Roundup: Talking About History
This is where we excerpt articles about history that appear in the media. Among the subjects included on this page are: anniversaries of historical events, legacies of presidents, cutting-edge research, and historical disputes.
SOURCE: Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) (7-30-08)
Twenty-five years ago, when I began to contemplate a dissertation topic concerning women’s work on Civil War battlefields, a prominent historian asked me, “Were there any women at the front?” Since then, historians have documented the lives of women immersed in military operations in camp, field, and hospital, and have expanded the notion of “the front” to bring into range women whose households were situated in battle zones. We are now able to dispel ten common myths about women’s roles in the Civil War.
Myth 1: The most significant role of women during the...
SOURCE: The Cutting Edge (7-28-08)
In August 1943, a timber merchant from Bendzin, Poland, arrived at Auschwitz. He was among a group of 400 inmates, mostly Jews. First, a doctor examined him briefly to determine his fitness for work. His physical information was noted on a medical record. Second, his full prisoner registration was completed with all personal details. Third, his name was checked against the indices of the Political Section to see if he would be subjected to special punishment. Finally, he was registered in the Labor Assignment...
SOURCE: Concord Review (7-30-08)
It seems likely to me that when these students get to college and find reading lists in their courses in History, Political Science, Economics, and the like, which require them to read nonfiction books, they will be somewhat ready for them, having read at least two serious nonfiction books in their Lower Education years.
For the vast majority of our public secondary students this may not be the case. As almost universally, the assignment of reading and writing is left up to the English departments in the high schools, most students now read only novels and other fiction.
While the National Endowment for the Arts has conducted a $300,000 study of the pleasure reading habits of young people...
SOURCE: NYT (7-29-08)
Organized medicine has long reflected that most American of obsessions: race. For well over a century, the American Medical Association has been the nation’s largest and most powerful physicians’ group — and an overwhelmingly white one. Black physicians have their own, lesser-known group, the National Medical Association.
On July 10, a spotlight fell briefly on this schism. The A.M.A. made a rare public address to the N.M.A. to deliver an even rarer message: an apology to the nation’s black physicians, citing a century of “past wrongs.”
What wrongs, exactly? Dr. W. Montague Cobb could have answered that question at length.
Dr. Cobb — physician, physical anthropologist, civil rights activist, president of the National Medical Association in the 1960s — knew that...
SOURCE: Special to HNN (7-29-08)
Right after receiving the Republican presidential nomination in 1980, Ronald Reagan gave his first campaign speech at the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia, Mississippi on August 3. This is where three civil rights workers—James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner—had been murdered by local racists in the summer of 1964.
In the course of a fairly standard stump speech, Reagan unfortunately used the term “state’s rights.” Andrew Young, who had lately served as United Nations ambassador for Reagan’s opponent, Jimmy Carter, quickly seized upon this to charge that Reagan was using racial code words to signal his sympathy for Southern racism. However, when one reads what Reagan actually said, it is quite clear that he was talking about...
SOURCE: Independent (7-27-08)
At the door of the north tower of the bridge, the maid negotiates with the bridge-master, handing over the contents of her purse. In return she receives one of the skulls, carefully wrapping it in a linen cloth and placing it in a basket. This is all that remains of Thomas More. One day the skull will join Margaret Roper herself, when she is interred in the family tomb at...
SOURCE: http://fredericksburg.com (7-25-08)
Earlier this month The Free Lance-Star joined media outlets across the country in reporting on the discovery of George Washington's boyhood home by archaeologists working at Ferry Farm. This is the iconic home made famous by Parson Weems' ubiquitous cherry-tree mythology.
The George Washington Foundation, which owns the site, has additionally announced its intent to construct a replica of the boyhood home as it would have appeared during the 1740s. This is not, of course, the only Washington boyhood home. In fact, nearly 80 years ago, The New York Times printed a similar story by then-director of the National Park Service Horace Albright. "Washington's Boyhood Homes" (March 29, 1931) reminds us that Washington's youth...
SOURCE: NYT (7-27-08)
FORTY years ago last week, Pope Paul VI provoked the greatest uproar against a papal edict in the long history of the Roman Catholic Church when he reiterated the church’s ban on artificial birth control by issuing the encyclical “Humanae Vitae.” At the time, commentators predicted that not only would the teaching collapse under its own weight, but it might well bring the “monarchical papacy” down with it.
Those forecasts badly underestimated the capacity of the Catholic Church to resist change and to stand its ground.
Down the centuries, Catholics have frequently groused about papal rulings. Usually they channeled that dissent into blithe disobedience, though occasionally a Roman mob would run the Successor of Peter out of town on a rail just to make a point. In 1848, Pope Pius IX was driven into exile by Romans incensed...
SOURCE: The Prague Post (7-23-08)
Conferences on 1968 are stretching back-to-back across Europe this summer, offering retrospectives on the meaning of that year — what was gained, what was lost.
I know what I lost. A scrap of tri-colored ribbon, pinned to my jacket as a talisman to see me through a train ride across occupied Czechoslovakia. I had spent 1965-66 as a student in Prague on a bilateral exchange program. In 1968, I was in search of a job in the theater, hoping to stay in this dynamic city.
I lost a talisman but I kept a diary. I started it at the beginning of that long, hot summer of swimming in reservoirs and lying in the long grass of hillside meadows, watching fireflies at dusk and picking cherries by moonlight. There were dreams and romance — but also intense political discussions, veering from elation to anxiety. No conversation was too private for someone not...
SOURCE: National Review (7-24-08)
Those who protested some 40 years ago often still congratulate themselves that their loud zeal alone brought needed “change” to America in civil rights, the environment, women’s liberation, and world peace. Maybe. But critics counter that the larger culture that followed was the most self-absorbed in memory.
Everyone can at least agree that the spirit of the “Me Generation” is not going quietly into the night — especially since that generation ushered in a certain coarseness and self-righteousness that still plagues our politics.
Take grandiose sermonizing about changing the world while offering few practical details how to do it.
Al Gore recently prophesized that America within ten years could generate all its electrical needs from “renewable resources and carbon-constrained fuels” — mainly...
SOURCE: Denver Post (7-24-08)
From that day on, I wanted to know everything I could about the previous inhabitants of Mesa Verde, how they lived, worked, ate, socialized.
In my opinion, the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings are Colorado's greatest landmarks, which make an impression on thousands of tourists annually. However, their allure may wane in the near future as a result of damage from air pollution.
The 1977 amendment of the Clean Air Act was put into place to protect the air quality of various national parks. The amendment designated certain areas around the country as Class I areas, including Mesa Verde National Park, which receive the highest protection from air pollution1.
However, now the EPA is trying to change the air regulations,...
SOURCE: History Today (UK) (8-1-08)
President Bush’s failure to impose his imperial vision on Iraq and the rest of the Middle East may come to be seen as one of the great turning points in history. He would have been wise to have studied and learned lessons from the experiences in the region of two Roman emperors, Trajan and Hadrian, over 2,000 years ago.
Trajan – Marcus Ulpius Traianus – was one of Rome’s great warmongers. Elevated in AD 98 at the age of 45 after a successful army career, his response to military challenge was invariably pre-emptive aggression. The rich and powerful kingdom of Dacia (what is now north-west Romania) was subjugated in two major wars early in his reign. This victory is celebrated on the column still standing north of the Roman Forum. Aggression, it seemed, paid dividends.
So, while Dacia was comprehensively plundered, ethnically cleansed and resettled...
SOURCE: Japan Focus (7-23-08)
This is the first of a multi-part article on the South Korean massacres of 1950, the US direct and indirect involvement in those massacres, and the subsequent cover up of the events in South Korea and the United States.
Grave by mass grave, South Korea is unearthing the skeletons and buried truths of a cold-blooded slaughter from early in the Korean War, when this nation's U.S.-backed regime killed untold thousands of leftists and hapless peasants in a summer of terror in 1950.
With U.S. military officers sometimes present, and as North Korean invaders pushed down the peninsula, the southern army and police emptied South Korean prisons, lined up detainees and shot them in the head, dumping the bodies into hastily dug trenches. Others were thrown into abandoned mines or into the sea. Women and children were among those killed. Many victims never faced charges or trial.
SOURCE: Japan Focus (7-23-08)
In July 2008 the world media heralded the arrest of “the world’s most wanted war criminal,” Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic. He had been in hiding for thirteen years, ever since he was charged with genocide by the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague for his role in the massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica. These events were subsequently termed “Europe’s worst slaughter of civilians since World War II.” 
Fifty-eight years earlier, in another distant July, the North Korean People’s Army bore down upon the city of Taejon, south of Seoul. Police authorities removed political prisoners from local jails, men and boys along with some women, massacred them, threw them into open pits, and dumped the earth...
SOURCE: Japan Focus (Click here to see pictures accompanying this article.) (7-17-08)
The lone survivor of a Japanese infantry unit in World War 2, Nishimura Kokichi promised his comrades he would bring their bodies back to Japan. Sixty years later, he is still trying to fulfill his pledge in a story of indomitable will and determination.
Nishimura Yukiko listened to her husband, Kokichi, in shock. After thirty-five years of marriage and four children, the 59-year-old was leaving. He would hand the keys to the family business, one of Tokyo’s most successful engineering works, to his eldest son then board a plane for Papua New Guinea where he would start a new life. The object of his attentions was not another woman but the bones of...
SOURCE: Wired.com (7-24-08)
Bingham was born in Honolulu, the son and grandson of Protestant missionaries in the Pacific. He graduated from Yale University and did graduate work in history and politics at the University of California and Harvard.
Bingham had already made two expeditions to South America -- and published a book on each -- when he returned to Peru in 1911. He located the last Inca capital, Vitcos, and made the first ascent of the 21,763-foot Mt. Coropuma. Then came the find that would make him famous: Machu Picchu.
Bingham eventually left academe for Republican politics, serving as lieutenant governor of Connecticut. He was also governor for one day, before moving on to the U.S. Senate for eight years. The Senate censured Bingham in 1929 for hiring a lobbyist. He died in 1956.
The controversies have not ended: Did Bingham"...
SOURCE: BBC (7-22-08)
Now the Reds have seized control once again. Stalin has first place, the Tsar is still holding on to second, but then Lenin comes in third, like a second revolutionary wave waiting to sweep away the monarchy once more. A Russian woman carries a portrait of Soviet leader Josef Stalin in a Victory Day celebration in Moscow on May 9, 2008
The"Name of Russia" is still in its early stages. The online poll was inspired by the BBC series"Great Britons". At present, Russians have 50 people to choose from. From September, only the top 12 will remain in the contest. The winner will be chosen at the end of the year.
Stalin's strong showing has prompted suggestions that organised voting has pushed his rating artificially high. It has also prompted some soul-searching.
"How are we going to look in the eyes of the...
SOURCE: NY Review of Books (8-14-08)
SOURCE: AlterNet (7-19-08)
Readers of Fidel Castro's 'My Life' will hear all about the Cuban Revolution, but no apologies for its suppression of dissent.
One of Fidel Castro's earliest political memories is of Spaniards arguing over the Spanish Civil War, and his first act of censorship, he explains in My Life (Scribner, $40), was done in kindness. When asked by his family's illiterate cook -- a "fire-breathing Republican" -- for news of the war, the nine-year old read him stories that played up loyalist success because he wanted to make him "feel better." Castro's Galician father was a franquista, as were his Jesuit teachers, who prayed for Spain's martyred priests while offering not a word for "the Republicans who were being shot by...
SOURCE: Liverpool Echo (UK) (7-21-08)
RARELY has a political move sparked such a furious response as the proposal to give Margaret Thatcher a state funeral.
Forget the fact that she is not dead yet, the very idea caused outrage.
West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper waded into action the last time this cropped up during Tony Blair's tenure, saying that her constituents were "appalled".
Now the proposal has bubbled to the surface again and the ECHO's web forum has been swamped with expressions of disapproval, some of which cannot be printed in a family newspaper.
As someone who covered every minute of the Thatcher era, I agree – and not for narrow, party-political reasons.
The precedent her supporters quote is that of Winston Churchill.
The difference is that he, as PM in a...