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: NYT (3-7-10)
At the Vatican, he is known as Commendatore Gary Krupp, Knight Commander of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great. For short, the Swiss Guard and cardinals address him as “Your Excellency.”...
But the more curious and complicated story is the transformation Mr. Krupp has undergone since. With no previous training or special interest in history, he has emerged as the Vatican’s most outspoken Jewish ally in a heated debate at the crux of tensions between Roman Catholic and Jewish leaders and historians: whether Pope Pius XII, the pontiff during World War II, did as much as he could have to save Jews from the Holocaust....
“I wrote 10 books about Pius XII, but in all these years I never knew how to shake things up for the cause like this wonderful man, Mr. Krupp,” said Sister Margherita Marchione, a professor emerita at Fairleigh Dickinson University who is considered the foremost defender of Pius outside the Vatican.
Deborah Dwork, a professor of Holocaust history at Clark University, put it another way: “Pope Benedict would not have had the chutzpah to go forward with the veneration process if not for this P.R. work Gary Krupp does.”...
Holocaust scholars, who consider Pius, with his worldwide network of diplomats and clergy, to be among the first world leaders to have grasped the scope of the Jewish persecution, have asked why he did not condemn it publicly. But most consider that and other questions unanswerable until the Vatican opens the complete archives of Pius’s papacy. Although a selection of those papers has been published, the Vatican has kept most off limits to outside researchers....
The assessment of Mr. Krupp’s work among many scholars and leaders of long-established Jewish organizations has been equally harsh.
Rabbi Eric J. Greenberg, associate director of interfaith affairs at the Anti-Defamation League, called Mr. Krupp’s mission “a campaign of misinformation.”
Professor Dwork said Mr. Krupp’s research was “amateurish, worse than amateurish — risible.” More disturbing, she said, it seems to have emboldened some in the Vatican to push harder for Pius XII’s canonization....
The Rev. John T. Pawlikowski, a Catholic priest who is a founding member of the board of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and a professor of social ethics at the University of Chicago, said the Vatican was “discrediting itself by associating itself with this kind of questionable scholarship.”
Mr. Krupp has heard it all. In 2008, several historians called to ask him to cancel his three-day conference in Rome, which ultimately drew many Vatican-friendly scholars but few with independent credentials.
One caller, Paul O’Shea, who has written extensively about Pius XII, tried to warn Mr. Krupp that proponents of canonization might be trying to use him. He urged Mr. Krupp to wait for the Vatican to open its files, and for scholars to complete their work, before reaching conclusions.
Mr. Krupp thanked him for his advice and ignored it.
“Listen to me: Pius XII was the greatest hero of World War II,” Mr. Krupp said recently. “He saved more Jews than Roosevelt, Churchill and all the rest of them combined. We should not let him be an issue between Catholics and Jews.”
He added: “And I predict this: Historians are never going to solve this whole problem. There will always be questions.”...
SOURCE: NYT (3-7-10)
Just ask local officials, aggrieved residents of a neighboring town and the folks on Petain Avenue, a tiny, two-house side street in this placid central New Jersey borough. All have suddenly had to confront the legacy of the French World War I war hero and World War II Nazi collaborator, for whom the street is named, and the balance between the burdens of the past and the demands of living in the present.
Marshal Henri Philippe Pétain was just one of the military leaders of the Great War (others were Foch, Pershing, Joffre and Haig) so honored in that part of town. From 1920 onward, Petain Avenue existed quietly, populated by 17 people in four families over the last half century. No doubt that quiet existence would have continued had not Eli Mintz, from nearby East Brunswick, dashed off a letter to Mayor Gloria M. Bradford in 2006....
The historical record is at once clear and as murky as human behavior. Robert Paxton, a retired Columbia University history professor and an expert on Vichy France, said Pétain’s life ended in disgrace, his death sentence for treason commuted to life. But rather than one of history’s great villains, a Hitler or Pol Pot, he’s a more representative historical figure, Professor Paxton added, someone long revered who in his 80s, whether out of vanity, weakness, a desire to save France, delusion or some combination, made a pact with the devil that led him into tragedy and ignominy.
“I don’t see him as a profoundly wicked man, but a deeply misguided one,” Dr. Paxton said. “His priority was to get along with the Germans, and as a result he got dragged in deeper and deeper. He was an accomplice, not an instigator.”
Professor Paxton said he understood why people would take offense, but that if we want to understand history, remembering Pétain’s fall from glory to infamy is more worthwhile than effacing his name. “His story is so much a part of the way history unfolds,” he said. “I don’t think obliterating it adds to our understanding in any way.”...
SOURCE: NYT (3-3-10)
Once outspoken about the power of standardized testing, charter schools and free markets to improve schools, Dr. Ravitch is now caustically critical. She underwent an intellectual crisis, she says, discovering that these strategies, which she now calls faddish trends, were undermining public education. She resigned last year from the boards of two conservative research groups.
“School reform today is like a freight train, and I’m out on the tracks saying, ‘You’re going the wrong way!’ ” Dr. Ravitch said in an interview.
Dr. Ravitch is one of the most influential education scholars of recent decades, and her turnaround has become the buzz of school policy circles.
“What’s Diane up to? That’s what people are asking.” said Grover J. Whitehurst, who was the director of the Department of Education’s research arm in the second Bush administration and is now Dr. Ravitch’s colleague at the Brookings Institution.
Among the topics on which Dr. Ravitch has reversed her views is the main federal law on public schools, No Child Left Behind, which is up for a rewrite in coming weeks in Congress. She once supported it, but now says its requirements for testing in math and reading have squeezed vital subjects like history and art out of classrooms....
SOURCE: Washington Times (3-3-10)
Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, a former Pakistani lawmaker and a leading scholar of Islam, has issued similar, shorter decrees in the past. But the new fatwa makes the most detailed and comprehensive case against Islamic extremism by a Muslim, diplomats and analysts said....
Timothy R. Furnish, a historian of Islam, said the fatwa may not carry significant weight for many Muslims because Mr. Tahir-ul-Qadri is a Sufi Muslim, and not a Koranic literalist, as are such Sunni groups as the Wahhabis and the Salafis, who form the core of groups such as al Qaeda.
"It would seem to be simply another example of this centuries-long Sufi/Wahhabi-Salafi spat over how to interpret the authoritative texts of Islam," said Mr. Furnish, who noted that he has not read Tuesday's fatwa. "For every such legal pronunciamento, there is an antithetical one from the literalist camp …, which justifies such attacks with clear Koranic and Hadith [Traditions] citations."...
SOURCE: Canada.com (3-3-10)
Lewis combined his love of hockey and passion for history and developed two hockey-themed history courses in the summer including Hockey and the Canadian Identity to 1952: The Development of a National Obsession, and Hockey and the Canadian Identity since 1952: Canada's Game in the Cold War and Beyond.
The courses aren't based on the pure history of hockey, but rather he uses hockey as a prism through which to understand wider issues in Canadian society.
Lewis admits he falls under a stereotypically Canadian umbrella when it comes to hockey. Born in a small town outside Moncton, N.B., he grew up on skates. If he wasn't skating with friends on a frozen pond, he was in his backyard shooting the puck on dad's homemade rink....
Despite Canada's big win on Sunday, Lewis still believes Canada's finest hockey moment was when Paul Henderson scored the game winning goal against the Soviet Union in Game 8 of the Summit Series in 1972.
SOURCE: NYT (2-28-10)
SOURCE: The Australian (AU) (3-1-10)
Professor Barry McGaw told The Australian Online that the proposed national curriculum did not underplay the role of Europeans in Australian history.
He was responding to opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne, who argued that the draft curriculum, unveiled today by Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd, placed too much emphasis on indigenous history.
“I'm disappointed that (Mr Pyne) feels that having looked at the material,” said Professor McGaw, the head of the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority.
“It's not our intention that there's to be no European history”.
Professor McGaw said the curriculum would bolster the study of history and promote a more balanced view of Australia's past....
SOURCE: Times Online (UK) (2-16-10)
Jack Richon Pole was born in London in 1922. His father, Joe Pole, had arrived in Britain from Ukraine as a boy. The Jewish family were en route to New York but got no farther than Glasgow. Joe was imprisoned as a conscientious objector in the First World War and later he worked as a journalist and as the head of publicity for United Artists in London. There he met Jack’s mother, Phoebe Rickards, from a more anglicised Jewish family who ran a fleet of horse-drawn carriages, and later, taxis. She had been a suffragette and was once arrested in Hyde Park. Later she was a prominent Labour member of the council in Finchley and frequently crossed swords with the local MP, Margaret Thatcher. When his mother died, Jack Pole received a handwritten letter of condolence from Mrs Thatcher, by then the Prime Minister.
This radical background left Pole with an ingrained lifelong hatred of social and racial injustice. He campaigned for the rights of Commonwealth immigrants in Britain in the 1960s and supported the struggle for black civil rights in the US. He was sent to progressive schools: first, aged 4, to the experimental Malting House School in Cambridge founded by the educationist Geoffrey Pyke, which Pole disliked, and then King Alfred School in Hampstead where he was much happier.
On leaving school he went straight into the Army and for most of his six years in uniform he served in antiaircraft batteries, at Scapa Flow, in Somaliland and on the South Coast trying to shoot down V1 flying bombs.
He went up to The Queen’s College, Oxford, in 1946 where he took a First in modern history. His closest friend in the college, F. M. L (Michael) Thompson, also became a distinguished professor of history. Pole could have become a French historian, but he chose to work on the then unfavoured subject of US history and studied for his PhD in Princeton from 1949. It was unusual for a young British historian to be trained in the US at this time, but it was the making of Pole’s career. It introduced him to the US, its leading historians and their most recent work. During one summer holiday he and another notable English historian, Gerald Aylmer, took a road trip across America. Pole met Marilyn Mitchell in New York. They married in 1952 and had three children. The marriage was dissolved in 1988....
SOURCE: CBC News (3-2-10)
Trent University history professor John Milloy was appointed last month as director of research for the federal commission, which is charged with creating a historical account of the residential school system, helping people heal and encouraging reconciliation.
The Missing Children Research Project was launched in 2008 with the aim of documenting how many children died, went missing or were buried in unmarked graves at residential schools across the country from the late 1800s through much of the 1900s.
However, work on the project was delayed for a year when infighting at the $60-million truth and reconciliation commission led to the resignation of its three commissioners.
Though the restructured commission has yet to come up with a firm budget for the missing children project, Milloy's appointment in January raises hopes that the project has regained momentum....
SOURCE: Sunday Times (UK) (2-28-10)
Sir Max Hastings and Antony Beevor, who between them have covered campaigns from Normandy to Stalingrad and the Pacific, plan the 800-page volumes in 2012 as the pinnacles of their military history careers.
Beevor, author of Stalingrad, D-Day, and Berlin: the Downfall, has already won the first engagement with a publisher’s advance believed to be about £1m. Hastings is not far behind.
“Max and I are both great friends and great rivals,” said Beevor, whose book will be published in Britain by Weidenfeld & Nicolson. “It’s the whole war and yes, it’s a terrifying prospect.”...
Both Beevor and Hastings are known for their ability to cover the broad sweep of history while including vivid human stories. “It’s vital to get the point of view of those involved from both ‘above and below’, as it were,” said Beevor.
Hastings, whose most recent work was Finest Years: Churchill as Warlord, has his own thoughts about the 1939-45 conflict. “It’s perceived, albeit in some ways wrongly, as the last great simple collision between good and evil. It, of course, also includes a staggering range of remarkable stories of extreme human experience. Even now I keep discovering remarkable things about the period.”...
SOURCE: The Virginian-Pilot (3-2-10)
Some of the nation's pre-eminent historians will examine that history in a symposium, "Race, Slavery and the Civil War: The Tough Stuff of American History and Memory," at Norfolk State University in September.
The conference is free and open to the public, and registration opened this week.
James Horton, professor, author, and consultant to film and television, will lead the conference. He has signed on several noted Civil War scholars, including Pulitzer Prize-winning author James McPherson and David Blight, director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance & Abolition at Yale University. Cassandra Newby-Alexander, an award-winning professor and department chair of history at NSU, also will participate.
Horton said one of the biggest myths about the Civil War is that slavery was not a cause....
SOURCE: stv.tv (UK) (3-2-10)
University language experts have been given the go-ahead to use cutting-edge software technology to pore over thousands of witness accounts of an alleged massacre of Protestants centuries ago.
The so-called Depositions of English and Scottish settlers at the coal face of the 1641 Rising by Catholic rebels have been exploited by historians, politicians and propagandists through the years.
Now, researchers have been given a £334,000 grant to settle once and for all whether the death toll and notorious propaganda images of settlers being raped, mutilated and murdered were exaggerated.
Dr Barbara Fennell, senior language and linguistics lecturer at the University of Aberdeen, who will lead the project, said they expect to prove within a year whether witness statements were genuine or overstated by commissioners working for Oliver Cromwell....
Locked away in Trinity College Dublin (TCD) since 1741, the 20,000 pages of text were transcribed into digital format over the past two years....
Jane Ohlmeyer, professor of modern history at TCD, said the new evidence will help drive the debate on one of the most formative and contested events in Irish history.
SOURCE: AP (3-2-10)
Publisher Henry Holt and Company, responding to questions from the AP, said Monday that author Charles Pellegrino “was not able to answer” concerns about “The Last Train from Hiroshima,” including whether two men mentioned in the book actually existed....
Doubts were first raised about the book a week ago after Pellegrino acknowledged that one of his interview subjects had falsely claimed to be on one of the planes accompanying the Enola Gay, from which an atom bomb was dropped by the United States on Hiroshima in 1945. Holt had initially promised to send a corrected edition....
“I read a number of books on this period of time and none of them mentioned Mattias or MacQuitty. I knew there was no way those people could have been omitted if they were real,” said history professor Barton Bernstein of Stanford University.
Pellegrino’s own background was also questioned. He sometimes refers to himself as Dr. Pellegrino, and his Web site lists him as receiving a Ph.D. in 1982 from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. But in response to a query from the AP, the school said it had no proof that Pellegrino had such a degree....
But that is exactly what the party needs to do to prolong the fast economic growth that underpins its political legitimacy: Cutting state-owned companies down to size and opening up to private enterprise hold the key to sustaining productivity gains and redistributing income more equitably.
Coming from Western economists, such a prescription is standard stuff. What is striking is the urgency with which some prominent Chinese academics are making the same case.
“In the financial crisis, China seems to have performed quite well,” said Yang Yao, director of the China Center for Economic Research at Peking University. “But the problem is that government involvement in the economy has increased significantly.”...
The phrase “guojin mintui” — the state advances as the private sector retreats — has become common currency in debate about the Chinese economy....
Zhang Lifan, a liberal scholar and historian, goes so far as to argue that the retreat of the private sector was an underlying factor behind the collapse of the Qing Dynasty in 1911 and the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution.
“History has proved that ‘guojin mintui’ is not sustainable,“ Mr. Zhang wrote in a recent article. “If we can’t curb the advance of the state sector, it will definitely have an impact on China’s future industrial structure and economic development.”...
The descendants of Fernand Plée, who purchased these grounds and this red-brick manor in central France in 1941, say they have nothing to hide. Their grandfather, they say, was a good man: a decorated veteran of the First World War, a willing partner to the Allies in the second, a man of generosity and courage.
But an otherwise ordinary legal battle between the nearby town of Salbris and Mr. Plée’s descendants, who inherited the estate after his death 40 years ago, has brought to light a somber chapter of the man’s past, and that of the Château de l’Écluse.
The property had once belonged to a Parisian entrepreneur, Émile Akar. In 1941, however, Mr. Akar being of Jewish descent, the wartime Vichy government confiscated the chateau. Fernand Plée then purchased it through the General Authority for Jewish Questions, the agency officially charged with France’s “Aryanization.”
Mr. Akar died well before war’s end, and any public memory of Mr. Plée’s act was apparently lost in the confusion and bliss and national forgetting of post-liberation France. He never returned the estate to the family of its rightful owner, despite laws obliging him to do so. It now falls to his descendants to confront that history.
President Jacques Chirac first officially acknowledged France’s “collective wrongdoing” during the Vichy years in 1995. Since then, the state has taken great pains to confront that dark era, compensating tens of thousands of victims and establishing the public memory of a long-repressed past. It is now widely felt, among Jews as among the general populace, that the nation has done everything in its power to right its past wrongs....
“The French Republic has done all it can,” said Tal Bruttmann, a noted French scholar of Vichy. “The Second World War is still here.”...
The family always assumed that Mr. Akar had leased the property. Despite some worldly success — he made a name for himself as co-founder of Amilcar, an early brand of automobile — he was known to be a mediocre bookkeeper and constantly in debt. But archival documents show that he purchased the chateau and its 1,940 acres in April 1936. He died in Marseille, having fled the Nazi-occupied north, on Nov. 16, 1940.
“What is important for us and our children is that this story be known,” said Jean-François Akar, 69, Émile’s great-nephew and adjunct mayor of Meudon, near Paris. “We’re not going to take revenge on these children for their parents’ errors,” he said, referring to the Plées. “One would not do justice in punishing the innocent.”...
Monuments to Mr. Bandera have sprung up across western Ukraine, his fight for the country’s independence glowingly recounted to schoolchildren on field trips, as if he were the George Washington of Ukrainian nationalism. But in eastern Ukraine and as far away as Moscow and Brussels, Mr. Bandera is reviled as a Nazi puppet.
This disputed legacy has ensured him a prominent role in today’s Ukraine. In a parting shot as his presidency was ending, Viktor A. Yushchenko named Mr. Bandera a “Hero of Ukraine,” one of the country’s highest honors.
That touched off a political battle that may make it more difficult for Viktor F. Yanukovich, who succeeded Mr. Yushchenko as president last week, to address the ethnic, regional and historical passions that divide the country....
Nikolai Svanidze, a Russian historian who serves on a Kremlin panel intended to combat “attempts to falsify history,” said the world often failed to understand the trauma suffered by the Soviet Union in World War II, when 25 million Soviet citizens died. Mr. Svanidze said that to honor someone with links to the Nazis was to sully the sacrifice of those people.
He compared some other former Soviet republics to teenagers who were asserting their individuality.
“They reject everything that seems unpleasant to them, that seems alien to them, or unnatural to them, everything that gets in the way of their own sense of identity,” he said.
Some Ukrainians described that view as condescending and self-serving.
“In the Russian mentality, there must always be an enemy,” said Mykola Posivnych, a Ukrainian historian and expert on Ukrainian partisans. “This enemy, Bandera, is very useful to them.”
Mr. Lesiv, the museum director, said the issue was even simpler: Russia has never come to terms with Ukrainian sovereignty. He said people in western Ukraine would rise up if Mr. Yanukovich tried to withdraw the Bandera award....
SOURCE: WaPo (2-26-10)
The humanities citations went to prizewinning authors and historians Robert A. Caro ("The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power, Means of Ascent and Master of the Senate"), Annette Gordon-Reed ("The Hemingses of Monticello"), David Levering Lewis ("W.E.B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century, 1919-1963") and William H. McNeill ("Plagues and Peoples"). The list also includes speechwriter and lawyer Theodore Sorensen, former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Philippe de Montebello and philanthropist Albert H. Small, as well as Wiesel, founding chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the author of "Night," whom the president gave his own big hug....
Delivering remarks at the end of the ceremony, Obama said that all of the honorees had touched his life in some way, including Caro, whose book "The Power Broker," about urban planner Robert Moses, the president had read when he was 22 and found "mesmerizing." And speaking of Sorenson, who once wrote speeches for President John F. Kennedy, Obama joked that he "had used up all the good lines for everybody."
SOURCE: NYT (2-28-10)
Mr. Bankier, who was head of the International Institute for Holocaust Research at Yad Vashem, focused his scholarly work on anti-Semitism, especially its use by the Nazis to promote and sustain a broader ideology. He was the author of “Germans and the Final Solution: Public Opinion Under Nazism” as well as a collection of essays, “Hitler, the Holocaust and German Society: Cooperation and Awareness.”
Born in Germany just before the state of Israel was created, Mr. Bankier grew up and was educated here, earning his doctorate in Jewish history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He held a professorship at Hebrew University and had served as a visiting professor in Britain, the United States, South Africa and South America. He spoke excellent English and Spanish, in addition to German and Hebrew.
Divorced, Mr. Bankier is survived by three children.