“The serendipitous confluence of technology, art, and politics in the fields of photography and film is the subject of the Jewish Museum in New York’s current exhibition, “The Power of Pictures: Early Soviet Photography, Early Soviet Film.” In his catalogue essay, the Russian art historian Alexander Lavrentiev, grandson of the artists Varvara Stepanova and Alexander Rodchenko, gives a nuanced view of the complex situation in which Soviet photography developed: photography was dominated by three groups or tendencies, whose aesthetics mirrored, to some extent, the spectrum of political factions on the post-Soviet cultural stage. None of these groups opposed the Revolution, however; initially, in fact, most artists and the intelligentsia supported the regime.”
“The Power of Pictures: Early Soviet Photography, Early Soviet Film,” is on view at the Jewish Museum in New York through February 7.
Source: Revolution from Another Angle by Jamey Gambrell | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books
Rarely does a book come around that so profoundly confronts us with what should be obvious and as a result challenges us to rethink the status quo. But this is what David Shield’s new book (War is Beautiful: The New York Times Pictorial Guide to the Glamour of Armed Conflict) has done. He has examined front page photos of war in The New York Times from 1991 to 2013. What he found were romanticized versions of war that were strikingly beautiful. In the photos, he notes, “[t]here’s no war there. There’s no attempt to document reality. It’s basically the war as screen saver, as wallpaper—a very distant aesthetic experience. Certainly, part of that is not to show the American dead except in a posture of composed relief. It seems the grief is kept out of frame in any true sense of agony or viscera or blood.”
While Shield is correct to call The New York Times out for its responsibility for glamorizing war, I think we all bear some responsibility. We don’t want to see the horror. We don’t want to think about the consequences of war. It is much easier to ignore it and carry on as usual. Shield is doing a great service by shocking all of us out of our comfort zones.
I highly recommend reading Robin Lindley’s interview with Shield: History News Network | Does Even the New York Times Glamorize Modern Armed Conflict?
Some of you may find this interesting. This is a really unique way to look at history. The charts make it easy see the overlapping life spans of some historical figures.
Source: The history of the world, as you’ve never seen it before – The Washington Post
“The bodies of 800 children aged under six are among the remains of nearly 2,000 people unearthed ahead of the construction of a road in Lancashire.”
“Dave Henderson, an expert in the study of bones with Headland Archaeology, said full analysis of the skeletons had ‘barely started’ but the team believed most of the children had died from infections in the lungs and guts.”
Source: Blackburn archaeological survey: Bodies of 800 young children found – BBC News
The “Munich lesson” that we should never appease evil has to be one of the most pervasive and incorrect lessons of history. In this HNN post, John Kelly explains why the lesson is wrong. And as John Kelly points out, “millions of Americans who know nothing about the Munich Conference or the Sudetenland know that evil appeased is evil emboldened because American presidents have evoked the Munich lesson to justify almost every U. S. military action since 1945.”
The lesson is flawed in both its understanding of the events in Munich and in its application to events that bear no resemblance to the unique circumstances of 1938 Nazi Germany. As Kelly explains: “It is a fantasy to imagine that, had Churchill rather than Chamberlain been sitting across the table at Munich, Hitler would have been deterred. Unafraid of war and boundlessly ambitious, Hitler was that most dangerous of leaders, a man who could neither be appeased nor deterred by threats of force.”
It will take more than one article to debunk the “appeasement” foreign policy reasoning, but its a start. We historians need to call out this kind of abuse of history, especially when a misguided history lesson is driving us to make bad foreign policy choices.
Read Kelly’s entire article here: History News Network | Why Most Everyone Gets Munich Wrong
This is a great interview with Rachel Swaby, author of Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science – and the World.
Source: History News Network | Women Who Advanced Science and Changed History: An Interview with Rachel Swaby
Rick Shinkman has an interesting proposal to deal with our natural lack of empathy for those we consider outsiders:
“When people are reduced to numbers—as the civilian victims of bombing during the Korean War were—we don’t feel their pain. We don’t automatically put ourselves in their shoes, which is by definition what you do when you are feeling empathic. We have the bomber pilot’s problem. We don’t feel anything for the victims. But historians can help. Storytelling is in our toolkit. All we have to do is use it.”
Historians have already been doing this in many cases by writing about the experiences of other peoples, but what I think Shinkman is wanting us to do it in a more immediate way in response to current events where empathy is in short supply (like the Syrian refugees for example). Here again I think that this is being done, and in many cases very well, by reporters, humanitarian aid workers, and even comedians (see John Oliver’s show on refugees.
It’s wonderful!). The problem is that those who lack empathy either ignore or dismiss information that humanizes the relevant group.
I think it would be more helpful, albeit it’s a long-term strategy, to educate the general population about their “stone-age brains.” In addition, we have to convince them with all the evidence that we have that their gut instinct is misleading them. I admit it won’t be easy, but I think it would be more effective in the long run.
Source: History News Network | Ted Cruz’s Stone-Age Brain and Yours
“Archaeologists in Cambridgeshire uncover Britain’s ‘Pompeii’ with what they describe as the “best-preserved Bronze Age dwellings ever found.'”
Source: Bronze Age houses uncovered in Cambridgeshire are Britain’s ‘Pompeii’ – BBC News
“Hate speech is reaching new heights with the participants in the Donald Trump campaign. With the continuing and rapid growth of Donald Trump’s support, and the increased likelihood of Trump either winning or ending up a strong second in the Iowa Caucuses on February 1, and now seen as having a real chance to be the GOP nominee, after seven months as the frontrunner in public opinion polls, history indicates to us that there is clearly a growing danger of assassination due to rising rhetoric on all sides!”
I agree with Ronald L. Feinman that the threat of political assassination is very high, but I think it’s been extremely high during Obama’s entire presidency.
Source: History News Network | Why This Historian Is Worried for His Country
This is an interesting article suggesting that we can get out of the ideological polarization that is destroying our country. Research shows that if given enough information people will form their positions inline with the evidence. Therefore, the solution is to solve the ignorance problem. As Shenkman shows this is a difficult task. But even more of an obstacle beyond just ignorance is that what they do know is false. Fox News and other media sources have been filling people with nonsense for years, so that now they aren’t even open to considering evidence that is contrary to what they already believe.
So, how do we solve this ignorance problem? Shenkman offers the Scandinavian model, but has doubts that it can work here. He lists some attempts to create a civic-minded culture, but these have all failed. Now what? He offers no other possible solutions and leaves readers hanging as if he had given up on achieving any meaningful change.
Shenkman’s ambivalence is understandable, but giving up all hope is not an option. We are facing incredible challenges, such as climate change, and we need an educated, rational population that will elect real leaders whose actions and beliefs are grounded in reason and evidence not ideology.
Source: History News Network | What’s the Voters’ Problem? That’s a Lot Harder to Determine than You Might Suspect.