History Buzz: February 2011 Recap: Reagan Centennial — President’s Day — Civil War at 150

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

IN FOCUS: RONALD REAGAN CENTENNIAL

     

  • Ronald Reagan’s legacy at 100, from 3 very different perspectives: Had he lived just a few years longer, Ronald Reagan would have turned 100 this Sunday. In his memory, the nation will honor his mark on history – and debate his legacy. His widow, Nancy Reagan, will lay a wreath at the Reagan library in California, where the 40th president was buried when he died in 2004 at the age of 93. A group of F-18s from the USS Ronald Reagan will salute him from the air.
    In Washington, the city where he made his greatest impact, politicians will salute his tenure. One of them is President Barack Obama, who, though a liberal who yearns to undo much of Reagan’s domestic record, admires the way Reagan changed the course of history….
    Sean Wilentz is a professor of history at Princeton University and the author of the book “The Age of Reagan.” He wrote there that while he was sometimes critical of Reagan’s leadership, after deep study of his record, “my views have ripened over time.” In an interview, Wilentz said Reagan was the most important political figure of the last 30 years. He includes him in august company. “In American political history, there have been a few leading figures … who for better or worse have put their political stamp indelibly on their time,” Wilentz wrote in his book. “They include Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt – and Ronald Reagan.”… – Kansas City Star, 2-3-11

IN FOCUS: AMERICAN CIVIL WAR AT 150

A House Divided

  • A House Divided: News & Views about the 150th anniverary of the American Civil War “A House Divided” is a blog dedicated to news and issues of importance to Civil War enthusiasts across the country and around the world. Blogger Linda Wheeler and a panel of respected Civil War experts will debate and dissect historical issues and explore new concepts. Wheeler will also report on conferences and seminars, find little-known battlefields and sites to explore, keep track of local, national and international stories of interest to readers and provide advice on upcoming events…. – Ongoing Civil War coverageOur Civil War panel of expertsTweeting the War

Tweeting the Civil War: The Washington Post is tweeting the Civil War, in the words of the people who lived it — from journals, letters, official records and newspapers of the day. Follow us.Escape from Ft Sumber

Mary Hadar: Escape from Ft. Sumter: As preparations for war increase, the women and children who have been living at Fort Sumter leave on board the steamer Marion, bound for New York. Their safe passage was negotiated by Maj Anderson, commander of Fort Sumter, with South Carolina’s Gov. Pickens. Follow our tweets of the Civil War day by day in the words of the people who lived it… – WaPo, 2-3-11

  • Gordon Wood: Revolution and its seeds are still defining nations: And it looked as though Virginia would soon join the rush toward abolition. As Gordon S. Wood, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and history professor at Brown University, points out, Virginia had more abolition societies than all of the Northern states combined….
    But Wood, who spoke Friday in Williamsburg, described how a chasm between the North and the South began to widen after the Revolution. Spurning slavery, the North turned into maybe the most commercialized society the world had ever known, one that celebrated labor as none had before.
    At the same time, the South celebrated, well not exactly sloth, but sitting back and letting someone else work for you. It’s true that not everyone in the South owned slaves. Many whites planted and picked their own cotton. But the idea that they might make enough money to buy someone to work for them was almost universal, Wood told me in a phone interview last week.
    “These two societies were going to clash,” he said, “and I think the threat posed by Lincoln’s election was very scary to the Southerners.”… – Hampton Roads, 2-21-11

IN FOCUS: PRESIDENT’S DAY

  • Virtual president’s desk enlivens JFK’s 1800s desk: A new online feature called The President’s Desk is giving people a chance to learn more about John F. Kennedy’s life and administration. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library is introducing its latest project on Monday morning at the library’s museum in Boston…. – AP, 2-22-11

IN FOCUS:

  • Elizabeth VanderVen: The Chinese Zodiac Explained: “The purpose of the New Year is to sweep away all the old and anything unpleasant,” Dr. Elizabeth VanderVen, an assistant history professor at Rutgers … – FOX 4 News, 2-4-11

    HISTORY NEWS:

    • Photos: America’s last WWI vet: He quit school at 16, bluffed his way into the Army, and didn’t gain notoriety until much later in life. These are snapshots from along the way. Frank W. Buckles died early Sunday, sadly yet not unexpectedly at age 110, having achieved a singular feat of longevity that left him proud and a bit bemused…. – WaPo, 2-28-11
    • James N. Gregory: Dust Bowl migration sparks history project: It was once called another name — a negative term of the era. “Olivehurst was known as ‘Little Oklahoma,'” James N. Gregory said. “It was a very poor community of self-built homes.” Gregory, a history professor at the University of Washington and the author of “American Exodus: The Dust Bowl Migration and Okie Culture in California,” spoke about the subject that the Sutter County Historical Society is researching…. – Appeal-Democrat, 2-19-11
    • Sheldon M. Stern: Report Gives a Majority of States Poor Grades on History Standards: A majority of states received failing or near-failing grades on the quality of their standards for teaching history in K-12 schools, according to the latest review Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader from the Washington-based Thomas B. Fordham Institute.
      In “The State of State U.S. History Standards 2011,” the research and advocacy group says the average grade across all states was barely a D. The majority—28 states—received scores of D or lower and only one state, South Carolina, earned a straight-A score.“If students are not going to get the history in K-12, they’re not going to get it at all,” said Sheldon M. Stern, a historian formerly with the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston and one of the study’s co-authors. “The irony in the whole thing is that it’s not very difficult… – Edweek, 2-16-11
    • Archivist of the US Announces NARA Reorganization Plan: Recently, Archivist of the United States David Ferriero marked his first year in office and many of the initiatives he began since taking the helm are starting to bear fruit. Last summer, Ferriero created a staff task force to draft a plan for the “transformation” of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Ferriero recently unveiled Charting the Course, the reorganization plan for “reinventing” the National Archives…. – Lee White, National Coalition for History, 2-14-11
    • Leslie Harris: Emory examines its ties to slavery University organizes conference for colleges to examine racial past: Emory University history professor Leslie Harris leads the Transforming Community Project, which promotes discussions about race. Emory is confronting its past ties to slavery… – AJC, 2-6-11
    • National Archives have Jacqueline Kennedy’s pink suit, but hat is missing: An expanded collection of Kennedy treasures and trivia was unveiled this month at an exhibit as well as online to coincide with the 50th anniversary of JFK’s inauguration; it includes the fabric of his top hat (beaver fur) down to his shoe size (10C). But missing and hardly mentioned are what could be the two most famous remnants of Kennedy’s last day. The pink suit, bloodstained and perfectly preserved in a vault in Maryland, is banned from public display for 100 years. The pillbox hat – removed at Parkland Hospital while Jacqueline Kennedy waited for doctors to confirm what she knew – is lost, last known to be in the hands of her personal secretary, who won’t discuss its whereabouts…. – WaPo, 2-4-11
    • The Google Art Project Makes Masterpieces Accessible to All: Gone are the days of jet-setting to galleries in Manhattan, Florence, London, or Madrid. As of yesterday, all you need to become a museum maven is an Internet connection. Google Art Project, the brainchild of a small group of art-happy Google employees, brings the Street View technology of Google Earth and Google Maps inside 17 museums around the world. The roster includes The Uffizi, the Tate Britain, The Met, MoMA, and the Van Gogh Museum.
      The Google Art Project collection, as a whole, consists of 1,000 works of art by more than 400 artists, and this is only the beginning. Google hopes to add more museums and works of art to its virtual dossier soon…. – The Atlantic, 2-2-11Google Art Project
    • Bay Area antiquities experts fear Egyptian looters took massive toll on treasures: “Damage to or theft of these pieces is not just tragic for Egypt, but for the whole world,” said Renee Dreyfus, curator of antiquities for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, which hosted the traveling Tutankhamun exhibit at the M.H. de Young Museum in 2009.
      “These things are part of our world heritage, where much of what we consider the civilized world began,” she said. “They are part of everyone’s history.”… – Oakland Tribune, 2-1-11

    HISTORIANS NEWS:

    • Professors to walk out of classrooms Tuesday: According to the TAA, the march could be a turning point in the protest of Gov. Scott Walker’s bill, showing the city and the nation that some of the UW-Madison faculty wants to protect the collective bargaining rights of public sector workers.
      333 UW-Madison faculty members signed a letter addressed to Walker, state legislators and citizens of Wisconsin, which was released Sunday. It states their support for collective bargaining rights for all workers.
      Associate history professor William Jones signed the letter and said he supports the faculty’s march to the Capitol.
      “There are several aims [of the letter],” Jones said. “One is to register our support for the principal of collective bargaining as a right and as a democratic process that’s been established both in the U.S. and around the world, as a fundamental human right.” … – Daily Cardinal, 2-22-11
    • Dominic Sandbrook accused of “recycling” the work of other historians in latest book: …[H]erein lies the most troubling flaw of [Dominic Sandbrook’s “Mad As Hell: The Crisis of the 1970s and the Rise of the Populist Right” one that won’t be apparent to the casual reader. It’s only by consulting the book’s footnotes that one discovers, by looking inside the books he cites, that Mr. Sandbrook shamelessly and repeatedly cannibalizes the work of others, offering what could be generously called a 400-page mash-up of previous histories of the 1970s.
      Take this passage, where Mr. Sandbrook, in vivid prose, describes the 1976 bicentennial celebration in Boston: “As the orchestra reached the climax of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, the church bells pealed, howitzers thundered, fireworks sent shards of color wheeling through the sky, and red, white, and blue geysers burst from a fireboat behind the Hatch shell.”
      These aren’t Mr. Sandbrook’s words but two sentences grafted together—one from a 1976 Time magazine article (“As the orchestra reached the climax of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, howitzers boomed, church bells pealed”), the other from J. Anthony Lukas’s “Common Ground” (“geysers of red, white, and blue water burst from a fireboat behind the band shell”)—with a bit of strategic re-editing. Both sources are named in the book’s footnotes, but in the text the sentence is passed off as the author’s own…. – WSJ, 2-12-11
    • Thomas DiLorenzo: Loyola professor faces questions about ties to pro-secession group: A Loyola University Maryland economics professor is denying ties to a group that endorses a second Southern secession after he came under fire from a Missouri congressman because of the alleged association. Thomas DiLorenzo, a Loyola professor since 1992, was in Washington on Wednesday to testify at a House subcommittee hearing on the Federal Reserve Bank. But Rep. William Lacy Clay, a Democrat from St. Louis, quickly raised questions about DiLorenzo’s ties to the League of the South, which is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center…. – Baltimore Sun, 2-11-11
    • Jan Gross and Irena Grudzinska Gross: Publisher defends book on Polish plunder of Jews: A Polish publishing house is defending its decision to publish a book that says some Poles actively profited from Jewish suffering during the Holocaust – a claim that challenges a national belief about Polish actions during World War II.
      “Golden Harvest,” by Princeton academics Jan Gross and Irena Grudzinska Gross, argues that rural Poles sometimes sought financial gain from Jewish misfortune in a variety of ways, from plundering Jewish mass graves to ferreting out Jews in hiding for rewards.
      Gross said the starting point of the book is a photograph showing Polish peasants digging up human remains at the Treblinka death camp just after the war in a search for gold or other treasures that Nazi executioners might have overlooked. Scattered in front of the group are skulls and bones…. – WaPo, 2-9-11
    • Scholarly Reportage: Fad or Movement?: Most academics are content to teach their classes and publish their research – usually for a small number of scholars in their subfield. Yet, there have always been academics who want to reach a much larger audience, to have influence beyond their classrooms, scholarly journals and the faculty club. For them, the call to become a public intellectual is strong. But as long as there has been this desire to “cross over,” there has also been a tension between those who do and those who do not.
      Scholars who manage to break beyond the narrow scholarly niche are often derided as mere popularizers, lacking the disciplinary rigor of their more professional colleagues. To some, they are lightweights who jump onto the latest in intellectual fashion and leave no lasting mark on intellectual life or academia. And this is largely because, crossing over, or, as my agent calls it, ‘going trade,’ too often means consciously leaving disciplinary concerns behind, as writing and speaking beyond a narrow academic community requires new skills and a much more interdisciplinary approach…. – Inside Higher Ed, 2-10-11
    • Va. historian denies tampering with Lincoln pardon: An amateur Virginia historian is denying allegations by the National Archives that he changed the date on a presidential pardon issued by President Abraham Lincoln. Seventy-eight-year-old Thomas P. Lowry of Woodbridge, Va., said Monday that he was pressured by federal agents to confess. The Archives says Lowry has confessed to using a fountain pen to change the date on a pardon by Lincoln from 1864 to 1865. The change made it appear that Lowry had discovered a document languishing in the Archives that was likely Lincoln’s final official act before he was assassinated…. – AP, 2-7-11
    • In Arguments on Corporate Speech, the Press Is a Problem: In the year since the Supreme Court handed down its 183-page decision in Citizens United, the liberal objection to it has gradually boiled down to a single sentence: The majority was wrong to grant First Amendment rights to corporations. That critique is incomplete. As Justice John Paul Stevens acknowledged in his dissent, the court had long recognized that “corporations are covered by the First Amendment.” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority, listed more than 20 precedents saying that.
      But an old and established rule can still be wrong, and it may be that the liberal critique is correct. If it is, though, it must confront a very hard question. If corporations have no First Amendment rights, what about newspapers and other news organizations, almost all of which are organized as corporations?…
      Eugene Volokh, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, has reviewed the historical evidence. The bottom line, he said, is this: “If ordinary business corporations lack First Amendment rights, so do those business corporations that we call media corporations.”… – NYT, 2-7-11

    HISTORY OP-EDs:

    • Scott Casper: Rebranding Mount Vernon: Today, of course, Washington is again at the center of the presidential pantheon. For that he can thank an unlikely group of allies: former slaves who worked at Mount Vernon in the late 19th century and who helped shape our modern beliefs about him — but only by hiding his complicated views on slavery behind the illusion of an Old South plantation. Everything about the restored Mount Vernon was designed to render Washington a noble but approachable figure…. – NYT, 2-21-11
    • Diane Ravitch: Why should teachers have unions?: As I write, thousands of teachers are staging a protest in the state capitol in Wisconsin against proposed legislation by Gov. Scott Walker that would destroy their collective bargaining rights. Others stand with them, including members of the Green Bay Packers and other public sector workers, even those not affected by the legislation, namely, firefighters and police. Gov. Walker demanded that the teachers pay more for their health benefits and their pension benefits, and they have agreed to do so. But that’s not all he wants. He wants to destroy the union…. – WaPo, 2-22-11
    • Julian Zelizer: What’s wrong with presidential rankings: Since the late 1940s, it has been an American custom for pollsters and publications to release a ranking of U.S. presidents.
      Usually based on a survey of historians and journalists or of the public, the ranking informs readers about who the “best” and “worst” presidents are. In an age when we are constantly desperate to craft Top 10 lists for every part of our lives, this approach to political history is appealing.
      But rankings don’t tell us much about presidential history. The rankings are weak mechanisms for evaluating what has taken place in the White House…. – CNN, 2-21-11
    • Ravitch: Public schools are not chain stores: Last week, the New York City Department of Education received permission from the city’s Panel on Educational Policy, or PEP, to close an additional two dozen public schools because their scores are too low. The city has now closed more than 100 schools and opened hundreds of new ones. The consent of the PEP was never in doubt…. – WaPo, 2-9-11

    HISTORY BOOK NEWS:

    • Adam Arenson: The making of America’s most dangerous city: About this blog: St. Louis has earned a dubious distinction again this year – named by U.S. News and World Report as the nation’s most dangerous city. What is it that puts St. Louis in the forefront of American crime? Adam Arenson looks to history for an answer. In his book, “The Great Heart of the Republic: St. Louis and the Cultural Civil War,” recently released by Harvard University Press, Arenson charts the quest of St. Louisans to make their city the cultural and commercial capital. But their efforts ultimately failed and decisions taken as far back as the Civil War have repercussions today, as Arenson, an assistant professor of history at the University of Texas at El Paso, reveals here…. – 2-24-11
    • New Rumsfeld memoir criticizes Rice, other members of Bush administration: But history professor Jack Rakove warns that Rumsfeld’s writings should be viewed with a cautious eye. “Historians are universally suspicious of memoirs,” Rakove said. “The great danger of memoirs is that they’re inherently self-serving, and they can be selective.”… – Standford Daily, 2-24-11
    • Grace Elizabeth Hale: Why are today’s rebels Republicans?: Now, those standing against the status quo have a decidedly different outlook: they are conservatives, fundamentalists, Tea Partiers. How did this shift come about? Why are today’s rebels Republicans? Grace Elizabeth Hale explores the nature of the outsider in American culture in her book “A Nation of Outsiders: How the White Middle Class Fell in Love with Rebellion in Postwar America,” recently released by Oxford University Press. Here, Hale, an associate professor of history and American studies at the University of Virginia, delves into the impulses that drive both conservative and liberal rebels…. – WaPo, 2-8-11
    • Exploring the failures of the Andrew Johnson presidency: Gordon-Reed’s latest book, Andrew Johnson: The American Presidents Series / The 17th President, 1865-1869 (Times Books, $23), touches on issues of race as she examines Johnson’s role in putting the nation back together after the Civil War.
      In one sense, Andrew Johnson’s life was a tale of success. He rose from illiterate tailor’s apprentice to become president of the United States. “One of the things that I wanted to come across in this book was that he was a person of tenacity and perseverance,” Gordon-Reed said in a phone interview from her home in New York. “It’s a very American story. It’s hard to imagine that a person of his standing would rise to the highest office in the land, but he did.”
      But his life was also a story of failure. Focusing on Johnson’s presidency, Gordon-Reed aims to show how ill-suited Johnson was both to succeed Abraham Lincoln, one of America’s greatest presidents, and to heal a nation that the Civil War had torn apart. She argues that by attempting to reconcile with Southern whites, Johnson abandoned millions of newly freed slaves and lost the trust of congressional leaders.
      “Johnson is considered one of the worst presidents,” Gordon-Reed said. “The interesting thing is that he was a talented man.”… – Philly Inquirer, 2-8-11
    • Jan Gross: Book on Holocaust stirs controversy: Mr Gross, a history professor at Princeton University, told the Associated Press that he wished to tell the story of the war as it happened…. – Warsaw Business Journal, 2-9-11

    HISTORY REVIEWS:

    • HISTORY REVIEW BY KEVIN BOYLE: Lawrence Goldstone’s “Inherently Unequal”: INHERENTLY UNEQUAL The Betrayal of Equal Rights by the Supreme Court, 1865-1903 “Constitutional law,” Lawrence Goldstone says toward the end of “Inherently Unequal,” is “simply politics made incomprehensible to the common man.” It’s meant to be a sound bite, a clever coda to a cautionary tale of justice corrupted and denied. But it speaks to a cynical strain that runs through this history of the late 19th-century American struggle to define the boundaries of racial justice – and that makes Goldstone’s story darker than it ought to be…. – WaPo, 2-25-11
    • Douglas Waller: Douglas Waller’s “Wild Bill Donovan,” on the OSS spymaster: WILD BILL DONOVAN The Spymaster Who Created the OSS and Modern American Espionage The episode, recounted by Douglas Waller in this superb, dramatic yet scholarly biography, tells a great deal about the man who built a far-flung intelligence organization from scratch in the midst of World War II. Courageous but reckless, always itching to be in the center of the action, Donovan was smart, tough and seemingly endowed with boundless energy…. – WaPo, 2-25-11
    • Anabasis Alexandrou: Paths of Glory: THE LANDMARK ARRIAN The Campaigns of Alexander It’s an irresistible story. Certainly Plutarch, who included this description in his masterly biography of Alexander in the second century A.D., couldn’t resist it. But he did scruple to note that not all historians accepted this account of inebriate vandalism. One who didn’t even consider it worthy of mention was Lucius Flavius Arrianus, a younger contemporary of Plutarch better known as Arrian. For him, Alexander’s burning of the palace at Persepolis — then and now a shocking act of destruction — was carefully deliberated public policy, a symbolic seal on an official campaign of vengeance: it was his own idea to pay the Persians back in kind for the burning of the Athenian temples in 479 B.C. and, Arrian wrote, “for all the other wrongs they had committed against the Greeks.”… – NYT, 2-25-11
    • RAYMOND ARSENAULT: Shades of White: THE INVISIBLE LINE Three American Families and the ­Secret Journey From Black to White In an illuminating and aptly titled book, “The Invisible Line,” Daniel J. Sharfstein demonstrates that African- Americans of mixed ancestry have been crossing the boundaries of color and racial identity since the early colonial era. An associate professor of law at Vanderbilt University and an author with a literary flair, Sharfstein documents this persistent racial fluidity by painstakingly reconstructing the history of three families. In a dizzying array of alternating chapters, he presents the personal and racial stories of the Gibsons, the Spencers and the Walls. The result is an astonishingly detailed rendering of the variety and complexity of racial experience in an evolving national culture moving from slavery to segregation to civil rights… – NYT, 2-25-11
    • Jeff Greenfield: With a Few Tweaks, Shaking Up History THEN EVERYTHING CHANGED Stunning Alternate Histories of American Politics: JFK, RFK, Carter, Ford, Reagan In his shrewdly written, often riveting new book, “Then Everything Changed,” the veteran political journalist Jeff Greenfield ponders some smaller-scale and more plausible what-ifs: three events, he says, “that came within a whisker of actually happening.” What if an actual attempt on John F. Kennedy’s life, shortly after his election to the White House, had succeeded? What if Sirhan Sirhan had been thwarted in assassinating Robert F. Kennedy in 1968? What if President Gerald R. Ford had corrected a misstep in the 1976 presidential debates and defeated Jimmy Carter?… – NYT, 2-28-11
    • WALTER ISAACSON, Bettany Hughes: Wise Guy: THE HEMLOCK CUP Socrates, Athens and the Search for the Good Life For the most part, Hughes is successful, and even when not, she’s fascinating. What we get in “The Hemlock Cup” is many books interlaced: a biography of Socrates; a gritty description of daily life in Athens; a vivid history of the Peloponnesian War and its aftereffects; and — as an unexpected delight — a guide to museums, archaeological digs and repositories of ancient artifacts, as Hughes takes us by the hand while ferreting out her evidence. At one point we travel with her to the rear of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England, to study a scrap of papyrus — Fragment 4807 — in the Sackler Library. It contains some lines, apparently by Sophocles, casting light on what life may have been like during the Peloponnesian War… – NYT, 2-20-11
    • Jonathan Gill: Yardley reviews Jonathan Gill’s “Harlem”: HARLEM The Four Hundred Year History from Dutch Village to Capital of Black America Gill, a historian who has taught at Columbia and is on the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music, has done a stupendous amount of research, some of which might best have been left in his files. Though his “Harlem” certainly is authoritative and exhaustive, in addition to being well-written and perceptive, it also is exhausting and would have gained from being cut by at least 50 pages. Many of the details of Harlem’s political life could have been set aside, and some of the portraits of its most notable and familiar figures – Malcolm X, Bayard Rustin, Marcus Garvey, Father Divine, Langston Hughes, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. et al. – would have lost nothing by being briefer…. – WaPo, 2-17-11
    • Timothy Beal: “The Rise and Fall of the Bible”: Rethinking the Good Book American Christians buy millions of Bibles they seldom read and don’t understand: In his new book, “The Rise and Fall of the Bible: The Unexpected History of an Accidental Book,” religion professor Timothy Beal describes all the angst and doubt that Bible reading provoked in him during his youth, as well as the frustration many American Christians experience as a result of their own encounters with the book. This doesn’t prevent them from buying truckloads of the things — Beal notes that “the average Christian household owns nine Bibles and purchases at least one new Bible every year” — but actually reading them is another matter. Beal believes that’s because today’s Christians are seeking a certainty in their holy book that simply isn’t there, and shouldn’t be… – Salon, 2-13-11
    • Three books on the gulf oil spill: Just six months after BP stopped the oil that had been flowing into the Gulf of Mexico, a gusher of books about the spill has begun to wash ashore. The first wave includes three very different approaches to the disaster that riveted the nation most of last summer…. – WaPo, 2-11-11
    • Dominic Sandbrook: Carter, Reagan and Freaky Times: MAD AS HELL The Crisis of the 1970s and the Rise of the Populist Right The cultural politics of the 1970s is irresistible to historians, the way the decade’s dance music is irresistible to D.J.’s at weddings. Thus a book like Dominic Sandbrook’s “Mad as Hell: The Crisis of the 1970s and the Rise of the Populist Right” arrives in bookstores every six months or so. Nixon, Ford, Carter: there’s little greatness there, but these presidencies are so familiar that you can hum nostalgically, dismally along…. – NYT, 2-15-11
    • Gwen Ifill reviews Donald Rumsfeld’s memoir, “Known and Unknown”: Donald Rumsfeld has chosen all of the above in “Known and Unknown,” a hefty and heavily annotated accounting and defense of his life in public service. But hand-wring he does, in repeated blasts of Rumsfeldian score-settling that come off as a cross between setting the record straight and doggedly knocking enemies off pedestals. The book is full of little nuggets like that, but at its heart, it is a revenge memoir. Most readers who came to know of Rumsfeld during the last stage of his remarkable career as secretary of defense for George W. Bush will not be surprised at the tone that runs through much of the book. Rumsfeld, according to Rumsfeld, was prescient, clear-headed, loyal and almost always right…. – WaPo, 2-6-11
    • BIOGRAPHY REVIEW BY WIL HAYGOOD Peter Firstbrook’s account of Obama’s roots, “The Obamas”: Even at this halfway point in his presidential term, Barack Obama already belongs to the publishing ages. The sweeping and poignant arc of his life – and his race-defying presidency – guarantees that books upon books will be written about him. We’ve already seen a healthy number. There have been tomes, but mostly the books are Teddy White-like riffs by journalists offering behind-the-scenes accounts of campaign intrigue or life in the White House.
      In “The Obamas,” Peter Firstbrook, a British documentary filmmaker turned writer, all but ignores the American side of the Obama story and plows into the Kenyan landscape, and family genealogy, of the Obama clan. The president’s father, Barack Obama Sr., was Kenyan, a member of the Luo tribe.
      Firstbrook has written a strange and well-meaning hybrid of a book. There are long stretches of oral histories, given by close and distant Obama relatives and buttressed with often numbing historical detail on Kenyan wars and tribal political intrigues. You will learn not only about those intrepid explorers Henry Morton Stanley and David Livingstone, but also far more than you need to about the ritual of lower-tooth extraction for Luo boys…. – WaPo, 2-6-11
    • Two books on military-industrial complex: For example, if a 22nd-century citizen were to puzzle over the phrase “military-industrial complex,” which recurs in virtually all political and military histories of the 20th and early 21st centuries, he would be well-advised to examine one of the largest and most powerful participants in this “complex,” Lockheed Martin, subject of William D. Hartung’s careful, meticulously documented book “Prophets of War.” President Dwight Eisenhower, not one celebrated for memorable phrases, coined this one. It refers, of course, to the production of armaments – missiles, drones, submarines, etc. – regardless of whether they may be needed….
      The phrase “military-industrial complex” has stuck. Eisenhower himself remains indistinct in the public memory, framed at different times in his life by the photographer Richard Avedon as an amiable, distrait old duffer and by biographers who portray him as a clever politician. His campaigns and policies represented a form of Republicanism no longer recognizable to his successors: There was a fierce independent streak in him, as James Ledbetter demonstrates in “Unwarranted Influence.” He had always been something of a stealth thinker, even in the Army, when he kept his own counsel on opinions that his superiors might have regarded as unorthodox. Few commentators on the 34th president’s mind and methods have more rigorously considered the evolution of Eisenhower’s preoccupations than Ledbetter has…. – WaPo, 2-6-11
    • Adam Goodheart Reviews: Daniel Rasmussen: Violence and Retribution: AMERICAN UPRISING The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt Early in January 1811, along the same riverbank, a small army of Louisiana slaves had briefly faced a small army of slaveholders. It was, as described in “American Uprising,” Daniel Rasmussen’s chilling and suspenseful account, the culmination of a signal episode in the history of American race relations…. – NYT, 2-6-11Excerpt

    HISTORY FEATURES:

    • James D. Robenalt: Harding’s defender Ohio’s presidents all underrated, Cleveland history buff contends: History is in the eyes of the beholder, whose point of view might conflict with that of another beholder.
      For example, Cleveland lawyer and historian James D. Robenalt says this about Marion’s Warren G. Harding: “He was a damned good president, and he did a number of things that he’s just not getting credit for.”
      Yet that’s not the record Larry J. Sabato beholds.
      Told of Robenalt’s assertion, Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia and one of the nation’s pre-eminent presidential scholars, responded: “Look, I’m sure he’s not really defending Warren Harding. That would be very difficult to make a case for.”
      Yes, Professor Sabato, Robenalt actually is defending Harding…. Columbus Dispath, 2-20-11
    • Top 10 presidents: In 2010, Siena College asked 238 presidential scholars to rank the 43 commanders in chief:
      1. Franklin Roosevelt
      2. Teddy Roosevelt
      3. Abraham Lincoln
      4. George Washington
      5. Thomas Jefferson
      6. James Madison
      7. James Monroe
      8. Woodrow Wilson
      9. Harry Truman
      10. Dwight Eisenhower
    • Pat Nixon portrayed as combative in biography: Pat Nixon was long regarded as the subservient political wife who wanted only to help her husband President Richard Nixon achieve his goals for the nation. But a new biography portrays the first lady as willful and combative in her relationship with her husband and his top advisers. She waged “a battle to retain control over her responsibilities,” writes Mary C. Brennan in “Pat Nixon: Embattled First Lady,” due out next month from the University Press of Kansas. “She found herself engaged in almost constant warfare with her husband and some of his advisors . . . and she refused to give up without a fight.”… WaPo, 2-14-11
    • ‘Raw Deal’: Historian makes waves with scathing look at Franklin D. Roosevelt: For more than half a century, biographers have treated Franklin Delano Roosevelt with Rushmore-like reverence, celebrating the nation’s 32nd president as a colossus who eased the agony of the Great Depression and saved democracy from Nazi Germany. Which never sat right with historian Burton Folsom Jr….
      The result was “New Deal or Raw Deal?,” a scathing 300-page counter-narrative that has made Folsom a conservative hero and placed him squarely in the midst of a roiling debate over America’s past, the nature of history and, some say, its manipulation for political ends…. – LA Times, 2-12-11
    • Clashing versions of Lithuania’s history and how to treat it: Since 1991 scholars from all sides have been unravelling the murderous details, meticulously comparing sources and providing a nuanced account of its interlocking causes, including prejudice, outside incitement, revenge and cowardice. But for some campaigners, mostly from abroad, the historical reckoning has been both too slow and too soft. They detect a sinister pattern of neglect of Jewish sites, foot-dragging over restitution, harassment of Holocaust survivors in an investigation of alleged atrocities by Jewish partisans and an ultranationalist approach to history that belittles the Holocaust.
      This discontent led to a public protest and bitter exchanges at a recent academic conference in London sponsored by the Lithuanian embassy (part of a year of official commemoration of the Holocaust). The campaigners read a letter denouncing both the Lithuanian government and international efforts to put Nazi and Soviet crimes on a similar footing.
      That prompted a spirited rebuttal from historians and other conference participants, and not least from Irena Veisaite, a Holocaust survivor and leading member of Lithuania’s small Jewish community. She found herself in the unusual position of being berated by a campaigner against anti-Semitism, a British-born film-maker and academic called Danny Ben-Moshe.
      Ms Veisaite and her allies deplore the glorification of the LAF. They ascribe more blame to clumsiness than to malice in the Lithuanian authorities’ actions. What worries them is hardening attitudes on both sides. Some Lithuanians feel that over-zealous foreign Jewish critics put too little store by reconciliation. “We are squeezed between two Talibans,” says Sarunas Liekis, a Yiddish-studies professor from Vilnius. The same obstinacy that plagues Lithuania’s relations with Poland, he says, lies behind politicians’ refusal to reverse their mistakes on Jewish issues…. – Economist, 2-20-11
    • Anne Midgette reviews ‘Nixon in China,’ finally on stage at the Metropolitan Opera: IN NEW YORK When John Adams’s opera “Nixon in China” had its world premiere in 1987, it was provocative, edgy, audacious. 24 years later, it’s come to the Metropolitan Opera and, along the way, become a Modern Masterpiece. Wednesday night’s premiere was a big event: The crowd was lively, star-studded, and abuzz. It marked not only the Met’s first performance of this opera, but also the company debuts of Adams, who conducted, and Peter Sellars, who came up with the original concept and directed the original production, and who has, incredibly, moved from enfant terrible to veteran maverick without ever before having directed at this venue…. – WaPo, 2-3-11
    • Men, women flip the script in gender expectation according to survey co-designed by Stephanie Coontz: A new portrait of single Americans, drawn from a major new survey, suggests the attitudes and behaviors of today’s singles are quite unlike their counterparts just a few decades ago…. “Men are now expressing some traditionally female attitudes, while women are adopting some of those long attributed to men,” says biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, who helped develop the survey with social historian Stephanie Coontz and Justin Garcia, a doctoral fellow with the Institute for Evolutionary Studies at Binghamton (N.Y.) University. “For me, as a historian, it’s just amazing confirmation about what has changed in the last 40 years,” says Coontz, professor of history and family studies at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash…. – USA Today (2-2-11)

    HISTORY PROFILES:

    • Faculty Spotlight: Greg Aldrete, professor of history and humanistic studies: Greg Aldrete, professor of history and humanistic studies, stands with his group of UW-Green Bay students who assisted with his Linothorax project, a project replicating the lightweight linen armor of the ancient Greeks to demonstrate the advantages.
      Award-winning UW-Green Bay Professor of history and humanistic studies Greg Aldrete has landed another prestigious National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship for the 2012-2013 school year.
      The grant enables Aldrete to spend a year concentrating on research, rather than teaching, and working on his book, “Riots in Ancient Rome.”
      His proposal for the book states that ancient Rome seems to have been a riotous lot. For the 575-year period from 200 B.C. to A.D. 375, there are at least 154 episodes of unruly, collective behavior. The worst of these resulted in pitched battles in the streets, hundreds of deaths, widespread looting, acts of arson and even the lynching of leading magistrates of the state. Due to such incidents, Rome has often been characterized as a lawless and violent place. Its inhabitants, especially the poor, have been portrayed as disorderly and fickle. The reality, according to Aldrete, is considerably more complex…. – Fourth Estate, 2-23-11
    • Richard Gamble: Professor discovers a home, and its personality: Sometimes, the old house groans and the floorboards creak. When it does, Richard Gamble picks up his coffee cup and listens intently. “This house tells me something new about itself everyday,” he said, looking in the direction of the noise. “It is almost as if it is a living personality.”
      In July of 2008, Gamble, an associate professor of history, bought an 1882 Victorian-style house in downtown Hillsdale. Between teaching, traveling and writing he has spent the past two and a half years learning about his new house and working hard to restore and renovate it.
      The project surprised Gamble, who never planned to own an old house like it. Gamble unexpectedly began to look for a home in May of 2008…. – Hillsdale Colegian, 2-17-11
    • Jill Lepore on Writing Current History: Professor Lepore sees herself as a public historian who “has a civic obligation to contribute to the public debate, not just [to] be … entertaining.”… – Harvard Crimson, 2-14-11
    • Niall Ferguson: visionary or crank?: Niall Ferguson is among Britain’s most valuable exports – a feted international academic with seats at Harvard, Stanford, the Harvard Business School and the LSE; he has also had spells at Oxford and Cambridge. His tomes sell in their millions; his TV shows are an engaging mix of self-confidence and charm. It’s a multi-media combination that consistently places him on lists of ‘influential people’ across the globe. Everywhere except for Britain, where he’s seen as a neo-conservative oddity…. – Spectator (UK), 2-22-11

    HISTORY QUOTES:

    • Gary Nash: The President’s House in Philadelphia tells a story of early U.S. presidents The new President’s House and its exhibit, “Freedom and Slavery in Making a New Nation,” on Independence Mall…. The site honors the location and importance of the original mansion, but it also addresses the subject of slavery in early U.S. history. Gary B. Nash, a professor emeritus of history at UCLA, and the lead historian for the exhibit, said, “A whole cloud of historical amnesia is going to be swept away. This story speaks to the themes of the Liberty Bell … [which] connects to liberty and slavery being conjoined at our nation’s birth.”… – LAT, 2-20-11
    • Yoav Di-Capua: Texas expert: Egypt’s fate key to Mideast: Mubarak’s fate could affect variety range of Mideast issues and US interests, says UT historian. Yoav Di-Capua, an associate professor of history at the University of Texas, specializing in modern Arab intellectual history…. – Austin American-Statesman, 2-13-11
    • Presidential bios have resonance in the press — three historians cited in NRO article on presidency: …No man had a greater influence on the presidency than its original occupant. “The office of the presidency was not only forged by George Washington,” says historian Ron Chernow, who recently published a one-volume biography of the first president. “One can make the argument that the office was forged for George Washington.” At the Constitutional Convention in 1787, most delegates assumed he would be the first executive, and they outlined the president’s responsibilities in the Constitution with him in mind — that is to say, rather vaguely. Unlike the lengthy Article I, which enumerates the legislature’s tasks, Article II is short and vague…. Thomas Jefferson, however, gave the office much more of a populist flavor, says historian Gordon Wood. “He saw himself as speaking for the people; I don’t think Washington saw it that way at all,” Wood observes. Unlike Washington, who held weekly levees reminiscent of those held by European courts, “Jefferson really threw all that out and opened himself to the people” — sometimes answering the White House’s door in his slippers…. By saving the American experiment, Lincoln allowed a future president, Theodore Roosevelt, to turn an agrarian republic into a world power. “Roosevelt made the presidency into the office of an international statesman,” says historian Edmund Morris, who recently released the final installment of his three-volume biography of the 26th president. Roosevelt succeeded in this effort largely because of his cosmopolitan personality. He had four grand tours of Europe before serving as president, spoke German and French fluently, and boasted an enormous range of international acquaintances. “The climax of his presidency was the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906, which he got for mediating the end of the Russo–Japanese war,” Morris notes. “To date, he’s the only president who’s ever been asked to mediate a foreign war.”… National Review, 2-19-11
    • Robert Hunter: ISU history prof: U.S. should be flexible with the Middle East: An ISU history professor said the U.S. government should be more flexible with its Middle Eastern policies in the wake of continued unrest in the region.
      “[Our government] is going to have to be more diplomatically nimble and more sophisticated in how we deal with these countries,” said Robert Hunter, who has lived and worked in Egypt. “They’re going to be less willing to do what we want all the time.”… – Indiana Statesman, 2-17-11
    • Douglas Brinkley: Effort to block national monuments may undermine future national parks: “National monuments are usually way stations to national parks, places so popular that they became national parks: They are national treasures and huge economic engines,” said Douglas Brinkley, author of a bestseller on Theodore Roosevelt and a new book, “The Quiet World,” on efforts to control land exploitation in Alaska and stave off species extinction.
      “In an America filled with lobby groups and selfish agendas, you can’t just save a place for one presidency,” Brinkley added…. “Sponsors of efforts to curb Presidential authority under the Antiquties Act are some of the same people in Congress who promote executive power in other realms,” Brinkley notes…. Seattle PI, 2-20-11
    • Simon Schama: cuts will make history preserve of the rich: Schama said he was uneasy that “sciences and subjects, which seem to be on a utilitarian measure useful, have retained their state funding, while the arts and humanities are being stripped of theirs.”…
      In a thinly veiled attack on PM David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg, Schama said: “It behoves those people who were themselves educated at places like Westminster, and Eton – or in my case, Haberdashers’ – to understand the damage that you can do to British culture by making it essentially a wealthy pursuit.”
      He also slammed some fellow academics, adding: “You have to work very hard to make history boring, and there are plenty of people in the institutions who do a brilliant job of making it boring…. – Telegraph (UK), 2-20-11
    • Paula Fass: Ensuring Domestic Tranquillity During Sleepovers: “My impression is that sleepovers are a phenomenon of the suburbs and they started taking off in the ’50s and ’60s,” said Paula Fass, a professor of history…. – NYT, 2-7-11

    HISTORY INTERVIEWS:

    • H.W. Brands on American Presidents: Today is Presidents Day in the U.S. In honour of the occasion, bestselling historian H W Brands introduces five excellent presidential biographies
      You were among the distinguished historians invited to advise President Obama during his first year in office. Do you believe that the stories of past presidencies contain clues to solving the problems of the present? As a historian, I think that being aware of the what’s occurred in the past—what’s worked in the past, what hasn’t worked in the past—does provide some guidance for the present…. – The Browser, 2-21-11
    • David Driskell: Artist, educator, curator to the stars: David Driskell is a painter, printmaker, collagist, professor emeritus, writer, collector, consultant, curator, art historian and nice guy. This polymath, originally from North Carolina, is a specialist in African-American art and also makes quite a bit of it himself. He is a pre-eminent voice in publicizing African-American artists through history, so much that he has a center named after him at the University of Maryland. He took a break from hanging out with friends Bill Cosby and Oprah to talk to WEEKEND about art and life…. – Yale Daily News, 2-17-11
    • John McMillian: High Times for Wikileaks, Bath Salts and Egyptian Democracy: A Review of Smoking Typewriters — the Sixties Underground Press and Rise of Alternative Media in America: The arrests and office ransackings of journalists in Egypt resonates a little bit more deeply with American history professor John McMillian: the same kind of intimidation and outright sabotage of revolutionary dissent occurred just two generations ago in a more familiar country — the United States…. – East Bay Express, 2-11-11
    • John C. McManus: How Revolutions Go Viral: A Historian’s Perspective on Egypt and Tunisia: As revolt in the Middle East has spread from Tunisia to Egypt, with additional unrest in Jordan and Yemen, the uprising echo past political revolutions, says a historian at Missouri University of Science and Technology.
      Dr. John C. McManus, an associate professor of military history at Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T), says the recent uprisings are similar to past revolutions. Just as the American Revolution inspired France to win its own independence and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 spread throughout the former Soviet bloc, revolutions can become viral, McManus says… – Newswise, 2-4-11
    • Laurence Reisman: Q&A with historian, presidential biographer Douglas Brinkley: Historian Brinkley uses research to opine on political questions such as did Reagan have Alzheimer’s while in the White House?
      Perhaps it’s sheer coincidence that presidential author and Rice University professor Douglas Brinkley will pinch-hit for the Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan Saturday night as part of The Emerson Center’s Celebrated Speakers Series. But timeliness is everything. Brinkley, author of two books on late President Ronald Reagan, will speak on the eve of the 40th president’s 100th birthday.
      Brinkley’s interests and expertise are varied. He’s written numerous books on presidents, and about all sorts of other Amertican history, from Rosa Parks and Hurricane Katrina to Hunter S. Thompson and Dean Acheson. He’s even taught college history classes by taking students cross-country on buses…. – TC Palm, 2-1-11

    HISTORY AWARDS & APPOINTMENTS:

    • Philip Gleason: Honoring the Historian: Philip Gleason, professor emeritus of history at the University of Notre Dame and the country’s pre-eminent historian of American Catholicism, will receive an honorary degree from the University of Dayton this spring…. – University of Dayton – News Home, 2-22-11
    • Prestigious Lincoln Prize goes to Eric Foner: Prominent historian Eric Foner will receive the 2011 $50,000 Lincoln Prize for his book, “The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery” according to an announcement this morning by prize sponsors Gettysburg College and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. He will receive the award on May 11 at the Union League Club in New York. Foner, the DeWitt Clinton professor of history at Columbia University, wrote in Fiery Trial about the evolving attitude of Lincoln toward slavery and slaves as the Civil War unfolded. The 16th President, who always said he abhorred slavery, initially sought to eradicate it by promoting colonization of other countries by former slaves. Later he changed that opinion and sought full citizenship for African Americans in this country…. – WaPo, 2-10-11
    • Steve Hindle: Huntington Library names new research director after world-wide search: Steve Hindle, a history professor at England’s Warwick University, was named Monday to succeed Robert “Roy” Ritchie on July 1 as director of research at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens…. – Pasadena Star-News, 2-7-11
    • Dr. Eric Miller receives 2011 Book Award from Christianity Today: Congratulations to Geneva College Associate Professor of History Dr. Eric Miller for receiving Christianity Today’s 2011 Book Award for History/Biography in honor of his latest book, Hope in a Scattering Time: A Life of Christopher Lasch (Eerdmans, 2010).
      Hope in a Scattering Time: A Life of Christopher Lasch is the first published biography of Christopher Lasch, historian, social critic and author of The Culture of Narcissism. The book has received positive reviews from a number of national sources such as the The Weekly Standard and the Commonweal. Alan Wolfe of The New Republic says, “This is anything but a quickly written effort to explore the relationship between a thinker and his times. Miller has not only dug deeply, he has also pondered carefully…. I never met the man, but thanks to this book I now feel that I have. I could not be more grateful to Miller for facilitating the introduction.”… – Geneva College, 2-7-11
    • Historian Allison Blakely Appointed to Humanities Council: The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has announced that historian Allison Blakely has been appointed to the National Council on the Humanities. Blakely was nominated by President Barack Obama on August 5 and confirmed by the Senate December 21. Blakely is a professor of European and Comparative History at Boston University and previously taught at Howard University for 30 years. He is the author of Blacks in the Dutch World: The Evolution of Racial Imagery in a Modern Society; Russia and the Negro: Blacks in Russian History and Thought and numerous scholarly articles on Russian populism and the various European aspects of the Black Diaspora…. – Lee White, National Coalition for History, 2-1-11
    • David L. Preston: Citadel historian wins distinguished book prize: David L. Preston, associate professor of history at The Citadel, won the prestigious Albert B. Corey Prize for 2010 for his recent work, “The Texture of Contact: European and Indian Settler Communities on the Frontiers of Iroquoia, 1667-1783.” The Corey Prize recognizes the best book on Canadian-American relations or on the history of both countries. The prize is awarded every two years by the American Historical Association and the Canadian Historical Association, the two premier professional organizations for historians in the United States and Canada…. – Media Newswire, 2-7-11

    HISTORY ANNOUNCEMENTS & EVENTS CALENDAR:

    • Bruce Catton papers now indexed online at the University of Wyoming: An inventory of papers and correspondence of Bruce Catton, widely regarded (along with Shelby Foote) as the most popular of America’s Civil War historians, is now accessible online through the University of Wyoming American Heritage Center. There are no access restrictions on the materials for research purposes, and the collection is open to the public…. A description and inventory for this collection [is now] accessible at http://rmoa.unm.edu/docviewer.php?docId=wyu-ah04032.xml/University of Wyoming, 12-20-10
    • Black history catalogued at new U. of C. website: ….On Friday at the University of Chicago’s Joseph Regenstein Library, researchers unveiled a new website intended to make it easy for the public and scholars alike to locate these African-American artifacts as well as a host of others in the city from the same period in history…. The website is the “cutting edge portal into discovering primary source materials to study and know black Chicago’s history from the 1930s to the 1970s,” said Jacqueline Goldsby, a former U. of C. professor who headed up the three-year project…. – Chicago Sun-Times, 12-11-10uncap.lib.uchicago.edu
    • Camelot’s archives, available with the click of a mouse: During a 1962 news conference, a reporter asked President John F. Kennedy if he’d consider locating his presidential library in Washington, D.C., after leaving the White House so scholars and historians would have the broadest possible access to it. No, he replied playfully, “I’m going to put it in Cambridge, Massachusetts.”…
      A four-year, $10 million effort to digitize the JFK Library and Museum’s archives, making hundreds of thousands of documents, photographs, and recordings available online, is nearing completion of its first phase. A formal announcement will come Jan. 13, one week before the 50th anniversary of JFK’s inauguration, at a press conference in the nation’s capitol.
      “Access to a Legacy,” as the project is called, marks the first time a presidential library established in the paper age has fully committed itself to the digital era. The amount of material to be posted online in January is huge — 200,000 pages of text, 1,500 photos, 1,250 files of audio recordings and moving images, and 340 phone conversations totaling 17 1/2 hours — but represents just a small portion of the collection….
      Presidential historian Robert Dallek, who has made liberal use of the Kennedy archives, said the primary payoff is reaching the largest possible international audience. “What this means is, people in Japan or Germany can have access to [JFK’s] office files, and that’s a splendid step forward.” Other presidential libraries will probably follow suit, he added, “because they don’t want to expire, so to speak. Plus, there’s still tremendous interest in subjects like World War II, Vietnam, and the New Deal.”… – Boston Globe (11-28-10)
    • 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
    • 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.

    HISTORIANS SPOTTED:

    • Yvonne Haddad: Georgetown professor speaks on Muslim identity, politics: On Wednesday night, Yvonne Haddad, a professor of the history of Islam and Christian-Muslim relations at Georgetown University, presented a public lecture titled “Islamophobia and the Reconstruction of Muslim American Culture” to a group of approximately 50 students and community members in Robertson Hall.
      “What my talk will be about is how we moved from Islamophobia into a coalition of groups in order to find a space for Muslims in North America,” Haddad said at the start of her talk. “What you have is Muslims now engaged in the political process. They feel very comfortable being American and feel very comfortable criticizing American foreign policy. This would not have been possible 10 years ago.”
      Haddad gave an extensive account of the troubled history of Islam’s relations with Christianity, discussing the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition and the Protestant Reformation. Daily Princetonian, 2-24-11
    • Michael Rawson: Environmentalist historian Rawson lectures on Boston’s urban growth: Michael Rawson, an assistant professor of history at City University of New York’s Brooklyn College, spoke at Bowdoin on Wednesday night about his recent book, “Eden on the Charles: The Making of Boston.” The lecture took place in Main Lounge in Moulton Union. Rawson is an environmental historian who focuses on the urban environment…. – Bowdoin Orient, 2-18-11
    • Samuel Moyn: Columbia Univ professor lectures on human rightsThe Brandeis Hoot, 2-11-11
    • Emory ‘regrets’ slavery ties, holds conference on topic: The founders of Emory University owned slaves. They used slave labor to build the campus. Their pro-slavery views helped drive the North-South schism in the Methodist Episcopal Church leading up to the Civil War. The university’s slave legacy doesn’t end with the antebellum era. In 1902, the college forced a professor to resign for an article he wrote condemning lynching. Fast forward to 2003 when a professor’s use of a racial slur led to campus-wide debates. That incident spurred self-reflection…. – Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2-3-11

    HISTORY ON TV:

    HISTORY BEST SELLERS (NYT):

    UPCOMING HISTORY BOOK RELEASES:

    • Molly Caldwell Crosby: Asleep: The Forgotten Epidemic That Remains One of Medicine’s Greatest Mysteries, (Paperback), February 1, 2011
    • Jonathan Gill: Harlem: The Four Hundred Year History from Dutch Village to Capital of Black America, (Hardcover), February 1, 2011
    • Amy Louise Wood: Lynching and Spectacle: Witnessing Racial Violence in America, 1890-1940, (Paperback), February 1, 2011
    • David Eisenhower: Going Home to Glory: A Memoir of Life with Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961-1969, (Hardcover), February 2, 2011
    • Frederick Brown: For the Soul of France: Culture Wars in the Age of Dreyfus, (Paperback), February 8, 2011
    • Donald Rumsfeld: Known and Unknown: A Memoir, (Hardcover), February 8, 2011
    • Holger H. Herwig: The Marne, 1914: The Opening of World War I and the Battle That Changed the World, (Paperback), February 8, 2011
    • Christopher Corbett: The Poker Bride: The First Chinese in the Wild West (Reprint), (Paperback), February 8, 2011
    • Justin Fox: The Myth of the Rational Market: A History of Risk, Reward, and Delusion on Wall Street, (Paperback), February 8, 2011
    • Julia P. Gelardi: From Splendor to Revolution: The Romanov Women, 1847–1928, (Hardcover), February 15, 2011
    • Lucy Moore: Anything Goes: A Biography of the Roaring Twenties, (Paperback), February 22, 2011
    • Sarah Rose: For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World’s Favorite Drink and Changed History, (Paperback), February 22, 2011
    • David Strauss: Setting the Table for Julia Child: Gourmet Dining in America, 1934-1961, (Hardcover), February 26, 2011
    • G.J. Meyer: The Tudors: The Complete Story of England’s Most Notorious Dynasty, (Paperback), March 1, 2011
    • Jack Weatherford: The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire, (Paperback), March 1, 2011
    • Bruce S. Thornton: The Wages of Appeasement: Ancient Athens, Munich, and Obama’s America, (Hardcover), March 1, 2011
    • Miranda Carter: George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I, (Paperback), March 8, 2011
    • John D. Plating: The Hump: America’s Strategy for Keeping China in World War II (General), (Hardcover), March 9, 2011
    • David Goldfield: America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation, (Hardcover), March 15, 2011
    • Matt Spruill: Decisions at Gettysburg: The Nineteen Critical Decisions That Defined the Campaign, (Paperback), March 16, 2011
    • Adrienne Mayor: The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy, (Paperback), March 22, 2011
    • Michael O’Brien: Mrs. Adams in Winter: A Journey in the Last Days of Napoleon, (Paperback), March 29, 2011
    • Dominic Lieven: Russia Against Napoleon: The True Story of the Campaigns of War and Peace, (Paperback), March 29, 2011
    • Rudy Tomedi: General Matthew Ridgway, (Hardcover), March 30, 2011
    • Kim Wilson: Tea with Jane Austen (Second Edition), (Hardcover), April 1, 2011
    • Nick Bunker: Making Haste from Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World: A New History, (Paperback), April 5, 2011
    • Nell Irvin Painter: The History of White People, (Paperback), April 18, 2011
    • Christopher I. Beckwith: Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present, (Paperback), April 21, 2011
    • Andrew F. Smith: Eating History: Thirty Turning Points in the Making of American Cuisine, (Paperback), April 22, 2011
    • Barbara Frale: The Templars: The Secret History Revealed, (Paperback), May 1, 2011
    • Alison Plowden: The Young Victoria (New), (Paperback), May 1, 2011
    • Bill Morgan: The Typewriter Is Holy: The Complete, Uncensored History of the Beat Generation, (Paperback), May 1, 2011
    • Rebecca Skloot: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, (Paperback), May 3, 2011
    • Lynne Olson: Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour, (Paperback), May 3, 2011
    • Jane Ziegelman: 97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement, (Paperback), May 31, 2011
    • Jonathan R. Dull: The Age of the Ship of the Line: The British and French Navies, 1650-1815, (Paperback), June 1, 2011
    • Jasper Ridley: The Freemasons: A History of the World’s Most Powerful Secret Society, (Paperback), June 1, 2011
    • David Howard: Lost Rights: The Misadventures of a Stolen American Relic, (Paperback), June 8, 2011
    • Kelly Hart: The Mistresses of Henry VIII, (Paperback), July 1, 2011
    • Christopher Heaney: Cradle of Gold: The Story of Hiram Bingham, a Real-Life Indiana Jones, and the Search for Machu Picchu, (Paperback), July 5, 2011
    • Eric Jay Dolin: Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America, (Paperback), July 5, 2011
    • Edward P. Kohn: Hot Time in the Old Town: The Great Heat Wave of 1896 and the Making of Theodore Roosevelt (First Trade Paper Edition), (Paperback), July 12, 2011

    HISTORIANS REMEMBERED:

    • Meiqing Zhang: Prof dies after long illness: Meiqing Zhang, a senior lecturer in East Asian studies who had taught Chinese since 1988, died Saturday after a long illness.
      “It is a huge loss for Brown and especially for East Asian studies,” said Dean of the Faculty Rajiv Vohra P’07. She was a “highly regarded figure in the field of Chinese language pedagogy,” according to a statement on the East Asian studies website…. – Brown Daily Herald, 2-24-11
    • Dame Judith Binney dies: The historian and widely-respected scholar passed away last night. She was Emeritus Professor of History at Auckland University. Dame Judith was a member of the Arts Council and the Historic Places Trust and a pioneer in New Zealand history…. – Newstalk ZB, 2-15-11
    • Michael Harsegor, Israeli medievalist, dies at 87: Tel Aviv University Professor Michael Harsegor, one of Israel’s most-prominent historians, passed away on Thursday at the age of 87. For decades Harsegor taught history at Tel Aviv University and was considered an expert on Late Middle Ages European History. He was most well-known to the Israeli public for hosting the long-running Army Radio program “historical hour”…. – Jerusalem Post, 2-10-11
    • Ernst Presseisen, 82, a Temple professor: Ernst L. Presseisen, 82, of Center City, an emeritus professor of history at Temple University and a Holocaust survivor, died of complications of pneumonia … – Philadelphia Inquirer, 2-9-11
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    History Buzz Special: President’s Day 2011

    HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

    History Buzz

    By Bonnie K. Goodman

    Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

    IN FOCUS: PRESIDENT’S DAY

    • Americans Say Reagan Is Greatest President, Poll Finds: Number 40 is No. 1. Just in time for Presidents Day, Ronald Reagan tops a list of the nation’s greatest chief executives, ahead of Abraham Lincoln, according to a new survey out Friday.
      The Gallup Poll puts Reagan, with 19 percent, in the top spot for the third time. Reagan also occupied the position in 2001 and 2005 — and he has been in the top three eight times since Gallup started asking the “greatest president” question 12 years ago.
      Lincoln garnered 14 percent, followed very closely by Bill Clinton, with 13 percent.
      John F. Kennedy, who was on top in 2000 and tied with Lincoln in 2003, came in fourth this year.
      The country’s first president, George Washington, is fifth on the list.
      Gallup said respondents are more likely to mention recent office-holders because “the average American constantly hears about and from presidents in office during their lifetime, and comparatively little about historical presidents long dead.”…. – Politics Daily, 2-18-11
    • Top 10 presidents: In 2010, Siena College asked 238 presidential scholars to rank the 43 commanders in chief:
      1. Franklin Roosevelt
      2. Teddy Roosevelt
      3. Abraham Lincoln
      4. George Washington
      5. Thomas Jefferson
      6. James Madison
      7. James Monroe
      8. Woodrow Wilson
      9. Harry Truman
      10. Dwight Eisenhower
    • Presidents Day history, facts and info: Presidents Day officially falls on the third Monday in February. It was borne out of a combination of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday Feb. 12 and George Washington’s birthday Feb. 22. The federal holiday is officially dubbed “Washington’s Birthday,” but is more commonly known as Presidents Day.
      Washington’s Birthday: Washington’s birthday was originally Feb. 11, 1731, by the Julian calendar. When Britain and its colonies adopted the Gregorian calendar the date was changed to Feb. 22, 1732. Celebrating the birthday America’s first president goes back to when he was still in office.
      Observing Washington’s Birthday: After Washington’s death in 1799, Congress chose to honor our first president in many ways. In 1832, Congress adjourned Feb. 22 to observe the centennial of Washington’s birth. In 1862, Washington’s farewell address to the nation was read aloud on the floor of the House and Senate on the day of his birth. The tradition still holds in the U.S. Senate today.
      Official Holiday: In the late 1870s, Washington’s Birthday joined New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day as the five observed holidays by banks and by federal employees in Washington, D.C. In 1885, Washington’s birthday was extended to all federal employees.
      Uniform Monday Holiday Law: In 1968, Congress considered the Uniform Monday Holiday Law in order to standardize days (not dates) of certain holidays on calendars. Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day and Veterans Day all became holidays observed on a Monday. Columbus Day was created with the same legislation and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was added in 1983.
      Third Monday in February: The third Monday in February was chosen as the day for Presidents Day because it falls on neither Washington’s nor Lincoln’s actual birthday. The third Monday in February occurs from Feb. 15 to Feb. 21 in any given year.
      Lincoln’s Birthday: Lincoln’s birthday was never an official federal holiday although many northern states observed Feb. 12 as a holiday. In 2011, only three states officially close their offices to observe Lincoln’s birthday–Connecticut, Illinois and Missouri. California and New Jersey used to close state offices, but in 2011 employees are reporting for work in both of those states.
      Presidents Day Celebrations: In the official Public Law, the third Monday of February is designated “Washington’s Birthday” even though Congress set the date in order to honor Lincoln as well. The name morphed into Presidents Day when businesses wanted to market big sales during the three-day weekend. Mount Vernon, Virginia, the historic home of George Washington on the Potomac River, celebrates the third Monday in February with free admission to the site along with other celebrations. – Yahoo News, 2-17-11
    • Presidents Day — Listing the best and worst: Presidents Day is a combined holiday fusing what were once the separate observations of Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays (fused by Richard Nixon and set on the third Monday in February) They are generally regarded as our best presidents and are two of the four faces on Mount Rushmore. How do the ones who are implied by the holiday of Presidents Day (if not specifically mentioned) come out?
      Listing presidents from best to worst can be problematic when dealing with arguably the most polarizing tenants of the White House as well as with the most recent ones (as their administrations haven’t receded far enough into the past to be completely called history). Both aspects of that came to the fore in 2006 when historian Sean Wilentz held George W. Bush to be the worst U.S. President in history, citing a 2004 survey in which a sizable majority reached the same verdict. The potential problems with such a judgment being made in the middle of Bush’s term in office should be obvious….
      There have been a great many polls with Siena’s 2010 survey being its fifth. Lincoln, Washington, and FDR generally occupy the top three slots (with Jefferson and T. Roosevelt occasionally stepping in) and Buchanan, Pierce, and Harding generally occupy the bottom three slot (with a couple of entries by Andrew Johnson and William Henry Harrison — but see my cavil about the latter)…. – Gather, 2-21-11
    • President’s Day History: February 21st marks the celebration of both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays, more commonly known as President’s Day.
      Washington, known as “The father of our country” is remembered for playing a significant role in drafting the Declaration of Independence.
      Lincoln, or “Honest Abe” was known as the “Great Emancipator” for signing into law the Emanciption Proclamation that freed the slaves… – Newsmax, 2-18-11
    • Presidents Day: A Time to Remember the Greats: Presidents Day is ostensibly a time to celebrate the great men who helped shape the nation. It’s an oddly named holiday, if for no other reason than few would hold the presidents with equal reverence. Once upon a time, we celebrated the birthdays of Washington and Lincoln separately, an honor befitting their outsized legacies. It’s universally accepted that their accomplishments merit unequal treatment in that regard.
      It was Richard Nixon, of all people, who decided to replace Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays for the more generic Presidents Day, which takes place on the third Monday in February. The intent was to pay respect to all the previous office holders, though the unintended consequence has been just the opposite. For younger generations, the holiday represents little more than a chance to score some deals at the local mall; it’s doubtful that shoppers are giving thought to our greatest presidents as they troll the discount bins.
      And that’s a shame. Presidents Day should be a chance for Americans to reconnect with the past — both distant and near — and the giants of the office who transformed the country. There’s certainly no shortage of men and moments to appreciate…. – Fox News, 2-21-11
    • Presidents Day 2011 – Remembering Ronald Reagan: While Presidents Day has traditionally been a day to remember two of America’s greatest presidents—George Washington and Abraham Lincoln; in recent years it has become a day to reflect upon all of the great presidents of the United States and their accomplishments. In that spirit, this Presidents Day seems to be the perfect occasion to reflect upon the presidency of Ronald Reagan, who would have turned 100 on February 6.
      While Ronald Reagan has certainly become an icon among conservative Americans, he was also quite popular among most independent voters and even a good number of “Reagan-democrats.”
      The tribute video linked to this page does a good job of celebrating the life and presidency of Ronald Reagan. It is worth watching for anyone who is a Reagan fan. Though I certainly do consider Ronald Reagan one of our greatest presidents, I do not mean to suggest that I would rank him above the likes of George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. Our nation’s history has been marked by many great presidents (and many not so great presidents)…. – Examiner, 2-21-11
    • Presidents Day: Scandals that created celebrities: In honor of Presidents Day, we take a look at a few folks who’ve achieved fame — or at least notoriety — by having their names linked to the leader of the free world…. – LAT
    • Presidents Day: Celebrating Monica Lewinsky, Judith Exner and other man-made celebs: On Presidents Day we should, in theory, spend some time thinking about what our presidents have done to give us the country we have today, right? And yes, we thought about it. And then we decided that we were less interested in presidential achievements than we were in regular folks who achieved fame, or infamy, thanks to an association with a leader of the free world. In that spirit, the Ministry has compiled a Presidents Day photo gallery of average Joes — or, more often, average Janes — whose names we know thanks to high-level improprieties. CIA agent Valerie Plame, (whose relationship, admittedly, was more with the White House in general than with a president in particular) and take a trip down memory lane with the likes of Monica Lewinsky, Judith Exner, Sally Hemings and more…. – LAT, 2-21-11
    • Harold Holzer: Five myths about Abraham Lincoln: No American hero, with the possible exception of George “I Cannot Tell a Lie” Washington, has been more encrusted with myth than Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln did boast virtues that required little embellishment. He rose from obscurity through hard work, self-education and honesty. He endured venomous criticism to save the Union and end slavery. He died shortly after his greatest triumph at the hands of an assassin. But tall-tale-tellers have never hesitated to rewrite Lincoln’s biography. On Presidents’ Day, it’s well worth dispelling some perennial misconceptions about the man on the $5 bill….
      1. Lincoln was a simple country lawyer….
      2. Lincoln was gay….
      3. Lincoln was depressed…
      4. Lincoln was too compassionate…
      5. Lincoln was mortally ill… –
      WaPo, 2-17-11
    • Another President’s Day — for Jefferson Davis: While a few Yankees will nationally celebrate Presidents’ Day Monday as the combined birthdays of notorious good guy George Washington and an early Illinois president named Abraham Lincoln. But a real celebration occurs Saturday.
      That’s actually a day late for the 150th anniversary of the inauguration of Jefferson Davis as head of the Confederate States of America. The celebratory day has fallen into considerable disuse since roughly Appomattox Court House.
      Born in Kentucky, Davis was a U.S. Senator from Mississippi both before and after he was, appropriately enough, Secretary of War in the Democratic administration of New Hampshire’s only native-born president, Franklin Pierce (1853-57). Pierce, a lifelong alcoholic, is widely considered one of the worst presidents in American history.
      Davis actually argued against secession, though he never questioned a state’s right to depart the Union.
      On Feb. 18, 1861, Davis began a six-year term as president of the Confederate States. Like Jimmy Carter from Georgia some years later, Davis was a one-termer; actually, a less-than-one-termer, as he was arrested for treason by Union troops on May 10, 1865, a day that passes now without notice…. – LAT, 2-18-11
    • Presidential party Madame Tussauds’ wax exhibit features all of America’s leaders, from Washington to Obama: What better way to celebrate Presidents Day weekend than getting up close and personal with all 43 presidents — well, their lifelike wax figures, that is.
      The Presidents Gallery at Madame Tussauds Washington opens this week with an unveiling of the museum’s new $2 million exhibit featuring wax figures of the U.S. leaders, from No. 1, George Washington, to No. 44, Barack Obama. (Grover Cleveland, for those counting, was No. 22 and No. 24.)
      “This is the only place in the world where you are able to stand next to them, put your arms around them and interact with all 44 presidents in three-dimensional fashion,” said Dan Rogoski, general manager of Madame Tussauds Washington…. – Baltimore Sun, 2-17-11
    • President’s Day in New Jersey: Remembering the Roosevelts: February has morphed into Presidents’ Month. First there were Lincoln’s Birthday and Washington’s Birthday. Then came President’s Day, which provided for a three-day weekend. Before long, stores and advertisers expanded the three-day weekend to a week, and now it has become a full month’s merchandising affair.
      Similarly, the focus on Presidents, to the extent that there is one, has expanded to Presidents beyond Washington and Lincoln. Over time, the month has come to consider things “Presidential”, including our more obscure Presidents. In this spirit, our Presidential story for this month involves the name Roosevelt. Of course, we have had two Presidents Roosevelt — fifth cousins we are told.
      One was a Republican, the other a Democrat. One presided over the nation in the early part of the 20th century in the midst of rapidly changing times marked by an era attempting to reign in corporate power. The other led the nation in the later part of the 20th century, and faced daunting, monumental challenges — the Great Depression and World War II.
      Both Roosevelts were popular, but with very different constituencies. Both have had their names honored and memorialized — but in different ways with very interesting stories behind these honors…. – New Jersey Newsroom, 2-21-11
    • Remember Your Other 5 Black Presidents: It has been said that this year was the first time a major political party in the United States nominated a woman or a Black person as its presidential candidate. For women, that is true, but some historians say Barack Obama will not be the nation’s first Black president. They say he certainly won’t be the first president with Black ancestors–just the first to acknowledge his Blackness.
      Which other presidents hid their African ancestry? Well, it’s not Bill Clinton, even though the Congressional Black Caucus honored him as the nation’s “first Black president” at its 2001 annual awards dinner. Presidents Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge all had Black ancestors they kept in their genealogical closets, according to historians…. – 2-15-08
    • Virtual president’s desk enlivens JFK’s 1800s desk: A new online feature called The President’s Desk is giving people a chance to learn more about John F. Kennedy’s life and administration. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library is introducing its latest project on Monday morning at the library’s museum in Boston…. – AP, 2-22-11
    • WHITE HOUSE RECIPES FOR President’s Day: In honor of President’s Day I share some presidential recipes I rustled up. Apparently the Obama’s don’t cook their chili for hours and hours. The Fords liked blueberries in their banana bread. Lyndon Johnson preferred his barbeque sauce just so. Jackie Kennedy was not above opening a can. And Franklin Roosevelt had a favorite chicken dish with a nebulous history. Hometown Focus, 2-18-11
    • This Presidents Day, A Lesson In Greatness: Presidents Day is a good time to reflect both on the accomplishments of presidents past and on the lessons of history.
      It’s also a time to honor our truly great presidents: George Washington, the father of our country; Abraham Lincoln, the great emancipator; and Ronald Reagan, the great communicator.
      Reagan, the greatest president of modern times, provides all of us a lesson in presidential leadership. True, it was his oratorical skill that made Reagan such a potent force. But it was his ideas and his unwavering belief in America’s greatness that made him great…. – Investors, 2-18-11
    • ‘Today’ features long-lost Thomas Jefferson books on President’s Day ’11 (video): ‘Today’ features long-lost Thomas Jefferson books on President’s Day ’11 (video) — Appropriate for President’s Day, NBC’s Today Show featured a story Monday morning about a group of recently discovered books once thought lost from the library of Thomas Jefferson. The books have been determined to be authentically Jefferson’s, and the specific titles and notes associated with them will aid scholars and historians in filling in gaps in the history of the nation’s third president.
      Ann Lucas from the International Center for Jefferson Studies appeared on Today along with Shirley Baker, Dean of Libraries at Washington University of St. Louis. Ms. Lucas explained her scholarly search that set her on the trail of the books…. – Examiner, 2-21-11
    • ‘A Great and Mighty President’ Three historians discuss the “splendid misery” that is the presidency: Patrick Henry opposed the Constitution as vehemently as he opposed tyranny. Indeed, at the Virginia ratifying convention in June 1788, he argued they were the same thing. “Besides the expenses of maintaining the Senate and other house in as much splendor as they please,” he railed, “there is to be a great and mighty president, with very extensive powers — the powers of a king.”
      Three months before, Alexander Hamilton, writing as “Publius” in the New York Packet, had defended the proposed presidency. “The executive authority, with few exceptions, is to be vested in a single magistrate,” he wrote. “If, in this particular, there be a resemblance to the king of Great Britain, there is not less a resemblance to the Grand Seignior, to the khan of Tartary, to the Man of the Seven Mountains, or to the governor of New York.”
      Both men were right. The president assumed very extensive powers. But even with them, no occupant of the office has yet resembled a king — at least not considerably. For this good fortune, we owe a large debt to the men who have held the office.
      No man had a greater influence on the presidency than its original occupant. “The office of the presidency was not only forged by George Washington,” says historian Ron Chernow, who recently published a one-volume biography of the first president. “One can make the argument that the office was forged for George Washington.” At the Constitutional Convention in 1787, most delegates assumed he would be the first executive, and they outlined the president’s responsibilities in the Constitution with him in mind — that is to say, rather vaguely. Unlike the lengthy Article I, which enumerates the legislature’s tasks, Article II is short and vague.
      “That was extremely important,” Chernow adds, “because we had just fought a war against the abuse of executive power. Washington’s presence at the Constitutional Convention and this assumption emboldened the delegates to create a very powerful office, one so powerful that Thomas Jefferson and others were alarmed by its scope.”
      Washington wielded that power effectively: creating a national bank, negotiating an unpopular treaty with Great Britain, and extinguishing the Whisky Rebellion in western Pennsylvania. But he also answered a fundamental question — one whose answer we take for granted today: How is a president supposed to act? “Washington decides that, basically, the president won’t stop by your house for dinner,” Chernow quips. “The office would have a certain dignity and detachment.” Americans still afford their presidents that dignity. Notice last year’s kerfuffle over comedian Jon Stewart’s calling President Obama “dude.”… – NRO Online, 2-19-11Download
    • Jimmy Carter recounts his presidency: The 39th U.S. president celebrates Presidents Day before a large crowd in his hometown. Former President Jimmy Carter gave a standing-room-only crowd the ultimate civics lesson Monday at the Plains High School Museum. What better way to celebrate Presidents Day than hearing from a former American president? With the auditorium packed full of students from across the state of Georgia and tourists from Florida, Alabama and South Carolina, the nation’s 39th president recalled the highs and lows of his four-year administration….
      “I know this might sound strange, but this is the first time since 1981 that we’ve been back home that the park services has allowed me to speak from this stage,” Carter said. “Presidents Day has always been special to me because I proposed to Rosalynn on Presidents Day 65 years ago.”
      “I said then that the days of racial division of America were over, that no black child would ever again be denied the opportunity to succeed and thrive in America,” Carter said. “I’ve always said Harry Truman was my role model, and when he ended racial discrimination in the military you have to remember that was eight years before anyone had ever heard of Rosa Parks.” “That decision took a great deal of courage, and I am convinced that if it were not for Harry Truman and Martin Luther King Jr., I would have never been president.”
      “Foreign policy was always my favorite part of the job because I did not need permission to invite (Egyptian President) Anwar Sadat and (Israeli Prime Minister) Menachem Begin to Camp David,” he said. “It was a difficult time. Israel had already been in four recent wars with its neighbors, and all four were led by Egypt.” “Anwar Sadat is my favorite foreign leader of all-time,” said Carter.
      “Those 444 days were the biggest burden ever placed on me,” Carter said. “From Nov. 3, 1979 until the moment I left office, it was with me. Some said I should have bombed Iran, but that would have resulted in the loss of hundreds of innocent lives, and they would have executed our people. I wouldn’t risk that. “At 10 a.m. the day I was to leave office, I was told that our people were sitting in a plane on a runway waiting to take off, but (Ayatollah Ruhollah) Khomeini would not authorize it to leave as long as I was in office. The plane took off five minutes after (Ronald) Reagan was sworn in.”
      “Being President of the greatest country in the world was a wonderful honor and a public and private privilege,” Carter said. “I’d like to say thank you to the American people for giving me this wonderful honor.” – Albany Herald, 2-22-11

      QUOTES

    • “No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.” – George Washington
    • “Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right, from the frame of their nature, to knowledge, as their great Creator, who does nothing in vain, has given them understandings, and a desire to know.” – John Adams
    • “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent. ” – Thomas Jefferson
    • “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” – James Madison
    • “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves. ” – Abraham Lincoln
    • “In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility – I welcome it.” – John F Kennedy
    • “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” – Ronald Reagan 

    History Buzz, February 8-15, 2010: Presidents’ Day

    HISTORY BUZZ:

    POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS:

    IN FOCUS:

    • Books on Abraham Lincoln: Michael Burlingame offers a Presidents Day reading list: Distinctive personal portraits of Abraham Lincoln…. – 1. Honor’s Voice, By Douglas L. Wilson, Knopf, 1998
      2. The Young Eagle, By Kenneth J. Winkle, Taylor, 2001
      3. Lincoln’s Melancholy, By Joshua Wolf Shenk, Houghton Mifflin, 2005
      4. Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Keckly, By Jennifer Fleischner, Broadway, 2003
      5. Herndon’s Lincoln, By William H. Herndon and Jesse W. Weik, University of Illinois, 2006 – WSJ, 2-13-10
    • Test your knowledge of presidential history: Ultimately, the Founding Fathers rejected the prevailing concept of governance at the time – a monarch – in setting up an infant nation, opting instead for someone a little closer to home. The President….
      And because we put so much faith in one man – no women, yet – we want to know as much about him as possible. So as we recognize Presidents Day today, it might be a good time to determine just what we do know about the presidents who’ve come and gone…. – The Gainsville Sun, 2-15-10

    THIS WEEK IN HISTORY:

    HISTORY NEWS:

    • Faulkner Link to Plantation Diary Discovered: The climactic moment in William Faulkner’s 1942 novel “Go Down, Moses” comes when Isaac McCaslin finally decides to open his grandfather’s leather farm ledgers with their “scarred and cracked backs” and “yellowed pages scrawled in fading ink” — proof of his family’s slave-owning past. Now, what appears to be the document on which Faulkner modeled that ledger as well as the source for myriad names, incidents and details that populate his fictionalized Yoknapatawpha County has been discovered…. – NYT, 2-11-10
    • Niall Ferguson: Sex and summitry: the rise of the raunchy summit: So now we know what it takes to remove leading public intellectuals from their studies and source-notes. Niall Ferguson, TV historian, neo-Conservative and heart-throb of the conference circuit, has left his wife for the terrifyingly glamorous feminist writer, Ayaan Hirsi Ali…. – UK Standard, 2-11-10
    • Snow Is No Longer a Joking Matter in Washington For what might be the first time ever, says Fred Beuttler, the House’s deputy historian, the chamber’s cafeteria was forced to close… – Time, 2-10-10

    REVIEWS & FIRST CHAPTERS:

    • Andrew Young’s Memoir of John Edwards: THE POLITICIAN An Insider’s Account of John Edwards’s Pursuit of the Presidency and the Scandal That Brought Him Down In “The Politician,” Young, a longtime aide to John Edwards, ventilates his abhorrence for former Senator Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, both of whom he seems to have undertaken Stakhanovite efforts to please…. – NYT, 2-12-10 Excerpt
    • Jerry Z. Muller: Jews and the Burden of Money: CAPITALISM AND THE JEWS – In his slim essay collection “Capitalism and the Jews,” Jerry Z. Muller presents a provocative and accessible survey of how Jewish culture and historical accident ripened Jews for commercial success and why that success has earned them so much misfortune. NYT, 2-12-10
    • James S. Hirsch: A Nice Guy in a Perfect Baseball World: WILLIE MAYS The Life, the Legend James S. Hirsch’s new book, “Willie Mays: The Life, the Legend,” is the first biography written with Mays’s participation. (Mr. Hirsch and Mays intend to split the book’s earnings.) The result is an authoritative if sometimes listless book, one that’s less “Say Hey” than so-so. Like a long out to center field that scores a runner, however, it’s a book that gets the job done… – NYT, 2-12-10 Excerpt
    • Michael Shelden: Books of The Times Mark Twain: A Public Image as Tailored as His Snow-White Suits: MARK TWAIN: MAN IN WHITE The Grand Adventure of His Final Years As Michael Shelden illustrates in his lively, star-struck and surprise-filled portrait of Twain the septuagenarian, this kind of behavior was carefully calculated. Twain made crucial, image-shaping decisions about how he would live his last years, and Mr. Shelden takes his book’s title from one of these choices… – NYT, 2-12-10 Excerpt
    • Kevin Boyle: Book review of ‘Root and Branch’ by Rawn James, Jr.: ROOT AND BRANCH Charles Hamilton Houston, Thurgood Marshall, and the Struggle to End Segregation In “Root and Branch,” Rawn James, Jr. isn’t trying to add to that imposing scholarship as much as he’s trying to give it a popular spin. A Washington lawyer, he moves nimbly through the complex legal issues Houston and his team raised. To add a poignant touch, he interweaves Houston’s and Marshall’s powerful personal stories. And he gives their campaign a stirringly triumphal arc, the story of a whole nation being forced — by the fierce will of two learned men — to overcome…. – WaPo, 2-12-10
    • PUBLIC POLICY Book review: ‘The Great American University,’ by Jonathan R. Cole: THE GREAT AMERICAN UNIVERSITY Its Rise to Preeminence, Its Indispensable National Role, Why It Must Be Protected Our high schools may be hurting, but the best U.S. universities — the Ivies, Johns Hopkins, Stanford, the select state universities (Virginia, California at Berkeley, Michigan and others) — are the envy of the world. In his new book, Jonathan R. Cole, a former provost and dean of faculties at Columbia, shows how our research universities in particular came to be what they are… – WaPo, 2-12-10
    • Book review: ‘Inside Obama’s Brain,’ by Sasha Abamsky: INSIDE OBAMA’S BRAIN – Sasha Abramsky promises us a glimpse in “Inside Obama’s Brain.” He tells us right away what his book is not: It’s not a biography, not political history, not inside-the-Beltway prattle. It is, he says, “a psychological profile writ large.”… – WaPo, 2-12-10
    • Bettye Collier-Thomas: Faith-Based Defiance: JESUS, JOBS, AND JUSTICE African American Women and Religion In “Jesus, Jobs, and Justice,” Bettye Collier-Thomas, a professor of history at Temple University, tells the untold stories of scores of religious and politically active black women, their organizations, informal gatherings and intellectual movements. For readers who imagine that the religious and political activism of Sojourner Truth, Mary McLeod Bethune and Rosa Parks is exceptional, the book will be a revelation…. – NYT, 2-5-10
    • SUSAN RUBIN SULEIMAN on Frederick Brown: French Contentions: FOR THE SOUL OF FRANCE Culture Wars in the Age of Dreyfus The real question for the opposing camps was not whether Alfred Dreyfus was guilty or innocent, but whether France itself was to be modern or traditional, cosmopolitan or nationalist, Catholic or secular, a republic or a monarchy. The struggle, as Frederick Brown puts it in “For the Soul of France,” his briskly paced and highly readable book, was between “champions and foes of the Enlightenment.” – NYT, 2-5-10
    • Rebecca Skloot: Eternal Life: THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS In “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” Rebecca Skloot introduces us to the “real live woman,” the children who survived her, and the interplay of race, poverty, science and one of the most important medical discoveries of the last 100 years. – NYT, 2-5-10Excerpt
    • Charles Pellegrino Book review: ‘The Last Train from Hiroshima’: THE LAST TRAIN FROM HIROSHIMA The Survivors Look Back But the tragedies and atrocities of World War II now belong to history, while Hiroshima is still part of our world, our continuing present, maybe our dreaded future. “The Last Train from Hiroshima” reminds us why this is so. Charles Pellegrino’s account of what it was actually like on the ground in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, culled from survivors’ memories and his own work in forensic archaeology, is the most powerful and detailed I have ever read. It puts flesh on the skeletons…. – WaPo, 2-7-10
    • Garry Wills: Book review: ‘Bomb Power’: BOMB POWER The Modern Presidency and the National Security State Gary Wills begins his provocative account of the atomic bomb’s impact on the republic with a high-detonation assertion…. The ensuing pages carry the reader through well-written, sometimes exciting vignettes of the bomb’s damage to liberty and constitutional checks and balances. WaPo, 2-7-10
    • Jonathan R. Cole: Tales Out of School: THE GREAT AMERICAN UNIVERSITY Its Rise to Preeminence, Its Indispensable National Role, Why It Must Be Protected As provost of Columbia University for 14 years and a professor of sociology and dean of faculties before that, Jonathan R. Cole is in an excellent position to write about the rise of the American research university and its special contribution to American life. In “The Great American University,”he makes a case for the extraordinary role such institutions play in improving our daily lives. He also argues that these “jewels in our nation’s crown” face a host of serious threats. NYT, 2-5-10

    FEATURES:

    • Tomb May Hold Answer to How Much Shakespeare Actually Wrote: A sarcophagus in an English parish church built by the writer Fulke Greville, a Shakespeare contemporary, could contain clues about several works traditionally attributed to Shakespeare. St. Mary’s Church in Warwick, England, contains a tomb that parishioners believe may contain clues about Shakespeare’s work. The church was built by Fulke Greville, a “prominent 17th-century nobleman, … scholar, soldier, statesman,” spy, writer and Shakespeare contemporary who “some believe is the true author of several of the Bard’s works,” according to the Daily Telegraph. – Finding Dulcinea, 2-15-10
    • HOW CHRISTIAN WERE THE FOUNDERS? The Christian “truth” about America’s founding has long been taught in Christian schools, but not beyond. Recently, however — perhaps out of ire at what they see as an aggressive, secular, liberal agenda in Washington and perhaps also because they sense an opening in the battle, a sudden weakness in the lines of the secularists — some activists decided that the time was right to try to reshape the history that children in public schools study. Succeeding at this would help them toward their ultimate goal of reshaping American society. As Cynthia Dunbar, another Christian activist on the Texas board, put it, “The philosophy of the classroom in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next.” – San Francisco Sentinel, 2-14-10
    • Changing History Four new ways to write the story of the world: The fame of Howard Zinn, who died a week and a half ago, rested on his long record of challenging the status quo. As a young professor, he was a leader of the civil rights and antiwar movements, and throughout his career he was an inveterate demonstrator and speaker at rallies and strikes. His writings brought formerly obscure events like Bacon’s Rebellion, the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, and the Philippine-American War into the light, arguing that such popular uprisings – and their brutal suppression – were central to the American story. It’s a vision that resonated with readers: Zinn’s 1980 book, “A People’s History of the United States,” has sold more than 2 million copies…. Boston Globe, 2-7-10
    • A Chronicler of the World Now Looks Inward: In one of the short personal reminiscences that the historian Tony Judt has been writing for The New York Review of Books he mentions that he was part of the “lucky generation” born in the affluent West after World War II, free to indulge in daydreams and passions. Mr. Judt’s world, sadly, has contracted considerably. Now 62, he learned about 16 months ago that he has a form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or A.L.S., commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and since then he has lost the ability to move nearly every muscle in his body, including those that help him breathe and swallow…. – NYT, 2-8-10

    QUOTES:

    • Mark Dyreson “It’s a weird world of sports, but Winter Games have charms too”: “Part of the reason we don’t get the Winter Games is that we just don’t understand the sports — 300,000 Swedes lining a snow-covered path to watch people skiing strikes us as absurd,” said Mark Dyreson, sports historian and professor at Penn State. “But part of it is also bald nationalism. We don’t like it because we’re not top dog.” – LAT, 2-12-10
    • On Religion A Rare Blend, Pro Football and Hasidic Judaism: For Jews, abundant as fans but uncommon as top players, the visibility of a Shlomo Veingrad serves both reassuring and cathartic roles. Having a Jew to root for — whether Hank Greenberg, Sandy Koufax or the Israeli N.B.A. rookie Omri Casspi — “has a lot to do with our desire to define ourselves as Americans in the most American way, which is sports,” said Jeffrey S. Gurock, a history professor at Yeshiva University and the author of “Judaism’s Encounter With American Sports.” At a deeper and more anxious level, American Jews continue to grapple with the stereotypical view of the Jew as egghead, nerd, weakling. That dismissive portrayal was a staple not only of anti-Semites, but also of early Zionists, who envisioned their “new man” with his plow and rifle as the antidote to the “golus Yid,” the exilic Jew unable even to defend himself. “I don’t think those feelings are as conscious as in prior generations, but they still have some resonance,” Professor Gurock said in a telephone interview. “So there’s a residual pride of someone achieving in this very secular world of sports.” – NYT, 2-6-10

    INTERVIEWS:

    • Michael Kazin: What’s Behind The New Populism?:
      In the year 2010, what is populism?
      It is as it has always been: the language of people who see ordinary people as a noble group and the elite class as self-serving. This year, the elites are perceived as Wall Street, the Obama administration and Democrats who want to increase the size of government. The left and right have been arguing in populist terms — whether the big evil is big government or big business — since the 1930s. NPR, 2-5-10
    • Brown’s Entry Ends Democrats’ Supermajority: Republican Scott Brown was sworn in Thursday as the 41st Republican in the U.S. Senate. His election ends the Democratic supermajority in the chamber. WELNA: Senate Historian Don Ritchie says years ago it was normal that Republicans and Democrats would cross the aisle on key votes. He says its lately become normal that they dont.
      Mr. DON RITCHIE (Senate Historian): The two parties are much more internally cohesive than they ever were before. The ideological spectrum inside the Democratic conference and inside the Republican conference is much narrower than it was before, and they tend to vote together. WBUR, NPR, 2-4-10

    AWARDS &APPOINTMENTS:

    • Michael Burlingame “UIS professor wins 2010 Lincoln Prize”: Authorities at the University of Illinois Springfield have announced two new honors for Professor Michael Burlingame, a noted Abraham Lincoln scholar. On Thursday, Burlingame was installed as holder of the Naomi Lynn Distinguished Chair of Lincoln Studies. On Friday, it was announced that Burlingame has won the 2010 Lincoln Prize for his two-volume “Abraham Lincoln: A Life,” published last year by Johns Hopkins University Press…. – Chicago Tribune, 2-12-10
    • Anna Pegler-Gordon: Professor wins book prize: Anna Pegler-Gordon, an associate professor in MSU’s James Madison College was awarded the 2009 Theodore Saloutos book prize of the Immigration and Ethnic History Society for her book. Pegler-Gordon, who also is acting director of the Asian Pacific American Studies Program, won the award for the book “In Sight of America: Photography and the Development of U.S. Immigration Policy.” – MSU State News, 2-9-10

    SPOTTED:

    • How Dovid Katz Thirst For Jewish History Rabbi Dovid Katz’s unique perspectives bend minds and preconceived notions: On a cold and misty Saturday evening, the small sanctuary at Beth Abraham Congregation in Northwest Baltimore is packed to overflowing. Men and women, young and old, Orthodox and Conservative, Reform and non-affiliated, have all come to hear about modern Jewish history. The speaker is Dovid Katz, the rabbi of Beth Abraham (known widely as “Hertzberg’s Shul”), who also happens to hold a Ph.D. in Jewish history and is attracting large audiences to his current 12-part lecture series — most of whom find his talks entertaining, interesting and informative. That’s one reason why the program is underwritten by the Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, and co-sponsored by a number of local businesses and individuals…. – Baltimore Jewish Times,

    ANNOUNCEMENTS & EVENTS CALENDAR:

    • Noted historian to examine ‘grand strategy’: “The Nuts and Bolts of Grand Strategy” is the title of a lecture by Yale University historian Paul Kennedy set for 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 18, in 16 Robertson Hall. – Princeton, 2-15-10
    • Civil War Web site gears up State promoting events for war’s 150th anniversary: With just one year to go until the Civil War’s 150th anniversary, history lovers across Tennessee have taken their battle for the past to a new front – cyberspace. The Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission and the state Department of Tourist Development launched a new Web site this month to help promote events planned statewide for the war’s anniversary, which will stretch from 2011-2015. The Web site – http://www.tncivilwar150.com – remains a work in progress but has already drawn praise from East Tennessee historians and preservationists…. – Knox News, 2-8-10

    ON TV:

    BEST SELLERS (NYT):

    BOOKS COMING SOON:

    • Jordan Goodman: The Devil and Mr. Casement: One Man’s Battle for Human Rights in South America’s Heart of Darkness, (Hardcover) February 16, 2010
    • Ken Gormley: The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr (Hardcover), February 16, 2010
    • Jeffrey Race: War Comes to Long An: Revolutionary Conflict in a Vietnamese Province (Updated), (Paperback) February 16, 2010
    • Patrick Tyler: World of Trouble: The White House and the Middle East–from the Cold War to the War on Terror, (Paperback) February 16, 2010
    • Susan Wise Bauer: The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade, (Hardcover) February 22, 2010
    • Richard J. Evans: The Third Reich at War (Paperback) February 23, 2010
    • Cliff Sloan: The Great Decision: Jefferson, Adams, Marshall, and the Battle for the Supreme Court, (Paperback) March 2, 2010
    • Hugh Ambrose: The Pacific, (Hardcover) March 2, 2010
    • Jonathan Phillips: Holy Warriors: A Modern History of the Crusades, (Hardcover) March 9, 2010
    • Thomas Asbridge: The Crusades, (Hardcover) March 9, 2010
    • Bryan D. Palmer: James P. Cannon and the Origins of the American Revolutionary Left, 1890-1928 (1st Edition), (Paperback) March 1, 2010
    • C. Brian Kelly: Best Little Stories from the Civil War, (Paperback) March 1, 2010
    • Nicholas Schou: Orange Sunshine: The Brotherhood of Eternal Love and Its Quest to Spread Peace, Love, and Acid to the World, (Hardcover) March 16, 2010
    • Timothy M. Gay: Satch, Dizzy, and Rapid Robert: The Wild Saga of Interracial Baseball Before Jackie Robinson, (Hardcover) March 16, 2010
    • Miranda Carter: George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I, (Hardcover) March 23, 2010
    • John W. Steinberg: All the Tsar’s Men: Russia’s General Staff and the Fate of the Empire, 1898-1914, (Hardcover) April 1, 2010
    • Simon Dixon: Catherine the Great, (Paperback) April 6, 2010
    • J. Todd Moye: Freedom Flyers: The Tuskegee Airmen of World War II, (Hardcover) April 12, 2010
    • Seth G. Jones: In the Graveyard of Empires: America’s War in Afghanistan (Paperback) April 12, 2010
    • Nick Bunker: Making Haste from Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World: A New History, (Hardcover) April 13, 2010
    • Dominic Lieven: Russia Against Napoleon: The True Story of the Campaigns of War and Peace, (Hardcover), April 15, 2010
    • Timothy J. Henderson: The Mexican Wars for Independence, (Paperback) April 13, 2010
    • Hampton Sides: Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin, (Hardcover) April 27, 2010
    • Max Hastings: Winston’s War: Churchill, 1940-1945, (Hardcover) April 27, 2010
    • Bradley Gottfried: The Maps of Gettysburg: An Atlas of the Gettysburg Campaign, June 3 – July 13, 1863, (Hardcover) April 19, 2010
    • Kelly Hart: The Mistresses of Henry VIII, (Paperback) May 1, 2010
    • Mark Puls: Henry Knox: Visionary General of the American Revolution, (Paperback) May 11, 2010

    DEPARTED:

    • Hawaii author and historian Bob Dye dead at 81: Honolulu author, historian and journalist Bob Dye died Friday following a long illness. He was 81. Dye wrote “Merchant Prince of the Sandalwood Mountains: Afong and the Chinese in Hawai’i,” about the first Chinese millionaire in Hawai’i, and he was the editor of “Hawai’i Chronicles II and III.”…. – Honolulu Advertiser, 2-6-10
    • Hans L. Trefousse, Historian and Author, Dies at 88: Sometimes the least prepossessing American presidents are the most enduringly interesting. That is certainly the case for Andrew Johnson. His impeachment trial of 1868 was in the news again in the late 1990s, during the impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton…. – NYT, 2-4-10
    • Daniel Randall Beirne: Army officer who went on to become a history and sociology professor and expert on Baltimore history: Daniel Randall Beirne, a West Pointer and retired Army officer who later had a second career as a University of Baltimore professor of sociology and history and was considered an authority on Baltimore history, died Wednesday of heart failure at his East Lake Avenue home. He was 85…. – Baltimore Sun, 2-6-10

    History Buzz April 20, 2009: Did Lincoln Have Cancer?

    HISTORY BUZZ:

    POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS:

    BIGGEST NEWS STORIES:

    • Test of Lincoln DNA sought to prove cancer theory: John Sotos has a theory about why Abraham Lincoln was so tall, why he appeared to have lumps on his lips and even why he had gastrointestinal problems. The 16th president, he contends, had a rare genetic disorder — one that would likely have left him dead of cancer within a year had he not been assassinated. And his bid to prove his theory has posed an ethical and scientific dilemma for a small Philadelphia museum in the year that marks the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth. – AP, 4-17-09
    • OAH Roundup: Highlights from the 2009 Annual Meeting of the Organization of American Historians – HNN
    • Remembering the late Prof. John Hope Franklin – Chicago Defender, 4-15-09

    THIS WEEK IN HISTORY:

    IN THE NEWS:

    OP-EDs & BLOGS:

    REVIEWS & FIRST CHAPTERS:

    • Steven P. Miller: God and Politics BILLY GRAHAM AND THE RISE OF THE REPUBLICAN SOUTH NYT, 4-19-09
    • Alexis Dudden: Impact of apologies on world politics focus of historian’s book Troubled Apologies Among Japan, Korea, and the United States UConn Advance, 4-17-09
    • Judith Schafer: Tulane historian delves into world of New Orleans’ 19th-century sex trade Brothels, Depravity, and Abandoned Women: Illegal Sex in Antebellum New Orleans The Times-Picayune – NOLA.com, 4-15-09

    QUOTES:

    • Robert J. Allison “The Media Equation Cable Wars Are Killing Objectivity”: “The original tea party was something of a media event,” said Robert J. Allison, professor and chair of the history department at Suffolk University and author of “The Boston Tea Party.” “The papers at the time were very politicized and did a lot of campaigning during the run-up to the event.” He added: “When you think about it, they could have done worse than a bag of tea in terms of symbols. As a historian, I am charmed and fascinated that something that provoked the original revolution still has such resonance.” – NYT, 4-20-09
    • Alan Brinkley “They Don’t Make Populism in the U.S. Like They Used To”: “Today, populism is a kind of sentiment that bursts into view in times like these, but there is no real movement behind it,” said Columbia University historian Alan Brinkley. “The public just doesn’t mobilize around issues in the way it once did.” – WSJ, 4-19-09
    • Allan Meltzer: Federal Reserve Historian says Ben Bernanke will Bring us 1970s Inflation – Foxhound, 4-15-09
    • Nick Taylor “W.P.A. Projects Left Their Stamp on the Region”: Bethpage State Park and the old Jersey City Medical Center were expanded with labor provided by the Works Progress Administration, one of the vaunted New Deal programs that put millions of people to work around the country during the Great Depression. They make up what the historian Nick Taylor called the “invisible legacy” of Depression-era public works projects in the New York region. “That legacy is all around us,” said Mr. Taylor, author of “American-Made: The Enduring History of the W.P.A.” “We just don’t see it because we take it for granted.” – NYT, 4-19-09
    • Natalie A. Naylor “W.P.A. Projects Left Their Stamp on the Region”: “There’s this stereotype that people who worked for the W.P.A. were all raking leaves,” said Natalie A. Naylor, emeritus professor of history at Hofstra University and former director of the university’s Long Island Studies Institute. “That’s not really accurate at all. You had music programs and art programs in addition to construction projects.” – NYT, 4-19-09
    • Stephen Leishman “Historians: Don’t Forget Founding Fathers”: “We know him as a quiet man, but a powerful advocate of liberty in his writings,” said historian Stephen Leishman. Jefferson was not just a statesman, he was also a scientist, philosopher inventor and musician. “In today’s history, we kind of push back the importance of our founding fathers,” said Leishman. They say Obama could still learn a lot from Jefferson’s presidency, especially when it comes to education. “Because of all of his work for our liberties, and his emphasis on education, we have free education for everybody in the U.S.,” said Leishman. – News 8, 4-13-09

    PROFILES & FEATURES:

    INTERVIEWS:

    HONORS, AWARDED &APPOINTED:

    SPOTTED:

    EVENTS CALENDAR:

    • April 20, 2009: Clifford E. Trafzer, UC Riverside professor of history and Rupert Costo Chair in American Indian Affairs, will discuss his research about the incident on Monday, April 20, at 6 p.m. at the Dorothy Ramon Learning Center, 17 W. Hays St., Banning. – UC Riverside, 4-9-09
    • May 2, 2009 The War of 1812 Revisited at Conference: The Fort La Présentation Association of Ogdensburg, NY is sponsoring a War of 1812 War College Saturday, May 2, 2009 – Press Release, 4-1-09

    ON TV:

    • PBS, Tuesday at 10 p.m: Television: HIGHLIGHT AMERICAN FUTURE: A HISTORY BY SIMON SCHAMA – Globe & Mail, 4-10-09
    • PBS, Monday April 20, at 9pm: Seeing History Through Indians’ Eyes: “We Shall Remain” NYT, 4-12-09 (pbs.org/wgbh/amex/weshallremain)
    • C-SPAN2: BOOK TV Weekend Schedule
    • PBS American Experience: Mondays at 9pm
    • History Channel: Weekly Schedule
    • History Channel: “Life After People: The Bodies Left Behind” – Tuesday, April 21, 2009 and Friday, April 24, 2009 at 10pm ET/PT and Sunday, April 26, 2009 at 9pm ET/PT
    • History Channel: “Return of the Pirates”, “Shadow Force: Pirate Strike” – Saturday, April 25, 2009 at 8-11pm ET/PT
    • History Channel: “Decoding The Past: Doomsday 2012: The End of Days” – Sunday, April 26, 2009 at 8pm ET/PT
    • History Channel: ” Battles BC: Ramses: Raging Chariots ” – Sunday, April 26, 2009 at 10pm ET/PT

    BEST SELLERS (NYT):

    COMING SOON BOOKS:

    • Vincent Bzdek, Kennedy Legacy: Jack, Bobby and Ted and a Family Dream Fulfilled, April 27, 2009
    • Alex Storozynski, Peasant Prince: Thaddeus Kosciuszko and the Age of Revolution, April 28, 2009
    • Thomas Childers: Soldier from the War Returning: The Greatest Generation’s Troubled Homecoming from World War II, May 13, 2009
    • Simon Schama, American Future: A History, May 19, 2009
    • Geoffrey Blainey, Sea of Dangers: Captain Cook and His Rivals in the South Pacific, May 25, 2009
    • Douglas Brinkley, Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America, 1858-1919, June 30, 2009

    DEPARTED:

    February 12, 2009: Sen. Judd Gregg Withdraws his Nomination for Commerce Secretary & the Final Push for the Economic Stimulus Bill

    THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

    Judd GreggDoug Mills/The New York Times Senator Judd Gregg with President Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

    IN FOCUS: STATS

    In Focus: Stats

    • CNN-Opinion Research Corporation poll out this week shows an American public looking very favorably on the new president, with an approval rating of 76%. That includes a whopping 97% of Democrats and 50% of Republicans. However, only 54% support the Senate bill. – CNN, 2-12-09

    THE HEADLINES….

    The Headlines…

    • Obama makes 11th hour push for stimulus package: Taking no chances, President Barack Obama is exerting last-minute pressure on Congress to approve his stimulus plan by highlighting stories of people affected by the economic downturn. – CNN, 2-12-09
    • Even After the Deal, Tinkering Goes On: Congressional leaders moved swiftly on Thursday to schedule votes in the House and Senate on the $789 billion economic stimulus plan, while lawmakers spent much of the day hammering out the final details of the legislation. – NYT, 2-12-09
    • Global Economy Top Threat to U.S., Spy Chief Says: The new director of national intelligence told Congress on Thursday that global economic turmoil and the instability it could ignite had outpaced terrorism as the most urgent threat facing the United States. – NYT, 2-12-09
    • Gregg withdraws as commerce secretary nominee: Saying “I made a mistake,” Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire abruptly withdrew as commerce secretary nominee on Thursday and left the fledgling White House suddenly coping with Barack Obama’s third Cabinet withdrawal. – AP, 2-12-09
    • Obama honors Lincoln’s vision of strong union: Summoning the pride of a nation, President Barack Obama paid fond tribute Thursday to Abraham Lincoln by challenging people to embrace his vision of a collective union and reject a “knee-jerk disdain for government.” – AP, 2-12-09
    • George W. Bush to give talk in Calgary: A Calgary audience might be the first group to hear George W. Bush’s take on the state of the world since he stepped down as U.S. president earlier this year. – CTV, 2-12-09
    • Gregg Withdrawal Embarrasses White House: His decision to withdraw as Obama’s nominee for commerce secretary was especially surprising since the courtship between the president and Gregg went on for several weeks. They had even spoken together several times about their ideological differences on economic policy…. – ABC News, 2-12-09
    • Analysis: Obscure post gives Obama big headache: Quick, who headed the Commerce Department under President George W. Bush? No disrespect to Carlos M. Gutierrez, but commerce secretary is not one of Washington’s more glamorous jobs. It’s overshadowed by first-tier Cabinet posts at Justice, State, Defense and Treasury. Scores of senators, House members, Supreme Court justices and White House aides would draw more attention at a Georgetown cocktail party or DuPont Circle restaurant. – AP, 2-12-09
    • US Senate to vote Friday on $789 bln stimulus plan: The U.S. Senate will vote on Friday on the $789 billion economic stimulus package that President Barack Obama wants quickly to boost the struggling economy, said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. – Reuters, 2-12-09
    • Reid Looking for GOP Votes: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is calling other Republican centrists trying to persuade more of them to vote for the measure. He’s looking for additional votes out of an abundance of caution, an aide explained, after learning that ailing Sen. Ted Kennedy, who returned to Capitol Hill for votes earlier this week, has now gone back to Florida to continue his recovery from brain cancer and won’t be here for a final vote on the stimulus bill in the coming days. – CNN, 2-12-09
    • Obama eyes home loan subsidies in rescue plan: The Obama administration is hammering out a program to subsidize mortgages in a new front to fight the credit crisis, sources familiar with the plan told Reuters on Thursday, boosting financial markets. – Reuters, 2-12-09
    • Senate Democrats optimistic about 2010, targeting nine states: Nearly two years before Election Day 2010, the Senate Democrat charged with expanding the party’s already-strong majority sounded a bullish tone Thursday, suggesting the national mood and political environment make it nearly impossible for the GOP to pick up seats. – CNN, 2-12-09
    • GOP Targets Stimulus Supporters In New Ad: The National Republican Congressional Committee today began running radio ads targeting 30 House Democrats who supported the stimulus package – or, as the NRCC puts it, “a trillion-dollar spending bill chock full of wasteful Washington spending.” – Listen, Mp3 CBS News, 2-12-09
    • Smacking Specter, When His Vote Matters: At a news briefing, Senator Robert Menendez, the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said Mr. Specter’s seat was one of the Democrats’ targets for the 2010 midterm elections. Mr. Menendez cited the increased enrollment of Democrats in the state and his poll ratings in contending that Mr. Specter would face a very tough re-election tide. – NYT, 2-12-09
    • Jack Cafferty: “How stimulating is $13 a week?”: While the federal government is passing an $800 billion stimulus bill — which works out to about $2,700 for every man woman and child in the country — the average worker can look forward to seeing about an extra $13 a week in his/her paycheck after taxes. This is on top of the $700 billion financial bailout package that was passed last fall and given to Wall Street. – CNN, 2-12-09
    • Food stamps, tax breaks for poor in stimulus bill: More than 37 million Americans live in poverty, and the vast majority of them are in line for extra help under the giant stimulus package coming out of Congress. Millions more could be kept from slipping into poverty by the economic lifeline. People who get food stamps — 30 million and growing — will get more. People drawing unemployment checks — 4.8 million and growing — would get an extra $25, and keep those checks coming longer. People who get Supplemental Security Income — 7 million poor Americans who are elderly, blind or disabled — would get one-time extra payments of $250. – AP, 2-12-09
    • Analysis: Obama faces double dilemmas in Mideast: Israel’s shift to the right could throw a monkey wrench into President Barack Obama’s conciliatory overtures to Iran and his budding drive to promote Arab-Israeli peacemaking. – AP, 2-12-09

    POLITICAL QUOTES

    Political Quotes

    • “Gregg Withdraws as Commerce Secretary Nominee”: “He was very clear throughout the interviewing process that despite past disagreements about policies, he would support, embrace, and move forward with the President’s agenda. Once it became clear after his nomination that Senator Gregg was not going to be supporting some of President Obama’s key economic priorities, it became necessary for Senator Gregg and the Obama administration to part ways.” – NYT, 2-12-09
    • Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire in statement Thursday withdrawing from consideration to be President Obama’s Commerce Secretary: I want to thank the President for nominating me to serve in his Cabinet as Secretary of Commerce. This was a great honor, and I had felt that I could bring some views and ideas that would assist him in governing during this difficult time. I especially admire his willingness to reach across the aisle.However, it has become apparent during this process that this will not work for me as I have found that on issues such as the stimulus package and the Census there are irresolvable conflicts for me. Prior to accepting this post, we had discussed these and other potential differences, but unfortunately we did not adequately focus on these concerns. We are functioning from a different set of views on many critical items of policy.Obviously the President requires a team that is fully supportive of all his initiatives.I greatly admire President Obama and know our country will benefit from his leadership, but at this time I must withdraw my name from consideration for this position.

      As we move forward, I expect there will be many issues and initiatives where I can and will work to assure the success of the President’s proposals. This will certainly be a goal of mine.

      Kathy and I also want to specifically thank Governor Lynch and Bonnie Newman for their friendship and assistance during this period. In addition we wish to thank all the people, especially in New Hampshire, who have been so kind and generous in their supportive comments.

      As a further matter of clarification, nothing about the vetting process played any role in this decision. I will continue to represent the people of New Hampshire in the United States Senate. – CNN, 2-12-09

    • Barack Obama “Obama Takes His Lobbying for Stimulus to Illinois Caterpillar plant”: I also want to thank Jim Owens, who I’ve gotten to know and is one of the top CEOs that we have in the country. You know, Jim is obviously confronted with some tough choices, like every CEO is right now, but what I’m absolutely confident in is he’s thinking about the company’s long-term growth and he cares about his workers; he cares about the long term and not just the short term. And I appreciate him agreeing to serve as one of our economic advisers during this process, and I think this company is going to be in good hands with him at the helm. So thank you very much, Jim, for being a part of this event today.It’s been reconciled and now it’s going back to those two chambers so it can get on my desk. It is time for Congress to act, and I hope they act in a bipartisan fashion. But no matter how they act, when they do, when they finally pass our plan, I believe it will be a major step forward on our path to economic recovery.And I’m not the only one who thinks so. Yesterday, Jim, the head of Caterpillar, said that if Congress passes our plan, this company will be able to rehire some of the folks who were just laid off. And that’s a story I’m confident will be repeated at companies across the country — companies that are currently struggling to borrow money selling their products, struggling to make payroll, but could find themselves in a different position when we start implementing the plan. Rather than downsizing, they may be able to start growing again. Rather than cutting jobs, they may be able to create them again.That’s the goal at the heart of this plan: to create jobs. NYT, 2-12-09
    • Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan “Is stimulus plan “theft”?”: Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan points out this is more money than has “ever been contemplated in the history of our country.” He’s proposing that the government come up with a system to show how every penny is spent, adding the real scandal is not knowing how the money is being managed. Said Dorgan, “Letting the banks be run like casinos on their own account, is that theft? You’re damn right it is.” – CNN, 2-12-09
    • Republican Senator John McCain “Is stimulus plan “theft”?”: Republican Senator John McCain is calling the bailout “generational theft.” He says we’re robbing future generations by laying such astronomical debt on their shoulders. – CNN, 2-12-09

    President and Mrs. Obama at the re-opening of Ford's Theatre

    • President Obama Speaks at Lincoln Bicentennial Celebration: It is an honor to be here – a place where Lincoln served, was inaugurated, and where the nation he saved bid him a last farewell. As we mark the bicentennial of our 16th President’s birth, I cannot claim to know as much about his life and works as many of those who are also speaking today, but I can say that I feel a special gratitude to this singular figure who in so many ways made by own story possible – and who in so many ways made America’s story possible.It is fitting that we are holding this celebration here at the Capitol. For the life of this building is bound ever so closely to the times of this immortal President. Built by artisans and craftsmen, immigrants and slaves – it was here, in the rotunda, that union soldiers received help from a makeshift hospital; it was downstairs, in the basement, that they were baked bread to give them strength; and it was in the Senate and House chambers, where they slept at night, and spent some of their days.What those soldiers saw when they looked on this building was a very different sight than the one we see today. For it remained unfinished until the end of the war. The laborers who built the dome came to work wondering whether each day would be their last; whether the metal they were using for its frame would be requisitioned for the war and melted down into bullets. But each day went by without any orders to halt construction, and so they kept on working and kept on building.When President Lincoln was finally told of all the metal being used here, his response was short and clear: that is as it should be. The American people needed to be reminded, he believed, that even in a time of war, the work would go on; that even when the nation itself was in doubt, its future was being secured; and that on that distant day, when the guns fell silent, a national capitol would stand, with a statue of freedom at its peak, as a symbol of unity in a land still mending its divisions.

      It is this sense of unity, this ability to plan for a shared future even at a moment our nation was torn apart, that I reflect on today. And while there are any number of moments that reveal that particular side of this extraordinary man – that particular aspect of his leadership – there is one I’d like to share with you today.

      In the war’s final weeks, aboard Grant’s flagship, The River Queen, President Lincoln was asked what was to be done with the rebel armies once General Lee surrendered. With victory at hand, Lincoln could have sought revenge. He could have forced the South to pay a steep price for their rebellion. But despite all the bloodshed and all the misery that each side had exacted upon the other, no Confederate soldier was to be punished, Lincoln ordered. They were to be treated, as he put it, “liberally all round.” All Lincoln wanted was for Confederate troops to go back home and return to work on their farms and in their shops. He was even willing, he said, to “let them have their horses to plow with and…their guns to shoot crows with.”

      That was the only way, Lincoln knew, to repair the rifts that had torn this country apart. It was the only way to begin the healing that our nation so desperately needed. For what Lincoln never forgot, not even in the midst of civil war, was that despite all that divided us – north and south, black and white – we were, at heart, one nation and one people, sharing a bond as Americans that could not break. And so even as we meet here today, at a moment when we are far less divided than in Lincoln’s day, but when we are once again debating the critical issues of our time – and debating them fiercely – let us remember that we are doing so as servants to the same flag, as representatives of the same people, and as stakeholders in a common future. That is the most fitting tribute we can pay – and the most lasting monument we can build – to that most remarkable of men, Abraham Lincoln. Thank you. – WaPo, 2-12-09

    • CEO Contradicts Obama on Rehiring Employees Caterpillar Head Says More Layoffs Likely, Even With Stimulus Funding: “Yesterday, Jim, the head of Caterpillar, said that if Congress passes our plan, this company will be able to rehire some of the folks who were just laid off,” Obama said today in Peoria.But when asked today if the stimulus could do that, Owens said, “I think, realistically, no. The honest reality is we’re probably going to have more layoffs before we start hiring again.” ABC News, 2-12-09
    • Barack Obama “Obama Campaign to Lend Partisanship Draws Few Republican Allies”: “They were designed to try to build up some trust over time. As I continue to make these overtures, over time, hopefully that will be reciprocated.” – Bloomberg, 2-12-09
    • Republican Florida Governor Charlie Crist “Obama Campaign to Lend Partisanship Draws Few Republican Allies”: “It’s getting harder every day and we know that it’s important that we pass a stimulus package. We need to do it in a bipartisan way.” – Bloomberg, 2-12-09
    • Barney Frank “New bank bailout grants will be protected” on CBS’s “The Early Show”: We didn’t give them the second half ($350 billion) with no strings attached. The Treasury Department has agreed to impose very strict rules, and I think it would be a very big mistake to assume that the Obama administration is going to be as lax as the Bush administration…. The error is to assume that because the Bush administration resisted compensation restrictions … that the Obama administration is going to do the same. In fact, the Obama administration is behaving very differently. The fact is, these funds are being conditioned by the Obama administration. If they get the money, they are legally bound to follow certain rules.” – AP, 2-12-09

    HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

    Historians’ Comments

    • Julian Zelizer “Obama’s stimulus gamble” video: Should the economic recovery plan work, the goal of saving or creating 4 million jobs will have been met and President Obama can take full credit. – Reuter, 2-12-09
    • Burton Folsom Jr. “That Buy American Provision””: “Slap a tariff on China and save American jobs,” the protectionists say. This tempting line of reasoning is flawed for two reasons. First, if Americans pay more for, say, American-made shoes or shirts, then they have less to spend for other things they might need — they are simply subsidizing inefficient local producers. And those American manufacturers, who are protected from foreign competitors, have little incentive to innovate and cut prices…. Free trade benefits buyers and sellers. Tariffs benefit certain sellers at the expense of all buyers. – NYT, 2-12-09
    • Julian Zelizer “Republican governors at odds on U.S. stimulus cash”: “When Republicans say they’re against big government, it’ll be easy to point to all these states where Republican governors embraced the funding.” – Reusters, 2-12-09
    • Julian Zelizer “Obama walks line between politics, economy”: “It’s clear there are divisions in the administration about where the financial bailout should be targeted as well as how much authority the government should gain over financial institutions….The best bet is that Geithner was vague on the detail because the administration has not settled what that detail should be.” – Reuters, 2-12-09

    Mark Wilson/Getty Images)President Barack Obama with, from left, Rep. Jesse Jackson, House Minority Leader John Boehner and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, at a ceremony to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln on Thursday at the Capitol building in Washington. (Photo: Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)
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