Doris Kearns Goodwin: Pop quiz for a hurried historian

Historians in the News

Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, presidential historian and rabid Red Sox fan Doris Kearns Goodwin was understandably distracted.
The doorbell had somehow stuck at her Concord, Mass., home, and she was shouting questions to her husband, Richard Goodwin, about the problem and preparing to leave for Fenway Park for a pre-game party before Friday night's start of a home stand against the archrival New York Yankees.

In advance of Tuesday's visit to Albany for a talk about Abraham Lincoln and to receive this year's Empire State Archives and History Award, we posed 10 questions to her....

Q: Are you still touring for "Team of Rivals"?
A: "The actual book promotion is over, but I still give a lot of talks on Lincoln through the Washington Speakers Bureau. The great thing about Lincoln is that he crosses party lines and seems relevant to executives at all levels. I don't mind the travel because I see new places, like Mount Rushmore for the first time the other week. Finishing a book is like going into hibernation. Doing promotion is like coming out of hibernation."

Q: What are you working on now?

A: "I was thinking about staying with Lincoln because the Lincoln scholars are so generous and have great camaraderie. I liked working with them. It's also hard to think of falling back to Millard Fillmore. So I've moved on to Teddy Roosevelt."

Q: What's your angle?

A: "I've always been interested in the Progressive Era from 1900 to 1912. I'm looking at Teddy Roosevelt, the climate of reform and his relationships with muckraking journalists such as Ida Tarbell, Lincoln Steffens and the rest. I've been working on it for the past year and hope to be done in three years this time, instead of the 10 years I spent on 'Team of Rivals.' "

Q: What are you and Harold Holzer going to talk about at The Egg?

A: "He knew so much more than I did when I started out researching Lincoln and he was so generous and helpful to me. He's a delight to talk with about Lincoln. We'll have a lot of fun."

Q: You do a lot of TV political commentary. What's your take on the presidential race?

A: "Short of something else happening, the war in Iraq will be the major issue and to the extent that it is, the Democrats seem to have the edge. The candidates the Democrats are putting forth are all pretty good, but it's still very unclear how they sort out with each other. I think the Republican race is still wide open. It's sad to realize the financial race becomes the first priority in a sense and we accept that. There's too much attention paid to a candidate's fundraising prowess."
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