Tuesday, June 21, 2011

June Issue of Historically Speaking

Randall Stephens

It's a little past mid-June. And that means . . . the June issue of Historically Speaking is now on the Project Muse site. (As usual, access it through your library's website or through a university or college computer.) Hard copies should be arriving in mailboxes about right now.

This latest features a roundtable on teaching high school history; interviews with Robert M. Citino, Leo Damrosch, Thomas Albert Howard, Simon Price, and Peter Thonemann; essays by Sean McMeekin, David T. Courtwright, Bruce Mazlish,
and Toby Wilkinson; and review essays by Aaron L. Haberman and William R. Shea.

Toby Wilkinson's "The Army and Politics in Ancient Egypt" is particularly relevant with the ebb and flow of the Arab Spring. An excerpt:

To the student of Egypt’s ancient history, the pervasive influence of the army in the country’s current politics comes as no surprise. Throughout the pharaonic era, from the foundation of the Egyptian state (ca. 3000 B.C.) to its absorption into the Roman Empire (30 B.C.), military might played a role at least as important as hereditary succession in determining who ruled the Nile Valley. The first king of the First Dynasty, Narmer, won his throne by force and proclaimed his victory in a great commemorative stone palette decorated with scenes of military victory. Celebrated as Egypt’s founding document, the Narmer Palette stands today in the entrance of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, just yards from the site of the popular uprising that recently unseated President Hosni Mubarak.

In the centuries and millennia following Narmer, the kingship of Egypt was always vulnerable to seizure by the strongman of the day, despite its presentation in art and writing as a sacred institution, god-given and immutable. More often than not, that strongman was an army commander. This pattern of succession is most apparent at times of political upheaval, for example the century of turmoil that fol- lowed the collapse of the Middle Kingdom in the 18th century B.C. In this uncertain time, when the kingship passed from one claimant to another with bewildering rapidity, one of the men who seized the throne (and ruled long enough to commission a stone statue of himself) was called Mermesha. His name simply means “overseer of the army.” Another ruler, King Sobekhotep III (ca. 1680 B.C.), started his career in the palace guard and rose through the ranks of the army to a position where he was able, successfully, to challenge for the throne. On his royal monuments he made a virtue of his background, openly flaunting his non-royal origins so as to distinguish himself from the tired and discredited royal family that, a generation or two earlier, had led Egypt into disunity and chaos. Sobkehotep III did not inaugurate a dynasty of his own, but instead in typical army fashion he left the throne to three brothers—Neferhotep I, Sahathor, and Sobekhotep IV—who shared his military background (their grandfather was an infantry officer).

Even in periods of strong central rule, such as the “golden age” of the Egyptian Eighteenth Dy- nasty (ca. 1539–1319 B.C.), a close study of the historical sources reveals the central role of the army in the succession to the throne. The founding kings of the Eighteenth Dynasty came to power as victors in a protracted civil war. Once established in the royal palace, they were keen to portray themselves in a new light: as kings by divine right, the guardians of Egypt’s religious traditions. Yet they never forgot their military origins. Thus when the childless Amenhotep I looked for an heir to succeed him, he chose an ambitious and dynamic army leader (the future Thutmose I) who would extend the borders of Egypt and forge an empire in the Middle East. Thutmose I’s surviving royal inscriptions betray his origins. In a tone of rampant militarism, they extol warfare as the righteous duty of an Egyptian ruler, and laud the king as a great warrior who is ready to roam the earth and take on any adversary: “He trod its ends in might and victory seeking a fight, but he found no one who would stand up to him.” . . .

Historically Speaking (June 2010)

Jihad-cum-Zionism-Leninism: Overthrowing the World, German-Style
Sean McMeekin

Is “Right Turn” the Wrong Frame for American History after the 1960s?
David T. Courtwright

The Politics of Religion in Modern America: A Review Essay
Aaron L. Haberman

Military History at the Operational Level: An Interview with Robert M. Citino
Conducted by Donald A. Yerxa

The Birth of Classical Europe: An Interview with Simon Price and Peter Thonemann Conducted by Donald A. Yerxa

Historical Thinking at the K-12 Level in the 21st Century: A Roundtable

The Historian as Translator: Historical Thinking, the Rosetta Stone of History Education
Fritz Fischer

Making Historical Thinking a Natural Act
Bruce Lesh

Considering the Hidden Challenges of Teaching and Learning World History
Robert B. Bain

“The Music Is Nothing If the Audience Is Deaf”: Moving Historical Thinking into the Wider World
Linda K. Salvucci

Galileo Then and Now: A Review Essay
William R. Shea

Tocqueville in America: An Interview with Leo Damrosch
Conducted by Randall J. Stephens

God and the Atlantic: An Interview with Thomas Albert Howard
Conducted by Donald A. Yerxa

Ruptures in History
Bruce Mazlish

The Army and Politics in Ancient Egypt
Toby Wilkinson

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