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: Japan Focus (11-23-09)
HNN note: The following is the introduction to "Assessing the Nishimatsu Corporate Approach to Redressing Chinese Forced Labor in Wartime Japan", Kang Jian, Arimitsu Ken and William Underwood
The Nishimatsu Settlement Controversy
Xinhua News Agency reported in October 2009 that Nishimatsu Construction Co. “secured a reconciliation” by voluntarily agreeing to compensate Chinese victims of wartime forced labor in Japan, after resisting the redress claim for more than a decade. But questions have arisen regarding the content of the settlement, and whether it might foreshadow greater Japanese willingness to address past injustices. (The Japanese text of the settlement is available.)
In the out-of-court pact...
SOURCE: Special to HNN (11-30-09)
Alessandra Mussolini, granddaughter of the Italian dictator and “former showgirl turned MP” as the BBC describes her, has claimed that some blood and parts of her grandfather’s brain have been stolen to be sold over the Internet. It was allegedly heisted from Milan’s Policlinico Hospital where Mussolini was autopsied 65 years ago. Somewhat out of outrage but mostly out of violent curiosity, worldwide media have taken up the story about the evil man’s organ. What is the importance of this mushy reminder and how legitimate are its origins? It is probably as significant as a number of other “famous body parts” that have angered and fascinated over the centuries.
Technically, the term “relic” is a strictly ecclesiastic concept that may pertain to preserved body parts of Catholic saints and that may or may not have healing powers. The mystical properties aside, the term...
SOURCE: Atlantic Monthly (11-27-09)
Albert Einstein’s first tour of America was an extravaganza unique in the history of science, and indeed would have been remarkable for any realm: a grand two-month processional in the spring of 1921 that evoked the sort of mass frenzy and press adulation that would thrill a touring rock star. Einstein had recently burst into global stardom when observations performed during a total eclipse dramatically confirmed his theory of relativity by showing that the sun’s gravitational field bent a light beam to the degree that he had predicted. The New York Times trumpeted that triumph with a multideck headline:
Lights All Askew in the Heavens / Men of Science More or Less Agog Over Results of Eclipse Observations / EINSTEIN THEORY TRIUMPHS / Stars Not Where They Seemed or Were Calculated to Be, but Nobody Need Worry
SOURCE: The Historical Society (Blog) (11-24-09)
As Americans prepare to stuff their faces with turkey, pie, turkey pie, and all manner of bread-related foods, and clock in millions of hours of TV football viewing, it’s worth considering the Pilgrims, originators of America's holiday. (I was just thinking that a Martian would have a very hard time understanding how football and overeating are linked to an otherworldly religious sect.) How do Pilgrims fit into American history and religious history in general?
How low the founders of our national myth have fallen. Nineteenth-century Protestants celebrated the Pilgrims as hearty, pure-of-heart forbearers. Yet even in the 19th century Pilgrims had their share of detractors. Eli Thayer, the Kansas prophet, and the Unitarian minister Edward Everett Hale fussed about the place of Pilgrims in American history....
SOURCE: The Chronicle of Higher Education (11-22-09)
One drizzly weekend last month, a conference convened at Princeton University to consider "The Educational Legacy of Woodrow Wilson." Up front sat the organizers, the historian of higher education James Axtell—an emeritus professor at the College of William and Mary and visiting professor at Princeton—and the Wilson biographer John Milton Cooper Jr., an emeritus professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Both are distinguished scholars. Cooper's mentor had been the Princeton professor Arthur S. Link, who achieved the heroic accomplishment of editing Wilson's papers in 69 volumes, starting in the 1950s. All the participants at the conference looked back on Wilson and his 20-year academic career at Princeton—first as a faculty member and then as president—...
SOURCE: Slate (11-24-09)
FDR may have died more than 60 years ago, but these questions still matter. Not only does presidential health—and the public's right to know about it—remain a controversial issue, but in Roosevelt's case, the lies in question, if true, changed history. As neurologist Steven Lomazow and journalist Eric Fettman point out in a book coming out this January, FDR's Deadly Secret, widespread knowledge of Roosevelt's cancer would have prevented him from running in 1944 and thus likely altered the shaping of postwar Europe.
Roosevelt was in the business of concealing his medical afflictions. After a bout with polio in 1921, he never...
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (11-25-09)
"I have been warning Pakistan," announced Palaniappan Chidambaram, the Indian minister of home affairs, this month, "not to play games with us. If terrorists from Pakistan try to carry out any attacks in India, they will not only be defeated, but will be retaliated against very strongly."
In the spectacular attacks in Mumbai a year ago tomorrow, 10 terrorists despatched by Lashkar-e-Taiba, an extremist Muslim organisation based in Pakistan, killed at least 173 people, including five British nationals.
Ahead of the anniversary of the atrocities, Mr Chidambaram's words have been understood – both in New Delhi and Islamabad – to mean that any similar attack will prompt India to use force against jihadist bases in Pakistan. The government there responded to the attacks by promising to act against terrorists based on its soil. But India believes the implementation of that promise...
SOURCE: NYT (11-24-09)
ON Oct. 3, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared the final Thursday of November to be a national holiday of Thanksgiving. That came just over a year after Lincoln made another more historic proclamation, one that directly concerned my family and their future: the Emancipation Proclamation, which had freed the enslaved in any territory “in rebellion.”
These two proclamations are visually conjoined in a stereograph made about the same time that is familiar to students of the American South. Taken by Henry P. Moore, it shows African-Americans at work on a plantation on Edisto Island, off South Carolina. They are captured in attitudes of deep concentration, posed with hoes in hands or seated around a large basket, preparing to plant. They are described...
SOURCE: The Chronicle of Higher Education (11-21-09)
My father heard the news from a guy in the next office. He was a graduate student in math at Berkeley, and his neighbor stepped inside the door and said, "Well, that's it -- that's the second one they've killled for pushing civil rights."
The assassination had just happened, information was sketchy, but for this fellow the narrative was already complete...
... "Who, exactly, were 'they'? And what did 'they' do?"
Those questions are posed by James Piereson in a great study of the assassination and its aftermath entitled Camelot and the Cultural Revolution: How the Assassination of John F. Kennedy Shattered American Liberalism. He answers by citing James Reston, distinguished columnist in The New York Times, who wrote on the assassination the next...
SOURCE: Special to HNN (11-24-09)
We are fascinated by narratives that aid in understanding who we are. From literary works such as Charles Frazier’s “Cold Mountain” inspired by his ancestor who walked home from the Civil War, to popular genres and entertainments by such as Ann Rice’s and other writers’ fascination -- obsession -- with criminals, myths, vampires, adventures, we wonder how writers choose characters and subjects for their stories. More writers are writing fiction, inspired by their family’s genealogy.
Recently, a pirates-treasure-revenge-adventure novel, “Pirate Latitudes” was published posthumously by Michael Crichton. Reviewers asked why this author of landmark futuristic, apocalyptic sci-fi...
SOURCE: Slate (11-24-09)
Is it conceivable that Franklin D. Roosevelt's doctors knew he had widespread cancer in 1944 and still let him run for his fourth term as president? New research makes this astounding argument—and claims that the physician who supposedly told the truth about Roosevelt's death in 1970 was in fact continuing the deception he had helped create.
FDR may have died more than 60 years ago, but these questions still matter. Not only does presidential health—and the public's right to know about it—remain a controversial issue, but in Roosevelt's case, the lies in question, if true, changed history. As neurologist Steven Lomazow and journalist Eric Fettman point out in a book coming out this January, FDR's Deadly Secret, widespread knowledge of Roosevelt's cancer...
SOURCE: Jewish Press (11-18-09)
Ever hear of Gershom Mendes Seixas? Well, he might just be the forgotten hero of Thanksgiving.
Our national Thanksgiving narrative is rich with stories about proclamations, gatherings, meals, traditions, football, and of course, the obligatory pardoning of a turkey by the president of the United States. Schoolchildren rehearse that day long ago when the Plymouth pilgrims broke bread. We note things Lincoln said.
And doubtless you have heard about what our first president, George Washington, declared while proclaiming the first official national day of Thanksgiving in 1789:
I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite...
SOURCE: The New Republic (11-23-09)
Rest of Slideshow
SOURCE: The Chronicle of Higher Education (11-22-09)
Between 1939 and 1945, shortwave radio transmitters near Berlin broadcast Nazi propaganda in many languages around the world, including Arabic throughout the Middle East and North Africa, and Persian programs in Iran. English-language transcripts of the Arabic broadcasts shed light on a particularly dark chapter in the globalization of pernicious ideas. The transcripts' significance, however, is not purely historical. Since September 11, 2001, scholars have debated the lineages, similarities, and differences between Nazi anti-Semitism and the anti-Semitism of Islamic extremists. These radio broadcasts suggest that Nazi Arabic-language...
SOURCE: NYT (11-22-09)
SIXTY-FIVE years ago, in November 1944, the war in Europe was at a stalemate. A resurgent Wehrmacht had halted the Allied armies along Germany’s borders after its headlong retreat across northern France following D-Day. From Holland to France, the front was static — yet thousands of Allied soldiers continued to die in futile battles to reach the Rhine River.
One Allied army, however, was still on the move. The Sixth Army Group reached the Rhine at Strasbourg, France, on Nov. 24, and its commander, Lt. Gen. Jacob L. Devers, looked across its muddy waters into Germany. His force, made up of the United States Seventh and French First Armies, 350,000 men, had landed Aug. 15 near Marseille — an invasion largely overlooked by history but regarded at the time as “the second D-Day” — and advanced through southern France to Strasbourg....
SOURCE: LA Times (11-23-09)
Great crises have a way of reminding us that acting as though we know perfectly well what the future holds almost always leads to disaster.
That's especially true in economics, which tends to underscore the murkiness of the real world by dealing out surprises one after another -- booms, crashes, bubbles, you name it.
It's fitting, therefore, that the recent economic meltdown has begun to restore that great apostle of uncertainty, John Maynard Keynes, to his rightful position of influence in economic thought.
"Keynes asked why financial markets are inherently unstable," Robert Skidelsky told me the other day. "His answer was that we don't know what the future will bring. He talked about the inherent precariousness of knowledge, that when we estimate the future we're only disguising our ignorance."
If that sounds obvious, keep in...
SOURCE: Lapham's Quarterly (11-22-09)
Colin Dickey’s recent Roundtable offers a fascinating glimpse into the politics of human dissection in early modern Europe through unique situation in nineteenth-century Vienna. There, dissection was not only allowed but increasingly supported by the medical establishment and the state. At Vienna’s General Hospital, the poor could receive health care free of charge, but only on condition that if they died, their bodies would be delivered over to the medical school. Reading Dickey’s account, I could not help but think of that intrepid English defender of dissection, Jeremy Bentham.
Bentham tied the question of dissection directly to utility, the use of the dead for the living. He was, after all, the founder of Utilitarianism, a program for legislative reform guided by the pursuit of the “greatest happiness for the greatest number.” Inspired by a widespread...
SOURCE: The Economist (11-16-09)
Finding something American to sell to the Chinese, whether democracy or widgets, has always been a problem. The first merchant vessel to sail from New York to Canton in 1784 was on a tea-buying voyage, but the cargo it had to exchange was ginseng. American ginseng was consumed by the Chinese for its yin: the female properties of cool, while the native product was thought more yang-heavy. A population explosion may have made it difficult for domestic production to keep up with demand, hence the opening for American ginseng merchants who made a nifty profit.
Thus was born a trading connection in which, for long stretches, the Chinese assumed they had the upper hand. They required silver in return for tea, without which, some believed, western barbarians would go blind and develop intestinal tumours.
As barbarians went, the Americans seemed a milder version of the British pest. It helped that British merchants...
SOURCE: The New Nixon (11-19-09)
Forty years ago, on 19 November 1969, RN welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Eisaku Sato to the White House at the beginning of what would be a significant few days in the history of US-Japanese relations. Typically, the meeting was the result of long planning and negotiations; and, while there was room for spontaneity in the dealings between the two leaders and the two delegations, the general outline of the trip’s results were known before the Prime Minister’s limousine pulled up to the South Portico.
The twenty-seven year occupation of the island of Okinawa, and the presence of American nuclear weapons on it, had been an issue bedeviling relations between the two nations for some time. As the Japanese economy began to revive and...
SOURCE: OpEdNews (11-19-09)
On November 21st, 2009, Ukrainian democrats will be celebrating the fifth anniversary of the start of demonstrations in Kyiv which led to larger political developments that came to reshape our understanding of post-Soviet politics. During the last five years, the 2004 events in Ukraine known as the Orange Revolution have become important reference points in the international study of democratic transition and consolidation. The Orange Revolution is certainly the major event in the study of current Ukrainian history.(1) Whatever happens to Ukraine in the future,(2) it seems to be destined to become a “crucial case” within comparative...