From the National History Center column of the May 2012 issue of Perspectives on History
A Global Forum without Walls
Marian J. Barber, May 2012
The National History Center is a most useful virtual intellectual destination—especially for teachers, students, researchers, and others interested in current historical scholarship.
The center conducts its programs in partnership with the American Historical Association, the Library of Congress, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Council on Foreign Relations, Oxford University Press, and the Norman Lear and Communication Leadership & Policy Centers at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. Virtually all of the National History Center's public events are recorded and webcast, usually by our partners. They are available free of charge to anyone anywhere in the world who has access to the internet—24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Links to the webcasts are easy to find on the center's web site. When you click on the relevant hyperlink, you will be whisked off to our partner's web site and the webcast, podcast, or transcript, or in some cases, all three. The center's offerings will be of special interest not only to instructors of history but also to those who teach public policy and to everyone interested in the dynamic connections between the past and the present. By searching across the array of programs that are available, they can assemble varied content to complement textbooks, enhance classroom lectures, and increase their knowledge of a historical issue or event. The search function makes it easy to discover varied types of presentations on a multitude of topics. A search for "France," for example, yields 10 different webcasts, from seminar sessions to events at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York. It will even bring up links to scholars working on related subjects.
Using the search engine, for example, members of a seminar on the Middle East might discover a webcast of Eugene Rogan (Oxford Univ.) talking to the Washington History Seminar (WHS), about Arab perceptions of the history of the West. They could go on to a Congressional Briefing, "A History of Radical Islam Before and After 9/11," by Georgetown University professor John Voll, then view the History News Network's webcast of a presentation by Juan Cole (Univ. of Michigan) on the Arab Spring at a "Historians, Journalists, and the Challenges of Getting It Right" session held at the January 2012 annual meeting of the AHA. They might find it useful to supplement this with the webcast of Voll's more recent WHS talk, "Islam and Democracy for the 21st Century."
A class on the history of war might profitably read the transcripts of two Council on Foreign Relations conversations: Marilyn Young (New York Univ.) and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Frances Fitzgerald on the legacies of the Vietnam War; and Douglas Brinkley (Rice Univ.) and Newsweek's Evan Thomas on American presidents who seem to have been drawn to war-making. They might then turn to the WHS webcast of Foreign Affairs editor Gideon Rose's seminar session, "Why We Botch the Ends of Wars."
Students of the American civil rights movement could find helpful webcasts of four WHS sessions: Stanford University's Gavin Wright on the economics of the civil rights revolution in the South; Phyllis Leffler (Univ. of Virginia) on African Americans and leadership; Carol Anderson (Emory Univ.) on the role African Americans played in independence struggles in Asia and Africa; and Sheldon Hackney (Univ. of Pennsylvania) on historian C. Vann Woodward's relationship to the movement. Those focusing on the U.S. Civil War can turn to two other WHS webcasts, Don H. Doyle (Univ. of South Carolina) on the war's international aspects and Kevin Kenny (Boston College) on Abraham Lincoln and the Irish. A recording of a Congressional Briefing offered by James M. McPherson (Princeton Univ.) on Lincoln and habeas corpus is available on the National History Center's web site.
Cold War scholars might particularly appreciate the WHS webcasts of Temple University's Vladislav Martin Zubok on Khrushchev and the fate of the Soviet Union; Vanderbilt University's Thomas Schwartz on Henry Kissinger's Realpolitik and American exceptionalism; and George Washington University's Hope M. Harrison on the Berlin Wall. These explorations can be neatly rounded off with "The Empires Who Came in from the Cold: Cold War and Decolonization," a lecture by Jason C. Parker (Texas A&M Univ.) to the Center's International Seminar on Decolonization.
The center's web offerings are not limited to history and public policy topics. Students of information science, for example, can usefully watch a WHS webcast of independent archivist Trudy Huskamp Peterson on the role archives played in helping Guatemala, Sierra Leone, and South Africa cope with their troubled pasts. WHS webcasts of Sheldon Garon (Princeton Univ.) on saving, borrowing, and consumption in Japan versus the U.S.; and Devin Fergus (Hunter College) on the implications of increasing economic inequality might prove particularly helpful to students of economics.
This is only a small sampling of the wide range of online content available from the National History Center. The web site offers more than 60 WHS webcasts alone. And more are added almost every month.
Marian Barber is the associate director of the National History Center.