Category Archives: guest post

April 29, 2009, 9:14 am

The Future of the Past: History Beyond the Book

[Editor's note: Karl Jacoby's Shadows at Dawn: A Borderlands Massacre and the Violence of History is a must read. And the website he created to support the book is a model for the future. Below, he shares some thoughts on what that future might look like. Thanks, Karl.]

As the American newspaper industry collapses around us, its economics imploding under pressure from the worldwide web, we can begin to see hints that the book publishing industry is on the cusp of the same downward spiral. History book sales are down. Penguin and other presses have announced layoffs. The once venerable Houghton Mifflin may soon cease to publish trade books altogether.

Such changes ought to be sobering to historians. Ever since history first emerged as an academic profession in the mid-nineteenth century, the basic unit of production has been the book. One needs to publish a book to get…

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April 27, 2009, 10:46 am

“The pretense of debate.”

[Editor's note: Our good friend, awc, elaborating on this comment, sends along the following from the far eastern edge of the American West. Thanks, awc.]

Politico’s recent feature on Amity Shlaes’ The Forgotten Man is an example of one of my pet peeves: the evaluation of economic policy in terms of statistical factors like growth, the stock market, and unemployment rather than systemic qualities like equality. The piece discusses the popularity of the book among D.C. conservatives, briefing mentioning Professors Rauchway and Krugman, who have skillfully defended the efficacy of New Deal recovery policies. When Shlaes responds that she intended the book to question the ethics of the New Deal, not just its utility, Politico simply drops the pretense of debate. They ask neither scholars nor ordinary folks to evaluate her celebration of the poor beleaguered corporation. The…

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April 24, 2009, 1:21 pm

Saving the Banks’ Artistic Assets

[Editor's Note: Adam Arenson (bio below), a friend and occasional commenter here, has graciously provided us with a guest post. Thanks, Adam, for doing this.]

Quick: What does your bank look like?

I admit it; I don’t know either. There are glassed-in tellers. There’s a metallic sheen off the ATMs. Some peppy posters promoting savings plans for dream retirements. But it all adds up to a rather anonymous décor. More than once the names and the colors have changed, and I hardly noticed.

But there are banks I remember. Growing up in San Diego, I recall the grand lobbies of the Home Savings banks, some with gurgling fountains and sculptures. They had parking lots, and wide arches framed the entrances. Most spectacular were the mosaics: thousands of little tiles arranged to show carefree beach scenes, vaqueros from the Californio past, Victorian ladies in their bonnets, Chinese …

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January 19, 2009, 3:59 pm

Birth of the 50s: Lucy and Ike.

[Editor's Note: Professor Lori Clune returns today for another guest post here at EotAW. Thanks, Lori, for your help with this.]

On this night in 1953, 71.7% of American televisions were tuned to CBS as Ricky and Lucy gave birth to their son, Little Ricky, on I Love Lucy. Well, actually Lucy did all the work off-screen. As many of us recall (thanks to endless reruns) Ricky spent much of the episode in outrageous voodoo face makeup for a show at his club, the Tropicana. From Lucy’s calm statement, “Ricky, this is it,” to the nurse holding up the swaddled bundle, the viewer saw no drugs, pain, or mess. Heck, we weren’t even sure how Lucy came to be “expecting” (CBS nixed saying “pregnant”), what with their two twin beds and all. Lucy and Ricky Ricardo (Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez) — also married in real life — had welcomed their second child, also a boy, via…

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January 9, 2009, 3:54 pm

Top 5 Conservative Characters on the First Episode of The Wired

(This isn’t a guest post by nobody’s friend, Ben Shaprio. This is just a tribute. Via S, N!)

I first got into HBO’s hit television program The Wired about two years ago. A stranger mentioned it to the person in front of him at the 700 Club cafeteria, and by the time I finished the first episode, I knew I would be telling people I was completely hooked. (This, by the way, is my Recruitment Rule for The Wired: watch the first four minutes. If you don’t like it by then, dump out.) I am so excited by my enthusiasm for the show, in fact, that I often tout the first episode of The Wired as the best show in the history of television. I don’t simply love this episode for its terrific acting, wonderful writing, quirkly plotting, or mind-boggling twists. I also love it because of its subtle conservatism. Here are the top five conservative characters on the first episode of The Wired….

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December 8, 2008, 8:25 pm

Infamy (redux)

[Editor's note: silbey's back for another guest post. Which reminds me, there are only sixteen shopping days until Christmas and thirteen until Hanukkah. Hey, you know what makes a great gift? A beautifully written, deeply researched, and thoughtfully argued book, that's what. Anyway, thanks, silbey, for your efforts.]

On this day in history (Tokyo time), units of the Imperial Japanese Navy mounted an assault on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor. English language accounts of the attack, whether scholarly or popular, have focused on the American side of things, usually with a nod to Japanese treachery. But it is the Japanese side that is actually—in military terms—the more interesting. Like the Germans in 1940, the Japanese showed with devastating effect the value of a new method of warfare. The attack on Pearl Harbor rewrote the doctrine on naval warfare, and much of …

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December 2, 2008, 12:00 am

“Old ossawatomie Brown to be hanged at Charlestown for murder and insurrection.”

“The Legend of John Brown” by Jacob Lawrence

Editor’s note: Caleb McDaniel, who many of you (at least those of you familiar with internet traditions) may remember from modeforcaleb, joins us today for a guest post. Thanks, Caleb, for taking the time to do this. We really appreciate it.

One-hundred-and-forty-nine years ago today, the state of Virginia hung the militant abolitionist and Kansas Free State warrior, John Brown.

A month and a half earlier, Brown had led a band of twenty-two men, including three of his sons, in a daring–and disastrous–raid on the federal armory in Harpers Ferry in western Virginia, a raid intended as a direct strike on the institution of slavery within the South itself. Captured on October 18 and quickly tried by the state, a wounded Brown spent November in a jail cell in Charlestown, Virginia. Then, on December 2, he was escorted from his jail cell…

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November 23, 2008, 2:45 pm

Stanley, is that you?

[Editor's note: zunguzungu, long-time commenter and friend of the blog, has stepped up with a guest post today. Thanks for this. We really appreciate it.]

Henry Morton Stanley pretended to have written something in his diary on November 23rd, 1871. Perhaps he did, though the pages in his diary are torn out, so we can’t know for sure. The event he claimed to have recorded — but probably didn’t — also probably didn’t happen, or at least not the way it’s usually “remembered.” He most likely didn’t say “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” on meeting the older doctor (Tim Jeal says so in his new biography), and he didn’t even meet him in the jungle at all. He met him in a town, as this image from How I Found Livingstone illustrates:

As Claire Pettitt put it in her excellent Dr Livingstone I Presume?: Missionaries, Journalists, Explorers, and Empire, it’s a phrase we remember without really …

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November 3, 2008, 12:01 am

The crazy attempted assassination.

[Lori Clune returns for another guest post. Thanks, Lori, for freaking me out.]

On this day in 1950, the Washington Daily News ran a story describing “the crazy attempted assassination” of President Harry S. Truman. On November 1st – while the president took a nap in his underwear on an unseasonably warm autumn afternoon – two Puerto Rican nationalists tried to assassinate Truman in hopes of sparking a Puerto Rican independence movement. Only a locked screen door and security guards stood between Truman and the assassins. Both men, Griselo Torresola and Oscar Collazo, were shot before they could get inside the house. Torresola, suffering a head wound, died instantly. Collazo, tried, convicted, and sentenced to death, was saved when Truman commuted his sentence to life. President Carter ordered Collazo’s early…

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October 27, 2008, 12:02 am

Shaky colonialism.

[Chuck Walker has decided to squander some of his precious time today by posting on the 1746 Lima earthquake. Chuck's extraordinary new book, on the same subject, can be found here. Thanks, Chuck, for agreeing to join us.]

On this day in 1746 a massive earthquake walloped Lima, Peru, the center of Spain’s holdings in South America. Tumbling adobe walls, ornate facades, and roofs smothered hundreds of people and the death toll reached the thousands by the next day. About ten percent of this city of 50,000 died in the catastrophe. The earthquake captured the imagination of the world, inspired Lima’s leaders to try to rethink the city, and unified the city’s population–in opposition to these rebuilding plans. With constant aftershocks and horrific discoveries of the dead and wounded, despair as well as thirst and hunger set in quickly. Life was miserable for a long time. Lime…

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October 20, 2008, 5:20 pm

Keeping a list. Again.

[Editor's note: Thanks, as always, to Ben Alpers, for this post. Ben's book can be found here. You'll find that just one copy is never enough. So avoid the rush: buy three today!]

Sixty-one years ago today, on October 20, 1947, the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), opened its hearings into alleged Communist infiltration into Hollywood. Out of these hearings came the Hollywood blacklist. They form a useful, if still somewhat arbitrary starting point for the Second Red Scare, which is sometimes mislabeled “McCarthyism” (more on why that’s not my preferred term below).

Rather than recount the probably fairly familiar tale of HUAC and the Hollywood Ten, let me note some things that are important in thinking about this episode today, especially in the wake of Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) recent excursion into what is usually called McCarthyism. For those…

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October 10, 2008, 12:01 am

Push-Button Empire

[Editor's note: Paul Sutter joins us today to talk about his research on the Panama Canal. Paul is one of my favorite colleagues in the profession and an outstanding environmental historian. His first book, Driven Wild: How the Fight against Automobiles Launched the Modern Wilderness Movement, is smart, readable, and a great stocking-stuffer. The holidays are just around the corner, people; it's never too early to plan ahead. Thanks, Paul, for doing this.]

On October 10, 1913, President Woodrow Wilson, safely ensconced in the Executive Office Building, pressed a button that remotely trigged a dynamite blast on the Isthmus of Panama, a blast that destroyed the Gamboa Dike and, for the first time, created a continuous liquid passage across Central America. It was a moment that the New York Times called, in language typical of the triumphalism that attended the Panama Canal’s…

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October 9, 2008, 12:27 pm

Imaginary Days

[Editor's note: Teo returns today for more calendar blogging. For more of his superb writing, check out his blogs: here and here.]

On this day in 1582, nothing happened in Spain, Portugal, Poland-Lithuania, or most of Italy. It’s not that this was an uneventful time in those places; far from it. This date, however, was right in the middle of the block of days eliminated from the calendar by the papal bull Inter gravissimas, issued a few months earlier, which recalibrated the civil calendar to bring the date of celebration of Easter back in line with where it had been at the time of the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 by declaring that the day after October 4 would be October 15. Since the bull was issued by Pope Gregory XIII,the resulting calendar is known as the Gregorian Calendar.

This is the calendar we still use today, of course, but it took a while for that to happen. The…

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October 6, 2008, 3:12 pm

Silent no more.

[We're lucky to have Ben Alpers back with us today. Ben's excellent book can be found here. Thanks again, Ben, for doing this. We're very grateful to you.]

On this day in 1927, The Jazz Singer premiered in New York City. Though usually credited as the first “talkie,” the film’s innovation is subtler than that designation suggests. To begin with, over a year before The Jazz Singer was released, on August 6, 1926, Warner Brothers had released the first feature film with a synchronized soundtrack, Don Juan. Directed by Alan Crosland, who would later direct The Jazz Singer, Don Juan had no dialogue, but merely sound effects and a musical soundtrack. On the other hand, though The Jazz Singer was the first feature film with synchronized dialogue, only a few short scenes feature it. Most of the film, like Don Juan before it, is essentially a silent film with a synced musical…

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September 29, 2008, 1:59 pm

Lafayette, we are here. Part III.

Please welcome back David Silbey for the exciting conclusion of this epic saga. Many, many thanks, David.

The Germans knew an attack was coming. They could read a map as well as anyone, and the situation in theater was particularly obvious. The St. Mihiel salient had been a problem for the French and Americans, and an American attack had reduced it. What was next? The French Army held the center of the line, near the river Aisne. The terrain here was flat and, once the Aisne was crossed, without natural barriers until an attacking army hit the River Meuse. Just beyond the Meuse lay a tempting target: the German rail junction at Sedan. Capture that, and the network that supplied the German armies in France would be cut in half.

But along the western line of that open terrain lay one forbidding feature: the Argonne Forest. Heavily wooded and on rocky ground, the Argonne was…

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