This page includes, in addition to news about historians, news about political scientists, economists, law professors, and others who write about history. For a comprehensive list of historians' obituaries, go here.
SOURCE: http://grad-schools.usnews (4-30-09)
SOURCE: Columbia Spectator (4-30-09)
“He said he had good news,” Faust recalled. “I said I could use some good news.” So she e-mailed Brinkley, asking him to call her.
Brinkley telephoned Faust late that night to inform her that she had won a Bancroft Prize for her latest book, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War, published in 2008.
The Bancroft Prize, bestowed annually by Columbia University, is considered by many to be the greatest honor awarded for works of American history. On Wednesday night, Faust was joined for the awards dinner and presentation in Low Library by two fellow historians at earlier stages in their academic careers.
“I was stunned and thrilled and honored,” she said.
Thomas Andrews, an assistant professor of history at the University of Colorado, Denver, won for his debut book, Killing for Coal: America’s Deadliest Labor War. The book situates the labor dispute of 1914 known as the Ludlow Massacre in a social and environmental history of the United States’ pursuit of coal energy.
Pekka Hämäläinen is an assistant professor of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the author of The Comanche Empire, a reinvestigation of the impact of the Comanches on the story of the American Southwest.
“What seems to be happening right now, in the past couple of years, there seems to be a trend of historians asking big questions, tackling big topics,” Hämäläinen said. “I think it’s an academic cycle.”
But in dramatic times, historical topics have taken on greater resonance. Faust came upon the subject of loss in the Civil War while researching her previous book, Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War.
She began work on her new topic after the Gulf War while working at Harvard, but found her topic taking on a “renewed salience” in the early 2000s. Although it was difficult to stick with, Faust said she nevertheless found herself struck by “how extraordinary humans are in how they cope.”
Andrews discovered the topic of his book during a dinner of the student staple, tortellini. Imagining his pasta “flying back into the kitchen and disassembling themselves into their constituent parts,” Andrews said he found the idea of bringing together a labor and environmental history.
The period of history he covered was also a “time period of epiphany about where energy came from ... disasters would happen that would remind people how things happen,” he said.
According to Andrews, in the past “it has been easier to be a responsible historian and to ignore the environment.” For environmental historians, Andrews thinks this sign of recognition has been especially gratifying.
With the Bancroft, Andrews noted, “This book is going to be hard to live up to in the future.”
Brinkley, who will step down as provost at the end of this year and rejoin the history department as a full time faculty member, presented the awards to the authors and their publishers.
“It’s an honor every year to present the Bancroft prizes,” he said. Brinkley said that books that have won under his tenure make him “all the more eager to get back to history.”...
SOURCE: NJ Star-Ledger (4-29-09)
But even as McCullough, speaking on the 100th day of President Barack Obama's term in office, called the 100-day assessment "contrived," he had high praise for the commander-in-chief.
"I think we have an extraordinary president. He has the makings of one of the most remarkable presidents ever," said McCullough, 75, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner for his books on American history. "The man is amazing...He has the capability to move people with words."
And being able to use language to mobilize a nation, McCullough said, has been a common thread among George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt -- men McCullough cited as the country's greatest presidents....
SOURCE: David Kaiser at his blog (4-11-09)
During the past seven days this blog has had about 1100 hits, which may be a record. I do hope some of my new patrons will return, but the reason for the outburst of interest is quite ironic: the fraudulent attribution to myself of a piece of right-wing hysteria which continues to circulate around the net. Snopes.com, a site which specializes in exposing fraud, published this almost immediately when I called it to their attention, and during the past ten days 168 hits on historyunfolding.com have come from there. They have traced it to an anonymous comment on a right wing blog last November. It has been misattributed to a couple of other people since then. In addition, another David Kaiser--a scientist at a well-known university--is receiving an average of about one piece of fan mail a day from around the world, praising his perspicacity. (His university publishes his email address on its web site; mine does not.) We have been in touch, and he has a form letter which he uses to reply, making it clear that 1) he isn't the David Kaiser they are looking for and 2) that the David Kaiser they are looking for didn't write it, either. I have queried at least half a dozen of his and my"fans" asking them who sent the article to them, in an effort to start tracing the fraud back to its source, but that seems to be a fruitless endeavor--only a couple have replied and in both cases the trail immediately went cold.
I suppose it's another indication of the world that we are living in that, after a remarkably steady readership of about 800 readers a week for the last few years, the hits could have increased by about 40% thanks to my association with right-wing paranoia. (The full text is available, among many other places, here. This has not actually disturbed me very much. Perhaps because I have taken so much heat for things I actually did say, especially over the last year, I am merely amused by the interest in something that I did not say. But this piece of anti-Obama lunacy--so similar to much of what circulated in the 1930s about FDR, and probably to things written about Lincoln as well--has resonated among a measurable segment of the population, it seems, in a way that the kind of commentary that appears here every week does not. I should not be surprised. Crisis eras bring crazies out of the woodwork. So far we, unlike the French in the 1790s or the Germans in the 1930s, have been able to avoid having them in charge--may it continue to be so. Now, back to work.
SOURCE: http://www.journalism.co.uk (4-29-09)
Schama, professor of Art History and History at Columbia University, New York will write for the papers regularly, on a wide range of topics.
"I am delighted that Simon Schama is joining the Financial Times. He is one of the most elegant and versatile writers in the English language, a master historian who can turn his talents to the arts, popular culture and bonne cuisine. He will be a terrific addition - in particular to our FT Weekend offering." said the Financial Times editor, Lionel Barber, in the release.
SOURCE: Oxford University Press blog (4-29-09)
James M. McPherson: We know from John Hay that Lincoln put himself through a cram course of readings in military history and strategy during the fall and winter of 1861-62, mainly so he could deal more intelligently and forcefully with such generals as McClellan, Halleck, and Buell. Did Lincoln do anything comparable to overcome his admission that he knew “little about ships”?
Craig L. Symonds: Not really. A lifelong autodidact, Lincoln focused on learning as much as he could about war in the first months of the conflict, but he saw from the beginning that the land war was far more important than the naval war. While he read all that he could about the theories of war, he did not undertake a similar regimen concerning naval strategy, in part because there were fewer such books. He was fascinated by new weaponry, played a role in getting the Navy to adopt Ericsson’s Monitor, and he consulted both Seward and Bates on the legality of the blockade, but for the most part, he relied on Gideon Welles, and especially the Assistant Navy Secretary, Gustavus Fox, to provide him with whatever professional knowledge or technical information he needed.
McPherson: Historians hold a wide range of opinions about the effectiveness of the blockade and how important a role it played in ultimate Union victory. Where do you stand on this question?
Symonds: I guess it depends on whether the glass is half full or half empty. The blockade was never impervious, and at times seemed quite porous. As many have argued, the South was able to import through the blockade the weapons and supplies it needed to sustain its armies in the field for four years, though it did encounter serious shortages in specific areas such as steam engines, engine parts, and railroad rails. Exports were a different story. Cotton exports plunged from 2.8 million bales in the last year of peace to only 55,000 bales in the first year of war. That undercut the Confederacy’s ability to establish credit overseas, contributed to inflation and civilian unrest at home, and generally undermined the Confederate economy. The loss of southern revenue from cotton exports was greater than the amount the North spent to establish and maintain the blockade. Given that, I think the blockade was worth the investment. If it succeeded in shortening the war by, say, six month, it probably saved many thousands of lives.
McPherson: Along with Gideon Welles and Gustavus Fox, Lincoln was critical of Samuel Francis Du Pont for lack of aggressiveness and pertinacity in the failed attack on the defenses of Charleston on April 7, 1863, and compared Du Pont to McClellan. Was this fair?
Symonds: There are many things in war that are not fair. Du Pont was very likely correct in asserting that Charleston could not be taken by a purely naval attack, as Gideon Welles repeatedly encouraged him to do, and he was effectively fired for demonstrating that his view was correct. Kevin Weddle calls Du Pont “Lincoln’s Tragic Admiral,” a victim of Welles’ determination to protect the reputation of his beloved monitors. But Du Pont’s fall from grace was due not merely to his failure to capture Charleston. It was also due to two other factors: One was that Lincoln had become scarred by his lengthy and frustrating relationship with McClellan during the 1862 campaign, and by 1863 he had began to view Du Pont through a prism defined by that experience. When Du Pont called for reinforcements, or bemoaned the obstacles in front of him, it was McClellans’ voice that Lincoln heard.
The other reason for Du Pont’s fall is that he never fully explained to the President precisely why he objected to a navy-only attack. Instead he only hinted at it by detailing how strong the enemy defenses were and how limited his own forces were. He never clearly laid out an alternative with the kind of strong advocacy that showed his willingness to carry it out. Even then, I think Lincoln would have stood by Du Pont but for Du Pont’s own foolish behavior when he insisted that the Government must publish his official reports (including compromising information about the vulnerabilities of the monitors) in order to counter hostile newspaper articles about him. In the end, Du Pont’s reticence and touchiness were responsible for his tragedy.
McPherson: Did Lincoln show unjustified favoritism toward John A. Dahlgren when he promoted him to rear admiral and gave him command of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron even though Dahlgren had limited experience in seagoing command?
Symonds: Dahlgren was unquestionably Lincoln’s favorite admiral. He much appreciated Farragut’s success, but he liked Dahlgren, often went to the Washington Navy Yard to visit with him, and eventually he asked Welles to promote him to admiral, even though Dahlgren had virtually no important sea service. Most of the navy looked upon Lincoln’s decision to promote his friend from commander to Rear Admiral in one step as personal favoritism. It was favoritism, but whether it was unjustified depends on how well Dahlgren performed in command. Though Charleston never fell, Dahlgren was an active and effective commander of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, and despite suffering poor health that might have ended the career of a less determined man, Dahlgren worked hard and earned the confidence of his officers throughout the long and wasting siege.
McPherson: From 1862 on, Acting Rear Admiral Samuel Phillips Lee wanted to attack the defenses of Wilmington to shut down the port to blockade runners. When the time came in 1864 to carry out the attack, however, Welles, Fox, and Grant convinced Lincoln that Lee was not the man to command it, and replaced him with Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter. Was this treatment of Lee justified?
Symonds: Like Du Pont, Phillips Lee was a competent officer who was at his best managing the multivariate activities of a far-flung squadron. Unlike Du Pont, he never had the chance to prove himself in a major battle and thereby win promotion to the permanent rank of Rear Admiral. Because the authorizing legislation stipulated that promotions to admiral must be won in battle, Lee repeatedly asked Welles for permission to attack Wilmington, North Carolina. Not until 1864 did Welles accede, and when he did he sent Lee off to the backwater of the Mississippi Squadron and brought in the brash David Dixon Porter to carry it out. Lee felt himself a victim of Welles’ favoritism for others. But in this case, it was U. S. Grant as much as Gideon Welles who was responsible. In Grant’s view, Lee had not been sufficiently aggressive during the move up the James River, and he wanted someone else to command of the attack on Wilmington. When Farragut declined the command, Welles gave it to Porter. Lee’s anger at this treatment is understandable, but Welles and Grant had concluded that while Lee was an effective manager, he was not the man for a full-scale attack. In the end, Lee never did get a chance to prove himself in the kind of engagement that might have won him the promotion he sought.
Symonds: George McClellan is clearly a central character in this story. In your view, was Lincoln too patient with Little Mac, not patient enough, or just about right? Would the Lincoln of 1864 have tolerated McClellan as long as the Lincoln of 1862 did?
McPherson: In one sense, he was too patient. McClellan deserved to be fired after his failure to reinforce Pope at Second Bull Run, as a majority of the Cabinet wanted Lincoln to do. But in another sense, Lincoln was absolutely right that only McClellan could reorganize the army and restore its morale, and if the president had fired him then, the army might have broken down. In the end, Lincoln’s timing on removing Mac from command–just after the fall elections in 1862–was just right.
Symonds: What about the so-called political generals: Did Lincoln appoint and tolerate them out of perceived political necessity, or because he believed that some of them, at least, had genuine merit? And, for that matter, did any of them have genuine merit?
McPherson: Lincoln appointed the political generals in order to mobilize their constituencies for the war effort. Northern mobilization for the war in 1861-62 was a from-the-bottom-up process, with important local and state political leaders playing a key part in persuading men to enlist in this all-volunteer army, and political generals were a key part in this process, which increased an army of 16,000 men in April 1861 to an army of 637,000 men in April 1862. And while we are all familiar with the military incompetents among the political generals, some of them were actually pretty good–John Logan and Frank Blair, for example.
Symonds: Why did Lincoln put up with Henry Halleck?
McPherson: Lincoln used Halleck to translate presidential orders and wishes into language that military commanders could understand, and to translate their reports and requests and explanations into language that Lincoln understood. That was what Lincoln meant when he called Halleck a “first-rate clerk.” Of course he had wanted him to be more than a clerk, and that is why Lincoln finally appointed Grant as general in chief and booted Halleck upstairs into the new office of “chief of staff,” where his clerkly qualities were needed.
Symonds: Lincoln was clearly relieved to turn over military operations to Grant in 1864, but did he also fear Grant as a potential political rival?
McPherson: He had been concerned about Grant as a potential political rival, until Grant let it be known throughout intermediaries that he unequivocally and absolutely had no political ambitions in 1864 and strongly supported Lincoln’s reelection. After that, Lincoln had no more concerns.
McPherson: There is still room in the house, but since my grandchildren are interested in Mr. Lincoln in bronze, I may deposit this bust in their house, where I can visit it whenever I want (they live ten miles away).
SOURCE: Inside Higher Ed (4-28-09)
Kramer spoke at a reunion of gay alumni who were honoring him with a lifetime achievement award. He accused Yale of misusing a $1 million gift it received in his honor by relegating gay studies to the area of gender studies, instead of within history, where Kramer says the field belongs. And he attacked the literary and gender theorists who have played a key role in gay studies, saying that they were focused on the wrong issues.
Study of history -- of people who were gay and how society treated them -- would do more to advance the rights of gay people than any theory. His speech mixed discussion of prominent people he argues were gay (including one of Yale's greatest donors of past generations, and several U.S. presidents), provocative language (some of which will follow) that isn't standard for alumni dinners, and a critique of literary criticism that might warm the hearts of neoconservatives....
SOURCE: Martin Kramer at Sandbox, his blog (4-26-09)
Clearly, the Statutes of the University accord the Trustees and the President as their delegate almost total power on all aspects of governance including the granting of promotion and tenure to faculty. However, a reading of the Statutes should not close the subject. The question remains, under what circumstances, if any, should the President and the Trustees exercise these statutory powers. Decisions on matters as important as tenure and faculty promotion have... been made at Columbia over the last fifty or so years at the level of the Provost with the advice of faculty, without the intervention of the President and Trustees, and were passed on to the President and Trustees for formal approval under the Statutes.Columbia president Lee Bollinger took issue:
The President has to be involved and is involved in promotions and decisions with respect to tenure. It is an aspect of his responsibility that he takes very seriously. So do the Trustees. The President continued that he concedes that by custom we operate in a very special way. It is indeed rare for the President or the Board of Trustees to reverse or overturn a decision that comes to them through the faculty, deans, and Provost. Deference that is paid to judgments made at lower levels is exceedingly important to the values of this institution. An extraordinary amount of deference is given to individual faculty, individual departments, and schools in defining their research and curricular agendas, and so it should be. It would however be a big mistake and incorrect as a matter of structural fact to think in the way that Professor Nathan is suggesting.
Bollinger went on to add that "our trustees understand they would intervene only in extreme cases."
Massad is perfectly aware of university statutes. When he told friends he'd already been tenured, it wasn't a mistake on his part, or a case of jumping the gun. It was a statement: Massad does not recognize the authority of the trustees to deny him tenure. This is the position of many of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, who in May 2006 published their own statement on academic freedom. In it they expressed their view that "[tenure] decisions are, by University statute, subject to review and approval by the trustees, whose customary deference to faculty in academic matters has been essential to the University's success." In other words, in the opinion of these faculty, trustees should only review and approve their decisions, and never overturn them.
But it's the trustees who have the statutes on their side. They are "academic officers" of the university, and if any of them do not take "very seriously" their role in tenure decisions, they shouldn't be on the board. Bollinger has defended their authority to veto the faculty in "rare" and "extreme cases," and if Massad isn't an extreme case, who is?
I was disappointed that Bollinger himself didn't nix Massad's tenure. But it might have been too much to expect from one man, even Columbia's president. He already faces a campaign of intimidation by faculty extremists, who think the job of the president is to defend their excesses. They've got a faculty letter going, demanding that Bollinger denounce Israel for allegedly violating Palestinian academic freedom. (To that end, they also held a media-free conclave on Thursday night.) Bollinger has told them to forget it, and I don't think he need lose any sleep.
Still, an argument can be made that as between Bollinger and the trustees, it is the trustees who should assume (and share among them) the burden of doing what must be done to save Columbia's name. The statutes empower them to do so, and Bollinger has defended their prerogative. They should not be timid. The larger part of the Columbia community—faculty, students, donors, and alumni like myself—would be grateful for a show of courage, by those who hold the university in trust.
Update, April 27: The New York Daily News this morning runs yet another editorial on Massad, ending thus: "It may not be too late for the board, composed of leaders like Chairman William Campbell, Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit and real estate magnate Philip Milstein, to do the right thing: Deny Massad tenure."
SOURCE: Jamie Glazov interviews Hanson at frontpagemag.com (4-27-09)
FP: Victor Davis Hanson, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
What report card would you give the Obama administration in terms of foreign policy right now? Why?
Hanson: An Incomplete that at the present rate will turn into a D/F if he is not careful.
Obama has confused a number of issues: intractable problems like North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, Venezuela, Cuba, Russia, Islamic terrorism, etc. both pre- and post-dated George Bush; they present only bad and worse choices, and are predicated on different agendas of authoritarians that hinge on whether the United States can or cannot deter their regional megalomaniac dreams.
In the long-term, Obama's nontraditional heritage and charisma make little difference; on the other hand, serial apologies, "Bush did it", the "reset button" ad nauseam, trumpeting the "I was only (fill in the blank) when that happened" etc. have a brief shelf life, and achieve only a transitory buzz, similar to a Bono-celebrity tour.
He needs to cut out the messianic style, and realize that millions of brave souls, who invest at great danger in democracy, freedom, open markets, etc. around the world, count on an American President for moral support and guidance against a bullying Russia, Iranian-backed Hezbollah, Chavez's thugs, Castro jailers, et al.
When they see Obama's moral equivalence, they realize they are on their own and must cut their own deals to survive--understanding that multicultural trendiness is now a cynical cover for moral laxity and 'can't we all get along?' appeasement. So by all means smile and shake hands, but don't confuse that for tough diplomacy or protecting American global interests. Increasing the Bush billion-dollar deficit to $1.7, with another $9 trillion in additional aggregate debt will very soon curtail American options abroad, and our enemies are now waiting for opportune moments for exploitation.
FP: What danger does Putin’s regime pose to the West? What is your recommendation in terms of U.S. policy toward Putin? What mistakes has the new administration made so far in that department? For instance, in terms of the reset button fiasco, it means that the Obama team doesn’t even have a sound translator on hand. This is real grounds for worry, yes?
Hanson: We have three or four broad aims at this juncture: one, to ensure that former Soviet republics, which on their free accord sought integration with the West -- the Baltic Republics, Ukraine, Georgia, etc. -- are not forced back into a Russian Empire against their will; that Eastern European states remain autonomous and free to protect themselves from Iranian nuclear blackmail should they wish anti-ballistic missile protection; that Russia understands that there will be consequences if its technology ensures an Iranian bomb; and that Europe has assurances of support should Russia engage in energy blackmail—or worse.
Putin et al. know that their brinksmanship agendas were not predicated on Bush's smoke 'em out lingo; so to suggest Bush's tough talk, even if gratuitous in the first team, created crises where they otherwise did not exist, is absurd. Ms. Clinton—completely marginalized so far by Obama's obsessive need to bask in the pop-star limelight abroad—should know that. She has competent advisors; I cannot believe they really fall for the campaign mode nonsense that their sensitivity and diplomatic adroitness ipsis factis will translate into either friendship or better Russian behavior.
FP: The Obama administration apparently is set to give 900 million to Hamas. In other words, they want to give money to the Palestinian Nazi Party. What do you make of this? What must Obama do toward Hamas, the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, etc? Do you think he will do it and/or is he even capable or cognizant of what is actually going on and what is at stake?
Hanson: I am very worried. Israel I think is alone now. The failed Freeman appointment, the historically puerile al-Arabiya interview (cf. e.g., Obama's praise of the good ole days, some thirty years ago, when Sadat was murdered, Khomeini took over, Saddam was flexing his muscles, Americans were routinely murdered, etc.) the Samantha Power appointment, the 'outreach' to Syria, the video for Iran, the Gaza/Hamas rebuilding, the tough behind-the-scenes lectures to Israel—all this bodes ill.
Does Team Obama really believe that a murderous autocratic cabal like Hamas is merely different from a democratic constitutional republic like Israel? At best we have naiveté at the helm (Obama thinks he can mesmerize misunderstood killers), at worst, a genuine feeling that Israel is an aggressive, Western imperialist power exploiting indigenous people of color who simply wish to be free--in other words, the Rev. Wright-Bill Ayers-Rashid Khalidi view of the Middle East.
FP: What did you make of Obama’s Chavez meeting and his new disposition toward Latin America? Perhaps it is time to try something new?
Hanson: Not really. We stand for open markets, free trade, personal freedom, human rights, and consensual government. Others like Castro, Morales, Chavez, and Ortega simply don't. Why would anyone any more believe these thugs, who justify their lust for power by the age-old mantra of "we suffer for the people", as they try to engineer an equality of result--through any means necessary, with all power and prestige going to themselves?
They will say anything to blame a successful U.S., to rationalize the self-inflicted misery and failure of Latin America. Shaking Chavez's hand is a minor lapse if that; but in aggregate, the continuance of the glad-handing, trashing the US, showcasing his racial solidarity, listening to Ortega's rant, photo-oping with thugs--all that does two things abroad: first, it undercuts brave democrats in places like Columbia and elsewhere in Central America; two, it sends a message to fence-sitters in more important states like Peru, Brazil, Chile, etc. that authoritarian socialism, not free-market democracy, is now the wave of the future, and so they better get with the new neighborhood–or else!
FP: What do you think is the greatest threat right now facing the U.S. , Israel and the West?
Hanson: We have three: one, we have mortgaged our options to the Chinese and other debt holders. By going into $20 trillion in aggregate debt we will cut our military, pull back, dress it up with utopian rhetoric, and cede huge areas of the globe over to regional autocracies.
Second, some are already prepping for the Iranian catastrophe to come, by talking of "containing" Iran, as if we have given up on embargoing, blockading, and other more severe 11th hour measures to stop a Khomeinist nuke. Once that happens the Arab Sunni states will rush to get a bomb, Israel will be periodically blackmailed as Hamas, Hezbollah, etc will be given Iranian nuclear assurance (acting deranged with your finger on the trigger is smart in nuclear poker). Add in al Qaeda that thinks there are now new rules in Washington that can be tested--and you have a recipe for a dangerous world. We seem to think that not being attacked since 9/11 was some sort of natural occurrence, or perhaps yet another government ensured entitlement.
FP: Victor Hanson, thank you for joining us in these tough times.
SOURCE: HAW website (4-15-09)
In particular, we continue to demand a speedy end to US military involvement in Iraq, and we insist on the withdrawal, not the expansion, of US and NATO military forces in Afghanistan. We also call for a sharp reduction of US military bases overseas, and an end to US financial and military support of regimes that repress their people, or that occupy the territories of other peoples. We favor as well a drastic redirection of national resources away from military spending and toward urgently needed domestic programs.
We deplore the secrecy, deception, and distortion of history, the repeated violation of international law, and the attack on civil liberties domestically that have accompanied US policies of war and militarism—policies that became especially belligerent in the aftermath of September 11.
We fear that the current, rapidly escalating crisis of global capitalism, which is creating suffering worldwide, will lead to escalating wars abroad and intensifying repression at home. We support solutions to this crisis that seek to enrich the lives and increase the power of people globally, and protect their fundamental human rights. We are unalterably opposed to any attempts to solve the crisis at their expense.
We are aware that, in the words of the late historian William Appleman Williams, "empire as a way of life" has long characterized the United States and is not easily changed. However, we are mindful as well that the current conjunction of international and domestic crises offers an opportunity to alter longstanding destructive patterns. As historians, we believe that we can and must make a contribution to the broad, international movements for peace, democracy, and environmental and social justice. In pursuing our objectives, we look toward building and joining alliances with a wide variety of intellectual and activist groups that share our concerns.
Ms. Wenderish recently co-produced a virtual-reality project called “Digital Karnak,” which allows students (and visitors to the project’s Web site) to learn how the Egyptian religious center has evolved over two millennia. Milling about the ruins or studying a two-dimensional map of the Karnak site can be disorienting, she said. Virtual modeling, on the other hand, allows scholars to observe what in the structure changed and when—using a more sophisticated tool than the mind’s eye.
“It helps them think through all the things that you wouldn’t have thought through if you were looking at a map,” she said—“which areas were roofed, not roofed, how high would the walls have been, how large would a doorway have been.” It also allows scholars to more vividly illustrate contrasting theories of how the site evolved over time, she said.
SOURCE: Scotsman (4-25-09)
David Starkey also hit out at Robert Burns, describing him as a "boring provincial poet", and dismissed bagpipes as "awful" on BBC's Question Time.
The outburst provoked 72 complaints to the BBC and the show's website has been inundated with comments from angry viewers.
Professor Robert Crawford, of St Andrews University, a Burns expert and poet, said the attack on Scotland's Bard was typical of a recent strain of English nationalism.
The two leading arguments of the book, written by Jon A. Shields and published last month by Princeton University Press, are no less provocative.
“Many Christian-right organizations,” Mr. Shields writes, “have helped create a more participatory democracy by successfully mobilizing conservative evangelicals, one of the most politically alienated constituencies in 20th-century America.”
Well, actually that thesis, which the book supports with all the requisite tables and data about party identification, voter turnout, and political knowledge and activity, might be accepted by many of Mr. Shields’s fellow political scientists.
It is his second argument that is sure to stir cries of “No, no, no; impossible.”
“The vast majority of Christian-right leaders,” he writes, “have long labored to inculcate deliberative norms in their rank-and-file activists — especially the practice of civility and respect; the cultivation of dialogue by listening and asking questions; the rejection of appeals to theology; and the practice of careful moral reasoning.”
Mr. Shields, a 34-year-old assistant professor of government at Claremont McKenna College in California, reached this conclusion after interviewing leaders of 30 Christian-right organizations, attending training seminars and surveying the materials used to instruct the rank and file.
The cause was thyroid cancer, said his wife, Miriam, who was the co-author of the book....
The picture began to change with the publication in 1983 of “The Rosenberg File: A Search for the Truth” by Ronald Radosh and Joyce Milton. The new book used 200,000 pages of documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act to argue that Julius Rosenberg was guilty, and that his wife may have helped him. But like the Schneirs, Mr. Radosh and Ms. Milton saw the trial as a mockery of justice.
Also in 1983, the Schneirs used the wealth of new material to revise and expand their book without changing its conclusions. The debate roared for months in book reviews and political journals, and led in October 1983 to a duel of authors at Town Hall in Manhattan.
More than a decade later, however, the Schneirs were compelled to change their minds. In 1995 the federal government began to release 3,000 Soviet intelligence documents that it had decoded, decrypted and translated. Some of the first related to the Rosenberg case. Mr. Schneir, saying he “knew it was accurate,” put the new information together with his vast knowledge of the case and, with his wife, writing in the magazine The Nation, concluded that “no reasonable person” could now doubt that Julius Rosenberg was a spy.
Behind the blood and the rage, this is a learned and erudite book. Burleigh’s broad survey provides detailed descriptions of many of the most important terrorist movements and the sociopolitical contexts in which they have operated since the mid-19th century. He seamlessly synthesizes vast amounts of historical material and provides often riveting accounts of terrorist atrocities and the literary and political environments where they took place. He treats Russian nihilists, European anarchists, Fenians of both the 19th- and 20th-century variety, Algerians, Palestinians, South Africans, the Italian Red Brigades, the German Red Army Faction and the Basque ETA before coming to his real interest, Islamic terrorism. A less ambitious author might have given his readers two books, as there is little direct connection between the various parts other than the unstated point that Islamic terrorism is just the most recent manifestation of an old phenomenon. The implication is that, like its precursors, it too will pass.
Burleigh is a respected historian widely known for his work on the Third Reich, and with “Blood and Rage” he has written a deeply idiosyncratic book. He provides no explanation for why he includes some terrorist organizations and not others; important groups like the Colombian FARC, the Shining Path of Peru and the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka receive little or no mention, nor do most other Latin American or Asian groups. Burleigh’s interest remains Europe.
Neither does he have any time for defining terrorism....
SOURCE: AP (4-24-09)
Conference organizers said overwhelming public interest in the conference underscores a national hunger to better grasp the reasons why 620,000 neighbors, family and friends fought and died during the Civil War.
Edward L. Ayers, a pre-eminent Civil War historian who organized the inaugural conference, said the goal is "to put people in the moment" and set aside preconceived notions. He said voices overlooked in past war narratives are being welcomed and future conferences will probe the role of African-Americans, the home front and even a global view of the conflict.
SOURCE: Deborah Lipstadt blog (4-25-09)
As the Variety article notes, the producers of the Soloist have teamed up with Participation Media to make the film. Participation, established by Jeff Skoll, one of the founders of eBay, has made An Inconvenient Truth, The Kite Runner, Charlie Wilson's War, and the Sesame Street Story.
A caveat: Optioned is a long way from buying your popcorn for the movie.
So sit tight.
Mr. Houston had traveled to England to round up material for his book Benjamin Franklin and the Politics of Improvement (Yale University Press, 2008). On the last day of his visit, he was in the library's Manuscripts Reading Room looking at material on the French and Indian War.
He asked to see a volume of papers that had belonged to Thomas Birch, secretary of the Royal Society from 1752 to 1765. The volume was described simply as "Copies of Letters Relating to the March of General Braddock," referring to the ill-starred venture of a British general dispatched in 1755 to capture Fort Duquesne, in present-day Pittsburgh, from the French.
"The first thing in it was a letter from Benjamin Franklin to the secretary of the governor of Maryland," Mr. Houston said this week. "I looked at the first sentence and said, 'This doesn't sound familiar.' Then I got kind of nervous and bouncy in my chair."...
Now two of the subjects of that essay are acknowledging their own vengeful feelings. This week a lawyer filed a $10-million defamation claim in a New York court on behalf of two Papua New Guinea men whom Mr. Diamond described as active participants in clan warfare during the 1990s.
Mr. Diamond, a professor of geography at the University of California at Los Angeles and the author of the best-selling Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (W.W. Norton, 1997), and Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (Viking, 2004), based the essay almost entirely on accounts given to him by Hup Daniel Wemp, an oil-field technician who served as Mr. Diamond’s driver during a 2001-2 visit to New Guinea. (The full text of the essay is open only to New Yorker subscribers, but a long summary is available here.
Mr. Wemp is now one of the lawsuit’s two plaintiffs; the other is Henep Isum Mandingo, a man who, according to Mr. Diamond’s article, was attacked and paralyzed on orders from Mr. Wemp.
For nearly a year, Mr. Diamond’s article has been scrutinized by Rhonda Roland Shearer, director of the Art Science Research Laboratory, a multifaceted New York organization with a sideline in media criticism. Ms. Shearer, a sculptor and writer, is the widow of Stephen Jay Gould, who preceded Mr. Diamond as a widely esteemed public interpreter of science.
Ms. Shearer has collaborated with three indigenous scholars and journalists in New Guinea—Michael Kigl, Kritoe Keleba, and Jeffrey Elapa—in an attempt to verify and reconstruct Mr. Diamond’s accounts. In a new report, the four writers argue that Mr. Diamond botched the history of the conflict he described, and they say that his errors may have placed Mr. Wemp in danger....
SOURCE: Op ed in the NYT by Philip Zelikow, a professor of history at the University of Virginia, was the counselor of the State Department from 2005 to 2006 and the executive director of the 9/11 commission. (4-23-09)
Yet the C.I.A.’s claims that its methods produced actionable information can also be misleading. Former Vice President Dick Cheney says he would like all of the agency’s defenses of its interrogation program declassified. But that would declassify only one side of the intelligence argument. Each of these accounts of disrupted plots and captured terrorists has a back story, full of lore and arguments about who developed which lead and whose sources proved out.
A professional evaluation of the C.I.A.’s claims would have to examine these cases to sift and weigh the contributions. The Senate Intelligence Committee is embarking on an important effort to sort out the claims and counterclaims.
What the committee may well find, after all the sifting, is that the reports were a critical part of the intelligence flow, but rarely — if ever — affected a “ticking bomb” situation. Yet the main rationale for using extreme methods is to save time. To the extent that the methods are more than just a way of debasing an enemy, their added value is in breaking people quickly, with the downsides including unreliability.
That is one reason the methods of torment do not stack up well against proved alternatives that rely on patience and skill. In setting up this program, officials do not seem to have thoughtfully considered those alternatives. The Intelligence Science Board, a federal advisory group, published a report in 2006 illustrating how those in charge of interrogations could have more thoroughly looked at options. The Israelis and British also have a huge amount of painfully acquired experience in using those alternatives, including in some cases where they really did have ticking bombs, either Palestinian or Irish. Neither of those countries can lawfully adopt the C.I.A. program revealed in the Justice Department memos; the Israeli Supreme Court has spoken to these issues in exceptionally eloquent opinions.
SOURCE: Politico.com (4-21-09)
It's an interesting choice -- he's written a couple of histories of the Middle East that were bestsellers in this country, the most recent of which covered ... U.S. involvement in the Middle East.
SOURCE: Martin Kramer at his blog, Sandbox (4-23-09)
Gershman reports that Massad's file has already passed muster with President Lee Bollinger, and will be presented to Columbia's Board of Trustees for a final decision in about a week. Bollinger "buckled," Gershman writes, rather than face down a determined faculty clique. "The Massad tenure battle," he adds, "is about the failure of leadership of Bollinger—whose job it is to safeguard Columbia's academic integrity." Bottom line:
"Columbia's trustees must decide: Do they attempt to clean up after Bollinger and stop this absurdity—or do they confer academic legitimacy on Massad's ideas and agenda? Hesitant to insert themselves in an academic matter, the trustees would be wise to consider the consequences of silence."
For Massad, of course, Columbia's trustees are just a rubber stamp. This is why he's been telling his friends he's been tenured, even though tenure is only conferred by the Board of Trustees. Rubber-stamping may be the usual role of the Columbia's trustees in tenure decisions. But I'm also sure that whoever invented the system also imagined that one day there might arise an exceptional case, compelling the trustees to veto a recommendation. If not, why require their approval at all? If so, Massad is that once-in-a-generation case.
"I know that trusteeship is now contrived as being as passive as possible," adds Marty Peretz on his blog The Spine, but then asks: "Is the professoriat as a whole so wise as never to be questioned at all? I daresay not. And I know something about universities. At Columbia increasingly, departments and schools in the social sciences behave in the process of hiring like gangs admitting new members." Peretz goes on to compare Columbia unfavorably to "any and all of the universities in the State of Israel," not one of which "is so intellectually and politically inbred as is Columbia University." ...
SOURCE: Barry Rubin at his blog at GLORIA (4-20-09)
In subsequent discussion, he couldn't tell us anything about the American revolution, the Constitution, or the Federalist papers. And he was a smart young man. He just hadn't been informed.
When I was a visiting professor at a U.S. university a couple of years back, a colleague told me that he had been ridiculed in a meeting for saying that teaching should be balanced. "Your idea is very old-fashioned and boring," another professor told him. "Here's how I teach my course on international environmental issues. In the first class I tell the students that the United States is the main cause of international environmental problems. In the rest of the classes I prove it."
Now, if you are asking yourself what people are being taught nowadays at American colleges, take a look at this:
and then at this:
Professor of Politics Shampa Biswas explains that Edward Said's Orientalism is her intellectual foundation; that you can't criticize female genital mutilation since, after all, the Western world has anorexia, and that you can't say the September 11 attacks were immoral.
In a convocation address, she explains that the Bush adminstration seeks to relaunch nineteenth century imperialism and the main job of higher education is to fight against it.
If you think I'm exaggerating, go and see for yourself--it's even worse.
The fact that a person with this world view is teaching "politics" is pretty frightening, though protected by academic freedom. But please note, however, that the college is bragging about her and her views as something it's proud to have representing it. And they chose her to explain to the entire student body that its main task was to rebel against the evil American system's policies.
Indeed, the university site's celebration of her says that she, "is as much instigator as educator in her academic life." She does go on to say her goal is to make students think and open up their ideas. But I hope I'm not being unfair when I reply that I can just imagine what her classroom is like.
Oh, and yes she even ends with a quote from Antonio Gramsci, the founder of the Italian Communist party and the great theorist of making a revolution through gaining control of intellectual and cultural institutions.
Please note, as a liberal and even the parliamentary candidate of a social democratic party, I am not coming from some reactionary political stance. The kind of thinking she represents is anti-liberal and profoundly subversive--in a bad sense, not the positive one that such people put on it--of the university's purpose.
So ask not where all the people with terrible, anti-democratic, and anti-American ideas are coming from. As Karl Marx once put it, even the educators must be educated.
SOURCE: National Journal (subscribers only) (4-18-09)
State Department Historian Marc Susser and his aide Douglas Kraft will be removed and offered other civil service positions, based on a recommendation by State's inspector general's office that will be finalized and published in the next two weeks, according to current and former employees of the office.
Although senior officials have not yet endorsed the recommendation, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Robert Wood last week began briefing staff historians on the decision, out of concern that several of them might soon quit or be forced out by Susser and Kraft. Susser's office said on Wednesday that he was on leave "for the next couple of days."
The two are accused of practicing cronyism, stifling dissent, and forcing the resignation of employees whom Susser considered a threat to his control of the office. Among other charges that acting Inspector General Harold Geisel examined is an accusation that Susser or Kraft used spurious charges of security breaches as a pretext to fire historians he deemed disloyal.
Sixteen members of the 35-person staff have departed in the past four years, robbing the office of some of its most experienced historians, including the chief editor of Foreign Relations of the United States, a 150-year-old series of books treasured by historians worldwide. Edward Keefer, a 38-year veteran of the office and the general editor of FRUS, as it is known, is now a contract employee doing historical research at the Pentagon....
SOURCE: NYT (4-22-09)
The cause was a heart attack, said his wife, Rena Gill. Her husband had Lewy body dementia, a progressive brain disease, she said.
For decades, Mr. Brecht worked on a series of books, collectively known as “The Original Theater of the City of New York: From the Mid-Sixties to the Mid-Seventies,” that described, in great detail, the work of the city’s seminal experimental theater artists.
He completed three books: “Queer Theatre,” which focused on the rise of gay artists like the camp-and-kitsch devotee Jack Smith and the actor and director Charles Ludlam and his Ridiculous Theater Company; “The Theatre of Visions: Robert Wilson,” and “Peter Schumann’s Bread and Puppet Theatre.” Written from extensive notes taken during performances, rehearsals and interviews, the books were conceived as historical documentation of an artistic movement.
SOURCE: Inside Higher Ed (4-22-09)
The fate of"Paper of Record," a digital archive of early newspapers with a particularly strong collection of Mexican newspapers, may be cited in the years ahead as an example of the dangers of purchase by a large entity. Paper of Record was purchased (secretly) by Google in 2006, and shortly after Google took over management of the site, late last year, the archive disappeared from view. After weeks in which historians have complained to Google and others about the loss of their ability to work, the previous owner of the archive has received permission to bring the archive back for some period of time, and resumption of service could start as early next week.
While the imminent return of the site will please scholars, many are worried about what the incident says about the availability and accessibility of key resources. Writing on the blog of the American Historical Association, Robert B. Townsend quoted the late Roy Rosenzweig, a George Mason University professor who was a pioneer in digital history, on the"fragility of evidence in the digital era."