What We’re Reading: September 3, 2009 Edition

Belgium as a LionThe Google Books discussion (the pros and cons, the settlement) rages on, and this week we bring you two new articles on the matter. Then, the recent death of Senator Ted Kennedy has brought a lot of media attention, and a renewed look at the history of the Kennedy family. And finally, we link to the relaunch of the BBC History Magazine, a new take on Martha Ballard’s diary, 20 interesting maps, an archives on the web contest, and finally a president tracker.

Google Books
AHA Today dove into the Google Books debate back in 2007 with Robert B. Townsend’s “Google Books: What’s Not to Like?” Now in 2009 the debate continues, with new points of contention about the Google Books settlement.  See below for some such articles.

  • Google’s Book Search: A Disaster for Scholars
    Geoffrey Nunberg highlights some crucial problems in the metadata for Google Books, particularly as it affects the dating of works (no small problem for historians) and calls on historians to work with their librarians to press for improvement.
  • Is the Google Books Settlement Evil?
    While the AHA tends to look at the Google Books Settlement with some enthusiasm about making orphan works available for research, Vanity Fair offers a more qualified view of what it might mean for authors.

Remembering Senator Ted Kennedy
In the wake of Senator Ted Kennedy’s death last week news agencies have taken a look back at his life and legacy, and the history of the whole Kennedy family. Read on for links to some of these articles.

  • Remembering Ted Kennedy through images
    Take a look at Senator Ted Kennedy’s life and legacy through images and resources on the White House blog, the Boston Globe’s Big Picture site, and Time magazine.
  • Kennedy’s Literary Chapter in History Ends with Ted’s Death
    Julia Keller, a cultural critic at the Chicago Tribune, discusses the Kennedy legacy in literary terms and the power of words. “The Kennedys are a unique and astonishing American family for many reasons but what distinguishes them from other remarkable families, what makes them resonate, are the words. For all the significance we ascribe to images, the real power resides in words.”
  • History and Hype, Fact and Fairy Tale Defined Family known as ‘American royalty’
    American history has seen its fair share of iconic families take the stage in Washington, but there seems something special, something different about the iconic Kennedys. In this Los Angeles Times article, Allen G. Breed explains how “it can sometimes be difficult to separate the history from the hype, fact from fairy tale. Where some saw selflessness,” he continues, “others saw self-promotion. What admirers suggest was an attitude of noblesse-oblige — of a family, much blessed, giving back through public service — smacked of a sense of political entitlement to some critics’ eyes.”

What Else We’re Reading

Contributors: Elisabeth Grant, Jessica Pritchard, and Robert B. Townsend

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