Category Archives: history

September 11, 2013, 9:29 am

History Lesson: What Is Civilized Warfare?

Louis FieserLast night’s editorial by MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell was one of the most powerful and riveting indictments of American war crimes I have ever seen on television (video below the jump.) In under nine minutes, O’Donnell gave the public a history lesson about napalm that nearly made me weep with envy. He began with the invention of napalm at Harvard University by chemistry professor Louis Fieser (whose proposal to develop jellied gasoline got him off a poison gas project) during World War II, and described its deliberate and extensive deployment against German and Japanese civilians in World War II. O’Donnell ended with the banning of this horrific weapon, manufactured in the United States by Dow Chemical, following domestic and global condemnation of its extensive use by the United States in Vietnam. The United Nations passed the ban in 1980; the United States did not sign it until…

Read More

July 9, 2013, 10:28 am

On Edmund Morgan and the Possibilities for Reviving a More Popular History

DoyenMorganPortraitAs you will see, the passing of a distinguished colleague brought ever more radical thoughts to mind this morning as I settled in to my writing.

Hat tip to Edmund Morgan. Do graduate students still read Morgan for their comps if they are not Early Americanists? I am of an age where we did, so it is with a heavy heart and a grateful wave that Tenured Radical bids goodbye to a distinguished writer and teacher who passed away yesterday at the age of 97. Morgan taught at Yale when I was an undergrad there, standing out as a teacher even among a history faculty famous for their capacity to make the past come alive in the lecture room. His biography of Benjamin Franklin  (more…)

May 29, 2013, 1:52 pm

Homophobia at Harvard and Other Hideous Horrors

images

In the intellectual spirit of the man himself, let me ask a counterfactual: why have so many people temporarily abandoned longstanding critiques of Niall Ferguson in favor of condemning him as a homophobe?

My guess is that Ferguson is not a homophobe, at least not in the conventional sense of wanting to exclude gay men from work and public life because they are gay, or not wanting his son to marry one. Having been educated at Oxford, where, according to his Wikipedia entry, he became dear friends with right-wing queer Andrew Sullivan, I can’t quite imagine that Ferguson is uncomfortable with white, gay men like John Maynard Keynes either.  I mean Oxford’s intellectual history is as gay as it gets, right? (more…)

March 22, 2013, 12:50 pm

While The Mice Play: What We Are Reading on Vacation

book-sunglasses-beach_h528Even Radicals must rest someday, although like all academics, for this household going on vacation generally means finding another, nicer, place to sit down and read.  Hence, we have removed ourselves to the island where Christopher Columbus, that murderous wretch, first set foot in the Americas in 1492. So what are we reading here in the land formerly occupied by the Taíno people

Well of course, we are obviously still online:

  • Mandy Berry, who has raised Facebook to an art form, comes out about the Grumpy Cat March Madness Tournament, organized and orchestrated by Mandy Berry herself. I managed to get in by insinuating myself shamelessly, bumping aside an actual friend of Berry’s in the process, following a Facebook announcement that there was only one spot left in the Grumpy Cat Bracket. But hello? I picked Harvard over Arizona Mandy Berry. Why I picked Harvard do not…

Read More

March 14, 2013, 4:12 pm

Looking for the Women on Wikipedia: Readers Respond

IntegrationNuns_031065

The Sisters of Selma Photo Credit

This post about Wikipedia’s woman problem drew a bunch of great comments, some with links to resources. It also fed into an epic flurry of announcements from Twitterati about events in the next two weeks where feminists of all genders are gathering, IRL and online, to make inroads on the He-Man Boys Club Encyclopedia. You might want to go into my Twitter feed to look for one near you.

I did want to lift one comment into this post because I thought it was so interesting. @kosboot writes:

One major, major point that Claire Potter does not mention (I feel it almost invalidates her article) is to remember that Wikipedia is a social network.  If you’re invited over to someone’s house, do you immediately help yourself to food and start changing the furniture?  No of course not -…

Read More

February 7, 2013, 9:15 am

How The Lie Was Told

The first illustration of Pinocchio, by Enrico Mazzanti. Photo credit.

Today’s guest blogger is Michael Pettit, associate professor of Psychology and Science and Technology Studies at York University in Toronto. He recently published The Science of Deception: Psychology and Commerce in America. He is currently completing the research on another project tentatively entitled The Sex Lives of Animals in the Age of Kinsey.

Lies loom large over the historian’s craft. Historians devote considerable time to parsing the tensions among words, intentions, and behaviours. Reconstructing the inner lives of those who lived in the past is a notoriously difficult task. It is doubly so when you know your informants are deliberately leading you astray. And yet deception hasn’t really figured as a category of historical…

Read More

January 13, 2013, 11:38 am

Before Gay Was Good: Bob Mizer’s Aesthetic Legacy

Bob Mizer, @ 1942. Photo credit.

Yesterday your favorite Radical took some time off and bicycled over Manhattan to see the Bob Mizer show at Invisible Exports, a tiny gallery on Orchard Street. Born in southern Idaho, Mizer (1922-1992) was an early physique photographer, filmmaker  and the founder of Los Angeles’s Athletic Model Guild. This post over at Remains of the Web can give you a brief history of his career, as well as an account of the Bob Mizer Foundation, established to catalogue and preserve the capacious archive he left behind.

The gallery made the wise decision to show only a few conventional portraits. Much of the exhibit is made up of “catalogues,” storyboards Mizer created from contact prints, each of which depict an erotic scene (for example, “The Cowboy and the Bandit” or “The Unfaithful…

Read More

January 10, 2013, 9:20 am

Department of Fluff: Cultural Studies Fun With British People

Margaret “Daisy” Suckley is on the far left. Photo credit.

This has been Mass Market British Culture Week at chez Radical (perhaps tomorrow we will have an Austin Powers festival.) So far we have been:

A Day Late and a Pound Short. Monday I watched the first episode of Downton Abbey, Season Three, broadcast on Sunday. It clocked in at almost two hours, which was a bit like lying on the couch eating salt water taffy for the evening. I can’t tell you anything very specific about the episode because I am sure there are people out there who have not watched it yet.  I do have a few comments:

  • Memories of the class warfare theme from #election2012 are still vivid. This may be why I was particularly struck by how the series has settled in to an utterly specious and ahistorical fantasy about the harmonious…

Read More

January 9, 2013, 8:21 am

Calling Irving Kristol! Where Research and Blogging Converge

Would Irving Kristol still think the GOP a party of ideas?

I skimmed Kim Phillips-Fein’s Invisible Hands: The Making of the Conservative Movement from the New Deal to Reagan (Norton, 2009)* when it first came out. I settled in yesterday to read it, cover to cover, and it’s really a marvelous book. I think it would have been a good idea if Romney, Rove, et. al. had read it too, prior to developing a Presidential campaign strategy that revolved around the glorification of unfettered wealth.

Two thirds of the way through, I encountered a gem about Irving Kristol’s conversion to conservatism and his efforts to develop a capitalist ethic that could move mass politics to the right in the 1970s. What is remarkable about it is how it anticipates the error of articulating the wealthy are makers and the workers as takers…

Read More

January 7, 2013, 11:48 am

#AHA2013 Wrap-Up: Things You Won’t Read Anywhere Else

Oysters, please. And then deep fried oysters for the main course.

I can think of a number of good reasons to have a conference in New Orleans. At the top of the list is the excellent, moderately priced food, served at relatively uncrowded restaurants a stone’s throw from the hotel. For the three full days I was at the American Historical Association Annual Meeting I did not have one bad meal (although I was with someone who did.) Furthermore, there are a couple of landmark places that seem to draw the tourist trade (such as the famous Acme Oyster House), leaving equally great places like Desire and Felix’s open to the rest of us. At Felix’s (where I had gone for a little alone time Saturday night because I felt conferenced out) they open the oysters and smack ‘em right down on the bar in front of you. And they…

Read More