History Buzz October 11, 2010: Medical Historian Susan Reverby Uncovers Guatemalan Syphilis Experiment

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor/Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. Her blog is History Musings

RELATED LINKS & ANNOUNCEMENTS

IN FOCUS:

HISTORY NEWS:

  • Simon Schama’s appointment as history tsar an insult, says Mary Beard: The appointment of historian and presenter Simon Schama as the Coalition Government’s new history tsar has been condemned as insincere and insulting by a leading academic. Simon Schama, the historian, will advise the Government to ensure that all pupils learn Britain’s ‘island story’ before leaving school. Prof Mary Beard, classics professor at Cambridge University, described the announcement as an example of Michael Gove, the education secretary, “playing to the populist gallery”. She described the idea that a celebrity could be “parachuted” in to solve problems as insulting to British teachers and as an insincere stunt to grab attention…. – Telegraph, UK, 10-8-10
  • Tony Platt: Nuremburg Laws now on display at the National Archives “symbolically important”: The laws signed by Adolf Hitler taking away the citizenship of German Jews before the Holocaust were placed on rare public display Wednesday at the National Archives. The Nuremberg Laws were turned over to the archives in August by The Huntington, a museum complex near Los Angeles where they were quietly deposited by Gen. George Patton at the end of World War II. The papers will be on display in a separate gallery from the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence through Oct. 18…. – AP (10-6-10)
  • Group of historians petition the National Park Service to restore Blair Mountain historic status: A group of distinguished historians, educators, and filmmakers has published an open letter to the Department of the Interior to protest the National Park Service’s decision to remove the Blair Mountain battlefield in Logan County, West Virginia, from the National Register of Historic Places…. – HNN Staff (10-6-10)
  • John C. Cutler, Tuskegee and Guatemalan Syphilis Doctor, in His Own Words: Many media outlets have noted that John C. Cutler, the late doctor who led the U.S. Public Health Service syphilis experiment on Guatemalan inmates and later participated in the Tuskegee experiment, defended the latter well into the 1990s, most famously for a 1993 PBS Nova documentary entitled The Deadly Deception.
    Cutler: The Tuskegee study has been grossly misunderstood and misrepresented this way. And the fact was that it was concern for the black community, trying to set the stage for the best public health approach possible and the best therapy, that led to the study being carried out….
    We were dealing with a very important study that was going to have the long-term results of which were actually to improve the quality of care for the black community so that these individuals were actually contributing to the work towards the improvement of the health of the black community rather than simply serving as merely guinea pigs for the study. And of course I was bitterly opposed to killing off the study for obvious reasons…. – HNN Staff (10-3-10)
  • Guatemalan syphilis experiment: in the name of public health?: Of course everyone has heard by now the appalling discovery unearthed by Wellesley College professor, Susan Reverby on how the US Public Health Service (a medical branch of the US government) conducted clearly unethical and dangerous syphilis experiments in Guatemala in the mid-40s…. – Examiner.com (10-2-10)
  • Wellesley’s Susan Reverby Unearths Government Research: Digging in the archives at the University of Pittsburgh, Wellesley College medical historian Susan M. Reverby knew what she found was important enough to keep it *out* of the book she was writing on the history and myths surrounding the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Study. She did not expect what she finally wrote up to make it to the White House, through the State Department and to Guatemala…. – News Blaze (10-2-10)
  • U.S. Apologizes for Syphilis Tests in Guatemala: From 1946 to 1948, American public health doctors deliberately infected nearly 700 Guatemalans — prison inmates, mental patients and soldiers — with venereal diseases in what was meant as an effort to test the effectiveness of penicillin… – NYT (10-1-10)
  • Son of Dead Sea Scrolls Expert Is Convicted: The son of a prominent professor at the University of Chicago was convicted on Thursday of impersonating a New York University professor and other scholars who disagreed with his father’s theories on the origin of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Jurors took half a day to find the son, Raphael Haim Golb, a 50-year-old real estate lawyer, guilty on 30 of 31 counts, including identity theft, criminal impersonation and aggravated harassment…. – NYT (10-1-10)

OP-EDs:

  • Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom: Liu Xiaobo: His Writings, His Life, His Win: I’ve never met Liu Xiaobo. I only know him through his powerful writings—and through watching compelling interviews with him, most notably in the prize-winning documentary The Gate of Heavenly Peace, a film about the 1989 protests. The film spawned a wide-ranging website that includes a section on the movie’s main characters—a very good first destination for anyone trying to get up to speed on the past activities and recent trials of the latest Nobel Peace Prize winner…. – Dissent (10-8-10)
  • Timothy Snyder: Why Laptops in Class are Distracting America’s Future Workforce: As these first few weeks of the college semester begin, professors look out expectantly into grand lecture halls, where they see, rather than faces of students, the backs of open laptops. The students, for their part, are looking intently at the laptop screens. What are they doing as they stare forward with such apparent focus?…. – CS Monitor (10-7-10)

REVIEWS & FIRST CHAPTERS:

  • Alan Brinkley: Anatomy of an Uprising: GIVE US LIBERTY A Tea Party Manifesto By Dick Armey and Matt Kibbe, BOILING MAD Inside Tea Party America, By Kate Zernike THE WHITES OF THEIR EYES The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle Over American History By Jill Lepore
    Jill Lepore, a historian of the American Revolution and a staff writer at The New Yorker, has written a brief but valuable book, “The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle Over American History,” which combines her own interviews with Tea Partiers (mostly from her home state, Massachusetts) and her deep knowledge of the founders and of their view of the Constitution. The architects of the Constitution, she makes clear, did not agree about what it meant. Nor did they believe that the Constitution would or should be the final word on the character of the nation and the government. It was the product of much compromise, and few were satisfied with all its parts…. – NYT, 10-8-10
  • Bill Bryson: If Walls Could Talk: AT HOME A Short History of Private Life Many adults have a fantasy that if they could go back to college — now that the desire to party, drink and sleep around has faded to a burnished memory — they’d get so much more out of it. The publishing industry often reflects this wish. Every season brings offerings that are right at home on anyone’s continuing-ed syllabus: innovative, original ways to study world history through lenses trained on the minutiae of salt or cod, earthworms or spices, tea or telephones. Now, finally, for those of us who wrestled with Rocks for Jocks, pined amid Physics for Poets and schlepped through college on 101s of any and every subject — the beloved survey courses — here’s that most popular professor, Bill Bryson, with a fascinating new book, “At Home: A Short History of Private Life.” NYT, 10-8-10
  • When the City Defined Who’s Who: ETHAN MORDDEN mulled titling his latest social and cultural history “From Mrs. Astor to Truman Capote, or the Rise of New Yorkism in American Life.” Instead, he settled on a more generic (and inviting) title with a more specific subtitle: “The Guest List: How Manhattan Defined American Sophistication — From the Algonquin Round Table to Truman Capote’s Ball” (St. Martin’s Press, $29.99)…. – NYT, 10-8-10
  • Tony Blair: The Convert: A JOURNEY My Political Life The years since the end of the cold war divide into two very different ages. The first, the 1990s, was dominated by the rise of free markets and free trade across the globe. The second, since 9/11, has been defined by terrorism, counterterrorism, war and Islamic radicalism. Bill Clinton is the symbol of the first decade and George W. Bush of the second. Tony Blair is the only major political figure to span both eras, beginning his political life in the corridors of Davos and ending it in the mud flats of Basra. He tells both tales in his engrossing memoir, “A Journey,” but they never fuse into one larger story…. – NYT, 10-8-10
  • Robert G. Kaiser: Book review: ‘Magic and Mayhem: The Delusions of American Foreign Policy From Korea to Afghanistan’ by Derek Leebaert: How refreshing to read a smart, polemical book that is deliciously rude to many grand poohbahs of our time while making good sense about the mess the United States now finds itself in across the globe. On these grounds alone Derek Leebaert deserves our gratitude. But with “Magic and Mayhem,” he performs a greater service by ringing a persuasive alarm bell about the dangers inherent in our repeated attempts to put things right in countries we don’t really understand and cannot control, from Korea six decades ago to Afghanistan right now. And he does it without any of the ideological tendentiousness so typical of our public debate these days…. – WaPO, 10-8-10
  • Lawrence Jackson: Book Review: Eugene Robinson’s ‘Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America’: Eugene Robinson’s new book, “Disintegration,” opens with an account of a Washington dinner party dripping with influential Americans whom the reader can only assume are white. But these kingmakers, gathering shortly after the election of Barack Obama, turn out to be black…. – WaPo, 10-8-10
  • In Bob Woodward’s ‘Obama’s Wars,’ Neil Sheehan sees parallels to Vietnam: In another of his superbly reported insider accounts, “Obama’s Wars,” Bob Woodward recounts how a new president may well have embroiled himself in a war that could poison his presidency — just as his predecessor, George W. Bush, destroyed his with a foolhardy war in Iraq and Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon were ruined by the war in Vietnam. The grim mountains and deserts of Afghanistan are a boneyard of invading foreign armies. The British rulers of colonial India sent an Anglo-Indian army into Afghanistan in 1839 to establish it as a buffer state against the advances of imperial Russia in Central Asia. The enterprise faltered against Afghan resistance, and the main garrison at Kabul — about 4,500 troops and 12,000 family members and camp followers — decided to retreat back to India in January 1842. Afghan tribesmen fell upon them in the snows of the mountain passes and slaughtered them without pity. Only one man, a doctor named William Brydon, reached safety. A few others were spared as prisoners and subsequently rescued…. – WaPo, 10-3-10
  • Nicholas Phillipson: The Wealth of an Intellect: Adam Smith: An Enlightened Life Against this backdrop, it comes as something of a surprise to discover “Adam Smith: An Enlightened Life” by Nicholas Phillipson (Yale, $32.50). Mr. Phillipson, an honorary fellow in history at the University of Edinburgh, has written an unabashedly intellectual biography in which Smith’s economics thinking is only part — at times, a smallish part — of a larger, inherently philosophical story…. – NYT, 10-2-10
  • Andrew Cayton Reviews Ron Chernow: Learning to Be Washington: WASHINGTON A Life Today, books about Washington continue to appear at such an astonishing rate that the publication of Ron Chernow’s prompts the inevitable question: Why another one? An obvious answer is that Chernow is no ordinary writer. Like his popular biographies of John D. Rockefeller and Alexander Hamilton, his “Washington” while long, is vivid and well paced. If Chernow’s sense of historical context is sometimes superficial, his understanding of psychology is acute and his portraits of individuals memorable. Most readers will finish this book feeling as if they have actually spent time with human beings. Given Chernow’s considerable literary talent and the continued hunger of some Americans for a steady diet of tales of Washington and his exploits, what publisher could resist the prospect of adding “Washington: A Life” to its list?…. – NYT, 9-30-10Excerpt
  • Ron Chernow: Dusting Off an Elusive President’s Dull Image: WASHINGTON A Life When George Washington was sworn in as the first president of the United States, he had only one original tooth left. It was “a lonely lower left bicuspid,” according to Ron Chernow’s vast and tenaciously researched new biography. But Mr. Chernow was not content merely to write about the tooth and its larger implications, which range from questions about Washington’s apparent reticence in later life (did his dental troubles keep him from speaking?) to his harshly pragmatic attitude toward slavery (he purchased slaves’ teeth, perhaps for use in dentures). Mr. Chernow also paid a personal visit to the tooth at the medical library where it is stored…. – NYT, 9-28-10
  • CAROLINE ELKINS reviewing Ingrid Betancourt: Deliverance: EVEN SILENCE HAS AN END My Six Years of Captivity in the Colombian Jungle In her gripping memoir, “Even Silence Has an End,” Betancourt captures the despondency wrought by Fat Martha’s pronouncement with a blend of power and self-awareness that inscribes not just this one disturbing moment but her account’s every page. “Like Alice in Wonderland, I was falling, falling into a bottomless well,” she writes. “This was my black hole. I was being sucked down, dragged down into the bowels of the earth. I was alive only so that I could witness myself dying.”… – NYT, 9-30-10
  • David S. Reynolds Reviews Eric Foner: Learning to Be Lincoln: THE FIERY TRIAL Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery Do we need yet another book on Lincoln, especially in the wake of all the Lincoln volumes that appeared last year in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of his birth? Well, yes, we do — if the book is by so richly informed a commentator as Eric Foner, the DeWitt Clinton professor of history at Columbia. Foner tackles what would seem to be an obvious topic, Lincoln and slavery, and manages to cast new light on it…. – NYT, 9-30-10

FEATURES:

  • Scholar uses Berkshires for black history project: Mississippi-born Frances Jones-Sneed moved to western Massachusetts feeling like a foreigner in the snowy hamlets of the Berkshire Mountains. She and her husband, who had taken a teaching job there, were one of the area’s few black families.
    Then Jones-Sneed was hired as a history professor at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams. There, she stumbled upon lost figures of the area’s rich black history.
    With the help of students, she found a slave who sued for freedom, a late 19th-century baseball player who later ended up in the Baseball Hall of Fame, and a Civil War chaplain who challenged Lincoln over discrimination against black soldiers…. – Boston Herald, 10-5-10

PROFILES:

  • Janet Stone: Retired professor pens history of AASU: Janet Stone, Armstrong professor of history emerita and university historian, has published “From the Mansion to the University: A History of Armstrong Atlantic State University 1935-2010.” The 400-page hardcover book was researched over several years and includes material starting with the founding of the college in 1935 to the day that current president Linda M. Bleicken took office in July 1. Illustrated with images of Armstrong across the decades, the book includes 13 chapters and an epilogue…. – Savannah Now, 9-28-10

QUOTES:

  • Gil Troy: Israel: A Belly-Dance Video and the Specter of Delegitimization But other reasons are not so concrete. They are in the air, says McGill University history professor Gil Troy, wafting on currents detectable to the antennas that Jews have developed over thousands of years of living with anti-Semitism.
    “Israel is the only country whose very existence is still being debated,” he says. Troy believes Israel is “the only country that still seems to be on probation.” Consider Pakistan, also founded in 1948: when its chief nuclear scientist sells the bomb to rogue states, as A.Q. Khan did more than once, “people don’t jump from criticizing that action to questioning why Pakistan was created in the first place,” Troy says.
    The need to nurture U.S. support against Iran was only one reason Netanyahu came around to the Obama Administration’s bid for talks, says Troy. “The second is this question of delegitimization.” And though not all criticism of Israel amounts to opposition to its existence, he says, some people “use these Facebook incidents, they use aberrations, they use the flotilla to say, ‘Aha. It’s no good. We should end it.’” It meaning Israel, where the middle-aged recall being taught as schoolchildren to chant, “The whole world is against us,” with a brave defiance that comes less easily to adults. – Time, 10-8-10
  • Why is This GOP House Candidate Dressed as a Nazi?: Historians of Nazi Germany vehemently dispute this characterization. “These guys don’t know their history,” said Charles W. Sydnor, Jr., a retired history professor and author of “Soldiers of Destruction: The SS Death’s Head Division, 1933-45,” which chronicles an SS division. “They have a sanitized, romanticized view of what occurred.” Sydnor added that re-enactments like the Wiking group’s are illegal in Germany and Austria. “If you were to put on an SS uniform in Germany today, you’d be arrested.”
    Christopher Browning, a professor of history at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, said, “It is so unhistorical and so apologetic that you don’t know to what degree they’ve simply caught up innocent war memorabilia enthusiasts who love putting on uniforms.”… – The Atlantic, 10-8-10
  • As Games Begin, India Hopes to Save Its Pride: “You see the mismanagement all around,” said Jaya Kakkar, a professor of history at the Shyam Lal College of Delhi University. “There is no accountability. Every day they say all is well, but all is not well. We are paying for all this, and this is what we are getting? These games have become a national shame.”… NYT (10-2-10)
  • A History Professor Responds To Our Posts About Texas Textbooks: I greatly enjoyed reading your work exposing the craziness surrounding the Fox promotion of the Christian/Islam fake controversy surrounding Texas textbooks. As a history professor I constantly struggle with the fact that historians are the only professionals that are told by others, untrained in the profession, how they should teach or study their craft. The obvious fact is that the board members… in Texas like (State Board of Ed member Cynthia) Dunbar, simply don’t like the fact that Muslims are mentioned in a favorable light. Any serious historian knows that there is no bias in history books that emphasize Muslims. In my experience the bias is the other way. Most students that I teach here have no clue about the contributions Muslims have made to knowledge, science, history, or culture. It is my hope that by exposing this drivel we can begin to work towards a day when the Texas State Board of Education is an appointed group of experts trained in their field instead of a bunch of elected idiots whose knowledge of history doesn’t go much further than the average lay person. We do a disservice to our students by holding their curriculum hostage to electoral politics. Keep up the great work! – Fox, 9-27-10

INTERVIEWS:

  • Jon Wiener: Uncovering The ‘Truth’ Behind Lennon’s FBI Files: Oct. 9, 2010 would have been John Lennon’s 70th birthday. Fresh Air remembers the legendary musician with excerpts from interviews conducted with people who knew him, and people who studied his life. This discussion with Jon Wiener was originally broadcast on Jan. 25, 2000… – NPR, 10-8-10
  • A Lesson In Firefighting History: Robert Siegel speaks with Mark Tebeau, an urban historian at Cleveland State University, about the history of fire marks in the United States. Fire marks indicated whether a homeowner was insured for fire protection. Tebeau is also the author of Eating Smoke: Fire in Urban America…. – NPR, 10-8-10
  • Professor to interview former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education: Timothy Slekar, professor of education and head of the Division of Education, Human Development, and Social Sciences at Penn State Altoona, will conduct a radio interview with former United States Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch on Tuesday, October 12, 2010 at 11 a.m. on WRTA 1240 AM in the Altoona area. Ravitch is an education historian, an education policy analyst and currently serves as a research professor in New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. The interview will be streamed on the Web at http://socialstreamingplayer.crystalmedianetworks.com/radio/wrta?from=external online. – Penn State Altoona, 10-8-10

AWARDS &APPOINTMENTS:

  • Retired UCR professor to be honored by Queen Elizabeth II: Henry Snyder, UC Riverside professor of history emeritus, will be presented with the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire medal Oct. 16 in Los Angeles…. – Southwest Riverside News Network, 10-9-10
  • Historian Gordon-Reed Named MacArthur Foundation ‘Genius Grant’ Recipient: Acclaimed historian and law professor Annette Gordon-Reed is among 23 winners of 2010 MacArthur fellowships: Acclaimed historian and law professor Annette Gordon-Reed is among 23 winners of MacArthur fellowships, announced Monday by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Winners collect $500,000 in grants that are paid out over five years. Gordon-Reed, the winner of a Pulitzer Prize for “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family,” holds professorships in law and history at Harvard University. Gordon-Reed’s writings have been credited with reshaping conceptions of colonial and early-American interracial relations through the examination of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, the slave who had children Jefferson is alleged to have fathered.
    The MacArthur Foundation website entry for Gordon-Reed says that, by “disentangling the complicated history of two distinct founding families’ interracial bloodlines,” the historian has been “shaping and enriching American history with an authentic portrayal of our colonial past.” – Diverse Education, 9-28-10

SPOTTED:

  • John Brewer: British historian discusses countrymen’s love of art and travel: John Brewer, professor of literature and history at the California Institute of Technology, delivered his lecture “From Grand Tour to Tourism?: Neo-classicism, Modern Sentiment and the Business of Travel in the Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries” in Rapaporte Treasure Hall Tuesday, offering students a trip through Europe and through time. Brewer spoke of the “Grand Tour” in great depth: Young aristocratic men in 18th century Britain made this voyage, often accompanied by their tutors. It was a rite of passage before these men became landlords or husbands and had to fulfill more serious duties…. – The Brandeis Shoot, 10-8-10
  • Historian, professor Woody Holton lectures on Abigail Adams: Abigail Adams was not just a First Lady, but was also an early feminist, learned audience members at Woody Holton’s lecture on Sunday afternoon. The lecture, which took place in the Brown-Alley room, was sponsored by the Friends of Boatwright Memorial Library in honor of “Abigail Adams,” the new book by the historian and associate professor of history and American studies. Holton told the audience of about 50 people that he had a very canned lecture prepared, which he had already given about 60 times, and so was going to speak about something different, which was Abigail’s relationship with the other women in her life…. – The Collegian — University of Richmond, 10-6-10

ANNOUNCEMENTS & EVENTS CALENDAR:

  • THE NEW-YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY MAKES ITS MOST IMPORTANT COLLECTIONS RELATING TO SLAVERY AVAILABLE ONLINE: Rich trove of material becomes easily accessible at www.nyhistory.org/slaverycollection The New-York Historical Society is proud to announce the launch of a new online portal to nearly 12,000 pages of source materials documenting the history of slavery in the United States, the Atlantic slave trade and the abolitionist movement. Made readily accessible to the general public for the first time at www.nyhistory.org/slaverycollections, these documents from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries represent fourteen of the most important collections in the library’s Manuscript Department….
  • Understanding the Iran-Contra Affairs,” is the only comprehensive website on the famous Reagan-era government scandal, which stemmed from the U.S. government’s policies toward two seemingly unrelated countries, Nicaragua and Iran. Despite stated and repeated denials to Congress and to the public, Reagan Administration officials supported the militant contra rebels in Nicaragua and sold arms to a hostile Iranian government. These events have led to questions about the appropriateness of covert operations, congressional oversight, and even the presidential power to pardon…. – irancontra.org
  • Tony Platt: Nuremburg Laws now on display at the National Archives “symbolically important”: The laws signed by Adolf Hitler taking away the citizenship of German Jews before the Holocaust were placed on rare public display Wednesday at the National Archives. The Nuremberg Laws were turned over to the archives in August by The Huntington, a museum complex near Los Angeles where they were quietly deposited by Gen. George Patton at the end of World War II. The papers will be on display in a separate gallery from the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence through Oct. 18…. – AP (10-6-10)
  • Thousands of Studs Terkel interviews going online: The Library of Congress will digitize the Studs Terkel Oral History Archive, according to the agreement, while the museum will retain ownership of the roughly 5,500 interviews in the archive and the copyrights to the content. Project officials expect digitizing the collection to take more than two years…. – NYT, 5-13-10
  • Digital Southern Historical Collection: The 41,626 scans reproduce diaries, letters, business records, and photographs that provide a window into the lives of Americans in the South from the 18th through mid-20th centuries.

ON TV:

BEST SELLERS (NYT):

BOOKS COMING SOON:

  • Ron Chernow: Washington: A Life, (Hardcover), October 5, 2010
  • George William Van Cleve: A Slaveholders’ Union: Slavery, Politics, and the Constitution in the Early American Republic, (Hardcover), October 1, 2010.
  • John Keegan: The American Civil War: A Military History, (Paperback), October 5, 2010
  • Bill Bryson: At Home: A Short History of Private Life, (Hardcover), October 5, 2010
  • Robert M. Poole: On Hallowed Ground: The Story of Arlington National Cemetery, (Paperback), October 26, 2010
  • Robert Leckie: Challenge for the Pacific: Guadalcanal: The Turning Point of the War, (Paperback), October 26, 2010
  • Manning Marable: Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, (Hardcover), November 9, 2010
  • Elizabeth White: The Socialist Alternative to Bolshevik Russia: The Socialist Revolutionary Party, 1917-39, (Hardcover), November 10, 2010
  • Elizabeth White: The Socialist Alternative to Bolshevik Russia: The Socialist Revolutionary Party, 1917-39, (Hardcover), November 10, 2010
  • G. J. Barker-Benfield: Abigail and John Adams: The Americanization of Sensibility, (Hardcover), November 15, 2010
  • Edmund Morris: Colonel Roosevelt, (Hardcover), November 23, 2010
  • Michael Goldfarb: Emancipation: How Liberating Europe’s Jews from the Ghetto Led to Revolution and Renaissance, (Paperback), November 23, 2010

DEPARTED:

  • Former history professor Rhys Isaac dead at 72: Rhys Isaac, former Distinguished Visiting Professor of Early American History at the College, has died of cancer. He was 72. Isaac, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1983 for his book “The Transformation of Virginia, 1740 -1790,” enjoyed an exemplary career in teaching and research, most especially in his scholarship on Colonial North America. He remains the only Australian historian ever to win a Pulitzer…. – William and Mary News, 10-7-10
  • Moshe Lewin, scholar of the Soviet Union, dies at 88: Moshe “Misha” Lewin, professor emeritus of history, died August 14, in Paris, France. He was 88 years old. Dr. Lewin was born in Wilno, Poland in 1921 to ethnic Jewish parents who died in the Holocaust. He moved to the Soviet Union in 1941 ahead of the invading Nazis and enlisted in the Soviet army in 1943. He received his BA from Tel Aviv University, Israel in 1961. That same year he received a research scholarship to study at the Sorbonne in Paris, where he earned a PhD in 1964. He served for one year as director of study at L’École des hautes études in Paris, before becoming a senior fellow at Columbia University in New York City. Prior to his arrival at Penn in 1978, Dr. Lewin was a research professor for 10 years at Birmingham University in England. As a professor of history at Penn, Dr. Lewin was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship in 1995. He retired and was accorded emeritus status that same year…. – UPenn Almanac (10-5-10)

Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman: Interviewed on C-SPAN

HISTORY ARTICLES

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HNN, 6-28-05

Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman: Interviewed on C-SPAN

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an Assistant Editor at HNN.

Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman said on C-Span’s “Q&A” that they welcomed the recent press coverage concerning the liberal accusation that as Republicans they are pushing forth a conservative ideological agenda through their involvement with the New-York Historical Society, and specifically, last fall’s Alexander Hamilton exhibit. “Frankly, I didn’t mind any of the publicity, because the New-York Historical Society has been sort of a back number” was Gilder’s comment. “You know,” he continued, “it’s right next to the American Museum of Natural History, that has millions of visitors a year. I’m a trustee there too, so I know the numbers.” Later on he added: “You want to come at it and say, ‘Well, ours is a great story of communism,’ fine. As Arthur Schlesinger [a member of their advisory board] said, the only way you can overcome a bad idea is with a good idea. So, we’ll have lots more controversy, discussion. We’ll bet on the great American story.” In an interview on June 26, 2005 on the C-Span program “Q&A,” hosted by Brian Lamb, Gilder and Lehrman, the co-founders of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, discussed topics ranging from their first meeting, to the founding of the institute in New York in 1994, and its various programs that promote the study of American History. Gilder dominated the interview. Despite recent controversy the interview however, was rather tame, friendly, and nostalgic.

Highlights of the interview included their personal anecdotes about their meeting, reminisces of studying at Yale, and their family backgrounds. Gilder and Lehrman were perhaps most comfortable and relaxed discussing these issues, and enjoyed especially reminiscing about Yale. Gilder described their meeting as eventually leading to “the beginning of just a great friendship.” Lehrman emphasized his patriotic roots “And I can tell a story about my grandfather that I think is – tells the kind of background I – that I did come from – a patriotic, unselfconscious, unapologetic American commitment…. I was thinking of making a European trip to see all about European culture. My grandfather was scandalized. What would you ever want to do going to Europe? I mean, everything is here in America. This is the new Jerusalem. This is a place that has everything that you need and everything that you can see.” While Gilder spoke fondly of Yale “I was just brought up by my father to love Yale. I mean, he never said a word – that I had to apply or should apply. But, you know, in class of ’25, he was a bit of an outsider, being a Jewish guy, in those days. Although there were still good number, but nothing like as many as when I was there – maybe eight percent, nine, percent when I was there. But he loved the place.”

Gilder, who comes from a Jewish family that emigrated to the U.S. in the 1830s, bears more of the financial burden of the institute. Lehrman, whose family were East European Jewish immigrants who arrived in the 1880s, apparently takes a more active role in designing the institute’s strategy. In a friendly way they poked fun at their ancestral differences. Lehrman chided Gilder that ” unlike Dick’s well-heeled Bohemian immigrants, mine were penniless.” Gilder retorted that ” I was a legacy [at Yale] …. Lew had to work to get in.”

When Lamb asked about the controversial Alexander Hamilton exhibit, he was direct without being aggressive: “The criticism that I read, that you two wanted to engineer a – the Hamilton exhibit for purposes to further your own political beliefs because Hamilton represents you more, say, than some of the other people in history. Start with that. What’s your reaction when you read that criticism?” Responding, Gilder and Lehrman, apparently a little uncomfortable, frequently began using hand motions while speaking. Lehrman avoided Lamb’s initial question by just discussing Hamilton’s important place in history and Gilder justified their decision: “we believe that, first, the New-York Historical Society, being established in 1804, Alexander Hamilton having been killed in a duel in 1804, and the New -York Historical Society inaugurating its 200th anniversary, it was perfect.”

Lamb then questioned, “Why is it that college professors are allowed to say and write anything they want to about history, but when somebody like you gets into it, there’s automatic criticism for your particular views?” Gilder said, “I can’t answer the question, because it’s a tough – I hate any tough questions, you know that.” In response to a question about the institute’s alleged rightward bias, Gilder pointed out that the advisory board included “lots of folks on all sides of the political spectrum, probably more left than right.” And Lehrman clarified that if scholars funded by the institute have “a point of view which is different from mine or different from Dick’s, as David Brion Davis, the historian and professor of history said, ‘Not a single person in the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History programs has ever received either a direct or an indirect influence from either of us.’ “

The remaining portion of the C-Span interview discussed the various programs at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, basic information about the institute, the collection, endowments, especially educational initiatives such as their history high school and American History Teaching programs. The interview focused on the institute’s budget, and the awards and prizes, including the history of the Lincoln Prize based at Gettysburg College, the Douglass prize and the newly inaugurated Washington Prize.

Lamb, wanting to liven up the interview, asked about the possibility of dissidents in the institute’s programs, specifically the history high school initiative: “But do you run into the possibility that a teacher says, out in a high school, ‘I don’t need Gilder Lehrman to tell me how to teach history?’ ” Lehrman responded, “I think I have received two or three letters in the entire history of our programs where there have been objections to the way that we’ve gone about it.”

Lamb returned several times to the Hamilton controversy, hoping to coax more opinions from his interviewees. Both Gilder and Lehrman, however, remained cool and focused on what they viewed as the important issues: the institute and its accomplishments in promoting American history. Lamb at ont point asked if there was some connection between the fact that Ron Chernow, the admiring biographer of Hamilton, won “your new Washington Prize from Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland, $50,000.” “What would you both say to the cynics watching saying, “Well of course these two guys would like Alexander Hamilton or Henry Clay or Abraham Lincoln because they both have really done very well in this system and they’re able, now, just to push through history their basic thoughts of it.” Lehrman coolly responded, that “they set the example for us. I mean, Lincoln, in – he sets the example for us.”

In the concluding remarks of a rather uncontroversial interview Lamb wanted Gilder and Lehrman to point out the favorite aspects of their work. For Lehrman it was purely academic; “whenever I teach the subject, for example, the Hamiltonian-Jeffersonian conflicts of the 1790s, General Washington’s – President Washington’s first presidency – whenever I’m teaching the subject, I find it inspiring.” While for Gilder it was the business aspect; “Well, right now, I’m wildly excited about the combination of the Gilder and Lehrman Institute and the New-York Historical Society. We have two different missions, but both focused on history. And Lew and I are working now, very hard, on the Historical Society, because Jim and Lesley and our team at GLI have done such a dandy job. There our job is to get out of the way, whereas here, our job is to get in the way. I like to get in the way.”

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