Re-evaluating History

Prof. Akira Iriye

When Akira Iriye was an elementary school student in Japan during World War II, he remembers being evacuated from his home city of Tokyo.

He remembers the rampant starvation and hardship all around him. And he remembers what he was taught in school--that it would all pass, that Japan had never lost a war and never would.

After his native country surrendered, Iriye learned that all he had been taught was not true.

"That transition was for us...a rather profound experience--that you could have been so brought up to hold a point of view and then see it all crumble."

Looking back, Iriye says his childhood exposure to the manipulation of history influenced his decision to become a historian.


"I think my generation came to cherish the freedom of inquiry," says Iriye, who at 54 is beginning his first year as a tenured Harvard history professor. "I think one task of a historian, and particularly a historian teaching undergraduates, is to instill in the minds of [students] that one should never believe uncritically what is given by people in authority."

It might seem natural that Iriye, whose central childhood images concern world war and who has split time between the U.S. and Japan for years, would be a specialist in what he 1

A new face at Harvard this year is Civil Rightsleader and Student Nonviolent CoordinatingCommittee founderJulian Bond. Bond will teach twoAfro-American Studies courses about Southern Blackpolitics and the rise of the Civil Rightsmovement.

And Professor of History Akira Iriye, a recentrecruit from the University of Chicago, will teamup with Professor of History Charles A. Maier andWarren Professor of History Ernest R. May for awide-ranging class on world history over the pastcentury.

Revamped Requirements

Perhaps the most sweeping changes are newrequirements for two of the largestconcentrations--history and economics.

Sophomores entering history must now takeHistory 1, "Western Societies, Politics, andCultures," According to Maier, the course is thebrainchild of a group of history professors whowanted to develop a comprehensive introduction tothe discipline. Calling previous western historysurveys at Harvard "the casualties of thelate-60s" the new survey course includes readingfrom a standard text, as well as contemporarycultural and theoretical texts.

Meanwhile, organizers of the largestintroductory course--Social Analysis 10--areinstituting a "number of dramatic changes" tobetter meet student needs, says AssistantProfessor of Economics Douglas W. Elmendorf. Hesays the course will incorporate four newtopics--the environment, economics of health care,poverty and protectionism.

The macroeconomics portion of the class in thespring will include less math and more currentevents topics.

Best of all, Elmendorf says Ec 10 will ease itsgrading policy to make it more in line with otherCores.

Course Politics

And finally, the "Politically Correct CourseOffering Award for 1989" goes to Mellon Professorof the Humanities Barbara Johnson. Although onleave this year, Johnson renamed her Literatureand Arts A-50 class--formerly "Black WomenWriters"--to "African American Women Writers." Theupdated course will come back in vogue in time forthe 1990-91 school year."When Father Was away on Business": aYugoslavian film to be shown in Vladimir K.Petric's fall course on East European cinema.

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