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: Times (UK) (2-24-09)
NYT outlines contacts between Irving and Williamson
SOURCE: Ralph Luker at HNN blog, Cliopatria (2-27-09)
As I've said earlier, count me among the skeptics. Norrell will certainly find sympathetic readers among conservative and libertarian historians, but they didn't need Norrell to tell them that in Washington there was much to admire. More critical to the reception of his book, I suspect, are the historians of"the long civil rights movement," Jacquelyn Hall, Thomas Sugrue, Glenda Gilmore, Mary Dudziak, and many more. Will they embrace a revised and positive portrait of BTW as a major chapter in the long struggle? Despite the timeliness of his book, Norrell doesn't appear on their April conference program. Maybe BTW as Barack Obama just didn't have the right ring to the program's organizers.
But, then, I've my own reservations about"the long civil rights movement" frufraw anyway. At its baldest, tlcrm claims that the movement didn't spring virgin from the minds of Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks in 1955. Well, of course. No well-informed historian ever claimed that it did and self-evident truths hardly make cutting-edge historiography. The struggle had a history extending back into the early twentieth century and a national and international scope well beyond the South. Some of us, including Du Bois, Woodward, Harlan, John Hope Franklin, August Meier, and others, wrote about the long civil rights struggle before tlcrm sprang virgin from the minds of younger historians. A major part of the problem is that no one – including the lcrm historians -- has done a history of the organization central to the struggle, the NAACP. And an important question in the larger and longer history is the place of Booker T. Washington in it. Robert Norrell has forcefully raised it.
*Thanks to David Glenn at the Chronicle for the link that is free to non-subscribers for the next five days.
SOURCE: Harvard Crimson (2-18-09)
1. Fifteen Minutes [FM]: How did you and Jane meet each other?
Jill Lepore [JL]: We met in graduate school, we were both at Yale in the early nineties and we both had dogs. We met each other, I think, at the dog park.
2. FM: You two decided to write the novel as a birthday present for a friend?
JL: He was actually our graduate student mentor at Yale, John Demos. When an academic retires, his graduate students usually hold a conference to celebrate his work. Jane and I decided that for our piece of the conference we were going to write character sketches that were a send-up of 18th-century genre fiction. It took us a week to write these character sketches, and it was fun. So we kept going, and before we knew it we’d batted back and forth 100 pages. ...
SOURCE: http://exchangeartist.com (date unknown) (2-26-09)
The Exchange Artist tells the story of Andrew Dexter, Junior and the first American skyscraper. Equal parts entrepreneur and confidence man, Dexter erected his swagger building, the Exchange Coffee House, through sheer financial legerdemain. Weaving together the biography of this once-notorious, now-forgotten man with the history of his enormous building and the pyramid scheme that served as its foundation, The Exchange Artist dramatizes the birth of modern money culture in the first decades of the American republic.
Q. Why did you write The Exchange Artist?
A. Almost by accident. In early 2001, I was working on what I thought would be a different book: a history of American coffee culture from the 1690s through the late age of Starbucks. In the course of that research, I stumbled across old images of the Exchange Coffee House, perhaps the world's largest building of its type. Though it stood for only nine years, the building was famous into the early 20th century, and many drawings of it survived. I thought they'd make fun illustrations for my coffee book.
But then I wandered into the building's back rooms, and its back-story, where I met up with Andrew Dexter. I was fascinated by his life and, perhaps even more, by the loss of his biography. In 1810, nearly everyone in the eastern United States would have known his name. For a time, he was an archetypal villain, reviled in scores of newspapers from Massachusetts to Kentucky to Alabama. "The man behind the curtain," one editorialist called him. Yet by the early twenty-first century he had become, at best, a footnote to the history of finance. The more I delved into the archives, the more convinced I became that his compatriots had it right. Dexter's story was emblematic, and important. His was a life for its times, full of the reckless daring and dreadful comeuppances that built the United States. To really understand the beginnings of our speculation nation—indeed, to understand where we are today—we need to reckon with both our ambition and our failures. Andrew Dexter's biography promised plenty of both.
Q. How did you research the book?
A. It's often said that the victors write the history, and in a way, that's true. Winners tend to leave more and better documents of their lives. And though Andrew Dexter was an educated white man, one of the "middling sort," as people said in the nineteenth century, he came out a loser, and he left behind a pretty fragmentary record. So piecing together his story was a bit like sifting through the ruins of the Exchange Coffee House.
A lot of the documents from which Exchange Artist emerged were generated by Dexter's enemies. His nemesis, the Boston merchant Nathan Appleton, kept voluminous personal papers, and his descendants carefully safeguarded that archive before turning it over to the Massachusetts Historical Society. Dexter's creditors left their traces, too. Court records showed some of the devastation he left behind. The Rhode Island officials who investigated the Farmer's Exchange Bank in the spring of 1809 discovered in its vault a treasure trove of incriminating letters that they preserved for posterity in pamphlet form.
And as in every historical project, there were happy accidents. Early American newspapers offered some tantalizing fragments of the daily lives of builders and other laborers. A complete set of floor plans for the Exchange Coffee House—huge, fragile folios, probably made for insurance purposes—survived, almost miraculously, in the archives of the Bostonian Society. When combined with the narrative record of the building, those remarkable documents helped me to "read" the space. Two insightful architecture students made interactive, three-dimensional CAD drawings from those plans, which allowed me more fully to visualize the Coffee House.
SOURCE: Inside Higher Ed (2-25-09)
"Aptheker describes her teaching philosophy as a 'revolutionary praxis.' The crux of this approach, she has said, is to subvert the traditional mission of the university by breaking down the distinction between subjective and objective truth, what Aptheker dubs 'breaking down dualisms.' This approach is especially relevant to women's studies, Aptheker notes, because it allows her to inject a 'women-centered perspective' into the curriculum. ..."
Next week, Horowitz's new book, One-Party Classroom, will be released, with a list of the 150 "worst courses" in American higher education. Aptheker teaches two of the courses and here's Horowitz's critique of Aptheker's course on "Feminist Methods of Teaching":
"Aptheker has described her teaching philosophy as a 'revolutionary praxis,' a Marxist term of art for political organizing. The crux of her approach, she says, is to break down the distinction between subjective and objective truth, what she refers to as 'breaking down dualisms.' This old-fashioned Marxism allows her to inject a 'women-centered perspective' into the curriculum. ..."
Sound familiar? In many ways, the new book is quite similar to Horowitz's previous work. Many of his critics see the book as a rehash of his book on dangerous professors (even if plenty of those cited are different). But the fact that Aptheker is in both reflects an increased focus by Horowitz on women's studies. As with the book on the most dangerous professors, the courses are largely selected by statements on syllabuses, public statements about teaching by professors, and past articles. Horowitz acknowledged in an interview Tuesday that he had not actually seen a single class in any of the 150 courses he has declared to be the worst in America.
One thing that is notably different from some of Horowitz's previous writings on academe is that women's studies appears to have eclipsed Middle Eastern studies as the greatest threat to American higher education (in Horowitz's view). Middle Eastern studies has long been a focus of Horowitz (and remains one), but women's studies is the primary focus of the new book....
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed (2-27-09)
The "connection with this little band" is an eternal theme of warfare. Now such intense, life-changing bonds — the stuff of epic poetry and sentimental TV documentaries — are being scrutinized by number-crunching social scientists. A new book by two economists at the University of California at Los Angeles uses elaborate statistical tools to analyze how social networks shaped things like desertion rates and the attainment of literacy among 40,000 soldiers who fought for the Union in the Civil War.
In Heroes and Cowards: The Social Face of War (Princeton University Press), Dora L. Costa and Matthew E. Kahn report that military units were more cohesive if they were composed of men who looked, voted, and worshiped like one another. Diverse units, meanwhile, did not fare as well.
The book is likely to draw attention from a wide variety of scholars — historians, political scientists, sociologists — because it brings a new kind of evidence to a longstanding debate about diversity and social cohesion that goes far beyond the Civil War. Scholars of education finance, for example, sometimes talk about a "Florida effect": The typical property-tax payer in Florida is elderly and white, but the typical public-school student is Latino. In states where taxpayers are more similar to students, citizens tend to be more willing to invest public dollars in education. Ms. Costa and Mr. Kahn say that they do not support segregation of any kind — but that it is crucial to understand the costs associated with heterogeneity....
SOURCE: http://www.theskanner.com (2-26-09)
Developed by University of Washington history professor Dr. Quintard Taylor – the foremost historian of African Americans and African descendents in the West – BlackPast.org has attracted millions of visitors to its hundreds of free and easily-searched features since its launch in 2005.
“Our mission is to provide as much information as we can on the historical experiences of African Americans and of people of African ancestry all around the globe, to as many people as are interested and who have computer access,” Taylor says. “The main goal is to bring that information together at one source, one central location, and to then make it available to the entire world.”
So far, that includes people from more than 100 countries. The site’s most popular features, Taylor says, are the seven timelines featuring the history of the African diaspora from 5,000 B.C. to the present; the online encyclopedia with more than 1,700 entries; and the database of speeches from 1789 to now.
The most popular individual entry on the website is an encyclopedia blurb about Michelle Robinson – also known as Mrs. Barack Obama — which has been viewed by 41,861 people. The second most popular entry is the Bill Cosby “Pound Cake Speech,” his controversial scolding of youth and their parents from 2004, which has been read 39,000 times.
“We had 400,000 visitors in 2007, over one million visitors in 2008, and we’re already up to 320,000 for this year,” Taylor says. “This is not a University of Washington project, a Pacific Northwest project or even an American project – this is going all over the globe.”
Taylor and a small crew of graduate students started the site in 2004, when a student expressed concerned about the fact that the same questions kept coming up in classes – who was Frederick Douglass? What is the Negro National Anthem? Who is Booker T. Washington?
SOURCE: Editorial in http://english.chosun.com (2-26-09)
In an interview with the Chosun Ilbo, Prof. Lee Tae-jin of Seoul National University, who is retiring from the Department of Korean History, said the account of modern and contemporary history in school texts by Kumsung Publishing went beyond the boundaries of school texts. Revising the words is not enough, he added: Korea’s history texts need to be rewritten. Some historians ended up supporting the left-leaning history text in statements protesting against the government’s calls to revise them, and that damaged the credibility of the academic community, he said. He added the reluctance of historians to point out left-leaning bias in the history text was tantamount to evading responsibility.
It requires a lot of courage for Prof. Lee to make that point. As the chairman of the Korean History Department at SNU and the dean of the College of Humanities, Lee was at the center of the community of historians, serving as the head of the country’s largest scholarly group in that field. That is why his diagnosis of our history text and the reality facing the field transcends his personal opinions and can be viewed as expressing the views of sound historians, who have been quiet so far due to fear of being ideologically typecast.
The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology went about revising the problematic history texts, but those efforts merely involved the altering of a few phrases here and there, changing the word “armed partisans” to “left-wing armed partisans” for instance. But the basic anti-imperialist and revolutionary stance of the texts, undermining the legitimacy of the Republic of Korea and praising the North Korean regime, has been left intact. The ministry feels it has completed its task, but Lee thinks they need to be completely rewritten.
One comment by Lee that stands out is when he pointed out the responsibility of historians. Social scientists rather than historians spearheaded efforts to build a consensus over the need to revise the biased history texts. And these social scientists pursued the drive to make the revisions. Yet when the ministry announced its decision last October to revise the texts, 21 history-related scholarly groups, including the Association for Korean Historical Studies, were swayed by left-leaning scholars and put on an embarrassing show by issuing anachronistic statements criticizing the revision as a “serious challenge” to the freedom of history education and demanded that historians be left to teach history. Lee said education “is not swayed by a convergence of opinions among scholarly groups, but should represent the stance of the country and the public and remain within the boundaries of common sense.”
Lee said he regretted graduating pupils who left with their left-leaning biases against Korean history unchanged. There are still many academics with leftwing, revolutionary views, who went to university and graduate school in the 1980s and are teaching at universities and serving in key positions in scholarly groups. He said the biggest mistake these people made was to politicize the study of history. As a result, he said, there is a tendency to highlight only the popular uprisings in our contemporary history, while ignoring the Korean Empire period and the period of enlightenment for Korea....
SOURCE: News Hounds ("We watch FOX so you don't have to.") (2-24-09)
The chyron, “Liberal Lies debunking myths about America’s past” was ironic, considering that Schweikart creates his own myths. MENSA member Steve Doocy claimed that the textbook, “American Promise,” “got it wrong because it fails to mention that the Equal Rights Amendment failed and (serious sin here) attacks the ERA’s biggest opponent, Phyllis Schlafly. Schweikart opined that “the written text said it failed; but you “have to look at the pictures. The big picture celebrating the ERA (and how does this picture, which we don’t see, “celebrate” the ERA?) didn’t say it failed.” Schweikart saved his opprobrium for the little picture of Schlafly (she’s carrying her stop ERA sign) under which was written “despite time consuming political activities that involved traveling and speaking all over the country, she insisted on calling herself a housewife.” Schweikart claims that the text is really saying that “she couldn’t be a housewife because she was traveling around giving speeches so I guess, in their view Hillary Clinton couldn’t be a New Yorker."(WTF?!) When Doocy said “in fact she was a housewife” Schweikart responded, “She was a housewife.” Doocy said, “Absolutely.” (Comment: The notion that Phyllis Schlafly was just a “housewife” is ludicrous. She was a “lawyer, editor of a monthly newsletter, regular speaker at anti-liberal rallies, and political activist” who was able to combine having a family and career.) So, here we have it – the myth/lie of Phyllis Schlafly as “housewife.”...
SOURCE: USA Today (2-24-09)
Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $19.95, for ages 12 and up) by Phillip Hoose celebrates a little-known civil-rights pioneer who at 15 defied segregation on a bus in Montgomery, Ala., nearly a year before Rosa Parks would. Colvin, now a retired nurse in New York, gets to tell her own story, and the larger context is explained by Hoose.
In Search of Our Roots: How 19 Extraordinary African Americans Reclaimed Their Past (Crown, $27.50) by Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. notes how ancestors of most black Americans were "anonymous, decent, overly hardworking people whose lives have yet to be chronicled." In interviews, Oprah Winfrey, Morgan Freeman, Chris Rock and other celebrities describe explorations of their family histories. A companion to the 2008 PBS series African American Lives....
SOURCE: Cynthia Haven at the website of the Stanford News Service (2-25-09)
The circumstances may be particular, but the phenomenon is international: A few years ago, as mass graves of atrocities were discovered, the Serbians said that corpses had been taken from the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and reburied in the Balkans to discredit the Serbs. Only forensic-based science dispelled the widely propagated myth.
Another example: Everyone knows that the 1994 Rwandan genocide left 800,000 Tutsis and their allies dead. But relatively few people know that the violence unleashed in the region since—a reaction to the Rwandan conflict—has been the bloodiest conflict since World War II, leaving more than five times the number of casualties as the 1994 massacre, many of them killed by Tutsis.
All these instances show "the use and abuse of history," and how historical awareness, when flawed or incomplete, can lead to malicious interpretations of the present. In particular, narratives of the past, and especially narratives of collective victimization in the past, "are used to license atrocious conduct in the present," said James T. Campbell, the Edgar E. Robinson Professor in United States History. "While most of us regard the study of history as benign and edifying, we also know that historical consciousness frequently manifests itself in malignant and unedifying ways."
"Historical consciousness" can be a two-edged sword, Campbell said, speaking Feb. 19 to a lunchtime gathering in a seminar series sponsored by Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. Campbell joined the History Department last month from Brown University, where he had headed the university's Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice to consider black reparations.
Campbell suggested one of the stumbling blocks to peace could be the "hateful national narratives" and the complications that ensue when people in the present appropriate the suffering in the past, often mistakenly. Might this process be reversed, and might "the dissemination of more even-handed accounts of national pasts" mend strife? "In short, can we promote historical reconciliation by reconciling histories?" he asked. How does one create a "shared narrative of a contested past" while "dispelling public myths" that claim to be "historical legacies"?
Campbell cited the example of the highly publicized U.S. settlement to the 100,000 Japanese Americans who suffered in World War II internment camps—public acknowledgement after decades of silence—as "the most successful redress initiative in U.S. history." We do learn from history, he noted: After the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, "there was no attempt to round up Arab Americans," he added.
Campbell pointed to the surge in "truth commissions" that have caused a "fundamental shift in international political culture." While they were a "novelty" in the 1980s, they are now an accepted part of transition in overcoming national crisis.
These are among the examples of what he called "trying to alter the matrix of political possibilities in the present."
Such movements have attracted critics as well: Campbell pointed out that conservatives "decry the endless rehashing of past injuries as yet more evidence of the fraying of America." Even the left has worried about the political being subsumed by the therapeutic.
Some cases have even backfired: Congress' resolution demanding that Turkey formally acknowledge the Armenian genocide was scuttled after Turkey threatened to retaliate by cutting off American military supply lines to Iraq. "Insert your own joke here," Campbell said.
Despite America's own failures to confront history, Campbell said the United States is still "a bellwether for global reconciliation," and slavery "remains the acid test of historical reconciliation." In 2002, the Liberty Bell was revealed to be yards from the demolished smokehouse that George Washington used to house slaves. Controversy erupted over how to treat the two narratives of America's past before the stories were eventually woven into a joint history and joint recognition for tour groups.
During the discussion that followed Campbell's talk, someone asked about the case of Rigoberta Menchú, the Nobel-awarded memoirist whose account was widely embraced but found to be less than truthful.
Campbell noted that Menchú's writing illustrated what has become known as "symbolic truth": Many Guatemalans felt it to be their story, even though it may not have been Menchú's own experience.
But, he said, "this work is precisely to undo that," and hinted such narratives may have a short shelf-life, when he noted that he and others had lost interest in fanciful memoirist Carlos Castaneda when it was discovered that he was not a secret source of Yaqui knowledge.
With any new movement, there are bound to be "lots of sharks in the water," he warned.
For example, "entrepreneurs of memory" may arise to "don the mantle of the aggrieved group." Recognition and political clout may accrue to them rather than the aggrieved group.
Other issues arise with long-ignored recognition and redress. "Time itself doesn't erase responsibility," said Campbell, noting the burgeoning number of public apologies for long-past events. Yet this notion of accountability can be manipulated to promote further conflict: When confronted with the rape of 20,000 Muslim women in Bosnia, Serbians cited what the Ottomans had done to them in 1389.
However, imposing a statute of limitations on suffering—for example, to include only living victims—can provide "incentives to perpetrators to 'finish the job.'"
The passage of time brings other problems: "the success of new victors, telling the stories," said Joel Samoff, consulting professor at the Center for African Studies.
"Who gets to participate in the writing of history?" he asked. Newcomers "have an agenda as much as anyone else." One story can trump another.
Campbell cited the example of the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide: The West has been relatively disinterested in the subsequent atrocities that have destabilized the entire region.
"Nobody gives a crap about that. Hotel Rwanda is the story," he said.
Campbell said that we may not be able to reach full reconciliation, but, quoting writer Michael Ignatieff, added that "we can at least narrow the range of permissible lies."
As many of you know, the OHS Research Library has the largest collection of archival documents relating to the history of Oregon, including its nationally-renowed photograph collection containing over 2.5 million historical photographs, more than 32,000 books, 25,000 maps, 12,000 linear feet of manuscripts, 3,000 serials titles, 16,000 reels of newspaper microfilm, 8.5 million feet of film and videotape, and 10,000 oral history tapes. I feel this not only as a very personal loss but as a great loss to all Oregonians.
SOURCE: AHA Blog (2-24-09)
This nonresidential fellowship will be awarded annually to honor and support work on an innovative and freely available new media project, and in particular for work that reflects thoughtful, critical, and rigorous engagement with technology and the practice of history. The fellowship will be conferred on a project that is either in a late stage of development or which has been launched in the past year but is still in need of further improvements. The fellow(s) will be expected to apply awarded funds toward the advancement of the project goals during the fellowship year.
In a 1-2 page narrative, entries should provide a method of access to the project (e.g., web site address, software download), indicate the institutions and individuals involved with the project, and describe the project’s goals, functionality, intended audience, and significance. A short budget statement on how the fellowship funds will be used should be attached. Projects may only be submitted once for the Rosenzweig Fellowship.
The entry should be submitted by e-mail to email@example.com. Questions about the prize and application process should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline for submission of entries is May 15, 2009. Recipients will be announced at the 2010 AHA Annual Meeting in San Diego.
SOURCE: Robert J. Norrell in the Chronicle of Higher Ed (2-27-09)
Any scholar taking on a well-studied topic approaches the existing literature with some trepidation. But anxiety turns into fear when you become convinced that the main line of interpretation is seriously in error — as I discovered while writing a revisionist biography of Booker T. Washington, founder of the Tuskegee Institute and the recognized leader of American black people from 1895 until his death in 1915.
He has been viewed as an accommodationist to segregation, an African-America leader who traded black equality and voting rights for his own influence among white bigots. Washington rose to national fame with a speech at the Cotton States Exposition, in Atlanta, in which he told Southerners, black and white, that "in all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress." Most black people and many influential white people looked to him from then on as the leader of his race. But from the 1960s onward, his reputation suffered: As one historian put it, "the tar brush of Uncle Tomism has stuck."
In my view, leading American historians have committed the anachronistic fallacy of removing Washington from the context of his life. They have done so out of protest against racial injustice — an understandable motive, but one that casts the Tuskegeean as a foil to African-American protest leaders of the 1960s.
While I was conducting research on the civil-rights movement in the South, and on Tuskegee in particular, I developed an intense desire to set the record straight. I was astonished at the disparagement from Louis R. Harlan, whose celebrated two-volume biography (1972 and 1983) suggested that "Washington 'jumped Jim Crow' with the skill of long practice, but he seemed to lose sight of the original purposes of his dance."
The mainstream view of Washington originated largely with W.E.B. Du Bois, the Tuskegeean's longstanding rival for black leadership. Du Bois survived Washington by nearly a half-century and shaped the memory of his avowed enemy. In 1903, in The Souls of Black Folk, Du Bois condemned Washington for serving Northern industrialists who wanted a big supply of cheap, docile black labor and for excusing discrimination in the South by blaming the black man for his own poverty. Du Bois insisted that Washington's emphasis on material advancement over political involvement, and on industrial schooling over purely academic education, gave black consent to segregation and discrimination. By contrast, Du Bois advocated classical education for black people and a strong, public condemnation of the many forms of white oppression. He became the paradigm of black virtue.
What I found was something different: Washington did protest discrimination by railroads and labor unions. In response to the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision, which upheld segregation in accommodations, especially railroads, Washington wrote that the U.S. Supreme Court might just as well have "put all yellow people in one car and all white people, whose skin is sun burnt, in another car ... [or] all men with bald heads must ride in one car and all with red hair still in another." He publicly commanded Southern black people to push local school boards for public financial support for black schools: "This kind of appeal should be repeated again and again until we do receive our just share." He also spoke out repeatedly against lynching, unfair voting qualifications, and segregated-housing legislation....
SOURCE: Blogger Ashley Cruseturner (The Bosque Boys blog) (2-22-09)
The history section featured an outstanding slate of eminent scholars: Eric Foner, David Goldfield, Brian Delay, and H.W. Brands. I hope to offer comment at some point on the incredibly provocative presentations offered by those luminaries.
However, as is my wont, I could not help myself from sneaking into the government section to hear one of my favorites: Harvard's Kennedy School of Government Professor of Political Science, Tom Patterson, who, once again, lived up to my incredibly high expectations regarding his cogent and dispassionate analysis of presidential politics.
"Can Obama Succeed in an Era of Impatience?"
Patterson: Barack Obama is obviously an exceptional political talent, but, more importantly, he is a natural executive, which, ironically, turns out to be a fairly rare gift among recent presidents (think Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton).
1. Obama ran a superior presidential campaign (the very best ever, in Patterson's view--and I concur). Perhaps most astounding, he did it with presumably second-tier talent. Of course, his staffers are NOW the first-tier players--but we should NOT forget that the overwhelming favorite in the race for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton, flush with cash and the glow of inevitability, bought up all the heavy-hitting pros early on in the contest. Undeterred, Obama found a way to draft an over-achieving cohort of talented personnel in the latter rounds and facilitated their development into a cohesive and ultra-effective organization.
2. Upon election, Obama assembled the presidency first. Prioritizing an executive staff over a cabinet and assembling a team of doers, Obama fielded a highly functioning White House ready for battle the first day in office.
An aside: some of you will be tempted to point out some of the stumbles--but, seriously, this team is in mid-season form already. After only a month, this President is indisputably in command and in control of the national storyline.
Where is Obama now?
He inherits a frightening crisis. Ironically, this precarious situation fraught with peril offers him a pathway to presidential distinction. Every "great" chief executive needs an insurmountable obstacle to overcome. Great triumph only comes after great trial (not surprisingly, Brands and Foner both echoed this manifest fact of presidential scholarship).
On the other hand, crisis presents a double-edged sword for a president. Leaders don't always prevail over adversity; sometimes chief executives do not rise to the occasion.
Will Obama succeed?
Most likely. If Obama is lucky, Patterson observes, he will be Ronald Reagan.
As Patterson notes, the President seems to invite comparisons between himself and former greats such as Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. However, Patterson asserts that this time and place is more comparable to the late-1970s and early-1980s than the era of the Great Depression. How are we different from 1933? We are a much more demanding and impatient culture today, with a wall-to-wall-twenty-four-hour news cycle, a fiscal situation wholly different from pre-New Deal America, and a post-industrial service economy.
An Aside: on the following day Brands, author of the current best-selling FDR biography, also offered an illuminating discussion regarding similarities and differences between the predicaments that face Obama and the collapse that Roosevelt inherited, which I hope to report on in some depth shortly.
Patterson: like Reagan, Barack Obama won election because of who he was NOT. The Election of 2008, like the Election of 1980, revealed more about the electorate's revulsion and frustration with the ruling party rather than an absolute affinity for the respective challengers. Americans rejected Jimmy Carter much more than they unequivocally elevated Ronald Reagan. Likewise, 2008 voters first and foremost voted against the perceived incompetence of George Bush and the faithless Republicans.
Having said that, like Reagan, Barack Obama is very popular and a vessel of hope. However, Patterson reminds us that Reagan's popularity plummeted as the economy continued to stagnate during the first two years of his presidency, with Democrats making big gains in the 1982 midterms. It was not until the economy began to rebound in 1983 and 1984 that Reagan recovered from his historic low approval ratings. Of course, his resurgence was spectacular (as was the economic recovery), as Reagan rolled onto a landslide reelection in 1984.
The Good News for President Obama?
If we see some brand of upswing in the economy before 2012 (as currently predicted by the Fed), the next quadrennial contest could very well be "Morning in America" for President Obama's reelection campaign.
Moreover, this president has two advantages over RR.
1. Unlike Reagan, Obama will not be restricted by principles or circumstances to supply-side solutions alone. His stimulus will attack the downturn from the demand side, pumping mainline injections into the sluggish economy.
2. Unlike Reagan, Obama enjoys shockingly unparalleled positive press. As Patterson correctly asserts, the news media powered his victory in the primary, showering him with disproportionately positive reportage, while hammering the front runner with surly negative portrayals and unfriendly analysis. Of course, Patterson reminds us that the media, although no less gushing in the General Election, played a role significantly less instrumental, for the events of 2005 through 2008 formed an irresistible wave of popular enmity for any Republican standard-bearer. That is, 2008 was a year tailor-made for any Democratic nominee.
Bottom Line: never before has a president faced a press corps so friendly and so thoroughly invested in his success. Contra to regular expectations of a mainstream media driving despair about the economy through negative coverage, we can expect this coterie of national reporters to continue their pattern of lending assistance to this president in unprecedented fashion.
On the other hand, regardless of the supportive White House press corps, the reality of the economic situation will settle into the public consciousness. Eventually, real life will overtake the media-created illusion. And, one day not too distant, President Obama will own this economy.
Patterson expects Democrats in the House to lose seats in 2010, which, of course, will completely reconfigure the current conventional wisdom about the GOP as the zombie party.
However, if Obama gets lucky, like Reagan, he gets "Morning in America" Part II.
If he gets an economic upturn after the midterm setback, and he wins another landslide election in 2012, President Obama may well outstrip the second term of Ronald Reagan. Well-positioned to achieve something close to universal health care and a substantial and historic program to counter the affects of global warming by scaling back carbon emissions, Obama will have a shot at finishing as a "near-great" president.
But, Professor Patterson reminds us, there are some less salutary potentialities as well. How could this presidency go down in flames?
There are the THREE BIG IFS:
1. What if the economy does not respond to the stimulus? Very possible. Many analysts are already talking about a SECOND STIMULUS, which would necessitate more money we don't have. More gnashing of teeth. Will there be any one left to borrow money from? This contingency severely dampens the rosiest Obama scenario. Even if one imagines a reelection victory in the midst of the continuing unease (a la FDR), the possibility of achieving big things in the second term virtually vanishes.
2. What if we drop into a deflationary spiral? Unlikely--but not impossible. Economists see this as extremely remote but no longer unthinkable.
3. What if the economy is exhausted? What if we keep the banks and the car companies above ground--but only on life support? We are surely headed toward a national debt that equals our Gross National Product (GDP). We reached that position at the end of World War II, and we expanded our way out of our financial hole, settling into a long period of dynamic growth in which our national debt decreased steadily until it leveled off and averaged about one-third of our GDP for decades. Now our national debt suddenly equals 70 percent of our GDP and seems inevitably on the way to approximately 100 percent once again.
Can we grow our way out of this kind of mammoth debt in our current state of national health? The USA of 2009 is not the America of post-war period, which was characterized by a vibrant manufacturing sector fueled by a nation of consumers with disposable income and pent-up demand for consumer goods. We are well past that vigorous America now. Today we live in a post-industrial society in which most Americans suffer from high personal debt and cannot honestly say that they want for much.
As you know, I worry that the party is over.
On the other hand, Patterson, an extremely talented handicapper, lays odds that the President is most likely on track for the more optimistic recovery scenario. This would be good news for all of us--at least in the near term. On the other hand, Patterson offers no guarantees, warning that the scariest outcomes are not just remote doomsday eventualities.
To borrow a line from the Brands lecture of the following day: the good news is that Obama has the potential to be another FDR. The bad news is that he also faces a danger of being the next Herbert Hoover.
SOURCE: Montreal Gazette (2-21-09)
But a faithful recreation of the battle would at least have had the merit of drawing a sharp distinction between the way the French army fought versus the way the militiamen fought, says Desmond Morton of Montreal.
"The French army took to its heels, but the militia didn't," says Morton, a professor of history at Montreal's McGill University and a former director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada.
"And so, rather than draw attention to this rather courageous stance (by the local militia), we've been denied it."
Like other historians, Morton watched with fascination as the National Battlefields Commission cancelled plans to stage a 250th-anniversary re-enactment of the battle associated with the fall of New France.
While original news reports blamed threats from separatist groups for the cancellation, it has since become clear that there was broader public ambivalence about the wisdom of the idea in the first place.
Some of the earliest opposition, in fact, came from historians themselves. Three of Quebec's most prominent francophone historians — Jacques Lacoursiere, Denis Vaugeois and Guy Vandeboncoeur — complained directly to the commission about a promotional brochure that was finally the subject of a public recall on Jan. 26.
Rather than portray the event as an objective retrospective, the marketing brochure gave the impression that a jovial celebration was being planned. Various pictures and captions suggested that a lighthearted musical comedy was in the works.
"The negative first impressions created by this brochure created a backlash that organizers couldn't overcome," Lacoursiere said.
The whole affair was aggravated by the fact that the Battle of the Plains of Abraham has assumed a mythical status that it doesn't deserve, says Denis Vaugeois, president of Les Editions du Septentrion, and a former Parti Quebecois cabinet minister.
Part of the larger Seven Years' War involving European powers, the battle itself wasn't what caused the fall of New France, said Vaugeois.
The following spring, there was a repeat engagement, the Battle of Ste. Foy, which the French side won, he notes. But when British rather than French ships subsequently sailed up the St. Lawrence River with reinforcements, it was over for the French....
SOURCE: Leonard Pitts in the Miami Herald (2-21-09)
But what did that tell us about who we are, what we are, where we are on the road to racial reconciliation? What, indeed, will we tell the grandchildren about that moment we saw?
A TIME FOR CAUTION
Dr. Donald Spivey, professor of history and Cooper Fellow at the University of Miami, says what he saw that night forced him to reconsider some basic assumptions. 'One of my students said, `You've written extensively on the racism of this nation and said we would never have a black president. So what do you say?' I said, 'I was wrong. And I was so glad to be wrong.' ''
''I was totally, absolutely surprised at Obama,'' says Dr. Howard Lindsey, assistant professor of history at DePaul University. ``If you talk to any black historian who said they could see this coming, tell them I said they're lying. Nobody, nobody I've talked to saw this coming. I live here in Chicago and I thought, `Man, look here, what're you doing? You've got a funny name, you're half white, and for some racists that's even worse than being black. And you're going to go against Clinton? C'mon! I thought he would be another Jesse Jackson, he would be a protest candidate, and after a few weeks we'd all follow Hillary.''
''It has to give you a sense of hope,'' says Spivey, who worked on Obama's South Florida campaign, ''no matter how you analyze it and process it.'' America, he adds, deserves praise for being the kind of country where such a thing can happen. And yet, even this optimistic assessment is tempered, as if being both African and American has taught him that every hope has shadows. ''I don't go too far,'' he is careful to add. ``I don't go crazy. I still believe race and racism are a real problem in the USA.''
Lindsey, too, cautions against interpreting Obama's victory too broadly. The election, he says, ``caused me to recalibrate how white America looks at, or can look at, a single African American. But for the black masses, I'm still not convinced that America has changed its views that significantly.''
That view is echoed by Dr. Robin Kelley, professor of American studies and ethnicity at the University of Southern California. ''I don't think of African-American progress in terms of group progress,'' he says in an e-mail response. ``African-American elites have been making significant progress in the electoral sphere for some time, and sometimes they exercise power in ways that put them at odds with other people of color -- here in L.A. we have black city council people and other elected officials who are as oppressive as whites with regard to the treatment of Latinos, for example. I'm not sure that's progress.''
And therein, of course, lies the glaring fallacy, not simply of the debate over What Obama Means, but of the way the nation has framed and approached the question of race from its inception -- meaning the ancient tendency to believe black is black is black is black....
SOURCE: Clark Hoyt in the NYT (2-22-09)
WITH the movie “Frost/Nixon” reviving memories of Watergate, Times readers on a recent Sunday might have been expecting major revelations when they saw this front-page headline: “John Dean’s Watergate Role At Issue in Nixon Tapes Feud.”
Instead, they got an article reviving a decade-old argument over the editing of widely cited transcripts of the Watergate cover-up, as captured on Richard Nixon’s secret taping system. The article repeated accusations by a handful of critics that Stanley I. Kutler, an esteemed historian, deliberately omitted and distorted material to paint a benign portrait of Dean, the presidential counsel who turned on Nixon and helped to bring him down.
The story demonstrated The Times’s power to propel an essentially dormant dispute into the national conversation. Web sites have been alive with discussion of the controversy — and The Times’s judgment in highlighting it. The article posed important journalistic questions: What makes an academic feud news, and what is the newspaper’s obligation to try to figure out who is right?
In this case, I think The Times blew the dispute out of proportion with front-page play, allowed an attack on a respected historian’s integrity without evidence to support it and left readers to wonder if there was anything here that would change our understanding of the scandal that ended Nixon’s presidency.
The peg for the article, its reason for being, seemed weak: Peter Klingman, a little-known independent historian, had submitted a manuscript to the American Historical Review, the leading journal in the field, charging Kutler with willful deception. Klingman had made a similar charge in 2002, and it had gotten no traction. ...
Does anything here change our understanding of Watergate? Luke A. Nichter, a professor at Tarleton State University-Central Texas, has prepared new transcripts of some key conversations edited by Kutler. They are available, with digital audio, at nixontapes.org. Nichter said he believes the attack on Kutler was misguided, but as a result of The Times article, he took another look at the Watergate cover-up, using more sources than the tapes Kutler edited. In an article that will be published shortly in Passport, another scholarly journal, Nichter said he concluded that both Nixon and Dean were somewhat guiltier than we knew....
SOURCE: Independent (UK) (2-20-09)
His interest in languages was developed at home in south Manchester. His father worked for the Manchester Ship Canal as a translator of Spanish and Portuguese and young Victor picked these up even before getting a scholarship to Manchester Grammar School, where he learnt Greek and Latin. His early love for Horace (his favourite poet) resulted in a later book. He went on to Trinity College, Cambridge where he studied History, imbibed the prevalent anti-fascist outlook and like many others joined the British Communist Party.
Unlike some of his distinguished colleagues (Eric Hobsbawm, Christopher Hill, Rodney Hilton, Edward Thompson) in the Communist Party Historians Group founded in 1946, Kiernan wrote a great deal on countries and cultures far removed from Britain and Europe. A flavour of the man is evident from the opening paragraphs of a 1989 essay on the monarchy published in the New Left Review:
In China an immemorial throne crumbled in 1911; India put its Rajas and Nawabs in the wastepaper-basket as soon as it gained independence in 1947; in Ethiopia the Lion of Judah has lately ceased to roar. Monarchy survives in odd corners of Asia; and in Japan and Britain. In Asia sainthood has often been hereditary, and can yield a comfortable income to remote descendants of holy men; in Europe hereditary monarchy had something of the same numinous character. In both cases a dim sense of an invisible flow of vital forces from generation to generation, linking together the endless series, has been at work. Very primitive feeling may lurk under civilized waistcoats.
Notions derived from age-old magic helped Europe's 'absolute monarchs' to convince taxpayers that a country's entire welfare, even survival, was bound up with its God-sent ruler's. Mughal emperors appeared daily on their balcony so that their subjects could see them and feel satisfied that all was well. Rajput princes would ride in a daily cavalcade through their small capitals, for the same reason. Any practical relevance of the crown to public well-being has long since vanished, but somehow in Britain the existence of a Royal Family seems to convince people in some subliminal way that everything is going to turn out all right for them... Things of today may have ancient roots; on the other hand antiques are often forgeries, and Royal sentiment in Britain today is largely an artificial product.
SOURCE: Inside Higher Ed (2-19-09)
Others suggest, however, that Kovel was treated the way many non-tenured professors are being treated these days as colleges retrench — and that mixed student reviews of his organizational skills in the classroom may have hurt him more than his politics.
And while the college is generally avoiding comment, some at Bard are angry at Kovel’s accusations that appear to link Israel’s treatment of Gaza with the college’s treatment of him.
His faculty letter concluded this way: “If the world stands outraged at Israeli aggression in Gaza, it should also be outraged at institutions in the United States that grant Israel impunity. In my view, Bard College is one such institution. It has suppressed critical engagement with Israel and Zionism, and therefore has enabled abuses such as have occurred and are occurring in Gaza. This notion is of course, not just descriptive of a place like Bard. It is also the context within which the critic of such a place and the Zionist ideology it enables becomes marginalized, and then removed.”
Kovel stands out among academic critics of Israel in that he does not just criticize actions of the government there, or advocate for a Palestinian state, but argues for the replacement of Israel with a secular state for Israelis and Palestinians....
SOURCE: Press Release--Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History (2-20-09)
In Saltwater Slavery, Smallwood, an associate professor of history at the University of Washington, Seattle, examines the transatlantic slave trade and the relationships between Africa and the new world.
The $25,000 award for the year’s best non-fiction book on slavery, resistance, or abolition is the most generous history prize in the field. The award is named for Frederick Douglass (1818–1895), the slave who escaped bondage to emerge as one of the great American abolitionists, reformers, writers, and orators of the 19th century.
The dinner included remarks by Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman, Co-Founders and Co-Chairmen of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and David Blight, Director of the Gilder Lehrman Center.
Commented Richard Gilder, “Stephanie Smallwood’s Saltwater Slavery represents an important contribution to the scholarship of the Atlantic slave trade, for it considers slavery from the viewpoint of the slave as he moves from Africa, through the Middle Passage, and at last in the Americas. Lewis Lehrman and I are proud to present her with this award in recognition of her achievement.”
“The Atlantic slave trade is an important part of our history that deserves critical examination,” said Lewis Lehrman. “Using primary sources to tell the story of slaves’ passage to the Americas, Stephanie Smallwood has produced a painstakingly researched work of the highest caliber.”
“Stephanie Smallwood’s book is at once haunting, informative, dramatic, painful to read, and bracing in its sense of learning and scholarship,” said Blight in his remarks. “A book that actually tries to get inside the imagination and experiences of the slaves themselves is not easy to find, and Saltwater Slavery is that book.”
The Frederick Douglass Book Prize was established in 1999 to stimulate scholarship in the field of slavery and abolition by honoring outstanding books. Previous winners include: Ira Berlin and Philip D. Morgan, 1999; David Eltis, 2000; David Blight, 2001; Robert Harms and John Stauffer, 2002; James F. Brooks and Seymour Drescher, 2003; Jean Fagan Yellin, 2004; Laurent DuBois, 2005; Rebecca J. Scott, 2006; and Christopher Leslie Brown, 2007.
Smallwood’s book was selected from a field of over seventy-five entries by a jury of scholars that included Barrymore Anthony Bogues (Brown University), Christopher Clark (University of Connecticut), and Rebecca J. Scott (University of Michigan School of Law). The winner was selected by a review committee of representatives from the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and Yale University.
In addition to Smallwood, the other finalists for the prize were Anthony E. Kaye for Joining Places: Slave Neighborhoods in the Old South (University of North Carolina Press); Kristin Mann for Slavery and the Birth of an African City: Lagos, 1760-1900 (Indiana University Press); and Chandra Manning for What this Cruel War was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War (Alfred A. Knopf Publishers).
The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition, a part of The Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale University, was launched in November 1998 through a generous donation by philanthropists Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Its mission is to promote the study of all aspects of slavery, especially the chattel slave system and its destruction. The Center seeks to foster an improved understanding of the role of slavery, slave resistance, and abolition in the founding of the modern world by promoting interaction and exchange between scholars, teachers, and public historians through publications, educational outreach, and other programs and events.
Founded in 1994, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History promotes the study and love of American history. The Institute serves teachers, students, scholars, and the general public. It helps create history-centered schools, organizes seminars and programs for educators, produces print and electronic publications and traveling exhibitions, sponsors lectures by eminent historians, and administers a History Teacher of the Year Award in every state. The Institute also conducts awards including the Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and George Washington Book Prizes, and offers fellowships for scholars to work in the Gilder Lehrman Collection. The Institute maintains two websites, www.gilderlehrman.org and the quarterly online journal www.historynow.org.
SOURCE: Press Release--Washington College (MD) (2-20-09)
The books, which were chosen from 78 entries, include an epic history of Thomas Jefferson's African-American relatives, a prodigious exploration of Jefferson's literary and intellectual development, and a tale of investment skullduggery and financial meltdown that eerily foreshadows today’s headlines.
The finalists are: Annette Gordon-Reed's The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (Norton), Kevin J. Hayes's The Road to Monticello: The Life and Mind of Thomas Jefferson (Oxford), and Jane Kamensky’s The Exchange Artist: A Tale of High-Flying Speculation and America's First Banking Collapse (Viking).
The $50,000 award—co-sponsored by Washington College, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and George Washington’s Mount Vernon—is the largest prize nationwide for a book on early American history, and one of the largest literary prizes of any kind. It recognizes the year’s best books on the nation’s founding era, especially those that have the potential to advance broad public understanding of American history.
“This year’s finalists prove that good history can offer insights both timely and timeless,” said Adam Goodheart, Hodson Trust-Griswold director of Washington College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, which administers the prize. “The Washington Prize recognizes books that not only vividly recount the past, but also speak eloquently to the present.”
The winner will be announced at a gala celebration May 28 at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate & Gardens in Virginia.
The finalists were selected by a jury of three distinguished historians: Joyce Appleby, professor of history emerita at the University of California, Los Angeles, who served as chair; Ira Berlin, Distinguished University Professor of History at the University of Maryland; and Jay Winik, best-selling author and one of the country's leading public historians.
They selected the finalists after reviewing 78 books published last year on the founding period in American history, from about 1760 to 1820—time of the creation and consolidation of the young republic.
In The Hemingses of Monticello, Annette Gordon-Reed "sweeps away any remaining doubts of the existence of [Thomas Jefferson's] relationship with [his slave] Sally Hemings," and, in the process, "answers important questions about America's founding generation," the jurors wrote. A professor of law at New York Law School and of history at Rutgers University, Gordon-Reed is the author of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy (1997), the editor of Race On Trial: Law and Justice in American History (2002), and co-author with Vernon Jordan of Vernon Can Read: A Memoir (2001). She was awarded the 2008 National Book Award for Nonfiction for The Hemingses of Monticello.
Kevin Hayes's The Road to Monticello is "a superb study" that "mined every conversation with Thomas Jefferson ever recorded" for accounts of the literary and artistic experiences that shaped him, from his undergraduate years at William and Mary until he left Washington "with another eight crates of books" to retire at Monticello, the jurors reported. A Professor of English at the University of Central Oklahoma, Hayes is also the author of A Colonial Woman's Bookshelf (1996), An American Cycling Odyssey (2002), Melville's Folk Roots (1999), and Poe and the Printed Word (2000).
The jurors described Jane Kamensky's The Exchange Artist as a "fascinating window into the pitfalls of unfettered capitalism" that tells the story of Andrew Dexter, Jr., a New England entrepreneur-turned-con-artist who dreamed of erecting the tallest building in the United States – a scheme financed by "a string of giddy banks" and "hopeless overleveraging" whose spectacular collapse "almost hauntingly fits within the zeitgeist of the issues the nation is wrestling with today." A professor of history at Brandeis University, Kamensky is the author of Governing the Tongue (1998) and The Colonial Mosaic (1995), and co-editor and co-founder of the online history magazine Common-place (www.common-place.org). She is also the co-author, with fellow historian Jill Lepore, of Blindspot: A Novel, which was published last year.
# # #
The 2009 George Washington Book Prize Jurors
Joyce Appleby, who served as chair of the jury, is professor emerita of history at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she taught for 20 years. She currently acts as co-director of the History News Service, which distributes op-ed essays by historians to more than 300 newspapers. A noted historian of the early national period in American history, Appleby is a former president of the American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians. She earned her Ph.D. in history at Claremont College in 1966. Her first book, Ideology and Economic Thought in Seventeenth-Century England (Princeton, 1978), won the 1978 Berkshire Prize. Her recent publications include Inheriting the Revolution: The First Generation of Americans (Harvard, 2000), Thomas Jefferson (Henry Holt American Presidents Series, 2003), and A Restless Past: History and the American Public (Rowman & Littlefield, 2005). W.W. Norton will bring out her The Relentless Revolution: A History of Capitalism in 2009. She has been a member and chair of the Council of the Institute of Early American History and Culture at Williamsburg and has served on the editorial boards of the American Historical Review and the William and Mary Quarterly. In 2009, the Society of American Historians awarded Appleby the Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., Award for Distinguished Writing in American History.
Ira Berlin is a leading historian of African-American life and a Distinguished University Professor of History at the University of Maryland, where he has also served as Dean of Undergraduates and of the College of Arts and Humanities. He earned his Ph.D. in history at the University of Wisconsin in 1970. His first book, Slaves Without Masters: The Free Negro in the Antebellum South (The New Press, 1974), was awarded the Best First Book Prize by the National Historical Society. He has authored or edited many other books about what he calls the "striking diversity" of life under slavery, including Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America (Harvard, 1998) and Generations of Captivity: A History of African American Slaves (Harvard, 2003). In 1991, the Maryland Department of Education named him the state's Outstanding Educator. He is the founder of the Freedmen and Southern Society Project, which he directed until 1991. He has been awarded numerous fellowships and grants, including a Guggenheim and grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Rockefeller Foundation. He has served on the Advisory Board of the National Archives, chair of the Council of the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and president of the Organization of American Historians.
Jay Winik is one of the country's leading public historians, renowned for his gifted approaches to history. A regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal as well as The New York Times, he is the author of the critically acclaimed New York Times bestseller April 1865: The Month that Saved America (HarperCollins, 2001), a book that had the rare distinction of becoming an instant classic and which became an award-winning documentary on the History Channel. He is also the author of the bestselling The Great Upheaval: America and the Birth of the Modern World, 1788-1800 (Harper, 2007), a USA Today and Financial Times best book of the year. Winik received his B.A. and Ph.D. from Yale University and a Master's from the London School of Economics. He has been a lead commentator on frequent PBS and History Channel documentary specials, and was the Presidential Historian for Fox News's coverage of Barack Obama’s historic inauguration. A senior scholar of history and public policy at the University of Maryland, he sits on the governing council of the National Endowment for the Humanities and has served as a trustee on a number of other nonprofit boards, including American Heritage Magazine, the Civil War Preservation Trust, the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, the James Madison Book Award, Ford's Theatre, and The Lincoln Forum.
About the Sponsors of the George Washington Book Prize
Washington College was founded in 1782, the first institution of higher learning established in the new republic. George Washington was not only a principal donor to the college, but also a member of its original governing board. He received an honorary degree from the college in June 1789, two months after assuming the presidency. The C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, founded in 2000, is an innovative center for the study of history, culture and politics, and fosters excellence in the art of written history through fellowships, prizes, and student programs.
Founded in 1994, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History promotes the study and love of American history. The Institute serves teachers, students, scholars, and the general public. It helps create history-centered schools, organizes seminars and programs for educators, produces print and electronic publications and traveling exhibitions, sponsors lectures by eminent historians, and administers a History Teacher of the Year Award in every state. The Institute also awards the Lincoln, Frederick Douglass and George Washington Book Prizes, and offers fellowships for scholars to work in the Gilder Lehrman Collection. The Institute maintains two websites, www.gilderlehrman.org and the quarterly online journal www.historynow.org.
Since 1860, over 80 million visitors have made George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate & Gardens the most popular historic home in America. Through thought-provoking tours, entertaining events, and stimulating educational programs on the Estate and in classrooms across the nation, Mount Vernon strives to preserve George Washington's place in history as "First in War, First in Peace, and First in the Hearts of His Countrymen." Mount Vernon is owned and operated by the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, America's oldest national preservation organization, founded in 1853. www.mountvernon.org.
SOURCE: Independent (UK) (2-20-09)
His interest in languages was developed at home in south Manchester. His father worked for the Manchester Ship Canal as a translator of Spanish and Portuguese and young Victor picked these up even before getting a scholarship to Manchester Grammar School, where he learnt Greek and Latin. His early love for Horace (his favourite poet) resulted in a later book. He went on to Trinity College, Cambridge where he studied History, imbibed the prevalent anti-fascist outlook and like many others joined the British Communist Party.
Unlike some of his distinguished colleagues (Eric Hobsbawm, Christopher Hill, Rodney Hilton, Edward Thompson) in the Communist Party Historians Group founded in 1946, Kiernan wrote a great deal on countries and cultures far removed from Britain and Europe...
SOURCE: http://www.pantagraph.com (2-19-09)
“In the 21st century, we don’t sometimes understand how difficult it was to even think about bringing slavery to an end,” said Horton, IWU Founders’ Day convocation speaker and a member of the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission,
Slavery was institutionalized for more than two centuries in America before the Civil War, he said.
In the 1850s and ’60s, a politician who didn’t favor slavery had a difficult time. For example, Lincoln widely is considered to be the best U.S. president, but he won less than 40 percent of the popular vote in the 1860 election.
“It was not easy to be Abraham Lincoln, especially during the mid-19th century,” said Horton, who has worked at the Smithsonian Institution and with The History Channel.
On Wednesday, he focused on “Abraham Lincoln: Slavery and the Civil War.” But his talk covered more than the 1860s. Horton’s multimedia lecture reached back to the 1600s, covered presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, and worked its way to Lincoln’s administration....
SOURCE: John Palattella in The Nation (2-18-09)
When I learned in September that Anchor Books would be publishing a paperback edition of They Knew They Were Right, I sent Robin's review to Anchor's editorial department. In an accompanying note I explained that Heilbrunn and Doubleday hadn't replied to Robin's review. That is, the author and his publisher hadn't challenged the claim that the book contains passages of stolen material, and that the similarities between the passages point to a larger pattern of unacknowledged sourcing and plagiarism that can't be attributed to chance or dismissed as innocent mistakes. This I found peculiar. Did the author of They Knew They Were Right really think he had done nothing wrong?
A reply from Anchor never arrived, but a change in the paperback edition of They Knew They Were Right, which appeared in January, reveals that Heilbrunn (or his editor) read Robin's review. The passage with material lifted from Robin's London Review of Books article has been retrofitted with a modifying clause: "As Professor Corey Robin has noted..." Heilbrunn doesn't identify the LRB article as his source--a typical lapse that makes the correction cosmetic. Why name-check Robin but not cite his article? And which is ultimately worse: the original error or the botched, if not disingenuous, correction? Stranger still is the fact that Heilbrunn corrected the least egregious offense flagged by Robin, leaving unmodified other instances of unattributed expropriation, including language harvested verbatim from a 1981 article by Patricia Derian about President Reagan's human rights policies (see box below). By choosing only to right the wrong done to Robin, the author of a critical review of his book, Heilbrunn seems to have mistaken an intellectual offense for a personal one. Either he doesn't understand the evidence of plagiarism presented by Robin or he just doesn't care....
SOURCE: Inside Higher Ed (2-19-09)
But the degree of consensus among anthropologists may not be reflected by the lopsided outcome: At least some who backed the changes said that they did so because they view them as a step in the right direction, but nonetheless believe that the association ducked some important issues.
At a press briefing on the vote Thursday, association leaders in fact said that the language approved was intentionally ambiguous on the question of classified research, and that some scholars will read the code as barring such studies while others will not. The association has been in an intense debate about the ethics code for several years — a debate prompted in part by highly publicized programs in which some anthropologists have worked for the U.S. military in Afghanistan and Iraq, while far more quietly a growing number of scholars have started doing proprietary research for companies....