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: Independent (UK) (12-21-08)
A British woman who sacrificed her life by refusing to leave Jewish orphans in her care is being hailed as one of the forgotten heroes of the Holocaust.
Jane Haining's story of personal sacrifice and bravery is emerging only now, nearly 65 years after her death. She is among a list of British people whose selfless heroism during the Second World War should be recognised posthumously in the honours list, campaigners say.
A Presbyterian missionary, Miss Haining is one of only 10 Scottish people believed to have been killed in a Nazi death camp. After the Nazis invaded Hungary in March 1944, she was ordered to leave the school in Budapest where she worked and return to Scotland.
But the 47-year-old refused, saying: "If these children need me in the days of sunshine, how much more do they need me in the days of darkness?"
Miss Haining was ordered to...
SOURCE: Slate (12-19-08)
In July 1999, David Daley of the Hartford Courant tracked Felt down in Santa Rosa, Calif. Felt, the former second-ranking official at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, had long seemed—to me and many others—the most logical candidate for Deep Throat, Bob Woodward's unnamed garage-dwelling source, made famous in All the President's Men, the 1974 best-seller that Woodward and Carl Bernstein wrote about breaking the Watergate story. (Hal Holbrook played him in the movie.) Having recently rekindled a long-standing interest in this unsolved mystery, I decided to give Felt a call. The retired G-man wasted no time in telling me that, no, he wasn't Deep Throat, a denial he'd made a thousand times before (and to Daley mere days earlier). I tested his patience by rephrasing the question in various ways (Did he leak...
SOURCE: Editor & Publisher (12-19-08)
He was convicted in 1980 of authorizing nine illegal entries in New Jersey in 1972 and 1973 -- the very period during which he was famously meeting Bob Woodward in a parking garage. Only a pardon, courtesy of Ronald Reagan, kept him out of jail for a long term.
So the man knew a thing or two about illegal break-ins. COINTELPRO was George W. Bush's domestic spying programs on steroids. And that's where I come in.
I'll never know for sure, but it's possible that I was once on, ahem, fairly intimate terms with Felt.
Back in the bad old/good old days of the early 1970s, a fellow named Stew Albert used to write, off and on...
SOURCE: Britannica Blog (12-19-08)
Schooling in the United States—especially beginning around the sixth grade—requires that students do a certain amount of memorization. Sometimes the demands on memory are overt and narrow, as when students are given a spelling list to learn, and other times the memory demands are implicit and broader, as when students are asked to compare a poem they are reading in class to one that they read a week ago.
I teach at...
SOURCE: http://physicsbuzz.physicscentral.com (12-17-08)
While researching yesterday's post I came across an old controversy that seemed to cast doubt on Einstein's legacy. In 2003 PBS broadcast a made for TV special entitled"Einstein's Wife" insinuating that he collaborated extensively with his first wife Mileva Maric without crediting her work.
When it first aired, the documentary sparked a tremendous controversy, one that raged until...
SOURCE: H-SHEAR roundtable (12-1-08)
Daniel Walker Howe's magnum opus is more than a sum of its parts. This review, focused only on how the author deals with the issues of slavery and race, might not quite do justice to his achievements. However, most historians recognize the centrality of slavery to nineteenth-century American history and one of the main themes of this book, a critique of Jacksonian Democracy, is based on its proslavery and white supremacist politics. Even though Howe's book in this respect acts as a counter argument to Sean Wilentz's equally mammoth work, _The Rise of American Democracy_ (2005), it is somewhat old- fashioned in its laudatory emphasis on the technological and economic progress, political and geographic growth, and religious and cultural transformation of the early American republic. Like the men and women he writes about, Howe seems to believe that American history from 1815 to 1848 unfolded according to providential design....
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (12-18-08)
Zheng Shiqing lives and works in a small room with an earth floor, in the tiny village of Zhuanshanzi, high up a twisting mountain road. The padded curtain in place of a door does little to keep the winter at bay, and his breath curls white through the air. He has heart problems and should retire but cannot - medical treatment has eaten away his meagre savings. His sons are unemployed and his family of five largely depends on his 10,000 yuan (£950) annual earnings.
But Zheng, 53, is one of China's winners, one of hundreds of millions lifted out of poverty since the launch of economic reforms three decades ago. "Life is so much better, you can't even compare it - 100 times better than before," said the dentist, who works with a basic drill and little other equipment. "We lived in really crappy houses and had no property. We worked for the big commune and only got 400g (14oz) of food a day...
SOURCE: http://www.archaeology.org/news/ (1-1-09)
In May 1988, a prison guard checked Taymour Abdullah Ahmad's name off a list and directed him to a bus idling in the Popular Army camp in Topzawa, southwest of Kirkuk. The camp was one of Iraq's grimmest prisons. During his month-long internment there, the 12-year-old Kurdish boy watched guards beating male prisoners senseless with lengths of coaxial cable. He had seen four children weaken and then die of starvation. He stood helplessly as a guard stripped his father to his undershorts and led him off to his death. So Taymour was not sorry to see the last of Topzawa. He did not know that the paper in the guard's hand was an execution list.
The buses idling in the prison courtyard looked like ambulances. But this, Taymour soon discovered, was a cruel illusion; inside, they were squalid mobile prisons. The boy, his mother, and two younger sisters were forced into a...
SOURCE: Open Democracy (12-13-08)
The memory of Stalinism in contemporary Russia raises problems which are painful and sensitive. There is a vast amount of pro-Stalinist literature on the bookstalls: fiction, journalism and pseudo-history. In sociological surveys, Stalin invariably features among the first three "most prominent figures of all times". In the new school history textbooks, Stalinist policy is interpreted in a spirit of justification.
There are also hundreds of crucial volumes of documents, scholarly articles and monographs on Stalinism. The achievements of these historians and archivists is unquestionable. But if they do have any...
SOURCE: Journal of American History (12-1-08)
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (12-15-08)
The Baghdad journalist who sent George Bush a "goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people" by flinging shoes at his head probably spoke for many people in the Arab world, where the American leader is widely disliked. The extraordinary incident gave added point to a broader question increasingly asked as he nears the end of his eight-year term in office: was George Bush the worst ever US president?
Any objective answer depends to a considerable degree on how "worst ever" is defined. Opinion polls among American voters, conducted since Bush entered the White House in 2001, are influenced by the fact that people experienced him in real time. They had no similar exposure to, say, slave-owner Thomas Jefferson or civil war general Ulysses Grant.
Undeterred, respondents to a Rasmussen poll in 2007 came down hard on their current leader. As is usual in such...
SOURCE: New Republic (12-24-08)
SOURCE: Slate (12-15-08)
Sex has always been the unspoken inspiration for travel.
In Homer's Odyssey, the first travel book in history, Ulysses, the hero, spends more time in the arms of comely nymphs and enchantresses than actually under sail. Medieval pilgrims were notorious for spicing up their religious devotions with riotous fornication. By the 19th century, the erotic obsession had spilled from the bordellos and bars to suffuse the whole sightseeing agenda, creating a secret itinerary across Europe. For dirty-minded tourists, no visit to Paris was complete without a visit to the Enfer, or Hell, section of the National Library, where banned pornographic books...
SOURCE: Japan Focus (Click here to see pictures accompanying this excerpt.) (12-9-08)
In a minor skirmish in the history wars, or what might be called “ashes diplomacy,” Chinese authorities finally allowed the ashes of America’s last ambassador to China before 1949, John Leighton Stuart (1876-1964), to be interred next to the graves of his parents in Hangzhou, the southern Chinese city where he was born.
Earlier this fall, local authorities in Zhenjiang, a city on the Yangzi known for its vinegar, opened a Pearl Buck Museum in the house where Buck (1892-1973) spent most of her first eighteen years. The ashes of another historic figure, Edgar Snow (1905-1971), are divided between the Hudson River and a spot...
SOURCE: Special to HNN (12-12-08)
The election of Barack Obama as President will highlight some of the unsung or lost heroes in American history. The White House Historical Association’s website, describes the work of a well-known architect and builder, James Hoban. Irish-born James Hoban is showcased on the site because he was the architect who designed and built the White House from 1 792 to 1799. He advertised in Philadelphia, appealing to "any gentleman who wishes to build in an elegant style." That was in 1785. Then he lived in Charleston, South Carolina from 1787 to 1793, and continued to market his "Joining and Carpenter’s business."
The site also says, "Hoban’s name has been connected to . . . the historic Charleston County Courthouse and the William Seabrook House."...
SOURCE: NYT (12-12-08)
A. When reading about Lincoln, the surprise I get isn’t at learning something about him I didn’t know before — there’s too much of that for it to be much of a surprise — but at learning to pay attention to him in a different way. An example: for a while, about 40 years ago, as part of a culture-wide attempt to demythologize heroes, Lincoln the Great Emancipator became Lincoln the Grudging Racist.
The citations in his speeches and writings throughout his career were plain enough: he was not an abolitionist; he had doubts about the complete equality of the races; and he thought a willing emigration of freed American blacks the best plan for dealing with the race issue — at least until he learned differently, in part from his meetings with freed blacks and Frederick Douglass.
SOURCE: WashingtonDecoded (website run by Max Holland) (12-11-08)
Bloomsbury’s press release boasted that Brothers in Arms contained “explosive new information” about the role of Castro’s Cuba in the assassination. One of the specific disclosures was advertised as coming from “deathbed interviews” of Marty Underwood, “one of LBJ’s closest confidantes, a man who also was in charge of Johnson’s international security arrangements.” At LBJ’s behest, Underwood allegedly went on a secret mission to Mexico City in 1968 to find out what the CIA really knew about Cuban involvement in JFK’s assassination. Underwood’s “revelations, supported by his contemporaneous notes, reveal a shocking truth that was too dangerous to be disclosed . . . until after his passing.”
What color would you associate with Shanghai? Do you choose red? Or yellow? Or blue?
Most people choose blue… Blue stands for the coast…[And Shanghai’s link to the sea made it] China’s great gateway to the outside world.
Shanghai’s color—it is blue!
But today I...
SOURCE: CNN (12-10-08)
No matter that this was at least the tenth time the Cuyahoga had ignited. The times, they were a-changing, and a burning river confirmed what many already believed: The environment was changing, too.
Rachel Carson's book,"Silent Spring," published seven years earlier, had lit the spark. The mild-mannered government scientist documented how the pesticide DDT was jeopardizing countless bird species, from tiny hummingbirds to the national symbol, the bald eagle.
Smog from traffic and factories had become a national concern. And six months before the torching of the Cuyahoga, a massive oil spill soiled the shores of Santa Barbara, California. In the midst of the anti-Vietnam war movement, the women's movement, and more, a...
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (12-9-08)
One of the most dangerous things a great artist can do is to compose one work by which he is always remembered, to the detriment of all else he has done. Who can list the accomplishments of Leonardo beyond the Mona Lisa? How many can name the creations of Pugin beyond the interior of the House of Lords? Or cite the many masterpieces Holst wrote besides The Planets?
We all know that John Milton, born 400 years ago yesterday, wrote Paradise Lost. It is hard to pass beyond that, apparently: and when one encounters what Eliot called "the poetry of the sublime" in that epic, does it not put all else into the shade? Was it not, indeed, the point of Milton's life, as defined by him? Eight years at Cambridge, six years reading at his father's country house, and a belated and truncated grand tour of Italy were the conscious preparation for what he saw to be the task ordained for him by God, of a poet: and one...