I associate widespread recreational drug use with The Sixties, but two interesting articles of late illustrate how they have a much longer history than that.

1. From All That’s Interesting:

How Drugs Like Pervitin And Cocaine Fueled The Nazis’ Rise And Fall

Although he would later usher the Third Reich into a period of heavy drug usage, Hitler first used a radical anti-drug platform to seize control of the state.

This platform was part and parcel of a broader campaign built upon anti-establishment rhetoric. At that time, the establishment was the Weimar Republic, the unofficial name that Hitler had coined for the German regime that ruled between 1919 and 1933 and that had grown economically dependent on pharmaceuticals — specifically cocaine and heroin…

Hitler wasn’t a fan of it. A teetotaler who wouldn’t even drink coffee because of the caffeine, Hitler avoided all drugs. Famously, he reportedly never smoked again after throwing a pack of cigarettes into a river at the end of World War I.

When Hitler and the Nazis took control of Germany in 1933, they began extending Hitler’s no-poison-philosophy to the country as a whole. The Nazis had their work cut out for them, however. Describing the state of the country at the time of Hitler’s rise, German author Klaus Mann wrote: “Berlin night life, oh boy, oh boy, the world has never seen the like! We used to have a great army, now we’ve got great perversities!”

So the Nazis did what they did best, and combined their anti-drug efforts with their signature practice of accusing those they didn’t like — particularly those of Jewish descent — of being the ones stabbing Germany in the back

[Upon hearing about Hitler’s intestinal pain, Physician Theodor Morell] prescribed Hitler a capsule full of healthy intestinal bacteria called Mutaflor, an experimental treatment at the time and one that is still used today. This helped Hitler’s stomach pain and increased flatulence issues enough that he appointed Morell as his personal physician.

From then on out, Morell would seldom leave Hitler’s vicinity, eventually injecting Hitler with everything from glucose solutions to vitamins multiple times a day, all to relieve Hitler’s chronic pain….

But that wasn’t the only drug Morell treated Hitler with: the physician would offer the Führer an ever-increasing laundry list of drugs, including caffeine, cocaine (for sore throat), and morphine — all the drugs that Hitler had railed against for years before the war. The most significant of these drugs was Pervitin, a methamphetamine.

Temmler, a German pharmaceutical company, first patented Pervitin in 1937 and a German population caught up in the whirlwind of Nazism seized upon its positive effects.

Temmler commissioned one of the most successful PR agencies in Berlin to draw up a marketing plan modeled after the Coca-Cola Company, which had achieved tremendous global success…

The German people… focused on the energy it provided, energy very much needed in a country first rebuilding itself after World War I and then mobilizing for World War II. It was almost unpatriotic not to be as hardworking, and Pervitin helped when nothing else could. Besides, it was much cheaper than coffee.

The Wehrmacht, the combined German armed forces during World War II, first had a taste of methamphetamine’s power when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939. Troops were ecstatic about Pervitin — and so were their commanders, who wrote glowing reports advocating for the use of the drug.

Read the whole thing. (I am glad to note that the article does not blame the Holocaust, or the Germans’ eventual defeat, on the drugs that Hitler took. That would be simplistic and false.)

2. From Andrew Sullivan in New York Magazine:

The Poison We Pick

This nation pioneered modern life. Now epic numbers of Americans are killing themselves with opioids to escape it.

We do know, from Neolithic ruins in Europe, that the cultivation of this plant goes back as far as 6,000 years, probably farther. Homer called it a “wondrous substance.” Those who consumed it, he marveled, “did not shed a tear all day long, even if their mother or father had died, even if a brother or beloved son was killed before their own eyes.” For millennia, it has salved pain, suspended grief, and seduced humans with its intimations of the divine. It was a medicine before there was such a thing as medicine. Every attempt to banish it, destroy it, or prohibit it has failed.

The poppy’s power, in fact, is greater than ever. The molecules derived from it have effectively conquered contemporary America. Opium, heroin, morphine, and a universe of synthetic opioids, including the superpowerful painkiller fentanyl, are its proliferating offspring. More than 2 million Americans are now hooked on some kind of opioid, and drug overdoses — from heroin and fentanyl in particular — claimed more American lives last year than were lost in the entire Vietnam War. Overdose deaths are higher than in the peak year of AIDS and far higher than fatalities from car crashes. The poppy, through its many offshoots, has now been responsible for a decline in life spans in America for two years in a row, a decline that isn’t happening in any other developed nation. According to the best estimates, opioids will kill another 52,000 Americans this year alone — and up to half a million in the next decade….

No other developed country is as devoted to the poppy as America. We consume 99 percent of the world’s hydrocodone and 81 percent of its oxycodone. We use an estimated 30 times more opioids than is medically necessary for a population our size. And this love affair has been with us from the start. The drug was ubiquitous among both the British and American forces in the War of Independence as an indispensable medicine for the pain of battlefield injuries. Thomas Jefferson planted poppies at Monticello, and they became part of the place’s legend (until the DEA raided his garden in 1987 and tore them out of the ground). Benjamin Franklin was reputed to be an addict in later life, as many were at the time. William Wilberforce, the evangelical who abolished the British slave trade, was a daily enthusiast. As Martin Booth explains in his classic history of the drug, poppies proliferated in America, and the use of opioids in over-the-counter drugs was commonplace. A wide range of household remedies were based on the poppy’s fruit; among the most popular was an elixir called laudanum — the word literally means “praiseworthy” — which took off in England as early as the 17th century.

Mixed with wine or licorice, or anything else to disguise the bitter taste, opiates were for much of the 19th century the primary treatment for diarrhea or any physical pain. Mothers gave them to squalling infants as a “soothing syrup.” A huge boom was kick-started by the Civil War, when many states cultivated poppies in order to treat not only the excruciating pain of horrific injuries but endemic dysentery. Booth notes that 10 million opium pills and 2 million ounces of opiates in powder or tinctures were distributed by Union forces. Subsequently, vast numbers of veterans became addicted — the condition became known as “Soldier’s Disease” — and their high became more intense with the developments of morphine and the hypodermic needle. They were joined by millions of wives, sisters, and mothers who, consumed by postwar grief, sought refuge in the obliviating joy that opiates offered.

Based on contemporary accounts, it appears that the epidemic of the late 1860s and 1870s was probably more widespread, if far less intense, than today’s — a response to the way in which the war tore up settled ways of life, as industrialization transformed the landscape, and as huge social change generated acute emotional distress. This aspect of the epidemic — as a response to mass social and cultural dislocation — was also clear among the working classes in the earlier part of the 19th century in Britain. As small armies of human beings were lured from their accustomed rural environments, with traditions and seasons and community, and thrown into vast new industrialized cities, the psychic stress gave opium an allure not even alcohol could match. Some historians estimate that as much as 10 percent of a working family’s income in industrializing Britain was spent on opium. By 1870, opium was more available in the United States than tobacco was in 1970. It was as if the shift toward modernity and a wholly different kind of life for humanity necessitated for most working people some kind of relief — some way of getting out of the train while it was still moving.

Read the whole thing.

Alfred W. Crosby, 1931-2018

From H-LatAm:

Alfred W. Crosby died peacefully at Nantucket Cottage Hospital among friends and family on March 14, 2018, after residing for two and a half years at Our Island Home. He was 87 and had lived with Parkinson’s Disease for two decades.

Born in Boston in 1931, he graduated from Harvard College in 1952 and served in the U.S. Army 1952-1955. He then earned an M.A.T. from the Harvard School of Education and a Ph.D. in history from Boston University in 1961. His first book, America, Russia, Hemp, and Napoleon, is about relations between Russia and the U.S.A. from the American Revolution through the War of 1812. He taught at Albion College, the Ohio State University, Washington State University, and the University of Texas at Austin, retiring in 1999 as Professor Emeritus of Geography, History, and American Studies. He was the recipient of many awards including three Fulbright Fellowships and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He was elected to the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Academy of Finland and was a fellow of the John  Carter Brown Library.

His interest in demography and the role of infectious disease in human history led him to write The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492America’s Forgotten Pandemic (originally Epidemic and Peace 1918); and Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900. His fascination with intellectual and technological history produced The Measure of Reality: Quantification and Western Society, 1250-1600Throwing Fire: Projectile Technology Through History; and Children of the Sun: A History of Humanity’s Unappeasable Appetite for Energy. His books have been published in Chinese, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Slovene, Swedish, and Turkish translations.  His work as a historian, he said, turned him from facing the past to facing the future. He lived by the maxim: What can I do today to make tomorrow better?

For St. Patrick’s Day

Although the article was first posted some time ago. From Irish Central:

The Black and Tans, who arrived in Ireland for the first time on March 25, 1920, were not so bad after all, it seems. According to a 2011 book by Canadian historian David Leeson, “The Black and Tans; British Police and Auxiliaries in the Irish War of Independence 1920-21,” published by Oxford University Press, we have been misled by the Irish history books for almost a century.

This will come as disturbing news to millions of Irish and Irish Americans who were raised on stories of the Black and Tans’ atrocities in Ireland during the War of Independence. This includes Vice President Joe Biden, by his own account.

The Black and Tans were a force of Temporary Constables recruited to assist the Royal Irish Constabulary in maintaining control over the IRA during the Irish War of Independence. They were generally thought of as the scum of the British system – looking for British ex-soldiers turned psychopaths, turning them into an evil, murderous militia and releasing them from jails into Ireland.

Not so, says author David Leeson. And a review of the book by Eunan O’Halpin in The Irish Times says it will open many eyes.

Among the major surprises, I found reading O’Halpin’s review was that many of the Black and Tans were actually Irish-born and that regular British soldiers were far more likely to commit atrocities.He writes: “Leeson’s careful analysis of Black and Tan recruitment disposes of the widely altered charge that these temporary policemen were the sweepings of the British penal system. Rather, they were a miscellany of British and Irish ex-servicemen, almost none of whom had criminal records.

“He also suggests that pre-First World War soldiers were more likely than younger Black and Tans to commit disciplinary and criminal offenses in Ireland, challenging the assumption that the chronic ill discipline of these temporary policemen was specifically a manifestation of the brutalizing effects of the First World War on impressionable youths.”

More at the link. See also Eunan O’Halpin’s review. Something tells me that, like any revisionist view of Oliver Cromwell, this won’t have much influence in Ireland.

UPDATE: Was disappointed to see that the Toronto Maple Leafs were not wearing their throwback “St. Pats” sweaters tonight, for a Saturday St. Patrick’s Day home game against traditional Original Six rival Montreal. Between 1919 and 1927 the club was known as the “Toronto St. Patricks” and their colour was green. Here is a rendition of one of their uniforms, from the fascinating NHL Uniform Database:

The club was originally known as the Toronto Arenas when it was founded in 1917. This is their centennial season and they wore Toronto Arenas sweaters on December 19 against the Carolina Hurricanes. (I suspect there are limits on the number of throwback sweaters a team is allowed to wear each year.)

Ottoman Turkish

Earlier on this blog, I wrote that “no one has started rendering Turkish in Arabic script, as a way of disavowing Kemalism.” But apparently I spoke too soon! From Hürriyet:

Ottoman Turkish should be taught in schools, Erdoğan says

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has once again said Ottoman Turkish should be taught in schools, accusing the early Republican period’s “language revolution” of “destroying” the Turkish language.

“It is one of the biggest problems in recent history that our language has become a subject of political discussions. In the name of ‘language revolution,’ our Turkish was attacked by unpleasant, dull and soulless words.

The bond between our nation and its old civilization was tried to be weakened,” Erdoğan said on March 15 at the award ceremony of a high school’s composition contest at the presidential complex in Ankara.

Ottoman Turkish is an old form of Turkish using Arabic script, with many words borrowed from Persian and Arabic. As part of cultural reforms to create a Western-style secular state, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of modern Turkey, replaced Ottoman Turkish with the Latin alphabet.

Paul Halsall comments:

I think Erdogan has a certain justification. As it stands now many modern Turks cannot understand anything written 80 years ago or earlier.

I seem to recall that the Chinese Communist Party considered a move to using only pinyin but did not precisely because it would create cultural barrier with the past that would be uncrossable for most future Chinese.

Lord Kinross (Patrick Balfour) in his travelogue Within the Taurus: A Journey in Asiatic Turkey (1954) p. 13, recounts how upset many Turks were on being forced to give up the fez, and the widespread approval of King Edward VIII in Turkey because on a visit to Istanbul in 1936 the then Prince of Wales had asked why no Turkish music was heard on the radio. It had been prohibited by Ataturk, but thanks to the Prince’s inquiry it was once again played on the radio for all.

Vikings in New Brunswick?

From the National PostAlas, for now it seems just a collection of circumstantial evidence; no actual artifacts of Viking settlement have yet come to light.

Why this retired archeologist is convinced New Brunswick is home to a lost Viking settlement

If confirmed, it would be only the second Viking settlement in Canada, the other being L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland

Chris Arnold

March 15, 2018

In the Saga of Erik the Red, a 13th century Icelandic story, intrepid explorer Thorfinn Karlsefn travels to a land called Hóp. There he finds grapes, plentiful supplies of salmon, barrier sandbars and natives who use animal-hide canoes.

The Viking colony of Hop has long been lost to history, but Birgitta Wallace, a retired Parks Canada archaeologist, is convinced it was located in modern day New Brunswick.

In a new article for Canada’s History, she described all the evidence that points to the Miramichi-Chaleur Bay area in particular.

Wallace said that knowledge of such Viking settlements was largely passed down through oral history, with no locations being documented until centuries after the Viking’s travels.

“Going south one summer, (the Vikings) come upon Hóp which has more resources than they can count, great lumber, masses of salmon, halibut, and grapes growing in the woods,” said Wallace, who noted that the description of Hóp in Erik the Red’s Saga matches New Brunswick’s eastern shore.

“The only area on the Atlantic seaboard that accommodates all the saga criteria is northeastern New Brunswick,” she said in an email.

Scholars have theorized for years that Hóp could have been located in New England, New York or Maine. However, Wallace discredited those theories, one reason being salmon were not commonly found in New England, but were plentiful in New Brunswick.

“Salmon has always been rare in New England and has not been found at all on pre-contact sites south of New Brunswick, while they do occur throughout the Atlantic region,” Wallace said. ” The Miramichi and Restigouche river areas have been especially rich in salmon.”

More at the link. I guess the site on Baffin Island hasn’t panned out?

Alumni News

Pleased to get a visit today from history major alumnus Dylan Ellis ’14, who has left a teaching job at Pickens High School in Jasper, Georgia to train as an insurance broker. He continues to make music and to work for his family’s cleaning business. He and his wife Holly are expecting their first child in three weeks.

Red and Blue

It’s a few years old, but I discovered an interesting article on Smithsonian.com just now:

When Republicans Were Blue and Democrats Were Red

The era of color-coded political parties is more recent than you might think

By Jodi Enda

Television’s first dynamic, color-coded presidential map, standing two stories high in the studio best known as the home to “Saturday Night Live,” was melting.

It was early October, 1976, the month before the map was to debut—live—on election night. At the urging of anchor John Chancellor, NBC had constructed the behemoth map to illustrate, in vivid blue and red, which states supported Republican incumbent Gerald Ford and which backed Democratic challenger Jimmy Carter.

The test run didn’t go well. Although the map was buttressed by a sturdy wood frame, the front of each state was plastic.

“There were thousands of bulbs,” recalled Roy Wetzel, then the newly minted general manager of NBC’s election unit. “The thing started to melt when we turned all the lights on. We then had to bring in gigantic interior air conditioning and fans to put behind the thing to cool it.”

That solved the problem. And when election results flowed in Tuesday night, Nov. 2, Studio 8-H at 30 Rockefeller Center lit up. Light bulbs on each state changed from undecided white to Republican blue and Democratic red. NBC declared Carter the winner at 3:30 a.m. EST, when Mississippi turned red.

That’s right: In the beginning, blue was red and red was blue and they changed back and forth from election to election and network to network in what appears, in hindsight, to be a flight of whimsy. The notion that there were “red states” and “blue states”—and that the former were Republican and the latter Democratic—wasn’t cemented on the national psyche until the year 2000.

Chalk up another one to Bush v. Gore. Not only did it give us “hanging chads” and a crash course in the Electoral College, not only did it lead to a controversial Supreme Court ruling and a heightened level of polarization that has intensified ever since, the Election That Wouldn’t End gave us a new political shorthand.

More at the link. Quite right: in Britain the colors are reversed – a true-blue is “a staunch royalist or Conservative,” while Labour is always represented by red, since they’re Commies. I guess now that the USSR is no more American conservatives can embrace the color red, which they used to be better dead than.

Another irony occurred to me not long ago – Wal-Mart, the reddest of red state institutions, identifies itself with the color blue, while Target, the Minneapolis-based chain with the cool advertisements, the affordable design, and the social conscience, decks itself in red.


From my grad school colleague Evan Roberts, a blog post from four years ago about Daylight Saving Time, which begins again today:

Two Cities, Two Times

Check the date! No fooling today. In May 1965 Saint Paul actually did do daylight saving time differently than Minneapolis. At the time the Twin Cities’ discordant time change was the best example yet of absurd inconsistencies across America in recognizing daylight saving time. Today the story is both a cute curiosity of local history, but also offers some parables about the downsides of having too many levels of government involved in decisions.

Like the Southwest light rail decision, the path to Minneapolis and Saint Paul ending up on different times was a long one. Until the nineteenth century most people lived by sun time, with their hours of labor and leisure governed by when the sun rose and set. Clock time was unnecessary on farms and in small villages where people could rely on encountering each other frequently. But towns and cities needed clock time for coordinating peoples’ daily encounters, and railroads needed clock time to ensure safe operation. Without great need to co-ordinate across places, towns and cities set their own time, and by the 1870s America had hundreds of different standard times that varied by mere minutes as one moved east or west. In theory it was easy to adjust, but in practice it was a lot of work, and particularly unsafe on busy railroads. Thus in November 1883 the railroads adopted the four basic time zones we have today. Notably, no government promulgated the new time zones. It was not until World War I that the federal government passed any legislation establishing America’s time.

Daylight saving time was also an urban invention. Misunderstood at its birth, as it still is, daylight saving time was an efficient solution to a problem urban workers living about 35° and 55° north (or south) of the equator faced in the summer. Without daylight saving time, the hours of daylight got longer in both the early morning and the late evening. Yet because many people have a strong preference to socialize and amuse themselves in the evening, the early morning light was wasted. Uniformly changing the clock to summer time could solve in one stroke what would otherwise be a co-ordination problem of everyone agreeing to get up earlier or re-schedule activities to allow more evening leisure time in the daylight.

After being proposed for several decades daylight saving time received a major boost in World War I when it was adopted as an energy saving measure by both Britain and Germany. When the United States entered the war it too introduced daylight saving for the summer of 1918. At wars end the federal government retained control of standard time, but left daylight saving time as a local matter.

Between the world wars Minneapolis, not Saint Paul, was more enthusiastic about daylight saving time. With London financial markets observing daylight saving time informally, the New York Stock Exchange followed daylight saving time, which meant the Chicago Board of Trade did, which meant the Minneapolis Grain Exchange did. In 1920, the city of Minneapolis even held a one-off referendum on adopting citywide daylight saving time. While the measure passed overwhelmingly, the City Council felt turnout had been too low to justify enacting the ordinance. Yet city businesses, particularly those connected to the financial markets were compelled to follow daylight saving time business hours while businesses further east did so. World War II again brought daylight saving time to the United States as a energy saving measure, and was extended year-round for the duration of the war. Still unpopular in rural areas, and not widely popular in cities, Congress reverted daylight saving time to local control in 1945.

Divided fairly equally between its urban and rural areas daylight saving time was a controversial topic in 1950s Minnesota. Farmers were heavily opposed, and dominated the legislature, which had not been redistricted since the early 1920s. Eventually in 1957 Minnesota passed a statewide daylight saving time bill, which made two compromises to state passions on the issue. It established the nation’s shortest season of daylight saving time, from Memorial Day to Labor Day; and allowed counties to set their own daylight saving time if they wished. The discretion for counties to set their own time was seen as an option that Hennepin, Ramsey, and St Louis counties might take up. But drive-in movie theater owners—who had a very obvious stake in maintaining an early sunset—sued and the State Supreme Court eliminated counties’ discretion to set their own time. Minnesota’s short daylight saving time solved its own political problems, but put it out of sync with its neighbors. Wisconsin had daylight saving time for six months from April to October, while North Dakota had no daylight saving time at all.

In 1965 the issues came to a head. On the western side of the state, Moorhead and Breckinridge stayed on standard time. In the east, confusion reigned. Winona, Duluth, Two Harbors and Silver Bay moved onto daylight saving time when Wisconsin did on the last Sunday in April. Duluth’s actions prompted the Iron Range towns of Tower, Ely and Soudan to move onto daylight saving time the next weekend. In Hibbing the city council waited until Friday, 30 April to vote to start daylight saving time on Sunday. The next day they voted again, and decided they should wait until May 10.

While the confusion in Minnesota’s smaller cities was comical, the Twin Cities’ disagreement attracted national attention. Prompted by the increasing integration of the metro area’s eastern side with western Wisconsin, the Saint Paul City Council voted on Tuesday, May 4 that the city would move to daylight saving time on Sunday, two weeks ahead of state law. Disregarding the fury of the Governor, the majority of the state legislature, and Minneapolis mayor Arthur Naftalin, Saint Paul carried out its time change. For two weeks the two cities were on different times. Naftalin admitted Minneapolis would like to move to daylight saving time, but argued fidelity to state law was more important. For neither the first nor the last time, it seemed the two cities were determined not to co-operate.

There’s more at the link.

Changing the clocks, especially in the spring when we lose an hour, is deeply offensive to some people, but I don’t particularly mind. It’s just something that you have to deal with, like bad weather or SACS-COC assessment. At least we’ve all agreed that we should do it together! I experienced a situation similar to the Twin Cities in 1965 on my recent travels. In Jerusalem, I fell in with a group of pilgrims from South Africa, who invited me to visit the Dead Sea with them. “The bus leaves tomorrow at 7:30,” their leader said. I was looking forward to this, because they seemed like nice people, and who wouldn’t want to visit the Dead Sea? My watch battery had died, but no worries, I had my iPhone. I set the alarm for 7:00, got up, and went to breakfast… but none of the South Africans was there. I was also surprised to discover that the booking office was already open – the sign said that it opened at 7:45. I went down to the front desk and they told me that the group had already left. It took a good bit of conversation to establish that my phone was an hour behind… on account of my visiting the West Bank the previous day. That is, Israeli Daylight Saving Time was set to end early the next morning (Sunday, as it does in the US), but the Palestinians end their daylight saving time 48 hours earlier, probably as a matter of principle – and my phone still thought it was in the Territories. So I missed the bus on account of the long-simmering Arab-Israeli conflict.

(See also one of the Darwin Awards for 1999.)

“History for Atheists”

From Paul Halsall, news of an interesting and necessary blog. From the About page:

What is “History for Atheists”?

This blog is for articles, book reviews and critiques relating to “New Atheist Bad History” – the misuse of history and the use of biased, erroneous or distorted pseudo history by anti-theistic atheists. The author is an atheist himself so no, this is not some theist apologetics blog. It is simply an attempt to call out and correct the misuse of history, because rationalists should not base their arguments on errors and distortions.  Among the myths and pseudo historical theories that this blog tackles are:

That there was no historical Jesus at all and that Christianity arose out of a belief in a purely mythic/celestial being, not a historical Jewish preacher

That Christianity caused the “Dark Ages” by systematically destroying almost all ancient Greco-Roman learning,

That Christians burned down the Great Library of Alexandria and that Hypatia of Alexandria was murdered because of a Christian hatred of science

That pagan Greco_Roman society was rational and scientific and fairly non-religious and was on the brink of a scientific and technological revolution

That Constantine was a crypto-pagan who adopted Christianity as a cynical political ploy (and he personally created the Bible)

That Christianity somehow held back technology and we’d all be living on Mars by now if it wasn’t for the “Dark Ages”

That Medieval Europe was a theocracy ruled by the Church, which wielded supreme power and killed anyone who questioned any aspect of its teachings

That scientists were oppressed during the Middle Ages and science stagnated completely until “the Renaissance”

That “the Inquisition” was a kind of Europe-wide medieval Gestapo and that the medieval Church was an all-powerful totalitarian theocracy

That Giordano Bruno was a wise and brave astronomer and cosmologist who was burned at the stake because the Church hated science

That the Galileo Affair was a straightforward case of religion ignoring evidence and trying to suppress scientific advancement

That Pope Pius XII was a friend and ally of the Nazis who turned a blind eye to the Holocaust and helped Nazis escape justice

Check it out, especially his review of Catherine Nixley’s The Darkening Age.

Hayden White, 1928-2018

From the New York Times (excerpts):

Hayden V. White, an influential scholar whose ideas on history and how it is shaped have fueled discussions in academic circles for half a century, died on Monday at his home in Santa Cruz, Calif. He was 89.

Dr. White began garnering attention in 1966 with his essay “The Burden of History,” which suggested that history was being relegated to a sort of second-class citizenship by advances in other disciplines.

“Both science and art have transcended the older, stable conceptions of the world which required that they render a literal copy of a presumably static reality,” he wrote. He urged historical scholarship to do the same.

“The historian serves no one well by constructing a specious continuity between the present world and that which preceded it,” he wrote. “On the contrary, we require a history that will educate us to discontinuity more than ever before; for discontinuity, disruption and chaos is our lot.”

He expanded on his ideas in 1973 with his best-known work, “Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe,” which proposed a classification system for assessing the ideologies, storytelling techniques and other attributes that went into the creation of history.

Dr. White’s other scholarly works included, most recently, “The Practical Past” (2014). A collection, “The Fiction of Narrative: Essays on History, Literature and Theory 1957-2007,” was published in 2010.

“Perhaps White’s most controversial idea, and one for which he was so often shunned by his fellow historians, is that ‘all stories are fictions,’ ” Robert Doran, a professor at the University of Rochester who edited that volume, said by email. “White held that while historical facts are scientifically verifiable, stories are not. Stories are made, not found in the historical data; historical meaning is imposed on historical facts by means of the choice of plot-type, and this choice is inevitably ethical and political at bottom.

“This is what White called ‘emplotment,’ a term he coined,” Dr. Doran continued. “Even the most basic beginning-middle-end structure of a story represents an imposition: The historian chooses where to begin, where to end, and what points are important in the middle. There is no scientific test for ‘historical significance.’”