SMU Clements Center awards top book prize Sept. 27

SMU News

Originally Posted: August 15, 2016

DALLAS (SMU) – SMU’s Clements Center for Southwest Studies will present its annual book prize on Tuesday, Sept. 27, to historian Andrew J. Torget forSeeds of Empire: Cotton, Slavery, and the Transformation of the Texas Borderlands, 1800-1850 (University of North Carolina Press, 2015).

The David J. Weber-William P. Clements Prize for the Best Non-Fiction Book on Southwestern America honors both the Center’s founding director and founding benefactor.

Torget, a former Clements Fellow, will be honored Sept. 27 at a 5:30 p.m. reception, followed by a 6 p.m. lecture and book-signing at McCord Auditorium in Dallas Hall, 3225 University, SMU. The event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. To register, call 214-768-3684 or click here.

Andrew TorgetIn Seeds of Empire, Torget, associate professor of history at the University of North Texas, explores the roles that cotton and slavery played in fomenting the Texas Revolution, which was in part a reaction against abolitionists in the Mexican government, and in shaping Texas’ borderlands into the first fully-committed slaveholders’ republic in North America.

In selecting the book from a large field of entries, judges wrote: “Torget’s deep archival work brings a fresh perspective to the conflicts over slavery in Texas on the eve of the Civil War. The book’s most notable accomplishment is the emphasis on cotton and slavery as a world-wide system that bound Texas history to larger economic and political forces in the U.S., Mexico, and Europe. He challenges the traditional interpretation that the westward movement in the early nineteenth century was primarily motivated by ideologies of racial supremacy that characterized Manifest Destiny. Instead, Torget demonstrates that, although westering Americans felt superior to the people whose lands they invaded, they mainly migrated to take advantage of the opportunity to participate in the trans-Atlantic cotton economy that the Mexican government had established by offering them free land.”

Finalists for the Weber-Clements Book Prize are Emily Lutenski for West of Harlem: African American Writers and the Borderlands; and former Clements Fellow John Weber for From South Texas to the Nation: The Exploitation of Mexican Labor in the Twentieth Century.

This is the eighth major book prize Seeds of Empire has won.

The $2,500 Weber-Clements Book Prize, administered by the Western History Association, honors fine writing and original research on the American Southwest. The competition is open to any nonfiction book, including biography, on any aspect of Southwestern life, past or present. The William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies is affiliated with the Department of History within SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. The center was created to promote research, publishing, teaching and public programming in a variety of fields related to the American Southwest.  READ MORE

Dedman College alumnus and photographer Stuart Palley shares his tips on how to create beautiful images once darkness falls.

Time

Originally Posted: August 10, 2016

SMU alumnus and photographer Stuart Palley shares his tips on how to create beautiful images once darkness falls. Palley graduated in 2011 with a double major in History and Finance and minors in Human Rights and Photography. Read more

~In our latest How to Photograph series, TIME asked award-winning photographer Stuart Palley to share his tips and tricks to create beautiful night-time imagery.

Palley has mastered the art and technical skills of photographing at night and is known for his compelling and breathtaking photos of wildfires and his magical images of the the night sky. “Ninety percent of it is preparation and 10% of it is the actual execution,” he says.

Watch this TIME video to see which apps Palley uses to plan his shoots, tips on how to work in darkness, what equipment to invest in and how you can play with different light sources to achieve the best results. READ MORE

What Conventions Tell Us About Trump, Clinton and the Parties

The Arizona Republic

Originally Posted: July 31, 2016

The following is from the July 31, 2016,edition of The Arizona Republic. Jeffrey Engel, director of SMU’s Center for Presidential History, provided expertise for this story.

PHILADELPHIA — It was hard to miss the dramatic contrasts between the Democrats’ and Republican’s national conventions.

The four-day spectacles, which offer an opportunity for the presidential nominees and their parties to present their best face as the general-election battle begins, seemed to be held in different Americas.

One, a foreboding place besieged by terrorism and violence. The other, a nation with struggles but where people of different backgrounds can overcome problems by working together.

Either group, it seemed, might not recognize the picture of the United States that the other portrayed.

The candidates’ nomination speeches distilled these contrasts. Hillary Clinton, the first woman ever nominated by a major U.S. party, spoke of unity and reached out to all Americans, even those who won’t vote for her, with a positive tone. Donald Trump at times painted a grim portrait of the United States as a nation facing immediate threats from illegal immigration, terrorism and attacks on law enforcement.

These differences — and the internal tensions that erupted at times into booing and chants throughout both conventions — provide insight into the state of the presidential race, as well as the future of the two parties. READ MORE

Did Trump win GOP nod because of the way he talks?

Christian Science Monitor

Originally Posted: July 20, 2016

Cleveland — Suddenly Donald Trump’s face loomed over the delegates, tanned, jaw set, and a story high.

From the giant video screen on the Republican National Convention stage Mr. Trump thanked everyone for nominating him as the GOP presidential pick. The film – shown Tuesday in Cleveland after the official roll call vote – was short. Parts were clearly ad-libbed. When Trump began to speak, his sentences were looping and repetitive.

“The party seal, I mean, what we did, getting the party’s nomination, I’ll never forget it. It’s something I will never, ever forget,” he said. . .

Here’s a thought sparked by watching this presentation and its rapturous response: It’s not just the border proposal or the possible Muslim ban. Donald Trump’s extraordinary victory in the Republican presidential primaries was due in part to the way he communicates. His words, his gestures, his expressions, his emphasis – all are uniquely suited to the pace and attention span of our social-media saturated age. . .

“Trump is brilliant in manipulating – and I mean ‘manipulating’ as a positive – the new media, the social media of the day,” says Jeffrey Engel, director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “There is no discussion on Twitter. The way you win an argument on Twitter is, you say it again, and you say it in capital letters.” READ MORE

History professor John Chavez presented paper in public forum July 11

Originally Posted: July 19, 2016
UnknownStephanie Lewthwaite, winner of a Southwest Center fellowship for 2010, invited SMU History Professor John Chavez to present a paper, ‘Aliens or Natives: Mexicans in the Southwestern United States’ in a public forum sponsored by the University of Nottingham in Great Britain on July 11, 2016.

History professor helped organize St. Petersburg conference on lessons of Russian revolution

SMU NEWS

Originally Posted: July 11, 2016

DALLAS (SMU)One hundred years ago, a world that had long known monarchy, empire, and briefly democracy and a republic, was introduced to a new form of government: Communism, which rose to power with the fall of Tsarist Russia.

On the centennial anniversary of the Russian Revolution, a gathering of the world’s leading historians of Russia met at the European University St. Petersburg, Russia, from June 9-11 for a conference co-organized by Southern Methodist University (SMU) history professor Daniel Orlovsky with colleagues from The EurDaniel-T-Orlovskyopean University and the Institute of History, Russian Academy of Sciences. The international colloquium was titled “The Epoch of War and Revolution, 1914-1922.”

“There’s a new round of confrontation and diplomatic conflict between Russia and the west,” Orlovsky says. “The real question is how official Russia, the government, Putin, the media and the academic establishment in general will treat this centennial, and how this may manifest itself in our sessions among participants or from the audience, which will be large,” Orlovsky adds.

While contemporary interpretations of the centennial may vary, the impact of Russia’s revolution on the past century is undeniable.

“The Russian Revolution was actually two revolutions, the collapse of Tsarism in February and the rise of the Bolsheviks in October,” says Orlovsky, who helped fund the conference with a prestigious grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

“The February revolution is a model of revolutions that collapse authoritarian regimes and attempt to build a liberal or socialist world, but often don’t work and lead to new authoritarian regimes,” Orlovsky adds. “It’s an important question: Why does a regime fall apart, and why do more liberal successors fail?”

The Russian story has been echoed in other idealistic revolutions in the 100 years since – most recently in the color revolutions of Eastern Europe, Central Asia and in the Middle East.

Studying where Russia’s revolution went off the democracy rails is important, says Orlovsky, because in many ways the modern world has similarities to 1916.

“Nationalism is still a big issue, ethnic problems persist, the threat of domestic upheaval and terrorism were there then as they’re here now,” Orlovsky says. “The Russian Revolution itself has endured as a powerful model for people, but outcomes differ. The biggest controversy of the conference will be over the larger questions: What did the revolution means for Russia and the world, what is its significance for today and is it a model for change around the world?”

Spirited debate took place at the conference over the parameters of the Revolution, its periodization, the role of such factors as ethnicity, leadership cults, foreign policy, the role of language and symbols, gender, the nature of power, emotions, etc. The concluding discussion praised the renewal of scholarly interest in Revolution as an enduring script in historical memory. READ MORE

Why President Obama is not saying “Radical Islam”

FOX 4

Political Historian Jeffrey Engel looks at President Obama’s refusal to use the term “radical Islam” and the political heat he is taking for it. He also talked about the politics of gun control in the wake of the Orlando slayings. WATCH

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SMU alumnus John Culberson, saving NASA is the new space rescue mission

Houston Chronicle

Originally Posted: July 6, 2016

Adrift- Part 7
The new space rescue mission: Saving NASA

The legendary Christopher Columbus Kraft, who lived up to his namesake by leading NASA to the moon, has grown old.

Severe lines crease his face, and Kraft’s fingers have gnarled. Earlier this year, just before his 90th birthday, sciatica forced him to adopt a cane and, more gallingly, to give up golf.

Still, he can accept what time has done to him. It’s harder to make peace with what’s become of NASA.

In the 1960s, President Kennedy gave Kraft, the agency’s first flight director, and NASA’s other leaders a blank check and told them to boldly go. They did. The Apollo guys chomped cigars and called the shots.

Those in charge today no longer sit behind flight control consoles, conquering space. They’re at desks in Washington, D.C., politicians and bureaucrats who micromanage the agency’s budget and repeatedly move the goalposts.

Kraft feels his modern-day counterparts at Johnson Space Center have been “victimized.”

“They’ve been forced to accept a lot of things they know damn well won’t work.” READ MORE

Thomas Knock, History, interviewed about his book Rise of a Prairie Statesman: The Life and Times of George McGovern

New Books Network

Originally Posted: June 19, 2016

51luk8ax3RL._SL160_George McGovern is largely remembered today for his dramatic loss to Richard Nixon in the 1972 presidential campaign, yet he enjoyed a long career characterized by many remarkable achievements. In Rise of a Prairie Statesman: The Life and Times of George McGovern (Princeton UP, 2016), the first in a projected two-volume biography of the senator and Democratic Party presidential nominee, Thomas Knock chronicles McGovern’s life and career from his Depression-era upbringing in South Dakota to his 1968 reelection campaign and emergence as a presidential contender. Knock describes McGovern’s transformation from a shy young boy into a confident debater who, after America went to war in 1941, volunteered for service in the Army Air Corps as a B-24 bomber pilot and flew 35 combat missions over Germany and Austria. Upon returning home, he embarked on a path that took him from the ministry to a Ph.D. in history and then the college classroom before he settled upon a career in politics. After serving two terms in the House of Representatives and as Director of Food for Peace in the Kennedy administration, in 1962 McGovern won a seat in the United States Senate, where he emerged as a prescient critic of America’s descent into the Vietnam War. In detailing his opposition to that expanding conflict, Knock not only shows how McGovern emerged as a national leader, but also demonstrates the relevance of his vision to the challenges our nation faces today. LISTEN