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Robin Lindley


  • Originally published 08/14/2013

    James Dawes: Why Do People Commit Atrocities? (INTERVIEW)

    A Japanese soldier poses with the head of a Chinese prisoner.The human capacity to injure other people is very great precisely because our capacity to imagine other people is very small.--Elizabeth Scarry, For Love of Country?Most Americans know little of Japanese war crimes perpetrated in China during the Second World War. In the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), Japanese troops tortured, raped and murdered Chinese men, women and children, as Japanese scientists conducted horrific medical procedures on living human subjects at facilities such as the notorious Unit 731, a covert research center for biological and chemical experimentation in northeast China.

  • Originally published 07/18/2013

    Marie Arana: Simon Bolivar the "Polar Opposite" of George Washington (INTERVIEW)

    In Bolivar, Ms. Arana recounts Bolivar’s bloody military campaigns and forays into the turbulent and frustrating politics of the new republics, and she also presents a striking portrait of the times and the many contradictions and foibles of the Great Liberator -- a passionate embodiment of the Enlightenment who was addicted to gambling, glory, and women.

  • Originally published 07/06/2013

    How Depression Went Mainstream: Interview with Dr. Edward Shorter

    Psychiatrists are very interested in the historical perspectives because they can see the obvious power that an understanding of history brings to appreciating the current situation. Historians haven’t been so interested. Psychiatrists are centered on diagnosis and treatment, and those are the two aspects that are central to the practice of medicine.

  • Originally published 06/10/2013

    FDR’s Alter Ego: Interview with Historian David L. Roll on Harry Hopkins

    Harry Hopkins as secretary of commerce. Credit: Wiki Commons.During the war years Hopkins would become the only person in the U.S. government other than the president to thoroughly understand the interrelationships of war, diplomacy, politics, economics, and logistics.--David L. Roll, The Hopkins Touch

  • Originally published 06/02/2013

    How Memory Works: Interview with Psychologist Daniel L. Schacter

    Image via Shutterstock.Memory is deceptive because it is colored by today’s events.--Albert EinsteinMemory is the stuff of history. Historians rely on the memories of individuals as they seek and discover the facts and stories from which we create our public memory. Thus, knowledge from a scientific perspective of how human memory works can be instructive to historians.

  • Originally published 05/27/2013

    The Brutal War on Vietnamese Civilians: Interview with Nick Turse

    U.S. commanders wasted ammunition like millionaires and hoarded American lives like misers, and often treated Vietnamese lives as if they were worth nothing at all.--Nick Turse, Kill Anything That MovesIn March 1968 U.S. infantry troops of the Army’s Americal Division massacred five hundredVietnamese civilians, mostly women and children, in the village of My Lai. The military described the massacre as an anomaly, an aberration, the result of a few bad apples in the ranks, and the mainstream media embraced that explanation.In 1971, decorated Navy veteran (now Secretary of State) John Kerry testified before the Senate that such atrocities in Vietnam were not “isolated incidents, but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.” Kerry told of U.S. veterans who “relived the absolute horror” of what their country made them do.

  • Originally published 05/09/2013

    Ira Katznelson: The Racist History of the New Deal

    WPA Poster, 1935.When Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president in 1932, the United States faced uncertainty and imminent peril at home and abroad. The unemployment rate was 25 percent. Systems of credit and banking were broken and the stock market had lost 80 percent of its value since the 1929 crash. Factories were abandoned. Thousands of families lost their homes. There was no social safety net for millions of impoverished men, women and children. At the same time, liberal democracies struggled as brutal dictatorships in Germany, Russia and Italy flourished, and some Americans feared complete disintegration of the social order and revolution.

  • Originally published 04/18/2013

    "Cities are the Living Embodiments of Past Decisions"

     Children in wading pool at Cascade Playground, Seattle, 1939. All photos credit Seattle Museum of History and Industry.Stories about place are makeshift things. They are composed with the world’s debris.--Michel de CerteauIn most undergraduate history classes, students are required to take tests and write a paper or two.But University of Washington history professor Dr. Margaret O’Mara wanted to tap into her students’ curiosity and their relationship with the web and technology for her history of U.S. Cities course last winter.To bring urban history to life for her students and encourage them to explore and see their world in new ways, Dr. O’Mara created an innovative project that focused on Seattle’s dynamic South Lake Union neighborhood, now an area of high-tech businesses, medical clinics, trendy eateries, and pricey real estate.

  • Originally published 04/05/2013

    The Chaotic and Bloody Aftermath of WWII in Europe

    On May 8, 1945, Germany surrendered to the Allies and the Second World War in Europe ended officially. But in reality, the war continued in various guises for several years.British author and historian Keith Lowe details the cruel aftermath of the war in his acclaimed book Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II (St. Martin’s Press). His  careful study of the postwar years in Europe reveals widespread anarchy, famine, crime, pestilence and violent conflict, with millions of uprooted people wandering the ruined lands. Often, Mr. Lowe writes, the bloody conflicts were a continuation of the war that had left 30 million dead and destroyed the infrastructure of most of the warring nations, including political institutions, law enforcement, transportation, media and social services. 

  • Originally published 03/28/2013

    Escaping Slavery in Washington Territory

    When we think of the cruel legacy of slavery and the bloody Civil War that ended this vile institution, it’s unlikely that images of the verdant, sparsely populated Washington Territory soon come to mind. But settlers brought the seeds of the war with them, and issues of slavery, race, secession, and civil rights divided communities and loyalties in the Pacific Northwest. Seattle public historian Dr. Lorraine McConaghy and co-author Judy Bentley uncover and detail a fascinating story of this era in Washington Territory in their new book Free Boy: A True Story of Slave and Master (University of Washington Press). Based on extensive research, they chronicle the odyssey of a young slave, Charles Mitchell, who escaped from slavery in Olympia to freedom in Victoria, Canada.

  • Originally published 03/25/2013

    Making the Historical Documentary "Makers"

    Professor Betsy West on the set of Makers. Credit: Columbia University School of Journalism.Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.--Maya AngelouThis past February marked the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Betty Friedan’s now classic The Feminine Mystique, a study of what Friedan called “the problem that had no name” -- the widespread unhappiness of many women who felt stymied by traditional female roles and had few options for meaningful work outside the family.  Friedan’s trailblazing book, with her call for educational and occupational reforms, has been seen as inspiring the modern women’s movement, and the ensuing conversation led Friedan to found the National Organization for Women.

  • Originally published 03/15/2013

    A Primer on America’s Forgotten "Nasty Little War"

    In school, most of us learned a couple of facts about America’s evolving imperial ambitions and the Spanish-American War of 1898: the sinking of the battleship Maine in Cuba, the Roughrider charge up San Juan Hill led by Teddy Roosevelt, and Commodore George Dewey’s sinking of the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay.  But the ensuing, bloody Philippine-American War of 1899 to 1902 is usually neglected in most standard history courses.Within months of the victory over Spain, the American “liberation” of the Filipino population from Spanish colonial despotism became an American war against the Filipino independence movement and for conquest of the islands. After suffering overwhelming defeats in conventional battles, the Filipino revolutionaries adopted guerilla warfare tactics, and the U.S. forces responded with brutality. In what General Frederick Funston labeled a “nasty little war” as soldiers randomly fired into villages, burned homes and crops, summarily executed perceived enemies, tortured combatants and civilians with techniques such as a form of water boarding, and committed other atrocities. More than four thousand U.S. troops died in the Philippines war, whereas fewer than four hundred Americans died in the Spanish-American War -- “a splendid little war,” according to Secretary of State John Hay.

  • Originally published 02/24/2013

    On Creating a Groundbreaking Historical Novel

    SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhold Heydrich in 1940. Credit: German Federal Archives.I just hope that, however bright and blinding the veneer of fiction that covers this fabulous story, you will still be able to see through it to the historical reality that lies behind.-- Laurent Binet, HHhHIn Prague on May 27, 1942, Slovak factory worker Jozef Gabcik and Czech soldier Jan Kubis attacked and mortally wounded Reinhard Heydrich, the SS Obergruppenführer (equivalent to a full general) and Nazi Protector of Bohemia and Moravia -- a man so ambitious and casually cruel that Hitler called him “The Man with the Iron Heart.”

  • Originally published 02/11/2013

    The Afterlife of the British Empire

    Imperial student at the London School of Economics in 1946. Credit: Imperial War Museum.Most historical scholarship on the decline and fall of the British Empire deals with the diplomatic and political aspects of this transformation and ignores how imperial collapse affected everyday life in Britain after the Second World War. And historians have subscribed to the idea that “postwar” and “postimperial” themes are unrelated.In her new book The Afterlife of Empire (University of California Press), historian Jordanna Bailkin offers an original assessment of postwar Britain that interweaves “postwar” and “postcolonial” concerns while focusing on how the end of empire changed social relations and individual routines in the emerging welfare state.

  • Originally published 02/08/2013

    Picturing James Baldwin in Exile

    1964 portrait of James Baldwin. All photos courtesy of Sedat Pakay.Being out . . . one is really not very far out of the United States . . . One sees it better from a distance . . . from another place, from another country.-- James BaldwinJames Baldwin (1924-1987), the renowned American novelist, essayist, playwright, civil rights advocate and social critic, was an outspoken advocate for equality and respect for all citizens regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual preference. His novels include Giovanni’s Room, Go Tell It on the Mountain, and Another Country, but he may be most remembered for his powerful essays, often reflections on the timeless American obsessions with race and sexuality, found in his books such as Notes of a Native Son, The Fire Next Time and Nobody Knows My Name.

  • Originally published 01/25/2013

    Crafting the Rules for Hell

    Francis Lieber, circa 1865. Credit: Library of Congress.American military and political leaders since the Revolutionary War have grappled with the problem of whether conduct in the hellish horror and chaos of war can be regulated by law.Before the Civil War, American troops relied largely on Enlightenment customs of war that grew out of European conflicts, although rules were flexible or ignored depending on the particular commanders, whether military concerns outweighed the niceties of “civilized” war, and the character of the enemy -- whether an organized national military or a band of Indians or Mexican guerilla fighters.

  • Originally published 01/21/2013

    Understanding the Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King in 1964.In 1985, Dr. Clayborne Carson, a professor of history at Stanford University, received a phone call that changed his life. Coretta Scott King called and asked if he would edit the papers of her late husband, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. Carson was initially reluctant, but eventually agreed to take on the monumental task. He has been studying the life of this American icon ever since. Under Dr. Carson’s direction, the King Papers Project has issued six volumes of The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr., -- a projected fourteen-volume edition of King’s most significant speeches, sermons, correspondence, publications, and unpublished writings.

  • Originally published 01/11/2013

    Antietam's Bloody Intersection of War and Politics

    Battle of Antietam--Army of the Potomac. Lithograph, 1888.On Wednesday, September 17, 1862, the bloodiest single-day battle in U.S. history was fought at Antietam Creek in Maryland, the first major Civil War engagement on Union soil, leaving more than 23,000 Confederate and Union soldiers dead, wounded or missing.

  • Originally published 01/10/2013

    Demystifying the American Story

    John Smith Saved by Pocahontas by Alonzo Chappel, circa 1865 via Wiki Commons.Americans tell a tangled story of their past that has shaped the story itself, replete with inaccuracies, discrepancies and lingering myths. The versions of the story inevitably vary with the motives of the teller and the time of the telling.

  • Originally published 08/05/2012

    Jim Downs: Civil War and Emancipation the "Greatest Biological Catastrophe of the Nineteenth Century."

    Contraband during the Civil War. Credit: Wiki Commons.January 1, 2013 will mark the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of the effective date of the Emancipation Proclamation.We tend to think of the emancipation of African American slaves in the South as a celebratory moment of jubilation and ecstasy. But there is a darker, bitterly ironic side to this triumphant story -- a grim story of neglect and indifference to a vulnerable population of uprooted men, women and children left to negotiate their freedom in a hostile, war-torn, disease-plagued land.

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