Barbara D. Savage, a professor of history and American social thought at the University of Pennsylvania, will receive the 2012 Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion for her 2008 book, Your Spirits Walk Beside Us: The Politics of Black Religion (Harvard University Press)....
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 Nation (12-21-11)
...George F. Kennan by John Lewis Gaddis
Yes this massive authorized bio landed on many year-end “best” lists, but most reviewers didn’t know much about Kennan beyond his authorship of the containment doctrine at the dawn of the Cold War. The problem with this book: it minimizes Kennan’s 40 years of criticism of the Cold War. “Containment,” he said, should have focused on economic and political competition with the Soviets, rather than on a military arms race. Gaddis portrays the older Kennan as morose and self-absorbed, but barely mentions Kennan’s opposition to the Vietnam War, his endorsement of Gene McCarthy for president in 1968, and his last political statement, in 2002, at age 98, criticizing George W. Bush’s plans for a war with Iraq. Perhaps relevant in explaining these gaps: George W. Bush awarded Gaddis the National Humanities Medal in 2005 in a ceremony at the White House. For a critique of the book, see Frank Costigliola in the New York Review, here.
Area 51 by Annie Jacobsen
Jacobsen makes the intriguing argument that the Air Force welcomed the alien abduction stories about Nevada’s Area 51 as a cover for what was actually going on there: testing of secret aircraft. But supersonic jets are kind of a letdown compared to little green men, so the book goes on to make a ridiculous argument: the “aliens” witnesses thought they saw at that plane crash in Roswell, NM, in 1947 were actually Russian mutants, surgically altered by Josef Mengele – who, she says, had gone to work for Stalin, who sent the mutants in a Soviet “flying saucer” to New Mexico. (Never mind that the little green men were probably Air Force crash test dummies, and that Mengele hated the Soviets and escaped to South America after the war.) For a thorough demolition of the book, see Robert S. Norris and Jeffrey T. Richelson, “Dreamland Fantasies,” here....
SOURCE: FactCheck.org (12-20-11)
Newt Gingrich wrongly claimed the Dred Scott decision “ruled that slavery extended to the whole country.” It did not. The ruling stated that Congress had no authority to ban slavery in new territories, but it stopped short of applying the ruling to all states. Gingrich also claimed that President Lincoln “explicitly instructed his administration to not enforce Dred Scott.” But the research historian at the Lincoln presidential library knows of no such directive or any reason to issue one.
In arguing for the need to curb the power of the judiciary, Gingrich frequently cites Lincoln’s well documented opposition to the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott ruling. Gingrich did so twice Dec. 18 on “Face the Nation.” The former House speaker, who earned a Ph.D. in history and taught the subject briefly, often says he is speaking “as a historian.” We asked Bryon Andreasen, the research historian at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill., to review Gingrich’s comments about Lincoln on “Face the Nation” for historical accuracy.
Gingrich, Dec. 18: Lincoln spends part of his first inaugural because people tend to forget, the Supreme Court in Dred Scott, ruled that slavery extended to the whole country. And Lincoln said very specifically, that’s the law of the case that is not the law of the land. Nine people cannot create the law of the land or you have eliminated our freedom as a people.
Andreasen made three points about Gingrich’s comments. We’ll provide Andreasen’s detailed analysis later, but first we will summarize his main points:
- The Dred Scott decision did not extend slavery “to the whole country,” as Gingrich claimed.
- Gingrich’s statement that “Lincoln said very specifically, that’s the law of the case that is not the law of the land” — is, in Andreasen’s words, “historically defensible.”
- It is “essentially accurate,” Andreasen said, for Gingrich to paraphrase Lincoln’s belief that “nine people cannot create the law of the land or you have eliminated our freedom as a people.”...
SOURCE: Claire Potter for The Chronicle of Higher Ed (12-18-11)
Claire Potter is a blogger and history professor at Wesleyan University.
Have you followed American Historical Association president Anthony Grafton’s serial meditation on how graduate schools might respond to a bad academic job market? A market that has, since the the 1970s, been either stagnant or getting worse? A market with whose effects the blogosphere is obsessed?
If you haven’t, you need to catch up. For “No More Plan B” (October 2011) and “Plan C” (November 2011), both co-written with Jim Grossman for the AHA newsletter Perspectives, go here and here. For an article about “Plan B” by Scott Jaschik of Inside Higher Ed (October 3 2011) go here; and for a response by graduate student Dan Alloso (UMass-Amherst) go here.
This month, a few young historians will get ready for convention or Skype interviews and most of the others will check their voicemail for the call that isn’t coming. In a well-timed conclusion to the series, Grafton ends with a solo piece on full-time employment off the academic tenure-track. In ”Historians at Work: Public History” (December 2011), he describes the rich, publicly engaged intellectual labor of a young Ph.D. at the Museum of the City of New York, emphasizing its collaborative quality, its scope and its impact. “This is serious history,” Grafton writes in his concluding paragraph. “It’s deeply informed by scholarship. And if it’s well done, it will reach an enormous audience.”
Scholars already doing public history in its many forms might shrug and say, “This is news?” Historians on the market will point out that Grafton is proposing another version of the old bait and switch. Lured by the fantasy of life as a teacher-scholar, they are now being offered a second-class life that they can’t afford to turn down. Those working in the world of contingent scholarship will argue that privileged oldsters like Grafton and myself have no right to admit defeat on their behalf, denying younger folk a similar opportunity (different as Princeton and Zenith are) to have the careers they chose....
Grafton’s most vocal critics this fall have emphasized that his proposals for reform accept the market forces, and the underinvestment in education, that have left thousands of PhDs in many fields un- or under-employed. Radical historian Jesse Lemisch, for example, sees Grafton’s approach as accomodationist. “I hesitate to use so snarky a term as C. Wright Mills’s ‘crackpot realism,’” he responded on History News Network (November 11 2011)...
This Radical’s heart is often with Lemisch, but on this issue my mind is with Grafton. And where the mind goes, the heart follows. As I read Grafton’s concluding piece, I was struck by his focus on the beauty of scholarly collaboration, a skill that is rarely emphasized in a graduate education and is poorly rewarded in the history departments where we stand for tenure and promotion. As Dana Polanichka implies in the same December issue, the most successful job seekers can display an egotism and lack of empathy for others that suggests things will not get better at all in a world of graduate education where individualism rules and young scholars who do land jobs see it as proof that their achievements are demonstrably superior....
SOURCE: NYT (12-18-11)
Paula E. Hyman, a social historian who pioneered the study of women in Jewish life and became an influential advocate for women’s equality in Jewish religious practice, including their ordination as rabbis, died on Thursday at her home in New Haven. She was 65.
The cause was breast cancer, said her husband, Dr. Stanley Rosenbaum.
Dr. Hyman, a professor of modern Jewish history at Yale University, wrote 10 books about the Jewish experience in Europe and the United States, many of them focused on women’s roles in various communities before and after the immense Jewish migrations of the 19th and 20th centuries.
She spotlighted the special stresses confronting married Jewish women from Eastern Europe when they arrived in the United States, for instance: although they were used to working outside the home, even as primary breadwinners in some ultrareligious families, they were initially housebound in America, where custom placed married women in the home....
SOURCE: Haaretz (12-16-11)
The night of April 17, 1945 was a dramatic one in the Bavarian town of Ansbach. The Third Reich was on the verge of collapse and U.S. forces were besieging the city. They would take it in less than 24 hours. That night a small, courageous group of young anti-Nazis tried to get the town to surrender without bloodshed or destruction.
The tragic events of that night and the following morning would enable one of Germany's most important postwar historians to clear his name of accusations that he was pro-Nazi. Through a web of lies and half-truths, the historian, Karl Bosl, swept away his Nazi past and replaced it with the image of a brave opponent of the Nazis.
Research by Prof. Benjamin Z. Kedar, the vice president of the National Academy of Sciences, and Peter Herde of Wurzburg University in Germany, has exposed what really happened that night, as well as Bosl's true Nazi past. As a result, the government of the Bavarian city where Bosl was born, Cham, announced about two weeks ago that it was changing the name of a square from Dr.-Karl-Bosl-Platz and removing a statue of Bosl from town hall....
SOURCE: Jon Wiener in The Nation (12-15-11)
Jon Wiener teaches US history at UC Irvine.
...To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914–1918, by Adam Hochschild.
I loved this story about a big war and the small number of people who said it was wrong—not the Iraq war or the Vietnam war but World War I, one of history’s most senseless exercises in violence. Hochschild focuses on Britain and on those who were jailed for trying to stop the war that killed so many millions and broke so many of the barriers to what we considered permissible. Written with impressive narrative power and moral clarity, thke book offers an unmistakable lesson for our own time....
...Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War, by Andrew Bacevich.
A blistering critique of America’s leaders who since 1945 have asserted the “rule” that they alone must “lead, save, liberate and ultimately transform the world.” This requires a massive military power extended everywhere on the globe, and intermittent hot wars. Bacevich writes with unusual authority: unlike the rest of us, he’s a West Point graduate, he served for twenty-three years in the army, fought in Vietnam and retired as a colonel—but Iraq changed his mind. The “Washington rules” are perpetuated by Democrats as much as Republicans, and also by corporations, banks, think tanks, universities and the mainstream media, all of which make money off the permanent state of emergency....
SOURCE: LA Times (12-14-11)
During his five-year overhaul of the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, Cold War historian Timothy Naftali won wide praise for transforming a much-ridiculed institution into a house of serious scholarship under the auspices of the National Archives and Records Administration.
Yet nobody was surprised that the private Richard Nixon Foundation — run by fierce loyalists of the former president — didn't honor Naftali when he left as director last month to join a think tank and write a book. The raw, unflinching Watergate exhibit he unveiled in March was, in the loyalists' view, deeply unkind to Nixon's legacy.
The foundation, which had run the library with private funds from its inception in 1990, had a chilly relationship with Naftali since he was appointed director in 2006 with the clear orders to make over an institution that seemed designed only to burnish Nixon's image.
Now, a fuller portrait is emerging of the campaign the loyalists waged and the tactics they employed — including the use of high-level political pressure — to thwart Naftali's efforts at the library....
SOURCE: Jerusalem Post (12-15-11)
A new biography of Reinhard Heydrich argues that decisions to exterminate the Jews were not made in the 1930s but developed in stages, often in response to changing political and military circumstances.
At the state funeral following the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in Prague in May 1942, Heinrich Himmler remembered his colleague as a noble man, “with a character of the rarest purity and a mind of penetrating logic and clarity,” rightly “feared by the sub-humans and slandered by Jews and other criminals.” Visibly moved, Adolf Hitler added that Heydrich had died as a martyr “for the preservation and protection of the Reich.” The Führer decorated him with “the highest award in my gift, the highest stage of the German Order,” and patted the cheeks of his two sons as he left the ceremony.
Chief of the Criminal Police, the SS Security Service, and the Gestapo, and ruler of Nazi-occupied Bohemia and Moravia, Heydrich was a key planner of the genocidal “Final Solution.” And yet, Robert Gewarth, a professor of history at University College Dublin, points out that no serious scholarly biography of him exists. Hitler’s Hangman fills this gap with a careful, compelling and chilling account of the Third Reich’s “administrator of death.”
Employing “a cold empathy,” Gewarth does not downplay Heydrich’s responsibility for his actions or the twisted “morality” he used to justify them. But he reaches beyond characterizations of Heydrich as a depraved monster or a “perversely rational desk-killer.” Dismissing as untenable assertions that Heydrich planned the Holocaust from the 1930s onward, Gewarth argues that decisions to exterminate the Jews developed in stages, often in response to changing political and military circumstances....
SOURCE: Jewish Telegraph Agency (12-15-11)
(JTA) -- Noted Jewish feminist Paula Hyman, who served as the first female dean of the Seminary College of Jewish Studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary, has died.
Hyman died Thursday at the age of 65.
She was the Lucy Moses Professor of Modern Jewish History at Yale University, a position she held for 25 years, including more than a decade as chair of the Jewish studies program....
SOURCE: Mark LeVine for Al Jazeera (12-15-11)
Irvine, California -The following interviews were done with representatives of several Egyptian and international human rights organisations who have intimate knowledge of the current human rights situation in the country. Due to the sensitive nature of many of the questions, they requested anonymity.
As Egypt votes, most mainstream observers are taking as a given that, despite various irregularities, the elections have been broadly "free and fair". Does the human rights community in Egypt consider them as such?
No. The elections lack at least the principles of the international laws for various reasons. First, you can't have an election in a country that is essentially under ongoing emergency rule. Second, the Ministry of Internal Affairs shouldn't be controlling the electoral process, which is what is happening in reality. Third, we have no idea what standards the Electoral Commission is relying upon concerning electoral procedures. Some stations have been taking 150,000 votes and others were up to a half a million voters. Are they doing it according to geographical standards, or according to the number of people? These questions were raised while we were watching the election and we still don't have answers.
How can we understand the political component of the election?
Regardless of which parties or coalitions will ultimately win, the facts are that upwards of 40 per cent of the people lack any basics of political education or culture. A certain amount of poor people are voting based on simple ideological manipulation by one or the other factions. And it's clear that political movements are still buying some votes, while others are making outlandish promises, or are using religion, and even mosques, as core elements of electoral campaigns despite the ban on doing so.
What role can local human rights organisations play in educating voters on these issues? Do Egyptians understand their rights yet?
We must talk to the citizens and let them know what their rights are and how to vote so that there are fewer surprises at the polls. We do that by having campaigns to raise awareness among the people. We also help train candidates on the logistics of running a campaign and report any irregularities in the election, by following the ballot boxes and the updates of the committees that are watching the election. We are doing our best to ensure that people understand their [political] rights and how they are related to human rights. But it's not simple to explain human rights to people in the countryside where the public sphere is less developed and so many are uneducated. But we are doing our best to reach as many people as possible.
SOURCE: MSNBC (12-14-11)
On Dec. 14, 1911, a five-man Norwegian team led by Roald Amundsen became the first explorers to reach the South Pole. Another five-man expedition reached the pole just 34 days later, this time a led by British Navy Captain Robert Falcon Scott.
But a century later, both teams still seem to be competing against one another....
Initially, Scott was seen as a tragic hero, particularly in Britain and other English-speaking countries. Many observers outside Scandinavia regarded Amundsen — who had secretly changed his destination from the North to the South Pole — as a usurper who had unsportingly jumped in on Scott's long-planned mission.
Then in 1979, a book by Roland Huntford, a British journalist with long experience in Scandinavia, painted an entirely different picture. In "Scott and Amundsen," Huntford portrayed Scott as an incompetent martinet and Amundsen as a perfect team leader who serenely achieved results....
Recently, views have begun to change again.
Some historians point to the two ventures' contrasting goals. While Amundsen sought only the pole, they say, Scott's expedition included several prominent scientists who carried out significant research in other parts of Antarctica as the five-man team undertook its polar journey....
SOURCE: HNN Staff (12-14-11)
Anthony Grafton, president of the American Historical Association, will be chairing a just-announced session at this year’s AHA convention in Chicago, entitled “Jobs for Historians: Approaching the Crisis from the Demand Side.” The session was prompted by an exchange with Jesse Lemisch on the History News Network over the proper way to address the jobs crisis amongst history PhDs. Mr. Lemisch proposed that the AHA endorse a proposal for a WPA-style federal writers’ project for out-of-work historians, in turn prompted by an earlier exchange (For Lemisch’s original article and a rebuttal by Grafton and AHA executive director James Grossman, go here and here.). Mr. Lemisch will be on the panel, along with Edward Balleisen of Duke University, John R. Dichtl of the National Council for Public History, and Lynn Hunt of UCLA.
Mr. Lemisch has also announced the formation of Occupy History, a group that seeks to add the voice of historians “in support of those speaking out against demanding solutions to growing injustice and inequality, both economic and social.” Occupy History’s website is http://occupyhistoryna.wordpress.com/.
SOURCE: Letter to the Editor of the NYT (12-13-11)
SOURCE: NPR (12-8-11)
Newt Gingrich once called himself "the most seriously professorial politician since Woodrow Wilson."
But that was 1995, and the "Contract with America" co-author had just helped to propel Republicans into power in the House for the first time in 40 years, and Gingrich himself into the speaker's role. Even the rarely modest Gingrich had reason to gloat.
Just two years later, of course, he had become the first speaker ever punished by the House for ethics violations, and the end was in sight for both his leadership and congressional career.
Gingrich's troubles stemmed in part from his professorial work, a 1994 college course he had taught in Georgia....
SOURCE: KQED News (12-7-11)
...Another perhaps less-likely HSR pessimist is Richard White, the Pulitzer-Prize-nominated Margaret Byrne Professor of American History at Stanford, whose specialty is the American West and whose current book is Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America.
KQED's Amy Standen interviewed White in November to find out just why he's so down on high-speed rail. Here's an edited transcript of the interview:
What's your take on high-speed rail?
It will not die, it's impossible to kill it. The state is going to lose money but construction firms are going to make a great deal of money, land developers around these stations if they ever complete them are going to make money. The governor stands to gain real political capital if they can spend 2 billion in federal dollars to improve employment -- the state needs jobs.
But it would be better to dig a very big hole and fill it up again because that won't cost you anything in the future.
The long-term danger is that you're going to create a white elephant in the San Joaquin Valley, which is essentially a line we have no need for and in fact there's no funding currently to put trains on it. It's never going to be able to sustain itself and the state is going to have to pour good money after bad. The plan now is to make it an Amtrak line, not high-speed rail. To spend $2 billion to do that is frankly ridiculous....
SOURCE: NJ.com (12-12-11)
If you want to reach Jeff McMahan, a professor in Rutgers University's esteemed philosophy department, don't bother calling his office. His telephone — like those of many of other teachers in the humanities — has been unplugged, amid belt-tightening at the state university.
"I work in the second-ranked philosophy department in the nation, but I don't even have an office phone," said McMahan, a nine-year professor who now uses his personal cell phone as his office phone.
With state aid cuts and the poor economy, professors across the university are learning to live without common items like office phones, photocopies, pay raises and the latest academic journals.
Meanwhile, the university has increased funding for sports, fueling tension between the athletic and academic communities over the university's priorities. Last year, the university diverted $26.8 million in student fees and tuition dollars to cover the department's operating loss, one of the highest subsidies in the nation, a Star-Ledger analysis shows....
The faculty in school of the Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University will consider a resolution on Dec. 14, calling upon the administration to curtail the subsidies and open up the athletic department's books.
"Rutgers is spending more than any other program in country, but I don't see the returns," said history department chairman Jim Masschaele.
"We are not Ohio State, Michigan or Penn State, and I don't think anyone in the administration believes that."
SOURCE: Ta-Neishi Coates at The Atlantic (12-9-11)
Ta-Neishi Coates is a blogger for The Atlantic.
What follows is an excerpt of my interview with Eric Foner for my Civil War essay. I ended up not quoting Professor Foner, but as will become obvious, his work and his thoughts, were deeply influential on my own writing. Professor Foner is the Dewitt Clinton professor of history at Columbia University and the author of (among others) Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil War, Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877, The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery which won the Pulitzer last year.
The Fiery Trial and Free Soil, Free Labor have been especially important to my thinking about the Civil War and about the interaction between radical activists and electoral politics. (Reconstructionis next up after Middlemarch.) On a personal note, Professor Foner has been extremely gracious with his time. I feel indebted to him for that and, frankly, the larger community of academic historians the lot of whom have been more than happy to share their thinking. For those looking to begin their research into the period, I highly recommend Foner's work. Not only is it deeply informed and full of insight, it's extremely well written and clear.See the escalation of this long argument here, here, her, here, here, and here. See the conclusion for the magazine here. We'll have an interview with David Blight up in the next few days.
I wanted to first begin with this basic question I've been hashing over in some of my writing at the Atlantic. Is the Civil War tragic?
On the one hand you can say any war is tragic. But it's kind of metaphysical and that has nothing to do with a historic situation. When people today say "the Civil War was tragic" what we're getting [now] is an odd combination of two things. One, there's a long standing conservative view that the war was unnecessary, that slavery would have died out anyway, and therefore the Civil War is tragic because people died for no reason....
SOURCE: Diana Senechal in The New Republic (12-12-11)
Diana Senechal is the author of Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture.
When reading Kevin Carey’s article on Diane Ravitch in The New Republic (“The Dissenter,” November 23, 2011), two thoughts jostled in my mind: first, that any response would give the piece more credit than it deserved; second, that his misleading summary of her scholarship required a rebuttal. The latter thought ultimately won. Given our reactive political climate, in which cursory statements often pass for truth, someone should point out the errors and distortions in Carey’s statements.
Carey attempts in his piece to discredit Ravitch’s work and credibility—and thereby to undermine her opposition to the reforms that he champions (such as charter schools). He does this with personal attacks, sundry quotations of education professors, and what masquerades as an overview of her life’s work. The references to her personal life do not deserve the dignity of a response. It is Carey’s comments on her scholarship that should be corrected, as they trivialize a powerful and lasting body of work.
I have read all of Ravitch’s books and many of her articles and essays. I helped with the editing and documentation of her latest book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education (2010). I do not always agree with her, but I admire her work and have learned much from it. Her books have sent me on many a research foray; their documentation has been invaluable. Sometimes their lessons have surprised me. Her 2000 book Left Back: A Century of Battles Over School Reform (in large part a critique of educational progressivism) inspired me to read the work of progressives such as Harold O. Rugg, George S. Counts, and Boyd H. Bode, as well as that of progressivism’s critics. It was The Death and Life of the Great American School System (frequently quoted for its criticism of charter schools) that helped me understand why one might support the idea of charters. A gift for dialectic runs through her work; no matter where she locates herself in an education conflict, she brings opposing viewpoints to life....
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (12-11-11)
Eric Foner teaches at Columbia University.
David Montgomery, who has died aged 84 of a brain haemorrhage, was one of the most prominent historians in the US and the model of a scholar-activist. Along with the late Herbert Gutman, he was the most influential practitioner of the "new labour history", which moved the study of workers away from the institutional history of unions to the workplace struggles, political ideologies and cultural values of the diverse groups who make up the American working class. Before entering academia, he spent several years as a shop-floor organiser for the Communist party, working with the United Electrical Workers, International Association of Machinists and Teamsters union, an experience rare among modern academics.
Born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, Montgomery served in the Army Corps of Engineers during the second world war, including a stint at Los Alamos, New Mexico, where the atomic bomb was developed. After leaving the army he attended Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. In the 1950s, Montgomery devoted himself to factory organising. Hounded by the FBI, he was dismissed from several industrial jobs. He left the Communist party in 1957 in the aftermath of the Soviet invasion of Hungary, and, as he later recalled in an interview with the Radical History Review, because of the party's "stifling" intellectual atmosphere.
But he remained deeply influenced by two aspects of his communist experience – Marxist analysis and a commitment to racial equality. Class remained his key category of historical analysis, although he was keenly aware of the multiracial, multi-ethnic nature of the American labour force. He saw class consciousness not as adherence to a particular ideology but as workers' day-to-day activities in opposition to their employers. Unions, whatever their political outlook, were for Montgomery places of human solidarity, their very existence a rebuke and challenge to the dog-eat-dog competitiveness of market society.
What he witnessed on the shop floor convinced him that "most of what was written in academic literature about the inherent conservatism of American workers ... was simply untrue." He decided to set the record straight. Montgomery received his doctorate in history from the University of Minnesota in 1962. He taught labour history for 14 years at the University of Pittsburgh, then moved to Yale University as a professor of history. A powerful, charismatic speaker, he attracted legions of students to his classes....
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (12-5-11)
SOURCE: Jon Wiener in The Nation (12-2-11)
Jon Wiener teaches history at UC Irvine and writes for The Nation.
David Montgomery, one of the founders of the “New Labor History” in the United States, who inspired a generation of activists and historians, died December 2. He was 84. David lived a remarkable life: blacklisted as a union organizer in the 1950s, twenty years later he was named Farnam Professor of History at Yale. Even as Farnam Professor he remained a deeply political animal, working with local labor activists, black and white, in New Haven and elsewhere.
I’ll never forget David’s story about how he became an academic. A communist labor organizer in the darkest days of McCarthyism, he spent “every single day through the 1950s” in factories—working primarily with the machinists’ union in St. Paul from 1951 to 1960. He started at Minneapolis Honeywell; the FBI got him fired....
He moved to smaller shops, always organizing, and always the FBI followed him and got him fired. “Finally,” he told me, “the only job I could get was in a shop with only one other worker. I organized that guy into the union—and the FBI didn’t get me fired.”
At this point, he said, “I realized they had me beat, so I quit and became a historian.”
He enrolled in grad school at the University of Minnesota and got a PhD in 1962.... Where historians focused on Reconstruction as a time when the North imposed its will on the white South, Montgomery showed how workers raised issues of economic power and economic justice in the North. Class conflict in the North, he concluded, “was the submerged shoal on which Radical dreams foundered.”...
SOURCE: James M. Banner Jr. in The Weekly Standard (12-5-11)
SOURCE: National Review (12-5-11)
Looking to meet a fascinating woman? Elizabeth Lev, an American art historian who lives in Rome, is ready to make an introduction. She’s a Renaissance countess named Caterina, and Lev’s intimate portrait of her, The Tigress of Forli: Renaissance Italy’s Most Courageous and Notorious Countess, Caterina Riario Sforza de’ Medici, is as riveting as any novel. But Sforza is no fictional creation. Rather, she is a woman of culture and politics who left one Signor Machiavelli none too happy and whose likeness can be found in the Sistine Chapel. Lev talked to National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez about her dear friend, whom she’d love for you to get to know. (She’ll explain, and leave you wanting more.)
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: You clearly love Caterina Sforza. What’s the attraction?
ELIZABETH LEV: She was a strong, creative woman in a world where those traits were seen only as the attributes of men. She was a doer, not a spectator, in the thrilling age of the Renaissance. But mostly she was a woman who could overcome fear, both of her enemies and of her own weaknesses. Oh, and that she was a successful single mother is kind of cool too....
SOURCE: Catherine Bennett in the Guardian (UK) (12-4-11)
Catherine Bennett is an Observer columnist.
What if Niall Ferguson had not declared war on Pankaj Mishra in 2011? As Ferguson argues in his book Virtual History: "It makes sense to compare the actual outcomes of what we did in the past with the conceivable outcomes of what we might have done."
Thus counterfactualists may want to ask how things might stand had Ferguson not chosen to respond with escalating legal threats to Mishra's unfavourable review of Civilization in the London Review of Books. Mishra had made comparisons with work by the American white supremacist writer Theodore Lothrop Stoddard, which Ferguson chose to interpret as a libellous accusation of racism: "At the very least, Mishra owes me a public apology for his highly offensive and defamatory allegation." He also expressed anger, in a style perhaps more reminiscent of Charles Pooter than Stoddard, at being described as "immune to… humour and irony" (generously, no formal apology was demanded for this additional affront). Now, Mishra's responses only having further inflamed him, Ferguson is threatening the LRB's editor with litigation, telling her, he discloses: "Don't force my hand by forcing me to put it in the hands of lawyers."
Did it have to be this way? Imagine the outcome if Ferguson had contented himself, as countless indignant academics have done in the past, with letters, bitterly addressing Mishra's wrongness as he sees it. That would have been nothing out of the ordinary for a journal which has hosted livelier engagements, or for Ferguson, who would thereby have retained his place in the celebrity firmament as the brilliant telly historian with, by his own admission, a huge talent for grudges. "Get the bastard when the opportunity arises," is a scholarly precept he shared recently with Decca Aitkenhead. "Never underestimate the irate Professor Ferguson." Although he began his first letter of protest to the LRB: "It is not my habit to reply to hostile reviews", this self-restraint is not uniform. A Guardian article by Seumas Milne was described as "a shocking piece of crass misrepresentation"....
SOURCE: Indian Country News (12-2-11)
Dartmouth College professor Colin Calloway was honored in September with the 2011 American Indian History Lifetime Achievement Award, which is presented to an individual for “helping Native American students and advancing the study of American Indian history.”
He received the award during the Western History Association Conference held in Oakland, California....
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed (12-1-11)