Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War, died this week at the age of 93. In this edition of What We’re Reading we link to an article from the Washington Post and to recordings of his exchanges with Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. Other news-worthy links this week include the release of FBI interviews with Saddam Hussein and the appointment of a military history position. We then point to two upcoming events: a conference on diplomacy in a world of Facebook and the annual National Book Festival. We list a series of interesting articles this week, covering topics of oral history and IRBs, scholarly publishing, and American history. Finally, two digitized finds: the Codex Sinaiticus and a postcard from 1905.
- Robert McNamara, Architect of Vietnam War, dies at 93
McNamara, Secretary of Defense under both John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, passed away Monday at 93 years old. Washington Post writer Thomas W. Lippman recounts McNamara’s political life, particularly his involvement in escalating the Vietnam War, which many have argued tarnished his reputation and legacy. Relatedly, hear these taped conversations, from the Presidential Recordings Program, of McNamara speaking with Presidents Kennedy and Johnson.
- Saddam Hussein Talks to the FBI
Saddam Hussein told the FBI that he was afraid of the religiously fanatical leaders in Iran, but thought that the U.S. was not Iraq’s enemy; he just opposed its policies. These, and summaries of other reflections of the former Iraqi leader were gleaned from 20 formal interviews and four casual conversations. Thomas Blanton of the National Security Archive filed a Freedom of Information Act request for these documents, and has now posted them on their web site. Hat tip.
- Empty Chair No More
Scott Jaschik at Inside Higher Ed reports on the hiring (after much debate) of John W. Hall for the position of Ambrose-Hesseltine Professor in U.S. Military History at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and provides an incisive analysis of the state of military history in U.S. departments.
- Face-off to Facebook: From the Nixon-Khrushchev Kitchen Debate to Public Diplomacy in the 21st Century
George Washington University will be holding two-part day-long conference, “Face-off to Facebook: From the Nixon-Khrushchev Kitchen Debate to Public Diplomacy in the 21st Century," marking the 50th anniversary of the American National Exhibition in Moscow and exploring the opportunities for U.S. public diplomacy in a Web 2.0 world. The conference will take place July 23, 2009.
- ‘Authorama’ on the National Mall
The Library of Congress reports on the author line-up for this year’s National Book Festival (Saturday, September 26, 2009). We mentioned this event in a recent post on AHA Today.
- Oral History, Human Subjects, and Institutional Review Boards
Former AHA Council member Linda Shopes offers a very helpful summary of the state of play in Oral History, Human Subjects, and Institutional Review Boards at the Oral History Association’s site.
- A Manifesto for Scholarly Publishing
In this article, Peter J. Dougherty of Princeton University Press argues that , "scholarly titles published by university presses and other professional publishers…retain two distinct comparative advantages over other forms of communication in the idea bazaar: First, books remain the most effective technology for organizing and presenting sustained arguments at a relatively general level of discourse and in familiar rhetorical forms …. Second, university presses specialize in publishing books containing hard ideas."
- Our American history is disappearing quickly
Silvio Laccetti, a professor at Stevens Institute of Technology, talks about a recent trip to the Manassas National Battlefield Park in Virginia and discusses how consumerism and commercial development obstruct community’s knowledge of local history. The article explains, “Part of the problem for the new Americans is that the mall blocks their imagination, like a wall that nothing penetrates.”
- Codex Sinaiticus, the world’s oldest Bible, unified for the first time online in over a century
After four years of digitization and assembly the Codex Sinaiticus, “the world’s oldest Bible,” is available online.
- 4th of July 1905
Real photo postcards were popular from about 1900 to the First World War. The National Museum of American History’s blog examines a 4th of July postcard from 1905 and shows just how much can be gleaned from the genre.
Contributors: David Darlington, Elisabeth Grant, Vernon Horn, Arnita A. Jones, Jessica Pritchard, and Robert B. Townsend