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: Medieval News (4-28-10)
The project will cover six centuries of western European history, from 400 to 1000 AD, and will investigate how earlier cultural traditions, coupled with other sources, such as the Bible, influenced the formation of state identities following the deposition of the last Roman emperor in the West in the fifth century.
It will also consider how, in turn, the concepts about ethnicity and society that emerged continue to influence the shape of modern Europe.
The three-year study, entitled "Cultural Memory and the Resources of the Past, 400-1000", is a joint research project between the University of Cambridge, Vienna, Utrecht and Leeds. It is being funded with a grant from the HERA (Humanities in the European Research Area) Joint Research Programme worth one million Euros.
It will focus on two principal issues - the ways in which texts were "transmitted" from one individual centre to another, and the problem of identity formation itself in the complex social, political and religious melting pot of early medieval Europe.
The early middle ages were a formative period in western European history, but their cultural inheritance, the way in which those ideas were absorbed and the lasting impact of that process, remain little-studied to date.
The period 400 to 1000 witnessed the spread of Christianity and the formulation of new ethnic identities and new ideas about different western European societies, which were often put forward by the emerging elites of the time.
Many of these rulers referred to the Latin Bible as a source not just of supreme law, but as one of authoritative history and commentary on the present. At the same time, they also revered the classical world. Rome, the source of Latin texts which could open up an enlightened interpretation of the Bible, became associable with cultural and religious power. During the period, classical texts themselves developed an authoritative status as a source of traditions and ideas.
Researchers argue that as this happened, the roots of a number of modern myths which still affect European societies today were formed. Current ideas about national origins, the perceived dangers of mass immigration, the "otherness" of cultural and religious groups, the Christian identity of Europe as a whole, and the cultural consequences of its Christianity all find their foundations in the early medieval period.
The research project will examine how this happened and what its effects have been. Scholars will investigate issues such as how the Roman imperial past affected the early medieval mindset, and the complex processes by which ideas were exchanged between the Greek-speaking Byzantine world to the East, and the Latin-dominated West.
The Cambridge team will be led by Professor Rosamond McKitterick. Two fully-funded PhD projects will examine the way in which Roman and Byzantine cultural concepts were adopted, and interpreted, during the earlier part of the period (the sixth and seventh centuries) as well as during the Carolingian Renaissance of the ninth and tenth centuries.
In particular, they will study the transmission and translation of ecclesiastical history with reference to the Historia Tripartita - the sixth century history of the Church, compiled by the scholar Epiphanius, under the direction of Cassiodorus. This will be cross-referred with the later, ninth century Frankish chronicle by Freculf of Lisieux, which described the conversion of Gaul.
The project is one of a number funded by HERA to examine questions of inheritance and identity in Europe. Further information about the grants can be found at http://www.heranet.info/Default.aspx?AreaID=89. The project team will, in addition, be setting up a website enabling public access to preliminary reports, materials and results as their work progresses.
Professor McKitterick has also been named one of six new Heineken Prize Laureates for 2010. These international prizes, which are funded by the Dr. H. P. Heineken Foundation and the Alfred Heineken Fondsen Foundation, are awarded every other year to internationally acclaimed scientists and scholars for outstanding contributions in their field. She is the first historian in a British university to be awarded this prize. Other Heineken prizewinners in the sciences from the University of Cambridge include Aaron Klug and Sir Michael Berridge.
Professor McKitterick has held the Chair in Medieval History at the University of Cambridge's Faculty of History since 1999 and is the author of numerous publications on the political, cultural, intellectual, religious and social history of Europe in the middle ages. The award panel's notes observe that "her research has fundamentally changed how we view the Carolingians and the interplay of politics, religion and scholarship in their time.
SOURCE: Medieval News (4-29-10)
The conference organizers hope that their interdisciplinary theme will lead to better co-operation and research between historians of different periods. John Moscatiello, chair of the conference planning committee, said, “The committee settled on this topic right away because we feel strongly that medievalists, early modernists, and Latin Americanists must coordinate their teaching and research programs. Right now, these groups tend to conduct their research in relative isolation from one another, even though scholars have long suggested important links between late medieval Spain and the New World. Part of the problem is built into the structure of universities themselves because graduate students are trained in either medieval studies or Latin American studies with little reference to the other field. The result is that the current historiography has not provided the specific contours of what a comparative, global history of late medieval and early modern Iberia might look like. What are the methodological pitfalls of integrating medieval and Latin American historical research? What are the best sources for deeply comparative work? How do we periodize Iberian history in a global context? Or, conversely, are such comparisons overdrawn and not worthwhile? This conference hopes to be one step in the direction of answering these questions and bringing these disparate fields into a meaningful dialogue.
“Here at Notre Dame, there has been a dramatic series of transformations in both our medieval Iberian and Latin American programs. For the first time ever, the Medieval Institute is under the leadership a specialist in medieval Iberian history, Remie Constable, who is busy overseeing the expansion of our programs in Byzantine and Islamic studies. Dayle Seidenspinner-Núñez, a professor of medieval Spanish literature, now serves as a dean in the College of Arts and Letters and Sabine MacCormack has been a tireless and highly effective advocate of developing the program in Latin American studies. Our undergraduate students are enrolled in Quechua courses and have drawn from the resources of the Nanovic and Kellogg Institutes to conduct original research in Europe and Latin America.”
The conference organizers also have announced that the Journal of Medieval Iberian Studies will be publishing a special issue of the conference proceedings in 2012 which will include six to eight articles that originate from this conference. John Moscatiello adds that the journal's editors “have been enthusiastic about the conference from the outset because they are committed to bringing medievalists, early modernists, and Latin Americanists into meaningful dialogue with one another. In fact, the recent obituaries for convivencia and Reconquista that have appeared in the Journal of Medieval Iberian Studies (and other journals) have further underscored how unreliable these categories have become for our research programs. The future of medieval Iberian history, like the future of medieval studies in general, will have to be comparative and global in its orientation and will have to push medievalists out of their comfort zones”
The final day to submit a proposal for a paper is May 1st. You are asked to email an abstract of 250 words, a cover letter, and a curriculum vitae to Iberia.email@example.com. For more information about the conference, please go to http://iberiaconference.eventbrite.com/
SOURCE: Medieval News (4-28-10)
The two highly regarded medieval scholars are among 180 recipients in the United States and Canada selected for the coveted fellowship. Artists, scholars and scientists in all fields are eligible to apply for the fellowships, which are awarded on the basis of impressive achievement in the past and exceptional promise for future accomplishment. This year’s recipients were chosen from a group of more than 3,000 applicants.
Caferro will use the funding to complete a book project on the intersection of war, culture and economy in late medieval and Renaissance Italy, which was during the time of the Black Death. The research represents the culmination of his many years of work in Italian archives, he said.
“As an economic historian, I look at the Italian economy of the 14th and 15th centuries and try to understand what aspects of that economy would fall under the category of Renaissance,” he said. It’s also very important to me to look at the impact of violence and war on society in Italy at that time.”
Caferro’s other books include Mercenary Companies and the Decline of Siena (Johns Hopkins, 1998) and John Hawkwood, English Mercenary in Fourteenth Century Italy (Johns Hopkins, 2006), which won the Otto Grundler Prize in 2008 as the best book on medieval studies. His most recent book, Contesting the Renaissance (Blackwell, 2010), explores the meaning and use of the term “Renaissance” in historical writings.
Caferro teaches a variety of courses in European history, including upper-level courses in pre-modern European economic history and 14th century English literature and history. He received his doctorate from Yale University and is a previous recipient of the Madison Sarratt Prize for Excellence in Teaching at Vanderbilt.
Sharon E.J. Gerstel will use her fellowship to complete a book Landscapes of the Village: The Devotional Life and Setting of the Late Byzantine Peasant, which will be published by Cambridge University Press. She is analyzing the devotional lives of the area’s Eastern Orthodox Christian villagers between the 13th and 15th centuries. Her previous publications include Thresholds of the Sacred: Architectural, Art Historical, Liturgical, and Theological Perspectives on Religious Screens, East and West and A Lost Art Rediscovered: The Architectural Ceramics of Byzantium.
The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation was founded in 1925 by U.S. Senator Simon Guggenheim and his wife as a memorial to their late son....
SOURCE: Foreign Policy Journal (4-16-10)
He left school at 15 and did some ordinary jobs. He showed little interest in politics at that time. However, around the age of eighteen he became a reader of Daily Worker. It was the period when Nazism had emerged as the dominant voice of militarism and in many countries in Europe and the United States fascist parties emerged. Their model was the German Nazi party and their hero Adolf Hitler. When the Second World War started the young George was called up in 1939. At that time, he was 20 year old. When he went to fight for his ‘king and country’ his worldly possessions were two suits and a bicycle. He recalls in his ‘Subversive – One Third of the Autobiography of a Communist’ that for obvious reasons some people had more interest in ‘our country’ than he did!...
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (4-29-10)
Someone has to put in a good word for the historian Orlando Figes in the affair of the Amazon comments, and it may as well be me. As Tacitus wrote long ago, I am free from the usual pressures to be biased.
I have no connections with university departments, nor have I met any of the feuding scholars. I am, however, their target audience: a general reader who has found a great deal to admire in the works of Figes, especially his history of the Russian revolution, A People's Tragedy....
I have a horrible feeling that behind this disaster lies a rebirth of insular academic snobbery, the resentment of a popular historian. I find myself thinking of the episode of Peep Show in which an academic urges Mark Corrigan to write an attack on Simon Schama – "and his interesting, accessible books".
SOURCE: Houston Chronicle (4-28-10)
With severe budget projections facing Texas next year, it makes sense to postpone the $800 million price tag for new history books, some legislators said....
A dozen historians and other experts took aim at the proposal, which the education board plans to adopt May 21.
Historians described the document as bloated with detail and a distortion of history that glorifies the achievements of white males. Board members made nearly 300 amendments, changing recommendations of the board's own experts so significantly that they may have violated state law, some lawmakers said....
More than 1,200 historians and professors have signed a letter asking the board to delay its process for a more transparent, fair, and inclusive curriculum.
Not much diversity
University of Texas at Austin history Professor Emilio Zamora and University of Texas at El Paso history Professor Keith Erekson circulated it among their colleagues across Texas and the United States.
Zamora called the proposed curriculum “very narrow and misinformed.”...
SOURCE: AOL News (4-26-10)
But Richard Rayner, a writer for The New Yorker, reports today that during his research Ambrose apparently had only limited access to Eisenhower, and that archived datebooks and other records conflict with some of the times Ambrose claimed he had sat down with the former five-star general....
"Ambrose's books on Eisenhower, like his other books, should be evaluated by scholars who are the most familiar with the sources on which those books are based," said David A. Hollinger, president of the Organization of American Historians. "If Ambrose's claims about Eisenhower stand up under such scrutiny, the apparent fact that Ambrose deceived us all about the degree of his intimacy with Eisenhower is not a major problem."
Dicier, Hollinger said, will be if details from the work turn out to be based solely on things that Ambrose claimed Eisenhower told him in the sessions that appear to have not taken place.
"This deceit does undercut any of Ambrose's claims that cannot be warranted by evidence other that what Ambrose says was told him by Eisenhower," said Hollinger, who teaches at the University of California, Berkeley. "Popular writers like Ambrose are under an obligation, no less than professional scholars who write for specialists, to be truthful. Ambrose's audience, too, deserves an accurate account of historical events."
SOURCE: NJ.com (4-24-10)
Their findings ended up as a new book, "A Secession Crisis Enigma," by Daniel Crofts, a professor of history who turned to David Holmes, professor of statistics, while looking for an answer to a longstanding question.
They wanted to determine who was the author of "The Diary of a Public Man," which was published anonymously in four installments in the 1879 "North American Review."
Crofts said the diary was really a memoir because no one could have been at all of the places the author purported to be at the time. The diary gave verbatim accounts of secret conversations of incoming President Abraham Lincoln and other significant figures in the government such as William H. Seward, Lincoln's secretary of state; Stephen Douglas, a wealthy political rival to Lincoln; and others in the tense weeks before the Civil War started.
Historians have struggled without success to name the diary's author and determine its authenticity, according to Crofts.
Crofts become interested in the topic in the early 1970s when one of his students, Ryan Christiansen, suggested that William Henry Hurlbert, an unconventional journalist, was the author. That piqued Crofts' interest, and the research project began....
"There were other contenders," said Holmes. "We quickly eliminated, and got it down to three or four. Samuel Ward and William Hulbert were the finalists. Some people argued for Ward but we felt strongly it was Hulbert.
"What it came to was my (statistical) analysis confirmed his (literary) analysis," Holmes said about his and Crofts' work....
SOURCE: Press Release (4-6-10)
Ernest Freeberg will receive the 2010 Eli M. Oboler Memorial Award, presented by the Intellectual Freedom Round Table (IFRT) of the American Library Association (ALA). Freeberg was selected for his book,“Democracy's Prisoner: Eugene V. Debs, the Great War, and the Right to Dissent” (Harvard University Press, 2008).
The award is named for the late Idaho University librarian Eli M. Oboler—famed as a “champion of intellectual freedom who demanded the dismantling of all barriers to freedom of expression.” The Intellectual Freedom Round Table of the American Library Association presents the award every two years for the best published work in the area of intellectual freedom.
Ernest Freeberg’s biographical study is a masterful account of the life of Eugene V. Debs that highlights the legal, political and social contexts of Debs’ influential career as labor union leader and political activist and the less well-known story of the impact of his case in extending the First Amendment’s support of the right to dissent.
Shortly after the U.S. entered World War I, Congress passed the Espionage Act of 1917, which made speaking out against the war a federal crime. In 1918 Socialist Party leader Eugene V. Debs gave a speech critical of U.S. involvement in the war. He was arrested under the Espionage Act for “obstructing military recruiting” and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Organized efforts on behalf of Debs resulted in both his release and the founding of the American Civil Liberties Union. Freeberg’s lively and detailed narrative of Debs’ career provides an excellent framework for understanding the ways in which Debs’ case legitimized dissent as an ethical stance supported by the First Amendment.
Formal presentation of the Eli M. Oboler Memorial Award will take place at the IFRT Awards Reception on Saturday, June 26th at the ALA Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.
The 2010 Eli Oboler Award Committee members are:
Christine A. Jenkins (Chair, 2008 - 2010)
Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
501 E. Daniel
Champaign, IL 61820
Robert P. Holley (Member, 2008 - 2010)
School of Library and Information Science
Wayne State University
5265 Cass Ave.
Detroit, MI 48202
Marguerite Ragnow (Member, 2008 - 2010)
James Ford Bell Library
462 Wilson Library
309 19th Ave. SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455
Carolyn Caywood (Member, 2009-2011)
Bayside & Special Services Library
936 Independence Blvd
Virginia Beach VA 23455
SOURCE: Cutting Edge News (4-26-10)
[Cutting Edge senior correspondent Martin Barillas edits Speroforum.com.]
Wikipedia posters continued to struggle with the campaign to delete information about IBM’s involvement in the Holocaust as contributors posted and reposted conflicting theories of what should and should not be allowed to appear in the Internet encyclopedia. Wikipedia is the massive online project anyone can edit at any time, generally using fictitious names. Key among the issues in contention was whether the word “Holocaust” was permissible in descriptions of IBM’s pivotal participation in Hitler’s destruction of six million Jews.
The information about IBM’s role in the Holocaust was originally brought to light in 2001 by author Edwin Black in his bestselling book IBM and the Holocaust. Despite numerous calls for an answer, the company has never denied the information. Various groups, from Gypsies to Jewish survivors, have sued IBM for its involvement, but all the cases have been dismissed.
Several weeks ago, Black and his work were targeted by anonymous IBM advocates on Wikipedia, openly supported by an official IBM archivist, who made a team effort to eliminate references to the Holocaust on the History of IBM article. At the same time, the group sought to delete or substantially alter the article on the book IBM and the Holocaust, and even targetedthe page devoted to author’s Black’s biography.
In the latest wave of edits, IBM advocates succeeded in inserting verbatim text from a 2001 IBM press release on the History of IBM article while eliminating the word “Holocaust.” Posters attempting to reinsert the term Holocaust were rebuffed, however one unnamed anonymous poster finally succeeded in getting the IBM press release language attributed and placed in a block quote. That could change at any time since Wikipedia changes can and do occur at any time.
At the same time, other Wikipedian editors bounced back and forth on whether they would permit a standard synopsis of the book IBM and the Holocaust, or whether they would permit the word “Holocaust” to be used altogether in the descriptive article about the book. Other posters declared that the book synopsis could be written at some point but it was decided no one would actually look at the book. Author Black entered the online discussion and offered to send the synopsis writers an electronic copy of the book to make a more informed summary. However, it was the anonymous consensus that the synopsis should be written without consulting the book. One poster called “Rd232” explained, “I don't really have the time.”
During one five-to-ten-minute series of moves, the article entry on Black’s book was moved back and forth from one location to another by contributors worried that readers would be misled that the book was actually about IBM’s role in the Holocaust. Ironically, Black’s award-winning book is solely devoted to IBM’s role in the Holocaust. A user named “Blaxthos” compared the notion of IBM involvement to the image of the “Man in the Moon.”
While some Wikipedia contributors were busy deleting Holocaust references, an editor using the assumed named “Ravensfire” turned his attention to recent Jewish-oriented content on the Wikipedia entry devoted to author Black’s published body of work. One poster had added to Black’s list of notable articles a recently syndicated feature on the disgraced kosher slaughterhouse operator, Sholom Rubashkin. Shortly after the article had been added, Ravensfire deleted it saying its addition to Black’s list of articles could not be justified. Ravensfire’s rationale could not be ascertained.
Earlier, Black’s biographical article was tagged with two labels “American Jew” and “weasel,” which was linked to a large cartoon of a weasel. Black objected to the notion that he was being denigrated as an “American Jew weasel.” At that point, another poster named “Fred the Oyster” joked on Wikipedia: “I wonder what colour an American Jewish weasel is, and are they similar to a circumcised ferret?” Ultimately “Fred the Oyster” was found to be a previous banned user named “Webhamster” who was found to have been threatening others. Wikipedia administrators indefinitely blocked the newest identity of “Fred the Oyster.” The labels were ultimately removed from Black’s biographical page with the explanation that the intent was to label Black as an American Jew and one who uses “weasel words.”
At some point in the weekend exchanges, Black entered the online discussion himself to offer information, documentation or book material to any Wikipedia poster. After he did so, his computer was blocked for three months by a Wikipedia administrator named “Chase me Ladies, I'm the Calvary.” On his public user page “Chase me Ladies, I'm the Calvary ” warns that he is a serving member of the British Navy and possibly subject to prosecution if his superior officers learn of his actions. His warning, found at the bottom of the page, states: “By communicating with me, you agree that I may republish your communication in any forum whatsoever, and that you irrevocably release all rights to the communication to me. This is in order to ensure a transparent communications stream, and is for the protection of all parties concerned. This is due to the increasing number of abusive emails sent to my personal email account. This does not affect your ability to contact me, however, abusive mails will be reported to both Wikimedia Foundation and legal authorities. Please also note that as I am in the forces, threatening to report me to my superiors for something I do may leave me liable to prosecution under the Armed Forces Act 2006 and/or the Naval Discipline Act, or other laws which do not apply to civilians, and thus falls under our no legal threats policy. Breaking this policy will result in an immediate ban from the English Wikipedia until the threat is withdrawn, or the legal action is completed.”
“Chase me Ladies, I'm the Calvary” offers a public photo of himself on Wikipedia that appears to be manning a naval gun. However, at press time, the claims by “Chase me Ladies, I'm the Calvary” of his official status in the British Navy had not yet been authenticated with British naval authorities either in the United States or Britain, although a response was expected soon.
SOURCE: Independent (UK) (4-25-10)
In 1997, the American historian Richard Pipes claimed that Figes had "quoted copiously but not always generously" from his own book, Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime, pointing out seven examples in Figes's book A People's Tragedy that, he claimed, bore resemblance to his own. The Sunday Times reported the allegations, but ultimately was obliged to print an apology to Figes. Figes then wrote a piece explaining the similarities, saying, "There are bound to be minor similarities of expression in two such large works on the same subject."
In 2002, the Cambridge historian Rachel Polonsky wrote a review of Figes's book in The Times Literary Supplement in which she accused him of inaccuracies, factual errors, misreadings, cavalier appropriation of sources and a general intellectual irresponsibility. Figes subsequently defended his record, but, according to Polonsky, misquoted his own book. When Polonsky wrote to point out that he had not quoted his own work in full, she was told the TLS would not be publishing her letter and the matter was dropped.
An American academic, Priscilla Roosevelt, said yesterday she had written to complain to Figes about his apparent use of sources from her book Life on the Russian Country Estate in his award-winning A People's Tragedy, some of which were so obscure she could not believe he had come across them himself. "You can't prove these things absolutely, but the experience left me shocked and demoralised," she said. "He sent me a one-line response."...
SOURCE: Times Online (UK) (4-25-10)
[Oliver Kamm is a leader writer and columnist at The Times. He was previously an investment banker and co-founder of an asset management firm.]
'One of Britain’s leading historians has admitted posting poisonous anonymous reviews of his rivals’ work on Amazon’s website, lying to his lawyer and letting his wife take the blame.
'Orlando Figes said that he had “panicked” and was “ashamed” of his behaviour. He has gone on sick leave from his job at Birkbeck College. His confession is the latest twist in a saga marked by a flurry of legal threats that has transfixed academic, literary and media circles.'
Figes's behaviour is darker than mere idiosyncrasy. The heart of it is not the anonymous reviews: it is to have threatened legal action against a newspaper (the TLS) and other historians to prevent them from making statements that he knew to be true....
Libel law exists to protect reputation from damaging statements that are false, not damaging statements that have justification or are otherwise fair comment. I've had minor experience (and it was not terrifying) of the type of person who doesn't observe this distinction, and I thought immediately of examining the history of edits in the entry on Orlando Figes in that great scholarly resource Wikipedia. I make no comment on this, but I point it out.
In 2007, a Wikipedia user called "Orlandofiges" created two sock-puppet accounts, called "DavidPricesolicitors" and "Penguinchristie". David Price is Figes's solicitor. Sarah Christie was publicity manager at Penguin Books, Figes's publisher. "Orlandofiges" edited the entry on Orlando Figes using all of these accounts betweeen 22 and 24 October 2007. The edits have a predictable pattern to them: "Figes's mastery of the big narrative and his literary style have won many prizes and critical acclaim", and so on. The description "a historian of Russia" is amended to "one of the world's leading historians of Russia". The sock puppet "DavidPricesolicitors" weighs in to remove a statement that is "false and defamatory" about the subject....
SOURCE: The Daily Mail (UK) (4-23-10)
But now, in an astonishing twist to the saga, I can reveal that the offending reviews on Amazon were not, after all, written by Figes’s wife, Stephanie, herself a Cambridge University law lecturer....
In a startling admission, which will put to rest the minds of those attacked — who all feared libel writs were on their way — Figes tells me it was in fact he who posted the anonymous critiques, and not his wife.
‘I take full responsibility,’ he says. ‘I have made some foolish errors and apologise wholeheartedly to all concerned. In particular, I am sorry for the distress I have caused to Rachel Polonsky and Robert Service. I also apologise to my lawyer, to whom I gave incorrect information.’
The extraordinary mea culpa goes on: ‘I am ashamed of my behaviour and don’t entirely understand why I acted as I did. It was stupid. Some of the reviews I now see were small-minded and ungenerous, but they were not intended to harm.’
I understand that Figes’s wife, a mother of twin girls, took the blame for her husband in an effort to protect him....
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Education (4-23-10)
In 2002, Ambrose was accused of lifting passages for The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s over Germany from the work of the historian Thomas Childers. Citing faulty citations, Ambrose apologized, and his publisher promised to put the sentences in question in quotes in future editions. But shortly after, other accusations arose: about passages in books like his Crazy Horse and Custer, Citizen Soldiers, and a volume of his three-volume biography Nixon. Ambrose responded that the relevant material was cited in his footnotes....
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (4-23-10)
In a statement released to the Daily Mail the professor of history at London's Birkbeck College said that he takes "full responsibility" for what he called "foolish errors".
The story began when historians began to notice a series of reviews on the shopping site which praised Figes's own books and attacked those of his colleagues. Comments posted under the alias "orlando-birkbeck" and "Historian" called Rachel Polonsky's book Molotov's Magic Lantern "hard to follow" and Robert Service's history of communism, Comrades, "awful", while praising Figes's study of Soviet family life, The Whisperers as "a fascinating book ... [that] leaves the reader awed, humbled, yet uplifted".
According to a diary column in the TLS, after Service raised the matter with his colleagues in an email early last week he received first an email from Figes, suggesting that the two could "mend their relations", and then a letter from Figes's lawyer, David Price, suggesting that "the originator" of the story about Amazon reviews "ie you, is liable for republications by the media"....
SOURCE: Crikey (AU) (4-19-10)
As Australians prepare to pay tribute to the country’s fallen soldiers, La Trobe University Emeritus Scholar Inga Clendinnen has declared war on a controversial new book What’s Wrong With Anzac? The militarisation of Australian history.
Clendinnen told Crikey that she was “shocked” by the book, which describes the day’s festivities as a “myth”, claiming co-author Mark McKenna had “failed” to sufficiently acknowledge Anzac Day academic doyen Ken Inglis.
The stoush reflects a bitter split between historians over the significance of Anzac Day, with personal accounts of public mourning favoured by Clendinnen and Inglis contrasted with broader arguments that emphasise the deliberate reconstruction of the day by governments.
In McKenna’s chapter, entitled “Anzac Day: how did it become Australia’s national day?”, the University of New South Wales associate professor writes provocatively that “the ‘resurgence’ of Anzac Day…stands at the vanguard of a new wave of patriotism in twenty-first century Australia, [that] emerged out of the politics of nationalism in the 1980s.”
But while Inglis is cited in the footnotes, Clendinnen, who was tutored by Inglis at Melbourne University in the 1950s, says his response to previous versions of McKenna’s argument are deliberately granted short shrift — a serious allegation in academic circles.
“I was shocked actually, I shot down to the bookshop to pick up a copy when I heard about it. Historians have standards and I couldn’t believe it. Ken is the major scholar in this area but he hasn’t been properly referenced....
SOURCE: Forbes (4-21-10)
In China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know, just published by Oxford University Press, Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom provides answers to a wide range of commonly asked questions about the world's most populous country. The excerpt below describes two of the topics the book addresses: nationalism and the web.
What is the role of the Internet in political dissent?
Many bloggers are not interested in promoting political change yet remain passionate about being able to express their opinions about topics that interest them and to follow stories that strike them as important. Depending on the issue, they may end up writing things that line up very neatly with official government positions or veer off markedly from these.
A good example of this came in the months before the Olympics. In March and April 2008, government spokesmen often complained about Western protesters causing disruptions during segments of the torch relay (e.g., when a Chinese torch-bearer was roughed up by a crowd in Paris, and when "Free Tibet" banners were unfurled in Europe and the United States). Many bloggers in the [People's Republic of China] PRC echoed this patriotic sentiment, and indeed, sometimes used much more vitriolic language to denigrate the foreigners interfering with China's Olympic moment.
And yet, when a devastating earthquake hit Sichuan [province] that May and the torch run continued, the official press initially ran stories about the natural catastrophe alongside upbeat ones about the Olympic flame's welcome in the PRC.
But some of the same bloggers who had been in step with the government propaganda did an about-face. How could anyone who claimed to care about the nation, they asked, continue the torch run and celebratory activities when so many of the people of that nation were suffering? The tone of many posts became critical of the regime, as bloggers called for a moratorium on the relay, a sign both of how complex a force nationalism can be and why the categories of dissident and loyalist are incomplete....
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (4-21-10)
In a broadcast aimed at provoking an anti-Semitic uprising in Egypt, he said: "A large number of Jews who live in Egypt, along with Poles, Greeks, Armenians and Frenchmen, have guns and ammunition.
"Some Jews in Cairo have even asked the British authorities to set up machine guns on the roofs of their houses," he claimed.
But the Nazi's wartime broadcasts had remained a largely hidden chapter in the history of the war until the transmissions were unearthed by a US scholar, who believes they have fuelled continuing unrest in the Middle East.
"The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians would have been over long ago were it not for the uncompromising, religiously inspired hatred of the Jews that was articulated and given assistance by Nazi propagandists and continued after the war by Islamists of various sorts," said Jeffrey Herf, a history professor at the University of Maryland.
In his new book, "Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World", Mr Herf argues that Nazi propagandists offered a message that neatly dovetailed with underlying prejudice....
SOURCE: CBC News (4-22-10)
On the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970, millions of people across the U.S. went to large public rallies, listened to political speeches, took part in teach-ins, went to concerts and educational fairs, and helped to clean up their communities. Air and water pollution, nuclear testing and loss of wilderness were major concerns.
Some university students in New York City donned gas masks and smelled flowers to show not only their love of nature but also their fear of impending ecological collapse. Richard Nixon was U.S. president. The '60s were over, but the environmental movement was just finding its voice.
"It was a beautiful spring day in most of the United States, and it had a very festive quality to it," says Finis Dunaway, associate professor of history at Trent University in Peterborough, Ont. Dunaway, born in the U.S., is writing a book on the history of environmentalism.
Finis Dunaway, a Trent University professor, is writing a book on the history of the environmental movement.Finis Dunaway, a Trent University professor, is writing a book on the history of the environmental movement. (Finis Dunaway)
"Partly due to its celebratory quality and universal appeal, it was something that the media gave a lot of attention to and celebrated it as a day that might bring the nation together."
Earth Day was presented then, through media images, as a "non-threatening form of politics," but despite its mainstream appeal, it was far more than simply white middle class people picking up litter, Dunaway says.
And 40 years later, he says it still has the potential to encourage individual people to take small steps to protect the environment in their daily lives.
Dunaway says Earth Day also has, over the years, gained enormous corporate support. Unfortunately, he says, it has in the process marginalized important environment issues, such as lead poisoning in inner U.S. cities. And with its focus on individual action, it puts no pressure on governments and corporations to change their ways.
SOURCE: Independent (UK) (4-20-10)
Two centuries after John Keats nearly gave up writing poetry after a damning review of his first collection was published in Blackwoods magazine, an anonymous online review is at the centre of this poison-pen scandal. Among the people involved are a dozen authors and academics, several professors of history at the UK's top universities, one distinguished academic lawyer, two libel lawyers, two literary magazines and a fictional character called Natasha from Tolstoy's War and Peace.
The story concerning the mystery of the reviews broke last week in the Times Literary Supplement, the scrupulously ethical journal of book reviews and cultural evaluation. In his back-page notebook, "NB", James Campbell discussed a review that had appeared on Amazon, of Molotov's Magic Lantern by Rachel Polonsky. It wasn't crazy about the book. In fact it gave it a good kicking: "This is the sort of book that makes you wonder why it was ever published... Her writing is so dense and pretentious, itself so tangled in literary allusions, that it is hard to follow."...
The TLS was published on Thursday. On Friday, the Figes story was picked up by the London Review of Books, which revealed that "orlando-birkbeck" had also rubbished The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale, which topped the bestseller
charts in 2008 and won a prize ("Oh dear, what on earth were the judges thinking when they gave this book the Samuel Johnson prize?" "orlando-birkbeck" wrote) for which Orlando Figes had been coincidentally shortlisted....
It was an extraordinary turn of events, and continues to beg several questions. How had Mr Figes known nothing until the day before? How had Ms Palmer kept quiet about being the author of several reviews that praised Figes's books and damned his rivals'? How could a high-flying lawyer, with a reputation for work in human rights, be involved in such underhand behaviour?
And should Amazon continue to allow anonymous reviewers to snipe at authors unchecked, when they could be pursuing a similarly malign agenda? "What possible justification can there be," asked the novelist and Independent columnist Philip Hensher yesterday, "for a blog of book reviews, or the reviews on Amazon, to remain anonymous, unless to conceal improper interests?"
Except, of course, that anonymity used to be the norm in literary assessment. "Anonymity doesn't necessarily produce bad behaviour," said Sir Peter Stothard. "Reviews in the TLS used to be anonymous and it was often argued that reviewers could be more honest if their work was unsigned. But the real issue is – and I feel very strongly about this – the willingness of some writers to use legal intimidation in order to suppress comment." Professor Figes is currently stranded in Italy, and is unavailable for comment.
SOURCE: Tenured Radical (Blog) (4-19-10)
to thousands of young women and men who otherwise might not have remained in college or gone on to academic careers.
She made thousands of phone calls on behalf of students, fellow faculty members, (especially the scores of adjuncts that she hired for one or two semesters over the years) abused women, homeless waifs, and even an occasional administrator. The story is told that a former dean complained about the phone bill for the department until he was told that he owed his own position to a phone call Sharon had made in his defense. Sharon never turned away anyone in need. She couldn?t solve every problem, but she was willing to make that phone call to someone who might.
Sharon was brilliant, but never dismissive or condescending of any of us who were not. Her ribald sense of humor is legendary. She loved to laugh, occasionally at herself, but seldom in mockery of others. I have often told the story of her defusing a very tense situation at Tokyo's Narita Airport. Standing amid a very angry group of travelers who were intent on strangling a particularly obtuse airline factotum, Sharon said in sotto voce "Leave him alone, the guy is a soup short of a teishoku!" We laughed until it hurt.
Never at a loss for words, when asked about a particularly dark, peaty, single malt scotch, she opined that it "Tastes like it was aged in an old sweat sock."
She always claimed that she was "far too busy living" to write much more than her award-winning seminal work Flowers in Salt: Beginnings of Feminist Consciousness in Modern Japan (Stanford University Press, 1983 --still in print!). A generation later she penned a popular women's history textbook with fellow historian Barbara Ramusack, Women in Asia: Restoring Women to History (Indiana University Press, 1999). When asked why she chose to write the half of the textbook devoted to the women of China, Japan and Korea (Ramusack wrote the half devoted to South and Southeast Asia) she sighed and said "I guess I got tired of waiting for someone else to do it." Hundreds of my students have read Sharon's half over the past decade.
Sharon was also a poet and photographer, a fan of classical music and raconteur. She always laughed that she was a "Plain Plains Girl." She was born May 27, 1938 the Daughter of the late Celia (Pahl) and Edwin Walter Sievers of Scottsbluff, Nebraska. She began her education with a bachelor's degree at Augustana College in South Dakota, then a Master's in History at the University of Nebraska, finishing with her doctorate at Stanford University in 1969, a year after she began her teaching career at CSULB.
She is survived by her life partner Eugenia Odell of Long Beach, sister Beverly Hall of Tacoma, WA, dear friend Maylene Wong of San Francisco, and many grieving friends, former students and colleagues all over the world. We'll not see the likes of her again.
A memorial service is scheduled for 4 p.m., Saturday, May 8, 2010, at St. Luke's Episcopal Church of Long Beach, 525 E. 7th Street, Long Beach. Interment will be in her native Scottsbluff, Nebraska. Donations in Sharon's memory may be made to the Sievers Scholars Program, c/o Department of History, CSULB, 1250 Bellflower Boulevard, Long Beach, CA 90840.
SOURCE: The New Yorker (4-26-10)
In Ambrose’s oft-repeated telling of the tale, Eisenhower contacted him after reading his biography of Henry Wager Halleck, Abraham Lincoln’s chief of staff. “I’d walk in to interview him, and his eyes would lock on mine and I would be there for three hours and they never left my eyes,” Ambrose told C-SPAN. “I was teaching at Johns Hopkins and going up two days a week to Gettysburg to work with him in his office.”
Last November, Tim Rives, the deputy director of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, in Abilene, Kansas, moderated a panel that celebrated Ambrose’s writings, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the completion of his two-volume Eisenhower biography, a work that is still regarded as the standard. Rives was looking for items to put on display at the event when he came across previously unpublished source materials that debunk the Boswellian tale that Ambrose loved to tell....
Ambrose continued to draw on his supposed Eisenhower interviews in subsequent books, including the two-volume biography, although in the later footnotes the specific dates were replaced with vaguer notations, such as “Interview with DDE.” As the citations grew more nebulous, the range of subjects that the interviews allegedly covered grew wider: the Rosenberg case, Dien Bien Phu, Douglas MacArthur, J.F.K., quitting smoking, the influence of Eisenhower’s mother, Brown v. Board of Education, and so on.
Tim Rives, who still considers himself an Ambrose fan in spite of these discoveries and the various brushes with plagiarism that Ambrose had later in his career, said, “The discussion of so many diverse subjects in less than three hours strains credulity.” He pointed out how minutely Eisenhower’s busy schedule was documented. “He answered letters for the first hour of the day, before receiving guests,” he said. “On doctor’s orders, he napped after lunch. He greeted more visitors after his nap, or took telephone calls, which could reach more than three thousand a month. A quick round of golf might follow the workday.” He went on, “This full schedule demanded that anyone wanting an appointment with him needed to begin the process months ahead of time. His declining health also limited access, especially for scholars. He simply didn’t see that much of Stephen Ambrose.”
SOURCE: The Nation (4-20-10)
Stephen Ambrose, the best-selling historian who wrote or edited more than a dozen books about Eisenhower as general and president, based his fame in large part on what he said were his interviews with Ike – but now, eight years after Ambrose's death, an official at the Eisenhower Library in Abeline says the interviews never took place.
In his first and biggest Ike book, "The Supreme Commander," published in 1970, Ambrose listed nine interviews with the former president. But according to Richard Rayner of The New Yorker, that's not true. The deputy director of the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene, Kansas, Tim Rives, told Rayer that Ike saw Ambrose only three times, for a total of less than five hours, and that the two men were never alone together.
Ambrose wrote more books about Ike after "The Supreme Commander," including a two-volume biography. As the books got longer, the footnotes got fuzzier – instead of specific dates, readers found footnotes reading simply "Interview DE." But "as the citations grew more nebulous," Rayner writes, "the range of subjects that the interviews allegedly covered grew wider: the Rosenberg case, Dien Bien Phu, Douglas MacArthur, J.F.K., quitting smoking, the influence of Eisenhower's mother, Brown v. Board of Education."
It turns out Ambrose was making it up. You might call that "lying."...
SOURCE: NYT (4-20-10)
Behind the coils of barbed wire and battle-ready troops in the city’s financial district, someone has been poking fun at him, putting up signs that say, “Thaksin Shinawatra, president of a New Thai State.” It is a sensitive point for Mr. Thaksin and his red shirt movement, which has been accused of seeking to turn Thailand’s constitutional monarchy into a republic as it challenges the country’s established power structure....
“My guess is that leadership is now quite distributed because this sort of protest needs very hands-on leadership on the ground, so he cannot microdirect in any way,” said Chris Baker, a British historian and author of books about Mr. Thaksin. “Because of that, my feeling is that control has shifted significantly over the past month, and his interventions just seem to be expressions of support rather than strategic or tactical.”...
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (4-18-10)
Mr Figes had initially denied any knowledge of the reviewer who used the pseudonym "Historian" and wrote glowing comments about his own books.
But following an angry exchange of emails and lawyers' letters with fellow historians, professor Robert Service, a fellow of St Anthony's College, Oxford, and Dr Rachel Polonsky, he yesterday issued a statement saying his wife, Dr Stephanie Palmer, a leading law lecturer at Cambridge University, had admitted responsibility.
The row has sent shock waves through the normally genteel world of academia as claim and counter-claim have been circulated by email to other top writers....
Dr Polonsky alerted Prof Service to her suspicions on Monday last week. By Tuesday morning the offending reviews by 'Historian' had been deleted from the site and a cached copy is all that remains.
However Prof Service still sent a furious email to more than a dozen other authors and academics including Antony Beevor, Norman Davies and Julian Jackson, professor of history at Queen Mary, University of London – saying the online reviews were "a way of tearing up someone's reputation".
He described them as "unpleasant personal attacks in the old Soviet fashion" and "a very rum business", adding: "Gorbachev banned anonimki from being used in the USSR as a way of tearing up someone's reputation. Now the grubby practice has sprouted up here....
The saga then took a dramatic twist on Frifay night when Prof Figes' lawyer, David Price, issued a statement: "My client's wife wrote the reviews. My client has only just found out about this, this evening. Both he and his wife are taking steps to make the position clear."
Mr Price said neither Prof Figes nor Dr Palmer, an Australian-born barrister at Blackstone chambers and a fellow of Girton College, Cambridge, would not be commenting further.
Award-winning novelist and cultural commentator Norman Lebrecht said the row was "unprecedented". He said: "This cuts to the heart of the shady pseudonymous culture of Amazon reviews. This is a real breakthrough, an unprecedented triumph for truth and transparency online."...
SOURCE: Medieval News (4-16-10)
Professor Ó Maolalaigh, who is also head of Celtic and Gaelic, said: “It is a huge honour to be named as the first ever established Chair of Gaelic in Scotland by the University of Glasgow. This underlines the university’s commitment to supporting the language and enhancing the cultural life of Scotland.
“The creation of the new Chair consolidates Glasgow’s status as the major urban home of Gaelic education, where it is possible to learn and study the language from nursery to post-doctoral level.”
Professor Murray Pittock, Bradley Professor of English Literature and Dean of Arts at the University of Glasgow, added: ‘I am delighted to be able to announce the first ever established Chair of Gaelic at a Scottish university.
“Glasgow has taken a lead in Gaelic education and this appointment emphasises the faculty’s commitment to the outstanding research taking place in Celtic and Gaelic as part of our mission to bring the world to Scotland and Scotland to the world.”
Arthur Cormack, Chairman of Bòrd na Gàidhlig, the body set up by the Scottish Government to promote Gaelic, said: “Bòrd na Gàidhlig warmly welcomes this ground-breaking initiative by the University of Glasgow which gives the city’s historical associations with Gaelic a new impetus.
“Glasgow has always been a city of opportunity for Gaelic. The endorsement from such a venerable institution is a clear indication of the value that is increasingly being placed on Gaelic.
“The University has established itself as a world leader in Celtic and Gaelic education and research. It is entirely fitting that Professor Roibeard Ó Maolalaigh be appointed as the first occupant of this Chair as he has done much over the years to further advance the cause of Gaelic both nationally and internationally.”
Minister for Skills and Lifelong Learning Keith Brown said: “This is very good news. This decision demonstrates Glasgow’s clear commitment to this important aspect of our heritage and raises the status of the Gaelic language in Scottish higher education. This is also very encouraging for all those involved at all levels in Gaelic promotion in the University, and in Scottish education generally.
“I would also like to commend the University authorities for this step and to offer my congratulations, (meal do naidheachd) to Professor O’ Maolalaigh on his appointment to this new Chair.”
Dublin-born Professor Ó Maolalaigh has been at the University of Glasgow since January 2005. He was previously Assistant Professor at the School of Celtic Studies, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, and a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh. He is Director of the British Academy-funded Digital Archive of Scottish Gaelic project, which seeks to establish an online archive which will form the basis of future corpus and technological developments of the Gaelic language.
Professor Ó Maolalaigh is also involved in the £5 million SRDG project, Soillse, involving the Universities of Edinburgh, Aberdeen and the University of the Highlands and Islands, which is developing a research capacity for the maintenance and revitalisation of Gaelic in Scotland. He was also responsible for the creation of the Gaelic Language Officer post at the University of Glasgow, the first post of its kind in Scotland.
A Chair of Gaelic Studies was established in 1983 at St Francis Xavier University, Antoginish, Canada, and has been occupied by Professor Kenneth E Nilsen since 1984. He has worked closely with the Department of Celtic and Gaelic at Glasgow.
The Chair of Celtic at the University of Glasgow was established in 1956. It is currently occupied by Professor Thomas Clancy.