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 (4-27-11)
The letters that Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.wrote over a career of nearly seven decades in public life, including correspondence withJohn F. Kennedy, Henry A. Kissinger,Katharine Graham and Reinhold Niebuhrwill be collected in a new book that Random House has acquired. And while it will contain documents like Schlesinger’s critique of Kennedy’s manuscript for “Profiles in Courage,” it will not include the donkey thatWilliam F. Buckley Jr. sent to Schlesinger.
“I signed for it,” Stephen Schlesinger said of the donkey, which arrived at the family home in Cambridge, Mass., when he was 10 years old, “and I put it out in our backyard, so it grazed. And then my mother had the foresight to realize that I was under age to sign, so she called up and they took the donkey back.”
SOURCE: AP (4-23-11)
ISTANBUL (AP) — The World War I battlefield of the Gallipoli campaign, where throngs gather each April to remember the fallen, is a place of lore, an echo of ancient warfare that took place on the same soil. Now researchers are mapping dugouts, trenches and tunnels in the most extensive archaeological survey of a site whose slaughter helped forge the identity of young nations.
Armed with old maps and GPS technology, the experts from Turkey, Australia and New Zealand have so far discovered rusted food cans, unused bullets and their shell casings, and fragments of shrapnel, Ottoman-era bricks with Greek lettering, ceramic rum flagons of Allied soldiers and glass shards of beer bottles on the Turkish side. They announced early findings ahead of annual commemorations on the rugged peninsula on Sunday and Monday.
The chief aim is to gain a detailed layout of a battlefield whose desperate trench warfare, with enemy lines just a few dozen meters (yards) apart in some places, has been recounted in films, books and ballads, acquiring a legendary aura in the culture of its combatants....
SOURCE: NYT (4-26-11)
For nearly three decades, the Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert W. Fogel and a small clutch of colleagues have assiduously researched what the size and shape of the human body say about economic and social changes throughout history, and vice versa. Their research has spawned not only a new branch of historical study but also a provocative theory that technology has sped human evolution in an unprecedented way during the past century.
Next month Cambridge University Press will publish the capstone of this inquiry, “The Changing Body: Health, Nutrition, and Human Development in the Western World Since 1700,” just a few weeks shy of Mr. Fogel’s 85th birthday. The book, which sums up the work of dozens of researchers on one of the most ambitious projects undertaken in economic history, is sure to renew debates over Mr. Fogel’s groundbreaking theories about what some regard as the most significant development in humanity’s long history.
Mr. Fogel and his co-authors, Roderick Floud, Bernard Harris and Sok Chul Hong, maintain that “in most if not quite all parts of the world, the size, shape and longevity of the human body have changed more substantially, and much more rapidly, during the past three centuries than over many previous millennia.” What’s more, they write, this alteration has come about within a time frame that is “minutely short by the standards of Darwinian evolution.”
“The rate of technological and human physiological change in the 20th century has been remarkable,” Mr. Fogel said in an telephone interview from Chicago, where he is the director of the Center for Population Economics at the University of Chicago’s business school. “Beyond that, a synergy between the improved technology and physiology is more than the simple addition of the two."...
SOURCE: Salon (4-26-11)
In his new role as pornographer-cum-historian, the free-speech advocate's mission is the same as when he first entered the spotlight back in the 1970s as the publisher of Hustler: to challenge the puritanical and hypocritical elements of our culture. It's only natural that he would set out to prove that our Founding Fathers were pervs. This book either reveals how much our history books have lied to us, or shows just what a successful huckster Flynt is. (It might prove both at once, actually.) Salon recently spoke with him by phone about the biggest presidential playboys, the sex scandals that shocked even him, and the conservative senator he hopes to soon force out of the closet.
Why do the sex lives of presidents matter?
Well, we're often preoccupied with it even in our present society. Over the last 30 years there were a lot of corrupt politicians – usually involving sexual scandals. I just thought it would be interesting to go back and start with the Founding Fathers and see if still existed. I was amazed it was so prevalent....
SOURCE: CHNM (4-25-11)
In 1994 Roy Rosenzweig founded the Center for History and New Media at GMU to use digital media and computer technology to democratize history – to incorporate multiple voices, reach diverse audiences, and encourage popular participation in presenting and preserving the past. Roy Rosenzweig passed away after a battle with cancer in 2007.
SOURCE: Cornell University (4-25-11)
“The main significance of the wedding might be the international audience. For Britain, it’s very important to retain its global brand. We don’t export a lot in England, but weddings seem to be some of our best products.
“In another context, this is a very important event for the British monarchy – when compared to the wedding of Charles and Diana. The way Charles’ marriage ended was a disaster. With William and Kate, it seems to be the Monarchy’s way to patch a toxic event.
“This couple is projected as very modern. William and Kate are trying to behave in a less aristocratic and regal way, and presenting a more middle-class, sensible image. It helps that Kate was born a ‘commoner’ not an aristocrat. She will be driven in a car to the wedding, not in a state carriage. They’ll have a buffet for the wedding not a banquet. While they are living under elite circumstances, they are trying to make themselves less estranged from ordinary people.
“The British still have very mixed views about the monarchy. But there is a lot of interest and personal sympathy with William and Kate. If the wedding and the marriage appears to go well, it could also make Charles and Camilla seem more sympathetic, and make it an easier transition for Charles to become King.”...
SOURCE: Vancouver Sun (4-25-11)
...How do the front-runners in Canada's federal election stack up?
All three possess many of the qualities of a CEO, but which candidate has the right skills for the times is an open question. The NDP's Jack Layton scores well on personality traits with his humour, honesty, tenacity and self-assurance. He is also an extraordinary communicator, fights for his people, and has the most operational experience of the three, having been active in politics since high school. In fact, the latest polls seem to recognize his leadership qualities, ranking the party above the Liberals for the first time. One pundit quipped that Jack's on a roll, but he should rip up the NDP platform before anybody reads it.
Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff has been fighting an uphill battle, unable to escape the coalition trap set by the Conservatives. But his CV paints the portrait of a true renaissance man, a Canadian version of the Czech Republic's Václav Havel. A professor of history (PhD from Harvard) and student of famous liberal philosopher Sir Isaiah Berlin at Oxford, Ignatieff has been a print journalist, a radio and television broadcaster, and an author of both fiction and non-fiction, whose pedigree is noble from both the Russian and Canadian branches of his family.
Despite his remarkable professional achievements, he has been unable to articulate his political vision or display the CEO qualities Canadians say they want in a leader....
SOURCE: The Atlantic (4-22-11)
McWilliams is an associate professor of history at Texas State University, San Marcos, and the author of Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly. I spoke with him yesterday as he was preparing to interview a pecan farmer while doing research for a short book, a natural history of the pecan.
What do you say when people ask, "What do you do?"
Well, you know, I guess I would say I get curious about certain aspects of the world around me, most of them having to do with food and agriculture, and I read and research and write about that. I cover issues of sustainability and the ethics of food production, and I do this both through a historical focus and a contemporary focus.
SOURCE: NYT (4-21-11)
Joel Colton, a historian who for over 50 years helped regularly update a textbook that has introduced generations of college students to modern history, died Sunday at his home in Durham, N. C. He was 92.
The cause was congestive heart failure, said his son, Kenneth.
The textbook, “A History of the Modern World,” was written in 1950 by the Princeton historian R. R. Palmer and published by Knopf. Dr. Colton, a professor at Duke University, collaborated with Dr. Palmer on the next nine editions. About 2 million copies have been sold.
McGraw-Hill, the current publisher, said the textbook has been translated into 10 languages and has been used in more than 1,000 colleges, universities and high schools. The 10th edition was published in 2006 with a third contributor, Lloyd Kramer. In 1987, The New York Times included it on a list of 19 textbooks considered classics in their field....
SOURCE: Duke Today (4-19-11)
Durham, NC - Duke historian Joel Colton, who was known to generations of students as co-author of the college textbook, "A History of the Modern World," died April 17 in Durham. He was 92.
Born August 23, 1918, in New York City, Colton specialized in modern and contemporary European history, he taught at Duke University from 1947-1989, chairing the History Department from 1967-1974.
"A History of the Modern World" was used in more than 1,000 high schools, colleges and universities and was translated into 10 languages.
At Duke, Colton also served on the executive committee of the Academic Council. From 1974-1982, he served as Director for Humanities at the Rockefeller Foundation and returned to Duke in 1982 where he taught until his retirement in 1989....
SOURCE: Lee White at the National Coalition for History (4-13-11)
On April 12, the House Appropriations Committee released a list of proposed cuts in federal programs for the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2011. Nearly every program of interest to the historical and archival communities was reduced. However the fact that some, such as Teaching American History grants, survived is a testament to the dogged lobbying efforts of the National Coalition for History, its constituent organizations and allies in civics education.
The House and Senate still need to pass the budget bill (H.R. 1473) by the end of this week when the current continuing resolution (CR) expires. While there remains dissatisfaction on the right and the left in Congress with the deal worked out by the House and Senate leadership and the White House, the bill is expected to pass.
As noted above, the Appropriations Committee only released a list of reductions with no details and the bill language does not provide clarification in every case. Usually a conference report is issued along with an appropriations bill, giving agencies instructions on how funding should be allocated. However, it is unclear at this time whether or when a conference report will be forthcoming and what discretion agency heads will have at the programmatic level if it is not issued.
Teaching American History (TAH) grants (Department of Education):
The Teaching American History Grants program sustained a cut of $73 million
(-61%) down from $119 million in FY ’10 to $46 million. While this is disheartening, throughout the budget process House Republicans had repeatedly targeted the program for elimination. The Administration as well had zeroed out TAH for FY ’11 and proposed consolidating history education in a new Well Rounded Education program where it would have competed for funding with arts, music, foreign languages, civics, economics and other subjects.
So the fact that TAH survived at all is a major victory. Had the TAH program been eliminated it would have been nearly impossible to resuscitate it in the upcoming FY ’12 budget process and down the road in the pending reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
One question is whether the $46 million will be enough to fund new FY ’11 TAH grants. At a public forum earlier this year, Department of Education staff stated continuing grants would have priority in receiving FY ‘11 funding and any remaining funds would go to new grants.
In FY ‘08, the Education Department awarded three year TAH grants, but provided the option for the grantees to apply for additional funds for a fourth or fifth year. The FY ’08 grantees have been required to file detailed progress reports with the department and they are being evaluated to determine whether they merit additional funding.
The application deadline was April 4. However, there is no way of knowing yet how many FY ‘08 grantees applied for additional out-year funding and if they will qualify. As a result, given the limited amount of funds available, conceivably there could be no new TAH grants made this year.
National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC):
The NHPRC was cut $6 million from $13 million in FY ‘10 down to $7 million this year. While this is a significant reduction, the House in a previous CR had cut the NHPRC to a $4 million level and there were House Republicans pushing for outright elimination of the commission.
In FY ’10 the NHPRC received $8.5 million for grants. An additional $4.5 million was set-aside to fund a project to digitize and make the papers of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington available on-line. While the Founding Fathers Project is on-going, that funding was always intended as a one-time allocation to jump start the initiative.
Thus, the practical reality is that the amount of grant funding available to the NHPRC in FY ’11 was reduced by $1.5 million.
National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH):
The NEH budget was reduced $12.5 million (-7.5%) from the FY ’10 level of $167.5 million down to a level of $155 million. There had been a series of amendments to previous CRs in the House that would have imposed more draconian cuts in the NEH budget which were fended off by the advocacy efforts of the National Humanities Alliance.
National Park Service:
While no programmatic details are available concerning the Park Service’s history-related programs, two preservation programs were eliminated in one of the short term CR’s passed earlier this year. They had been targeted for elimination under the Administration’s proposed FY ’11 budget.
- Save America’s Treasures program–eliminated (-$14.8 million): These funds are used to make small one-time grants for specific local historic preservation projects to preserve a building or artifact which might otherwise be lost.
- Preserve America program—eliminated ($4.6 million): This program provides small grants to local communities in support of heritage tourism, education and historic preservation planning activities.
Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS):
The IMLS budget was reduced $44 million down to a level of $238 million. In FY ’10 the IMLS received $282.3 million, $16 million of which were congressional earmarks. The $44 million reduction includes the amount of those earmarks plus $28 million of cuts in programmatic funding. There is no breakdown available yet as to how the money will be divided between museum and library programs.
SOURCE: OAH (4-19-11)
On April 15, 2011 the OAH Executive Board voted unanimously to approve the five-year appointment of Jay S. Goodgold as the next treasurer of the Organization of American Historians. Goodgold holds a B.A. from Johns Hopkins University and an M.B.A. from the Stern School of Business at New York University. After graduating, he worked for the Goldman Sachs Group, an investment banking and securities company, serving as managing director of its St. Louis and Chicago offices. Since his retirement in 2003 from Goldman Sachs, Goodgold has been an independent investor and is a trustee of two investment organizations.
An avid reader of history, Goodgold has been an active member of the OAH since 1994 and is active in volunteer work. He is president of the board at his synagogue and serves as a trustee of the Chicago Jewish Day School. He is also a member of the National Advisory Council of the Sheridan Libraries at Johns Hopkins University, and he serves on the dean’s advisory council at Indiana University’s Kelly School of Business. Goodgold was appointed to the OAH Leadership Advisory Council in 2004 and served as its co-chair in 2005. In that role, he also became an ex officio member of the OAH Executive Board. Goodgold served from 2008 to 2010 on the OAH Strategic Planning Committee, and he was a member of the 2007 OAH Treasurer Search Committee. In recognition for his longstanding commitment and service to the OAH, Goodgold was awarded the OAH Friend of History Award at the 2011 OAH Annual Meeting.
Goodgold was appointed interim treasurer after the illness and untimely death of Robert Griffith, who stepped down as OAH treasurer in January 2011. The OAH Executive Board wishes to thank Jane Kamensky (Brandeis University) and Jon Butler (Yale University) for leading the search committee, and the board joins OAH President Alice Kessler-Harris in welcoming Goodgold as the new treasurer of the Organization of American Historians.
SOURCE: NPR (4-19-11)
The worlds of journalism and literature turned their attention to the prestigious Pulitzer Prizes Monday when the committee announced the 2011 winners.
Ron Chernow won the prize for biography, for his book “Washington: A Life.” Tom spoke with Chernow about the life of America’s first president in October.
Washington the man we know, the man we learned about in grade school, is more myth than fact, Chernow argues. Instead of the steady, calm, stabilizing force we think about, Washington was a passionate leader behind a cool facade.
You can listen to the entire discussion with the Pulitzer Prize-winning author.
SOURCE: PBS.org (4-11-11)
First, could you talk a little bit about this project?
I conceived of this as a trilogy of documentary series that would mimic the patterns of the triangle trade. There would be a series on Africa which was called Wonders of the African World in 1999. And then there would be a series on black America called America Behind the Color Line in 2004. And then the third part of the triangle trade was, of course, South America and the Caribbean. The triangle trade was Africa, South America, and the continental United States and Europe. That’s how I conceived of it. I’ve been thinking about it since before 1999. But the first two were easier to get funding for. Everyone knows about black people from Africa, everyone knows about the black American community. But surprisingly, and this is why the series is so important, not many people realize how “black” South America is. So of all the things I’ve done it was the most difficult to get funded and it is one of the most rewarding because it is so counter-intuitive, it’s so full of surprises. And I’m very excited about it.
And why do you think there is a lack of knowledge about the black populations in Latin America?
Well, incredibly, there were 11.2 million Africans that we can count who survived the Middle Passage and landed in the New World, and of that 11.2 million, only 450,000 came to the United States. That’s amazing. All the rest went south of Miami as it were. Brazil got almost 5 million Africans. In part, this reflects our ignorance as Americans who don’t know that much about the rest of the world. But also, it is in part the responsibility of the countries in South America themselves — each of which underwent a period of whitening. In the hundred year period between 1872 and 1975, Brazil received 5,435,735 immigrants from Europe and the Middle East and this was a conscious policy after 1850 to “whiten” Brazil which was such a black country. Brazil is the second blackest nation in the world. Brazil has the second largest black population — black being defined by people of African descent in the way that we would define them in this country. It’s second only to Nigeria. But no one knows this. So it’s those two reasons, that the countries themselves went through long periods of being embarrassed about how black they were and secondly, our own ignorance. That’s why this series is so important. It’s meant to educate Americans, and people in Europe and the rest of the world, but it’s also meant to educate people in South America, too. And in each of these countries there is a political campaign against racism, for affirmative action, and for their right to exist where they don’t as census categories. For example, in Mexico and Peru, they are fighting for the right to be identified as black. As in France, many people in these countries thought that if you put that social identity in the census that it reinforces racism. But doing that also prevents people from organizing around race when they are discriminated by race. It’s a paradox. And it’s fascinating to see what is similar and dissimilar in each of these countries.
SOURCE: NOLA.com (4-19-11)
WASHINGTON -- Wednesday marks the first anniversary of the deadly blowout of the Macondo oil well, but there's another day of infamy for the Louisiana congressional delegation: May 27.
That was the day when President Barack Obama imposed a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling, which the state's lawmakers said was, from an economic standpoint, "worse than the spill itself."...
The problem in Louisiana, said Rice University historian Douglas Brinkley, who is writing a book on the history of the environmental movement, is that there is no countervailing political pressure in the state.
"I'm looking at all 50 states -- and the most abused ecosystem is this ragged boot of Louisiana," Brinkley said. But there has never been an effective environmental movement in Louisiana, he said, to call out the state's political leadership when it toes industry's line....
SOURCE: Honolulu Star Advertiser (4-19-11)
...[T]he potential situations that favor Charles’ giving way to his son, or taking the throne as king without Camilla as his queen, seem likely to collide with political and constitutional reality.
For one thing, the royal family has an established aversion to the idea of abdication. King Edward VIII’s decision to quit the throne in 1936 to marry Wallis Simpson remains a grim shadow in the royal memory, especially for Queen Elizabeth, who is said to remain haunted by the trauma her father, King George VI, suffered when he was forced to take the throne.
In an interview for this article, Richard Drayton, a professor of history at King’s College, London, said that bypassing Charles would face forbidding obstacles, including “an act of Parliament, and probably a decision by Charles himself to abdicate.”
Constitutional experts have said that nothing in Britain’s constitutional tradition or common law provides for the wife of the king’s not becoming queen, and that Camilla would, in practice, be Britain’s queen, whatever title she carried....
SOURCE: WSJ (4-19-11)
Yesterday, Eric Foner was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in History for his book “The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery.” Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University, is the author of “Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877,” among other books. “The Fiery Trial” focuses on Lincoln and his dealings with the issue of slavery. Speakeasy interviewed Foner via email shortly after his Pulitzer win was announced.
The Wall Street Journal: What will your Pulitzer Prize win mean for your career and future research?
Eric Foner: Of course it is a kind of public recognition that is very gratifying. I haven’t actually turned to my next project, and am not sure what it will be. I don’t think historians choose research projects with future prizes in mind.
There are so many books on Lincoln. What made you think you could write one that stood out from the pack?
Lincoln is a kind of touchstone of American identity. He seems to symbolize things we deem central to being American — the frontiersman, the man who rose from humble origins through hard work, the man who used political power for indisputably modern ends. So every generation seems to rediscover Lincoln in their own image and because he is so iconic every political tendency, from radical to conservative, civil rights advocate to segregationist, has claimed him as their own. Of course there are many fine works on Lincoln. I went into this project feeling that too much of the recent literature had become too self-referential — that is it focuses so intensely on Lincoln that the wider world slips from view. I wanted to put Lincoln back into the context of his era, and especially the broad antislavery movement and see how his views changed over time, as they did, often dramatically. I also wanted to get away from the teleology that views his career, as it were, backward, from emancipation, rather than forward, with the future always unknown....
SOURCE: NYT (4-17-11)
PARIS — President Nicolas Sarkozy, having suddenly engaged France in shooting wars in Libya and Ivory Coast, seems to be harking back to the old days of French African policy, sometimes known as Françafrique, when Paris and its army dictated politics in its former colonies and reaped economic rewards....
France’s colonial empire covered much of North and West Africa, from Algeria to Ivory Coast. The colonies were gradually granted independence in the 1960s, but France still has troops based in Africa and close business, political, linguistic and personal ties to its former colonies, which as a whole give France more importance in the world....
Achille Mbembé, a Cameroonian-born historian and critic of French involvement in Ivory Coast, said that France continued to support African dictators, mentioning the leaders of Gabon, Cameroon, Congo, Chad and Togo. He saw “a continuity in the management of Françafrique — this system of reciprocal corruption, which, since the end of colonial occupation, ties France to its African henchmen.”...
But other historians and analysts suggest that Mr. Sarkozy was sincere when he said that his African policy would emphasize partnership and not paternalism, and note that he does not share the same ties to Africa as his predecessors, in particular Mr. Chirac and Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, infamous for a scandal over African diamonds allegedly received as a gift.
“Sarkozy has no nostalgia for the former colonies, and I believe there has not been any real change in his African policy,” said Antoine Glaser, former editor in chief of Lettre du Continent, an African newsletter, and co-author of “Sarko in Africa” and “How France Lost Africa.” He added: “The policy is still marked by realpolitik and pragmatism. For Sarkozy, it’s much more the political, diplomatic and geostrategic opportunities of the moment.”...
SOURCE: http://www.newint.org (4-1-11)
'Israel is not a democracy,' says Israeli professor,historian and political activist Ilan Pappe in this interview with Frank Barat, co-ordinator of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine.
Some extraordinary events have taken place in the Arab world in the last few months. People in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Yemen have taken to the streets to protest against repression, corruption and lack of jobs and access to education. Some got rid of their Western-backed dictators. A friend of mine called this 'the second step of the decolonization process'. What's is your view on this?
I agree with the term 'the second phase of decolonization', or second phase of post-colonialism. It's a very accurate term to describe what we are seeing there.
What is happening now is not only the assertion of self-dignity in the Arab world; it's a defining moment for the West and its rather colonialist attitudes towards the Arab world. Secondly, of course, we are talking about process in motion. We see Libya as a painful reminder that it would not be as easy as it was in Egypt, nor is it clear that the Egyptian story is over. But it brings a lot of hope.
It's the first time I remember in my lifetime that there is good news coming from the Arab world. Because of this very sheer sense of positive energy that comes from there, it's a moment of no return. As a historian, I keep reminding myself that a moment of no return does not mean that immediately you will have the kind of better reality that you want. It means that you have to be alert, that there will be a lot of powers and a lot of actors, including Israel, who would do the best they can to make this moment disappear. So you cannot be passive about it, you have to be active. Each one of us in our own way to help these revolutions take place. It's a dramatic and fantastic moment which in the long run will affect Palestine in a very, very positive way.
Is there a more global implication of the Arab world revolutions? Are Israel and the US right to feel threatened?
The global implication is that whether these are academics, journalists or politicians, the schematic way in which they describe society and divide it into actors, or factors that are active and can change reality, and those that are recipients and can't change reality has been dismantled, has collapsed. So the global implication is that you can have as much economic, political and military power as you want, but there are processes which you cannot control.
This teaches us that the way the world is represented through the eyes of its Western elite has been dealt a serious blow, which is good news.
Those in the US - and there are many very important people in America who relied on Israel to guide them in the politics of the Middle East - are panicking. I have been to Israel many times since the revolutions started and Israel is in a real panic. They understand that the usual arsenal of power and diplomacy is useless in the face of what's happening in the Arab world. They panic because they feel that if democracy indeed appeared on their doorsteps and around them, they could not sell the fable that they are the only democracy in the Middle East anymore; they would be, in fact, painted as another Arab dictatorial regime.
That could lead to new American thinking, and a new American thinking, in the eyes of many Israelis, is tantamount to the end of Israel as we know it.
As co-ordinator of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, I am now preparing the next session of the tribunal which is going to take place in South Africa and will talk about the crime of apartheid in relation to Israel. For many, Israel is a democracy, because everyone is able to vote and Arabs are represented in the Knesset. So is Israel a democracy?
No, Israel is definitely not a democracy. A country that occupies another people for more than 40 years and disallows them the most elementary civic and human rights cannot be a democracy. A country that pursues a discriminatory policy against a fifth of its Palestinian citizens inside the 1967 borders cannot be a democracy.
In fact, Israel is what we in political science call a herrenvolk democracy, democracy only for the masters. The fact that you allow people to participate in the formal side of democracy, namely to vote or to be elected, is meaningless if you don't give them any share in the common good or in the common resources of the state, or if you discriminate against them despite the fact that you allow them to participate in the elections. On almost every level - from official legislation through governmental practices to social and cultural attitudes - Israel is only a democracy for one ethnic group which, given the space that Israel now controls, is not even a majority group anymore. So I think that you'll find it very hard to use any known definition of democracy which is applicable for the Israeli case.
What is your nationality, Ilan?
I don't have a clear nationality. I have a citizenship, an Israeli citizenship. Funnily enough, I also have a European nationality because as second generation European Jews we are entitled to have a European passport, which is not equivalent to nationality but it obfuscates the question of nationality.
I would like to think of myself as a member of a potential new nation that would emerge in the secular democratic state of Israel, which would be a combination of a society made of the third generation of settler colonialists who came to Palestine in the late nineteenth century and the indigenous native population. Whether at the time this would happen people would still define themselves in national terms or not, I don't know and I don't care. But I feel that I am part of a settler colonialist community which pretends to be a national community by itself and is recognized as such, like the Australian and New Zealand ones. But if this is the only kind of national identity open to me, I reject it and would like to work towards something much better for me and for others.
For many people the Israel-Palestine conflict is about the Holocaust and the fact that the Jews of Europe had to find a place to live where they felt safe. Once the Jews arrived in Palestine, a dispute started about the land between them and the indigenous inhabitants, the Palestinians. It has been going on for more than 60 years. Is this what the conflict is about, in your opinion?
No, no, definitely not. The conflict is not about the Holocaust. The Holocaust is manipulated by the Israelis in order to maintain the conflict for their own interests. The conflict is a simple story of European settlers coming in the late nineteenth century, motivated by all kinds of ideas; the dominating idea was that they needed a safe haven because Europe was not safe, and that this was their ancient homeland. It happened before - this is not the only place where people have those weird ideas that they can come after 2,000 years and reclaim something which was supposedly theirs.
Because there were enough imperial powers willing to support this colonization project, they succeeded in getting a foothold and started purchasing land. They exploited a certain land regime, in which you could buy land from people who did not really own it and expel the people who really cultivated it. But even that was not really successful. As you probably know, by the time the British Mandate ended, the Zionist movement succeeded in purchasing less than seven per cent of Palestine and bringing in a number of refugees, including after the Holocaust, which was not really impressive. The Jewish community in the world preferred to go to Britain, the United States or stay in Europe despite the Holocaust. Only a very tiny minority came to Israel, and that's why, contrary to their earlier wishes, the Zionist movement decided to bring Jews from the Arab world and de-arabize them so they would become Jewish and not identify with the Arab population.
So the conflict is about a colonialist movement that - because of the Holocaust - succeeds in not appearing colonialist in a world that does not like colonialism anymore; it is using all kinds of means and alliances to continue to colonize, ethnically cleanse and occupy. But it's an incomplete atrocity: Zionism is an incomplete atrocity against the Palestinian people. Had it been complete, as the whites did in Australia and New Zealand, you probably would not have a conflict today. Why is it incomplete? Because of Palestinians' steadfastness and resistance.
So there you have it in a nutshell: a colonialist project trying to complete its plan, and indigenous people resisting it. That would be a conflict, unless you decolonize Palestine and move towards a post-colonialist stage in the history of this place.
You have been a human rights activist for many years now, fighting on all fronts to help the Palestinians. Unfortunately, little has been achieved: more land is being stolen every day, more people die, more houses are destroyed and the international community reward Israel for this. So what is the way forward for the Palestinians and their supporters?
We need to have a more comprehensive historical view of successes and failures. I don't think it has all been failure. The present Palestinian community in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as well as the Palestinian community inside Israel, will not crack - that's clear. Whatever the Israeli policies may be, Israel cannot that easily contemplate another ethnic cleansing - and that's very important to understand.
Secondly, I think that something has changed in the public opinion - true, it has not been translated into policies, but we may be in the defining moment for Palestine without yet knowing it. So I would like to have a more balanced view about failure and success for all of us. However, I do agree that we need a clear strategy forward. There are three things that I would very shortly and very briefly point out.
One is that we need a better understanding about the distribution of labour between outside and inside. Namely, the Palestinian political system needs to get its act together in terms of representation, unification and so on; solidarity movements should not try to replace it on questions of representation, but should concentrate on turning Israel into a pariah state which, I think, is very important in order to get things moving.
Secondly, we have to change the dictionary. We should stop talking about the peace process, we should give up the idea of a two-state solution; in my mind, we should talk about colonialism again, anti-colonialism, change of regime, ethnic cleansing, and reparations in the larger term. [These are] all kinds of known phrases which are very applicable to the situation of Palestine, but because of Israeli propaganda and US support for that propaganda we haven't dared use them. We have to make sure that even the mainstream media and
academia, and definitely the politicians, use them.
The third thing we have to do is to accept the analysis that change from within is not likely to happen, which brings forward the question of what kind of strategy to adopt if you want to bring change from outside. Luckily, we have a very good example. Most people are now pushing the nonviolent strategy instead of the violent strategy, for change. This is good because I think a new reality that is going to be born out of the nonviolent struggle will create a much better relationship at the time of reconciliation. Whereas if you win liberation through violence, we know from other historical cases that you become a violent society yourself.
So I think there is a lot to be done, and the good thing about this age of ours is that there is a lot you can do as an individual, but never forget the organizations, and the old organizations as well, especially in the case of Palestinian representation. You don't always have to reinvent the wheel; sometimes you have to oil it and make sure that it works again - as well as it did in the past.
SOURCE: Naomi Schaefer Riley in the WaPo (4-1-11)
The Republican Party of Wisconsin wants to see what William Cronon has been e-mailing about. Through an open-records request, the state GOP is asking to see correspondence from Cronon, a professor of history, geography and environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin, that includes the terms “Republican,” “Scott Walker” and “collective bargaining,” among many other keywords and names....
More likely, though, these e-mails will contain just run-of-the-mill examples of political activism and partisanship....
A significant portion of the professoriate sees engagement in politics as part of the job description. And, unfortunately, they are right. It is becoming harder and harder to find professors devoted to teaching traditional academic subjects for their own sake, to undergraduates who lack the basics in the humanities and the social and natural sciences. The academy has not become politicized because of a few radical professors. Rather, entire departments and university administrations see the goal of higher education as political. At a time when the percentage of students needing remedial education is at an all-time high, when the need for job training beyond high school is pressing and when we worry about how even our top students will compete with their peers around the world, political activism should be at the bottom of any university’s list of priorities.
Since the late 19th century, American university faculty members have been considered (in accordance with the German model) society’s experts, adding to the public stores of knowledge and informing leaders about the best ways to govern. By the early 20th century, American progressives had thoroughly embraced this notion. Herbert Croly, one of the leading progressive thinkers, wrote of the need for a “permanent body of experts in social administration” whose task would be to “promote individual and social welfare.” Progressives such as John Dewey, who helped found the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), argued that for our own good, we needed to protect the rights of professors to engage in any kind of scholarship that they and their fellow experts deemed necessary....
But the aspirations of the public intellectual and the assumptions about his expertise changed in the second half of the 20th century. As Ellen Schrecker, a Yeshiva University historian, writes in her book “The Lost Soul of Higher Education,” professors took on specifically political goals. Schrecker, who is sympathetic to these goals, cites the historian David Hollinger, a Berkeley graduate student in the 1960s: “Life outside of the classes seemed to have become an all-day, half-the-night seminar involving everyone I knew discussing the meaning of the university and the life of the mind in relation to the rest of the world.”...
SOURCE: NJ.com (4-6-11)
Detroit’s fortunes have been in decline for years, but the latest Census data have made everyone sit up and take notice: The city lost 25 percent of its population over the past decade. Middle-class blacks are the latest to flee the Motor City in droves, fed up with crime, poor services and low-performing schools. In the 1950s, the population was 1.8 million. Now, it’s only 713,777, heading toward the 1910 figure of 400,000, when the auto industry that made Detroit was in its infancy.
Thomas J. Sugrue, the David Boies Professor of History and Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote about Detroit’s decline in “The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit” (1996, Princeton University Press). He spoke with Star-Ledger editorial writer Linda Ocasio.
Q. What were the seeds of Detroit’s decline?
A. It was a combination of three forces at work at the same time. First, the flight of industry, capital and commerce to suburban and rural parts of the country. Second, the persistence of housing discrimination and segregation; the city was bitterly divided along lines of race. That was the crucial factor. And third, rapid suburbanization as working- and middle-class whites moved to the suburbs and outlying places.
Q. Like Newark, Detroit experienced riots in 1967. In the popular imagination, these uprisings are the source of all woes. Is that correct?
A. The process of white flight from Newark and Detroit began well before the 1967 riots. Older industrial cities began losing population in the 1950s, not just Newark and Detroit, but Pittsburgh, Gary, Chicago, Cleveland, St. Louis, Baltimore, even New York City. White families were moving to the suburbs.
SOURCE: Brown Daily Herald (4-11-11)
The conference — which highlighted the North's connections with slavery and was hosted by Brown and Harvard — drew students, community members and scholars from around the country.
"Ideas that have been flowing back and forth are radical in their potential to re-define history," said Seth Rockman, associate professor of history.
Ronald Bailey, professor emeritus at Northeastern University, addressed Simmons directly when he said at the conference, "I've been waiting for a college president to do this for 30 years, and you stepped forward." Four years ago, the Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice, convened by Simmons, published findings that linked the University to its own slavery-ridden history. This weekend, she opened up about her own history.
"Slavery is not just about the history of one region but really the history of the nation as a whole," added Sven Beckert, a professor of history at Harvard, who said Simmons inspired him to teach a course titled "Harvard and Slavery."...
SOURCE: NYT (4-11-11)
Dr. Kazimiroff, to the unacquainted, was a dentist, naturalist, amateur archaeologist and the first official historian of the Bronx. He once, legend has it, extracted a tooth from the mouth of a live lion in the Bronx Zoo.
Until Monday, he was also the namesake of a few scenic blocks of Bronx thoroughfare running along and through the New York Botanical Garden, a stretch officially known as Dr. Theodore Kazimiroff Boulevard since 1981.
Three decades of posterity came to an ignominious end when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, hours before he added Mr. Koch’s name to the Queensboro Bridge, signed a bill that stripped Dr. Kazimiroff, who died in 1980, of his street and restored the historic name of Southern Boulevard.
It is exceedingly rare for the city to undo the renaming of a street (although Bernard B. Kerik lost his jail after pleading guilty to two misdemeanors in 2006)....
SOURCE: NYT (4-11-11)
A sale of part of its collection in the 1990s, a shift to a more national focus a decade later, and plans, since abandoned, to build a tower and five-story annex, have at one point or another put the museum at odds with preservationists, city historians or neighborhood groups.
But with a $65 million renovation that is nearing completion, the museum is reaching out to the public with a redesign that tries to be welcoming and to communicate the treasures that lie within a building originally designed by architects who specialized in banks. The society will announce additional details of the changes on Tuesday.
“It was designed as a vault, to keep treasures safe, not to invite the public to enjoy them,” said Louise Mirrer, the society’s president and chief executive, during a recent tour of the work. “We feel very differently about the public. There’s really no point in having these extraordinary collections if people can’t learn something from them.”...
SOURCE: Newsweek (4-10-11)
Gates’s early academic career focused on slave memoirs but soon broadened to every aspect of the African diaspora. Genetics tells a different story than culture does, and with his PBS programs on DNA and ancestry, Gates showed viewers that blood does not always comply with people’s self-conceptions. (Gates himself is genetically 49 percent white.)
Now with Black in Latin America, his 11th title for PBS, Gates gently eviscerates the fixed idea—held especially by North Americans who think of race in terms of black and white—that long centuries of racial mixing can somehow eradicate racism. It will air in four parts, starting on April 19. In each episode, Gates travels to another part of the Latin-Caribbean world where he discovers racial conflicts and justifications that appear, to an American, entirely strange.
As it begins, Gates is still grieving for his own father, who died over Christmas. After his grandfather’s funeral in 1960, Gates interviewed both his parents about their family histories—an attempt, in retrospect, to bond with his dad. Back then, he was his mother’s favorite. “I didn’t feel particularly close to my father,” he says. “But, you know, you’re always trying to please your parents. [My career] is playing out that whole long thing since that day when I was 9 years old. It’s fascinating how life works. I’m 60. It pleased him.”...
SOURCE: WaPo (4-10-11)
For elementary teachers, a central challenge is to explain why the war happened. Edward L. Ayers, president of the University of Richmond and a historian who has written about the Civil War and the South, said that he was working one day on an essay on nuances related to that question when his 11-year-old daughter walked into his study with a textbook and asked, “Daddy, what caused the Civil War?”
“I paused a moment,” recalled Ayers, “calculated the costs and benefits of trying to explain historic complexity to a young person, and said, ‘Slavery, honey.’ ”
As Ayers elaborated in an e-mail: “That’s the bedrock of everything else that happened, even though white people at the time, especially in the North, might not have felt it so directly. They would have said they fought to maintain the federal government and the Union. But Americans would not have been arguing about that in the first place without the challenges slavery presented.”
The bottom line for young students, agreed William Davis, a Virginia Tech historian: “Slavery led to secession, and secession led to the war. But even that so oversimplifies it.”
South Carolina, where the war started, asks third-graders to “summarize the institution of slavery prior to the Civil War”; explain the reasons for the state’s secession, “including the abolitionist movement, states’ rights and the desire to defend South Carolina’s way of life”; and outline the course of the war and the state’s role in it....