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Archive for April, 2012

How A Secret Society of Rebel Americans Made Its Mark on Early America

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

SONS OF LIBERTY – For the American “armchair historian,” this American Revolutionary organization conjures up a myriad of confusing images. But, what of this “secret” organization that played such an integral part in advancing the idea of American independence from Great Britain? What were the Sons of Liberty? Who were its members and how widespread was its support among the thirteen colonies comprising British America? What was the ideology and degree of political affiliation within the organization?


COMMON SENSE—Thomas Paine, 1776

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” is credited with having precipitated the move for independence. In fact, the exact nature of the American cause would have been rather hard to define in 1775 or early 1776. Clearly the Americans wanted the English to stop abusing them, as they saw it, but how was fighting a war supposed to achieve that end? What would constitute victory? As long as they were still British subjects, they would still be subject to British law, and by 1775 it was unlikely that Parliament would grant them any real form of self government. As the Declaratory Act of 1766 had made clear, Parliament claimed the right to govern the colonies “in all cases whatsoever.” Since achieving quasi-independence was an unrealistic hope, therefore, the only thing that finally did make sense was American independence, a case made very powerfully by Thomas Paine.

The Hard Road Toward Independence, 1776

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

Here is a summary of the events leading up to the American Revolutionary War (reading with questions)

Video Lecture: Pauline Maier on the Causes of the American Revolution

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

Pauline Maier on the Causes of the American Revolution from March 30, 2012

Lecture: Causes of the American Revolution

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

Causes of the American Revolution

Lectures: Chinese Revolution & Mao Years

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Chinese Revolution, 1911-49

Mao’s China, 1949-1976

Frontline: Who’s Afraid Of Ai Weiwei

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

Ai Weiwei is a Chinese contemporary artist, active in sculpture, installation, architecture, curating, photography, film, and social, political and cultural criticism. Ai collaborated with Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron as the artistic consultant on the Beijing National Stadium for the 2008 Olympics. As a political activist, he has been highly and openly critical of the Chinese Government’s stance on democracy and human rights. He has investigated government corruption and cover-ups, in particular the Sichuan schools corruption scandal following the collapse of so-called “tofu-skin schools” in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.In 2011, following his arrest at Beijing airport on 3 April, he was held for over two months without any official charges being filed; officials alluded to their allegations of “economic crimes” (tax evasion).

18 minutes

Frontline: Who's Afraid Of Ai Weiwei

Gallery: Homoerotic Sino-USSR friendship propaganda from the 1950’s

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

Here are  some steamy homoerotic Sino-Soviet Communist friendship posters from the 1950’s

A refresher: After Communists took control of mainland China in 1949, Beijing adopted a pro-Soviet diplomacy in exchange for Soviet support, loans and technology, during which a lot of propaganda sprung out endorsing Sino-USSR friendship.

Revisiting one of the most important and confounding books ever written about the Civil War

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

Fifty years ago this spring, the great literary critic Edmund Wilson published one of the most important and confounding books ever written on the American Civil War. Patriotic Gore: Studies in the Literature of the American Civil War both offended and inspired its many reviewers and readers in 1962. Before or after 1962, no one ever wrote a book quite like Patriotic Gore and it deserves a rereading in our own wartime

In every nation Wilson had come to see the same impulse: “the irresistible instinct of power to expand itself, of well-organized human aggregations to absorb or impose themselves on other groups.” The same “sub-rational reason” lay at the root of both the conquest “of the South by the North in the Civil War, of Germany by the allies.” With this degree of cynicism, one wonders how Wilson managed to find brilliance, humor, and even the sublime in so many Civil War writers.

As Wilson finished Patriotic Gore he was very discouraged by the Cold War, by nuclear testing, and U.S.-Soviet saber-rattling. In the summer of 1961 he unloaded on Alfred Kazin: “the U.S.A. is getting me down … I don’t see how you still manage to believe in American ideals and all that.” Wilson seems never to have gotten over his experience of 1918-19 in those French hospitals.

The alienation Wilson felt from what he called the “United States of Hiroshima” produced a belligerent, blasphemous screed against his country’s sense of history, and especially its foreign policy. Some of his historical judgments and moral equivalences can still seem disturbing today. But it is not merely a perverse diatribe full of prickly opinions; at times it is a weirdly brilliant exposition of “anti-war morality.”