct political descendant of Joe McCarthy--are no secret to the readers of this column. Pipes, whom Wikipedia identifies as the son of famed right-wing historian of the Russian Revolution Richard Pipes, is not nearly so well-known, but he enjoys significant scholarly credentials. He has taught at numerous respected universities and is treated in the media as an impartial expert on Middle Eastern matters. This is true despite the fact that his work on the Arab world was accurately characterized in one 1983 Washington Post book review as displaying "a disturbing hostility to contemporary Muslims," of being "frequently contemptuous of them" and of being "marred by exaggerations, inconsistencies, and evidence of hostility to the subject." (Like Horowitz's various tentacles, his organization Campus Watch offers its kosher seal of approval for ideologically kosher academics while attacking all others.) In his discussion of the El-Haj case, Pipes gives away the game by publicly renouncing the entire concept of academic freedom. University-based scholars, he explains, "are financed by the public and are thus accountable in some way to the public. They say, No, only we can judge and evaluate each other's work. Well, that's not how things work in this country."
Actually, it is how things work, at least at Barnard, where El-Haj was eventually tenured. The larger question of why any respected scholar anywhere would wish to associate him- or herself with such shameful sentiments, however, remains. And why do journalists continue to treat such academics as legitimate practitioners of scholarly debate? True, it is not always easy for a journalist to judge bona fides, but the case of Pipes is an open-and-shut one. Journalists' unwillingness to investigate such questions results in the perpetuation of no end of purposeful disinformation. Al Gore has noted, for instance, that despite the fact that virtually no disagreement can be found among peer-reviewed scientific journal articles regarding the reality of global warming, more than half of mainstream press articles until recently continued to dispute it.
Rabbi ben Zimra would know just what to say.
Reprinted with permission from the Nation. For subscription information call 1-800-333-8536. Portions of each week's Nation magazine can be accessed at http://www.thenation.com.
SOURCE: OpEdNews (4-17-08)
Americans have neglected an important lesson from their own past, Ellis, an authority on the Revolutionary War period, said. “We have become the imperial power. We have become Great Britain and have succeeded Great Britain as the hegemonic power of the world. I would think we would wish to avoid making some of the mistakes she made.” He challenged the idea that the U.S. needs a military presence in South Korea and Western Europe as well as Iraq.
“The notion that (our problems) are going to be solved in a military fashion is fundamentally misguided and it’s going to send us right down the path that Britain went and into oblivion,” Ellis warned in a recent talk at the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover.
Ellis, author of “His Excellency: George Washington,” “American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic,” and other histories of that period, suggested the problems facing the U.S. occupiers of Iraq today are not dissimilar from those the British faced battling George Washington.
“After his early defeats, Washington realized that the British have to win, but he does not have to win. The British had enormous problems of supply, and they don’t have enough troops. They can take New York, they can take Charleston, but they can’t hold them because they don’t have enough troops to do this,” Ellis said. “The only solution was to fight a defensive---what they called a Fabian strategy---or a war of posts. It’s not just a battle between armies but between populations. Does this sound familiar?”
Prior to assuming command in Iraq, General (David) Petraeus wrote studies saying it would take almost a million U.S. troops to put down an Iraqi insurgency and, Ellis noted, “we aren’t going to get a million troops.” The result in Iraq has put the insurgency in a position where, even if they can’t win, they will succeed if they just don’t lose, but that the U.S. has to “win.”
SOURCE: New Yorker abstract (4-14-08)
SOURCE: AP (4-16-08)
Caro, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, is known for his biography of Robert Moses, "The Power Broker," and for his multivolume series on Lyndon Johnson. Trillin is a longtime staff writer for The New Yorker who writes often about food and last year released a best-selling memoir about his late wife, Alice Trillin.
The Irish-born Muldoon won a Pulitzer in 2003 for "Moy Sand and Gravel."
Other inductees include fiction writer-essayist Joy Williams, artists Ursula von Rydingsvard and John Baldessari, African scholar Kwame Anthony Appiah and Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt. Gold medals for lifetime achievement will be presented to historian Edmund S. Morgan and architect Richard Meier.
SOURCE: Tom Eblen in the Lexington Herald-Leader (4-16-08)
Perhaps it's because, soon after I returned to Lexington in the spring of 1998, I asked Kentucky's historian laureate to speak to the Herald-Leader staff. He stood and lectured for nearly an hour without notes, putting Kentucky's array of issues, controversies and quirks into the context of history's great sweep.
It was an impressive performance, especially for a man about to turn 95.
While cleaning out files recently, I found a 15-page autobiographical memo Clark sent so I could introduce him properly that day. Hammered out on his manual typewriter, it was filled with typos and seemed to be missing a page or two. Mostly it was his exposition of Kentucky problems that need to be fixed.
It was classic Clark. He didn't study history to bask in the glow of a romanticized past. Rather, he saw history as the recipe for who we are and as a guide to the future that could help us learn from the mistakes of the past.
After Clark retired from a long and distinguished teaching career, he became even more active and outspoken. He drove himself around the state, speaking to legislative committees and garden clubs alike -- anyone who was willing to listen. And he never pulled punches. Herald-Leader reporter Andy Mead wrote my favorite description of Clark, calling him "a sort of unofficial state grandfather -- but not the kind who spoils you."
Clark didn't let up until his death on June 28, 2005 -- 16 days short of his 102nd birthday.
Perhaps I also think of Clark this time of year because spring is a time of renewal, a time to sort through old things and get serious about the future.
This is an especially good day to read Clark's observations, as the General Assembly heads home from Frankfort, having left so many of Kentucky's needs unmet.
Here are some excerpts:
"I thoroughly abhor the political corruption which has so often stained the democratic process in Kentucky's history. Every vote 'bought,' every private driveway paved at public expense, every mean and selfish act of a public school board, failure of the courts and criminal act by a public official has soiled Kentucky's image and diluted its integrity. One has only to examine the electoral statistics of past elections to see how much Kentuckians lack faith in their governing process...."
SOURCE: Steve Weinberg at the website of InsideHigherEd (4-17-08)
For all that they are seen as bastions of knowledge and unfettered flow of information, colleges and universities are not typically known for welcoming rigorous scrutiny of themselves. They often have love-hate relationships with the journalists who cover them.
So imagine my surprise in 2002 when R. Dean Mills, dean of the University of Missouri’s Journalism School, asked me, an investigative reporter on its faculty, to write an institutional history of the school, the world’s first and arguably best, to commemorate its centennial.
The offer felt like an attractive one — he agreed to pay a sum commensurate with what a New York City book publisher would pay for a trade title found in the country’s major bookstores, and had lined up the University of Missouri Press, a first-rate academic press, to publish it. Still, I said no — I was under contract to write a trade book, I did not think I could handle a second book project at the same time, and the idea of an institutional history sounded potentially boring. But the dean demonstrated persistence. Each month that passed, the money became increasingly appealing, in part because my advance from the trade publisher had long since run out.
I was sure, though, that my unshakeable demand — complete editorial independence – would cause the dean to draw back. I was wrong. When he agreed to that condition, I said yes, despite my reservations.
You have it right: Mills chose the person most experienced at unearthing skeletons, digging up dirt, (substitute your own cliché, if you like), to tell his institution’s history. Was he crazy, or gutsy, or what?
Protected by my written promise of complete editorial independence, I began digging — er, researching. What happened over the next five years surprised me, a veteran of seven trade books, over and over....
SOURCE: Scott McLemee at the website of Inside Higher Ed (4-16-08)
Once my own cogitations were complete (the piece will run in the next issue of Bookforum), of course, I took a look at the Times Web site. By then, Fish’s column had drawn literally hundreds of comments. This must warm some hearts in Minnesota. Any publicity is good publicity as long as they spell your name right — so this must count as great publicity, especially since French Theory itself won’t actually be available until next month.
But in other ways it is unfortunate. Fish and his interlocutors reduce Cusset’s rich, subtle, and paradox-minded book (now arriving in translation) into one more tale of how tenured pseudoradicalism rose to power in the United States. Of course there is always an audience for that sort of thing. And it is true that Cusset – who teaches intellectual history at the Institute d’Etudes Politiques and at Reid Hall/Columbia University, in Paris – devotes some portions of the book to explaining American controversies to his French readers. But that is only one aspect of the story, and by no means the most interesting or rewarding....
Since Israel's founding in 1948, there have been two Arab-Israeli conflicts. The first one is military in nature. Played out on the battlefield, it has heroes, villains, martyrs, and victims. The second conflict, less bloody but no less incendiary, is the battle over the historical culpability for the 1948 war and the displacement of large numbers of Palestinian Arabs.
The Israeli narrative views the Palestinian tragedy as primarily self-inflicted, resulting from their vehement rejection of the 1947 United Nations resolution calling for two states in Palestine, and the violent attempt by regional Arab states to abort the Jewish state at birth. By contrast, Palestinians view the episode as one in which they fell victim to a Zionist strategy that dispossessed them from their patrimony.
The New Historians
In the late 1980s the Palestinian narrative was bolstered by the advent of a group of Israeli "new historians" who systematically rewrote the history of Zionism, warping the saga for Israel's survival. Aggressors were characterized as hapless victims and victims became aggressors. Rarely found in these revisionist accounts was the outspoken Arab commitment to destroy the Jewish national cause since the early 1920s, or the dogged efforts of the Jews to achieve peaceful coexistence. Instead, Zionism is depicted as an aggressive and expansionist movement, or an offshoot of rapacious European imperialism. According to Avi Shlaim, a noted new historian, Israel was an "aggressive and overbearing military superpower," while Palestinian Arabs could "only be seen as victims."
Aware that many of their key arguments and revelations were already negated by the existing work of "Israeli writers, not to mention Palestinian, Arab, and Western writers," as Shlaim noted, new historians staked their legitimacy on their supposed use of recently declassified documents from the archives of the British Mandate period and Israel's early days. This pretense, however, was debunked inter alia by a startling admission by Benny Morris of Ben-Gurion University in Beer Sheva.
In researching The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem 1947-1949, the most influential work of the new historians, Morris had "no access to the materials in the IDFA [Israel Defense Force Archive] or Hagana Archive and precious little to first-hand military materials deposited elsewhere." Nevertheless, he insisted, "the new materials I have seen over the past few years tend to confirm and reinforce the major lines of description and analysis, and the conclusions, in The Birth."
This revelation was very damning. What made Morris and his colleagues worth reading was their claim to have studied newly available documentary evidence. It was this evidence, the new historians argued, that necessitated a reevaluation of Israeli history. Yet there was Morris, admitting that he had not "had access" to, or "was not aware of," the voluminous archives of Israeli institutions whose actions in 1948 formed the basis of his indictment.
Morris and other new historians also failed to confirm and reinforce their conclusions with previously available sources. What they did confirm was what was already known: the collapse and dispersion of Palestinian society was largely the responsibility of Palestinian and other Arab leaders, not of the Zionists.
Upon close examination, it appears that Morris and other new historians engaged in systematic falsification of evidence. They seem to have invented an Arab-Israeli history that fits with the political agenda they promote. Tactics range from the "innocent" act of extrapolating incorrect conclusions from documents, to tendentious truncation of source materials in ways that distort their original meanings, and even rewriting original texts to convey things they did not intend. Two brief examples are worth noting.
In a letter to his son in 1937, David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel, wrote:
"We do not wish and do not need to expel Arabs and take their place. All our aspiration is built on the assumption - proven throughout all our activity - that there is enough room for ourselves and the Arabs in Palestine."
In The Birth, however, Morris claims Ben-Gurion penned the opposite: "We must expel Arabs and take their place." Curiously, in his Hebrew-language writings, Morris rendered Ben-Gurion's words accurately, perhaps knowing that readers could check the original source.
In a separate article, Morris distorted Ben-Gurion's words from an Israeli cabinet meeting on June 16, 1948:
"We did not start the war. They made the war, Jaffa went to war against us. So did Haifa. And I do not want those who fled to return. I do not want them again to make war."
The key sentence, "I do not want those who fled to return," is simply not found in the text of the meeting transcript. Rather, it reads as follows:
"We did not start the war. They made the war. Jaffa waged war on us, Haifa waged war on us, Beit Shean waged war on us. And I do not want them again to make war."
Again, in the Hebrew version of his article, Morris did not distort Ben-Gurion's words.
At What Risk?
The discipline of history, the rigorous search for the truths of our past, typically eschews the blatant distortion of facts. Yet, in the highly politicized field of Middle Eastern studies, the new historians are lionized as pioneers. They are viewed by their colleagues and understudies as courageous for debunking Zionist "mythology" at a considerable professional risk....
SOURCE: HNN Staff (4-16-08)
SOURCE: John Leo in the WSJ (4-15-08)
This "celebration" marked the high-water mark of Afrocentrism, a movement that had begun in the academy in the 1980s and gained astonishing momentum with the publication of Martin Bernal's "Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization" (1989). According to various Afrocentric books and popular assertions, ancient Egypt invaded ancient Greece, Plato and Herodotus somehow picked up their ideas in travels along the Nile, and Aristotle stole his philosophy from the library at Alexandria. Though the arguments were contradictory and scattered, the point was that Western civilization had been founded on materials and discoveries borrowed or stolen from black Egyptians.
During this whirlwind of dubious scholarship, the academic world mostly remained mum, hiding behind the curtain of academic freedom and withholding its criticism lest a statement of simple truth be branded "racist." For a 1991 column in U.S. News & World Report, I phoned seven Egyptologists and asked whether the ancient Egyptian population had been "black." Of course not, they all responded, but not for attribution, since, as one said, "this subject is just too hot."
The scholar who did the most to break this silence was Mary Lefkowitz, a mild-mannered classicist at Wellesley College. Without fully understanding the abuse she would invite by speaking out against Afrocentrism, she accepted an assignment in the fall of 1991 to write a long review of the second volume of Martin Bernal's "Black Athena" for the New Republic magazine. She was shocked to discover that the Bernal volume, and a stack of other nearly fact-free books on Afrocentrism, had made headway in the schools and even in the universities.
She concluded that the Afrocentric authors regarded history as a form of advocacy: Like other postmodernists, they believed that truth is impossible to know -- that all "narratives" are socially constructed and thus possess an equal claim to legitimacy. At the time, traditional scholarship was generally under assault, but the classics were particularly vulnerable, because they purported to study the foundational texts of the West. Attacking the classics as a complex system of lies was emotionally important to those who wanted to take Western culture down a peg. Feelings and politics mattered, not scholarship. As Ms. Lefkowitz puts it: "[Bernal] seemed to be saying that the most persuasive narrative was the one with the most desirable result. In effect, he was preaching a kind of affirmative action program for the rewriting of history."
"History Lesson" is Ms. Lefkowitz's personal account of what she experienced as a result of questioning the veracity of Afrocentrism and the motives of its advocates. She has advanced the intellectual case against Afrocentrism before, in "Not Out of Africa" (1997); here she takes a more personal approach, at one point mentioning the strain of the controversy as she battled breast cancer.
Outraged by the nonscholarly approach of Afrocentric writers, she somewhat naïvely imagined that facts would put their extreme theories to rest. She noted, for instance, that Socrates couldn't have been black, as alleged, because his parents were Athenian citizens and blacks, in classical Athens, were not eligible for citizenship. She noted, as well, that Aristotle would have had a tough time stealing his philosophy from the library at Alexandria, since he died before the library was built. Such arguments went nowhere, Ms. Lefkowitz writes, with those who saw Greek philosophy "as yet another case of a colonialist European plundering of Africa."...
That effort is orchestrated by an Israeli settler organization called Elad, a name formed from Hebrew letters that stand for "to the City of David." For several years, Elad has used a variety of means to evict East Jerusalem Palestinians from their homes and replace them with Jewish settlers. Today Silwan is dotted with about a dozen such outposts. Moreover, practically all the green areas in the densely populated neighborhood have been transformed into new archaeological sites, which have then been fenced and posted with armed guards. On two of these new archaeological sites, Jewish homes have already been built.
Although the balance of power is clearly in the settlers' favor, Silwan's residents have begun a campaign, "Citizens for Silwan," to stop the excavations. They are joined by a number of noted international scholars and a handful of Israeli academics, who are trying to help them remain in their homes. Among those involved are David A. Bell, dean of faculty and professor of the humanities at the Johns Hopkins University; Judith Butler, professor of rhetoric and comparative literature at the University of California at Berkeley; Lorraine Daston, director of Berlin's Max Planck Institute for the History of Science; Natalie Zemon Davis, professor of history emerita at Princeton University; Rashid Khalidi, professor of Arab studies at Columbia University; Thomas W. Laqueur, professor of history at the University of California at Berkeley; Sheldon Pollock, professor of Sanskrit and Indian studies at Columbia University; Marshall Sahlins, professor of anthropology and social sciences emeritus at the University of Chicago; and Robert A. Schneider, professor of history at Indiana University at Bloomington and editor of The American Historical Review. We joined David Shulman, professor of South Asian studies, and Yaron Ezrahi, professor of political science, both from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, as Israeli signatories. Notably absent from the list are prominent Israeli archaeologists, many of whom depend on funds from the Israel Antiquities Authority....
SOURCE: Jerusalem Post (4-6-08)
"That was back when they liked Jews," the octogenarian professor emeritus of East European Jewish history joked on Sunday, hours after formally returning the award in a letter to the current Lithuanian president, Valdas Adamkus.
Giving back the award after 15 years wasn't easy. "I wish I didn't have to do it," he said, but insisted "it's the least I can do for my good friend."
Levin's good friend is Dr. Yitzhak Arad, "an excellent partisan" who took part in the resistance to the Nazi occupation before leaving for Israel in 1945 and joining the Palmah.
A retired IDF brigadier-general, the 82-year-old Arad served as chairman of Yad Vashem for over two decades and was a lecturer in Jewish history at Tel Aviv University.
Last year, Lithuanian prosecutors received a complaint from right-wing activists citing Arad's memoir depiction of a reprisal attack on a Lithuanian village.
The prosecutors are now investigating whether the attack he participated in may have been a war crime, since he fought against the Nazis in a Soviet-organized resistance.
The Lithuanian prosecution even submitted a request to Israel's Justice Ministry to investigate Arad, a request the government does not appear to have taken seriously.
The university announced it would spend $50 million on a project to enhance the core curriculum's multicultural offerings last fall, shortly after students conducted a week-long hunger strike to protest the weakness of the classes. Now Columbia is assigning a young professor of Western civilization, Roosevelt Montas, 34, to direct the effort.
It will not be an easy job. The position will involve balancing the concerns of academics who worry that the university could veer from its focus on a canon of Western texts and students who have been pushing the university to make the core curriculum, called the Core, more inclusive.
Mr. Montas, a Dominican immigrant who moved to New York in his teens and attended Columbia as a scholarship student, is quick to acknowledge that his ethnic and economic background "embodies diversity," which some believe is missing from the core curriculum. Yet he is also one of the Core's most passionate defenders.
SOURCE: Stanley Katz in AHA Perspectives (April) (4-1-08)
The lecture—the second in a series on foreign policy history sponsored by the National History Center in collaboration with the CFR—was entitled "Fear and Hitler's Instant Subversion of Freedom." In his presentation, Stern, who had himself barely managed to escape the tyrannical terrors of the Nazi regime by emigrating to the United States with his family when he was still a child, explained how the Nazis manipulated national-security issues to increase and consolidate their power. Although other factors—the long, failed political education of the German people and the failures of leadership on the part of the German ruling class, for instance—also contributed to the rise to power of the Nazis, it was the fear of the "enemy" within (the Jews) that they exploited to devastating effect. This produced, according to Stern, a "silent and jubilant submission" of the German people.
There was a long and spirited discussion following the talk, during which it became clear that the audience was making connections between the dangers and failures of the 1930s and those of the contemporary world (a video recording of the talk and the following discussion can be seen at www.cfr.org/issue/138/foreign_policy_history.html). When asked what he most feared today, Stern replied "the Singapore model"—authoritarianism and economic development. Which, of course, is one way to describe the Nazi experiment....
SOURCE: Press Release--ASMEA (4-10-08)
Hailed as "the world's foremost Islamic scholar" (Wall Street Journal) and as "the doyen of Middle Eastern studies" (New York Times), Professor Lewis's views on the issues facing the Islamic World inform the ranks of academia, policymakers and pundits.
Set for April 24-26, 2008 at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C., the conference is entitled: "The Evolution of Islamic Politics, Philosophy, and Culture in the Middle East and Africa: From Traditional Limits to Modern Extremes." It will feature a combination of panels and roundtables with scholars presenting new research findings on the importance of the Islamic influence in these regions, as well as a keynote speech from Professor Lewis.
As the conference's keynote speaker, Professor Lewis—who also serves as chairman of ASMEA—will speak to attendees about the future of these regions in a speech entitled Studying the Other: Different Ways of Looking at the Middle East and Africa.
SOURCE: http://abclocal.go.com (4-14-08)
"Senator Obama is a truly exceptional leader who understands the struggles of people from all walks of life. As president, he will be the voice of regular people - something that has been missing from the political landscape for so many years. He has shown an ability to bridge the divides in our society and unite people behind his agenda for change. He is exactly the kind of president our country needs," said Franklin.
John Hope Franklin is the John Matthews Manly Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in History at the University of Chicago James B. Duke Professor Emeritus at Duke University, where the John Hope Franklin Collection for African and African-American Documentation is housed within the Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript and Special Collections Library.
Historians for Obama
SOURCE: Janet Maslin in the NYT (4-10-08)
He describes free men and women forced into industrial servitude, bound by chains, faced with subhuman living conditions and subject to physical torture. That plight was horrific. But until 1951, it was not outside the law.
All it took was anything remotely resembling a crime. Bastardy, gambling, changing employers without permission, false pretense, “selling cotton after sunset”: these were all grounds for arrest in rural Alabama by 1890. And as Mr. Blackmon explains in describing incident after incident, an arrest could mean a steep fine. If the accused could not pay this debt, he or she might be imprisoned.
Alabama was among the Southern states that profitably leased convicts to private businesses. As the book illustrates, arrest rates and the labor needs of local businesses could conveniently be made to dovetail....
SOURCE: Arnita Jones in the AHA Perspectives (APRIL) (4-1-08)
SOURCE: Press Release--UC Davis (4-9-08)
"Susan Mann is internationally known for her pioneering work on the history of women in China," history professor Alan Taylor said in announcing the 66th annual award last month at the spring meeting of the UC Davis Academic Senate. "... She revolutionized the study of Chinese history."
The Faculty Research Lecture is the highest honor bestowed by UC Davis faculty on their peers and recognizes outstanding scholarly research. It comes with a $1,000 cash award. In keeping with tradition, Mann will deliver a spring Faculty Research Lecture to the campus and community; the free lecture will take place at 7 p.m. May 6 in ARC Ballroom B. Titled "The Sex Education of a Sinologist," it will offer the first public preview of Mann's forthcoming book, "Gender and Sexuality in Modern China."
Mann grew up in a Detroit suburb, in what she describes as a "classic middle-class, postwar, 50s family." She was a freshman at the University of Michigan in 1961 when she first decided to study Chinese. At the time -- four years after the Russian launch of the Sputnik satellite -- the United States government was encouraging students to study "exotic languages" as a way to gain ground in the space race and defeat communism. Mann went on to earn her bachelor's degree in Far Eastern languages and literatures at Michigan and her master's and Ph.D. in Asian languages at Stanford University. She then moved to Chicago, where she taught at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago.
She credits a group of radical women students at the University of Chicago in the mid-1970s with pointing her toward the field of women's history and gender studies. The students, who made up the Women's Union on campus, needed a faculty sponsor. They appealed to Mann. She agreed, and also acceded when the students asked if they could use her house as a meeting place. At the meetings, as the students discussed women's wages and the emergence of feminist theory in academia, Mann began asking new questions about her area of focus: China in the 18th century. At the time, no one had studied the writings of Chinese women of that era from a historical perspective.
"Where are the women?" Mann wanted to know. "What did life look like from their point of view?"
Mann has answered these and other questions in three books, four edited volumes and 35 research articles and essays.
She first made her mark with a 1987 article in the field's premier publication, the Journal of Asian Studies. There, she demonstrated new possibilities for studying women's experience and gender relations to yield novel insights about Chinese government and society.
That article led to her 1997 book, "Precious Records: Women in China's Long Eighteenth Century," which won the Joseph R. Levenson Prize, the premier annual prize awarded in the field of pre-20th century China.
In 2002, she was recruited by the editors of the "Cambridge History of China" to write a chapter on "Women, Families and Gender Relations" in the 17th and 18th centuries. The chapter "offers a thorough and elegant summary of a burgeoning field which she helped to create," according to Ted Margadant, professor and chair of history at UC Davis.
Her latest book, "The Talented Women of the Zhang Family," reconstructs the lives of three generations of women who married into, or descended from, a family of scholar-officials. The University of California Press, which published the book last year, says that it "illuminates a China that has been largely invisible."
Margadant, who nominated Mann for the Faculty Research Lecture award, also praised her teaching, leadership and service to the campus. "Her scholarly productivity is especially striking because of her commitment to teaching, her leadership in national organizations and her service to the university," Margadant wrote in his nominating letter.
Among her many honors, Mann in 2000 was elected president of the Association of Asian Studies, an organization of 7,000 historians, literary scholars and social scientists. At UC Davis, where she has been a member of the faculty since 1989, she has chaired both the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures and the Department of History and received the Outstanding Mentor Award from the UC Davis Consortium for Women and Research.
SOURCE: Robert Townsend at the AHA blog (4-14-08)
We hope members—and everyone in the profession with an interest in the future of our disciplinary society—will take a little time to read the report of the Working Group on the Future of the AHA, which can be found in both the print and online versions of the April issue of Perspectives on History. After a year surveying the issue, the committee made the following recommendations:
(a) To secure its future, the AHA must reach out to a broader membership and become more diverse and inclusive while preserving its core constituency of history PhDs who teach at research universities and liberal arts colleges. Specifically, it should adopt policies designed to recruit AP high school teachers, community college instructors, and the broad category of practitioners often labeled "public" historians. Some of these policies will involve special dues packages and additional staffing, while others will involve further reforms to the annual meeting.
(b) The AHA needs to improve its use of the internet to provide member services, including blogs, chat rooms among subdivisions of the Association, and special instructional sessions at the annual meeting on how better to incorporate information technology into our teaching mission.
(c) The AHA should refine its advocacy efforts on behalf of historians to become more proactive rather than reactive, and should consider greater collaboration with peer organizations like the OAH on a variety of outreach activities.
(d) The AHA should pursue the development plan espoused by incoming president Gabrielle Spiegel, refining that plan in consultation with outside consultants to make personnel costs affordable, and to determine what the most effective means is (such as a new building or a leased structure) to achieve greater space.
(e) The AHA should revisit the structure of its relationship with the National History Center, focusing on the fiduciary responsibilities of the AHA and the desirability of the NHC becoming a "support corporation" of the AHA.
The report goes into the specifics of their recommendations in greater detail, but the AHA Council will need to take the next step to turn ideas into action. To make sure this happens, AHA President Gabrielle Spiegel appointed a subcommittee of the Council, which will be chaired by President-elect Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, and comprised of Elise Lipkowitz, Frank Malaret, Trudy Peterson, and Larry Wolff. Arnita A. Jones, AHA’s executive director, and Robert A. Schneider, editor of the American Historical Review, will serve as ex officio members of the committee.
We hope all members of the Association will review the Working Group’s recommendations, and submit their comments and suggestions to me or post comment here on AHA Today by the end of April. Mills Kelly at edwired and Sterling Fluharty at PhDinHistory have already weighed in with their thoughts about the report, and I encourage you to do the same, so again please comment here or email me.
SOURCE: AP (4-12-08)
Edward L. Ayers, a noted historian of the American South, recounted on Friday the university's history before outlining his goals for the school, which included a renewed focus on diversity, affordability, and improving its relationship with the city.
The former dean at the University of Virginia, who took the president's job on July 1, won a Bancroft Prize in 2004 for his book about the Civil War. He has also been a finalist for the National Book Award and Pultizer Prize.
Harvard University President Drew Gilpen Faust - a Civil War historian, professor of history and close friend of Ayers - offered opening remarks. Richmond Mayor L. Douglas Wilder and state Secretary of Education Thomas Morris were also in attendance.