More the Fool…

Objectivists undoubtedly view Jonas Salk as a fool… never mind the fact that his work helped stop one of the great plagues of the 20th century.  It’s irrelevant that in 1952, 58,000 new cases of polio were reported, most of them in children.  No, the pressing nature of Salk’s research doesn’t matter either.  Jonas Salk was a fool because he didn’t patent his life’s great work.  He didn’t seek out the credit and adulation due him.  He was not John Galt…

Could you patent the sun?

Could you patent the sun?

Conservative estimates hold that Salk… could have earned upwards of $5billion for the rights to his vaccine.  His decision not to patent the discovery was a moral one…a historic one.  Salk believed that medical research was not something marketable, nor profitable.  Innovation does not always have to follow a profit margin- objectivism will never shed its selfish skin.

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Fighting Consensus History

Peter Charles Hoffer sees nothing worse… than “consensus” historians selling millions of books.  In his book, Past Imperfect: Facts, Fictions, Frauds – American History From Bancroft And Parkman To Ambrose, Bellesiles, Ellis, And Goodwin,  Hoffer rails against the scholarly sins of popular historical writers Stephen Ambrose and Doris Kearns Goodwin.  Mistakes in citation now pass for pure plagiarism in academic circles, and Hoffer revels in tearing down the reputations of popular writers  more familiar to the American public.  He relentlessly assails Goodwin’s defense of her mistakes(she and Ambrose both claimed simple oversight due to volume of writing) – his attacks on Ambrose ring hollow considering the confrontation was posthumous(Ambrose died in 2002.)  

No room for popularity

No room for popularity

At the heart of Hoffer’s book is a struggle…  for the spirit of American history.  “Consensus history,” as it was labeled in the 1960’s, was the study of dead white men and their battles– exemplified by George Bancroft and Francis Parkman.  Through their glorification of nationalistic images, America’s true history(usually class struggle)  is lost.  Hoffer judges his forebears  falsified and fabricated by omission and commission, and substituted opinion for scholarship”  and equates it to the perceived wrongdoings of current popular history.  As a former member of the American Historical Association’s Professional division, Hoffer wants to know why these “frauds” were not punished more harshly.  Kearns-Goodwin is again a television pundit, Joe Ellis still writes bestsellers, and Ambrose, well,  he’s dead- no fair!

No frauds on television

No frauds on television

 

By the end of his book… Hoffer’s analysis borders on the absurd.  He praises the sensationalism(some outlets likened it to a scandal of Nixonian proportion) of the media for ruining the reputations of the writers in question.  The book poses the disturbing proposition- history is either going to be popular and unscholarly or erudite and inaccessible.   The works of Nathaniel Philbrick, David McCullough, and Evan Thomas have shown just the opposite.  Hoffer’s simplistic attempt to banish popular historians from academic ranks exposes a weakening grip the New Left has on American historiography.

Unite us, David

Unite us, David

 

 

 

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What is a Progressive?

Progressivism is part of American politics… and has been hotly debated since the end of the 19th century.  As Americans head back to the ballot box to decide the nation’s course for the next four years, economic conditions have made progressives as relevant as ever.  But, what is a progressive?  What do they believe?  Here are three different explanations from some of our great progressive leaders….can you match the words to the man?

“The essential difference, as old as civilized history, is between the men who, with fervor and broad sympathy and imagination, stand for the forward movement, the men who stand for the uplift and betterment of mankind, and who have faith in the people, on the one hand; and, on the other hand, the men of narrow vision and small sympathy, who are not stirred by the wrongs of others. With these latter stand also those other men who distrust the people, and many of whom not merely distrust the people, but wish to keep them helpless so as to exploit them for their own benefit.

“The purpose of protecting the life of our Nation and preserving the liberty of our citizens is to pursue the happiness of our people. Our success in that pursuit is the test of our success as a Nation.  For a century we laboured to settle and to subdue a continent. For half a century we called upon unbounded invention and untiring industry to create an order of plenty for all of our people.  The challenge of the next half century is whether we have the wisdom to use that wealth to enrich and elevate our national life, and to advance the quality of our American civilization.  Your imagination, your initiative, and your indignation will determine whether we build a society where progress is the servant of our needs, or a society where old values and new visions are buried under unbridled growth. For in your time we have the opportunity to move not only toward the rich society and the powerful society, but upward to the Great Society.”

“Because, the truth is, ladies and gentlemen, that this is how we were warned it would be. President Reagan told us from very the beginning that he believed in a kind of social Darwinism. Survival of the fittest. “Government can’t do everything,” we were told. “So it should settle for taking care of the strong and hope that economic ambition and charity will do the rest. Make the rich richer — and what falls from their table will be enough for the middle class and those who are trying desperately to work their way into the middle class.”  You know, the Republicans called it trickle-down when Hoover tried it.  Now they call it supply side.  But it’s the same shining city for those relative few who are lucky enough to live in its good neighborhoods.  But for the people who are excluded — for the people who are locked out — all they can do is to stare from a distance at that city’s glimmering towers.  It’s an old story.  It’s as old as our history.  The difference between Democrats and Republicans has always been measured in courage and confidence.  The Republicans believe that the wagon train will not make it to the frontier unless some of the old, some of the young, some of the weak are left behind by the side of the trail. The strong, the strong they tell us will inherit the land.  We Democrats believe in something else.  We democrats believe that we can make it all the way with the whole family intact. And, we have more than once. — to new frontiers of education, housing, peace; the whole family aboard, constantly reaching out to extend and enlarge that family; lifting them up into the wagon on the way; blacks and Hispanics, and people of every ethnic group, and native Americans — all those struggling to build their families and claim some small share of America”

                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Theodore Roosevelt

Lyndon B. Johnson

Mario Cuomo

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Piled Higher, Deeper

What makes a historian?… A collection of advanced degrees? The ability to thoroughly explain research? Published writing in a peer reviewed journal? Teaching eager young minds about the past? Could any combination of these qualify a person as a “historian?”

Tell us Mr. McCullough, what do you specialize in?

Tell us Mr. McCullough, what do you specialize in?

The narrow parameters of academic discipline… create the appearance of rigid professionalism, but in effect, provide only  compartmentalized confusion.  The specialization that permeates the digital age seems to have influenced all reaches of academia.  People no long study history, but must focus on some minute period of it.  The requisite for title of ‘historian’ is now a Doctor of Philosophy degree in some purposely narrowed time period, often accompanied by an equally specific cultural scope.  (PhD in 19th Century Female Labor Patterns-with a focus on the American Northeastern Corridor.)  Shouldn’t “historians” be able to speak intelligently and passionately about a variety of historical issues, similarly, as we expect  auto mechanics to be able to repair all types of cars?

Lawyers can be historians too...if they write the appropriate books...

Lawyers can be historians too…if they write the appropriate books…

The academic job market is shrinking… yet PhD’s are being handed out at record levels.  There is legitimate doubt as to the true economic value of such an advanced degree.  If the requisite skills can be acquired without the crippling debt and limited prospects- shouldn’t there be a reevaluation of  professional guidelines?  The field of history is changing at rapid pace- the professionals taking it on need to adjust to the race.

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Wheatland

Originally posted on thehistorytourist:

President James Buchanan is often cited as the worst president in US history, for a lack of leadership — generally attributed to his waffling because he was a pro-southern northerner — that put the country on the final road to the Civil War.  So I was very curious to see how Wheatland, Buchanan’s house-turned-museum, would address that allegation. Many house museum narratives, I’ve found, are pretty defensive about the reputations of the people who once lived there.

Buchanan was born in a small cabin in rural Pennsylvania (now part of a state park) and bought Wheatland, a brick, Federal-style house in Lancaster (circa 1828), when he was Secretary of State.  Apart from periods while he was ambassador to Great Britain and US President, he lived there for the rest of his life.

Hershey 078

The house is owned by the LancasterHistory.org, the local county historical association.  The house tour…

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Demonstration at Decatur

Originally posted on Emerging Civil War:

Charles C. DoolittleAt 1:30 in the afternoon of October 26th, 1864, Union Colonel Charles C. Doolittle of the 18th Michigan Infantry, the Federal commander of the defenses at Decatur Alabama, observed an alarming sight. Several thousand Confederate soldiers were marching up the Somerville Road and deploying to face his defenses.

Their appearance was not unexpected. Doolittle’s 1,800 man garrison was part of Brigadier General Robert S. Granger’s District of Northern Alabama, tasked with defending the line of the Tennessee River and with protecting Sherman’s supply lines. Since the capture of Atlanta, Confederate General John Bell Hood had been trying to savage those same supply lines in hopes of drawing Sherman back north. Having met with only limited success in North Georgia, Hood now conceived of a more ambitious goal: slip across the Tennessee in Alabama and strike towards Nashville Tennessee. Taking Nashville would do immense damage to Sherman’s logistics, and almost certainly…

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Weekly History News Roundup

King Tut recreated through digital imagerybone scans yield surprising results

 

Monument to black Revolutionary War soldiers… designers approved to build $6million project on National Mall

 

Colleges don’t require historysurvey of graduation requirements discovers lack of history and government courses  at most schools

 

John and Abigail Adams celebrate 250th anniversary… historical sites around Boston prepared for celebrations

 

Hull of the CSA Hunley becoming visible… restoration is slowly exposing the Confederate submarine’s shell

 

250 years of history...and happiness

250 years of history…and happiness

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