Saturday, December 16, 2006

The History Carnival's Annual Happy Holidays Party (as Reported by an Ignorant, Belligerent Lush)

The newest History Carnival is up at Acephalous. Scott Eric Kaufman is the host and he has done a great job. This may well be the most entertaining history carnival yet! I hope you enjoy all the good links.

It will be another month before the next History Carnival. It will be hosted at Investigations of a Dog on January 15, 2007. If you have any suggestions for posts on any aspect of history which you would like to see included, send them to the blog author. You can e-mail them to hc46 at or use the submission form on the carnival website. See the History Carnival site for more details about submission policy.

Friday, December 15, 2006

History of Cook Islands

History of Cook Islands. This is a brief history of this Oceania island territory of New Zealand called the Cook Islands. It is probably best known to Americans as the location for the current season of the Survivor television series.

The Encyclopædia Britannica notes that the islands are an, "Internally self-governing island state in free association with New Zealand, located in the South Pacific Ocean. The 15 tiny islands have a total land area of 91 square miles (236 square kilometres) but are spread over 770,000 square miles of sea. The capital is Avarua, on Rarotonga."

From the site:

The natives, who are of Polynesian stock and speech, have legends of their arrival from Samoa. They say their ancestors found black people on the islands, and the strongly Melanesian type which is found, especially on Mangaia, supports the statement. The Cook Islanders were formerly man-hunters and cannibals.

The archipelago was discovered by Captain Cook in 1777, and in 1823 became the scene of the remarkable missionary labours of John Williams, of the London Missionary Society.

The 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica wrote, "Since 1899 the islands have enjoyed a general legislature and an executive council of which the Arikis (" kings " and " queens ") are members. But all enactments are subject to the approval of the British resident at Rarotonga, and a British protectorate, proclaimed in 1888, was followed by the annexation of the whole archipelago by the governor of New Zealand, by proclamation of June 10th, 1901."

When New Zealand became independent, the Cook Islands were transferred from British to New Zealand rule. In 1965, residents chose self-government in free association with New Zealand. Cook Islands is fully responsible for internal affairs. New Zealand retains responsibility for external affairs and defense, in consultation with the Cook Islands.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Could GM Have Beaten Back the Japanese Auto Invasion?

I found this question on an alternate history site the other day. It got me thinking. Here is the question:

If you had been the top marketing executive at General Motors during the early years of the Japanese invasion of the US auto market, which strategy would you have recommended to defend GM's leading market share against this new competitive threat?

My response:

I find it somewhat difficult to put myself in the mindset of GM executives when the Japanese auto invasion began. Looking back, it is easy to apply an ex post de facto reading on events after they have happened. Although we know now that the Japanese auto makers are going to dominate, that outcome was not at all certain in the early 80s. The result was not pre-destined and GM perhaps could have found a counter and avoided losing significant market share. Any approach I would suggest now is based on a subsequent reading of events not known to GM at the time. Further, any suggestion I make now may have been anticipated and countered by the Japanese auto makers. They still might have come out ahead even had GM tried a different approach.

My first retro advice for GM comes from the Bible. 1 Corinthians 10:12 notes, “So then let him who thinks he is standing securely beware of falling.” When anyone is on top, getting a sense of complacency is dangerous. Circumstances change and the mighty can be brought low quickly.

Quinn (1980) wrote, “an effective strategy first probes and withdraws to determine opponents' strengths, forces opponents to stretch their commitments, then concentrates resources, attacks a clear exposure, overwhelms a selected market segment, builds a bridgehead in that market, and then regroups and expands from that base to dominate a wider field" (p. 160, 161).

Using the language of war, a counter offensive strategy might have made sense for GM in this circumstance. As Japanese companies expended resources to invade the American auto market, it would have made sense for GM to counter attack and attempt to cut into the Japanese domestic market. If the Japanese companies lost shares at home, they may have been forced to retreat to protect the home market.

Unfortunately, that approach would not have worked. The Japanese government at the time used extreme protective legislation to make it difficult for foreign companies to succeed in Japan. Although the American government may have been able to pressure Japan on GM’s behalf, it is unlikely that it would have done so. In the midst of the Cold War, Japan was an outpost flanking Red China and the Soviet Union. It was almost entirely defended by the American military and the American policy wanted a strong Japanese economy. A counter offensive probably would have failed.

As such, I would have recommended an expansion in the domestic American market. GM needed to aggressively go after American consumers using a market expansion strategy. That meant trying to go after several market segments at the same time. GM needed to go after value consumers who wanted a cheap vehicle as well as those who wanted a luxury car. This would have allowed them to protect their luxury market base but also allowed expansion into the low cost market before the Japanese could have defined themselves as the value car producers.

Such a strategy would have required a paradigm shift on the part of GM. The company had gotten used to catering to the luxury market. Black and Gregersen (2003) wrote that leaders fail to initiate change because they fail to see the need, they feel to act when they do see the need, or they fail to finish the change. As such, it would have been very important for GM executives to accept the need for change and then actually doing something about it other than continuing their previous business strategies.


Black, J and Gregersen, H. (2003). Leading strategic change: Breaking through the brain barrier. New York: Prentice Hall.

Quinn, J. (1980). Strategies for change: Logical Incrementalism. Homewood, Illinois: Richard D. Irwin.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Conference in Iran to debate Holocaust sparks outrage

Conference in Iran to debate Holocaust sparks outrage. Not that I am shocked, but I am still disappointed that the Iranian government went ahead with this outrageous conference. Christine Hauser of the International Herald Tribune wrote, "A gathering in Iran billed as a conference to debate the Holocaust continued to spark outrage Tuesday, drawing fierce criticism from Western leaders. The conference in Tehran, which began Monday, has attracted Holocaust deniers from around the world who made presentations questioning the historical record of the Holocaust, including whether Nazi Germany used gas chambers to exterminate millions of Jews and other undesirables."

There is no real debate on this point. The Holocaust clearly happened. The evidence supporting it is there. Denial is bad historical revisionism at its worst. And it is very disturbing that any nation on Earth in the 21st century would even pretend that there is a real debate on this topic. What other "history" conferences will Iran be hosting next? Maybe the Iranians can hold a conference denying the historical accuracy of the Apollo Moon landings or a conference denying that any Native Americans were exterminated when the Europeans colonized North America?

Why this conference? Hauser noted, "President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran has frequently voiced a view held by many in the Muslim world that the crimes of the Nazis were exaggerated to justify giving Palestinian land to Jews, ultimately leading to the creation of Israel." So, since the Iranians do not like Israel that gives them the right to deny history? And other nations are supposed to take Iran seriously and be able to actually negotiate with them to solve problems in the Middle East? How in the world can the Iranians be taken seriously if they have such problems with history and hate Israel so much they are eager to deny one of the best documented events in history?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Critical Thinking in the Social Studies

Critical Thinking in the Social Studies. This article from 1986 does not directly discuss history. However, it does examine ways to teach critical thinking skills in the social studies classroom which is certainly helpful for history teachers. The author is John J. Patrick.

The age of this article makes it of interest to me. How were people teaching this topic before the advent of the World Wide Web? People have always been interested in teaching critical thinking skills. However, did it have the same sense of urgency before students could type in any word and find something online which may appear to answer the question?

From the site:

Critical thinking has been a long-standing major goal of education in the social studies. It was the theme of the 1942 Yearbook of the National Council for the Social Studies. It is highlighted today in various statements and publications of state education departments, local school districts, and professional associations. Research and commentary on critical thinking have increased greatly during the last ten years. But it has not been taught extensively or satisfactorily in most social studies classrooms. Goodlad's nationwide study of schooling found little evidence of critical thinking and concluded that "preoccupation with the lower intellectual processes pervades social studies and science as well" (1984, 236).

Current efforts to promote critical thinking in the social studies will fail unless teachers know what it is, why it is important, and how to use it in the classroom. This ERIC digest treats the (1) meaning of critical thinking, (2) primacy of critical thinking as a social studies goal, (3) inclusion of critical thinking in the social studies curriculum, and (4) means of teaching critical thinking to social studies students.