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Revered New York Review editor Robert Silvers, R.I.P.

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

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 March 23, 2017 in a new podcast, Front Page, History, Ideas, Literature, Politics
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A Prior Republican Presidential Debate

There was a time when Donald Trump, and the less sensational but still controversial Ted Cruz, did not dominate the discourse and depress the hopes of the Republican Party establishment. Back in 2000, there were 6 candidates to pick from, and none of them prompted calls for a contested convention. Even so, these six seemed like quite an odd bunch at the time, and they took their place on stage in Durham, New Hampshire for an influential Republican Presidential Debate only weeks before the first-in-the-nation primary on February 1st. This was the first time citizens cast their votes in a primary for the future President George W. Bush.
Let’s rewind the tape, and take another look. (NB: click on the link just provided, NOT on the images.)
georgeWbush This January 6th debate was moderated by Tim Russert, the host of NBC’s Meet the Press, and featured Arizona Senator John McCain, conservative political activist Alan Keyes, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, publisher Steve Forbes, Christian pro-life spokesman Gary Bauer and George W. Bush. As things turned out, Bush fared poorly in New Hampshire, and lost the primary to the “straight talk express” candidate John McCain, who pushed for campaign finance reform.
jennyrepdebate1 I participated in the debate as a correspondent for New Hampshire Public TV, and was able to ask McCain, who was campaigning to clean up Washington, a question about his influence as chairman of the FCC.
So — let me ask the same questions I posed in my Democratic Presidential Debate post: In taking a look 16 years after the fact, how does it seem to you now? Quaint and out of date? Does it hold hints of what was to come? What should we have done differently that might have made the future a better place?

Posted on March 18, 2016 in a new podcast, History, Politics
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Beacon Hill Seminars Writing Workshop

I’ve had the pleasure of leading a Beacon Hill Seminars Writing Workshop this autumn. Sadly it’s almost over, but I wanted to let you all know about this marvelous resource in the Beacon Hill area.

Beacon Hill Seminars Beacon Hill Seminars is described as “a membership organization of people who have a vigorous interest in continuing their intellectual growth.” I like the use of the word vigorous. Just to give you an idea of the kinds of courses that are usually offered, Lyle Miller is currently leading a seminar titled Hemingway’s Wives, Hemingway’s Works.  And Francesca Piana is teaching International News with a Historical Background and Discussion.
There will of course be more programs offered this spring!

Posted on November 29, 2015 in History, Ideas, Literature, Politics
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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, and by KPIP in Missouri.

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.
And finally, for an audio version of this story, click here: to listen (9:47 mins).

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.

For an audio version of this story, click here: to listen. (6:50 mins).

Posted on November 1, 2011 in Faculty Insight, Front Page, Harvard Luminaries, History
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