In the past year, historians have frequently been called upon to make meaning of news. From Confederate monuments and statues around the country to President Donald Trump’s travel ban executive orders, historians have answered the call to provide historical perspective and analysis. As AHA executive director Jim Grossman wrote recently in Perspectives, the assumption that “historians should have a voice in public culture and in public policy” is a guiding principle for the AHA’s agenda.
Every week, AHA Today showcases a new grant, fellowship, or scholarship of interest to historians which has been posted to our free Calendar. This week we are featuring the Frederic E. Wakeman Jr./ACLS Fellowship in Chinese History.
By C. Harrison Kim
The United States and North Korea recently exchanged several hostile and absurd words—“enveloping fire” (North Korea), “we are now a hyper power” (US), and, of course, “fire and fury” (POTUS). This is not the first time that the two countries have engaged in incendiary rhetoric since the Korean War ended in 1953. While another war has not happened—and a war today is very unlikely—the ongoing “war of words” has helped build the military cultures and economies of the two countries.
Wen-Qing Ngoei is an assistant professor in the History Program at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore and has been a member since 2014.
By Suzy Kim
With tensions at an all-time high between the United States and North Korea, the New York Times headlined its recent digital newsletter with Lies Your High School History Teacher Told You About Nukes. The basic point was to debunk the theory of “mutually assured destruction” that is often used to explain why the Cold War remained cold and did not result in a nuclear holocaust. The article argues that despite possessing a nuclear arsenal that guaranteed “mutually assured destruction,” both the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in a costly arms race that attempted to outmaneuver the other with more numerous and powerful warheads, delivered with more precise and faster missiles.
Sana Aiyar is an associate professor of history at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She lives in Brookline, Massachusetts, and has been a member since 2007.
Shuang Wen is a research fellow at the Middle East Institute, National University of Singapore (MEI-NUS). She lives in Singapore and has been an AHA member since 2010.
By Gregg A. Brazinsky
As Sino-American relations have emerged as a critical foreign policy issue in the Trump administration, public discourse has been awash with many all too familiar and ill-informed narratives about China and its global objectives. Often, these narratives are derived from overly simplistic views of how China’s past affects the present. Policymakers and journalists have been obsessed with the idea that the People’s Republic of China is trying to reconstruct the “tributary system” or “Sinocentric order” that governed its relations with its neighbors before the 19th century.