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  • Originally published 01/07/2014

    Living History

    Some historians aren't afraid of making history with their scholarship. Historians Against Slavery is one such group.

  • Originally published 12/10/2013

    William Pencak, R.I.P.

    William Pencak spend most of his career at Penn State before moving to the University of South Alabama in his retirement.

  • Originally published 12/03/2013

    Where to now, Ukraine?

    Historian Stanislav Kulchytsky on the tumult in the streets of Kiev.

  • Originally published 08/15/2013

    MIT obit of Pauline Maier

    The eminent historian Pauline Maier, whose award-winning books cast new light on Revolutionary-era America and the foundations of U.S. democracy, died Aug. 12 in Cambridge, Mass., after a battle with lung cancer. She was 75.Maier, who served as the William Kenan Jr. Professor of History at MIT, had been a member of the Institute’s faculty since 1978. Her work often recast conventional wisdom about 18th-century America, reconstructing long-forgotten public debates over the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution while bringing crucial figures in American political history into sharper focus....

  • Originally published 07/29/2013

    NYT: Historians Seek a Delay in Posting Dissertations

    FIRST came years of being a foot messenger in New York City and working in data entry. Then, frustrated with his life, and feeling the responsibility of providing for a child, Michael D. Hattem entered the Borough of Manhattan Community College — the only college that would admit him, he says, as a high school dropout with a G.E.D. He succeeded at community college, and, in 2011, graduated from City College.Today, Mr. Hattem, 38, is a graduate student at Yale working on a dissertation in American history that “explores the role of competing historical memories of 17th-century Britain in shaping late colonial political culture.”He told his exceptional story to help explain why he came to the defense of the American Historical Association last week when it issued a statement calling on universities to allow newly minted Ph.D’s to “embargo” their dissertations for up to six years — that is, keep them from being circulated online....

  • Originally published 07/09/2013

    Edmund S. Morgan, historian who shed light on Puritans, dies at 97

    Edmund S. Morgan, an award-winning historian who illuminated the intellectual world of the Puritans, explored the paradox of freedom and slavery in colonial Virginia and, in his 80s, wrote a best-selling biography of Benjamin Franklin, died on Monday in New Haven. He was 97.His death was confirmed by his editor, Robert Weil.Like his mentor and fellow atheist, the Harvard historian Perry Miller, Professor Morgan found his richest material in the religious thought of Puritan New England and endless fascination in the theological debates and spiritual struggles of men like John Winthrop, Roger Williams and Ezra Stiles.“I think that any group of people who have a system of belief that covers practically everything, and who act upon it, are bound to be interesting to any scholar,” he said in a 1987 interview with The William and Mary Quarterly....

  • Originally published 07/09/2013

    Australian National University history professor wins prize for promoting peace in Asia

    MELBOURNE, July 9 (Bernama) -- An Australian National University history professor has become the first Australian woman to win a major international prize for the promotion of peace in Asia.Prof. Tessa Morris-Suzuki was presented with the prestigious Fukuoka Prize worth A$33,000 (US$30,286.89) on Tuesday, the Canberra Times reported.The annual award, sponsored by the Japanese city of Fukuoka, celebrates connections between Asian countries and aims to further peaceful relations between them....

  • Originally published 07/09/2013

    Steven Mintz: DOMA Ruling Proves History Still Matters

    Steven Mintz, professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of Domestic Revolutions: A Social History of American Family Life and Huck’s Raft: A History of American Childhood, signed the American Historical Association brief.At a time when many question the relevance of history,  it is noteworthy that the U.S. Supreme Court case that prohibited  the federal government from undercutting a state’s decision to extend "the recognition, dignity and protection" of marriage to same-sex couples, hinged on arguments advanced by professional historians.Rarely have historians played as important a role in shaping the outcome of a public controversy as in the same-sex marriage cases. Legal, family, women's, and lesbian and gay historians provided key evidence on which U.S. v. Windsor ultimately turned: that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) represented an unprecedented and improper federal intrusion into a domain historically belonging to the states. As Justice Kennedy affirmed, "the federal government, through our history, has deferred to state law policy decisions with respect to domestic relations."

  • Originally published 06/30/2013

    Civil War historian makes Gettysburg his focus and his home

    GETTYSBURG, Pa. — The wheat had been flattened in the somber field where the dead Confederates were lined up for burial in 1863.Forty-four bodies, some with their legs tied together to make them easier to carry, had been gathered by their comrades. But there was no time to dig the graves, and this was how the photographers found them, laid out on the trampled ground.William A. Frassanito, the reclusive historian of Civil War photography, is standing in the woods just outside the field at sunset, explaining how he located this spot after it had been lost for more than a century.It’s quiet now, except for the cooing of mourning doves and the lowing of cattle that graze in the knee-high grass....

  • Originally published 06/28/2013

    AHA Amicus Brief Ignores Radical Queer History

    The perspective on the history and politics of same-sex marriage crystallized in the AHA amicus brief both reflects and helps to reproduce a much broader and worrying process: the narrowing of the queer political field to variants of liberalism such that a left critique becomes increasingly difficult to voice.

  • Originally published 06/26/2013

    Historians Played Important Role in DOMA Decision

    Image via Shutterstock.The Supreme Court's decision released Wednesday morning to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act in Windsor v. United States upheld upon arguments made by historians in an amicus brief filed by the American Historical Association.The majority opinion acknowledges that “[b]y history and tradition, the definition and regulation of marriage has been treated as being within the authority and realm of the separate States.”This mirrors language in the brief filed by twenty-three historians of marriage, sexuality, and constitutional law, which stated in its introduction that “[c]ontrol of marital status is reserved to the states in our federal system. Marriage has always been understood as a civil contract embodying a couple’s free consent to join in long-lasting intimate and economic union.”

  • Originally published 06/25/2013

    Eric Foner: VRA Decision "Green Light" to Disenfranchise Voters

    Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act as Martin Luther King, Jr. looks on. Credit: Wiki Commons.The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, has struck down the critical Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, the landmark 1965 legislation that banned discriminatory practices in federal, state, and local election laws.The Voting Rights Act was formulated to target areas with a history of poll tests and historically low registration and turnout for federal oversight. Jurisdictions that fall under the Act's authority are required to pre-clear changes in local election laws with the federal government,Section 4 determined the mechanism of determining the target areas; Section 5 of the Act, which provides for the actual pre-clearance requirement itself, was not ruled upon by the Court.In his majority opinion Chief Justice John Roberts wrote“today the nation is no longer divided along those lines, yet the Voting Rights Act continues to treat it as if it were.”

  • Originally published 06/11/2013

    Canadian Historians: Come Clean About Your Relationship with Big Tobacco

    Image via Shutterstock.Later this month, Acadia University historian and former Dean of Arts Robert Perrins will testify in a Montreal courtroom on behalf of the tobacco industry. There he will discuss his 400+-page expert witness report on the Canadian government’s handling of tobacco issues since the 1950s.  The year-long trial involves two class-action suits seeking to compensate Quebec smokers for nicotine addiction and disease caused by smoking. The combined claim at $27 billion is the largest in Canadian history.

  • Originally published 06/10/2013

    Jacques Barzun's grandson nominated ambassador to the Court of St. James

    Washington is due to nominate the head of finance of Barack Obama's re-election campaign, Matthew Barzun, as the new US ambassador to London, according to diplomatic sources.Barzun's nomination has been delayed by the general backlog of personnel appointments at the state department as it looks around for new faces to fill critical roles in Obama's second administration, but it is said now to be imminent.Barzun, 42, is a Kentucky-based businessman who was made ambassador to Sweden in 2009 in recognition of his work on the 2008 Obama campaign, where he won praise for amassing large numbers of small scale contributors. But he was called back to the US two years later to lead the fundraising drive for the 2012 campaign, the most expensive in US history. The campaign Barzun ran raised $730m (£470m)....

  • Originally published 06/06/2013

    Alixa Naff, scholar and historian of the Arab-American experience, dies at 93

    McLEAN, Va. — Alixa Naff, an early and pioneering historian who documented the lives of the first wave of Arab-American immigrants a century ago, has died after a brief illness. She was 93.Naff died Saturday at her home in Mitchellville, Md., according to two of her friends who were with her that day.Naff, who immigrated from what is now Lebanon when she was a toddler, is perhaps best known for a collection of oral histories and artifacts that she donated to the Smithsonian and which is still available for scholarly research at the National Museum of American History.“Through her research, Alixa Naff greatly contributed to the understanding of the early Arab immigrant experience in the United States from 1880 through the 1950s,” the Smithsonian said in a statement Wednesday....

  • Originally published 06/03/2013

    Ann J. Lane, pioneer in women's history dies at 81

    Ann J. Lane, 81, of New York City, died on May 27, 2013. She was born in Brooklyn on July 27, 1931, the daughter of Harry and Betty Brown Lane. Lane completed all of her schooling in New York City. She earned a BA from Brooklyn College in English in 1952, an MA in sociology from New York University in 1958, and a PhD in history from Columbia University in 1968.Lane served as Assistant Professor of History at Douglass College of Rutgers University from 1968 to 1971, and then as Professor of History and Chair of the American Studies Program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York, from 1971 to 1983. She was a research fellow at The Mary Ingraham Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College, Harvard University from 1977-1983.Early in her career, Lane specialized in southern and African American History, the fruits of which appeared in two works published in 1971, The Brownsville Affair: National Outrage and Black Reaction, a monograph on a 1906 racial incident involving black soldiers and white citizens, and The Debate Over Slavery: Stanley Elkins and His Critics, an edited work on an important historiographical controversy for which she also wrote the introduction.

  • Originally published 05/26/2013

    Robert E. Carlson, 91; taught at West Chester University

    Robert E. Carlson, 91, a longtime West Chester resident and history professor who led Chester County's 1982 tricentennial celebration, died Thursday, May 16, of respiratory failure at Riddle Memorial Hospital in Media.Born in Johnstown, he earned a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Pittsburgh in 1943.That year, he was commissioned an ensign in the U.S. Navy. He was honorably discharged with rank of lieutenant junior grade in June 1946. He served as a watch and gunnery officer aboard the destroyer USS Hambleton....

  • Originally published 05/17/2013

    Geza Vermes, scholar of "Historical Jesus," dies at 88

    Geza Vermes, a religious scholar who argued that Jesus as a historical figure could be understood only through the Jewish tradition from which he emerged, and who helped expand that understanding through his widely read English translations of the Dead Sea Scrolls, died on May 8 in Oxford, England. He was 88.His death was confirmed by David Ariel, the president of the Oxford Center for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, where Dr. Vermes was most recently an honorary fellow.Dr. Vermes, born in Hungary to Jewish parents who converted to Christianity when he was 6, was among many scholars after World War II who sought to reveal a “historical Jesus” by painting an objective portrait of the man who grew up in Nazareth about 2,000 years ago and emerged as a religious leader when he was in his 30s....

  • Originally published 05/09/2013

    Lee Donaghy: Writing Like a Historian -- Developing Students' Writing Skills

    Lee Donaghy is an assistant principal at a secondary school in Birmingham in the United Kingdom."Why are we doing English in history, sir?" came the question as I asked my year 9 history class what kind of word disarmament was. Having anticipated this kind of reaction I had an answer prepared: "Do we only use language in English lessons?"The question was anticipated because I have heard it from other classes, and indeed other teachers, since I began to include an explicit focus on language development in my history lessons 18 months ago. And the question goes to the heart of what I believe is a fundamental reason for the attainment gap between children eligible for free school meals and their non-free school meal counterparts in Britain; the misalignment of these pupils' language use with that which is needed for academic success and the need for teachers to explicitly address this misalignment in their teaching.

  • Originally published 05/09/2013

    Philip Short describes Vietnam’s relationship to Khmer Rouge at UN tribunal

    PHNOM PENH — British historian Philip Short took the stand for the second day at the U.N.-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal Tuesday, as he continued to describe the relationship between Vietnamese communists and their Cambodian counterpart. Short, the 68-year-old author of “Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare,” told the court Tuesday that the Vietnamese had an “undeniable” interest in the Khmer Rouge, providing support and training for the communist insurgency in its early days. Short is testifying in the atrocity crimes trial of Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan. Much of his testimony on Tuesday was centered around the relationship between the regime and Vietnam, which would eventually become its enemy....

  • Originally published 05/09/2013

    History changes course in Pacific

    PRE-EUROPEAN history could be taught at some Pacific universities for the first time ever if plans devised by local history academics come to pass.The collaboration between academics led by Max Quanchi and Morgan Tuimaleali’ifano aims to produce a Pacific-wide undergraduate history course to be taught at universities from Papua New Guinea to New Caledonia, Samoa and French Polynesia....

  • Originally published 05/08/2013

    E.B. Smith, U-Md. history professor, dies at 93

    E.B. Smith, a retired University of Maryland history professor, died of congestive heart failure at the Hospice of the Chesapeake in Harwood on April 30, the day before his 93rd birthday. He lived at Tracys Landing on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay.A daughter-in-law, Barbara Smith, confirmed his death.Dr. Smith joined the faculty at Maryland in 1968 and became a professor emeritus in 1990. He specialized in the Civil War and had written about the pre-Civil War presidencies of Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore and William Buchanan and about the Civil War-era politician Francis Preston Blair, a founder of Silver Spring....

  • Originally published 05/07/2013

    Northern Ireland peace agreement flawed and elitist, says historian

    The Good Friday Agreement is "flawed and elitist" but will not be derailed by the forthcoming 1916 commemorations or the threat from dissidents, according to historian Professor Paul Bew.The Queen's University academic told the 20th annual Burren Law School in Co Clare that the Agreement "ended the Cold War" within the Island of Ireland."The Good Friday Agreement was an elitist, top down process which explains its inadequacies but also explains why it continues to work," said Prof Bew. "This (the Agreement) is a stable process... it is perfectly clear what the rules of the game are."...

  • Originally published 05/06/2013

    Historians complain Government's WW1 commemoration 'focuses on British defeats'

    Historians and campaigners have also criticised the tone of the plans unveiled so far; they believe politicians and officials are focusing too much on British defeats and the carnage and futility of the war, because they are too anxious to avoid upsetting Germans and want to make sure the events are not considered triumphalist.However, the critics argue that by doing so, the Government is presenting only the modern, orthodox view of the conflict: that it was avoidable and unnecessary. It thus ignores arguments that, like the Second World War, it was a fight for survival.They say that under the current plans, the Government has missed an opportunity to explain why the war was fought and failed fully to recognise the achievement of British forces.The historians also compare the proposals unfavourably with more ambitious events being organised by Australia, Canada and New Zealand, whose men fought alongside the British....

  • Originally published 05/01/2013

    Mary Thom, Feminist, Historian and Editor, Dies in Motorcycle Crash at 68

    Mary Thom, feminist editor, writer and behind-the-scenes activist, died earlier this week in a motorcycle accident in Yonkers. Thom was the editor-in-chief at the Women’s Media Center. The center’s co-founders said:“We who are Mary’s friends and family haven’t absorbed her loss yet; it’s too sudden,” said Robin Morgan, Gloria Steinem, and Jane Fonda, co-founders of The Women’s Media Center. “Ms. Magazine, the Women’s Media Center, the women’s movement and American journalism have suffered an enormous blow. Mary was and will always be our moral compass and steady heart. Writers from around the world have been able to share their words and ideas because of her. Wherever her friends and colleagues gather, we will always ask the guiding question: What would Mary do?”

  • Originally published 05/01/2013

    William M. Maury, historian at Census Bureau, dies at 73

    William M. Maury, 73, chief historian at the U.S. Census Bureau, died April 12 at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda.He had complications from lung disease, said his son, Brooke Maury.Dr. Maury, a Kensington resident, joined the Census Bureau as chief historian in 2002. He was previously a data analyst for the Federal Aviation Administration and a historian for the National Archives. Earlier in his career, he taught history at Catholic University and George Washington University....

  • Originally published 04/26/2013

    Historians Still Despise George W. Bush

    Image via Shutterstock.Former president George W. Bush has had his best week in years. His public approval ratings have hit a seven-year high, publications around the country have published articles reassessing his legacy, and he was warmly joined by all of the living former presidents at the dedication of his new presidential library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.

  • Originally published 04/25/2013

    Why the Bush Library won't make history

    Will history judge George W. Bush more kindly than his contemporaries have?The man himself seems fairly indifferent."I don't think he really cares much at all, to be honest with you," says Kevin Sullivan, who served as White House communications director during Bush's second term. "I think he cares very little about where his approval rating stands today, compared to 2005 or 2008."...Bush's new $250 million library, on the campus of Southern Methodist University, will be the staging ground for efforts at burnishing his legacy, including a policy center that will explore and promote his ideas."The Bush library is the first stage in what will be a multistage operation," says Jeremi Suri, a University of Texas historian....

  • Originally published 04/25/2013

    Jonathan Bernstein: History Will Not Be Kind to George W. Bush

    Jonathan Bernstein is a columnist for the Washington Post.George W. Bush is not remembered with any enthusiasm currently. That’s not likely to change.Whatever way it’s measured, he’s not doing too well. Gallup has his retrospective approval at 47 percent; that’s third-lowest in the polling era, better than only Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson (Harry Enten has more on placing post-presidential approval in context). As far as historians and other students of the presidency, it’s even worse; Bush falls in the bottom quarter of the ratings surveys in which he’s been included.

  • Originally published 04/19/2013

    Historians React to Chaos in Boston

    [View the story "Historians react to chaos in Boston" on Storify]Related LinksOn Topic: Boston Marathon Bombing Walter Laqueur: Murder! Madness! Terror! Daniel Martin Varisco: No, Senator Graham, Domestic Drones are NOT a Good Idea Historians React to Chaos in BostonOn Topic: Chechnya

  • Originally published 04/17/2013

    Historians discuss immigration reform on Capitol Hill

    Yesterday, a short distance from the AHA offices, supporters of immigration reform marched on the National Mall, as a bipartisan group of eight senators continue deliberations that have been alternately described as “stuck,” “close,” “virtually complete,” or “about to get serious.” The senators will likely reveal their plan for comprehensive immigration reform, if there is one, today.In response to the flurry of activity on this previously languishing issue, the National History Center, a project of the American Historical Association, sponsored a congressional briefing in the Rayburn House Office Building last Friday. These briefings offer congressional staff and members a historical perspective on issues of current interest. The historians who present at these briefings avoid making recommendations to Congress, but discuss previous paths taken and their outcomes.

  • Originally published 04/16/2013

    BBC journalist posed as historian for NK visit

    A student has told how she was conned by the BBC into believing its journalist was a history professor so he travel to North Korea for a Panorama investigation.The London School of Economics student, who wants to remain anonymous, has intensified pressure on the BBC, which is under fire over a Pyongyang documentary shown last night.The student told MailOnline: '[Panorama journalist] John Sweeney was presented to use as a history professor from a university in Beijing.'I was wondering why they were filming him so much. It was two days before then end of the trip that I realised he was an undercover journalist.'...

  • Originally published 04/08/2013

    POLL: Have You Engaged with the History of Capitalism?

    The New York Times' Jennifer Schuessler published a story in last Sunday's edition on the newfound popularity of the history of capitalism. "A specter is haunting university history departments," she wrote, "the specter of capitalism."This new history of capitalism integrates social and cultural approaches to economic history and adopts a strictly post-Cold War mentality. Gone are hoary Marxist bromides and questions about why socialism failed to develop as a political movement in the United States; instead, the new generation of history of capitalism scholars -- those profiled in the article include Julia Ott, Bethany Moreton, Louis Hyman, and Stephen Mihm -- focus on the practice of capitalism by the people in the middle and at the top, melding a sound knowledge of math and economics with race and gender analyses.

  • Originally published 04/05/2013

    Historian invites former students to dinner as part of ‘retirement odyssey’

    Silvio Laccetti was cleaning out his office after 43 years of teaching at the Stevens Institute of Technology, a science and technology school in Hoboken, New Jersey, when he stumbled across a pile of unreturned reports, assignments and examinations from some of the thousands of students he had taught over the years.It gave him an idea: invite some of his best former students for dinner. Not all at once, however: one at a time.What Dr Laccetti, who taught history, called his “retirement odyssey” involved 83 dinners and lunches consumed over three and a half years with 104 of his one-time students, mostly individually but a few in small groups.He spoke by phone with another dozen who lived too far away to meet in person.The odyssey gave him an opportunity academics seldom get: to measure his impact on the world.“They had listened to my advice,” Dr Laccetti, 72, said. “They maintained an interest in the humanities. They even talked about me to their kids, and taught their children some of the things that I taught them.”...

  • Originally published 03/29/2013

    AHA protests Senate initiative to restrict political science research funding

    On March 20, 2013, the United States Senate approved an amendment offered by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) to the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2013, which would restrict the use of federal funds in the National Science Foundation’s Political Science Program. In response, the Council of the American Historical Association approved the following statement of concern:The American Historical Association vigorously opposes the recent Senate appropriations amendment restricting National Science Foundation funding for research in political science to specific topics. The amendment, which requires the agency to limit funding to projects which it can certify “as promoting national security or the economic interests of the United States,” is wrong-headed in many ways.First, the amendment represents an intrusion by politicians into the well-established and generally successful peer-review process by which the agency reviews grant applications. Peer review ensures that grant decisions are made by individuals with the necessary expertise through a  reliable, widely accepted, process which minimizes bias. Imposing even innocuous-sounding political criteria for research compromises the autonomy that is necessary for intellectual progress—the first responsibility of the National Science Foundation.

  • Originally published 03/26/2013

    UK magazine Prospect profiles Garry Wills

    Sooner or later, anyone who writes about America must reckon with Garry Wills. Not that it’s easy to do. The books are demanding enough—not the prose, which is graceful and elegant—but the arguments, which are unfailingly original, often provocative, occasionally subversive and, now and again, utterly perverse, yet stamped every time with the finality of the last word.

  • Originally published 03/25/2013

    Edward Berenson: Historians and Collective Memory

    Edward Berenson is professor of history and director of the Institute of French Studies at NYU. He is the author, most recently, of The Statue of Liberty. A Transatlantic Story (2012) and Heroes of Empire (2010). From 2008 to 2012, he directed, with Denis Peschanski and the leaders of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum and the Memorial de Caen in France, an international research project on the history and memorialization of traumatic events.Click here to read an original op-ed from the TED speaker who inspired this post.Joshua Foer shows that even ordinary people can perform extraordinary feats of memory. He cites the historical precedent of the ancient Romans who didn't have printing presses and couldn't look things up. They had to rely on memory.The Roman example is telling, but historians nowadays tend to be interested in different facets of memory, especially "collective memory" and its mirror image, forgetting. Among other things, we want to know how a society or community's memory of important events changes over time. Those changes often involve forgetting what we once knew -- or thought we knew.

  • Originally published 03/25/2013

    David Moss: there’s a reason for deposit insurance

    ...If the nation has a father of bank insurance, it is Joshua Forman, one of the promoters of the Erie Canal. Early in the 19th century, New York State had a string of bank failures, and Martin Van Buren, then governor, asked him to restructure the banking industry. Forman’s insight was that banks were vulnerable to chain-reaction panics. As he put it — in a line unearthed by the Harvard Business School historian David Moss — “banks constitute a system, being peculiarly sensitive to one another’s operations, and not a mere aggregate of free agents.”In 1829, Forman proposed an insurance fund capitalized by mandatory contributions from the state’s banks. Debate in the State Assembly was heated. Critics said failures could overwhelm the fund; they also argued that its very existence would reduce the “public scrutiny and watchfulness” that restrained bankers from reckless lending. This remains the intellectual argument against insurance today. But Forman’s plan was enacted, and subsequently five other states adopted plans.All did not go smoothly. In the 1840s, during a national depression, 11 banks in New York State failed and the insurance fund — as prophesied — was threatened with insolvency. The state sold bonds to bail it out....

  • Originally published 03/18/2013

    Lenard R. Berlanstein, U-Va. history professor, dies at 65

    Lenard R. Berlanstein, 65, a professor of history at the University of Virginia, died Feb. 24 at a hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.He had lung cancer, said a brother, Bruce Berlanstein.Dr. Berlanstein joined U-Va.’s history faculty in 1973 and taught courses on modern European cultural history until his retirement in 2011. He wrote six books, most recently “Daughters of Eve: A Cultural History of French Theater Women From the Old Regime to the Fin-de-Siecle” (2001).Lenard Russell Berlanstein was born in Brooklyn and was a 1969 graduate of the University of Michigan. He received a master’s degree in 1971 and a doctorate in 1973, both in history from Johns Hopkins University....

  • Originally published 03/07/2013

    Team M.V.P. (Most Valuable Preserver): Historians Are Fans’ Link to Past

    BOSTON — On a concourse behind third base at Fenway Park, silent but for the periodic whoosh of the frigid wind, Dan Rea recently approached a display case devoted to the 1930s-era Red Sox. A ledger inside the case was opened to a page where an accountant once entered players’ salaries.One entry was for Smead Jolley, best known for his “difficulty playing the incline” in left field, Rea said, until the field was leveled during a 1934 renovation.Rea is one of two Red Sox employees who are also club historians. They belong to a small cadre of people with a passion for major league baseball lore who added such roles to their team jobs and later figured out what to do....

  • Originally published 02/08/2013

    In Memoriam: Alfred F. Young

    Alfred F. Young died last November at age 87 in Durham, North Carolina, after debilitating heart attacks, with his wife of sixty years and three daughters at his bedside. Known throughout the nation and abroad as “the godfather of artisans studies,” he was at his workbench until the very end. Friend of hundreds and mentor of scores, he was one of the few early American historians who challenged the consensus school of American history in the Cold War period and lived to see his history of class struggle and class-based politics widely acknowledged and honored.

  • Originally published 01/28/2013

    Nell Irvin Painter Bids Farewell to the Past

    In 2005 the prize-winning historian Nell Irvin Painter put down her pen and picked up a paintbrush.After 17 years at Princeton University, the publication of seven groundbreaking books, and terms at the helms of two prestigious historical associations, Ms. Painter said goodbye to all that. She retired at 62 and spent $150,000 to pursue a bachelor-of-fine-arts degree from Rutgers University, followed by an M.F.A. from the Rhode Island School of Design, in 2011.And although she received a Centennial Medal that same year from the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences for her historical work, the former professor, once described by some peers as an imperious trouble­maker who refused to be boxed in, is not particularly interested in returning to the ivory tower.In an interview here at her art studio, a few blocks from Penn Station, Ms. Painter, who is now 70, describes having given away all the books in her library. She says she'll never write another word of history....

  • Originally published 01/24/2013

    The China Blog: An Interview with Historian James H. Carter

    Historian James H. Carter recently wrote a piece for the Los Angeles Review of Books on a new “biography” of the “The Books of Changes,” an important Chinese classical text.  Asia Editor Jeffrey Wasserstrom caught up with Carter to ask him a few questions about, naturally enough, China and biography.JW: You began your review of Richard Smith’s new “biography” of the Yi Jing (Book of Changes) with some ruminations on the whole notion of biographies that don’t focus on individuals.  If there were one other book with a tie to China you think especially worthy of a “biography,” what would it be - and who would you like to see writeJHC: It’s hard to eschew “actual” biographies - ones about people - because there are so many lives in China’s past that are so rich and resonant.  Zhang Xueliang, who began life as the son of China’s most powerful warlord, and saw his homeland overrun by Japanese troops after his own commanders ordered him not to resist, played a key role in kidnapping Chiang Kai-shek and forcing him to cooperate with the Communists before living for decades under house arrest in Taiwan (eventually dying - at age 100! - in Hawaii), seems a more than deserving subject.

  • Originally published 01/22/2013

    Being married helps historians get ahead, but only if they're male

    Alexis Coe is a writer in San Francisco and a columnist for SF Weekly.When I was a graduate student in history, I loved to read the acknowledgements sections of books. If you looked carefully, all the trade secrets kept within the small, competitive field were revealed, from who was the most helpful specialist in an archive to creative means of financing research.Inadvertently, I also learned quite a bit about historian's marriages. Consider For Cause and Comrades, in which Pulitzer Prize-winning historian James McPherson writes, "The person most instrumental in helping me produce this volume has also been the most important person in my life for the past forty years, my wife Patricia. In addition to enriching my life every day, she has been a superb research assistant, having read almost as many soldiers' letters and diaries as I have."...Despite all this, my cohorts and I believed that we were entering a radically different kind of history department, one where women could forge their own careers, rather than merely supporting their husbands'. Surely, the changing of the guard in progressive institutions had already occurred. A new study from the American Historical Association suggests, however, that many of the field's problems remain unresolved.

  • Originally published 01/22/2013

    A White House Aware of Second-Term Perils

    WASHINGTON — As he tucked into a salad and a beef pastry, President Obama looked around the family dining room in the White House and stared into his future. By some forecasts, it may not be a pretty sight.Gathered with him that evening were several of the nation’s leading historians, who reminded him of the sorry litany of second terms — the cascade of scandal, war, recession, political defeat and other calamities that afflicted past presidents after the heady crescendo of re-election.For Mr. Obama, who will be sworn in for another four years in a quiet ceremony on Sunday and then again in more public fashion on Monday, the lessons were familiar if daunting. Embarking on the next half of his presidency, he and his advisers are developing a second-term strategy intended to avoid the pitfalls of his predecessors with a robust agenda focused on the economy, gun control, immigration and energy....

  • Originally published 05/07/2014

    Scalping Columbus

    "Some of my stories are total fabrications disguised as the truth."--Fortunate Eagle

  • Originally published 01/27/2014

    Why the "War on Poverty" Isn't Over

    (CNN) -- In a State of the Union address 50 years ago this month, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared "unconditional war on poverty." Over the next year and a half, anti-poverty warriors developed new health insurance programs for the elderly and the poor, increased Social Security benefits and introduced food stamps and nutritional supplements for low-income pregnant women and infants. They established Head Start programs for young children, Upward Bound and Job Corps programs for teenagers, and work-study opportunities for college students. It is often forgotten that this was a bipartisan campaign. A Republican president, Richard Nixon, and legislators from both sides of the aisle expanded the War on Poverty in the early 1970s. Nixon extended the reach of the food stamp program, added an automatic cost-of-living increase to Social Security and instituted the Supplemental Security Income system to benefit disabled adults and children. He even proposed a guaranteed national income though that died in the Senate after passing in the House.The truth is that the war on poverty produced some stunning successes, many of which are still felt today. And it likely could have produced more if politicians hadn't abandoned it in the 1980s, at the very moment that America's working families were facing heightened assaults on their living standards. In 1963, despite more than 15 years of prior economic expansion, the child poverty rate was almost 25%. By the early 1970s it had been lowered to 15%. Between 1967 and 1975, poverty among elders was cut in half....

  • Originally published 09/03/2013

    Announcing "Revolutionary Moments"

    With the world once again filled with anticipation and dread of revolution, it is reasonable to examine what relevant past events our predecessors experienced. Inarguably, the past is at least a set of experiences that may be useful in considering the present. Even that relatively modest claim requires some hesitation in that historians do not write as oracles, somehow outside the fray. Politics, despite the best intention of scholars, inflicts this work. Nonetheless, reviewing the revolutionary past will be at least interesting and potentially instructive.Thus, the moderators propose to introduce questions relevant to current events with the notion that scholars who study revolutions throughout the globe will comment. Postings must be under 250 words and conform to scholarly norms.