What does history teach about this crazy election?; more on Free State of Jones; top 200 Civil War books; scanning, digging up, and storing human bones

 

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The election just keeps getting crazier (and scarier). Two prominent historians have chimed it to look at events from a historical perspective. Heather Cox Richardson served up an essay for Salon, dissecting what she feels are the reasons for the Republican party’s implosion. Then today, Eric Foner has an interview with the Washington Post about a range of related topics, from brokered conventions to third parties, and ultimately concludes that we can’t really predict what is going to happen out of this mess. Which is why I find this all terribly fascinating. Personally, I am hoping for a contested convention, not just because I hope Trump is stopped, but also because it will be extremely interesting to see what happens during and after the convention. From a historical perspective, this is all very intriguing, don’t you think? (I’m still waiting for someone to post a good short news piece that discusses the 1860 contested convention that produced Lincoln. Maybe I should do it myself?)

Self-serving post of the day: Gettysburg College’s Civil War Era Studies program has updated their list of the 200 “top books” on the Civil War. It it a great list of essential reading, but I will honestly admit that I am surprised and extremely honored that my book is on it. There are some heavy hitters and some of my personal role models on the list, so “flattered” doesn’t even begin to describe my feelings about being included. I’m also proud that my University of Alabama history department has 3 faculty members and 5 titles on the list. (On the negative side, there are noticeably few African American scholars on this list).

I’m a bit late in posting this (been a little under the weather this week), but Megan Kate Nelson has a fabulous Q&A with Victoria Bynum concerning her contributions and thoughts on the upcoming movie about Newt Knight, The Free State of Jones. There’s fascinating stuff here about how a work of non-fiction gets turned into a movie.

So, for the upcoming 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, someone had the bright idea of radar scanning his tomb. Why? Because it “could help researchers learn more about Shakespeare’s life and family, helping to detect unmarked or previously unknown graves and items buried within the coffins.” I’m dubious. Seems like nothing more than a stunt for TV ratings. But we’ll see.

And while we are on the subject of learning from the dead: did you know that it is estimated that around a half million Native American skeletons are in US museums? And that is just the beginning— thousands of other human remains are on display or stored away in our museums. The Smithsonian alone has about 30,000 sets of human remains. Is this ethical?  I don’t know, but it is definitely fascinating and creepy.

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