Political History

Digging through the Hillary Clinton Email Archive: Using Voyant Tools in the Classroom

By Max Kemman

Politicians’ emails provide historians an exciting window into the fast-paced, formal and informal, and sometimes chaotic world of politics. The sheer number of emails, however, can prove challenging for historians, as archives routinely contain tens of thousands of messages with different recipients. Researchers need months or even years to study such a large number of records, but I give my students only 14 weeks to study over 30,000 emails. They are able to accomplish this feat by employing Voyant Tools.

Demolishing “Participatory Dictatorship”: Leipzig in 1968

By Andrew Demshuk

In a rambling speech to colleagues on Hitler’s birthday in 1963, district party secretary Paul Fröhlich insisted upon the proposed demolition of Leipzig’s fully intact Gothic University Church: “I recommend that, when deciding this question, we proceed on the basis of the Politburo resolution. The people can certainly express their opinion about it, but we must be sovereign to decide for ourselves.” Massive public opposition had arisen to block the unthinkable outcome—how could the regime tear down the historic campus that had been the center of intellectual exchange since the University of Leipzig (in communist times Karl Marx University) had grown out of a Dominican cloister in the 15th century to become the oldest university in East Germany?

“We Came Here to Take the Bastille”: The Class of ’74 and the 2018 Election

By John Lawrence

A tense atmosphere is building in Washington, DC: an unpopular president in office, an election marked by criminal tampering, and a special prosecutor probing the clandestine hijinks of White House and campaign officials. Demonstrators are filling the nation’s streets, there’s a long and controversial war sapping America’s treasure in lives and dollars, and whispers are circulating about impeachment. Early special elections appear to signal that a wave of voter anger might be building toward a dramatic climax in the November off-year election.

Writing the Cold War Back In: How History Influences Chinese Foreign Policy

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.

“Are We Teaching Political History?”

Oh, what a difference a year makes. During a session at the 2016 annual meeting—mulling over the role historians should play in public life—Atlantic editor Yoni Appelbaum declared: “I hate op-eds.” Appelbaum argued that the format of conventional opinion journalism encouraged writers to make “very generalized claims” without demanding that they “marry their evidence to their argument.” The op-ed is a blunt tool for a delicate task.