By Julia M Gossard
While lecturing on Magellan’s famed voyage that circumnavigated the early modern world, I asked the student who had chosen to trace the voyage on a map if she had any further insights. Somewhat surprisingly she retorted, “Not historically, but it did take me a really long time to draw that line representing Magellan’s voyage. I can’t imagine having actually done it in the 16th century.” Her comment opened up an engaging (unplanned) discussion about the realities of sea travel, culture shock, and geography in the early modern world.
Ross Dunn is a professor emeritus of history at San Diego State University. He lives in Marina del Rey, California, and has been a member since 1982.
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.
As Donald Trump and Xi Jinping prepared for what Trump has warned will be a “very difficult” meeting at his Florida resort, several leading historians of modern China gave a richly informative briefing on March 27 at the Capitol about the underlying issues that shape the Chinese government’s engagement with the United States and the world. Sponsored by the National History Center, the purpose of the briefing was to give historical context to current tensions between the United States and China, with a particular focus on Chinese aims and anxieties.
Maria Bashshur Abunnasr is an independent scholar, historical consultant, and oral historian. She lives in Beirut, Lebanon, and has been a member since 2010.
By Joshua M. Rosenthal
Colombia has maintained a reputation as a country of forgetting since the world fell in love with Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. Since then, others have added to the tradition. In the recently translated Reputations, the novelist Juan Gabriel Vásquez updates the idea, “Forgetfulness was the only democratic thing in Colombia: It covered them all, the good and the bad, the murderers and the heroes, like the snow in the James Joyce story, falling upon all of them alike.” Nor are such assertions confined to literature.
By E. Thomas Ewing and Virginia Tech Students enrolled in HIST 3604: Russia to Peter the Great
Last fall, Virginia Tech students taking History 3604: Russia to Peter the Great engaged in a sustained discussion on “why study history?” In the class, we often took examples from current news or recent history and established connections to the historical period covered by the readings, lecture, and assignments (here’s a link to the syllabus). Each week, a group of two or three students wrote a short statement explaining how the readings illustrated the value of studying history, which we then discussed in class.
By Mark Philip Bradley
“Don’t tell me it doesn’t work—torture works,” then presidential candidate Donald Trump said at a February 2016 campaign event in Bluffton, South Carolina. “Okay, folks, torture—you know, half these guys [say]: ‘Torture doesn’t work.’ Believe me, it works, okay?” At the time, I was finishing my recent book on Americans and human rights in the 20th century, and Trump’s repeated defense of torture, like so many of his pronouncements, struck me as relics of the past.