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: WaPo (6-10-08)
Giving Americans back their history may not rank with ending the war in Iraq or balancing the budget, but it should be high on the to-do list of the next president. Our declassification system has broken down. Historians are waiting an average of seven years for replies from presidential libraries to their Freedom of Information Act requests. The White House cannot locate millions of e-mail records created during the months immediately before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The problem goes far beyond the Bush administration or its immediate predecessors. Tens of thousands of pages of previously declassified top-secret documents that I read and photographed two years ago at the Naval Historical Center at the Washington Navy Yard, while researching a minute-by-minute narrative of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, were closed to researchers in March pending an indefinite security "review." The ostensible reason for pulling the records is the 1999 Kyl-Lott amendment that requires the rescreening of millions of documents for supposedly sensitive nuclear secrets. But it is difficult to explain why the Navy waited nearly a decade before acting.
Some of these records date to World War II and have been pored over, copied and written about extensively. Many of the withdrawn documents can be viewed online. In addition to defying common sense, the reclassification initiative consumes valuable taxpayer resources that would otherwise be devoted to declassifying records. I am confident that nothing I saw while examining the Navy's missile crisis records could be of use to terrorists, but much would be of great interest to historians.
The now-closed documents helped me describe a secret plan by Nikita Khrushchev to wipe out the Guantanamo Bay naval base with nuclear-armed cruise missiles in the event of a U.S. invasion of Cuba. By combining Navy intelligence reports and interviews with Soviet veterans, I traced the deployment of a Soviet nuclear weapons convoy to within 15 miles of the naval base at the peak of the crisis, the night of Oct. 26-27. The U.S. government was blissfully unaware of the significance of the convoy, which intelligence reports depict as a movement of 1,000 or so "Russ/Sino/Cuban troops" together with "unidentified artillery." (The "Sino" part was ridiculous, of course. This was back when the U.S. intelligence community was still skeptical of the rift between Moscow and Beijing.)
The plan to destroy Guantanamo was closely coordinated with Cuba's current leader, Raúl Castro, who had been dispatched to Oriente province by his brother Fidel. Much of my reporting would have been impossible without the naval records that are now off-limits. According to the acting director of the historical center, Edward Marolda, the archives were closed on the instructions of the declassification manager at the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Mary Anderson. Anderson told me through a spokesman that at least 5.4 million pages are affected by the review. "Reclassification manager" might be a better job description for Anderson....
SOURCE: Whitney Joiner at Salon.com (6-11-08)
So it's fitting that writer Peter Orner was recently working in Marfa as a writer-in-residence for the Lannan Foundation, a literature and arts foundation in Santa Fe, N.M., that offers a residency program here. While Orner is a celebrated novelist and short-story writer -- his novel "The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo" was a 2006 Salon Book Award winner -- his new book, "Underground America: Narratives of Undocumented Lives," marks his departure from fiction. ("Underground America" is the third of the McSweeney's Publishing "Voice of Witness" books, a series dedicated to documenting social injustice through oral history.) Through 24 narratives, Orner, who edited the book and led a 22-person interviewing team, gives voice to a small handful of the millions who've illegally crossed into this country.
We hear about these migrants on the news: We watch pundits discussing immigration, we see videos of walls on the Mexican border, we know that they are here. But what do we know of their daily lives: Why they came to the United States? What they left behind in their home countries? In "Underground America," Orner and his co-interviewers attempt to answer those questions. The stories are heartbreaking and human. "My only crime was working hard," says "Diana," a 44-year-old Peruvian migrant working in post-Katrina New Orleans. Eventually caught by immigration officials who refused her access to a lawyer, she was detained in a prison, wearing shackles and chains, and allowed to shower only once a week. After struggling in poverty in Guatemala, 28-year-old "El Curita" came to the U.S. dreaming of a better life; he worked as a housepainter for an American woman who used his lack of legal papers to force him into domestic slavery.
SOURCE: http://www.hometownannapolis.com (6-9-08)
So even if you don't want to accept the conclusions Dr. C. Ashley Ellefson gave at a recent two-day symposium organized by Annapolis Alive!, you have to respect his professional integrity.
Dr. Ellefson, an expert on Colonial-era legal history, is described by state archivist Dr. Edward Papenfuse as "a historian's historian." In essence, he told Annapolitans that the rationale for their celebration of the 300th anniversary of the city's charter - namely, that the 1708 document was instrumental in creating the city, and was a milestone of self-government - isn't valid.
The charter, he said, was actually "a reactionary document" - a power grab by Colonial governor John Seymour, and a step backward from the self-government enjoyed under a 1696 law. Also, although the two versions of the charter were issued in Queen Anne's name, she appears to have had virtually nothing to do with them; these were locally generated documents.
That's not exactly what those busy celebrating the charter's anniversary wanted to hear. But it's healthy to get a reminder that there's usually a gap between real history and the romanticized version.
SOURCE: http://www.registerguard.com (6-8-08)
Irving, who specializes in the military history of World War II, has been invited to speak by the Pacifica Forum, a local discussion group founded by retired University of Oregon professor Orval Etter.
Low-key protest marks historian’s UO visit
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed (6-9-08)
Both men have also courted controversy in the United States with their argument that Israel wields disproportionate influence on the United States’ foreign policy.
Mr. Walt is a professor of international relations at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and Mr. Mearsheimer is a professor of political science at the University of Chicago.
“Their decision to come here means they are looking for a good fight,” said Akiva Eldar, a columnist for the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, told The Guardian, a British newspaper.
Gerald Steinberg, a professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University, won support from some colleagues when he suggested in an e-mail message that the American authors should address “an empty room.”
But Andrei's vibrant chronicle unfolds on two levels, transporting us easily from the White House to the cockpits at Tempelhof. There, at the micro-level, I was encouraged about the present and for a simple reason: We no longer have Harry Trumans among us, but we do have Hal Halvorsens. I have seen them--winning over sheiks three times their age, calling in medevacs, and there in the ruins, dispensing candy to children. Hence, my own take away from Andrei's book: so long as we have candy bombers, there is hope.
SOURCE: Corey Robin in the Nation (6-23-08)
"The 1960s are rightly remembered as years of cultural dissent and political upheaval, but they are wrongly remembered as years stirred only from the left," writes George Will in the foreword to a recently reissued edition of Barry Goldwater's The Conscience of a Conservative. Several decades ago, Will's claim would have elicited catcalls and jeers. But in the years since, the publication of a slew of books, each advancing the notion that most of the political innovation of the last half-century, including the 1960s, has come from the right, has led historians to revise the conventional wisdom about postwar America. The new consensus is reflected in the opening sentence of Ronald Story and Bruce Laurie's The Rise of Conservatism in America, 1945- 2000:"The central story of American politics since World War II is the emergence of the conservative movement." Yet for some reason Will still feels that the travails of his political kinsmen are insufficiently appreciated and recognized.
Will is not the first conservative to believe himself an exile in his own country. A sense of exclusion has haunted conservatism from the beginning, when émigrés fled the French Revolution and Edmund Burke and Joseph de Maistre took up their cause. Born in the shadow of loss--of property, standing, memory, inheritance, a place in the sun--conservatism remains a gathering of fugitives. From Burke's lament that"the gallery is in the place of the house" to William F. Buckley Jr.'s claim that he and his brethren were"out of place," the comfortable and connected have fashioned a philosophy of self-styled truancy. One might say this fusion of pariah and power has been the key to their success. As Buckley went on to write, the conservative's badge of exclusion has made him"just about the hottest thing in town."
While John Locke, Alexis de Tocqueville and David Hume are sometimes cited by the more genteel defenders of conservatism as the movement's leading lights, their writings cannot account for what is truly bizarre about conservatism: a ruling class resting its claim to power upon its sense of victimhood, arguably for the first time in history. Plato's guardians were wise; Aquinas's king was good; Hobbes's sovereign was, well, sovereign. But the best defense of monarchy that Maistre could muster in Considerations on France (1797) was that his aspiring king had attended the"terrible school of misfortune" and suffered in the"hard school of adversity."
Conservatives have asked us not to obey them but to feel sorry for them--or to obey them because we feel sorry for them. Rousseau was the first to articulate a political theory of pity, and for that he has been called the philosopher of the losers. But doesn't Burke, with his overwrought account of Marie Antoinette in Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790)--"this persecuted woman," dragged"almost naked" by"the furies of hell" from her bedroom in Versailles and marched to"a Bastile for kings" in Paris--have some claim to the title, too?
Marie Antoinette was a particular kind of loser, a person with everything who finds herself utterly and at once dispossessed. Burke saw in her fall an archetype of classical tragedy, the great person laid low by fortune. But in tragedy, the most any hero can achieve is an understanding of his fate: the wheel of time cannot be reversed; suffering cannot be undone. Conservatives, however, are not content with illumination or wisdom. They want restoration, an opportunity presented by the new forces of revolution and counterrevolution. Identifying as victims, they become the ultimate moderns, adept competitors in a political marketplace where rights and their divestiture are prized commodities.
Reformers and radicals must convince the subordinated and disenfranchised that they have rights and power. Conservatives are different. They are aggrieved and entitled--aggrieved because entitled--and already convinced of the righteousness of their cause and the inevitability of its triumph. They can play victim and victor with a conviction and dexterity the subaltern can only imagine, making them formidable claimants on our allegiance and affection. Whether we are rich or poor or somewhere in between, the conservative is, as Hugo Young said of Maggie Thatcher, one of us.
But how do they convince us that we are one of them? By making privilege democratic and democracy aristocratic. Every man, John Adams claimed, longs"to be observed, considered, esteemed, praised, beloved, and admired." To be praised, one must be seen, and the best way to be seen is to elevate oneself above one's circle. Even the American democrat, Adams reasoned, would rather rule over an inferior than dispossess a superior. His passion is for supremacy, not equality, and so long as he is assured an audience of lessers, he will be content with his lowly status:
Not only the poorest mechanic, but the man who lives upon common charity, nay the common beggars in the streets...court a set of admirers, and plume themselves on that superiority which they have, or fancy they have, over some others.... When a wretch could no longer attract the notice of a man, woman or child, he must be respectable in the eyes of his dog."Who will love me then?" was the pathetic reply of one, who starved himself to feed his mastiff, to a charitable passenger who advised him to kill or sell the animal.
It took the American slaveholder to grasp the power of this insight. The best way to protect their class, the masters realized, was to democratize it. Make every man, or at least every white man, a master, and so invested would he be in his mastery that he'd work to keep all others in their place. The genius of the slaveholding class was that it was"not an exclusive aristocracy," wrote Daniel Hundley in Social Relations in Our Southern States (1860)."Every free white man in the whole Union has just as much right to become an Oligarch." To that end, Southern politicians attempted to pass legislation and provide tax breaks to ensure that every white man owned at least one slave.
A century before Huey Long cried"Every man a king," a more ambiguous species of democrat spoke virtually the same words, to different effect. The promise of American life was to rule over another person. By and large, American conservatives have not defended an ancien régime of king, priest and lord. Nor have they appealed to antimodern arguments of tradition and history. Instead, they have surrounded an array of old regimes--in the family, the factory and the field--with fences and gates as they descant on mobility and innovation, freedom and the future.
Making privilege palatable to the democratic masses is a permanent project for conservatives, but each generation must tailor it to the contours of its times. In 1960, Goldwater's challenge was set out in his book's title: to show that conservatives had a conscience. Not a heart--he lambasted Eisenhower and Nixon for trying to prove that they were compassionate--or a brain, which liberals from John Stuart Mill to Lionel Trilling had doubted. Political movements often have to show that they can win, that their cause is just and their leaders are savvy, but rarely must they prove that theirs is a march of inner lights. Goldwater thought otherwise: to attract new voters and rally the faithful, conservatism had to establish its idealism and integrity, its absolute independence from the beck and call of wealth, from privilege and materialism--reality itself. If they were to change reality, conservatives would have to divorce themselves, at least in their self-understanding, from reality.
In recent years, it has become fashionable to dismiss George W. Bush as a true believer who betrayed conservatism by abandoning its native skepticism and spirit of mild adjustment. Goldwater was independent and ornery, the argument goes, recoiling from anything so stultifying (and Soviet) as an ideology; Bush is rigid and doctrinaire, an enforcer of bright lines and gospel truths. Elements of this argument are found on the right (Andrew Sullivan, George Will and even John McCain) and on the left (Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Sidney Blumenthal and John Dean).
But this argument ignores the fact that conservatism has always been a creedal movement--if for no other reason than to oppose the creeds of the left."The other side have got an ideology," declared Thatcher."We must have one as well." To counter the left, the main reason for its existence, the right has had to mimic the left. Goldwater understood that, which is why it is strange to hear so many liberals today looking to him and his followers--everyone from Birchers to Focus on the Family--as a model for grassroots change. By focusing so intently on Goldwater, liberals overlook the fact that historically it has been the left that has tutored the right.
Reactionary theologians in eighteenth-century France mobilized against the left by aping its tactics. They funded essay contests, like those in which Rousseau made his name, to reward writers who wrote popular defenses of religion. They ceased producing abstruse disquisitions for one another and instead churned out Catholic agitprop, which they distributed through the very networks that brought enlightenment to the French people. Similarly, the slaveholders of nineteenth-century America looked to and admired the fastidiousness and industry of the abolitionists."As small as they are," John C. Calhoun declared, they"have acquired so much influence by the course they have pursued."
Goldwater learned from the New Deal. During the Gilded Age, conservatives had opposed unions and government regulation by invoking workers' freedom to contract with their employer. Liberals countered that this freedom was illusory: workers lacked the means to contract as they wished; real freedom required material means. Goldwater agreed, only he turned that argument against the New Deal: high taxes robbed workers of their wages, rendering them less free and less able to be free. Channeling John Dewey, he asked,"How can a man be truly free if he is denied the means to exercise freedom?"
FDR claimed that conservatives cared more about money than men. Goldwater said the same about liberals. Focusing on welfare and wages, he charged, they"look only at the material side of man's nature" and"subordinate all other considerations to man's material well being." Conservatives took in"the whole man," making his"spiritual nature" the"primary concern" of politics and putting"material things in their proper place."
This romantic howl against the economism of the New Deal--similar to that of the New Left--was not a protest against politics or government; Goldwater was no libertarian. It was an attempt to elevate politics and government, to direct public discussion toward ends more noble and glorious than the management of creature comforts and material well-being. Unlike the New Left, however, Goldwater did not reject the affluent society. Instead, he transformed the acquisition of wealth into an act of self-definition through which the"uncommon" man--who could be anybody--distinguished himself from the"undifferentiated mass." To amass wealth was not only to exercise freedom through material means but also a way of lording oneself over others.
In"Conservative Thought," an unjustly neglected essay from 1927, Karl Mannheim argued that conservatives have never been wild about the idea of freedom. It threatens the submission of subordinate to superior. Because freedom is the lingua franca of modern politics, however, they have had"a sound enough instinct not to attack" it. Instead, they have made freedom the stalking horse of inequality, and inequality the stalking horse of submission. Men are naturally unequal, they argue. Freedom requires that they be allowed to develop their unequal gifts. A free society must be an unequal society, composed of radically distinct, and hierarchical, particulars.
Goldwater never rejected freedom; indeed, he celebrated it. But there is little doubt that he saw it as a proxy for inequality--or war, which he called"the price of freedom." A free society protected each man's"absolute differentness from every other human being," with difference standing in for superiority or inferiority. It was the"initiative and ambition of uncommon men"--the most different and excellent of men--that made a nation great. A free society would identify such men at the earliest stages of life and give them the resources they needed to rise to pre-eminence. Against politicians who subscribed to"the egalitarian notion that every child must have the same education," Goldwater argued for"an educational system which will tax the talents and stir the ambitions of our best students and...thus insure us the kind of leaders we will need in the future."
Mannheim also argued that conservatives often champion the group--races or nations--rather than the individual. Races and nations have unique identities, which must, in the name of freedom, be preserved. They are the modern equivalents of feudal estates. They have distinctive, and unequal, characters and functions; they enjoy different, and unequal, privileges. Freedom is the protection of those privileges, which are the outward expression of the group's unique inner genius.
Goldwater rejected racism (though not nationalism), but try as he might, when discussing freedom he could not resist the tug of feudalism. He called states' rights"the cornerstone" of liberty,"our chief bulwark against the encroachment of individual freedom" by the federal government. In theory, states protected individuals rather than groups. But who in 1960 were these individuals?
Goldwater claimed that they were anyone and everyone, that states' rights had nothing to do with Jim Crow. Yet even he was forced to admit that the South's position on segregation"is, today, the most conspicuous expression of the principle" of states' rights. The rhetoric of states' rights threw up a cordon around white privilege. While surely the most noxious plank in the conservative platform--eventually, it was abandoned--Goldwater's argument for states' rights fit squarely within a tradition that sees freedom as a shield for inequality and a surrogate for mass feudalism.
Goldwater lost big in the 1964 presidential election. His children and grandchildren have won big--by broadening the circle of discontent in the realm of domestic politics to include husbands and wives, evangelicals and white ethnics, and by continuing to absorb and transmute the idioms of the left. As Bruce Schulman and Julian Zelizer argue in their introduction to Rightward Bound--an uncommonly coherent collection of innovative essays, many by scholars in the early stages of their careers--liberals in the twentieth century permanently"refashioned" America, forcing conservatives to operate"against a backdrop where the achievements of liberalism still mattered." Adapting to the left didn't make American conservatism less reactionary--any more than Maistre's recognition that the French Revolution had permanently changed Europe tempered conservatism there. Rather, it made conservatism suppler and more successful. In The Leopard, Lampedusa's novel about the collapse of Sicilian aristocracy during the Risorgimento, the young, crafty aristocrat Tancredi tells his uncle that"if we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change." Tancredi's words could have been the rallying cry of Goldwater's descendants.
Evangelical Christians were ideal recruits to the cause, deftly playing the victim card as a way of rejuvenating the power of whites."It's time for God's people to come out of the closet," declared a Texas televangelist in 1980. It wasn't religion, however, that made evangelicals outcasts akin to homosexuals; it was religion combined with racism. As Joseph Crespino shows in"Civil Rights and the Religious Right," one of the main catalysts of the Christian right was the defense of Southern private schools created in response to desegregation. By 1970, 400,000 white children were attending"segregation academies." States like Mississippi gave students tuition grants, and until the Nixon Administration overturned the practice, the IRS gave donors to these schools tax exemptions.
According to New Right and direct-mail pioneer Richard Viguerie, the attack on these public subsidies by civil rights activists and the courts"was the spark that ignited the religious right's involvement in real politics." Though the rise of segregation academies"was often timed exactly with the desegregation of formerly all-white public schools," writes Crespino, their advocates claimed to be defending religious minorities rather than white supremacy (initially nonsectarian, most of the schools became evangelical over time). Their cause was freedom, not inequality--not the freedom to associate with whites, as the previous generation of massive resisters had claimed, but the freedom to practice their own embattled religion. It was a shrewd transposition. In one fell swoop, the heirs of slaveholders became the descendants of persecuted Baptists, and Jim Crow a heresy the First Amendment was meant to protect.
The Christian right was equally galvanized by the backlash against the women's movement. As Marjorie Spruill demonstrates in"Gender and America's Right Turn," antifeminism was a latecomer to the conservative cause. Through the early 1970s advocates of the Equal Rights Amendment could still count Richard Nixon, George Wallace and Strom Thurmond as supporters, and even Phyllis Schlafly described the ERA as something"between innocuous and mildly helpful." But once feminism entered"the sensitive and intensely personal arena of relations between the sexes," the abstract and distant phrases of legal equality took on a more intimate and concrete meaning. The ERA provoked a counterrevolution, led by Schlafly and other women, that was as grassroots and nearly as diverse as the movement it opposed. So successful was this counterrevolution--not just at derailing the ERA but at propelling the Republican Party to power--that it seemed to prove the feminist point. If women could be that effective as political agents, why shouldn't they be in Congress or the White House?
Schlafly grasped the irony. She understood that the women's movement had tapped into, and unleashed a desire for, power and autonomy that couldn't be quelled. If women were to be sent back to the exile of their homes, they would have to view their retreat not as a defeat but as one more victory in the long battle for women's freedom and power.
In an interview with the Washington Star, just one of the many absorbing documents gathered by Story and Laurie in TheRise of Conservatism in America, Schlafly described herself as a defender, not an opponent, of women's rights. The ERA was"a takeaway of women's rights," she insisted, the"right of the wife to be supported and to have her minor children supported" by her husband. By focusing her argument on"the right of the wife in an ongoing marriage, the wife in the home," Schlafly reinforced the notion that women were wives and mothers first; their only need was protection from their husbands. At the same time, she described that relationship in the liberal language of entitlement rights."The wife has the right to support" from her spouse, she claimed, treating the woman as a feminist claimant and her husband as the welfare state.
Like their Catholic predecessors in eighteenth-century France, the Christian right appropriated not just the ideas but the manners and mores of its opponents. Billy Graham issued an album called Rap Session: Billy Graham and Students Rap on Questions of Today's Youth. Evangelicals criticized the culture of narcissism--then colonized it. In his article in Rightward Bound, Matthew Lassiter reminds us that James Dobson got his start as a child psychologist at the University of Southern California, competing with Dr. Spock as the author of a bestselling child-rearing text. Paul Boyer points out in his contribution to the volume that evangelical bookstores"promoted therapeutic and self-help books offering advice on finances, dating, marriage, depression, and addiction from an evangelical perspective." Most audacious was the film version of Hal Lindsey's book The Late Great Planet Earth. While the book popularized Christian prophecies of the End of Days, the film was narrated by Orson Welles, bad boy of the Popular Front.
The most interesting cases of the right's appropriation of the left, however, came not from evangelicals but from big business and the Nixon Administration. The business community saw the student movement as a critical constituency. In"Make Payroll, Not War," Bethany Moreton unearths the fascinating details of their effort. Using hip and informal language, business spokesmen left"their plaid suits in the closet" in order to sell capitalism as the fulfillment of '60s-style liberation, participation and authenticity. Reeling from protests against the invasion of Cambodia (and the massacre of four students that ensued), students at Kent State formed a chapter of Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE), one of 150 across the country. They sponsored a"Battle of the Bands," for which one contestant wrote the following lyrics:
You know I could never be happy
Just working some nine-to-five.
I'd rather spend my life poor
Than living it as a lie.
If I could just save my money
Or maybe get a loan,
I could start my own business
And make it on my own.
Small-business institutes were set up on college campuses, Moreton explains, casting"the businessman as a victim, not a bully, to impressionable campus audiences."
Business brought its Gramscian tactics to secondary schools as well. In Arkansas, SIFE performed classroom skits of Milton Friedman's PBS series Free to Choose. In 1971, Arizona passed a law requiring high school graduates to take a course in economics so they would have"some foundation to stand on," according to the bill's sponsor, when they came up"against professors that are collectivists or Socialists." Twenty states followed suit. Arizona students could place out of the course if they passed an exam that asked them, among other things, to match the phrase"government intervention in a free enterprise system" with"is detrimental to the free market."
The most ambidextrous of politicians, Nixon was the master of talking left and walking right. According to Thomas J. Sugrue and John Skrentny ("The White Ethnic Strategy"), Nixon understood that the best response to the civil rights movement was not to defend whites against blacks but to make whites into white ethnics burdened with their own histories of oppression and requiring their own liberation movement. Where immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe had jumped into the American melting pot and turned white, Nixon and the ethnic revivalists of the 1970s"provided Americans of European descent a new vehicle for asserting citizenship rights at a moment when it grew increasingly illegitimate to make claims on the state on the basis of whiteness."
Under Nixon's leadership, the Republican Party was transformed from a WASP country club at the corner of Wall and Main into a version of the urban Democratic machine. Poles and Italians were appointed to high-profile offices in his Administration, and Nixon campaigned vigorously in white ethnic neighborhoods. Sugrue and Skrentny report that he even told one crowd that"he felt like he had Italian blood." Nixon's efforts occasionally went beyond the symbolic--a 1971 proposal would have extended affirmative action to"members of certain ethnic groups, primarily of Eastern, Middle, and Southern European ancestry, such as Italians, Greeks, and Slavic groups"--but most were rhetorical. That didn't make them less potent: the new vocabulary of white ethnicity, Sugrue and Skrentny conclude, helped create"a romanticized past of hard work, discipline, well-defined gender roles, and tight-knit families," providing a new language for a new age--and a very old regime.
The Christian evangelicals and right-wing activists discussed in Rightward Bound are one branch of the Goldwater clan. The neoconservatives described by Jacob Heilbrunn in They Knew They Were Right--the Kristols (Irving and William), the Podhoretzes (Norman and John) and the Kagans (Donald, Frederick, Robert and Kimberly), to name a few--are another. While this second branch has also propagated a program of domestic reaction, it is known primarily for elaborating Goldwater's hawkish views on foreign policy. Like Goldwater, the neocons sought to roll back communism. Like him, they have scorned alliances and have feared that a nation unwilling to risk death is a decadent nation awaiting servitude. Since 9/11, however, they've surpassed Goldwater's hawkishness, adumbrating an almost theological vision of the United States as the all good, all powerful, sovereign of the earth.
The rise of the neocons is a puzzle. How did a group of bookish, mostly Jewish, ex-leftists from New York City come to help govern a nation that is Christian, anti-intellectual and hates New York City? Heilbrunn (a former neocon) doesn't solve the puzzle, but he brings a welcome scrutiny to one piece of it."Neoconservatism isn't about ideology," he writes."It isn't about the left. It is about a mindset, one that has been decisively shaped by the Jewish immigrant experience, by the Holocaust, and by the twentieth-century struggle against totalitarianism." That mind-set includes a bitter resentment of the State Department as well as the WASP establishment, which thwarted Jews in academia--Heilbrunn repeats the story of how Elliot Cohen, Lionel Trilling's mentor, was told that only Anglo-Saxons could understand English literature. It also includes a prophetic sensibility,"an uncompromising temperament" that sees"ideas as weapons in a moral struggle."
This combination of resentment, zeal and intransigence has been a source of intellectual fertility--and political anxiety. Whenever neocons get too close to the Promised Land, they fret over losing their status as outsiders. Being comfortable makes them uncomfortable. Thanks to the failure of the war in Iraq, however,"they are back in exile, where they belong--and where they are, in some respects, most content," Heilbrunn explains.
Heilbrunn is an able chronicler of the neocons' ambivalence about belonging to a club that is willing to have them as members. But his book is marred by blemishes large and small. He claims that Arthur Schlesinger Jr."did not see an internal threat" to the United States from domestic communism. Yet Schlesinger devoted an entire chapter of The Vital Center (1949) to that threat--almost twice as long as the chapter he wrote on the Soviet Union--and claimed that"there is surely no alternative to paying exact and unfaltering attention to the Communists in our midst." Heilbrunn writes that Leo Strauss, the University of Chicago philosopher, could not have been a" crypto-fascist" because he was"a German mandarin" with a"mania for all things Greek." Has Heilbrunn not heard of Martin Heidegger?
Heilbrunn writes that"Zionism was about the furthest thing that Hannah Arendt...wanted to be associated with in any shape or form." If that's true, why did Arendt do illegal work for Zionist organizations in Nazi Germany, which got her arrested and forced her to flee, and why did she work for Zionist organizations in France? Why did she write in 1948 that"Palestine and the building of a Jewish homeland constitute today the great hope and the great pride of Jews all over the world"? Why, when Israel was at war in 1967 and 1973, did she contribute to the United Jewish Appeal?
These are simple errors, and though one wishes that Heilbrunn didn't make them so often or with such confidence, they don't detract from his overall argument. The same cannot be said of the book's two other problems. The first is that They Knew They Were Right leaves the reader with a weary sense of déjà vu, as if watching an old newsreel one too many times. It's the 1930s, and there are the Trots in Alcove 1 of the City College cafeteria, the Stalinists in Alcove 2. Oh, and there's Daniel Bell. One day he'll call himself a liberal in politics, a socialist in economics and a conservative in culture. It's the 1950s, and Time is proclaiming"reconciliation" between America and its intellectuals. There's Partisan Review holding a symposium on"Our Country, Our Culture." But where's Irving Howe's rebuke of this accommodation? Ah, there it is:"In a famous 1952 essay, 'This Age of Conformity,' Howe asserted that the intellectuals had sold out." It's 1993; the cold war is over. But Irving Kristol is still fighting it--this time, against the liberals he's hated his whole life. In a controversial article, he writes,"My cold war has increased in intensity, as sector after sector has been ruthlessly corrupted by the liberal ethos." Heilbrunn says,"Daniel Bell told me that he was stunned that Kristol would condemn liberalism outright rather than pointing to specific flaws."
But Bell didn't say that only to Heilbrunn. He said that to everyone, in Joseph Dorman's 1998 documentary Arguing the World. Heilbrunn had the opportunity to interview Bell, Norman Podhoretz and many other conservatives and neoconservatives. But with one gem of an exception--after Heilbrunn informs Buckley at the New York Yacht Club that the only magazine Leo Strauss subscribed to was National Review, Buckley expresses delight but wonders if Strauss was" clubbable"--you've heard it all before.
Maybe you even wrote it before. Here's Heilbrunn discussing how supporters of the war in Iraq began to criticize the Iraqis once the war effort faltered:
David Brooks blamed the Iraqis for succumbing to innate"demons: greed, blood lust and a mind-boggling unwillingness to compromise...even in the face of self-immolation." Leon Wieseltier said much the same thing in The New Republic:
The security situation is at bottom the social-cultural situation. It seems increasingly clear to me that the blame for the violence in Iraq, and for its frenzied recoil from what Fouad Ajami hopefully called"the foreigner's gift," belongs to the Iraqis. Gifts must not only be given, they must also be received.... For three and a half years, the Iraqis have been free people. What have they done with their freedom?...After we invaded Iraq, Iraq invaded itself.
Here's a passage I wrote in an article about Hannah Arendt published in the January 4, 2007, issue of TheLondon Review of Books:
According to the New York Times columnist David Brooks, after the fall of Saddam the Iraqis succumbed to their native 'demons: greed, blood lust and a mind-boggling unwillingness to compromise...even in the face of self-immolation'. Liberal hawks such as Leon Wieseltier believe much the same thing:
The security situation is at bottom the social-cultural situation. It seems increasingly clear to me that the blame for the violence in Iraq, and for its frenzied recoil from what Fouad Ajami hopefully called 'the foreigner's gift', belongs to the Iraqis. Gifts must not be only given, they must also be received.... For three and a half years, the Iraqis have been a free people. What have they done with their freedom?... After we invaded Iraq, Iraq invaded itself.
The identical order and nearly identical setup of the same quotes, with the same ellipses, caught my attention, especially since Heilbrunn cites only Wieseltier in his footnote. But I dismissed it as a single instance of carelessness. Then I found another. Here's Heilbrunn, in a chapter called"Redemption," talking about Ronald Reagan's human rights policy:
For example, on April 30, 1981, [Reagan] remarked,"Even at the negotiating table, never shall it be forgotten for a moment that wherever it is taking place in the world, the persecution of people for whatever reason...persecution of people for their religious belief...that is a matter to be on that negotiating table or the United States does not belong at that table." But the New York Times reported on the same day that"after the speech, a White House spokesman said Mr. Reagan had not meant to alter his policy of playing down the rights issue in foreign relations."
Here's Patricia Derian, Jimmy Carter's Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, in a November 7, 1981, article in The Nation:
On April 30, TheNew York Times quoted President Reagan as having said that"even at the negotiating table, never shall it be forgotten for a moment that wherever it is taking place in the world, the persecution of people for whatever reason...persecution of people for their religious belief...that is a matter to be on that negotiating table or the United States does not belong at that table." In the same edition of the Times, a front-page story reported that"after the speech, a White House spokesman said Mr. Reagan had not meant to alter his policy of playing down the rights issue in foreign relations."
Heilbrunn, it turns out, borrows more than the syntax, setup and sources of other people's writings. Sometimes he reproduces, sentence by sentence, the arc and logic of their prose. Here he is again on Reagan's human rights policy:
Reagan was initially rather disdainful of human rights, which he showed unmistakably by nominating Ernest Lefever, a member of the Committee on the Present Danger as well as the Washington-based Ethics and Public Policy Center (which Abrams himself would head in the 1990s), to be assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs. Lefever had declared that human rights were irrelevant to U.S. foreign policy and, furthermore, that any legislation making foreign aid conditional on a nation's observance of human rights should be repealed. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which had a Republican majority, rejected his nomination.
Here's Derian again, in that same Nation article:
The President nominated Ernest Lefever to be Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs. Lefever's publicly stated views on the subject were (a) that all legislation making foreign aid conditional on a nation's observance of human rights should be repealed and (b) that human rights had no place in U.S. foreign policy. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, with a Republican majority, handed the President his first important defeat by voting 13 to 4 to reject the nomination.
Each passage contains three sentences, plotting the same arc with essentially the same information: Reagan nominated Lefever; Lefever held two views on human rights; a Senate committee rejected Lefever. Heilbrunn even duplicates Derian's prose--"that all legislation making foreign aid conditional on a nation's observance of human rights should be repealed"--with a negligible change of"all" to"any." While Heilbrunn does cite Derian for a comment on Reagan's policy, he does not cite her or her article as the source of his information, quotations, argument and language.
Heilbrunn is a journalist, not a scholar; he is a former senior editor at The New Republic and a former member of the Los Angeles Times editorial board. Yet he or his publisher has packaged this book as a serious piece of original research. It comes with blurbs from esteemed academics and highly regarded journalists. It has extensive footnotes with primary sources, suggesting an author who has moled away in archives and microfiche reading rooms for months, if not years. Has he?
The mise-en-scène of Heilbrunn's chapter"Wilderness" describes the raucous 1967 convention of the National Conference for New Politics (NCNP) in Chicago. Heilbrunn claims that his only source is a 1967 article in TheNew York Times Magazine by Walter Goodman. Yet several items in Heilbrunn's account don't appear in Goodman's article. There is this statement from William F. Pepper, executive director of the NCNP, to the convention:"It may well be that what you begin here may ultimately result in a new social, economic and political system in the United States." There is also a claim that some of the organization's funding came from Martin Peretz, then a member of the New Left. There is even that middle initial"F" in Pepper's name, which Goodman never uses. Each of these items does appear, however, in an April 2003 Journal of American Studies article by historian Simon Hall, who did find them by digging in archives (at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin) and poring over microfiche ("Political Activities of the Johnson White House, 1963-69").
The second problem, then, with They Knew They Were Right has to do with its fast-and-loose use of sources. Heilbrunn harvests quotes, in the same order and with the same ellipses, from sources he neither acknowledges nor cites. His expository frames for these quotes closely resemble or repeat those of his sources. Passages in his text trace the arc of passages in other texts. On at least two occasions, he expropriates the research of others without attribution. And on at least one occasion, he passes off the prose of another writer as if it were his own. His sourcing is sloppy, his thinking borrowed, his writing derivative.
And, in the end, his argument about the neocons is incoherent. One of the reasons the neocons succeed, Heilbrunn claims, is that they don't compromise their principles. Consequently,"the political class in each party regards them with a mixture of appreciation and apprehension, even loathing." Yet Heilbrunn also claims that neoconservatism has"become a partisan cause dedicated to advancing the Republican Party's electoral fortunes rather than an independent collection of thinkers." The neocons"started out as intellectuals who were attracted to power. Soon enough, however, the prospect of access to the high and mighty became an end in itself." So, are the neocons sticklers or hacks, purists or politicos? Similarly, Heilbrunn introduces Norman Podhoretz as"a compulsive truth teller," a"true prophetic type." One page later, however, Podhoretz moves to the left because of a"shrewd assessment that American culture was moving left." Two pages after that, he puts"another finger to the wind and tack[s] rightward." In Heilbrunn's universe, men who cannot surrender their principles surrender their principles; truth-telling prophets write books with titles like Making It.
Heilbrunn sets out to tell one story: how a group of moralists enter the Promised Land, discover that prophecy comes more easily to them in the wilderness and long to flee back into exile but can't. He winds up telling another story: how a group of intellectuals enter the Promised Land, gain access and power and, to the apparent regret of no one save Heilbrunn, lose their edge. This first story is sad; the second, comic. But Heilbrunn can't seem to tell the difference between them. Perhaps that is why he can say, with no evident sense of irony, that the neocon errand into the wilderness came to a climax when Seymour Martin Lipset, Daniel Patrick Moynihan and James Q. Wilson arrived at the government department at Harvard.
If Heilbrunn had a better grasp of the history of conservatism, he might have been able to turn his confusion into insight. Ever since it emerged from the shadows of the French Revolution, conservatism has been a movement of insiders pretending to be outsiders. Who better to make the case that the insider is really an outsider than the outsider who has become an insider? Staffing the offices of reaction, parvenus and upstarts can argue, like no one else, for a modernized mass feudalism. Their very presence at the centers of power signals that privilege has indeed become democratic.
Hailing from the periphery, they also instruct old and sclerotic elites in the ways of renewal and renovation. Joseph de Maistre, a jurist and diplomat from Savoy, tutored counterrevolutionary France, even though he never was a subject or citizen of that country. Edmund Burke, the bourgeois Irishman, defended aristocratic England against the Jacobins. Alexander Hamilton, bastard child of the Caribbean and rumored son of racially mixed parentage, led the Federalist reaction. Disraeli the Jew gave the Tories confidence and style. Kristol the Jew--like Scalia the Italian, Fukuyama the Asian and all the hyphens of today's conservative movement--gave the Republicans ideas and zeal.
Barry Goldwater's mother was a descendant of Roger Williams. His father, who converted to Episcopalianism, was a descendant of Polish Jews. When Goldwater ran in 1964, Harry Golden quipped,"I always knew the first Jew to run for president would be an Episcopalian." If the history of conservatism is any guide, perhaps he should have run as a Jew.
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.
Dagmar Barnouw, a pre-eminent scholar of the intellectual and cultural history of modern Germany, has died. She was 72.
A professor of German and comparative literature in USC College since 1988, Barnouw suffered a stroke mid-April and died in the Kaiser Permanente-Hospital Zion in San Diego on May 14, without having regained consciousness.
“For me it was love at fight sight,” her husband Jeffrey Barnouw said. “For her it took some persuading.”
The couple met on a boat from New York to Bremerhaven in 1963, when she was returning home from a Fulbright teaching scholarship at Stanford University. The two married less than a year later in Tübingen, Germany. They kept their penchant for travel throughout their 44 years together.
In recent years they traveled to Turkey, Morocco, Sicily, Crete, southwestern France and Croatia, spending about three weeks in each place. They regularly visited friends in Germany and last summer went to Venice, Corfu, Rhodes, Kos and Athens. “We’d travel economically, using local buses and so on, because we felt that gave us more contact with the people and their culture,” said Jeffrey Barnouw, a professor of English and comparative literature in the University of Texas at Austin.
Barnouw wrote a dozen often cited books, two of which — Germany 1945: Views of War and Violence (Indiana University Press, 1997) and The War in the Empty Air: Victims, Perpetrators, and Postwar Germans (Indiana University Press, 2005) — will be reprinted in paperback in the fall.
Her book Visible Spaces: Hannah Arendt and the German-Jewish Experience (John Hopkins University Press, 1990) was nominated for the Choice Outstanding Academic Book Award, and Germany 1945 received the Maine Photographic Workshop’s Award for Best Critical Photographic Study. She also wrote more than 150 published articles in English and German.
Friends and colleagues remembered Barnouw as “intellectually fearless,” a scholar whose wide-ranging, interdisciplinary work did not fit into any one conventional category. “She could have just as easily been a professor of philosophy or of history,” said Ronald Steel, professor of international relations in the College. “She was an interpreter of Western culture and society in all of its aspects, from literature to political science to philosophy and even science fiction. It was impossible to put her into an intellectual box.” Barnouw was a fiercely loyal and understanding friend who challenged people to set higher standards for themselves.
“I admired Dagmar a lot,” Steel said. “She wasn’t an easy person. She never settled for what was easy or conventional and didn’t want her friends to either.” Barnouw often wrote about the intellectual immigrant experience. “She was particularly interested in writing about people who didn’t fit comfortably in their own cultures, which is true of Dagmar herself,” Steel said. Born in Berlin-Wilmersdorf on March 22, 1936, Barnouw was the eldest of four children. Surviving the bombing of Dresden in the basement of their home, the family became refugees. After the war they made the trek to the American zone, fleeing the Russians.
They were settled in a series of small villages in northern Bavaria and stayed permanently in Ulm. Earlier this year Barnouw wrote a short autobiographical story, which she had planned to be the first in a series.
“There was that small, muddy village in Northern Bavaria where we had inexplicably landed at the end of the war,” Barnouw wrote. “Over the decades, I have sometimes remembered those years as nothing but hunger, cold, boredom and fear.”
Barnouw recalled being among the millions of refugee children uprooted by the war. “In the refugee camp we had inhabited a small square drawn on the floor, floating in our one-dimensional living space and trying not to trespass into the neighboring square,” Barnouw wrote. “Now we had a real room, mother pointed out; all to ourselves.
“Never mind that the floor was taken up completely by the three Red Cross mattresses and a small wood-burning stove whose smoke burned your throat and eyes. Wasn’t it good that we did not own anything but our small bundles?”
Barnouw, whose siblings still reside in Germany, first came to the United States in 1962 as a Fulbright scholar at Stanford University. From then on, she wanted to one day live in California.
In August 1963, while returning to Germany, she met her future husband, who was going to Tübingen to study on a German fellowship.
“Tübingen was fortunately not that far from Ulm,” Jeffrey Barnouw said. Three years after they wed, the couple had a son, Benjamin, now a deputy attorney general in California. Dagmar Barnouw earned her Ph.D. at Yale University in 1968. She has taught at the University of California, San Diego; the University of Heidelberg; Purdue University; the University of Pittsburgh; Brown University; and the University of Texas at Austin.
Research Award, two USC Phi Kappa Phi Faculty Recognition Awards for outstanding books and a USC Associates Award for Creativity in Research and Scholarship.
In addition to her husband and son, Barnouw is survived by two grandchildren, Nicholas, 7, and Natalie, 5.
She will be cremated and her ashes scattered at the ocean in Del Mar. A memorial gathering will take place June 14 at her home in Del Mar. For more information about the memorial contact Jeffrey Barnouw at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SOURCE: Lee White at the website of the National Coalition for History (NCH) (6-6-08)
The National Coalition for History strongly opposes the President’s irresponsible recommendation and is requesting Congress to appropriate FY 2009 funding at the fully authorized level – $10 million for the NHPRC national grants program and an additional $2 million for staffing and related program administration.
In fiscal year 2008, Congress saved the NHPRC from elimination, and provided $7.5 million for grants, a $2 million increase from the previous fiscal year. However, the NHPRC has not received its fully authorized amount of $10 million in grant funding since FY 2004. In the following three fiscal years the NHPRC only received only half that amount, or approximately $5 million per-fiscal year for grants. Please go to the Humanities Advocacy Network and ask your House Member to support the fully authorized $10 million in grant funding and $2 million for administrative costs for the NHPRC. If your congressman or congresswoman is a member of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations’ Subcommittee, the Cap Wiz system will recognize your zip code and send them a specially targeted message.
You may also call your Member of Congress through the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121. The markup is only 10 days away, so please act today!
SOURCE: Lee White at the website of the National Coalition for History (NCH) (6-6-08)
Congressmen Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and Chris Cannon (R-UT) introduced H.R. 6056 last month. The original co-sponsors for the bill are: Sanford Bishop (GA), Joseph Crowley (NY), Eliot Engel (NY), Steve Israel (NY), Carolyn Maloney, (NY), Jim McDermott (WA), James McGovern MA), John McHugh (NY), Jerrold Nadler, (NY) and Edolphus Towns, (NY).
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) would administer the Preserving the American Historical Records program. The legislation authorizes $50 million a year for five years for the initiative to preserve and provide access to historical records by supporting:
The creation of a wide variety of access tools, including archival finding aids, documentary editions, indexes, and images of key records online; Preservation actions to protect historical records from harm, prolong their life, and preserve them for public use, including digitization projects, electronic records initiatives, and disaster preparedness and recovery; Initiatives to use historical records in new and creative ways to convey the importance of state, territorial, and community history, including the development of teaching materials for K-12 and college students, active participation in National History Day, and support for life-long learning opportunities; and Programs to provide education and training to archivists and others who care for historical records, ensuring that they have the necessary knowledge and skills to fulfill their important responsibilities. Base funding would be provided to each state or territory, with the remainder of funding distributed using a population/area-based formula. A 50 percent match for any funding awards would be required of state and local partners.
Please contact Congress today!
SOURCE: Guardian (6-6-08)
The sketch is not simply evidence of a great artist's first, questing thoughts, but an integral part of Britain's history, argued Starkey yesterday.
It is the original plan for the magnificent ceiling of the Banqueting House, London, the only remaining part of Whitehall Palace, most of which burned down in 1698. The subject is the apotheosis of James I, commissioned by his son, Charles I. The final work was installed in 1635-6.
"Mostly it doesn't matter where a Rubens is, or where a Turner is. But when you have a concatenation of history, place and biography like this then yes, it really does matter," said Starkey.
The sketch is valued at £11m. But with tax concessions the Tate can purchase it for £6m, of which £1.56m has already been raised. The museum, which is appealing for public donations, has arranged a deadline of the end of July before the work goes on the open market. It is being sold by the family of Viscount Hampden, which has owned it for more than 200 years. It had been on loan to the National Gallery since 1981.
SOURCE: News story: Inside Higher Ed (6-6-08)
SOURCE: NYT (6-6-08)
The cause was a glioma, a tumor of the brainstem, said his wife, Arlyn.
Mr. Bruccoli (pronounced BROOK-uhly), who taught at the University of South Carolina for nearly 40 years, wrote more than 50 books on Fitzgerald or Hemingway, notably “Some Sort of Epic Grandeur: The Life of F. Scott Fitzgerald,” published in 1981. He and his wife donated 3,000 books and periodical publications by and about Fitzgerald to the university.
Matthew Joseph Bruccoli was born in the Bronx, where his father ran a drugstore and where he attended the Bronx High School of Science. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Yale University in 1953 and briefly attended graduate school at Cornell University before transferring to the University of Virginia, where he received a master’s degree and a doctorate.
“It took me seven years because I kept taking time off to write books,” he told The New York Post in 1978.
SOURCE: Rudyard Griffiths in the National Post (Canada) (6-5-08)
And, an unexpected outcome it was. Going into the debate, only 21% of the assembled audience agreed with the motion that "the world is a safer place with a Republican in the White House." Two hours later, this mostly liberal and deeply anti-Bush crowd had a profound change of heart: 43% ended up voting for the motion.
The debate previewed three highly effective arguments -- put forward with devastating effect by the formidable Charles Krauthammer, and historian Niall Ferguson -- for why America, Canada and the world will be safer if John Mc-Cain and the Republicans form the next U. S. administration.
First, John McCain is not George W. Bush. The Republican nominee's positions on a host of issues -- most notably climate change, torture and the need for more multilateral diplomacy -- are the opposite of those held by the current occupant of the White House. Listening to Niall Ferguson summarize the foreign-policy agenda of a McCain presidency, it is hard to see much, if any, daylight between the global outlook of the Republican nominee and the majority of the policy positions held by Canadian government today. Simply put, John McCain offers Americans, and the world, a return to a more pragmatic and predictable role for the United States.
When the debate turned to the future of America's involvement in Iraq, Charles Krauthammer was able, amazingly, to fight Ms. Power to a draw on whether the world would be a less safe place if the occupation continued....
SOURCE: Ronald Radosh in the New York Sun (5-29-08)
What will particularly upset many partisan Democrats is Mr. Wilentz's conclusion that Reagan stands with presidents such as Jackson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln as a leader "who for better or worse have put their political stamp indelibly on their time." Moreover, he argues, Reagan deserves credit as a president who took ideas seriously, and more than his immediate predecessors, redefined the politics of the era, thus "reshaping the basic terms on which politics and government would be conducted long after he left office." Mr. Wilentz acknowledges and praises Reagan's optimistic spirit, and the way in which he energized the public and made Americans once again proud of their nation, lifting his countrymen out of the doldrums suffered during the Nixon, Ford, and Carter years....
His final judgment is that Reagan was great because he understood American politics, and aside from Iran-Contra, he "practiced the art of compromise shrewdly." He had more of an effect on the temper of the times and the shift of the nation to the right, thereby "reshaping the basic terms on which politics and government would be conducted long after he left office."
Mr. Wilentz should have ended his book with that sentence. Instead, he writes many chapters on the Bush presidency and the Clinton years, even ending with the expected attack on George W. Bush, whom Mr. Wilentz elsewhere calls the worst president in American history.
Mr. Wilentz reaches judgments with which many people, including this writer, will disagree. He supports the Reagan whose policies he likes, and criticizes fiercely the Reagan whose policies he opposes. In those pages, he fails his own test of remaining objective. Yet despite this flaw, any student of our past will learn a great deal from his book about what Ronald Reagan did for America, and how he changed our nation. Mr. Wilentz has written an essential book for our times.
SOURCE: National Post (5-29-08)
It might have something to do with the teacher: Conrad Black.
Sources said the former press baron, who began serving a 6 and a half year prison sentence on March 3 at the prison located 85 Kilometres northwest of Orlando, Fla., is said to be teaching to a "full house," which includes prison staff and custodians.
Lord Black, who once presided over the world's third-largest newspaper empire, has been tasked to conduct the seminars as part of his job in the library at the low-security federal penitentiary.
"He is to be kept busy as a prisoner and the prison is making use of his talents," said a source who asked not to be identified.
In fact, Lord Black is one of a number of inmates conducting seminars or teaching courses at Coleman.
Known among some of the other 2,000 inmates in Coleman's low-security facility as the "billionaire lord," the Montreal-born businessman has made acquaintances and is said to be adjusting to prison life.
SOURCE: Stefan Collini in The Nation (5-22-08)
He had already played this role for some years through his contributions to the leading periodicals of cultural and political opinion in the United States and Britain and his direction of the Remarque Institute at New York University, but his standing and authority were vastly enhanced by the publication in 2005 of Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945. This massive volume was acclaimed for its extraordinary synthesis of more than half a century of the history of an entire continent. In it the big questions and the big countries properly receive the greatest share of attention, but the book is in some ways more remarkable for showing us where, say, Norway, Portugal or Bulgaria fits into the larger picture. A work of synthesis on the scale of Postwar, in which, inevitably, some ruthless decisions have to be made about selection and emphasis, benefits from being organized around a small number of large themes; a strong controlling argument has its drawbacks, but it helps keep the potentially disruptive heterogeneity in line.
The most successful collections of essays, by contrast, are likely to exhibit other qualities: a sensibility responsive and sympathetic to a plurality of voices may be one such quality; an engaging and persuasive authorial presence may be another. But there is the danger that essays that may have seemed forceful when initially published can come to seem forced when brought into the company of other, unnervingly similar, performances. In Reappraisals Judt has collected twenty-four of his review-essays from 1994 to 2006, the great majority of which first appeared in The New York Review of Books, so its publication allows us to take stock of his performance in the related role of historian as essayist...
SOURCE: Tim Naftali dissecting a new book at Slate.com (6-2-08)
Congratulations on your excellent new political history of our times. Arthur Schlesinger Jr., who first made his name with The Age of Jackson, would appreciate the homage implied in your title. And I suspect he might also agree—and I certainly do—that, like it or not, Reagan was the transcendent figure of fin-de-siecle politics in America.
Your first two chapters do a great job laying out the crisis of the old order. In the 1970s the entire American political establishment, which traditionally hewed to the pragmatic center, faced a series of challenges it could not handle. Establishment liberals and small "c" conservatives alike were left, as you say, "philosophically at loose ends."
While noting the lingering effects of Watergate and Vietnam, you point out that Americans had other reasons to question the basic competence of the political establishment. Stagflation confounded the conventional wisdom. Meanwhile, violent crime was on the rise. When Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter six years later, the economic situation was, if anything, worse, and the crime statistics not much better. You don't write this, but I sense you would agree that it was this striking bipartisan leadership failure that made it impossible for successful politicians to lead from the center for a generation.
And so, enter Ronald Reagan, stage right. Although he was mouthing the same nostrums that conservatives had been offering when crime, unemployment, and inflation rates were low in the 1950s and 1960s, by the 1970s, Americans were eager to give this outsider and his followers a chance. Having stressed that he successfully put a smiling, optimistic face on American conservatism, you are also careful to make clear that his election was as much the result of the collapse of liberal Democrats as because of the power of his message...
SOURCE: Anthony Grafton in the New Republic (6-11-08)
Burrow's approach has many virtues. It enables him to start, as Greek historiography itself did, with two great writers, Herodotus and Thucydides, and their works, which he contrasts effectively. Herodotus--a Greek from Asia Minor, whose relatives included non-Greek nobility as well as Greeks--set out in the middle of the fifth century B.C.E. to describe the biggest events in the recent Greek past: the failed invasions of Greece by the Persian kings Darius and Xerxes in 490 and 480-479 B.C.E. Thucydides, half a century later, set out to describe a set of events that he considered even bigger: the Peloponnesian War of 431-404 B.C.E., in which Sparta and her allies defeated Athens, not only the greatest city in mainland Greece but also the capital of a great empire.
Both men wrote history as epic--and both, especially Herodotus, learned a great deal from Homer about how to do so with bravura. Homer taught them scale, pace, and the solemnity of simple language, and he offered models for many of the scenes that they needed to depict--especially the ability to see a tragic conflict from the standpoints of both sides. Memories of Homer also hovered around the oracles and prophecies that both men recorded: Herodotus because he believed that a divine economy ruled the world, and Thucydides because belief in oracles played a political role in everything from popular morale to the conduct of leaders....
SOURCE: George Mason University's Center for History and New Media (6-3-08)
Many Days, Many Lives draws visitors into the Gulag’s history through bilingual exhibits (English and Russian), a rich archive, a series of podcasts, and other resources. Exhibits are presented with a thematic approach that illustrates the diversity of the Gulag experience through original mini-documentaries, images, and the words of individual prisoners. A searchable archive includes archival documents, photographs, paintings, drawings, and oral histories that give visitors the opportunity to explore the subject in much greater depth. Later this summer, Many Days, Many Lives will also feature a virtual visit to the Gulag Museum at Perm 36.
In addition, this site offers a variety of resources related to the study of the Gulag. Episodes in Gulag History is a new podcast series featuring scholars, survivors, public historians, and others in conversation with historian George Mason University historian Steven A. Barnes. Each podcast will be followed by an online conversation in which the featured guest will answer questions from listeners.The inaugural episode features Lynne Viola discussing The Unknown Gulag: The Lost World of Stalin’s Special Settlements. Other resources include a select bibliography for further reading, and a teaching unit prepared at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies intended for use in middle and high school classrooms.
Gulag: Many Days, Many Lives is the first online exhibition produced by CHNM for general audiences under the Division of Public Projects. Others will follow in the months and years ahead, including a major exhibit in partnership with Mount Vernon on the life of Martha Washington and the women of the Revolutionary generation.
SOURCE: AHA Blog (6-2-08)
SOURCE: http://www.charleston.net (6-4-08)
Lee, a native of Asheville, N.C., began his career in 1946, teaching history at his alma mater, the University of South Carolina.
In the following decade, Lee established himself in the publishing industry. He held editor- ships with the USC Press and the Journal of Modern American History.
In 1961, Lee became director of the S.C. Department of Archives and History. In addition, he was appointed the state historic preservation officer in 1969.
Lee's work as an archivist and historian was widely acclaimed.
He served as a consultant for the National Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings and, in 1972, was elected president of the Society of American Archivists.
SOURCE: Deborah Lipstadt Blog (6-4-08)
The union of academics and professors in the UK, the, which last year tried to initiate a boycott of Israeli academics but was prevented from doing so by its own lawyers which told it that it was illegal, is trying to do the same thing again but in a trickier mode.
On May 28 it pas Motion 25 which called for a number of boycott initiatives. Anthony Julius, my solicitor and someone who has done a tremendous amount to fight UK antisemitism, is representing a number of members of the who consider Motion 25 to be both a boycott motion and to be antisemitic.His excellent [no surprise here], reasoned [ditto], and well argued [ditto] letter to the can be found here.
Anyone who is concerned about this issue and who doesn't understand why these actions by groups such as the UCU are not just virulently anti-Israel but actually antisemitic should read this letter.
SOURCE: George Mason University's Center for History and New Media (6-3-08)
In October 2007, the U.S. Department of Education awarded a $7 million contract, if fully funded over five years, to CHNM, in partnership with Stanford University, the American Historical Association, and the National History Center. The online project focuses on historical thinking and learning and is designed to help K-12 history teachers become more effective educators, thereby expanding student knowledge of U.S. history and its relevance to their daily lives and future. The clearinghouse provides links to the most informative and comprehensive history content on the Internet. It also provides teaching tools and resources such as lesson plan reviews, guides to working with primary sources and models of exemplary classroom teaching. The clearinghouse will link to a number of national history education organizations and associations. The website is interactive, allowing teachers to ask questions, comment on topical issues and share information on what and how they teach.
“The National History Education Clearinghouse will put into the hands of any teacher with an Internet connection the highest quality materials for teaching U.S. history,” says Sam Wineburg, professor and chair of curriculum and teacher education at Stanford and executive producer and senior scholar of the clearinghouse. “We are honored to be part of the digital revolution that is changing history teaching.”
The clearinghouse is funded under Teaching American History (TAH), a federally funded program created to raise student achievement by improving teachers’ knowledge and understanding of traditional U.S. history. TAH has funded more than 800 projects across the country since 2001.
“We are thrilled to play such a prominent role in helping K-12 U.S. history teachers and in bringing together the many communities involved in history education,” says Kelly Schrum, director of educational projects at CHNM and clearinghouse project co-director. “The Teaching American History program and the clearinghouse demonstrate the federal government’s dedication to improving history education, and we know that the clearinghouse will continue to improve and educate as it develops.”
The website, co-directed by Schrum and Sharon Leon at CHNM, and Daisy Martin at Stanford, is organized around seven features: history education news, history content, teaching materials, best practices, issues and research, professional development and Teaching American History grants. The clearinghouse uses the latest advances in digital technology to explore history teaching through interactive images as well as audio clips and videos of classroom teaching and historians discussing primary sources.
Offline support will include a yearly conference, a newsletter and an annual report on the state of history education in the United States.
SOURCE: Interview by HNN intern, David Liebers (6-2-08)
What are the historical implications of reparations? In other words, do you think that the American "usable past," with regards to slavery, changes in light of reparations? Does this affect the importance of African-American studies, or is this just another step in the "narrative?"
To discuss the historical importance of reparations unearths the historical damage done to African Americans and although that began with slavery, it continues today. In The Price I have attempted to broaden this discussion, borrowing some concepts from a series of seminars held in South Africa that resulted in establishing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) that was designed to bring justice to those who both perpetrated and suffered from the crime of Apartheid. The scholars evolved a concept of the “grand narrative of oppression” that seemed to sum up what had occurred, but the most revealing thing to me was that what occurred was politicized, conflicted by the differing views of South African history between Afrikaners and Blacks. Thus, I reasoned that what has prevented race-relations from closing certain important gaps in the United States is the same factor –the politicization of memory: we do not share a common memory, but differential aspects of not only what occurred, but the meaning of that history. This is important because unless there does appear something like a common memory then resolution of the past is not possible.
Endeavoring a comparative analysis of reconciliation with South Africa is an interesting vein to follow. Is their a spiritual aspect to reconciliation, akin to what Desmond Tutu undertook in South Africa, that must take place alongside reparations for their full effect to be seen?
The spiritual aspect of South African TRC is vested in the concept of forgiveness, as conceived by Bishop Desmond Tutu, who believed that a Nuremburg solution was not viable. That is to day, to bring up to trial those who were responsible for perpetrating Apartheid would, in the process, destroy the infrastructure upon which the black majority depended for its well-being. In effect, they would be shooting themselves in the foot. So, the TRC mode of reconciliation was based on the admission of guilt by the perpetrators of a political crime under the aegis of Apartheid, the confirmation of the act by the TRC and some restitution to the victims. The model did not work and was declared to have “made the situation worse” in a survey of all groups and I believe and it was essentially because the process was viewed as fraught with inequality. The perpetrators could maintain their socioeconomic status, while the victims could not be made whole because of the entire context of suffering experienced by blacks. In effect, Apartheid was a “national question” at the heart of the mission of governance, rather than a side concern managed by a governmental agency.
Is there a current political movement pressing for reparations? If so, what is the feasibility of achieving them in the near term?
This same concern exists in the United States where the courts deny the existence of modern victims of the past “grand narrative of oppression” – that still continues -- and where the legislature ignores their plight. The issue I raise is that while the quality of race relations may appear to be much better than in the past, there emerge reminders -- Katrina, Jena 6, Nooses, unequal criminal justice, lack of resources for black communities, and etc.-- that a politicized memory is affecting the present and will also affect the future unless fair restitution is made to the victims of American racism. There has been a political movement of Reparations to bring this matter to the attention of the country, but it has been drowned out by the passivity of blacks who believe there can be no such justice in a racist society; by the institutions mentioned which deny the existence of victims, and by the media, which has treated the public dialogue on the subject as entertainment. I argue that the seriousness of the role of fair restitution in developing a common memory of the past is important, not merely as a one-way benefit to blacks, but as many other scholars argue, to the quality of the moral center of the state and therefore, to its pretension to pursue Democracy.