Things Noted MidWeek
If you doubted the wisdom of the AHA Executive Committee's decision to refer the"Resolution on United States Government Practices Inimical to the Values of the Historical Profession" to a referendum of the membership, look at the discussion it hosts here between 15 and 28 February. Opinion among over 100 participants in the discussion is sharply divided. To view or participate in it, you'll have to login with your AHA username and password. Voting on the resolution by the whole membership of the Association begins on 1 March.
More evidence that the doctoral program in history at the University of Toledo should be closed: the department is dysfunctional, in receivership, and divided over charges of a hostile work environment for women. At PEA Soup, Martin Cholbi expands from my argument that some doctoral programs in history ought to be capped at the M.A. level to ask"how many doctoral programs [in philosophy] do we need?"
Video Highlights from the Inaugural Meeting of the Athanasius Kircher Society, 16 January 2007. Anthony Grafton's Invocation.
In Scott McLemee,"The Invisible Woman," Inside Higher Ed, 21 February, Mia Bay and McLemee return to the Thomas Jefferson/Sally Hemings affair. My recollection is that Fawn Brodie, rather than Annette Gordon-Reed, was the first historian to show that Jefferson was with Hemings nine months prior to the birth of each of her children. Given male historians' long record of denial, it isn't surprising that it's taken female historians -- Brodie, Gordon-Reed, and Bay -- to help us to understand it.
Martin Fackler,"Honoring a Westerner Who Preserved Japan's Folk Tales," NY Times, 20 February, looks at the late and probably most important work of Lafcadio Hearn. But what a life he brought to it! Born in the Greek islands, educated in Ireland, immigrant to and journalist in Cincinnati, married to an African American woman, a student of Creole culture in New Orleans and the Caribbean, translator of Guy de Maupassant's short stories – all of that before he moved to Japan.
Eugene McCarrahar,"The Great Loser," Books and Culture, January/February, reviews Michael Kazin's A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan. At greater length, McCarrahar gives Kazin's biography of Bryan a more critical reading than the earlier reviews.
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Gareth Williams - 2/23/2007
I'm pretty sure that Winthrop Jordan was there before Brodie, and that Winthrop is very much a guy (even, God forbid, a white guy, though not yet dead). His White Over Black was published in 1968, which predates Brodie's 1971 OAS presentation, and her 1974 book on the subject.
Of the three surviving putative lines from Hemings, only one showed the Jefferson clan gene. That was the Eston line. The DNA test showed that any of eight Jeffersons descended from Thomas' grandfather could have been in the line.
Joseph Ellis, having earlier claimed a definitive solution to the question beyond reach unless Thomas were exhumed, reversed field on the basis of lesser evidence. He further offered the view that, since Jefferson was 65 at Eston's birth, it was inconceivable that Eston was the result of a one-night stand. Apparently, 65 year-old don't have one night stands.
While Gordon-Reed makes interesting points about discounting African-American narratives, Eston's oral tradition was weaker than that of other siblings ruled out by the DNA tests.
Some obvious doubts remain on either conclusion.
David J Merkowitz - 2/22/2007
My sense is that when the university when state in the late 60s and Toledo as a city was riding high, they invested in a number of prominent faculty, however neither the university nor the city weathered the last thirty-five years very well.
I wanna say that the department turned down Eric Foner (it was either him or someone of equal stature) for a job there in the late 60s or early 70s.
This is one of those departments where there was a lot of dead weight, but everyone knew that there would basically no replacements for lost faculty.
Sad situation really.
Ralph E. Luker - 2/21/2007
When, in defense against the charge of a hostile work environment, a senior male cites the fact that 10 of the last 19 hires have been women, he doesn't go on to point out that there are currently only two women in the department. According to the AHA data, there are 14 full profs, 1 asso prof, and 2 ass't profs. It certainly looks like some senior white males have been enjoying the security of tenure for much too long.
David J Merkowitz - 2/21/2007
Ok, Ralph maybe we jinxed that department. It never felt like a particularly friendly department, and I'd had heard rumors about faculty relations when I was there.
There were also a couple of faculty members (new and old) who might be the type throw bombs when a long meeting would suffice.
This probably explains why I was mostly in the PoliSci department for the last half of my undergrad years.
Oh the stories that Toledo's walls could tell. Presidents with black-lists of faculty, 6:30 AM meetings to intimidate faculty who spoke in the paper. (most of this was a '90s phenomenon but obviously things haven't changed that much).