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June 1, 2011

History Division News
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» Jack Johnson – the most hated black man in America

Jack Johnson Few people outside the world of boxing have heard of Jack Johnson. However, in the early years of the twentieth century, Johnson was perhaps the most hated black man in America. Continue reading

March 2, 2011

History Division News
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» Wikileaks and the Pentagon Papers

Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, perhaps the online community’s most well-known ‘whistle blower’ website, is currently under house arrest and awaiting extradition to Sweden for alleged sexual offences. Wikileaks has revealed previously secret details about the workings of the Church of Scientology, civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, and unflattering discussions between diplomats about foreign leaders. To some, Assange is a hero, to others a criminal. For example, in 2009 he received an award from Amnesty International. However, a number of US politicians have asked for his arrest, with one -- former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee – even claiming Assange should be executed for treason. How do we put such opposing viewpoints into historical context? Perhaps there are lessons to be learned from a previous whistleblower controversy.

<image class="right" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2011/2/9/800px-Julian_Assange_20091117_Copenhagen_1.jpg">

This current year is the 40th anniversary of the publication of the ‘Pentagon Papers’. In 1971, Daniel Ellsberg, a former Marine officer, who worked for the Rand Corporation, and his friend Anthony Russo, leaked a number of top secret documents to the New York Times. They revealed:

- President John F. Kennedy’s role in the overthrow and assassination of South Vietnamese head-of-state, Ngo Dinh Diem.

- The US’s secret bombing of Cambodia and Laos.

- The US had doubts if the ‘Domino Effect’ -- the underlying reason for the Vietnam War -- applied to Vietnam at all.

- That President Johnson had lied persistently to the American people about the scale and scope of the war.

- That American and Vietnamese civilian casualties were much higher than those reported by the US media.

- That the war was still being fought not to keep South Vietnam ‘free’, but to avoid a US humiliation.

The ‘Pentagon Papers’, as they came to be known, was a 7000-page history of the Vietnam War, originally commissioned by Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, and completed in 1968. These documents were meant to be seen only by senior Department of Defense staff, and by members of the Johnson administration. Ellsberg had worked for McNamara as a policy advisor and was originally a supporter of the war. However, by the end of the 1960s he had become an antiwar activist, convinced that individuals had a moral duty to oppose immoral actions, even if it meant imprisonment. After failing to convince senior politicians such as William Fulbright and George McGovern to release the documents, Ellsberg contacted the New York Times, which began publishing excerpts in June 1971.

<image class="left" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2011/2/9/scotus_pentagon_papers.jpg ">

The full weight of the state was brought to bear on Ellsberg. A warrant was issued for his arrest for alleged espionage. Nixon administration employees burgled Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, hoping to find something incriminating against him. They also secretly recorded his phone calls. These illegal acts were revealed at Ellsberg and Russo’s trial, and both were found not guilty of theft, conspiracy and espionage.

If it wasn’t for Ellsberg’s moral decision to oppose what he saw as an immoral war, we probably never would have known about the duplicity and illegal behaviour of three US administrations, and in particular, the myth of Kennedy’s ‘Camelot’ administration might not have been exposed. The verdict of history therefore seems to vindicate Ellsberg’s actions. I wonder, 40 years from now, will we view Julian Assange’s whistle blowing in the same light.

Brian Ireland

February 9, 2011

History Division News
hisdivnews
is about »
» Wikileaks and the Pentagon Papers

Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, perhaps the online community’s most well-known ‘whistle blower’ website, is currently under house arrest and awaiting extradition to Sweden for alleged sexual offences. Wikileaks has revealed previously secret details about the workings of the Church of Scientology, civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, and unflattering discussions between diplomats about foreign leaders. To some, Assange is a hero, to others a criminal. For example, in 2009 he received an award from Amnesty International. However, a number of US politicians have asked for his arrest, with one — former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee – even claiming Assange should be executed for treason. How do we put such opposing viewpoints into historical context? Perhaps there are lessons to be learned from a previous whistleblower controversy.

This current year is the 40th anniversary of the publication of the ‘Pentagon Papers’. In 1971, Daniel Ellsberg, a former Marine officer, who worked for the Rand Corporation, and his friend Anthony Russo, leaked a number of top secret documents to the New York Times. They revealed:

- President John F. Kennedy’s role in the overthrow and assassination of South Vietnamese head-of-state, Ngo Dinh Diem.

- The US’s secret bombing of Cambodia and Laos.

- The US had doubts if the ‘Domino Effect’ — the underlying reason for the Vietnam War — applied to Vietnam at all.

- That President Johnson had lied persistently to the American people about the scale and scope of the war.

- That American and Vietnamese civilian casualties were much higher than those reported by the US media.

- That the war was still being fought not to keep South Vietnam ‘free’, but to avoid a US humiliation.

The ‘Pentagon Papers’, as they came to be known, was a 7000-page history of the Vietnam War, originally commissioned by Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, and completed in 1968. These documents were meant to be seen only by senior Department of Defense staff, and by members of the Johnson administration. Ellsberg had worked for McNamara as a policy advisor and was originally a supporter of the war. However, by the end of the 1960s he had become an antiwar activist, convinced that individuals had a moral duty to oppose immoral actions, even if it meant imprisonment. After failing to convince senior politicians such as William Fulbright and George McGovern to release the documents, Ellsberg contacted the New York Times, which began publishing excerpts in June 1971.


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The full weight of the state was brought to bear on Ellsberg. A warrant was issued for his arrest for alleged espionage. Nixon administration employees burgled Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, hoping to find something incriminating against him. They also secretly recorded his phone calls. These illegal acts were revealed at Ellsberg and Russo’s trial, and both were found not guilty of theft, conspiracy and espionage.

If it wasn’t for Ellsberg’s moral decision to oppose what he saw as an immoral war, we probably never would have known about the duplicity and illegal behaviour of three US administrations, and in particular, the myth of Kennedy’s ‘Camelot’ administration might not have been exposed. The verdict of history therefore seems to vindicate Ellsberg’s actions. I wonder, 40 years from now, will we view Julian Assange’s whistle blowing in the same light.

Brian Ireland

October 5, 2009

History Division News
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» Historian visits Cursed Earth

Brian Ireland writes for 2000AD

<image class="left" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2009/10/5/map_of_cursed_earth.jpg" height="343px" width="400px">

Dr. Brian Ireland has written a short article for 2000AD about the epic Judge Dredd story 'The Cursed Earth'. Brian is writing a book about movement and mobility in the United States, and is particularly interested in the road genre in cinema, literature and music. In this short article, Brian discusses the Cursed Earth story in the context of road genre films and novels, and focuses on the recurring plot theme contrasting urban and rural America -- the city versus the frontier motif. The article is scheduled to appear in 2000AD Prog 1659 (on sale 28 October).

A longer academic article by Brian, entitled 'Errand into the Wilderness: The Cursed Earth as Apocalyptic Road Narrative', has been accepted for publication by the Journal of American Studies (Cambridge).

April 5, 2009

History Division News
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» Schools Event - AS-Level History Conference

Succeeding at History AS-Level, 2nd April 2009

<image src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2009/4/5/Treetoplong.jpg" /><image class="left" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2009/4/4/treetrunk.jpg" />

Over forty students and teachers from schools in South Wales attended Glamorgan's AS-Level History Conference on 2nd April. The conference was designed to support school pupils in their exam preparation while offering them a taste of university life.

The event opened with a presentation on the AS History exam from Caryl James, WJEC Principal Examiner in History. Glamorgan historians then delivered lectures on popular elements of the AS-Level curriculum. Norry Laporte discussed with pupils how they might construct an argument to explain the Nazi party's rise to power. Gareth Williams spoke about the development of liberalism and its place in Welsh culture in the early twentieth century, challenging students to consider why certain attributes came to be considered particularly Welsh.

Moving beyond the AS-Level curriculum, Brian Ireland explained to pupils and teachers how he has used film in teaching and studying history. Chris Evans spoke about the breadth of university history, and the opportunities for students taking a history degree to choose and investigate subjects for themselves.

Teachers and pupils reported that the day had been extremely enjoyable and had helped significantly with their exam work. We wish all of our visitors the best of luck in the exams.

Glamorgan's History Division organises a number of free schools events yearly. We expect to hold our next schools conference in summer 2009. To sign up for regular updates on our school events and resources, please e-mail Jane Finucane (jfinucan@glam.ac.uk)



March 18, 2009

History Division News
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» Schools Conference: AS History

AS History Conference, 2nd April 2009

<image title="Taxi Driver Poster" class="right" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2009/3/18/taxi_driver.jpg" alt="Taxi Driver Poster">

The History Division is offering teachers and students working on AS-Level History the opportunity to spend a day at our Trefforest campus on Thursday 2nd April.

Our AS History Conference will feature seminars from Glamorgan's historians on popular aspects of the curriculum, including twentieth-century Wales (Professor Gareth Williams), the rise of the Nazis (Dr Norry Laporte) and the Great Rebellion (Dr Jonathan Durrant). Dr Brian Ireland will discuss how historians can use film, and students will be introduced to historical research methods and options for studying history at university.

Attendance is free but places are limited and must be booked by schools in advance through our Schools and Colleges Liaison Department. For more information about the Conference and to request a copy of the timetable for the event please contact Sarah Watkins on 01443 483375 , e-mail Sarah Watkins.





February 16, 2009

History Division News
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» News from the Classroom: Violence in America

Third Year Option: Violence in America

<image class="left" title="National Rifle Association Logo" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2009/2/16/NRA.jpg" alt="National Rifle Association Logo" />

The United States of America is a violent country. On any average day in the U.S. there are 81 gun-related deaths. The murder rate for American men aged between 15 and 24 is 37 per 100,000 — 60 times that of England and Wales. In 25 years of terrorist violence in Northern Ireland, 3,000 people died. However, even this horrendous death toll pales in comparison to the murder rate of just one large American city. In New York, over 2,000 people were murdered every year from 1987 to 1994. The response of American law enforcement is to fight violence with violence: according to Amnesty International, in 2002 a total of 71 prisoners were executed in the United States — more than in Syria, North Korea Saudi Arabia and Libya combined.

The United States also exports violence abroad. Even in peacetime, it spends more on its defence budget than the next dozen countries combined. From the Berlin Blockade until just prior the World Trade Center attacks, there were over 200 American military incursions in other countries. No wonder that in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, Noam Chomsky reminded Americans that they should “recognize that in much of the world the U.S. is regarded as a leading terrorist state”.

Using examples from American literature, television, cinema, comic books, and popular music, the students on Brian Ireland's second-year module, Violence in America, are investigating America’s culture of violence. Why is the United States so violent? Some argue that the entertainment industry is to blame. Through watching contact sports, Hollywood movies, music videos, computer games and television shows, Americans unarguably are exposed to many violence images. For example, one survey has estimated that the average American child sees 200,000 violent acts on television by age 18, and witnesses 16,000 murders. Yet American culture is exported around the world, with no corresponding increase in levels of violence in those countries that are the most eager consumers of violent American entertainment. Some argue that America’s brutal past acts as a paradigm for today’s violent society. Perhaps the seeds of violence sown during the frontier wars against Native Americans, or during the African slave trade, are now being reaped? The United States is, however, not exceptional in having a violent history. Germany and Japan were responsible for two world wars, yet now have much lower levels of violent crime than the United States. Maybe it is the high level of gun ownership that leads to violence? The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that citizens have the “right to bear arms”, and this is one right that Americans are not slow to exercise: the FBI estimates, for example, that there are over 200 million privately-owned firearms in the United States. Nevertheless, gun owners claim that their weapons make them safer: the influential National Rifle Association promotes firearm ownership, claiming that citizens need to be armed to safeguard their political liberties. Indeed, they might argue, if it were not for well-armed citizen militias, the U.S. might still be part of the British Empire!

January 14, 2009

History Division News
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» Workshop Invitation: Film and War

<image src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2009/1/14/filmworkshop1.jpg">

Film and War - Saturday 17th January

Sharif Gemie has organised a workshop on the subject of 'Film and War' for Saturday January 17th. Speakers include three of Glamorgan's historians: Brian Ireland, Jonathan Durrant, and Laure Humbert, as well as Liz Jones (CCI) and Anindya Raychaudhuri (Cardiff). Richard Hand (CCI) will give the keynote address.

All welcome - no registration fee.

Programme

Saturday, 17 January J.132, University of Glamorgan

10.00: Registration; coffee; testing of technical equipment
10.45 – 11.10: Richard Hand, ‘Film and History’
11.10 – 11.25: Discussion

11.25 – 11.35 Break

11.35 – 12.45: Hollywood at War
11.35 – 12.00: Brian Ireland, Big Jim McClain (1952): How John Wayne Saved Hawaii from the Communist Menace
12.00 – 12.25: Liz Jones, Casablanca
12.25 – 12.45: Discussion

12.45 – 1.45: Lunch

1.45 – 2.10: Jonathan Durrant, “What was the Second World War fought for? The nationalist perspective of post-war British film-makers”.
2.10 – 2.25: Discussion

2.25 – 2.50: Coffee

2.50 – 4.00: Film and Politics
2.50 – 3.15: Laure Humbert, French Colonial Film
3.15 – 3.40: Anindya Raychaudhuri, Spanish Earth
3.40 – 4.00: Discussion

January 13, 2009

History Division News
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» Barack Obama

<image src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2008/11/13/ObamaSouthCarolina.jpg" height="220px" width="170px">

"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer."

These are the words of Barack Obama, the first African-American president of the United States. Obama will soon take up residence in the aptly-named Whitehouse, the presidential mansion built by slave labour. Dr. Martin Luther King once said "history is a path upward, not downward", and Obama's election demonstrates, at least to an extent, that this is true for African-Americans. It is, after all, within living memory that African-Americans were denied even the most basic rights in the United States. Until the wide scale civil rebellion of the 1950s and '60s, known as the Civil Rights Movement, African-Americans were second class citizens in their own country. It is perhaps difficult for modern-day students to appreciate what that actually means. Full citizenship meant access to the American Dream and all the economic and social benefits that entailed. For African-Americans, however, the dream was more like a nightmare. U.S society was supposed to be 'separate but equal'. There were, however, two Americas, divided by what W.E.B. DuBois called 'the color line'. African-Americans faced discrimination from kindergarten to the grave, in schoolrooms, in the criminal justice system, in higher education, and in employment practices. In most areas of the South, African-Americans were obliged to use separate facilities to whites. This meant separate drinking fountains, waiting rooms, public parks and toilets. Whites would enter public buildings by the front door, whereas blacks would use the back entrance. In at least one case, blacks and whites used different Bibles when swearing an oath in court. Restaurants and cafes had separate eating areas for blacks and whites, and on most inter-state bus routes, blacks had to sit at the back of the bus. In addition, few blacks in the South were registered to vote, and those who tried to register faced 'literacy tests', intimidation and violence. In short, while American society was separate, it was, however, anything but equal.

The Second World War marked the beginning of the end of the doctrine of white supremacy in the United States. Black men who had fought in the war against Nazi fascism and Japanese imperialism, also fought for a 'double victory' against racism at home. Brown v. Board of Education (1954) began the long, slow process of desegregating the public school system. In Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks' calculated act of civil disobedience led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott and eventual desegregation of public transport in both the city and in wider Alabama. Other acts of disobedience beginning at a Woolworth’s lunch counters in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1960, and then all across the South, led to the desegregation of many businesses. Black and white 'Freedom Riders' faced such horrific violence from locals and police that President Kennedy set in motion policies that would ensure all interstate transport facilities were integrated by 1962. Individual acts of bravery and sacrifice were repeated across the nation: U.S. Airforce veteran James Meredith, with the help of hundreds of U.S. Federal Marshals, faced down a violent mob of racists to become the first African-American to enrol at the University of Mississippi. Meredith would later be shot and wounded at a Civil Rights march and whereas he survived the attack, others would not be so fortunate. NAACP leader Medgar Evers was murdered by an assassin in front of his wife and children. In Birmingham, Alabama, four little girls were killed when their church was bombed by white racists. Three young civil rights activists, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan as they worked to register black voters in Mississippi during the ‘Freedom Summer’ of 1964. A few years later, Martin Luther King Jr., who many saw as the leader of the Civil Rights Movement, and a man who espoused a policy of non-violence, was murdered by another lone white gunman. By this point, however, King had lived long enough to see the beginning of the end of state-authorised discrimination. While the stroke of a pen cannot change economic conditions overnight—as evidenced by riots in the Watts district of Los Angeles in 1965, Detroit 1967, and in South Central Los Angeles in 1992—the Civil Rights Bill of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 did much to level the playing field of equality and opportunity.

This is, therefore, a deeply symbolic triumph for Obama and also for the American people. If there is such a thing as the 'national mood', it is surely much brighter now than it has been for most of the last decade. Furthermore, many non-Americans previously alienated by the policies of the Bush Administration, are looking forward to the new Obama era. However, with such raised expectations comes the possibility—perhaps even the probability—of disappointment. Once the euphoria of victory has passed, Obama will have to face some sobering facts. Only two previous presidents have been elected to lead a country in such dire straits—Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Like Lincoln, Obama will be a reluctant war president, as he attempts to extricate U.S. Armed Forces from the quagmires of Iraq and Afghanistan. And like Roosevelt, Obama faces an economic crisis that will get much worse before it gets better. But great men rise to great challenges. Americans remember Lincoln and Roosevelt as two of their greatest presidents. Will Obama be as fondly remembered? Only time will tell.

Brian Ireland