Timothy Snyder – On Tyranny – Trade Paperback

#1 New York Times Bestseller • A historian of fascism offers a guide for surviving and resisting America’s turn towards authoritarianism.

The Founding Fathers tried to protect us from the threat they knew, the tyranny that overcame ancient democracy. Today, our political order faces new threats, not unlike the totalitarianism of the twentieth century. We are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience.

On Tyranny is a call to arms and a guide to resistance, with invaluable ideas for how we can preserve our freedoms in the uncertain years to come.

“Mr. Snyder is a rising public intellectual unafraid to make bold connections between past and present.” —The New York Times

Source: Timothy Snyder – On Tyranny – Trade Paperback

Opinion | The Afghan War Is Over. Did Anyone Notice? – By Elliot Ackerman – The New York Times

Mr. Ackerman is a former Marine and intelligence officer who served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Credit…John Moore/Getty Images

“I first read “The Iliad” in high school. The translation my teacher handed out had a single photograph on the cover: American G.I.s on D-Day storming out of a landing craft onto Omaha Beach.

The subtext of this pairing wasn’t obvious to me, as a teenager. The rage of Achilles, the death of Hector and all those Greeks in their “black-hulled ships” seemed to have little to do with the Second World War.

Many years later, after having fought in two wars of my own, that image has come to resonate in a new way. If “The Iliad” served as an ur-text for the shape the ancient Greeks assumed their wars to take (Alexander the Great, for example, is said to have slept with a copy beneath his pillow when on campaign), then World War II has served a similar function in our society, framing our expectations of war, becoming our American Iliad. We still expect to be the good guys; we expect there to be a beginning, a middle and an end; and we expect that the war is over when the troops come home.

But that final expectation — that a war is only over when all the troops come home — has never really held true, not in World War II, and not today.”

The poisonous myth: Democratic Germany’s ‘stab in the back’ legend – Alan Kramer – Irish Times

1919: Germans take war machines apart outside Berlin. Under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles Germany was required to disarm. This tank is in fact a British tank, captured and put into service by the Germans. Photograph:  Hulton Archive/Getty Images

1919: Germans take war machines apart outside Berlin. Under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles Germany was required to disarm. This tank is in fact a British tank, captured and put into service by the Germans. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

““German economic life is to be annihilated . . . It amounts to the denial of the people’s right to existence.” (German foreign minister Count Brockdorff-Rantzau’s response to the draft peace treaty, May 1919.)

Germany lost the war. It is easy to lose sight of this basic fact. The peace treaties imposed by the victorious nations on Germany and its allies resulted from their defeat and capitulation.

The Treaty of Versailles, signed by Germany on June 28th, 1919 (the others being the treaties of St. Germain with Austria, Trianon with Hungary, Neuilly with Bulgaria, and Sèvres with Turkey), did not result from negotiations between equals, as some German politicians naively hoped.

In fact it flowed directly from the armistice of November 1918, a term that implied a temporary pause in fighting. Over the summer of 1918 Allied offensives were driving the German troops back through France and Belgium towards the German border; increasing numbers of German soldiers, with their combat officers, were surrendering en masse – a sure symptom of the army’s loss of cohesion. To German commanders it was becoming clear that defeat loomed large and imminent.

Strict censorship and the army’s daily false news bulletins meant that news of the armistice came as a shock

Armies, as organisations of violence based on values of bravery and endurance, find it hard to admit defeat. The more thoughtful German officers could read the signs by summer 1918, but the de facto commander-in-chief, General Eric Ludendorff, kept lying to the civilian government about non-existent victories, masses of reserves, and the great losses of the enemy.

Only on September 29th did Ludendorff finally admit to the army leadership that the war was lost. He demanded the formation of a new democratically-based government that must call for an “armistice”. If not the army would completely collapse.”

Source: The poisonous myth: Democratic Germany’s ‘stab in the back’ legend

Great books – Wikipedia

Great books are written publications that have been accepted by modern day scholars as the essential foundation of literature in Western culture. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines them as certain classics of literature, philosophy, history, and science that are believed to contain the basic ideas of western culture. Over the years it has become customary for institutes of higher education to incorporate these readings into their curriculum.“The reason for the study of these classical texts is to both allow and encourage students to become familiar with some of the most revered  authors throughout history. This helps to ensure that students and newly found scholars are equipped with a plethora of resources to utilize throughout their studies.

The great books are used in conjunction with literary classes in higher education courses, but are often taught in separate subcategories designed for the tone of the intended learning environment. Mortimer Adler used 500 books, out of the list of 517 books within the conglomeration of mixed titles, to teach his pupils expanded literary knowledge past that of their current generation. While Adler stuck to the original list, with a few differences to some novels, many chose to omit many of these titles in order to suit an undergraduate class semester by allowing for only 130 books, such as Torrey Honors Institute.[1] For more thorough literary criticisms, people such as Harold Bloom have comprised lists of volumes including up to 2400 books of differing natures.(2,400 books, Harold Bloom)[2]

Source: Great books – Wikipedia

A Presidential Historian Makes a Rare Appearance in Today’s Political Arena – By Alexandra Alter – The New York Times

“Last month, the historian and biographer Jon Meacham got an unusual request from Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s campaign. The campaign wanted him to speak at the Democratic National Convention — not to endorse Mr. Biden, but to put the stakes of this election in historical context.

“The request was, define the soul of America, and do it quick,” Mr. Meacham said.

Mr. Meacham is not a Democrat. He has voted for candidates of both parties, and his work has focused his attention on studying past presidents rather than endorsing modern-day ones. When he gave his four-minute address Thursday evening from his home in Nashville, he sat in his library with two portraits mounted behind him: one of Representative John Lewis and one of former President George Bush, painted by his son former President George W. Bush.

It was a rare, high-profile appearance in the political arena for a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. Mr. Meacham has spent much of his career steeped in the country’s past, studying the lives of presidents such as Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

His speech also marked a public moment in a long-running friendship with Mr. Biden, with whom he has had periodic, spirited conversations about American history and how the country’s sometimes-troubled past shapes the present and future.”

The Decline of Historical Thinking – By Eric Alterman | The New Yorker

” “Yes, we have a responsibility to train for the world of employment, but are we educating for life, and without historical knowledge you are not ready for life,” Blight told me. As our political discourse is increasingly dominated by sources who care nothing for truth or credibility, we come closer and closer to the situation that Walter Lippmann warned about a century ago, in his seminal “Liberty and the News.” “Men who have lost their grip upon the relevant facts of their environment are the inevitable victims of agitation and propaganda. The quack, the charlatan, the jingo . . . can flourish only where the audience is deprived of independent access to information,” he wrote. A nation whose citizens have no knowledge of history is asking to be led by quacks, charlatans, and jingos. As he has proved ever since he rode to political prominence on the lie of Barack Obama’s birthplace, Trump is all three. And, without more history majors, we are doomed to repeat him.”

Source: The Decline of Historical Thinking | The New Yorker

Opinion | How Will the Coronavirus Affect Workers? Look At Past Plagues For a Hint – By Walter Scheidel – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Scheidel is a professor of classics and history at Stanford University.

Credit…Bridgeman Images

This article is part of “The America We Need,” a Times Opinion series exploring how the nation can emerge from this crisis stronger, fairer and more free. Read the introductory editorial and the editor’s letter.

“In the fall of 1347, rat fleas carrying bubonic plague entered Italy on a few ships from the Black Sea. Over the next four years, a pandemic tore through Europe and the Middle East. Panic spread, as the lymph nodes in victims’ armpits and groins swelled into buboes, black blisters covered their bodies, fevers soared and organs failed. Perhaps a third of Europe’s people perished.

Giovanni Boccaccio’s “Decameron” offers an eyewitness account: “When all the graves were full, huge trenches were excavated in the churchyards, into which new arrivals were placed in their hundreds, stowed tier upon tier like ships’ cargo.” According to Agnolo di Tura of Siena, “so many died that all believed it was the end of the world.”

And yet this was only the beginning. The plague returned a mere decade later and periodic flare-ups continued for a century and a half, thinning out several generations in a row. Because of this “destructive plague which devastated nations and caused populations to vanish,” the Arab historian Ibn Khaldun wrote, “the entire inhabited world changed.”

The wealthy found some of these changes alarming. In the words of an anonymous English chronicler, “Such a shortage of laborers ensued that the humble turned up their noses at employment, and could scarcely be persuaded to serve the eminent for triple wages.” Influential employers, such as large landowners, lobbied the English crown to pass the Ordinance of Laborers, which informed workers that they were “obliged to accept the employment offered” for the same measly wages as before.”

Harriet movie historical accuracy: What’s fact and what’s fiction in the Harriet Tubman biopic.

What caused Harriet Tubman’s “spells”? Were there really black slave-catchers? We break down the new biopic.

Diptych of Cynthia Erivo as Harriet Tubman, in a still from the movie, and Harriet Tubman in a historical photo.
Cynthia Erivo and Harriet Tubman.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Focus Features and Horatio Seymour Squyer/Wikipedia.

“The fact that Harriet is the first feature-length film to tell the story of one of the most famous women in American history may sound improbable, but it’s no less improbable than many of the facts of her life. The new biopic is mostly true to what we know of the real Harriet Tubman, though writer-director Kasi Lemmons (Eve’s Bayou) and co-writer Gregory Allen Howard (Remember the TitansAli) take some considerable liberties with both the timeline of events and the creation of several characters. We consulted biographies, articles, primary sources, and a few contemporary historians so we could break down what’s historical record and what’s artistic license.

Tubman’s Early Life as Araminta “Minty” Ross

Just as in the movie, Tubman (played here by Cynthia Erivo) grew up on a farm in Dorchester County, Maryland, where she was born Araminta “Minty” Ross. Though the movie may leave the impression that she only took on the name Harriet Tubman when she reached freedom, she seems to have taken it when she was married, taking Harriet from her mother, Harriet Ross, and Tubman from her husband, a free black man named John Tubman. Despite that, her owners still called her by the name they gave her, as evidenced by the Oct. 3, 1849, advertisement for the return of “Minty” taken out by Tubman’s mistress Eliza Brodess when she eventually escaped.”

Source: Harriet movie historical accuracy: What’s fact and what’s fiction in the Harriet Tubman biopic.

Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy – Vincent Bugliosi – Books – The New York Times

“LOS ANGELES, May 13 — The prosecutor who put Charles Manson behind bars now wants to solve another crime — a really simple one, he insists. So simple that it takes only 1,612 pages to prove his case.

Vincent Bugliosi, whose prosecution of Charles Manson in 1970 led him to write one of the best-selling true-crime books of all time, “Helter Skelter,” has now turned his attention to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

And that is his full attention: 20 years of research, more than one million words, hundreds of interviews, thousands of documents and more than 10,000 citations. The result, “Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy” (W. W. Norton), is due out tomorrow. His conclusion: Lee Harvey Oswald killed Kennedy, and acted alone.

Why would such a simple conclusion require so much argument?

“Because of the unceasing and fanatical obsession of thousands of researchers over the last 43 years, from around the world but mostly in the United States,” Mr. Bugliosi said in an interview at the cafe of the Sportsmen’s Lodge Hotel in Studio City, Calif. “Examining under a high-powered microscope every comma, every period, every detail on every conceivable issue, and making hundreds and hundreds of allegations, they have transformed this simple case into its present form.”

Mr. Bugliosi likes to tell a story illustrating why he believes this book is necessary. In 1992, less than a year after the debut of Oliver Stone’s conspiracy-minded film “J.F.K.,” Mr. Bugliosi was addressing a group of trial lawyers when a member of the audience asked him about the assassination.”

David Lindsay:  Today, I attended the Yale SEA brown bag lecture by Michele Thompson on Tue Tinh of 14th century Vietnam. At the lunch after, I talked with two of her graduate students from Southern CT State U., one of whom named Matt, mentioned this book above, which he used in his master’s paper on Richard Nixon and the history of the Republican Party through Nixon’s presidency. Matt insisted that it was impossible to read this book and not agree that Oswald did, in fact, like the Warren Commission found, acted alone. I should not be surprised that the Warren Commission did a good job, since  my uncle, John Lindsay, the mayor of NYC, and my father, David Lindsay, thought highly of it. From Wikipedia I found:

Committee