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Larry DiCara on Boston’s Busing Era @ Boston Public Library

The Central branch of the Boston Public Library was the setting for the attorney and civic leader Larry DiCara‘s talk on his new book, Turmoil and Transition in Boston: A Political Memoir from the Busing Era.

Larry DiCara
Larry DiCara
When a federal court order mandated busing to achieve racial integration in the public schools, the city of Boston was in danger of ripping apart. In his memoir, DiCara reveals how the public policy decisions and economic and demographic changes of that period helped transform Boston into the thriving city it is today.
Larry DiCara served on the Boston City Council from 1972 to 1981, has taught at Harvard, Boston University and the University of Massachusetts, and today is a partner at the Nixon Peabody law firm, where he practices real estate and administrative law.

Click here: to listen to the talk.

The Boston Public Library’s Author Talk Series continues on February 27th with Stephen Brumwell, author of George Washington: Gentleman Warrior.

Posted on January 31, 2014 in Front Page, History, Politics
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Islam and its Coat of Many Colors – with Ali Asani

Can a multi-faceted Islam be whatever you want it to be?
All things to all people?

To listen to the renowned Harvard Professor Ali Asani tell it, Islam is a religion of multiple dimensions, interpretations, and perspectives. It’s almost like an all-encompassing religion, whose core beliefs can serve to unite widely diverse cultural groups, which eventually combine to form a dazzling coat of many colors.
But with such a cornucopia of rules and rituals, might the basic tenets of Islam get lost? Could they become confused with ancient tribal codes, which existed prior to Islam, and are difficult to puzzle out, to separate from the Muslim doctrines of today?
This Faculty Insight interview, produced in partnership with ThoughtCast and Harvard Extension School, asks — but perhaps does not always answer — many of these questions. So take a look, see for yourself, and join Ali Asani, Harvard’s Professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures,  in the debate!

Posted on January 30, 2013 in Faculty Insight, Harvard Luminaries, History, Ideas, Politics, Religion
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The history and future of the New England Forest

Note: an audio version of this interview was broadcast by the WGBH affiliate WCAI, the Cape and Islands NPR station.

The forests of New England are, remarkably, a success story. They’ve recovered from attack after attack. The early settlers hacked them down, by hand, for houses, fences and firewood. Later on, the insatiable sawmills of a more industrial age ate up the lumber needed for our expansion.
Today, the forests contend with acid rain, invasive plants and exotic beetle infestations — evidence of our ever more global economy. And the future of these forests? Going forward, that’s a story that’s largely ours to shape, and narrate.

If only these trees could talk … Well, we have the next best thing – Donald Pfister, the Dean of Harvard Summer School, curator of the Farlow Library and Herbarium, a fungologist (the more erudite word is mycologist), and the Asa Gray Professor of Systematic Botany at Harvard University.
In this Faculty Insight interview, produced in partnership with ThoughtCast and Harvard Extension School, he tells the tale of the New England forest from as far back as the glacial Pleistocene era.
To help illustrate this tale, we’ve made grateful use of high resolution images of some dramatic landscape dioramas, which are on display at Harvard’s Fisher Museum, in Petersham, Massachusetts.

Posted on September 3, 2012 in Economics, Environment, Faculty Insight, Harvard Luminaries, History, Science
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The Mau Mau rebellion — a revisionist history

How does history get rewritten? How do victimizers become victims, and the valiant turn into villains? As Harvard history professor Caroline Elkins has learned, this process can be a hazardous one. The Pulitzer prize-winning author of Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya devoted many years to the study of the Mau Mau uprising in the early 1950s, and the British response,  a model of counter-insurgency technique — or so she thought.

The Mau Mau were a group of native Kenyans who turned to violence and terror to drive out their colonial British masters, but as Elkins discovered, they weren’t the only ones to use such tactics.  Now a court case will decide where the truth actually lies, as you will hear in this Faculty Insight interview, produced in partnership with ThoughtCast and  Harvard Extension School.

Posted on March 27, 2012 in Faculty Insight, Front Page, Harvard Luminaries, History
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Tales from Donegal, told in Kenny’s Bookshop

Note: This interview was broadcast on KUT-FM, an NPR station based in Austin, Texas.

Charles McGlinchy
Charles McGlinchy
In 1861 in Clonmany, on the Inishowen peninsula in the far north of County Donegal Ireland, Charles McGlinchy was born.  His was a windblown, rough world, wracked with beauty and hardship. A weaver by trade, and a bachelor, in his old age he realized he was the last of the McGlinchys, the last of his name. Night after night, he told his tale to an old neighbor, the schoolmaster Patrick Kavanagh, who wrote it all down. Patrick’s son Desmond found these copybooks after his father’s death, and offered them to Brian Friel, the renowned Irish playwright, who then edited the manuscript into a book called The Last of the Name.
This same book is what Desmond Kenny, of Kenny’s Bookshop in Galway, chose to discuss in our interview. When asked to pick a piece of writing that’s had a tremendous impact on him, he wandered the rich shelves of the shop, musing over all the books he’s known and loved, until he lighted upon this one, and knew it was the right choice. We spoke after hours in the family run book shop, which recently celebrated its 70th anniversary.
Click here: to listen to this ThoughtCast interview (18 minutes).

Posted on September 8, 2011 in History, Literature
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Honor and Fair Play in Homer’s Iliad

Note: the audio version of this interview was broadcast on the WGBH sister stations WCAI/WNAN, and also on KUT in Austin, Texas!

In this fifth installment of Faculty Insight, produced in partnership with Harvard University Extension School, ThoughtCast speaks with the esteemed Harvard classicist Gregory Nagy about one of the earliest and greatest legends of all time: Homer’s epic story of the siege of Troy, called The Iliad. It’s a story of god-like heroes and blood-soaked battles; honor, pride, shame and defeat.
In this interview, we dissect a key scene in The Iliad, where Hector and Achilles are about to meet in battle. Athena is also on hand, and she plays a crucial if underhanded role, with the grudging approval of her father, Zeus.
And Nagy is of course the perfect guide to this classic tale. He’s the director of Harvard’s Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington DC, as well as the Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard.

We spoke in his office at Widener Library.

Click here: to listen to a longer audio version of this interview! (9 minutes)

Posted on July 12, 2011 in Faculty Insight, Harvard Luminaries, History, Literature, Poetry
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James Carroll Takes On Jerusalem

This entry is part 8 of 10 in the series Talks@Harvard Book Store

In this ThoughtCast, noted author James Carroll talks about his latest book, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem”, at the Harvard Book Store, in Cambridge Massachusetts. The city of course serves as both holy ground and flash point for Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and at times during their tumultuous histories, these three monotheistic religions have turned their city into not a place of peace and prayer, but a violent battleground.

Carroll is also the author of the highly regarded book “Constantine’s Sword”, which examines the shocking tale of Christian anti-Semitism from the time of Christ through Nazism and the Second Vatican Council. Carroll’s personal fascination with religion has led him to be both a believer and a skeptic, a critical historian and a man of faith, which is an interesting combination in these unsettling times.

Posted on March 27, 2011 in History, Politics, Religion
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Faculty Insight: Islam in the West – a clash of civilizations?

Note: This interview was broadcast on WGBH radio, Boston’s NPR station for news and culture, on April 17, 2011!

Faculty Insight is produced in partnership with ThoughtCast and Harvard University Extension School. This third interview of the series is with Jocelyne Cesari, a level-headed yet astute specialist in contemporary Islamic society. Muslims who live in the Western world today face multiple challenges — suspicion, isolation, ignorance, fear. And post-9/11, of course, they carry the weight of that violent attack. So how are we to move forward, in an enlightened, inclusive manner? How ought we to apply our secular, humanist and individualistic values at such a time?

For starters, let’s listen to Jocelyne Cesari. She might not have all the answers, but as the director of the inter-faculty Islam in the West Program, she’s clearly the right person to ask. She is also an associate at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies and the Center for European Studies at Harvard, and teaches in Harvard’s Department of Government, its Divinity School and its Extension School. This video of our interview is only an introduction, so….
Click here to hear the entire conversation! (16 minutes)

Posted on December 17, 2010 in Faculty Insight, Harvard Luminaries, History, Politics, Religion
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The New York Review turns 45!

Note: this interview has been picked up by the public radio station WGBH, in Boston, and its sister stations WCAI and WNAN.

Robert Silvers (credit Melanie Flood)

The venerable New York Review of Books was launched amidst a newspaper strike in the winter of 1963, and has continued unabated ever since. Devoted to intensive and nuanced coverage of politics, the arts, literature, science (and now movies and the Internet!), the paper, as it’s called, is considered to be the premiere journal of the American intellectual elite.
Robert Silvers, its longtime editor, who shared the post with Barbara Epstein until her death in 2006, spoke with ThoughtCast in the WNYC studios in New York.

Click here: to listen (40 minutes).

Note: Scott McLemee, who writes the Intellectual Affairs column each week at Inside Higher Ed, contributed an excellent question to the interview – thanks!

Posted on December 9, 2008 in Front Page, History, Ideas, Literature, Politics
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Our American “Empire” with Niall Ferguson

Note: This interview has been picked up by the public radio stations WGBH, in Boston, its affiliates WCAI and WNAN, and WCVE in Richmond, VA.

Niall Ferguson
In some ways, the Scottish historian Niall Ferguson is the Russell Crowe of the academic world: charismatic, unconventional, and definitely controversial. He’s also a big fan of the British Empire — and wants the United States to follow in its footsteps. That means it’s our job to form colonies in hot climates, for years on end.
But are we up for this? While Niall would like that to be the case, he doesn’t really think so, because, he says, we’re an empire “in denial”
Click here: to listen to a 4 minute excerpt.
Click here: to listen to the entire interview (15:30 minutes).

And to listen to an interview with Niall Ferguson on the WGBH Forum Network, click here!

Posted on July 23, 2008 in Economics, Front Page, Harvard Luminaries, History, Politics
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The Peabody Sisters – with biographer Megan Marshall

Note: This interview was broadcast on WGBH radio’s “Arts and Ideas.” And here’s a review of the program on PRX!

Megan Marshall
Author Megan Marshall has recently written a well-received biography of the three Peabody sisters – Elizabeth, Mary and Sophia – who were key players in the founding of the Transcendentalist movement in the early to mid 19th century.

Elizabeth, the oldest, was intellectually precocious, learning Hebrew as a child so she could read the Old Testament. Mary was the middle sister, somewhat subdued by the dominant – and bossy – qualities of Elizabeth, and by the attention paid to the youngest, Sophia, who was practically an invalid. Nonetheless, Mary managed to become a teacher, writer and reformer. Sophia, beset by devastating migraines, spent most of her early years in bed. But when she had the strength, she painted. In an interview with ThoughtCast, Megan Marshall continues the tale…

Click here: to listen (28:30 mins).

Click here to listen to a lecture by Megan Marshall on the Peabody sisters on the WGBH Forum Network.

Posted on December 8, 2005 in History
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Carol Bundy, Civil War biographer

Note: this ThoughtCast interview was broadcast on WCAI/WNAN on Nov. 12, 2006 in honor of Veterans Day.

Carol Bundy
At a time when the country’s attention is focused on the ever-expanding list of American war dead, Carol Bundy’s biography of a Union officer who sacrifices his life in the Civil War is eerily apt.

Carol’s book tells the story of the short, heroic life of Charles Russell Lowell, Jr., an elite young cavalryman who embodied the promise of his generation. An ardent abolitionist and reformer, Lowell was also a brilliant battlefield strategist, and he turned the tide at the Battle of Cedar Creek in the Shenandoah Valley, a crucial victory for the North just two weeks shy of Lincoln’s re-election. Shot twice during the fighting, Lowell died at dawn the following day.
Click here: to listen (28:30 mins).
Click here to listen to a lecture by Carol Bundy on her biography of Charles Russell Lowell, Jr. on the WGBH Forum Network.

Posted on November 6, 2005 in History
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Virgil’s Georgics with Poet David Ferry

Note: This program was broadcast on April 8th 2007 on WGBH.

Click here to read a review of the interview on PRX.

David Ferry
Noted Cambridge poet David Ferry has recently translated Virgil’s Georgics, and on ThoughtCast he joins Virgil scholar Richard Thomas, the chair of Harvard’s Classics Dept., for a detailed examination of this beautiful and insufficiently known poem. It is said to have taken Virgil 7 years to write, from about 36 to 29 B.C.

 

Richard Thomas
As such, the Georgics was written during a period of political instability and chronic civil war, and inevitably reflects Virgil’s dark, often pessimistic outlook on human nature. But at the same time, The Georgics — which means “agriculture” in Greek — is a celebration of nature and its ceaseless beauty. As Virgil describes the cycles of crops, the seasons, the weather — the birth, death and rebirth that mark the natural world, he provides us with a complex, realistic, painful but enduringly uplifting poem.
Click here: to listen (29 minutes).


Click here
to listen to a lecture by David Ferry on “The Art and Practice of Literary Translation” on the WGBH Forum Network.

Posted on September 1, 2005 in Harvard Luminaries, History, Literature, Poetry
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Harvard Book Store author talks: David Ferry

This entry is part 1 of 10 in the series Talks@Harvard Book Store
Virgil
A Reading with David Ferry, discussing his translation of Virgil’s Georgics. This recording was made at Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, in May 2005. The paperback of Virgil’s Georgics, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, is now available.

Click here: (45 minutes) for the talk.

And you can also listen to a ThoughtCast interview with David Ferry and Richard Thomas, the chair of Harvard’s Classics Dept.

Posted on June 22, 2005 in History, Literature, Poetry
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