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Daily History Picture: Sad Burial

Netherlands, a Protestant, Catholic couple divided in death…

American Society of Church HIstory Annual Winter Meeting 2014

Michael Pasquier

The winter meeting of the American Society of Church History is fast approaching. Here’s a list of panels that should be of interest to those who visit the blog. The range of topics is incredible. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. You can get the full program here.
Thursday, January 2
The Christian Law of Marriage: Debate and Discussion of A.G. Roeber’s Hopes for Better Spouses: Protestant Marriage and Church Renewal in Early Modern Europe, India, and North America
Heike Liebau
Amanda Porterfield
Kirsten Sword
A. Gregg Roeber

Printing Evangelicalisms: Evangelical Book Culture across Three Centuries
Catherine Brekus
Jonathan Yeager
Keith Grant
Daniel Vaca
Friday, January 3
Fracturing a Global Empire: Religion and Place in the American Revolution
Anna Lawrence
Christopher Jones
John Fea
Katherine Carte Engel
Mark Allen Peterson
Texts and the Origins of Liberal Religion in America, 1880-1950
Lydia Willsky
Matthew Bowman
Elesha Coffman
Matthew Hedstrom
America’s Wars: Revealing Divisions and Transforming Beliefs
Darryl Hart
Benjamin Wetzel
Cara Burnidge
Paul Kemeny
Richard Gamble
Doubting the Democratization Thesis: A Roundtable Discussion of Amanda Porterfield’s Conceived in Doubt: Religion and Politics in the New American Nation
Katherine Carte Engel
Michael Altman
James Byrd
Kathryn Gin Lum
Mark Noll
Exporting la Croix, Importing le Monde: French Catholic Missionaries Take on the Globe
Sue Peabody
Nathan Marvin
Christine Croxall
Jenna Nigro
Michael Pasquier
Saturday, January 4
Re-Imagining the “Missionary”: Definitions, Debate, and Voices of Disagreement from the American Margins to World Christianity
Christine Leigh Heyrman
Benjamin Wright
Marie Stango
Deanna Womack
Ellen Walsh
The Message is the Medium: Missions to Indians as Central to the Early American Republic
Linford Fisher
Brian Russell Franklin
Nicholas Joseph Aieta
Joshua Rice
I Have Become All Things to All People: Pentecostals’ Interactions with American Culture
Kate Bowler
Christopher Kinder
Susie Butler
Jonathan Root
Placing Faith in American Global Policy
Raymond Haberski
Cara Burnidge
Mark Thomas Edwards
Lilian Calles Barger
Faith in War: Religious Difference among U.S. Military Personnel
Grant Wacker
Keven Walters
Jacqueline Whitt
Jonathan Ebel
Religion and the American Civil War: History and Historiography
Mark Noll
Harry Stout
Allen Guelzo
James McPherson
George Rable
Laurie Maffly-Kipp
Faith, Power, and Resistance: New Directions in Latina/o Religious History
Arlene Sanchez-Walsh
Adriana Nieto
Erica Ramirez
Elias Ortega-Aponte
Felipe Hinojosa
Science, Religion and Popular Culture in Modern Europe and America, 1890-1950
Ronald Numbers
Erika Dyson
Matthew Stanley
Christopher White
Devising a New Lexicon of Race Relations: African Americans, the International Missionary Council, and the British Missionary Discourse on Civilizing Africa, 1920-1940
Dana Robert
Andrew Barnes
Elizabeth Engel
Richard Elphick
Re-Structuring, Still: Twenty-Five Years with Robert Wuthnow’s The Restructuring of American Religion
Amy Koehlinger
Melissa May Borja
Joseph Blankholm
Matthew Hedstrom
Daniel Vaca
Robert Wuthnow
Sunday, January 5
Disagreement, Debate, and Discussion in Reconstruction-Era Religion
Jennifer Graber
Steve Longenecker
Jeffrey Bach
Charles Irons
The Politics of Enthusiasm in the Early Modern Anglo-Protestant World
Phyllis Mack
Adrian Chastain Weimer
Paul Lim
John Corrigan
Christianity and Controversy in the Enlightenment
Bruce Janacek
Bryan Banks
Abram Van Engen
Rachel Reeves
American Catholic Responses to the Politics of Life and Human Rights
Leslie Tentler
Daniel Williams
Raymond Haberski
Marian Mollin
Highways of Providence: American Seekers in a New World, 1870-1990
Thomas Tweed
Davis Mislin
Sara Georgini
Hillary Kaell
Christians Debating Yoga: Exercise, Non-Christian Religion, or Christian Devotion?
Shreena Gandhi
Philip Deslippe
Andrea Jain
Candy Gunther Brown

Mantegna drawings

For those interested in renaissance drawings, I hear through the dealer network about a couple of Mantegna drawings due to be auctioned in Italy next month. I’m particularly intrigued by his study for an Lamentation; this has the body of Christ reversed on the lower portion of the sheet.

A M  008

Marco Fagioli of Farsettiarte writes, “the Lamentation of Christ is an extraordinary piece for compositional invention and drawing strength. In the upper part Mantegna composed the scene foreshortening Christ body according to the vanishing point perspective, a variation from the central perspective of the Lamentation over the Dead Christ of Brera in Milan. In this drawing the Holy Marys crying are positioned behind Christ and the left one, in profile, almost repeats the one of the painting in Brera. In this drawing, Christ’s perspective is underlined by the frontal poses of the three Holy Women, by their haloes, circles that become perspectic ellipses. In the lower part of the drawing Mantegna repeated Christ body in the opposite direction, with the head toward the viewer, achieving this way a high sense of drama.”

I can’t help but agree. What extraordinary invention, well before Michelangelo started experimenting with his foreshortened and reversed figures on paper.

Historical Society of the Episcopal Annual Meeting

Michael Utzinger
I had the pleasure of attending the annual meeting of the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church (HSEC) in San Antonio, Texas on 10-11 June 2013 in San Antonio, Texas.
The Rev. Will Wauters delivered the keynote address to the Society. A graduate of Stanford University and Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Wauters has served churches in East Los Angeles, San Francisco, Jersey City and Trenton in New Jersey and currently serves at Santa Fe Episcopal Church in San Antonio. For seven years he was Chaplain and taught Religion and Ethics at the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey. In San Antonio The Rev. Wauters (photo by Matthew Payne) also teaches at Haven for Hope, a transformational center for the homeless, and is a Chaplain with the Bexar County Detention Ministries. His address, entitled The Borderland Cultures Encounter the Church and a Church Gave Birth to a New Chicano Culture,described how the Church of the Epiphany in East Los Angeles, the oldest standing Episcopal Church in Los Angeles, opened its doors in a new way to the revolutionary times of the 1960′s in the barrio and how both the Church and Los Angeles culture and history were transformed by one another. 

Of particular interest was the way in which the Church of the Epiphany became a focal point of political activism among the Chicano rights movement.  Wauters charted the leadership of Revs. Roger Wood and John Luce.  Under their leadership the parish promoted grape boycotts; hosted Cesar Chavez, the United Farm Workers, and the Brown Berets; became the home of the newspaper La Raza; and was the focal point of the height of the Chicano Moratorium in East Los Angeles.   However, I equally appreciated that Wauters noted the way the Latino/a culture transformed this originally Anglo parish, particularly the way in which it expresses its worship.  The Church of the Epiphany has developed unique expressions of worship with the Episcopal church, including a mariachi masses and folklorico dancers in the liturgy.   It was an eye-opening story told by an insider of this local parish was shaped and shaped East Los Angeles and the Chicano movement in the 1960s and 1970s.

One of the missions of the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church is to recognize and support scholarship that furthers historical understanding of the Anglican Communion.  The Nelson R. Burr Prize  recognizes the article published in the Society’s quarterly journal, Anglican and Episcopal History, that best exemplifies excellence and innovative scholarship in the field of Anglican and Episcopal history.  This year Dr. Edward Bond, chair of the Publications Committee and editor of the Society’s journal announced  John Wall and Zola Packman as winners of the Burr Prize for their article entitled “Worship at Trinity Chapel,” which appeared in the June 2012 issue of the society’s journal.  The selection committee commented  that Wall and Packman’s work proved “a beautifully researched and written portrayal of the importance of prayer book worship in the 17th century.” 
The HSEC’s Grants and Research Committee, chaired by the Rev. Dr. Craig Townsend, announced that the Society would support four individuals for the next year.  Katherine Sawyer Robinson will receive a research grant for her dissertation, entitled “Networks of Nonconformity: A Prosopographical Examination of Early English Presbyterianism;” David Ney will receive a research grant for his dissertation entitled “Divine Oracles and Modern Science: Newtonianism, Hutchinsonianism, and the Old Testament.”   Filmmaker Margo Guernsey will receive a grant to support continuing research of her latest project, a documentary on the life of Pauli Murray, lawyer, civil and women’s rights activist, and Episcopal priest. And Daniel Loss will receive a grant to further his research on the controversy regarding liturgical reform in the 1960s and beyond to explore the public and cultural role of the Church of England among avowed non-believers.  I encourage those writing on topics related to the way the Episcopal Church has impacted American history and religion to look at the grants section of Society’s website (under the “about” tab):


Historical Research Publishes Free Austerity Issue Online

If you fancy reading some academic articles, Historical Research has published a special ‘Virtual Austerity‘ Issue. Austerity is the watchword for the current British government as they make major changes …

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Europe’s ’14 Most Endangered Historical Sites’

Europa Nostra, a group the Huffington Post described as ‘dedicated to the preservation of European landmarks’, has published a list of the fourteen historical sites in Europe they believe to be most in danger of disappearing. The aim of the list is to launch a “call to action” over the locations, and soon they’ll produce a shortlist of seven which will receive the supports of heritage experts. The Huffington post has pictures and descriptions.

Historical Books Reveal ‘Fossil’ Record

In modern Europe the common furniture beetle and the Mediterranean furniture Beetle overlap in terms of their locations, but this didn’t used to be the case. In previous centuries the beetles kept to very distinct and separate regions… and the reason we know this is because of woodcut books. In the 1400s Europe started using woodcuts – carved wooden blocks – to produce images in a form of early (for Europe) printing.

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Boston National Historical Park’s New Location

This is a big week for Boston National Historical Park. Today the park is scheduled to close its visitor center at 15 State Street, across the cobblestones from the Old State House, and by the end of the week its new visitor center will open in Faneuil Hall.

Here’s how Faneuil Hall looked in the late 1700s (courtesy of Boston College).

In 1806 the architect Charles Bulfinch oversaw its expansion to its current dimensions. That produced more space for town meetings on the second floor, and more space for merchants on the ground level—where the visitor center will be.

TOMORROW: How did eighteenth-century Bostonians pronounce “Faneuil Hall”?

Collector pleads guilty to stealing thousands of historical documents

Barry Landau leaving court after copping a plea, February 7, 2012Media relations professional, self-educated presidential historian, collector of inauguration memorabilia, pathological liar and thief Barry Landau pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to stealing thousands of historical documents from museums including (but not limited to) the Maryland Historical Society, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the Connecticut Historical Society, the University of Vermont, the New York Historical Society, and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library.

Jason SavedoffAccording to the plea agreement (pdf), Landau and his Canadian accomplice Jason Savedoff researched their targets online and off, compiling lists of the most valuable documents in the collections. From December 2010 until July 2011, the two of them cut a swath through museum collections, distracting staff with cupcakes then stuffing documents into hidden coat pockets and folders. They also removed any “finding aids,” like card catalogue entries, to make it hard for the museum to realize a document was missing.

Prosecutors said the value of the stolen documents easily exceeded $1 million. One of 60 documents stolen from the Maryland Historical Society was an 1861 land grant signed by Abraham Lincoln to a former member of the Maryland militia who served in the War of 1812. It’s worth $100,000, prosecutors said.

The oldest pilfered document was penned 533 years ago by Lorenzo de Medici during the Italian Renaissance. Among the most revered were three inaugural addresses delivered by Franklin D. Roosevelt, with the president’s handwritten notes and corrections. [...]

Among the items taken from the Pennsylvania archives, prosecutors said, was a 1788 handwritten proclamation by John Hancock regarding the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. [...]

Federal prosecutors have described the scope of the thefts as “truly breathtaking,” with stolen documents that include an endorsement for a judge signed by George Washington, a letter written in French from Marie Antoinette, and an 1874 note from Karl Marx inquiring about the price of a book bearing his signature. [...]

Among the most valuable documents stolen was a letter written in 1780 from Benjamin Franklin to naval hero John Paul Jones about gunpowder deliveries from the French. It is worth several hundred thousand dollars, according to prosecutors.

The court documents filed Tuesday list stolen papers signed by luminaries from a broad swath of history: Susan B. Anthony, John Hancock, John Adams, Robert E. Lee, Sir Isaac Newton, Napoleon and Florence Nightingale. Another item was a letter from Charles Dickens to Edgar Allen Poe.

Back at the lair, they would remove any inventory markings or other institutional references on the document by scrubbing them off using sandpaper or other abrasives. They called this “performing surgery.” The surgeried documents were then either sold or kept in Landau’s apartment.

Landau and Savedoff were caught by a sharp-eyed part-time staffer at the Maryland Historical Society in Mount Vernon on July 9, 2011. David Angerhofer thought the pair were “too schmoozy for regular people,” so he spied on them from a balcony and saw them stuff historical documents under their own papers and called the cops. Savedoff was in the bathroom when the police arrived. They banged on the stall door until he came out. The historical society staffer saw pieces of old-looking paper floating in the toilet but wasn’t able to fish them out right away. When he returned, the toilet had been used and flushed by another visitor.

Invitation to inauguration of McKinley in 1901, stolen from Maryland Historical SocietyLandau and Savedoff were arrested and police found 70 documents hidden in a computer bag. Sixty of them belonged to the Maryland Historical Society, including that land grant signed by President Lincoln and presidential inaugural ball invitations worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. When the FBI searched Landau’s New York City apartment, they found 10,000 historical documents and ephemera. Experts from the National Archives and Records Administration have been able to trace 4,000 of them to the libraries and museums from whence they were stolen thus far.

Authorities think Landau has been stealing documents for years (President Bill Clinton’s secretary Betty Currie was sure he stole a signed book of the President’s speeches from her home in 2009) but the plea agreement only covers the thefts from December to July. Savedoff pleaded guilty last October to Conspiracy to Commit Theft of Major Artwork and Theft of Major Artwork. Now Landau has pleaded guilty to the same charges. He will be sentenced in May of this year.

Landau with his inaugural memorabilia collectionThis guy is such a despicable skeeze I can’t even. He spent years collecting presidential inauguration memorabilia, promoting himself as this huge expert with a collection that eclipsed even that of the Smithsonian. He was treated as the main expert on inaugurations by major media outlets, actors and film producers, plus a number of Presidents, First Ladies and Congress. Read this article from 2005, but keep a flight sickness bag handy because in hindsight it’s truly nauseating.

Four years ago, when the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies needed plates for the inaugural luncheon, it turned to Landau, who had a collection of china used at Thomas Jefferson’s inauguration in 1801. Presidents come and go, but traditions remain, and Landau is the keeper of traditions, the go-to guy.

“I have a letter from Jacqueline Kennedy,” Landau said, “and she wrote: ‘They should make you the Minister of Inaugurations.’ “


A historical milestone of one’s own

The History Blog passed a million total pageviews today. Not just in one day, of course; I mean cumulative views since I first installed the counter in mid-September of 2009. That’s not counting my personal viewings, so the milestone isn’t composed primarily of me clicking on my old stories a thousand times a day.

Thank you all for reading, whether ye be silent observers, students searching for help with their homework, people in the news Googling themselves, and of course, my wonderful regular commenters who so generously contribute your own wit, curiosity and understanding to improving every post. :notworthy:


‘Terrorism: A Historical Context’

History Today has tackled the tenth anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks in America by publishing an article called ‘Terrorism: A Historical Context‘. This gives a brief introduction to how the term terrorism has evolved, and how acts of terrorism have evolved, before linking to a number of really good articles about related acts of ‘terror’. Now, as far as I can tell this is all free to access and not behind their paywall (I can read everything without having an account), and is wide ranging.

Children’s Historical Story Contest

Do you know a schoolchild interested in both writing and the Roman world? (Or are you such a schoolchild?) Then they might be interested in this contest. It’s open to all under eighteens from around the world (providing you can enter in English), and asks them / you to write a mystery story set in the Roman era. I saw the details on the blog of Caroline Lawrence, who writes ‘history mystery’ books for kids.

Five Diorama Ideas: Possible Historical Diorama Projects for Students, Hobbyists, or History Buffs in General

This is a slightly revised version of an article I wrote for Suite101 a couple years back. The diorama ideas cover American history in general, not simply the American Revolutionary period, but I thought my readers here might be interested nonetheless.


Five Diorama Ideas: Possible Historical Diorama Projects for Students, Hobbyists, and History Buffs in General

American history is an exciting subject, especially for those able to put themselves into history. Those who dislike history have never captured the ability to immerse themselves in it, instead seeing the past as a frustrating array of names and dates. Getting past that misconception is one of the important keys in capturing a love for history (or getting one’s child to love history), and dioramas are a great tool in achieving this.

A diorama is a miniature scene, depicting an episode or setting from the past. It’s kind of like an artificial, three-dimensional “snapshot” of the past, and it can be a compelling way for someone to connect with history.

To make a diorama, you will need:

  • cardboard box or sturdy container of some kind
  • dollhouse dolls or miniature figures
  • miniature trees, rocks, and other outdoor objects
  • dollhouse furniture (depending on your diorama)
  • modeling clays
  • miniature animals
  • paints

You should also check out this great diorama starter kit from Amazon and ask a local hobby store employee for anything else you might need.

What follows are five suggestions for exciting dioramas depicting events and settings of American history. Whether you are a history buff, hobbyist, or history student, these suggestions for dioramas should get your creative juices flowing. They are:

1) The Drafting of the Declaration of Independence

Your diorama will feature the committee appointed by the Second Continental Congress to draft the Declaration of Independence. There were five delegates on the committee — three of which are household names (Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson). This scene can be depicted with a wooden or plastic surface, painted and/or ‘treated’ to resemble a colonial hardwood floor. You will then need a colonial desk and at least two chairs. Sitting should be Thomas Jefferson, pen in hand preferably, and also the elder statesman Benjamin Franklin. John Adams can be standing, peering over Mr. Jefferson’s work.

2) Lewis & Clark

For this scene, you need two principal explorers (Lewis and Clark obviously) and perhaps a couple individuals accompanying them (Sacajawea perhaps). Have them standing on a rock cliff overlooking a valley, peering through a telescope into the distance. Backgrounds are key here. Attention to detail in the painting will be critical. You will need to use a combination of miniature trees, rocks, cliff-like facades, and paints to create the effect.

3) GIs Around a Sherman Tank

Show a squad of US infantry gathered around a Sherman tank in World War II, taking a brief respite from the action of the day. Have three or four sitting on the tank, with several others leaning against it or sitting around the perimeter. You’ll need grass, dirt, stone, and good painting for the backgrounds. To add to the effect, you could have a smoldering German Panzer in the background. Put some dead bodies around as well.

4) World War I Trench Warfare

This will take some elaborate planning, but it’s one that will look absolutely awesome when you’re done – provided it is of course done right. Not only that, but it will showcase one of the most interesting and significant aspects of the Great War — life in the trenches. Your diorama should feature soldiers living along a trench line, in various modes from sleeping, watching through the periscope, eating, and so forth. The rest of the diorama (working our way forward from the trench) will be “No Man’s Land” with barbed wire, dead bodies, shell holes, debris, etc.

5) USS Monitor v. CSS Virginia

How about a diorama featuring the most important naval battle in US history – the Civil War fight that signaled the end of wooden ships and the rise of the modern navies? This was the fight that pitted the CSS Virginia (the raised and retrofitted USS Merrimack) against the “cheesebox on a raft” (otherwise known as the USS Monitor), the first warship with a movable turret.

Dioramas are time-consuming and can be very tedious. For more information on how to do them effectively, you should check out Sheperd Paine’s How to Build a Diorama. The reward of dioramas, however, makes them worth it – provided, of course, they are done right. Good luck.

Call for Papers – Current Events in Historical Perspective

Ohio State’s Harvey Goldberg Center for Teaching Excellence will be hosting joint sessions at the American Historical Association annual meeting in Chicago January 5-8 2012 on the topic “Current Events in Historical Perspective.” We seek submissions for session papers that analyze a particular current issue — political, cultural, economic or social — in a larger, [...]

Massachusetts Historical Society Fellowships

It’s the season to apply for Massachusetts Historical Society fellowships. (That’s society founder Jeremy Belknap looking on encouragingly.) They come in many flavors, such as:

In separate news, this summer I’ll be working with folks at the society and the Longfellow House-Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site on a teacher’s workshop about the siege of Boston. That’s generously funded by the Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati. Details to come later.

Vote to put a historical car on display at Smithsonian

The Smithsonian has a large collection of historical transportation, but most of the 73 vehicles have never been on display. The America on the Move exhibit at the National Museum of American History only showcases 14 of them. The rest live under tarps in a storage warehouse miles away from the National Mall.

Now for the first time the Smithsonian is opening the warehouse to let the public vote for two of its cars to roar out of the darkness into the Mall light. Over the past week, Roger White, Associate Curator in the Division of Work and Industry at the National Museum of American History and the man who hunted high and low to acquire famous 80s crash test dummies Vince and Larry for the museum, has been blogging about eight gems from the history of transportation.

Read all the Race to the Museum entries and pick your favorite. Voting opens tomorrow, December 21. The two vote leaders will go on display at the museum from January 22 to February 21.

The problem is trying to narrow down the awesome to just one favorite. I tend to be partial to the earliest pieces just because they look so damn cool. The Long steam tricycle (ca. 1880) is the oldest of the eight and the unique creation of a Massachusetts carpenter.

Long steam tricycleWhat’s made of bicycle parts, weighs 350 pounds, and is self-propelled? Not your typical 1880s vehicle. Before George Long, a carpenter in Northfield, Massachusetts, built this one-of-a-kind experiment, he and other inventors built heavy, steam-powered wagons. So why switch to thin, spidery body materials? Long borrowed technologies developed for the high-wheel bicycle craze, which was just taking off. Bicycles were lightweight; for Long’s three-wheel wonder, a tubular steel frame and spoke wheels meant a better power-to-weight ratio and easier travel on rough dirt roads. Adult-size tricycles were safer, more comfortable, and easier to mount than high-wheel bicycles, so Long’s vehicle pointed the way toward practical, powered road transportation.

Long dismantled it when his horse-riding neighbors complained (boo! hiss!) and even though he patented the design, the Long steam tricycle was never produced again. Steam vehicle collector John Bacon reassembled the original and gave it to the Smithsonian.

I’m also crazy about the Tucker sedan (1948), made famous by the movie in which Jeff Bridges played Preston Tucker, brilliant engineer, automotive innovator and tragically awful entrepreneur.

Tucker sedan, 1948“The First Completely New Car in Fifty Years”—that’s how Preston Tucker billed his audacious assault on Detroit in the late 1940s. He promised that his car would be fresh, advanced, and different, from its futuristic styling to its rear engine and rubber suspension. Tucker laid plans on a massive scale, hiring a design team and an executive staff, obtaining a huge assembly plant, and building a dealer network. For all of Tucker’s brashness and avant-garde outlook, his most important innovation was his obsession with safety. He insisted on a padded dashboard, obstacle-free zone for the front passenger, pop-out windshield, and turning center headlight. But he stopped short of installing seat belts, thinking that they would hurt sales.

Production of tomorrow’s car was cut short by a federal investigation of Tucker’s business practices.

There are only 46 Tucker sedans left in the world; the one in the Smithsonian collection is number 39 of 51 made. A product of a drug forfeiture, the Tucker was given to the museum by the U.S. Marshals Service in 1993.

The GM Sunraycer solar car from 1987 is also highly awesome. If the older ones weren’t so dreamy, I would be sorely tempted to vote for it. I might have to vote early and often to spread around the love.

Click here to cast your vote.


How Will WikiLeaks Impact the Historical Profession?

There has been some discussion about WikiLeaks and whether is it a good or bad thing for historians? Does the top secret information help historians write a more accurate narrative or do the leaks ensure that future access will be even more difficult and ultimately hinder future historiography? Is it ultimately so harmful that it could never be useful? Is there a level where historians are not entitled to such sensitive data? All legitimate questions.

The Chicago Tribune spoke with several historians and authors about the leaks and about the comparisons some are making between WikiLeaks and the Pentagon Papers. I think they are born from much different circumstances and motivations, but certainly there are some similarities. Here is a sample from that editorial:

Princeton University historian Sean Wilentz rejects similaries between WikiLeaks and the Pentagon Papers.

“It’s not as if we’re still up against the Vietnam War; and everybody has a right — no a duty, to play Daniel Ellsberg,” Wilentz, whose books include “The Rise of American Democracy” and “The Age of Reagan,” said.

“But this is extremely dangerous, given the imperatives of diplomacy. Is there some profound deception of the American people and the world going on which, as with Ellsberg, requires an insider to, in effect, blow the whistle? I don’t get that sense. I get the sense that there are people out there, like the WikiLeaks people, who have a simpleminded idea of secrecy and transparency, who are simply offended by any state actions that are cloaked.”

But Ellsberg believes there are parallels to the documents he leaked nearly 40 years ago. He says that while early media reports about WikiLeaks focused on gossip and personalities, memos are now emerging that show greater U.S. involvement in Pakistan than the government acknowledged, a pattern revealed by the Pentagon Papers about Vietnam.

“This means the Obama administration is on a path that is as dangerous as can be,” Ellsberg says, noting Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities. “I think the press did a disservice by leading with so much gossip, which isn’t terribly important.”

Certainly WikiLeaks will ultimately not be a bright spot for the Obama Administration, but I am more concerned about its impact on future historian’s access to sensitive documents. Never will we get enough access or enough information no matter how sensitive, but I do worry how this impacts the future. For now, we have some extraordinary documents (I have looked through some and it is enormous and incredible), but I have yet to see a smoking gun. It’s real foreign policy and political agendas. I do also worry about the revealing of informants and sensitive data. There has to be plenty of information leaked that could get people killed, I hope not, but I wonder.

So in the end there are multiple aspects to WikiLeaks, certainly good and bad.