What We’re Reading: January 31, 2013

In Today’s What We’re Reading, we feature one historian’s perspective on immigration reform, a growing business management trend inspired by Abraham Lincoln, and a series of podcasts you should be listening to.

History in the News
Reforming Immigration for Good
In response to current political debate over immigration law, Mae Ngai offers her skills as a historian in an op-ed for the New York Times. In the piece she argues, “If we really want to tackle unauthorized migration, we need to understand why it exists in the first place.”

For 40 Years, This Russian Family Was Cut Off from All Human Contact, Unaware of World War II
A captivating look at one Russian family’s life in the Siberian taiga, where isolation prevented them from human contact and world news, including World War II.

Lincoln’s School of Management
Abraham Lincoln’s legacy continues, even in the business world, where inspiration from his presidency might be termed the “Lincoln school of management.” According to Howard Schultz, chief executive of Starbucks, “Lincoln’s presidency is a big, well-lit classroom for business leaders seeking to build successful, enduring organizations.”

Japan Government to Review Statements on History
In 1995, Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama apologized for “tremendous damage and suffering” caused by Japan’s “colonial rule and aggression.” The current government is now looking at revising this and other statements to “add forward-looking expressions.”

Undue Certainty: Where Howard Zinn’s A People’s History Falls Short
Sam Wineburg, in the AFT’s American Educator, asks, “Beyond what they learn about Shays’ Rebellion or the loopholes in the Sherman Antitrust Act, what does A People’s History  teach … young people about what it means to think historically?”

Digital Humanities Chatter
Recent “Technology in Education” Articles You May Have Missed
A tongue and cheek look at the use and abuse of technology in education, using faux headlines.

Dickens, Austen, and Twain, Through a Digital Lens
Big Data is pushing into the humanities, as evidenced by new, illuminating computer analyses of literary history.

Podcasts You Should be Listening To
Many of the podcasts that are of interest to historians follow the interview or panel format. The Smithsonian Museum of American History’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention & Innovation’s podcast library offers listeners the opportunity to hear speakers on a wide variety of subjects, from Civil War communications technologies to the way innovations in color changed American business.

Listeners interested in a more creative (and much shorter) take on historical topics will find much to enjoy in two podcast series that are as performative as they are informative.

Nate Di Meo’s The Memory Palace features brief, evocative episodes that explore the shifting boundaries of historical memory. Check out “Dreamland,” about Luna Park, to get started.

Although 99% Invisible is primarily about design, there is much to intrigue historians, particularly those interested in the built landscape. “Red Street Car,” about Los Angeles’s ill-fated streetcar system, and “Razzle Dazzle,” on the history of camouflage, are good introductions to producer Roman Mars’s thoughtful investigations into the forgotten corners of our past.

And last, but certainly not least, BackStory with American History Guys has a podcast (a rebroadcast) on the history of gun ownership in America, titled “Straight Shot: Guns in America.” This episode is particularly helpful in historicizing a hot topic, given that the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun control began Wednesday.

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