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 Daily Beast (3-26-12)
In a riveting new account in The New Yorker, Robert Caro, the preeminent biographer of 36th president Lyndon Baines Johnson, traces the politician’s activities on the day President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. Before the shots were fired, a Senate probe threatened to contaminate Johnson’s career, and magazine investigations had the Johnson family finances in their sites. Then fate rang out of the clear Texas sky.
Caro traces Johnson’s steps on Nov. 22, 1963, from the time he left Ft. Worth, Texas, with the president through his decision to take the oath of office on the runway on board Air Force One—and on to his first order as president of the United States. While the reporting itself is impeccable, it is as always Caro’s perspicuous analysis of the manipulation of power that most impresses. The Daily Beast collects seven key moments from Caro’s must-read account of one of the most fateful days in 20th-century American history....
SOURCE: WSJ (3-30-12)
By R. Hal Williams (2010)
Only a handful of presidential elections have become the stuff of political folklore. Prominent among them is the 1896 contest between William McKinley and William Jennings Bryan, known as the "Battle of the Standards" because the candidates clashed bitterly over monetary policy—Bryan delivered his famous "Cross of Gold" speech at the Democratic convention. The common view of the election was that wealthy businessman Mark Hanna engineered McKinley's election. But legends often mask reality—the campaign involved much more than "Cross of Gold" and Mark Hanna. In "Realigning America," R. Hal Williams got the story of the '96 campaign right at last. As Williams shows, the true architect of the GOP success was not Hanna but the candidate himself. "All of us want good times," McKinley said, "good wages, good prices, good markets, and then we want good money too." His program of sound money and tariff protection ended a generation of stalemated national politics and created a durable Republican majority. Williams's lucid retelling of the story of McKinley's triumph is a bracing reminder of the intellectual pleasures of synthesis. In a brief but compelling narrative, the author illuminates how and why Gilded Age Americans voted as they did, but he also shows us how much campaigns have changed in the long sweep of the nation's history.
Before the Storm
By Rick Perlstein (2001)
In November 1964, Lyndon Johnson bestrode the American political world while Barry Goldwater appeared destined for the ranks of other badly beaten presidential candidates, such as John W. Davis (1924) and Alton B. Parker (1904). Half a century later, Johnson seems an archaic anomaly of a discredited liberalism. Goldwater's losing campaign invites continued scrutiny as the harbinger of the modern world of conservatism. There is no better place to start than Rick Perlstein's "Before the Storm," a lavish re-creation of the 1964 campaign with a focus on Goldwater and conservatism. Perlstein's judgments are sharp and his prose telling: "The Eastern Establishment had no clothes. But to many it was still garbed in the cloak of limitless power." Fair and judicious to all the subjects of his narrative, Perlstein achieves the difficult feat of evoking human sympathy for most of the participants in the events of 1964....
SOURCE: Columbia Journalism School (3-15-12)
Columbia Journalism School and the Nieman Foundation for Journalism have named the 2012 winners of the Lukas Prize Project Awards.
A Vanderbilt University professor has won the 2012 J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize for his sensitive account of the fine line people of mixed race have tread in the United States since the nation’s beginning. The Mark Lynton History Prize will go to a University of Virginia professor for her unusual and groundbreaking work on the history of common sense. The J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award was won by a former A.P. reporter and editor who is completing a book on the world’s inability to help Haiti.
The judges said of “The Invisible Line: Three American Families and the Secret Journey from Black to White” (Penguin Press) by Daniel J. Sharfstein, an associate professor of law at Vanderbilt University: “The book makes real the fact that, not so long ago, American citizens were forced into hiding their lineage and identity just to live free in this democracy, the perils and sense of loss, no matter which road they chose, and the price being paid even to this day by their descendents, and by extension, all of us.” The winner of the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize receives $10,000. One finalist was named: the late Manning Marable for “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention" (Viking Press)....
SOURCE: Iowa City Press Citizen (3-26-12)
As the end to her long and distinguished career at the University of Iowa approaches, professor Linda Kerber has a better word for retirement.
“I prefer to say ‘liberation,’ since I expect to continue to be a historian so long as my brain and eyesight hold out,” Kerber said last week in a lecture to UI’s Graduate History Society. “It’s the formal academic structures in which I’ve been embedded — structures that I admire, structures that I sought, structures that I have always considered myself lucky to have been part of — from which I retire.”
Kerber, the first woman to hold a chaired professorship at UI and one of the nation’s preeminent scholars in women’s history, will step away from classroom at the end of academic year after four decades of teaching in Iowa City. Before bidding farewell, however, she will be honored April 3 with a Distinguished Achievement Award at UI’s annual Celebration of Excellence and Achievement Among Women....
SOURCE: CBS Local (3-25-12)
MOUNT KISKO, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — After a long battle with lung cancer, legendary Boxing writer, historian, and one of the all-time great characters, Bert Sugar, of Chappaqua, New York passed away this Sunday afternoon at the age of 75.
He was surrounded by family at Northern Westchester Medical Center in Mount Kisco. His family said Sugar went into cardiac arrest.
Sugar, instantly recognizable with his brown fedora and cigar, is the author of over 80 books. He will always be remembered as the publisher and editor of “Boxing Illustrated” and later “The Ring” magazine.
After he passed the bar exam, he became one of the original “Mad Men” in the 60s, working at McCann Erickson and J. Walter Thompson....
SOURCE: WSJ (3-25-12)
Alan Brinkley is an historian at Columbia University.
The new era doesn’t seem to have had much impact on the ad men. The opening moments of the season begins with a civil-rights demonstration on Madison Avenue, where cretinous ad men at Young and Rubicam are throwing water bombs out of the window down onto African-American marchers. At Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, there are no such juvenile attacks. Not because they have respect for the marchers, but because the windows don’t open in their building. Sterling Cooper publishes an advertisement showing that the company supports equal opportunity – eager to embarrass Y&R. But they soon find a crowd of African Americans in the lobby waiting for jobs. Perhaps needless to say, they had no interest in hiring African Americans.
For a while in this first episode, it seems that Don has reached something close to contentment. He has moved into an expensive, attractive apartment – not the drab, dark rooms he inhabited before. His children are spending time with him, and the family looks more or less happy. Even at work, he seems unperturbed when Peggy presents a failed advertisement for baked beans. I had thought that by the time the new season began, Megan would be gone – or on her way to being gone. But no. Don and Megan are married and still together. Megan is even joining him in the company, no longer a secretary but a colleague of Peggy. And perhaps most surprising, Don has confided in Megan with her darkest secret – Dick Whitman....
SOURCE: Irish Central (3-27-12)
An award winning author and Yale professor has written an open letter to the Irish nation begging them not to erect a statue to Che Guevara in Galway.
Professor Carlos Eire, author of ‘Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy’ which won the National Book Award in 2003, originally submitted his letter to the Irish Times.
The paper opted not to print it but it has subsequently appeared in the Galway Advertiser and on the National Review website.
The professor, of Irish and Cuban extraction, is vehemently opposed to the plans by Galway city council to honor Guevara’s links with Ireland with the planned statue....
SOURCE: Badger Herald (3-26-12)
A former University of Wisconsin professor of American history who gained international recognition as a religious scholar died in Madison on Saturday at the age of 76 after a short bout with cancer.
Paul Boyle was UW Merle Curti Chair Emeritus in American history. His work centered on religion and its impact on American life. He published a number of books on American history, including on the Salem witch trials of the 17th century and American culture in the age of the atomic bomb.
Florencia Mallon, the chair of UW’s history department, described Boyer as humble, generous and supportive of other colleagues.
“He was an incredibly unassuming person,” Mallon said. “He was one of the most outstanding people in his field. … He was an internationally-known historian, but he was a very humble man. He never blew his own horn.”...
SOURCE: NYT (3-24-12)
Thomas Friedman is a columnist for the NYT.
THE historian Victor Davis Hanson recently wrote a brutally clear-eyed piece in The National Review, looking back at America’s different approaches to Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, Egypt, Pakistan and Afghanistan and how, sadly, none of them could be said to have worked yet.
“Let us review the various American policy options for the Middle East over the last few decades,” Hanson wrote. “Military assistance or punitive intervention without follow-up mostly failed. The verdict on far more costly nation-building is still out. Trying to help popular insurgents topple unpopular dictators does not guarantee anything better. Propping up dictators with military aid is both odious and counterproductive. Keeping clear of maniacal regimes leads to either nuclear acquisition or genocide — or 16 acres of rubble in Manhattan. What have we learned? Tribalism, oil, and Islamic fundamentalism are a bad mix that leaves Americans sick and tired of the Middle East — both when they get in it and when they try to stay out of it.”...
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed (3-22-12)
Michael J. Hogan, whose leadership style and policies as president of the University of Illinois were criticized by many faculty members, has resigned, the chairman of the system's Board of Trustees announced on Thursday.
In a written statement, the chairman, Christopher G. Kennedy, said that Mr. Hogan, who has been president for less than two years, would remain in office "through a transition period" until July 1. He will then serve as a tenured faculty member, the university said. Mr. Hogan, a historian, would be replaced permanently, Mr. Kennedy wrote, by Robert Easter, who is interim vice chancellor for research on the flagship campus, in Urbana-Champaign, and has served in a number of leadership roles throughout the system.
"The board feels that the most appropriate next step in university leadership should come from a proven administrator with a track record of collaboration and success within our university," the chairman wrote....
SOURCE: AHA Blog (3-22-12)
American Historical Association Executive Director James Grossman testified today before the House Committee on Appropriations’ Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. Speaking on behalf of the AHA and the National Humanities Alliance, Grossman urged the subcommittee to provide no less than $154.3 million to the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for fiscal year 2013. This represents a small increase over the 2012 appropriation, and was the same amount requested by the Obama administration.
Grossman told the subcommittee that the current level of support going to NEH was “akin to plowing under our seed corn,” as young scholars find themselves unable to complete the research that goes into the books that launch academic careers. This has wide implications, Grossman argued. Without an understanding of our own heritage, those of other nations, and of foreign languages, he stated, “We can neither formulate informed foreign policy or even military strategy, nor compete in a global marketplace.”
Reminding the subcommittee that the NEH works outside the campus as well, he underscored the important role of the NEH in developing digital resources to make history more accessible to a wider audience. “To this generation of students, if it isn’t online, it doesn’t exist,” Grossman said. “Digital humanities programs supported by the NEH help ensure that students have ready access to the best scholarship.” One example, he continued, was the EDSITEment website , which allows teachers to quickly find high-quality, authoritative materials, lesson plans, and curricula suitable for use in K–12 classrooms.
Grossman pointed out that the NEH has been struggling to continue its important work under significant budget cuts (13.2%) between fiscal years 2010 and 2012. He called the reversal of this trend a “vital investment in the nation’s global competitiveness, the strength and vitality of our civic institutions, the preservation and understanding of our diverse cultural heritage, and the lives of our citizens.”
The subcommittee heard testimony from a diverse group that included Deborah Tannen of Georgetown University; Hunter R. Rawlings III, President of the Association of American Universities; Paul Ulrich, board member of the Wyoming Humanities Council, speaking on behalf of the Federation of State Humanities Councils; and many others.
Read James Grossman’s written testimony to the subcommittee (PDF).
SOURCE: Chicago Sun-Times (3-22-12)
Peter Novick, a University of Chicago history professor, ignited controversy by asserting the legacy of the Holocaust had become too much a part of American Jewish identity in his 1999 book The Holocaust in American Life.
“What Peter did was say ‘How come no one was interested in this until the ’60s and ’70s?’ ” said Bruce Cumings, chair of the History Department at University of Chicago.
Mr. Novick, described by friends as a non-observant Jew, died of lung cancer Feb. 17 at his Chicago home. He was 77....
SOURCE: Dinyar Patel at the NYT (3-22-12)
Dinyar Patel is a Ph.D. candidate in history at Harvard University, currently working on a dissertation on Dadabhai Naoroji and early Indian nationalism. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Why has modern India had such a difficult time preserving its history?
Tridip Suhrud, professor who has written extensively on Mohandas K. Gandhi, blamed a lack of historical sensitivity for problems in his state. Gujarat’s local maharajas and business families, he remarked, did not place much importance on keeping records.
Consequently, there has been little interest in creating or patronizing archival institutions. Mr. Suhrud can only count three other scholars currently working at the Sabarmati Ashram Library in Ahmedabad, the principal repository of Gandhi’s personal papers (properly preserved in a locked, temperature-controlled room, he noted).
Murali Ranganathan, an independent researcher, based in Mumbai, pointed out that the pre-colonial tradition of archives and libraries was extremely strong elsewhere in India: dynasties in Maharashtra, Assam, and Mysore kept vast collections that still survive. Beginning around 1900, he argued, Indians started to become too poor to properly maintain their collections, although several institutions, such as the Khuda Bakhsh Library in Patna and the Saraswathi Mahal Library in Thanjavur (Tanjore), have maintained excellent traditions of preserving pre-British era books and manuscripts....
SOURCE: Jennifer Holms in the NYRB (3-22-12)
Jennifer Homans is the author of Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet. She was the wife of Tony Judt, who died in August 2010. Accompanying her essay in this issue is an excerpt from his just-published book, Thinking the Twentieth Century, written with Timothy Snyder, the author of Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. (March 2012)
I was married to Tony Judt. I lived with him and our two children as he faced the terror of ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. It was a two-year ordeal, from his diagnosis in 2008 to his death in 2010, and during it Tony managed against all human odds to write three books. The last, following Ill Fares the Land and The Memory Chalet, was Thinking the Twentieth Century, based on conversations with Timothy Snyder.1 He started work on the book soon after he was diagnosed; within months he was quadriplegic and on a breathing machine, but he kept working nonetheless. He and Tim finished the book a month before he died. It accompanied his illness; it was part of his illness, and part of his dying.
The book is a history of twentieth-century thought. It begins with his reflections on Jewish idealism and Jewish suffering in Europe and ends with a devastating account of the failure of American politics in the post–cold war world. It is also an intellectual autobiography—of sorts. “Of sorts” because Tony rarely wrote in the first person, and the autobiographical sections of the book were wedged in, almost reluctantly, between the ideas, the history, the politics, and the ethical dilemmas that were central to his life.
This doesn’t mean that the book is not personal. For Tony, ideas were a kind of emotion, something he felt and cared about in the way that most people do about feelings like sadness or love. This, as the book shows, goes back to the beginning—even before the beginning—of his life: Tony was named after his father’s cousin Toni, who perished as a young girl in Auschwitz. As he was growing up, his father passed on his own passion for left-wing politics and European history as a form of parental love: Tony’s thirteenth birthday present, which he devoured, was Isaac Deutscher’s three-volume study of Trotsky. Ideas and the need for historical explanations ran deep, back then and right through to Thinking the Twentieth Century....
SOURCE: NYT (3-21-12)
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (3-19-12)
Professor Brian Shefton, who has died aged 92, was a leading expert on Greek and Etruscan artefacts; after joining Newcastle University in 1955 as a lecturer in Greek Archaeology and Ancient History, he began to build up a collection of treasures which led to the university’s Greek Museum being renamed the Shefton Museum of Greek Art and Archaeology in his honour.
It was Charles Bosanquet, then Rector of the university, who had the idea of building a collection of Greek artefacts. Newcastle had a reputation for Roman archaeology, but Bosanquet had been born in Athens and wanted to show off the other great culture of the classical world. As Shefton recalled: “He called me in and said, 'Here’s £25 to get some objects to interest people who are going to take up Greek archaeology’.”...
SOURCE: Daily Eastern News (3-19-12)
A French art historian contributed to the history of Irish art and challenged the role of women in the mid 20th century, an Eastern art professor said.
Janet Marquardt, a professor of art history and women's studies and the director of the Center for the Humanities, presented the personal journals of Françoise Henry, a history that detailed her excavations on the island Inishkea North (Co. Mayo) in Ireland.
Marquardt said Henry wrote about the daily events on the island, and the journals told her personal thoughts about those around her.
“She kept her personal notes separate from her archeological journals, her record of the day, except for 1950 where she merged them,” Marquardt said....
SOURCE: Strategy Informer (3-20-12)
Smart guy Assistant Professor of History Gregory O'Malley of the University of California Santa Cruz has aired his thoughts on Ubisoft's choice of historical setting for Assassin's Creed III.
The War of Independence is the next destination for the franchise, but it's far from a 'clear cut' conflict. There's so much to draw from, he says, with "diverse and complicated" armies.
Americans good, British bad? Ubisoft has been adamant neither side will come off looking so clearly defined. O'Malley agrees, citing just how complicated it all was....
"There were a lot of people in North America who chose to remain loyal to Great Britain, so some American families ended up split, which could set the stage for some drama," said Gregory O'Malley.
"For example, Ben Franklin's son sided with Britain and they almost never spoke again," he noted.
"Both sides had Native American allies. Also many American colonists had spent a lot of time living on the frontier and had really changed. They seemed pretty foreign to the British, so that tension between the British and British-Americans who had kind of gone native seems interesting to me."...
SOURCE: AP (3-1-12)
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — South African artist William Kentridge, British historian Sir Martin Gilbert and American scientist David Botstein are among the winners of this year's prestigious Dan David Prize.
The Dan David Foundation grants the $1 million prizes in three categories — past, present and future — for scientific, technological and cultural accomplishments....
SOURCE: Daily Tar Heel (3-18-12)
UNC alumnus Taylor Branch won the Pulitzer Prize for his three-volume history of Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement. More recently, he has become a well-known critic of the NCAA and college sports.
Branch will be speaking at Sonja Haynes Stone Center at 7 p.m. tonight on the role of violence in protest and other areas of life._
Daily Tar Heel: Why did you choose to focus on violence?
Taylor Branch: I think quite frankly violence and its opposite, nonviolence, ought to be a university subject.
Our media, our movies, our television are permeated with violence, and yet I dare venture most of the people in the audience at Chapel Hill on Monday night will not have seen much violence firsthand.
We don’t often just think about the place of violence itself. It’s one of those rare things that’s arresting and fascinating but doesn’t get a whole lot of thought....
SOURCE: Boston College (3-15-12)
Being a scholar of 20th-century Irish history when personal papers and official state archives were nearly impossible to obtain in Ireland made Dermot Keogh appreciate “the value of good material.” So imagine his delight in being the Burns Visiting Scholar of Irish Studies at Boston College, and having a chance to peruse one of the world’s most acclaimed holdings of Irish history and culture.
“It’s second to none,” says Keogh of the University’s John J. Burns Library Irish Collection. “The library is simply exceptional from the point of view of a researcher, and Boston College itself is equally impressive in its energy, ethos and work ethic.”
Keogh, who is emeritus professor of history and Emeritus Jean Monnet Professor of European Integration Studies at University College, Cork, will offer a glimpse into his multifaceted scholarship on March 28 when he presents the lecture "Contrasting Studies of Irish Catholic Intellectuals in a Revolutionary Age, 1908-1919," at 4 p.m. in the Burns Library Thompson Room.
Some of Ireland’s most eminent experts in history, literature, bibliography, language and art have served as Burns Visiting Scholar in Irish Studies, and use the Burns Irish Collection for research. In addition to research obligations, the Burns Scholar teaches two courses and presents two lectures each academic year....
SOURCE: University of Bristol (3-15-12)
Professor John Steer died on 20 February aged 83. Michael Liversidge, Emeritus Dean of Arts, remembers the man whose appointment as the first Lecturer in European Art at Bristol in 1959 marked the effective birth of the University’s Department of History of Art.
John Richardson Steer was born in Bournemouth, attended Clayesmore School in Dorset, and took his first degree in History at Oxford (Keble College). He decided to go on from there to the Courtauld Institute of Art when he graduated as a result of visiting the Ashmolean Museum and hearing some lectures on Venetian art by a visiting scholar from the Courtauld, Johannes Wilde – one of the great generation of immigrant art historians who helped to establish the subject in Britain when they were forced to leave Germany in the 1930s, an exodus that brought, among others, Sir Ernst Gombrich and Sir Nikolaus Pevsner to this country....
SOURCE: Charlottesville Library Examiner (3-17-12)
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed (3-19-12)
When Mary Beth Norton went to work at Cornell University in 1971, she was the history department's first female hire. But now the accomplished professor has a different mark of distinction: She is the oldest American-history scholar at Cornell.
"I've always thought of myself as the sweet young thing in the department," Ms. Norton, who will turn 69 this month, says with a laugh. "But that's not true anymore."
A growing proportion of the nation's professors are at the same point in their careers as Ms. Norton: still working, but with the end of their careers in sight. Their tendency to remain on the job as long as their work is enjoyable—or, during economic downturns, long enough to make sure they have enough money to live on in retirement—has led the professoriate to a crucial juncture.
Amid an aging American work force, the graying of college faculties is particularly notable. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of professors ages 65 and up has more than doubled between 2000 and 2011. At some institutions, including Cornell, more than one in three tenured or tenure-track professors are now 60 or older. At many others—including Duke and George Mason Universities and the Universities of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Texas at Austin, and Virginia—at least one in four are 60 or older....
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed (3-18-12)
In his most-noted books, Peter Novick, a professor emeritus of history at the University of Chicago who died on February 17, questioned values held by two groups to which he belonged: historians and American Jews.
His 1988 work, That Noble Dream: The "Objectivity Question" and the American Historical Profession (Cambridge University Press), discussed historians' changing attitudes toward that stated ideal. "We should disregard far-reaching claims to objectivity," he said at the American Historical Association in 1991. "We don't have to be definitive; we can just be interesting or suggestive."...
SOURCE: BBC News (3-10-12)
Nearly 100 women from the USA, Canada and Europe are in Kent to commemorate the centenary of the first flight by a female pilot across the Channel.
Harriet Quimby flew from Dover to northern France a year after she became the first woman to gain a pilot's licence in the USA....
"This is a very important event," said history professor Dr Barbara Ganson.
Dr Ganson, of Florida Atlantic University, said: "It is always a joy to talk and to study history but I want to help make history and celebrate history.
"I'm flying the Channel - that's why I came here."...