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SOURCE: Thomas C. Reeves in an email to HNN (6-2-09)
In the early 1880s a Democratic Party lawyer wrote a book attempting to prove that President Chester A. Arthur had been born in Canada and was thus constitutionally barred from being the Chief Executive. He did quite a bit of research. The trouble was that his allegation was untrue. Today, as you know, a similar attempt is being made by elements of the Right, charging that President Obama was not born in Hawaii, as he claims, and is in fact holding his office illegally.
There is enough material here for a small monograph, I think. Certainly some historian should investigate the sources carefully and issue a report on the History News Network.
For example, the AP release of April 1 on the Occidental College transcript. Was this an April Fool joke? It certainly doesn't seem to be. And what about the transcript itself: Has anyone contacted Occidental officials? Was Obama in fact going to college under an assumed name? That's no small matter. And aren't there witnesses who can verify the charge that Obama was born in Kenya? And what about the certificate of birth on the Obama website? Is it really a fake? The courts have dealt with this matter: What have the judges concluded, and why?
Who are the major partisans behind the current charge? Dismissing them as kooks contributes nothing to the controversy. My chief source on the Right side of the issue has enjoyed a most impressive academic career.
Why not assign some young historian or graduate student the task of looking into the matter? He or she could start by picking up the phone to check out the AP story. The Associated Press has been highly in favor of Obama for the last couple of years. Why would they print an inflammatory story in April, 2009? And why has there been no significant response from leaders of the Right? My professor friend says that people are afraid of being labeled"racist." Really?
I solved the Arthur allegation many years ago. Someone else needs to examine the Obama controversy. Here is an opportunity for the profession to show its ability to conduct research objectively and carefully. (All too often journalists dismiss us as partisan hacks.)
SOURCE: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk (5-29-09)
"The idea that countries don't go bust is a joke," said Niall Ferguson, Harvard professor and author of The Ascent of Money.
"The debt trap may be about to spring" he said, "for countries that have created large stimulus packages in order to stimulate their economies."
His chosen prime candidate to go bust is "Ireland, followed by Italy and Belgium, and UK is not too far behind".
Argentina is top of his list of shaky countries but "the argument that it can't happen in major western economies is nonsense".
Professor Ferguson believes the economists are ill qualified to analyse the current economic situation since they lack the overview of historians such as himself.
"There are economic professors in American universities who think they are masters of the universe, but they don't have any historical knowledge. I have never believed that markets are self correcting. No historian could."
The historian does not subscribe to the theory of the "Great Depression" repeating and says this scenario is unlikely because the Federal Reserve has "massively expanded the monetary base which is the opposite of what happened in the 1930s".
The problem now is what happens when current monetary policy collides with a policy of "vast government borrowing" on a scale unknown since the 1940s.
"We have the fiscal policy of a world war without a war." ...
SOURCE: KC Johnson quoted by Stuart Taylor at the National Journal website (6-2-09)
As for the thesis as a whole, from a historian's perspective: It's solidly researched and fairly well written -- uses lots of data, more or less presents an argument, and has a pedagogical approach (political/economic history, focus on a key political leader in Muñoz Marin) that is very much mainstream. This is basically a pedagogically sound thesis that (with one exception) allows the facts to speak for themselves.
There are also a few jarring elements that contrast to the pedagogical approach. First, I'm curious as to when Sotomayor ceased being a Puerto Rican nationalist who favors independence -- as she says she does in the preface. (The position, as she points out in the thesis, had received 0.6 percent in a 1967 referendum, the most recent such vote before she wrote the thesis.) I don't know that I've seen it reported anywhere that she favored Puerto Rican independence, which has always been very much a fringe position....
Second, her unwillingness to call the Congress the U.S. Congress is bizarre -- in the thesis, it's always referred to as either the 'North American Congress' or the 'mainland Congress.' I guess by the language of her thesis, it should be said that she's seeking an appointment to the North American Supreme Court, subject to advice and consent of the North American Senate. This kind of rhetoric was very trendy, and not uncommon, among the Latin Americanist fringe of the academy.
Third, she had an odd habit of inserting [sic] into quotes not to identify an error but because she disagreed with the (usually innocuous) content of the quotes.
Fourth, she asserted that Muñoz Marín's economic program, called Operation Bootstrap, failed primarily because Puerto Ricans continued to think of themselves as colonials. This, like the reference to the US Congress as the 'North American' Congress, was 1970s-trendy dependency theory rhetoric, but was wholly unsupported by the evidence that she presented in the thesis (and, indeed, by virtually any evidence that has appeared since that time).
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed blog (6-5-09)
So this spring, when he saw a Web site offering an 1824 letter from the seventh president for $35,000, Mr. Coens recognized it immediately as belonging to a collection at the New York State Library, in Albany.
"I was familiar with how the letter physically looked," says Mr. Coens, an assistant research professor of history at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, home of the Jackson project. "I had borrowed microfilm of that particular collection a year before, so I actually still had a digital image of it on my computer."
He called officials at the New York State Library, and they alerted the New York attorney general's office, which quickly recovered the four-page Jackson letter. The document's absence had been noted during an investigation into a series of thefts from 1997 to 2008 committed by Daniel Lorello, an archivist at the library. Mr. Lorello was already behind bars, having been ordered last fall to serve two to six years in prison for stealing hundreds of historical documents, including two Davy Crockett's Almanacks and a letter from Vice President John C. Calhoun. Mr. Lorello had admitted carrying out the thefts to finance such expenses as house renovations, tuition, and his daughter's credit-card problem....
SOURCE: http://medievalnews.blogspot.com (6-1-09)
We interviewed Professor Constable to ask her about her goals for improving the Medieval Institute:
1. You have been the acting director for close to a year now. Is it relief to drop the 'acting' from the title and now be secure in the knowledge that you have this role for the next 5 years?
In many ways, the shift from acting director to full director does not actually mark a big shift. In fact, it was helpful to have a full year to learn the job and to decide whether I liked it, before being given the opportunity to take it on for a longer term. On the other hand, much of the work of being director involves long term plans, such as inviting speakers and organizing future conferences. So it is nice, as full director, to be able to foresee guiding our current plans to fruition over the next few years. Also, since the director of the Medieval Institute is also the director of our graduate program in Medieval Studies, it is rewarding to know that I have several years to oversee the progress and successes of our students.
2. What will be your priorities in developing and growing the Medieval Institute over the next five years?
We currently have an initiative to build our program in Byzantine studies, with the hire of new faculty members in History and Theology, and the creation of a graduate program in that area. We also have new strength in medieval musicology, with Notre Dame's recent hire of Margot Fassler and Peter Jeffrey, and we plan to create a new graduate track in medieval music.
3. A challenge of any academic program is maintaining and increasing its financial resources. Do you have any concerns that the current economic downturn in the United States could affect the Medieval Institute?
Obviously, any academic program needs to maintain and hopes to increase its funding. However, we have been lucky that during the current economic downturn, Notre Dame has been somewhat less badly hit than some universities because of a very prudent policies for the endowment and careful investing. We will certainly feel the tighter economy, but I do not foresee any serious long-term impact on our medieval programs. Because Medieval Studies is so prominent at Notre Dame, and fits so well with the mission of the university, I do not think that our programs are in danger of major budget cuts. Also, as well as funding from the university, the Medieval Institute has its own endowment, through the generosity of Robert M. Conway, one of the trustees of the university, and this provides significant assistance to our programing.
4. What do you think are the strengths of your institute and Notre Dame University in doing research and teaching about the Middle Ages?
Our primary strengths are in our faculty (we have over sixty medievalists drawn from a dozen different departments), our excellent library resources, and our solid financial support from the university. Our greatest strength focuses on medieval Latin Europe, but we are growing stronger in coverage of the Islamic World and the Greek East.
5. Finally, you are also working on your own project "Muslims in Medieval Europe". Could you tell us a little bit about what this entails?
This project looks at issues in the daily life of Muslims (both free people and slaves) living under Christian rule in Spain, Italy, and France in the period 1100-1400. I am especially interested in the different ways in which Christians perceived and even facilitated Muslim identity, and the ways in which attitudes shifted over the period of three centuries.