October 2009 Buzz Roundup: Taylor Branch’s The Clinton Tapes, Niall Ferguson & the Economy




  • Scholars comment on Taylor Branch’s work: The second forum in this issue looks back upon a notable achievement in the writing of recent American history, America during the King Years, by Taylor Branch…. – AHA Blog–what’s in the October issue of the AHR (10-28-09)
  • AHR Forum: Truth and Reconciliation in History: The forum “Truth and Reconciliation in History” deals with a global experience that both calls history into question and calls upon the participation of historians. Especially since the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa in 1995, after the ending of apartheid, several nations and groups have attempted to confront and possibly come to terms with their fractious and traumatic pasts…. – AHA Blog–what’s in the October issue of the AHR (10-28-09)
  • Accusation: Secret tapes say more about Taylor Branch than Clinton: I stopped cold on page 263 of Taylor Branch’s “The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History with the President.” Try as I might, I haven’t been able to get past the revealing story the author tells about himself on that page. By now, everyone in political circles has heard about Branch’s book and the historical taping project this Pulitzer Prize-winning author and President Bill Clinton embarked upon in 1993. History will honor Clinton for caring enough about historiography that he allowed a professional to question him about events and policies during his presidency. Other presidential libraries are filled with oral histories undertaken years after an administration leaves office. And as valuable as they are, they lack the contemporaneous quality that only interviews given in the heat of governing and political battle can provide…. – The Buffalo News (10-11-09)
  • Bill Clinton’s Story, With a Few Pages Missing (book review): Jack Germond, for many years an insightful political reporter (and author of a memorable memoir, “Fat Man in a Middle Seat”), once expressed to me his regret that prominent elected officials were no longer willing to go out drinking with journalists. The words “off the record” had lost their meaning in post-Watergate Washington, Germond explained, and a politician could not take the chance of truly opening up with a reporter. As a result, journalists and, by extension, voters had less chance to really get to know the men and women in office…. – The Washington Post (10-4-09)


    On This Day in History….This Week in History….

  • Steven Mintz: 150 years after his death, abolitionist still a hero to some, lunatic to others: John Brown has spent 150 years locked in our national attic, the mad uncle no one wanted to acknowledge but over whose corpse soldiers would sing praises during the war he triggered….
    “Normal people don’t produce social change,” said Steven Mintz, a historian at Columbia University and an expert on pre-Civil War reformers. “Well-adjusted people who see trade-offs in life, they don’t make social change happen. It’s often people like Brown.”… – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (10-18-09)
  • James Loewen battles over the Christopher Columbus legacy: James Loewen said Christopher Columbus discovered America the way the speaker discovered oregano. The historian and author of the book, Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, came to the Stamp Student Union yesterday for a different sort of Columbus Day celebration. His lecture, titled “Columbus Didn’t Discover Us,” revolved around what Loewen sees as lies and misinformation ingrained in U.S. history textbooks. The event echoed sentiments of one side of an ongoing debate over the legacy of Christopher Columbus…. – Diamondback Online: The University of Maryland’s Independent Daily Student Newsletter (10-13-09)
  • 1937 – the year that gives economists nightmares: What is the year haunting economists; the one they fear politicians are about to repeat? Not 1929 – we’ve already had our great crash. Nor 1933 – all those bank rescues, interest-rate cuts and emergency spending have staved off a depression. No, the year economic historians are talking about is 1937, when Washington declared the crisis over, began cutting spending and raising interest rates – and pushed the still- fragile US economy into a severe relapse… – guardian.co.uk (10-6-09)


  • Diaspora Armenian scholars on the historical commision – Armenian Weekly (10-30-09)
  • South Korea and Japan consider history textbook with China: … “It is a leap that Japan started talking about this issue publicly,” said Yang Mi-gang, who worked on a privately published Korea-Japan-China history book available in each of the countries. The book, “History That Opens the Future,” was written by several dozen scholars from China, South Korea and Japan in 2005, and revised in 2006…. – LA Times (10-30-09)
  • AHA reports a surplus of $431,861 in the operational account – AHA Blog (10-5-09)
  • History vanishes from one in 20 English secondary schools: Official figures show that in 131 state schools, not a single pupil sat GCSE history last year… – Telegraph (UK) (10-27-09)
  • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Gives Major Gift to National Museum of African American History and Culture – Smithsonian (10-15-09)
  • British army ‘did not gas Iraqis in 1920s’ says historian – Source: inthenews.co.uk (10-22-09)
  • Frank Pearce: War historian celebrates 100 years (UK) – Herald Express (10-22-09)
  • Field Study: Just How Relevant Is Political Science? NYT (10-19-09)
  • Jack Bohrer: Historian questions secret RFK-LBJ Vietnam huddle: “But a secret meeting never happened. Not in Kennedy’s book. Not in real life,” Bohrer writes. “In fact, the meeting the late Sen. Kennedy refers to in his memoir has been well-known, practically since the moment it happened.” – boston.com (10-20-09)
  • Susanne Muhle: Historian at WWU researches kidnappings by East German secret police – JuraForum (10-16-09)
  • Mikhail Suprun: Russian historian arrested in clampdown on Stalin era: A Russian historian investigating the fate of Germans imprisoned in the Soviet Union during the second world war has been arrested, in the latest apparent clampdown on historical research into the Stalin era by the Russian authorities. Mikhail Suprun was detained last month by officers from Russia’s security services. They searched his apartment and carried off his entire personal archive. He has now been charged with violating privacy laws and, if convicted, faces up to four years in jail. guardian.co.uk (10-15-09)
  • Mark Young: Mad Men nails its history with help from UH: Writers from the ultrastylish AMC series called the University of Houston historian in February, looking for specifics on Conrad Hilton and his hotel chain, circa 1963. “They wanted to know, was Connie Hilton a milquetoast, or was he charismatic and gregarious,” said Young, who runs the Hospitality Industry Archives at UH’s Hilton College of Hotel & Restaurant Management…. – < Chron (Houston Chronicle) (10-2-09)


  • David Cesarani: history is too serious a matter to be left to comedians and politicians: We are going through another of those odd periods when corners of our daily newspapers look as if they are reporting things that happened over 65 years ago. There are rows over what the Latvians did or did not do in the second world war, arguments about why the German Luftwaffe bombed Coventry and, most recently, Stephen Fry has upset the Poles with a careless remark about Auschwitz. What all of these spats show is that history matters…. – guardian.co.uk (10-12-09)
  • Recession, You Look Familiar (book review of “This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly”) – NYT (10-3-09)


  • Roger Morris backs new book by Watergate revisionist Len Colodny in which Nixon comes off as a victim of neocons The Forty Years War: The Rise and Fall of Neocons, From Nixon to Obama Ryan Forman, HNN intern. (10-25-09)
  • Antony Beevor: Historian produces a new view of D-Day – thestar.com (10-20-09)


  • Joan Waugh: UCLA historian attempts to revive reputation of Union general, Reconstruction president: “What Grant accomplished with Lincoln was incredible,” said Waugh, author of “U.S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth,” which is slated for publication Nov. 15. “In 1860, 4 million people were enslaved. But by 1863, emancipation had occurred, and by 1870, all male former slaves had the vote. Grant oversaw a social revolution that was unprecedented.”… – EurekaAlert (10-26-09)
  • Deborah Harding: Research digs up history of ex-slave, educator, Willis Carter – newsleader.com (10-25-09)
  • Historians Reassess Battle of Agincourt: No one can ever take away the shocking victory by Henry and his “band of brothers,” as Shakespeare would famously call them, on St. Crispin’s Day, Oct. 25, 1415. They devastated a force of heavily armored French nobles who had gotten bogged down in the region’s sucking mud, riddled by thousands of arrows from English longbowmen and outmaneuvered by common soldiers with much lighter gear. It would become known as the Battle of Agincourt…. – NYT (10-24-09)
  • Amateur historian rescues D.C.’s Wikipedia page – The Washington Post (10-23-09)
  • Joseph Massad’s Warsaw Ghetto Complex: The October 2 death of Marek Edelman, the last surviving leader of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising against the Nazis, is for Columbia University’s Joseph Massad yet another opportunity to equate Israelis with Nazis…. – Campus Watch Blog (10-12-09)
  • Sessions on great historian William Appleman Williams: William Appleman Williams, arguably the most influential historian ever to walk the halls of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s once-great history department, will be remembered at two events in Madison this week. Panels of former students and activist scholars will mark the 50th anniversary publication of his groundbreaking historical critique of U.S. foreign policy, “The Tragedy of American Diplomacy.” They’ll examine the impact of his career-long work exposing an often-avoided central element of U.S. history: the unfaltering quest for empire. The Cap Times (10-7-09)


  • Rocco Landesman: NEA Chief compares Obama to Caesar, historians calls speach “bizarre”, Richard Brookhiser’s Comments: “Julius Caesar is historically the last person in the world that American presidents would want to be compared to,” said historian Richard Brookhiser, who has written widely on the Founding Fathers. “He tried to subvert the republic — that’s why he was killed.” “Caesar … was certainly the symbol during the whole founding period of the despot, of the aspiring despot,” said Brookhiser. “The Founders insulted each other by calling each other Caesar.” – Fox News (10-28-09)
  • Jonathan Sarna: Web helps U.S. Jews lose that loving feeling, says historian: “Sasson maintains that what we have today is not as much tension between American Jewry and Israel, but American Jews reflecting some of the same opposition [to Israeli policies] that you find in Israel. Indeed, many of them are reading Israeli Web sites and are influenced by them,” Sarna told Anglo File Tuesday in his Jerusalem apartment. He referred specifically to Haaretz.com, which he says often publishes articles critical of Israeli policies.
    “The Internet has made it possible for multiple voices to be heard,” Sarna said. He says that in the days when their sole source of news was the local Jewish paper, the “Jews of America spoke with one voice, mainly [belonging to] the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish organizations – which basically followed the Israeli government’s line.” Aware today of the full range of views expressed in Israel, he says American Jews no longer buy into the notion that “in Israel we’re critical but out of Israel we’re supportive.” – Source: Haaretz (10-9-09)


  • Joshua B. Freeman: Ask About the History of New York’s Working Class: This week, Joshua B. Freeman, a historian and the author of “Working-Class New York: Life and Labor Since World War II” (The New Press, 2000), will be responding to readers’ questions about the history of the city’s unions, labor politics and changing work force…. – NYT (10-19-09)
  • Interview with Shlomo Sand: The new history of the origins of the Jews – NYUnews.com (10-21-09)
  • Historian Taylor Branch: Interview transcript on the ‘Clinton Tapes’ – PBS (10-12-09)
  • Tamás Fedeles: Interview With Historian about the ‘Dracula House’: The Hungarian historian who was reported to have ‘discovered’ a house belonging to the real “Dracula,” says the claims were inaccurate. Dr Tamás Fedeles says the cellar can indeed be linked to Wallachian Duke Vlad III, but not with any certainty…. – Digital Journal (10-13-09)
  • Shalem College takes off: Martin Kramer spearheads the first liberal arts college in Israel – Sandbox (10-12-09)
  • An Interview with Albert Axell: Remembering Russia’s sacrifice in World War Two – Russian Now (10-9-09)
  • Interview With Historian Tony Judt: ‘Dreaming About Washington Is One Of East Europe’s Great Mistakes’ – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (10-3-09)


  • Obama archivist nominee on path to Senate approval: On October 28, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, by voice vote, approved the nomination of David S. Ferriero to be the next Archivist of the United States… – Lee White at the website of the National Coalition for History (NCH) (10-28-09)
  • Oral history center gets grant (S. Dakota): The South Dakota Oral History Center isn’t widely known outside of academia, but the center, located in a basement, contains eyewitness accounts of history that, in many cases, have remained undisturbed for decades…. – Rapid City Journal (10-25-09)
  • Laurel Thatcher Ulrich: MHS Presents Kennedy Medal to Noted Harvard Scholar: Approximately 100 guests were in attendance on the evening of 14 October as Prof. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich was honored as the 10th recipient of the John F. Kennedy Medal of the Massachusetts Historical Society at the Harvard Club of Boston. Ulrich, a Corresponding Fellow of the MHS since 1991 and 300th Anniversary University Professor at Harvard University, was presented with the medal as part of the Society’s 60th Annual Dinner. She addressed the Fellows and Members of the nation’s oldest historical society with a talk entitled “A Mormon Apostle in Boston: Sightseeing, Riot, and Martyrdom.” – The Massachusetts Historical Society (10-15-09)
  • Radoshes’ “A Safe Haven” Wins 2009 Washington Institute Book Prize: A Safe Haven: Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel,Allis and Ronald Radosh’s suspenseful, meticulously documented account of Truman’s controversial decision to recognize the new state of Israel, has won the Gold Prize — including a cash award of $30,000 — in The Washington Institute’s 2009 Book Prize competition, the research institution announced today… – The Washington Institute For Near East Policy (10-17-09)
  • Shortlist announced: Cundill International Prize in History at McGill – McGill Newsroom (10-19-09)
  • Neville Morley: University of Bristol professor awarded 450,000 pounds to study Greek historian Thucydides: Professor Neville Morley of the Department of Classics and Ancient History has been awarded around £450,000 by the Arts and Humanities Research Council for a four-year project on the Greek historian Thucydides (c.460BC – c.395 BC)…. – University of Bristol (10-9-09)
  • Edwin C. Bearss: Civil War historian to be honored in Miss.: A bust will be unveiled on Saturday to honor Edwin C. Bearss, a national historian who contributed to the restoration of the USS Cairo, a Civil War-era Union gunboat now preserved at the Vicksburg National Military Park…. – Miami Herald (10-2-09)


  • David Hackett Fischer “Historian explores secrets of presidential success”: America’s top presidents exhibited a style of open leadership and fairness that left a lasting impact, says one Pulitzer Prize-winning historian. Many historians rank George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt as the top U.S. presidents for their ability to bring in rivals and use their own principles to be successful, said David Hackett Fischer. Fischer spoke Thursday night at Union University as part of the 13th annual Carls-Schwerdfeger History Lecture Series. The author and professor’s topic for the evening was “Leaders in an Open Society: The Presidencies of Washington, Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt and Barack Obama.”… – JacksonSun.com (10-30-09)
  • Tom Devine: Scots urged to face ‘slave past’, Did Slavery Make Scotland Great? – BBC (10-21-09)
  • Jonathan Spence, Yale historian delivers 6th installment of Chinese history lecture series: Jonathan Spence, Yale historian and leading authority on China, delivered the sixth annual W. Bruce Lincoln Lecture Monday. Northern Star (10-19-09)
  • John Reed: Historian says Iraq is a 3-in-1 country – Deseret News (Utah) (10-17-09)
  • Gary Gallagher: Civil War Historian Gary Gallagher on Robert E. Lee’s Duty After Appomattox: Gary Gallagher, author of “Lee and His General in War and Memory” along with numerous other Civil War studies, presented the lecture at the annual “Remembering Robert E. Lee” program on Monday, Oct., 11, the 139th anniversary of Lee’s death Presented by the Lee Chapel and Museum, Gallagher’s presented as titled “Robert E. Lee Confronts Defeat: Duty in the Wake of Appomattox.” – Washington and Lee University (10-12-09)
  • Niall Ferguson: Harvard historian: China will be next superpower: Speaking at the 30th annual Bancroft Lecture, economic historian Niall Ferguson warned that China is about to overtake the United States as the world’s superpower. “The U.S. has fatally underestimated its biggest rival,” Ferguson said… – Hometownannapolis.com (10-8-09)


  • New Founding Fathers Documents Available On-Line Through NHPRC Pilot Program: The ROTUNDA Founders Early Access project makes available for the first time letters and other papers penned by important figures such as James Madison, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson. The Founders Early Access portion of the site allows users to read, search, and browse the newly transcribed documents, and is available at no cost to users. Lee White at the website of the National Coalition for History (NCH) (10-28-09)
  • William Cook: Historian examines de Tocqueville’s ‘Democracy in America’: Democracy springs from the deepest precept of diverse religions — that all are created equal before God — and is destined to prevail throughout the world but in its own good time, according to history professor William Cook, who will give a presentation tonight at Southern Oregon University…. – Mail Tribune (10-28-09)
  • Historian Mick Hardy unveils Ryton war website (UK) – chroniclelive.co.uk (10-16-09)




  • Timothy Egan: The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America, October 19, 2009
  • Gil Troy, Vincent J. Cannato, eds.: Living in the Eighties, October 23, 2009
  • L. Fletcher Prouty: JFK: The CIA, Vietnam, and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy, (Paperback), November 1, 2009
  • Edward Kritzler: Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean: How a Generation of Swashbuckling Jews Carved Out an Empire in the New World in Their Quest for Treasure, Religious Freedom–and Revenge, (Paperback), November 3, 2009
  • Anthony Haden-guest: Last Party: Studio 54, Disco, and the Culture of the Night (Paperback), December 8, 2009


  • Swiss historian Jean-Francois Bergier, 77, passes away: Swiss historian Jean-Francois Bergier, who led a highly critical probe of Switzerland’s conduct during World War II, has died. He was 77. Bergier received wide renown for leading an international panel in a major study that in 2001 concluded Switzerland “got involved in (Nazi) crimes by abandoning refugees to their persecutors” even though the Swiss government knew by 1942 of the Nazis’ “final solution” and that rejected refugees would likely face deportation and death… – AP, 10-29-09
  • Ray Browne, 87, Founder of Pop-Culture Studies, Dies – NYT (10-27-09)
  • Obit on Merrill Peterson: Merrill D. Peterson, a historian who enlarged the scope of Jeffersonian scholarship with a pair of books, one tracing the various and often contradictory perceptions of Jefferson during the century and a quarter after his death and the other a magisterial biography, died Sept. 23 in Charlottesville, Va. He was 88…. – NYT paper edition (10-4-09)
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