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: Canadian Jewish News (11-18-10)
The encounter, which took place recently at Temple Sinai Congregation during Holocaust Education Week, pitted Arnold Reisman against Levent Bilgen.
Reisman, the author of An Ambassador and a Mensch: The Story of a Turkish Diplomat in Vichy France, claimed that Behic Erkin’s decision to rescue some 3,000 Jews of Turkish origin was personal and altruistic, but at variance with official Turkish policy.
“It’s my position, in all friendship and respect, that there was not a policy by the Turkish government to help Jews,” said Reisman, a professional engineer who survived the Holocaust in Poland and immigrated to the United States after World War II....
SOURCE: Brownsville Herald (11-17-10)
The reason Latinos lack a national leader, say some experts, is that the Latino community encompasses a wide and diverse spectrum of people. In many cases, Latinos have little in common with each other, other than being lumped into the category of Hispanics, said Neil Foley, an associate professor of history and American studies at the University of Texas at Austin.
"Latinos are a relatively new creation in terms of the label Hispanic or Latino," which was instituted by the U.S. Census in 1980, he said. Mexican Americans, Puerto Rican Americans and other Latin American ethnic groups living in the United States were combined in the category, regardless of their heritage or educational, class, religious and linguistic backgrounds.
Segments of Latinos have their own leaders in different parts of the country, Foley explained....
SOURCE: Straits Times (11-13-10)
'Igor Pykhalov was beaten on Thursday night near his house by two people aged about 30 and of Caucasian appearance,' a police representative from the southeastern Nevsky district of Russia's second largest city told AFP....
SOURCE: Helsingin Sanomat (11-17-10)
The renowned German historian Werner Maser says that the luggage included one historically significant object: a personal gift from Stalin to Hitler.
It was a painting by an unknown Russian artist taken from the collections of the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad.
The subject of the painting was linked with the legend of the Book of Tobit from the Apocrypha.
As the legend was known both in the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, Stalin, a former student at an Orthodox seminary, imagined that it might have been familiar to Hitler, who once was a choirboy and who was interested in art. After all, the subject matter had been a source of inspiration for certain well-known artists in previous centuries.
The painting depicted a devout Jewish family that had previously lived in exile in Assyria.
Tobit, the father of the family, had gone blind in exile and lost part of the use of his hands.
Coming to his aid was the family’s son Tobiah, who had been told by the angel Raphael to use the gall of a fish on the eyes, which would restore his father’s sight and the full use of his hands....
SOURCE: HNN Staff (11-16-10)
A history professor at Duke University has attracted criticism from bloggers for posting a picture of engaged in BDSM activity on his Facebook profile.
The photograph of Peter Sigal, a historian of sexuality and Latin America at Duke University, was published on K.C. Johnson’s blog Durham-in-Wonderland. Dr. Sigal is shown to be choking and whipping a kneeling, bound-and-gagged young man.
Dr. Sigal co-hosted an “informal gathering” with Joelyn Olcott and Sally Deutsch on historicizing the Karen Owen affair. Ms. Owen is the Duke student who crafted a faux thesis on her sex life with a number of student-athletes.
Johnson, the author of Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Justice of the Duke Lacrosse Case, wrote that the trio “articulated a thesis for the gather that combined an attempt to rationalize Owen’s decision with academic pablum.” He challenged Sigal to “offer his personal perspective – as seen in the photo…from his Facebook page – about sexually-themed exhibitionism and the internet.
The photo has since been removed from Facebook, but remains up at Durham-in-Wonderland.
SOURCE: Badger Herald (11-14-10)
The largest organization for anyone who studies history, UW professor William Cronon said he will serve as president of the AHA for three years.
Cronon said he will serve as president-elect in 2011 before assuming his position as president in 2012.
Cronon, who teaches in UW history department, said he is the first environmental historian to be elected president....
SOURCE: HuffPo (11-11-10)
"It was a duty unfulfilled, a debt unpaid," Cohen told HuffPost. "People had taken risks for me, and I hadn't done what I said I was going to do. And then I did it -- late, but I did it."
HP: The atrocities committed under Stalin, as you say in the book, have been called the "other Holocaust." Why does it have to be called the "other" anything?
SC: The point that I wanted to make was we know quite a bit about people who survived Hitler's Holocaust, but almost nothing is known about the people who survived Stalin's Terror. And there were millions of them. When they were released in the '50s and '60s, what happened to them? Did they go home? And what did they find?
In that sense, why not just say "Stalin's Terror"? But when you do, even educated people think it was only that intense three-year period in the late 1930s with the show trials. But in fact, for Russians and other Soviet citizens who lived through it, it lasted throughout Stalin's rule. And even today, we're not sure exactly about the total number of casualties. I use the figure 20 million....
SOURCE: NYT (11-16-10)
The next big idea in language, history and the arts? Data....
These researchers are digitally mapping Civil War battlefields to understand what role topography played in victory, using databases of thousands of jam sessions to track how musical collaborations influenced jazz, and searching through large numbers of scientific texts and textbooks to track where concepts first appeared and how they spread....
“The digital humanities do fantastic things,” said the eminent Princeton historian Anthony Grafton. “I’m a believer in quantification. But I don’t believe quantification can do everything. So much of humanistic scholarship is about interpretation.”...
Digital humanities scholars also face a more practical test: What knowledge can they produce that their predecessors could not? “I call it the ‘Where’s the beef?’ question said Tom Scheinfeldt, managing director of the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University....
SOURCE: Salon (11-15-10)
The beverage is just the latest in a rash of"demon drinks" to incite public outrage. It was only last year that another alcoholic energy beverage, Sparks, removed the caffeine amid public pressure. Everclear, a grain alcohol that boasts 95 percent alcohol, is banned in several states. Even Cristal, the signature hip-hop drink, was branded racist by Jay-Z in 2006, prompting a boycott of the brand. And, of course, there is the much-mythologized absinthe.
So where does the Four Loko ban figure in the history of taboo spirits? To get some historical perspective, we turned to Dan Okrent, the former public editor of the New York Times and an expert on the biggest ban in alcohol history: Prohibition. Okrent's book."The Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition" is the definitive history of the period. Salon spoke with him over the phone about how moral outrage over alcohol is different today than 80 years ago, and whether the banning of a drink can actually make it more popular.
What other drinks have met with this type of controversy?
Absinthe was outlawed because it was 150-proof. And at the time there were the same sort of arguments: that it was causing brain damage and hallucinations, and it was doing terrible things to people. That was the argument. Whether or not it's true, I don't know....
SOURCE: NY Press (11-15-10)
Historian Jonathan Soffer’s biography, Ed Koch and the Rebuilding of New York City, is a richly sourced and detailed assessment of the mayor, a city in the financial trenches and urban politics. We spoke with Soffer, a professor of history at NYU-Poly, about working with Koch, his enduring public persona and the real cause of New York City’s money problems.
New York Press: What was your relationship with Koch during your research and writing?
Jonathan Soffer: Cordial but independent. He did read the draft and did comment on them. The agreement was that he would tell me when he thought I had gotten my facts wrong but the interpretations were entirely mine and he pretty much stuck to that. He was really a gentleman about that. I actually wonder if I myself would be so calm if somebody were writing a biography about me.
You write about his most heated battles as mayor. What do you think of his personality and style?
There were beneficial aspects to it. As I quote Sen. Daniel Moynihan in the book, he gave New York back its morale. But his bluntness raised suspicions among many members of minorities that he was not protecting or promoting their interests.
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (11-12-10)
She has explored the theory in a new book, claiming that Michelangelo drew much of his knowledge of male anatomy from his frequent visits to gay brothels and 'Turkish baths' in 16th century Italy.
"The virile male bodies are inspired by the physiology of labourers engaged in physical exertion, with taut muscles, strenuous exertion and pain etched into the expression on their faces," said Miss Lazzarini....
SOURCE: Front Page Mag (11-15-10)
The overarching theme of the lecture was that the United States, specifically the Bush administration, was to blame for our problems with the Muslim World. Speaking in the “deep south,” Cole’s message was apparently tailored to an audience that undoubtedly was more conservative than those he normally faces. He couched his more extreme views in a nuanced, casual vocabulary that nevertheless failed to obfuscate them.
Calling his new book, Engaging the Muslim World, a “critique of the approach to the Middle East and Muslim World more broadly adopted in the first eight years of the twenty-first Century,” Cole unveiled from the very first moments his anti-American biases and lack of interest in historical context. He would have us all believe that our problems began with the Bush administration and that only a “small fringe terrorist group” posed a threat to the United States. Never mind the record of Islamic terrorist attacks that had plagued the West for the preceding three decades or the pernicious actions of rogue states like Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Libya: American bullying is the problem and Juan Cole’s way of thinking is the solution.
SOURCE: HNN Staff (11-14-10)
Penelope Blake, a history professor at Rock Valley College in Rockford, IL, appeared on Fox News’s Hannityon November 11 to discuss her outrage over a National Endowment for the Humanities-sponsored workshop on the Pacific War she attended in July. She came away from the workshop, hosted by the East-West Center at the University of Hawaii, disgusted by what she called an “extremist, agenda-driven, revisionist conference,” and wrote a letter to her congressman, Illinois Republican Donald Manzullo, and NEH chairman Jim Leach in late October calling for a comprehensive review of NEH policy. She subsequently released the letter to the conservative blog Powerline, which called for an investigation on November 1.
Geoffrey White, director of the conference, entitled “History and Commemoration: Legacies of the Pacific War,” and chair of the Anthropology Department at the University of Hawaii, disputes Ms. Blake’s characterization of the conference, noting that neither she nor Fox News contacted him prior to her appearance on Hannity. He said via email that forty-one of forty-two participant evaluations of the conference were “good to outstanding.” Dr. Blake’s evaluation was “severely negative,” although according to White, Dr. Blake submitted a mostly positive one-paragraph summary of accomplishments at the end of the conference, a form requested from all participants. “I am puzzled as to why she chose not to begin her criticisms with us and instead jumped to a national campaign to target NEH and the program sponsors.”
Chairman Leach acknowledged in his response to Dr. Blake’s letter that four other evaluations expressed “similar concerns about several of the presentations,” including one who believed that a presenter didn’t back up his claims, but “each of these critics indicated that they were pleased overall” with the workshop.
Dr. Blake requested that passage of the NEH operating budget be delayed until the NEH “reviews all… conference and workshop proposals and supporting materials to eliminate any overt political agenda… [and that] any group or institution requesting a grant from the NEH should be required to submit its entire schedule of presenters and a complete list of the literature which will be discussed….” Leach noted that the NEH already requires a “complete agenda” from workshop applicants, including a list of readings. The East-West Center’s program was reviewed by a panel of four professors, who gave their unanimous consent to the program.
Dr. Blake’s letter alleges that the conference conveyed no less than eleven anti-American messages:
- The U.S. military and its veterans constitute an… oppressive force which has… [insisted] on a pristine collective memory of the war.
- The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor should be seen from the perspective of Japan being a victim of western [sic] oppression,
- War memorials… are symbols of military aggression and brutality…
- The U.S. military has repeated committed rapes and other violent crimes throughout its past through the present day.
- Those misguided members of the WWII generation on islands like Guam and Saipan who feel gratitude to the Americans for saving them… are blinded by propaganda…
- It was “the practice” of the U.S. military in WWII to desecrate and disrespect the bodies of dead Japanese.
- Conservatives… have had an undue and corrupt influence on how WWII is remembered.
- Conservatives are reactionary nationalists… who are incapable of critical thinking.
- Even members of the NEH review board are not immune to “reactionary” pro-military views.
- Veterans’ memories of their own experiences in the war are suspect…
- War memorials like the Arizona Memorial should be recast as “peace memorials,” sensitive to all viewers from all countries, especially the many visitors from Japan.
You can read Blake’s letter in full at Powerline.
One of the scholars singled out by Blake, Lisa Yoneyama, professor of literature at the University of California, San Diego, disputes Dr. Blake’s characterization of her remarks.
“[Yoneyama],” wrote Blake, “said that American ‘imperial expansion’ forced Japan’s hand: ‘For the Japanese, it was a war to defend their unique culture against Western Imperialism” (Yoneyama 335-336).” This quote was adapted from a chapter Dr. Yoneyama wrote on the 1994 Enola Gay controversy at the Smithsonian for Perilous Memories: The Asia-Pacific War(s), and was on the pre-conference reading list. Yoneyama said via email that the “quote [is] from a media report on of the earliest versions of the script. The quote expressed one of the conservative views on World War II prevailing in Japan. I disagree with such a view.”
In the first draft of the plan for the Smithsonian exhibit, one phrase indicated that the United States fought the war in the Pacific in a way that was fundamentally different from the way it waged war against Germany and Italy. The draft stated that the Americans had fought the war against the Japanese as “a war of vengeance. For most Japanese, it was a war to defend their unique culture against Western imperialism.” This phrase appeared in the script as an ironic summary of Japanese officials’ gross justification for atrocities committed during the war, including a civilian massacre in Nanjing, the abuse against POWs, and the biological experiments on living human beings… Yet critics continued to cite it out of context and to condemn the museum staff for suggesting that the United States was the victimizer and Japan the victim.
Dr. Yoneyama also disputes Dr. Blake’s account of a “tense exchange” between the two. “Dr. Blake asked about the Japanese influences in the cancellation [of the Enola Gay exhibit]. I deferred to Daniel Martinez, historian for the National Park Service at the USS Arizona Memorial… He was familiar with the most recent comprehensive investigation done on the Smithsonian exhibit cancellation.” She also pointed out that her presentation was not centered around the Smithsonian exhibit, but on “global ‘culture wars’” and the “[battle] over historical memories.”’
If nothing else, the controversy over the conference illustrates the fraught terrain over which historians must negotiate historical memory. “World War II was in many ways the least controversial American war of the last century.” said Mark Selden, senior research associate at Cornell University. “With all our divisions within our own fractured policy, the victories of World War II seem to defy the most powerful nation in the world.”
SOURCE: Deutsche Welle (11-12-10)
Payments from the fund were completed in 2007. Now the EVZ, along with an international network of historians, is trying to get Europe to come to terms with its history of forced labor, wars and conflicts as well as its Nazi and communist past.
"Europe can only truly forge a lasting political identity if public statements about the mutual recognition of disputed memories are valued as highly as statements about treaties, domestic markets and open borders," said political scientist Claus Leggewie....
SOURCE: Jakarta Post (11-12-10)
“I have received word from [former vice-president] Try Soetrisno's aide and I am going to the funeral home,” Eminent Persons Group Indonesia-Malaysia member Musni Umar said as reported by Antara news service....
SOURCE: WaPo (11-8-10)
Local filmmaker Scott Wilson teamed up last month with the Boone County medical examiner's office to successfully lobby state officials to change the cause of death on Scott's death certificate....
Keynote speaker Patrick Huber, an associate professor of history at Missouri University of Science and Technology whose undergraduate thesis discussed the Scott lynching, said the killing was one of more than 4,000 racially motivated lynchings in this country from 1885 to 1923 - including 75 in Missouri.
Communities nationwide are working to re-examine histories of racist violent acts, said Mark Potok, who tracks hate crimes for the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala. Among those places is Tulsa, Okla., which recently opened a "reconciliation park" recognizing a deadly 1921 riot that killed dozens, injured hundreds and destroyed thousands of homes....
SOURCE: CNN.com (11-7-10)
Kazin, a professor of history at Georgetown University, editor of The Princeton Encyclopedia of American Political History and author of "A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan" and other books, spoke to CNN last week.
CNN: Would Republicans have captured the House without the Tea Party?
Michael Kazin: We historians hate counterfactual questions! But clearly, the aura of a grass-roots rebellion helped to obscure the fact that most of corporate America was rooting for the GOP and helping finance Republican campaigns. The specific policy ideas of the Tea Partiers mattered less than did their anger at the perceived sins of "big government" and of President Obama. As [political writer] Kevin Phillips once wrote, much of political conflict comes down to the question of "who hates whom."...
SOURCE: Haaretz (11-8-10)
The official study of the German Finance Ministry under the Nazis from 1933 to 1945 was conducted by historian Hans-Peter Ullmann.
Last month a similar study of the German Foreign Ministry under the Nazis established that its diplomats and bureaucrats played a key role in the Holocaust....
SOURCE: St. Petersburg Times (11-8-10)
He has taught at UT since 1962, longer than any other professor. He earned tenure during the 1965-66 school year and was promoted to full professor in 1974. He loves his work and Tampa U, as he refers to it.
Once I learned all this, I wondered why Botjer contacted me to disclose something few people outside the university are aware of, something few on campus ever speak of: Since its founding in 1931, UT has never had a tenured professor who is an American-born black (African-American)....
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (11-9-10)
From behind the Times paywall, the muffled sound of a High Table explosion. Quick, someone send for help! Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of the History of the Church at Oxford, has suffered a devastating failure of scholarly objectivity. His face is getting redder and redder as he struggles to come to terms with… eeeek! … the Ordinariate!
Now you might say I’m a fine one to talk about objectivity. But, then again, I don’t hold a chair in church history at Oxford. Prof MacCulloch, author of the definitive biography of Thomas Cranmer and a bestselling history of Christianity, is known to identify more closely with 16th-century Protestants than with the Counter-Reformation Catholic Church. That’s fair enough: the judgments in his books are elegant and nuanced. Not so his axe-grinding oped for the Times.
MacCulloch tells us that the concept of “flying bishops” is “absurd”. I agree – but he then pours scorn on those flying bishops who are resigning precisely because they have lost faith in the concept and now recognise that they do belong in the Roman Catholic Church....
SOURCE: Alternet (10-30-10)
I turned to Lawrence Goodwyn, historian of social movements whose books and methods of explaining history have had a profound influence on many of the best known authors, activists and social theorists of our time. Goodwyn's account of the Populist movement, Democratic Promise, is quoted extensively by Howard Zinn in People's History of the United States, and also in William Greider's masterpiece on the Federal Reserve, Secrets of the Temple. You can find Goodwyn quoted in the first paragraph of Bill Moyers' recent book, On Democracy, and cited in just the same way in countless other books and essays.
I interviewed Goodwyn from his home in Durham, North Carolina about the pitfalls of recording American history, Obama's presidency in light of previous presidents, and portents of change in our political culture.
Jan Frel: It seems there's quite a bit of disagreement about what kind of president we have on our hands.
Lawrence Goodwyn: Well, Jan, we are in the midst of the shakedown cruise of an historic presidency. If I may risk understatement, it has taken quite a while for Barack Obama and his diverse constituencies to begin to understand one another. I believe both still have some distance to travel. Early on, things were pretty wild, but many people have learned many things and a measure of calm can finally be seen around the edges of the national anxiety that engulfs us all....
SOURCE: University of Manchester (11-8-10)
Professor Stefan Berger, from The University of Manchester, says an initial slowness to react gave way to strong political and practical support - often behind the scenes- for Lech Walesa’s fledgling union by his UK counterparts.
The findings, a chapter in a new book published this month, emerge on the thirtieth anniversary of the tumultuous events which captivated the world in 1980....
SOURCE: Houston Chronicle (11-8-10)
Brockett died Sunday at an Austin hospital after suffering a stroke the day before, said Sondra Lomax, assistant dean of UT's College of Fine Arts.
Doug Dempster, dean of UT's College of Fine Arts, told the Austin American-Statesman that Brockett, who retired in 2006, was "an absolute giant in the field of theater history."
"He defined it in many ways. His name is synonymous with the field across several continents," Dempster said. "He was a prolific, meticulous scholar into the very last year of his long career. He leaves a legacy that will last as long again as his long life."...
SOURCE: Dallas Morning News (11-8-10)
It was a gathering of the Republican Party's most enduring modern dynasty.
"While they disdain it, especially George W. who recoils in horror at the whole thing, they are our royal family," said historian Doug Wead....
SOURCE: The Age (AU) (11-9-10)
Isaac was awarded the Pulitzer in 1983 for his seminal book The Transformation of Virginia, in which he expounded methods used to understand radical changes in both blacks and whites in colonial plantation culture that had traded a king for a constitution and bill of rights.
Rhys's academic achievement was perhaps not as big a surprise as his arrival: his parents weren't expecting twins because only one heartbeat had ever been detected.
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (11-7-10)
The plantation workers were shot by a 16-man patrol of the Scots Guards. Many of the victims' bodies were reported to have been mutilated, and the village of Batang Kali was burned to the ground....