UPDATE: Kathy Foley has e-mailed me some links that I will incorporate into something later today or perhaps tomorrow. I also remembered this book, Hidden Cork, which we are publishing in November and I am planning on hitting the author up for some Cork details!
I have a story running in The Times on one of the most remarkable such transformations — the restoration of the Cheonggyecheon in Seoul, South Korea. Through more than six centuries of settlement, the stream went from being a revered feature of the landscape to an open sewer to a buried, forgotten storm drain and now to a three-mile corridor of burbling waters, milling carp, strolling picnickers and relative quiet in one of the powerhouse metropolises of Asia. You can see a video report on that effort at the bottom of this post. The Seoul stream project was integrated with a parallel effort to take away highways and improve public transportation.
The story also discusses an ambitious effort to expose 1,900 feet of the Saw Mill River, which runs under a stretch of shops and parking lots in downtown Yonkers, a city of 200,000 abutting the Bronx. The photograph above shows the giant flume built in the early the 1920’s to contain the river. From San Antonio to Singapore, there are other examples.
Of course it doesn’t take long to realise that Dublin has it’s own rivers that might make for interesting “Daylighting” projects. The video gets particularly interesting around the 5minute mark when they go underground and actually follow the tunnels that the Poddle river flows through
On the other hand, Dublin is lucky in that it has two extant canals that frame the city centre and create park-like walkways most of the northern and southern perimeters. When you take in the glorious seafront, the effect of the Liffey and the Dodder, then “daylighting” the Poddle seems a bit like we are getting greedy.
Tristram Hunt, who is believed to have received an advance of £100,000 for his biography of Friedrich Engels, said that he knew of several colleagues who had taken up fiction because it sold comparitively well. “There is a dangerous tendency among historians to slide into historical fiction, which must be avoided at all costs,” he said.
Lisa Jardine, Professor of Renaissance Studies at Queen Mary, University of London, said that she was avoiding a new contract because of the uncertain state of the market. “I would not be surprised if I were now offered half of my last advance,” she said. “A few years ago we got really handsome advances to write books that did indeed become quite good bestsellers, but never earned out their advances. Then the publishers started asking jobbing authors to write books that did annoyingly well, but they’ve dried up, too. Now, as far as I know, what has replaced us are books about the history of science.”
Somewhat late in the day to be posting this article in The Guardian about the new history kids on the block but it is well worth the read:
They have been an actor, an artist and a TV presenter, are aged between 25 and 35 and they all have book contracts. One wrote his account of the year 1381 in a corner of the trendy London members’ club, Soho House, during leave from his day job at a men’s magazine. And rather than being looked down upon by the old guard, they are highly regarded by the academic establishment: David Starkey is considered a mentor by two of them; Simon Sebag Montefiore by others.
Lots more out there in the world of history. If there is anything anyone wants me to mention or link to, please feel free to e-mail me at eoinpurcellsblog AT gmail.com.
Some years ago now a friend lent me his copy of Fog Of War, which was at once a brilliant and yet incredibly intriguing documentary featuring Robert McNamara. I had always wondered about The Vietnam War, feeling that it was deeply misunderstood at a public level and that although the underlying policy that motivated it (containment) was valid, the way the policy was being pursued (through warfare) was undermining the policy and the reputation of the United States.
Fog Of War only offered more questions and made the story even more complex. Errol Morris, the director of that movie has a thoughtful piece on McNamara over on the New York Time’s website. One section that struck me was this:
His refusal to come out against the Vietnam War, particularly as it continued after he left the Defense Department, has angered many. There’s ample evidence that he felt the war was wrong. Why did he remain silent until the 1990s, when “In Retrospect” was published? That is something that people will probably never forgive him for. But he had an implacable sense of rectitude about what was permissible and what was not. In his mind, he probably remained secretary of defense until the day he died.
I think what I like about it us the sense that there is no black & white in cases like this.
For more thoughts and coverage of McNamara, read this or this or this.