Is a politician’s image imposed externally, by admirers and critics located domestically as well as abroad, examining the politician within his respective surrounding context and time period? [Bottom-up] Or, on the other hand, does a ruler paint his own political picture, a self-created phenomenon, descending internally from the ruler himself? [Top-down] This is the question that R. J. B. Bosworth examines in a chapter of his 1998 publication, “Mussolini the Duce: Sawdust Caesar, Roman Statesman or Dictator Minor?”… Read the rest here
In Friedrich and Brzezinski’s “Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy” (1957), they posit that the two terms should be used interchangeably to define a regime that is led by a singular leader who agrees upon, if he himself does not create, all official state decisions. The leader is defined as an autokrator: “the ruler accountable only to himself.” (15) The main goal of a totalitarian leader, explained through the ideological-anthropological theory, is to attempt to create an utopian society through “total control of the everyday life of its citizens.”… Read the rest here
Professor Wilson Bell’s article on the Gulag comes as a response to the expanded use of the term in present time. Originally, the Gulag was a Soviet administration body that oversaw labor camps and later special settlements. The term Gulag has been used by Amnesty International in reference to Guantanamo Bay, by Al Gore when describing Abu Ghraib in Iraq, and by other academics to to describe work or incarceration camps throughout the modern age. Bells tracks the complex and irregular history of the Gulag to whittle down and refine the term to a more precise end.… Read the rest here
Bell’s piece focuses on the historiographical analyses of Gulags. He notes that the term “gulag” has taken on several meanings throughout recent history and the term has even been applied to more recent examples such as Guantanamo Bay and the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. However for the purpose of his paper he defines a Gulag as Soviet-era prison camp.
The focus of his paper is on the developments amongst scholars about the possible motivations of these forced labor camps.… Read the rest here
Wilson Bell’s article on the machinations of the Gulag draws from and interprets a great many viewpoints, with the primary argument being that though the term “Gulag” has been used to encompass a wide berth of topics, its primary use is to describe the Stalin-era concentration camps. Bell touches on various points of contention between different historiographers while attempting to find common threads of agreement that can stand on their own as fact in relation to the topic of the Gulag.… Read the rest here
While reading Stearns’ full work, I couldn’t help but feel the same lack of faith towards delving into ‘history-ing’ children as a discipline, because I again found Stearns’ focus to be more about the impacts adults and society had on children during their respective eras rather than of the childhoods themselves. For example, Stearns spends a good deal of time examining various punishments enacted on children for misbehaving acts. Similar to our discussion last week, studying punishments (frankly) is convenient!… Read the rest here
Maynes, Mintz, and Stearns
The first three readings seem to collectively address how contemporary society has been able to shape how childhood and its’ history is looked at. Maynes begins emphasizing the importance of first-hand life stories and accounts in the history of childhood (and in her case women, too). So few sources actually come from children that it leaves their stories up to be subjectively told. Maynes then leads nicely into the Mintz reading by describing how the forming of one’s identity is “rooted” in childhood.… Read the rest here
Wilson T. Bell’s article on Gulag historiography does not seek to define what a Gulag is. Instead, it is a fascinating effort to clarify the several definitions of Gulag in addition to the speculated reasons they existed. He states that there is no clear agreement among scholars and proceeds to list several definitions and contexts that have been explored. Bell also goes through the often debated economic and political motives behind the Gulags. His last statement, and perhaps his the most important, is that there is far more research needing to be done on this topic to add to the motives, goals, and contexts of a Gulag.… Read the rest here
The first four chapters of Mark Mazower’s Dark Continent offer readers a look into the European political, economic and social developments of the Interwar Era. Mazower’s main argument is that many factors influenced the political path that Europe followed: meaning that democracy was not an obvious or guaranteed form of government on the continent.
The changes that were rocking the continent at this time are clearly explained in the book using comparisons as many similarities were seen in countries across the continent.… Read the rest here
Carl Becker would be rather proud of Detective Grant—rather than a bespectacled academic pondering a weighty tome, the historian hero of Daughter of Time is a gruff, battered, longtime veteran of Scotland Yard who by his own admission gave little and less thought to history after his schooling. However, he finds himself unraveling a mystery of a rather different sort when a portrait of Richard III makes him question everything he thought he knew about the key.… Read the rest here