What We’re Reading: July 9, 2009 Edition

Codex SinaiticusRobert 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.

Recent News

  • 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.

Upcoming Events

Articles

  • 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.”

Digital History

Contributors: David Darlington, Elisabeth Grant, Vernon Horn, Arnita A. Jones, Jessica Pritchard, and Robert B. Townsend

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