With and economic engagement abroad. Now, with Rosenberg’s most

With Pearl Harbor being a widely-known
topic across, not only America but World Wide; Emily Rosenberg’s wrote, A Date
Which Will Live: Pearl Harbor in American Memory. This slender volume allows easy
access, with the division into two periods, for study of the theoretical works of
memory in the American cultural icon that was Pearl Harbor. Rosenberg began her
career in U.S. diplomatic history as a specialist. In the beginning, with her
first book being an analysis of American diplomacy in the first half of the twentieth
century, including a rather corporatist paradigm it was then, seen to be rather
avant-garde. While, her following books, successfully hail light on a new
cultural approach to diplomatic history, with presenting them in a more
conventional narrative of the United States financial and economic engagement
abroad. Now, with Rosenberg’s most recent book the relationship between history
and memory are shown in what could be described in a rather adept way.

  Emily Rosenberg’s studies the
evolution of Pearl Harbor as a national symbol and commemorative event in
American history. She ponders on the ways in which Pearl Habor ‘lived’ in:
books, films, magazines, memorial sites and even in speeches, and later the
internet, whilst taking in consideration various perceptions, from both back
then and as time has passed. Furthermore, Rosenburg provides a concise and
reachable assessment on how memories and history can blur, with the interaction
of the media ‘encouraging multivocality’1. Yet,
still addressing the way certain narratives and construction strategies are
used to mediate a specific agenda. Rosenberg’s explanation is that remembrance,
absentmindedness and revision of a culturally familiar schema; all interplay in
creating a warped picture of what really happened, as the circulation of media creates
momentum to a peculiar formation. Therefore, the book provides a real
understanding of the ways in which popular symbolic events and their authentic
event recapitulation can be politically manipulated to condone foreign policy direction
to the domestic crowd. Moreover, Rosenburg reprints a section of Roosevelts
speech to Congress, with his personal rewrite of ‘will live in world history’
to ‘will live in infamy’. The term ‘infamy’ seems relevant to Rosenberg, as she
goes on to explain how the story of ‘Pearl Harbor’ became like those of tales
such as Alamo and Clusters last stand, both of which put catastrophic events in
to masculine self-righteousness’, creating a cry for national unity. Additionally,
the book concludes with an observation of the Bush administration’s, and its conduction
of one of the most assertive Pearl Harbor narratives, with an excursive frame
for depicting the meaning of the September 11th 2001 attacks. Rosenberg
provokes debate with both subjects, as the book argues that these were subsequently
a desire for trivial revenge. Allowing for an efficient coda with her use of ‘a
new Pearl Harbor’2 to describe the 2001 events
in such a reflective piece of research.

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Although most historians seem to appreciate Rosenberg’s adaptation of Pearl
Harbor, some feel discouraged in its lack of intricate engagements with its
debates. For example, Caroline Simpson describes how Asian American historians may
find her view point rather reductive.3 As
within the chapter on Japanese internment, Rosenberg has divided them into ‘compliance’
and ‘resistance’ stories, seeming rather simplistic for such an abstruse topic.
In addition, the use of the phrase ‘model minority’ seems to distract Simpson,
seemingly due to the condensed description of an extensive community. Karal Ann
Marling takes this one step further and queries Rosenberg’s sustainability in
the field, until a different and or updated version is created.4  Yet however, it seems that much of the
scrutiny was followed with appraisal on Rosenberg’s willingness to confront
such a controversial study; in such a detailed manor that distracts from the
mishaps in her work, which could still be deemed as an oversimplified stature.

     It seems Rosenberg’s work was based
heavily on the ideas presented by Maurice Halbwach, a profound philosopher and
sociologist whom was known for his work on the concept of collective memory.5 Exposing
the thought process behind the book, building from his findings, about the
roles of social institutions in the formation and perpetuation of collective
memory. Therefore, allowing Rosenberg to address the role played by the
American government in manipulating the memories of Pearl Harbor. In addition,
Pierre Nora, a French historian known for his work on French identity and
memory appears to have some influence.6 Throughout, Rosenberg’s conscientious
observation of Nora’s work radiates through, as there is a careful adaptation
of his ‘Realms of Memory’; to the icon that is Pearl Harbor, by taking less
interest in Pearl Harbor’s exact details and focusing on how the details have
adapted over time. Moreover, the books use of ‘memory boom’ is snatched
straight from Jay Winter’s the Generation of Memory: Reflection on the “Memory
Boom” referring to the development of the prominence of memory has risen both academically
and in general society. Rosenberg acclimatises his theory to American society
and considers its relationship with Pearl Harbor to be of a comparable nature. It
is interesting to observe that both Rosenberg and Winters have adapted the
works of Nora to create a theory on maturing and complex viewpoints.

Yet, it seems that Rosenberg’s
work itself has had a lasting effect with many historians. For example, Richard
Jackson concluded his review on an extremely positive note, praising Rosenberg
on her ability to remind the reader that history is not set in stone.7
Likewise, Robert J. McMahon described the book as ‘sharp’8
when describing her analytical skills, reiterating the prosperity of the
volume. Other attributes that have been applauded include her ability to remind
society that states can appropriate historical memory as a form of propaganda, echoed
by Naoko Shibusawa when depicting her study as ‘thought provoking’.9  

In sum, Rosenberg’s ability to stir thoughts on conspiracy theories
regarding the American government, and it’s influence on the memories of the
people, just to justify their means for military retaliation. For not only academics
but as an easy read for most, makes the overall idea a particularly good one.
Further appraisal regarding the stature of the book with the popular notion of
history and memories in a less complex manor. For even those, that do not
understand the complicated ideas behind works such as Nora or Winter, Rosenberg
adapts the concept into a familiar light for those whom are interested in the
sociological side of history. On the contrary, Rosenberg is unquestionably an
admirable historian, giving justice to the topic with her background as a writer
and her ability to intertwine the sources she used into an almost perfect description
of how the memories of Pearl Harbor have come about. Nevertheless, it was not
flaw free, with Rosenberg’s limited mind-set on the Japanese culture seemed to
unsettle several historians, yet with some suggestions of a more updated
version, may import avidity. Overall, strong recommendations to Rosenberg’s
work as it is a book well written with informative chapters, divided into two
time periods.  In addition, the
controversial topics within the memory of Pearl Harbor makes it an extremely
engaging book, that is a palpable contribution to the growing narratives that
lie in the centre of American’s identities.

A Date Which Will Live: Pearl Harbor in American Memory

Emily S. Rosenberg

American Encounters/Global Interactions

Gilbert M. Joseph

Duke University Press, 2003

page 5


page 183


Caroline Chung Simpson

Journal of Asian American Studies

Volume 7, Number 1, February 2004

The Johns Hopkins University Press

Page 82

A Date Which Will Live: Pearl Harbor in American Memory

Karal Ann Marling

The Public Historian

Vol. 26, No. 3 (Summer 2004),

pp. 63


Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoire

Pierre Nora


No. 26, Special Issue: Memory and Counter-Memory
(Spring, 1989), pp. 7-24

Published by: University of California Press

Reviewed Work: A Date Which Will Live: Pearl Harbor in American Memory by Emily
E. Rosenberg

Review by: Richard Jackson

Journal of American Studies

Vol. 39, No. 2, Nineteenth-Century Literature (Aug.,

pp. 342

Reviewed Work: A Date Which Will Live: Pearl Harbor in American Memory by Emily
S. Rosenberg

Review by: Robert J. McMahon

Western Historical Quarterly

Vol. 36, No. 2 (Summer, 2005),

pp. 244

Reviewed Work: A Date Which Will Live: Pearl Harbor in American Memory by Emily
S. Rosenberg

Review by: Naoko Shibusawa

The Journal of American History

Vol. 91, No. 4 (Mar., 2005), p. 1519


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