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: University of Rhode Island (9-30-09)
Chakrabarty's presentation, Indian Modernity: Once Colonial, Now Global, was presented last night as a part of the 2009 URI Honors Colloquium series.
The University of Rhode Island's Chaffee Auditorium was completely filled by the time Chakrabarty took the stage. In his lecture, Chakrabarty addressed the issue surrounding the poor working class population of India and India's classification as a civilization.
According to Chakrabarty, due to the uncertainty over what India should do with its large quota of peasants, tension currently resides in the heart of India's leap to globalization. One obstacle the country faces today is labor laws that were first introduced to the nation in the 1950s. He also said the labor laws are not beneficial for capitalistic societies because they allow workers to have numerous privileges.
"Whether India was industrialized or not, workers should get all their rights," Chakrabarty said. "People in India, the poor, want to vote, making it difficult to change the democracy of India."...
SOURCE: Politico (9-30-09)
If it seems like an inside job, well, that’s how the Senate works. “The job is built on an apprentice type of system,” says Associate Historian Bette Koed, who also received a job promotion in the wake of Baker’s retirement. “There is a lot of on-the-job learning. It takes a long time. It is not something you can hire someone for off the street.”
Ritchie, who received his doctorate from the University of Maryland and is originally from Queens, N.Y., sees the office as a public service. “We are here to make it easier for people who want to study the Senate,” he says, “be it senators, their staffs, the press, scholars, the general public or people watching C-SPAN. When something comes up that mystifies them, and they call the Capitol operator, the operator transfers them to us.”
The office was established in response to the needs of the bicentennial, when numerous federal government agencies created or expanded their historical capacities. Both the Senate majority and minority leaders during that time — Democrat Mike Mansfield of Montana and Republican Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania — were personally interested in the study of history. Before serving in Congress, first as a member of the House, Mansfield was a professor of Far Eastern history at the University of Montana. Scott was a devoted collector of antiquities. After some urging by historian Arthur Schlesinger, the two Senate leaders felt that something needed to be done, particularly in the wake of the Watergate scandal and the Ervin Committee, which investigated the Nixon misdoings.
“There was a sense that the Senate was an important part of the story, and yet we were saving everything that the White House produced,” says Ritchie, “but very little that Congress produced.”
Until then, Senate committee records were supposed to be shipped off to the National Archives, but this process was often haphazardly executed. Some committees failed to do so at all. Additionally, there were no rules that dealt with access to records. Ritchie used to make weekly ventures to the National Archives in order to look up requests, some of which dated back to the 1850s...
SOURCE: Denisonian.com (Denison University) (9-29-09)
Marcus Rediker: I think what I do in this book is try to understand the slave ship as a set of human experience. In other words, it's different from previous scholarship, which addressed the statistics of the slave trade, like how many people were transported from specific places. I wanted to make people understand what an instance of extreme violence this was and how people were treated on board the ship. It's a history of the enslaved first and foremost, but also of sailors that worked on the ship, who were there by no choice of their own, and the captains, who made a great deal of money transporting slaves.
KF: What about the slave trade is interesting to you? Why did you decide to research it?
MR: I decided to do this research because first of all there was a specific anniversary coming up when I began working on this. 2007 and 2008 were the anniversaries of the abolition of the slave trade and slavery in the United States. These were two great moments in human history when people decided that the slave trade must be stopped, to a large extent for humanitarian reasons. I decided I would write this book in the hopes that there would be a national discussion about the slave trade in the United States.
KF: What can we gain from knowing the stories of the people involved in slave trade?
MR: I think we can gain an understanding of where many of the social problems in the United States and around the world have their origins. I think that poverty and the extreme inequality we have in this country around the axis of race is directly traceable to slave history. We are only going to make progress with these problems if we are going to face the past. How can we go forward and overcome these problems if we don't face the past? Around the world, people think of slavery as not only an unfortunate thing but a crime against humanity, so we can make changes.
KF: You are involved in social justice campaigns and peace movements, including a worldwide campaign to end the death penalty. Can you tell me a little more about that?
MR: I have been an activist on these sorts of issues for quite a while. I believe that the death penalty is unjust and immoral. There is an interest, and the terror of slavery lives on in the death penalty. People often talk about the fact that European countries don't have the death penalty, and they function perfectly well without it. Those countries had slaves, but they didn't have extreme institutions of slavery within their borders. Slavery was based on violence, and it wasn't that way in Europe. You see the death penalty practiced the most in Southern states, where slavery was instituted the most. There is a link between slavery and where the death penalty occurs most often...
SOURCE: Times of India (9-29-09)
Delivering his keynote address on Buddhism in coastal Karnataka at a one-day National Conference, a UGC sponsored national conference, organized by Mulki Sunder Ram Shetty College, Shriva, near Udupi here recently, Rangaraju said there is a need for a systematic study of Buddhist architecture in coastal Karnataka. He said the excavations at Sannati and Chandravalli in Chithraduruga district and the Banvaasi excavation have thrown light on the existence of Buddhism in Karnataka, with Buddhist architecture found on brick walls, stupas and other items related to Buddhist culture.
Rangaraju said 30 years ago, people laughed at historians and archaeologists who dared to suggest the existence and influence of Buddhism in the pre-historical period, but now things have changed following excavations conducted by archeological departments and historians. More such studies and surveys should be done as they debunk our set beliefs and theories. The true historical facts should prevail, he added.
SOURCE: Lee White at the website of the National Coalition for History (NCH) (9-25-09)
Jarvis has served as superintendent of Mount Rainier National Park in Ashford, Washington, Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho, and Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve in Alaska. A trained biologist, he was also Chief of Natural and Cultural Resources at North Cascades National Park. Jarvis is currently the co-leader of the Children in Nature taskforce with the National Association of State Park Directors.
A native of Virginia, Jarvis has a B.S. in biology from the College of William and Mary and completed the Harvard Kennedy School Executive Program in 2001.
SOURCE: NPR (9-29-09)
With U.S. troops facing spiraling violence and a growing insurgency, Obama must decide whether to renew America's commitment to the war and boost troop levels by more than 50 percent.
The moment is fraught with historical parallels, from Vietnam to Iraq.
"It's a test on multiple levels of what kind of leader and what kind of politician and what kind of historian he is," says Richard Norton Smith, a historian who has run four presidential libraries and is currently a scholar at George Mason University."This is a defining moment, and not only for the president, but for the country."...
... For Obama, the general's recommendations are hard to ignore. McChrystal is Obama's own handpicked general, sent over to Afghanistan less than four months ago to refocus the flailing U.S. effort.
"It's hard not just because the generals are his, but it's hard because he's a Democrat," says Russell Riley, who leads the William J. Clinton Presidential History Project at the University of Virginia's Miller Center of Public Affairs."He's a Democrat who to a large part of the public is still suspect on foreign policy credentials, because he doesn't have a lot of demonstrated experience in this arena."...
..."Given the diminishing support, you're also confronted with a practical political reality that even a great persuader-in-chief, with all the other arguments he has to make, with all the other issues, with all the other defining moments to come — how much capital does he have?" says Smith."And how much does he want to spend on a policy that he may not, in his gut, believe in?"...
... Vietnam: A Lesson In Not Asking The Hard Questions
Obama says he is still conducting a strategic review of his options in Afghanistan. McChrystal has submitted his formal troop request to the Pentagon, but it has yet to be received by the White House.
While some U.S. officials say that Obama is considering a plan to pull back from daily battles with the Taliban to focus more strictly on counterterrorism options, Republicans are pressing him to approve McChrystal's recommendations.
"There may be no easy choices, but to think of it as the course of least resistance, which is to just go with the generals, is to underplay his flexibility and simplifies it unnecessarily," says Fred Greenstein, a presidential historian at Princeton University...
"There are historical parallels in the form of presidents who didn't ask hard questions," he says,"and their presidencies went down the tubes."
Greenstein looks back to Lyndon Johnson, who faced difficult decisions about whether to send combat troops into Vietnam. His predecessor, John F. Kennedy, had resisted such a move, overruling his own military advisers.
Johnson ended up authorizing incremental deployments of troops to Vietnam that ultimately dragged the United States into a prolonged, bloody stalemate.
"Johnson was concerned that a simple pullout from Vietnam — or, alternately, a major mobilization on the spot — would lead to Congress not acting positively on his Great Society domestic program," says Greenstein."He kind of played the process along. His administration never did a rigorous assessment of how much it would cost, how long it would take, what the trade-off would be of investing in this, and whether American domestic support would hold up for that period of time."
Johnson ended up with the blame for dragging the United States into that war, and his popularity sank so low that he chose not to run for re-election in 1968.
When Richard Nixon inherited the war in 1969, he faced a different kind of dilemma as he tried to extricate the United States from Vietnam, says Hess. Despite campaigning on a pledge to bring peace with honor, Nixon found it difficult to bring U.S. troops home without risking an embarrassing defeat.
"I can assure you that Richard Nixon wanted to fold in Vietnam, but I watched Johnson's war become Nixon's war," he says."This is what will be used very much in the media in dealing with Obama."
SOURCE: The Press and Journal (9-29-09)
Mr Barratt, who appears on the TV show Who Do You Think You Are? was in the city for the second annual Angus and Dundee Roots Festival The event, which began on Saturday and runs until Sunday, aims to provide a focus for those whose ancestors came from the region to visit and find out more about their ancestral homeland.
It features a packed programme of events with visits to ancestral sites, workshops, talks, demonstrations and film shows. The free workshop at the Central Library also gave family historians the chance to speak to experts from local archives and national organisations as well as highly-experienced family history researchers.
There was also the opportunity to access more than 250,000 burial records relating to 71 Angus cemeteries through the website Deceased Online.
Mr Barratt said: “People often think of researching family history as being an online activity but, although the internet is a great starting point for a family tree, a website can’t give you the essence of your ancestors and the communities where they lived.
SOURCE: UNM Today (9-28-09)
For the past six years, he contributed his impressive editorial and research skills also as a staff member of Colonial Latin American Historical Review (CLAHR).
Miller also interpreted and demonstrated the history and art of blacksmithing at the Rancho de Las Golondrinas and Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site. He was a graduate of UNM and earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in Spanish Literature.
For 18 years, Miller worked as a compiler, paleographer and translator on the Vargas Project at UNM which yielded several books with John L. Kessell, Rick Hendricks, and Meredith D. Dodge. His most recent publication, co-authored with Joseph P. Sánchez, was Martineztown, 1823-1950: Hispanics, Italians, Jesuits & Land Investors in New Town Albuquerque (2008).
SOURCE: Yahoo News (Finance) (9-28-09)
That sense of community is what's missing from Starbucks, a conclusion Simon reached after visiting about 425 of its coffee shops in nine countries. And yet millions of people patronize the outlets each day.
Simon, a history professor at Temple University in Philadelphia, has spent the past few years figuring out why. His new book, "Everything but the Coffee: Learning about America from Starbucks," is meant "to be part of a public debate about what our purchases mean ... (and) how consumption shapes our lives even when we don't intend it to," Simon said.
Seattle-based Starbucks had nearly $10.4 billion in revenue in 2008. Simon, however, argues the true cost of macchiatos and frappuccinos is much greater -- that Starbucks, a private corporation, has enriched itself in part by taking advantage of Americans' impoverished civic life.
Simon writes that while people once were able to find meaningful conversation and debate at libraries, recreation centers and parks, those public spaces have become less available -- and less desirable -- since municipal resources are focused elsewhere.
Starbucks has filled that void, according to Simon. Or has it? After spending up to 15 hours a week in various Starbucks over the past few years, Simon said he witnessed very few spontaneous discussions or interactions. The couches, plush chairs and tables all seemed to be used for planned meetings or solo work on laptops.
"Rarely ... do these different people doing different things actually talk and exchange ideas, but talk and ideas are crucial to the making of community," he writes.
Simon's observations are already being debated in college classrooms. David Grazian, a sociology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, is using the book in a class on media and popular culture....
SOURCE: Ron Radosh at http://pajamasmedia.com/ (9-29-09)
In the 70’s, when I taught a course that covered the Civil War era and I dealt with slavery, I recall that black students in my class were outraged when I assigned a collection of slave letters edited by a white historian. The argument they made was simple: whites cannot teach black history. That claim lead eventually to the absurdities of Afro-centrism.
Later, some feminists would argue that only women could teach women’s history. While mainly histories of the American Left have been written by sympathetic historians who are also on the Left- and who mine the past largely to rescue their heroes as models to follow for today-there is proof that conservatives can write sympathetically and with insight about the Left’s own history. The key example is the 2008 book by Daniel J. Flynn, A Conservative History of the American Left, which I reviewed favorably.
But given the new polarization in America, the question must now be raised as to whether these same left-wing and liberal historians- most scholars who get Ph.D.’s in American History are of the Left- can write fair and insightful histories of the emergence of the conservative movement in America. The answer I have, a resounding yes- surprisingly comes from a lengthy cover article that appeared in the September 28th issue of The Nation. It is called “Right On: Tracing the History of Movement Conservatism,” and is written by Kim Phillips-Fein, an assistant professor at NYU’s Gallatin School.
Make no mistake. Ms. Phillips-Fein is unabashedly a woman of the Left. Aside from her first book that was published last year and that deals with this topic (and which I have not read) all her other popular pieces are from the standard left of center publications. Yet, in this lengthy discussion of twelve books that deal with the past of American conservatism (some old and others recent) Prof. Phillips-Fein offers interesting assessments and some shrewd observations, as well as challenging some of the Left’s own assumptions about the failure of conservatism and the triumph of their own side in the American political arena.
She starts noting that for a long time, the death of conservatism has been predicted on a fairly regularly basis. Despite the rifts and tensions that exist today among conservatives, she writes that in the past not only have they failed to lead to a predicted collapse, but “On the contrary, they have generated a strangely durable, tenacious politics that has avoided being shunted to the margins of American life.” Thus she joins the ranks of younger historians who not content with older New Left veterans who spent all their academic time doing research on the 60’s Left they once were part of themselves, have decided to follow the path suggested fifteen years ago by historian Alan Brinkley of Columbia University. Young scholars, he suggested, even or particularly liberal and left-wing scholars, study those whose movement had become “something of an orphan” in the literature, the conservative movement.
Now, studies of the conservative movement have become yet another cottage industry, just as studies about American Communism written by left-wing historians had become a few decades earlier. She acknowledges that much of the motivation for this effort is that many of these new historians “have sought to understand the conservative movement partly to forge the tools to undermine it.” This is undoubtedly true, but to make this admission is to acknowledge that history should be a tool for understanding, not a tool to enable activists to learn what they should do in a current political fight.
What Prof. Fein-Phillips wants is something else, “a retelling of the larger narrative of the postwar period incorporating the insights of recent histories of the right,” especially at a moment when with the election of Barack Obama, the most left-wing president in our history, so many assume the forward march of inevitable liberalism. She knows, however, that before Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980, most scholars thought conservatism was a “relic” never to be revived, a sect made up only of “a menagerie of resentful oddballs and misfits…eccentric racists and assorted cranks.” A good historian, she does not want others to make such a mistake again.
She offers readers of her essay a summary of how since that time, historians have dealt with the reality that at first shocked and surprised them. First was a theory of social backlash that explained for many working-class reaction to 60’s social radicalism; then a realization that a shift had occurred in American politics and that a new political force had managed to grow and rise. Next came studies of movement conservatism and the social origins of its participants, who were “not driven by irrational fears or anxieties but rather by a deeply held set of beliefs about how society ought to be organized.” They were not those left out of a failing economy, but those who had won, and who sought to use the same kind of tactics previously engaged in by left-wing movements. She writes:
For some, the New Left’s inability to moderate its strident moralizing and appeal to a broader public made it tragically culpable for the ultimate failure of consensus liberalism–the left had been unable to speak to working-class Americans, who turned instead to the right. For others, the clash simply revealed the intractable racism endemic to segments of American society, meaning that there was no particular tactical failure on the part of the left. Yet most of these earlier scholars, who focused on the collapse of the New Deal electoral coalition, agreed that the modern right was born in this furious, embittered reaction against civil rights, feminism and the antiwar movement.
A newer generation of historians saw things differently. They argued that
Far from being a sudden, explosive and negative reaction to the decade’s tumult, the conservative movement simmered throughout the postwar period, motivated by its activists’ positive vision of small government, the perfect social ordering promised by the free market and a world without communism. The social crises of the 1960s may have offered the movement an opportunity to broaden its base of support, but conservatism was thriving before that upheaval. The earlier generation of scholars, after all, never did explain how thirty years of conservative politics could have sprouted from a few explosive conflicts in the 1970s. Nor could they elucidate how the blue-collar workers who cheered for George Wallace wound up supporting a politics committed to promoting the free market, fighting unions and rolling back the welfare state.
Thus, Prof. Fein-Phillips concludes that “it was necessary to look at the rise of the conservative movement on its own terms- to study its internal logic, its intellectual history and the way its activists promoted their agenda.” (my emphasis) For one, she challenges the common idea that the new right-wing exists as a populist revolt, and recommends books studying the origins of the revival of laissez-faire economics in the Southwest, and anti-statist politics among groups like truckers, and suggests that conservatism’s success comes instead of “deeper economic changes in the country.” She suggests that the entire postwar period “might be seen as no more than a ‘long exception’ to the more lasting conservative project of individualism and laissez-faire that has defined so much of American history.” Citing the new book by the conservative historian Patrick Allitt, she writes that to some “the post-1945 conservative movement is one more development of a strain of politics reaching back to the founding fathers.”
It is clear, therefore, that in evaluating what explains the growth of a conservative movement, Prof. Fein-Phillips does not slight the work of conservatives who have also sought to explain their own movement’s growth. She notes “Allitt emphasizes the continuities between postwar conservatism and the laissez-faire politics of the nineteenth century.” Indeed, she writes that “the old narrative has been turned upside down: more and more, historians are depicting the century as one of conservative strength only briefly interrupted.”
Historians, of course, look at the past, and do not as a rule try to predict the future. But turning to the current debate about conservatism, and to Sam Tanenhaus’ much discussed book predicting its end, she writes that “the intellectuals who have brought conservatism to a broader public have been moving away from their old certainties.” She agrees with David Frum- although she does not mention him- that many are talking only to a small segment of the population, whom she calls “a narrow and frustrated segment of opinion,” and thus risk becoming more marginal and no longer part of the central focus of American politics. She cites approvingly the stance of Ross Douthat and Rehan Salam, “that Republicans need to win back the ‘Sam’s club’ voters and convince working-class people that family values are actually in their economic interest” and that they might have to give up a hard-line laissez-faire position.
Her article is serious, although her concluding paragraph reads like old-line left-wing boilerplate. She worries that many Americans still believe in laissez-faire politics and a purely market driven world. She criticizes Obama for being surrounded by Wall Street plutocrats. Yet for conservatives who seek to gain in influence once again, she warns her friends on the Left that “History has a strange way of rescuing the defeated.” And just when conservatism seems to be on its lowest rungs, she asserts that it is only now “that we can for the first time assess the full significance of all that the right has won.”
Obviously, readers of this blog will have much to argue with Prof.Phillips-Fein. Conservatives will disagree with her assumptions and how it shapes her own examination of the conservative movement. But we should welcome a real debate, especially one done without rancor and written in a serious fashion. At a moment when most liberal/left commentary is purely a set of venomous screeds, this essay by Prof. Phllips-Fein stands alone.
SOURCE: PSNews (9-29-09)
The Bryan Gandevia Award is a biennial prize to be given to an outstanding postgraduate history thesis in the fields of military or military-medical history.
The prize commemorates Professor Gandevia, a former member of the Australian War Memorial Board, respiratory physician and Australian Army Major who served in Japan and Korea.
The initiative was announced at the AWM’s international conference War wounds: medicine and the trauma of conflict, which brought together historians, medical practitioners, veterans and researchers from Australia and abroad to explore the impact of war, wounds and trauma through historical records and personal experiences.
SOURCE: Minivan News (9-28-09)
In a letter to MP for Hulu-Henveiru Reeko Moosa Manik, 82-year-old Shafeeg ge Shafeeg writes that under the previous government, police raided his house and confiscated numerous diaries detailing his life and social events since he left school.
Prompted by the recent discovery of human remains on the former site of Gaamaadhoo Jail, the historian notes the diaries contained information about the disappearances of 111 people under the former regime.
“The way I see it, the public has the right to know about these writings,” he said.
Last week, inmates on the former site of the jail unearthed human remains while digging to plant trees. The president’s office called for an investigation due to past speculation about missing inmates.
Speaking to Minivan News, Mohamed Zuhair, president’s press secretary, said the President Mohamed Nasheed instructed police and executives at the president’s office to try and locate the diaries.
“Because he’s a respected historian and he has his rights,” said Zuhair. “He probably has very important information in these diaries and as a historian, his work is his legacy.”
He added Shafeeg had lived under three presidents and would be able to provide invaluable historical information if the diaries were found...
... Shafeeg writes that Gayoom targeted him because outlook was different to others working in the government at the time. His diaries, he says, were filled with his personal thoughts about the government and the direction it was heading.
In his letter, he tells of how he was interrogated by police who repeatedly asked him why he had kept these diaries and who had given him “these ideas”. Shafeeg alleges two of his friends, who were also grilled about his diary, died following continued police brutality.
“I believe the things I recorded in my diary were personal and as long as I didn’t show them to anybody there was no problem,” writes Shafeeg. “There may have been thoughts I recorded which were not good but I see no reason why the law should take action.”
Shafeeg narrates three ways in which Gayoom’s government “killed” citizens. The first was through continual persecution of an individual; the second through mental torture, thus depriving the victim of their faculty of independent thought; and the third, through physical torture.
“Before I was detained by police for a long period, people can vouch for the fact that I was a very healthy person,” he writes. “But after the prolonged detention, I have become a very sick person. Now I am somebody who has to take 18 different forms of medication every day just to stay alive...
SOURCE: Breaking News 24/7 (9-28-09)
According to a report in the Telegraph, Dr Simon Young, a historian and expert in Celtic studies, claims in 'The Celtic Revolution' that the valiant English hero of modern legend bears no resemblance to the historical reality.
Young said that Arthur was a hero of a very different kind for the Celts.
"Arthur was not supposed just to return his people to happiness but to entirely wipe out their neighbours - the English," he said...
SOURCE: NYT (9-25-09)
Born in upstate New York, raised in suburban New Jersey and educated at Columbia and Princeton Universities, Mr. Oren considers himself genuinely American. But having lived most of his adult life in Israel — serving multiple tours in the Israeli Army, once as a paratrooper during the 1982 Lebanon war — he also considers himself genuinely Israeli.
“My decision to move to Israel was very much informed by my American experience,” Mr. Oren, 54, said over breakfast at his residence on a secluded, well-guarded street. “I felt a great deal of pride about being an American in Israel. I never thought there was any conflict in that.”
The state of Israel, however, does not allow dual citizens to represent it overseas. So when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked Mr. Oren in the spring to be his man in Washington, he had to make a choice.
Now a foreign national in the land of his birth, Mr. Oren is drawing on his American roots to make Israel’s case, at a time when relations between the countries have been frayed by a dispute over the construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Articulate, telegenic and steeped in American culture, he is a smooth spokesman. But he faces an increasingly skeptical audience.
This week, after President Obama voiced impatience with the lack of progress in peace talks while meeting in New York with Mr. Netanyahu and the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, Mr. Oren was on hand to give a raft of news media interviews.
“You had one gap narrowing between the United States and Israel,” he explained, “while another gap was opening and widening between the Israelis, the Palestinians and the United States.”...
SOURCE: Haaretz (9-27-09)
He landed in Washington in the midst of a conflict between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama. After Netanyahu's announcement that he was going to give approval to continuing construction in the settlements, and the White House's response, in which it made clear that the U.S. administration found that unacceptable, the new ambassador needed all his powers of persuasion to explain that there is no crisis in relations between Israel and the United States. "The White House did not condemn the decision, it expressed regret, and the announcement ended with a constructive statement." He also wants to emphasize that he was not "called in for a clarification" at the U.S. State Department, but came "for a friendly and polite conversation."
"There was tension, but we understand their internal complexities and they understand ours. There may be a fear of an erosion in the U.S. commitment to maintaining Israel's qualitative military advantage, which had already begun during the Bush administration, but America renewed the guarantees, and we also reached an understanding about the Arrow missile [defense system]."
Michael Oren is not among the prime minister's close circle of friends. But the fact that he is a historian and was, until recently, a research fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem (a research and educational institute with a neoconservative orientation that is funded by Sheldon Adelson and Ron Lauder, among others), his American origin and his frequent appearances in the foreign media served as an excellent calling card for him. His appointment as ambassador "did not surprise me," admits Oren. "Netanyahu was looking for someone who is familiar with the U.S., who would know how to decipher and explain the Israeli situation to the Americans and the American situation to the Israelis. There's a new administration here, which relies partly on the support of sectors with which we had no connections in the past - the African-American and Hispanic communities - and it has a new worldview, in which Israel's place is different...
SOURCE: Chicago Reader (9-24-09)
Crowds of people apparently just hanging out on the street, police out in force at the crowd's edges, boarded up windows and evidence of fires. "It was an encounter with what anthropologists call the Other," he says now. "So different from anything I knew, I could only wonder, 'What happened here?'"
That question still dogged him in 1998, when he was back home looking for a dissertation subject after having completed his course work for a PhD in history at Berkeley. Thinking the answer might be found in the records of the Chicago Housing Authority, he started showing up at their offices, asking to go through their files. He says they resisted at first, but when he proposed writing a report for them on the historical value of their archival material, they relented.
Hunt spent six months mucking around in a warehouse at 115th and Halsted, identifying everything that was stashed there—including at least 250 linear feet of files important enough for preservation—and produced a 65-page report for which the CHA paid him $2,350. That became the starting point for his dissertation, "What Went Wrong With Public Housing in Chicago?," which morphed into a book called Blueprint for Disaster, published last month by the University of Chicago Press...
... As working-class families fled the projects, the rents—based on income and earmarked to cover maintenance—fell short. CHA leaders were grossly ineffective at best (Hunt says he found no evidence of scandal). Repairs were deferred, the towers deteriorated, and by the 1980s the CHA was a notorious slumlord. When the crack epidemic of the 1990s hit, many of its buildings fell openly under the control of gangs. Finally, in 1995, the federal government took the bankrupt agency over and cleaned it up, handing it back to the city in 1999. The current Mayor Daley privatized management and began demolishing the towers. His plan calls for replacing them with mixed-income housing that, more often than not, looks a lot like the 19th-century structures that were removed 50 years ago to make way for the high-rises.
So what does Hunt make of all this?
Amid all the unemployment, poverty, and broken families, the institutional racism, political corruption, and bureaucratic incompetence, Hunt believes he's found a relatively simple answer to the question of what went wrong with public housing in Chicago: too many kids. Taking into account all the other influences, he says, that was the single most important factor. The decisions that put multibedroom apartments filled with youngsters into hard-to-access towers were the CHA's blueprint for disaster.
Hunt wants to make it clear that he doesn't blame "families for having lots of kids, or single mothers. The tenants are the victims here," he says. "They wanted what everyone wants: building maintenance, security, and decent schools for their kids—and they fought to make the buildings work." The devil is in "the policy choices." The projects became ungovernable because there weren't enough adults, he says. "This concentration of people under 21 years old was unprecedented in the urban experience."
SOURCE: Columbia University Press website (7-1-09)
Greg Robinson: Actually, this book contains a great deal of recently discovered material about Japanese Americans. Part of it is that new documents have been released on the wartime events, and books have not studied the period before and after World War II as an integral part of them. It changes your view of official policy toward Japanese Americans, for example, if you consider that the Army and Justice Department were already preparing to hold masses of enemy aliens—and building a set of what they called “concentration camps” for them—months before the United States entered the war. But what is even more new and vital about the book, I think, is that it is the first transnational study of the subject. It covers the removal and confinement of Japanese not just in the United States but in Canada and Mexico as well and also tells the story of the Japanese Latin Americans who were sent to the United States and placed in camps.
Q: Why should we care about the treatment of ethnic Japanese in other countries?
GR: What happened to Japanese Americans is part of a larger history, and it is useful to look at their experience alongside that of their counterparts elsewhere. Moreover, if we study events and official policies in Canada and Mexico, which are neighbors with certain similarities in their politics, culture and economies, we get a clearer idea of the causes and results of confinement in the United States. For example, in Canada the Army and Navy chiefs opposed mass removal, but it was ordered nonetheless. This tells us something about the importance of military opinion in the decision making process in those countries. In Mexico ethnic Japanese were ordered off the west coast in the beginning of January 1942, more than a month before Washington took similar action and several months before Mexico even declared war on Japan. If the Mexicans did this so quickly, why did the Americans wait?
Q: What do you feel is the most important single contribution of this book?
GR: I think that the section on wartime Hawaii is particularly compelling, because it tells a story that is unknown to most Americans yet has direct parallels with the present. After Pearl Harbor the U.S. Army pushed through a declaration of martial law in what was then the Territory of Hawaii, abolished the U.S. Constitution, and suspended the elected government. The Army also closed down the courts and created instead a set of military tribunals to judge all criminal cases, even those involving American civilians. Defendants had no due process or legal protections. Virtually all those accused were found guilty and often given harsh sentences. Eventually these military tribunals were challenged in a case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court. While there was no mass removal of Japanese Americans in Hawaii, the Army held on to arbitrary power long after any threat of invasion from Tokyo had ceased and justified its rule by claiming that Japanese Americans needed to be controlled. So the events in Hawaii not only relate in fascinating ways to the removal of ethnic Japanese on the mainland, but they also offer a prelude for thinking about the current situation at Guantanamo and the military tribunals there.
Q: Why do you call the book “A Tragedy of Democracy”?
GR: It is my way of reminding people what is important about the wartime treatment of Japanese in North America. What these people went through is not in a class with the great crimes of the war years. There were no real atrocities: no mass murders, no deliberate torture, and some provision for schools and health care. Rather, what is most troubling about their confinement is the failure of democracy under pressure. The leaders of a group of free governments dedicated to fighting and winning a war against tyranny singled out tens or hundreds of thousands of their own citizens and long-term residents on racial grounds, removed them arbitrarily from their homes, and in most cases ordered them into internal exile and confinement.
Q: Why do you say “confinement” and not “internment” to describe the treatment of Japanese Americans and others?
GR: In technical legal terms, the word “internment” refers to the imprisonment of enemy aliens by governments in time of war. The Justice Department did intern a few thousand Japanese aliens, as well as a similar number of German and Italian aliens, in this manner. All such aliens were granted hearings soon after they were taken into custody, and only those individuals considered dangerous were actually interned. In Canada the federal government interned hundreds of Italian Canadian aliens in addition to some citizens and only later granted them hearings. However, this differs greatly from the shoddy treatment received by West Coast Japanese Americans and Japanese Canadians, where entire populations consisting predominantly of native-born children were taken away with no hearings and locked away in remote areas despite the fact that they were citizens. The word “internment” is even less useful for Mexico’s treatment of Japanese since people were forced to move themselves. That there is no exact term to define these actions reveals how unprecedented and extralegal they were, although both governments invented euphemisms such as “evacuation” for them. In order to avoid confusion and promote understanding, I chose to use the words “removal” and “confinement” because they give a reasonable sense of what occurred and are also inclusive enough to cover the gamut of policies that were put in place in different countries.
SOURCE: Charlottesville Daily Progress (9-25-09)
He was 88.
Peterson was author or editor of 37 books, including the definitive Library of America edition of the writings of Thomas Jefferson and a 1994 study of Abraham Lincoln titled “Lincoln in American Memory” that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
UVa’s Board of Visitors established a professorship in his name eight years ago, calling him “without a doubt the most distinguished living Jefferson scholar in the country.”
Peterson’s scholarly work focused primarily on Jefferson and what he called the “second generation of American statesmen,” as well as on Lincoln and his place in “American thought and imagination.”
His first book, “The Jefferson Image in the American Mind,” won the Bancroft Prize — one of the most prestigious awards in American history — in 1961.
His second book, which Peterson considered his best, was a biography of Jefferson called “Thomas Jefferson and the New Nation.”
“His one-volume biography of Thomas Jefferson is still considered among the very best that have ever been written on our university’s founder,” Edward Ayers, a historian and former dean of the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, said in 2005.
Peterson’s son, Jeffrey W. Peterson of Falls Church, said: “He had a real consciousness of the importance of American democracy and how individuals can make an important contribution to that.”...
SOURCE: NYT (9-24-09)
The cause was esophageal cancer, his daughter Jane Assimacopoulos said.
“Meltzer was one of the first in a new wave of nonfiction writers who brought lively and passionate writing, grounded in original source material, to middle-grade students and young adults, without talking down to them,” Lisa Von Drasek, the children’s librarian at the Bank Street College of Education in New York and an expert in the field, said in an interview on Wednesday.
“In the old days, it was those dry volumes with their buckram covers, crowded gray type and no reproductions that kids had to use for school assignments,” Ms. Drasek added.
In 2001, Mr. Meltzer, who wrote nearly 100 books for children, received the American Library Association’s Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal for his contribution to children’s literature. Five of his works were National Book Award finalists.
Mr. Meltzer was a self-trained historian. The fact that he never graduated from college (he quit school during the Depression to help support his family) proved no barrier to his vast and varied writing. In fact, it was an impetus. Much of his work is infused with a call for social justice....
SOURCE: The Consumerist (9-24-09)
Historians consider the Battle of the Wilderness, fought on the Locust Grove, VA, site in 1864, a key turning point in the Civil War. "A nationally significant and highly vulnerable historic site is at great risk," said Zann Nelson, head of Friends of Wilderness Battlefield. Supporters of the move to block Walmart include actor Robert Duvall, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine and filmmaker Ken Burns.
SOURCE: The Chronicles of Higher Education (9-21-09)
Utah Valley State College got $123,456 for a project on "Fostering Coherence in the Humanities through History of Civilization Study."
The site, called the Funded Projects Query Form, is still a little opaque, however, because it does not provide quick links to the grant recipents and their proposals.
SOURCE: The Society of American Archivists (homepage) (9-24-09)
“Orphan works” is a term used to describe the situation in which the owner of a copyrighted work cannot be identified and located by someone who wishes to make use of the work in a manner that requires permission of the copyright owner. Eight archivists and a recognized legal expert in intellectual property and copyright law developed the statement, based upon their experiences researching copyright status.
“We created this statement to provide archivists with a framework to discover what materials they hold are truly orphaned works, and in the hopes of empowering them to provide wider access and use of those materials as a result,” said Heather Briston, chair of SAA’s Intellectual Property Working Group.
The primary authors of the statement include Briston (University of Oregon), Mark Allen Greene (University of Wyoming), Cathy Henderson (University of Texas, Austin), Peter Hirtle (Cornell University), Peter Jaszi (American University) , William Maher (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign), Aprille Cooke McKay (University of Michigan), Richard Pearce-Moses (Arizona State Library), and Merrilee Proffitt (OCLC). Financial and administrative support was provided for this project by OCLC Research and the RLG Partnership.
More information on SAA’s Intellectual Property Working Group can be found at: http://www.archivists.org/saagroups/ipwg/.
SOURCE: MyFox8.com (9-23-09)
The News & Observer of Raleigh reported Wednesday that the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and 1968 UNC graduate has given those papers to the school's Southern Historical Collection. They'll be available publicly beginning Jan. 4.
SOURCE: The Malta Independent Online (9-23-09)
Prof. Frendo was commenting on the Archbishop’s homily to churchgoers including Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi and Opposition Leader Joseph Muscat, during the Independence Day Pontifical Mass at St John’s Co-Cathedral.
Archbishop Paul Cremona, OP, said that our national days are of “equal importance” and it is justifiable wholeheartedly to celebrate the days which unite the whole country. Referring to Independence Day, Victory Day, Republic Day and Freedom Day among others, Mgr Cremona said that all these dates are of equal importance.
“It strikes me as odd that the Archbishop opted to comment like this on the matter,” said Prof. Frendo while questioning Mgr Cremona’s expertise on the subject, other than as a pastoral wish for unity. There has been some considerable historiography on the subject among the few researchers who have published substantively on this period aided by archival material.
On the other hand, historian Dominic Fenech thought it was rather “strange” for the Archbishop to go into the matter, although he did not see this as some sort of political interference.
Prof. Frendo said that on the previous day Dr Gonzi had said that Independence Day should be made the national day whereas Dr Muscat had called for one national day, on which the Leader of the Opposition should join the President and the Prime Minister in laying wreaths....
... Nonetheless, Prof. Fenech believed that the national day subject is not a question of expertise but a matter of politicians having to reflect the people’s opinion and what unites them. This was more the case since historians did not agree on which feast to name as the national day.
SOURCE: Today.az (9-22-09)
Day.Az: In recent times distortion of history in the pages of Wikipedia has become frequent. What, in your opinion, the purpose of distorting historical facts in this and other online resources?
Fazail Ibrahimli: Although there is a ceasefire between Azerbaijan and Armenia, an information war is going on. All of these conversations, speeches, distorted facts, false information posted on various websites, including those in Wikipedia show that Armenia is trying to be active in this war. I think all is done by the Armenian lobby that exists in various European countries, as well as in the United States.
Q: Why there is much false and provocative information about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict on the internet?
A: I believe that this is ideological war carried out by Armenia. It has been working intensively in this direction. But the world community knows that Nagorno-Karabakh is a part of Azerbaijan, and this false information about the history of Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan, posted on internet, has lost influence and has no impact on world opinion. ...
SOURCE: Columbia Journalism Review (9-22-09)
This relationship between “conservative issues” and national issues more broadly is one that’s been of interest for some time to Rick Perlstein, the author of Nixonland and Before the Storm. A leading liberal historian of the conservative movement, Perlstein’s work has won respect from some leading conservatives; writing for CJR, he once praised the late journalist Paul Cowan for his sensitivity to the “dignity and value” of conservative subcultures. But Perlstein has also chastised the media, in the pages of the Post, for being too sensitive to conservative criticisms.
CJR assistant editor Greg Marx corresponded yesterday with Perlstein via phone and e-mail. An edited transcript appears below.
Greg Marx: I’m interested in your thoughts on Marcus Brauchli’s comments about mainstream coverage of conservative concerns in particular, and also in this issue more broadly.
Rick Perlstein: I read what Brauchli said, and what he was paraphrased as saying, and it almost suggests to me that Matt Drudge is becoming his assignment editor. I mean, why would a newspaper like the Post be training its investigative focus on ACORN now? Whether you think well or ill of ACORN, they’re a very marginal group in the grand scheme of things—and about as tied to the White House as the PTA.
The real story is that millions of Americans don’t consider a liberal president legitimate, and they’re moving from that axiom to try to delegitimize the president in the eyes of the majority. And one of the ways they do that is, frankly, by baiting the hook for mainstream media decision-makers who are terrified at the accusation of liberal bias. It really looks like Brauchli is falling for that.
GM: So what do you think would be a more appropriate way to handle this? In your recent op-ed in the Post, you wrote that “even the most ideologically fair-minded national media will always be agents of cosmopolitanism.” So is there a legitimate way to understand other perspectives?
RP: Well, the ACORN story is the story of a marginal group that made obvious mistakes, but also, equally obviously, does important good in very marginal communities where services are few and far between. So what other groups of equal stature are they doing investigations of? The whole Republican narrative about ACORN is that of the tail wagging the dog—the tail being ACORN, the dog being the Obama White House and the Democratic Party.
Let me give you an example of what might be responsible for the media to report. They could report that one of ACORN’s big crusades in 2004 was a Florida ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage, and a lot of political scientists found that, indeed, it increased political participation in Florida. Some of the people who came out to vote for it actually voted for Republican candidates. But the Kerry campaign had no liaison with this—it’s not that they didn’t want to, it was just that the Democratic Party was completely disconnected from this.
In the conservative imagination, the idea that ACORN is working on a ballot initiative and that it might increase turnout for a Democrat is taken as prima facie evidence that ACORN and the Democratic Party are working hand-in-glove to distort the electoral process. But the Kerry campaign didn’t even seem to be aware of ACORN’s effort in this case....