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Interviewing Historians

John Simkin

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Over the last couple of weeks I have being interviewing a wide range of people about the process of writing history books. This includes academic historians like Colin Kidd and David Kaiser who believe that one should rely almost exclusively on contemporary documents. It also includes academic historians like Alfred W. McCoy and Gerald D. McKnight who because of the subject matter they are interested in, have been willing to use the sort of evidence that historians usually ignore, for example, the testimony of “whistleblowers”. McCoy’s books on the CIA involvement in the drug trade and torture could not have been written without resorting to these sources. The responses of Kidd and Kaiser on the use of these sources highlight the dilemma that historians face if the choose to explore what I would call the area of “secret history”.

I am also interviewing Angela John, an academic historian who writes from the perspective of a committed feminist. I would like to interview others with a particular political perspective. Has anyone got any contacts willing to be interviewed on the forum?

I am also interviewing a former FBI agent you began his career as a historian by exposing the activities of J. Edgar Hoover (making him public enemy number one). William Turner went on to use the skills developed as an FBI agent to become one of America’s finest investigative journalists. He is also the author of several history books.

I am interviewing several investigative journalists who went on to become historians: Robert Parry (Iran-Contra), Daniel Hopsicker (Drugs Trade), Jim Marrs (JFK assassination), Robin Ramsay (MI5 dirty tricks), Joseph Trento (CIA and KGB) and Sander Hicks (9/11). I am also interviewing Don Bohning, who worked for 35 years as a non-investigative journalist for the Miami Herald. Recently released documents show that he was a CIA asset (AMCARBON-3) since as early as 1964. He now admits to this but says he was acting as a patriotic American. He has recently published the Castro Obsession: U.S. Covert Operations Against Cuba, 1959-1965.

Several other historians have agreed to be interviewed. This includes the feminist Joan Mellen, Anthony Summers who has written biographies of people like J. Edgar Hoover and Richard Nixon, the Washington Post journalist, Jefferson Morley who is currently writing a book on the CIA, and probably my favourite historian of all, Peter Dale Scott of the University of California.

Nick Cullather, former CIA staff historian and now professor of history at Indiana University has also promised to answer questions on his book, Secret History: The Classified CIA Account of its Operations in Guatemala, 1952-54 (1999).

Lance Price has also agreed to be interviewed about his role as Tony Blair's spin doctor. He is also the author of a recent book on the Labour Government. It is extremely useful as a resource on Blair's decision to invade Iraq. Lance will also be giving a presentation on this subject in Toulouse. (He will also be giving a presentation on dissemination.)

Please join in this questioning (also let me know if you have contacts whom would be willing to be interviewed about the process of being a historian). The results will eventually appear on the E-HELP website. I think it will be a unique resource.

Alfred W. McCoy


Don Bohning


Colin Kidd


David Kaiser


Daniel Hopsicker


William Turner


Jim Marrs


Robin Ramsay


Robert Parry


Joseph Trento


Gerald D. McKnight


Sander Hicks


Angela John


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