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: The Day (CT) (6-26-11)
In the history of the United States, there have been only two occasions in which a president has suspended the writ of habeas corpus, a person's right to challenge in court the legality of his imprisonment.
Most recently, on Oct. 17, 2006, President George W. Bush, with the approval of Congress, suspended the right of habeas corpus to persons "determined by the United States" to be terrorists.
While Bush was widely criticized for breaching this fundamental constitutional right, he was not the first president to do so.
The first was Abraham Lincoln....
Perhaps it is too soon for history to judge Bush's action, but historians have reached a verdict on Lincoln's, says Michael Burlingame, the Chancellor Naomi B. Lynn Distinguished Chair in Lincoln Studies at the University of Illinois at Springfield, and the author of "Abraham Lincoln: A Life," which is considered the definitive work on the 16th president.
Historian Mark Neely, for example, "examined the records of thousands of military tribunals and concluded that the Lincoln administration did not abuse the power of suspension by arresting people simply because they criticized his policies," Burlingame says....
SOURCE: CNN.com (6-27-11)
ONLY ON THE BLOG: Answering today’s OFF-SET questions is Richard Bushman, the Howard W. Hunter Visiting Professor of Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University in California.
He teaches courses on Mormonism in its broad social and cultural context and on the history of religion in America. Bushman has taken an active part in explaining Mormonism to a broad public and in negotiating the tensions between Mormonism and modern culture. An emeritus professor at Columbia University, he received his Ph.D. in the History of American Civilization from Harvard. Among his books is the biography, “Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling.” He also serves as one of three general editors of the Joseph Smith Papers....
Prof. Bushman, the character of Elder Price, an American Mormon missionary in modern-day Uganda, questions his faith, but regains it while performing the song, “I Believe.” He sings, “I believe that God has a plan for all of us. / I believe that plan involves me getting my own planet.” Is that lyric based in Mormon belief?
I have been living in California and Utah for the past year while the musical "The Book of Mormon” has been packing the house on Broadway. I have not seen the show, but I have read endless reviews, listened to parts of the score, and talked with Mormon friends who have seen it. Based on what I have heard, and the lyrics of Elder Price’s song, the musical gets a lot of laughs, but it is not meant to explain Mormon beliefs.
Mormons experience the show like looking at themselves in a fun-house mirror. The reflection is hilarious but not really you. The nose is yours but swollen out of proportion....
SOURCE: Ken Shepherd at Newsbusters (6-27-10)
Ken Shepherd is managing editor of Newsbusters.
Columbia University professor Simon Schama made his Newsweek debut yesterday with a blog post that indirectly attacked Tea Party activists and conservatives for what Schama considers a historically illiterate ancestor worship of the Founding Fathers.
"The Constitution’s framers were flawed like today’s politicians, so it’s high time we stop embalming them in infallibility," snarked the subheading for Schama's June 26 post.
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (6-28-11)
Media historian David Hendy has won an international prize for outstanding journalism for a BBC radio 3 series.
Hendy was given the James W Carey Award in recognition of his work as writer and presenter of Rewiring the Mind, a series of five programmes that explored the way in which modern media have shaped mental life since 1900....
SOURCE: LA Times (6-10-11)
No, not the research scientists — the newly minted Ph.D.'s in art history. What kinds of art, past and present and from around the globe, are of pressing interest?
The answer is: mostly Modern art, mostly from North America and Europe. The 21st century is scrutinizing the century that preceded it.
According to lists compiled by the College Art Association, a venerable professional group whose membership includes the vast majority of American academics in the field, the most-studied area for doctoral candidates in the U.S. and Canada last year — by a long shot — was art made in roughly the last 100 years. Paul Klee, Eduardo Paolozzi and Kazimir Malevich were among the subjects of 67 doctoral dissertations in the category.
The 29 categories listed by CAA range alphabetically from "African (Sub-Saharan)" to "World Art," a cross-cultural, transnational discipline. Twentieth century painting, sculpture, design and other art had 50% more doctoral dissertations accepted in 2010 than the next most popular field....
SOURCE: WSJ (James Taranto in the WSJ)
Andrew Bacevich, a professor of history and international relations at Boston University, has an innovative foreign-policy theory. "At periodic intervals," he argues in a Los Angeles Times op-ed piece, "the American body politic" succumbs to "war fever," which he defines as "a sort of delirium" whose symptoms are "delusions of grandeur and demented behavior."
He offers a medical history beginning with the Spanish-American War: "Gripped by such a fever in 1898, Americans evinced an irrepressible impulse to liberate oppressed Cubans." Once it was all over, "no one could quite explain what had happened or why."
Then, "in 1917, the fever suddenly returned. Amid wild ravings about waging a war to end war, Americans lurched off to France. This time the affliction passed quickly, although the course of treatment proved painful: confinement to the charnel house of the Western Front, followed by bitter medicine administered at Versailles."...
Were they really? Half a dozen years ago would be 2005, two years after Iraq was liberated from Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. By that time, there was no clamor for more "wars of choice." To the contrary, opposition was mounting to the continuing American presence in Iraq. The next "war of choice" didn't begin until just a few months ago, in Libya. (Bacevich obliquely acknowledges that last point, writing that "the post-9/11 fever . . . lingers most strongly in the Obama White House, where a keenness to express American ideals by dropping bombs persists"--though our recollection is that the "keenness" for intervention in Libya emanated from the State Department rather than the White House.)...
SOURCE: Chronicle-Telegram (OH) (6-28-11)
OBERLIN — A touching story of black and white comrades-in-arms who fought in the Spanish Civil War will be featured tonight at 8 on “History Detectives” on PBS, and Oberlin College assistant professor Sebastiaan Faber plays a major role.
In the episode, Faber helps History Detective Tukufu Zuberi tell the story behind a dog-eared and yellowing tribute to an African-American soldier named Douglas Roach that belongs to Minneapolis resident David Harry Fellman.
Roach, a young Communist and high school wrestler from Provincetown, Mass., was only 5 feet tall but was described as “an army by himself” in a newspaper clipping.
Without giving away the secrets and surprises unveiled in tonight’s episode, Faber and Fellman said they were thrilled with the efforts of Zuberi and “History Detectives.”...
The eulogy to Roach called “A Negro Hero Dies” was written by Fellman’s father, Sol, who fought in the war alongside Roach, who later died of injuries suffered in the war....
SOURCE: Emory Wheel (6-28-11)
President Obama appointed Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies Deborah Lipstadt, to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council on June 7.
Lipstadt is a renowned historian who specializes in and writes about her opposition to Holocaust denial — the act of denying that the Holocaust happened. Additionally, she has published articles and books pertaining to specific Holocaust trials. She has been studying the Holocaust for over 30 years and has published four books related to the Holocaust.
The council consists of 55 citizens appointed by the President, five members of the Senate, five members of the House of Representatives and three ex-officio members from the Departments of State, Education and Interior, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website. The U.S. President appoints those who are particularly accomplished in their respective fields.
Lipstadt served two terms for the council under the Clinton administration and said the selection process for the current council was equally as lengthy and tough as the previous selection process she underwent years ago....
SOURCE: Daniel Drezner in Foreign Policy (6-27-11)
...[Niall Ferguson's] latest essay for Newsweek contains the laziest paragraph I will read today. In this column, Ferguson strains to displace Tom Friedman as The Creator of Inane Metaphors. He coins "IOU-solationism" to descibe the instinct to retrench because of domestic difficulties. There's a pedestrian description of rising sentiment for retrenchment. Then we get to the lazy paragraph, which happens to be the only one in his column that provides a justification for why defense cuts are a bad idea:
SOURCE: Irish Times (6-25-11)
...Democrats are handicapped by their split electorate, explains Timothy Meagher, a fourth generation Irish-American and professor of history at Catholic University. Republicans tend to be white and working or middle class, while Democrats encompass the poor, ethnic minorities and Americans with university degrees.
“The language that appeals to educated Democrats is more formal, more academic,” says Meagher. “College professors love Obama, because his language is beautifully crafted. But other groups can find it alienating.”
Race further complicates Obama’s linguistic choices. In his efforts to be a “regular guy”, the president calls people “folks” and drops his ‘g’s. “If he indulges too much in colloquial English, it sounds like black argot,” says Meagher.
“It’s easier for white politicians to descend into folksiness.” Obama’s intelligence and Ivy League education can be a political weakness that make him appear distant and cold, Meagher explains. “Dropping his ‘g’s can seem hip and cool to blacks and young whites, but older whites, and especially middle-class whites, may hear language that conjures up images of poor blacks. Do white Americans see someone like them, or someone who crosses a boundary? He’s boxed in by American stereotypes.” Vice-president Joe Biden is in a sense the Democrats’ secret linguistic weapon. From a northeastern, working-class, Irish Catholic family, Biden has the common touch, including the occasional swear word....
SOURCE: NYT (6-24-11)
CHICAGO (AP) — Conrad M. Black, once a media mogul whose newspaper empire spanned several continents, is headed back to prison after a federal judge ruled on Friday that he had not served enough time for defrauding investors.
Judge Amy J. St. Eve of United States District Court in Chicago, sentenced Mr. Black to three and a half years in prison after berating, then praising him. But prosecutors said he would be given credit for more than two years already served, meaning he will go back for little more than a year.
As Judge St. Eve announced the sentence with Mr. Black standing expressionless before her, his 70-year-old wife, Barbara Amiel, fainted on a wooden courtroom bench. As she sprawled across the laps of other spectators, medics rushed in to attend to her.
In a 20-minute statement before he was sentenced, Mr. Black, 66, spoke confidently and philosophically, citing poetry and maintaining he had been falsely accused. At no point did he apologize....
SOURCE: FrontPageMag (6-23-11)
Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Jay Bergman, Professor of History at Central Connecticut University and the author, most recently, of Meeting the Demands of Reason: The Life and Thought of Andrei Sakharov, published by Cornell University Press in 2009.
FP: Jay Bergman, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Elena Bonner, the widow of Andrei Sakharov, has just passed away at the age of 88. Please tell us about her.
JB: Elena Bonner, who was two years younger than her husband, shared his belief in universal human rights; among the most important of these were the right to choose one’s place of residence, the right of critics of governments to a presumption of sanity, and the right of everyone to due process in the administration of justice. But her early years were different from his. Whereas Sakharov’s childhood was largely devoid of politics, Bonner’s was consumed by them. Her stepfather, to whom she was closer than to her biological father, was a prominent official in the Comintern, the agency Lenin created in 1919 for the purpose of spreading communism globally. Young Elena therefore lived for a number of years in a Moscow hotel reserved for Comintern officials; there she played parlor games with Tito, Togliatti, and other foreign communists visiting the Soviet Union.
But none of this saved her family from Stalin’s Terror. When she was fifteen, her father was arrested and sent to a labor camp, where he was executed six months later. Her mother, arrested for the “crime” of being his wife, spent eight years in a labor camp, several more in exile elsewhere, and was not rehabilitated until the mid-1950s. As an injured war veteran – she suffered a concussion when a bomb exploded near her while serving as a nurse’s aide in World War II – she had access, after the war was over, to the special stores only members of the Soviet elite could enter. And like many victims of Stalinism, she could plausibly believe that after Stalin’s death, Soviet communism would recover its original benevolence; for this reason she joined the Communist Party – which Sakharov never did. But the misfortunes she endured as a youth helped to foster an independent streak, and before Stalin died, she even refused to join the chorus calling for the death penalty for the accused in the infamous Doctors’ Plot – for which she was expelled temporarily from the institute in Leningrad where she was studying to be a pediatrician....
SOURCE: NYT (6-22-11)
INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Mitch Daniels sits in his grand cave of a Renaissance Revival office and reviews Indiana’s economic fortunes, his self-effacing manner not entirely disguising satisfaction. The state’s pension funds are relatively healthy, the unemployment rate is dropping slowly and per capita income is ticking up, slowly....
Indiana’s history shapes its response to economic crisis. It experienced a vast speculative financial collapse in the 19th century, known as the Failure. In 1851, in the angry aftermath, its leaders were among the first in the nation to enact a balanced-budget requirement.
The state’s DNA has remained conservative and cautious ever since.
“Indiana is risk averse; it’s in the soil and the air,” said James H. Madison, a history professor at Indiana University Bloomington. “You add that to a moderate political orientation, and liberal welfare legislation is not highly regarded.”...
SOURCE: The Daily (6-20-11)
...In the mind of a mummy researcher, every shriveled body raises a thousand questions: How did this person die? What did they look like? What did they do for a living? How was their body preserved? Now a new method of digital tomography holds the key to providing answers.
“Computerized tomography scans can help answer some of those questions, letting scientists and the public see under the wrappings and learn more about mummies and the cultures that prepared them,” said historian Samuel Redman. In one instance, dents in the skull of a female mummy suggest she carried heavy objects on her head. And voids in the jaw of a boy prince may indicate that he had a huge dental abscess....
SOURCE: NYT (6-22-11)
As Tuesday dawned, what we knew about an anonymous photo album by a Nazi photographer was only what could be inferred from its 214 pictures (all but one uncaptioned). We could see he had amazing access: taking portraits of Russian and Jewish prisoners one month, standing just a few feet from Adolf Hitler the next. We knew he had been to the Eastern Front, we surmised that he worked for the Propagandakompanie and we guessed that the pretty woman in the album’s closing pages was someone special....
We now know that the photographer was Franz Krieger, a native of Salzburg, Austria, who lived until 1993. And we know that the woman was Frieda Krieger, his wife. She was killed on Nov. 17, 1944 — as was their 2-year-old daughter, Heidrun — when America’s 15th Air Force bombed Salzburg....
Before lunchtime in New York, Harriet Scharnberg had written from Hamburg, Germany, to say:
The photographs, at least a lot of them, were taken by the photographer Franz Krieger (1914-1993). Krieger worked as a photojournalist in Salzburg, Austria. In the summer of 1941, he went to Minsk as a member of the Reichs-Autozug Deutschland. In Minsk, he took pictures of Soviet prisoners of war and he also visited the Jewish ghetto and photographed the poor people there. On his way back to Berlin, he took the pictures of Hitler meeting [Adm. Miklos] Horthy in Marienburg.
Ms. Scharnberg explained in a subsequent e-mail that she is writing her Ph.D. dissertation at Martin Luther University in Halle-Wittenberg on German propaganda photographs depicting Jews. This is her specialty as a historian, she said. She has worked in the photo archives of the Neuengamme concentration camp memorial and at the Hamburg Institute for Social Research.
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (6-20-11)
The search is on for the truth behind one of Yorkshire and Britain's most enduring Royal mysteries.
Every history scholar knows the story behind the Yorkist monarch Richard III - the alleged hunchbacked, scheming monarch and eponymous Shakespearean subject from the turbulent Wars of the Roses period. Or so it seems.
Now a group of devotees from the highly-respected Richard III Foundation Inc, is hoping to fathom out the truth once and for all about Richard's shady past.
The group is offering up a special bursary – named specially in memory of a late Yorkshire member of the society – in a bid to seek out the real story behind Richard's reign....
The group, a non-profit, educational organization dedicated to research into the life and reign of Richard III, has launched a student program, The John Davey Research Grant for Medieval Studies....
The grant is named after John Davey, a patron of the Foundation, who passed away in 2006....
SOURCE: DW World (6-19-11)
June 22 marks the 70th anniversary of the start of Germany's offensive against the Soviet Union in World War II. To examine the historical significance of this, Deutsche Welle spoke with Wolfram Wette, a professor of history at the University of Freiburg.
DW: What was the objective of the military offensive "Operation Barbarossa," which began on June 22, 1941?
Wolfram Wette: The objective was to conquer the Soviet Union, to decimate its population, to exploit the land - in order to colonize the country with Germans in the distant future. So it was a war for the capture of "Lebensraum," or "living space," in the East. They wanted to colonize the Soviet Union up to the Ural Mountains in order to create an self-sufficient, strongly protected Greater German Reich from the Atlantic to the Urals.
Was it then a racially motivated campaign of annihilation?
This aspect belongs directly to that aim, and is inseparably linked with the war in Russia. Hitler was convinced that Russia was dominated by "Jewish-Bolsheviks." And of course you could conquer this area and be able to use it for German purposes once you eliminate this establishment. The plans were made based on a speech by Hitler on March 30, 1941, given before 250 generals commanding the Eastern Army.
There he said very clearly that it was a war of annihilation in which no prisoners would be taken. Hitler said the Red Army soldier should not be considered a comrade protected by the rules of war. In practice, this meant that of the 5.7 million captured Red Army soldiers, more than 3 million perished in German camps....
SOURCE: Zaman (6-19-11)
Benny Morris, professor of history in the Middle East studies department of Ben-Gurion University, believes that a two-state solution, one Jewish state in the land which Israelis turned into their state in 1948, and one Palestinian state in the West Bank, is the best solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
He believes two states can coexist side by side in peace. However, Palestinian authorities are cold to such a solution.
Morris does not believe that Turkey can play a leading role in peace building between Israelis and Palestinians. He said Turkey has established itself as publicly siding with the Palestinians and that the Israelis will not trust Turkey to be an honest broker. “Therefore, any Turkish efforts to become some sort of mediator are bound to fail,” he stated.
Below is the full interview with Morris.
Professor Morris, you are considered to be a leading academic and historian on the Arab-Israeli conflict. What is the root of the conflict, in your opinion?
There is a political root and a cultural, religious root. Politically there are two peoples -- the Palestinians, who became a people gradually after the 1920s, and the Jewish people, which is an old people -- who regard the land of Israel, Palestine, as theirs. There is a conflict over the territory, the land of Israel itself, not areas within it but the whole land of Israel. It is a territorial issue, a political issue in which both national movements claim that the piece of land -- which is very small, 8,000 square miles -- as their territory. This is a basic clash between two national movements which is unique because mostly national movements clash over border areas between the two states, [such as] Germany and France over Alsace-Lorraine, but here these two movements are clashing over a whole piece of territory. It also has a religious cultural aspect, in that the Palestinians, essentially a Muslim people, regard the territory as a wholly sacred Islamic land, and the Jews regard the territory as theirs, and the Palestinian Arabs regard the Jewish settlers as an infidel and culturally alien presence, which is pollution in their terms. So there is a religious aspect to this conflict which makes it more difficult to resolve than were it simply a political issue....
SOURCE: John David Smith in the Chronicle of Higher Ed (6-19-11)
In 1997, in The Confederate War (Harvard University Press), the historian Gary W. Gallagher argued that contemporary scholars erred in ascribing Confederate defeat to questions of race, class, and gender, and especially to discontent on the home front and ambivalence over slavery's morality. Gallagher, one of the nation's pre-eminent Civil War specialists, marveled not at Confederate weakness but rather at how the outmanned and outgunned Southerners sustained nationalism and popular will as long as they did. "The Confederate military," he concluded, "ultimately proved unable to win enough victories at crucial times to carry their nation to independence." Historians' propensity to emphasize internal Southern weakness, he maintained, resulted "from an understandable tendency to work backward from the war's outcome in search of explanations for Confederate failure."
Just as Gallagher judged historians off track regarding Confederate defeat, he now considers them derailed on the question of what mattered most to victorious Northerners—the concept of the Union. Writing recently on a New York Times blog, Gallagher remarks that "as we approach the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, the meaning of Union to mid-19th-century Americans has been almost completely lost. Americans today find it hard to believe that anyone would risk life or fortune for something as abstract as Union. A war to end slavery seems more compelling, the sort of war envisioned in the film Glory."
Mindful of the importance of African-Americans in the military, political, and social history of the Civil War, Gallagher nonetheless insists that "a concentration on emancipation and race sometimes suggests that Union victory had scant meaning apart from them."...
Gallagher develops this argument in his bold, fast-paced, and provocative The Union War, a work that in its revisionist historiographical tone parallels his earlier book. Recently published by Harvard, The Union War offers a searing critique of what Gallagher terms anachronistic scholarship that privileges emancipation and the agency of African-Americans during the war over loyal citizens' commitment to the concept of a perpetual Union. Accusing historians of allowing "modern sensibilities" to skew their "view of how participants of a distant era understood the war," Gallagher finds, not surprisingly, that their scholarship exposes "the many ways in which wartime Northerners fell short of later standards of acceptable thought and behavior."...
Gallagher takes aim at numerous noted historians, including Orville Vernon Burton, Walter A. McDougall, and David Williams, for undervaluing the seriousness and importance of the concept of the Union to the wartime generation, for emphasizing antebellum America's class and racial shortcomings, for overstating Americans' self-interest, and for condemning America for inequality. According to Gallagher, such historians dismiss the notion of American exceptionalism that President Abraham Lincoln described in December 1862, referring to the Union, then mired in a bloody civil war, as "the last, best hope of earth."...
SOURCE: Spiegel Online (6-20-11)
The presentation recently held in Warsaw followed all the correct diplomatic protocols. Indeed, German and Polish experts had started preparing for the important event two years earlier.
Teams of experts from both countries developed individual chapters, which were then either approved or rejected by panels with equal German-Polish representation. Katarzyna Hall, Poland's education minister, and Cornelia Pieper, a senior official at Germany's Foreign Ministry responsible for German-Polish relations, provided a warm opening address that was carefully divided between the two government ministries involved. In fact, to order to avoid any and all mistakes, careful balancing went into everything.
The issue at hand that December day was one of the touchiest subjects in German-Polish relations: a textbook -- or, more precisely, recommendations for a future textbook. And since the meeting proved to be a success, it is now all the more likely that Polish and German high schools will soon experience something revolutionary: History classes in both countries will teach from books that, although translated into the two languages, are otherwise identical in their treatment of historical material stretching from ancient Mesopotamia to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and beyond.
This arrangement is particularly noteworthy because the period stretching from the dawn of civilization to the emergence of al-Qaida includes a number of historical episodes that are sensitive subjects for Germans, Poles or both. Prime among these are Germany's 1939and, later, the expulsion of Germans from former ethnic-German territories ceded to Poland in 1945. Likewise, they also include events further back in time, such as the presence of Teutonic Knights on the Polish side of the Oder River, the present-day border between the countries.
On closer inspection, it's hardly surprising that a textbook can be such an explosive issue. As German historians Jörg-Dieter Gauger and Günter Buchstab put it: "As we know, schools are the only places in every society that no individual can get around and that involve the systematic transfer of knowledge." In this respect, the historians continue, "schools, classes, syllabuses and textbooks" can be viewed as "a seismograph for the significance placed on historical topics."
These touchy subjects have generated a lot of friction in the past. But, compared to those times, the commotion that the textbook initiative triggered in 2007, when it was jointly launched by the countries' respective foreign ministers, was only minor. "Of course, historians will always disagree," says Michael G. Müller, an expert on Eastern European history who hails from the eastern German city of Halle and oversees the project on the German side. "But they no longer disagree along the same frontlines as conflicts between nations. What divides them instead are, for example, differing methodological schools, and these are frontlines that run right through our national delegation."
The 135-page outline of the project expresses a desire to move away from "national creation stories" in favor of exposing students to the importance of "sub- or supranational communities." The debates of recent years, it continues, should give way to an "open representation of history."
One point on which conflict has repeatedly flared up involves the insistence of the Polish representatives that the word "expulsion" not be used to describe theof millions of Germans as World War II ended and after national borders had been redrawn. Instead, they prefer to call it "resettlement." There has also been growing mistrust among Poles since the revival of interest in this topic in Germany following the 2002 publication of the Günter Grass novel "Crabwalk" and the more recent discussions surrounding a proposed ....
SOURCE: Maurice Isserman in the NYT Sunday Book Review (6-19-11)
For many years, Robert Jay Lifton has been recognized as a leading “psychohistorian,” or as he prefers to define his vocation, a “historically minded psychiatrist.” Psychohistory is the field of inquiry that explores the psychological motives of individuals and groups of historical actors, as well as the psychological impact of historical events. Lifton is perhaps best known as the author of “Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima,” published in 1967, which received a National Book Award. In that book, he described how the hibakusha, those residents of Hiroshima who survived the atomic bomb on Aug. 6, 1945, lived with deep and shameful feelings of being “inwardly poisoned” by their experience, as well as an embittered “sense of special knowledge” that set them apart from those who had not witnessed the horrors of the attack.
“Witness to an Extreme Century” is a memoir of Lifton’s life and career, and as one is forewarned by its title, he doesn’t offer readers many laughs. Still, one passage toward the end did make me smile. “Dad,” he reports his daughter, Natasha, once asking him, “have you ever considered taking up more cheerful subjects?”
Apparently not. Lifton, whose academic affiliations include stints at the City University of New York, Yale and, most recently, Harvard, has devoted himself to studying how individuals have coped with extreme circumstances: war, torture, genocide. In addition to Hiroshima survivors, his subjects have included Vietnam veterans, the victims of Chinese Communist “thought reform,” and German concentration camp doctors.
“Witness to an Extreme Century” is a work of intellectual autobiography. Mentors, including Lifton’s fellow psychohistorian Erik Erikson, the sociologist David Riesman and the anthropologist Margaret Mead, are discussed at length, while his parents, children and wife make only occasional appearances — although there is a tribute in the epilogue to his spouse, the well-known author Betty Jean Lifton, who died in November 2010....
SOURCE: CS Monitor (6-14-11)
A society can make progress only if its young people know of the progress their country has made so far. In America, that means fourth-graders should be able to identify Abraham Lincoln – only 9 percent can. High school seniors must know about the Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling Brown v. Board of Education – only 2 percent do.
Such statistics are particularly worrisome because today’s 12th-graders will be able to vote in next year’s elections.
Most of these fledgling citizens and future leaders haven’t fared well on a national “report card” issued every few years about how well students grasp civics and history.
In the latest scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, just 12 percent of high school seniors are proficient in US history while 24 percent measure up in civics. And of all the subjects tested under NAEP since 1994 – math, reading, science, writing, geography, civics, history – students do the worst in history....
SOURCE: WSJ (6-18-11)
'We're raising young people who are, by and large, historically illiterate," David McCullough tells me on a recent afternoon in a quiet meeting room at the Boston Public Library. Having lectured at more than 100 colleges and universities over the past 25 years, he says, "I know how much these young people—even at the most esteemed institutions of higher learning—don't know." Slowly, he shakes his head in dismay. "It's shocking."
He's right. This week, the Department of Education released the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress, which found that only 12% of high-school seniors have a firm grasp of our nation's history. And consider: Just 2% of those students understand the significance of Brown v. Board of Education....
The 77-year-old author has been doing his part—he's written nine books over the last four decades, including his most recent, "The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris," a story of young Americans who studied in a culturally dominant France in the 19th century to perfect their talents. He's won two Pulitzer Prizes, two National Book Awards and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award.
"History is a source of strength," he says. "It sets higher standards for all of us." But helping to ensure that the next generation measures up, he says, will be a daunting task....
SOURCE: Detroit Free Press (6-17-11)
...A professor at the University of Michigan said Thursday "it was criminal" that the White House, under President George W. Bush, reportedly asked the CIA at least twice to dig up negative information about his personal life in order to discredit his views on the Iraq war. And he called upon congressional committees to launch an investigation into what he said was illegal spying on an American citizen.
"The Bush White House request that the CIA spy on me to discredit me clearly violated the American constitution, U.S. law, the CIA charter, and my civil and human rights," Professor Juan Cole told the Free Press. "It was criminal."
According to Thursday's New York Times, a CIA official, under pressure from the White House, asked his staff to spy on Cole, a noted history professor from Ann Arbor who writes a popular blog about the Middle East called Informed Comment. Cole started the blog in 2002 to talk about the war against al-Qaida and in Iraq. At times, he is critical of U.S. efforts in the Middle East, but he is not seen as a radical....
SOURCE: Valdai Club (6-15-11)
ValdaiClub.com's interview with Andrei Zubov, Professor of Philosophy, Moscow State Institute of International Relations, D.Sc. in History; Director General of Church and International Relations Center, Moscow State Institute of International Relations.
SOURCE: CNN.com (6-17-11)
This past week, we learned that American students are less proficient in the history of the United States than in any other subject. The New York Times reported that the National Assessment of Educational Progress released the results of a nationwide exam given to thousands of students. According to the results, most fourth graders couldn’t explain why Abraham Lincoln was important. Eighth graders couldn’t identify why American forces had an advantage over the British during the Revolution.
How much attention do you pay to this report?
With a doff of the hat to Sarah Palin, the NAEP report on U.S. history is the proverbial sounding of the alarm.
Some argue that American students have always been deficient in their knowledge of U.S. history, but I do think that we are at a particularly difficult juncture. The situation is deteriorating because of the reasons listed below. It truly is the “perfect storm” of inadequate attention to, training in, and support for history education.
Public officials and society at large have devalued the study of history, which when taught and learned well, goes a long way in making students college-, career- and citizenship-ready. It serves a myriad of purposes–intellectual, inspirational, practical and political....