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 European 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
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
Originally Posted: June 19, 2016
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
Originally Posted: June 9, 2016
Campaign rhetoric may dwell on achievements of the past but voters are thinking about the future when they go to into ballot boxes, said SMU Professor Jeffrey Engel, director of SMU’s Center for Presidential History. “When we have an election where one candidate says, ‘I’m talking about the future’ and the other candidate says, ‘I’m talking about the past,’ the future candidate almost always wins,” Engel said.
Originally Posted: May 19, 2016
Comments below were taken from an SMU news release. READ MORE
MATTHEW WILSON: Associate professor of Political Science
The Democratic Party was shaken this week when the Nevada State Convention descended into chaos, sparked by disruptive Bernie Sanders supporters. The scenes of anger and reports of death threats prompted some to ask, . “Is the Democratic National Convention suddenly at greater risk of being a disaster than the Republican National Convention?”
“No,” says Wilson. “Because that’s a really high bar.”
“The Democrats have all long underestimated the level of dissatisfaction with their own establishment that exists within the ranks,” Wilson continued. “The real anti-establishment anger has been made obvious on the Republican side with Trump’s campaign, but there’s a lot of that with Sanders’ movement as well and some of that bubbled to the surface this week.”
Wilson predicts the Democrats will orchestrate a “reasonably” smooth convention this summer, but did say there are other causes for concern revealed by the hubub in Nevada.
“The thing we can lose sight of is that Hillary Clinton would be the least popular candidate that either party has ever nominated, which is obscured by the fact that Trump is even more unpopular,” Wilson says. “Clinton is not beloved by the Democratic Party. The big worry is disaffected Sanders supporters could stay home or gravitate toward Trump if he’s able to reach out to them with his populist message.”
And Wilson doesn’t expect Sanders to do anything to allay those fears anytime soon.
“Sanders thrives on the anti-establishment sentiment,” Wilson says. “He thrives on this sense the game is rigged and the party bosses are cheating him, and he doesn’t want to tamp that down. Clearly he doesn’t want violence, but he’s perfectly happy having a certain amount of righteous anger.”
As for the Democratic Party’s handling of the Sanders and the Nevada protests, Wilson thinks the party is doing just fine, with the caveat that maybe they should let Sanders have some of the delegates he’s fighting for since it won’t make up the difference in the end. But Wilson did caution that more acrimony could lie ahead.
“June 7 is the last day of primaries,” Wilson says. “It will be very interesting to see what Bernie Sanders says on June 8.”
PROVIDING HISTORIC PERSPECTIVE TO ‘YEAR OF THE OUTSIDER’ IN POLITICS
It’s not uncommon for politicians running for the presidency to flash their outsider status and promise to, “Clean up Washington,” but normally they’re at least long-time, card-carrying members of the party they’re running to represent.
Not so this year, courtesy Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Engel says historians might have to look back 200 years to find a similar scenario.
“Ronald Reagan, in some ways, was an outsider and Jimmy Carter was, in some ways, an outsider, but you might have to look back 100 years ago to find a nominee like Trump who, if you had asked six years ago, would have been a member of the opposite party,” Engel says.
Despite the recent chaotic protests at the Democrats’ Nevada State Convention, Engel thinks the Democratic National Convention will still be more unified than the Republican National Convention this summer.
“Alliances are not made between friends,” Engel says. “Alliances are made in opposition to common enemies, and Sanders and the Democrats are a great example of this. Sanders has had some questions or political reasons to identify as an independent instead of a Democrat, but he sure as heck won’t identify as a Republican.”
Originally Posted: May 11, 2016
Professor Jeremy Yvon leMercier duQuesnay Adams — the words roll off the tongue as if steeped in history, and surely they were.
The late professor of medieval European history at Southern Methodist University was himself a historical figure. Born in New Orleans to an old family of that old city wedded to another of New England, he grew up in Columbus and Cincinnati, the latter the venerable river city of Ohio with its own long history — both Native American for millennia and U.S. dating back to the 18th century. He knew all of this.
His father, Philip Rhys Adams, a name redolent of both Anglo and Dutch American history, was the distinguished director of the Cincinnati Art Museum and, during his long tenure, managed to acquire antiquities from many parts of the world both for the museum he adored and for his family. His son, Jeremy, handled and considered objects from the civilizations of the ancient Near East, from Egypt, Greece and Rome, and from the various landless migratory peoples who came from the steppes and the deserts of Central Asia to create a new, enriched Europe. READ MORE
History Professor John R. Chavez has been awarded a University Research Council Grant to present a paper on internal colonialism at the annual meeting of the World History Association in Ghent, Belgium in July 2016.