Uncategorized09 Dec 2007 01:18 pm

The majority of what I learned from this class consisted of technical skills, like I need to double space and indent footnotes.   I learned the importance of and how to use primary sources. I also learned the importance of analyzing sources (even eye-witness sources) for truthfulness.

I’ve been sitting here thinking for a long time, and there’s nothing I wish I had known that I didn’t before I took this class.

Uncategorized04 Oct 2007 01:21 am

I was born in San Francisco, California. When I was 20 days old, my biological father died of a heart attack. When I was two, my mom re-married. My step-father was a test pilot for the Navy, and later a manger for the company Boeing. I have lots of memories of him going to baseball games with me on the naval base. The base dominates my memories of my childhood, because most of the daily trips I took were to the base. My step-father owned a series of planes, including an Ultralight, a Cessna and finally a Christian Eagle biplane. I used to fly with him frequently, including several cross-country trips in the Christian Eagle.

I was born in San Francisco, California. When I was 20 days old, my biological father died of a heart attack. When I was two, my mom re-married. My step-father was a chef for a couple of different restaurants in South Carolina. When my mom married him he changed jobs because he didn’t like his hours as a chef. He became a manger for the country club where my mom worked as a secretary. His job focused maintenance and grounds upkeep. Most of my memories with him are on holidays, because that’s when he cooks his most fantastic meals. My parents are thinking about retiring to South Carolina sometime soon, because that’s where his family lives.

On a side note, I believe the point of this exercise is that it’s impossible to tell which story is true. I was almost tempted to write one of my paragraphs about “the time that I wrote two stories for a History 299 blog and they were both false.” Sadly, I realized that would make telling which was the honest entry too easy so I decided not to follow-through (the entry that argues both are false can’t be true because it’s self-indicting). Also, I remembered and got distracted by similar riddle from the movie Labyrinth, which side-tracked me for at least 5 minutes- hence the post title.

Uncategorized04 Oct 2007 01:21 am

I think my internet failed when I tried to post this, and I didn’t realize it till now (sorry).


Pollack, Kenneth M. The Persian Puzzle. New York: Random House, 2005.


1. Provide some information about the author.

Kenneth Pollack has worked as both a CIA analyst and National Security Council staff member. At the CIA Pollack served as an intelligence analyst and expert on Iraqi and Iranian military affairs. At the National Security Council he worked as Director for Near East and South Asian Affairs and later as Director for Persian Gulf Affairs. He has also worked as the director of research at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy, and is the former Council on Foreign Relations national security studies director. Finally, he has also worked at the National Defense University.

2. Why did the author write this book? What’s the author’s perspective?

The author argues he had two purposes in writing the book. First, he wanted to establish a history of Iran-U.S. relations. Second, he wanted to address the current crises between the United States and Iran in the context of past history. Although it is the first part of the book that is useful as a scholar of history, the second half may cloud his view or provide bias in his presentation of Iranian-U.S. history. The author’s agenda in the second half of the book may have pressured him to prevent only information relevant to his argument in his history.

3. What is the author’s methodology? What sources does the author use? What is the book’s thesis?

The majority of the author’s sources are newspapers, magazines, and journals. Pollack consults sources from major U.S. papers such as the New York Times and Washington Post to foreign policy journals such as Survival and Foreign Affairs. Pollack also consults journals and magazines specific to the Middle East such as Middle East Policy, Middle Eastern Studies, Middle East Contemporary Survey and the Middle East Journal. Finally Pollack consults a number of Middle Eastern new sources, such as The Daily Star (Beruit). The author’s thesis is that given the history of Iran-U.S. relations, diplomacy is the wisest course to guide the U.S. through current crises with Iran. Pollack argues the use of force would fail and trigger a wider backlash. Specifically, Pollack argues diplomacy can be successful because of the presence of moderates and pragmatists.

4. When was the book written?

The book was published in 2005, and in the introduction the author mentions that the majority of the book was written in late 2003 and 2004.

5. How will you use the source for your paper?

Pollack attempts to address comprehensively the history of Iran-US relations. This provides useful background knowledge and a host of other resources. Pollack also extensively cites major U.S. papers, including during the range of dates I’m examining. This provides a list of relevant primary sources that other scholars of history consider important, helping to provide key sources for my research.

6. What are some of the problems that you foresee in using this source for your paper?

Determining what parts, if any, of Pollack’s history are biased by his agenda will be the most difficult part of using this source. However, Pollack’s qualifications and his history of working with historically conservative institutions (such as the National Defense University), moderate institutions (Brookings), and liberal-leaning institutions (the Council on Foreign Relations) give his work and arguments credibility.

Uncategorized03 Oct 2007 08:23 am

Holt, Thomas C. “African-American History.” in The New American History: Revised and Expanded Edition ed Eric Foner. Philadelphia, Temple University Press: 1997. 311-332.

In “African-American History” Thomas C. Holt attempts to establish the historiography of African American studies. Holt addresses the history of African Americans chronologically. He argues that there are three major divisions in the history of blacks in America: slavery, sharecropping, and the period after sharecropping defined by massive northern migrations. 

Holt also examines how the study of African American history has changed. Holt argues that for most of the early 20th century, U.B. Phillip’s American Negro Slavery (1918) was the seminal work on slavery and African American history. However, Phillip’s work was defined by Phillip’s southern background and racist convictions. Holt argues this perverted his study of slavery and caused him to treat it as a benign institution, an interpretation which lasted until Kenneth Stampp’s The Peculiar Institution (1955). Holt argues Stampp’s work was a complete (and successful) revision of Phillip’s ideas, transforming the image of slavery from a benign institution to a cold, hard, labor-oriented enterprise.

Finally, Holt examines one additional aspect of how the study of African American history has changed. Holt argues that most scholarship on African-American history in the mid-20th century began to act simultaneously as a history and a protest of current conditions affecting African Americans. Holt identifies Gunnar Myrdal’s American Dilemma (1944) as the seminal work in this vein. According to Holt, Myrdal’s work triggered a response from critics who opposed the idea that the history of blacks in America would be defined by white oppression. Critics like Ralph Ellison argued that black history was more vibrant than merely a series of reactions to white oppression. Ellison’s protest, Holt argues, caused a shift in historical scholarship: African American history became a study of all aspects of black life and community rather than just the study of oppression and race relations.

Uncategorized26 Sep 2007 08:21 am

I’m outline dependent. All of the notes I take in almost every class are in an outline. If the professor doesn’t have an outline or logical order for a lecture I invent one for them and apply it to my outline. If the improvised outline goes awry I’ll usually modify it or start a new one. In high school I almost never took notes, so I didn’t have many good note-taking skills when I came into college. My first year I took two econ courses that challenged me to a degree that I realized I would have to take a significant amount of notes and would need a system to keep them organized. Luckily, in both of those classes, the professor stuck to a strict outline in all of his lectures. I followed his outline in my notes and began to outline other classes, and the system worked so it stuck.

Uncategorized19 Sep 2007 12:53 pm

Bad website:


This website presents many arguments about the Iranian revolution and seems very knowledgeable, but the author’s qualifications are questionable. As the about section displays (http://www.fsmitha.com/about.html) the author, while educated, is merely presenting his opinion and lacks substantial qualifications. Also, the sources cited to not seem scholarly.

 Good website:


This article, which is also full of analysis and ideas about the Iranian Revolution, is from a much more qualified source. The author is an experienced political analyst and lecturer and the article is published in a scholarly journal.

Uncategorized17 Sep 2007 08:00 am

When was the source composed? November 20, 1978

Who composed the source? Arnaud de Borchgrave.

What do we know about the author? He wrote for Newsweek.

Under what conditions was the source composed? The source is a Newsweek article written on the eve of the Islamic Revolution.

Was the source constructed based on legal or other formulae? No, it’s merely a popular article.

Was it written at the time of the event? After the event?  Years later? It was written in the midst of the Revolution.

Does the source allude to other works? No.
Events? No.
People? Yes, important figures in the Iranian Revolution, such as Khomeini and of course, the Shah, as it’s an interview with him.
Are you familiar with them? Yes.

How might the author’s perspective on the event or issue differ from that of other authors? The author has taken an extremely pro-Shah tone, emphasizing the Shah’s western characteristics and labeling his dictatorship a “guided democracy.”

How will you use the source to prove your argument? This source demonstrates that Newsweek was willing to defend the Shah even after massive crackdowns on human rights. It shows that Newsweek portrayed the Revolution in a negative light.

What are some of the limitations of this source? The author’s views may not be reflective of the paper as a whole: the possibility exists that this article was a minority in its defense of the Shah.

Knowing those limitations, what other sources may be necessary to complete your paper? By thoroughly examining other Newsweek articles on Iran from the time I can obtain a complete picture of how Newsweek portrayed the Revolution.

Uncategorized11 Sep 2007 11:00 pm

The in-class research was pretty helpful. I found several sources for my partner’s topic (Cortez’s conquest of the Aztecs), and I think that a few of them will be helpful. I was familiar with most of the databases we used, but I had never used del.icio.us before and the opportunity to do so in class where I could ask questions was very helpful. If I hadn’t used the databases before I think it would have been very helpful, as it was I learned a trick about America Life & History that I didn’t know (the group button) that will be very helpful in the future.

Uncategorized11 Sep 2007 10:55 pm

I’m a little late on updating my blogging, but I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading. In getting started researching my topic, changing media representations of Iran, I started to look at the portrayal of the Islamic Revolution and the hostage crisis in major US papers. I started with The New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek, and The Wall Street Journal.  The representation of Iran as an arrogant regional power and threat to U.S. security was predictable and virtually uniform. To be honest, I quickly grew bored with my topic and decided to check out (literally) some of the library books I had bookmarked:

  • Iran after Khomeini, by Shireen Hunter (1992),
  • Iran at the Crossroads, edited by John Esposito and R.K. Ramazani (2001),
  • Iran Between Two Revolutions, by Ervand Abrahamian (1982),
  • The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran, by Charles Kurzman (2004),
  • Reinventing Khomeini, by Daniel Brumberg (2001),
  • Iran: A Revolution in Turmoil, by Haleh Afshar (1985),
  • Iran: A People Interrupted, by Hamid Dabashi (2007),
  • Modern Iran: Roots and Results of the Revolution, by Nikki R. Keddie (2006),
  • The Persian Puzzle, by Kenneth Pollack (2004),
  • and Democracy in Iran, by Ali Cheissari and Vali Nasr (2006).

After skimming most of these books and reading more closely a few, my interest in researching Iran began to drift more steadily to researching either Khomeini (the original Supreme Leader) or the country’s democratic movements. They say beginning a paper is the hardest part: I thought I had that down, but if I’m going to write a paper I can be interested in and proud of I may need to do quite a bit of work in the next few days (which doesn’t bother me). I definitely need to talk to professor Al-Tikriti and Singh tomorrow, as well as professor McClurken.

Uncategorized07 Sep 2007 08:40 am

I plan to research the question how did media representations of Iran change as a result of the Islamic Revolution. I know a lot about the history of Iran and the transition from the US-backed Shah to the Revolutionary government of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and I’m interested in exploring the changing media representations for a couple of reasons. Today the media often portrays Iran as an unqualified threat (possibly with reason given its proliferation activities), but the most common depictions of Iran are of an enigma or anathema. The nature of Iran and Iran’s politics are often presented as unknowable or conversely different media sources will draw wildly different conclusions from the same policy actions taken by Iran.

For example, former president Ali Akbar Rafsanjani was recently appointed the Head of the Assembly of Experts in Iran (a powerful body that has the power to elect and remove the Supreme Leader). Rafsanjani is widely viewed as a pragmatist leader. This event has been taken to mean wildly different things: proponents of pressuring Iran view it as a confirmation that their strategy is working and proponents of engagement view it as an opening for their strategy to succeed.

I find this subject interesting because I think diving into the history of Iran, specifically how our media represents Iran, might clear up some of the enigmatic mystery surrounding Iranian politics.

One thing I need to work on is narrowing the scope of the topic (media) and deciding exactly where I want to focus.

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