Author: hdubrull

Review: Richard Overy’s The Bombing War: Europe 1939-1945

Richard Overy, The Bombing War: Europe 1939-1945 (London: Penguin, 2013).  

Richard Overy is one of the leading historians of World War II alive today, and while he has written on a number of topics associated with that conflict, the fighting in the air is his area of special expertise. While The Bombing War is not as comprehensive as some of his other works, such as the The Air War, 1939-1945 (1980), it is one of his most powerful books. For those interested in the topic of strategic bombing during World War II, The Bombing War is indispensable. It balances the meticulous research and broad vision that only an expert of Overy’s caliber can produce.

One of Overy’s purposes in writing The Bombing War is to provide “the first full narrative history of the bombing war in Europe” (xxiv). This narrative, he argues, is more complete than previous efforts because a) it covers all of Europe, b) it integrates bombing into the “broad strategic picture” (xxiv), and c) it links the narratives of those who did the bombing with those who were bombed. Overy’s other main objective consists of “re-examining the established narratives on the bombing war” which have been shaped, especially in the British and American cases, by official histories (xxv-xxvi). (The United States The Army Air Forces in World War II, which consisted of seven volumes, was published between 1948 and 1958, while Britain’s four-volume equivalent, The Strategic Air Offensive against Germany, appeared in 1961). Overy has conducted this re-examination by studying the “private papers of individuals and institutions” as well as parts of the official record that “were originally closed to public scrutiny because they raised awkward questions” (xxvi). At 642 pages of small, densely printed text, The Bombing War is long (maybe overlong), but it never loses sight of two related theses. First, strategic bombing during the war never lived up to the hype of its proponents; there was a big discrepancy between promise and achievement. Second, strategic bombing, as practiced during the conflict, was a bludgeon that did not achieve enough to justify the enormous collateral damage that it inflicted on both lives and property.

Overy’s story begins with a discussion of World War I and the interwar period. Here, he focuses on two major developments that helped make strategic bombing possible during World War II. The massive mobilization of World War I as well as the rhetoric that followed afterwards led everyone to assume that the next war would be “total” and that civilians would naturally be targets in this conflict. This discourse meshed well with assumptions among airmen and statesmen that urban conurbations of the modern era were particularly susceptible to dislocation from aerial bombing. Based on little evidence, those who contemplated the course of air war in the future believed that industry was vulnerable to destruction and that civilians living in big cities would panic easily. These attitudes, however, did not make strategic bombing during World War II inevitable; Overy argues that it was only events during the war that made such a thing possible.

Among the many limits that prevented airmen from immediately and deliberately dropping bombs indiscriminately on civilians in 1939 was the fact that many air forces believed that their primary mission consisted of supporting the army in a ground-attack role. And indeed, Overy argues that two incidents widely seen as initiating “terror” bombing during the war—the Luftwaffe’s bombardments of Warsaw and Rotterdam—were not that at all. In both cases, he claims that German aircraft sought out enemy ground forces that happened to be ensconced in or near urban areas. These two attacks resulted in large numbers of civilians being killed. The air assault against Rotterdam proved especially tragic since German and Dutch forces were then negotiating the surrender of the city but could not get word to the Luftwaffe fast enough to halt the air attack.

The first real strategic bombing campaign took place over the skies of Britain between 1940 and 1941. Overall German strategy was muddled from the start, constantly shifting from one objective to the next. On the eve of the Battle of Britain, Hitler could not decide whether to encourage the British to enter negotiations, invade southern England and dictate a settlement, or use ships, submarines, and aircraft to impose a blockade on British ports. As Overy puts it, “Hitler opted for all three possibilities, and achieved none of them” (68). Whatever the case, all three required the Luftwaffe to play an important role and demanded a heavy commitment from Hitler’s airmen. Forces, however, were frittered away as “the German offensive hovered between trying to gain air superiority against the RAF, preparation for invasion, contributing to the blockade by sea of British trade, degrading Britain’s industrial war potential and vague expectations of a crisis afflicting the enemy’s morale” (611). The failure to fix on an appropriate target and destroy it (along with the inability to match ends with means) accounted in large part for the frustration of German aims. This frustration occurred in spite of Britain’s weaknesses in civil defense (which were not made good until the latter part of 1941) and huge deficiencies in the RAF’s night-fighting capacity.

Although, as Overy points out, each strategic bombing campaign of the war differed in a number of ways, the German attack on Britain was emblematic in that it was planned and launched on the fly; almost no research or preparation for such an effort had been performed during the pre-war period (which accounts for the strategic confusion). This problem would also plague Allied campaigns throughout the conflict. The German campaign was also important in that it stretched notions of what was considered permissible during the war. The British in particular subjected the German campaign to very close scrutiny. In some cases, RAF’s Bomber Command learned important lessons (e.g. dense concentrations of incendiaries mixed with high explosive bombs were particularly useful in destroying large parts of towns). In others, the British misconstrued with the Luftwaffe had been up to (e.g. they assumed Germans were engaged in mere terror bombing). In still others, the RAF totally missed the boat (e.g. the British ramped up their bombing of German cities in the hope of demoralizing civilians and dislocating the economy without pausing to think that the Germans had failed to do the very same thing in the very same way).

With these observations in mind, it should come as no surprise that Overy is extremely critical of Bomber Command’s own effort against Germany and occupied Europe. Initially, the RAF’s campaign was too piecemeal, light, inaccurate, and scattered to have much effect. Starting in late 1941, however, the British more or less decided on the area bombing of German cities in an attempt to demoralize, dehouse, and decimate German civilians (which is what they thought the Germans had attempted to do to them). Although Britain’s political and military leadership always felt ambivalent about this decision, the appointment of Sir Arthur Harris as the head of Bomber Command in February 1942 gave the force an aggressive and intractable advocate who was fully committed to the air war against German civilians to the exclusion of all else. Nonetheless, progress was stymied by a number of shortcomings. There was a lack of appropriate, heavy four-engined bombers (as late as 1942, the number of Avro Lancasters was limited). The British were also plagued by “the slow development of target-finding and marking, [and] the dilatory development of effective electronic aids, marker bombs and bombsights.”  And then there was “the inability to relate means and ends more rationally to maximize effectiveness and cope with enemy defenses”—a problem that had also hampered the Germans (300). Despite its ineffectiveness, Bomber Command was allowed to persist in its campaign which swallowed a very large proportion of available British resources (about 7% of total British man-hours during the conflict)—no small victory for Harris and his subordinates who sought to safeguard their bailiwick.

The entry of the United States into the war did not change the British situation a great deal. The Americans made clear that they would not divert bombers from their factories to supply the British. Not surprisingly, considering the many demands placed on the United States, it took the Americans some time to organize, equip, and train a large bomber force that could exercise any influence in the European theater. The Allies made much fuss about a “combined offensive” and “round-the-clock” bombing (Americans during the day, British at night), which seemed to suggest that their bombers acted in concert. The truth of the matter was that their campaigns operated merely in parallel and did not reinforce each other at all. The Americans did not think much of bombing cities for the sake of depressing German morale. They were more interested in employing daytime precision attacks and destroying specific targets that would slow down German production (although Overy admits that when visibility was limited, American blind bombing was just as indiscriminate as anything Bomber Command did). Overy intimates that although American forces experienced difficulty in finding the bottlenecks that could bring the German economy to a halt, they expressed a much more thoughtful and sophisticated approach to bombing than Harris ever did. Bomber Command continued its nocturnal attempt to destroy city after city in the hope that the cumulative destruction would eventually end the war somehow.

In the end, Overy argues, Allied strategic bombing did not end the war, but it did influence the manner in which Germany was defeated. In early 1944, American forces finally made a commitment to using the bombing campaign as a means of destroying the Luftwaffe in the skies over Germany. The delay in reaching this decision was not determined by technology; it was also a matter of placing commanders in the European theater who shared that vision. By that date, Carl Spaatz (commander of US strategic air forces), Jimmy Doolittle (Eighth Air Force), and William Kepner (VIII Fighter Command) occupied the key American positions in Europe and agreed that it was necessary to combine “the indirect assault on air force production and supplies through bombing with the calculated attrition of the German fighter force through air-to-air combat and fighter sweeps over German soil” (361). Initially spearheaded by P-47s with drop tanks (the P-51s came later), fighter loosely accompanying American bombers sought out German aircraft, leading to huge air battles with massive casualties on both sides. It was a campaign of attrition for which the Germans were ill-suited. Two major developments occurred as a result. First, the Germans redistributed resources—personnel, fighter aircraft, and anti-aircraft guns—to the homeland on a large scale to counter this threat. These were resources that could not be deployed on other fronts to support German ground forces (including anti-aircraft weapons which could double as anti-tank guns). Second, having forced the Germans to concentrate their aircraft in Germany, the Americans proceeded to destroy the Luftwaffe, shooting down enormous numbers of planes and killing their pilots. By mid-year, the Americans had achieved air supremacy over France and Germany. And then strategic bombing lurched forward on a much larger scale than ever before; three-quarters of the total tonnage of bombs dropped on Germany fell between September 1944 and May 1945. The Allies persisted in heavy bombing largely because they were worried that the Germans might suddenly produce new weapons that could turn the tide (the V-weapons as well as the Messerschmidt Me 262 jet fighter certainly gave them reason to think this way). They also hoped that more bombing could bring the war to a swifter end—the British thinking that obliterating more cities would tip Germany over the edge while the Americans believed that the destruction of oil and transportation targets would undermine the German war effort. Still, German productivity reached its height in the last three months of 1944, when bombing was extraordinarily heavy. Allied victory eventually came at an extremely high cost to victor and vanquished, but the impact of bombing was only one of several factors that defeated the Axis powers.

Many readers familiar with the topic will have seen parts of this narrative before, but Overy presents a version of the story that is very much his own in which a number of key arguments, great and small, are modified. Overy’s book is particularly interesting when it comes to discussing civil defense and the impact of the war on civilians, something that most histories of strategic bombing do not study in a systematic way. The Bombing War stresses the degree to which different circumstances obtained in different countries. For instance, civil defense in Britain was characterized by friction between the voluntarist tradition of a free society and the centralizing tendency of the state. In Germany and the Soviet Union, however, the party saw civil defense mainly as a means of political and social mobilization. Whatever the case, the experience of civil defense was similar to that of the bomber forces in that its preparations were incomplete upon the war’s outbreak; capacity and sophistication generally grew as the war continued. It is hard to make generalizations about bombing’s impact on the various peoples of Europe, though, as every country was different. Overy points out that a good case could be made that bombing helped topple Mussolini in 1943, but he proceeds to argue that the collapse of the Fascist regime had more to do with its overall inability to cope with the various stresses of modern war. In cases where the state or party was more or less equal to the challenges of fulfilling civilians’ needs (e.g. Britain and Germany), heavy bombing generally did not enhance or undermine the population’s will to resist. If anything, it made civilians more reliant on the authorities which reduced the potential for dissent. The picture Overy paints of civilian populations under sustained air attacks is one of anxiety, exhaustion, and deprivation. Moreover, these populations were highly mobile as they left destroyed urban areas in search of shelter, food, and working utilities. It is not surprising that people in such a position would turn to the state for succor.

Conquered territories, particularly in western Europe, found themselves in a unique position. Generally hostile to the German occupation, they initially supported the Allied bombing of military targets. The RAF hoped that a campaign in these regions would damage German military installations (e.g. submarine pens) and slow down production in factories that had worked on German contracts. Later, in preparation for the cross-Channel invasion, the Allies sought to destroy most of northern France’s transportation infrastructure (and once troops had landed in Normandy, heavy bombers were used for ground support). In these regions, the British always saw bombing as a propaganda act that could demoralize collaborators and give resistance a boost. Unfortunately, once the RAF began bombing France and the Low Countries without restriction in February 1942, opinion in these countries turned against the British initiative. Just as they were in Germany, Allied bombings tended to be inaccurate and destructive, resulting in many civilian casualties (almost 60,000 French civilians were killed by Allied bombs). In the conclusion of his chapter on the bombing of occupied Europe, Overy notes, “Bombing was a blunt instrument as the Allies knew full well, but is bluntness was more evident and more awkward when the bombs fell outside Germany” (606).

Not surprisingly, Overy concludes that strategic bombing as practiced during World War II was a crude, wasteful, and illegal strategy. Moreover, it was a failure on its own terms. It sought to win the war singlehandedly by destroying the enemy economy, demoralizing the enemy population, and deracinating the enemy’s political system. In all of these areas, the impact of bombing was limited. Strategic bombing’s main contribution to Allied victory—the destruction of the Luftwaffe—was almost incidental. The obsession with the “weight and scale” of attacks, rather than accuracy, paved the way for post-war nuclear arsenals that sought to do the same thing but on a much larger scale. This approach to strategic bombing would prove a dead-end; precision-guided munitions, Overy argues, were the “way forward” (613). We can be thankful, then, that “profound changes in available weapons, the transformation of geopolitical reality and post-war ethical sensibilities have all combined to make the bombing war between 1939 and 1945 a unique phenomenon in modern European history, not possible earlier and not reproducible since” (633).

Furthermore, I consider that the myth of the unemployable History major must be destroyed.

Hugh Dubrulle

NOTE: This essay reviews the Penguin UK version of Overy’s book, not the Penguin USA edition (entitled The Bombers and the Bombed: Allied Air War over Europe 1940-1945). The latter was heavily edited and is much shorter than the former. The reviewer recommends that you purchase the British version.

The Myth of the Unemployable History Major Must Be Destroyed

One Thing after Another has a son in high school, so this blog knows a number of parents who have completed the college application grind. Among these are “K” (we feel obliged to protect her anonymity), whose son was considering Saint Anselm College. At one point, she told One Thing after Another that her son liked history, but since “he wanted to make sure he had a job after he graduated,” he was going to major in politics. In the end, K’s son went to another school so, in a sense, his choice of major did not matter.

K’s reasoning, however, does matter to this blog. For years, One Thing after Another has heard this line of argument over and over again. A history major is an unaffordable luxury, so the argument goes, because one cannot merely go to college to study one’s interests. The cost is so great that students must major in something that will guarantee them a job. Since the only kinds of jobs supposedly open to history majors are teaching and positions related to history (e.g. museum staff), students often look to other majors that give them better opportunities.

This blog understands why parents feel this way. One Thing after Another remembers the anxious expression on K’s careworn face as she explained the decisions that she and her son had to make. The stakes are high. College is so expensive that parents cannot avoid thinking in terms of return on investment. At Saint Anselm College, tuition for 2017-2018 will be $38,960, room and board will reach $14,146, and mandatory fees will come in at $1,030. Obviously, not everyone will pay this kind of money. The discount rate at our school is around 49% (much to the dismay of our CFO), which means that the average student will pay just over half of the $38,960 in tuition (somewhere around $19,960) for a total bill of about $35,136. Spending that kind of money over four years, one could buy about six 2017 Honda CRVs or pay for almost 60% of the median home price in Goffstown ($247,000 for the period between January and April). Finding this kind of cash is an enormous burden for middle-class families—let alone poor ones. It’s no wonder that students rush to major in disciplines where the connection between the field of study and a remunerative job seems obvious. It seems fairly easy to understand, then, why students are somewhat more hesitant to take the plunge in a major where connecting the dots between academic work and employment appears somewhat more difficult.

But the dots are there, and they can be connected if only people show a little patience.

History classes stress the analysis of various media—usually texts but also sources like film, music, painting, and so on. History majors ask and answer questions such as, “Who produced this source?” “Why did she produce it?” and “Under what circumstances was this source produced?” Ours is a reading-intensive discipline because reading is the only way to become practiced at this sort of thing. Doing this kind of work requires the development of analytical skills that lead students to sharpen their judgment. They come to understand what is likely or what is true. At the same time, they are required to synthesize a great deal of material to form a comprehensive picture of how people, places, and things have worked in the past—and how they may work in the future. They are then prepared to answer questions such as, “Why did this happen?” and “How did it occur?” What’s more, students in History are compelled by the nature of the discipline to articulate their thoughts in a systematic and compelling manner, both through discussion and on paper. In addition to being a reading-intensive discipline, we are also a writing-intensive one. Finally, the study of history leaves students with an enormous amount of cultural capital. Among other things, they encounter great literature, music, painting, movies, and rhetoric.  At the same time, they also learn about important events and noteworthy civilizations that we should all know something about—such as Han China, the French Revolution, the Zulu Kingdom, the Progressive Era in America, and World War II. Students educated in this fashion thus add to their stock of experience which helps them confront the challenges of the present.

To summarize, the course of study that History majors undergo provides them with high-level analytical skills, a capacity to synthesize large chunks of information, and an ability to present logical arguments in a persuasive fashion. Not only that, but their training offers them knowledge that helps them navigate and understand the world. These are the kind of attributes employers are looking for even in an age where STEM seems to be king (see here, here, here, here, here, and here—you get the idea).

We know these things to be true because we see what happens to our own majors after they graduate from Saint Anselm College. Our department recently surveyed alums who graduated between 2012 and 2015 with a degree in History. We determined that out of the three-quarters who responded to the survey, 100% were employed or attending graduate school. We also found they attained success in a wide variety of fields, most of which have nothing to do with history. For sure, we always have a number of students who double-major in history and secondary education. We are proud of these students, many of whom are high achievers; in 2014 and 2015, the winner of the Chancellor’s Award for the highest GPA in the graduating class was a history major who went on to teach. And yes, we also have a small number of graduates who go on to work in history-related fields (see here and here). But around 75% of our graduates are scattered among a wide range of other jobs.

Recently, One Thing after Another engaged in the exercise of naming all the positions held by History alumni whom the blog personally knows. This list is obviously not scientific; other members of the History Department know different alums who hold even more positions. Yet what follows ought to give the reader a sense of the wild diversity of jobs open to those who major in History. One Thing after Another knows many history majors who have gone on to law school and have since hung out their shingle as attorneys. Many of our alumni also work for the FBI, the CIA, and the DHS. Others have found employment as police officers and state troopers. We have a number of alumni who currently serve as commissioned officers in the armed forces. Many have gone into politics, serving as lobbyists, political consultants, legislative aids, and town administrators. Others have been on the staffs of governors and mayors. Large numbers work in sales for a variety of industries. We have managers at investment firms and folks who work on Wall Street. Other history majors this blog knows are in the health insurance business, serve as economic consultants, hold positions in import-export businesses, have become construction executives, and work in public relations. They have also become dentists, software engineers, filmmakers, nurses, social workers, journalists, translators, college coaches, and executive recruiters. Some work in the hospitality industry as the managers of resorts, hotels, and convention centers. Others are to be found on college campuses as administrators, financial aid officers, reference librarians, and so on. And then there are the archivists, curators, and museum staffers. Remember, this list (which was compiled in a somewhat off-hand manner) is not exhaustive. It only consists of alumni whom One Thing after Another knows personally. There are many other history alums out there doing even more things.

This blog must close with a reference to Cato the elder (portrayed above). In the years before the Third Punic War (149 BC-146 BC), this prominent soldier, politician, and historian, was convinced that Carthage still presented the greatest threat to Roman power in the Mediterranean. His obsession with Carthage is captured in the story that he concluded every speech in the Senate, no matter what the topic, with “Ceterum autem censeo Carthaginem esse delendam”—which means in English, “Furthermore, I consider that Carthage must be destroyed.” This phrase has often been shortened to “Carthago delenda est” or “Carthage must be destroyed.” From this point forward, in defense of history, One Thing after Another must be as implacable as Cato the Elder, and thus, this blog will conclude every post with, “The myth of the unemployable History major must be destroyed.”

Gaughan and Jack Experience Woodside Priory School

During spring break, Education Professor Terri Greene Henning accompanied five Saint Anselm College Secondary Education students as they visited Woodside Priory School, a Catholic Benedictine middle and high school in Portola Valley, California, connected to Saint Anselm Abbey. Among those students were Colleen Gaughan ’18 and Randy Jack ’18, both history and secondary education double majors. One Thing After Another asked them to share some thoughts about their experience.

The trip began on Saturday March 4, with a flight to San Francisco and two days of sightseeing. Students visited the Golden Gate Bridge, the University of San Francisco, the Ferry Building, the Pacific Ocean, and Alcatraz. Randy Jack said of the sightseeing, “Being a history major provided a unique perspective, because it gave Colleen and me an opportunity to appreciate the rich history of the city. Colleen and I freaked out when we saw Alcatraz for the first time! Seeing the Golden Gate Bridge was an absolute bucket list item for me so it was an incredible moment when I first laid my eyes on it. ”

On Sunday, the group made their way to Portola Valley and the Woodside Priory School. The group was housed on campus for the week, encouraging an inclusive and immersive environment. Each day, the group attended mass in the morning, observed classes with students, attended sporting events, and explored the campus. Both Gaughan and Jack were placed in classrooms to observe and teach lessons.

Colleen Gaughan, who is passionate about both history and English, was placed in an English classroom for the first few days and attended a middle school US History class later in the week. Colleen said of her experience: “I think being a history major really made a difference specifically in the history classrooms. It was great to see how they were teaching history to students, especially middle school children. In the middle school US History class, they were listening to the Broadway musical Hamilton and using that to keep students engaged in the material. I think sometimes it’s difficult to get students interested when they think history is just lectures about dead people. So making history fun and come alive was helpful for the students. I think that being a history major, I was able to recall what made me love history; I saw that same passion in the students and how they were being taught.”

Randy Jack was placed almost exclusively in a Social Studies classroom and was able to teach lessons in a US History class. Jack called the experience “fantastic” and discussed how “being a history major absolutely plays a big part in how I would like to teach. While we learn a great deal about the particular strategies in our education classes, taking history classes at Saint A’s has been important in informing how I want to utilize the strategies I’ve learned in a historical contexts.” Gaughan shares these sentiments: “In my future history classes . . . I want students to understand concepts and how events relate to each other, rather than being nitpicky about memorization of dates. The focus of my classes will be making sure students can apply what they are learning in their history class to what they are seeing in the world. Understanding where we’ve been can help inform us on where we will go.”

When asked what moments of the trip stood out to them, Gaughan and Jack both referred to their time teaching in classrooms. For Jack, “seeing the students be so engaged and laughing and having fun while learning was a good reminder of exactly why I want to be a teacher.” For Gaughan, the spiritual value of the trip was as important as the educational value. There are three Benedictine monks from Saint Anselm Abbey at the school, and the Saint Anselm students had dinner with them one night. Gaughan said, “Since there are only three monks, there was room for real discussion. Father Martin is an alum of Saint Anselm, and he used to live here before he was asked to move out to California, so it was interesting hearing his stories about how the school has changed over the years. . . . It was also very cool from a historical perspective to hear the stories of Father Pius and Father Maurus, who were two of the Hungarian monks who escaped communism by coming to the United States and eventually set up the monastic community at Priory. That dinner was one of the most memorable events of my trip.”

Their experiences at the Woodside Priory School confirmed both Gaughan and Jack’s decision to teach history. Jack admits, “My decision to become a history teacher was one that I pondered for a long time. It started out with my love for history; growing up I always loved talking about history. Eventually I decided I would love to be able to get a job using my love for history, and I figured education would be a good fit. However, when I finally entered the classroom as an educator my sophomore year, I realized it was so much more than that. I realized that being able to work with students and help them develop their own appreciation for history was equally important to me.”

For Gaughan, teaching history is a way to initiate a new generation of informed students. As she put it, “I love how history informs us of the past and helps us to understand the present. I think that by studying the people of the past we can understand what worked, what hasn’t, and what we might want to try. Understanding cause and effect is a pivotal part of understanding the past and the present, and I think that it’s a skill that is really important to develop and one I want to foster in my students.”

NOTE: In the photo above, Gaughan is third from left while Jack is fourth from left; both are holding the banner. Professor Terri Greene Henning is far left. 

Hitchen Saves the World at the NH Department of Environmental Services

This semester, Lily-Gre Hitchen ’18, a History major from Auburn, New Hampshire, is interning with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services. One Thing after Another caught up with Hitchen and asked her about her experiences

Q: What made you decide to do an internship?

A: Ever since I was in grade school I’ve been interested in the courts, lawyers, and the law in general. When I first entered Saint Anselm College, I seriously considered the possibility of going to law school afterwards. Now being a junior, I decided to do an internship that would answer questions that have been brewing since I was a freshman. What do lawyers do? What type of work can a person do in the legal field? What is it like to work with the law? Would I like that type of work? This internship for me was all about discovery; I wanted my questions answered with experience.

Based on my time spent at the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NH DES), I would recommend internships to my fellow history majors. I think they are very important in seeing firsthand how skills learned in history classes can be applied to the “real world.” If there is the time and opportunity, I highly recommend completing an internship that is of interest.

Q: What intrigued you about NH DES in particular?

A: The initial thought of working at the NH DES excited me. The main reason that I was intrigued is that I am a huge nature lover, and I care for New Hampshire’s environment in particular. I am from a small town, and I have always enjoyed the outdoors. My home state is very special to me, and I wanted to be able to protect its environment. DES was a great place to pursue my passions.

Q: Can you describe a typical day at the office?

A: I am responsible for a wide variety of tasks at the DES. During a typical day, most of my time is spent working independently on an assigned project. My assignments can range from proofreading legal documents for cross-referencing errors and creating tables expressing the changes in a set of laws to creating draft decisions on environmental fine cases. Drafting fine case decisions are my favorite projects to work on because there are so many facets in making a decision. I read through the file while analyzing the case’s chronology of events, I listen to the fine hearing, and then I draft a document explaining if I think the respondents committed a violation. After I complete the draft, I pass it on for review. When I am not working independently, I am sitting in on meetings or fine hearings.

Q: Are you finding your history skills useful in your legal work?

A: My history skills have helped me in ways that I had never expected. I think the most important history skills that I have used are reading critically, paying attention to detail, not making assumptions, and being skeptical. Using these skills I have spotted mistakes in numerous documents, whether it is in their structure or chronology. Also, being able to formulate a chronology and possessing the ability to point out errors in an already provided chronology is an expertise that history majors are taught and expected to master. However, I never knew that this particular skill would be useful in the working world.

Q: What has been the hardest part of translating your classroom skills into the workplace?

A: The most difficult part of translating my classroom abilities to the workplace was asking questions. In a classroom, a professor is either always open to questions, or specifically asks, “Are there any questions?” However, in a new workplace it is sometimes a balancing act trying to find the appropriate time to ask a question. I did not want to be an annoyance, so at first I was reluctant to speak up. Over the first week, I realized that I did not need to be reluctant when asking questions; I just needed to be respectful. Everyone is busy in the office, so I only ask questions when I cannot continue my work without it being answered. Being concise when asking questions is also a part of respecting their time.

Q: So what do you do to after a busy week of classes and internship?

A: Most of my time outside my classes and internship goes towards the family business. My mother owns a hair salon, Salon OPA, so I have many responsibilities there that I am proud of. I manage the inventory, cash customers out, answer phone calls, and make appointments. I also have my apprentice license in cosmetology and makeup certification, so I can perform some services. One of the most rewarding parts of working at the salon is selling wigs to women who are going through cancer treatment or have alopecia. Working at the salon has given me a joy for business, and the appreciation of entrepreneurs of all kinds.

 

DeLury Wins Fulbright

Melissa DeLury ’10 received an MA in International Peace Studies from Trinity College, Dublin, and currently works as a Program Assistant at City University of New York’s School of Professional Studies. DeLury recently won a Fulbright-Nehru Open-Study/Research Award that will fund a project of hers in India. Upon learning that DeLury had earned this great honor, One Thing after Another hastened to ask her a series of question about her award.

Q: What is your Fulbright project, and what do you hope to achieve?

A: My project explores the effectiveness of the Indian Right to Education Act (RTE) in the state of Madhya Pradesh. RTE stipulated that every child in the 6-14 age group has a right to “full time elementary education of satisfactory and equitable quality in a formal school which satisfies certain essential norms and standards.” The state governments are essentially responsible for carrying out this act. However, hardly any monitoring and evaluating mechanisms exist in the region that could assess if current efforts are addressing the barriers to education in Madhya Pradesh’s rural communities, which is the goal of this project. India places such a high importance on education, and it’s one of the key pillars of the US-India relationship. I’ll be working with Dr. Nirmala Menon (a former English professor at Saint A’s!) at the Indore Institute of Technology in Madhya Pradesh.  I’ll be traveling to schools in rural areas within Madhya Pradesh to conduct interviews and focus groups with students, families, educators, and community-based organizations to ascertain what barriers exist to accessing education. All findings will then be digitally shared through IIT’s Digital Humanities Research Group.

Q: How did you become interested in working in India?

A: India’s history is incredible, and I’ve always been interested in the culture. After I working in New York City for No Peace Without Justice and the International Crisis Group, I was looking for field experience in education development before going to graduate school. In 2012, an opportunity presented itself, through a family friend, to work in schools throughout the country for four months. Living and working alongside local communities in educational facilities enabled me to become more deeply connected to the population that I was serving. I saw that education was valued because it was the means to improve livelihoods and create opportunities for success. I also found that rural areas did not always receive the same quality and access of education as other areas which inspired my research in graduate school and this Fulbright project.  I knew that I had to come back!

Q: What are the challenges of working in India?

A: The two challenges that immediately come to mind are language and poverty. Hindi is the language spoken throughout the country. However, there are 22 official languages and many more dialects! When I went in 2012, I traveled from Goa, Bhopal, Nagar Haveli, Jaipur, to Varanasi—and every city had a different dialect. I felt like I couldn’t truly connect with the communities that I was serving. This time on the Fulbright grant, I’ll be proficient in Hindi, which I’m really excited about. Knowing the local language shows that you respect and appreciate the culture, and this will lead to stronger relationships. The other challenge is the level of poverty that you see throughout the country. When you see children and families suffering, you wonder what you’re doing—why you’re not working to help. This was also something that Spring Break Alternative, through Saint A’s Campus Ministry, focused on. I would have to think of Mother Teresa when she said “we cannot do all things, but small things with great love” and Father Oscar Romero when he claimed that “we plant the seeds that someday grow.” Bringing awareness to the barriers to accessing education in this small area of India will hopefully lead to greater access.

Q: What do you find rewarding about working in India?

A: The depth of its culture. Even when you first meet someone, you greet one another by saying “Namaste” or “my soul acknowledges your soul.” What a beautiful way to enter into a new relationship or conversation! It’s also reflective of the country, as everything usually has a deeper meaning behind it. I think this speaks to the incredible history of India, which as a history major I could not get enough of. India, like every country, has had its struggles. However, the beauty of its history is that all the different communities throughout the country, with their different languages, customs, and so on have often lived peacefully together for thousands of years. Also, I think it’s very rewarding to work on education projects here because there is such a desire to learn, and Indians do value education a great deal. I was amazed at how brilliant my students were when I was there in 2012. I led a seminar that discussed the ways in which American and Indian politics and history are both similar and different. They knew more about the upcoming presidential election than I did! By entering this country with a respect for their history and culture, I think you’d be amazed by the respect and generosity that you’ll receive in return. That is the most rewarding thing of working in India. Well, that and the food!

Q: How has the history major helped?

A: The history major helped in so many ways. First, it provided the skills that I needed to be successful in my positions after college and especially graduate school. I gained research, writing, editing, and presentation skills, as well as the ability to think critically. Secondly, it piqued my interest in peacebuilding and education. Through my classes in Russian, Middle Eastern, and African history, I became aware of the cyclical nature of conflict. I remember thinking “how can we use our knowledge of history to help break the cycle of conflict and achieve peace?” Often, it was through education and dialogue that peace was achieved. This is really the backbone of my Fulbright project. Lastly, I think the faculty of the history department is the most supportive. They were always to accessible and so passionate about what they were teaching! As an alumni, I’ve always been able to reach out to Professor Pajakowski and the department, which is how I started the conversation about pursuing a Fulbright through Saint Anselm. As a history major, you’ll always have the support of the department years after you graduate.

Q: What are your goals for the future?

A: I believe that education is the key to peace. My goal is to be able to evaluate the effectiveness of education policies and programs internationally. This Fulbright project is an incredible opportunity to learn how to do this and then use the research at the doctoral level. Eventually, I want to teach at the college level and also collaborate with leading NGOs and government agencies to evaluate our education programs overseas.

Jimmy Carter and the “Year of the Evangelicals” Reconsidered

Jimmy Carter and the “Year of the Evangelicals” Reconsidered
April 6-8, 2017
New Hampshire Institute of Politics, Saint Anselm College
Manchester, New Hampshire

Saint Anselm College and the New Hampshire Institute of Politics invite you to attend the upcoming conference, “Jimmy Carter and ‘The Year of the Evangelicals’ Reconsidered.”

In 1976 Newsweek magazine borrowed a phrase from pollster George Gallup and proclaimed that year the “Year of the Evangelicals.” Both presidential candidates – Republican Gerald Ford and Democrat Jimmy Carter – claimed to be “born again” Christians, a claim made by one third of all Americans; and significant proportions of Protestants and Catholics told Gallup’s pollsters that the Bible should be taken literally, a marker of conservative evangelical Christianity. This phenomenon caught journalists by surprise, and they struggled to understand this new segment of the electorate, beginning at the top with the candidacy of Jimmy Carter. The election of 1976 brought evangelicals back into the political arena. While many of these people supported Carter’s candidacy and made the difference in his election, the ways in which they influenced public life quickly extended beyond Carter and the Democratic Party. It also marked evangelicals’ movement from the margins of intellectual and cultural life into the mainstream. Indeed, they soon became a political and cultural force.

Now an interdisciplinary group of international scholars will present recent scholarship on the place of black and white evangelicals in public life – including politics and popular culture – from the election of Jimmy Carter to the election of Donald Trump.

Keynote addresses by Randall Balmer of Dartmouth College and Kenneth Woodward, former religion editor of Newsweek magazine.

For more information and to register to attend, please contact Andrew Moore at Saint Anselm College (amoore@anselm.edu).

This conference made possible by the generous support from the Henry Luce Foundation’s Theology Program.

Charles Murray, Free Speech, and the College Campus

No sooner had One Thing after Another posted an essay entitled “Milo Yiannopoulos, Free Speech, and the College Campus”  that Charles Murray’s encounter with protesters at Middlebury College became national news. In discussing Yiannopoulos, this blog developed various criteria that a school could use to determine which visitors are suitable to speak on a college campus. Do these ideas have any applicability to the Middlebury-Murray imbroglio?

A political scientist and sociologist currently associated with the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Murray had been invited to Middlebury by a local student chapter of the AEI to speak about his latest work, Coming Apart: The State of White America (2012). Murray, however, is most famous (or infamous) for having co-authored The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life (1994). Although the book’s claims about the relationship between intelligence and social status have inspired a great deal of criticism, it is the work’s arguments about the influence of race on intelligence that have sparked the most controversy. It is primarily for this reason that a number of students appeared at his lecture, began chanting, and prevented Murray from speaking. When it became clear that he would not be able to begin, let alone complete, his discussion, Middlebury College administrators went to Plan B, and took him to a room with an interviewer so their conversation could be live-streamed to the college community without interruption. When this interview was complete, Murray, Allison Stanger (the political science professor who interviewed Murray), and Bill Burger (VP for Communications and Chief Marketing Officer at Middlebury) were hustled out a back door by security to a waiting car. Unfortunately, a group of protesters was waiting for them. Stanger was yanked to the ground by her hair (suffering a concussion), and protesters banged and rocked the car as it inched its way out of the crowd.

Of course, news outlets, social media, and those who were there have attempted to impose a grand narrative on this incident: what happened at Middlebury College was depicted as an example of liberal intolerance, an archetypal expression of millennial snowflakery, evidence of the death of free speech on campuses, a symbol of the decline of higher education, a symptom of the college-aged generation’s inexperience in protesting, a skirmish in the battle between liberals and conservatives, a “metaphor for what is wrong with our country,” and so on. The certainty with which these interpretations are propounded contrast with the contradicting stories about just what exactly happened at Middlebury that evening. According to some, Middlebury’s administration all but abetted the protest while others (including Murray himself) argue that the administration acted in exemplary fashion. Charged by almost everybody with irresponsibility and malevolence, the students who protested have responded by claiming that some administrators (mainly Burger) along with various public safety officers engaged in “reckless and dangerous” behavior. And so it goes. Murray has made light of the situation, the protesters are unapologetic, the administration has wrung its hands (while trying to atone for an incident that has turned into a public relations disaster), and the nation seeks to project some meaning on this tempest in a teapot.

One Thing after Another would like to approach this issue from a different angle by asking if Murray should have been invited to Middlebury in the first place. After all, in discussing Milo Yiannopoulos, this blog argued that colleges have a right to bar speakers a) who were not experts in the subjects on which they were invited to speak and b) who treated their audiences without respect. And so the questions become: Is Murray an expert, and has he behaved courteously before his audiences?

Treating first things last and last things first, it would appear that the answer to the second question is a “yes.” Murray has been a regular on the college circuit and does not appear to have treated anybody with contumely. One could argue that by trafficking in racist ideas, Murray has insulted his auditors, but for a number of reasons, One Thing after Another would rather have concepts (and those who promote them) dismissed because of their wrongness, not their offensiveness.

Responding to the first question is somewhat more difficult. For one thing, this blog has argued that questions of expertise should be answered by experts, and this blog is not well versed in sociology. For another, One Thing after Another has asserted repeatedly that there are limits to what historians can and ought to do. This blog, then, hesitates to trespass upon the jurisdiction of another discipline and make definite claims about Murray’s proficiency. However, for the sake of argument, One Thing after Another will adduce certain facts that bear on the question.

The field of academic sociology seems to be either bemused by or hostile to Murray. Murray obtained a Ph.D. in political science from MIT and claims he is not a sociologist, but it is hard to describe what he does if it is not sociology. Critics find problems with his methodology, describe his fieldwork as idiosyncratic, and think his consideration of various questions somewhat blinkered. (See reviews of Coming Apart, his most influential recent work, here, here, and here. And here’s fellow conservative David Frum’s review, although, as Frum explains, he has had words with Murray.) The racism expressed in The Bell Curve (and with a copy at hand, it is quite clear to this blog that the assertions made in Chapter 13 and 14 are indeed racist), seems to be of a piece with research that is quirky and data that appear to be massaged. These problems with Murray’s published works are a function of the fact that they do not appear to have been peer reviewed. Neither The Bell Curve nor Coming Apart underwent a process that is widely considered indispensable to academic publishing. In some ways, though, this omission should not surprise us because Murray is not an academic writing for other academics; he clearly writes for a popular audience and has always enjoyed far more influence with politicians and journalists (witness the extraordinary impact of Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980, which played a major role in the formulation of the Welfare Reform Act of 1994).

And yet . . . a number of experts in human intelligence stood by many of Murray’s assertions in The Bell Curve. Moreover, as even critics of Murray point out, he addresses important issues that not everybody feels comfortable confronting, his work is thought-provoking, and his books compel reviewers to articulate their own ideas more clearly. Perhaps we can even find ways to exculpate Murray of some of the charges brought against him. For instance, one could argue that we all make mistakes but those mistakes do not necessarily indicate that we are mountebanks. It is possible, that instead of being some sort of fraud, Murray is a sociologist—just not a very good one partly because he allows his biases (some of them more pernicious than others) to influence his work. Should he be flogged mercilessly for erring? Perchance, Murray, as a libertarian-conservative, is judged rather harshly by academic sociology, which is dominated by progressives.

Is Murray a peddler of “pseudoscience,” or is he a social scientist at a respected think tank who makes people unhappy because he touches upon sensitive matters? One could accumulate evidence to support either finding (One Thing or Another could really use an expert here, for “Awlus a muddle,” to quote Stephen Blackpool). The interesting point here is that if one were so inclined, it would be possible to challenge Murray’s claims to expertise. And that point allows us to engage in an interesting thought experiment. Say Murray is not really an expert and should not have been invited, and say the gatekeepers of the college failed in their duty to keep him away. How should the students have acted?

Shouting down a speaker and assaulting a professor are unacceptable, and One Thing after Another is not impressed by attempts to defend the behavior of the protesting students at Middlebury. This blog’s stance on Yiannopoulos would seem to suggest that students should not engage with a guest who shouldn’t have been invited in the first place. Such a reaction would have been better than what happened at Middlebury, but it would be a bit too easy for everyone—guest and students alike. Matthew Dickinson, a professor of political science at Middlebury, however, had a different solution. According to Dickinson’s blog:

Two days before Murray’s talk I spent my entire weekly politics luncheon discussing Murray’s research in the Bell Curve, and acquainting students with many of the critiques of his findings. My presentation was attended by a packed audience of students and local residents, and many of the students went away primed to do battle with Murray.  A few of them, drawing in part on my slide presentation, put together a pamphlet outlining five criticisms of Murray’s argument in the Bell Curve, which they placed on every seat in Wilson Hall.

In other words, Dickinson sought to prepare his students to challenge Murray. One Thing after Another believes audiences should prepare for non-experts in exactly this way (just as it should for experts). If those without expertise must come, the college community ought to make the best of the situation. Students and faculty should subject these guests to real academic scrutiny and make them understand what a true intellectual exchange really is. Maybe such guests will change their mind, maybe they will understand that no one is buying what they are selling, or maybe they will realize that they are out of their depth. Whatever the case, they might learn something. It is the best that can be hoped for if an administration fails in its task of manning the gate against charlatans. Yelling and pushing at Middlebury, however, led to lost opportunities as well as other pernicious consequences that protesters probably did not fully comprehend until later. As Dickinson points out:

Due to the actions of protesters, my students never had the opportunity to engage Murray beyond a few questions directed at him via Twitter. What’s worse, they now find themselves inaccurately characterized in media outlets as coddled, immature ‘snowflakes’ and ‘liberal fascists’ bent on promoting intolerance and hate.

And that surely does not sound like a satisfactory outcome.