Lectures in History (C-span) Prof. Alan Kraut starts his lecture The 1920s American South talking about Southern progressives- something that I had never heard of – in relation to child labour laws, and pointing out that Woodrow Wilson, who was generally acknowledged for his progressive ideas, was born in the South. He points out that Wilson made sure during WWI that some of the economic benefits flowed to the South. With the flight of African-Americans to the north, mills were constructed that kept the wages of their white workers low (so that they could compete with cheap Asian labour) but were supplemented by paternalistic side-benefits that kept workers poor and ‘stuck’. Innovations supported Southern manufacturing (at least at first) with the tobacco industry inventing cigarettes and marketing them to ‘flappers’ and modern women, and the creation of Coca-Cola. Government policies extended protection to Southern industries because the Southern Democrats, who kept getting elected, achieved seniority in congress committees and could push the interests of the south. It was a different story for African-Americans. At first the South was happy to see them move north until monied interests realized that they were losing a cheap labour-force. There was the second rise of the Ku Klux Klan, and its link to the ‘Birth of a Nation’ movie. However, as far as white society was concerned, before the Crash that presaged the Depression, the South was looking forward. I hadn’t heard such a benign argument towards the South before, although I was struck by how clearly Kraut had to distinguish between white and black conditions.
Big Ideas (ABC) Stan Grant presented the 2021 Manning Clark lecture An all historical fever: how history may yet be the death of us on 17th June. It’s a beautifully written and presented lecture, although it does have a little too much of the pulpit in its delivery for my liking. He makes an important point about the use of history as the basis for popularism and hyper-national politics, and spends quite a bit of time on China and Xi Jingping. He posits the idea of consciously deciding to forget history – an interesting idea. I think I might look out for his new book, where he talks about what he has learned from his foreign assignments.
The Real Story (BBC) I’ve often wondered how Palestinians feel about their government when Israel responds with such force against them. ‘Palestinians turn against the leadership’ features three Palestinian commentators, Dana El Kurd – Palestinian academic; author of ‘Polarized and Demobilized: Legacies of Authoritarianism in Palestine’; Nour Odeh – Palestinian politician and former journalist and Mariam Barghouti – Palestinian writer based in Ramallah, in the West Bank. None of them have any great love for either Abbas or Fatah, and are angered by endemic corruption and frustrated by the recent cancellation of elections which might bring change. What a mess.