This page includes, in addition to news about historians, news about political scientists, economists, law professors, and others who write about history. For a comprehensive list of historians' obituaries, go here.
SOURCE: NYT (8-30-08)
The cause was pneumonia associated with Parkinson’s disease, said his wife, Kathrin Baxandall.
Mr. Baxandall’s second book, “Painting and Experience in 15th-Century Italy,” published in 1972, announced a program in its first sentence. “A 15th-century painting is the deposit of a social relationship,” he wrote.
He proceeded to lay bare not only the patron-client transactions that influenced the making of an artwork, but also something he called “the period eye”: the act of perception determined by social circumstances. In a famous example, he showed how Italians knew how to appraise the volume of a barrel by sight, and how artists played to this carefully cultivated skill.
This approach signaled an abrupt departure in art criticism comparable to the shift toward social history among British historians.
“He provided the tools we needed to take works of art out of the frame and off the pedestal to see how they really worked,” said Thomas Crow, a professor of modern art history at the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University. “He made it possible to see, through the art, how societies organized themselves and, conversely, how individuals perceived their own experiences and inner lives.”
SOURCE: Christopher Shea at the Boston Globe "Brainiac" page (8-29-08)
It's pretty funny when bloggers are out of date -- whoever posted this one is a few years off. We've hired several senior people: Julian Zelizer (20th US political), Tera Hunter (African-American), and Martha Sandweiss (US West/Material Culture), as well as 5 junior appointments across a variety of sub-fields in US history. So I don't know what to say except that this"history" of the Department would get an F in my course. [Adelman's ellipsis]
Adelman also mentioned Emily Thompson, a senior historian of science and technology in the U.S., who arrived two years ago. (To be fair, Bierce did mention Hunter and Zelizer in his to-be-sure paragraph ["Princeton has not totally failed. ].")
Adelman dropped another piece of news that Bierce hinted at but said he was saving for his readers' future delectation: University officials are weighing the history department's recommendation to offer a tenured slot to Chandra Manning, a rising star in the history of the Civil War. Currently an assistant professor at Georgetown, Manning is a 2002 Harvard Ph.d., and did her undergraduate work at Mount Holyoke. In the lingo of The Broad-Gauge Gossip (Bierce's site), she's a one-book wonder:"What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War" (Knopf, 2007). She would more or less be replacing James McPherson, a major figure in Civil War studies, who recently retired.
Bierce, consider yourself scooped!
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed (8-29-08)
But amid the frenzy of election-season chatter, four prominent scholars came together on Thursday afternoon for a grim panel discussion on the health of the subfield known as American politics. Three of the four panel members said that the subfield—at least as it is now defined and structured within most political-science departments—has grown bloodless and hyperquantitative, while the fourth gave a partial defense of the field's direction.
"We have defined what counts as 'American politics' too narrowly, and we therefore study American politics inadequately," said Rogers M. Smith, a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania.
The field has restricted itself, Mr. Smith said, to quantitative analyses of public opinion, voting behavior, and legislative action, giving too little attention to courts and the executive branch, and neglecting insights offered by historians, theorists, and the study of other nations.
Anne Norton, who is also a professor of political science at Penn, said that Americanists have largely ignored, for example, the debates about the Guantánamo Bay detention center and other recent assertions of executive authority....
SOURCE: NPR (8-28-08)
Joseph picked Bill Clinton’s 1992 address in New York when he argued that the party needed a “new covenant” with America.
“What Clinton offers in 1992 in terms of rhetorical eloquence and political genius is this notion that the Democratic Party can still help poor people but it’s going to have to do this on a much smaller scale,” Joseph said. “He talks about we need a leaner government and not a meaner government.”
For Norton Smith, Adlai Stevenson set the gold standard for Democratic convention speeches with his 1952 speech in Chicago. After delivering a well-received welcoming speech, Stevenson was selected as the partyâ€™s presidential candidate two days later. It is that acceptance speech that Norton Smith said electrified millions of Americans listening to their radios back home.
“He used words in a way that no one had heard before. There was an urbanity, there was a wit, there was a sense of the ridiculous about the political process. And it was all about challenging the American people. Stevenson said, "better lose an election than mislead the American people.” Norton Smith said. “Stevenson raised the bar.”
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed (8-28-08)
She first attended a breakfast with Thomas A. Daschle, where the former majority leader of the U.S. Senate spoke about leadership. Then she heard from Michelle Obama at a meeting of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
For teachers and professors attending the Democratic National Convention, the four-day event is an opportunity not only to participate in an American institution, but to educate their students in the process.
Ms. Pearson is one of five Colorado-area teachers acting as correspondents for their students during the convention through a program called “When History Happens,” created by the Metropolitan State College of Denver. Reporting from convention events and the floor of the Pepsi Center, they are stimulating discussion about politics and governance in their classrooms back home.
Several professors attending the convention are leading groups of students through the Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars, which brought 370 college students and faculty members to Denver for two weeks of classes, lectures, and convention “field work.”
SOURCE: http://www.thefirstpost.co.uk (8-28-08)
In court papers, Irving alleges that his lawyers failed to carry out his instructions to deal with a possession order issued against the property in Duke Street following his unsuccessful libel action against the American academic Deborah Lipstadt. Irving had sued her for libel after she accused him of being a Holocaust denier. He was subsequently arrested during a visit to Austria, where it is a crime to glorify and identify with the German Nazi Party. After a trial in Vienna, he served a prison sentence from February to December 2006.
The legal action against Lipstadt cost Irving £3m in legal fees and ultimately resulted in him filing for bankruptcy. Even worse, at least from his point of view, when the flat was re-possessed he also lost his historical archive, which he values at £500,000.
Irving, 70, maintains that his legal advisors failed to tell him "in a timely manner" of their omission [that he was in danger of losing the Duke Street apartment], which would have allowed him to take action to save his home and historical papers. While he values the loss of his possessions and archives at half a million £500,000 and also wants damages for grief and distress, he has limited his claim for damages to £300,000.
SOURCE: http://www.thanhniennews.com (8-28-08)
Vietnamese historian Nguyen Dinh Dau has spent more than half a century collecting over 3,000 antique maps.
His small room is packed with rare maps from all over the world and spanning 1,027 years of Vietnamese history, from the Ly, Tran and Le to the Nguyen dynasties.
The largest map in Dau’s collection is 1.3 meters by 3 meters in length and the oldest was drawn by an Egyptian in the fifth century for sea voyages.
He also owns a foldable map drawn by the French in 1009.
Dau has carefully categorized the collection by place and period.
Each map reminds Dau of a memorable experience because of the considerable effort he spent to acquire it.
Some maps were given to him as a token of respect, while some are copies of maps that he borrowed from a Paris storehouse.
Flea markets and second hand bookstores in Ho Chi Minh City have also been the scene of some exciting finds.
The old historian said these maps are not merely documents and diagrams - they are a looking glass into the trials and tribulations of the country’s past, opening up new worlds of knowledge about former generations’ lifestyles and culture.
SOURCE: Otago Daily Times (NZ) (8-27-08)
Historian Paul Moon is defending his book This Horrid Practice and stands by his research.
"I spent several years researching this book, using an enormous body of documentation, and I'm not about to denounce it just because it upsets a few people," he told the New Zealand Herald.
An anonymous complaint said the book "describes the whole of Maori society as violent and dangerous. This is a clearly racist view claiming a whole ethnic group has these traits".
The commission has taken no action on the complaint yet but a spokesperson told the paper any mediation would occur in confidence and the complainant's name would not be released.
The book suggests that consuming vanquished enemies' mana had little to do with the underlying reason for Maori cannibalism. Instead cannibalism, in pre-colonial times, was simply about "rage and humiliation".
Dr Moon said he approached the topic "honestly" and applied standard methods of research to it.
"I think it's just very sad that it's come to this stage that when you write about certain topics in New Zealand history you get complaints and accusations of racism levelled at you."
SOURCE: civilwarinteractive (8-24-08)
In "Bitterly Divided: The South's Inner Civil War" (New Press, $27.95), historian David Williams of Valdosta State University lays out some tradition-upsetting arguments that might make the granite brow of Jefferson Davis crack on Stone Mountain....
Actually, historians have long fallen into two camps in explaining the Confederacy's demise — one stressing the Union's advantages, the other the South's divisions. Williams gives vivid expression to the latter view, drawing on state and local studies done primarily in the past two decades.
The 49-year-old South Georgia native discussed his interpretations in an interview from Valdosta.
Q: You write that most Southerners didn't even want to leave the Union.
A: That's right. In late 1860 and early 1861, there were a series of votes on the secession question in all the slave states, and the overwhelming majority voted against it. It was only in the Deep South, from South Carolina to Texas, that there was much support for secession, and even there it was deeply divided. In Georgia, a slight majority of voters were against secession.
Q: So why did Georgia secede?
A: The popular vote didn't decide the question. It chose delegates to a convention. That's the way slaveholders wanted it, because they didn't trust people to vote on the question directly. More than 30 delegates who had pledged to oppose secession changed their votes at the convention. Most historians think that was by design. The suspicion is that the secessionists ran two slates — one for and one supposedly against — and whichever was elected, they'd vote for secession.
Q: You say the war didn't start at Fort Sumter.
A: The shooting war over secession started in the South between Southerners. There were incidents in several states. Weeks before Fort Sumter, seven Unionists were lynched in Tallahatchie County, Miss....
SOURCE: Ralph Luker at HNN blog, Cliopatria (8-23-08)
1. No need to worry about my failing to understand the narrative of American expansionism. Please see my new book"The Limits of American Power," especially Chapter 1. In interpreting a text, Chris might want to stick to the text. I said that Americans of an earlier era were puzzled over why Brits would engage in misadventures in obscure places like Afghanistan. I said precisely what I meant.
2. As for soldiers' lobbies. AUSA and similar organizations represent institutions -- their purpose is to advance institutional interests. Although their efforts are frequently pernicious, they are part of the way Washington works. AUSA does not represent the interests of"soldiers." The lobby that I wrote about in The Atlantic does not purport to represent institutional interests. It represents the views of individual soldiers who oppose U. S. foreign policy and who are engaging in political action to change that policy. These efforts are contrary to good order and discipline and could potentially threaten civilian control. I view that as deeply problematic. I am sorry that Chris is unable to perceive any distinction between the one type of organization and the other.
3. As for Chris's comment:"I don't know Andrew Bacevich, but my guess is that his view of American military history is shaped by his professional background" as" career soldier and West Point grad [who] may have absorbed a history that was meant to teach him the boundaries of his profession." No, he doesn't know me and his speculation is presumptuous, patronizing, and insulting.
Chris Bray: A Deceptively Pristine History, Part Two
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed (8-25-08)
The maps show county-by-county data for every major election year in which data are available, and that information shifts over time. One map, for example, highlights counties where the victor won by only a small margin. It reveals how "battleground states" have changed over the years. The maps are displayed as video montages, with each election year shown sequentially. A slow-fade effect—that's the Hollywood-inspired part—is used between maps, which helps highlight the changes.
Another series of maps plots the numbers of votes cast for third-party candidates in each county. It's more than you might think, given the reputation of the United States as a system dominated by two parties.
Leaders of the project, called Voting America, have coined a term for their images: "cinematic maps." They are examples of an emerging trend in social-science research in which scholars turn complex data sets into pictures to help reveal patterns across time.
SOURCE: Steven J. Dick at the website of History of Science Society (7-1-08)
For almost 30 years now, I have worked as a public historian, first at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, DC, and for the last five years as NASA Chief Historian. Quite aside from the omnipresent political environment in Washington (my office at the Naval Observatory was 100 yards from the official residence of the Vice President, and NASA Headquarters is three blocks from the U.S. Capitol), the job has been alternately challenging and routine, rewarding and frustrating, almost never boring and at times overwhelming.
In the tight history of science job market of the 1970s, I was hired as an astronomer at the Naval Observatory on the basis of my B.S. in astrophysics. During the time of Halley’s comet, I spent three years on a mountaintop in New Zealand making astronomical observations under beautiful dark sky conditions – a highlight of my career. My primary job was scientific, but all the while my history of science training (History and Philosophy of Science, Indiana Ph.D., 1972) was percolating in the background. I began work on the history of the Naval Observatory, one of the oldest scientific institutions in the U.S. government, publishing articles as I went along. I seized the moment on my return to Washington in 1987, when I was appointed the official historian for the Naval Observatory. For a few idyllic years I was able to do history full time, until other duties were thrust upon me. In the end, writing a full-scale history in the midst of these other duties took some 15 years. But working with astronomers gave me a ground-truth appreciation of their ways of thinking, and being present at the institution I was researching gave me invaluable historical insights, not to mention proximity to documents and oral history subjects. The result of this research, Sky and Ocean Joined: The U. S. Naval Observatory, 1830-2000 (Cambridge University Press, 2003), I believe shows the value of being close to one’s subject while maintaining the historian’s foundational principles of objectivity and independence. ...
SOURCE: Harvard Magazine (7-1-08)
What sound like gadgets from a James Bond movie were real-life instruments of espionage used by the Stasi—communist East Germany’s Ministry for State Security (Staatssicherheit), the secret police. Kristie Macrakis, Ph.D. ’89, learned about these devices and much more in her exploration of the Stasi archives, which were gradually declassified and opened for public perusal starting in 1992, three years after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Macrakis wrote her dissertation on science in Nazi Germany, but a trip to conduct research in East Germany before the Wall fell blossomed into a fascination with the Cold War period and Stasi spying techniques. She spent eight years intermittently poking through thousands of files during short trips, summers, and a year-long Fulbright scholarship, focusing on two particular aspects of East German spy science: how the Stasi got access to top-secret intelligence and scientific knowledge from the West, and the spying techniques they used.
The resulting book, Seduced by Secrets: Inside the Stasi’s Spy-Tech World (Cambridge University Press), may make even post-Cold War readers suspicious of everyday objects. Consider the “smell chair,” whose seat covering was an interchangeable cloth fastened down to look like a regular cushion. After the “target” got up from the chair, Stasi agents would collect the cloth and store it in an airtight jar. The captured scent served as a kind of pheromonal fingerprint, a form of positive ID in an age of ever-multiplying code names and aliases. The Stasi used this method to check up on known dissidents and employees suspected of acting as double agents. If they could gain access to the hotel room or office where an allegedly duplicitous meeting took place, they could use dogs to determine whether their target had been there.
SOURCE: Martin Kramer at his blog (8-26-08)
About 30 demonstrators, many of whom were graduate students, wore black shirts, tape over their mouths and, in many cases, neck scarves. They did not speak but handed out quarter sheets with a cartoon and short message; one held a poster-sized version of the quarter sheet which began, "Our presence is a gesture toward the many for whom the passing of these 60 years is not marked by celebration."There is nothing unusual about this scene at Georgetown or any campus. Student demonstrations for and against political causes are a staple of campus life.
But I was taken aback to see this demonstration highlighted in the newsletter of an academic unit of the university. I refer to an article in the June issue of the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies' CCAS News, under the headline "MAAS Students Demonstrate Against 'Israel: Still Sexy at Sixty' Celebration." Some of the students in question, it turns out, were masters' degree students at the Center. (The CCAS degree program is called MAAS, Master of Arts in Arab Studies.) CCAS News ran this story over two pages, with two photographs of the protesting students, taking care (unlike The Hoya) to identify them as "MAAS students" (and to point out that the "neck scarves" were kaffiyehs).
Presumably this demonstration was not a CCAS activity, and not done at its initiative or under its sponsorship. So I wonder why it is highlighted under "Center News" in this thrice-annual survey of the Center's academic activities. Am I to understand that CCAS officially takes pride in its students' activism for this political cause? After all, the newsletter is comprised exclusively of news about the admirable achievements and doings of the Center and its faculty, students, guests, and supporters.
The public wink of approval offered by CCAS to this anti-Israel demonstration is a troubling example of the total confusion of the academic and the political. It is also a form of subtle intimidation. It sends a signal to those Georgetown and CCAS students who do not share the views on display in the demonstration, or who might even have participated in the pro-Israel celebration. What are they to conclude? That they are not welcome, or less welcome, to take a masters' degree or a course in this program? That their lack of activism, or their activism for Israel, will put them at a disadvantage? They might well conclude just that. (Coincidentally, the same newsletter reports that the student who organized the demonstration received a U.S. government summer study grant via the Center. Almost 100 students applied; only five received grants.)
I urge the director of CCAS and the Georgetown administration to express their regret at the unfortunate inclusion of this article in CCAS News, and to reassure all Georgetown students that CCAS does not explicitly or implicitly endorse the extracurricular political activities of any of its faculty, staff, or students. The U.S. Department of Education, which subsidizes CCAS to the tune of about $1.5 million a year (under Title VI), should actively seek such reassurance.
SOURCE: Democratic National Convention (8-25-08)
SOURCE: AP (8-24-08)
Caro, lean and energetic at age 72, was interviewed recently in his midtown Manhattan office, a bright, businesslike array of legal pads, briefcases, file cabinets, outlines and heavily marked papers, all processed and sifted for his Smith Corona typewriter.
The historian says he has completed the opening section of his fourth LBJ book, filling hundreds of pages just to tell of Johnson's brief, unhappy vice presidency under John Kennedy, concluding with Johnson being sworn in as president after Kennedy's assassination. The last book will be "very long," although likely less than the 1,000-plus length of "Master of the Senate." He is reluctant to reveal details, but says the Kennedys will be "more than characters; they are protagonists in this book."...
SOURCE: Timothy Furnish at his blog, mahdiwatch.com (8-25-08)
As the pilot announced the descent into Imam Khomeini International airport, many of the Iranians on the flight downed their last Heineken or glass of wine and the women began reaching into their bags for chadors. At the end of the walkway, prior to customs, I was met by Dr. Ali Haddad of the the Institute, as well as officials from the Foreign Ministry and airport security. Along with another American, Evan Anderson (a representative of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., who works for the Episcopal Bishop there in interfaith dialogue), I was escorted to the VIP lounge and provided tea while the bureaucrats took off with passports and documents. Eventually Mr. Anderson and I were led off to be fingerprinted, something reserved for Americans and for which the BFI folks were most apologetic. It was explained to us that this was "just politics" and Iranian retaliation for American policy regarding Iranians entering the U.S. I refrained from asking our hosts if they had ever heard of 9/11. Rode with Ali Haddad and a driver to the Hotel Laleh in Tehran, about an hour drive (the new and impressive Imam Khomeini airport is between Tehran to its north and Qom to its south, actually closer to the former; I was told that it is reserved for international flights only, no domestic ones at all). On the drive I asked Ali if Iranians preferred Barack Husayn Obama over John McCain; he said "most Iranians who follow U.S. politics do not think it will make any difference")....
SOURCE: HNN Staff (8-22-08)
SOURCE: Denise A. Spellberg, letter to the editor of the WSJ (8-9-08)
Asra Q. Nomani's "You Still Can't Write About Muhammad" (op-ed, Aug. 6) falsely asserts that I am the "instigator" of the Random House Press decision not to publish a novel about the Prophet's wife titled, "The Jewel of Medina." I never had this power, nor did I single-handedly stop the book's publication. Random House made its final decision based on the advice of other scholars, conveniently not named in the article, and based ultimately on its determination of corporate interests.
As a historian invited to "comment" on the book by its Random House editor at the author's express request, I objected strenuously to the claim that "The Jewel of Medina" was "extensively researched," as stated on the book jacket. As an expert on Aisha's life, I felt it was my professional responsibility to counter this novel's fallacious representation of a very real woman's life. The author and the press brought me into a process, and I used my scholarly expertise to assess the novel. It was in that same professional capacity that I felt it my duty to warn the press of the novel's potential to provoke anger among some Muslims.
There is a long history of anti-Islamic polemic that uses sex and violence to attack the Prophet and his faith. This novel follows in that oft-trodden path, one first pioneered in medieval Christian writings. The novel provides no new reading of Aisha's life, but actually expands upon provocative themes regarding Muhammad's wives first found in an earlier novel by Salman Rushdie, "The Satanic Verses," which I teach. I do not espouse censorship of any kind, but I do value my right to critique those who abuse the past without regard for its richness or resonance in the present.
The combination of sex and violence sells novels. When combined with falsification of the Islamic past, it exploits Americans who know nothing about Aisha or her seventh-century world and counts on stirring up controversy to increase sales. If Ms. Nomani and readers of the Journal wish to allow literature to "move civilization forward," then they should read a novel that gets history right.
Denise A. Spellberg
Assoc. Professor of History and Middle Eastern Studies
University of Texas at Austin
SOURCE: AP (8-21-08)
That wasn't when Johnson was president, in anguish over Vietnam, but rather a few years before. That's when LBJ was in his glory as Senate majority leader -- a one-man legislative machine.
Carol's a Pulitzer Prize-winner now in the middle of writing his fourth and final volume on Johnson's life, which will cover his vice presidency and presidency. He says he wants to remember LBJ "in his days of just undiluted glory,
SOURCE: News story in the Telegraph (8-1-08)
Gavin Menzies does not look robust enough to take the brickbats that are surely coming his way.
Six years ago, the retired submarine commander caused apoplexy among historians with his controversial theory that vast fleets of Chinese adventurers in multi-masted junks beat Christopher Columbus to the Americas and mapped the entire world centuries before the European explorers. It made him rich and infamous.
Whole websites sprang up devoted to debunking his claims. Scholars called him a fantasist.
Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, professor of history at the University of London, dismissed his book, 1421: The Year China Discovered the World, as "the historical equivalent of stories about Elvis Presley in Tesco and close encounters with alien hamsters".
But while boiling oil was being poured on him from the ramparts of academe, Menzies's book was surging up the bestseller list. It has sold a million copies worldwide, and run to 24 editions in 135 countries.
"I get criticised for being a charlatan and making millions," he says wearily. "But people are astute and if my theories were false and didn't stack up, I would soon know about it from the public."
Every day, 2,000 people go to his website, www.1421.tv - which was set up to deal with the response to the book - pouring in new evidence and ideas. "It is staggering," he says. "Conceited as it may sound, people now think of us as a centre for collating evidence on this period of European and Chinese history."...
SOURCE: Catholic News Service (8-21-08)
That's one of the questions to which Mark Cave, an oral historian with the Historic New Orleans Collection, has been seeking answers in his personal interviews over the last three years with 500 police officers, firefighters, National Guard troops and emergency medical personnel who were on the ground after the storm.
Since any trial lawyer knows that two people viewing the same event can come up with wildly differing accounts of what they saw and experienced, Cave said the value of conducting hundreds of interviews with people on the scene is that the "truth" rests in the preponderance of evidence.
In an interview with the Clarion Herald, newspaper of the New Orleans Archdiocese, Cave said conducting hundreds of interviews allows common stories and facts to emerge from the jumble of eyewitness accounts, and the commonly shared memories can be relied on as the best version of the truth.
Cave, his Historic New Orleans Collection colleague Alfred Lemmon and New Orleans archdiocesan archivist Emilie (Lee) Leumas presented their findings in July to the 16th Congress of the International Council on Archives in Malaysia, which drew 1,200 archivists from around the world.
SOURCE: Independent (8-20-08)
Born in 1926 in Salford, the youngest son of Arthur Farnie, a tailor, and his second wife, Ethel, Douglas went to Salford Grammar School, from which he entered the Intelligence Corps in 1944, serving in Field Security with the Indian Airborne, 1945-46, and then in the Suez Canal Zone, 1947-48.
An undergraduate at Manchester University, 1948-53, he gained a First in History, and the Thomas Brown Memorial Prize in 1951. Farnie began researching the history of the Lancashire cotton industry under the supervision of Professor Arthur Redford, another of whose students was R.S. Fitton. Initially, Farnie hoped to investigate the later business records of Strutts of Belper, complementing the work of Fitton (subsequently the definitive biographer of Sir Richard Arkwright). Finding those records incomprehensible, Farnie extended his range of interest from a single firm to the whole of the industry.
His MA thesis (1953) was based on the files of the 1,046 companies registered in the English cotton industry between 1845 and 1896. From this foundation came much of his future research and writing. Years after Farnie had used them, the Public Record Office (now the National Archives), in a space-saving exercise, weeded out and destroyed 90 per cent of the files, thereby making Farnie's work invaluable....
SOURCE: Steve Weinberg in the Star Trib (8-20-08)
Andrew Ward, author of "The Slaves' War" (Houghton Mifflin, 386 pages, $28), notes, "The feature of the slave South that puzzled and disappointed the more idealistic Yankees was the diligence with which so many of the slaves they encountered protected and sustained their masters' plantations."
Ward's research has uncovered information quite likely unknown to most contemporary readers, despite the thousands of books published about the Civil War. For example, by 1861 a "higher percentage of blacks than whites had been born in America," Ward notes. "In fact, only one percent were African-born. No group except Native Americans had deeper North American roots." How such deep roots resulted in slavery instead of citizenship constitutes not only a gigantic injustice, but also irony in the extreme.
The soul of the book is found not in Ward's big-picture research, but in the words of slaves themselves. Ward devotes 40 pages to "a directory of witnesses," an alphabetical list of every person quoted. Studying the details about the lives of every person listed underscores the staggering nature of Ward's achievement....
SOURCE: Newsmax.com (8-19-08)
During the 1960s, there was so much hostility between Schlesinger and then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover that Hoover scribbled a note on a document calling Schlesinger a "jackass."
Schlesinger, who died in February 2007, served as a special assistant in the Kennedy White House for Latin American affairs, and was one of only two leading advisers who counseled against the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion. He also had served as a speechwriter for JFK, as well as other Democrats including Adlai Stevenson, Robert Kennedy and George McGovern.
Schlesinger was informally known as the White House's "court historian" and reportedly took notes that Kennedy intended to use when writing a history after he left office. Those notes became the basis for Schlesinger's, "A Thousand Days," a definitive book about the Kennedy presidency that became a runaway bestseller.
Born in 1917, Schlesinger was first investigated by the FBI in 1948 when he was asked to assist W. Averell Harriman with the Economic Cooperation Administration in Paris.
One individual told the Bureau that Schlesinger, then a Harvard professor, was a "liberal throughout the Roosevelt era and, like so many other liberals, was pro-Soviet."
But a 1959 document obtained under the Freedom of Information Act noted that this statement was an "isolated one," and that "all persons interviewed believed him to be entirely loyal to the United States."
The report observed that there may have been confusion between Schlesinger and his father, also named Arthur Schlesinger, a noted historian who "has belonged to many organizations declared subversive by the Attorney General." Some activities associated with Schlesinger Sr. may have been incorrectly attributed to his son, the FBI reported....
SOURCE: Martin Kramer at Middle East Strategy at Harvard (MESH blog) (8-20-08)
The Independentobit says nothing. The Timesobit makes an all-too-brief allusion: “She was consulted by British officials on developments in Irano-British relations, especially during the crisis in 1951 when Iran’s Prime Minister, Muhammad Mussadiq, caused a furore by nationalising British oil interests in Iran.” Yet we are not told exactly what she proposed in these consultations. The Telegraph is more explicit: “Lambton’s insights into the strengths and weaknesses of Iran’s then prime minister, Mohammed Mossadegh, proved a valuable aid to Britain’s eventual success, in concert with America, in precipitating an end to Mossadegh’s premiership and in ensuring a continued, though reduced, British share in Iran’s oil production.” Yet we are not told just how she imparted these “insights,” or why they were “valuable.” The Guardianquotes a historian as saying her advice “marked the beginnings” of the 1953 coup, but does not explain what she advised or how she had such a profound effect. So what is the fuller story behind these allusions?
In 1951, Ann Lambton was a Reader in Persian at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. She had many connections in Whitehall, and her standing as an oracle on matters of Persian politics was unassailable. She had completed her doctorate in 1939 after a year of field work in Iran, and then spent the war years as press attaché in the British Legation (later Embassy) in Tehran, under the most seasoned of old hands, Sir Reader Bullard. She also came from a prominent landed family with assorted estates (including, yes, a Lambton Castle)—an advantage of pedigree that largely made up for what still was, in those days, a gender deficiency. When Nancy Lambton spoke, people listened—and when it came to Mohammad Mossadegh, she had strong views.
The historian Wm. Roger Louis first went through the British archives on the Mossadegh affair just after they were opened in the early 1980s, and he has told the story three times, in two books and an article (most recently here). “Here the historian treads on patchy ground,” warns Louis. “The British archives have been carefully ‘weeded’ in order to protect identities and indeed to obscure the truth about British complicity.” But he came across the minutes of conversations between Lambton and a Foreign Office official who described her as someone who knew Iran “better than anyone else in this country.”
Lambton, the official reported in June 1951, “was of the decided opinion that it was impossible to do business” with Mossadegh, and that no concessions should be made to him. She urged “covert means” to undermine his position, consisting of support for Iranians who would speak out against him, and stirring opposition to him “from the bazaars upwards.” The official added: “Miss Lambton feels that without a campaign on the above lines it is not possible to create the sort of climate in Tehran which is necessary to change the regime.” He then relayed her practical recommendation: entrust the mission to Robert (Robin) Zaehner, a quixotic Oxford don and former intelligence agent, fully fluent in Persian, whom Lambton described as “the ideal man” for the job. On Lambton’s recommendation, the Foreign Office dispatched Zaehner to Tehran, where he put together a network of disaffected opponents of Mossadegh’s regime.
This effort came to naught, partly because the Truman Administration still thought the British should deal with Mossadegh. In November 1951, Lambton complained: “The Americans do not have the experience or the psychological insight to understand Persia.” But she did not relent: “If only we keep steady, Dr. Mossadegh will fall. There may be a period of chaos, but ultimately a government with which we can deal will come back.” Anthony Eden, Foreign Secretary, added this note: “I agree with Miss Lambton. She has a remarkable first hand knowledge of Persians & their mentality.”
Yet Mossadegh hung on, and a year later he shut down the British diplomatic mission. According to Lambton’s Foreign Office contact, she thought that the British policy of not making “unjustifiable concessions” to Mossadegh “would have been successful had it not been for American vacillations,” and she insisted that “it is still useless to accept any settlement” with Mossadegh, “because he would immediately renege.”
This was the prevailing British view, and persistence ultimately paid off. In November 1952, Dwight Eisenhower was elected U.S. president, and the new team in Washington took a very different (and dimmer) view of Mossadegh. Anthony Eden met with the president-elect to discuss “the Persia question,” and the CIA’s Kermit Roosevelt and Donald Wilbur set in motion the wheels of the August 1953 coup—an American-led, joint CIA-MI6 production.
“In that [first] minute [of June 1951],” writes historian Louis, “may thus be found the origins of the ‘Zaehner mission’ and the beginnings of the 1953 coup.” Louis asserts that “the archives, for better or worse, link Professor Lambton with the planning to undermine Musaddiq.” He notes that “Lambton herself, as if wary of future historians, rarely committed her thoughts on covert operations to writing. The quotations of her comments by various officials, however, are internally consistent and invariably reveal a hard-line attitude towards Musaddiq.”
In the latest 2006 retelling of the tale by Louis, he has somewhat trimmed his estimate of Lambton’s role. “I have the impression from the minutes,” he writes in a footnote, “that the officials quoting [Lambton] sometimes wanted to invoke her authority to lend credibility to their own views.” Louis also adds that Lambton’s “views were entirely in line with those of other British authorities on Iran.” In other words, she was urging them to think or do something they already thought or wanted to do anyway, but for which they needed an authoritative footnote.
But there can be no doubt that her advice bolstered the advocates of toughing it out and bringing Mossadegh down. The obits tend to downplay this story because the 1953 coup has come to be seen as some sort of original sin—as the root cause of the Islamic revolution that unfolded a full quarter-century later. But wherever one puts the 1953 coup in the great chain of causation, Lambton’s assessments at the time should inspire awe. Years of experience in Iran, exact knowledge of Persian, and wide travels within the country, all had led her to conclude that Mossadegh could be pushed out, as against the view that he had to be accommodated. She was right. Given the propensity of Western experts on Iran to get so many things wrong over the years, Lambton’s call is all the more remarkable.
The present incumbents in power in Iran are careful to shut out Western Orientalists, not because they fear the situation in Iran will be misrepresented but because it might be accurately represented, exposing the weaknesses of their regime. The historian Ervand Abrahamian, mentioning Lambton (and Zaehner), writes that it should not be surprising that the coup “gave rise to conspiracy theories [among Iranians], including cloak and dagger stories of Orientalist professors moonlighting as spies, forgers, and even assassins. Reality—in this case—was stranger than fiction.” The reality is that it isn’t easy to hide one’s vulnerabilities from an intimate stranger such as Lambton. The fear of Orientalist professors, both there and here, has never been that they might get things wrong, but that they are very likely to get them right.