Putting history on trial

first_imgWhat can historians learn by being expert witnesses in court? They can learn to cooperate, to state the facts, and to leave their opinions and academic squabbles in the library.“There’s no room for academic blather,” said Caroline Elkins, a Harvard history professor who studies colonial rule in East Africa. In court, she said in a recent lecture, the judge is the “teacher” and the academics — famous for squabbling — have to give up their “sandbox.”In 2008, Elkins was named the first of three “expert witnesses,” historians who were called upon to provide evidence to the High Court of Justice in London. (She and the others are advisers to the British law firm Leigh Day.) At issue is a coming trial that gives aging Kenyan Mau Mau insurgents and sympathizers the opportunity to prove claims of rape, torture, murder, and other crimes that they allege happened in the waning days of British colonial rule in the East African country.The Mau Mau led a 1952-1960 rebellion that British officials at the time called “the Emergency.” In that era, 32 white civilians were killed. At least 11,000 — and perhaps as many as 50,000 — black Kenyans died, half of them children. About 80,000 were imprisoned, and up to 1.5 million were displaced and shuttled into what Elkins called a “pipeline” of prisons and forced settlements.Elkins is author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book “Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya” (2005). This month, she will send the third installment of her testimony to the court, a 75-page document. The two British historians who recently joined her as expert witnesses, are David Anderson, whose book about Kenya, “Histories of the Hanged,” also appeared in 2005, and young defense studies scholar Huw C. Bennett.Elkins studies the civil side of the conflict: the Mau Mau era’s camps and prisons. Anderson studies capital cases from a time when due process was suspended and 800 insurgents were sent to the gallows. Bennett studies the role of the British Army in putting down the rebellion, including controversial interrogation and intelligence-gathering methods.“We each have our own specialties,” said Elkins during a Jan. 25 lecture, the first in a weekly spring colloquium series sponsored by the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute. But all of them are “revisionists” who challenge traditional interpretations of the war, including the usual assumption that British colonial abuses in Kenya were the exception and not the rule.Collectively, said Elkins during her Thompson Room lecture, their scholarship provides what she called in a recent article an “alchemy of evidence,” a portrait of “systematic violence over time” by colonial authorities against the Mau Mau.On a screen behind her, she showed a chart of how the punitive British pipeline worked, circa 1954. “I had to reconstruct the logic of the pipeline itself,” she said, a task that took her five years in British and Kenyan archives. “This case rests on historical evidence,” said Elkins. Without it, Mau Mau plaintiffs never would have won the right to trial.Contact with the courtroom offers a cautionary tale, she said. The intellectual tumult of historical debate in journals and in the press reveals fault lines, and scholars consider a little battering the price of doing business. (Elkins called such paper battles “a nerd-off.”) But the particulars of such scholarly debates will be used in court. If a book review criticized one of the historians on methodology, for instance, that contention becomes grist for a defense lawyer and is open to legal scrutiny. That’s what makes this case novel, said Elkins. “History is on trial.”Her own use of African oral histories in “Imperial Reckoning” led some reviewers to call the book speculative and lightweight, she said, as if it were “some kind of fictive account of Mau Mau memory.” But if you look at the book carefully, Elkins said, there are 600 footnotes and fewer than 300 citations from oral histories.At the same time, having to send documents to court gave historians lessons in compression. For her first expert testimony, Elkins said, she boiled down her book into a 100-page document. It contained just the facts, without shading, asides, or opinions. After all, objective reasoning is at the core of the legal system, said Elkins. But there can be a culture clash between the law and humanistic scholarship. In the law, she said, “there is none of the kind of indeterminacy that we like.”From 2006 to 2009, critics waged a war of opinion over revised histories of the Mau Mau era. But in the end, the collective evidence of the case “is overwhelming,” said Elkins, and points to systematized British abuse of Kenyan civilians. “Like most things in the British Empire, this was very well thought out.”Last year, more evidence came to light, when 300 boxes of British documents from the Mau Mau era (1,500 files) turned up in a secret repository in a village in Southeast England. It was a rare find. (Elkins estimated that from 1958 to 1963, up to 3.5 tons of documents were destroyed by the British in Kenya.)The new papers are being digitized and assessed by what Elkins called her “Team Mau Mau” at Harvard, as well as by a team at the University of Oxford. The files reveal fresh evidence of torture and cover-up, and detail more than 450 cases of abuse.Her role in the civil court case has shown that history can be a “complementary knowledge set” useful in litigation. At the same time, her involvement with the law provided a rare sort of satisfaction. “There’s nothing more satisfying,” said Elkins, “than doing this kind of work and having it matter.”[vimeo 32749559 w=560 h=315]last_img read more

US Congressman Amash weighs third-party presidential bid

first_imgAmash, a 40-year-old conservative lawmaker who has been a member of Congress since 2011 and had helped found the House Freedom Caucus, left the Republican Party last July after his criticisms of President Donald Trump alienated him from his former allies.He joined with Democrats to vote to impeach Trump, but on most policy issues still votes as a straight-line Republican.Topics : Representative Justin Amash, the Republican-turned-independent from Michigan, announced Tuesday night that he would explore running for president as a Libertarian, the strongest sign yet that he will run as a third-party candidate.Amash’s long-shot bid comes as the presidential campaign has been upended by the coronavirus pandemic“Today, I launched an exploratory committee to seek the @LPNational’s nomination for president of the United States. Americans are ready for practical approaches based in humility and trust of the people,” Amash tweeted.Today, I launched an exploratory committee to seek the @LPNational’s nomination for president of the United States. Americans are ready for practical approaches based in humility and trust of the people.— Justin Amash (@justinamash) April 29, 2020last_img read more

Gregory J. Lamping

first_imgGregory J. Lamping, age 47 of Hamburg, died Tuesday, April 18, 2017.  Born October 6, 1969 in Batesville, he is the son of Edith (Nee: Merkel) and Joseph Lamping.  He worked for Gauck Concrete Construction just shy of 30 years.Greg enjoyed hanging out with his friends having a beer or stopping in at Obermeyer’s Marathon to shoot the breeze.  A fan of the old shows on TV Land, he also liked westerns as well as watching football, basketball and baseball, usually with a bowl of popcorn.  According to his family, Greg liked grill outs, fried chicken, was partial to chocolate chip cookies and loved to hop in his truck to take a ride in the country.Greg is survived by his mother Eydie of Hamburg; sisters Diane (Steve) Fullenkamp, Donna Hoeing, both of Batesville, Cindy Lamping of Stamford, Connecticut; brother Mike Lamping of Hamburg; four nieces and nephews as well as several aunts, uncles and cousins.  He is preceded in death by his father, brother Dan Lamping and brother-in-law John “Buck” Hoeing.Visitation is Monday, April 24th, from 4 – 7 p.m. at the Weigel Funeral Home. Funeral services are 10 a.m. Tuesday, April 25th, at Holy Family Church with Rev. David Kobak O.F.M. officiating and burial will follow at St. Anne’s Cemetery.  The family requests memorials to St. Anne’s Cemetery Fund.last_img read more

UG Trojans into semis vs DCC

first_imgFollowing their defeat to DCC in the first division by the remarkable heroics of Guyana’s very own Christopher Barnwell, the University of Guyana Trojans will have to face their old foes in the NBS 2nd Division 40-over semifinal at DCC, starting at 10:30am.UG Trojans Captain, Melroy StephensonSpeaking to Guyana Times Sport, Captain of the Trojans, Melroy Stephenson, said, “Well, on the 2nd division tournament, we fancy our chances. Thus far in the competition, we have invested, winning all 7 of our matches to date. We anticipate a keenly contested match against DCC, but on this occasion we expect to come out on top in the first division semifinal. It took a Herculean effort by senior West Indian player Chris Barnwell to overcome us, but with Barnwell not playing 2nd division, we don’t foresee a repeat by the Queenstown-based side. As a result, we should be progressing to the finals, and wait whoever wins between Police and GCC. We are quite confident, but not complacent”.Asked who the DCC should be watchful of, Stephenson said, “In the tournament thus far, Omesh Danram has been sensational as he has scored the only hundred thus far, representing the students. A few other batters who a lot can be expected of are Linden Austin, Ershad Ali, Dwayne Dodson and myself, with my highest score being 57. In the bowling department a lot will be expected from our bowlers Ershad Ali, Dennis Heywood and Ray Newton, since both Newton and Heywood are our leading bowlers, with Ali having a 5-wicket haul to his name thus far”.With the UG Trojans currently having to prepare for a T/20 tournament in Suriname before they return to play the NBS 2nd Division 40-Over semifinal, there is bound to be tons of experience gained, and confidence to return and face DCC.last_img read more