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: Press Release (5-22-08)
Honey and his book, Going Down Jericho Road: The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King's Last Campaign, will be recognized at a ceremony May 27 at 6:30 p.m. at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. Given by the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial, the award honors books which faithfully and forcefully reflect the late Robert F. Kennedy's concern for the oppressed and their struggle for justice.
Kennedy and King fought similar battles in the 1960s against poverty, racism and social injustice, Honey said.
"Robert F. Kennedy urged King to bring the poor to Washington, inspiring his Poor People's Campaign," Honey said."Memphis was part of that effort, and it became his last campaign."
Released in 2007, Going Down Jericho Road is the first in-depth story of the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers' strike, a pivotal moment in the late 20th-century human-rights movement. The book tells the story of the strike, which started after two sanitation workers died in their truck due to outdated equipment and the indifference of their white supervisors. Their deaths touched off one of the most significant labor strikes in the history of the nation, one that before its end would rock the plantation mentality of Memphis' government to its core and, on April 4, 1968, see the tragic death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Ethel Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy's widow, will present Honey with the award. Previous winners of the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award include former Vice President Al Gore, U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), Taylor Branch, Toni Morrison and Jonathan Kozol.
Going Down Jericho Road also received the Liberty Legacy Award from the Organization of American Historians, and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Honey, who has published three award-winning books connecting labor and civil rights history, teaches labor and ethnic studies and American history and holds the Fred T. and Dorothy G. Haley Endowed Professorship of the Humanities. He has taught at UW Tacoma since the campus opened in 1990.
For more information about Going Down Jericho Road, please visit
* The Making of Jericho Road, an interview with Michael Honey in http://solidarity-us.org/atc/current
SOURCE: National Review Online (5-23-08)
National Review Online’s Mark Hemingway sat down with Perlstein to discuss the historical terrain covered by Nixonland, as well as the import of conservative history for scholars of a variety of political dispositions.
NRO: You wrote a book about Barry Goldwater, and now you’ve written Nixonland, which deals with conservative history in 1960s, the factors that that led to Nixon’s success, the southern realignment, etc. It’s my general sense that liberal or popular historians don’t seem to be very interested in conservative history and ideology. Why are you?
Perlstein: That was true 10 to 15 years ago, but if you went to a decent graduate history program like Columbia you’d see that half of the people who are working on “modern American history” are working on conservatism so it’s not true anymore. I build my work on this very strong foundation of completely unsung scholarly monographic work on the right. There are also a lot of young historians who really have done the archival work. All my stuff on Frank Rizzo, for example, the Philadelphia mayor who was one of Nixon’s big conservative Democrat backers – that’s all from a master’s thesis by Jeff Decker, a graduate student at Columbia. If it ever was true, it’s not true now.
NRO: Well even if perception is changing in academic circles, the notion that is still prevalent among the left is that somehow Reagan and the religious right sprung from the skull of Athena fully formed in 1980 and there wasn’t a lot of movement conservatism preceding that. So if progressive historians like yourself are revising the popular narrative of the 1960s, what impact does that have on the current understanding of the political landscape and how can that help liberals?
Perlstein: Liberals have a very distorted history through the 60s, 70s, and 80s, and even to some extent the 90s, of patronizing and condescending to conservative sentiment in America. They’ve always been blindsided. In 1966 when Ronald Reagan comes to the fore running for Governor, these jokes appear in Esquire which quip that maybe he’ll nominate Elizabeth Taylor as Superintendent of Public Instruction which was a really funny joke back then because Elizabeth Taylor was this super sex symbol. This idea she’d be teaching children was slightly risqué. Saw a lot of that in the 60s, a lot of that in the 70s, some in the 80s. I remember reading some TNR articles in the early 1980s that had the same kind of hooting derision at the notion of Ronald Reagan being president. . . At least in my circles in the progressive movement, that’s the not the case any more. Now I see more of that kind of sense of entitlement, condescension, and arrogance directed at liberals. When a movement has been in power for a while, it’s hard to achieve perspective. ...
SOURCE: NYT (5-23-08)
The cause was pneumonia, said Lisa Anderson, a Columbia political science professor, a former student of Dr. Hurewitz’s and one of his successors as director of Columbia’s Middle East Institute.
Dr. Hurewitz said he began studying Middle Eastern politics when it was “essentially a nonexistent discipline” and went on to shepherd hundreds of students through the Middle East Institute, which he directed from 1970 until 1984. These included future diplomats in the Middle East, some of the early women to venture into the field, and Ismail Khalidi, the father of Rashid Khalidi, the current director of the institute.
Dr. Hurewitz’s most enduring scholarly achievement was collecting mostly unpublished papers, like secret treaties, communications between governments and legislative acts, to document the history of the Middle East from the early 16th century until just after World War II. The material was collected in two volumes published in 1956, then expanded and updated in two more volumes published in 1975 and 1979. He preceded each document with a detailed explanation.
SOURCE: Paul Laity in the Guardian (5-17-08)
Judt, who teaches at New York University, is known as a combative writer and reviewer, and this reputation is confirmed by his new collection of pieces, Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century, which opens with the trouncing of a recent biographer of Koestler for being, among other things, priggishly obsessed with his subject's sex life. Over the years, Judt has been notable, in particular, for his acid dismissals of "romantic" communists and their fellow travellers. Many of his targets have been French intellectuals - he has ripped into Sartre numerous times - but in Reappraisals he also, from his own position on the left, accuses Eric Hobsbawm of being a "mandarin" and calls the much loved EP Thompson a "sanctimonious, priggish Little Englander".
Since September 2001, however, Judt's articulate polemicism has taken a new direction - one that has transformed his life. Uneasy about the political reaction to 9/11 in the US, he soon began to publish a series of condemnations of Bush's international policies. But whereas his anti-communism sat comfortably with mainstream liberal opinion in America, his early opposition to the Iraq war threw him out of alignment with his usual allies, who were still rallying around the president following the terrorist attacks. Judt, who was born and has spent most of his life in Britain, began to feel more aware of being European - and different.
He raised hackles by labelling liberal commentators in America - including New Yorker editor David Remnick, Michael Ignatieff and Paul Berman - Bush's "useful idiots". But by far the biggest tumults Judt has caused have followed an essay he published five years ago, entitled "Israel: The Alternative", which opened with the notion that "the president of the United States of America has been reduced to a ventriloquist's dummy, pitifully reciting the Israeli cabinet line", and went on to contend that the time had come to "think the unthinkable" - the bringing to an end of Israel as a Jewish state, and the establishment in its place of a binational state of Israelis and Palestinians....
SOURCE: David Remnick in the New Yorker (5-19-08)
For Schaap, Bird not only lives; he is the singular genius of mid-century American music, a dynamo of virtuosity, improvisation, harmony, velocity, and feeling, and no aspect of his brief career is beneath consideration. Schaap’s discursive monologues on a single home recording—say, “the Bob Redcross acetate” of Parker playing in the early nineteen-forties over the Benny Goodman Quartet’s 1937 hit “Avalon”—can go on for an entire program or more, blurring the line between exhaustive and exhausting. There is no getting to the end of Charlie Parker, and sometimes there is no getting to the end of “Bird Flight.” The program is the anchor of WKCR’s daily schedule and begins at eight-twenty. It is supposed to conclude at nine-forty. In the many years that I’ve been listening, I’ve rarely heard it end precisely as scheduled. Generations of Columbia d.j.s whose programs followed Schaap’s have learned to stand clutching an album of the early Baroque or nineteenth-century Austrian yodelling and wait patiently for the final chorus of “I’ll Always Love You Just the Same.”...
SOURCE: Larry Elders at PatriotPost.us (5-22-08)
American Enterprise magazine, in 2002, examined voter registrations to determine the political affiliations of humanities professors at an assortment of colleges and universities, public and private, big and small, located in the North, South, East and West. Of those registered with a political party -- and most were -- historians overwhelmingly belong to a “party of the left” (Democratic, Green or Working Families parties) versus a “party of the right” (Republican or Libertarian parties). Take Brown University's history department. Seventeen professors belonged to parties on the left, zero on the right. Cornell University's history department? Twenty-nine on the left, zero on the right. Denver College: nine history professors left, zero right. San Diego State University: 19 left, four right. Stanford University: 22 left, two right. UCLA: 53 left, three right. University of Texas at Austin: 12 left, two right.
HNN's historians provided three principal reasons in labeling Bush's presidency a “failure":
1) Invading Iraq. Since the “surge” began, casualties have fallen dramatically. Five hundred thousand Iraqis, up from zero, now form the Iraqi military and police. Iraqi forces increasingly take the lead in their own security. The main Sunni bloc, who refused to participate in Parliament, recently returned to the government. According to American Enterprise Institute, of the 18 original benchmarks set for the Iraqi government, 12 have been met, with substantial progress being made on five, and only one -- the least important -- stalled. Fifty-three percent of Americans now consider victory in Iraq a possibility, with Americans almost evenly divided on whether to stay or withdraw by time certain. Oh, and just an aside, no attack on American soil since 9/11.
2) Tax breaks for the rich. By definition, any tax cuts go disproportionately to the rich because the rich disproportionately pay more taxes. The top 1 percent of income earners in 2005, those earning $364,657 or more, paid over 39 percent of all federal income taxes. On the other hand, they earned approximately 21 percent of taxpayers’ income. The President John F. Kennedy tax cuts, by percentage, lowered taxes more than the Bush cuts. Does anyone call the Kennedy tax cuts a “failed policy"? Kennedy, pushing for his tax cut program, used the same Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush logic: “It is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high today and tax revenues are too low -- and the soundest way to raise revenues in the long run is to cut rates now." From 2003 to 2007, in constant dollars, total Treasury revenue increased 20 percent.
3) Alienation of nations around the world. Take a look at the globe. France's newly elected President Nicolas Sarkozy praises Bush, dismissed his country's opposition to the war as “French arrogance," and says his countrymen's anti-Americanism “reflects a certain envy of (America's) brilliant success." British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper all support Bush, and maintain close ties with America. Italy's enthusiastically pro-Bush prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, who sent troops to Iraq, left office in 2006. His predecessor withdrew the troops. But guess who's now back, in a landslide victory? Berlusconi.
As a result of Bush's commitment to democracy and his initiatives combating HIV and AIDS, the President enjoys near rock-star status in many African countries. And NATO, thanks to Bush's prodding, swelled from 19 members to 26, admitting in 2004 Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.
And what about Bush's war on Islamofascism, which allegedly provokes alienation and a backlash against America? Support for homicide bombing among Muslims in predominately Muslim countries worldwide shows a dramatic decline. Support for “suicide bombing” in Lebanon, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Indonesia, according to the Pew Global Attitudes Project, dropped 50 percent or more in the past five years. Similarly, support for Islamist political parties -- linked or sympathetic to the Taliban or al-Qaida -- has dropped dramatically. In Pakistan, for example, Islamist parties garnered only 3 percent of the vote, down from 11 percent in the previous general election. “The Islamist defeat in Pakistani," writes Iranian-born journalist Amir Taheri in The Wall Street Journal, “confirms a trend that's been under way (in Muslim countries) for years." Muslim support for Osama bin Laden in Pakistan fell in the six months before February ‘08 by as much as 50 percent -- to 24 percent -- with some former followers now renouncing him. In Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province, where many believe bin Laden hides, polls show support for him falling to single digits.
Maybe historians should wait for some, well, history, before rendering a verdict.
SOURCE: Victor Davis Hanson in National Review (5-22-08)
For example, scholar-soldier Col. H. R. McMaster, Special Forces Col. Ken Tovo, and Col. Sean MacFarland — all of whom helped turn Sunni insurgents into allies — could, and should, make the cut.
These three colonels have had decorated careers in Iraq mastering the complexities of working with Iraqi forces in hunting down terrorists and insurgents. And they — like David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq — in the past have not always reflected the Army establishment in Washington. Their unconventional views about counterinsurgency warfare do not hinge on high-tech weaponry, tanks, artillery, and rapid massed advance.
SOURCE: NY Post (5-21-08)
Edward Renehan, former director of the Theodore Roosevelt Association in Oyster Bay, LI, is facing 24 to 30 months in federal prison after pleading guilty yesterday to transporting stolen goods across state lines.
The letters by Washington, dated 1778 and 1791, and Honest Abe, written in 1840, sold for $97,000 at a Manhattan gallery, according to court papers.
The Lincoln letter was handwritten and signed more than 20 years before he became president. The Washington documents just carried his signature.
While the contents of the letters have only minor historic significance to the presidents, they are rare and valuable, defense attorney Peter Brill said.
Renehan, who has written six books, is also facing state charges in Nassau County for stealing a fourth letter from the association he once headed - this one by Roosevelt.
NY Newsday News Story About Renehan
SOURCE: Benny Morris in a letter to the Irish Times (5-1-08)
Most of Palestine's 700,000"refugees" fled their homes because of the flail of war (and in the expectation that they would shortly return to their homes on the backs of victorious Arab invaders).
There was no Zionist"plan" or blanket policy of evicting the Arab population, or of"ethnic cleansing". Plan Dalet of March 10, 1948, was the master plan of the Haganah - the Jewish military force that became the Israel Defence Forces - to counter the expected pan-Arab assault on the emergent Jewish state. And the invasion of the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq duly occurred, on May 15.
It is true that Plan D gave the regional commanders carte blanche to occupy and garrison or expel and destroy the Arab villages along and behind the front lines and the anticipated Arab armies' invasion routes. And it is also true that midway in the 1948 war the Israeli leaders decided to bar the return of the"refugees" (those"refugees" who had just assaulted the Jewish community), viewing them as a potential fifth column and threat to the Jewish state's existence. I for one cannot fault their fears or logic.
SOURCE: Press Release (5-20-08)
"If Confederate men would have organized memorials to honor their fallen soldiers in 1866, a year after the Civil War ended, it would have been considered treason against the United States," says Caroline Janney, an assistant professor of history. "Instead, women organized each event, and the men were figuratively hiding behind the skirts of these women. The memorial celebrations served as shields so that participants could simultaneously criticize the postwar government and praise their 'Lost Cause.' What many people don't realize is that these women, who are often portrayed as politically indifferent, were motivated by politics, too."
The women, through Ladies' Memorial Associations, organized dozens of memorials during the spring of 1866 and the years after. While Memorial Day is now a one-day celebration, historically these memorials were scheduled throughout the spring as a sign of renewal and rebirth, and each community chose its own symbolic date on which to gather. For example, some selected the May 10 anniversary of Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson's death while others settled on April 26, the day Gen. Joseph E. Johnston surrendered his troops in 1865.
"People should have a better understanding about the origins of Memorial Day because the Civil War secured the Union and freed 4 million slaves," Janney says. "The day should not only be about celebrating the lives of servicemen and women, but also celebrating the perseverance of the United States."
Janney, who is author of "Burying the Dead but Not the Past: Ladies' Memorial Associations and the Lost Cause," has studied these associations, which were formed in Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Mississippi and Alabama. The associations were composed of middle- and upper-class white women. In Janney's book, she focuses on associations in five Virginia cities: Winchester, Fredericksburg, Petersburg, Lynchburg and Richmond.
These local associations are often overlooked in history because the focus has been on larger national organizations, such as the United Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy, that emerged decades after the Civil War ended, Janney says.
"These other groups may be larger, but many people do not realize the power and influence of the Ladies' Memorial Associations," she says.
During the war, fallen Confederate soldiers were often left on the battlefield or buried in shallow graves on farmland. Immediately after the war, Virginia women in these associations relocated and interred the remains of more than 72,000 soldiers, which is nearly 28 percent of the 260,000 Confederate soldiers killed.
"These women believed it was imperative that each town establish an annual tradition of placing flowers and evergreens on these graves," Janney says. "Within a year from the war's end, white Southern women from Virginia to Alabama established nearly 100 memorial associations."
Memorial days also were observed in the North, but they were organized by Union veterans beginning in 1868, two years after the ex-Confederate women had established the practice.
"Union speeches at memorial days in the late 1800s rarely made reference to women's contributions to the war," Janney says. "In the South, ex-Confederates not only praised the courage and honor of their soldiers, but they always mentioned the women's efforts during the war and their efforts to commemorate with Confederate cemeteries and memorial days. Women were portrayed as much more important in the South in terms of memory of the war. Union women essentially got left out. It's not to say they were not participating in memorial days, but they were never the organizers the way in which women had to be in the South."
History often shows Southern women as not being part of the women's movement until the early 20th century, but these local associations show that women were more active in politics than many believed, Janney says.
"The women even stood up to the veterans in the 1870s after Reconstruction was over," she says. "The officers returned and thanked the ladies for their work and said, 'We can take it from here.' The ladies said no, 'We've carved out these political and leadership roles for ourselves, and we plan to keep them.'"
As impressive as these women's efforts were, Janney says their place in history also is controversial.
"There is such a dual legacy about these women, and I'm really torn about how I feel about them," she says. "On the one hand, I feel they are responsible for some of the racist sentiment that is attached to the Confederacy, and they put in motion this romanticized image of the Confederacy today. Yet these are incredibly high-spirited, passionate women who engaged and fought for what they believed in. Historians will need to consider the good and the bad when examining them."
"Burying the Dead but Not the Past: Ladies' Memorial Associations and the Lost Cause" ($35) was published in March by the University of North Carolina Press.
Janney's research was supported by Purdue's Department of History, University of Virginia's Department of History, the Virginia Historical Society and Duke University.
SOURCE: San Francisco Chronicle (5-21-08)
Professor Melendy died April 19 at his home in Cupertino at the age of 83. He had been suffering from cancer.
He was born in Eureka and educated in Humboldt County schools. He received his bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees from Stanford University, but never lost his affection for Humboldt County. His last book, published in 2004, was a memoir called "Growing Up Along California's North Coast."
Professor Melendy joined the history faculty at San Jose State in 1955 and was the first chairman of the history department there. He also served as associate vice president for undergraduate studies and interim academic vice president at San Jose State.
SOURCE: Jonathan Dresner at Froginawell.et (5-21-08)
The Needham Question is hot, hot, hot! Thanks to Simon Winchester’s The Man Who Loved China: The Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist Who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom1, everyone who’s everyone is talking about China’s “failure” in the face of Western intellectual and technological revolutions.
While it’s kind of nice to see a China scholar like Needham getting the pop culture treatment, and the questions he raised are still worth pursuing, the reviews suggest that the emphasis on “Eccentric” is pretty severe. They also suggest that Winchester’s biographical emphasis has left him with the wrong impression about the body of work which Needham’s intellectual descendants still do. Andrew Leonard writes:
In the epilogue, Winchester asserts that the consensus opinion of current Sinologists is that “China, basically, stopped trying.” That’s too facile a summation when one is writing a biography of a man who devoted his entire life to understanding why China failed to capitalize on thousands of years of scientific and technological innovation. Winchester then skips through the main contending theories that attempt to explain China’s failure: China’s bureaucracy siphoned talent away from a potentially entrepreneurial merchant class, China did not have the spur to competition that Europe’s many warring states inflicted on each other, China’s totalitarian government quashed initiative.
This is a rehashing of old views of China that inspired the great “Needham Question”3: “Why didn’t China have a Scientific Revolution and Industrial Revolution”? Half a century of scholarship has produced a massive aggregation of knowledge about science and technology in China which shows, among other things, that scientific and technical progress continued throughout the early modern period (which, started a half millenium earlier in China than in the West) but that China’s population obviated the need for the kind of massive “labor saving” capital equipment, so industrial production moved in other directions.
China was also experiencing a scientific flourishing in the Qing era, featuring fields from philology to botany.4
China doesn’t “fall behind” until around 1800, when the steam power revolution put England a quantum leap ahead of the pack. It then went through about 150 years of political turmoil in which economic and technical development often took a back seat to other issues, including imperialism, uprisings, revolutions, warlords…. [ellipsis in original; it's a bad habit]
The assumption that the Western model is “natural” or somehow inevitable unless someone “fails” to achieve it is patently absurd. Europe spent centuries in the shadow of the rest of the world before catching up in theirEarly Modern age (with the aid of a lot of imported Chinese technology), and finally, as Paul Kennedy (among others) argued, pulling ahead due to competitive pressures and (in the case of the British steam revolution) a certain amount of luck.
The upshot of the Needham tradition scholarship, as I understand it, is that it was more macroeconomic and political problems than technological skills which resulted in China’s “lost ground” in the modern age, but a significant component of it was historical contingency (or “dumb luck,” as we used to say). Nothing inevitable about it, and nothing fundamental. China wasn’t the only great Early Modern empire to flounder in the modern age — in fact, it was more the norm than the exception, as the Ottomans, Russians, Mughals, Iberians and Hapsburgs show. “The West” wasn’t a terribly coherent entity — especially not organizationally! — and contrasting “it” with China without a little consciousness of the internal tensions, backwards regions, and failures contained within the Western tradition makes no sense, intellectually, historically or politically.
SOURCE: NYT (5-20-08)
Her husband, James H. Cox, announced the death but did not give a cause.
When Ms. Kimes became the first employee hired at Automobile Quarterly — which aimed to define elegance in cars, mainly antique ones — she said her main qualification was a driver’s license. But she quickly advanced from typing and stenography to writing or editing more than 20 books and hundreds of articles; winning almost every award in automotive journalism; and becoming a judge and announcer at classic car meets.
In announcing her death, the Antique Automobile Club of America called her “one of the greatest automotive writers of our time.”
SOURCE: Boston Globe (5-19-08)
In his keynote address at the college's commencement on its Chestnut Hill campus, the award-winning historian extolled the "transforming miracle of education" and warned more than 3,300 graduates not to confuse plain facts with deeper truths.
"Information has value, sometimes great value," he said. "But information, let us be clear, isn't learning. Information isn't poetry, or art, or Gershwin or the Shaw Memorial. Or faith. It isn't wisdom. Facts alone are never enough. ... One can have all the facts and miss the truth."
If information were learning, McCullough jested, students could memorize the World Almanac and consider themselves educated.
"If you memorized the World Almanac, you wouldn't be educated, you'd be weird!" he exclaimed.
McCullough, whose critically acclaimed history "John Adams" was the basis for an HBO series on the nation's second president, received an honorary degree and said he was "profoundly honored by so high a tribute."
The winner of two Pulitzer Prizes for his best-selling historical volumes, McCullough has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award.
SOURCE: Times (UK) (5-18-08)
The Invention of Scotland: Myth and History, is the last book, and one of the most controversial, written by the late Hugh Trevor-Roper.
Now, five years after his death, the book is to be published at one of the most pivotal periods in Scottish political history.
It will provide an inflammatory contribution to the constitutional debate as it debunks many claims upon which the argument for independence is founded.
n the book, Trevor-Roper claims that Scotland’s literary and political traditions, which claim to date back to the Roman invasion of Scotland in the first century AD, are in fact based on myth and were largely invented in the 18th century.
Even the kilt, the ultimate sartorial symbol of Scottishness, was invented by an Englishman in the 1700s. The Declaration of Arbroath, presented to the then Pope in 1320 to confirm Scotland’s status as an independent state with an ancient constitution, is dismissed as being loaded with inaccuracies. It contains information on “imaginary” kings of ancient Scotland, created by historians, to provide false evidence that the Scots arrived north of the border from Ireland in the third century AD, before the Picts....
SOURCE: J. PATRICK COOLICAN at Politico.com (5-15-08)
The late William F. Buckley called Rick Perlstein’s first book “engrossing” and referred to Perlstein as a “skilled writer with an eye for detail.” Given the subject of “Before the Storm” — Barry Goldwater’s insurgent 1964 campaign for the Republican nomination — it’s hard to imagine a more telling or important compliment.
Tuesday’s release of Perlstein’s second book, “Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America,” is already winning similar praise on the right. The youngish historian Perlstein has become a chronicler extraordinaire of modern conservatism, this time taking up the rise of Richard Nixon as the central figure of a long period of presidential electoral successes. Nixon, Perlstein posits, understood the “inchoate longings” of the American public for law, order and some respect and decency for the little guy, or, in today’s parlance, “white, working-class voters.”
Meanwhile, on his blog, Perlstein gives out a mock award called “The Big Con of the Week” to his favorite conservative charlatan, liar or thief, and he refers to the late Buckley’s brothers-in-arms as “E. Coli Conservatives,” blaming conservative policies for the latest mass food poisonings.
Are you experiencing cognitive dissonance?
In today’s political tribalism of red and blue, one would think the plaudits for Perlstein would place him at the Heritage Foundation or make him a senior editor at The Weekly Standard.
So what is going on here?
The answer, Perlstein says, lies with Buckley himself. The pair developed a warm relationship at the end of Buckley’s life, and Perlstein said in an interview that the godfather of American conservatives is his model: rigorous intellectual inquiry, but with a point of view....
SOURCE: Bangkok Post (5-15-08)
SOURCE: NYT (5-20-08)
The cause was pulmonary failure, said David Hennessey, a nephew.
It was in 1970, after five years of work on a doctoral dissertation both in New York and the Netherlands, that Ms. Kellerman was able to pinpoint the exact location — on Pearl Street, near Coenties Alley — of the three-story building that was used as a stadthuis, or city hall, from 1653, when the city was incorporated by the Dutch, until 1699, when the building was torn down by the English. The site was excavated, and remnants of a building, which were removed, were found right where she said they would be.
Ms. Kellerman had a seemingly inexhaustible interest in the streets and structures of Lower Manhattan. In the early 1960s, when the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission was making its initial recommendations for structures to be designated, she worked as a volunteer researcher, later becoming the commission’s research director. Her work was instrumental in the commission’s designation of historic districts in Greenwich Village in 1969 and in SoHo in 1973.
SOURCE: Andrew Leonard in Salon (5-19-08)
Or perhaps, also like me, my uncle hoped that if one day he did manage to read Needham's epic from start to finish, he would learn the answer to the famous "Needham question": How did it come to pass that a civilization with such an astounding history of inventiveness and scholarship and intellectual curiosity failed to make the leap into the modern world of science? Where did China go wrong? Why did the industrial revolution take off in Europe, and not China?
Or maybe all that was required was a casual glance at one of the many fulsome blurbs on the back cover of Vol. I, "Introductions and Orientations" -- "Perhaps the greatest single act of historical synthesis and intercultural communication ever attempted by one man" -- and my uncle decided that no home library could be complete without such a masterpiece. In any event, a failure to read every word of the 15 volumes that my uncle ultimately assembled is understandable: "Science and Civilisation in China" is a work so massive and so detailed it is almost impossible to imagine reading all of it, much less writing it, even if it does rank, as Needham biographer Simon Winchester writes in "The Man Who Loved China," "among the great intellectual accomplishments of all time."
Those 15 volumes, plus another that I purchased myself (918 pages on ceramic technology!), now sit in my bedroom occupying pride of place on their own dedicated bookcase. Because while my uncle never displayed much in the way of overt sino-philia, my own story is different. I began studying Chinese in college and headed to Asia a few months after graduation. I have spent countless hours tracking down the elusive secrets of the Chinese written language through scores of dictionaries, and fallen into equally deep infatuations with Ming Dynasty Neo-Confucian poet-sages and the spiciness of Sichuan pork slivers stir-fried in "the style of fish."...
SOURCE: Jon Wiener blog at the Nation (5-18-08)
Do we still live in Nixonland?
Yes we do. I don't mean that the political anxieties and passions today are as great as they were in the late sixties. But the way Richard Nixon used the sixties to define the ideological contours of American politics is still with us. On right wing radio today, they keep talking about how snobby and elitist the liberals are -- just like Richard Nixon did.
You are suggesting there was a time when the Republican Party did not win power by mobilizing resentment and anger.
In 1960, there was a strange creature called the Liberal Republican. When Richard Nixon ran for president in 1960, his platform wasn't all that different from Kennedy's.
A key turning point in the history of Nixonland is the invention of the"hardhat" as a political figure, which coincided with the rise of the flag as a partisan political symbol. We can identify that moment precisely: the riots on Wall Street following the Kent State killings in 1970.
On May 8, 1970, anti-war students rallied at the statue of George Washington in Lower Manhattan to protest the war and the Kent State Killings. Then 200 construction workers from the area marched in on their lunch break, wearing hard hats and carrying the American flags that topped off building sites. They complained to the cops that flags were not flying at Federal Hall. The reason in fact was that it was a drizzly day and the flag is not allowed to be flown in the rain. But they decided that the kids had taken down the flag, and started beating the protesters. Crowds of people from Wall Street cheered them on.
Nixon saw the hardhats on TV, like everyone else.
Nixon called a leader of the New York building trades union, Peter Brennan, and invited him to the White House, where Nixon put on a ceremonial hard hat. Eventually he made Brennan his Secretary of Labor. This is the beginning of the strategy where Republicans appeal to blue collar whites by playing to their cultural grievances, their anger and their so-called patriotism. The Democratic Party, enemy of the working man: that was one of the most important turning points in American political history.
Nixon had been slow in realizing the political opportunities that were opening up in the mid-sixties.
Nixon went to school on Ronald Reagan's 1966 gubernatorial campaign, which mobilized white resentment after the Watts riots and hostility to student protest at Berkeley. Nixon thought of himself as a master of American politics, and yet this actor, this neophyte, got elected governor of California after Nixon had lost his campaign for the same office.
In 1968 George Wallace ran on some of the same issues as Nixon, but he proposed different solutions.
Wallace would say that if protesters laid down in front of his limousine, they way they were lying down in front of Nixon's and Humphrey's,"that would be the last day they would ever lie down in front of a limousine." He would get a standing ovation for fantasizing about murdering protesters. Nixon instead used code words:"states rights" in the South,"law and order" in the North.
1968 was an unbelievably close election: Nixon got 43.4 per cent, Humphrey 42.7, Wallace 13. Nixon did only a little better than Goldwater had done four years earlier in a historic defeat. Why was 1968 virtually a tie between Humphrey and Nixon?
Kevin Phillips at that point said if you want to know the future of the Republican Party, of what he called"the emerging Republican majority," you add Nixon's votes and Wallace's votes together. They added up to a landslide against liberalism. And in 1972, Haldeman's diaries show, they basically paid off Wallace to run in the Democratic primaries instead of as an independent. And in 1972 Nixon got about the same number of votes that he and Wallace got together in 1968.
When will we leave Nixonland?
All I can say is it hasn't ended yet.
SOURCE: Special to HNN (5-18-08)
First, Shenon cites as evidence Zelikow’s nomination of Laurie Mylroie as an expert witness at the Commission’s July 2003 public hearing on al Qaeda, Terrorism, and the Muslim World. Mylroie is an academic who has argued in various writings that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was linked to al Qaeda and even, perhaps, behind the 9/11 attacks. It was not Zelikow, however, who invited Mylroie to participate in the hearing. It was Doug MacEachin, a former intelligence official who led the Commission’s team investigating the history of al-Qaeda and was very familiar with the arguments Mylroie had been propagating. It was a fundamental operating principle of the Commission on all issues to consider a range of views – even those outside of the mainstream –and not pre-judge or avoid dissenting opinion. That was the rationale for Mylroie’s participation.
Second, Shenon argues that in March 2004, Zelikow tried to skew the Commission’s work by inserting into a draft staff statement references to intelligence disclosing al Qaeda contacts with Iraqi officials. It was not Zelikow, however, who surfaced such intelligence, but rather a member of staff doing document research at the CIA. This was sketchy initial information. It was addressed at an editing session in early March in which we all participated, and at which it was clear to us all that this information needed to be addressed by the Commission. The principal question was whether it should be included in our interim report at this time. After extended discussion, consensus emerged that a report on the U.S. Government’s diplomatic response to al Qaeda was not an appropriate place to address this issue, and that further research was needed to corroborate the intelligence and understand its context.
After further research into whether Iraq played a role in al Qaeda’s attack on the United States, the staff reported their analysis in June, 2004 in an interim report on intelligence on al Qaeda. The same analysis was reflected in the Commission’s Final Report (p. 66): “. . . to date we have seen no evidence that [the contacts between al Qaeda and Iraq] ever developed into a collaborative operational relationship. Nor have we seen evidence indicating that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States.”
C. Michael Hurley
Senior Counsel and Team Leader
Douglas J. MacEachin
Professional Staff Member and Team Leader
Alexis K. Albion
Professional Staff Member
Scott H. Allan, Jr.
SOURCE: Scott Kleeb campaign website (5-15-08)
Scott grew up on military bases overseas, spending his summers at his family’s Nebraska home. Scott’s parents taught the children of our soldiers. Throughout his entire childhood, Scott was surrounded by men and women in uniform, and he developed a profound understanding and abiding respect for their hard work and sacrifice. To this day, soldiers and veterans hold the most special place in Scott’s heart.
Returning from overseas, Scott worked as a ranch hand in Colorado and in Nebraska’s Sandhills, during and after college. There, he saw many of the wonderful communities of his youth eroding as farms and ranches consolidated and economic opportunities moved elsewhere, along with so many families.
Scott went off to Yale University, determined to get a world class education and equally determined to return to Nebraska and serve the state he loves. That determination paid off. Scott got his Masters degree in international relations, and then a PhD in history, with a special focus on agricultural economics. Awards and honors soon followed. His doctoral dissertation won the prize for best work in Western American history. He won another prize fellowship for outstanding teaching. Scott got a coveted position at the United Nations Policy Planning and Analysis Unit and served as an Associate World Fellow at Yale.
His formal education done, Scott returned to Nebraska, just as he dreamed he would and with the same desire to serve in whatever way he could. He decided to run for Congress, narrowly winning as Democrat in one of the most Republican districts in America. Scott took a job at Morgan Ranch and teaches American history at Hastings College in Nebraska, less than two hours from Broken Bow, where the Kleeb family homesteaded in the 1880s.
Scott lives in Hastings with his wife Jane Fleming Kleeb and their children, Kora and Maya.
SOURCE: Patricia Nelson Limerick in the Chronicle of Higher Ed (5-9-08)
I am sitting at a desk behind a nameplate that identifies me as "Dr. Patricia Limerick, Marriage Counselor." I am looking earnestly into a camera lens, and from time to time, an attentive person darts in to restore my makeup or tame my hair.
When the sound setting and the camera angle are right, I say my lines as convincingly as I can: "I may not know your name, but I do know one pretty private thing about you. You have been involved in a tempestuous relationship, pursuing a mad romance . . . with fossil fuels." The Center of the American West, which I chair at the University of Colorado at Boulder, is making a documentary, the first enterprise (that we have ever heard of) to take literally the familiar metaphor of "America's love affair with petroleum" and put it to work to make a therapeutic case for moving on to a new, more lasting and gratifying relationship with energy efficiency and renewables.
Careerwise, such moments of improbability and adventure have become my norm. A collateral benefit is this: It is hard for me to remember why other academics choose to feel marginalized in American life.
Come on in, the water's fine!, I would like to say to graduate students and assistant professors. There is certainly plenty of room in this pool. In the early 21st century, there is no limit or constraint on the desire of public constituencies to profit from the perspective of a university-based historian.
Even better, the usual lament of the humanities -- "There is plenty of money to support work in science and engineering, but very little to support work in the humanities" -- proves to be accurate only if you define "work in the humanities" in the narrowest and most conventional way. If, by that phrase, you mean only individualistic research, directed at arcane topics detached from real-world needs and written in inaccessible and insular jargon, there is indeed very limited money.
But for a humanities professor willing to take up applied work, sources of money are unexpectedly abundant. There is no need for humanities professors to waste any more time envying the resources available to scientists and engineers. Instead, you can offer to play Virgil to their Dante, guiding them through the inferno of cultural anxieties, laypeople's misunderstandings, and political landmines....
SOURCE: Press Release (5-14-08)
A number of members of SHAFR (Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations) are circulating the following petition expressing opposition to John Yoo's legal opinions on torture and executive power. The petition is prompted by SHAFR's invitation to John Yoo to serve as a plenary speaker at the upcoming SHAFR conference in Columbus, Ohio.
To: U.S. Congress, the Bush Administration, John Yoo & concerned citizens
We, the undersigned, members of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR) and/or participants at the 2008 annual meeting of SHAFR, believe that the legal opinions of John Yoo on the legality of torture are morally abhorrent and constitute the untenable advocacy of war crimes by or on behalf of the United States. The opinions are in contravention of both the criminal laws and the treaty obligations of the United States. We believe that Yoo's legal opinions on the unfettered exercise of executive power are legally unsound and pose a grave threat to the separation-of-powers feature of the Constitution.
In an August 2002 memorandum that he co-authored and in a recently released March 2003 memorandum that he authored, Yoo stated that federal statutes against torture, assault, maiming, and interstate stalking cannot restrict the President in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief. He licensed the use of atrocious and clearly illegal practices such as "waterboarding" by narrowing the legal standards for "torture," defining it as a practice requiring the victim to experience intense pain or suffering equivalent to pain associated with death, organ failure or permanent damage resulting in loss of significant bodily functions. Yoo's arguments have provided the legal foundation and justification for the commission of war crimes, including torture and cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners, as one component of a constitutionally indefensible expansion of executive power. Yoo's arguments contravene the letter and spirit of the U. N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, both of which were ratified by the U.S. Senate, and are the "law of the land" under Article VI of the Constitution. Yoo furthermore stated in his memoranda that arguments for self-defense or necessity could be used in defense of torture, despite the Convention's unequivocal statement that "[n]o exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war" may be invoked as a justification of torture."
We, the undersigned, strongly affirm the need for U.S. policy to respect human rights both internationally and within the United States. We call upon the executive and legislative branches to forbid torture and cruel and inhumane treatment of detainees under all circumstances, wherever they are held and whatever their nationality.
If you are a member of SHAFR and/or participating at the 2008 annual meeting of SHAFR, you can sign this petition at:
If you have any questions about the petition, please contact:
Paul Kramer [email@example.com]
Barbara Keys [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Christopher Endy [email@example.com]
Naoko Shibusawa [firstname.lastname@example.org]
HNN Feature: Historians as Activists
SOURCE: Letter sent to the Editor of the Boston Globe (5-13-08)
Former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan thinks Barack Obama should become"misty-eyed" about Henry Ford (Globe, 5/13). Does she know that Henry Ford's anti-Semitic publications, such as The International Jew, constituted one of the most most vicious, public hate campaigns in U.S. history? Does she know that Henry Ford refused to build aircraft engines for Britain but accepted Hitler's Grand Cross of the Supreme Order of the German Eagle in 1938? Does she know that Henry Ford's German subsidiary, Ford-Werke, built over 120,000 trucks for the German army during World War II, used Nazi forced labor, and earned substantial profits for Ford?
SOURCE: Scott Horton IN Harpers (5-1-08)
1. You have modeled your book, at least to a degree, on George Dangerfield’s The Strange Death of Liberal England, the 1935 classic of modern political historiography that linked the demise of the Liberal Party to dramatic external changes–the political ascendancy of trade unionism, the civil war in Ireland, and so forth. But there’s a difference, isn’t there? When Dangerfield wrote the Liberal Party really was on the verge of extinction. But today you’re effectively forecasting doom for the Republicans. Not only do the Republicans cling to power in the Executive Branch, they have arguably succeeded in a sweeping reallocation of power from the other branches to the Executive. And they have greatly consolidated their control of the Judicial branch. Only in the legislature have the Democrats staged a comeback, and even there the margins are narrow and they rest on a single election in 2006. Admittedly George W. Bush has emerged as the most unpopular president of modern times, but America has developed a very stable two-party system, and part of that stability comes from a party’s rejection of its failed leaders. In the 2008 presidential race, the Republicans rejected the two candidates who positioned themselves as Bush’s heirs (Romney and Giuliani) in favor of John McCain, the man who was Bush’s nemesis in 2000. Don’t the signs point to an internal realignment within the G.O.P. that positions the party to hold on to the only part of the government that seems to matter, the Executive? Doesn’t that make your prognosis premature?
[BLUMENTHAL] My book’s title was inspired by Dangerfield’s cogent history of the Liberal Party. Though published in 1935, it covered the period from the end of the Boer War to the beginning of World War I. We now regard that era as a time of illusion: the Liberals’ belief in an upward spiral of progress armored their blithe indifference to the social forces being unleashed within England. If the Liberals suffered from arrogance it was stoked not by fierce fires but rather by deeply settled complacency. Their inability to recognize and respond to changing realities, despite their assumption of progress, led to their undoing. The contrast between the fall from grace of the English Liberals under Edwardian beneficence and the American Republicans under Bush malfeasance could not be starker. It is the difference between inertia and volatility. The Liberals did not envision the inferno that lay ahead in world war while the Republicans would not acknowledge the inferno they created after the fact.
As I have reported and analyzed in The Strange Death of Republican America and my preceding volume on the Bush presidency, How Bush Rules–taken together offering a contemporaneous historical record–Bush pursued the radicalization of Republicanism to its limits. Politically, he has succeeded in discrediting the conservative Republican project. His popularity is the lowest (and most extended) for a president in modern times and the party brand has been contaminated. Bush’s consequences make it impossible for a Republican successor to embrace his legacy.
John McCain’s emergence is testimony to the shattering of Bush’s presidency. Without the fracturing of conservatism, McCain would never have become the Republican nominee. It is not an accident, as the Marxists might say, that McCain was Bush’s rival in 2000, a bitterly fought contest that resulted in wounds that are still fresh to McCain. Regardless of McCain’s need to consolidate and conciliate the Republican base–and despite some Democrats’ insistence that McCain is little more than a party line reactionary–he remains an utterly singular figure in the individualistic tradition of Goldwater but lacking Goldwater’s early (at least) extremism. Ironically, at the end of the current Republican era, McCain is the last important Republican whose career stretches back to the Reagan period–and even to the Nixon years as an icon of the Vietnam War. McCain represents continuity and a break with it. His reliance on neoconservatives for foreign policy advice is his most important connection to the Bush legacy.
For McCain to win in the Electoral College, of course, he would have to reassemble the Republican coalition. But he might well have greater appeal and put into play states that dropped out of the G.O.P. alliance under George W. Bush, from New Jersey to California. If McCain did so the result would not be a restoration of Reaganism, but the basis of a post-Bush Republicanism....