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: College of William & Mary (7-15-10)
George Healy (Photo courtesy of the Special Collections Research Center)George Healy (Photo courtesy of the Special Collections Research Center)
George Healy joined William & Mary as professor of history and vice president for academic affairs in 1971. He became provost in 1979, a post he held for seven years. George was also William & Mary's acting president for six months in 1985 between the presidencies of Tom Graves and Paul Verkuil. He retired in 1986 and was honored with the Thomas Jefferson Award.
Dr. Healy provided strong leadership as William & Mary moved toward a greater emphasis on research while retaining as well the College's traditional commitment to teaching. He was a man of sterling character whom colleagues trusted even in moments of disagreement. Upon his retirement, our Board of Visitors said George exemplified to an extraordinary degree "humaneness, civility, judgment, and integrity in a demanding position."...
SOURCE: Hot Indie News (7-19-10)
Fourteen million out of work! Sixteen notable economists and historians have joined in a consensus statement for The Daily Beast demanding urgent action on unemployment and the faltering recovery. Joseph Stiglitz, Alan Blinder, Robert Reich, Richard Parker, Derek Shearer, Laura Tyson, Sir Harold Evans, and other thought leaders have produced a manifesto calling for more government stimulus and tax credits to put America back to work....
Daniel Kevles is the former faculty chair at California Institute of Technology and serves as a professor of history at Yale University.
David Reynolds is an international history professor and fellow at Christ’s College in Cambridge. His latest book is America, Empire of Liberty: A New History of the United States
Lizabeth Cohen is the Howard Mumford Jones Professor of American Studies in the History Department at Harvard University, and author of Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919-1939....
Sean Wilentz is the Sidney and Ruth Lapidus Professor in the American Revolutionary Era at Princeton. His book, The Rise of American Democracy: From Jefferson to Lincoln, won the 2006 Bancroft Prize....
Simon Schama The author and host of the BBC documentary A History of Britain, Simon Schama is a historian who teaches at Columbia University.
SOURCE: Earth Times (7-20-10)
A collection of 21 essays authored by an impressive bipartisan list of historians, political figures, scholars and journalists, that includes Senator John Kerry, former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, Governors M. Jodi Rell (CT) and James Douglas (VT), Ward Connerly, founder/chairman of the American Civil Rights Institute, and Jerry Wallace, Presidential archivist, among others, Why Coolidge Matters reflects a common denominator: President Coolidge’s civility, integrity, even-handedness and scrupulous attention to propriety provides much wisdom that can be applied to present day politics....
SOURCE: Coventry Telegraph (UK) (7-19-10)
More than 7,000 British and Australian soldiers died, were wounded or taken prisoner during the First World War battle in Northern France.
Bodies of the dead soldiers were buried in six mass graves by the Germans but the names of many of these remain unknown....
SOURCE: Vancouver Sun (7-20-10)
The show, which on July 25 enters its fourth season, is set in the golden age of Madison Avenue -- a time when chain-smoking was in, gender equality was out, and the talk was as smooth as the Scotch. Thankfully, though, it's Mad Men's slick 1960s style -- not its louche social mores -- that's left a wingtip-shaped footprint on pop culture.
Taken together, New York University's Jonathan Zimmerman says viewers aren't watching Mad Men because it affirms any secret sexism they might harbour, but rather because the show enables a kind of self-congratulation.
"The well-to-do pride themselves on their notions of gender equality," says Zimmerman, a professor of history and culture. "They look especially at Mad Men's gender roles and say: 'My goodness, wasn't it barbaric back then?'"
The show's heady visceral appeal has also been vital to its pop-phenom status, with the fashions, props and sets having become characters unto themselves.
"Nostalgia is a profound emotion that affects us in a guttural way," says Zimmerman, a fan of the AMC series. "With just a shot of a corridor or a desk or a type of car, baby boomers can quite literally relive their youth."...
SOURCE: Jim Clifford at ActiveHistory.ca (7-14-10)
The history community lost a great teacher, scholar and active historian this week. I had the pleasure of knowing Dr. Feldberg during my first year at York. She was one of the professors in a graduate course on the history of science, health and the environment. I learned a lot from her as a teacher and from her book, Disease and Class: Tuberculosis and the Shaping of Modern North American Society. A few weeks after I last met with her, I heard she had been diagnosed with cancer. This came as a big shock to all of us in the history of medicine field and particularly to a number of my friends who Feldberg supervised. Sadly, she finally lost her four year long battle with this disease, leaving behind her husband and daughter.
In reading about her death and listening to the kind words said about her at the funeral, it occurred to me that Dr. Feldberg’s work provides a model for active history. She wrote an award winning monograph about the social history of tuberculosis and a number of important articles on gender and health, but she also argued for the importance of engagement with current health policy development. A York article published after Feldberg, Kathryn McPherson, Molly Ladd-Taylor and Alison Li completed a major Wellcome Institute Grant, included her thoughts on the value of history in shaping current policy:
‘Medical history is a really important contributor to current health policy,’ says Feldberg. ‘If we want policy to be effective we need to know why it looks the way that it looks and how we can change it.’
For instance, if the federal government had looked to the past before it drafted its new reproductive legislation, it might not be proposing to make it a crime to pay egg donors and surrogate child bearers. ‘We know from the history of abortion that the Criminal Code has never served women well,’ says Feldberg. ‘It doesn’t stop practices, it only drives them underground and makes them unsafe.’
A few years earlier Feldberg wrote an op-ed for the York Gazette on the reemergence of infectious disease in the late twentieth century and the used her knowledge of the history of TB to contextualize the social response to AIDS and the return of TB. Here is the concluding paragraph:
The history of efforts to control TB and of attitudes toward the disease help to explain its resurgence and that of other infections. The historical parallels between TB and AIDS also challenge us to recognize the consequences of the interplay between disease, class, social policy and health policy. In the cases of both AIDS and TB, responses to patterns of infection must be examined from both scientific and social perspectives, and the socio-political determinants and consequences of health policies should be considered.
Feldberg also weighed into the Canadian health care debate in the 1990s and wrote an article in the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law on the use of medical evidence in rape trials. Together these few examples demonstrate Feldberg’s work to link historical research with current issues during her tragically short academic career. I hope her efforts to understand the past and contribute to the present will live on as people continue to read her book and articles.
SOURCE: Peter Zarrow at The China Beat (Blog) (7-16-10)
Wang Hui is a cultural historian and critic, and professor at Qinghua University in Beijing. He was for several years editor of Dushu, a serious general interest magazine perhaps roughly — very roughly — equivalent to the Atlantic monthly in the US. He is also known as a leader of the so-called “New Left” intellectuals, who highlight the costs of economic liberalization, global capitalism, and rigid Western-style modernization policies. Early this year, charges of plagiarism began to appear concerning some of some of Wang Hui’s work. He has since been subject to numerous attacks, including ad hominen blog attacks.
This month I signed a letter/petition that was organized by several Western scholars who know Wang Hui and his work. The letter was sent to Qinghua University and defends Wang Hui’s “scholarly integrity.”
This week I received an email from somebody whose name I didn’t recognize. This person asked if I was aware that my name was on a letter of support for Wang Hui in his plagiarism case, and forthrightly asked, “How would you know if Wang did plagiarize or not?”
Good question, but it is not the main issue to me. Our letter does not, technically, state that its signers are sure Wang did not commit plagiarism. What it says is that those “charges have been contested and discredited” and that his translators in the West and Japan have “never found any indication of plagiarism no matter how loosely this word is defined.” Granted, this does come close to categorically denying the plagiarism charges — but not quite.
What follows are my opinions alone, and I do not speak for any of the organizers or other signatories of the letter to Qinghua. Much of the discussion of the case, especially but not only in the West, has dealt with the academic-political context, and suggests that the “real reason” Wang Hui came under attack was his political opinions. I do not know enough about Chinese academic politics to have an opinion on that issue; my concerns are simply about “due process” and the essential ambiguity of plagiarism.
For me, as a wishy-washy liberal, the issue is that Wang Hui should not become victim of an academic witch-hunt. Or to switch metaphors, judging from my browsing of the internet, I do not want to see web lynching or a media circus. There is something truly weird about many of the attacks. I am not sure whether Wang Hui has ever committed “plagiarism.”
So what is to be done? Plagiarism charges are serious and should be investigated by impartial scholars familiar with the materials. In the United States, in my profession, the American Historical Association has conducted such investigations through its Professional Division.
For the record, I have met Wang Hui briefly, on one occasion at a conference. About two years ago, I began reading his 4-volume Xiandai Zhongguo sixiang de xingqi (2004) to my considerable gain and occasional befuddlement. I have not read his earlier work on Lu Xun, which is the main target of the plagiarism charges. One of my colleagues alerted me to the plagiarism debate when it began popping up on Chinese websites, so I have been following it for some time. (My colleague and I have also discussed why, of all the substantial work being done in China today, Wang Hui’s should have attracted unique attention in the West. Doubtless this has to do with scholarly trends, academic fads, personal relations — issues beyond the scope of this piece.)
It’s always fun to play academic “gotcha,” and indeed we scholars collectively rely on our mutual surveillance system to weed out bad work. This highlighting of the issue of plagiarism may have good effects in China in the long run. On the other hand, our letter to Qinghua has already provoked a reaction on some Chinese blogs that I would call defensive parochialism. Who are these foreigners to interfere in a Chinese affair? Why are they covering up Wang Hui’s “crimes”?
But it is important to keep some perspective. Our letter to Qinghua does not oppose calls for an investigation. It notes our belief in the essential importance (and, yes, “integrity”) of Wang Hui’s work and decries the way charges and enemies’ lists are proliferating.
I have read Wang Binbin’s original article, which shows that several paragraphs of Wang Hui’s dissertation on Lu Xun were copied/paraphrased from Western theoretical works with at most a vague “See X” kind of citation. I have seen less-documented charges of plagiarism concerning some of Wang’s other works. My understanding is that the publications that printed Wang Binbin’s article did not ask Wang Hui for a response; if this is the case, it would seem to be a lapse of professional standards on their part.
In historical perspective, if I may digress as a historian, Chinese scholarship has consisted of nothing so much as what we today call plagiarism. It advanced by the battle of the unattributed quotation. Quotation vs. quotation: one’s own position was revealed by the classical and post-classical quotations one chose to repeat, chose to neglect, and tweaked slightly. One’s interlocutors, being equally well educated, didn’t need to be guided to the source. Among modern intellectuals, my hero Liang Qichao was perhaps the greatest plagiarist of them all.
The point? To put it a bit simply, vague standards of what constituted plagiarism existed at least through the 1980s, when Wang Hui was writing his dissertation. Now, even Wang’s most die-hard supporters admit he was guilty of sloppy footnoting. I can further see the case of calling it plagiarism — depending on what you mean by that term. What Wang apparently did leaves me distinctly uncomfortable. I am not prepared to see him purely as a victim (not yet, anyway).
But I am not prepared to say, with some scholars, that Wang Hui absolutely committed the academic crime of plagiarism. Nor am I prepared to say, with other of my colleagues, that he certainly did not. In the absence of a real investigation, I am ready to conclude that size does matter. A few paragraphs at the beginning of a vastly productive career need to be understood in context.
One question I have asked myself is, suppose this were a case of a Western scholar at a Western institution. It is discovered s/he translated several paragraphs from another language in his/her dissertation and — sort of — seemed to write as if they were his/her own words. He or she is a tenured member of the faculty at a prestigious university with a rich record of publishing in their academic field and outside of it as well. Yes, now what? In American Historical Association investigations of plagiarism charges, there were real consequences: some people lost their jobs and some publications were withdrawn, but only after the texts in questions were literally laid out side by side. And some people were cleared. One good feature of the AHA’s Professional Division that Chinese might pay attention to, is that it was not an ad hoc committee set up for any particular case but was prepared to investigate any charges brought to it on the basis of clearly-written standards.
Pending a fair investigation of these charges, I’m prepared to leap to a wishy-washy conclusion on the basis of the limited evidence I’ve seen. If Wang Hui committed plagiarism in several paragraphs in an old piece of writing, let’s publicly humiliate him. OK, job accomplished. But let’s also note that he has written a great deal of undoubtedly original and thought-provoking scholarship since then. If the university and professional authorities in China can organize an open and transparent investigation based on hard evidence, more power to them. In the meantime, I’m moving on.
SOURCE: CBC News (7-20-10)
The bail conditions will be set by U.S. District Court Judge Amy St. Eve in Chicago. St. Eve is the judge who presided over Black's trial in 2007 and who ended up sentencing him to 78 months after a jury found him guilty of three counts of fraud and one count of obstruction of justice.
"Generally, when people are granted bail under the U.S. system, the bail hearing happens very quickly and the prisoner is released," the CBC's Mike Hornbrook said.
But it's not clear where Black would go once he's released. The National Post, quoting "sources familiar with the process," said Black is expected to ask that he be allowed to return to his home in Toronto.
It would be unusual for Black to be allowed to leave the U.S. while on bail....
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (7-16-10)
The award-winning Figes, professor of history at Birkbeck, University of London, admitted in April to posting critical reviews of books by a number of authors, including fellow historians Rachel Polonsky and Robert Service, praising his own work and rubbishing that of his rivals.
Initially, Figes denied the allegations, threatening legal action against colleagues, journals and newspapers that suggested he had written the reviews.
He contacted the TLS after its diary referenced comments from its website, and suggested "that Orlando Figes and orlando-birkbeck are one and the same", asking Figes to clear up the matter....
SOURCE: CS Monitor (7-16-10)
“The president is always on call, 24/7, if there is a crisis,” says presidential historian Robert Dallek. “They’re lucky if they go on vacation and there’s no crisis, and then they get some downtime. But they’re always on call.”...
Mr. Dallek recalls that when President Dwight Eisenhower showed John Kennedy around the White House after the 1960 election, Eisenhower showed the president-elect a special button that would call a helicopter to the South Lawn within seconds. That kind of rapid response follows the president everywhere, and it has only gotten better over time.
“That was 50 years ago,” Dallek says. “Now, it’s pretty instantaneous.”...
SOURCE: Gulf News (7-16-10)
"The world community created by its decisions a source of unending instability in the region. Maybe somebody is going to wake up and realise that the people who played a large part in this instability can take it upon themselves — whether it is the United States or other actors in the international community — to resolve this," Al Khalidi told Weekend Review in an exclusive interview.
Al Khalidi said he did not expect that to happen soon. "But it will be part of the settlement — the responsible correction by the world community of the errors it committed in this part of the world."...
SOURCE: Voice of America (7-13-10)
History professor Mamadou Diouf said there are reasons to believe that the African leaders want to re-open negotiations with France that began five decades ago that culminated in their independence.
“I’m not sure that I really understand why African heads of state decided to join President (Nicholas) Sarkozy to celebrate the creation of the French Republic following the French revolution in 1789. But, I’m quite sure that, for many of them, in particular the Francophone, it’s an opportunity to re-link in some way with France,” he said....
SOURCE: AOL News (7-12-10)
Obama, says a previously prescient professor, already holds the keys to another four years in the White House.
American University history professor Allan Lichtman said Monday that according to his "13 Keys" formula, which predicts popular vote based on party performance instead of polls or campaign tactics, Obama is headed for a second term.
Using his "13 Keys" formula, American University history professor Allan Lichtman has predicted that President Barack Obama will be re-elected in 2012.
While former Republican House speaker and possible presidential contender Newt Gingrich has predicted that Obama has just a 20 percent chance of winning in 2012, Lichtman said that "nothing that a candidate has said or done during a campaign, when the public discounts everything as political, has changed his prospects at the polls. Debates, advertising, television appearances, news coverage and campaign strategies -- the usual grist for the punditry mills -- count for virtually nothing on Election Day."...
SOURCE: CHE (7-12-10)
The risk is ending up locked in battle with the likes of Glenn Feldman, a tenured labor historian at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Administrators there abandoned a training center that he ran. Convinced that they withdrew support—and now are trying to drive him out—because they have a pro-business bias, the professor has come at his bosses with two lawsuits, a faculty grievance, and a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint. He also mobilized members of the United Steelworkers to swamp the facsimile machines in the administration's central office, and has sent the entire State Legislature an e-mail message accusing the University of Alabama system's administration of misusing state funds and victimizing him because he is Hispanic.
Along the way, Mr. Feldman helped establish a chapter of the American Association of University Professors on his campus—getting himself elected as its president—and persuaded the state conference of the AAUP to take up his cause.
He probably is not done yet.
"I am being treated in a way that is beyond description," Mr. Feldman said in an interview. He characterized himself as someone "who has wanted to do nothing but write and teach," but now finds himself defending his livelihood from people who object to his views....
SOURCE: 9News Denver (7-12-10)
A University of Denver professor has uncovered a piece of information about the Ku Klux Klan that is changing history at one of this nation's largest universities.
Thomas Russell, a professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law held the same position at the University of Texas until 1999.
When he moved to Denver, his research continued on a man named William Stewart Simkins, who taught law at the University of Texas as well....
SOURCE: Jamaica Observer (7-12-10)
She succeeds Professor Barbara Bailey, who headed the IGDS for the past 14 years.
Professor Shepherd has had a long history with the IGDS. She was one of the founding members of the Women and Development Studies Group, which assisted in the institutionalisation of the IGDS and also served from 1996 to 1998 on the Gender and Development Studies Board as the representative of the Faculty of Arts and Education (now Humanities and Education) where she initiated the idea of the Lucille Mathurin-Mair lecture series. Professor Shepherd also taught courses on women and gender in Caribbean history and supervised graduate theses at both the Master's and Doctoral levels on women and gender....
SOURCE: Inside Higher Ed (7-12-10)
Russell's paper -- published on the Social Science Research Network -- drew attention to William Stewart Simkins (1842-1929), for whom a dormitory at the University of Texas at Austin was named in the 1950s. Simkins was a longtime law professor at Texas, but before that, he and his brother helped organize the Florida branch of the Ku Klux Klan -- an organization he defended throughout his life, including while serving as a law professor. Russell's paper led to public discussion in Austin of the appropriateness of naming a university building for a Klan leader. On Friday, William Powers Jr., president of the University of Texas at Austin, announced that he will ask the university system's Board of Regents this month to change the name....
SOURCE: Stan Katz in the CHE (7-11-10)
My friend and long-time historical collaborator Barry Karl died while undergoing emergency open-heart surgery in Chicago early this week. Barry would have celebrated his eighty-third birthday on the 23rd of this month -- which will be the date of the first birthday of his only grandchild, Ethan. It is too bad that he could not have lived longer, but he had a long, successful and interesting career. Barry was raised in Louisville, Kentucky and attended the University of Louisville, from which he received his first degree in 1949. He moved to Chicago, which proved to be his appropriate spiritual and intellectual home, for a master's degree in philosophy in 1951. He then took a job in publishing, as associate editor in the humanities and history, at the University of Chicago Press. It was there that, while helping Louis Brownlow write his autobiography, Barry discovered his vocation as an historian of the relationship of the state to democracy in America. He moved to Harvard to do his doctoral work in history under the direction of the Roosevelt biographer, Frank Freidel....
SOURCE: LA Times (7-10-10)
Ruiz, an emeritus professor of history at UC San Diego, died Tuesday at his home in Rancho Santa Fe of complications from a recent fall and a battle with cancer, said his daughter Olivia Ruiz.
Ruiz, who joined the history department at UC San Diego in 1970 and chaired the department in the early '70s, was the author of 15 books, including "Triumphs and Tragedy: A History of the Mexican People," "Cuba: The Making of a Revolution," "The Great Rebellion: Mexico, 1905-1924" and "On the Rim of Mexico: Encounters of the Rich and Poor."...
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (7-9-10)
In an interview with the Guardian, Ferguson says he hopes to explain in British schools how the nations of western Europe became the world's dominant powers for centuries. But he wants to do so in a way that is stimulating – and does nothing to encourage racist notions that the west is simply best.
Ferguson is to work with the Conservatives to overhaul the subject in schools. The education secretary, Michael Gove – who invited him to design a new curriculum at the Guardian Hay festival this year – has described Ferguson as a "modern Macaulay", the formidable 19th-century war secretary, poet and historian, and in a blog post praised him for approaching "the legacy of the British empire with a balanced mind, accepting its manifold evils, but also ready to acknowledge its progressive side"....
SOURCE: VoA News (7-9-10)
There was a time when Soviet and Western spies would be exchanged in a mutual tense walk across the Glienicke Bridge that spanned the divide between West and East Berlin.
The Soviet Union is now gone, and Berlin is a single city in a reunited Germany. But, as intelligence historian Walter Wark of the University of Toronto says, the latest exchange shows that spy swaps have not gone out of date.
"We have a tendency to forget that spying goes on as usual, and when spying goes on as usual, sooner or later there will be occasion to do a spy swap," Wark said. "But it's gone out of our consciousness, I think is the only thing that's really remarkable about this. It's not that it should happen. It's just that kind of, with all the other dangers that we're facing in a 21st century world, we've forgotten about espionage," he said....
SOURCE: National Journal (7-8-10)
The Johnstown Flood
An improperly maintained dam and heavy rains caused this flood, which killed more than 2,200 people in southwestern Pennsylvania on May 31, 1889.
The dam that burst was owned by a country club frequented by Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, Andrew Mellon and other “robber barons” of the era. “It was largely workers in their factories who were killed in the ensuing flood,” said Brian Black, a professor of history and environmental studies at Penn State Altoona. “It was a serious lesson on the ethics of the industrial era.”
No fines were given or charges filed, Black said, despite the high-profile names associated with the club. And a private investigation by the Pennsylvania Railroad was considered a sham. “The industrial powers very much were in power, and the government practiced a laissez-faire approach,” he said.
But the flood did become one of the first peacetime relief efforts for the American Red Cross, which, less than two decades later, became a congressionally chartered organization....
SOURCE: China Post (Taiwan) (7-9-10)
Chen Feng-yang, chairperson of the history department at National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU), was found guilty of defamation charges brought by Lu Jian-rong, an ex-adjunct history professor at NTNU, after Chen allegedly attacked Lu's reputation on NTNU's website by calling him “a historian rotten from the roots” who is “malicious, sinful, and unforgivable” the court said....
SOURCE: Greg Mitchell at The Nation (7-8-10)
With each passing month, it seems, Andrew Bacevich gains more fans and influence--and turns ever more critical of President Obama's handling of the war in Afghanistan. Until four years ago, Bacevich was best known as a professor and author, a self-described "conservative Catholic" -- Vietnam veteran, career military officer, West Point instructor. Since then, he has appeared widely on top newspaper op-ed pages, and on network and cable programs (Bill Moyers was an especially ardent admirer), and authored three major books, most recently Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War. He teaches at Boston University.
Today at The New Republic he has produced perhaps his hardest shot at Obama, his administration's lack of "moral core" and the war in Afghanistan. Long a critic of George Bush's war in Iraq, today he writes, "Obama doesn’t want to be in Afghanistan any more than Benjamin Netanyahu wants to be in the West Bank. Yet like the Israeli prime minister, the president lacks the guts to get out. It’s all so complicated. There are risks involved. Things might go wrong. There’s an election to think about. So the war continues."...
SOURCE: WaPo (7-8-10)
Jeffrey Burds, associate professor of Russian and Soviet history and co-director of the Center for the Study of Russia and the Soviet Union at Northeastern University, was online Thursday, July 8, at 2 p.m. ET to discuss the latests develpments in the spy case....
SOURCE: Minneapolis Star Tribune (7-8-10)
Graduate education "is what makes this a research university," said Prof. Jeffrey Pilcher, director of graduate studies for the Department of History. "It reflects on the quality of the faculty and is crucial for the teaching mission."
Even so, more changes are coming: The U is studying whether shrinking the number of Ph.D. students could be a good thing. They might get more attention in their fields, present their research at more conferences and leave with better job prospects....
For the History Department, the squeeze will be seen by students taking introductory courses this fall.
The department expects 14 graduate students -- down from a high of 23 a few years ago.
As a result, an intro class that had once two lecture hours led by a professor and two discussion hours taught by teaching assistants -- called "TAs" -- will now rely on professors for three hours and TAs for one. The size of those discussion sections will increase.
That will give undergrads more time with faculty but "much less individual attention," said Joanna DeLaune, a history teaching assistant.
It makes for a tough year, Pilcher said. But eventually, the number of students, professors and TAs will align, he said. "Long-term, this will mean a smaller department."...