tv Mass Violence in American History CSPAN April 2, 2017 10:20am-10:44am EDT
california, to learn about its rich history. learn more about chico and other stops on our tour at c-span.org/citiestour. you're watching mesh history tv, all weekend, every weekend, on c-span3. >> recently, american history it's was at the american his tore exal association annual meeting in denver, colorado. we spoke with professor, authors, and graduate students about their research this interview is about 0 minutes. bill: we are joined by randolph roth, history professor at ohio state university, here to talk to us about mass violence and domestic violence. mass violence has a certain connotation today. how would it have been different in the 1850's? prof. roth: it was very different, because in our past, mass killings were very common. but it was a group activity.
you just did not have the technology for an individual to kill as many people as you do today. when you are talking about violence done with knives or swords or muzzle-loading firearms, you know, it takes a while to reload. even if you are skilled, it takes 30 seconds to reload one of those things. by the time you pour in the powder, put on the percussion cap, and get ready, the person you are trying to kill should be alf a mile away. it is very difficult. these were mass murderers where a lot of people got together to do these things. we can get examples very early in our history. the pequot war, we talk about that as a war, but what happened at the end was the pequot's surrendered. they were hiding out in a swamp. over 700 children and women and men. the new englanders surrounded them, burned the swap, and
anyone who wasn't burned alive and tried to get out they shot them down. they killed over 700 people. it took a lot to kill 700 people back then. you look at things like when the mormons, fearing inroads of gentiles into their territory, and fearing the hostility by gentiles. you remember, there were mass murders of mormons by gentiles in missouri. they basically killed a wagon train of mormon settlers coming through. you see these kinds of things, the draft riots of 1863, in new york city. the thing is, these kinds of things, you had to get a group together -- and this is true when you take a look at matt -- at nat turner's rebellion in
831 or john brown's attempt in insurgency at harper's ferry, which was intended to be a mass murder of a number of slave owners and their sympathizers. the thing is, when you look back at those two, something i would like to add is every time we have looked at them, we see many of them are led by the most respected, prominent people in the community. these are not things that were done i believe were spontaneously. -- idly or spontaneously. rare to have something happen spontaneously. they were organized by political elites, military elites, spiritual elites. even when you have something that is an insurgency mass murder like a rebellion like nat turner's. he is one of the most respected clergyman in the black community in virginia.
john brown was not an unknown quantity in the abolition movement. he was very admired and respected, although they knew he was a violent man, for his activities in trying to defend kansas from free soil. we see this going on in reconstruction. modern firearms today -- even in the 1870's, most people don't have a modern firearm. you will see these mass murders going on during reconstruction, and usually they are led by former confederate soldiers, former confederate elites attacking whites who became republicans, for african-americans. prof. bankhurst: do you think those -- bill: do you think those levels of mob violence was unique to the united states? prof. roth: absolutely not. when i gave my talk to the historical society yesterday about this, i said, every single one of us knows that through history, mass murder has been a group activity. it is not something a lone individual could do. what is different today is not
that group-led mass violence has gone from the world. we can see it in all kinds of genocidal activity around the world, but what we do see now in the united states and much of the world is a single individual, or small group of individuals, who have the capacity to kill a large number of people in a very short time. this depends very much on technology. you need to be able to concentrate force. bill: and we are talking the day fter a shooter at fort lauderdale airport killed numbers of people, they believe it's a single gunman. prof. roth: that's right. and what you will see -- it is not just semi-automatic weapons, although they play a role. we can do it with an airplane, you can do it with fertilizer, you can do it with a truck. these are all modern inventions. whenever you have these modern inventions that have been used
for such good purposes, generally speaking -- airplanes have been wonderful for humanity in many ways, but they have a dark side. they have dark potential. it's like with accidents, wherever you can concentrate energy and old something more powerful with more mass and more velocity, the chances of having an accident increase. that is the same thing we're looking at here, the chance of using this to deliberately kill somebody is out there. bill: it seems like in modern times, after many of these incidents, and outrage, but also for changes in firearm law or immigration or whatever. in historical terms, after some of the incidents you have mentioned, was there public outcry? prof. roth: there is definitely public outcry.
when you take a look at the mass murders that were happening in reconstruction, congress passed the ku klux klan act. his was 1870 and 1871. president grant was forcefully behind them. he was very angry with what appened. he was very much a person who wanted to build a different america, and he knew the confederates were resisting. he really forcefully sent down the federal army. we know now that he was more forceful than his immediate response. in those couple of years, he really did a great deal with that federal presence, and certainly the confederacy was terrified of president grant for ood reasons. he had a reputation, and they knew he meant business. for a while, while they were actively trying to use the union army to suppress these groups, they were fairly successful, but they gave up. congress gave up and moved on to other things. after the election of 1872, where the dynamics of politics
changed and the north started to withdraw, it just came back. when we look at other kinds -- another incident i like to talk about -- we had a great deal of anarchist violence in the early 0th century. the anarchists really were against all kinds of government, but they were targeting particular people. they tried to blow up wall street, as you know. they tried to assassinate attorney general mitchell palmer. they were using dynamite to try to assassinate public officials. we know that organized crime was using dynamite and other kinds of explosive devices, and they were using a thompson automatic machine gun. they were using silencers to sneak up on people and kill them. it was not a mass murderer, it was a sequential mass murder. we are going to liquidate this
other group, but do it one at a time. with a silencer, you can shoot hem and disappear. what congress did in 1934 was passed the national firearms act. it did not confiscate anybody's firearm. he did not confiscate anybody's dynamite. but what congress did is say, we're going to make this more ex-pebsi, we're going to tax this heavily, we're not going to let this be a cheap thing you can do, buy dynamite, buy a simeser, or buy a fully automatic weapon. if you want one of these in the future, you need a license. what we have is a society in which, can people get access to dynamite? absolutely, but they have to be licensed, they have to pay a tax. if we want people to buy a silencer, as gun collectors can,
collectors can have fully automatic weapons, but you have to have a legitimate reason, you have to pay a tax. we talk about, what is the application of that? how many of us were killed with a silencer last year? how many of us were killed with dynamite? how many of us were killed with a full lewly automatic weapon. the thing is, it did not take them out of circulation where they were there, but those things become collectors items, museum pieces, and gradually they come out, they are not a eapon of choice. what i would say to amplify upon this, when planes were used, what did we do? we reinforced the cockpit doors. our faa said you must have two people in the cockpit. german airways went cheap. you only need one person in the cockpit. it cost 150 people their lives. now they are going to have two. when we had a fertilizer bomb with someone who was not a farmer, now you have to be a farmer to buy five tons of
ertilizer. when we see these technologies used for the various purposes, -- for nefarious purposes, we try to make sure that people who need these technologies have full access to them and people who don't have legitimate reasons for access to these technologies don't have them. bill: but you argue that people circumvent and find ways tocommit mob violence. prof. roth: what we are doing now is working with rental truck agencies, the fbi. immediately when a truck goes missing now, the fbi wants to know. immediately when someone suspicious wants to get a truck, the fbi wants to know. you are going to have the same kind of network of information that we now have sales of fertilizer.
again, people will always find a new way. there is always a dynamic between law enforcement and criminal behavior. there is a wonderful book about philadelphia policing. every time the philadelphia police figured out how to stop the burglars are the bank robbers, five years later, criminals are smart. they figure out another way, and they come up with a new strategy, and it goes on and on throughout human history. bill: what are some of the societal factors that you see that influenced the rise and fall of mass violence? prof. roth: when you look at mass violence over the long duration, from the 17th century down into the 1940's, 1950's, 1960's, what you will see is that a lot of it has to do with people's feelings towards overnment and society. it has to do with, do we have a stable political system? you will see there is a lot of
mass violence uncontested frontiers. there is a lot of mass violence during revolutions, during civil wars, during hostile occupations. what we see is that it is not just the mass violence that goes up in these periods, it turns out it correlates perfectly with individual violence among people. you will see more deadly property feuds, more robbery murders, sexual assault murders, feud murders, honor murders. these thing, i've mapped this out. if you look at the deaths in mass violence and political protest, can you map it out against everyday murders, they go up and down in sequence. also, we think it has to do -- until recently, it maps out over 450 years the degree to which people feel included and empowered by their government. is this a legitimate government,
am i included, do they have my back? you can see periods of intense patriotism. so many people believed in our government, believed in their kinship with other americans, we had political stability, we had widespread self-employment, african-americans were being freed in the north. even though we see tremendous discrimination, they're doing better. our homicide rate was probably the lowest in the western world in those areas. what you see is that there are iots but they're not deadly. americans have been protesting and rioting a long time but it is whether we kill people that is the issue. when we are divided politically, like in the mexican war, that's when the murder rate goes up, when the mass violence goes up.
it looks like it is about labor issues or religion, the killings of catholics in louisville. these kinds of things happen, and it looks all piecemeal, but when you are a historian and look at it across time and space, you can see these huge patterns build up. people are not aware that the big reason is really about our feelings towards government and society. bill: in tracking these trends, what about the scope of domestic violence? that seems a more recent issue that we have been able to at least quantify, issues like spousal abuse, rape, murder between men and women? prof. roth: domestic violence follows a different pattern. from the kind of mass violence we're talking about. bill: why? prof. roth: it is a very
different relationship. it has to do with general feelings about society and government, it has to do with the way gender roles play out, the balance of power between men and women. in the colonial era, there is a great deal of domestic violence. if you look at the court records, people are being battered and beaten. you will see a case of a wife abusing a husband, and you will see another case of mutual ombat. but what is interesting is that it almost always stops before killing. when you see these tight partnerships, the shops and farms that we had, it is so much dependent on that partnership. if you were upset or angry with our spouse, you beat them to try to get them to come around to what you want or express our anger but you stop short of killing them. most of the fatal injuries that
we see are manslaughters, in other words, i meant to beat you but i did not mean to kill you. when they suddenly realize you are not getting awake, they go for medical help. you are supposed to plow the field tomorrow, you are supposed to make breakfast tomorrow. i did not mean to kill you, i meant to brutalize you. and so you see this. what happens in the 1930's and -- in the 1830's and 1840's, and in the 1960's and 1970's again, you see a shift in the balance of power towards women. we're not talking about equality, we don't live in that promised land, we don't know what gender equal society would look like, but the typical relationship fwets healthier. the typical relationship becomes less violent in a physical way. but the minority of men who can't make that change or won't make that change become more violent. you will see a surge in lethal violence against romantic partners and spouses. you will see that again
burgeoning in the 1960's and 1970's. it can be misleading because it looks like things are getting worse but in fact the general relationship we think was probably getting better. so -- it's like any -- it's tragic. when we look at revolutions, in the short-term the american revolution raised the murder rate. in the short term, the civil war which did a good thing to abolish slavery raised the murder rate. the sad thing is gender revolutions, where we make progress towards female equality, and empowerment, employment, and ask men to meet a higher emotional standard, a higher behavioral standard in marriage and relationships. we see in the short term, there is more violence. it is not the kind of set piece value we see in the revolution. it looks like random violence. in fact, it is really conditioned, i believe, by these shifts in relationships.
but those don't map out with the other ones we are talking about, because this increase in homicide, it's not huge, it's still rare, but the male homicides, it's the revolution, the sexual crisis. this is the 1830's and 1840's. they happened to coincide inside in the 1960's and 1970's, when political upheaval meshed with gender changes. you get the sense they're happening at the same time but if you look at a lot of different places, a lot of different times you see the dynamics in gender relationship is somewhat independent of other things. bill: you are the author of the book "american homicide. what is that about, and how did you get into this field in general? prof. roth: it is interregional long-term study of homicides among adults from colonial times to the present. so i deal with domestic
violence, i deal with mass violence, i deal with individual bar fights, everything like that. and how they played out over time. the companion i am working on right now is "child murder in america from colonial times to present," which are murderers of children to the ages of 15. which again follows -- the domestic murders of children follow a different pattern having to do with the circumstances of young parents. but the pattern of nondomestic murders of children follows the nondomestic patterns among adults. i got into it totally for pacific reasons. i don't think violence is a nice thing. i understand that sometimes violence has been necessary. it seems to me, i'm not a pacifist, i guess, i'm a very -- i see times in which you have to stand up and fight, but really most violence is just
dysfunctional. it is couldn't productive. if it's supposedly for a cause. and it's just something that i want to get rid of. the original book was going to be on why new englanders seldom commit murder, but i found out that when the murder rate went up, they were more violent than people in manchester, exland, so i thought, there's something wrong with my theory so i've got to study america. that's how it grew from a small study of how americans avoid violence into a broader study of the ups and downs of violence in america, and how we can get back to where we were in the early republic, when we believed in our country, we had a sense of solidarity, we believed in the justice of our social hierarchy and we had pogrezz toward equality. those are the things when you set up a democracy and don't realize that democracy in a real, genuine way, you create vibles.
bill: randolph roth, professor of history at ohio state university, thank you very being with us. >> interested many american history tv, visit our website, c-span.org/history. view our tv schedule, preview upcoming programs and watch college lectures, museum tours, rkivel films and more. american history tv at c-span.org slash history. >> live today at noon eastern, annie jacobson is our guest on book tv's "in depth." >> from the pentagon document what is is clear is that it's moving humans in the military environment toward being comfortable with this idea of merging man and machine. >> ms. jay scob -- ms. jacobson is known for her writings on ar, and secrets. she'll be discuss -- discussing
her book "area 51 ats and her most recent, "phenomena." join us today live at noon eastern on book tv's "in depth" on c-span2. >> we continue our look at chico's history. come inside as we tour the home f city founder john bidwell. prof. bankhurst: it's hard to grasp how important john bidwell was to our state's history from founding the city in 1860 to delivering the news of kale' inception into the country in october of 1850 in san francisco. his legacy and his footprints can be seen throughout alifornia. mr. lopez: here at widwell mansion, we are home to 5.2