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THE LATEST (posted 10-25-05)

What They Are Up to

What books are historians writing or just getting published? To make this interesting we've prepared a little quiz. The directions are simple. Match items in the left-hand column with those in the right. Can you do it?

David Donald

Abe Lincoln

Diane RavitchJohn Quincy Adams
David KennedySlavery
Simon Schama National Character
Doris GoodwinEducation

Taking the names on the left in sequence, we'll start with David Donald. You would expect Donald to be doing the book on Lincoln. But this was a trick question. Donald says he is tired of doing Lincoln books. Instead, for a change, he's tackling John Quincy Adams. "I've said farewell to Lincoln so many times, but this time I think it will really happen," Donald told an interviewer. "I'll miss writing about Lincoln, but on the other hand, I've sort of been there, done that. Perhaps I was getting repetitious anyway." 

Next is Diane Ravitch. She's a natural for the book on education, right? But that's too easy. And you wouldn't want to be fooled twice. Ah, but it is the intention of Grapevine to fluster the reader. Yes, Ravitch is doing the education book: Forgotten Heroes of American Education: The Great Tradition of Teaching Teachers.

What about David Kennedy? His last book was about the Depression and World War II. The big scholarly book before that was about World War I. Neither book offers an obvious clue to his next one but when you find out what it is it makes sense. It's about national character, which is, after all, what he was often writing about in his other books.

Simon Schama, who is celebrated for his books on British history, is writing about American slavery. The book, Rough Crossings : Britain, the Slaves, and the American Revolution, is already out in Britain. It will be published in the states next year.

Finally, there's Doris Kearns Goodwin. She's the author of the book on Lincoln, which, she recently told Thomas Mallon, she took 10 years to write. This is an interesting statistic. It means Goodwin was working on the Lincoln book before the borrowed passages were exposed in her Kennedy book. In other words, this isn't the book she wrote after her scandal. It's the book she was writing while she was in the midst of the scandal. One wonders. Did the scandal change her? If it did, did she have to rework the parts of the book she wrote before the scandal broke? A self-confident author worked on the book the first seven years, a clearly nervous and defensive (and perhaps more driven) author finished the book. Mallon, one of the first to read the book, calls it a masterpiece. So does David Donald. Goodwin doesn't like talking about the scandal. But really one of the most interesting questions is its impact on her writing. Can a person go through what she has gone through and not write differently? Did the pain help? If it did, perhaps it bears out the theory of Joshua Wolf Shenk, who argues that depression helped Lincoln achieve greatness.


Hurricanes are expected in the fall, so it wasn't a surprise that Katrina hit during September. But the very week she struck the Gulf coast Raymond Arsenault was celebrating the publication of his latest paperback book, Paradise Lost: The Environmental History of Florida, which includes accounts of some of the worst hurricanes in American history. This was the second time there had been a coincidence of this sort. In 1999 he was working on another book about hurricanes. As part of his research he had to visit the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Worried about visiting the area during hurricane season, he phoned ahead to find out if any storms were approaching. He was told to come on down. No hurricanes were in the vicinity. Her arrived in time to experience hurricane Irene. Things got so bad that FEMA took over the Center. Arsenault told HNN he had learned his lesson: Don't listen to the scientists about weather predictions.

Publisher with a Sense of Humor

Whether you like the Politically Incorrect books or not, and many don't, you can't say that the publisher, Regnery, lacks a sense of humor. On the back cover of one of the latest volumes, Robert Spencer's Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam and the Crusades, Spencer is identified as the director of Jihad Watch and the author of 4 books on Islam. Then there's this: “He lives in a Secure, Undisclosed Location.”

What Do You Call a Female Historian?

When Rebecca Anne Goetz joined the HNN Blog, Cliopatria, Ralph Luker, the blog's self-described Cliopatriarch, quickly discovered that Goetz has a sense of humor. In her first blog she asked if she should now be referred to as a Cliomatriarch? "I recently discovered," she wrote, "that 'historianess' is a correct, if archaic, descriptor for a woman historian. So why not Cliomatriarch?" Why not?

Armenia and Turkey

Turkey has bloody hands for the Armenian Massacre, but both countries should be taken to the woodshed for the way they are treating scholars these days. In the last few months Turkey and Armenia have been making asses of themselves. Turkey cancelled a scholarly conference that had been called to review the massacre, forcing the scholars to race from one university to another in search of a venue. Then a court put an author on trial for writing about the massacre. (Turkey's foreign minister played down the case, reassuring reporters that he was confident the charges would be dismissed.) Armenia meanwhile arrested Yektan Turkyilmaz, a Duke University graduate student investigating the massacre. That he happened to agree that the Turks were guilty didn't matter. As he recalled, "The interrogators’ questioning in the initial few days of my arrest was entirely devoted to my research, my political views and connections with Turkish intelligence and state officials. The concept of 'scholar' is meaningless to them. According to them, as the investigator put it, 'all scholars are spies.'"

Chutzpah ... Or Simply Good Marketing?

In its three years in existence Campus Watch has infuriated liberals incensed over the website's monitoring of classroom discussions about the Middle East. Some of these professors have complained in writing--but to little effect. Campus Watch flourished. And now to add insult to injury--from the liberals' perspective at any rate--Campus Watch is using the complaints against the organization to help raise funds. In the most recent fundraising appeal in September founder Daniel Pipes wrote:

Our influence and visibility has inspired a remarkable lament from Miriam Cooke, a Middle East specialist at Duke University: “Campus Watch is the Trojan horse whose warriors are already changing the rules of the game not only in Middle East studies but also in the US University as a whole. They threaten to undermine the very foundations of American education.” Criticism, as they say, is the other sincerest form of flattery.

So what is it? Chutzpah or marketing genius? We report. You decide.

The Historian in Iraq

If there has to be a historian in Iraq you would want it to be Cavalry Col. H.R.McMaster, the author of the highly esteemed book, Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, The Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies that Led to Vietnam.

McMaster went to Iraq in 2004 at the request of Gen. John Abizaid, the chief of U.S. Central Command, where his job was to "assess war progress and propose long-range solutions for the post-Saddam Hussein era." Currently he leads the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment in Iraq.

His book tells the story of how a president lied the United States into war over the objections of leading military figures, who put aside their qualms and kept quiet about their objections. The book is required reading at West Point. But McMaster, who earned a Ph.D.at the University of North Carolina after joining the army, is a strong supporter of the war:

President George W. Bush's approach to the current Iraqi problem stands in stark contrast to LBJ's approach to Vietnam. The Bush administration made its case for military action, and, after considerable debate, the American people, through their representatives in Congress, gave approval. The administration also made its case to the United Nations, highlighting the damage that inaction would inflict on prospects for peace in the long term

McMaster is regarded highly in the military. He served in Desert Storm in an action that is now taught in classes at West Point. Students say he is an exceptional teacher. In September the army put him forward to brief the press about the operation in Tall Afar, which terrorists had used as a haven from which to launch attacks. Speaking bluntly he said: "The enemy in this area is -- this is the worst of the worst in terms of people in the world."

This is an enemy, who when they came in, they removed all the imams from the mosques, and they replaced them with Islamic extremist laymen.  They removed all the teachers from the schools and replaced them with people who had a fifth-grade education and who preached hatred and intolerance.  They murdered people.  In each of their cells that they have within the city has a direct action cell of about 100 or so fighters.  They have a kidnapping and murder cell; they have a propaganda cell, a mortar cell, a sniper cell -- a very high degree of organization here.  And what the enemy did is to keep the population from performing other activities. 

The 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America

You have probably seen Bernard Goldberg's book, 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America. If you haven't here's the lowdown. Goldberg, the former CBS news reporter who claims the media are pushing a liberal agenda, thinks liberals are ruining America and he's put together a list of the worst offenders (though he throws in a few conservatives for balance). We figured that with all the studies showing liberals dominating the history profession there must be lots of historians who had made it onto Goldberg's list. But alas only one did. Apparently, historians aren't doing nearly as much damage as David Horowitz claims. (So who was the historian who made the list? Eric Foner, who has become the punching bag of conservatives.)

Back to Doris

Did we mention that Doris Kearns Goodwin has a book out? It's pretty hard to miss. This week Simon & Schuster bought an entire page of the NYT to advertise the book (the cost of such ads is usually around $75,000). So she's doing well again, right? Well, that depends. We came across these two stories in the NYT on September 5. They demonstrate that even the newspaper of record is a bit confused about Doris's role in our society. Is she to be held up as a scholar or reviled as a plagiarist (note: Goodwin denies that what she did can be considered plagiarism)?

In a story about Katrina by White House reporter Elisabeth Bumiller, in which Goodwin commented on Bush's performance, she was described as "Doris Kearns Goodwin, the presidential biographer." But over in the technology section of the paper--same day!--in an article about software that can detect plagiarism, she was lumped in with Jayson Blair and Stephen Ambrose.

In the rolodex world of the media one is usually either in the god guy or bad guy category. Doris, like many celebrities, remarkably straddles both.

Old Historians Never Fade Away

When I was a high school student and told my father I was thinking of becoming a historian he looked up, smiled, and said that's good ... from the obit pages it appeared that historians usually seemed to live to a ripe old age. I don't know if anyone has done a study of this but there do seem to be a lot of old historians. And they keep working into old age. Many of those ripe old men my father referred to were doing research and writing up to the day they died. Just last week Alvin Josephy passed away at age 90. Obituaries mentioned that he has another book coming out next year: Lewis and Clark Through Indian Eyes. Five years ago, at age 85, he came out with his memoirs. David Herbert Donald, in his 80s, is working on the book on John Quincy Adams, mentioned above. Robert Remini, also in his 80s, is writing a history of the U.S. Congress while serving as the official historian of the U.S. House of Representatives. John Hope Franklin, age 90, came out with two books in the last year, In Search of the Promised Land, and just this month, his memoir, Mirror to America. Bernard Lewis, age 89, remains on of the most prolific public historians in the country.

One of my mentors is Bernard Wiesberger. He wrote his first book 52 years ago. This summer he finished his 21st book (about baseball). He travels a lot now--but he keeps writing.

If you know of a historian who has kept working long past retirement age, please tell us about him/her by clicking here.

President Bush, Historian

As he headed off to his summer vacation President Bush was preparing to read three history books, according to his staff: Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky, Alexander II: The Last Great Tsar by Edvard Radzinsky, and The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History by John M. Barry. (Given what was coming he picked the wrong book by Barry to read. It wasn't the flu we had to worry about this fall, it was the floods. Barry is the author of the bestseller, Rising Tide, a history of the 1927 Mississippi flood.) On previous vacations the president was said to have read biographies of George Washington, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Theodore Roosevelt, Richard the Lionheart and Peter the Great, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Bush is no Woodrow Wilson, the only president with a Ph.D. in history. And he's not likely to be elected president of the American Historical Association as was Teddy Roosevelt, the author of several works of history. And like his father he often dismisses history. He told one reporter who asked how some event or other would look in fifty years that he didn't care--we'd all be dead by then. But is he really indifferent to history? He was a history major in college. He reads history books (though his staff may hav hyped his reading list a tad-- click here). He has had several historians over to the White House through the years. And last month he appointed a history major, John Roberts, chief justice of the Supreme Court.

Why then is no one tooting his interest in history? Even conservative historians don't seem to want to make much of any of this. In Harry Truman, John Kennedy and Bill Clinton much pride was taken by historians for these presidents' love of history. But Bush? The liberals don't want to give him an inch. And the conservatives prefer to think of him as a six-gun shooter.

David Starkey, Fighter

The British historian was fighting mad. "I've used the dirtiest tactics," he confessed, "and what I have learned in academic politics is very dirty indeed." And with whom was David Starkey upset? And over what? Was it something Tony Blair did or said? Was it some egregious faux pas by President Bush which aroused the ire of Britain's TV don (AKA the"rudest man in Britain")? No. Starkey was "fighting to the death" against awarding an English Heritage blue plaque to the late conductor Annunzio Mantovani (d. 1980). But why? The plaques--which "celebrate great figures of the past and the buildings that they inhabited"--have gone to all sorts of people including Madame Tussaud. And Mantovani, the "king of easy listening music," seemed fairly harmless. But Starkey takes his music seriously, the papers informed the British public this summer. And he couldn't abide an award to Mantovani. Jimi Hendrix--yes, said Starkey, a lover of hard rock. But Mantovani--no, never! (London Independent July 28, 2005)

Now what is more remarkable? That a historian should make such a fuss about a thing like this? Or that the British press thought it noteworthy enough to devote a story to it? American historians must face the fact that in Britain their peers' whims, predilections and fights and such are deemed worthy of public debate and here they are not.

For the Record

Most days the NYT corrections' list is dull. But this one caught our eye this past July--that's July 2005:

An obituary on Jan. 6, 1993, about William G. McLoughlin, an emeritus professor of history and religion at Brown University, misstated the date and cause of his death. Professor McLoughlin died on Dec. 28, 1992, not on Jan. 4, 1993; the cause was colon cancer, not liver cancer. The article also misstated the location of his World War II military service. It was at Fort Sill, Okla., not in Europe. The Times learned of the errors through a recent e-mail message from a family member.

This is worth remembering the next time the Times refuses to publish your letter complaining of some mistake or other that has found its way into the paper. The editors do care about some mistakes. But just not the one to which you want to draw attention.

The Historian Who Doesn't Want to Testify

It wasn't just reporters being asked to testify this summer. So was the town historian in Kent, Ct. Francelia C. Johnson was summoned by the Schaghticoke Indians to testify about her knowledge of the tribe's activities in the 19th century. The Schaghticoke claim that they have been in continuous existence in the area and are therefore entitled to plant a casino there. Critics insist the tribe petered out in the last century. Ms. Johnson, who collects documents on the tribe, was thought to have some answers. And the tribe demanded that she turn over her documents, including "any and all books, records, notebooks, loose-leaf notebooks, notes, ledgers, birth certificates, cemetery sketches, obituaries, genealogical trees, marriage licenses ... or other information in your possession or custody or under your control relative to any Schaghticoke Indian."

Ms. Johnson declined and the town selectmen backed her up, getting her appearance postponed. But this isn't the end of the matter. Millions may be riding on what Ms. Johnson knows. She has hinted that she has information about the tribe that might be useful in their fight for recognition. But so far: she's mum. (Click here for details on this fascinating fight.)

Historian Wanted

Genuine Want Ad, Spring 2005:

American West Steamboat Company has an exciting opportunity for a full time historian to work on board our sternwheeler vessels. Responsibilities include delivering natural history & cultural enrichment programs to enlighten our guests on the history, culture and geography of the places we sail. Top candidate will possess extensive knowledge of the Pacific Northwest including the Columbia and Snake Rivers, the Lewis and Clark expedition and the history and geography of Alaska's Inside Passage. Experience in oral storytelling is preferred but not required.

Maybe next summer?

Founding Father Angst

It's said nowadays that the Founding Fathers are the rage. But not all of them, apparently, according to a press account that appeared in Scotland last spring :

A famous museum in the United States has provoked the ire of historians after turning down a Benjamin Franklin exhibition to show one on Star Wars instead. Boston's Museum of Science passed on the chance to showcase a travelling exhibit celebrating the 300th anniversary of the birth of Franklin, one of America's founding fathers, who was born and grew up in the area before moving to Philadelphia at age 17. The museum says it can't accommodate the tribute to the Founding Father because it is opening a large Star Wars exhibit instead this summer.

What's Ben Franklin compared with Yoda, after all?

The Naked Historian

From a blog entry by Cliopatria's Ralph Luker:

I continue to be amazed at what some people will post on the net, even under cover of anonymity or pseudonymity. I got into trouble once for remarking about a female history blogger who posted photographs of herself hefting her bosoms at the camera's eye. In the last two months, we've had a similar situation of a young male history blogger. He speculated about the adequacy of his -- ah -- his male organ, complained about the lack of direction from his graduate school professors, and confessed to indiscretions with privileged information about his fellow graduate students. Such candor won him favor in some sectors of the blogosphere, but just within the last 24 hours acquaintances from his institution guessed his identity. Suddenly, his blog was no more.

And on that note, adieu--for now.

WINTER 2004-SPRING 2005 (posted 4-20-05)

What You Might Have Missed

If you have been on holiday and missed recent editions of the HNN newsletter, here's a small sampling of the events that have drawn the attention of historians over the past few months. Japan took North Korea to task for kidnapping its citizens and concealing the details of this history. South Korea and China took Japan to task for approving a textbook that sanitizes the history of Japanese colonialism. And Japan took China to task for encouraging street protesters to throw rocks at the Japanese embassy over the textbook controversy.

Moving west on the map, Armenians took the Turks to task for continuing to minimize the Armenian Genocide. Turks took the Armenians to task for ignoring the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Turks. And finally moving south, Kenyans took the British to task for minimizing the toll the colonial war on the Mau-Mau took on innocents.

Evidence that people the world over remain ignorant of history surfaced again and again (Americans can take slight comfort in this, but not much). One in eight Italians think the Holocaust is a Jewish invention. Nearly a third of British youth think Oliver Cromwell fought at the Battle of Hastings. One in six Canadians think that only a million Jews died in the Holocaust. The British media reported that our cousins are as badly informed about history as we are, and even demonstrate only a slight acquaintance with the history of World War II, though British historians are persuaded that the public has been feeding on a gross diet of Hitler and the Holocaust to the exclusion of most other subjects in both school classes and on television.

Here at home: The Watergate papers of Woodward and Bernstein were opened while fears arose that the Nixon papers might never be fully opened if they are transferred to the custody of the Nixon library. Somebody named Ward Churchill, whom few had ever heard of, became the subject of thousands of stories and blog entries after he compared the victims of 9-11 to the Nazis. Elizabeth Fox-Genovese compared abortions to the Holocaust.

About historians: John Hope Franklin celebrated his 90th birthday. Sean Wilentz was nominated for a grammy. President Bush said he has been reading Joseph Ellis's biography of Washington.

Good News/Bad News

There have been a spate of good news/bad news stories involving historians.

Good News: A long stretch of highway in Louisiana was named after a historian. Bad News. It was named after STEPHEN AMBROSE. This is the second time Ambrose has been honored with a highway. Last year the part of the same highway--Interstate 10--that runs through Mississippi was named after him.

Good News: This winter the number eight spot on the New York Times Paperback Bestseller list was held for a time by a history book. The bad news, at least in the eyes of many historians): It was THOMAS WOODS Jr.'s The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, which both liberals and conservatives have panned. (Woods defends his book here.)

Good News: After MICHAEL GRANT, the classics historian, passed away at age 89 the NYT prominently featured his obituary in suitable recognition of his many accomplishments. Bad News: It took the NYT weeks to publish the obit. He passed away on October 4. His obituary did not appear in the NYT until October 25, some two weeks after papers in London had reported his demise.

Good News: In December, after years of deep archival work, ALF EVERS finally finished his 700-page history of Kingston, New York, Kingston-on-Hudson: An American Historical City. Bad News: The very next day he died, after a brief cold. He was 99 years old. His approach to history was memorably recorded one day in response to a question posed by an interviewer.

You can't understand a town without understanding the surrounding towns, and as you go more and more deeply into it, it takes you farther and farther from your base. You start accumulating books about your town's history, and then you begin to buy books on the surrounding towns, and then on the county and surrounding counties, and then the state and the surrounding states. The process can go on until you reach the limits of the planet, and by that time, possibly, there will have been discovered that, somewhere out in space, there are planets surrounding suns that we know nothing about, in which there are other towns, which have their local histories. And, so, eventually, there will be space travelers that may bring back local histories to people like me, who are so green on the subject.

Bill Clinton

Did Bill Clinton write his own memoirs? At the American Historical Association meeting in January Grapevine happened to find out the answer:

Some have suspected that the president got help from historian TED WIDMER, a one-time Clinton speech writer who now runs the C. V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience at Maryland's Washington College. Widmer would have been an ideal choice. He is a graceful writer, easy to work with, and a dutiful researcher. And as MICHAEL KAZIN noted recently in a glowing NYT review of Widmer's new book about Martin Van Buren--one of the short presidential histories being written under the direction of Arthur Schlesinger Jr.-- Widmer possesses a commanding understanding of American politics.

So did Widmer help Clinton with the memoirs? He told Grapevine he did. But he quickly minimized his role in the self-effacing manner of speech writers of old. He said his work mainly consisted in interviewing Clinton on tape about the president's life. If the book reads like oral history it is because it is oral history in a way, Widmer explained. Clinton, speaking easily in whole paragraphs, just spilled out his life's story, one story after another and another. Widmer then transcribed the interviews--hours and hours of them--and organized them.

So now you know.

Talk Radio Fireworks

Suppose for a moment you have been invited to o a radio show on your book. Great, right? How often do the radio people call historians anyway? So ED BLACK, author a few years ago of the blockbuster book exposing IBM's support in the 1930s for Nazi concentration camps and the author recently of a book about the history of Iraq, was thrilled when he was booked on the Laura Ingraham show. Ingraham reaches an audience in the millions. What's not to like?

But his excitement turned to trepidation as he was making his approach to the station. In his words: "The driver turned on the radio station, and Laura is speaking in her fiery way... says she is going to make me 'very uncomfortable' and I am in for a 'debate' because they have another historian on who is going to undermine me." Holy Cow! This wasn't what he expected. And as he explained to friends, "In the business, it is totally not permitted to sked a guest without telling him who else is on."

Relief came quickly, however. It turned out the other guest was WALID PHARES and he and Black share similar views about Iraq. As Black pulled up to the studio he got Walid's people on the phone, told them what he heard Laura say, and they made a pact. This would not turn into a classic scream fest. "So when I stepped to the mic, the mood became decided non-antagonistic, non-spectacle, very professional, and very informative."

Black ended his account by predicting that Laura, who "began to see that the issue of Iraq is massively multi-dimensional" would begin to see that "it cannot be covered so quickly," Has she seen the light? Grapevine doesn't know. But if she has she is apparently alone. Thus far nobody seems to have detected any sudden blossoming of reason on Talk Radio. Screaming and sloganeering remains de rigueur.

Fashion in History

On the London Times list of the twenty best dressers of 2004, which appeared in late December, there was a surprise this year. Along with the usual run of actresses and models there was number 15, SUSANNE KAPOOR, a medieval arts historian. According to the Times, she deserved to be included for "services to retro fashion. Wears both real vintage and brand-new - but whatever the provenance, the look is Sixties glamazon. Likes a bit of sparkle." So there to all those who think of historians as frumpy. At least there is one who is not.

Vietnam at the OAH

After the Nixon Library canceled the scholars' conference on Vietnam, some made an effort to hold the event anyway at the annual meeting of the OAH in San Jose. A series of Vietnam panels featuring name historians like STANLEY KUTLER et al. no doubt would have attracted enormous attention. In the end the OAH program committee was unable to pull it off. There simply wasn't enough time between the collapse of the conference and the scheduled OAH meeting in which to make all the arrangements.

On the Difference Between the AHA and the OAH

Ok, there are many differences between the AHA and the OAH, right? The AHA was chartered by Congress; the OAH wasn't. The AHA deals with history that happened around the world; the OAH doesn't. The AHA is bigger. But you knew all that. Here's what you may not know or may never have given any thought to. The two organizations elect their presidents by vastly different methods. Although both have Nominating Boards elected by their members, the boards work differently. Over at the AHA the Board selects two people for the position of president-elect and lets the members choose between them. In other words, at the AHA they hold elections to determine the leader of the organization. Over at the OAH the Board selects one person for the position of president-elect. And that's it. There is no contested election for this position.

We wondered about this difference and asked the OAH why it doesn't offer voters a choice. LEE FORMWALT, the executive director, told us that the problem with elections is that they lead to public embarrassment for the loser. And this isn't really fair. The Board after all only selects people of the highest caliber for president-elect. Why put up two equally capable candidates one of whom will be fated to be branded a loser? As Formwalt explained, they wouldn't be nominated if the Board wasn't convinced that they met the highest standards of the profession. He added, "of course, there is something to be said for democracy." But is democracy necessary in selecting the leadership of a scholarly organization? Maybe yes, maybe no.

At the AHA contested elections have indeed led to embarrassment for the loser from time to time. Some candidates have been creamed. In the 1990s the AHA made an attempt to minimize the pain. It discontinued the practice of publishing the election results in Perspectives, the AHA's newsletter. Now if you want the results--the hard numbers--you have to go to the seldom-consulted annual reports of the organization.

Why did the two organizations go their separate ways when it comes to electing their leaders? That seems to be a mystery. If you know please contact the editor and we'll let everybody know. It's a bit of history that might prove interesting as we reflect on the 100th anniversary of the OAH in 2007.

Note (updated 4-23-05 4:30pm PST) In response to our request for information, Hanna H. Gray, former president of the University of Chicago, sent us the following email, which helps explain how the AHA system of contested elections developed:

In the early 1970's, a committee was appointed to review the structure of the AHA. (I was its chairman; the committee was originally appointed by Joseph Strayer when he was president and its work went on for a couple of years ....) Out of the report came the new organization of three divisions in the AHA and the shift to electing presidents on the basis of a slate of two. The latter caused a lot of debate, both within our committee and in the AHA, where the annual business meeting ultimately voted the changes.
After Professor Gray's comment was posted we heard from Jesse Lemisch:

Hanna Gray's account of the origin of contested elections in the AHA is a model of administrative/political history from the top down, and it utterly misses the pressures from below which led to the situation that she describes in which an AHA committee came out for contested elections.

Gray says that her AHA Committee to review the structure of the organization was appointed in the early 1970's. She seems to view this simply as a farsighted initiative by the AHA and ignores the stormy context in which this happened, and to which the committee's work was a response: the early 1970s was hardly a tranquil time, neither in the larger society nor in the AHA. The Radical Caucus's actions at the 1969 AHA had included getting a surprising number of votes for left historian/activist Staughton Lynd as president. (n advance of the meeting, the hysterical Richard Hofstadter had called for a "counter-revolution" in the AHA.) There was a wave of horror from above at what Peter Novick has aptly called "the collapse of comity" (See Novick, That Noble Dream; Lemisch, On Active Service in War and Peace: Politics and Ideology in the American Historical Profession; Lemisch, "Radicals, Marxists and Gentlemen: A Memoir of Twenty Years Ago," Radical Historians Newsletter, November 1989.)

The new president, Robert R. Palmer commenced a national tour to attempt to pacify and channel dissent. Various reforms followed. The [Sheldon] Hackney Committee on the Rights of Historians, of which the heroic Al Young was the most dynamic member, gathered data on the firings of left professors (including Staughton Lynd, me and many others) and drew up an important statement on the rights of historians. These things took place within the context of a movement that spoke up for democracy within institutions: Gray's committee worked amidst and responded to the turmoil of the times.

I'm not proprietary about the role of the Radical Caucus: surely we made errors. What distresses me about Hanna Gray's statement is historiographical: it's that old habit of writing political history without reference to the pressures from below which establish a context in which reform takes place. This produces fiction. It reminds me of the histories of the Vietnam anti-war movement which seem to think that Senator Fulbright invented it.

Ethics, Plagiarism, Etc.

One of the unnoticed measures approved at the recent Business Meeting of the OAH was the establishment of a committee on professional ethics. One reason you have not heard much if anything about this committee is that it won't be doing much. If you think a historian is guilty of plagiarism, don't bother notifying the committee. The committee will only investigate charges against scholars who have been honored by the OAH with a prize. That means of all the people implicated in history scandals over the last few years, only one--MICHAEL BELLESILES--would have faced an investigation by this committee, and that is because only he had received an award from the OAH, the Binkley-Stephenson Award for the best article in the Journal of American History. Doris Kearns Goodwin, Joseph Ellis, Ambrose and the others would not have had anything to worry about from the OAH. (It so happens that Bellesiles kept his OAH-Binkley, though he was forced to give up his Columbia-awarded Bancroft.)

The OAH has never had much of a role investigating charges against historians. In the past it simply referred charges to the AHA's Professional Division. That of course is no longer possible. Two years ago the AHA gave up the chore, which had proved overly onerous. Today the AHA committee on Professional Responsibility establishes guidelines for professional conduct. Complaints against historians are supposed to be handled now by the institutions that employ them.

Pulitzer Prize Interview? Sorry.

After DAVID HACKETT FISCHER won the Pulitzer Prize a few weeks ago for Washington's Crossing, HNN contacted him about doing an interview by email. He was very gracious in response. But he declined. Why? Let him explain:

It is kind of you to ask, but your medium is not a natural one for me. and I don't feel comfortable in the use of it.  I'm one of the children of the book, and also one of the children of light.  I've learned to distrust the digital darkness, and avoid it at all costs.  But thanks again for asking.

Note to ROY ROSENZWEIG, head of George Mason University's Center for History and New Media: This is what you are up against.

Middle East Blogger

.Which blogger on Middle Eastern affairs do conservatives love to hate? JUAN COLE, of course. Professor Cole, the president-elect of the Middle East Studies Association, has been denounced repeatedly in the past few months at David Horowitz's FrontPageMag.com and even by David Brooks in the NYT. It turns out that even Paul Wolfowitz is reading him. According to ERIC ALTERMAN'Sblog over at MSNBC.com, Wolfowitz says that he in fact reads Cole's blog but doesn't like it. When asked about it, Wolfowitz "made a munched up face like his sushi had gone bad."

Historian for Hire

From time to time we like to feature the different ways people are using history to earn a living. Some, as was pointed out in an article published on HNN last month, have found it lucrative to sell their services to the tobacco industry. Others have found remunerative work by providing research for the chemical industry (and attacking the work of others critical of the chemical industry). But others are using history in less controversial ways. There's Margaret Brennan, a West Virginian who helps people set up historical displays, among other things. And there's Audrey Galex, a Southerner who helps people create video biographies of members of their family. And she's not alone; apparently a lot of historians have taken up this business. They've created a trade group: The Association of Personal Historians. But perhaps the prize for creativity should go to Dave Burrell, a former intern at the Smithsonian who helps prepare histories of historic homes so the owners can fetch higher prices when they sell. As he explains in a press release: "The underlying principle is simple:  since so much of the mystery of old homes lies in their connection with the past, a home history can highlight that connection very vividly." It turns out he's not alone in this business. A Google check uncovered a story a few years ago in the Washington Post about another historian who performs the same service in the nation's capital. The article explained that the research on a single dwelling can take two to three months and cost as much as $3600. Clicking to the historian's website we discovered that theWall Street Journaljust published an article about his company, which, with the help of "a little-known science called dendrochronology," can help you discover how old a house is by taking a wood sample and counting the rings in it to determine when the wood was harvested. We have one word for this: Nifty!

FALL 2004

In a departure from past practice, this edition of History Grapevine is devoted to a single book: FORREST McDONALD'SRecovering the Past: A Historian's Memoir, which is HNN's November Book of the Month. There's simply more fodder in this book that can be fit into the usual couple of paragraphs.

To begin with, there are his acerbic comments On PAGE SMITH: "Page Smith was a mainstream historian until, at some point in he 1970s, he embraced radical chic." On Alfred A. Knopf: "[A man] whose regal and pompous presence was such that Tom Govan said of him, 'There but for the grace of God goes God.'" On CARL BRIDENBUGH: "[H]e was a sorry excuse for a human being."

Then there are the passages dripping with bitterness. While Page Smith's supposedly inferior history of the American Revolution (which was riddled with "hundreds of gross factual errors") sold well, his own textbook sold badly, owing, he says, to the "radical swing of the historical profession." His coauthor on the textbook, LESLIE E. DECKER, was supposed to write half the book. "As it worked out, Decker wrote one and a half of the thirty-five chapters, and I wrote the rest."

His indictments of the ethics of the history profession are thunderous: He recalled that FULMER MOOD, his advisor, had warned him "to keep my research and my ideas close to my chest, even in writing my grant reports, for, he said, the history profession was infested by thieves who would steal your material given half a chance." Fulmer had told him that SAMUEL ELIOT MORISON had raided the research notes Fulmer had accumulated in Europe and "gutted the materials and published an article based on them." McDonald says he had thought the warning silly, but then discovered that WILLIAM WARREN SWEET had stolen a paper McDonald wrote and published it. "It was my paper, verbatim, presented as his own with no mention of me." (McDonald says he didn't rat out Sweet "because subsequent research had convinced me that my paper was full of holes.") Though he is disturbed by the more recent scandals of the profession, those involving Ellis, Ambrose, Goodwin, VanDeMark and Bellesiles, McDonald says he remains an optimist, being a "natural-born Pollyanna." Historians continue to do good solid work, the research is producing a clearer understanding of the past, and the book-buying public continues buying.

Along the way he notes that THOMAS P. ABERNETHY considered C. VAN WOODWARD, DAVID POTTER and other critics of Jim Crow as "unsound on the nigra question." And he says that anti-Semitism was rampant at the Brown history department, which he joined in 1959. He notes that one applicant was "by far the best candidate" for the graduate program, but his "photograph indicated that he looked even more Jewish than his name sounded," leading "several older members" of the department "to dismiss his application out of hand." When McDonald suffered from a back ache JIM HEDGES referred him to someone, "but added, 'Now I should warn you that he's Jewish, but he really is very good.'"

He is a bit of a braggart. He boasts that because he has always needed only a few hours of sleep he can work harder and longer than others. "The normal course load for undergraduates was fifteen hours, five courses a semester; I took six and seven courses and augmented them by occasional correspondence courses." Six pages later he notes that he slept in his car twice a week while doing research (twelve hours a day without stopping) in the archives in Richmond. Thirty pages later he tells us that he did a "smashing job" writing the biography of Samuel Insull: "the book reads like a novel." His most surprising boast is that he didn't bother keeping up with literature in his fields. "Instead, when I need to know what has been written on a particular subject, I send Ellen [his wife] to the library, and she combs the books and journals and comes home with the best available studies." He leaves the impression that scholars who bother keeping up are foolish.

His conservative politics rarely intrude. But the book is noteworthy for the pictures it features. How many other historians have pictures of themselves with Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Not many--and McDonald knows why. The profession is overrun with liberals. Sometimes he seems to go out of his way to depict himself as different. Near the end he recounts that he once gave a paper in which he called the Bill of Rights "unnecessary and pernicious." By then, though it's a surprise to hear he takes this position, his statement's no shocker. This is a man who seems to relish shocking people. After awhile you come to expect it.

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Steven R Alvarado - 10/26/2005

I found it amusing that "Grapevine" scolded the Turks and Armenians for not respecting the scholars who were involved in researching the Armenian
Massacures. In a perfect world scholars, journalist, civilians would be accorded free access, respect and protection in areas of strife. However, this is not a perfect world, never has been, never will be. Of all people historians should know this. So stop whining when the real world interfers with your Ivory Tower world view.

Romelle Ramon Lopez - 4/23/2005

I would like some information on a story about a person name Juan R. Franklin. He was acused of running over a cop with a car around June 13, 14 or 15 of 2000. The story was covered by FOX 26 news as a top story. Please send me any information you may have.

editor - 12/15/2003

Suetonius is correct. The reference above to the Life of Brian has been changed to Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Suetonius - 12/15/2003

"And as the Life of Brian demonstrated, he knew enough even as a Python to create a learned satire of the Arthurian tales. "

It is odd to draw the conclusion from Life of Brian that the authors knew much about the Arthurian tales given that the Life of Brian takes place around the time of the birth of Christ and generally talks about Judeans and Romans. There's always that other movie, the one about the Holy Grail and King Arthur. Is that the one you mean?

Myroslaw Prytulak - 11/28/2003

Accusing the whole Ukraine of airbrushing history, as professor Shlomo Avineri is so arrogantly doing (AIRBRUSHING HISTORY IN THE (sic) UKRAINE, History News Network, November 10, 2003), merely because a tourist's "official municipal brochure" and a museum of the Ukrainian city of Drohobych are not meeting his ridiculous expectations, is downright ridiculous.

And, expecting to see, as this prof does, the walls of Ukrainian museums to be plastered with the liknesses of the likes of Casimir the Great and numerous other brutal invaders and plunderers of the enchanting Ukraine, instead of her very own beloved heroes, is rather silly.

Incidentally, according to my non-airbrushed sources, the "beautiful Russian Orthodox wooden church" mentioned by prof Avineri in his article is not Russian at all, as he proclaims, but unquestionably Ukrainian of Saint George (Tserkva sv. Yura) built in 1499 in Nadiiv and moved to Drohobych in 1656. I'm wondering who is airbrushing the history in this instance?

Editor's Note: We received the following update, which Mr. Prytulak asked to be posted:

In my critique (http://hnn.us/comments/24484.html) of professor Shlomo Avineri's article (http://hnn.us/articles/1785.html) I inadvertently neglected to address there the illegal removal in 2001 from Ukraine, by Jerusalem's Yad Vashen Holocaust Memorial Museum, of the fragments of Drohobych's Jewish artist Bruno Schulz's murals.

Professor Shlomo Avineri, however, managed to do wost than this! He completely airbrushed, in the above-mentioned article, this rather bizarre undertaking.

Consequently, in order to acquaint your readers with the segment of history that was totally airbrushed by professor Shlomo Avineri, may I invite your readers to click on:

http://www.nytimes.com/2001/07/03/opinion/03GRUB.html The Wrong Way to Protect the Jewish Past by Samuel Gruber, New York Times

http://www.jta.org/story.asp?story=7972 Uproar Over Schulz Murals Raises Question Who Owns the Holocaust by Ruth E.Gruber, The Jewish Telegraph Agency, and

http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/ap/20010620/wl/holocaust_murals_1.html Israeli Memorial Smuggles Murals by Sergei Shargorodsky, Associated Press

Thank you.

Sincerely, Myroslaw Prytulak

R. Grimby - 8/31/2003

What good Left wing books or articles can anyone recommend
on the causes of world war one? I had thought there would
be a plethora of books on capitalist imperialism as the root
of this war but am surprised at how little there is. Lenin's
"imperialism as the highest stage of capitalism" is frequently
recommended to me, but there must be more than this.


Andre Mayer - 7/10/2003

Well, actually, another of the most successful movies ever was set in the 19th century: D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation. It was, I believe, the biggest box office film before GWTW, and might still rank high correcting for inflation.

Friedrich Paul Berg - 6/27/2003

Does anyone still believe seriously that the Nazis murdered people in gaschambers? The two kinds of alleged gaschambers used either Diesel exhaust(apptox. 2 million Jews) or Zyklon-B which releases cyanide slowly (under one million Jews). Debate anyone?

Friedrich Paul Berg
available for endless debate on "The Revisionist Forum" and anywhere else

Nathan Williams - 5/6/2003

Knowing Bennett, he'd take that bet and give you pretty good odds. Just don't let his wife know what's up.

Steve Lowe - 5/5/2003

My money's on Foner :)

Don McArthur-Self - 4/4/2003

Quoting from this edition of the grapevine:

"With what relish have they taken to the ramparts! With what joy have they slashed at bogus analogies! With what enthusiasm have they taken to task politicians ignorant of Iraqi history!

ARTHUR SCHLESINGER, JR. has referred to the invasion of Iraq as "our day of infamy." ERIC FONER has said that he isn't sure which is "more frightening: the horror that engulfed New York City or the apocalyptic rhetoric emanating daily from the White House." ERIC RAUCHWAY has written off Bush's economic policies as the worst since Benjamin Harrison (whom Rauchway ranks below Hoover!).

Bush is said to like history. He has never said if as a group he likes historians. A few more months of this kind of hot-fire criticism and he surely won't.


Though President Bush was a history major at Yale it is his wife. a former librarian, who is believed to be behind the administration's expensive history initiatives like "We the People." (Lynne Cheney is also apparently involved.) But the president has been reading history while he's been making it. According to the White House, the president has been reading The Commanders by MICHAEL BESCHLOSS and Supreme Command by ELIOT A. COHEN. Apparently, President Bush is hoping to repeat the past. Both books deal with leaders who succeeded at war: Lincoln, FDR, Truman, Churchill. But shouldn't he be reading books about people who failed, too?"

HNN purports to publish views on both sides of the political spectrum, and all points in between, and, to be sure, generally does. But shouldn't your "GRAPEVINE" summary eschew taking such an obvious position? You clearly relish taking potshots at the administration. Let the people posting comments do that. There are more than enough of them frequenting this site who will be more than happy to do it for you.

Dave Thomas - 4/4/2003

There is little if any allowance for divergent viewpoints in the two west coast history departments I frequent. Senior tenured professors have no tolerance whatsoever for the opinion of junior non-tenured faculty. If you have a divergent viewpoint keep it to yourself or move on. There is no place more intolerant than a history department. Senior tenured faculty practices Real Politik better than Metternich ever dreamed by squelching any dissent without mercy. What we end up with are oracles of dogma not tolerant, vibrant research institutions.

Allison - 3/31/2003

I love it, because I love history.President T.Roosevelt is my main rolemodel .Thank you for your web site!!!!:-)!!Your #1!100%

Walter Barber - 1/9/2003

Holocaust "revisionists" do not accept the fact that the Holocaust happened. They employ massive disinformation campaigns, sometimes posing as moderates with a sincere desire to correct historical errors. But they give the term "revisionist" a bad name. Their real goal is not to search for truth, but to cast doubt on the fundamental fact that the Holocaust happened. Serious historians of the Holocaust do engage in vigorous debates about the sources of the Holocaust, and the precise details of it. It is a myth that open research and debate on the Holocaust is not allowed (witness the recent debate between Goldhagen "Hilter's Willing Executioners" and Browning "Ordinary Men.") Holocaust revisionists are not interested in advancing truth, but engaged in a cynical and sinister campaign to cast doubt on the reality of the Holocaust.

Greg Andrews - 1/3/2003

All history is subject to Revisionism: Unfortunately
the Holocaust has been made "off limits" to critical
analysis. Huge amounts of Soviet propaganda, misinformation,
exaggerations, and outright stupidities have been allowed
to slip by by when historians and teachers are given
flack for taking a second look at wartime tales.

Al Hibler is right.

Benny Smith - 1/2/2003

Besides my personal reasons, I did not believe my posts here to be newsworthy enough to make me part of the story, although I was startled to learn that HNN had counted 30 posts that I made to the Emory Wheel comment board. Perhaps my wife is right when she says I’ve spent too much time on this one issue.

I did find the suggestion that I might be Bellesiles in disguise to be absurd, but Bellesile’s critics are not hesitant to conjecture when they do not have the evidence. As an aside, I should note that I am re-reading Arming America to see if I can discover any of the fabrication, lies and fraud that even the non-historian critics complain are so abundant throughout the book. One distraction for me has been Bellesile’s frequent use of quotation marks around short phrases and single words. This appears to be a writing quirk shared by George Washington here. Wouldn’t it be fitting and ironic if old George is actually Bellesiles in disguise?

Thomas Gunn - 1/1/2003

01-01-2003 ~1220


I thought you could not tell a lie?

Benny is providing a defense of the man, and while that may be a noble endeavor, it is misdirected. The assault on ARMING AMERICA is an assault on Michael Bellesiles personally only in so far as the fraud that is ARMING AMERICA reflects on the honor of the man.

The only way to determine Michael's honor is through a debate of his work. Benny refuses to engage in any discussion of the work and continually attacks and criticizes ARMING AMERICA's critics. And in the final analysis, it is not Michael so much on trial as his work. Though Michael has been held accountable for his fraud and rightly so.

Many, much more qualified than I (and unafraid to provide those qualifications) have attempted to induce Benny to engage in a real debate of the truth or lack there of in ARMING AMERICA to no avail. Some have suggested that Benny simply be ignored. To do so would allow Benny to promote the lie that ARMING AMERICA is not flawed, it is the critics of it that are flawed.

Whether you have arrived late to the soap opera surrounding ARMING AMERICA George, or are simply being deliberately obtuse, the truth is out there. Benny has scattered his stale crumbs on the web for any to see. HNN is hardly signaling Benny for an outing. Interesting that you engage in the same inuendo that so marks Benny's posts. Rather than point to and debate specific facts you choose to offer up your opinion of the editors feelings and then proceed to skewer those attributed feelings with hyperbole and appeal to that great boogieman the "far right".

There is plenty of room for your thoughts on ARMING AMERICA under the Bellesile link main page, "historian on the hot seat". Looking forward to seeing you there. Bring your debating cap, you can leave your RN at home.


George Washington - 1/1/2003

Let me get this straight. A person calling themselves "Benny Smith" posts a number of messages that go against the emerging HNN consensus that the Bellesiles affair proves that the History profession is controlled by a dark, all-powerful "liberal" force. What makes Benny Smith's messages unique is not that they attempt to defend the indefensible, and make assertions that are simply unsupportable (plenty of comments from the far right that appear on this message board commit these same sins) it is that they press against the tidal wave of HNN's conservative consensus. So HNN signals him out for "outing"--not quite revealing his email address, but provides us with "clues" so we can out the fanatical liberal!

The "if you really are who you say you are" game that goes on in these forums is getting absurd. Given the extreme views of some HNN readers, and the real possibility that one might face virus and spam assaults, and other hacker subterfuge simply for expressing a viewpoint on this forum, preserving anonymity seems not only reasonable, but prudent. So why does the HNN staff decide to single out "Benny Smith" for outing? HNN, of course, should not be doing this to none of its contributors, but isn't it curious that the HNN staff chose to target poor Benny Smith, and not any of the many equally rabid and ludicrous contributors who's postings are coming from the right?

I must confess. George Washington is not my real name.

Al Hibler - 12/31/2002

In the last couple of years there have been numerous productions, evil and good, related to the Holocaust. The Warsaw Uprising was a combination of fact and Hollywood, while the production of Trainsporting Children outside of Germany was very accurate and heartwarming. The time has come for leading historical museums focusing on the Holocaust to sit down with Revisionists and get the facts straight. The Holocaust did occur, no one should deny that; but there are so many unanswered questions that need discussion. Everytime a new movie/documentary on World War II is produced more questions are raised than answered. A new Hitler movie is in production as we speak. Let's try to clear the air on this horrific incident of modern history!

Thomas Gunn - 11/30/2002

11-30-2002 1815

just "[an] HNN reader". He's written at least two articles for HNN.

Here: http://hnn.us/articles/1073.html "Bellesiles is Gone--The Problem Lingers" and here, http://hnn.us/articles/888.html "Was Bellesiles Really Threatened".

He has also provided insights in his many postings. John is a valuable asset at HNN. My thanks to him for taking the time and to HNN for providing the forum.


Dave Livingston - 11/27/2002

Brother Gunn,

Indeed the Bellesiles episode has been a ball of fun. Although IMHO his thesis is utter nonsense there has been a silver linning to this uproar he arroused. All sorts of people, from backwoods Rednecks to academics who specalize in other disciplines have taken an unusual interest in history.

Henceforth there should be less muttering, "Why study history? What good is it?"

As a strong proponent of the Second Amendment it is pleasing to see "Arming America" discredited but my Christian soul hates to see a man ruin himself, particularly one of my own, an historian. Of course, to the Leftist militant subscribers to his misbegotten thesis among us he has not ruined himself.

Overall, as suggested above, IMHO he has by arousing intense interst in an aspect of U.S. History done those of us who are fond of the discipline far more good than harm. But of course, he did so in an unintended consequences sort of way.

Dave Livingston - 11/27/2002

This website certainly is entertaining even to the most amateur of students of history, such as I, B.A., Univ. of Kansas.

In referring to the Gun issue, one should mention it if one is a member of the N.R.A. or H.G.C.? Well, O.K.

Yours truly is a longtime voting member of the N.R.A. and I believe strongly that the plain words of the Second Amendment mean just what they say, the right of the indiviual "to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

What is so bloom'n difficult about those words to comprehend?

Don't approve Second Amendment? Then drum up the votes to have it excised from the Constitution. Never happen? Then learn to live with it, one suggests. Constant whimpering and whining in complaint about it is unbecoming. And boring.

Thomas Gunn - 10/30/2002

what scandal will HNN find to keep the numbers up.

Arming America has been a godsend for traffic levels at HNN. I for one will miss the debate it engendered. I'd like to thank HNN for providing the forum.


Bob Greene - 10/6/2002

Clare Spark has an interresting idea, hire facualty on the basis of ability, not some quixotic search for "diversity" in thought or belief. Of course the same criteria might be applied to those whose holy grail is the relentless pursuit of racial,sexual, etnic, etc. diversity. Do you suppose that the ONLY criteria that should be used is ability? Nah, that would never fly,too radical.

clare spark - 10/3/2002

With respect to the Center for the Study of Popular Culture poll demonstrating the preponderance of Democrats over Republicans in the universities today, with its clear implication that a better balance should be achieved, I would like to reframe the problem. In my view, the remedy is not expanding the opportunity to study with a registered Republican rather than a Democrat, though David Horowitz, drawing from his own experience at Columbia in the 1950s, found conservatives to be more tolerant of dissent than liberals and radicals are today.
The question is the competence and willingness of each and every historian to present the full spectrum of views on all controversial subjects, and to train students in decoding the ideological assumptions that may govern particular debates. This means not distorting the positions of those we personally abhor, but examining and evaluating the factual basis that may make some positions more persuasive than others. It also requires making explicit one's own political preferences and assumptions, so as to alert students and peers where arguments are grounded in pre-existent loyalties, whether to personal mentors and friends or to favored narratives of the course of American (or other) history.

Rick Shenkman - 8/28/2002

As with any site overhaul, there have been a few technical glitches. We're working to correct them. One glitch is that reader comments are not receiving the correct date stamp. We'll have this fixed in September.

Thomas Gunn - 8/26/2002


If Grapevine has any influence with the site owner, can you do anything about the date problem?

After reading the comments following the Bellesiles afair does Grapevine wish to reassess its opinion of what Emory might do?

Are we to be treated to a couple more months of waiting while Emory inquires some more over new and startling evidence that indicates 'Arming America' was just a big mistake?


Robert Thurston - 8/1/2002

The only problem with the quotation from Robert Conquest is that he is
wrong. Even in 1968, let alone 1990, he failed to use several whole
categories of materials that undermined his position. Particularly on his
estimates of the numbers arrested and executed under Stalin, much material
available when he wrote and after shows that his figures are much too
high. Many if not most specialists on Stalinism have left his figures far

Robert W. Thurston
Professor of History
Miami University
Oxford, Ohio 45056

Jim Williams - 8/1/2002

To claim Alexander "didn't like men" is inaccurate. Alexander's most intense relationship was probably the one with Hephaestion, possibly initiated as a pederastic relationship when Alexander was a youth and Hephaestion a young adult. The eunuch Bagoas, captured from the court of Darius III, apparently ran a distant second to Hephaestion in Alexander's affections. Perhaps the relationship with Bagoas qualifies as pederastic, but we do not know its extent. On Bagoas, see Ernst Badian, "The Eunuch Bagoas", Classical Quarterly (new Series) 8 (1958) pp. 144-57, and "Harpalus", Journal of Hellenic Studies 81 (1961) pp 16-43.

For historical novels of Alexander with sound historical background, see Mary Renault's The Persian Boy and Fire from Heaven. See also John O'Brien's Alexander the Great: The Invisible Enemy on Alexander's alcoholism. A.B. Bosworth, Conquest and Empire: The Reign of Alexander the Great, offers the best short historical treatment.

One hopes that screenwriters these movies will use good historical advisors. Alexander was an extremely complex person.

Al Magary - 8/1/2002

Re your item on "ALEXANDER HAMILTON, R.I.P.," which moaned, "Isn't it odd that the only person who has stepped forward to champion Alexander Hamilton is associated with a university located in Sweden? Is there nobody in America who reveres Hamilton enough to lead this effort from American soil?"

It gets worse than that. The movement pushing to honor Ronald Reagan with placenames in every county also wants to put his face on the $10 bill, bumping poor Alex.

Al Magary - 8/1/2002

Re your item on Alexander Hamilton,

Asaf Golan - 6/2/2002

As someone who has researched the life of Alexander the Great I can concure that Alexander the Great was in fact homosexual. For evidence we must go to the anciet sources that tell us how Alexander's mother begged her son to take notice of a woman provided for his heterosexual needs. But as an interesting note Greek homosexuality looked down at sodomy as a perversion. Ironic no?

Comment - 3/12/2002

Alexander the Great did not like men. Like most
Greeks of his time Alexander liked youths--teenagers
to use an ahistorical term. This is an uncomfortable
fact for many people. Those who don't approve of
homosexuality but like the idea of the Greeks as the
ur-Western Civilizers have to deal with the fact that
their heroes wrote loving poems to lads and ladies
alike. Those who wish to claim the Greeks as noble
gay ancestors often don't like the fact that the
homosexuality practiced by the Greeks is the one form
of homosexuality (intergenerational) that moderns find
truly distasteful. Many a tolerant straight liberal
supports "gay marriage" but not many will approve of
their teenage sons being one of the grooms.

One more note: Given Mel Gibson's past homophobic
statements I doubt that Alexander's full humanity will
be treated with objective interest.

Terence Kissack

ps: I read you gals/guys all the time.

Stanley Kutler - 10/30/2001

Note from the editor: We received the following letter from historian Stanley Kutler:

Your recent issue of HISTORY GRAPEVINE ran a reprint of a NEW YORK TIMES account of John Dean's new book, THE REHNQUIST CHOICE. Adam Clymer's original story apparently provided much fuller and more accurate information. The article you published is meaningless and to offer it to your readers was an inadvertent disservice. First, I must note that John Dean dedicated his book to me (and his wife). Reading his acknowledgements, I assume that it was a gesture to thank me for my successful lawsuit against the National Archives and Richard Nixon to liberate the Nixon Tapes. I am immensely grateful; indeed, it is a source of ongoing pleasure to see how the growing number of Nixon books have used this material.

Dean's book is of signal importance for two reasons. 1) It is a model for utilizing the unique, incredible material in the Nixon Archives, including sources other than the tapes. To date, no one has used it more skillfully, and with such substantial results, as has Dean. 2) Methodology aside, no work ever has revealed more about the process for appointing Supreme Court nominees. This subject has attracted quite a scholarly enterprise through the years -- done some myself -- and with very good results. But nothing compares to Dean's work.

The account you re-printed dwelt on the fashionable question of whether Nixon would have appointed a woman. Frankly, I am not entirely sure of the answer. He may have been serious; he may have been anxious to please his wife; or he conducted a charade. Being Nixon, all were possible. He and his staff could come up with the name of only one woman? And a relatively obscure state appellate judge in California? A nominal Democrat? As Dean notes, the Lillie fiasco was front-page news while the Administration (including John Dean) vetted the nomination. In any event, this is only a very brief inquiry on Dean's part; indeed, his work is substantially more.

Dean focuses on the President's month-long search for replacements for Justices Hugo Black and John Marshall Harlan. Never have we had so much insight into a President's thought processes -- his calculations and miscalculations, his false starts and his deft maneuverings. We witness his dealings regarding Herschel Friday and Mildred Lillie. He offered Howard Baker a seat on the Court, and then managed to withdraw it. (Think of the consequences of a Baker nomination!) We learn how he persuaded Lewis Powell to accept a nomination, and we hear Powell himself. Finally, there is the incredible tale of the emergence of William Rehnquist (a.k.a,, "that clown, Renchberg"), certainly a matter for all of us to ponder. Was his rise an accident? The result of inertia? Or the work of some well-placed White House insiders? Did Rehnquist lie about previous controversial actions in his career?

Read the book. It is fraught with consequences, answers, and meaning for our recent history.

Stanley I. Kutler

staff - 10/29/2001

Note from the editor: We received the following letter from historian Stanley Kutler:

Your recent issue of HISTORY GRAPEVINE ran a reprint of a NEW YORK TIMES account of John Dean's new book, THE REHNQUIST CHOICE. Adam Clymer's original story apparently provided much fuller and more accurate information. The article you published is meaningless and to offer it to your readers was an inadvertent disservice. First, I must note that John Dean dedicated his book to me (and his wife). Reading his acknowledgements, I assume that it was a gesture to thank me for my successful lawsuit against the National Archives and Richard Nixon to liberate the Nixon Tapes. I am immensely grateful; indeed, it is a source of ongoing pleasure to see how the growing number of Nixon books have used this material.

Dean's book is of signal importance for two reasons. 1) It is a model for utilizing the unique, incredible material in the Nixon Archives, including sources other than the tapes. To date, no one has used it more skillfully, and with such substantial results, as has Dean. 2) Methodology aside, no work ever has revealed more about the process for appointing Supreme Court nominees. This subject has attracted quite a scholarly enterprise through the years -- done some myself -- and with very good results. But nothing compares to Dean's work.

The account you re-printed dwelt on the fashionable question of whether Nixon would have appointed a woman. Frankly, I am not entirely sure of the answer. He may have been serious; he may have been anxious to please his wife; or he conducted a charade. Being Nixon, all were possible. He and his staff could come up with the name of only one woman? And a relatively obscure state appellate judge in California? A nominal Democrat? As Dean notes, the Lillie fiasco was front-page news while the Administration (including John Dean) vetted the nomination. In any event, this is only a very brief inquiry on Dean's part; indeed, his work is substantially more.

Dean focuses on the President's month-long search for replacements for Justices Hugo Black and John Marshall Harlan. Never have we had so much insight into a President's thought processes -- his calculations and miscalculations, his false starts and his deft maneuverings. We witness his dealings regarding Herschel Friday and Mildred Lillie. He offered Howard Baker a seat on the Court, and then managed to withdraw it. (Think of the consequences of a Baker nomination!) We learn how he persuaded Lewis Powell to accept a nomination, and we hear Powell himself. Finally, there is the incredible tale of the emergence of William Rehnquist (a.k.a,, "that clown, Renchberg"), certainly a matter for all of us to ponder. Was his rise an accident? The result of inertia? Or the work of some well-placed White House insiders? Did Rehnquist lie about previous controversial actions in his career?

Read the book. It is fraught with consequences, answers, and meaning for our recent history.

Stanley I. Kutler