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: Special to HNN (10-30-11)
Dr. Reznick is Chief of the History of Medicine Division in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Honorary Research Fellow in the Center for First World War Studies of the University of Birmingham, and Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He is the author, most recently, of "John Galsworthy and Disabled Soldiers of the Great War, with an Illustrated Selection of His Writings" (Manchester University Press, 2009).
Many news outlets, including HNN, have been covering the recent...
SOURCE: Foreign Policy (10-26-11)
Uri Friedman is an associate editor at Foreign Policy.
On Tuesday, Libyan officials laid Muammar al-Qaddafi to rest in a secret, unmarked desert grave to prevent his burial place from becoming a shrine for his supporters or a target for his opponents. The drainage pipes outside Sirte where Qaddafi was captured and the cold storage facility in Misrata where his corpse was temporarily stored, pictured above, have already become major attractions for Libyans. Back in May, U.S. officials cited concerns about creating a shrine as the reason why they committed Osama bin Laden's body to the sea.
This fear of establishing shrines for reviled figures has a long history; the English ruler Oliver Cromwell, for example, was...
SOURCE: openDemocracy (10-26-11)
Ivan Katchanovski teaches at the School of Political Studies at the University of Ottawa.
A mass-grave containing the remains of at least several hundred (and possibly thousands) of people has been uncovered in the small western Ukrainian town of Volodymyr-Volynskyi, near the border with Poland. This discovery is hardly surprising since the lands of Ukraine, dubbed by Yale history professor Timothy Snyder as 'bloodlands', are full of mass graves dating back to World War II. These lands endured a Nazi genocide that claimed about seven million lives, and a Soviet genocide and mass murder of several million other peasants, 'class enemies' and political prisoners.
What is surprising, however,...
Stephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renee Belfer Professor of International Affairs at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
The United States has been the dominant world power since 1945, and U.S. leaders have long sought to preserve that privileged position. They understood, as did most Americans, that primacy brought important benefits. It made other states less likely to threaten America or its vital interests directly. By dampening great-power competition and giving Washington the capacity to shape regional balances of power, primacy contributed to a more tranquil international environment. That tranquility fostered global prosperity; investors and traders operate with greater confidence when there is less danger of war. Primacy also gave the United States the ability to work for positive ends: promoting human rights and slowing the spread of weapons of mass destruction. It may be lonely at the top, but Americans have found the view compelling...
Leslie H. Gelb is president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, a former senior official in the State and Defense Departments, and a former New York Times columnist. He is also a member of The National Interest’s Advisory Council.
Upon his departure as secretary of defense, none other than Washington’s latest living legend Robert Gates cautioned those he was leaving behind to cherish and nurture bipartisanship. “When we have been successful in national security and foreign affairs, it has been because there has been bipartisan support.” To drive the point home, he added: “No major international problem can be solved on one president’s watch. And so, unless it has bipartisan support, unless it can be extended over a period of time, the risks of failure [are] high.”
Contrary to Gates’s Holy Grail sentiments and to most homilies to bipartisanship, Dean Acheson tagged the practice a “magnificent fraud.” As President Truman’s...
Walter Laqueur is an American historian and author of the forthcoming After the Fall: The End of the European Dream and the Decline of a Continent, an assessment of the European crisis (Thomas Dunne Books, 2012).
In 1849, the year of the “spring of nations,” a peace congress took place in Paris. The main address given by Victor Hugo, the most famous author of the time, announced that
A day will come when you, France—you, Russia—you, Italy—you, England—you, Germany—all of you, nations of the Continent, will, without losing your distinctive qualities and your glorious individuality, be blended into a superior unity, and constitute an European fraternity. . . . A day will come when bullets and bombshells will be replaced by votes, by the universal suffrage of nations, by the venerable arbitration of a great Sovereign Senate, which will be to Europe what the...
SOURCE: Newsweek (10-23-11)
Thomas Keneally is the Booker-winning author of Schindler’s Ark and, most recently, Three Famines: Starvation and Politics.
It has always been a perverse delight of mine that Sydney is the only major city that was founded as a purpose-designed penal settlement. Unlike New England, Sydney was not settled by the redeemed but by the fallen. These were minor hapless or habitual criminals—with a strong salting of political prisoners—sent from 1788 onward to this place, which was the length of a planet removed from Britain. At the start of 1788 the Eora-speaking Aboriginal inhabitants of what would become Sydney lived in an...
SOURCE: LA Times (10-24-11)
Sam Wineburg is a professor of education and history at Stanford University and the author of "Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts."
"Students' Knowledge of Civil Rights History Has Deteriorated," one headline announced. "Civil Rights Movement Education 'Dismal' in American Schools," declared another.
The alarming headlines, which appeared in newspapers across the country, grew out of a report released three weeks ago by the Southern Poverty Law Center, "Teaching the Movement," which claims that the civil rights movement is widely ignored in history classrooms. By not teaching it, the report claims, American education is "failing in its responsibility to educate its citizens to be agents of change." The study included a report card for individual states, and...
SOURCE: openDemocracy (10-21-11)
Sami Zubaida is emeritus professorof politics and sociology at Birkbeck College, London. He is the author of Beyond Islam: A New Understanding of the Middle East (IB Tauris, 2011)
His earlier books include Islam, the People and the State: Political Ideas and Movements in the Middle East (IB Tauris, 1993); ...
SOURCE: The American (AEI) (10-21-11)
Steve Conover retired recently from a 35-year career in corporate America. He has a BS in engineering, an MBA in finance, and a PhD in political economy.
To get our ailing economy back on track, we’ve been applying the Keynesian fiscal-stimulus formula for three years now (also known as “government knows best” or “intelligent design” economics). The 2008 Bush program of rebate checks ($170 billion) was the first design for stimulating demand. The next attempt was not the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (signed by Bush in October 2008, mostly paid back by now); it was the subsequent $787 billion Recovery Act of 2009—consisting mostly of short-term, one-time stimuli, like jolts from Keynesian-brand defibrillation paddles.
How’s all that stimulus working out for us? Not too well, so far. Creationism economics—driven by government experts’ decisions as to which companies should survive or perish, which investors should be saved or go broke,...
SOURCE: New Republic (10-22-11)
Michael Scott Moore is the author of Sweetness and Blood, a book about surfing, and he’s working on a book about pirates.
When Somali pirates started making international news, journalists and politicians said, in so many words, “Forget the romance of eye patches and parrots. These guys are mean.” They are mean, and getting meaner—Jeffrey Gettleman’s terrifying piece for this magazine (“The Wages of Anarchy”) made this very point—but they’re actually not all that foreign: The seventeenth-century Christian pirates of the Caribbean resorted to murder and torture, too. They did something, moreover, that Somalia would be lucky to learn from: They helped build America.
Colonists on the Eastern seaboard in the late 1600s were a struggling, gritty people living far from civilization but near some lucrative shipping lanes, and, after the...
SOURCE: Commonplace (10-15-11)
Carroll Smith-Rosenberg is the Mary Frances Berry Collegiate Professor of History, Women's Studies and American Culture, University of Michigan, Emerita. The author of several books and more than 40 essays on American history and culture and women's history, she has twice received the Binkley-Stephenson Award for best article in the Journal of American History. Her most recent book is This Violent Empire: The Birth of an American National Identity (2010).
"Violence," James Baldwin tells us, (and who would know better than he?) "has been the American daily bread since we have heard of America. This violence is not merely literal and actual," Baldwin continues, "but appears to be admired and lusted after and is key to the American imagination." History supports Baldwin's vision. From the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts in the 1790s, through the Civil War Draft Riots, frontier and Klan violence, the Red Scare, the internment of Japanese...
SOURCE: Pop Matters (10-17-11)
Scott Poole is a writer and an associate professor of history at the College of Charleston. He is the author of Monsters in America: Our Historical Obsession with the Hideous and Haunting (October 2011), a work where he uses the monster to explore American anxieties over race, sex, gender, and religious belief.
The ‘zine had its heyday in the ‘80s and ‘90s. These cut and paste newsletters and comics grew out of the DIY ethic of punk and perhaps as a reaction against the juggernaut of the cultural mainstream. ‘Zines for sci-fi fans and horror movie nerds flourished alongside ‘zines for emerging third wave feminism. It was like scrapbooking for cool people, a pre-internet attempt at democratizing an increasingly routinized world of media and cultural expression.
Music nerds, wondering what to do after The Smiths broke up, also created their ‘zines about all the stuff that wasn’t being played on the radio, bands that would never come to their part...
SOURCE: openDemocracy (10-18-11)
Paul Gilroy is Professor of Sociology and African American Studies at Yale University and author of Between Camps (published in the USA as Against Race) and The Black Atlantic. Les Back is Professor of Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London. His books include The Art of Listening (Berg, 2007), Theories of Race and Racism (Routledge, 2001).
One hundred years ago this November, the world was irrevocably and significantly altered. The development of aerial bombardment, initially over Libya by an Italian pilot, would create and routinise a new kind of warfare. The character of violent conflict was transformed along with the legal and moral systems that made it intelligible.
Though fire and rocketry were old weapons, the risks of warcraft were acutely redistributed in the novel discrepancy between bombers and bombed. Terror itself became a weapon. Attackers from above were virtually inaccessible while those they...
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (10-16-11)
Nabila Ramdani is a Paris-born freelance journalist and academic of Algerian descent.
Republican values of liberté, egalité, fraternité will be all but forgotten when thousands of Parisians recall the most murderous episode in the French capital's postwar history tomorrow. Commemorations are planned for the 50th anniversary of the French-Algerian massacre, when up to 200 peaceful protesters were slaughtered in cold blood around iconic national monuments, including the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral.
The most memorable – and vicious – atrocities saw policemen herding panicking crowds on to Paris's bridges, where many were tossed into the Seine. Normally a romantic symbol of the most popular tourist city in the world, the river became a watery morgue for scores of victims, whose lifeless bodies were washing up for weeks...
SOURCE: Foreign Policy (10-14-11)
Yascha Mounk, the founding editor of the Utopian, is a political theorist at Harvard University. He is working on a book about German-Jewish relations since 1945.
With market confidence in Greece and Italy further eroding, Germany's cash reserves are now the last best hope for the euro. Without a bold, continentwide rescue effort led by Germany, the single currency is likely to disintegrate. Yet it now seems clear, as indeed it should have for the last three years, that Angela Merkel's government would rather risk the euro's collapse than act decisively.
Germany has profited mightily from the adoption of a common currency. Blessed with a dynamic export economy that does most of its trade within the eurozone, it has gained more than anyone else from the greater ease of doing business with its neighbors. What's more, even Germans who remain nostalgic for the Deutsche mark should realize how catastrophic a collapse of the euro would be...
SOURCE: WSJ (10-4-11)
SOURCE: David Leonhardt for the New York Times (4-12-11)
Alexander J. Field, an economist at Santa Clara University, is the author of “A Great Leap Forward,” which argues that the terrible years of the Great Depression actually set the stage for the post-World War II boom. Mr. Field discussed his ideas at a recent book-signing party. The book will be officially released next week.
Our conversation follows.
Q. You make the novel claim that the Great Depression years were good — or at least important — for the American economy. How so?
Mr. Field: In 1941, the U.S. economy produced almost 40 percent more output than it had in 1929, with virtually no increase in labor hours or private-sector capital input. Almost all of the increase in output per hour is attributable to...
SOURCE: The Diplomat (10-11-11)
Wenran Jiang is an associate professor of political science at the University of Alberta and a senior fellow at the Asia-Pacific Foundation of Canada.
On Sunday, China celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Xinhai Revolution. A century is just a flash in the perpetual flow of history, but an age for individual human beings. When the republican revolution swept across China in 1911, overthrowing the Qing dynasty, the country had been in a miserable condition of mass starvation, internal rebellion and foreign invasion for much of the previous century.
Optimism accompanied the abolition of the 2,000-year-old imperial system. Sun Yat-sen, who led the revolution and the Nationalist party, set out three grand national goals: achieving independent nationhood through expelling foreign occupiers, establishing a democratic republic and restoring...
SOURCE: Commentary (10-1-11)
Robert A. Slayton is professor of history at Chapman University and the author of, among other books, Empire Statesman: The Rise and Redemption of Al Smith.
In the midst of last year’s election season, the website of the Atlantic revealed that