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: AP (12-1-11)
A new book reports that two days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that officially brought the United States into World War II, President Roosevelt was warned about such a possible attack in a memo from naval intelligence.
U.S. News' Paul Bedard writes more about the story:
In the newly revealed 20-page memo from FDR's declassified FBI file, the Office of Naval Intelligence on December 4 warned, "In anticipation of open conflict with this country, Japan is vigorously utilizing every available agency to secure military, naval and commercial information, paying particular attention to the West Coast, the Panama Canal and the Territory of Hawaii."
The memo comes from Craig Shirley's new book, December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World, which also reports that the Japanese were building a network of spies through their U.S. embassies and consulates. However, Shirley doesn't blame FDR for failing to act on the memo; instead, he compares the Roosevelt administration's inaction to the executive branch's failure to act on pre-9/11 intelligence. In each instance, Shirley contends, the evidence suggests "that there were more pieces to the puzzle" that the White House missed in the days and weeks leading up to the attack. "So many mistakes through so many levels of Washington," said Shirley. "Some things never change."...
SOURCE: Aletho News (12-1-11)
The popular internet magazine Slate recently published an excerpt from The Unmaking of Israel, a new book by the historian Gershom Gorenberg. The title of the excerpt asked “Did Israel actually plan to expel most of its Arabs in 1948? Or not?” (“The Mystery of 1948,” 7 November 2011).
As most critical scholars of Palestinian history and the Zionist-Palestinian conflict would likely agree, this is an odd question to ask. Since Israel’s “new historians” began publishing revised histories that undermined the long-held official Zionist ideological narrative of the creation of Israel (in which the Arabs left Palestine voluntarily, or in response to urgings from the Arab states) it has become increasingly clear that Ilan Pappe was correct in suggesting a paradigm shift in historical analysis of the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe). Instead of viewing the violent, bloody events of 1948 through the lens of “war,” Pappe proposed a framework of “ethnic cleansing” — which, as he demonstrated, is well supported by the available evidence. But despite such growing clarity and consensus, Gorenberg implicitly rejects Pappe’s framework.
Since the early Zionist leadership formed a planning body (the Situation Committee) to determine how the Palestinian minority who remained within the borders of the future Jewish state would be managed, Gorenberg concludes that David Ben-Gurion and his affiliates had no firm plans to cleanse the territory on the eve of the 1948 conflict. Of course, these leaders had contemplated “transfer,” but this was an understandable manifestation of demographic unease and only one possible option among others. Though Ben-Gurion and the liberal Zionists likely had the best of intentions toward the Arabs, the right-wing spoiled the hopes of the more progressive and committed violent atrocities.
Gorenberg thus presents an image of a powerless Zionist left, which was presented with a fait accompli by the radical right and the unpredictability of the “chaos of war,” then attacked head-on by the confused natives and forced to defend itself.
By relentlessly placing the blame on a few “crazed” right-wing groups and the whims of fate, Gorenberg exculpates Zionism as such from responsibility for its brutal colonial history and leaves room for some “good Zionists,” who can doubtless count him among their number. In Gorenberg’s version of events one can detect the revenge of the “old historians,” mediated through several decades of the revisionists: the discredited fictions proffered by the Israeli state and allied ideologues are revitalized while simultaneously acknowledging the now-undeniable crimes of Zionism’s past. Though some misguided right-wing Zionists committed or caused horrendous injustices against the Palestinians, fuelling the conflict, there is a “pure” left-wing Zionism that stands apart from these acts and which was dragged against its will into a situation from which there was no easy escape. It was all an accident....
SOURCE: Robert Townsend in AHA Perspectives (12-1-11)
Robert Townsend is deputy director of the American Historical Association.
Ask almost any historian employed in academia today, and they will tell you how lucky they are to have a job. The problems of the academic job market in history extend back to 1970, rising and falling through a series of seemingly intractable crises in every decade since. But the solutions, much like the problems, are not as simple or straightforward as they often appear. Bringing the number of new PhDs conferred each year into line with the number of new academic jobs that become available cannot in itself solve all the problems.
As a discipline, we need to get past the notion that the history job market is neatly characterized by the ratio of academic jobs to PhDs. Examining the relationship is important, as it does help us to see that the number of PhDs conferred in history has been fairly consistent—at about 1,000 per year for more than a decade—while the number of jobs has gone through a series of rather wild gyrations that generally follow the larger economy up and down (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Number of New History PhDs and Advertised Job Openings,
1970–71 to 2010–11
But that is not the whole story. In many ways these two trend lines are much too simple as a description of the problem, as there are many other factors that actually shape the relationship between any two corresponding points. These include the number of new PhDs entering programs, the types of jobs they are prepared for, and a range of other potential shifts in academic employment that are slowly reshaping the careers and opportunities of those who find jobs....