This page features profiles of living historians over 65 years of age, who have had a profound impact on the study of history, and is meant to honor their life long dedication to the discipline. They have made vast contributions to history through their numerous groundbreaking publications, and in the university lecture halls which has resonated and influenced students of history and the general public; changing the way we all look at history. Their scholarship represents the historiographical canon in their representative fields; simply put they are legends in the historical profession.
What They're Famous For
Eric Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University, is one of this country's most prominent
historians. He received his doctoral degree at Columbia under the supervision of Richard Hofstadter. He is only the
second person to serve as president of the three major professional organizations: the Organization of American
Historians, American Historical Association, and Society of American Historians.
Eric Foner: Why he became an historian (Part 1)The HISTORY NEWS NETWORK (http://hnn.us) recorded this appearance of Eric Foner at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association on the morning of January 6, 2007, as part of the panel"Lives in History: Four Master Historians Reflect on Their Careers."
Eric Foner: Why he became an historian (Part 2)
By Eric Foner
Throughout the North and the Union-occupied South, January I was a day of celebration. An immense gathering, including black and white abolitionist leaders, stood vigil at Boston's Tremont Temple, awaiting word that the Proclamation had been signed. It was nearly midnight when the news arrived; wild cheering followed, and a black preacher led the throng in singing"Sound the loud timbrel o'er Egypt's dark sea, Jehovah hath triumphed, his people are free." At a camp for fugitive slaves in the nation's capital, a black man"testified" about the sale, years before, of his daughter, exclaiming,"Now, no more dat! . . . Dey can't sell my wife and child any more, bless de Lord!" Farther south, at Beaufort, an enclave of federal control off the South Carolina coast, there were prayers and speeches and the freedmen sang"My Country 'Tis of Thee." To Charlotte Forten, a young black woman who had journeyed from her native Philadelphia to teach the former slaves,"it all seemed . . . like a brilliant dream." Even in areas exempted from the Proclamation, blacks celebrated, realizing that if slavery perished in Mississippi and South Carolina, it could hardly survive in Kentucky, Tennessee, and a few parishes of Louisiana.
Nearly two and a half centuries had passed since twenty black men and women were landed in Virginia from a Dutch ship. From this tiny seed had grown the poisoned fruit of plantation slavery, which, in profound and contradictory ways, shaped the course of American development. Even as slavery mocked the ideals of a nation supposedly dedicated to liberty and equality, slave labor played an indispensable part in its rapid growth, expanding westward with the young republic, producing the cotton that fueled the early industrial revolution. In the South, slavery spawned a distinctive regional ruling class (an"aristocracy without nobility" one Southern-born writer called it) and powerfully shaped the economy, race relations, politics, religion, and the law. Its influence was pervasive:"Nothing escaped, nothing and no one."3 In the North, where slavery had been abolished during and after the American Revolution, emerged abolition, the greatest protest movement of the age. The slavery question divided the nation's churches, sundered political ties between the sections, and finally shattered the bonds of Union. On the principle of opposing the further expansion of slavery, a new political party rose to power in the 1850s, placing in the White House a son of the slave state Kentucky, who had grown to manhood on the free Illinois prairies and believed the United States could not endure forever half slave and half free. In the crisis that followed Lincoln's election, eleven slave states seceded from the Union, precipitating in 1861 the bloodiest war the Western Hemisphere has ever known.
To those who had led the movement for abolition, and to slaves throughout the South, the Emancipation Proclamation not only culminated decades of struggle but evoked Christian visions of resurrection and redemption, of an era of unbounded progress for a nation purged at last of the sin of slavery. Even the staid editors of the New York Times believed it marked a watershed in American life,"an era in the history . . .of this country and the world." For emancipation meant more than the end of a labor system, more even than the uncompensated liquidation of the nation's largest concentration of private property ("the most stupendous act of sequestration in the history of Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence," as Charles and Mary Beard described it).4 The demise of slavery inevitably threw open the most basic questions of the polity, economy, and society. Begun to preserve the Union, the Civil War now portended a far-reaching transformation in Southern life and a redefinition of the place of blacks in American society and of the very meaning of freedom in the American republic.
In one sense, however, the Proclamation only confirmed what was already happening on farms and plantations throughout the South. War, it has been said, is the midwife of revolution, and well before 1863 the disintegration of slavery had begun. Whatever politicians and military commanders might decree, slaves saw the war as heralding the longawaited end of bondage. Three years into the conflict, Gen. William T. Sherman encountered a black Georgian who summed up the slaves' understanding of the war from its outset:"He said . . . he had been looking for the 'angel of the Lord' ever since he was knee-high, and, though we professed to be fighting for the Union, he supposed that slavery was the cause, and that our success was to be his freedom."5 Based on this conviction, the slaves took actions that propelled a reluctant white America down the road to abolition.
As the Union Army occupied territory on the periphery of the Confederacy, first in Virginia, then in Tennessee, Louisiana, and elsewhere, slaves by the thousands headed for the Union lines. Union enclaves like Fortress Monroe, Beaufort, and New Orleans became havens for runaway slaves and bases for expeditions into the interior that further disrupted the plantation regime.
-- Eric Foner in"Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877"
About Eric Foner
Teaching & Professional Positions:
DeWitt Clinton Professor of History, Columbia University, l988-present;
Area of Research:
The Civil War and Reconstruction, slavery, and 19th-century America
Ph.D. – Columbia University 1969
Editor / Joint Editor:
Contributor to Books:
Author of introductions and forewords in books by others, including the foreword of For the Hell of It: The Life and Times of Abbie Hoffman, University of California Press; Contributor to the Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History and of articles and reviews to numerous periodicals, including the New York Times,New York Review of Books,Journal of American History,Journal of Negro History, and New York History.
Prizes for Reconstruction: Los Angeles Times Book Award for History; Bancroft Prize; Parkman Prize;
Lionel Trilling Award; Owsley Prize. Finalist, National Book Award; Finalist, National Book Critics' Circle Award.
Foner is one of only two persons to serve as President of the Organization of American Historians,
American Historical Association, and Society of American Historians.
What They're Famous For
John Hope Franklin died at March 25, 2009 at the age of 94, Franklin was the doyen of African American history. However, as Franklin claimed"the history of Black people in America is American history." And that it"not separated so that it isn't accorded the respect that it deserves from other scholars."
Franklin lived through America's most defining twentieth-century transformation, the dismantling of legally-protected racial segregation. A renowned scholar, he explored that transformation in its myriad aspects, notably in his 3.5 million-copy bestseller, From Slavery to Freedom. And he was an active participant. Born in 1915, he, like every other African American, could not but participate: he was evicted from whites-only train cars, confined to segregated schools, threatened-once with lynching-and consistently met with racism's denigration of his humanity. And yet he managed to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard, become the first black historian to assume a full-professorship at a white institution, Brooklyn College, be appointed chair of the University of Chicago's history department and, later, John B. Duke Professor at Duke University. He has reshaped the way African American history is understood and taught and become one of the world's most celebrated historians, garnering over 130 honorary degrees. But Franklin's participation was much more fundamental than that.
From his effort in 1934 to hand President Franklin Roosevelt a petition calling for action in response to the
Cordie Cheek lynching, to his 1997 appointment by President Clinton to head the President's Initiative on Race,
and continuing to the present, Franklin has influenced with determination and dignity the nation's racial conscience.
Whether aiding Thurgood Marshall's preparation for arguing Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, marching to
Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965, or testifying against Robert Bork's nomination to the Supreme Court in 1987,
Franklin has pushed the national conversation on race towards humanity and equality, a life-long effort that
earned him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, in 1995.
Excerpt from Mirror to America
No Crystal Stair
Living in a world restricted by laws defining race, as well as creating obstacles, disadvantages, and even superstitions regarding race, challenged my capacities for survival. For ninety years I have witnessed countless men and women likewise meet this challenge. Some bested it; some did not; many had to settle for any accommodation they could. I became a student and eventually a scholar. And it was armed with the tools of scholarship that I strove to dismantle those laws, level those obstacles and disadvantages, and replace superstitions with humane dignity. Along with much else, the habits of scholarship granted me something many of my similarly striving contemporaries did not have. I knew, or should say know, what we are up against.
Slavery was a principal centerpiece of the New World Order that set standards of conduct including complicated patterns of relationships. These lasted not merely until emancipations but after Reconstruction and on into the twentieth century. Many of them were still very much in place when beginning in the late 1950s, the sit-ins, marches, and the black revolution began a successful onslaught on some of the antediluvian practices that had become a part of the very fabric of society in the New World and American society in particular.
Born in 1915, I grew up in a racial climate that was stifling to my senses and damaging to my emotional health and social well-being. Society at that time presented a challenge to the strongest adult, and to a child it was not merely difficult but cruel. I watched my mother and father, who surely numbered among the former, daily meet that challenge; I and my three siblings felt equally that cruelty. And it was no more possible to escape that environment of racist barbarism than one today can escape the industrial gases that pollute the atmosphere.
This climate touched me at every stage of my life. I was forcibly removed from a train at the age of six for having accidentally taken a seat in the"white people's coach." I was the unhappy victim, also at age six, of a race riot that kept the family divided for more than four years. I endured the very strict segregation laws and practices in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I was rejected as a guide through busy downtown Tulsa traffic by a blind white woman when she discovered that the twelve-year-old at her side was black. I underwent the harrowing experience as a sixteen-year-old college freshman of being denounced in the most insulting terms for having the temerity to suggest to a white ticket seller a convenient way to make change. More harrowing yet was the crowd of rural white men who confronted and then nominated me as a possible Mississippi lynching victim when I was nineteen. I was refused service while on a date as a Harvard University graduate student at age twenty-one. Racism in the navy turned my effort to volunteer during World War II into a demeaning embarrassment, such that at a time when the United States was ostensibly fighting for the Four Freedoms I struggled to evade the draft. I was called a"Harvard nigger" at age forty. At age forty-five, because of race, New York banks denied me a loan to purchase a home. At age sixty I was ordered to serve as a porter for a white person in a New York hotel, at age eighty to hang up a white guest's coat at a Washington club where I was not an employee but a member.
To these everyday, ordinary experiences during ninety years in the American race jungle should be added the problem of trying to live in a community where the economic and social odds clearly placed any descendant of Africans at a disadvantage. For a profession, my father, Buck Franklin, proudly chose the practice of law. Depending as it did on the judicial system in which it operated, the practice of law in America could not possibly have functioned favorably or even fairly for a person who qualified as, at best, a pariah within it. My father, ever the optimist, persisted in holding the view that the practice of law was a noble pursuit whose nobility entailed the privilege of working to rectify a system that contained a set of advantages for white people and a corresponding set of disadvantages for black people. The integrity and the high moral standards by which he lived and that he commended to his children forbade him to violate the law or resort to any form of unethical conduct. And, as children, we had to adjust ourselves to dignified, abject poverty.
My mother, Mollie, shared these views, to which she added a remarkable amount of creativity and resourcefulness in her effort to supplement the family income and boost the family morale. She taught in public schools, made hats, and developed a line of beauty aids. To these creative skills should be added her equanimity, her sense of fairness, her high standards of performance, and her will to succeed. On many occasions she would say to me, “If you do your best, the angels cannot do any better!” These qualities became the hallmark of her relationship with her four children, giving us the strength and skills to cope with the formidable odds she knew we would encounter. If we did not always succeed, it was not the fault of our parents.
But the challenges I, my brother, Buck, and my sisters, Mozella and Anne, faced were always formidable. Living through years of remarkable change, the barrier of race was a constant. With the appearance of each new institution or industry, racism would rear its ugly head again. When the age of the automobile made its debut, there was the question of whether African Americans should be given the opportunity to acquire the skills necessary to find work within that industry. It was the same with the advent of the computer age. More than one company dragged its feet when it came to making certain that young people on"both sides of the track" had an opportunity to acquire the skills necessary to be successful participants in the new scientific revolution. Indeed, the expansion of numerous American industries caused debates or at least discussions regarding the abilities of African Americans to cope with new developments, whatever they were. Even at the end of the twentieth century, many Americans continued to debate nineteenth-century racial theories regarding the abilities of blacks to see at night, to make accurate calculations, and to learn foreign languages. These debates ranged from discussions having to do with the effect of African Americans on the growth of the gross national product to their ability to resist new diseases or their capacity to adjust to new educational or cultural developments. Throughout a life spent at the intersection of scholarship and public service, I have been painfully aware that superstitions and quaint notions of biological and even moral differences between blacks and whites continue to affect race relations in the United States—even into the twenty-first century.
In 1943 Gunnar Myrdal called attention to these discussions and debates over racial differences in his classic American Dilemma. And when the Committee on the Status of Black Americans, of which I was a member, took another look in 1989 while updating Myrdal's book, we saw much the same thing and set forth these and other views in A Common Destiny: Blacks and American Society. In our discussion of the problem of race, we declared that it could well create new fissures that might, in turn, lead to an increased level of confrontations and violence. The Rodney King riots of 1991 offered vivid testimony that there still persists much too much potential for racial conflict for anyone to be complacent.
Of the many recollections I have arising from my fifteen months as chair of President Clinton's advisory board on race is that of the black woman who screamed during a meeting her history of how she had been abused and mistreated because of her race. My memory of the white man who claimed that already too much was being done for African Americans, and it was he who needed protection from policies such as affirmative action, is no less vivid. The advisory board was troubled by these and similar competing claims, and it became clear that open dialogues and, if necessary, limitless discussions were the civilized approach to finding constructive ways of dealing with America’s racial ills. It did and will require not only persistent diligence but also abiding patience.
During my life it has been necessary to work not only as hard as my energies would permit, but to do it as regularly and as consistently as humanly possible. This involved the strictest discipline in the maximum use of my time and energy. I worked two jobs in college and graduate school that made inordinate demands on my time, but there was no alternative to the regimen that circumstances demanded. And those circumstances included a refusal to check my catholic interests that have always prompted me to participate in activities beyond scholarship. Balancing professional and personal activities has resulted in a life full of rich rewards, a consequence deeply indebted to my near sixty-year marriage to Aurelia Whittington. My father called her the Trooper for her patient, good-willed, indomitable spirit. She was that and so much more. How do I calculate the influence of having spent two-thirds of my life living alongside an exemplar of selfless dignity?
Even before we were married, I learned much from Aurelia. She taught me to put others ahead of my own preference, as she did routinely. There is no more vivid example of her habit of self-sacrifice than when she abandoned her own career. She did so in order to be there for Whit, our only child, when our adult Brooklyn neighbors taunted him and sought in every way possible to convey that neither he nor his family was welcome to live in their previously all-white neighborhood.
My life has been dedicated to and publicly defined by scholarship, a lifelong affection for the profession of history and the myriad institutions that support it. A white professor at historically black Fisk University powerfully influenced my choice of a career, one I decided early on to dedicate to new areas of study, wherever possible, in order to maintain a lively, fresh approach to teaching and writing history. This is how I happened to get into African American history, in which I never had a formal course but that attracted an increasing number of students of my generation and many more in later generations. But I was determined that I would not be confined to a box of any kind, so I regarded African American history as not so much a separate field as a subspecialty of American history. Even in graduate school I was interested in women's history, and in more recent years I have studied and written papers in that field, although I never claimed more than the desire to examine it intensely rather than presume to master it entirely.
I could not work in the field of history without maintaining some contact with other historians and some affiliation with historical associations. Consequently, at the Library of Congress and in local libraries where I was engaged in research, I made a point of meeting other historians and discussing with them matters of mutual interest. I not only maintained an active membership in the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History but joined other groups, even where it became necessary to educate members, to the extent possible, that history knows no bounds, either in the human experience or in the rules governing who is eligible to record it. This would not, could not involve demeaning myself or in any way compromising my own self-respect. On occasion it did involve venturing into groups and organizations when it was not clear if their reception of me would be cool or cordial. Nevertheless, as a consequence I became active in the major national professional organizations long before most other African Americans joined them.
In much the same way, I became involved with historical groups in other parts of the world. My ever-widening contacts in the United States presented me with opportunities to become associated with historians in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and South America. Each contact was instructive not only about the many things that peoples of the world have in common but also as to the intense interest other peoples have in problems and developments far removed from their own that would nevertheless assist them in understanding their own society. A remarkable and unforeseen result of my determination to pursue my profession wherever it led, be that into the halls of previously all-white academic associations or to the far-flung scholarly organizations scattered across the globe, were the contacts that released me from the straitjacket confinement of pursuing a career exclusively in historically black colleges and universities.
My life and my career have been fulfilled not merely by my own efforts but also by the thoughtful generosity of family, friends, and professional colleagues. I can only hope that they realize, as do I, how interdependent we all are and how much more rewarding and fulfilling life is whenever we reach a level of understanding where we can fully appreciate the extent of our interrelationships with and our reliance on those who came before us, kept us company during our lives, and will come after us.Excerpted from Mirror to America by John Hope Franklin. Copyright © 2005 by John Hope Franklin. Publishes in November 2005 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.
By John Hope Franklin
While historians have dealt with the Proclamation as a phase or an aspect of the Civil War, they have given scant attention to the evolution of the document in the mind of Lincoln, the circumstances and conditions thatled to its writing, its impact on the course of the war at home and abroad, and its significance for later generations. A few have devoted considerable attention to the Proclamation. In his The Great Proclamation Henry Steele Commager has written a delightful, brief account for children. Benjamin Quarles covers the matter in his Lincoln and the Negro but his interest properly extends far beyond the Proclamation. Charles Eberstadt has written a valuable article,"The Emancipation Proclamation," that deals largely with the texts of thenumerous manuscripts and printed drafts of the document.
The ramifications as well as the implications of the Emancipation Proclamation seem endless, and many of them have doubtless escaped me. But I have sought to deal here with the principal outlines of the history of the document and to indicate its general significance to contemporary as well as to later generations. As a war measure its significance is, perhaps, fairly well known. As a moral force during and after the war, its importance is, to some students of the period, elusive. As a great American document of freedom it has been greatly neglected. In these and other ways I have sought to place it in its setting and give it its proper evaluation.
-- John Hope Franklin in"Reconstruction after the Civil War"
We have undertaken an extensive examination of"slave flight" between 1790 and 1860. It reveals, among other things, some problems of management of the South's"peculiar institution." It shows how a significant number of slaves challenged the system and how the great majority of them struggled to attain their freedom even if they failed.
The price they paid for their unwillingness to submit was obviously enormous. This study reveals how slave owners marshaled considerable effort to prevent the practice of running away, meted out punishments to slaves who disregarded the rules, and established laws and patrols to control the movement of slaves. It also exposes the violence and cruelty that were inherent in the slave system. Indeed, it shows, perhaps better than any other approach, how slaves resisted with various forms of violence and how slave owners responded, at times brutally, to demonstrate their authority over their human chattel.
Even today important aspects of the history of slavery remain shrouded in myth and legend. Many people still believe that slaves were generally content, that racial violence on the plantation was an aberration, and that the few who ran away struck out for the Promised Land in the North or Canada. We have carefully scrutinized those who challenged the system; when, where, and how they ran away; how long they remained out; how they survived away from the plantation; and how and when they were brought back and punished. We examine the motives of absentees, or those who left the farm or plantation for a few days or weeks; the incentives of outlyers, or those who hid out in the woods for months, sometimes years; and the activities of maroons, who established camps in remote swamps and bayous. We also examine how"term slaves," or those to be emancipated at a future date, responded to their status and how free blacks assisted their brethren and on occasion themselves became runaways.
Of equal importance, we seek to analyze the motives and responses of the slaveholding class and other whites. How did owners react to such intransigence in their midst? How did they attempt to halt the flow of runaways? What laws did they seek to enact? What punishments did they administer? How successfully did they curtail such dissidence? Indeed, it is less important to discover what happened to individual slaves than to understand the relationship between the owners and the runaways who challenged the system, a relationship that reveals perhaps as well as any perspective the true nature of the South's peculiar institution.
-- John Hope Franklin in"Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation"
John Hope Franklin in Memoriam
About John Hope Franklin's Scholarship
Teaching & Professional Positions:
Fisk University, Nashville, TN, instructor, 1936-37;
Also, Fulbright distinguished lecturer, Zimbabwe, 1986;
Area of Research:
African American history, Southern history, Race Relations in America
Fisk University, A.B., 1935;
Editor / Joint Editor:
Coeditor of American history series for Crowell and AHM Publishing, 1964;
Contributor to Books:
Problems in American History, edited by Arthur S. Link and Richard Leopold, 1952, 2nd revised edition, 1966;
Author of forewords to history books by others, including Scott Ellsworth, Death in a Promised Land: The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, 1982; Timuel D. Black, Jr., Bridges of Memory: Chicago's First Wave of Black Migration, 2003; Judge Robert L. Carter, A Matter of Law: A Memoir of Struggle in the Cause of Equal Rights, 2005; and Harold Holzer, Edna Greene Medford, and Frank J. Williams, The Emancipation Proclamation: Three Views, 2006.
Also author of pamphlets for U.S. Information Service and Anti- Defamation League of B'nai B'rith; contributor of articles to numerous journals and periodicals, including Daedalus.
Edward Austin fellowships, 1937-39;
Recipient of honorary degrees from more than 135 colleges and universities, including: LL.D.
from Morgan State University, 1960, Lincoln University, 1961, Virginia State College, 1961,
Hamline University, 1965, Lincoln College, 1965, Fisk University, 1965, Columbia University, 1969,
University of Notre Dame, 1970, and Harvard University, 1981;
American Historical Association (member of executive council, 1959-62; president, 1978-79), Organization of American Historians (president, 1974-75), Association for Study of Negro Life and History, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP; member of board of directors, Legal Defense and Education Fund), American Studies Association, American Association of University Professors, American Philosophical Society (Jefferson Medal, 1993), Southern Historical Association (life member; president, 1970-71), Phi Beta Kappa (senate, 1966-82, president, 1973-76), Phi Alpha Theta.
What They're Famous For
Herbert Donald is the Charles Warren Professor of American History
and of American Civilization Emeritus at Harvard University. A student of the famed
Lincoln and Civil War scholar James Garfield Randall, Donald has trained many of
today's leading historians, and ranks as one of America's leading authorities on
the Civil War era. He is the author of Lincoln (1995), which won the prestigious
Lincoln Prize and was on the New York Times bestseller list for fourteen
weeks. Lincoln is considered the definitive one volume biography for our time.
He has won the Pulitzer Prize twice, for Charles Sumner and the Coming of the
Civil War (1960), and for Look Homeward:
A Life of Thomas Wolfe (1987). Donald has been invited to the White House by
almost every president from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush, giving lectures or
Professor Donald is considered the leading authority on Abraham Lincoln and has advised on numerous projects relating to the 16th President. He was the principal historical adviser and commentator for the 1992 documentary series"Lincoln" and for the 2000 television series"A House Divided: Abraham and Mary Lincoln." Additionally he served as a historical consultant for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum. Donald has moved on from studying Lincoln, and is embarking on writing a biography of John Quincy Adams. As he recently stated in an interview for the Boston Globe:"I've said farewell to Lincoln so many times, but this time I think it will really happen. I'll miss writing about Lincoln, but on the other hand, I've sort of been there, done that. Perhaps I was getting repetitious anyway."
In 1947 I received my first teaching appointment. It was at Columbia University in the
School of General Studies, where most of the students were veterans whose education
had been interrupted by World War II. Many were much older than I, and all knew much
more of the world than I, who grew up on a farm in Mississippi. I felt lucky if I
could keep one day ahead of my students, and I lived in constant fear that I would be
exposed as an ignoramus. I tried to compensate by working very hard on my lectures,
ransacking the Columbia libraries and staying up night after night till long past
Toward the end of the first semester our syllabus called for a lecture on the celebrated Scopes trial (1925), where Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan fiercely argued opposing sides in their debate over evolution. I had read biographies of both men, as well as several accounts of the trial itself, and I tried to present, as fairly as I could, their arguments as well as the rulings of the judge. I thought I was doing a pretty good job when a middle-aged man in the back row raised his hand and said in a gruff voice,"Well, Dr. Donald, that's all well and good, but it isn't really the way things happened." His name was McEvoy, and he had been a reporter for one of the New York papers at the trial. Speaking without interruption for about ten minutes, he proceeded to give us a first-hand account of what went on in that court room.
Initially taken aback, I looked around the classroom and saw that the other students were following Mr. McEvoy avidly, and when he had finished his account, they began peppering him with questions about the trial. Presently they turned to me to learn what I thought its significance was. The discussion continued long after the class bell rang, as the students and I walked across the campus, arguing about the meaning of Darwinism. For the first time I began to realize that this was what education is supposed to be--a reciprocal process in which one both teaches and learns.
That is a lesson I have kept with me ever since. On whatever level I have taught, whether a freshman seminar or a graduate course, I have found that I can best teach students if I also am willing to learn from them. Whether my courses were offered at Columbia, Princeton, Smith, Johns Hopkins, Oxford, or Harvard, my students and I have worked together in this joint enterprise of learning. That is why I loved teaching. And that is why, I think, so many of my former students have gone on to achieve great distinction in their chosen fields.
By David Herbert Donald
Sitting up with his sick children night after night, Lincoln was unable to transact business, and he seemed to stumble through his duties. There were fluctuations in Willie's illness, but during the two weeks after the grand party he grew weaker and weaker, and Lincoln began to despair of his recovery. On February 20 the end came. Stepping into his office, Lincoln said in a voice chocked with emotion:"Well, Nicolay, my boy is gone-he is actually gone!" Then he burst into tears and left to give what comfort he could to Tad.
Both parents were devastated by grief. When Lincoln looked on the face of his dead son, he could only say brokenly,"He was too good for this earth...but then we loved him so." It seemed appropriate that Willie's funeral, which was held in the White House, was accompanied by one of the heaviest wind and rain storms ever to visit Washington. Long after the burial the President repeatedly shut himself in a room so that he could weep alone. At nights he had happy dreams of being with Willie, only to wake to the sad recognition of death. On a trip to Fort Monroe, long after Willie was buried, Lincoln read passages from Macbeth and King Lear to an aide, and then from King John he recited Constances lament for her son:
And, father cardinal, I have heard you say
That we shall see and know our friends in heaven:
If that be true, I shall see my boy again.
His voice trembled, and he wept. -- David Herbert Donald in"Lincoln"
In telling the story from Lincoln's perspective, I became increasingly impressed by Lincoln's fatalism. Lincoln believed, along with Shakespeare, that"there's a divinity that shapes our ends,/Rough-hew them as we will." Again and again, he felt that his major decisions were forced upon him. Late in the Civil War, he explained to a Kentucky friend:"I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me." This does not mean, of course, that Abraham Lincoln was inactive or inert, nor does it imply that he was incapable of taking decisive action. But this view -- which is something that began to emerge from his own words, and not a thesis that I originally started out with -- emphasizes the importance of Lincoln's deeply held religious beliefs and his reliance on a Higher Power. -- David Herbert Donald reflecting on"Lincoln" (Simon & Schuster, Author essay)
Asked the older carpenter in a worried tone:"Do you think he's all right?"
"I guess so," replied the younger,"but he does sit at that machine for hours and hours talking to himself."
I may not be"all right" -- but I like to think that my story-telling carries on a great tradition. And it is a distinctively American tradition. -- David Herbert Donald"On Being an American Historian"
About David Herbert Donald
Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, Charles
Warren Professor of American History, 1973-91, chair of graduate program in American
civilization, 1979-85, professor emeritus, 1991--.
Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, professor of history, 1962-73, Harry C. Black Professor of American History, 1963-73, director of the Institute of Southern History, 1966-72.
Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, professor of history, 1959-62.
Smith College, Northampton, MA, associate professor of history, 1949-51.
Columbia University, New York, NY, instructor, 1947-49, assistant professor, 1951-52, associate professor, 1952-57, professor of history, 1957-59.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IL, research assistant, 1943-46; research associate, 1946-47.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC, teaching fellow, 1942.
Visiting associate professor of history, Amherst College, 1950; Fulbright lecturer in American history, University College of North Wales, 1953-54; member, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ, 1957-58; Harmsworth Professor of American History, Oxford University, 1959-60; John P. Young lecturer, Memphis State University, 1963; Walter Lynwood Fleming lecturer, Louisiana State University, 1965; visiting professor, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, 1969-70; Benjamin Rush Lecturer, American Psychiatric Association, 1972; Commonwealth Lecturer, University College, University of London, 1975; Samuel Paley lecturer, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel, 1991.
Area of Research: 19th Century US History, Civil War Era, Abraham Lincoln.
Education: Holmes Junior College, Millsaps College, 1941; M.A., Ph.D., University of Illinois, 1942, 1946.
Editor, Contributor, Joint Author:
David Herbert Donald Prize for"Excellence in Lincoln Studies," Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, 2005.
Pulitzer Prize in biography, 1961, for Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War, and 1988, for Look Homeward: A Life of Thomas Wolfe; Guggenheim fellowship, 1964-65, and 1985-86.
Lincoln was winner of the 1996 Lincoln Prize, the Lincoln/Barondess Award from the Civil War Round Table of New York, the Christopher Award, a Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters award for nonfiction, the American Library Association for distinguished nonfiction, the New England Booksellers award for the best nonfiction book of the year, and the Jefferson Davis Award of the Museum of the Confederacy. (all in 1996)
Honorary M.A. degrees from Oxford University and Harvard University, a L.H.D. degree from Millsaps College (1976), the degree of Litt.D. from the College of Charleston, South Carolina (1985), the Doctor of History degree from Lincoln University, L.H.D. degree from the University of Calgary (2001), and the L.H.D. degree from Illinois College (2002) . In 1989 he was the recipient of the University of Illinois Distinguished Alumni Award, and in 1992 he received the L.H.D. degree from that university. In May 2003 received the L.H.D. degree from Middlebury College.
Mr. Donald has held two fellowships from the John Si Nevins/Freeman Award, Chicago Civil War Roundtable, 1999.
Benjamin L. C. Wailes Award, Mississippi Historical Society, 1994.
C. Hugh Holman Prize, Modern Language Association, 1988.
National Endowment for the Humanities senior fellow, 1971-72.
American Council of Learned Societies fellowship, 1969-70.
George A. and Eliza G. Howard Fellowship, 1957-58.
Social Science Research Council fellowship, 1945-46.
Donald served the American Historical Association on the Committee on
the Harmsworth Professorship, the Committee on Research Needs of the
Profession, the Nominating Committee, the Committee on the Albert J.
Beveridge and Dunning Prizes, and the Board of Editors of The
American Historical Review. He was in 1962-1964 an elected member of the
Executive Committee of the Organization of American Historians, and in 1964
served on the Committee on the Future of the Association.
In the Southern Historical Association he has served on the Committee on Membership, the Committee on the Program, the Committee on Nominations, the Committee on the Ramsdell Award, and the Executive Council. In 1969 he was elected Vice President of the Southern Historical Association, and in 1970 he became the President of that group.
In 2001-2002 he was a member of the Smithsonian Institution's Blue Ribbon Commission on the Future of the National Museum of American History.
In January 1990 President George Bush invited him to deliver the first lecture, on Abraham Lincoln, in the"Presidential Lectures on the Presidency" at the White House.
Donald was the principal historical adviser and commentator for the 1992 documentary series"Lincoln" and for the 2000 television series"A House Divided: Abraham and Mary Lincoln." He has made numerous television appearances, including; PBS'"Newshour with Jim Lehrer" and C-Span's"Booknotes," and has written articles for the popular media including the New York Times and Washington Post. Donald also served as a historical consultant for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum.
What They're Famous For
William H. McNeill is Robert A. Milikan Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of History at the University
of Chicago. He taught at the university from 1947 until his retirement in 1987. McNeill is also a past president of
the American Historical Association (1984-1985). McNeill has authored over thirty books; his most influential works
history to the forefront of academic study. His"seminal" book is The Rise of the West A. History of the Human
Community (1963). The book was awarded the National Book Award in 1964 and was"later named one of the 100 best
nonfiction books of the twentieth century by the Modern Library." McNeill was one of"the first contemporary North
American historians to write world history, seeking a broader interpretation of human affairs than that which
prevailed in his youth." Some of his other books include Venice: The Hinge of Europe, 1097-1797 (1974); Plagues
and Peoples (1976); The Metamorphosis of Greece since 1945 (1978); The Human Condition: Art Historical and
Ecological View (1980); Pursuit of Power: Technology, Armed Force anal Society since 1000 A.D. (1982);
Mythistory and Other Essays (1986); Arnold J. Toynbee, a Life (1989), and
The Global Condition: Conquerors, Catastrophes, and Community (1992).
I recognize three critical learning experiences that shaped that work. First was the day I casually picked three bright green newly published volumes of Toynbee, A Study of History from the shelves of Cornell University library in 1940. I was then a graduate student and had more free time for reading than ever before. As a result, I spent the next week enthralled by Toynbee's world-wide reach. History as previously taught to me shrank into no more than a small part of the human past, and the big book I had set my heart on when still an undergraduate suddenly needed to expand and become a real world history.
Second came in 1951-52 when I spent two years at Chatham House, London under Toynbee's supervision writing a history of Allied relations 1941-46. I had wangled that appointment in hope of discovering how he went about writing his Study of History, hoping to imitate him. But through frequent lunch time conversations I soon discovered that he was using notes taken years before to compose the later volumes of his magnum opus, and, straining to finish that task, could not afford to pause to learn anything new. That turned me off; and my own experience of writing a 600-page book, America, Britain and Russia: Their Cooperation and Conflict, 1941-46 showed me how to write without taking notes on the basis of the few published memoirs then available and a collection of newspaper clippings maintained by a staff of skilled young women. Simply by asking for appropriate cartons of clippings and spreading them out before me, I could write about the Yalta Conference and other episodes with no time wasted on note taking.
Third came in 1954 when a Ford Foundation grant allowed me to begin writing my projected world history. This required me to decide what really mattered in the human past; and taking notes on what others had said seemed futile. I decided to fall back on reading first and writing afterwards as I had done at Chatham House. I soon discovered that I could remember where I had seen something important for about six weeks, so made it a rule to stop reading for each new chapter after six weeks and start to write with fifty or so books piled on my desk available to consult whenever a footnote seemed appropriate. Without relying on memory so completely, and devoting almost the whole of my waking hours to the task, I could not have written The Rise of the West as quickly as I did. Another grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York made that possible, freeing me from teaching for two quarters for five years, 1957-62, during which time I completed the book.
I should also confess that another serendipitous experience contributed greatly to my actual achievement. In 1955, Gustav von Grunebaum invited me to join him in a seminar at the University of Frankfurt, Germany. The seminar was conducted in German so I had to learn the language as never before, and during the three months I spent in Frankfurt a learned teaching assistant, Fraulein von Dechend guided me through pre-war German scholarship about pre-history and the history of steppe peoples. This required rewriting the first chapters of my book when I got back home and resumed work. In this instance I did use notes taken in Frankfurt so cannot say I dispensed with note- taking entirely.
Finally, I spent a whole year revising and shortening the original manuscript to make it fit into a single volume. I was convinced that multi-volume books are usually consulted, not read through and wanted mine to be read from beginning to end, so the shape of the whole human past, as I understood it, might emerge. Even though, when cutting it back by about 20%, I often felt I was hurting the smoothness and readability of the book, I believe many readers have in fact labored through its 812 pages. So still, believe my butchery was worthwhile, fifty-five years after its initial publication it is still in print and sells several hundred copies a year. It has also been translated into about a dozen different languages, so by any standard it has been a real success, however outmoded it is now becoming.
By William Hardy McNeill
Historical parallels to such a stabilization of a confused and chaotic social order are not far to seek. The Roman empire stabilized the violences and uncertainty of the Hellenistic world by monopolizing armed might in a single hand. The Han in ancient China likewise put a quietus upon the disorders of the warring states by erecting an imperial bureaucratic structure which endured, with occasional breakdown and modest amendment, almost to our own day. The warring states of the twentieth century seem headed for a similar resolution of their conflicts , unless, of course, the chiliastic vision that haunts our time really comes true and human history ends with a bang of hydrogen nuclei and a whimper from irradiated humanity.
The burden of present uncertainties and the drastic scope of alternative possibilities that have become apparent in our time oppress the minds of many sensitive people. Yet the unexampled plasticity of human affairs should also be exhilarating. Foresight, cautious resolution, sustained courage never before had such opportunities to shape our lives and those of subsequent generations. Good and wise men in all parts of the world have seldom counted for more; for they can hope to bring the facts of life more nearly into accord with the generous ideals proclaimed by all-or almost all-the world's leaders.
The fact that evil men and crass vices have precisely the same enhanced powers should not distract our minds. Rather we should recognize it as the inescapable complement of the enlarged scope for good. Great dangers alone produce great victories; and without the possibility of failure, all human achievement would be savorless. Our world assuredly lacks neither dangers nor the possibility of failure. It also offers a theater for heroism such as has seldom or never been seen before in all history.
Men some centuries from now will surely look back upon our time as a golden age of unparalleled technical, intellectual, institutional, and perhaps even of artistic creativity. Life in Dernosrhenes' Athens, in Confucius' China, and in Mohammed's Arabia was violent, risky, and uncertain; hopes struggled with fears; greatness teetered perilously on the brim of disaster. We belong in this high company and should count ourselves fortunate to live in one of the great ages of the world. -- William H. McNeill in"The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community"
To be a truth-seeking mythographer is therefore a high and serious calling, for what a group of people knows and believes about the past channels expectations and affects the decisions on which their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor all depend. Formal written histories are not the only shapers of a people's notions about the past; but they are sporadically powerful, since even the most abstract and academic historiographical ideas do trickle down to the level of the commonplace, if they fit both what a people want to hear and what a people need to know well enough to be useful.
As members of society and sharers in the historical process, historians can only expect to be heard if they say what the people around them want to hear-in some degree. '[hey can only be useful if they also tell the people some things they are reluctant to hear-in some degree. Piloting between this Scylla and Charybdis is the art of the serious historian, helping the group he or she addresses and celebrates to survive and prosper in a treacherous and changing world by knowing more about itself and others.
Academic historians have pursued that art with extraordinary energy and considerable success during the past century. May our heirs and successors persevere and do even better! -- William H. McNeill in"Mythistory, or Truth, Myth, History, and Historians"
[The] study of history may . . . enlarge individual [and] direct experience [so] as to allow some men to become wise; and all men may hope to profit in some degree from a study that enlarges knowledge of the variety of human potentiality and circumstance so directly as history does. . . . Other disciplines and branches of knowledge, of course, have great importance in any practical application of knowledge to society or to individual lives. Historical wisdom more often acts as a brake and moderator than as a motor or guide line for deliberate efforts to change personal and social life. But this constitutes practical wisdom, the fine flower of experience and knowledge, which grows best in a mind that has reflected upon and mastered at least some portion of the vast historical heritage of man-kind." -- William H. McNeill on"Why study history?" American Historical Association, 1985
About William Hardy McNeill
True believers make the best crusaders. Complete faith in these ideas about world history probably was necessary to McNeill in his fight within an unyielding profession. To him world history is a higher history, involving larger human interests and appealing to the better part of ourselves. His version of it, as he frankly concedes, involves specifically American attitudes as well....
Never mind. McNeill, most importantly, provides much that is convincing in these shining essays to recommend world history to our profession. The rest, the uplifting language about serving peace and saving history in the schools, can be reconciled as expressions of the moral idealism carried along by world history from its ancient origins in religious thought. High ideas just seem to go with the territory. -- Gilbert Allardyce, University of New Brunswick, reviewing"Mythistory and Other Essays" in The American Historical Review, Apr., 1987
From the author's survey, which combines history and contemporary observation, there emerges a picture of a people full of contradictions. We see the antipodes of food-deficit and food-producing villages; of the heroic versus the calculating, entrepreneurial spirit; of the secular and the devoutly Orthodox individual; the hill and the plains people; and, finally, of the rural and urban world in Greece. By combining these often conflicting tendencies within their culture the Greeks have produced a vigorous society that is both enduring and unique in McNeill's estimation.
This is a work that has something to offer even to those most knowledgeable about modern Greek life. It is a luminous example of how interpreting the past can serve to make the present more intelligible and the future less of an enigma. -- Gerasimos Augustinos, University of South Carolina, reviewing"The Metamorphosis of Greece since World War II in the The American Historical Review, Oct., 1979
This century is surely witnessing the decline of the West in certain respects, and its triumph in others; indeed the two processes are interrelated and mutually stimulating. McNeill recognizes this in a footnote on his final page. If this book had appeared in 1914, or even in 1939, the process of decline could have been relegated to a footnote. In 1963 it suggests that the author has become the prisoner of his title and that his subtitle might have been a more functional, if less striking, description of his work. Also the banal and frequently confusing pictograms have no place in a study of such sophistication and stature. In conclusion, the significance of McNeill's contribution must be underscored. World history hitherto has been left largely to amateurs or to philosophers of history such as Oswald Spengler and Arnold Toynbee. In their search for patterns and general laws they treated the rise and fall of" civilizations" as isolated and self-sufficient events. McNeill has provided here an alternative to this ahistorical disregard of time and space and in doing so has demonstrated that world history is a viable and intellectually respectable field of study. -- -- L. S. Stavrianos, Northwestern University reviewing"The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community" in The American Historical Review, Apr., 1964
University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, instructor, 1947-49, assistant professor, 1949-55, associate professor, 1955-57,
professor of history, 1957-69, Robert D. Millikan Distinguished Service Professor of History, 1969--,
chair of department, 1961-69.
Area of Research:
University of Chicago, B.A., 1938, M.A., 1939; Cornell University, Ph.D., 1947.
Editor & Joint Author:
Also contributor of chapters to numerous other books. Contributor of articles and book reviews to professional journals.
recipient of several honorary degrees;
The Erasmus Prize from the Dutch government for his contribution to European culture, 1996.
President of the American Historical Association, 1985 ;
Sources: For introductory bio,
Why Study History? - Essay by William H. McNeill and
University of Kentucky PressThe Pursuit of Truth: A Historian's Memoir By William Hardy McNeill.
What They're Famous For
Kenneth Milton Stampp is the Alexander F. and May T. Morrison Professor of History Emeritus at the University of
California, Berkeley, where he taught from 1946-1983. He is an award-winning historian of slavery, the American
Civil War, and Reconstruction, and is considered the leading scholar in his area.
Stampp was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1912, and came of age during the depression years. He attended the Milwaukee State Teachers' College, and then the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he graduated his B.A. in 1935 and his M.A. a year later in 1936. Stampp worked on his PhD under the direction of Charles A. Beard and William B. Hesseltine, who served as his dissertation advisor. Stampp completed his doctorate in 1942, and then briefly worked at the University of Arkansas and the University of Maryland from 1942 to 1946. In 1946, he began his tenure at Berkley where he taught for 37 years before retiring.
In 2006 Stamp celebrated the 60th anniversary of his affiliation with the UC, Berkley. His most well known publication is The Peculiar Institution, for which he is most remembered, and is"starting point for modern studies of US slavery." Stampp's next book The Era of Reconstruction countered the school of thought of William A. Dunning (1857-1922) and his followers, by claiming that Reconstruction was in fact a success, and as Stampp writes"the last great crusade of nineteenth-century romantic reformers." The book served to" cement" Stampp as the leading authority on the Civil War and Reconstruction. Stamp's many distinctions include being awarded the American Historical Association Award for Scholarly Distinction in 1989, and in 1993, the Lincoln Prize for lifetime achievement, which was given by the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College. He has held visiting professorship posts at numerous institutions, including, Harvard University, University of London, University of Munich, and Oxford University.
Master's Thesis on Antislavery in the South
I had no doubt after meeting Hesseltine that he was the man I wanted to work with. Well, he was the most dynamic American historian there. Perhaps not the most profound, but certainly the most dynamic. Hicks, by comparison, was rather drab. I always thought of him as the man in grey; his complexion was sort of grey, and he wore grey suits. There was a certain quiet charm about him, and I took courses from him in Western history and recent American history. But Hesseltine, the first course I took from him was American constitutional history, and he was a Beardian. One of the first things he had us read was Beard's economic interpretation of the constitution, and in those Marxist days, this made sense to me.Hesseltine bought it, and he sold it. I was convinced that this was a satisfactory explanation for the nature of the constitution and for the motives of its framers.
He had a wonderful lecture style. He was witty, he was clever, his lectures were full of humor. Challenging, sometimes outrageous generalizations. But I was rather young and naive then, and he seemed to me awfully exciting. There was no discussion in these lectures. He lectured, and we listened. For a while, I was scared to death of him. I thought he was wonderful, but I was afraid of him.
The next term, in the fall, I started taking his year course in the history of the old South and the sectional conflict and Civil War and Reconstruction, and that's what really excited me. He was a southerner himself; he came from Virginia, but he was a kind of southern maverick at the time. He always claimed that the men who ran the--and they were men at that time, mostly--the Southern Historical Association would have nothing to do with him. He was never elected president of the Southern Historical Association, and he claimed that it was because he was just too much of a rebel.
I loved graduate school, I really did. I look back with great nostalgia to Madison in the thirties. It was a wonderful place. I really did like graduate school and got to know people who were lifetime friends during those years.
I had to pick a thesis topic immediately when I started graduate work, and I picked as the subject of my master's thesis the antislavery movement in the South. That was my first experience with research into important primary sources. I picked it myself. I don't remember how--I must have read something about antislavery sentiment in the Old South. The Southern critics of slavery were largely Quakers; there were antislavery organizations in Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Tennessee--not in the Deep South, where organized antislavery was impossible. Antislavery Southerners advocated gradual, compensated emancipation, and then the colonization of the emancipated slaves somewhere outside the United States, back to Africa or wherever. That was the kind of movement they supported.
Dissertation: Indiana Politics during the Civil War
I intended to keep working in that period and that field. Somehow, I got interested in an Indiana politician. I have no Indiana connections. Indiana is politically an interesting state, and I'll explain why. I got interested in an Indiana politician named Oliver P. Morton. He was a Democrat in his early life, and broke with the Democrats in 1854 over the Kansas-Nebraska bill. He joined a group that was at that time known as the Anti-Nebraska Democrats. They were one part of the coalition that formed the Republican party, old Whigs and Anti-Nebraska Democrats and antislavery Free-Soilers, some former members of the Know-Nothing party.
Morton was a fairly important, active politician during the 1850s, and in 1860, he ran for lieutenant governor on the Republican ticket and was elected. Another Republican, [Henry S.] Lane, was elected governor. Everyone knew in advance that he was going to be elected to the United States Senate. He was, and Morton became governor in 1861.
My interest in Morton never changed, but I finally decided that I disliked the man so much that I couldn't possibly write a biography of him. That's an interesting matter.
The more I got to know him, the more I got to dislike the man, and that's an interesting thing to think about. Biographers usually write about people they like and not often about people they don't like. Perhaps there would be some interesting biographies if they were written by people who didn't like their subjects, like some of the Nixon biographies, for example.
By that time, I had done quite a lot of research on Morton as governor, as Civil War governor of Indiana.
Then the question was, if I don't want to do a biography of Morton, how do I salvage off-and-on research over a couple of years? I finally decided that I was going to do a more general study of Indiana politics during the Civil War. This turned out to be a fascinating subject because Indiana was a fascinating state during the Civil War.
I ended with the end of the war in my dissertation. I have an introductory chapter on the 1850s about the formation of the Republican party and the election of 1860; the second chapter is on the secession crisis; then the rest is on the war and the social consequences. I have a concluding chapter that tries to summarize my view of what had happened in society in Indiana during the war and to the politics of Indiana. That's where I ended it.
After I wrote the dissertation, I reworked it, did some cutting, and submitted it for publication.
My life that year was very simple: work. I worked in the Indiana State Library and the Indiana Historical Bureau. They were both in the same building, but they had different collections. In the evening at least five nights a week, I went to the Indiana Public Library and worked on newspapers for the 1850s and 1860s, and that's about all there was to my life. I knew my roommate, I got to know the people at the Indiana State Library, but I had virtually no social life while I was down there. It was just work. Sometimes my roommate and I played two-handed bridge at night just for diversion. I read when I could, but it was really just the library all day long.
I think I was kind of lonesome down there with not knowing anybody. I had had a rather active social life in Madison, and this was drudgery in some respects, but the research was exciting, I loved it.
I was out of graduate school as far as that was concerned. No, I had plenty of time just to work on my dissertation.
I had finished teaching up in Fond du Lac and the term ended in Madison. It was the same drudgery being a teaching assistant, making out the exams and grading the exams and attending lectures that I was hearing for the third time.
By the end of July or early August, I finally finished my research on that dissertation, and I thought it was time for a holiday. Jobs were almost nonexistent, so I was delighted to take the job at Arkansas. I could have had one more year on the extension; I could have had a second year.
In June 1941, we moved back down to Madison. Some time while I was up in Rhinelander, I had a letter from a young professor who used to teach at the University of Wisconsin, his name was Fred Harvey Harrington. He was a Ph.D. from New York University, and he was the young man in the History Department there, in American history. I got to know him fairly well the year that I was Hesseltine's teaching assistant and teaching in Fond du Lac. They came over to see Kay and me a number of times, and we went to see them.
The next year, the year I was in Rhinelander, he left Madison to go to the University of Arkansas to become head of the Department of History and Political Science as a full professor. Some time in the late spring of 1941, I heard from Hesseltine and got a letter from Harrington that there was a one-year job. Somebody was going on leave at the University of Arkansas, and Harrington wanted to offer it to me. I took it.
So in June we went back down to Madison, and we found an apartment. It was a terribly hot summer, I remember, and I spent the whole summer writing my dissertation. Before the summer was over, I had it all written except one concluding chapter. I showed it all to Hesseltine, and he approved it, thought it was good. I'm not very good in heat, especially humid heat, the kind we had in Wisconsin. I can remember sitting in a bathtub with a big board on the side, writing in the bathtub in cool water with my notes there.
By September, I had just one last chapter, about fifteen or twenty pages, I had to write, and early in September, we started for Fayetteville, Arkansas.
That fall--it's all connected with Pearl Harbor--I finished the last chapter of my dissertation, and I was to go back to Madison. Pearl Harbor was on the seventh, I think it was a Sunday, and I was to go back to Madison and take my Ph.D. exams the following Wednesday.
I took my oral exam on the tenth of December. That day I think their minds were on Pearl Harbor and other things more than my exam. They did ask some questions. I had my usual trouble with Chester Penn Higby, the European historian, who asked me some impossible questions. Selig Perlman, the man with whom I took my outside field in economics, labor history and socialism and capitalism, was on the committee. He thought my dissertation was excellent. I got by with everyone except Higby.
After it was over, I was sent out then called back in, and everyone congratulated me except Higby. He just walked out and never said a word to me. He could never forgive me for that, even though I had given him an explanation. I think I did very well in my oral exam. So I passed, and I was a Ph.D. at last.
An Offer from Berkeley
Then in the spring of 1946, things began to happen. Hofstadter got an offer from Columbia, and I knew he was leaving. Mills got an offer from Columbia, and I knew he was leaving. And there I was--I wasn't going to get the job at Hopkins, and I wasn't going to get the job at Swarthmore. I thought, My God, I'm going to be here again. Freidel is fired, Hofstadter is leaving, Mills is leaving, and I'm going to be here alone.
In April 1946 I went to a kind of rump meeting of the Mississippi Valley Historical Association in Bloomington, Indiana. John D. Hicks had been one of my professors at Wisconsin.
He was very much in favor of Roosevelt's foreign policy. He knew Hesseltine, and I was a Hesseltine student. John D. Hicks was at the Mississippi Valley meeting in Bloomington, Indiana. It was a small meeting, and I remember Hicks saying,"Let's have a drink together. You know, I'm an old Wisconsin--" he was out here [in Berkeley] now. He came out here in '42. So we sat and had a drink and talked about Wisconsin and about Hesseltine. And that was that.
The next month, early May of 1946, I got a letter from Hicks and a letter from Hesseltine offering me an instructorship out here. He had written to Hesseltine and said that he was interested in bringing me to Berkeley. I said,"Instructorship? I'm an associate professor. I know it's only Maryland, but I'm not going to start over again." He wrote to Hesseltine and said,"Tell Stampp to accept it," an instructorship. I said,"No." I wrote back and said,"I'll step down one rank. I'll go back to assistant professor, but I'm not going to take an instructorship." Well, I think Hicks had sort of said,"That's all I can do." Ultimately it was changed.
It was raised to an assistant professorship, and more than that, it was raised to a second-step assistant professorship. My salary at Maryland at that time was $3,500, and going to Berkeley, my salary would be $3,600. That wasn't much of an inducement. Well, it turned out when I got here that it was going to be $3,900, and that helped a lot.
I didn't even know where Berkeley was. I had to find a map. I thought Berkeley was somewhere in southern California. I was that ignorant about the university. I found it was across from San Francisco. I had never been to San Francisco. I had been to Los Angeles but not San Francisco. I told Hofstadter about the job, and he said,"Well, surely you're not going to take it." I said,"Well, I'd like to get out of here, and I wouldn't mind going out there for a few years." He said,"Well, I must say, I don't think much of the history department at Berkeley."
Well, he knew, for example, that the dominant figure for some years was Herbert Eugene Bolton and that Bolton didn't have any use for men who taught American history. You should teach history of the Americas.
I came out. I told Hofstadter I would go out at least for a few years. I went to Madison that summer and taught in the summer session. My wife was with me. Then I managed to get a car. They were hard to get in 1946, but through an influential brother-in-law I got a car so I could drive out.
We got into California on the twelfth of September, I remember, and stopped up in the mountains. I loved the mountains, I wanted to stop in the mountains, so we stopped in the little village of Cisco, elevation of about 5,500 feet, and found a motel there.
The next day, we drove on down-- driving into the Bay Area then was something because there was no freeway. You had to drive through Roseville and every community on the way--Davis, and right through Richmond, and Rodeo and so on. I thought we would never get here.
I remember we finally came out on--I think there was an East Bay freeway then--the freeway the afternoon of September thirteenth, and I looked at San Francisco and the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge, and I fell in love with it, absolutely fell in love.
Settling into Teaching and Publishing
I began teaching a survey course in American history. I remember walking in to 101 Cal [California Hall]--I don't know whether you remember 101 Cal when it was a lecture hall, held about 400 students.
It was a nice lecture hall--you didn't realize the size of it from the podium because it was sort of like this [shaped like an amphitheater]. I had never lectured to more than thirty-five students, and I walked in there one Tuesday morning and found 400 students in there, and four teaching assistants whom I had not met yet. I still remember one of them asked whether I had my registration card with me. I looked kind of young then. I had to tell them I was going to run this course. And--wow, that was an experience, I must say, lecturing to that many students. That was really nerve-shattering.
My own field, really, for the first time. I gave my course in the history of the Old South. I had about, oh, sixty or seventy students in it. It was a nice-sized group. I had a seminar--it must have had seven or eight students in it. That I liked very much.
I spent all my spare time writing And the War Came, and also I went East for conventions, took the train East. I got travel money, research money, to do that. I conferred with a new director of the Indiana Historical Bureau, I believe in 1947. I had sent him the revised dissertation manuscript, and he thought it was great,"We're going to publish it." That was wonderful. It came out in 1949, finally. So I was hard at work on And the War Came. I finished that in 1948.
I sent it to LSU Press, Louisiana State University Press, and they loved it. They took it and published it in 1950, so that looked pretty good: a book out in 1949 and another book in 1950.
It had wonderful reviews. I didn't get a single critical review; it really was good. I found out later that it was second for the Pulitzer Prize. I found that out through the head of the LSU Press.
I had learned how to lecture to 400 people, and I was not too bad at it, I was pretty good. As a matter of fact, Hicks had heard that my lectures were very good, and my enrollment in my upper-division course had grown from about fifty or sixty students the first time to 200 or 300 students. I lost that small group there. Hicks once asked me whether I had preachers in my family or something.
The Peculiar Institution
To my best recollection, it was a former graduate student, Richard Heffner, who, hearing my feeling that there was a need for a new book, said,"Well, why don't you write it?" and I thought about it. I do insist that it had nothing to do with the civil rights movement.
The book came out in 1956, and so somebody suggested--I think it was Win [Winthrop] Jordan, actually, who used to be in our department--that it was somehow connected with the civil rights movement, and it really wasn't. My decision to write it dated back to the forties.
I began working on it as soon as I finished a book called And the War Came, which I finished in 1948. In the spring of 1952, I had applied for a Guggenheim, and I received one. I was due for a sabbatical. So I planned to be away for the whole year, from the summer of '52 to the summer of '53. That's when I was going to do the bulk of my research on this book.
In January, I moved to Chapel Hill. I had written to a friend at the university there, and he had found a quite satisfactory place for us to live in a suburb of Chapel Hill called Carboro, which is a mill town. It was rather interesting living in a Southern mill town for a while. I couldn't have done the book without going there, yes. I don't think it had any effect on the tone of my book. A lot of the Southerners whom I saw, when the book came out, didn't write to me and say,"This is a great book."
When the Guggenheim year was over in July, we came back to Berkeley. I had a little more research to clear up out of secondary sources, but I began writing in the late fall or maybe early winter of 1953-'54. It was a terrible experience beginning that book. I was terribly concerned about this book and my responsibility in writing it. I really wanted to write a book that would persuade Southerners that slavery wasn't quite like the myths and legends.
Now, the question of a publisher, Knopf published it, but I had an unfortunate relationship with Knopf with my book And the War Came--giving them an opportunity to reject it twice. It was a double humiliation. Anyway, And the War Came was out in 1950, and it had very good reviews. Alfred Knopf, the old man, was pretty peeved at one book man at Knopf, one of their field men, because he's the one who had solicited the manuscript. I had said,"I will never publish a book with Knopf." Anyway, this man came to me in 1952 at a convention and said,"I hear you're writing a book about slavery." I said,"Yes, but Knopf is not going to have it." I don't think is an exaggeration: I think he must have been under considerable pressure from Knopf because he practically got on his knees and asked for it. I said,"I'll never send you the manuscript. If you want to give me a contract without ever seeing the manuscript, okay." And I got it.
Sight unseen. I was never going to let them turn down another manuscript or another book of mine. So I'm very glad because Knopf makes beautiful books, and he does a pretty good job of promoting. So I sent the manuscript to Knopf the late summer of 1955, and I had an editor whose name I can't remember, and he disappeared before the book was finished. He probably was fired. Knopf was always firing people. So for the last bit, I didn't have an editor. The manuscript--it was a clean manuscript. I had a typist who really made no typos--I couldn't find any--and raised a couple of questions. She did a little bit of editing, actually, anyway. So the manuscript was a nice clean one that I sent to Knopf; then later in his reminiscences, Alfred Knopf said that in all the time that he was running his company, he had only received two manuscripts that could go straight to the publisher without editing. Mine was one, he said; another was a friend of his who also had written on black history. Well, that was partly true, but it also covered the fact, or disguised or concealed the fact, that my editor had been fired. Anyway, it's a nice story, and it never made me unhappy to have Knopf say that my manuscript was so letter-perfect.
It was published in October, 1956. As far as I know, it received no prizes. There was no Pulitzer prize or Bancroft prize. There was a prize at that time given for the best book in Southern history, and it didn't even win that prize, though I think it was by far the best book in Southern history that year. The only prize actually came years and years later -- I got the Lincoln prize in 1993. It was sort of a lifetime award, but the thing they always featured in their presentation prize was The Peculiar Institution, which most people think is the most important book I wrote.
By Kenneth M. Stampp
It may then be asked whether there was any point to the enormous effort that has gone into the various attempts to find the causes of the Civil War. If after more than a century the debate is still inconclusive, would not the historian be wise to abandon his search for causes and confine himself to cataloging facts and compiling statistics? Is it not all the nore discouraging to find, as the documents in this book indicate, that historians often merely go back to interpretations advanced by partisans while the war was still in progress? I think not. Because the century of historical inquiry, if it leaves the causes of the Civil War still open to debate, has nevertheless been extremely illuminating. uncertainty about the war's causes has driven historians back to the sources time and time again, with the result that we have gredually enlarged our knowledge and and deepened our understanding of our greatest national crisis. Hence I find the prospect of a continuing debate, however much it may annoy those who find it disagreeable to live with uncertainties, the best promise that research and writing in this period of American history will continue to have vitality." -- Kenneth M. Stamp in the Introduction of"The Causes of The Civil War"
What these issues would be did not long remain in doubt. The Sentinel reminded its readers that the war had left the tariff question unsettled and that in this respect the interests of the West and South were still identical. Western Republicans, it affirmed, were the mere tools of New England, and tariff reduction could be the program by which the Democracy would rescue the nation from"a great manufacturing aristocracy." Other party leaders saw in the growing indignation of western farmers against the railroad monopolies another problem demanding a solution. Finally, there were already cries of protest against the national banking system which enriched a few men but failed to meet the West's constant need for additional capital.
The Sentinel confidently predicted that the present attempt of New England to be"overseers of the whole nation" would be as odious to the West as the past attempt of the South had been. Hence, it prophesied, the western states, with their identity of interests, would soon make themselves a power in the land."And they will make that power felt in impressing their policy upon the nation." The roots of western insurgency were already deep in the soil of Indiana. In 1872 and 1876 the Democrats would capitalize on agrarian discontent with the new order to capture the governorship; in the latter election they would, for the first time since 1856, win the state's presidential electoral votes. From their ranks would come the leaders of the Granger and Populist movements.
But the triumphant Republicans, heirs to the Whig tradition, were equally prepared for the future and ready to meet this new threat from their irrepressible foes. The Indianapolis Journal noted with satisfaction that war and Republican rule had brought to the Northwest an unprecedented degree of material well-being. Indiana, it observed, was a region"of unabated prosperity." Accordingly, in the spring of 1865 Indiana's political rulers surveyed the Hoosier scene and pronounced it good. Kenneth M. Stampp in"Indiana Politics during the Civil War"
A former slave once pronounced a simple and chastening truth for those who would try to understand the meaning of bondage:"Tisn't he who has stood and looked on, that can tell you what slavery is,-'tishe who has endured.""I was black," he added,"but I had feelings of a man as well as any man." One can feel compassion for the antebellum southern white man; one can understand the moral dilemma in which he was trapped. But one must remember that the Negro, not the white man, was the slave, and the Negro gained the most from emancipation. When freedom came-even the quasi-freedom of"second-class citizenship"-the Negro, in literal truth, lost nothing but his chains. -- Kenneth M. Stampp in"The Peculier Institution"
I hold a kind of Tolstoyan view of history and believe that it is hardly ever possible to determine the real truth about how we got from here to there. Since I find it extremely difficult to uncover my own motives, I hesitate to deal with those of other people, and I positively despair at the thought of ever being really sure about what has moved whole nations and whole generations of mankind. No explanation of the causes and origins of any war -- of any large happening in history -- can ever be for me much more than a plausible one, a reasonable hypothesis. 1
This is a position to which I fully subscribe, and I believe that it is as valid for explanations of why a war was won or lost as for explanations of why a war began.
With this cautionary statement in mind, I am going to suggest one of the conditions, among several, that may help to explain why the South lost the Civil War. I think there is reason to believe that many Southerners -- how many I cannot say, but enough to affect the outcome of the war -- who outwardly appeared to support the Confederate cause had inward doubts about its validity, and that, in all probability, some unconsciously even hoped for its defeat. Like all historical explanations, my hypothesis is not subject to definitive proof; but I think it can be established as circumstantially plausible, because it is a reasonable explanation for a certain amount of empirical evidence....
Very soon, as a matter of fact, white Southerners were publicly expressing their satisfaction that the institution had been abolished and asserting that the whites, though perhaps not the blacks, were better off without it. Many were ready now to give voice to the private doubts they had felt before the war. They denied that slavery had anything to do with the Confederate cause, thus decontaminating it and turning it into something they could cherish. After Appomattox Jefferson Davis claimed that slavery"was in no wise the cause of the conflict," and Alexander H. Stephens argued that the war"was not a contest between the advocates or opponents of that Peculiar Institution." The speed with which white Southerners dissociated themselves from the cause of slavery is an indication of how great a burden it had been to them before Appomattox.
The acceptance of emancipation, of course, did not commit Southerners to a policy of racial equality. Rather, they assumed that the free Negroes would be an inferior caste, exposed to legal discrimination, denied political rights, and subjected to social segregation. They had every reason to assume this, because these, by and large, were the policies of most of the northern states toward their free Negro populations, and because the racial attitudes of the great majority of Northerners were not much different from their own. White Southerners were understandably shocked, therefore, when Radical Republicans, during the Reconstruction years, tried to impose a different relationship between the races in the South -- to give Negroes legal equality, political rights, and, here and there, even social equality. Now for the first time white Southerners organized a powerful partisan movement and resisted more fiercely than they ever had during the war. The difference, I think, was that in rejecting Radical race policy they felt surer of their moral position, for they were convinced that Northerners were perpetrating an outrage that Northerners themselves would not have endured. Thus the morale problem was now on the other side; and the North, in spite of its great physical power, lacked the will to prevail. Unlike slavery, racial discrimination did not disturb many nineteenth-century white Americans, North or South. Accordingly, in a relatively short time, chiefly because of the unrelenting opposition of white Southerners, Radical Reconstruction collapsed.
The outcome of Reconstruction is significant: it shows what a people can do against overwhelming odds when their morale is high, when they believe in their cause, and when they are convinced that defeat means catastrophe. The fatal weakness of the Confederacy was that not enough of its people really thought that defeat would be a catastrophe; and, moreover, I believe that many of them unconsciously felt that the fruits of defeat would be less bitter than those of success. -- Kenneth M. Stampp in"The Southern Road to Appomattox"
Yet, contrary to the optimists of 1857, removing the Kansas question from national politics, although eliminating a serious irritant, would not have assured a lasting settlement of the sectional conflict. The possibilities for other crises over slavery were far too numerous. Sooner or later, any one of them, like Lecompton, might have disrupted the Democratic party, perhaps, as in 1860, led to the nomination of two Democratic presidential candidates, and resulted in the election of Abraham Lincoln or some other"Black" Republican. The triumph of a Republican presidential candidate proved to be the provocation that turned the southern threats of secession, heard so often in the past, to reality.
On December 6, 1858, after the Democratic disasters in the northern autumn elections, Buchanan sent his annual message to the lame-duck session of the Thirty-fifth Congress. He began with his own explication of the Lecompton controversy, expressing satisfaction that Kansas at last appeared to be"tranquil and prosperous" and was attracting thousands of emigrants. The rebellious activities of the"revolutionary Topeka organization" had been abandoned, thus proving that"resistance to lawful authority . . . cannot fail in the end to prove disastrous to its authors." Although he continued to believe that approval of the Lecompton constitution would have"restored peace to Kansas and harmony to the Union" more rapidly, he" cordially acquiesced" in the English bill which Congress preferred. Still, it was"to be lamented that a question so insignificant when viewed in its practical effects on the people of Kansas, whether decided one way or the other, should have kindled such a flame of excitement throughout the country." In this manner, at the end of a disruptive party controversy, Buchanan made his case for posterity.
Rarely, it must be admitted, has any President, during his term in office, confessed publicly that he was guilty of an important error of judgment. He may on occasion, using the passive voice, concede the possibility that mistakes had been made, leaving responsibility for them in doubt. Buchanan would not concede even that. Referring to his message of February 2, 1858, which recommended approval of the Lecompton constitution, he now assured Congress and the public that he had no regrets."In the course of my long public life," he defiantly asserted,"I have never performed any official act which in the retrospect has afforded me more heartfelt satisfaction." Let him be remembered, then, for that! -- Kenneth M. Stampp in"America in 1857: A Nation on the Brink"
About Kenneth M. Stampp
Professor Stampp is well qualified as a guide to these battlefields of the historians. A veteran of most of the campaigns and still a participant on active duty in several, he is well posted on the strength, weakness, and firepower of the forces engaged. After first pointing out, identifying, and assessing all belligerent units and reserves on a particular field, he puts on a demonstration as a participatory guide. Pitching in with live ammunition he leads a charge himself and often leaves the field littered with casualties. While he makes no secret of the colors he flies and the cause he fights, he shows a proper regard and, in all but a few cases, a seemly gallantry toward his foes. Bearing scars from many past encounters, he has learned a due respect for the forces of opposition and usually prefers to consider their intentions honorable if misguided. -- C. Vann Woodward reviewing"The Imperiled Union: Essays on the Background of the Civil War" in New York Review of Books
In this cause, says Stampp, the North served as unwitting accomplice. Lincoln's assassination propelled Andrew Johnson into the White House, a kind-hearted and derivative man anxious to implement Lincoln's injunction to let the South up easy. To staff the governments of the secessionist states, he granted wholesale pardons to Confederate officers and civil servants—and such men did not waste time accepting the chance to preside....
The South's version of Reconstruction blames everything on those vengeful Yankees who rammed their triumph down rebel throats—and implies that until then the rebels were willing to acknowledge the inevitable price of defeat. Stampp's purpose is to expose this version as a falsehood that has graduated, over the years, into a Southern mystique. His book presents compelling arguments that Selma is the predictable heritage of a South that, though losing a war, at once conspired to evade the moral indemnity that was its toll." -- Time review article on"THE ERA OF RECONSTRUCTION, 1865-1877" (Apr. 23, 1965)
1940-41: Instructor, University of Wisconsin, Extension Division
1941-42: Instructor, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
1942-46: Assistant Professor, University of Maryland, College Park
1946-83: From Assistant Professor to Morrison Professor, University of California, Berkeley
Visiting Professor: Harvard (1955), SUNY, Binghamton (1980), Colgate (1981) Williams College (1983)
Summers: University of Wisconsin, Madison (1945, 1946, 1949, 1952), University of Colorado, Boulder (1958).
Area of Research:
Slavery, American Civil War, and Reconstruction
BS, PhM, PhD, University of Wisconsin, Madison (1935, 1937, 1942)
Contributor of articles to historical journals.
Editor, Contributor, Joint Author:
Awards and Grants:
Phi Beta Kappa (1935);
MA, Oxford University, 1961;
LHD, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, 1981;
Guggenheim Fellow, 1952-53,1967-68;
Fulbright Lecturer, Amerika-Institut, University of Munich, 1957, 1968, 1972;
Commonwealth Fund Lecturer, University of London, 1960;
Harmsworth Professor of American History, Oxford University, 1961-62;
President, Organization of American Historians, 1977-78;
Visiting Fellow, All Souls College, Oxford University, 1979;
Confederate Memorial Literary Society, Award of Merit, 1980;
Commonwealth Club, Silver Medals, 1981, 1991;
Shortlisted for Pulitzer Prize, 1991;
American Historical Association Award for Scholarly Distinction, 1989;
Organization of American Historians Distinguished Service Award, 1993;
Lincoln Prize, Lincoln and Soldiers Institute, Gettysburg College, 1993;
Telford Taylor Public Service Award, Yeshiva University Law School, 1995;
Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences;
Southern Historical Association Certificate of Achievement, 2005.
What They're Famous For
Paul Boyer, a U.S. cultural and intellectual historian (Ph.D., Harvard University, 1966) is Merle Curti Professor
of History Emeritus and former director (1993-2001) of the Institute for Research in the Humanities at
the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has held visiting professorships at UCLA, Northwestern University,
and William & Mary; has received Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundation Fellowships; and is an elected
member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Society of American
Historians, and the American
Antiquarian Society. Before coming to Wisconsin in 1980, he taught at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Family stories were my first introduction to history-not articles or books, but lived experience: a great-uncle killed at Antietam; grandmothers' tales of late-nineteenth-century Ohio farm life; my father's account of losing his job during World War I for refusing to salute the flag when co-workers demanded that he do so. My paternal grandfather was a great repository of stories about the past, including his boyhood memories of President Garfield's assassination in 1881.
Paul Boyer is seated in the front row, second from left, next to his grandfather.
My future perspective as a historian was influenced, too, by my very conservative religious upbringing. The Brethren in Christ church, an offshoot of the Mennonite church, took seriously the biblical injunction"Be not conformed to this world." The members did not vote, generally refused military service, and dressed very plainly-no neckties for the men; head coverings, cape dresses, and dark stockings for the women. They avoided the movies and other worldly amusements, and viewed the secular power of the state with profound skepticism. I'm no longer a part of that subculture (which in any event is very different today), but its influence has shaped my life and work.
A grade-school teacher in Dayton, Ohio taught me that history is something people can feel passionate about. A southerner, she informed us in no uncertain terms:"If you get nothing else out of this class, just remember that slavery was NOT the cause of the Civil War." But I can't claim that the study of history initially gripped me very deeply. My copy of David Saville Muzzey's A History of Our Country, assigned in a high-school class, is full of my scribbled drawings and witticisms (e.g.,"In Case of Fire, throw this in"). The teacher called him"Fuzzy Muzzey," signaling us that even textbook writers need not be viewed with total reverence. Now a textbook author myself, I appreciate Muzzey a little more. He writes in his preface:"Boys and girls have sometimes said to me that they have 'had' American history, as if it were measles or chicken pox, which they could have and get over and be henceforth immune from. … Do not for a moment think that you are `going over' American history again in high school in order to add a few more dates and names to your memory. You are studying a new and fresh subject, not because American history has changed, but because you have changed. ... You are getting new outlooks on life,--new ambitions, new enthusiasms, new judgments of people and events. Life broadens and deepens for you. So history, which is the record of former people's ambitions and enthusiasms, comes to have a new meaning for you."
After high school I enrolled at Upland College in California, a small denominational school that has since closed. Wendell Harmon, who had written his Ph.D. thesis at UCLA on the Prohibition movement in California, taught U.S. history at Upland. Wendell had a skeptical turn of mind and a dry sense of humor. His classes, including a seminar on American Transcendentalism, jolted me into realizing that studying history could be intellectually engaging, even fun. In June 1955, preparing to leave for two years of voluntary service in Europe with the Mennonite Central Committee, I asked Wendell for reading suggestions. His list included Richard Hofstadter's The American Political Tradition (1948). I devoured the book, writing on the flyleaf words that were new to me (salient, milieu, inchoate, sinecure, ubiquitous). Hofstadter's cool-eyed revisionist look at America's political heroes was eye-opening. There is no canonical version of history-all is up for grabs! My copy of this 95-cent Vintage paperback, now falling apart, is still in my library.
My two years in Europe-mostly spent in Paris on loan from the Mennonite Central Committee to an NGO at UNESCO--ended with a world trip via ships, trains, buses, and bicycles. On a train in India I met Gloria Steinem, just out of Smith College, also on a Wanderjahr. A comment she later made about how the trip affected her summed up my reactions as well: Eisenhower's America, rich and complacent, she said, seemed like a sugary cupcake perched atop a suffering world where most people struggle merely to survive. Practicing my writing skills, I wrote a series of travel essays for the Evangelical Visitor, the Brethren in Christ denominational paper. The editorial board voted me an honorarium of fifty dollars. Another eye-opener: writing could actually produce income!
Those two and a half years abroad proved transformative. In 1955 I had expected to go into my father's religious-supply business. By 1958, when I entered Harvard as a transfer student, I knew I was not cut out for business. Journalism and teaching seemed appealing, but in a fairly inchoate way. What to major in? I considered English, but History soon won out. The department had a tutorial system for majors, and in 1958-59 I took both the sophomore and junior tutorials. My sophomore tutor, Stanley Katz, was a terrific mentor. We discussed and wrote papers on historians from Herodotus to Marc Bloch, executed by the Gestapo in 1944. Rereading those papers, I'm impressed again by Stan's blend of encouragement and shrewd criticism. My junior tutor, Manfred Jonas, although busy writing his Ph.D. thesis on American isolationism in the 1930s, carefully read my weekly essays on U.S. historical topics, offering perceptive comments. William R. Taylor's stimulating course in American historiography introduced me to Prescott, Parkman, and other classic historians and prose stylists.
My senior-thesis advisor, Roger Brown, steered me to a fascinating topic: the Federalist party's reaction to the Louisiana Purchase. Research at the Massachusetts and Connecticut historical societies gave me a first taste of using primary sources in a milieu redolent of the past. (One elderly lady at the Connecticut Historical Society asked where I was from. When I told her Ohio, she replied,"Oh yes, Western Reserve country.") To my great excitement, Roger Brown mentioned my thesis in a footnote in his 1964 book The Republic in Peril: 1812.
Finishing college in 1960, I entered Harvard's graduate history program that fall. In Frank Freidel's seminar on the 1920s, I choose book censorship in Boston as my research topic. That in turn, led to my first published article (American Quarterly, spring 1963); my Ph.D. thesis on book censorship in America (with Freidel as advisor); and my first book, Purity in Print. Freidel returned my thesis draft with a few stylistic suggestions on the first few pages."You see the kinds of changes I'm suggesting," he breezily told me;"You can apply them to the rest of the thesis." I'm fairly sure he never read beyond those early pages. (On one page, he had marked a sentence to be cut and then changed his mind, scribbling"stet" in the margin: a printer's term meaning"restore this copy." In dismay I misread it as"shit," concluding that my dissertation director considered my work beneath contempt.)
Inviting the seminar to his home for our last meeting, Freidel offered us career advice. Our first job would probably be at some obscure school, he told us, and our sole objective must be to move to ever-more prestigious institutions through our publications."Your students will want your attention, and your wife will ask you to do things with the family," he warned,"but you must ignore all that and concentrate on publishing."
In Arthur Schlesinger Jr.'s course in American intellectual history, Schlesinger read his lectures from what appeared to be page proofs, pausing occasionally to correct a typo. When he departed for Washington after the 1960 election, newly-hired Donald Fleming inherited the course, delivering erudite, beautifully crafted lectures. (My paper on Andrew Carnegie in that course became a lecture that remained in my own intellectual-history course until I retired.) I later graded for Fleming, reading blue books far into the night.
The European intellectual historian H. Stuart Hughes strongly supported SANE, the nuclear-test-ban organization. When I took his course in fall 1962, he was running as an independent for the U.S. Senate on a nuclear-disarmament platform. (Ted Kennedy won.) Sitting in Hughes' class on October 24, as the U.S. blockade of Soviet vessels bound for Cuba went into effect, we all eyed the clock nervously. Hughes' example as a politically engaged academic probably influenced my own later small-scale participation in Vietnam War protests and the early-1980s' nuclear- weapons freeze campaign.
We graduate students flocked to Bernard Bailyn's lecture course and seminar in American colonial history. At the first seminar meeting, Bailyn proposed a list of research topics. By chance, I got the last choice: a 1754 Massachusetts excise-tax controversy. It seemed unpromising, but actually proved engrossing, particularly the pamphlets describing how lecherous tax collectors would ravish the wives and daughters of virtuous yeomen. The pamphleteers also made ubiquitous references to a 1733 excise-tax controversy in England. When I reported this to Bailyn, he responded with a chuckle that he, too, had noticed that connection, and had put his notes aside for future attention. That seminar paper became my second published article (William and Mary Quarterly, July 1964). Years later, after I had published three or four books, I encountered Bailyn at a convention and he greeted me with:"You know, I see citations to that William and Mary Quarterly article of yours all the time."
Especially salient among these formative influences were Edward and Janet James, the editor and associate editor of a biographical reference work on American women launched in 1955 at the impetus of Arthur Schlesinger, Sr. (Today the positions would likely be reversed, with Janet as editor, but this was the 1950s.) Ed was a very methodical editor, and by 1961 a large back-log of essays had built up. Ed hired history grad students as fact-checkers, and I became one of his minions. I enjoyed roaming Widener Library in quest of elusive facts, in the process learning about the history of women in America-a subject mostly ignored in my undergraduate and graduate training. As I drafted revisions to correct errors or incorporate new information, and sometimes even ventured to rewrite an entire essay, Ed expanded my duties and gave me a desk in his office. Here I edited hundreds of essays (typing and retyping them in that pre-computer era) and wrote twenty-one myself, from Helena Blavatsky to Frances Wright. Ed and Janet generously appointed me assistant editor, so when Harvard University Press published Notable American Women in three volumes in 1971, my name appeared on the title page along with theirs. This editing and writing experience, immersion in women's history, and exposure to Ed James's meticulous attention to detail made my time at Notable American Women an important part-perhaps the most important part-of my graduate training.
By 1967, with Ph.D. in hand, it was time to find a teaching job. Notable American Women was fun, but obviously no lifetime sinecure. I had married Ann Talbot, then a student at Radcliffe College, in 1962, and now our first child was on the way. We hoped to stay in New England, so on a map I drew a semicircle around Boston with a radius of about a hundred miles and sent letters to history departments where I thought I might have a shot. Soon after, Howard Quint, the head of the History Department at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, phoned and invited me out. Howard rounded up a few department members and I gave a"job talk" that consisted of summarizing my Ph.D. thesis. He took me to meet the dean, and after they chatted briefly, Howard offered me a job at the munificent salary of $10,000 a year. That's how things worked in those days.
Antiwar protests and a factionalized department made those early years of teaching the most intense of my career. With campus strikes, moratoria, and marches on Washington, every spring semester from 1967 to 1970 ended with classes disrupted or cancelled entirely. Rashly signing up to give a workshop on Vietnamese history, I crammed the evening before from a book by Bernard B. Fall (killed in Vietnam in 1967). I expected ten or twelve people; the hall was packed. Another evening, several of us led a teach-in on the war in a campus dormitory. As the discussion went on, a young woman said tearfully:"My brother was just killed in Vietnam. Are you telling us this war is wrong?" Again I was reminded that"history" is not just something that we write about. History happens to people.
Just as I was becoming resigned to a life of departmental feuding, cancelled classes, and campus protests, the activism suddenly ended in the fall of 1970. The departmental conflict subsided as well, and my remaining years at UMass brought much satisfaction, with great colleagues, interesting research (including a collaboration with Steve Nissenbaum on Salem Possessed), and rewarding teaching. My graduate training had included no classroom experience and indeed no attention to pedagogy at all, so these years involved a lot of on-the-job training. Fortunately, I found that I loved teaching, whether lecture courses, seminars, or one-on-one meetings with students. (Grading blue books I could have done without.)
New experiences, new projects, and many changes lay ahead, but a course had been set, and I've never regretted how it all turned out. I can't imagine a more satisfying life, and seeing one's students set sail on their own, in history or other fields, is perhaps the greatest reward of all.
By Paul Samuel Boyer
[P]eculiarities in my background ... might plausibly be seen as having particularly 'sensitized' me to issues of war and peace. Reared in the pacifist beliefs of the Brethren in Christ Church ..., I had early heard stories from my father of the harassment and even physical abuse he had experienced as a war resister in 1917-18.... Yet ... I suspect it is not my particular upbringing, but experiences that I share with most Americans of the postwar generation, that are relevant here. Even a few random probes of my nuclear consciousness have made clear to me how significantly my life has been influenced by the ever-present reality of the bomb: ... [T]he afternoon of August 6, 1945, when I read aloud the ominous-looking newspaper headline, mispronouncing the new word as"a-tome," since I had never heard anyone say it; ... Standing in a darkened room early in 1947, squinting into my atomic-viewer ring, straining to see the"swirling atoms" the Kix Cereal people had assure me would be visible; ... Coming out of a Times Square movie theater at midnight on New Year's Eve, 1959, having just seen the end of the world in On the Beach, overwhelmed by the sheer aliveness of the raucous celebrators; ... Feeling the knot tighten in my stomach as President Kennedy, in that staccato voice, tells us we must all build fallout shelters as quickly as possible; ... Watching the clock in Emerson Hall creep up toward 11 A.M. on October 25, 1962—Kennedy's deadline to the Russians during the Cuban missile crisis—half expecting a cataclysmic flash when the hour struck; ... Overhearing my daughter's friend recently telling how her little sister hid under the bed when searchlights probed the sky a few nights earlier(a supermarket was having a grand opening), convinced that the missiles were about to fall. ....
Even my sense of ancestral rootedness is now interwoven with images of nuclear menace and danger. In the summer of 1978, my brother Bill and I, finding ourselves together in Pennsylvania, took a little excursion to find the cemetery where some of our forebears who had migrated from [Switzerland] in the 1750s were buried. As we drove southward from Harrisburg along the Susquehanna, the looming concrete bulk of a nuclear power plant—Three Mile Island—suddenly hove into view. Almost literally in the shadows of those squat, hideous—and soon to be famous—towers, we found the small burial plot we were seeking. ...
I have been repeatedly struck ... at how uncannily familiar much of the early response to the bomb seems: the visions of atomic devastation, the earnest efforts to rouse people to resist such a fate, the voices seeking to soothe or deflect these fears, the insistence that security lay in greater technical expertise and in more and bigger weaponry. I gradually realized that what I was uncovering was, in fact, the earliest version of the themes that still dominate our nuclear discourse today. All the major elements of our contemporary engagement with the nuclear reality took shape literally within days of Hiroshima. ... By the Bomb's Early Light, then, is an effort to go back to the earliest stages of our long engagement with nuclear weapons. Unless we recover this lost segment of our cultural history, we cannot fully understand the world in which we live, nor be as well equipped as we might to change it. ...
As is appropriate, this book will be read and judged by my professional peers as a piece of scholarship like any other. I hope it will not seem presumptuous to say that it is also intended as a contribution, however flawed, to the process by which we are again, at long last, trying to confront, emotionally as well as intellectually, the supreme menace of our age. Henry Adams once wrote,"No honest historian can take part with—or against—the forces he has to study. To him, even the extinction of the human race should merely be a fact to be grouped with other vital statistics." I readily confess that I have not achieved Adams's austere standard of professional objectivity. This book is a product of experiences outside the library as well as inside, and it is not the work of a person who can view the prospect of human extinction with scholarly detachment. --
-- Paul S. Boyer from the introduction to"By the Bomb's Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age" (1985)
"By Paul S. Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum
It was in 1692 that these men for the first time attempted (just as we are attempting in this book) to piece together the shards of their experience, to shape their malaise into some broader theoretical pattern, and to comprehend the full dimensions of thoses forces which they vaguely sensed were shaping their private destinies. Oddly enough, it has been through our sense of" collaborating" with Parris and the Putnams in their effort to delineate the larger contours of their world, and our sympathy, at least on the level of metaphor, with certain of their perceptions, that we have come to feel a curious bond with the"witch hunters" of 1692.
But one advantage we as outsiders have had over the people off Salem Village is that we can afford to recognize the degree to which the menace they were fighting off had taken root within each of them almost as deeply as it had in Salem Town or along the Ipswich Road. It is at this level, indeed, that we have most clearly come to recognize the implications of their travail for our understanding of what might be called the Puritan temper during the final, often intense, and occasionally lurid efflorescence which signaled the end of its century-long history. For Samuel Parrish and Thomas Putnam, Jr., were part of a vast company, on both sides of the Atlantic, who were trying to expunge the lure of the new order from their own souls by doing battle with it in the real world. While this company of Puritans were not purveyors of the spirit of capitalism that historians once made them out to be, neither were they simple peasants clinging blindly to the imagined security of a receding medieval culture. What seems above all to characterize them, and even help define their identity as"Puritans" is the precarious way in which they managed to inhabit both these worlds at once.
The inner tensions that shaped the Puritan temper were inherent in it from the very start, but rarely did they emerge with such raw force as in 1692, in little Salem Village. For here was a community in which these tensions were exacerbated by a tangle of external circumstances: a community so situated geographically that its inhabitants experienced two different economic systems, two different ways of life, at unavoidably close range; and so structured politically that it was next to impossible to locate, either within the Village or outside it, a dependable and unambiguous center of authority which might hold in check the effects of these accidents of geography.
The spark which finally set off this volatile mix came with the unlikely convergence of a set of chance factors in the early 1690's: the arrival of a new minister who brought with him a slave acquainted with West Indian voodoo lore; the heightened interest throughout New England in fortune telling and the occult, taken up in Salem Village by an intense group of adolescent girls related by blood and faction to the master of that slave; the coming of age Joseph Putnam, who bore the name of one of Salem Village's two controlling families while owing his allegiance to the other; the political and legal developments in Boston and London which hamstrung provincial authorities for several crucial months in 1692.
But beyond these proximate causes lie the deeper and more inexorable ones we have already discussed. For in the witchcraft outburst in Salem Village, perhaps the most exceptional event in American colonial history, certainly the most bizarre, one finds laid bare the central concerns of the era.
-- Paul S. Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum in"Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft"
About Paul Samuel Boyer
Boyer and Nissenbaum have provided us with a first-rate discussion of factionalism in a seventeenth-century New England community. Their handling of economic, familial, and spatial relationships within Salem Village is both sophisticated and imaginative. But the dynamics of witchcraft, not only in Salem Village but also in other Massachusetts towns affected by the outbreak of 1692, still remain a mystery. -- T. H. Breen, Northwestern University in"The William and Mary Quarterly," reviewing"Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft"
The Salem Witchcraft Papers is an important addition to the growing body of primary and secondary material dealing with the Salem witchcraft scare. Boyer and Nissenbaum have done a great service to all students of early New England history by publishing an important collection that has lain dormant for more than forty years. The ultimate value of the work, however, will be its use as a source book by future historians who seek a better understanding of the Salem witchcraft episode. -- Paula A. Treckel in"The New England Quarterly" reviewing"The Salem Witchcraft Papers: Verbatim Transcripts of the Legal Documents of the Salem Witchcraft Outbreak of 1692"
A wide-ranging historian who has written important studies of both the Salem witch trials (with Stephen Nissenbaum) and 19th-century urban reform, Mr. Boyer has closely studied the responses earlier Americans made to perceived threats to their well-being. And he does not omit pointing out"how the early discussions of the bomb's implications often moved in well-worn grooves." Among these grooves was the fear of concentrations of power (Who will control atomic energy?), worry about mass leisure (What will the masses do when the atom does all the work?), hostility to the city (Ruralization is the answer to atomic threats) and warnings of apocalypse (Repent before the fire consumes us all)....
In an epilogue, Mr. Boyer brings the story up to date. When the fallout from atmospheric nuclear testing became apparent in the mid-1950's, it brought about a new round of public concern. This faded away in the wake of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and the 1963 test-ban treaty only to reappear in recent years in the form of hostility to nuclear power, and distress at the Reagan Administration's lack of enthusiasm for arms control. The current nuclear debate, Mr. Boyer writes, afflicts him with a"sense of deja vu." Virtually"every theme and image by which we express our nuclear fear today has its counterpart in the immediate post-Hiroshima period," he writes. It is a depressing thought, for why should what proved ineffectual before not prove ineffectual again? But perhaps the old themes and images are the best we can summon. They may not succeed in removing the threat of nuclear war, but at least they tell us something about who we are. -- New York Times Review of"By the Bomb's Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age"
University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Asst. Prof. to Professor of History, 1967-1980;
department chair, 1978-80
Area of Research:
American cultural and intellectual history; American religious history; Prophetic and apocalyptic belief in America; Censorship and First Amendment Issues; nuclear weapons in American culture, Salem witchcraft.
Harvard University, A.B. (magna cum laude), 1960, M.A., 1961, Ph.D., 1966.
Byer's upcoming projects include an article on nuclear themes in the work of the poets and writers of the Beat Movement, with Professor William Lawlor, and revisions of college and high-school American history textbooks (ongoing).
Editor, Contributor, Joint Author:
Also, general editor of the"History of American Thought and Culture" series, University of Wisconsin Press, 1984-94.
Contributor to reference works and collaborative projects, among them Encyclopedia of American History, essay on Bernard Baruch, Frank Kellogg, and Henry Stimpson, Dushkin, 1974; Notable American Women,Supplement 1: The Modern Era, essay on Dorothy Thompson and Blanche Knopf, Harvard University Press, 1980; Encyclopedia Americana, essays on Carrie Chapman Catt, Henry Blackwell, and Antoinette Blackwell; Dictionary of American Biography, Scribner's, Supplement III, essays on John Macrae and John Woolsey, 1973, Supplement IV, essays on Frank Buck, Frank Crowninshield, Paul Harris, James McGraw, Barney Oldfield, Charles M. Sheldon, Harry Thaw, and Charles Towne, 1974, Supplement IV, essay on Franklin D'Olier, 1977, and Supplement VI, essay on Duncan Hines, 1980; Dictionary of American History, Scribner's, 1976; Encyclopedia of American Political History, Volume 1, edited by Jack P. Greene, Scribner's, 1984; Encyclopedia of American Social History, Volume 1, edited by Mary R. Cayton, Elliott J. Gorn, and Peter W. Williams, Scribner's, 1993; A Companion to American Thought, edited by Richard W. Fox and James T. Kloppenberg, Blackwell (Cambridge, MA), 1995; History of the United States, Volume 5, edited by Donald T. Critchlow and Andrzej Bartnicki, Polish Academic Press (Warsaw), 1996; Encyclopedia of Apocalypticism, Volume 3, edited by Stephen J. Stein, Continuum (New York City), 1997; A History of the Book in America, Volume 4, edited by Carl Kaestle and Janice Radway, Cambridge University Press, forthcoming; as well as World Book Encyclopedia,American National Biography, and Oxford Companion to American Military History.
Contributor of numerous chapters in coauthored works, scholarly articles, book reviews, and review essays to periodicals, among them American Historical Review, American Quarterly, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Diplomatic History, Historian, History Teacher, Houston Review, Journal of American History, Journal of the American Medical Association, New Republic, Peace and Change: A Journal of Peace Research in History, Reviews in American History, Virginia Quarterly Review, and William and Mary Quarterly. Also contributor of essays and commentary to periodicals, including Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Chronicle of Higher Education, Cleveland Plain Dealer Sunday Magazine, Harvard Divinity School Bulletin, Messenger Magazine, Nation, New Republic, New York Times Newsday Books, Policy Review, Tikkun, Washington Post Magazine, and Wisconsin Academy Review.
National Book Award nomination in History, 1975 (for Salem Possessed);
Boyer has made numerous television appearances on nationally broadcast programs including:"The Menace of Nuclear Weapons," History Channel"20th Century with Mike Wallace"
This HNN Doyen profile was published in the summer of 2006.
What They're Famous For
Winthrop D. Jordan is the William F. Winter Professor of History
F.A.P. Barnard Distinguished Professor
Professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of Mississippi.
He received his AB from Harvard University, his MA
from Clark University, and his Ph.D. from Brown University where he was awarded the
Distinguishing Alumnus citation from the Graduate School.
Jordan was briefly an Instructor of history at Phillips Exeter Academy and later a Professor of history at
University of California, Berkeley, 1963-82, where he was also Associate Dean for
Minority Group Affairs Graduate Division., 1968-70.
He is the author of
several books, including the award winning and groundbreaking White Over Black:
American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812 and
Tumult And Silence At Second Creek, he is also the co-author of several
textbooks for junior high and high school students. Jordan is the recipient
of seven book awards, including the National Book Award and a two time winner
of the Bancroft Prize.
Jordan retired from teaching in 2004. To mark this event his former students edited and contributed essays as a tribute to the career of one of America's great thinkers and perhaps the most influential American historian of his generation. The anthology was published in 2005 as Affect and Power: Essays on Sex, Slavery, Race, and Religion in Appreciation of Winthrop D. Jordan. In the introduction Sheila L. Skemp described Jordan's impact on his students:"Jordan's legendary seminar-an introduction to the discipline, a requirement for every M.A. student in the Department of History, and experience no student will easily forget... He teaches his students to have an open mind about just what those voices from the past are saying. No matter how relevant his own work is, Jordan never allows his own political or ethical agenda to interfere with his reading of the sources, and he urged his students to put their own preconceived notions aside as well. When their work led them in new directions and they arrived, often despite themselves, at unexpected conclusions, no one was more delighted than Jordan to discover that common wisdom is neither infallible nor particularly wise."
My distinguished medical career ended when as a college sophomore I got a D- in Chem 1A. I took no history courses in college. Partly this was owing to being a history professor's son, but also because I had taken a great deal of history at the secondary school level. Yet the principal reason was that Harvard offered a much less demanding major in its new Department of Social Relations. That major offered an appealingly wide range of courses in the social sciences and, fully as important, a lot less work. I spent nearly as much time singing with the Harvard Krokodiloes as going to classes.
After graduating in Social Relations I spent nearly a year in a home-office management training program at the Prudential Life Insurance Company. After several months at their headquarters in Newark, I realized that my interests and abilities were less than a good fit with bureaucratic management. So I cast about for a job teaching something ? anything (perhaps English, Physics, French, or History) ? at a prep school. Serendipitously, it turned out that Phillips Exeter was looking for someone to teach history, and we agreed that I should start work on an M.A. in U.S. history at Clark University. Teaching the extremely bright students at Exeter led me toward getting a Ph.D. In a stroke of good fortune I was denied admission at Harvard and then chose Brown because I was admitted there. I gradually became aware of how lucky I was, as I became interested in early American history because of the marvelous books at the John Carter Brown Library. Also, perhaps because of my undergraduate acquaintance with cultural anthropology, I found dealing with the 16th-18th centuries interesting and intellectually profitable because their denizens lived in cultures so different from modern ones.
At that time (the latter 1950s) the field of history was still dominated by my fellow male"WASPS." In the 1960s I enthusiastically welcomed signs of broadening in the profession and especially the slackening of the outrageous, falsely genteel anti-Semitism that had sapped the moral integrity of the old establishment.
Thus my undergraduate background meant that my approach to history was strongly influenced by the social sciences of the early 1950s. For my Ph.D. dissertation, I chose a subject that I thought of as a study of an old culture which was still imposing a crushing weight on the nation's publicly stated political and moral ideals. More particularly, I aimed to understand the large component of emotion and indeed irrationality that characterized the attitudes of the white majority toward"Negroes" in this country. Certainly"ideas" mattered in such an investigation, but they were often so blatantly absurd (especially in the"Age of Reason") that I was constantly led to pondering the cultural dimensions of affect concerning"race." No doubt I was influenced by the developing civil rights movement of the late 1950s, though I steered clear of reading much about it in newspapers. More important, the revelations about the wartime Holocaust in Europe loomed over the social sciences in those years; indeed it was no longer possible to think about"racial prejudice" without being acutely aware of the horrifying consequences of politicized anti-Semitism. I thus came to history with intellectual interests and perspectives that virtually dictated the kinds of topics that would engage my attention throughout my historical career. In addition, my mother's side of the family was still steeped in a Quaker and strongly abolitionist tradition. Less obviously, my exposure to the barbarous prose of the social sciences led to a determination on my part to write in language that at least attempted a measure of grace and clarity.
My dissertation dealt with a matter about which historians had written little. Even after Kenneth Stampp's revolutionary study, The Peculiar Institution (1956) and the massive amount of research stimulated by Stanley Elkins's assertions about"Sambo" in his Slavery (1959), white opinions about blacks took a back seat to"black culture," which by the early 1970s was being called the"hottest field" in historical studies.
Many years after publication of White over Black (1968) I wrote more directly about certain black slaves as they became involved in a conspiracy near Natchez, Mississippi. Over this long period, however, I also published short pieces on"other" subjects that seemed to me closely related to racial attitudes in American culture. These topics included past definitions of the temporal stages of the human life-cycle as well as familial imagery in political thought. Yet there was indeed an intellectual glue that bound such explorations together with my further inquiries into important matters about race that White over Black had failed to cover, including the culture of Tudor England and development of the United States's unique one-drop racial rule. If I had to name this glue, I would call it"affect."
Because I had focussed on"thought" that was not intellective, I warmly welcomed a recent retrospective assessment of White over Black by Lawrence Shore in History and Theory which concluded that the book had shown that"if you ignore the evidence it is easy to deny the power of the irrational." Indeed such persistent denial must be easy, since so many historians had and have been achieving it for years. Denial has recently spilled over into discussions of"race." I hope soon to write about the modern social and scientific conceptualizations of"race," which has proven such an appallingly dangerous term that many critics want to ban the word itself and to claim, mistakenly, that it is totally foreign to natural science including evolutionary biology. For present purposes I will merely emphasize that human beings constitute a single entity, whether it is called a single species, a breeding population, a gene pool, children of God, or the family of man. I personally find great value and aptness in all these designations. My doubts arise only in regard to the second term in the species name, Homo sapiens.
By Winthrop D. Jordan
Within every white American who stood confronted by the Negro, there had arisen a perpetual duel between his higher and lower natures. His cultural conscience--his Christianity, his humanitarianism, his ideology of liberty and equality--demanded that he regard and treat the Negro as his brother and his countryman, as his equal. At the same moment, however, many of his most profound urges, especially his yearning to maintain the identity of his folk, his passion for domination, his sheer avarice, and his sexual desire, impelled him toward conceiving and treating the Negro as inferior to himself, as an American leper. At closer view, though, the duel appears more complex than a conflict between the best and worst in the white man's nature, for in a variety of ways the white man translated his"worst" into his"best." Raw sexual aggression became retention of purity, and brutal domination became faithful maintenance of civilized restraints. These translations, so necessary to the white man's peace of mind, were achieved at devastating cost to another people. But the enormous toll of human wreckage was by no means paid exclusively by the Negro, for the subtle translation of basic urges in the white man necessitated his treating the Negro in a fashion which tortured his own conscience, that very quality in his being which necessitated those translations. So the peace of mind the white man sought by denying his profound inexorable drives toward creation and destruction (a denial accomplished by affirmations of virtue in himself and depravity in the Negro) was denied the white man; he sought his own peace at the cost of others and found none. In fearfully hoping to escape the animal within himself the white man debased the Negro, surely, but at the same time he debased himself.
Conceivably there was a way out from the vicious cycle of degradation, an opening of better hope demanding an unprecedented and perhaps impossible measure of courage, honesty, and sheer nerve. If the white man turned to stare at the animal within him, if he once admitted unashamedly that the beast was there, he might see that the old foe was a friend as well, that his best and his worst derived from the same deep well of energy. If he once fully acknowledged the powerful forces which drove his being, the necessity of imputing them to others would drastically diminish. If he came to recognize what had happened and was still happening with himself and the African in America, if he faced the unpalatable realities of the tragedy unflinchingly, if he were willing to call the beast no more the Negro's than his own, then conceivably he might set foot on a better road. Common charity and his special faith demanded that he make the attempt. But there was little in his historical experience to indicate that he would succeed. -- Winthrop D. Jordan in"White Over Black American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812"
About Winthrop D. Jordan
Mr. Jordan, a professor of history and Afro-American studies at the University of Mississippi, has written a work of historical scholarship that leaves its scaffolding standing and visible, a study in which the process of discovery is at least as important as the result. He not only invites the engaged reader to participate in the struggle to understand the past, but he also includes almost all the available evidence in appendixes. -- Drew Gilpin Faust reviewing"Tumult and Silence at Second Creek An Inquiry Into a Civil War Slave Conspiracy"
This is both a fascinating and fustrating study, fasvcinating for what Jordan is able to wring out of a small handful of skimpy documents, and fustrating for what he is unable to explain because history would surrender nothing further, even to his skilled hands." -- C. Peter Ripley, Florida State University reviewing"Tumult and Silence at Second Creek An Inquiry Into a Civil War Slave Conspiracy"
Brown University, Providence, RI, lecturer in history, 1959-61; College of William and Mary, Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, VA, fellow, 1961-63; University of California, Berkeley, assistant professor, 1963-67, associate professor, 1967-69, professor of history, 1969-1982. William F. Winter Professor of History F.A.P. Barnard Distinguished Professor Professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of Mississippi, 1982-2004.
Area of Research:
Afro-American History, Early American History.
Harvard University, A.B., 1953;
Clark University, M.A., 1957;
Brown University, Ph.D., 1960
Editor, Contributor, Joint Author:
Jordan has also contributed numerous articles and book review to professional journals
Jordan's many awards include fellowships from the Institute of Early American History
and Culture, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Social Science Research Council and the
Center for the Advanced Study of the Behavioral Sciences, as well as a Distinguished
Alumnus Citation from Brown University’s Graduate School.
1968, Winner of the Francis Parkman Prize, Society of American Historians;
1969, Winner of the National Book Award;
1969, Winner of the Bancroft Prize, Columbia University;
1968, Winner of the Ralph Waldo Emerson Award, Phi Beta Kappa all for White Over Black American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812
1993, Winner of the Bancroft Prize;
1993, the Eugene M. Kayden National University Press Book Award;
1992 the Jules and Frances Landry Award all for Tumult and Silence at Second Creek An Inquiry Into a Civil War Slave Conspiracy.
1976, Fellowship Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS).
Jordan worked at Prudential Life Insurance Co., Newark, NY, as a management trainee, 1953-54; and then at Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, NH, as an instructor in history, 1955-56.
Jordan has been widely reported in the press and has made several appearances on C-Span regarding the debate to whether Thomas Jefferson did in fact father his slave Sally Hemmings's children, based on his claim in White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812 (1968) that"She bore five, from 1795 to 1808; and though he was away from Monticello a total of roughly two-thirds of this period, Jefferson was at home nine months prior to each birth."
What They're Famous For
Sir Martin Gilbert, the author of more than seventy books, is Winston Churchill's
official biographer, a leading historian of the modern world, and one of the
most popular historians of the modern era. He is an
Honorary Fellow of Merton College, Oxford, and a Distinguished Fellow of Hillsdale
College, Michigan. Among his most celebrated books are the single-volume Churchill: A Life,
his twin histories First World War
and Second World War, a comprehensive History of Israel, and his three-volume work,
A History of the Twentieth Century. (also published in a single, condensed volume).
His book The Holocaust: The Jewish Tragedy (published in the United States as
The Holocaust: A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War)
is a classic work on the subject.
In 1995 he was knighted"for services to British history and international relations"
and in 1999 he was awarded a Doctorate of Literature by the University of Oxford for
the totality of his published work. As a three-year-old Briton he was sent to
Canada in the summer of 1940, returning to Britain in May 1944, just in time for
Hitler's V bombs.
Born in England in 1936, Gilbert attended Oxford University both as an undergraduate and graduate student. In 1962 he joined the research team assembled by Randolph Churchill to compile materials for a multivolume biography of Randolph's father, Winston Churchill. Six years later, following Randolph's death, Gilbert was given the responsibility for finishing the final six volumes of the eight-volume biography. Although he completed this task in 1988, he remains at work on a series of companion volumes that provide the full texts of the original documents upon which the biography was based.
In the Fall of 2006 Sir Gilbert joined the History Department at the University of Western Ontario as an adjunct research professor for a five year tenure. In honor of this new endeavor Sir Gilbert told"The Western News":"Its going to be a wonderful opportunity to have contact with students. I taught students at Oxford from 1960 to 1970 and since then I've almost been a hermit. I'm emerging from the ivory tower. They're setting up the new Jewish Studies program here. It will be a major focus for Western over the coming years. I will be the first toe in the water."
Forty-five years ago, on a cold January afternoon, I entered the New York Public
Library in search of letters written by Winston Churchill to an American friend,
Bourke Cockran. I knew from Churchill's archive that he had been in correspondence
with Cockran since their first meeting in New York in 1895, when Churchill was nineteen.
I also knew that Cockran's private papers were deposited in the New York Public Library.
Approaching the archive desk, I asked if they had any letters in the Bourke Cockran collection from the British statesman Winston Churchill. After a short while the archival assistant returned to say that they did not. They did, however, have quite a number from Churchill's American namesake, the novelist Winston Churchill, a popular writer at the end of the nineteenth century. The novelist being of no interest to me, I left the library and found myself in a massive downpour. I had no umbrella and dared not risk a soaking.
Returning to the archive desk I asked - since I would not be able to leave the library until the rain had stopped - if I might read the novelist Winston Churchill's letters. With pleasure, I was told, and the archival assistant hurried away. She returned with a box full of letters. As I looked at the first letter I was astonished. It was obviously from the British Winston Churchill, as were all the other letters in the box. At the time of cataloguing, the library had not imagined that Bourke Cockran, a little-remembered American politician and three-term Congressman, would have had any connection at all with a young Englishman, a lieutenant in the British army in 1895.
It was my finest discovery - thus far!
By Sir Martin Gilbert
The story of Churchill and America spans ninety years. Many of the issues have strong resonances today. The special relationship Churchill felt towards the United States, and strove to establish - not always successfully - remains a central aspect of international relations. 'Whatever the pathway of the future may bring,' he told an American audience in 1932, 'we can face it more safely, more comfortably, and more happily if we travel it together, like good companions. We have quarreled in the past, but even in our quarrels great leaders on both sides were agreed on principle.' Churchill added: 'Let our common tongue, our common basic law, our joint heritage of literature and ideals, the red tie of kinship, become the sponge of obliteration of all the unpleasantness of the past.'
Churchill, whose mother was American - she was born in Brooklyn in 1854 - spent much of his seventy adult years in close contact with the United States. A British political opponent once called him, 'Half alien - and wholly reprehensible'. A First World War colleague said of him: 'There's a lot of Yankee in Winston. He knows how to hustle and how to make others hustle too.' Many Americans were attracted to Churchill's personality. 'Unlike most Englishmen,' one of his secretaries recalled, 'he is naturally at ease among Americans, who seem to understand him better than his own countrymen.' Franklin Roosevelt expressed it succinctly when he telegraphed to Churchill during the Second World War: 'It is fun being in the same decade as you.'
In two world wars, Churchill's was the chief British voice urging, and attaining the closest possible co-operation with the United States. From before the First World War he understood the power of the United States, the 'gigantic boiler', which, once lit, would drive the greatest of engines forward. After the United States had entered the First World War, Churchill told the British War Cabinet that 'the intermingling of British and American units on the field of battle and their endurance of losses and suffering together may exert an immeasurable effect upon the future destiny of the English-speaking peoples....' As Minister of Munitions, he worked to ensure that the two armies would be well-mingled and well-supplied.
Speaking on 4 July 1918 to a large Anglo-American gathering in London, Churchill, having just returned from the Western Front, declared: 'When I have seen during the past few weeks the splendour of American manhood striding forward on all the roads of France and Flanders, I have experienced emotions which words cannot describe.' The only reward Britain sought from American participation in the First World War was the 'supreme reconciliation' of Britain and the United States. If the two armies and the two nations worked well together to secure victory in 1918, Britain and the United States 'may act permanently together'.
Such sentiments were not universally shared by Churchill's fellow-countrymen. Throughout his life, one of Churchill's battles was against the latent - and often strong - anti-Americanism that could be found throughout British society. He was always urging his friends, his colleagues, and as Prime Minister, his War Cabinet, not to alienate the United States, whatever vexations American policy might be causing.
During the Second World War it is doubtful that Britain could have sustained itself against the Nazi onslaught, or maintained itself at war, without Churchill's almost daily efforts to win the United States to the British and Allied cause: first as a benign neutral providing vast amounts of war material, and then as an ally willing to put the defeat of Germany before that of Japan. When the Second World War ended, and the Cold War with the Soviet Union began, Churchill told his Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden: 'The similarity and unity which we have with the United States will grow and it is indispensable to our safety.' To ensure that unity and safety, Churchill worked for the next twenty years with Presidents Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Truman and Eisenhower were important in Churchill's efforts to forge a common Anglo- American policy and theme, but no world leaders had such a long, constructive, intimate, frustrating, disputatious and affectionate and relationship as Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt. Churchill said of the President whom he met so many times and corresponded with so frequently over a period of five years: 'I have wooed President Roosevelt as a man might woo a maid.'
Churchill's lifelong love affair with the United State began with his first visit to New York in 1895 and continued beyond his final visit in 1961. At the beginning of 1942 Churchill told King George VI that Britain and the United States 'were now"married" after many months of"walking out".' As with all close and sustained relationships, it was replete with ups and downs, uncertainties and disagreements, even anger, but its high points were sustained and remarkable, and of deep benefit to both nations. Churchill's determination to maintain, repair, strengthen and make full use of the ties between the two countries is unique in the annals of Anglo-American relations. -- Sir Martin Gilbert in"Churchill and America"
In the northern part of Bulgaria, farmers had threatened to lie down on the railway tracks to prevent passage of the deportation trains. It was also said that the King himself had intervened. Despite the fact that he was German, of the family of Coburg, he was known to be opposed to the anti-Semitic measures then in force in Bulgaria, helpless though he considered himself to be in the face of German might. The release of the Jews, which took place on March 10, came to be known in Bulgaria as a 'miracle of the Jewish people'." -- Sir Martin Gilbert in"The Holocaust"
Churchill's knowledge had often been bought at the price of unpopularity and failure. But, above all, it was the experience of dealing, both as a Cabinet Minister from 1905 and as a member of the Committee of Imperial Defence from 1909, with a wide range of national and world issues, and also of persuading a frequently hostile House of Commons to accept the logic and argument of government policy. That experience served as an essential underpinning-and strengthening-of his leadership in the Second World War. For a decade before the First World War, four Prime Ministers-Campbell-Bannerman, Asquith, Lloyd George and Baldwin-each entrusted Churchill with contentious issues, having a high regard for his negotiating and persuasive skills. The experience he gained was considerable. In 1911 he had been a pioneer of industrial conciliation and arbitration at a time of intense labour unrest. In 1913 he had led the search for an amelioration of Anglo-German naval rivalry. In 1914 his duties as First Lord of the Admiralty (the post he was to hold again on the outbreak of war in 1939) included both the air defence of London and the protection of the Royal Navy and merchant shipping from German naval attack. In 1917 he was put in charge of munitions production in Britain at a time of the greatest need and strain. In 1919 he devised, as a matter of urgency, a system of demobilization that calmed the severe tensions of a disaffected soldiery. In the early 1920s he had been at the centre of resolving the demands of Irish Catholics for Home Rule and of the first-and effectively the last-border delineation dispute between Southern Ireland and Ulster. At the same time, he had undertaken the complicated task of carrying out Britain's promise to the Jews of a National Home in Palestine after the First World War.
This experience of dealing at the centre with Britain's major national needs, during more than three decades, gave Churchill a precious boon from the first days of his premiership. It also provided him with many specific pointers to war direction. A quarter of a century before he became Prime Minister, he had seen the perils that accompanied the evolution of war policy when there was no central direction. He had been a member of the War Council in 1914, when the Prime Minister, Asquith, had been unable to exercise effective control over the two Service departments-the army and the navy. To redress this problem, on becoming Prime Minister in May 1940, Churchill created the post, hitherto unknown in Britain, of Minister of Defence. Although the new Ministry had no departmental structure as such, it did have a secretariat, headed by General Hastings Ismay, who served, with his small staff, as a direct conduit between the Prime Minister and the Chiefs of Staff-the respective heads of the army, navy and air force. This structure enabled Churchill to put forward his suggestions directly, and with the utmost directness, to those who would have to accept or reject, modify and implement them.
The organization of his wartime premiership was a central feature of Churchill's war leadership. That organization took several months to perfect, but from his first days as Prime Minister and Minister of Defence he worked to establish it, and to create in the immediate ambit of 10 Downing Street an organization that would give the nation strong and effective leadership. At its core was the close relationship between Churchill and the three Chiefs of Staff. Their frequent meetings, often daily, enabled him to discuss with them the many crises of the war, to tackle the many emergencies, and to decide on an acceptable common strategy. Working under the Chiefs of Staff, and in close association with Churchill through the Ministry of Defence, were two other essential instruments of military planning: the Joint Planning Staff (known as the"Joint Planners") and the Joint Intelligence Committee.
Other essential elements of the organizational side of Churchill's war leadership evolved as the need arose, among them the Production Council, the Import Executive, the Tank Parliament, the Combined Raw Materials Board (an Anglo-America venture), the Anglo-American Shipping Adjustment Board, and the Battle of the Atlantic Committee of the War Cabinet. And always to hand was the apparatus of Intelligence gathering, assessment and distribution, controlled by the Secret Intelligence Services headed by Colonel (later General) Stewart Menzies, with whom Churchill was in daily communication. In his Minutes to Menzies, Churchill made whatever comments he felt were needed on the nature, implications and circulation of Intelligence material.
This organizational structure gave Churchill a method of war leadership whereby the highest possible accumulation of professional knowledge was at his disposal. He was not a dictatorial leader, although he could be emphatic in his requests and suggestions. If the Chiefs of Staff opposed any initiative he proposed, it was abandoned. He had no power to overrule their collective will. But on most occasions there was no such stark dichotomy. He and they were searching for the same out-come-the means, first, to avert defeat; then to contain and, finally, to defeat Germany-and in this search they were in frequent agreement.
One of the members of Churchill's Private Office, John Peck, later recalled:"I have the clearest possible recollection of General Ismay talking to me about a meeting of the Chiefs of Staff Committee at which they got completely stuck and admitted that they just did not know what was the right course to pursue; so on a purely military matter, they had come to Churchill, civilian, for his advice. He introduced some further facts into the equation that had escaped their notice and the solution became obvious."
A crucial aspect of Churchill's war leadership was his private secretariat, the Private Office at 10 Downing Street. Members of his Private Office accompanied him wherever he went, whether in Britain or overseas, and were available to help smooth his path during every working hour, often until late into the night. At its centre were his Private Secretaries: civil servants, mostly in their thirties, who remained at his side on a rota system throughout the week and the weekend. They were privy to his innermost thoughts (although not, ironically, to the decrypted Enigma messages on which so many of those thoughts hinged). They knew how to interpret his briefest of instructions, some of which were scarcely more than a grunt or a nod of the head. They knew how to find documents and to circulate them. They kept his desk diary with its myriad appointments. They also ensured that whatever the Prime Minister needed-a document to study, a file to scrutinize, a colleague to question, a journey to be organized, a foreign dignitary to be received-all was ready at the right time and in the right place. Given the scale of Churchill's travel in Britain and overseas, and his notorious unpunctuality and indecision in little things, this streamlined operation was impressive. In a private letter to General Sir Bernard Montgomery, Clementine Churchill referred to her husband's" chronic unpunctuality" and"habit of changing his mind (in little things) every minute!" For example, his Private Secretariat was caused endless vexation as to whether he would receive some important visitor at 10 Downing Street, at No. 10 Annexe a hundred yards away, or in the Prime Minister's room in the House of Commons.
Churchill could also show uncertainty regarding the large decisions, rehearsing them in his mind and hesitating for long periods before settling on a course of action. One such instance was the difficult decision, which he supported, to send British troops to Greece to take part in the defence of that country against a possible German attack, thus weakening the British forces that were then defending Egypt. In the end, he asked for every member of his War Cabinet to vote on this matter. The unanimous vote was in favour of showing Greece that she was not to be abandoned by her ally, despite the hopelessness of the situation, given German military superiority.
The names of most of the members of Churchill's Private Office are little known to history. Only one, John Colville-who started as the Junior Private Secretary in 1940- subsequently made his mark, one of great importance to history, because he kept a detailed diary (quite against the rules) of those days when he was on duty. Neither the first Principal Private Secretary, Eric Seal, nor Seal's successor John Martin, nor the other members of the Private Office-John Peck, Christopher Dodds and Leslie Rowan-kept anything more than a few jottings and private letters. The whole team constituted, collectively, the support system on which Churchill depended and from whom he obtained first-class service, ensuring the smooth running of the prime ministerial enterprise at its centre. The members of his Private Office sustained him without publicity or fanfare, but with a professionalism and a devotion that helped to make his leadership both smooth and effective. -- Sir Martin Gilbert in"Winston Churchill's War Leadership"
About Sir Martin Gilbert
Elsewhere in London on March 26th, 1936, the prescient Mrs. Miriam Gilbert, knowing that the lonely MP at Morpeth Mansions would need a second biographer, after the premature death of Randolph Churchill, was giving birth to a son. We are lucky indeed that Mrs. Gilbert was aware of our need. But Winston Churchill was luckier still.
Martin Gilbert has now devoted more than half his life to educating us about Winston Churchill. It has been an extraordinary performance: eight biographic volumes, typical of which is the last one, Never Despair, four inches thick, 1348 pages long, a book you would be ill-advised to drop on your foot.
The official biography, with its battalion of thirteen companion volumes of documents - and ten more still to come - is well suited to what Alistair Cooke suggested to ICS was"the largest man of his time." Added to it are the author's shorter works on Churchill, including Photographic Portrait, the most thorough photo documentary ever published, and books on numerous other topics: Appeasement, the Middle East, the Holocaust, Jerusalem, Soviet Jewry, and several fine historical atlases.
Now comes his one-volume biography Churchill: A Life - not a condensation or abridgement, but a total recast with much new information. Why, did you know, it even contains opinions, which Martin is accused of not having? Most important, it will bring Churchill to the ken of thousands who would not otherwise know him, and for that reason, it is in my opinion his most important single volume.
Churchill needs this kind of coverage. Ironically, the very thoroughness of Martin's work has allowed others to write books of their own, including not a few to whom Winston Churchill ranks somewhere between Attila and Genghis Khan, with a colossal ego, a towering ambition, an utter disdain for the feelings, not to mention opinions, of everyone around him- a Churchill who, if you accept footnotes like, 'Mrs. Goering to the author," brought his country headlong into an unnecessary and devastating war, and then (according to a breathless book just out) conspired not to tell Roosevelt what he surely knew, namely that the Japanese would attack Pearl Harbor.
Given that Churchill issued Stalin two months worth of warnings when he learned in advance of Hitler's plan to attack Russia; given that the actual Japanese attack signal, if it was decoded, read,"Climb Mount Niitaka," we certainly have to credit the authors of these books, in Churchill's words, for compressing the largest amount of words into the smallest amount of thought.
I suppose it's true that the greater a person, the greater the crowd of authors dedicated to reducing that person to the lowest level in the interests of what they call historical accuracy. Churchill is big enough to stand the onslaught.
But we live in an age of moral relativism and a rejection of traditional values that mitigates against even genuine heroes: an age where people are tried in public, but granted no courtroom rights, and considered guilty until proven innocent. The generation that grew up in the Sixties being told to drop out, turn on and light up, that forsook religion for a kind of commonweal, whose morals if any turn on sex or race or the environment, are a welcome audience for writers who disparage a figure like Churchill, who encompassed not only warlike grit, but humour, culture, principle, faith, humanity, optimism, and above all love of the English-Speaking Peoples.
Another book just out, for example, purports to take us"beyond the myth and deep into the psychology" not only of Churchill but his family, who are all neatly pigeonholed. Lady Randolph is invariably worldly, Clementine prickly; Churchill's friends, like Bracken and Birkenhead, are almost always egregious. Randolph is boorish, Diana neurotic, Sarah tipsy. Indeed this author never seems to have met a Churchill he didn't despise, except Lady Soames, who has the advantage of being alive, and therefore able to sue for libel.
Well, I'm halfway through that book and do you know? It is ninety percent boilerplate, gleaned extensively from Martin Gilbert's volumes plus a handful of highly selective interviews. That it relies so heavily on Gilbert means that there are few errors, but it's not the facts that make it so tawdry, it's the interpretation. Read this book and you will conclude that all Churchill did at the War Office in 1919 was bring Britain to the brink of a new war with Russia."To set such a man in charge of the War Office when the First World War was over was the sort of joke to be expected of Lloyd George," says the author,"but he should have known better than to take such a risk." You have to read Gilbert to learn that this risky man organized the fair and equitable demobilization of seven million soldiers.
"One would like to think Churchill was troubled by the death toll of the Dardanelles," the author writes,"but there is little evidence." You have to read Gilbert to learn that Churchill fought against a premature invasion of Europe because, as he told General Marshall, he remembered the Dardanelles, and a sea full of corpses.
But we are hopeless addicts. Every time one of these new decisive studies comes out, declaring that it has separated the myth from the man, we buy and devour it. And in due course find ourselves sifting through Martin Gilbert's volumes, and the thousands of documents he meticulously supplies us, in search of the truth.
This past August we passed through what may well have been the signal event this century, one that vindicated everything Churchill said about dealing with the Soviet Union, yes, even in the War Office in 1919. The voices of our correct thinkers will now be raised to remind us that Winston Churchill is irrelevant, a man of war not peace. Presidents and potentates who devour his words in times of strife have little interest in his thoughts and deeds during the seventy-four years of his life when Britain was not at war. Such assertions require counter-argument.
The democracies we were so overjoyed to see arise in August are already finding, as Churchill said, that; democracy is the worst possible form of government, except for all the other forms. What happens when they turn to dictators, as inevitably some will? Already we see a tide of reckless nationalism, a Balkan war, a renewal of border disputes two world wars haven't solved - all very familiar to Churchill. And the Middle East - will they fix it this time?
"Study history, study history," Churchill told the young James Humes."In history lie all the secrets to statecraft." To that Martin Gilbert adds, study Churchill. Here I quote from a piece he wrote for our California Chapter on the theme,"Teaching the Next Generation":
As I open file after file of Churchill's archives from his entry into Government in 1905 to his retirement in 1955, 1 am continually surprised by the truth of his assertions, the modernity of his thought, the originality of his mind, the constructiveness of his proposals, his humanity and most remarkable of all, his foresight.
One final quote from a notable Australian, Sir Robert Menzies, who described Churchill thus:"A great voice rolling round the world; a great spirit informing the voice; a great courage warming the listener's ears; a wonderful feeling that we were at the gates of destiny. For my generation these need no memorial. But for my grandchildren they need to be remembered. Let the clever critics come on, let them explain Winston's errors and, by implication, show how much wiser they would have been."
It is always a proud moment to introduce the man who has done so much in so many ways for the International Churchill Societies - speaker, tour guide, advisor, writer-but moreover who has given the world Churchill's triumphs and tragedies, archives and arguments; and who has had the humility to say, when his work was done:"Mere is the record. Let the reader decide." -- "Martin Gilbert: An Appreciation," Introduction of Martin Gilbert by Richard M. Langworth, Winston Churchill PROCEEDINGS of the International Churchill Societies 1990-91
Teaching and Professional Positions:
Merton College, Oxford, England, fellow and member of governing body, 1962-94, honorary fellow, 1994--;
official biographer of the late Sir Winston Churchill, 1968-88.
Research assistant to Randolph S. Churchill on official life of Winston Churchill, 1962-67.
Non-governmental representative, U.N. Commission on Human Rights, 43rd Session, Geneva, Switzerland, 1987.
Visiting professor at University of South Carolina, Columbia, 1965, University of Tel Aviv, 1979-80, and University of Jerusalem, 1980; governor, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1980--;
visiting lecturer at universities in the United States, South Africa, and the Soviet Union.
Consultant on modern history to newspapers and television.
Area of Research:
Magdalen College, Oxford, B.A.(first class honors), 1960;
St. Anthony's College, Oxford, graduate research, 1960;
Merton College, Oxford, M.A., 1964.
Sir Gilbert is current working on"Churchill and the Jews," which is for publication in early in 2007.
Editor, Contributor, Joint Author:
Contributor of articles and reviews to newspapers and periodicals, including History, Sunday Telegraph, Times (London, England), Guardian, Sunday Times (London, England), Evening Standard, Jewish Chronicle (London, England), Jerusalem Post, Spiegel, (Hamburg, Germany), and Tworczosz (Warsaw, Poland).
Awards and Grants:
Academy Award for best documentary film, 1981, for"Genocide";
D.Litt., Westminster College, Fulton, MO, 1981;
Knighted for services to British History and International Relations, 1995;
Doctorate of Literature by Oxford University, 1999;
Doctor of Laws (LL.D), University of Western Ontario, 2003.
British Army, student at Joint Service School for Linguists, 1955-57.
Gilbert served as one of the advisers for the Library of Congress' exhibition,"Churchill and the Great Republic" in 2003-2004.
Sir Martin Gilbert was the host of A&E's"JERUSALEM" and the History Channel's"Israel: Birth of a Nation."
What They're Famous ForLinda Gordon has specialized in examining the historical roots of contemporary social policy debates, particularly as they concern gender and family issues. Her first book was a documentary history of working women in the US (America's Working Women, orig. 1976, revised ed. 1995). She then turned her attention to the history of birth control; her book on that topic, Woman's Body, Woman's Right: The History of Birth Control in America, was a runner-up for the National Book Award in 1976 and was re-issued in an up-to-date revision in 1990. Her 1988 book, Heroes of Their Own Lives: The History and Politics of Family Violence, winner of the Joan Kelly prize of the American Historical Association, examined the history of child abuse, child sexual abuse and wife-beating.
As a domestic violence expert, she serves on the Departments of Justice/Health and Human Services Advisory Council on Violence Against Women. More recently she turned her attention to the history of welfare. Her Pitied But Not Entitled: Single Mothers and the History of Welfare (1994), winner of the Berkshire Prize and Gustavus Myers Human Rights Award, explains how we ended up with a welfare program detested by recipients and non-recipients alike.
Her 1999 book, The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction (Harvard University Press) uses a narrative about a 1904 white vigilante action against the Mexican American foster parents of white children to illustrate how family values and racism can interact. It was the winner of the Bancroft prize for best book in American history. A more recent book, Dear Sisters, edited with Ros Baxandall (Basic Books, 2000), offers an historical introduction to the women's movement of the 1970s through essays and documents.
I was lucky enough to be studying history when the ground was shifting beneath the older definitions of the field. The changes began for me with the French social history I read in college at Swarthmore from Paul Beik, and the Russian social history I read in graduate school at Yale from Firuz Kazemzadeh. I did not at the time register that these subjects and the methods of approaching them were new. But although I was already a"social" historian--my dissertation focused largely on runaway serfs--still the idea that historical questions could be framed and researched about women, let alone a new-to-me concept like gender, did not reach me until 1969. And then it arrived not through academic channels but through a social movement.
In 1969 I was teaching at the University of Massachusetts/Boston where I was hired in the field of my dissertation and PhD, Russian history. But the women's movement had gripped me, as so many others, and I was a participant in an informal group of scholars who had the idea to examine what historical research might yield on questions of gender. We thought we were pioneers. We thought we were inventing new ideas. But then I went to Harvard's library and began to browse. To my surprise I found a few superb books–deeply researched, intellectually both analytic and synthetic. One example is Alice Clark's The Working Life of Women in the Seventeenth Century, published in London in 1919. From this work I learned more than from any other my understanding of gender as a material, not just a cultural, practice.
The I looked at the library check-out slip pasted to the inside back cover. Clark's book had not been checked out since the 1930s. I soon found others equally dusty and forgotten.
I found this ominous. How could such a good book have been so neglected? History-writing was supposed to progress, and to do so by standing on the shoulders of previous scholars, incorporating or challenging their work and moving beyond it. Soon the new women's-history scholars would learn that the number of female historians and university professors declined between 1920 and 1960. Their work was all but lost for five decades, and entirely lost in the training of new historians in this period.
I hope my generation of scholars examining gender, and those that followed, through their prodigious publishing and teaching of the past three decades, have made a more lasting impact, but I don't take anything for granted any more. When I wrote a book on the history of birth control politics, published now 30 years ago, I assumed that reproduction control was an aspect of modernity and women's emancipation, a practice here to stay. How wrong I was. History must always struggle for independence from the present. And our resistance is needed not only against scholars defending"tradition." Sometimes we have to contest the interpretations of our allies. I remember being criticized by some activists in the movement against violence against women because they saw my emphasis on the"agency" of domestic violence victims as a form of blaming the victim.
I was lucky in another regard: there were plenty of jobs when I finished graduate school. I enjoyed the fruits of a public and private welfare state, however modest, that paid for my undergraduate and graduate education (the National Merit Scholarship and National Defense Education Act programs) and supported the universities at which I taught (the universities of Massachusetts and Wisconsin). The economy was strong, taxation was less regressive than it is today, deindustrialization was not yet a largescale phenomenon, and Cold War competition was stimulating education spending. And because there were academic jobs, I could take the risk of changing my field of concentration, from early modern Russian borderlands to 19 th and 20th century US gender, labor, and social policy. I do not need to tell HNN readers how many extremely talented history scholars lack these opportunities today, but it is worth pointing out that we are all the losers for the mistreatment of this talent and dedication.
By Linda Gordon
It is not always easy to recognize progress when we see it, because it is human to look forward, focusing on the distance yet to go, rather than backwards. But if we don't see what we have accomplished we cannot accurately gauge the remaining tasks and, worse, we may lose confidence in the possibility of change.
Once we recognize change, we must also understand how it took place, who brought it about, or we may slip into thinking that it just happened, forgetting the people who made it happen, ignoring the many failures they experienced along with their victories, and, worst of all, misunderstanding how hard we need to work for change today. Delegitimating the once common parental prerogative to batter children and the patriarchal privilege to assault women did not just"happen" as an inevitable part of progress. It took protracted political struggle to criminalize such abuse. I would like to explain this process and to give these activists their due, to recognize the bravery, ingenuity, and perseverance not only of reformers but also of women and children often seen only as victims. -- Linda Gordon in a Speech,"The History and Politics of Family Violence," Louisville, March 8, 2000
The nature of a state cannot be measured linearly, from small to large. A more accurate generalization about Progressives points to their conviction that government should rely on expertise. Expertise, I suppose, is what you get when you combine higher education with the notion of impartiality--that is, the idea of rising above politics. The symbol and the most influential application of this faith in expertise was the development of the modern social survey, notably by WEB Du Bois and Florence Kelley. Whether they were studying poverty, fertilizer, or prostitution, what was distinctively Progressive in this vision of expertise was the idea that the data thus collected and presented should form the basis of public policy--in fact, that expertise could resolve seemingly unresolvable political stalemates. Not only convinced that the social sciences could exclude bias, Progressives also thought that experts were more honest and less corruptible than politicians. Experts were to extend their responsibility not only to making recommendations and writing legislation and judicial decisions, but then to agitating for these policies. One mark of their success is the way that Congressional investigations and reports of Congressional Committees or special Commissions have become a standard part of our political process. Historians, of course, were much less able to show the necessity of their expertise to government, but they nevertheless absorbed the notion of expert impartiality into their scholarship.
Some of the increasing reliance on expertise derived from the goal of securing the public welfare. The practice recognized that industrial and technological development left consumers and workers defenseless without expert protection. How could the buyer know if the milk was adulterated when she was no longer in direct contact with the dairy farmer? How could the copper miner know that the hard-rock dust was giving him silicosis? And if they suspected these dangers, as many lay people did, how could they get their concerns onto the political agenda? By their very professional self-aggrandizement, experts not only built careers for themselves but made themselves political players who could generate legislation and legal decisions. Public health experts, armed with germ theory, proved that typhoid and diphtheria could not be confined to the slums and used this proof to agitate for public sewers and water treatment. It took engineering expertise to make sure that those who worked in the new taller buildings could be protected from fire and structural collapse, or that those who walked the sidewalks outside could still feel some sun and air. We all benefit from the work of scientists demonstrating the link between tobacco and cancer. We all benefit from the work of social and biological scientists who have demonstrated that empowering women works better than population control programs to lower birth rates, that condoms can prevent HIV transmission.
But the meanings and consequences of the use of expertise in government are themselves conflicting. Many Progressives--including both those we might today call liberal and those we might call conservative-- tended to view both the working class and the corporate owning class as corrupt, and as a solution sought to empower middle-class experts as super-citizens whose recommendations would supersede those of ordinary citizens. Many attempted to combat the corruption of partisan politics by moving large sectors of government outside the political arena, for example through hiring town managers rather than electing mayors. But not all Americans were equally able to become qualified as experts or to get experts to listen. In class, race and gender terms, Progressive expertise contributed not only to growing inequality but also to the decline of participatory politics even among white men.
Further complicating the story, it is not always easy to distinguish"good" from"bad" expertise."Americanization" agents taught immigrant women to get their newborns immediately onto regular feeding schedules, never to feed them on demand; just as they also taught that babies shouldn't be fed spoiled cows' milk. Progressives did not always seek out ways to integrate expertise into democracy, and in fact many called on expertise to delegitimate democratic decision-making. The Progressive faith in supposedly nonpartisan professionals was often paired with deep-seated distrust of the uneducated, hard-drinking, allegedly easily corruptible immigrant or black or Mexican worker. But of course the uneducated are by no means always ignorant. In fact, miners did know that the hard-rock dust was making them ill, while the experts were still insisting that the disease was TB caused by the miners' own unhygienic living conditions; but the miners could not get their knowledge respected until the expert Alice Hamilton actually went down into the mines to sample the dust.
Yet at the same time Progressivism was characterized by extremely high levels of grassroots activism.... -- Linda Gordon,"Progressive Expertise: an Oxymoron?", for conference of the Association for the Study of Law, Culture and the Humanities, March 2002, published as"If the Progressives were Advising Us Today, Should We Listen?" Journal of Gilded Age and Progressive Era, April 2002.
Payne also wrote of the civil-rights organizers he studied," courage is the least of their gifts." Knowing their extraordinary perseverance in the face of power water hoses, aggressive dogs, police beatings, southern jails and marauding, sadistic killers, I found this an odd thing to say. Payne's comment is the essence of the book's argument, however: its insistence that social movements and their leaders are not"natural" eruptions of discontent, not expressions of an instinctive human drive for freedom and dignity, but rather complex intellectual projects, great political achievements.
Charles Payne's book reminds us that historians are underdeveloped in analyzing social movements and social-movement leadership. Sociologists have made a field of social movements and developed a large body of work analyzing, categorizing, defining them. By neglecting this project, historians have been derelict in a public duty. Although university tenure committees do not always agree, historians have a responsibility to the citizens of their countries, even of the world. Historians produce our collective memory. We are of course just as fallible and subjective as memory but no one else is going to do it better. Preserving, interpreting and communicating our legacy of movements for social change is vital to us all--even more vital to the younger among us. It is important because, first, we must honor those to whom we are indebted for the dignity and decencies we enjoy, even when we think we have far to go. Second, because failure to acknowledge these debts is a suppression of history and therefore of what we can learn from it. Third, failing to understand how we got to our present will certainly prevent us from understanding the present fully enough to change it. About a decade ago a Polish Solidarity activist friend visiting in the US heard a teenager say, dismissively,"Oh that's history, mother." When he learned the meaning of the slang, our friend was shocked because he knew that to Poles"that's history" would mean"that is of the utmost importance." This slang use of"history" is not a mere accident: American culture, of course, promotes this ahistorical perspective. -- Linda Gordon, Social Movements, Leadership and Democracy: Toward More Utopian Mistakes," keynote lecture, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, 2000, Monday, May 22, 1933, Washington, DC
In his first two hours on the job May 22, he spent $5.3 million ($65 million in 2001 dollars). By the time he left work that night, he had hired a staff, instructed 48 governors what they needed to do to get emergency relief, and sent out relief checks to Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, and Texas. The Washington Post headlined"MONEY FLIES."
Hopkins ignored accusations of hurried, slapdash decision-making."People don't eat in the long run," Hopkins snapped to critics,"they eat every day."...
The press, unaccustomed to such governmental activism, immediately began to badger Hopkins, searching for corruption and/or boondoggling. Hopkins snarled back,"I'm not going to last six months here, so I’ll do as I please." In fact Hopkins' own operation was run on the smallest possible budget. At year's end, when a billion-and-a-half dollars had been distributed to 17 million people, the FERA's 121-person payroll was still just $22,000 a month....
Despite the best efforts of Hopkins and his staff, race and sex prejudice permeated the distribution of FERA aid. Direct grants went disproportionately to southern and western states, because they were poorer but also because they were more tight- fisted than midwestern and northeastern states when it came to helping the poor. Some, like Virginia, never contributed a single dollar to relief programs. These state administrations regularly excluded or short-changed people of color, principally African Americans, Mexican Americans, American Indians, Asian Americans. Everywhere relief discriminated against women. Everywhere politicians, Democrats as much as Republicans, used the money to enhance their own political power through patronage.*** So the FERA"feds," led by the squeaky clean Hopkins, were continually clashing with the state relief administrations, sometimes winning, often losing.
At the same time the FERA battled a conservative social work establishment convinced that the poor needed moral supervision and surveillance lest welfare encourage them in laziness and dependence. This establishment included the major private charities, child-saving agencies, religious aid groups, as well as many state and local governmental agencies administering public assistance. By contrast Hopkins' logic, and that of the group of administrators he was rapidly recruiting, was that the moral character of its recipients was no more suspect than that of the rich or of those lucky enough to be in work. FERA policy was to distribute aid without humiliating and infantilizing surveillance. Why was it FERA's business if an aid recipient had a boyfriend or drank beer in a saloon? -- Linda Gordon in"Harry Hopkins Brings Relief," in"Days of Destiny," ed. McPherson and Brinkley (NY: Agincourt Press for the Society of American Historians, 2001).
The difference talk I examine here developed in two streams within feminism: Difference I, gender difference, and Difference II, differences (racial/ethnic/religious/class/sexual) among women, the latter also called diversity. They are opposite meanings in some ways: the more we emphasize differences between men and women, the more we implicitly erase differences among women and among men. Yet the very strength of the first contributed to the development of second....
Worse, in both Difference I and Difference II the new multicultural feminism sometimes falls into an uncritical discourse of pluralism, a celebration of diversity. Political pluralism as a concept developed as a way of distinguishing democracy from totalitarianism; the argument was that interest groups and other civic associations were important to check state power. After World War II pluralism became an often smug legitimation of American anticommunism and as a result evoked scathing critique. Theorists such as Herbert Marcuse and C. Wright Mills exposed the ideological functions of the concept: masking power through the fiction of formal equality where there was no substantive equality. There's nothing wrong, of course, with an appreciation of multiple identities and civic associations, but we need to be wary of pluralist fictions about conflict among interest groups who begin from theoretically equal positions on a theoretically level playing field. Feminists should be the last to be taken in by the notion that scholarship, like society, is an open competitive field, a"free marketplace" of ideas. -- Linda Gordon in"On Difference," Genders, Spring 1991, and"The Trouble with Difference," Dissent, spring 1999
About Linda Gordon
Gordon begins with a prehistory of birth control-describing how Jewish women on the Lower East Side of New York City one hundred years ago tried to abort themselves by sitting over a pot of steam from stewed onions-and moves on through Victorian prudery and its reaction, the 1870s voluntary motherhood ideology, which had its roots in the early women?s rights movement. It?s sometimes difficult to follow the players-suffragists, moral reformers, free-love members, eugenists, socialists, sex radicals, the medical community-without a scorecard, but Gordon does a good job of pulling up blood-and-flesh examples of each. Ezra Heywood, for example, a free-love patriarch, endorsed male continence, a form of abstinence.
The social history moves chronologically; a large section is devoted to Margaret Sanger and the background of what was to become Planned Parenthood. Gordon, a professor of history at New York University, and author of The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction, which received the Bancroft Prize in 1989, has extensively researched her subject, so she is often able to throw out hard-to-believe information; for example, during the Depression, one enthusiastic soul proposed by law to limit families to two children. -- ForeWord Magazine reviewing"The Moral Property of Women: A History of Birth Control Politics in America"
From the"discovery" of family violence in the 1870s--when it was first identified as a social, rather than a personal, problem--to the women's and civil rights movements of the twentieth century, Heroes of Their Own Lives illustrates how public perceptions of marriage, poverty, alcoholism, mental illness, and responsibility worked for and against the victims of family violence.
Powerful, moving, and tightly argued, Heroes of Their Own Lives shows family violence to be an indicator of larger social problems. Examining its sources as well as its treatment, Gordon offers both an honest understanding of the problem and an unromantic view of the difficulties in stopping it. Originally published in 1988, when it received the Berkshire Prize and the Gustavus Myers Award, Heroes of Their Own Lives remains the most extensive and important history of family violence in America. --
University of Massachusetts, Boston, instructor, 1968-69, assistant professor, 1970-75, associate professor, 1975-81, professor of history, 1981-84;
University of Wisconsin, Madison, professor of history, 1984-90, Florence Kelley Professor of History, 1990-2000, Vilas Distinguished Research Professor, 1993-2000;
New York University, New York, NY, professor of history, 2000--.
Scholar in residence, Stanford University, summer, 1979, Dickinson College, summer, 1987;
Bunting Institute fellow, Radcliffe College, 1983-84;
visiting professor, University of Amsterdam, 1984;
Bird Memorial Lecturer, University of Maine, 1986;
invited residency, Bellagio Center, Italy, 1992;
Swarthmore College, Eugene Lang Visiting Professor, 2001;
Princeton University, Lawrence Stone Visiting Professor, 2004.
Area of Research:
Twentieth-century U.S. social, political, and social policy history; women and gender; family; U.S. Southwest.
Swarthmore College, B.A. (magna cum laude), 1961;
Yale University, M.A., 1963, Ph.D. (with distinction), 1970.
Editor, Contributor, Joint Author:
Awards and Grants:
National Book Award in History nomination, 1976, for Woman's Body, Woman's
Right: A Social History of Birth Control in America, and 1988, for Heroes of Their
Own Lives: The Politics and History of Family Violence, Boston, 1880- 1960;
National Institute of Mental Health grant, 1979-82;
National Endowment for Humanities fellow, 1979; American Council of Learned Societies travel grant, 1980;
Outstanding Achievement Award, University of Massachusetts, 1982-83;
Antonovych Prize, 1983, for Cossack Rebellions: Social Turmoil in the Sixteenth- Century Ukraine; Guggenheim fellowship, 1983-84, 1987;
American Council of Learned Societies/ Ford Foundation fellowship, 1985;
University of Wisconsin graduate school research awards, 1985-95;
Joan Kelley Prize for best book in women's history or theory of the American Historical Association; Wisconsin Library Association Award, 1988, for Heroes of Their Own Lives: The Politics and History of Family Violence, Boston, 1880-1960;
American Philosophical Society Research Award, 1988-89;
Chicago Women in Publishing award, 1990, for Women, the State, and Welfare;
Berkshire Prize for best book in women's history, and Gustavus Myers Award, both 1995, both for Pitied but Not Entitled: Single Mothers and the Origins of Welfare;
Bancroft and Beveridge Prize, 1999, and Banta Award, Wisconsin Library Association, 2000, both for The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction.
Gordon has given numerous academic lectures, presented papers, and participated in conferences
and annual meetings throughout the world; manuscript and proposal referee for many
national organizations and presses, including National Endowment for the Humanities,
Temple University Press, Columbia University Press, University of California Press,
Northeastern University Press, University of Illinois Press, Oxford University Press,
American Council of Learned Societies, National Humanities Center, Woodrow Wilson Center,
Harvard University Press, Yale University Press, Princeton University Press,
university presses of California, Cambridge, Chicago, Columbia, Kentucky, Illinois,
Indiana, Northeastern, Ohio, Oxford, Temple, Canadian Social Science Research Council,
and U.K. Social Science Research Council.
Lecturer at numerous universities and colleges. Consultant/adviser to numerous local, civic, academic, media, and government organizations.
Gordon has contributed to many anthologies and encyclopedias, including Encyclopedia of the American Left, Encyclopedia of American Women's History, and Encyclopedia of American History. Contributor of articles and reviews to numerous periodicals and newspapers, including New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Dissent, Chronicle of Higher Education, Against the Current, and Nation. Member of editorial board, American Historical Review, 1990-93, Contemporary Sociology, 1994--, Journal of American History and Journal of Policy History, both 1994-97, and of Signs, Feminist Studies, Journal of Women's History, Contention, and Gender and History; referee for many scholarly journals.
Gordon has also worked as a consultant and historian for television production and videotape productions, including Spare the Rod: the Politics of Child Abuse, Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), 1988; War on Poverty, 1994-95, PBS; The Roots of Roe, Connecticut Public Television, 1994; The Troubled American Family, 1996; Family in Crisis, 1996; Children of the Great Depression, American History Project; Barbie!, KCTS-TV; History of Birth Control, Perini Productions; A Century of Woman, Paramount Studios; History Matters Web site; and Encyclopaedia Britannica Web site on women's history, 1998. Also guest on numerous television and radio programs, including those on PBS and National Public Radio (NPR).
What They're Famous For
Anne Firor Scott, a pioneer historian of American women,
is W. K. Boyd Professor Emerita of History at Duke University.
Scott joined Duke's history department in 1961 on a visiting appointment.
Nineteen years later she was named William K. Boyd Professor of History and appointed
chair of the department. Professot Scott holds the distinction of being the first
woman to chair the Duke history department, yet she also stands as the first
professor at Duke to include women's scholarship in her teaching and research.
She was educated in her home state at the University of Georgia, as
well as at Northwestern University and Radcliffe College. In addition to her tenure
at Duke, she has taught at Haverford College and the University of North Carolina at
Anne Scott is author of The Southern Lady (1970, 1995),
One Half the People (with husband Andrew M. Scott), Making the Invisible Woman
Visible (1984), Natural Allies: Women's Associations in American History (1992),
Unheard Voices: The First Historians of Southern Women (1993), and most recently,
Pauli Murray and Caroline Ware: Forty Years of Letters in Black and White (2006).
In 1970 her book The Southern Lady: From Pedestal to Politics, 1830-1930 virtually established the modern study of southern women's history, and it has never gone out of print. Southern Lady: From Pedestal to Politics, 1820-1920, was one of the first studies in what come to be called"the new women's history," and the first to be based on close study of women's personal documents.
Since then, Anne Scott has taught at Duke and all over the world, inspiring legions of younger followers to insist on the importance of women in southern history. To honor her eightieth birthday, the Schlesinger Library for the History of Women in America held a symposium in 2001 in which a number of scholars paid tribute and Scott reflected on the highlights of her career. In 1987, a group of her former students and colleagues established the Anne Firor Scott Research Fund, an andowment to help support students conducting independent research in women's history. In the spring of 1989, the Women's Sudies living group elected to name the domoitory in honor of Professor Scott. In the scholarship fund and the dormitory dedication Anne Scott's students, friends, and colleagues honored the first professor at Duke to introduce scholarship into the curriculum.
She has edited several volumes and has published essays, introductions, lectures, and book reviews dealing with the history of American women. She was president of the Organization of American Historians in 1984 and of the Southern Historical Association in 1989. She is an editor of the American Women's History Series at the University of Illinois Press and has long been an editor for UPA. Scott received the OAH Distinguished Service Award in 2002. She also has served on President Lyndon B. Johnson's Advisory Council on the Status of Women.
Contingency is everything. Being born in 1921, just when women got the right to vote, meant that I grew up in a different world than that of my forbears. As the first born I got the full attention of education minded parents; by the time three brothers came along I had consolidated my position, and assumed the role of all-knowing Big Sister. . Nobody told me, and I didn't pick up from the environment, the idea that my chances in life would be limited by gender. It did not occur to me to play dumb or the benefit of the males in my class. Of course in high school I got a reputation as a nerd and longed to be popular. No luck There was nothing to do but make good grades.
College was different. Aspiring to become a foreign correspondent, I joined the mainly male staff of the school newspaper. Some of them invited me to dances and didn't seem to notice that I was a good student.. I had left my miserable high school years behind me.
I was 18 when Germany invaded Poland and for the next few years opportunities for women were everywhere. Graduate fellowships, internships in Washington, multiple job offers—it was a heady time to be female. Much as I felt guilty about my friends who were overseas, that didn't stop me from having a wonderful war. My job on the staff of the National League of Women Voters educated me more than anything up to that time had done. When things closed down after 1945 the genie was out of the bottle. I was not prepared to adopt the feminine mystic or to retire to suburbia. When a young man said"Come marry me and go to Harvard, I took him up on both parts of the invitation. The program in American civilization allowed me to sign up for courses in both history and government and, since there was only one woman on the Harvard faculty, I studied with famous men: Samuel Eliot Morison, Perry Miller, Benjamin Wright Louis Hartz, Oscar Handlin. Only Wright and Handlin paid any serious attention to me but that attention was of the utmost importance. I learned a great deal from Morison, though he hardly recognized my existence, and, studying with Miller I learned to stand up for myself in the face of sometimes bitter sarcasm. Hartz, a convinced Marxist was friendly and a useful gadfly.
My dissertation began as a study of the progressive era in the South, which in Cambridge was usually viewed as an oxymoron. But Handlin knew better, and encouraged the research. Though I must admit that his theory of mentoring was “sink or swim" pride determined that I would swim. In the end I focused on the southern progressives in Congress of whom there were a good number. Since I tended to have a baby every chapter it was a long process.
The real significance of the dissertation, was that I discovered that the most interesting southern progressives were women. From that insight, in a very long"due course,” grew The Southern Lady, , product of my considerable curiosity about these women of whom hardly anybody seemed to have heard.. There was no model for such a book, and I was often discouraged. My husband, a systematic thinker (which I am not) kept me at it until, finally, in 1970 it emerged in print. I had no notion that the result would be seen as a new way of studying the past, and as inaugurating a major historiographical shift.
By the time the book came out I had been teaching for a decade. Women were still comparatively rare in history departments in 1957, but the (then) all-male Haverford College took me on for a year; after which we moved to North Carolina and I found a part time job in the UNC History Department. I loved teaching -again in an all-male department. Then we went off to Italy on a Fulbright. -a year worth ten ordinary ones for developing perspective—and in the spring I was astounded by a letter from the chairman of history at Duke inquiring if I could come to teach “until we can find somebody.” Overlooking the implication, I agreed, and came home to begin what turned into a forty year stint in that department.
By the 1970s women were suddenly"in" both as historical subjects and as potential colleagues. By this accident of timing I had chances to visit or lecture at many institutions here and abroad, an experience which has led me to reflect a great deal about the way we educate people, or think we do. I hope somehow to find the time to put these thoughts in coherent prose before I die.
The surprising thing—in retrospect—is how one things leads to another , how the resume grows. . . and suddenly, or so it seems, one is a senior person, called on for advice, for mentoring, to preside over this and that learned society, to sit on boards and give advice.
All this surprised me. Looking back, next to creating a family which is now into the third generation, the most satisfactory part of it all has been teaching -students, adults, grandchildren. Many of the people I have taught are now teachers themselves, and when they come to see me, one and all, what they remember if not so much the substance of what we studied together, but the pedagogy I had learned from my father, who, late in his life, said :"It is said that I am a good teacher, and I do not wish to deny it. But insofar as that is true it is because I never knew the answers, and my students and I have sought them together." My books will be revised, and eventually remanded to some remote storage in the Library, but I hope my students will have students who have students. . .until global warming finishes us all off.
By Anne Firor Scott
The life histories of three colonial women give some clues. . .
[There follow studies of women from three parts of the early colonies-become-states: Jane Mecom of Boston, Elizabeth Drinker of Philadelphia, and Eliza Lucas Pinckney of Charleston.]
[The essay concludes] . . . I have tried to learn from the records left by these three women what it was like to be an eighteenth century person. They take us to the heart of daily life: to scenes of childbearing and nerve-racking struggle to keep babies alive, to scenes of mysterious illness and sudden death, of wartime stringencies and dislocations, to the struggle to"git a living" or -at another level—to get rich. Through their eyes we see the chanciness of life, and begin to understand the central role of kinship in providing such security as was possible in a world so filled with uncertainty..." -- Anne Firor Scott in"Self-Portraits: Three Women" first published in Uprooted Americans: Essays to Honor Oscar Handlin (Boston: Little Brown,1979 pp 43-76.) (The original book is out of print but the essay can be found in Anne F. Scott,"Making the Invisible Woman Visible" (Champaign, 1984) which is in print)
large gathering in April, and people all over campus organize events, which they hope will lure
alumni to their particular domains. In April 2000 the Women’s Studies Program announced that a handful of faculty, of whom I was one, would be on hand to greet former students. Eight of my former students attended, and lingered long after the appointed hour. They spoke so enthusiastically about this chance to bring me up to date on their doings that in 2001 I let the Alumni Office know that I would be in a certain room on Saturday afternoon of the reunion for a conversation with former students. A single sentence in the fat program included this information. That time forty-nine people showed up. This caught the attention of the organizers who asked me to do it again in 2002 and offered an elegant venue—the Rare Book Room in the Library—and prime time. I thought it might be a good idea to provide a topic for the discussion and came up with “How has the study of history affected your later life?”
The response was overwhelming—ninety people attended. The group varied markedly in age, ranging from a member of the class of 1937 to a couple of students who graduated in 1992. Husbands and wives came—some even bringing their teenage children—and all sorts of careers were represented including doctors, lawyers, social workers, teachers, and volunteer leaders. Only a few professional historians attended.
The discussion was a bit like the best class one had ever taught: everyone wanted to talk about an amazing variety of things. They wanted to report on the books that they had read, ask for other people’s views, and make speeches. Some even wanted to argue.
But when it came to the announced question, there were surprises. I don’t quite know now what I expected. I suppose without too much reflection I had assumed that somehow the study of history would tend to make people wiser, more reflective, less dogmatic than their contemporaries who had little knowledge of the past. At the end of the discussion I realized that no generalization is justified.
All the participants seemed to think that their historical studies had been and still were important to their lives—exactly how these studies were important, however, was not so clear. The libertarian, for example, insisted that studying history would show anybody that the American people had been hoodwinked into accepting the sixteenth amendment. (Murmur around the room: “What was the sixteenth amendment?”) Others had equally firm convictions—not necessarily related to what they had been taught— about the significance of the past. Many people testified to an ongoing desire to read well-written, popular history. Some attendees wanted my opinion about the recent plagiarism scandals. (I tried to be judicious, which might translate as timid.)
One interesting moment came when I asked my students if they remembered our long and intense discussions about the Great Crash of 1929 and its aftermath. Indeed, they did—and demonstrated the fact. I then asked if that knowledge affected their decisions about investments in the past three years? There was a sudden silence and a good deal of embarrassed head shaking accompanied by murmurs of “Well, I should have remembered.” Nobody, however, testified to having recognized a speculative bubble when it was before their eyes.
What did I learn from this experience?
• The"uses of history" are not at all clear cut. People take from the past what they are prepared to understand, and not what some teacher thinks they should understand. Some summon their perception of the past to support whatever they want to do now. Others search for parallels and seek explanations for what is happening at the moment.
• Good teachers are remembered long after the fact. Names of a few of my colleagues came up over and over. “As Professor X said . . .” was a recurrent phrase.
• The attendees enjoyed challenging each other and me—they clearly would rather be challenged than entertained.
As I pondered this experience, I was reminded of an earlier encounter. Last fall the library celebrated my eightieth birthday and invited two former students to speak. One of the speakers, an engineering graduate, had taken several social history courses with me. He was, I should probably note, a top notch student; the best in his class. He told me that the primary sources he had read in my class two decades prior—which dealt with the lives of ordinary people in the rapidly changing society of the early twentieth century—profoundly affected his own life. He works for a major engineering firm in a major American city and has a disabled child. His resources and training are such that he has been able to become a major advocate for such children with his local school board. “Because of what I learned in that course,” he said, “I was able to recognize the number of families with children like mine, who had no voice and no way of making their needs clear to the powers in our town. So I have tried to represent them as well as myself.”
Although this is only one story it is enough to make any teacher forget all the blue books, all the neglectful or cocky students, all the hard work and occasional frustration. Think well—a few stories like this make it all seem worthwhile. -- Anne Firor Scott,"How Has Studying History Affectistorians Affected Your Life?" article in honor of receiving the OAH Lifetime Distinguished Service Award in 2002.
About Anne Firor Scott
The reprint of The Southern Lady evokes memories. Anne Scott's spirited grandmother graces the cover of this splendid new edition. In an afterword, the author traces her own work for the League of Women Voters. Her travels for the league brought her into contact with surviving suffragists and national board members. Scott's association and imterviews with longtime activists produced the most powerful and sustaining effect on her thought. She interviewed Judge Lucy Somerville Howorth, and Howorth's memories of her mother's career as a church and WCTU member, and later a suffragist and Mississippi legislator, convinced the author of the recurrent patterm of women's activism....
But memory serves another pupose as well. The 1970s generation of scholars remembers that these life histories and the author's clear and determined purpose strenghtened its resolve to open"[d]oor after door" (p. 104). -- Jean E. Freidman, University of Georgia reviewing"The Southern Lady"
Haverford College, Haverford, PA, lecturer in history, 1957-58;
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, lecturer in history, 1959-60;
Duke University, Durham, NC, assistant professor, 1962-65, associate professor, 1965-70, professor of history, beginning 1971.
Occasional lecturer, Johns Hopkins Center, University of Bologna, 1960-61,
Chairperson, North Carolina Governor's Commission on the Status of Women, 1963-64;
member of federal Citizens Advisory Council on Status of Women, 1964-68.
Area of Research:
American Women's history, Southern Women's history
University of Georgia, A.B., 1941;
Northwestern University, M.A., 1944;
Radcliffe College, Ph.D., 1949.
Editor, Contributor, Joint Author:
Contributor to literary journals and popular magazines, including American Heritage.
Awards and Grants:
American Association of University Women national fellow, 1956-57;
National Endowment for the Humanities senior fellow, 1967-68, 1976-77;
OAH Distinguished Service Award, 2002;
Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences class of 2004.
Scott worked for the International Business Machines Corp. (IBM), Atlanta, GA,
private secretary, 1941-42;
League of Women Voters of the United States, Washington, DC, program associate, 1944-47, congressional representative and editor of National Voter, 1951-53.
The OAH Lerner-Scott Dissertation Prize was given for the first time in 1992 for the best doctoral dissertation in U.S. women's history. The prize is named for Gerda Lerner and Anne Firor Scott, both pioneers in women's history and past presidents of the Organization of American Historians.
What They're Famous For
Stephan Thernstrom is the Winthrop Professor of History at Harvard University
where he teaches American social history, and Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
He was born in Port Huron, Michigan and educated in the public schools of Port Huron and
Battle Creek. He graduated with highest honors from Northwestern University in 1956, and
was awarded the Ph.D. by Harvard in 1962.
He held appointments as assistant professor
at Harvard, associate professor at Brandeis University, and professor at UCLA before
returning to Harvard as a professor in 1973. In 1978-1979 he was the Pitt Professor of
American History and Institutions at Cambridge University and Professorial Fellow at
He has been awarded fellowships from the John S. Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Social Science Research Council, and the John M. Olin Foundation, and research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Mathematical Social Science Board, the American Philosophical Society, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Smith Richardson Foundation. His most recent book, co-authored with Abigail Thernstrom, is No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning. He also collaborated with Abigail Thernstrom in America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible. He is the editor of the Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups, the co-editor of Nineteenth Century Cities: Essays in the New Urban History and Beyond the Color Line: New Perspectives on Race and Ethnicity , and the author of Poverty and Progress: Social Mobility in a 19th-Century City,
His books have been awarded the Bancroft Prize in American History, the Harvard University Press Faculty Prize, the Waldo G. Leland Prize of the American Historical Association, and the R. R. Hawkins Award of the Association of American Publishers. He also has written widely in periodicals for general audiences, including The New Republic, the Times Literary Supplement, The Public Interest, Commentary, Dissent, Partisan Review, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. He was appointed to serve on the National Humanities Council by President Bush in 2002.
I cannot offer a neat little anecdote that sums up why I became a historian. I came relatively late and only gradually to the discipline. Indeed, I must confess that my interest in anything that happened in school developed relatively late in the day. I was bored out of my mind in my elementary and junior high classes, and devoted my energies to making life miserable for my teachers. Dipping the pigtails of the girl sitting at the desk in front of me into my inkwell (yes, we had inkwells back in Port Huron, Michigan in the 1940s), releasing garter snakes in class, putting thumb tacks on the teacher's chair, etc. I was an ardent reader from an early age, but saw no connection between the books I was devouring and what the teachers were trying to do. One day in 8th-grade English, the teacher urged us to consider attending college, not very common for my age group those days. To underscore the point that mere brains would not suffice, she declared that Steve Thernstrom might be smart enough for college but never would make it there because he was such a goof-off and troublemaker.
When I hit 9th-grade, we were all placed in one of three tracks--academic, general, or vocational. It was no surprise to me that I was consigned to Metal Shop, while the diligent, well-behaved students were put in Latin. It was a great surprise to my mother, though, and she marched over to the school and raised hell. As a result of her intervention, I did get into Latin, and was a crucial turning point in my education. I loved it.
In the summer before 10th-grade, we moved from Port Huron to Battle Creek. I continued with Latin, but found a new love that engaged me even more deeply—the debate team. The academic subjects other than Latin continued to bore me; certainly the U.S. and World History surveys I took were uninspiring. But the debate coach proved to be the greatest teacher I had until graduate school, and he was responsible for my intellectual awakening. I spent more time working on debate than on all my other courses put together, and my enthusiasm for it determined my choice of college.
All the best students in my high school automatically went on to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor; the only one who went East to an Ivy was the son of a Princeton man, and he followed in his daddy's footsteps. I decided, though, that Michigan was not for me, because it had recently abandoned intercollegiate debate. So I chose to attend Northwestern, which not only had a strong debate team but scholarships for students who were good at it. The scholarship required that recipients enroll in the School of Speech rather than the College of Liberal Arts, so that's what I had to do to be eligible for it. That did not prove very constraining. The requirements of the School of Speech were minimal and the courses were a snap, so that I always took five courses rather than the required four-course load and had ample opportunity to explore the liberal arts. Everything in the social sciences and humanities interested me in my college years. I did a fair amount of work in history (mostly European), in economics, sociology, and political science. I thought seriously about graduate school in economics, but my teacher in an economic history course advised me that I needed a strong math background to get anywhere in economics. After floundering in the math class I took as a result of this advice—ironically in light of the quantitative character of much of my later research—I gave up that idea, and decided on graduate school in political science.
When I came Harvard, in 1956, political science was taught in the Department of Government, and the faculty's commitment to that old-fashioned label was significant. The teachers I had my first year were all historians of sorts. V.O. Key taught a historically rich course in Southern politics; Robert G. McCloskey's American Constitutional Law would have fit perfectly into a history department's offerings. Most important to me was the offerings of the political theorist Louis Hartz, who had published his remarkable volume, The Liberal Tradition in America, the year before I arrived in Cambridge.
Hartz dazzled me, and it happened he was then serving as chair of the interdisciplinary History of American Civilization Ph.D. program. My excitement over his explorations in what later came to be called" consensus history" led me to transfer into that program. I was not primarily interested in the history of political thought, though, and could not accept Hartz's view that the roots of American exceptionalism were fundamentally ideological. I thought that a closer look at the evolution of the American social structure would illuminate the question more than further study of Madison or Calhoun. After entering the Am Civ program, I studied with Hartz, Oscar Handlin, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and Frank Freidel, and took two sociology courses, one on social stratification and social mobility, and another, from Barrington Moore on modern social theory and political power.
After passing my orals, I began work on my dissertation--what became Poverty and Progress: Social Mobility in a 19th-Century City--under the wise guidance of Oscar Handlin. The underlying question it addressed—the absence of a class-conscious proletariat in the United States—had been explored by Hartz, and by Sombart and Marx before him. But I sought to answer it by using some simple quantitative techniques borrowed from sociology as well as the usual tools of the historian, building on a foundation supplied by the rarely used manuscript schedules of the U.S. Census I chose to work on Newburyport rather than another city conveniently near Cambridge—Lowell or Lawrence, say—because it was famous in American sociology as the site of W. Lloyd Warner's five-volume"Yankee City" series.
While I was doing my Newburyport research, I continued to learn from exposure to scholars in other disciplines. I worked as a section leader in sociologist David Riesman's"American Character and Social Structure" and political scientist Samuel Beer's"Western Thought and Institutions" A fellowship from the Harvard-MIT Joint Center for Urban Studies gave me a final year free to do the final writing of the dissertation, and fruitful contact with specialists in urban economics, urban politics, demography, geography, and city planning.
As I neared the end of graduate school, I had come to consider myself an American historian, and those were the job advertisements that I began to pore over anxiously. (I did have an inquiry from a leading sociology department, but decided that much of what I wanted to teach wouldn't fit there and withdrew my name from consideration.) But I was also determined to keep up with the other social sciences as much as possible, and to make use of concepts and methods from other disciplines that might prove useful in explaining historical developments. In the four decades or so that have passed since then, my interests have changed to some extent; I work mainly on the 20th century rather than 19th century now, for example. But I still am doing the kind of history I learned to do in graduate school.
By Stephan Therstrom
Much of the animosity had deep historical roots. In 1991, a third of the Poles still had an"unfavorable" opinion of Jews, for example. Gypsies had the most enemies, with unfavorable rating ranging from a low of 50 percent in Spain to 91 percent in Czechoslovakia."Ethnic, religious, and racial hatreds are thriving across Europe as the 20th Century draws to an end," noted two commentators on the study. As the movement toward European union increases the flow of the labor across national boundaries,"the Continent could turn into a tinderbox," they warned.
Against this yardstick the racial views of white Americans look remarkably good. But are seemingly tolerant whites simply more hypocritical than Czechs or French? Perhaps they have learned to keep their animus hidden from public view. We think not. Although different ways of framing questions about racial prejudice yield slightly different answers, the bulk of the evidence squares with the 1991 survey results: when it comes to intergroup tolerance, Americans rate high by international standards." -- Stephan Thernstrom and Abigail Thernstrom in"America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible"
The black high school graduation rate has more than doubled since 1960. And blacks attend college at a rate that is higher than it was for whites just two decades ago. But the good news ends there. The gap in academic achievement that we see today is actually worse than it was fifteen years ago. In the 1970s and through most of the 1980s, it was closing, but around 1988 it began to widen, with no turnaround in sight.
Today, at age 17 the typical black or Hispanic student is scoring less well on the nation's most reliable tests than at least 80 percent of his or her white classmates. In five of the seven subjects tested by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a majority of black students perform in the lowest category -- Below Basic. The result: By twelfth grade, African Americans are typically four years behind white and Asian students, while Hispanics are doing only a tad better than black students. These students are finishing high school with a junior high education.
Students who have equal skills and knowledge will have roughly equal earnings. That was not always true, but it is today. Schooling has become the key to racial equality. No wonder that Robert Moses, a luminous figure in the civil rights revolution of the 1960s, is convinced that"the absence of math literacy in urban and rural communities throughout this country is an issue as urgent as the lack of registered Black voters in Mississippi was in 1961." Algebra, he believes, is"the gatekeeper of citizenship."
Literacy, too, is a"gatekeeper," and the deadline for learning is alarmingly early."For many students...the die is cast by eighth grade. Students without the appropriate math and reading skills by that grade are unlikely to acquire them by the end of high school...," a U.S. Department of Education study has concluded.
Race has famously been called the"American dilemma." But since the mid-1960s, racial equality has also been an American project. An astonish-ing, peaceful revolution in the status of blacks and the state of race relations has transformed the country. And yet too few Americans have recognized and acknowledged the stubborn inequalities that only better schools can address.
Even civil rights groups have long averted their gaze from the disquieting reality."You can have a hunch that black students are not doing as well, but some of this was surprising," A. V. Fleming, president of the Urban League in Fort Wayne, Indiana, said, as the picture of low black achievement began to emerge in the late 1990s. In Elk Grove, California, an affluent suburb of Sacramento, black parents were shocked, angry, and in tears when they learned of the low test scores of their kids."People know that this is an important issue, and they don't know how to talk about it," said Philip Moore, the principal of the local middle school, who is black himself.
For too long, the racial gap in academic performance was treated not only by civil rights leaders, but by the media, and even by scholars, as a dirty secret -- something to whisper about behind closed doors. As if it were racist to say we have a problem: Black and Hispanic kids, on average, are not doing well in school.
Suddenly, however, this shamefully ignored issue has moved to the front and center of the education stage. In part, the new attention is simply a response to an altered economic reality. A half century ago, an eighth-grade dropout could get a secure and quite well-paid job at the Ford Motor Company or U.S. Steel. Today, the Honda plant in Ohio does not hire people who cannot pass a test of basic mathematical skills.
Demographic change, too, has forced Americans to pay attention to an educational and racial catastrophe in their midst. Fifty years ago, Hispanic children were no more than 2 percent of the school population. Today, a third of all American students are black or Latino. In California, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Texas white schoolchildren have become a numerical minority. These numbers, in themselves, drive home the urgency of educating all children.
The unprecedented sense of urgency is unmistakable in No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the 2001 version of the nation's omnibus 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The central aim of the revised statute, as its preamble states boldly, is"to close the achievement gap...so that no child is left behind." Closing the gap is the core purpose of the legislation -- and the test of its eventual success.
Thus, the act requires all states to test children in grades 3-8 and report scores broken down by race, ethnicity, and other demographic characteristics associated with educational disadvantage. Each group must show significant annual progress. Affluent districts will no longer be able to coast along, hiding their lower-performing black and Hispanic students in overall averages that make their schools look good. A bucket of very cold water has been poured on educators -- and particularly those who have been quite complacent. NCLB has been an overdue attention-getter. At a well-attended national meeting on education in September 2002, the audience was asked to name the most important new policy requirement in No Child Left Behind; closing the racial and ethnic achievement gap was the clear winner.
Indifference to minority children who arrive in kindergarten already behind and continue to flounder is no longer an option for schools. The problem has been acknowledged -- and thus must now be addressed. Racial equality will remain a dream as long as blacks and Hispanics learn less in school than whites and Asians. If black youngsters remain second-class students, they will be second-class citizens -- a racially identifiable and enduring group of have-nots." -- Abigail Thernstrom and Stephan Thernstrom in"No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning"
It is easy to forget how far we have come over the past 50 years....Today, the typical black youngster attends a school that is only about halfblack- an extraordinary change in a half-century. Or is it? The most curious aspect of the anniversary of Brown last spring was the hand-wringing that accompanied so much of the celebration. Paul Vallas, Philadelphia's education chief, lamented that"we're still wrestling with the same issues" today as in 1954. Newsweek opined that"Brown, for all its glory, is something of a bust." For the Harvard law professor Charles Ogletree,"the evil that Brown sought to eliminate- segregation-is still with us." His verdict was shared by the Washington Post columnist Colbert King."Segregation has found its way back-if, indeed, it ever left some schools," he wrote."To be sure, today's racial separation is not sanctioned by law. But in terms of racial isolation, the effect is much the same."
...Those who recall what life was like for blacks in the Deep South before Brown v. Board of Education and the 1964 Civil Rights Act should be outraged by the equation of racial imbalance with segregation. The black children who broke the color-line in Jim Crow schools-the children who faced white mobs spewing insults and brandishing sticks-showed extraordinary courage in the face of state-sanctioned racism. Advocates of racially balanced schools are not engaged in a remotely similar fight. In claiming otherwise, they not only rob the civil-rights movement of its achievement, but turn our eyes toward the wrong prize-schools that look right rather than schools in which children, whatever their color, are truly learning. -- Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom"Have We Overcome?" Commentary, November 2004
About Stephan Thernstrom
Hence the rationale of the Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups. It is not just a book to sit on a reference shelf. Rather it is designed for a broad and varied audience, to be owned and read with pride. In fact, the effort that went into it shows that someone cares. At the same time, motives are always mixed, and never simply manipulative. This volume can also be seen as Harvard's expression of atonement for having been party to a process that evokes a measure of regret. And this is only fitting: For atonement is a rite with honored ethnic origins. -- Andrew Hacker reviewing"HARVARD ENCYCLOPEDIA OF AMERICAN ETHNIC GROUPS" in NYT
Winthrop Professor of History, Harvard University, 1981Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute, 1999Chairman, History of American Civilization Program, Harvard University, 1985-1992 Director, Charles Warren Center for the Study of American History, Harvard University, 1980-83, 1986-87;
Pitt Professor of American History and Institutions, University of Cambridge, 1978-79;
Professorial Fellow, Trinity College, 1978-79;
Professor of History, Harvard University, 1973-8l;
Professor of History, UCLA, 1969-73;
Senior Associate, Institute of Government and Public Affairs, UCLA, 1969-73;
Associate Professor of History, Brandeis University, 1967-69;
Assistant Professor of History, Harvard University, 1966-67;
Instructor, Harvard-Yale-Columbia Intensive Summer Studies Program Summer, 1966;
Research Member, M.I.T.-Harvard Joint Center for Urban Studies, 1962-69;
Instructor in History and Literature, Harvard University, 1962-65.
Area of Research:
Social, demographic, and economic history of America; 20th century Social History, immigration, race and ethnicity.
B.S. with highest honors, Northwestern University, 1956
A.M., History, Harvard University, 1958
Ph.D., History of American Civilization, Harvard University, 1962
Professor Thernstrom and his wife Abigail are writing a co-authored book that reconsiders the concept of de facto segregation.
Editor, Contributor, Joint Author:
Awards and Grants:
The Other Bostonians was awarded the Bancroft Prize in American History and the
Harvard University Press Faculty Prize.
The Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups received the American Historical Association's Waldo G. Leland Prize and the R.R. Hawkins Award of the Association of American Publishers
America in Black and White received the Caldwell Award from the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, and was named a"notable book of the year" by the"New York Times"
No Excuses was named one of"best books of 2003" by the"Los Angeles Times," and a 2003 and a"2003 Notable Book" by the American School Board Journal." No Excuses and were honored with the Peter Shaw Award from the National Association of Scholars. Research grant, John M. Olin Foundation, 1998-99;
John M. Olin Fellow, 1992-93;
Research grant, Smith Richardson Foundation, 1990-92;
Research grant, Rockefeller Foundation, 1975-80;
Research grant, National Endowment for the Humanities, 1975-1980;
John S. Guggenheim Fellow, 1969-70;
Research grant, Mathematical Social Science Board, 1965-68;
American Council of Learned Societies Fellow for Computer-Oriented Research in the Humanities, 1965-66;
Research grant, American Philosophical Society, 1964-65;
Samuel S. Stouffer Fellow, Joint Center for Urban Studies, 1961-62;
Frederick Sheldon Travelling Fellow, 1959-60;
Woodrow Wilson Fellow, 1956-57;
Thernstrom's professional activities include:
National Council on the Humanities, 2002;
Society of American Historians Editorial Board, Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 1970; Editorial Board, Journal of Family History, 1976; Editorial Board, Journal of American Ethnic History, 1981-97; Editorial Board, Labor History, 1970-75;
Co-editor, Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Modern History book series, Cambridge University Press, 1980;
Co-editor, Harvard Studies in Urban History series, Harvard University Press, 1972;
Co-editor, Documentary History of American Cities series, New Viewpoints Press, 1975-78;
Co-editor, Perspectives in American History, 2nd series, 1984-86;
Committee Member, Citizens' Initiative on Race and Ethnicity, 1999-2001;
Board of Directors, National Association of Scholars, 1990-97;
Board of Advisors, National Association of Scholars, 1997;
Consultant, U.S. Civil Rights Commission studies of"The Economic Progress of Black Men in America" and"The Economic Status of Americans of Asian Descent";
Panel Member, Committee to Review National Standards in U.S. History, Council on ' Basic Education, 1995;
Planning Committee, National Assessment of Educational Progress, 1994 Assessment in U.S. History Textbook Advisory Committee, Education for Democracy Project, 1986-88;
History Area Committee, Foundations of Literacy Project, National Assessment of Learning, 1985-87;
Executive Board, Immigration History Society, 1983-88;
Board of Directors, Social Science Research Council, 1977-78.
What They're Famous For
Joyce Oldham Appleby is professor emerita from UCLA and retired in 2001 after
teaching there 21 years.
She is one of the United States' foremost historians of the early republic.
Appleby is at the pinnacle of her profession through her powerful
engagement with important ideas and controversial issues.
Throughout her 40-year career, her scholarship has examined the formation of an
'American' political ideology, with particular focus
on the connections between the history of ideas and the history of economic institutions,
policies and practices.
Her books include"Capitalism and a New Social Order: The Republican Vision of the 1790s,""Inheriting the Revolution: The First Generation of Americans,""Liberalism and Republicanism in the Historical Imagination,""Economic Thought and Ideology in Seventeenth-Century England" and a recently published presidential biography of Thomas Jefferson. Appleby is past president of the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians and the Society for the History of the Early Republic.
Perhaps because I began teaching at a university underfunded for research and overly funded with students with modest academic aptitude, I learned early in my career that the key point of teaching is to move students from one intellectual level to a higher one. What the study of history offers above all is an opening to the complexity of human experience. I devised ways to make complicated matters more accessible rather than simplifying the complexity.
Since we toss around complex with the same abandon as nuanced, I'll define how I think of complexity in history. Complexity in human affairs arises from the fact that human beings are never single-minded in their efforts and decisions, and events never slide along a predictable cause and effect continuum. Getting across this point has always been more important to me than raising consciousness about past injustices or rallying students to the heroism of dissenters and reformers. For this reason, I may have been perceived as conservative, even though in my extraprofessional, political life I have always been a left-leaning liberal with libertarian undertows.
History offers students an opportunity to think and discuss sophisticated topics. For this words are needed, so I felt keenly the importance of habituating them to a larger vocabulary - one big enough to get at those nuances, complexities, and subtleties. I was astonished when I came to UCLA in my 15th year of teaching to run into a program in which the counseling staff monitored lectures in introductory classes with the idea of locating words that students could not be expected to know. This nefarious [in my view] enterprise ended with the production of a list of words that the monitors had found UCLA lecturers using which were deemed beyond the ken of the students. All that I cam remember from that list is the word, sovereignty. This is the dumbing down approach to education which still enchants some educators. I believe in the intelligencing up of students. From my point of view one of the greatest legacies of a college education is an expanded vocabulary. This may seem"small potatoes" to educational reformers, but not to me. One can not think of subtlety or complexity without the words to express their defining qualities.
All of this is by way of introducing one of the most satisfying moments in my teaching career. It happened at San Diego State University in a lower division class with students more interested in getting a requirement out of the way than learning American History, much less participating in my"intelligencing up" project. The class size was limited to 40 because the department had committed itself to class discussions of the assigned primary texts that venerable collection, The People Shall Judge. The students sometimes let me know that my vocabulary was not theirs, but I insisted that it was the vocabulary of educated discourse. And during the semester, I noticed that some began to integrate new words when they spoke. During the final, one of the members of the class, a young man somewhat ragged around the edges, came up to me and softly asked how to spell, benign.
I've remembered this moment all these years because it captured how studying a subject plunges one into a conceptual universe which soon becomes one's own. In this new universe he had discovered a word that he wanted to use in his exam answer. He knew the meaning; he just lacked the spelling, because he had only heard it. He had to get the spelling because he couldn't express his thought without it. There in a nutshell was evidence of learning. I've always wondered if he continued using benign.
How I got involved in the History News Service
Having begun my career working for Mademoiselle magazine in New York and the Pasadena Star-News in California, I was familiar with the world of journalism. When I was elected president of the American Historical Association years later, I saw a chance to create a link between historians and newspapers with historians writing oped pieces that provided historical perspectives on contemporary events. Receiving a go-ahead at my first AHA Council meeting, Perspectives, the newsletter of the American Historical Association, ran this notice in its October, 1996 issue.
"AHA Seeking Volunteers to Write Articles: The AHA is looking for volunteers for a committee to promote the writing of feature articles and op-ed essays in the popular press. There are very few public issues that do not have a historical dimension, but the public rarely learns it. We would like to form a committee that would address this need by generating topic ideas and identifying appropriate authors within the profession as news stories break. Committee service would require a commitment of several hours a week and access to e-mail. Suggestions for committee members and ways to respond to this challenge should be sent to Joyce Appleby at Appleby@histr.ssnet.ucla.edu."
The AHA Council decided that its sponsorship of a group distributing opeds could involve the association in unnecessary controversies, so HNS, not yet really an entity, was hived off from the AHA. By that time, I had received the most important response to my notice: James Banner wrote that he not only wanted to write for HNS, but would like to help me launch the enterprise. The offer of expert help could not have arrived at a better moment as I was about to enter my presidential year. I readily accepted his offer, and he set about developing an organization for HNS while I contacted newspapers, eventually finding more than 200 willing to look at our opeds.
The oped writers nominated themselves by emailing submissions to both of us, now the HNS co-directors. Having hit our stride by the 2000 election, we learned that both prospective oped authors and the public thought about history in a time of crisis. More than two dozen opeds flooded into our in-boxes during the long, Florida stand-off. Jim and I wrote a pro and con piece on the Electoral College which appeared in some 20 newspapers, and elicited many, angry responses from both sides of the for or against divide. Our normal pace is a weekly distribution of one oped with six or seven papers (and many more web sites) picking it up, including the supportive History News Network.
A tribute to the internet, all of our writing, revising, and distributing is done through email; any payment goes directly to the writer; anyone may use HNS pieces after they have been posted. Writers and members of the HNS steering committee are volunteers. We share the same goal: building bridges to the public by using our expertise and responding to our civic commitment to enhance the quality of public discourse.
By Joyce Appleby
History is powerful because we live with its residues, its remnants, its remainders and reminders. Moreover, by studying societies unlike our own, we counteract the chronocentrism that blinkers contemporary vision. That's why we cannot abandon intellectual rigor or devalue accuracy. History has an irreducible positivistic element, for its subject is real, even if that reality is evanescent and dependent upon texts. Historical writing creates objects for our thoughts, making audible what had become inaudible, extracting latent information from the objects that men and women have constructed. This materiality of historical evidence does restrain us. Imagine a willful forgetting of the Holocaust had the Nazis won World War Two. Eventually someone would have picked up the trail of clues or stumbled over the contradictions in the documents created by the victors. Texts would then replace texts, but the impetus for the change would have come from the past itself just as scholars reconstructing the succession of post-Columbian demographic disasters had lots of evidence to go on, once their curiosity turned in that direction. The concreteness of history is what gives it the power to compel attention, to stretch imaginations, and to change minds?
A hundred and fifty years ago, historians exalted the nation's commercial values as proof of democratic vigor; since the Progressives they have focused more upon those groups that failed to benefit from a profit-driven economy. Perhaps now, as the twentieth century closes, we may be ready to explore the social complexity of our entrepreneurial system while shedding the celebratory and compensatory burdens of our predecessors.
The power of history is liberating. The last four decades have demonstrated it, if proof be needed. First social historians located and analyzed group experiences which had been ignored by earlier historians. Then investigations of ideologies and paradigms, followed by postmodernist critiques and cultural studies, plumbed the depths of society's shaping hand in organizing human consciousness through models, discourses and language's insinuating codes. Today as teachers, exhibitors, preservers, and researchers of the past, we have been forced to think through the acts of appropriation and remembrance. We can no longer plead ignorance of their effects. We're self-conscious about our voices, our genres, our assumptions. If we can live with this indeterminacy, pursue its implications, contend over meaning, give repeated witness to the magnificence of the human effort to understand, and share these acts with the public, we can be certain that history - the quintessential Western discourse - will have no end. -- Joyce Appleby in"The Power of History," January 9, 1998 Presidential Address, published in the American Historical Review , 103 (February, 1998) and reprinted in"A Restless Past," Lanham, Maryland, 2005, pp.. 145-48.
The American Revolution had not produced its own reactionaries. The Southern gentry had applauded the break with Great Britain with even more fervor than Northern leaders. What they disdained to share was the interpretation of America's revolutionary heritage as a call to innovation, enterprise, and reform. The sucess of Noretherners in fashioning this understanding of their jopint inheritance led to a new North that spoke for the nation and an old South that clung to values that pushed them apart. what was happening in the United States in its first fifty years-the elaboration od democratic institutions, the hardening of racist lines, the openess of oppotunity, thinning of intellectual traditions, and reconfiguring of Northern and Southern states into the North and the South-could not be comprehended within a unifying story, yet this did not prevent those in the first generation most concious of the nation from claiming their story for the whole. Rather than abandon the cherished object of an American truth, they accepted the half loaf of a half truth wrapped in a covering myth about the land of the free." -- Joyce Appleby in"Inheriting the Revolution: The First Generation of Americans"
There are two levels: One, because it created the... a sense that they had to do something with their lives and with the society, that was almost as if it were a gift, but it was a gift with a lot of strings attached to it. And then the other reason why it's important is because there were other developments that had nothing to do with the United States, per se-- economic developments, cultural developments-- which played out very differently for an independent nation than they would have had the Americans still been under Great Britain....
I think it was a charter generation, and it was because it was the first generation to live with this revolutionary inheritance, but also because it was the...very self- consciously being different in the world. The society was democratizing, it was becoming more liberal. There was an outpouring of religious enthusiasm, and many new denominations were formed, so the... Learning to live in this newly-created public space was what this generation did, and they, sort of, blocked out the areas that we're still living with. Joyce Appleby discussing"Inheriting the Revolution: The First Generation of Americans" with Margret Warner on the"Newshour with Jim Lehrer"
But I believe -- again a kind of ambivalence -- the founders really did believe these were universal principles, at the same time they recognized that they were path breakers, that they were experimenting, and I think it would be quite reassuring for them to see that democracies are flourishing many places, they're struggling other places, but they are definitely in the ascendance. I think that would be extremely gratifying because they would feel that their revolution had been the beginning of an entirely new future for humankind. -- Joyce Appleby on the"Newshour with Jim Lehrer" discussing"The Founders' Vision," July 4, 2003
About Joyce Appleby
Those affirmations in this book flow from three distinguished scholars. Joyce Appleby of the University of California, Los Angeles, has worked primarily on 18th- and early 19th-century America; Lynn Hunt of the University of Pennsylvania is a specialist in modern French history, and Margaret Jacob of the New School for Social Research is a historian of science. The three speak in a single voice, in the"I work in the archives" tone of researchers unwilling to leave to theorists the task of explaining to the public the politics and cognitive mission of historians....
"Telling the Truth About History" is at once a vindication of historical knowledge against skeptical and relativist doubts and a popular history of the process by which these doubts came into being....
These three authors sharpen their pragmatic realism by making good use of the recent work of the philosopher Hilary Putnam, and they rightly insist that a consensus-based theory of truth is more defensible if the group of inquirers is genuinely open to women and minorities. Despite these whiffs of contemporary thought, the doctrinal core of"Telling the Truth About History" is a pragmatic realism long since appreciated by many historians in the United States. Making this pragmatic realism more accessible to the public is the greatest contribution of this book. It will no doubt serve also to help undergraduates majoring in history find their way through the post-modernist debates.... -- David A. Hollinger reviewing"Telling the Truth About History" in the NYT
San Diego State University, San Diego, CA, assistant professor, 1967-70, associate professor, 1970-73, professor of American history, 1973-81, associate dean of College of Arts and Letters, 1974-75;
University of California, Los Angeles, professor of history, 1981--.
Visiting associate professor, University of California, Irvine, 1975-76;
visiting professor, University of California, Los Angeles, 1978-79.
Member of board of fellows, Claremont Graduate School, 1970-73;
fellow commoner, Churchill College, Cambridge University, 1977-78;
summer fellow, Regional Economic History Research Center, Eleutherian Mills-Hagley Foundation, 1979;
visiting fellow, St. Catherine's College, Oxford University, 1982;
Phelps Lecturer, New York University, 1982;
Becker Lecturer, Cornell University, 1984;
Harmsworth Professor of American History, Oxford University, and fellow of Queen's College, 1990-91.
Institute of Early American History and Culture, member of council, 1980-, chairperson, 1983-86.
Area of Research:
seventeenth and eighteenth century America, economic thought in early modern England, and the intellectual origins of capitalism.
Stanford University, B.A., 1950;
University of California, Santa Barbara, M.A., 1959;
Claremont Graduate School, Ph.D., 1966.
Editor, Contributor, Joint Author:
Contributor to books, including The Origins of Anglo-American Radicalism,
edited by Margaret Jacob and James Jacob, Allen & Unwin (Boston, MA), 1983;
and Colonial British America: Essays in the New History of the Early Modern Era,
edited by Jack P. Green and J. R. Pole, Johns Hopkins Press (Baltimore, MD), 1983.
Contributor to numerous journals, including American Quarterly,Business History Review,Civil War History,Journal of American History, and Past and Present.William and Mary Quarterly, member of editorial board, 1980-83, chairperson, 1981-83. Member of editorial board of Intellectual History Group Newsletter, 1981--, Eighteenth-Century Studies, 1982--, Journal of the Early Republic, 1982--, American Historical Review, and Encyclopedia of American Political History.
Awards and Grants:
Berkshire Prize, 1978, for Economic Thought and Ideology in Seventeenth-Century
1993, Annual Distinguished Faculty Award of the UCLA College of Letters and Science;
1995, Guggenheim Fellowship for her project on the intellectual origins of liberalism;
She has received support from the Mellon Foundation to train advanced graduate students to offer undergraduate seminars on current trends in historical theory.
Appleby co-directs with James Banner, the"History News Service," an informal
association that distributes op-ed essays written by historians to over 300
She also writes op-eds and book reviews for the news media, including the"New York Times," and has done commentary on the"Newshour with Jim Lehrer, anf recently appeared on C-Span2, Book TV"In Depth" show discussing her life, career, and writings.
Memberships: American Antiquarian Society, American Historical Association (member of Chester Higby Prize committee, 1982; member of council, 1982-85; president, 1997), Organization of American Historians (member of program committee, 1982; president, 1991).
What They're Famous For
Harold M. Hyman is William P. Hobby Professor of History, Emeritus, and director of the
Center for the History of Leadership Institutions at Rice University,
and is best known for his work on the legal and constitutional
climates of the mid- to late-nineteenth-century United States.
He is author of several books and articles on the Civil War and Reconstruction,
Abraham Lincoln, internal security evolution, civilian-military relationships,
and the impact of modern law firms. His
Era of the Oath: Northern Loyalty Tests during the Civil War and Reconstruction
(1954), won the American Historical Association's
Beveridge Prize. Hyman has lectured and taught at major universities,
law schools, and think tanks, and is past president of the American Society for Legal
In 1997 on the occassion of being named Professor Emeritus and his partial retirement from Rice University where Hyman stopped teaching undergraduate courses but continued graduate courses and PhD advising, Hyman told Rice University News and Media Relations:"So far it doesn't seem to be any different. I love teaching. I love being around students. [Becoming a professor emeritus] is a little like other milestones in life-being born, getting married... The only thing I know is being a historian.... [Rice has] been a very good place in almost every way-good students, good colleagues. By and large, the administration encouraged one to do what one should be doing-teaching and writing-and didn't intrude."
Many Depression-decade high school dropouts enlisted in the pre-Pearl Harbor military. In mid-1941 I joined the Marines. That December, Imperial Japan attacked me, serially and seriously, on Oahu, Midway and Guadalcanal islands and elsewhere. I resented these sporadic and dangerous intrusions personally, for two reasonable reasons. First, Japan's assaults might have impaired me physically. Second, the aggressive Japanese tactics repeatedly disrupted our military mail service.
The latter consequence irked me primarily because, as Japan's troops and my Marine duties permitted, I was trying to master high school completion courses, by correspondence. Even when stationed too briefly in Australia and New Zealand I bypassed the many beckoning bars, bimbos, and brothels in order to work on those demanding lessons, with growing enthusiasm for those in history. In addition to preserving my virtue this belated studiousness paid off, I assumed, when, in 1944, I, again encamped on a Pacific atoll, received by mail a glossy New York high school diploma.
Sadly, I learned later that my abstention from wartime sins was superfluous. Without informing me, in 1943 or `44 New York had granted diplomas without course completions to all ultimately uniformed high school dropouts.
So, to more autobiography. Once again a civilian, I found that my wartime experiences, including the prophylactic correspondence courses, had unfitted me for the blue-collar ruts my several siblings accepted. By mid-1946 I was married (still am, to the same splendid lady) and earning a superior salary. But while attending evening junior college classes I rediscovered my war-kindled interest in history and quit my job. Financed by my breadwinning wife and the GI Bill, by 1948 I had a BA from UCLA, then, in 1952, a Columbia University PhD, both in history. Faculty positions followed, at Earlham College (where, with a PhD, I earned less in 1952 than I had, when a high school graduate, in 1946), Arizona State, UCLA, Illinois, and, in 1968, an endowed chair at Rice University.
I retired from Rice in 1997 because, as the fall term began, a freshman asked me if, long ago, I had taught at UCLA. My affirmative reply triggered his response that, forty-plus years earlier, his future grandfather (!!) had taken my US Constitutional & Legal History course and now sent regards. It was time.
For me, however, it proved not to be a good time. My encrusted habit was to work hard. For five decades, I, in addition to teaching, had published a baker's dozen well- received books and many articles, essays, papers, etc. Retirement, I assumed, would mean unimpeded opportunity for further research and writing.
But, once becoming a retired octogenarian, I fell prey to squads of surgeons, phalanxes of physicians, and platoons of pharmacists. They, and the federal pharmaceutical boondoggle of 2005-6, consumed my time, energy, and funds. My ambitious post-retirement research and writing plans wither. Since retiring I've published only some scholarly articles, op-ed essays especially about Iraq and domestic civil liberties, and book reviews, and evaluated manuscripts for publishers. Too physically uncertain to kayak and fish as I had also hoped to do, by default I look backward a lot.
I look back less to the generations of undergraduates who, voluntarily or not, endured my lectures and exams, than to the roughly sixty PhDs and MAs whose theses and dissertations I had the privilege to oversee. They and I taught each other a lot.
When I taught successfully they learned to ask significant questions of the past, to find through patient research relevant facts to justify reasonable judgments about worthy topics, and to express themselves clearly (passive voice and technical gobbledygook prohibited). I urged each graduate student to think of a dissertation as a book a-borning. It had first to survive seminar criticisms, then those of anonymous external referees, and, when appropriate, then deserve my positive recommendations to a publisher that it become a book. I emphasized the advantages a new PhD gained by retaining a dissertation's core topic and perhaps widening its chronological coverage and/or employing alternative supplemental interpretations, perhaps by this means conceiving a second book or other major publication.
It worked for a pride of"my" PhD's. They taught me a great deal, especially through their distinguished, topically linked, yet disparate studies in broadly defined areas of American constitutional and legal history. Their writings help better to illuminate many endlessly contentious paths to our present, paths that include gender and race equality, war powers, Lincoln, the Civil War and Reconstruction, civil-military relationships, loyalty-security policies, federalism (including city-state), control of epidemics, and judicial biography.
Despite their achievements and my own, my frustrated post-retirement research and writing plans now inspire a curmudgeon's sour closing notes, especially about technology's impacts on higher education. Remember my earnest wartime devotions in pursuit of a high school diploma? Today, nominally academic entities hire cadres of e-mail peddlers to tout the effortless acquisitions of secondary school diplomas, BAs. MAs, and even PhDs. In legitimate collegiate institutions undergraduates and graduate students easily muster long rosters of primary and secondary sources with which to decorate footnotes and bibliographies. What insights, I worry, have the students gained? As a retiree I'm pleased not to have to sit in on the unending committees that now grope toward some self-respecting accomodation with these and derivative problems. But mine is a guilty pleasure. My instinct was to enlist in frays. Now I can not.
Muted, I wonder when I try to balance my emotions with calmer reason, are these technological marvels in research aids less problems than opportunities, as many respected colleagues insist? And, I ask as historian, is electronic data retrieval fundamentally more upsetting than was true of libraries' innovative card catalogs a century ago?
Damn. History again intrudes its disturbing questions that blunt excessively simple responses to changes.
By Harold M. Hyman
However deserving this judgment may be about today's restraints, extrapolation of similar judgments to 1861-65 presents substantial difficulties. The question of feasible alternatives to what came in after the Sumter bombardment has received little attention. Actual disloyalty existed in dangerous quantity and frightening concentration; some security measures were in order or else efforts were wasted to restore by arms the disrupting union of states. A society resentful of restraints was unlikely to accept unnecessary security fetters as passively as proved to be the case. False pleas of necessity could scarcely have convinced alert, selfappointed monitors of American institutions, morals, and ways.
The notion that officials could act secretly or mask excesses with fictions of mythical underground conspiracies was dubious at best. The antidisloyalty recourses of the Lincoln Administration were imperfect and galling; but they were neither irrelevant nor cynical. -- Harold Hyman in"A More Perfect Union: The Impact of the Civil War and Reconstruction on the Constitution"
And so they failed, these loyalty tests of the Civil War and Reconstruction, for they did not measure loyalty. They failed for the nation, were condemned by the courts, and eventually were discarded. They failed also in the states, where the courts invalidated them or constitutional and legal reform repealed them. They failed, for as Samuel Butler said in Hudibras :
He that imposes an oath makes it,
Not he that for convenience takes it;
Then how can any man be said
To break an oath he never made?
-- Harold Hyman in"Era of the Oath: Northern Loyalty Tests During the Civil War and Reconstruction""
In 1905, using materials supplied by the Lamson members of the family, Flower published a Stanton biography. Stanton's cousin, the wartime Ohio legislator Benjamin Stanton, after reading some of Flower's manuscript, was sure that"you hit the character of Stanton exactly." But Flower was no more capable than Gorham of delineating character or of constructively balancing conflicting pieces of evidence. He was a warm admirer of the War Secretary, and his book is as onesided a defense of its subject as its predecessor. Also, like Gorham, Flower failed to return to the Stanton family the papers he had received from them.
Six years later, the diary of Gideon Welles went into print. Its caustic assertions concerning Stanton's role in public affairs and his alleged inadequacies in matters of character made an immediate and lasting impression. Jesse Weik admitted that it had" completely upset my notion of Seward, Stanton, and Grant. I have always been such an admirer of all three that I sometimes regret that I ever read Mr. Welles' estimate. But the great thing is his vindication of Andrew Johnson."
The vindication of Johnson continued for the next forty years, almost without contradiction. Then, in 1953, Fletcher Pratt published his study of Stanton, which, although it corrected some tenacious misapprehensions, did not provide the needed full study of his life. There, until now, the Stanton story has rested. -- Harold Hyman in"Stanton: The Life and Times of Lincoln's Secretary of War"
But the executive departments must protect themselves against future espionage and infiltration as well as against past acts. Indeed, fear of the past and the future, rather than judicious consideration of the present, has been the major obstacle to effective executive loyaltytesting. At no time have any of the federal agencies supplied the primary need of a valid loyalty program--a definition, a standard, a viable agreement on what loyalty is. Lacking this prerequisite, subjectivity, partisanship, sheer stupidity, and vindictiveness in the operation of the executive system have justified the criticisms made of it.
Defining loyalty is a philosophical problem. The difficulties involved in its realization are endless. Men in the present and past have ignored this need. They relied on loyalty oaths and other tests which prescribed absolutes of past conduct for suspected disloyalists. Mere emulation of the past in an uncritical search for security in the future is to turn a deaf ear to history and to the present needs of political democracy involved in unprecedented crisis. If executive officials have advanced beyond Lincoln's use of loyalty-oath tests, they have not yet reached Lincoln's calm appraisal of human nature and democracy's resiliency:"On principle, I dislike an oath which requires a man to swear he has not done wrong. It rejects the Christian principle of forgiveness on terms of repentance. I think it enough if a man does no wrong hereafter." ...
Three decades ago, William Butler Yeats offered this doleful prophecy of mid-century life:
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned.
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Herman Melville was more hopeful almost a century ago when, as civil war and mass disloyalty rent the land, he offered this poetical plea for moderation and humility:
Yea and Nay--
Each hath his say;
But God he keeps the middle way.
None was by
When He spread the sky;
Wisdom is vain, and prophesy.
Between Melville's humanistic skepticism and Yeats's dreary pessimism rests the measure of the current generation, seeking absolutes of loyalty and of much else. Absolute security, as Justice Holmes said in another connection, is achieved only in the graveyard. Never in America's history have loyalty tests provided security. That security has emerged from within, from strengths garnered by lives and sacrifices freely offered. Until the past history of the inutility of loyalty tests to provide loyalty is recognized, American unity and Americans' rights will suffer. -- Harold Hyman in"To Try Men's Souls: Loyalty Tests in American History"
"It's a very good feeling to see intellectual offspring doing good things," Hyman said."Being president is a wonderful experience. It's gratifying to see that so many of them [younger members] are energetic and talented. So there's no reason to cry about the younger generation."
The society is a national as well as international scholarly society made up of about 2,000 members who share an interest in the history of law and the constitution. Members include historians of law, law academics, law practitioners, judges, social scientists and"a scattering of wonderful amateurs" from all 50 states and abroad, Hyman said.
"This society is one of few forums where practicing lawyers and academics [historians] can come together," Hyman said."The best experience is just to see the seriousness members take. We create this arena where people can talk that otherwise wouldn't talk. And we encourage that."
The society has made important contributions to scholarship with papers on race, gender, law, legal rights in wartime, among others, Hyman said.
"We've learned a great deal out of the research this society encourages," he said."I've been honored to be elected."
Hyman has been a member of the society for 45 years and will pass along the title in late October at the annual meeting. -- Harold Hyman in a Rice Univerity article on the occassion of his retirement from the presidency of the American Society for Legal History
About Harold M. Hyman
City College (now City College of the City University of New York), New York, NY, instructor in modern history, 1950-52;
Earlham College, Richmond, IN, assistant professor of history, 1952-55;
University of California, Los Angeles, visiting assistant professor of American history, 1955- 56;
Arizona State University, Tempe, associate professor of American history, 1956-57;
University of California, Los Angeles, professor of history, 1963-68;
Rice University, Houston, TX, William P. Hobby Professor of History, 1968--, chairman of history department, 1968-70.
Area of Research:
B.A. 1948, University of California at Los Angeles;
M.A. in History, 1950 Columbia University;
Ph.D. in History, 1952 Columbia University
Editor, Contributor, Joint Author:
Editor, with Stuart Bruchey, of the"American Legal and Constitutional History Series," Garland Publishing, 1986-87. Member of board of editors, Reviews in American History, 1964--, Ulysses S. Grant Association, 1968-- American Journal of Legal History, 1970--, and Journal of American History, 1970-74.
Awards and Grants:
Albert J. Beveridge award, American Historical Association, 1952, and
Sidney Hillman award both for Era of the Oath: Northern Loyalty Tests During the Civil War
Sidney Hillman award for To Try Men's Souls: Loyalty Tests in American History.
U.S. Marine Corps, 1941-45; became master technical sergeant.
U.S. Veterans Administration, Los Angeles, CA, rehabilitation officer, 1946-48.
Member of the American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians, Illinois State Historical Society, Los Angeles Civil War Round Table.
What They're Famous For
Acclaimed historian Walter Nugent is Emeritus professor of history since 2000 and was the Andrew V. Tackes Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame, where he has taught since 1984. Before that he was Professor of History at Indiana University for twenty-one years. As a visiting professor he has also taught and lived in England, Israel, Germany, Poland, and Ireland. He has published 11 books and well over a hundred essays and reviews on American and comparative history. In 2000 he was awarded the Caughey prize of Western History Association for best book in Western history for Into the West: The Story of Its People which has been called"the most comprehensive and fascinating account to date of the peopling of the American West." and an"epic social-demographic history." He lives with his wife, the historian Suellen Hoy, in Highland Park, Illinois.
Demography is destiny, or so it's been for me. My enormous good luck is to have become a historian and to have been a faculty member at two excellent research universities. Good demographic timing helped produce this result, starting with being born in 1935, during the Depression. The birth rate was the lowest ever up to then. Whenever people looked for someone from my small cohort, my chances of being picked were always good.
I was also the fortunate beneficiary of discrimination -- my mother was forced to quit her elementary-teaching job after she became pregnant with me. As a result, her considerable force and talent as a teacher focused on me, so that I was reading, writing, and reckoning at an early age. Two uncles, one a brother of my mother's and the other of my father's, both Catholic priests, also invested in me: one put me through college and saw to it that I learned how to play and sing liturgical music. That let me earn my way through graduate school. The other gave me a spinet piano when I was five and also opened my ears to Beethoven and other great music with his collection of '78s. Benedictine monks, my undergraduate teachers at a small college in Kansas, opened for me a broad universe of history, literature, and philosophy. Most influential were Brendan Downey, a Missourian with an Oxford degree in English; Victor Gellhaus, a Kansas medievalist whose Ph.D. was from Munich; Peter Beckman, a historian of America and the West; and Eugene Dehner, an inspiring zoologist and ornithologist.
In grad school, I thought I would write a dissertation on whether there was a Catholic side to Progressivism. I did such a lousy job on my orals in that field that the faculty member I'd talked to (lengthily) about it said,"forget it." I realized much later that the topic would have been a quagmire; I was extremely lucky to have failed my way out of it. Instead, with some personal knowledge of small farmers on the Great Plains, I decided to see if sources substantiated the then-current idea that the 1890's Populists had been anti-Semites and nativists. I returned to Kansas, and found out that they weren't (though some others were). This produced a dissertation, a book (The Tolerant Populists), and job offers. Again, demography favored me. Baby-boomers were entering college, enrollments were soaring, and the job market for young would-be academics was hotter than ever before or since.
Indiana University became my home for over twenty years. Then and now, it has had strong international programs. For nine years I had the honor and pleasure of directing its Overseas Study Programs. Watching the huge changes in hundreds of undergraduates who went on junior-year programs, from provincials to young cosmopolitans, was probably the most rewarding work I ever did as an educator. Travels to programs also brought invitations to lecture in Europe and Israel. In the mid-1980s, just under fifty (a good age for such invitations), the University of Notre Dame asked me to become dean of its College of Arts and Letters, which brought with it an endowed chair. I wisely decided that I'd had enough of administration and declined. But when they offered me the endowed chair anyway, I accepted and enjoyed a decade and a half of well-supported research and teaching.
After my book on Populism, the next two were in Gilded-Age economic history. Then, while I was a dean at Indiana, I turned to textbook projects. Some collapsed; others became books (e.g., From Centennial to World War, on the Gilded Age and Progressive Era). A long effort to write a text for the American history survey course fizzled out, but during it I became convinced of the great importance of the demographic substrate of passing events. This led me both to quantitative data and to Braudel. American history, it seemed to me, could be arranged into three plateaus, defined by declining rates of population growth. Just then I was invited to give the 1979 Paley lectures at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the three-fold scheme became the lectures, called"The Graying of America," and then a small book, Structures of American Social History (1981).
Next came migration. Still influenced by Braudel, I wrote Crossings: The Great Transatlantic Migrations, 1870-1914 (1991), which treated the Atlantic and the lands around it – Europe, North America, South America – as a unified arena of human motion and action in the"age of steam." During those years I also wrote essays on comparative migration and settlement, the processes that formed the American West. People came there from all points of the compass; the traditional east-to-west Turnerian story did not explain it. The result was Into the West: The Story of Its People (1999). About then, I retired from teaching and indulged myself by writing a family history, pulling together about twenty-five years of sporadic archival research into Making Our Way (2003). My current project is to connect the territorial acquisitions of the United States since 1782 to the process of settlement. The continental acquisitions ended in 1854 and the settlement process in the 1920s, but offshore acquisitions continued past 1945 and global empire-building into our own day. The new book will be called The Habit of Empire.
If my luck continues to hold, I will continue writing history through my eighth decade and beyond, as have exemplars such as Ed Morgan, Bob Remini, Bill McNeill, and Bernie Weisberger. If it doesn't, I can always be thankful for an enormously satisfying (as well as lucky) life as a historian. And I haven't even mentioned my family. That's for another time.
By Walter Nugent
About Walter Nugent
University of Notre Dame, Andrew V. Tackes Professor of History, 1984-2000; emeritus, 2000-present;
Washburn University of Topeka, Instructor in History, 1957-58;
Kansas State University, Temporary Instructor 1961; Assistant Professor of American History, 1961-63;
Indiana University, Assistant Professor of History 1963-1964; Associate Professor 1964-68; Professor of History 1968-84. Associate Dean, College of Arts & Sciences, 1967-71, and in Central Administration, 1972-76; Director of University Overseas Study Programs, 1967-76; Acting Chair, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Literatures, 1968-69; Chair, Department of History, 1974-77.
Columbia University, lecturer, summer 1966;
New York University, lecturer, summer 1967;
Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Fulbright Senior Lecturer, 1978-79;
Paley Lecturer in American Civilization, Feb. 1979; lecturer summer 1982;
Warsaw University, visiting scholar, spring 1979, spring 1982;
Hamburg University, visiting scholar, summer 1980;
Tel Aviv University, Kenneth B. Keating lecturer, Nov. 1987;
University College Dublin, Mary Ball Washington Fulbright chair, 1991-92;
Pacific Lutheran University, Schnackenberg lecturer, 1993;
Huntington Library, Ray Allen Billington lecturer, 1993; Steinbeck Centennial lecturer, Oct. 2002;
University of Indianapolis, Sutphin lecturer, Oct. 1999;
University of Utah, David E. Miller lecturer, Nov. 1999;
Calvin College, Mellema lecturer, Apr. 2001.
Area of Research:
American West; Gilded Age/Progressive Era; demographic history, especially migration; comparative history
St. Benedict's College (Atchison, Kansas), A.B. in history, 1954
Georgetown University, M.A. in European history, 1956
University of Chicago, Ph.D. in American history, 1961
Editor, Contributor, Joint Author:
Newberry Library fellow, summer 1962;
Guggenheim fellow, 1964-65;
St. Benedict's College, D. Litt. honoris causa, 1968;
NEH summer seminars, director, 1979, 1984, 1986;
NEH-Huntington Library fellow, 1979-80;
Indiana Association of Historians, President, 1980-81;
Mead Distinguished Research Fellow, Huntington Library, 1985;
Beinecke Fellow in Western Americana, Yale University, 1990;
Society of American Historians, elected a fellow, 1991;
Warsaw University, Medal of Merit, 1992;
Choice outstanding academic book, for Crossings, 1992;
U.S. Information Agency, Academic Specialist grant to Brazil, 1996;
Immigration History Society, elected to executive board, 1996-99;
Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, President, 2000-02;
Caughey prize of Western History Association for best book in Western history (Into the West), 2000;
Western History Association, honorary life member, 1998; President, 2005-06.
U.S.-Israel Educational Foundation (the Fulbright Program in Israel),
Board of Directors, 1985-89.
Organist, St. Bride's Church, Chicago, 1955-57, 1958-61.
Hadassah Associates (life member).
Contributor to professional journals since 1962
Referee or consultant to various publishers and journals; to universities on tenure and promotion cases.
Member of peer review panels for Council on International Exchange of Scholars (the Fulbright Program), National Endowment for the Humanities, Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education, the Huntington Library;
Member of various book- and article-prize committees of the Western History Association, United Chapters of Phi Beta Kappa, Agricultural History Society.
Member, Council on Foreign Relations (New York), 1984-99.
What They're Famous For
David Brion Davis is the Sterling Professor of History Emeritus at Yale university
and taught there from 1970 to 2001. He is currently Director Emeritus of Yale's
Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition,
which he founded in 1998 and directed until 2004. Davis received his PhD from
Harvard University in 1956. His books include Homicide in American Fiction
The Problem of Slavery in
Western Culture (1966); The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution (1975);
Slavery and Human Progress (1984); Revolutions: American Equality and Foreign
Liberations (1990); In the Image of God: Religion, Moral Values, and Our Heritage of
Slavery (2001), and Challenging the Boundaries of Slavery (2003).
Davis's latest book InHuman Bondage: Slavery in the New World was just released in April. He is currently returning to complete a major work he has been doing for many years, a two-volume The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation. Earlier volumes in this series The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture won a Pulitzer Prize, and The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution won National Book Award for History and Biography, the AHA's Albert Beveridge Award, and the Bancroft Prize.
Professor Davis has received numerous awards during his distinguished career. Most recently, in 2004 he was awarded by the Society of American Historians the Bruce Catton Prize for Lifetime Achievement. Also in 2004 he was awarded the New England History Teachers' Association's Kidger Award in recognition for his nine years of summer seminars for teachers on the origins and nature of New World slavery.
Davis is considered the most pre-eminent historian of slavery as Ira Berlin claimed"No scholar has played a larger role in expanding contemporary understanding of how slavery shaped the history of the United States, the Americas and the world than David Brion Davis." Davis has stated in a an interview the greater purpose in his study of the slavery;"I hope that my writings on slavery and abolitionism will continue to help people--especially non-academics--understand the roots and foundations of the great racial dilemma that America and other countries still face."
I would like to say a few words in opposition to the view, expressed nowadays by far too many educators, that history is a boring and antiquarian diversion, that we should"let bygones be bygones,""free" ourselves from a dismal and oppressive past, and concentrate on a fresh and better future. I have long and fervently believed that a consciousness of history is one of the key factors that distinguishes us from all other animals -- I mean the ability to transcend an illusory sense of NOW, of an eternal present, and to strive for an understanding of the forces and events that made us what we are. Such an understanding is the prerequisite, I believe, for all human freedom. Obviously history can be used in ideological ways to justify the worst forms of aggression and oppression. But that fact underscores the supreme importance of freeing ourselves from such distortions and searching, as far as possible, for a true and balanced picture of the past. I hope I can illustrate this point by briefly describing the personal path I took in becoming a historian of slavery and antislavery.
Because my parents were journalists for a time and then became productive writers of excellent fiction and non-fiction, despite their lack of a college education, I spent many hours of my childhood traveling from coast to coast in the back seats of cars made in the 1930s, mostly Plymouths with a sleek Mayflower on the front of the hood. This meant that I experienced considerable diversity with respect to teachers and fellow students as I literally attended ten different schools from kindergarten to the twelfth grade, schools in such places as Denver, Beverly Hills, Manhattan, Carmel, California, and Hamburg, New York. In fact, I attended five high schools in the four years from the ninth to the twelfth grade. And whatever achievements I've had in the subsequent 61 years are in large part dependent on my luck in having truly extraordinary teachers in the third, fifth, and sixth grades (in three different schools in three different states), in addition to an inspired teacher of general science in the eighth and ninth grades, and a phenomenal teacher of English literature and writing in my senior year of high school.
When I graduated from high school in early June 1945, there were no thoughts about college or a future career. I was immediately drafted and plunged into combat training as an infantryman for the planned invasion of Japan in the fall. The appalling casualty figures from the ongoing battle for Okinawa, coupled with our officers' accounts of their own combat experiences, gave a sobering perspective to our accuracy at the firing range and to our desired skill in throwing hand grenades, shooting flame throwers, and attacking mock Japanese villages defended by booby traps and dummy Japanese snipers hidden in the trees. But then as a direct result of the Hirosh'ima and Nagasaki bombings, I found myself on a troopship headed for a fascinating and highly influential year in what had very recently been Nazi Germany. Thanks to some high-school German, I soon became a member of the American Security Police, arresting black marketers, escaped SS officers, and on one occasion, a Polish soldier who had raped and given gonorrhea to a six-year-old German girl (who, in a painful interview, gave me the information I needed).
Clearly I was untrained and was far too immature for such awesome responsibilities. But living in the shadow of the Holocaust and amid the rubble and ruins of the world's greatest war did have a maturing effect and prompted serious thought on what to do with my life.
In a long letter to my parents and 85 year-old grandmother, written on February 17, 1946, I described the appalling racism that many white American soldiers displayed when they encountered black soldiers in the segregated army, and then turned to some thoughts about college in the years ahead. Though expressing my desire to take courses in English, history, French, anthropology, and astronomy, I finally emphasized that"I quite definitely want to go into this physics business as well as the necessary accompanying mathematics. I think I could get quite interested in physics" [which I had taken in high school; and upon first hearing the news of Hirosh'ima, I thought of the drastic implications of e=mc square].
But by October 9th, 1946 I had completely changed my mind. I will quote the new thoughts, clearly influenced by nearly a year's exposure to the war's devastation, in some detail:"I've been thinking over the idea of majoring in history, continuing into post-graduate research, and finally teaching, in college, of course, and have come to some conclusions which may not be original, but are new as far as I'm concerned. It strikes me that history, and proper methods of teaching it, are even more important at present than endocrinology and nuclear fission. I believe that the problems that surround us today are not to be blamed on individuals or even groups of individuals, but on the human race as a whole, its collective lack of perspective and knowledge of itself. That is where history comes in."
Actually, at age 19 I knew very little about history and had not been blessed with especially good history teachers in high school. But I went on:"There has been a lot of hokum concerning psychoanalysis, but I think the basic principle of probing into the past, especially the hidden and subconscious past, for truths which govern and influence present actions, is fairly sound. Teaching history, I think, should be a similar process. An unearthing of truths long buried beneath superficial facts and propaganda; a presentation of perspective and an overall, comprehensive view of what people did and thought and why they did it. When we think back into our childhood, it doesn't do much good to merely hit the high spots and remember what we want to remember --- to know why we act the way we do, we have to remember everything. In the same way it doesn't help much to teach history as a series of wars and dates and figures, the good always fighting the bad, the bad usually losing. Modern history especially, should be shown from every angle. The entire atmosphere and color should be shown, as well as how public opinion stood, and what influenced it."
"Perhaps such teaching could make us understand ourselves. It would show the present conflicts to be as silly as they are. And above all, it would make people stop and think before blindly following some bigoted group to make the world safe for Aryans or democrats or Mississippians. During the 1930s there were many advances in the methods of teaching history. The effect cannot be overemphasized. After talking with many GIs of the 18-19 year old age group, I'm convinced that the recent course in modern European history did more good than any other single high school subject. And that is just a beginning."
"There are many other angles, of course, but I am pretty well sold on the history idea at present. It is certainly not a subject, as some think, which is dead and useless. You know the line, 'why should I be interested in history? That's all past. We should concern ourselves with the present and future --- cars, vacuum cleaners, steel mills, helicopters, atom bombs, juke boxes, movies --- and on into [Aldous] Huxley's [Brave New] world of soma, baby hatcheries, feelies (instead of movies).'"
"It is extremely difficult to tell whether an interest like this is temporary or permanent. It does fit into my other plans very nicely. After I once get into school and out of this vacuum, I'll be able to narrow my sights and bring things into focus. At least I've got something to talk about."
As it happened, my road to becoming a historian was not quite as direct as this letter of 1946 might suggest. At Dartmouth I majored in philosophy, in part because the History Department was then so weak. But I focused on the history of philosophy and the history of evolving conceptions of human nature. And beginning in 1953, I did end up teaching American history for 47 years: a year at Dartmouth, 14 years at Cornell, and 32 years at Yale (2 years of which were actually at Oxford and the French Ecole des Hautes Etudes, in Paris).
By David Brion Davis
In one sense slavery was seen as a punishment resulting from sin or from a natural defect of the soul that precluded virtuous conduct. The slave was a Canaanite, a man devoid of Logos, or sinner who scorned the truth. Stoics and Christians endeavored to distinguish the true from apparent slave, but physical bondage always suffered from the guilt of association.
In a second sense slavery was seen as a model of dependence and self-surrender. For Plato, Aristotke, and Augustine this meant that it was a necessary part of a world that required moral order and discipline; it was the base on which rested an intricate and hierarchial pattern of authority. Yet Jews called themselves the slaves of Yahweh, Christians called themselves the slaves of Christ. No other word so well expressed an ultimate in willing devotion and self-sacrifice.
In a third sense slavery stood as the starting point for a divine quest. It was from slavery that hebrews were delivered and from which they aquired their unique mission. It was slavery to desire and social convention that Cynics and Stoics sought to overcome by self-discipline and indifference to the world. And it was from slavery to the corrupted flesh of Adam that Christ redeemed mankind.
For some two thousand years men thought of sin as a kind of slavery. One day they would come to think of slavery as sin. -- David Brion Davis in"The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture"
The book begins with the dramatic Amistad story in 1839-1841, which highlights the multinational character of the Atlantic Slave System, from Sierra Leone to Cuba and Connecticut, as well as the involvement of the American judiciary, the presidency (and a former president), the media, and both black and white abolitionists. I then move on to the ancient foundations of modern slavery in the Bible, ancient Babylonia, and ancient Greece and Rome, before turning to the long and complex origins and development of anti-black racism, extending from medieval Arab states to the early Iberian obsession with purity of blood and the racist theorizing of such major figures of the European Enlightenment as Voltaire, Hume, and Kant. Chapter Four, on"How Africans Became Intrinsic to New World history," rejects various economic deterministic theories and emphasizes the contingent ways in which greed and a desire for profit became fused with issues of religion and ethnic identity. It is in this chapter that I describe the trading for slaves along the African coast and include vivid descriptions of the atrocious overpacking and dehydration on slave ships crossing the Atlantic. Above all, I emphasize that racial slavery became an intrinsic and indispensable part of New World settlement --- that our free and democratic society was made possible by the massive exploitation of slave labor.
I then move on to the nature and character of slavery in Portuguese Brazil, the British Caribbean, and colonial North America. I have no time here to summarize the many topics and arguments, but will simply say that the remaining chapters deal with the problem of slavery in the American Revolution, and in the French and Haitian Revolutions, before I give a detailed examination of slavery in the nineteenth-century South. Before turning to chapters on American and British abolitionism, I compare American slave resistance and conspiracies with three massive slave revolts in the British Caribbean. Though Chapter Fourteen focuses on the politics of slavery in the United States, it also considers British-American relations and the impact of Britain's emancipation of 800,000 slaves, in 1834, on Southern fears and suspicions of the North. Chapter Fifteen attempts to put the American Civil War and slave emancipation within an international context. In the Epilogue I consider the influence of the American Civil War on the slave emancipations in Cuba and Brazil.
The crucial and final point I want to make is that a frank and honest effort to face up to the darkest side of our past, to understand the ways in which social evils evolve, should in no way lead to cynicism and despair, or to a repudiation of our heritage. The development of maturity means a capacity to deal with truth. And the more we recognize the limitations and failings of human beings, the more remarkable and even encouraging history can be.
Acceptance of the institution of slavery, of trying to reduce humans to something approaching beasts of burden, can be found not only in the Bible but in the earliest recorded documents in the Mesopotamian Near East. Slavery was accepted for millennia, virtually without question, in almost every region of the globe. And even in the nineteenth century there was nothing inevitable or even probable about the emancipation of black slaves throughout the Western Hemisphere. This point is underscored by the appalling use of coerced labor even in the twentieth century, especially in various forms of gulags or concentration camps, the outcome of which I saw as a young American soldier. Above all, I conclude, we should consider the meaning, in the early twenty-first century, of the historically unique antislavery movements which succeeded in overthrowing, within the space of a century, systems of inhuman bondage that extended throughout the Hemisphere -- systems that were still highly profitable as well as productive. -- David Brion Davis discussing his new book"Inhuman Bondage" in a recent speaking engagement.
About Davis Brion Davis
Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, instructor in history and Ford Fund for the
Advancement of Education intern, 1953-54;
Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, assistant professor, 1955-58, associate professor, 1958-63, Ernest I. White Professor of History, 1963-69;
Yale University, New Haven, CT, professor of history, 1969-72, Farnham Professor of History, 1972-78, Sterling Professor of History, 1978--, currently emeritus, director of Gilder Lehrman Center for the study of slavery, resistance, and abolition.
Fulbright lecturer in India, 1967, and at universities in Guyana and the West Indies, 1974. Lecturer at colleges and universities in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East, 1969--.
Area of Research:
Slavery in the Western World and America, Antebellum America, Intellectual history
Dartmouth College, A.B. (summa cum laude), 1950;
Harvard University, A.M., 1953, Ph.D., 1956;
Oxford University, M.A., 1969;
Yale University, M.A., 1970.
Editor, Contributor, Joint Author:
Contributor to books, including: The Stature of Theodore Dreiser, edited by Alfred Kazin and Charles Shapiro, (Indiana University Press, 1955); Twelve Original Essays on Great American Novels, edited by Shapiro, (Wayne State University Press, 1958); Perspectives and Irony in American Slavery, edited by Harry Owens, (University of Mississippi Press, 1976); Slavery and Freedom in the Age of the American Revolution, edited by Ira Berlin and Ronald Hoffman, (University of Virginia Press, 1983); and British Capitalism and Caribbean Slavery, edited by Barbara Solow and Stanley L. Engerman, (Cambridge University Press, 1987).
Pulitzer Prize, 1967, for The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture.
National Book Award for history, and Bancroft Prize, both 1976, both for The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution, 1770-1823.
2004 Bruce Catton Prize of the Society of American Historians for lifetime achievement;
2004 Kidger Award from the New England History Teachers Association given to honor his devotion to teaching;
Corresponding fellow, British Academy, 1992; Litt.D. from Columbia University, 1999;
Presidential Medal for Outstanding Leadership and Achievement, Dartmouth College, 1991;
Corresponding fellow, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1989;
L.H.D., University of New Haven, 1986;
Fulbright traveling fellow, 1980-81;
National Endowment for the Humanities, research grants, 1979-80 and 1980-81, and fellowship for independent study and research, 1983-84;
Litt.D., Dartmouth College, 1977;
Henry E. Huntington Library fellow, 1976;
Albert J. Beveridge Award, American Historical Association, 1975;
Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences fellow, 1972-73;
National Mass Media Award, National Conference of Christians and Jews, 1967;
Anisfield-Wolf Award, 1967;
Guggenheim fellow, 1958-59.
Davis served as President of the Organization of American Historians
for the 1988-1989 term.
Commissioner, Orange, CT, Public Library Commission, 1974-75;
Associate director, National Humanities Institute, Yale University, 1975.
Contributor to professional journals and other periodicals, including New York Times Book Review, Times Literary Supplement, New York Review of Books, Washington Post Book World, New Republic, and Yale Review.
Military service: U.S. Army, 1945-46.
What They're Famous For
Alonzo L. Hamby is the Distinguished Professor of History at
Ohio University. He is author of the award-winning biography, Man of the People:
A Life of Harry S. Truman, Hamby has been the recipient of numerous awards and
grants. They include the Herbert Hoover Book Award and the Harry S. Truman Book
Award in 1996, both for Man of the People (1995). In addition to the Truman biography
and numerous articles in scholarly journals, he has written or edited seven other books,
including Beyond the New
Deal: Harry S. Truman and American Liberalism, 1945-1953 (1973);
The Imperial Years: The United States Since 1939 (1976); Liberalism and Its
Challengers: F.D.R. to Bush (1992); and, most recently,
For the Survival of Democracy: Franklin D. Roosevelt and th World Crisis of
the 1930s (2004).
Hamby also has receivedv two National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowships, a Harry S. Truman Library Institute Senior Fellowship, a Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Fellowship, and the Ohio Academy of History Distinguished Service Award. Born in Missouri, Hamby graduated from Southeast Missouri State University and earned his Ph.D. from the University of Missouri-Columbia. He is an expert on Harry S. Truman and his presidency, a research interest that started only years after Truman ledt the White House. In a recent interview he commented"I started at Missouri only ten years after Truman had left office. My dissertation, subsequently enlarged and published as Beyond the New Deal was not a biography. Truman's personal papers were not yet available. It was a book about the liberal left of that time and the Truman presidency. I wrote a full-scale biography of Truman years later."
My mother probably thought that with a little luck, I might become a high school principal or superintendent someday. She had spent years teaching in one-room rural schools before meeting and marrying my father. They ran a mom and pop grocery store that required the time and work that in these days one expects only from immigrants. They also had books and newspapers in the house and wanted their children to do well in school. Naively or not, I believe that there remains plenty of upward mobility in America for those who work at it.
My undergraduate colleges-Southwest Missouri State (one year) and Southeast Missouri State (three years) were primarily teacher training institutions. (I went against the grain and pursued a B.A. degree, which seemed to give me an opportunity to learn much more interesting things than what passed for"educational methods.") What I recall most from my teachers were their high standards. No one seemed to worry about"retention," and despite crushing loads, most of them gave generously of their time, advice, and above all their letter-writing efforts
I managed (along with a couple of thousand other lucky students) to win a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship in 1960, and used it to pursue an M.A. at Columbia University. Columbia was quite an experience for a small-town kid. It had a huge M.A. program I probably couldn't have been admitted otherwise. I'll never forget a one-size-fits-all historiography course that had an enrollment approaching 200 students. It was the worst single class I would have in graduate school. Most of the other classes were ridiculously large, but nonetheless stimulating and frequently exciting.
The Wilson money was much appreciated, but was only for one year. Financial aid at Columbia was tight, and I had no independent income. I got word of National Defense Education Act fellowships, tied to the study of the Truman presidency, at the University of Missouri. I applied and landed one. I found myself part of an excellent graduate program. The student talent level in truth surpassed that of my M.A. seminar at Columbia.
At both schools, I was singularly fortunate in my choice of teachers. The three most important to me were John A. Garraty, Richard S. Kirkendall, and William Leuchtenburg.
I had the good fortune to land a job at Ohio University upon completing my Ph.D. in 1965. Never having taught a course, delivered a paper, nor published an article, I would be considered utterly unqualified for a university position today. I decided that my dissertation,"Harry S. Truman and American Liberalism, 1945-1948," should be the first half of a book that would take the theme through the entire Truman presidency, thereby condemning myself to, in effect, writing a second dissertation.
One of the many benefits of this decision was that it reconnected me with William Leuchtenburg, whose large lecture class I had taken at Columbia. He was interested in the project for his recently started Columbia University Press Contemporary American History Series. No one, I would discover, could be more fortunate in his choice of an academic editor. Leuchtenburg was (and remains) the nicest man and the most demanding editor in the profession. The result was published as Beyond the New Deal: Harry S. Truman and American Liberalism (1973). I could take the time needed for such a venture because I already had tenure, awarded on the basis of an edited work and three or four articles. I doubt I could get it today!
The book got me started on a professional track that emphasized the history of modern American liberalism and the presidency as a focus for the study of 20th-century American history.
The rest, I guess, is history.
Above photo: Professor Hamby in cap and gown from his Inaugural Lecture at the University of Leiden with wife, Joyce.
By Alonzo L. Hamby
"The academic unfashionability of political biography (and political history in general) is . . . the result of an ideological viewpoint that prefers to ignore the success of liberal democratic politics in America. The latest generation of scholarly ideologues focuses single-mindedly on varieties of social history that with varying degrees of persuasiveness emphasize oppression or injustice, rather than liberty, democracy, or opportunity. Harry Truman's story largely refutes them."
". . . . I also believe that the distinction between social and political history is misconceived and that biography, by placing its subject within his or her context, can be a species of social history." -- Alonzo Hamby in"Man of the People: A Life of Harry S. Truman (1995)
About Alonzo L. Hamby
Ohio University: Assistant Professor, 1965-69; Associate Professor, 1969-75; Professor, 1975-96; Distinguished Professor, 1996- ; Director of Graduate Studies, Department of History, 1978-80, 1987-88, 1995-96 ; Chair, Department of History, 1980-83.
Sackler Professor of American History and Culture, University of Leiden, 2004-05. (Photo to the left from Hamby's Inaugural Lecture at Leiden)
Area of Research:
U.S. History, 1607-present; Twentieth-century America; American Historiography
Southeast Missouri State College (now University), B.A., 1960;
Columbia University, M.A., 1961;
University of Missouri, Ph.D., 1965
Editor, Contributor, Joint Author:
Awards:Herbert Hoover Book Award, 1996, and Harry S. Truman Book Award, both for Man of the People, 1996.
David D. Lloyd Prize, Harry S. Truman Library Institute, 1974, Ohio Academy of History Publication Award, 1974, Phi Alpha Theta First Book Award, 1974--all for Beyond the New Deal.
Ohio Academy of History Distinguished Service Award, 1998;
Fellow, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 1991-92;
Southeast Missouri State University Outstanding History Alumnus, 1985, and College of Liberal Arts Alumni Merit Award, 1990;
Harry S. Truman Library Institute Senior Fellowship, 1986-87;
National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Fellowship, 1985;
Evans Research Fellow, Harry S. Truman Library Institute, 1973-74;
National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, 1972-73;
Ohio University Baker Fund Awards, 1969, 1986;
Ohio University Research Council Grants, 1967, 1976, 1983;
Phi Beta Kappa, Lambda of Ohio, honorary membership, 1977;
American Philosophical Society Grant, 1967;
Harry S. Truman Library Institute Research Grants, 1964, 1966, 1967, 1969;
University of Missouri Wilson Fellow, 1964-65;
National Defense Education Act Fellow, 1962-64;
Woodrow Wilson Fellow, 1960-61.
Hamby comments frequently about Presidential politics in the media, including among others"the
Newshour with Jim Lehrer".
Commentator for American Experience's :Truman" on PBS.
Hamby recently completed a substantial revision of the State Department Bureau of International Information Programs'"Outline of U.S. History" publication.
Top photo: Rick Fatica, Ohio University.
What They're Famous For
Bernard A. Weisberger is a distinguished teacher and author of American history.
Weisberger formerly was a professor at Wayne State University, the University of
Chicago, and the University of Rochester where he was full professor and chair
of the department.
He has written more than a dozen books and worked on documentaries with Bill Moyers and
Ken Burns. His Charles Ramsdell Prize winning article"The Dark and Bloody Ground of Reconstruction Historiography," is considered
a standard in the study of the Reconstruction period.
Retiring in 1970, Weisberger has devoted himself full time to writing both books
and articles in popular history media and magazines.
He is best known as a longtime contibuting editor for American Heritage.
He started writing his first article for the magazine in 1955,
and he then wrote the"In the News" column for more than ten years from 1989 to 1999.
Additionally he published many of his books for American Heritage's book series
Weisberger's area of research stretches accross the landscape of American history. His most recent book When Chicago Ruled Baseball The Cubs-White Sox World Series of 1906 recounts how in 1906, the baseball world saw something that had never been done: two teams from the same city squared off against each other in an intracity World Series, pitting the heavily favored Cubs of the National League against the hardscrabble American League champion White Sox. In honor of its centennial anniversary Weisberger tells this tale of a unique time in baseball, a unique time in America, and a time when Chicago was at the center of it all. In an interview Weisberger discussed his wide area of research stating:"I've stuck to one subject area--U.S. history--but within that, I've managed to turn out textbooks, juveniles, illustrated popular books, biographies, standard trade books, [and] television presentations."
How did I become a historian? It may have begun on a Saturday afternoon in the early 1930s when I was about ten years old. My mother took me for diversion to a" convict ship" --one of those used to transport convicts from Great Britain to Australia--a restoration or a replica, I guess, which was being exhibited at a pier on the west side of Manhattan, where we lived. It's my first recollection of an historical exhibit, and it was real to me--too real, in fact. It showed the shackles and the below-decks dungeons and the whips used to deal with unruly"passengers" and my imagination translated those objects into vivid pictures of actual, bleeding men being shoved into those dark enclosures lit only by what came through tiny, barred openings in the heavy doors. That's been a lasting feature of my mind's eye--when I write about anything historical it's all actually taking place right in front of me; I can see it and hear it--and I try, as best I can, to get that into my writing. Why not historical fiction, then? Of that, more in a moment or two.
I can't say that on that afternoon I decided"Gee, I wanna be an historian, Mom." At that age , of course, I didn't know what an historian was. What I did know that I was scared stiff by the vivid scenes I had just"witnessed" and plainly showing it. My mother thought I obviously needed an antidote. It happened that it was one of the years when the U.S. Atlantic fleet--maybe the Pacific one, too, for all I know--made a visit to New York, and anchored in its spacious harbor and also in the Hudson River for some distance. Visits were offered and encouraged; the Navy knew the value of good public relations even then. So we finished the day's excursion by going to the appropriate pier, getting in a launch, and being shown around a cruiser by a very polite young swabby who was virtually a walking recruiting poster. I did recover from my panic attack and I did enjoy the experience.
If I'd enjoyed it even more, I might have become a professional sailor. But history won--and that was even before I got seasick for the first time in 1943, crossing the Pacific.
I loved to read and discovered some ability to write by the time I was in high school. As a fourteen-year-old sophomore, I had a short story published in my Stuyvesant High School literary magazine, the Caliper. What a thrill. I decided then that I would be a writer. In the ensuing couple of years, I wrote another dozen to dozen and a half stories. The faculty advisor to the magazine, one, Irving Astrachan, was a fine teacher who luckily hadn't fallen for the patois about not damaging the self-esteem of adolescents. I got about two of them published, and the other sixteen he would hand back to me with a terse comment:"Burn it." I knew his judgment was correct. I still wanted to write--but nonfiction was going to be my metier. And by college time I got inspired. I still loved history. And history furnished me all the plots, characters, and dramatic episodes that I had a hard time making up. History even forbid making things up! (And it still does!!!) As I acquired more sophisticated understanding of how historians worked, I did come to realize that there is an inescapable element of imagination, even for the most scrupulous dryasdust scribe, in recreating a past that is accessible only through the saved recollections of those who experienced it, but let that pass. History it was for a vocation, and still is.
I attended Columbia College as a subway commuter, and encountered a couple of sensational teachers, one of them Jacques Barzun, for whom, in my junior year I wrote a paper on the Paris Commune of 1871, which earned an"A" of which I am still proud and some personal encouragement. However, there were some other pressing engagements in June of 1942, and that September I was off to war. (No trumpets here; I'm one of those who"fought" from behind a desk.) Had the Japanese not attacked Pearl Harbor, I might have become an historian of France, and I almost regret that I didn't, because it would have provided excuses to spend more time in Paris. But when I returned in 1946 and wound up in graduate school at the University of Chicago--actually marking time, because at that moment, I was equally attracted to the idea of becoming a journalist-- and bang, another great teacher lit my fuse. He was Avery Craven, a specialist on the origins of the Civil War, some of whose views about its causes and consequences I never shared and never will, but that doesn't matter. I signed up for one of his classes, he walked in, opened his mouth, and in five minutes I was a goner. He lectured from folders crammed with source documents--I never heard him quote another historian, though there were plenty of them on his reading list--and as he spoke, a parade of politicians, slaves, ex-slaves, pioneers, promoters, preachers, editors, soldiers, housewives, oh, a perfectly Walt Whitman-esque cast , strutted and fretted their little hour on the stage. (He was, by the way, an amateur artist.) I gobbled every course he offered, and it was a two-way romance, I guess, because he liked the papers I handed in. One day he asked me to sign on as his research assistant and push my way through to a PhD, and that's how I became a Professor of American history. By the way, he never demanded"discipleship." My subject matter and my ideas often strayed from his, and while he may have regretted my heresies, he was always a kind and supportive friend--an intellectual father in some ways, primarily as an inspiration to work always towards being the best and most honest writer of history I could.
The record will show that I"professed" about eighteen years before quitting to write full time. I enjoyed the"teaching" part of academic life--e.g., dealing with the students close up--and made some lifelong friends among them and some of my colleagues, but I cared little for any other aspect of life behind the ivied walls. So I quit, did some freelancing, worked two years as an Associate Editor, took a part-time position at Vassar (where I met Rick Shenkman) and finally took to supporting myself fulltime as an historian-writer. It reminds me sometimes of Archibald McLeish's definition of being a poet"A hardy life, with a boot as quick as a fiver." But I've loved it.
I don't know as how I have written any"famous" books, but I think there's a generation of historians trained in the nineteen-sixties who probably knew me through an article called"The Dark and Bloody Ground of Reconstruction Historiography," which was reprinted and circulated fairly widely. It appeared in the Journal of Southern History in 1959, and the thrust of it was pretty much along the lines of what is now the more familiar story of Reconstruction best summarized in Eric Foner's book on the subject. In short, it repudiated the"Dunning school" views that were common up until then-- Reconstruction was a carnival of corruption and violence that forced the humiliated and conquered South to endure the revolting experience of being governed by an alliance of ignorant ex-slaves and trashy whites. What utter bunk!! I don't get credit for discovering that--good black historians had known it for years, and Howard Beale had said as much in 1930 in the American Historical Review. But I was lucky enough to be surfing that wave at the dawn of the 20th century civil rights revolution. Well, anyway, the article won my only academic prize--the Charles Ramsdell Prize for the best article published that year in the JSH. Ramsdell was, like E. Merton Coulter whose book on Reconstruction was then a reigning favorite, a neo-Confederate who embraced the white supremacist view totally.
My first book was my dissertation, extended. My second, They Gathered at the River, was on revivalism mostly in the 19th century US, and took me to the Moody Bible Institute to consult the papers of Dwight L. Moody, the"Billy Graham" of the 1870s and 1880s (but not one who so sedulously cultivated politicians and became the White House preacher of conservative Presidents.) I was welcomed, especially after the kind folks there were reassured that I was a Jew whose interest was purely historical, and not a"liberal Christian" on a mission to write a debunking article about them. Far from it, I rather respected and admired Moody for a number of reasons, remote as was his world outlook from mine. In fact, while there were some characters in the book for whom I had pretty low regard, I tried, as always, not to criticize or mock them or their followers, but to tell their story as they might have seen it. Well, I must have succeeded because something called the Religious Book Club adopted it as an alternate choice for one month in 1958, describing it as an"offbeat" selection. And the MBI's house organ reviewed the book, naturally focusing on the Moody chapter, and said that it was good, but added--and I have to paraphrase, having long ago lost the original--"Professor Weisberger has no understanding of the supernatural." Which was true, to be sure--I had explained Moody's success in practical terms from information historically accessible, and they believed it was all God's doing. Who knows? Might be so, but an historian's license doesn't extend to the supernatural.
A little postscript, by the way; the good folk there (only name I remember is Bernard de Remer, at the time in their public relations office) had explained to me that my Jewishness wasn't a bar to admission to the archives--they had missions to the Jews and in fact taught Hebrew and Yiddish courses among their offerings. (This is all fifty years ago, I have to note; I have no idea what the Institute is like now.) For a while after I left I did get mailings urging me to recognize the mistake I had made in not recognizing Jesus as true heir to Judaism, until I finally told them that much as I'd enjoyed my excursion into evangelical Christianity during the writing of the book, I could not be persuaded out of my Jewishness.
I'm pretty proud of both the above stories--that concerning the Ramsdell Prize because I don't think that"objectivity" stands in the way of a forthright expression of one's own values even in a carefully documented and fairly written piece. And that about the MBI, because if history is worth anything, it is because, if studied rightly, it teaches you to recognize that even your most cherished opinions need to be recognized as open to question, and based on life experiences that are transitory.
In some ways my favorite 'teaching' experience was the ten years I spent writing a column for American Heritage (1989-99) finding historical parallels for events that were then current"In the News," which was the column's title. My 'class' consisted of general readers of every kind, bound together by enough interest in history to buy the magazine. I was, and still am, trying to spread theword that history, and by that I mean sound, well-researched, thoughtful history, with all the virtues of perspective that it brings, is out there to think about and enjoy, even for the non-professional reader. And I don't mean by that to disparage all academic historians. Nor the academic undertaking in general, but it has to keep an awareness of its connection to the purposes and expectations of the larger society in which it exists, if it wants to avoid clannishness, sterility and irrelevancy. Making that point has been the nearest thing I've had to a mission, and I'm happy to air that opinion on History News Network, which pretty much serves the same function.
". . .[S]eeing an event in historical perspective is a very good thing to do. It's a safeguard against pontification of all sorts--against 'the-sky-is-falling' alarms at one extreme and 'we-are-the-greatest-ever' exultation at the other. It shrinks self-importance, rebukes dogmatism, and builds courage."
By Bernard A. Weisberger
All of these developments unleashed the passions of special interest and thwarted the hopes of immediately setting up a national government dedicated purely to the"permanent and aggregate interests of the community." One result was that the machinery of succession to the presidency would be out of date in the very first election after the most popular man in the country had stepped down from power, and seriously dysfunctional by the time of the second. The seeds of the crisis of 1800 were planted in 1787 In Philadelphia. The Constitutional Convention set the stage for the drama and introduced some of the cast. One delegate, South Carolina's Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, would become Adams's running mate. Two others would be far more significant players--James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, friends in 1787, intense foes thirteen years later. The whole story of the nation during that interval reflected their unraveling alliance. Madison was so much at the heart of the convention that he has been called the Father of the Constitution. Hamilton had only one highlighted moment, but it was enough to foreshadow a career whose impact on America's future may have been the most lasting of all.
By 1800, Madison was a chief planner for the new Republican Party, which backed Jefferson for president. It strongly supported states' rights, and history remembers Madison in part for his eloquent defense of that stance. But when he arrived in Philadelphia early in May 1787, days before the scheduled opening session, Madison was still a nationalist and with good reason. He came fresh from months in New York City as a frustrated member of the one-house Congress created by the 1781 Articles of Confederation.
Front-page editorial cartoons, usually political, were temporarily shelved in favor of baseball gags: baseballs with smiley faces, deliriously happy fans and families, the latter including pets and babies. Two in particular carried implicit social messages. One, a story in four panels appearing in the Tribune, introduced a pair of characters already familiar from the comic strips: the boss and the office boy. The boss corners the reluctant youngster, who is planning to sneak away, and demands that the boy"do something" for him that afternoon, which happily turns out to be to"go to the ball game with me and explain the finer points." The lesson was that first, there were"fine points" to the game that made it a craft worth studying and not an idle pastime, and second, that mutual delight in Chicago's baseball prowess bound together generations and classes -- benign old employer and lowly kid jobholder. In that simple form the text was clear even to the barely literate reader.
Compared to that theme of harmony, one of the Daily News's pregame cartoons radiates realism. The image of Mrs. O'Leary's angry cow starting the Great Fire of 1871, as legend had it, by kicking a lighted lantern into a pile of straw is succeeded by the"Mild and Gentle Animal of Today" wearing a contented grin as uniformed Cubs and Sox players cheerfully milk her into a bucket stamped with a large, eye-catching dollar sign. Whatever else professional baseball bestowed on society at large, it was a business whose chief end and aim was to generate cash.
That contradiction between baseball's public face as the simon-pure recreational expression of the American spirit and the reality of big-league, big-city baseball as a market enterprise (and a monopoly at that) anchored in a growing commercial entertainment industry and culture -- that discord between image and reality -- is clear in any hard- eyed look at that 1906 crosstown series in a Chicago banging and barging its metropolitan way into a new century. It's a sports story that helps to explain how we American urbanites have come to be who we are and how we see ourselves.
But songs of social significance aren't the only music of baseball history. The Series itself was wonderfully exciting, an electric week of surprises, thrills, exploits and errors, hopes roused and hopes dashed. For those who were there, time was suspended, the world outside the playing field faded into the background, and individual problems were forgotten in the single, roaring life of the crowd riding the same emotional roller coaster with every swing and every pitch. That is what any popular spectator sport still does for its fans. In America, baseball did it first.
It was a different world then. But a lover of baseball in 2006 isn't all that estranged fron the grandstand throngs caught in those grainy black-and-white news photos of a century ago. We know more than we want to now about the private sins of the players, about multimillion-dollar payrolls and agents and unions and TV revenue shares-- sometimes it's hard to tell the sports pages from the business news. . . . -- Bernard A. Weisberger in"When Chicago Ruled Baseball : The Cubs-White Sox World Series of 1906"
Why am I quitting now? Mainly because I find myself getting a little repetitious, at least in my own view. Each issue's"story" is different, but the message is the same: that seeing a current event in historical perspective is a very good thing to do. It's a safeguard against pontification of all sorts-against"thesky-is-falling" alarms at one extreme and the"we-are-thegreatest-ever" exultation at the other. It shrinks self- importance, rebukes dogmatism, and builds courage. As a teenager I learned and loved a corny verse from A. E. Housman that runs:"The troubles of our proud and angry dust / Are from eternity and shall not fail / Bear them we can, and if we can we must / Shoulder the sky, my lad, and drink your ale." I can laugh, many decades later, at the final words, the half-cynical, half-heroic posturing, the stoic shrug with nose buried in the ale mug. But there's still a portion of truth in the first three lines....
I end this personal recollection by repeating once more my commitment to"popular" history, which I've been writing for all these years, with a bit of television work thrown in. I don't like the term. It has a pejorative flavor, much like its antonym of"academic" history. I've read good and bad examples of both, I know good people who do both, and I wish the wall between the camps weren't so high. But I know where I stand. I'm unchangeably a storyteller. I never had any interest in research that didn't lead to a narrative able to move the hearts and imaginations of nonspecialist readers, and I have a hard time comprehending the justification for any other kind of historical inquiry. I've heard the argument that just as science became more sophisticated and necessarily inaccessible to the generalist, so it has been with history. I won't try to rebut it ex parte (that is, without some representative of that view present). But I frankly doubt it.
It is wiser always not to linger at the door. My thanks to the editors and fact checkers with whom I have worked pleasantly over these years. Likewise, to those readers who troubled to write to me or the"Correspondence" page in support or dissent, I appreciate your attention. To all of you, I want to say that I have gotten unqualified enjoyment from history since my first childhood visit to a museum, my first reading of a"juvenile" biography, my first high school term paper, my first thrilling graduate school encounter with an actual manuscript letter laid on my desk by an archivist. I still do. I hope that it's been reflected in these little excursions and that some of it has rubbed off on you. Good-bye for now. -- Bernard Weisberger in his farewell"In the News" column for American Heritage, July, 1999.
About Bernard A. Weisberger
As he clearly establishes his theme, the historian narrates well the simple inaugural ceremonies that accompanied the early March 1801 peaceful"transfer of power by popular vote" (p. 9). The body of America Afire, however, begins at the 1787 Convention in Philadelphia (Chapter 1)....
On balance, however, America Afire is an outstanding book--clearly conceived, lucidly written, and satisfyingly informative. Once the author engages his theme, the narrative proves stimulating and education through the last page." -- James J. Kirschke, Villanova University reviewing"America Afire"
Dim on the first card is the information that Bernie's inaugural American Heritage article,"Evangelists to the Machine Age," ran in the fifth issue of the new magazine, in August 1955. No record of what he was paid for that or for his second piece, but the third one,"Pentecost in the Backwoods," netted him $350. (This and the first story were drawn from research he was doing for his fine 1958 book They Gathered at the River: The Story of the Great Revivalists and Their Impact Upon Religion in America.) In 1960 he writes about the Lowell Mills; 1963 brings a Christmas bonus of $100; in the 1970s he produces stories on Pinckney B. S. Pinchback, George Eastman, Benjamin Rush, and Paul Revere; in 1987 his essay"American History Is Falling Down" warns that the increasing fragmentation of the subject in the academy means that teachers are dismantling a coherent narrative and putting nothing in its place; in 1989 he publishes his first"In the News" column (in which he answers the many columnists who complained that the recently concluded presidential race has set"new lows in distortion and trivialization" by quoting a New York Times headline from the sainted Harry Truman's 1948 campaign: PRESIDENT LIKENS DEWEY TO HITLER AS FASCISTS' TOOL); and the final entry on the sixth card records that on 2/3/99 we acquired"Last in the News, July/Aug '99 AH."
Bernie inaugurated our"In the News" column and wrote it for a decade. He was the ideal proprietor for this franchise because he could connect present concerns to past precedents with effortless ease. Of course, that ease was the result of a lifetime of hard work and a promiscuous curiosity that produced not only the scores of stories in American Heritage but books on a spectrum of subjects that runs from Civil War correspondents to the flamboyant Billy Durant of General Motors, from the La Follettes of Wisconsin to the long, tense confrontation of the Cold War.
As for the effort, Bernie never let it show. His clean, brisk, relaxed writing, informed with strong feeling but free always of polemicizing, drew a steady stream of correspondence from our readers that is itself a tribute to his warmth and accessibility. Not everyone agreed with him (Bernie is pretty close to an honest-to-God New Deal liberal, a distinction I found useful to point out when we received the occasional letter accusing the magazine of having become a pawn of the right wing-just as we cite Bernie's figurative next-door neighbor, the"Business of America" columnist John Steele Gordon, when mail accuses us of abandoning our old standards to veer leftward), but he answered all with a courteous enthusiasm that invariably proved infectious. Bernie is that rare creature, a man of powerful convictions and no enemies.
I'm in his debt not only for fourscore good columns; when, in the long-ago spring of 1972, he decided to leave his post on the magazine to teach history at Vassar, it opened up a slot on the editorial staff that I was able to move into. Of course, nobody thought I was replacing Bernie, just as Bernie's successor will not replace him. But I am happy to be able to welcome as the new"In the News" columnist, Kevin Baker, who comes from serving as the chief historical researcher on Harold Evans's bestseller The American Century and has recently published the highly acclaimed historical novel Dreamland, a spirited, passionate, and altogether absorbing chronicle of life in New York City at the century's turn.
He'll appear in the next issue. In this one Bernie speaks of his ten-year ambassadorship between today's news and yesterday's and says good-bye to his readers-but not forever: He is currently in the midst of a book on the pivotal election of 1800. And in saying good-bye to Bernie, I'll quote a passage from one of his more recent columns that seems to me eloquent of the spirit in which he has approached his life's work. In speaking of those who think that the much-beleaguered traditional narrative of our past fails to make itself relevant to many in an increasingly multicultural society, Bernie writes,"Somehow I have certainly never had a problem in assuming that even though my own ancestors did not reach these shores until around 1900, men like Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln had made and preserved the United States for people like me. I rather thought I was discharging a debt to them in telling the story to people like you."" -- Richard F. Snow on Bernard Weisberger retiring from the"American Heritage" column"In the News"
University of Rochester, Rochester, NY, professor of history, 1963-68,
chairman of department, 1964-65;
University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, associate professor of history, 1959-63;
Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, assistant professor, 1954-59;
Antioch College, Yellow Springs, OH, assistant professor, 1952-54;
Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA, instructor, 1950-51;
Ford Foundation Lecturer, Atlanta University Center, Atlanta, GA, 1965;
Part-time adjunct professor, New York University, New York, NY, 1968-69;
Member of National Humanities faculty, 1969;
Part-time visiting professor of history and American civilization, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY, 1972-79;
Freelance writer, 1968-70;
American Heritage, associate editor, 1970-72, contributing editor, 1972--;
freelance writer/historian, 1979--;
Member of advisory committee, National Endowment for the Humanities feasibility study of a new journal in humanities, 1975.
Chief consultant, Reader's Digest Encyclopedia of American History, 1975;
General consultant, Story of America, Reader's Digest Books, 1975;
bicentennial programming consultant, National Broadcasting Corp. (NBC) Radio Network, 1975-76;
Consultant for film"City out of Wilderness," 1975.
Area of Research: American History and popular history
Columbia University, A.B., 1943;
University of Chicago, A.M., 1947, Ph.D., 1950.
Editor, Contributor, Joint Author:
Contributor of articles to professional journals, American Heritage, and Antioch Review, and of reviews to newspapers.
Awards:Ramsdell Prize, Southern Historical Association, 1962;
Fellow, American Council of Learned Societies, 1959-60;
Social Science Research Council grant, 1956;
Weisberger along with Geoffrey Ward were the script writers for Ken Burns' 1989 PBS documentary"The Congress."
Weisberger has contributed to"The New Leader," The Chicago Tribune," and"New York Times," among others.
Weisberger was among 20 distinguished professor including John Hope Franklin that participated in the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march in 1965.
Hobbies and other interests include Camping, fishing, playing the recorder, running ("not fast but persistent; four marathons completed").
Military/Wartime Service included U.S. Army, Signal Corp, 1942-46; served in China-Burma- India theater; became second lieutenant; Historical Section, Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1951-52; became first lieutenant.
Weisberger is a member of the Authors League of America and Society of American Historians.
What They're Famous For
Edmund Morgan is the Sterling Professor Emeritus at Yale University.
Morgan has authored dozens of books on Puritan and early colonial history,
which are acclaimed for both their scholarly focus and their appeal to a general
Michael Kammen in the Washington Post Book World described Morgan as"one of the most
distinguished historians of the United States." His books have challenged traditional
assumptions about the forces that shaped early American history, including the lives and beliefs of the Puritans and the
impetus for the Revolutionary War. Morgan has earned a reputation as an historian of
people as well as of ideas, and as a writer of wide appeal. Bruce Kuklick, writing in
Books and Culture, maintained that"Edmund Morgan is arguably the finest living
Morgan's most influencial books include The Stamp Act Crisis: Prologue to Revolution (1953), Inventing the People: The Rise of Popular Sovereignty in England and America (1988), which won Columbia University's Bancroft Prize in American History in 1989, and American Slavery, American Freedom (1975), which won the Society of American Historians' Francis Parkman Prize, the Southern Historical Association's Charles S. Sydnor Prize and the American Historical Association's Albert J. Beveridge Award. Two of his early books, Birth of the Republic (1956) and The Puritan Dilemma: The Story of John Winthrop (1958) which is a standard text on the topic used in University courses.
Morgan has received many awards throughout his prolific career for his work as a writer and a professor, including a lifetime achievement Pulitzer Prize in 2006 for"a creative and deeply influential body of work as an American historian that spans the last half-century." In 1971 he was awarded the Yale Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa's William Clyde DeVane Medal for outstanding teaching and scholarship, considered one of the most prestigious teaching prizes for Yale faculty. In 1972 he became the first recipient of the Douglas Adair Memorial Award for scholarship in early American history, and in 1986 he received the Distinguished Scholar Award of the American Historical Association. In 1965 Morgan became a Sterling Professor, one of Yale's highest distinctions, and was awarded the 2000 National Humanities Medal by the US President Bill Clinton at a ceremony for"extraordinary contributions to American cultural life and thought."
Morgan's own interest in history grew while he was an undergraduate at Harvard, where he went on to earn his Ph.D in 1942. At Harvard Morgan studied under Perry Miller. Since he became a historian, he has witnessed a major change in his field. In 2002, he achieved his first New York Times best-seller with Benjamin Franklin Morgan attributes this to"the geezer factor. There just aren't that many 86-year-olds writing books, so when they do, it's quite an event."
It was the 29th of August, 1938. After a postgraduate year at the London School of Economics I had been touring Europe with a friend, and we were then spending a week in Freiburg im Breisgau, not far from the French border. In a fit of cultural enthusiasm we had decided to travel to Colmar to view the famous altarpiece by Matthias Grunewald, a day trip by train via Breissach on the German border.
Before describing what happened there and how it affected me, I need to say that I had spent four years at Harvard under the tutorship of Perry Miller, whose respect for ideas and need to share them had given direction to my college years. He, like myself, was a confirmed atheist but at the same time an admirer and profound student of Puritan theology and its elegant scheme of thought. His studies of that scheme would bring him recognition as the foremost intellectual historian of his day. As a student and admirer of Miller, I had devoted much of my college studies to growing familiar with the doctrines of predestination, original sin, divine perfection, human depravity, and theodicy (the defense of God's goodness despite the existence of evil). Puritan theology commanded respect as a rigorous intellectual system. But I had never quite accepted its dire view of the human condition, its insistence on the innate depravity of human beings. At twenty-two most people did not look all that bad to me.
At Breissach I gained a new perspective on humanity. It was exactly one month before the Munich Pact for which Neville Chamberlain became infamous. The morning paper had announced that Hitler had sent an ultimatum to Czechoslovakia demanding the return of the Sudetenland. When we reached Breissach, we were told that there was a two-hour wait before we would be allowed to cross over to the French side of the Rhine to reach Colmar. And as we strolled through the town, we noticed that young men in SS uniform were everywhere, standing conspicuously in every doorway. Without exception they were blond, six feet tall or more, good-looking. They could easily have been taken for American college boys. So we asked one of them what was going on."Nur Ubung" was the answer:"just an excercise." We came to a road leading to a cathedral overlooking the Rhine. As we walked into a beer garden we were confronted by a man in plainclothes who came over to tell us in a civil manner that we could go no further. Why? Because they were" cleaning the cathedral." We laughed out loud, and so did he. They don't clean cathedrals in Germany, or anywhere else for that matter. Anyhow, we must not proceed. He was obviously Gestapo.
So we sat down in the beer garden, next to a low hedge beside the street. Moments later, a big open-topped Mercedes touring car fishtailed to a stop near us. Top brass in Wehrmacht uniforms stepped down and had the SS arrange everyone on the street (full of people as curious as we were) in a row opposite to where we sat. Blackshirted men stood at six-foot intervals beside our hedge watching the citizenry, hands on pistols. Why we, and a few others, were permitted to stay put is a puzzle. Everyone was aware that some big shot was coming, but we did not expect the man himself. Then Hitler came through, fanning his signature sloppy salute to the crowd, as his touring car drove up past the cathedral that was not being cleaned. There was no mistaking his beefsteak-red face and negligent demeanor. In preparation for the coming war he was inspecting the Rhine fortifications.
We sat quietly, not ten feet from him as he passed slowly by. I could not help thinking that if I had been armed I could have shot him. (Like many American boys of my generation, I had been given a rifle at an early age and shown how to use it on small unoffending animals.) No one had searched me or any other patron of the beer garden, though I assume that more than one SS man had us in his sights.
The point of this story, for me, however, is that I knew I was looking evil in the face. And it looked like my next-door neighbor or a friend of the family, perhaps a bit old-fashioned but solid. What Hitler was already doing to the Jews of Germany and Austria was no secret-although highly-placed officials of the United States government were content to look away and to complain about slanders directed against the German nation.(The American consul at Stuttgart, with whom I had subsequent dealings, was a blatant antisemite.) The part those fresh-faced, and, well, biddable, young men in black were playing was no secret, either. But they all looked so human and so everyday. Even the Gestapo agent could have been a stodgy chance-met tourist rather than a hard man or heavily-armed stooge.
Puritan theology began to make sense, in a way that shook me. I could not believe in the salvation of a few held out by John Calvin or Jonathan Edwards, but human depravity suddenly acquired a face, the cheerful mask that we all learn to wear as the price of belonging to a settled social order. I was still an atheist, as I am now, but that day in Breissach I became a Calvinist atheist. Human beings are capable of great good, but I know that the capacity for fathomless evil is equally human, and it wears a smiling face.
By Edmund S. Morgan
"Eventually, to be sure, the course the Virginians charted for the United States proved the undoing of slavery. And a Virginia general gave up at Appomattox the attempt to support freedom with slavery. But were the two more closely linked than his conquerors could admit? Was the vision of a nation of equals flawed at the source by contempt for both the poor and the black? Is America still colonial Virginia writ large? More than a century after Appomattox the questions linger." -- Edmund Morgan in"American Slavery, American Freedom"
About Edmund S. Morgan
For Morgan, who taught at Yale University from 1955 until his retirement in 1986, the release of a new volume on early America presented the opportunity to give readers a history lesson while critiquing the scholarship that provided him with a point of departure. The resulting collection is probably the best historiography and introduction to life in early America that one could imagine with each lesson presented in twenty or fewer pages of concise, insightful commentary. The Genuine Article's chapters, which cover nearly forty years of Morgan's reviews, describe most aspects of life in the colonies from the landing at Jamestown through the Revolution... Morgan reiterates this throughout, but, of even more value, he demonstrates what he professes through his reviews. The book's cover claims Morgan"has had a more profound role in shaping our perceptions of the American colonies" than any other living historian. The breadth and depth of the reviews included in this anthology confirm the claim. -- David Copeland reviewing"The Genuine Article: A Historian Looks at Early America"
University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, instructor in social sciences, 1945-46;
Brown University, Providence, RI, assistant professor, 1946-49, associate professor, 1949-51, professor of history, 1951-55;
Yale University, New Haven, CT, professor of history, 1955-65, Sterling Professor of History, 1965-86, professor emeritus, 1986--.
Johnson Research Professor, University of Wisconsin, 1968-69.
Member of council, Institute of Early American History and Culture, 1953-56, 1958-60, and 1970-72;
Trustee of Smith College, 1984- 89.
Area of Research: Puritan and American colonial history
Harvard University, A.B., 1937, Ph.D., 1942;
London School of Economics, University of London, graduate study, 1937- 38.
Editor, Contributor, Joint Author:
Contributor to The Mirror of the Indian, Associates of the John Carter Brown Library, 1958. Author of introduction to Paul Revere's Three Accounts of His Famous Ride, (Massachusetts Historical Society, 1961, 2nd edition, 1968). Also contributor of articles and reviews to historical journals. Member of editorial board, New England Quarterly.
National Humanities Medal, 2000;
National Book Critics Circle Award nomination, 2003, for Benjamin Franklin;
Organization of American Historians Distinguished Services Award, 1998;
Bruce Catton Award, 1992;
Columbia University's 1989 Bancroft Prize in American History for Inventing the People: The Rise of Popular Sovereignty in England and America (1988);
In 1971 he was awarded the Yale Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa's William Clyde DeVane Medal for outstanding teaching and scholarship, considered one of the most prestigious teaching prizes for Yale faculty. One year later, he became the first recipient of the Douglas Adair Memorial Award for scholarship in early American history, and in 1986 he received the Distinguished Scholar Award of the American Historical Association.
Douglass Adair Memorial Award, 1972;
William Clyde DeWane Medal, 1971;
Research fellow, Huntington Library, 1952-53.
Morgan has received numerous fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies and the Social Science Research Council.
Morgan has received Honorary degrees from Rutgers University, Brown University, Colgate University, Washington College, William and Mary, University of New Haven, Williams College, Lawrence University, and Smith College.
At Yale, Morgan has been a member of the Administrative Board of the Papers of Benjamin Franklin for more than 30 years and has been its chairman for the last 11. This documentary enterprise, sponsored by the American Philosophical Society and Yale and now edited by Ellen R. Cohn, is in its final few years. It now has 36 volumes and will eventually have about 46. In addition, the documents in all 46 volumes will be available on a CD-ROM.The documents are of three kinds: letters and other pieces written by Franklin, letters to Franklin, and other documents closely involving Franklin.
Morgan is a member of the Society of American Historians, American Antiquarian Society, Organization of American Historians (president, 1971-72), American Philosophical Society, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, Massachusetts Historical Society, Colonial Society of Massachusetts, British Academy, Royal Historical Society.
During World War II Morgan worked at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, as a tool-and-die make in the Radiation Laboratory, (1942-45).
Morgan has been a professional woodturner for the past decade or so, working on large lathes and other equipment in the basement of his home. His walnut bowls and other creations have been exhibited at the Creative Arts Workshop in New Haven and at the League of New Hampshire Craftsman in New Hampshire, where Morgan maintains a vacation home. He and his wife, Marie Morgan, have also crafted tables and other furniture for their home in New Haven.
What They're Famous For
Gordon S. Wood is Alva O. Way University Professor and Professor of History at Brown University.
He is one of the foremost scholars on the American Revolution in the country.
His book, The Radicalism of the
American Revolution, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1993. It is considered among the
definitive works on the social, political and economic consequences of the Revolutionary
Edmund S. Morgan, Professor Emeritus of Yale University in his review of this book for
the New York Review of Books called it"a tour de force. This is a book that could redirect
historical thinking about the Revolution and its place in the national consciousness."
In the book, Professor Wood gives readers a revolution that transformed an almost feudal
society into a democratic one, whose emerging realities sometimes baffled and
disappointed its founding fathers.
Professor Wood has written numerous other books, including The Creation of the American Republic 1776-1787, which was nominated for the National Book Award and received the Bancroft and John H. Dunning prizes in 1970. He was involved in Ken Burn's PBS production on Thomas Jefferson, is contributing his expertise in the National Constitution Center being built in Philadelphia and regularly devotes a portion of his time teaching history to high school students around the country. Wood was mentioned in the 1997 film Good Will Hunting which Wood in a 2004 Washington Post Interview called"my two seconds of fame."
I was always interested in history, even in high school with a history teacher who taught American history by having the students, up and down the rows, read aloud from the textbook. I majored in history in college but thought that I would enter the foreign service when I completed my military service in the Air Force. But being treated rather arbitrarily by the military (after eight months of training in Texas to become a photo-intelligence officer, I was promptly made a personnel officer when I was assigned to a squadron) made me leery of working for the government. So I applied to graduate school to study history instead. I have never regretted that decision.
I have come to realize that history is not merely an accumulation of information about the past. More important, it is a mode of understanding reality, not just the reality of the past but the reality of the present. Without a deep sense of history a person or a culture lacks perspective and wisdom. Despite the enormous number of history books that are published each year in the United States, most Americans do not seem to have a very deep sense of history. It might get in the way of our enthusiastic ebullience that we Americans can do anything.
Despite the constant repetition of George Santayana's phrase that"those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it," I don't believe that history teaches any lessons. Or perhaps better: it teaches only one lesson, that nothing ever quite works out the way the historical participants intended or expected. In other words, if history teaches anything, it teaches humility, something we all need a little more of.
Looking for all sorts of lessons from the past is to misuse history for the sake of the present. The search for lessons in fact expresses the sort of present-centered, instrumentalist history that we have usually found in the work of most American historians. Many historians today view history exclusively through the categories and values of the present and seek to use it directly to solve our present problems or to criticize our present culture. Rather than trying to understand the past on its own terms, many historians want the past to be immediately relevant and useful; they want to use history to empower people in the present, to help them develop self-identity, or to enable them to break free of that past. These ought not to be the functions of this greatest of the humanistic disciplines.
Of my books, my favorite is my first, The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787, largely I suppose because it was the first and because it seems to have been the most influential, even though it has not sold the most copies. Of course, I had no idea at the outset that it would become part of a so-called"republican synthesis." That development only reinforces my view that history is a largely a series of unintended consequences in which the best laid plans of people go awry.
By Gordon S. Wood
About Gordon S. Wood
Harvard University, Teaching Fellow, 1960-64.
College of William and Mary, Assistant Professor, 1964-66.
Harvard University, Assistant Professor, 1966-67.
University of Michigan, Associate Professor, 1967-69.
Brown University, Associate Professor, 1969-71.
Brown University, Professor of History, 1971-.
Pitt Professor, Cambridge University, 1982-83.
Brown University, Chairman, Department of History, 1983-86.
Brown University, University Professor, 1990-.
Brown University, Alva O. Way University Professor, 1997-.
Northwestern University School of Law, Pritzker Visting Professor, 2001.
Northwestern University, Board of Trustee Professor of Law and History, 2003.
Area of Research: American Revolution, Founding Fathers
Education: A.B., Tufts University (Summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa), 1955. A.M., Harvard University, 1959. Ph.D., Harvard University, 1964.
Editor, Contributor, Joint Author:
Contributor of articles to New England Quarterly and William and Mary Quarterly. Member of board of editors, Journal of American History.
Pulitzer Prize in History (1993), Ralph Waldo Emerson Award of Phi Beta Kappa (1992),
and Fraunces Tavern Museum Book Award (1992), all
for Radicalism of the American Revolution.
Bancroft Prize, Columbia University, John H. Dunning Prize, American Historical Association, and Nominee for National Book Award in History and Biography, all in 1970 for The Creation of the American Republic. Julia Ward Howe Prize from the Boston Authors Club, 2005 for The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin.
John Adams Fellowship, Institute of United States Studies, 2002.
Doctor of Letters, LaTrobe University, Australia, 2001.
Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame, 2000.
Fletcher Jones Distinguished Fellowship, Huntington Library, 1997-98.
Guest-Scholarship, Woodrow Wilson Center, 1993-94.
Visiting Fellowship, All Souls College, Oxford, 1991.
Sunderland Fellowship, University of Michigan Law School, 1990.
Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, 1987-88.
Douglass Adair Award, 1984.
Daughters of Colonial Wars award for the outstanding article in the William and Mary Quarterly, 1983.
Kerr Prize for best article in New York History, awarded by New York Historical Society, 1981.
Guggenheim Fellowship, 1980-81.
National Humanities Institute, 1975-76.
National Endowment for the Humanities Grant, 1972-73.
Distinguished Visitor Award of the Australian-American Education Foundation, 1976.
National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Fellowship, 1967. Toppan Prize, Harvard University, 1964.
Institute of Early American History and Culture, 1964-66.
De Lancey K. Jay Prize, Harvard University, 1963-64.
Wood gave a distinguished lecture on"George Washington," for the Presidential Lecture Series on the Presidency, The White House, 1991. Wood was the president of the Society for Historians of the Early Republic, 1986-87 and Chairman, Board of Advisors, National Historical Society, 1973-. Wood is on the Advisory Committee for the Papers of John Adams, 1990; Advisory Committee for the Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1990--; Advisory Board for the Papers of James Madison, 1994--; Administrative Board for the Papers of Benjamin Franklin, 1995--. Wood is on the Advisory Board for Northeastern University Press, 1989--.; Board of Editors, Oxford History of the Enlightenment. Board of Trustees, National Council of History Education, 1996--; Advisory Board, Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History, 1996--; and Board of Scholars, National Center for the American Revolution, 2002.
Wood also regularly contributes to the New York Times, the New York Review of Books, and The New Republic, among others. Wood served as a consultant to the National Constitution Center and to the US Capitol renovation and continues to serve on the Board of Trustees for Colonial Williamsburg.
Wood also served as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, 1955-58.
What They're Famous For
One of the most distinguished historians of the American South, Wyatt-Brown is the
Richard J. Milbauer Emeritus Professor of History, University of Florida.
Under the guidance of C. Vann Woodward,
he earned his Ph.D. from the Johns Hopkins University in 1963.
Before arriving at the University of Florida, he taught at Colorado State University, the University of Colorado, University of Wisconsin (as a visiting assistant professor), and Case Western Reserve University. Wyatt-Brown mentored
many Ph.D.'s in his long career. He chaired 6 students to their doctorates at
CWRU and 29 at the University of Florida. In addition, he served on
110 graduate students' committees at various institutions during his career.
In October 2005 his former students and the University of Florida put on a retirement symposium"Honoring a Master," in honor of his career as a distinguished educator, historian, and
Just before retiring, he served as the Douglas Southall Freeman Professor at the University of Richmond and as the James Pinckney Harrison Professor at the College of William and Mary. He is the author of nine books, 93 essays, and nearly 150 book reviews. Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South (1982, 1983) is a classic the best known of his work. It was a finalist for the American Book Award and Pulitzer Prize. A fellow of the National Humanities Center, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment of Humanities, and the Shelby Cullom Davis Center, Princeton, he has served as President of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic (1994), St. George Tucker Society (1998-99), and Southern Historical Association (2000-01). He is currently writing Honor and America's Wars: From the Revolution to Iraq. Wyatt-Brown has appeared in a number of television documentaries, and serves as series editor of the Louisiana State Press' Southern Biography Series.
How to Lose Your First Job Teaching History: A Cautionary Tale
In August 1962, my wife Anne and I headed from Maryland for the Far West in a newly
painted bottle-green Volkswagen Beetle. It had been an ugly tan color until the ministrations of Earl Schreib's paint shop at $29.95 brightened its appearance. We passed through Tennessee (to visit in my mother in Sewanee), Arkansas (where"white" and" colored" rest rooms confronted us at every rest stop), the vast spaces of Oklahoma, and eventually our destination. Just married on June 30, we were heading from Baltimore to Fort Collins, Colorado, seat of Colorado State University. It was known locally--or at least so we younger instructors liked to laugh--as the Harvard of Larimer County.
It was my first teaching job in the field of Jacksonian and Southern history. David Donald, newly arrived at Johns Hopkins, advised me by phone to seize the appointment. He assured me that he knew personally how dynamic a faculty was being constructed there. My own advisor, C. Vann Woodward, was out of reach for consultation. Lily Lavarello, the departmental secretary, told me that Dr. Woodward was in Houston, with only a" c/o Postmaster" address and no known phone number. He had already left for Yale the year before his sabbatical. For his last student at Hopkins, however, he did return in January 1963 to preside over my final dissertation exam. Thus, in lieu of any other advice, Donald's seemed wise. The position would include tenure at some point, but all new faculty contracts at CSU were limited to only one year with expected renewals thereafter. For both Anne and me, it seemed at the time quite adventuresome, even thrilling, to leave the familiar East Coast for the unknown desert West.
Sheltered under the Rockies, Fort Collins, we quickly discovered, was at that time a typically American small town. Apart from CSU, its economic life depended upon the sale and processing of sugar beets, wheat, and other agricultural products. Conservative, devoutly Protestant, and wary of undergraduate inclinations, the town fathers required that to buy anything more potent than 3.2 beer you had best Harry Hoffman's, a discount store near the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver. The Fort Collins restaurant scene consisted primarily of the International House of Pancakes ("IHOP") and a Chinese establishment run by a Jewish New Yorker. There was also a cheap but satisfying Mexican restaurant on the edge of town. Hotels? I cannot recall a single major chain or first-class set of accommodations. In those days, I am sure that at times the townspeople still regretted that the state penitentiary had been conferred by the legislature upon Golden instead of Fort Collins, which received the consolation prize of unchecked adolescent students and professors from heaven knows where.
Until 1957, only five years earlier, CSU had been Colorado State Agricultural and Mechanical College, so named in 1944. The body of oversight was still the State Agricultural Board. While pontificating about the rationale for the American Revolution in the first half of the U.S. survey, I was somewhat disconcerted by the seemingly endless parade of Union Pacific Railroad freight cars rattling and screeching under the lecture-room windows. Crossing campus, the passerby could sometimes hear pigs squeal as they were getting slaughtered in a nearby Ag building.
The first disappointment was my introduction to the university library. According to the brochure I had read before arrival, the library boasted over a million volumes. While this may have been true, a first-hand inspection of the stacks revealed that at least 60% of these consisted of agricultural pamphlets, dry-wheat farming being a specialty. Another 20% or so was devoted to veterinary medicine. I disclaim the accuracy of the figures, but, truthfully, the size of the history collection was upsetting, especially for a young instructor preparing classes for the first time. Each professor, though, was allotted $100 to fill gaps. Even in that non-inflationary time, the allotment was not much. The library is now justly named for William E. Morgan, who was the university president during that period. It is a quite impressive edifice compared with the pleasant but relatively bookless facility that preceded it. Old Main in the handsome and popular Dutch style, built in the 1880s one would guess, was the only notable ornament on campus. My wife taught English composition there; sadly it burned down a few years later.
Class sizes were huge. Like the other professors, I had 100 students in two sittings, along with 36 in the upper-level Jacksonian course. Foolishly, I had the students write a midterm essay exam in the freshmen survey. I had disdained to adopt what my more experienced colleagues offered--multiple choice. Chastened by the countless hours of toil, I soon submitted to the department's more comfortable exam arrangement. For the second term, I was assigned a course in economic history about which I knew practically nothing. But was I popular! My grades were extraordinarily high since I could not judge the real quality of the papers. The students rejoiced.
Pay in those days was as meager as classes were large. Nonetheless, the university had its hopes for the future. Governor Steve McNichols, a stalwart Democrat, had determined to improve higher education throughout the state. He promoted higher faculty salaries and instituted improved finances for education even though these reforms meant higher taxes. The senior faculty, the president, and administrators were also determined to make CSU a genuine institution of higher learning. It began seriously to reach that goal after our departure.
At the time, though, a serious letdown across the campus affected everyone. In the fall election of 1962, the state had gone very Republican. McNichols lost his bid for reelection. His successor, John Arthur Love, the business candidate, took the gubernatorial chair in January 1963. At once, he announced a large tax reduction and a drastically steep cut in the state budget for higher education. At that time, we younger faculty members labeled him a Far Right extremist, but in retrospect by today's criterion he would seem simply a moderate. In any event, it was as if only Democrats were foolhardy enough to pay for such a frivolous waste. Incensed, in my naiveté I spoke to the matter in class.
If you are young and insecurely arrogant, it would be best not to follow the example about to be described. I announced that Governor Love was the"enemy" of undergraduates in so cruelly shrinking the funds for their education. The term was ill-advised. The son of an Agricultural Board member, whom Love had recently appointed, sat in one of my survey classes. He reported the remarks to his father, who then informed the governor. Love immediately called President Morgan to inquire what action he was taking on so blatant a violation of classroom decorum. Being a shrewd and resourceful academic leader, Morgan called me on the phone and asked if he could come by my office. Of course, I was flattered, but quite flummoxed about as to why so lofty and distant a figure would wish to visit a lowly assistant professor. But the president's tactic was not merely gracious but also disarming--in case I was some Eastern firebrand primed to initiate a sensational political scene. The President knew that Love would have welcomed the chance for popular applause by rooting out a left-leaning zealot from a university faculty. Quite plausibly such an uproar would thoroughly humiliate the Democratic university president and force him into resigning.
Seated in a chair usually occupied by a wheedling undergraduate seeking some act of mercy, the president told me the circumstances. He asked if I would be willing to write an expression of regret to him that he could forward to the Governor and the Board. Relieved that no worse fate was about to descend, I readily replied,"Yes, of course. I will do exactly as you suggest." Moreover, it was clear to me what Love's partisan intentions were. With the letter of apology soon on his desk and sent on to the state authorities, that ended the business.
Alas, if my troubles had only terminated at that point. By the beginning of the second year of teaching, I had learned the rudiments of the academic craft but was hardly well-seasoned. Trying to complete the doctoral dissertation for C. Vann Woodward with every available moment, in preparing for the survey course, I came to rely on Morrison and Commager's Growth of the American Republic for anecdotes and information. (In those days, most Hopkins graduate students were not allowed to face an undergraduate class, even as assistants to a senior professor.) We moved from a dormitory-like university apartment for underpaid faculty ($75 per month) to a much more pleasant duplex nearer the campus. The rent of $95 a month (plus gas) that we paid horrified the senior history faculty, used to years of near penury. But, with Anne expecting our first child, the extra sum seemed worthwhile even if money for entertainment and book-buying had to be severely cut.
In 1962, I was only one of six new Ph.D. hires in the CSU History Department. We were not a happy crew the following year. Salary increases had been minimal. The senior faculty members, while quite academically respectable, had been there during the still more depressing times of the early 1950s. They had learned from cheerless experience to resign themselves to whatever changes of fortune there might be. The younger history teachers grew impatient with their seeming timidity and backwardness. On later reflection, though, I have to confess that we were scarcely above reproach in our ill-disguised disrespect. Some of us from larger cities we suffering somewhat from culture shock. That state of mind did not help. In addition, we thought we were indispensable. It was not so. While most of us left at the end of that year, our replacements proved no less enterprising and ambitious than we were, and they were probably more sensible, too.
On some weekends, we junior historians and political scientists and our spouses took R & R trips to Denver's Brown Palace and dinners at the hotel's swank and reasonable Ship Tavern. It was only five dollars for perfectly grilled rainbow trout, and ten dollars got you a well-appointed hotel room. The excursions, sometimes through heavy snows, helped momentarily to shake off the parochialism of Fort Collins. There the churches far outnumbered the mediocre eateries and movie houses. Yet, as a spirited controversy developed in the fall, winter, and spring of 1963 and 1964, we young instructors developed what might be called a definite case of small-group neurosis. It all seemed rational at the time, but, on reflection, our bonding was not altogether reasonable or sound.
One of the six new professors was a Ph.D. who had come from Berkeley, the Parnassus of the West. He grew certain that he had landed in the midst of unsanctified barbarism. In a senior honors class, the Californian discovered that one of the students had plagiarized her entire term paper. He gave the senior an F, a grade that effectively prevented graduation. Had the student been an ordinary undergraduate, no more would have been heard of the matter. She was, however, the wife of the only endowed chair-holder in the university, a professor of veterinary medicine whose forte, as I recall, was equine science. His college was the only branch of CSU with national standing at that time.
The chair of the history department, some senior history faculty members, and the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences urged the instructor to exercise some discretion. In small college towns, these things matter more than elsewhere. Robert Barnard's satirical mystery story, Death of an Old Goat, explores a similar academic episode in the Australian outback. With much flare and flourish, the young assistant professor refused to change the grade. (If memory serves, the veterinarian's wife did win her degree at some point. Not surprisingly, the stubborn instructor was not re-hired. The department and college would certainly handle similar circumstances quite differently today.)
The dean was a botanist known statewide for his slide lectures at women's garden clubs. On this matter of instructional autonomy and ethics, however, he was not up to form. At a hot meeting with the dean and others, I announced my frustration that it was even taking place and declared my intention to resign. That move was nearly disastrous. The department decided that my services would not be needed the following year and so officially informed me. Recognizing my impulsiveness, I tried to take back my hasty words. That change of heart, though, won no change of minds in the department and administration. Be advised never to resign your first job if there is no fall back position. On the Diane Rehm show (30 January 2006), the Southern novelist Gail Godwin told how she was fired as a fledging reporter, even though she had had six by-lines and the lead story in that same day's paper."It's terrifying to lose your first job," she observed. How true.
By then our first child was well on the way. Under considerable strain, Anne was teaching two sections of Freshman Comp and taking graduate courses toward a Masters' degree, after she had earned her B.A. at Radcliffe and her M.A.T. degree at Johns Hopkins. I went to the history conventions, where friends helpfully rounded up various possibilities, an even dozen, as I recall. 1964 was a rare year in the annals of the profession when demand was greater than supply. None worked out. I remember one interview for the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, during a Philadelphia American Historical Association meeting. My sole examiner was in the shadows of the hotel room, while I nervously sweated under a blazing light. It was like a scene out of a bad movie, in which an intelligence agent suspects espionage and other skulduggery. I was not hired. Ed Yoder, a distinguished journalist, took the post. I doubt if he had been subjected to a similar interrogation.
Another appointment opened at Roosevelt University in Chicago. I flew in from Denver and was rushed from one restive faculty member to another, while I grew increasingly uneasy. The dean was equally indifferent, periodically checking his watch. The late Jack Roth, chair, manfully did his best to arouse his superior's enthusiasm. I returned home in a blustery storm, barely able to navigate the VW against the wind and snow drifts that nearly pushed the underpowered vehicle back toward Denver. When I arrived, Anne told me that the telegraph wires were down. But apparently, the last message to reach Fort Collins was from Roth, who announced that the position had been filled. He later called to explain that the Roosevelt department had hired August Meier. Later a good friend, Augie, now deceased, had first turned down the position, but, just as I was flying to Chicago as his substitute, he changed his mind and accepted.
In April, our baby Laura was born, but I still had no job for the fall. The OAH met in Cleveland, and things were looking grimmer than ever. But on the last day, I noticed a position in Jacksonian history at the University of Colorado posted on the meat-market board. Racing up the staircase to his room, I caught Fritz Hoffman, a Latin American historian and chairman of the department, bent over his suitcase. He was about to leave for the airport. I introduced myself, and he replied that he had been frustrated the whole convention. No one who came up to his room for an interview was really a Jacksonian. They all belonged in some other field of U.S. History. When I explained that my doctoral dissertation was a study of two abolitionists, Arthur and Lewis Tappan, he brightened at once."Well, where are you teaching now?" he asked. I responded,"CSU in Fort Collins.""Oh, we never raid other schools in the state system.""But I will not be employed there next fall.""In that case," Hoffman allowed,"Come on down for a meeting with the department next week."
When I arrived at the Boulder campus, it was lunchtime. Fritz and the search committee hustled me toward the cafeteria. During the meal, we discussed very little history. Instead, I was peppered with gossipy questions about the goings-on between the junior and senior history faculty at Colorado State. One professor, Carl Swisher, a Chinese specialist, asked if I would be interested in renting his house while he and his wife went on a year's leave."I would be only too happy to rent your house," said I, having no idea where he lived or what the rent might be. That was one departmental vote for sure. I ended up paying for my own Coke and ham and cheese sandwich, which I had barely managed to finish amidst all the animated discussion of the sins of junior faculty members.
Actually, I got the job--but on a vote of thirteen to twelve. Fortunately for my already bruised ego, I did not learn about that outcome until much later. Needless to say, the senior faculty members at Colorado State were utterly dismayed. Not only had I found another position, but it was at the state flagship school. They would have done anything to teach there themselves. It turned out that, like CSU, the University of Colorado at Boulder was riven with departmental infighting far exceeding anything at Fort Collins. Had they known how gloomy and solitary the next two years were going to be for us, they would have been quite gratified. But the story of that experience must await another time.
As a postscript, it is worth mentioning that in the year 2000, I was asked back to Fort Collins to deliver the annual Norman F. Furniss Lecture. It was named for the most prominent scholar on the history staff of the 1950s and 1960s. Norm Furniss was an outstanding intellectual and exemplary teacher. He also had the kindheartedness and sense of proportion that none of us on either side of the junior-senior dispute could match. His efforts at departmental reconciliation, however, failed. Tragically, during the troubles, he contracted hepatitis, ignored medical advice, and continued teaching at full throttle. He died during the winter term.
The return to Fort Collins that Arthur Worrall, recently retired, and his colleagues arranged was most enjoyable. Anne and I were surprised to discover that after thirty-six years, memories of those unhappy events had vanished as if they had never occurred. The surviving faculty members present were most gracious, and the bitter feelings were replaced by expressions of good will all round. The occasion was as gratifying as our departure so many years earlier had been troubled. Moreover, we discovered a quite different town and university. There are over a score of decent and even upscale hotels, whereas the dingy hostelry of earlier times, where my mother had unpleasantly stayed on a visit, might have been the hangout for Wyoming desperadoes. The restaurants, too, now offer better food and decor and more diverse menus, from French and Greek to Middle Eastern and Japanese than the tasteless fare offered in our day. The urban population on the Poudre River has more than tripled. Larimer County boasts well over a quarter million residents, with a proliferation of professionals in medicine, law, and other fields to lend variety to the region's demography. New and well-appointed housing suggests that much wealth has materialized. On the CSU campus, artistically designed buildings now grace an campus that always had its simple charm.
Still more impressive, though, is the size and quality of the student body, over 22,000. The faculty currently consists of over 1500 well regarded members. With reference to the latter, most memorable was a lively and wide-ranging luncheon with some liberal arts professors. Among them was a recently retired philosopher, who reminded us of mutual acquaintances from the old days. He told great stories about his first experiences there. One, Anne and I both remember, concerned a former chairman of the Philosophy Department, an old Westerner who had seldom ventured out of the state. He once had interviewed a candidate from New York for an assistant professorship. Self-deprecating, the young man replied to some question by announcing,"Well, I'm a mischugana." Unfamiliar with the Yiddish expression, the chairman thought he was referring to some obscure Eastern Native American tribe. The newly-minted Ph.D. was appointed at once as a gesture of racial equity long before there was an affirmative action mandate. (In those days, any hire was the sole responsibility of the chair.)
Finally, the current CSU history faculty members, both seniors and newcomers, appeared most enterprising and earnest. They were immersed in their subjects more than in small-town gossip. It was all an amazing revelation to Anne and me. Yet, I must add that those senior historians, whom we had unfairly disparaged, can take credit for the remarkable transformations over the years. They had laid the foundations for the department's present degree of sophistication and promise.
But now, back to the purpose of this account. The moral of the narrative is: be careful not to lose your first job.
By Bertram Wyatt-Brown
Furl that Banner, softly, slowly!
Treat it gently - it is holy -
For it froops above trhe dead.
Touch it not - unfold it never,
Let it droop there, furled forever,
For its people's hopes are dead!
Tom Watson's"reply" to Ryan's poem, cited in the epigraph for this chapter was closer to the mark. At the time of this writing, the Rebel flag still flies over the statehouse in Columbia, South Carolina. Eventually the flag will be lowered never to be returned to the flagstaff. At that point, Southern honor, particularly its racist aspect, will have been chastened once again. But those who claim that the Stars and Bars represent gallant tradition, a reverence for local governance, and a strict interpretation of the Constitution should read what their post-Civil War ancestors thought that flag symbolized. For them the Rebel banner stood for a sacralized determination to keep African Americans underfoot. Any means to do so were deemed honorable. The ethic that so long has sustained the racial prescriptions of the white South required no respect or humanity toward those outside its moral boundaries. As the anthropologist Julian Pitt-Rivers has remarked,"Honor has caused more deaths than the plague." -- Bertram Wyatt-Brown in"The Shaping of Southern Culture: Honor, Grace, and War, 1760s-1880s"
Very often, honor is manipulated. It's an appeal that people respond to. In Vietnam, President Johnson told us that we could not lose face or the communists would take advantage of it. Suppose we did not remain involved in Vietnam. You can ask yourself, what difference would it have made?
I think honor is an awful code, except in some circumstances. Honor has a double face: There is this primitive, hierarchal, prejudicial, unjust aspect to it. You want to avoid shame yourself but to impose it on someone else. But there is the other side of honor, which has resulted in soldiers performing great deeds of valor." -- Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Interview with William & Mary College News, 2004
About Bertram Wyatt-Brown
The result has been lauded as the most comprehensive study of pre-Civil War white Southern culture since W.J. Cash's"The Mind of the South" captured a generation of readers in 1941. Indeed, Dr. Woodward (who last year garnered a Pulitzer for"Mary Chestnut's Civil War'') sees Wyatt-Brown's book having a"monumental impact" far more significant than the Cash work. Cash's was a more popular history which, Woodward says, misled a whole generation of scholars.
"This code he analyzes and describes," says Dr. Woodward,"shaped and influenced the people living under it from the cradle to the grave. It very strongly influenced the process of child-rearing, relations of parent to child, spouses, courtships, social hierarchy from planter class to slave - every aspect of family, its integrity and protection."
"He attempts to divest himself of modernism in order to explore the South on its own terms," says Woodward. This avoids great risks of distortion that have figured in the"paradox, irony, scorn, and attribution of guilt (that) have figured prominently in the modern picture of the pre-modern South," he says.
"And he is right in reproving historians who label the darker features 'tragic aberrations,' deny that they were integral parts of a cultural pattern, or forget that the nobler claims were put to the service of primal honor - especially when honor cried out for secession." -- Christian Science Monitor feature on Bertram Wyatt-Brown's"Southern Honor: Behavior and Ethics in the Old South" with comments by the late C. Vann Woodward
University of Florida, Gainesville, Richard J. Milbauer Professor of History, 1983-2004;
Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, associate professor, 1966-74, professor of history, 1974-83;
University of Colorado, Boulder, assistant professor of history, 1964-66;
Colorado State University, Fort Collins, assistant professor of history, 1962-64.
University of Richmond (the Douglas Southall Freeman chair, 2002-03);
James Pinckney Harrison Professor at the College of William and Mary;
Visiting professor, University of Wisconsin, 1969-70;
Associate, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 1974.
Area of Research: Antebellum and Civil War South, Southern Honor
University of the South, B.A., 1953; King's College, Cambridge, B.A. (with honors), 1957; Johns Hopkins University, Ph.D., 1963.
Editor, Contributor, Joint Author:
Winner of a Phi Alpha Theta Book Award,
Pulitzer Prize nomination, American Book Award nomination,
and Ohio Academy of History prize,
all 1983, all for Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South.
OAH Distinguished Lectureship Program, 2005-2006;
University of Florida Doctoral Mentoring Award Winner, 2002-2003;
the Henry Luce Foundation Fellowship, 1989-90 NEH Fellowship at the National Humanities Center, 1998-99; Shelby Cullom Davis fellow, Princeton University, 1977-78;
Guggenheim Foundation fellow, 1974-75.
Wyatt-Brown has won teaching awards and graduate student mentoring awards at Case Western Reserve University and the University of Florida.
Wyatt-Brown has appeared in television documentaries for Discovery, A&E, and PBS.
He has served as President of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic (1994), St. George Tucker Society (1998-99), and Southern Historical Association (2000-01).
Editorial Advisory Board, Ohio History, the Scholarly Journal of the Ohio Histirical Society, 1978-1986; Series editor of the Louisiana State Press' Southern Biography Series.
He served in the U.S. Navy, 1953-55, and became lieutenant junior grade.