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News of Interest to Those Interested in History


News of Interest to Those Interested in History

A kind of general "history bulletin board" for notices and news items for those interested in history, period. Professional trends, new scholarship undertaken, the occasional oddity, etc. Please ALWAYS include attribution: your sources, urls, etc

Members: 7
Latest Activity: Jan 22, 2015


Great History Books 1 Reply

Started by Maggi Smith-Dalton. Last reply by Maggi Smith-Dalton Jul 6, 2008.

Mainstream Media and History

Started by Maggi Smith-Dalton Jul 4, 2008.

The Place of History in Everyday Life?

Started by Maggi Smith-Dalton Jul 4, 2008.

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Comment by Maggi Smith-Dalton on August 9, 2009 at 10:26

August 9, 1945 - The U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki. The bombing came three days after the bombing of Hiroshima. About 74,000 people were killed. Japan surrendered August 14.

". . he met hundreds and hundreds who were fleeing, and every one of them seemed to be hurt in some way. The eyebrows of some were burned off and skin hung from their faces and hands. Others, because of pain, held their arms up as if carrying something in both hands. Some were vomiting as they walked,. Many were naked or in shreds of clothing. On some undressed bodies, the burns had made patterns – of undershirt straps and suspenders and, on the skin of some women (since white repelled the heat from the bomb and dark clothes absorbs it and conducted it to the skin), the shapes of flowers they had had on their kimonos. (Page 39-40, Hiroshima)


What has kept the world safe from the bomb since 1945 has not been deterrence, in the sense of fear of specific weapons, so much as it's been memory. The memory of what happened at Hiroshima.

~John Hersey (June 17, 1914 - March 24, 1993) Author of Hiroshima


"in 1946 ...Harold Ross wrote a memo about John Hersey's Hiroshima story that began "A very fine piece beyond any question; got practically everything. This will be … the classic piece on what follows a bomb dropping for a long time to come."

(Quoted from Garrison Keillor's "The Writer's Almanac" of August 8, 2009)

"RebirthButterfly" illustration copyright 2006 m. smith-dalton

Comment by Maggi Smith-Dalton on July 18, 2009 at 15:44
"Vinland Map of America no forgery, expert says"

* Posted by SHS Advisory Board on July 18, 2009 at 3:37pm in NEWS OF INTEREST TO THOSE INTERESTED IN HISTORY

Begin quoted material
Source: Reuters

Vinland Map of America no forgery, expert says

By John Acher John Acher – Fri Jul 17, 12:09 pm ET

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – The 15th century Vinland Map, the first known map to show part of America before explorer Christopher Columbus landed on the continent, is almost certainly genuine, a Danish expert said Friday.

Controversy has swirled around the map since it came to light in the 1950s, many scholars suspecting it was a hoax meant to prove that Vikings were the first Europeans to land in North America -- a claim confirmed by a 1960 archaeological find.

Doubts about the map lingered even after the use of carbon dating as a way of establishing the age of an object.

"All the tests that we have done over the past five years -- on the materials and other aspects -- do not show any signs of forgery," Rene Larsen, rector of the School of Conservation under the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, told Reuters.

He presented his team's findings at an international cartographers' conference in the Danish capital Friday.

The map shows both Greenland and a western Atlantic island "Vinilanda Insula," the Vinland of the Icelandic sagas, now linked by scholars to Newfoundland where Norsemen under Leif Eriksson settled around AD 1000.

Larsen said his team carried out studies of the ink, writing, wormholes and parchment of the map, which is housed at Yale University in the United States.

He said wormholes, caused by wood beetles, were consistent with wormholes in the books with which the map was bound.

He said claims the ink was too recent because it contained a substance called anatase titanium dioxide could be rejected because medieval maps have been found with the same substance, which probably came from sand used to dry wet ink.

American scholars have carbon dated the map to about 1440, about 50 years before Columbus "discovered" the New World in 1492. Scholars believe it was produced for a 1440 church council at Basel, Switzerland.

The Vinland Map is not a "Viking map" and does not alter the historical understanding of who first sailed to North America. But if it is genuine, it shows that the New World was known not only to Norsemen but also to other Europeans at least half a century before Columbus's voyage.

It was bought from a Swiss dealer by an American after the British Museum turned it down in 1957.

It was subsequently bought for Yale University by a wealthy Yale alumnus, Paul Mellon, and published with fanfare in 1965.

The lack of a provenance has caused much of the controversy. Where the map came from and how it came into the hands of the Swiss dealer after World War Two remain a mystery.

(Editing by Tim Pearce)

end quoted material from
Comment by Maggi Smith-Dalton on April 10, 2009 at 12:22
Begin quoted material

Free-access World Digital Library set to launch

Source: Guardian (UK) (4-8-09)

Libraries and archives from around the world have come together in a project to share their collections of rare books, maps, films, manuscripts and recordings online for free.

Almost four years in the making, the World Digital Library will launch on 21 April, functioning in seven languages – Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish – and including content in additional languages. A prototype of what will be on offer includes a voice recording of the 101-year-old grandson of an American slave, a 17th-century map of the world and 19th-century Brazilian photographs.

The brainchild of James Billington, from the US's Library of Congress, the project has been developed by Unesco and the Library of Congress, along with 32 other partners from around the world, including national libraries from Iraq, Egypt, Russia, Brazil, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Uganda....

end quoted material
received alert via the History News Network
Comment by Maggi Smith-Dalton on March 30, 2009 at 11:16
Begin quoted material
The Chronicle Review
From the issue dated April 3, 2009
Blind Spots

Humanists must plan their digital future


Stanford University is going through the difficult and highly fraught process of figuring out a plan for the library of the future. Coming on the heels of the "bookless library," touted as the vision for a new engineering library, a preliminary proposal in 2007 to tear down the seismically unsafe Meyer Library and digitize and house off campus most of its 600,000 volumes produced a cry of protest. The utopian ideal, imposed from above, might have met with less resistance had faculty members been involved in the planning from the start. But as charged responses mounted, the administration announced it would delay razing the library. Last fall a faculty committee of the Academic Council proposed its own plan for rethinking the library to the Faculty Senate, which has accepted it with a call for further rethinking by various university groups of how to put the plan into effect.

The new faculty plan is characterized by a key shift in emphasis that is both less charged and more pointed. Rather than envision a "library of the future," it discusses the "future of the library," stressing continuity with an old entity rather than the creation of something brand-new. The distinction exposes what is at stake.

What is at stake here is symptomatic of a national crisis. Libraries have long been characterized as the heart of the research university, the center for scholarship. No one disputes that the aggregated sum of information and material available online, even primary material, has shifted the library's identity....

.... The details that will bedevil this and other schemes for the next age of scholarly work and design of the environments to support it are not trivial. And here I come to the crux of my argument. The design of new environments for performing scholarly work cannot be left to the technical staff and to library professionals. The library is a crucial partner in planning and envisioning the future of preserving, using, even creating scholarly resources. So are the technology professionals. But in an analogy with building construction, they are the architects and the contractors. The creation of archives, analytic tools, and statistical analyses of aggregate data in the humanities (and in some other scholarly fields) requires the combined expertise of technical, professional, and scholarly personnel.

The task of modeling an environment for scholarship (not just individual projects, but an environment, with a suite of tools for access, use, and research activity) is not a responsibility that can be offloaded onto libraries or technical staffs. I cannot say this strongly or clearly enough: The design of digital tools for scholarship is an intellectual responsibility, not a technical task. After all, what will such "research portals" do? What kinds of work will they be designed to support? Editing? Annotation? Aggregation of leaves of manuscripts scattered at remote institutions? Collaborative writing? Close readings? Data mining? Information display? Multimedia writing? Networked conversation? Publishing? Those are enormous questions, to which no scholar would have the same set of answers as another. No scholar would have the same requirements....

Scholars in the humanities have been particularly remiss in taking seriously the role they need to play in this project. For years when I was at the University of Virginia, where the library took the lead on digital-humanities projects, serving as home, sponsor, mentor, and friend to the many research institutes that helped break new ground and establish now-standard practices, faculty members involved in those activities came up repeatedly against a wall of resistance from within their ranks. Humanities, arts, and social-science colleagues repeatedly dismissed digital projects as work for the library community. Most considered the creation of digital materials a technical matter of access, a thing "they" should do and take care of for "us." That attitude contains a grotesque misunderstanding of the basic problem: Unless we scholars are involved in designing the working environments of our digital future, we will find ourselves in a future that doesn't work, without the methods and materials essential to our undertakings. Returning to the architecture analogy, you shouldn't build a new house without dialogue between architect and client....

....Design must emerge from the context of use.

Examples of how and why "we" have to play an active role in the design of the scholarly environments of the future abound in the experience of digital humanists — and are more common in the daily experience of scholars trying to perform basic research and writing tasks than many realize. For instance, a number of us who had an opportunity to be part of town meetings reviewing the recommendations for dealing with the shortage of space at the Library of Congress some years ago came up against a basic issue: What version of a work should be digitized as representative of a work?....

If we are interested in creating in our work with digital technologies the subjective, inflected, and annotated processes central to humanistic inquiry, we must be committed to designing the digital systems and tools for our future work. Nothing less than the way we understand knowledge and our tasks as scholars are at stake. Software and hardware only put into effect the models structured into their design.

Moreover, university administrators need to see such work as more valuable than they have to date. Faculty members and graduate students committed to remodeling knowledge with innovative approaches to scholarship have to be supported. With rare exceptions, the work, too easily seen as tool-building, has occurred at the edges of digital projects and is usually financed with grants. That does not result in approaches that can be generalized beyond specific projects.

Unless scholars in the humanities help design and model the environments in which they will work, they will not be able to use them. Tools developed for PlayStation and PowerPoint, Word, and Excel will be as appropriate to our intellectual labors as a Playskool workbench is to the chores of a real plumber. I once bought a very beautiful portable Olivetti typewriter because an artist friend of mine said it was so elegantly designed that it had been immediately put into the Museum of Modern Art collection. The problem? It wasn't designed for typing. Any keyboardist with any skill at all constantly clogged its keys. A thing of beauty, it was a pain forever. I finally threw it from the fourth-floor tower of Wurster Hall at the University of California at Berkeley. Try doing that with the interface to your university library. Now reflect on who is responsible for getting it to work as an environment that supports scholarship.

We face a critical juncture. Leaving it to "them" is unfair, wrongheaded, and irresponsible. Them is us.

Johanna Drucker is a professor of information studies at the University of California at Los Angeles. This year she is a Digital Humanities Fellow at the Stanford Humanities Center.
Section: The Chronicle Review
Volume 55, Issue 30, Page B6
end quoted material

Please go to the Chronicle site for the full text. Very interesting article.
Comment by Maggi Smith-Dalton on March 26, 2009 at 9:38
Begin quoted material

Bill to Reform Teaching of American History and Civics Introduced in the Senate

This encouraging story is from Lee White at the National Coalition for History:

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), along with co-sponsors Senators Kennedy (D-MA) and Byrd (D-WV), recently introduced a bill (S. 659) called the “Improving the Teaching and Learning of American History and Civics Act of 2009.”

The bill would do the following.

* Authorize 100 summer academies for outstanding students and teachers of U.S. History and align those academies with locations in the national park system
* Double authorization (from $100m to $200m) for funding “Teaching American History” programs in local school districts, which today involve 20,000 students as a part of No Child Left Behind
* Require states to develop and implement standards for student assessments in U.S. History, although there would be no federal accountability requirement as there is for reading and mathematics
* Allow states to compare history and civics test scores of 8th- and 12th-grade students by establishing a 10-state pilot program that would expand the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP)

The bill has been referred to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that Senator Kennedy chairs. Senator Byrd is the originator of the Teaching American History grants program and is a senior member of the Appropriations Committee. In addition, Senator Alexander is a former-Secretary of Education and the Ranking Republican on the Children and Families that has jurisdiction over the Department of Education. So the key players are in a position to move this bill quickly.

National Coalition for History, 400 A Street SE, Washington, DC 20003
Designed and Hosted by the Center for History and New Media Home | Contact
© 2007, National Coalition for History, 400 A Street SE, Washington, DC

news item via the History News Network posting of Rick Shenkman's blog

end quoted material
Comment by Maggi Smith-Dalton on March 14, 2009 at 18:34
Go to:
for entire article
Begin quoted material
Hood not so good? Ancient Brits questioned outlaw
By DAVID STRINGER, Associated Press Writer David Stringer, Associated Press Writer

LONDON – An academic says he's found evidence that Britain's legendary outlaw Robin Hood wasn't as popular as folklore suggests.

Julian Luxford says a note discovered in the margins of an ancient history book contains rare criticism of the supposedly benevolent bandit.

According to legend, Robin Hood roamed 13th-century Britain from a base in central England's Sherwood Forest, plundering from the rich to give to the poor.

But Luxford, an art history lecturer at Scotland's University of St. Andrews, says a 23-word inscription in the margins of a history book, written in Latin by a medieval monk around 1460, casts the outlaw as a persistent thief....

Luxford said he found the reference while searching through the library of England's prestigious Eton College, which was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI....

....Luxford said the note — uncovered in the margin of the "Polychronicon," a popular history book that dates from the late 1340s — is the earliest known reference to the outlaw from an English source. He said it supports arguments that the historical Robin Hood lived in the 13th century, even though most popular modern versions of the story set him in the late-12th century reign of King Richard I....

....folklore has most commonly placed Hood in Sherwood Forest — where he is reputed to hidden from his nemesis, the Sheriff of Nottingham. The forest once spanned 100,000 acres (40,500 hectares) across Nottinghamshire, but has shrunk in modern time to about 450 acres (180 hectares)....

Luxford said he planned to publish more details of the find in the Journal of Medieval History.


Associated Press Writer Jill Lawless contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

end quoted material
Comment by Maggi Smith-Dalton on January 25, 2009 at 9:44
Another piece of good news for historians.

Begin quoted from:
Slate Magazine
war stories
A Presumption of Disclosure
Obama revives the Freedom of Information Act.
By Fred Kaplan
Posted Friday, Jan. 23, 2009, at 12:06 PM ET

It has received the least attention of his first-day decisions, but President Barack Obama's memorandum on reviving the Freedom of Information Act stands as the clearest signal yet that his campaign talk about "a new era of open government" wasn't just rhetoric; it's for real.

The key phrase comes right at the top: "The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails."

Later in the memo: "All agencies should adopt a presumption of disclosure. … The presumption of disclosure should be applied to all decisions involving FOIA."

Furthermore, "In responding to requests under the FOIA, executive branch agencies should act properly and in a spirit of cooperation, recognizing that such agencies are servants of the public." In fact, "All agencies should take affirmative steps to make information public. They should not wait for specific requests from the public."

This could not be clearer. The new president was calling for a complete reversal of the Bush administration's directives on this matter—and a restoration of the Freedom of Information Act's original purpose.

The Bush era's tone was set in October 2001, when then-Attorney General John Ashcroft issued a memo to all federal agencies, assuring them that if they were sued for refusing to release documents under the FOIA, the Justice Department would defend them in court as long as their decision had a "sound legal basis." This reversed a guideline, signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993, noting that the Justice Department would defend agencies' refusals only if releasing the documents would cause "foreseeable harm."

Ashcroft's guidance was reinforced in March 2002, when Bush's chief of staff, Andrew Card, issued a memo urging agencies to protect information that was "sensitive," even if it was unclassified.

Both memos were written in the aftermath of Sept. 11; the impulse behind them was, up to a point, understandable. However, the bureaucrats who control the documents—cautious by nature and sensitive to signals from on high—took the memos as cues to tighten the lid not just on legitimate national-security secrets (which the FOIA had always exempted from routine disclosure) but on everything.

The consequences were dramatic. From 1995 to 2001, federal agencies declassified 1.15 billion pages of documents under the Freedom of Information Act—an average of 190 million per year. From 2002 to 2006, after Ashcroft issued his memo, agencies declassified 182 million pages in total—an average of just 36 million per year, less than one-fifth the volume.

Even these statistics understate the stranglehold because, in many cases, even after the documents were declassified, the relevant agencies—the Pentagon, the CIA, the SEC, or whatever—refused to release them....

....much of this delay is by design. Some agencies have been conscientious in filling their statutory duties, but, especially since the Ashcroft memo, many others have simply ignored the law, leaving their FOIA offices vacant and no longer training officials in how to review FOIA requests.

In 2006, the National Security Archive, a private research organization headquartered at George Washington University, sued the U.S. Air Force for failing to respond to several FOIA requests. A federal judge ruled that the Air Force had engaged in a "pattern and practice" of neglect on the issue. Since then, the Air Force has cleaned up its act, retrained personnel, and resumed serious reviewing. Other agencies have stepped up their training, too—but in the opposite direction, ordering their FOIA officers to find legal rationales for withholding everything (the natural bureaucratic tendency), knowing that the Ashcroft memo assures them of executive-branch backing at the highest level.

But that was before President Obama's memorandum.

The Obama memo doesn't lay down new law. But it does order his attorney general and his budget director to devise new guidelines and regulations, which will have the force of new law—guidelines based on a presumption of disclosure, the exact opposite of the Bush-Ashcroft guidance.

Again, a presumption is not a requirement; the statute's exemptions covering genuine national-security secrets will no doubt remain in place. But presumptions matter to bureaucrats; they lay down what is expected; they set the boundaries of safe behavior. Under Bush-Ashcroft, the presumption was: When in doubt, classify and lock the archives down. Bureaucrats are always in some doubt, so they slammed the vaults and hid the keys. Obama is saying: When in doubt, if there's no demonstrable harm, open the gates. (One line of his memo stresses that government should not keep information secret merely because of "speculative or abstract fears." [Italics added.])

In January 2008, an obscure federal entity called the Public Interest Declassification Board—a group of nine specialists, mainly academics and former officials, five appointed by the president, four by Congress—submitted a report to President George W. Bush, proposing more than a dozen ways to make the process more sensible: consolidating authority in the National Archives, creating centralized data banks, automatically declassifying almost everything that's more than 25 years old, and so forth.

Bush ignored it. Obama shouldn't. It spells out how to translate his principles into policies....

.... (Fee waivers were once common for journalists and authors. Now fees are charged to everyone, and up front, not so much to reimburse for searches as to set up a toll booth to dissuade most citizens from even trying to get information.)

I didn't get all the documents I'd requested, but I got most of them. The secrets they spilled were about weapons, war plans, and bureaucratic battles 20 to 30 years earlier, in the 1950s and '60s. Their declassification filled a lot of gaps in our knowledge of history, which arguably helped readers understand certain aspects of the present. But they revealed nothing that would have remotely assisted our enemies, then or now.

Return to article

These figures come from a bar graph on Page 7 of "Improving Declassification," a January 2008 report to President Bush by the Public Interest Declassification Board. Data before 1995 are not cited by individual years.
Fred Kaplan writes the "War Stories" column for Slate. His book, Daydream Believers: How a Few Grand Ideas Wrecked American Power, is now out in paperback. He can be reached at

Article URL:

Copyright 2008 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive Co. LLC

end quoted material
Comment by Maggi Smith-Dalton on January 22, 2009 at 10:28
HUZZAH! !!!!!!!! Good news for historians!

begin quoted (from the History News Network)

Obama revokes Bush presidential records order

Source: Lee White at the website of the National Coalition for History (NCH) (1-21-09)

On January 21, in one of his first official acts, President Barack Obama revoked the Bush administration’s Executive Order 13233 that severely limited access by the public to presidential records. A copy of President Obama’s new executive order is not yet available. Additional details and a copy of the new EO will be posted on the National Coalition for History’s website as soon as it is released.

The press release from the White House says the following:

“The Executive Order on Presidential Records brings those principles to presidential records by giving the American people greater access to these historic documents. This order ends the practice of having others besides the President assert executive privilege for records after an administration ends. Now, only the President will have that power, limiting its potential for abuse. And the order also requires the Attorney General and the White House Counsel to review claims of executive privilege about covered records to make sure those claims are fully warranted by the Constitution.”


Posted on Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 4:25 PM
end quoted
Comment by Maggi Smith-Dalton on January 19, 2009 at 11:21
From my blog:

Why should we care about the professional media?

Historians cannot do their work if journalists do not do theirs professionally and ethically.

What does that mean?
Here's a good start...

begin quoted
From the Commitee of Concerned Jouralists

What are the Elements of Journalism?
April 24, 2007

Journalism's first obligation is to the truth.

Its first loyalty is to citizens.

Its essence is a discipline of verification.

Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover.

It must serve as an independent monitor of power.

It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise.

It must strive to make the significant interesting and relevant.

It must keep the news comprehensive and proportional.

Its practitioners have an obligation to exercise their personal conscience.

Citizens, too, have rights and responsibilities when it comes to the news.

end quoted

Wicked-pedia is not the answer!
Comment by Maggi Smith-Dalton on January 11, 2009 at 11:44
just a note to avoid confusion: Executive Order 13233 isn't "new" now...Bush issued it very quickly once in office.
The list below is from the ALA website.
You can also find references from other professional colleagues over this order on the
Society of American Archivists site (
the AHA site

Plug the search term into the HNN site for all kinds of updates, including this positive indicator:

Begin quoted material:
Presidential Records Reform Act is the First Bill Passed by the New House

Source: Lee White at the website of the National Coalition for History (NCH) (1-7-09)

The end may finally be in sight to the seven-year battle historians and archivists have waged to overturn President Bush’s Executive Order 13233 of November 2001 that restricted access to presidential records. On January 7, 2009, the House of Representatives approved H.R. 35, the “Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2009,” by an overwhelmingly bi-partisan vote of 359-58. H.R. 35 was chosen by the House leadership as the first piece of substantive legislation passed in 2009 as a symbol of government transparency.

President-elect Obama has already committed himself to revoking EO 13233. However, the hope is that the Senate will move swiftly to pass the bill in time for the new president to sign it soon after his inauguration...." end quoted material

But no matter how positive the potential, harm has already been done. Even the short list below should ring bells and we should never be complacent...

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