[Marxism] Marilyn Young, Historian Who Challenged U.S. Foreign Policy, Dies at 79

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Mar 10 07:36:15 MST 2017


NY Times, Mar. 10 2017
Marilyn Young, Historian Who Challenged U.S. Foreign Policy, Dies at 79
By SAM ROBERTS

Marilyn B. Young, a leftist, feminist, antiwar historian who challenged 
conventional interpretations of American foreign policy, died on Feb. 19 
at her home in Manhattan, where she was a longtime professor at New York 
University. She was 79.

The cause was complications of breast cancer, said her son, Michael.

Professor Young’s political consciousness was rudely awakened as a 
Brooklyn teenager in 1953, when she defied her father and watched from 
the fire escape of her family’s East Flatbush apartment as thousands of 
mourners gathered for the funeral of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who had 
been executed two days before at Sing Sing Prison for conspiracy to 
commit espionage.

“Get back inside,” her father yelled, a friend recalled. “The F.B.I. is 
taking pictures.”

The government’s aggressive pursuit of Soviet spies and her father’s 
trepidation set her on a course from which she never deviated: writing 
editorials for the Vassar College newspaper against red-baiting and 
favoring civil rights for blacks and political opportunities for women; 
researching a doctoral thesis that re-evaluated historic United States 
relations with China; and laying an anticolonial foundation for her 
opposition to the wars in Vietnam and Iraq.

Describing the United States as “a nation dedicated to 
counterrevolutionary violence,” she wrote in The New York Times Book 
Review in 1971 that “the most agonizing problems of recent American 
foreign policy have concerned not our ability to reach accommodation 
with acknowledged big powers, but our persistent refusal to allow 
revolutionary change and self-determination in smaller ones.”

In one form or another, she explained in 2012, since her childhood the 
United States had been at war — “the wars were not really limited and 
were never cold and in many places have not ended — in Latin America, in 
Africa, in East, South and Southeast Asia.”

She described her evolving foreign policy until then as 
“anti-interventionist” — a policy she forswore, however, when it came to 
advancing the causes she cared about.

She was born Marilyn Blatt on April 25, 1937, in Brooklyn to Aaron 
Blatt, a postal superintendent, and the former Mollie Persoff, a school 
secretary.

She graduated from Samuel J. Tilden High School, earned a bachelor’s 
degree in history from Vassar in 1957 and received her doctorate from 
Harvard. Her dissertation became, in 1968, her first book: “The Rhetoric 
of Empire: American China Policy, 1895-1901.”

She also wrote “The Vietnam Wars, 1945-1990,” published in 1991, in 
which she called the conflict a revolution driven by anti-foreign 
nationalism. The Cornell historian Walter LaFeber described the book as 
a “deeply researched, detailed, well-written and outspoken account that 
should help shape how serious people view the Vietnam wars.”

She married a fellow graduate student, Ernest P. Young. They moved to 
Japan, where he was a speechwriter to the American ambassador, and then 
to Ann Arbor, Mich., where both became professors at the University of 
Michigan. They separated in 1976 and later divorced.

In addition to their son, Michael J. Young, the president of the New 
York Film Academy, Professor Young is survived by a daughter, Dr. Lauren 
Young, a psychologist; three grandchildren; and her sister, Leah 
Glasser, a dean at Mount Holyoke College.

Professor Young joined the faculty of N.Y.U. in 1980. She founded its 
Women Studies Department, was chairwoman of the history department from 
1993 to 1996 and was co-director of the Center for the United States and 
the Cold War at the Tamiment Library. In 2011, she was elected president 
of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations.

“I find that I have spent most of my life as a teacher and scholar 
thinking and writing about war,” Professor Young said in her 
presidential address to the organization. “I moved from war to war, from 
the War of 1898 and U.S. participation in the Boxer Expedition and the 
Chinese civil war, to the Vietnam War, back to the Korean War, then 
further back to World War II and forward to the wars of the 20th and 
early 21st centuries.”

“Initially, I wrote about all these as if war and peace were discrete: 
prewar, war, peace or postwar,” she said. “Over time, this progression 
of wars has looked to me less like a progression than a continuation: as 
if between one war and the next, the country was on hold.”



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