Historian of the Left

Current events

The Austere Option

Matt Taibbi, blogging for Rolling Stone, recently posted a thoughtful critique of European and American calls for “austerity” in response to the global economic crisis. His basic point is that the burden of proposed austerity measures — cuts to welfare, public services, and government spending in general — falls disproportionately on the shoulders of the lower and middle classes,  leaving wealthy bankers and financial institutions virtually untouched. “If there’s going Read More

ChronoZoom: Do Technology and the Natural Sciences Make History Easier?

Scholars of history and of the humanities in general take umbrage when scientists lay claim to what they think of as their own territory. ChronoZoom, a project conceived of by a former student at UC Berkeley, Roland Saekow, is the latest attempt by scientists to fit human history inside the natural history of the earth and the cosmos. Funded by Microsoft Research Connections, the project involves a giant digital timeline Read More

The Politics of Anniversary (and a Remark on the Fives Fetish)

Important historical dates, such as a revered leader’s birthday or a noteworthy battle, often become ingrained in the public consciousness through celebration or commemoration of their anniversaries. But it is not always so clear why we choose to “anniversarize” certain dates and not others. The world religions place a great deal of emphasis on historical tradition, perhaps none more so than Judaism. Every year, Jews around the world gather to Read More

West Berlin Was Nearly Sold Out, 1961/62

Based on recently declassified documents, the German news magazine Der Spiegel reports that West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer secretly suggested to U. S. President John F. Kennedy that they offer to give up West Berlin to East Germany in exchange for territories in Thuringia, Mecklenburg, and Saxony. The French magazine Le Point elaborates on the report, explaining how Adenauer thought that even if the “beneficial exchange” did not go through, Read More

The Moral Economy of the English Crowd, Redux

Yesterday British PM David Cameron characterized the riots that swept across England this past week as a “deep moral failure” and promised to restore a “stronger sense of morality and responsibility — in every town, in every street and in every estate.” He denied that the riots were the result of impoverishment in the face of the current economic recession: “This is not about poverty, this is about culture. . Read More