History Buzz January 31, 2013: Matt Wasniewski: House of Representatives Historian Launches Website

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

House of Representatives Historian Launches Website

Source: ABC News, 1-31-13

US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives — www.history.house.gov/

Discover the rich heritage of “the People’s House” and its central role in U.S. history since 1789. Explore its unique story and the men and women who have shaped it. Browse its collections. Access historical data and other research resources.

Top Newsmakers Profile: Matthew A. Wasniewski, 10-21-10, by Bonnie K. Goodman 

PHOTO: One of the most innovative and daring politicians of the 20th century was also a triskaidekaphobe. Franklin D. Roosevelt would not travel when the 13th fell on a Friday. Along with Napoleon, J. Paul Getty and Herbert Hoover, he was one of history's

One of the most innovative and daring politicians of the 20th century was also a triskaidekaphobe. Franklin D. Roosevelt would not travel when the 13th fell on a Friday. Along with Napoleon, J. Paul Getty and Herbert Hoover, he was one of history’s great triskaidekaphobes. (FPG/Getty Images)

Looks like the House of Representatives has officially caught up with the times.

Imagine it is Dec. 8, 1941. President Franklin D. Roosevelt has just addressed Congress in order to request declaration of war after Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

Which congressman fought in favor of war and who was vehemently against it?

You don’t need to head to a museum to find out. A new website allows history buffs to hear the arguments and first-hand accounts of these events in the comfort of their own living rooms.

The Office of the House Historian and Clerk of the House’s Office of Art and Archives together launched the website, which provides a roundup on the nearly 11,000 members who’ve served in the House, on Dec. 28. The website contains nearly 1,000 items in its database that consists of everything House-related — from wonky photos to vintage furniture to congressional baseball cards….READ MORE

History Buzz January 27, 2013: Stanley Karnow: Journalist and Vietnam historian, dies at 87

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

Stanley Karnow, journalist and Vietnam historian, dies

Source: WaPo. 1-27-13

Jacquelyn Martin/AP – Author and journalist Stanley Karnow, seen here in his Potomac, Md., home, died Jan. 27. He was 87.

The New York-born Karnow launched his career as a foreign correspondent after setting sail for Europe on a coal freighter a week after graduating in 1947 from Harvard University. He subsequently became known for his distinguished coverage of the Vietnam War, first for Time magazine and later for news outlets that included the Saturday Evening Post, The Washington Post and NBC News.Filing dispatches from the Far East for nearly 15 years — from the earliest days of American casualties in Vietnam — he became one of an elite handful of influential journalists who challenged the official stance in Washington that the United States was easily controlling the “struggle.”

His Emmy-winning 13-part PBS series “Vietnam: A Television History” was one of the most widely viewed public-television documentaries ever when it first aired in 1983; his companion book, “Vietnam: A History,” sold millions of copies and was praised for its insight and comprehensiveness.

In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Philippines,” the book for which he received the 1990 Pulitzer Prize in history, earned praise as the best popular history of America’s relationship with the Philippines. Mr. Karnow synthesized three centuries of Filipino foreign relations into what critics described as a compelling read, with vivid portraits of the Spanish, American and Filipino leaders who shaped the country that would be the United States’ only colony….READ MORE

History Buzz January 3, 2013: Gerda Lerner: Women’s studies pioneer and University of Wisconsin professor emerita, dies at 92

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

Gerda Lerner, women’s studies pioneer and UW professor emerita, dies at 92

Source: Wisconsin State Journal, 1-3-13

Gerda Lerner

Gerda Lerner

State Journal archives

“The history of women had been forgotten, oppressed, silenced and marginalized until the last 30 years. I’m one of the people that helped bring that history alive, to point out it was valid and important,” Gerda Lerner said in 2002, five years after this photo was taken. The pioneer of women’s studies died Wednesday night in Madison at age 92.

Enlarge Photo

Long before Gerda Lerner helped redefine the study of history to give women a more prominent place in it and before she established the doctorate program in U.S. women’s history at UW-Madison in the 1980s, she had to live through one of history’s worst horrors and — barely — survive it.

Lerner (then Kronstein), who died Wednesday night in Madison at age 92, spent her 18th birthday in a Nazi jail in Vienna expecting death and being fed food scraps by two gentile cellmates after authorities cut rations to Jews.

“They taught me how to survive,” Lerner told the State Journal in 2001. “Everything I needed to get through the rest of my life I learned in jail in those six weeks.”

Lerner, UW-Madison professor emerita of women’s studies, was able to escape alone to New York in the late 1930s. Decades later she started an academic career as a historian of women who led a movement almost from its infancy, eventually writing 11 books, earning 18 honorary degrees and in 2002 becoming the first woman recipient of the prestigious Bruce Catton Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Historical Writing from the Society of American Historians.

“She’s one of two people from what you might call the eldest generation of this wave of women’s history,” said Linda Gordon, a New York University professor who taught women’s history at UW-Madison with Lerner in the 1980s and 1990s. “She had an enormous influence.”…READ MORE

History Buzz April 4, 2012: Paul S. Boyer: History Doyen & Professor Studied Atomic Bomb & Salem Witch Trials dies at 76

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

Paul S. Boyer, 76, Dies; Historian Studied A-Bomb and Witches

Source: NYT, 4-2-12

 

Prof. Paul S. Boyer

Paul Boyer, an intellectual historian who wrote groundbreaking studies of the Salem witch trials, the history of apocalyptic movements and the response of the U.S. public to the nuclear annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, died March 17 in Madison, Wis. He was 76.

The cause was cancer, said his wife, Ann.

Boyer, a professor of U.S. history at the University of Wisconsin from 1980 until his retirement in 2002, was known for his research on the religious underpinnings of American culture, and especially for his interest in how Americans respond to perceived existential threats.

He first received wide notice in 1974 with “Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft,” which suggested that social envy motivated many of the accusers in the 17th-century witch trials.

That book, written with Stephen Nissenbaum, made innovative use of historic land records and tax receipts to show that in many cases the accused were members of Salem’s social establishment, if only peripherally, while their accusers were lower-ranking citizens who had tangled with the victims over financial matters.

The book so radically changed the previous historical understanding of the episode, said a reviewer for The Times Literary Supplement of London, “that virtually all the previous treatment can be consigned to the historical lumber room.”

In 1978, his “Urban Masses and Moral Order in America, 1820-1920” explored the way U.S. leaders and immigrants came to grips with what they saw as the loosening of behavioral norms caused by immigrants’ loss of traditional ties to institutions like church and family. Critics across the political spectrum praised the book, although their interpretations of Boyer’s nuanced findings varied widely.

Writing in The New York Times, the neoconservative urban affairs writer Roger Starr saw the book as Boyer’s endorsement of the need for “traditional values and modes of behavior” in modern urban life. In the left-leaning magazine The Nation, the cultural historian Thomas Bender described it as an account of the well-meaning but largely unsuccessful efforts of reformers to provide immigrants with a moral order “that was receding irretrievably into the past.”

In 1992, Boyer’s “When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture” was somewhat ahead of the pack in identifying the growing power of fundamentalist religious groups in the United States, and explaining how their millennial views were becoming incorporated into mainstream political views about international affairs.

Helped spark the anti-nuke movement

Boyer, a lifelong pacifist raised in the Brethren in Christ Church, an offshoot of the Mennonites, was probably best known for two books about the long-term cultural impact of the United States’ decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan in 1945, at the end of World War II.

“By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age” (1985) and “Fallout” (1998), a collection of a half-century of his essays, described the bomb’s impact on the American psyche, culture and politics. Among the threads Boyer traced was how the bomb impelled a generation of scientists to political activism, which helped spark the broad-based anti-nuclear movement of the 1950s and indirectly paved the way for activism against the war in Vietnam in the 1960s….READ MORE

HISTORY DOYEN PROFILE

Source: Bonnie K. Goodman, HNN, 9-3-2007

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 Paul S. Boyer JPG Historians, and the American Antiquarian Society. Before coming to Wisconsin in 1980, he taught at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst (1967-1980).

He has lectured at some 90 colleges and universities in the United States, Western Europe, and Israel. He has appeared on programs on the Public Broadcasting System, National Public Radio, the Discovery Channel, the History Channel, the BBC, Canadian Broadcasting System, and others.

His publications include: Purity in Print: Book Censorship in America from the Gilded Age to the Computer Age (1968; 2nd edition with two new chapters, 2002); He was the Asst. editor of Notable American Women, 1600-1950 (3 vols., 1971); co-authored with Stephen Nissenbaum, Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft (1974); Urban Masses and Moral Order in America, 1820-1920 (1978); By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age (1985); When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture (1992); Fallout: A Historian Reflects on America’s Half-Century Encounter With Nuclear Weapons (1998). He was the editor-in-chief of The Oxford Companion to United States History (2001).

Salem Possessed won the John H. Dunning Prize of the American Historical Association and was nominated for a National Book Award. When Time Shall Be No More received the Banta Award of the Wisconsin Library Association for literary achievement by a Wisconsin author. The Oxford Companion to United States History was a main selection of History Book Club.

Boyer is the author or co-author of two college-level U.S. history textbooks, The Enduring Vision: A History of the American People (6th edition, 2007); and Promises to Keep: The United States Since 1945 (3rd edn., 2004), and a high-school U.S. history textbook: The American Nation (4nd edn., 2002). His scholarly articles have appeared in the Journal of American History, American Quarterly, American Literary History, The History Teacher, Virginia Quarterly Review, William & Mary Quarterly, and others. He has contributed numerous chapters to scholarly collections and encyclopedia entries, and lectured widely at colleges and universities in the United States and Europe. His articles and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post Magazine, Book World, the New Republic, The Nation, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Wisconsin Academy Review, Harvard Divinity School Bulletin, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Tikkun, Policy Review, and other publications.

Active in the Organization of American Historians, he has chaired its Program Committee (1987-88); served on its Nominating Council (1992-94) and Executive Board (1995-98) and on the editorial board of the Journal of American History (1980-83). He served on the national advisory board of the public television series The American Experience and edits the Studies in American Thought and Culture series for the University of Wisconsin Press (1984-94, 2002–). His service on prize committees includes the John Hope Franklin Prize of the American Studies Association, the Phi Beta Kappa Ralph Waldo Emerson Prize, and the ABC-Clio Award Committee of the Organization of American Historians.

Boyer chaired the Wisconsin Humanities Council in 2004-06. Biographical entries appear in Who’s Who in American Education and Contemporary Authors.

Personal Anecdote

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 S Boyer JPG

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.

Paul S Boyer JPG

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.

Paul S Boyer JPG

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.

Quotes

By Paul Samuel Boyer

  • If a scholar a thousand years from now had no evidence about what had happened in the United States between 1945 and 1985 except the books produced by the cultural and intellectual historians of that era, he or she would hardly guess that such a thing as nuclear weapons had existed. … We have somehow managed to avert our attention from the pervasive impact of the bomb on … our collective experience….[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

  • If the large concepts with which historians conventionally deal are to have any meaning, it is only as they can be made manifest in individual cases like these. The problems which confronted Salem Village in fact encompassed some of the central issues of New England society in the late seventeenth century: the resistance of back-country farmers to the pressures of commercial capitalism and the social style that accompanied it; the breaking away of outlying areas from parent towns; difficulties between ministers and their congregations; the crowding of third- generation sons from family lands; the shifting locus of authority within individual communities and society as a whole; the very quality of life in an unsettled age. But for men like Samuel Parris and Thomas Putnam, Jr., these issues where not abstractions. They emerged as upsetting personal encounters with people like Israel Porter and Daniel Andrew, and as unfavorable decisions handed down in places like Boston and Salem Town. JPG 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

  • Salem Possessed is a provocative book. Drawing upon an impressive range of unpublished local sources, Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum provide a challenging new interpretation of the outbreak of witchcraft in Salem Village. The authors argue that previous historians erroneously divorced the tragic events of 1692 from the long-term development of the village and therefore failed to realize that the witch trials were simply one particularly violent chapter in a series of local controversies dating back to the 1660s. In their reconstruction of the socio-economic conditions that contributed to the intense factionalism in Salem Village, Boyer and Nissenbaum have made a major contribution to the social history of colonial New England….
    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”
  • Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum have made great contributions to our better understanding of the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692. Their first book, Salem Village Witchcraft: A Documentary Record of Local Conflict in Colonial New England (1972). brought together diverse materials dealing with the outbreak of witchcraft and the trials; Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft (1974). was an attempt to place the events of 1692 within the larger context of Salem’s social, economic, and political history. This study relied primarily upon community records and family documents, including wills, deeds, and inventories. The Salem Witchcraft Papers is the most recent and most valuable product of Boyer’s and Nissenbaum’s collaborative research in this important episode of New England history….
    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″
  • “that witchcraft charges . . . were brought principally by members and friends of the tribe with cause for envy, and directed principally against minor members or peripheral connections of the enviable group…. the recent history and practical circumstances which permitted such action are explored, and the whole approach to the Salem disaster is canny, rewarding, and sure to fascinate readers interested in that aberrant affair.” — Phoebe Adams in”Atlantic” reviewing”Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft”
  • “offers an illuminating and imaginative interpretation . . . of the social and moral state of Salem Village in 1692 . . . . It has the extra recommendation of telling a gripping story which builds up to a horrifying climax.” — Keith Thomas in the”New York Review of Books” reviewing”Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft”
  • “The authors have produced an explanatory scheme which accounts fully for the events of 1692, renders them significant in a much wider context of social and economic change, and yet allows room for the operation of personalities and accidental influences. . . . Salem Possessed reinterprets a world-famous episode so completely and convincingly that virtually all the previous treatment can be consigned to the historical lumberroom.” — Robin Briggs in”Times Literary Supplement” reviewing”Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft”
  • “In their book”Salem Possessed, The Social Origins of Witchcraft,” Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum present convincing evidence that Salem village, the backwoods adjunct to Salem town in which the accusers lived, was ridden with fear and hatred of the social changes being wrought by mercantile capitalism in the town and especially in Boston. At first, three social outcasts were accused; then some people in the eastern part of the village nearest to and most involved in the new commercialism. Then more and more prominent merchants and politicians were accused in the town, in Boston and eventually in all of Massachusetts. The authors show that on a number of occasions young girls in other Massachusetts communities had bouts of hysteria and that adults turned the affair into religious revivals. Only in Salem, where the adults were themselves paranoiac about the new commercialism, was adolescent hysteria turned – by adults – into a witch hunt, in which the”witches” were, by no accident, prominent”mercantile capitalists.” — ROGER HILSMAN in the New York Times on”Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft”
  • “Paul Boyer, a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, describes all this with care and nuance and includes much that is less well known: appeals for world government; religious protests; dreams of atomic-powered technology; visions of Utopia and its opposite; advice from the professions; literary, cinematic and musical commentary. The sheer volume of the material is astounding. In this five-year period, education journals alone ran 260 articles relating to the bomb. The problem, Mr. Boyer writes, was”deciding when to turn off the tap”….. As careful as he is with the evidence, Mr. Boyer is clear about where he stands. He tells of his own pacifist origins and readily confesses his inability to follow Henry Adams’s dictum that to the honest historian”even the extinction of the human race should merely be a fact to be grouped with other vital statistics.” His depth of concern comes through in sharp prose….
    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”
  • “If you believed you knew the essentials about the dawn of the atomic age, this book will change your mind. Based on an impressive number of contemporary sources – including newspaper articles, cartoons, press ads, poems, pictures, letters and opinion polls -Boyer outlines the bomb’s sociological and cultural impact on American society from 1945 to the early fifties. Indeed, some strange and surprising connections are revealed, as between the Bikini tests and Hollywood-star Rita Hayworth. His main accomplishment, though, is to show the mixed cultural heritage of the Hiroshima/ Nagasaki incidents; how they created both hopes and fears, selfconfidence and anger, cynicism and guilt. His account of the Atomic Scientists’ Movement is skilled and wellbalanced, as is his unpassionate discourse on the continuing cycles of anti-nuclear activism and apathy. In short, By the Bomb’s Early Light shows the art of socio-intellectual history from its most perceptive and powerful side.” — Olav Njølstad in”Journal of Peace Research”, reviewing”By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age”
  • Of the many books inspired by the 40-year anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, this certainly is one of the best. Boyer, an adept cultural historian, unravels the diverse reactions to the advent of the nuclear era between 1945 and 1950. The enormity of what had occurred caused disorientation among intellectuals and the general public alike. Basic beliefs wavered, contradictions emerged, and attitudes changed in a short period of time. Boyer traces scientific, literary, philosophical, and religious implications of the new weapon, revealing his own wit and commitment as well as historical skill. His neglect of the emergence of Abstract Expressionism as a major cultural response to the bomb stands as one of the few shortcomings in this fine, readable book. Highly recommended — Charles K. Piehl, Director of Grants Management, Mankato State Univ., Minn. in Library Journal reviewing”By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age”
  • “In this thoroughly documented and richly illustrated study Boyer has traced the confusions, the ironies and the sometimes humorous and sometimes tragic effects of American efforts to cope with the question of what is permissible and what is taboo in the public morality and in the printed word. Beginning with a brief but penetrating discussion of the state of these matters at the present time, Boyer goes back to the early 1800s and traces the problem and its self-appointed solvers up to the 1930s. Anthony Comstock and John S. Sumner are given full treatment, as are such defenders of a liberal and enlightened attitude as Mencken and Morris Ernst. Boyer makes frequent mention of the psychological factors which motivated the”purifyers” but his approach is principally historical and sociological. Although there have been many other books and articles written on this basic aspect of American culture, this is certainly the definitive study of the subject.” — GEORGE K. SMART, University of Miami reviewing”Purity in Print: The Vice Society Movement and Book Censorship in America” in”American Quarterly,”
  • “It is less this solid but conventional framework which insures Boyer’s study its excellence than the fairmindedness that allows Boyer on every page to rectify old errors, add new insights, and back or qualify recent scholarly conclusions. He makes his reader look in unexpected places for causes and effects, and always to good purpose Deftly disposing of the tired cliches about devious clerical power-plays masked as evangelical reform, he sympathetically charts the demise of active religious and ecclesiastical influence in the city, he shows, nonetheless, its legacy of moral enthusiasm to be the central one in urban reform until the 1920s…. While discovering and sorting the facts of the urban reform movement, Boyer is alert to the language and psychology of the reformers. Again and again, he documents what he perceptively calls”the familiar urban moralcontrol cycle, from initial enthusiasm to baffled discouragement” This is a book which all serious students of the American city and of the nineteenth century will want to read and keep for perusal and reference. — Ann Douglas, Columbia University in”The Journal of American History” reviewing”Urban Masses and Moral Order in America, 1820-1920″

Basic Facts

Teaching Positions:

University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Asst. Prof. to Professor of History, 1967-1980; department chair, 1978-80
University of Wisconsin-Madison, Professor of History, 1980-85; Merle Curti Professor of History, 1985-2002; Emeritus, 2002 -
Paul S Boyer JPGConcurrent Position at the University of Wisconsin: Senior Member, Institute for Research in the Humanities, 1989-2002; Director, 1993-2001.

Visiting Appointments:
University of California-Los Angeles, Visiting Professor of History, 1987-1988;
Northwestern University, Henry Luce Visiting Professor of American Culture, 1988-1989;
State University of New York-Plattsburgh, September 1992, Distinguished Visiting Professor Northwestern University, Visiting Professor, Fall 1995;
College of William and Mary, James Pinckney Harrison Professor of History, 2002-03;

Other positions included Coordination Committee for International Voluntary Work Camps, UNESCO, Paris. Staff member, 1955-1957;
Notable American Women, Harvard University, Assistant Editor, 1964-1967;

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.

Education:

Harvard University, A.B. (magna cum laude), 1960, M.A., 1961, Ph.D., 1966.

Major Publications:

  • Purity in Print: The Vice-Society Movement and Book Censorship in America, Scribner (New York City), 1968.
  • (With Stephen Nissenbaum) Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1974, Italian edition includes introduction by Carlo Ginzburg, published as La Citta Indemoniate, Einaudi (Turino), 1986, published as Salem Possessed, MJF (New York City), 1997.
  • Urban Masses and Moral Order in America, 1820-1920, Harvard University Press, 1978, reprinted, 1992.
  • (With others) Women in American Religion, edited by Janet Wilson, University of Pennsylvania Press (Philadelphia), 1978.
  • By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age, Pantheon (New York City), 1985, second edition, contains a new preface by Boyer, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill), 1994.
  • Mission on Taylor Street: The Founding and Early Years of the Dayton Brethren in Christ Mission, Brethren in Christ Historical Society (Grantham, PA), 1987.
  • (Coauthor) The Enduring Vision: A History of the American People, Volume 1: To 1877, Volume 2: From 1865, Heath (Lexington), 1989, second edition, 1993, interactive CD-ROM editions, developed by Bryten, 1993 and 1996, third edition, 1996, essentials edition, includes text and CD-ROM, Houghton Mifflin (Boston), 1999, fourth edition, Houghton Mifflin, 1999, chapters 22-33 of third edition also published separately as The Enduring Vision: A History of the American People, 1890s to the Present, Heath, 1996.
  • When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture, Harvard University Press, 1992.
  • Promises to Keep: The United States since 1945 (textbook), Heath, 1994, second edition, Houghton Mifflin, 1999.
  • Todd and Curti’s American Nation (textbook), Holt (Austin), 1994, annotated teacher’s edition published as Boyer’s American Nation, 1998.
  • (With Sterling Stuckey) The American Nation in the Twentieth Century (textbook), Holt, 1995, annotated teacher’s edition, 1996.
  • Fallout: A Historian Reflects on America’s Half Century Encounter with Nuclear Weapons (collection of previously published writings), Ohio State University Press (Columbus), 1998.

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:

  • (Assistant editor, with Edward T. James and Janet W. James) Notable American Women: 1607-1950, three volumes, Harvard University Press, 1971.
  • (With Nissenbaum; and author of introduction and index, with Nissenbaum) The Salem Witchcraft Papers: Verbatim Transcripts of the Legal Documents of the Salem Witchcraft Outbreak of 1692, compiled and transcribed in 1938 by the Works Progress Administration, under the supervision of Archie N. Frost, Da Capo (New York City), 1977.
  • (With Nissenbaum; and author of introduction, with Nissenbaum) Salem Village Witchcraft: A Documentary Record of Local Conflict in Colonial New England, Wadsworth (Belmont, CA), 1972, reprinted with new preface by Boyer and Nissenbaum, Northeastern University Press (Boston), 1993.
  • (Editor and author of commentary) Reagan as President: Contemporary Views of the Man, His Politics, and His Policies, Ivan R. Dee (Chicago), 1990.
  • (Editor-in-chief) Oxford Companion to United States History, Oxford University Press, 2001.

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.

Awards:

National Book Award nomination in History, 1975 (for Salem Possessed);
John Dunning Prize, American Historical Association, 1974 (for Salem Possessed);
John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, 1973-74;
Distinguished Alumnus Award, Messiah College, 1979;
Rockefeller Foundation Humanities Fellowship, 1982-83;
American Antiquarian Society, Elected to membership, 1984;
Society of American Historians, Elected to membership, 1990;
Wisconsin Institute for Study of War, Peace and Global Cooperation, Faculty Award, 1992;
Banta Award for literary achievement by a Wisconsin author, Wisconsin Library Assn., 1993 (for When Time Shall Be No More);
“Notable Wisconsin Author” Award, Wisconsin Library Association, 1999;
American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Elected to membership, 1997;
Massachusetts Historical Society, Elected to membership, 1997;
Governor’s Award for Excellence in Public Humanities Scholarship, Wisconsin, 2003;
Listed in Contemporary Authors, Who’s Who in American Education.

Additional Info:

Boyer has made numerous television appearances on nationally broadcast programs including:”The Menace of Nuclear Weapons,” History Channel”20th Century with Mike Wallace”
“Apocalypse,” PBS”Frontline” program, Nov. 22, 1999;
“Monkey Trial” [The 1925 Scopes Trial], PBS,”The American Experience” series, February 2002;
“Revelation,” Discovery Channel, Jan. 7, 2004; BBC-TV, Apr. 25, 2004;
“Witch Hunt” [Salem witchcraft], History Channel, September 31, 2004;
“Countdown to Armageddon,” History Channel, December 26, 2004;
“Antichrist,” History Channel, Dec. 26, 2005;
“The Rapture,” Discovery Times Channel, Jan. 31, 2006 and rebroadcasts;
“Secrets of Revelation: National Geographic Channel, July 16, 2006 and rebroadcasts;
“The Doomsday Code,” Channel 4 (Great Britain). Sept. 16, 2006;
“U.S. Strategic Nuclear Policy: An Oral History” (4 DVD set, Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, NM, 2005). He has also had national radio interviews on : PBS, CBC, BBC, etc.; and numerous interviews on various topics on local radio stations and TV channels; Wisconsin Public Radio; Wisconsin Public Television.

History Buzz March 9, 2012: Julian Zelizer: Dual life as scholar, mainstream news pundit

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

Zelizer: Dual life as scholar, mainstream news pundit

Source: Daily Princetonian, 3-9-12

Related: Top Newsmakers: This Week… Julian Zelizer: Assessing the Bush Presidency & “Decision Points” in the Media, Edited by Bonnie K. Goodman, HNN, 10-11-10

Photo by Ananda Zhu
History and Wilson School professor Julian Zelizer has appeared 18 times on Bloomberg television in the past month.

Like many American fathers, after Wilson School professor Julian Zelizer wakes up in the morning, he takes his kids to school and then heads to the gym. But instead of watching sports highlights or listening to music while he lifts weights, Zelizer mulls over ideas for his weekly CNN column.

It is rare for professors to appear in mass media as much as Zelizer does. In addition to teaching HIS 583: Readings in American Political History this semester, Zelizer has appeared 18 times on Bloomberg television in the past month. On Sept. 10, he authored a column in The New York Times about the history of one-term presidents. Two days later, he was back in his home outlet, penning away on the political legacy of 9/11.

Throughout his tenure as a professor, Zelizer has made somewhat of a career out of radio, television and opinion political commentaries. He has established his status as a public intellectual in the pundit-dominated world of media.

Zelizer’s commentary focuses on contemporary politics, and he said that he often tries to put current events in historical perspectives for viewers or readers.

“So what’s going on in the elections now? Have we seen some of this before, or what can we learn from the past? That’s usually what people want me for,” Zelizer said.

Zelizer, whose mother Viviana Zelizer is a sociology professor at the University, grew up in what he described as an academic family. During his undergraduate years at Brandeis University, he developed a passion for politics and began to aspire to a career in which he could learn and teach about politics.

According to Zelizer, his first media appearance was a completely chance occurrence. During his first academic job as a professor of history and public policy at SUNY Albany, a local television network reached out to him for comment on the ongoing impeachment of President Bill Clinton.

“One of the local televisions was putting a panel together on the issue on campus, and they invited me to appear,” Zelizer said. “They kept having me back after that.”

The media’s requests for Zelizer to appear continued, and were occasionally beyond the purview of his primary area of expertise. In what he said was “the single outlier” in his long history of political commentary, Zelizer made a series of appearances on the local production of Monday Night Football.

“I was at a restaurant bar, and they were doing a local sports show live,” Zelizer said. “The football host said, ‘Does anyone here like the New York Jets?’ which is my favorite team, and I raised my hand.”

“They had so much fun with the [idea of a] professor who knew so much about football, and for several years I would go every Monday … and [do] these 15-minute clips on the professor taking calls about the NY Jets.”

While he said he remembered the incident, as funny stories, these appearances actually helped solidify his presence as a media mainstay.

As he began making more and more political commentary in the public sphere, Zelizer noticed that his work in the media bolstered his skills as a professor.

“It sometimes helps with my teaching, because when you are on a radio show or write op-ed, there’s a certain amount of clarity you need to achieve,” Zelizer said.

While on the air, he said, he needs to be succinct and cannot expect his audience to be familiar with the issues he is discussing. These skills are transferrable to the classroom.

“When I come into the classroom, it’s helped me to really think through the assumptions I have about what students know and help me be clear on some of the big issues,” Zelizer said.

Additionally, he noted that his weekly column for CNN has helped him get in the habit of writing consistently, which has perhaps made the process of writing eight published books considerably more manageable.

Zelizer’s combination of scholarship and media appearances has produced a synergy effect, according to politics professor Martin Gilens, who is teaching POL 327: Mass Media and American Politics this semester.

“Good scholarship takes substantial time and effort,” Gilens said. “But scholarship in the social sciences and humanities can be strengthened by the discipline of thinking broadly about public issues and about the implications of academic insights for matters of public importance.”

Gilens said that Zelizer’s commentary has provided the public with access to thoughtful, well-informed commentary on the important issues facing the country and the world.

“So much ‘punditry’ these days is ignorant or partisan or both,” Gilens said. “Professor Zelizer’s ability to bring his insights as a political historian to a wider public audience makes an important contribution to the quality of the public debate.”

Zelizer said that he does not have any trouble balancing his public appearances with his teaching and responsibilities at the University. He said he usually teaches courses on subjects that he is working on at the moment and added that he normally teaches three courses a year.

Last semester, Zelizer taught WWS 460: The Great Society and Social Policymaking and WWS 529: Great Leadership in Historical Perspective, a course open to graduate students in the Wilson School about the leadership styles of people who have been successful in politics.

Julia Blount ’12, a history major who has Zelizer as her thesis advisor, said that Zelizer successfully balances his life as an academic and a commentator.

“I don’t think that his involvement in the media has influenced the way he has advised my thesis at all, at least not in terms of the content of the feedback he provides,” Blount said. “It quickly became clear to me that his involvement in the fast-paced world of the media has made him one of the most responsive professors on campus in terms of returning emails … which I really appreciate.”

Another advantage that Zelizer’s public profile brings to the University is a deep Rolodex of public figures who are sometimes difficult to get in contact with. Among the guests Zelizer has helped bring to campus are a filmmaker who made a documentary on AIDS in Africa and the mayor of Philadelphia, who spoke to the campus community about urban politics and poverty.

“It has been effective that I get to bring interesting people for the students to meet,” said Zelizer, who often speaks on campus and in the local community himself, usually about elections or his research.

Zelizer said that his greatest assets are his passion for the subjects he works with and his efficiency in getting work done.

“I like to work in my office,” Zelizer said. “I love to be here. If I have class, I prepare for it. If I’m writing, I work on the book I’m working on a little bit.”

Throughout the process of writing the 300 editorials, 13 books and numerous academic papers he has published during his time as a professor at the University, Zelizer has developed specific writing techniques and strategies.

“Being methodical is a very important strategy,” Zelizer said. “It’s not you sitting on the top of the mountain and it all comes out; you have to sit down and think through what you want to do. Every day, I kind of build this up.”

Though becoming such a visible public figure was something he said he never anticipated, he noted that he is very satisfied with his dual roles as a University professor and public intellectual.

“I feel fortunate to have this job,” Zelizer said. “When I started, I thought [the media] was a one-time thing; I never pursued it. It’s been a pleasure to write. It’s an honor to participate in public life.”

History Buzz February 28, 2012: Christopher Kennedy: Francis Marion University professor shares his love of Irish history with students

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

Dr. Kennedy shares his love of Irish history with students

Source: Patriot NewsOnline, 2-28-12

C. Kennedy Author Photo

Photo Credit: Photo Contributed

Associate Professor of History Dr. Christopher Kennedy came to FMU in 2006. He has a passion for Irish history in particular.

Dr. Christopher Kennedy, an associate professor of hist-ory, has recently published a book and is currently under contract. He shows his passion for history every day at Francis Marion University.

Kennedy has worked at FMU for six years and moved to South Carolina because he liked the warm weather and the hospitality of the people.

Kennedy is also the faculty adviser of the Phi Alpha Theta, the history honors society on campus, which participates in food sales and lecture series. Phi Alpha Theta has won Best Chapter award from their district for the past two years. Kennedy said that they’re hoping to win again “as a threepeat.”

Kennedy received his degree from the Providence College in Rhode Island and spent four years at the University College Cork in Ireland for his Ph.D.

Kennedy’s greatest accomplishment is his book, “Genesis of the Rising 1912-1916,” on the Easter Rising. This book is sold at Barnes and Nobles and The Patriot Bookstore.

“I’ve stirred up some controversy with my views on the Easter Rising, because I revised the accepted history of it,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy’s second book is also about the Easter Rising but takes a different approach. The book is going through a diary and explaining the history at a more personal level.

2016 is the centennial anniversary of the Easter Rising of 1916, and Kennedy hopes to have his second book out by then. It is a continuation of his first book that covers nationalist opinion and the Rising.

“I have been told that there will be major celebrations and academic conferences in Ireland and Dublin to commemorate the Rising,”he said. “I hope to be a part of those events.”…READ MORE

History Buzz February 2, 2012: Victoria Wolcott: University of Buffalo Professor examines 20th-century color line

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

Wolcott examines 20th-century color line

Source: University of Buffalo Reporter, 2-2-12

Historian Victoria Wolcott teaches courses on the history of civil rights, African-American history and urban history. Photo: DOUGLAS LEVERE

“The black-and-white dichotomy shapes so much of the (20th century’s) political, cultural and social life.”

Victoria Wolcott Associate Professor of History

The phrase “color line” was used as a reference to the racial segregation that existed in the U.S. after the abolition of slavery. First mentioned in an 1881 article by Frederick Douglass, the phrase gained fame when W.E.B. DuBois cemented it in his landmark 1903 treatise, “The Souls of Black Folk.”

“DuBois said that the story of the 20th century will be the color line and he was absolutely right,” observes Victoria Wolcott, associate professor in the Department of History. “The black-and-white dichotomy shapes so much of the (century’s) political, cultural and social life.”

Influenced by her mother, who she describes as an early feminist with an interest in social justice issues, Wolcott began to explore the effects of that color line as a graduate student at the University of Michigan. In the process, she has become a noted 20th-century historian.

She arrived at UB last fall after five years of teaching at St. Bonaventure University in Olean and nine years at the University of Rochester. She teaches UB graduates and undergraduates the history of civil rights, African-American history and urban history, along with several permutations of those areas, she says, such as the “Race in American Cities” seminar she conducted in her first semester that combined her interests in race, labor and urban history.

Those interests led her to develop her first book from her graduate dissertation, “Remaking Respectability: African American Women in Interwar Detroit,” which was published in 2001.

The book looks at African-American women in Detroit and how their work, culture and politics helped shape the life of the city. “I found that African-American women really were excluded from not only white-collar employment, but from blue-collar as well. The one niche area where they were able to find employment was domestic service,” she relates. “So they created opportunities for themselves by opening businesses, by engaging in what we call the informal economy, which can be anything from running numbers to more illicit kinds of activities. They had a kind of creative response to these restrictions that were placed upon them because of racial discrimination in the job market.”

The study made a significant impact. The book is being used in graduate courses in particular, but also to some extent in undergraduate courses in women’s history and African-American history. “I think I was at the beginning of what has really developed as a new sub-field in African-American women’s history when the book was published in 2001,” says Wolcott. “It was part of this new, growing field of research for people who were interested in the Great Migration of African Americans, urban history and women’s history.”

After a decade of research, her second book, “Race, Riots and Roller Coasters: The Struggle Over Segregated Recreation in America,” will be published in August by University of Pennsylvania Press. To some extent, this derived from her work on the first book.

“I was struck by the extent to which all sorts of public accommodations—particularly recreational spaces—were segregated. We associate that kind of Jim Crow segregation with southern cities and communities, and yet it’s very, very pervasive in the north,” she explains. “I was interested in thinking to what extent is segregation and the struggle against segregation a national story, not a southern story.”…READ MORE

History Buzz January 25, 2012: Kenneth Swopes: Ball State professor recalls his sabbatical in China & research on Ming Dynasty

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Ball State professor recalls his sabbatical in China

Source: BS Daily News, 1-25-12

Swopes.JPGDN PHOTO EMMA FLYNN

Kenneth Swopes, associate professor of history explains his research about the Ming dynasty while pointing out relics that have helped him with his research. He talked about his findings to students and other professors Tuesday afternoon in the Burkhart building.

A historian of late imperial and northeast Asian military history presented the culmination of his sabbatical findings to a room full of students and colleagues Wednesday afternoon.

Kenneth Swope, associate professor of history, gave students and fellow professors the opportunity to learn more about the Ming Dynasty.

Swope’s research was a self-described overview of the book he wrote, which will be published at the end of this year.

Swope had planned to have the book published sooner, but by “happy coincidence,” he ran into the problem of having more primary sources than he had hoped for while on sabbatical in China.

“A lot of Chinese primary documents out of the archives in Beijing or Nanjing — where the two main archives are — are still published in hardcopy,” Swope said. “They’re not up on the internet or published digitally.”

One collection Swope used for his research was a collection of 102 volumes, about 500 pages each, of copies of handwritten documents from the Ming Dynasty.

The collection is estimated at $20,000-$25,000.

Swope said he read about 48 of the volumes for his sabbatical research.

“With reduced budgets and things, universities libraries aren’t able to buy these things,” Swope said. “So you still have to go there to do research.”

The book, entitled “The Military Collapse of China’s Ming Dynasty,” is the result of several years of work and research by Swope.

Beginning with an introduction from department chair Kevin Smith, Swope talked about the collapse of the Ming dynasty.

Attributing the fall of the Ming Dynasty to Emperor Wanli, Swope made a connection between the dynasty and American politics.

Swope provided reasons for the fall of the ancient power with significant reasons being economic and political factors.

“The first problem was economics, money problems,” Swope said. “Again, this is something we can identify with given the fiscal problems of our own government.”

With the Ming Dynasty, they had large amounts of physical wealth and were far more advanced than many other places in the world because their wealth had increased due to the finding of America.

Citing land taxes as the base of revenue, Swope connected the rich of the Ming Dynasty to part of the country’s economic problems.

“The rich found ways to dodge taxes,” Swope said. “The upper one percent of the Ming Dynasty were dodging all the taxes.”

History Buzz November 19, 2011: Roger Woodard: The Hercules of History — Historian captivates students with his voice, charisma and drive

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HISTORY PROFILES

Roger Woodard: The Hercules of History — Historian captivates students with his voice, charisma and drive

Source: University of Buffalo, The Spectrum, 11-19-11

Woodard Nyeri Moulterie /// The Spectrum

Professor Woodward has inspired many students by finding ways to personally connect with each one of them while teaching history.

In the midst of ruins covered in entwining vines, crumbling pillars and weathered statues, Roger Woodard stood in the Roman Forum where centuries ago Roman public life thrived with elections, speeches, and gladiator matches. Where children once played, merchants toiled and emperors ruled. Late in the day, the shadows stretch themselves and he can almost feel the ghosts of the past dancing around him.

He researches history. Not just ink on the pages of a textbook, but the life of its people; men and women reading The Iliad for the first time, Roman high priests holding processions through cobbled streets. He rediscovers the ancient ancestors of humanity that worshipped gods that are no longer revered, in languages that are no longer spoken.

Roger Woodard, Ph.D., a classics professor at UB, is known throughout campus as the man with the golden voice, the firm handshake, and the fascinating class. With over 30 years of teaching under his belt, and more than 10 of his own books published, Woodard is a professor, an explorer, and a performer….READ MORE

DAVID HACKETT FISCHER: Gordon S. Wood, Historian of the American Revolution

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History Buzz

Source: NYT, 7-24-11

THE IDEA OF AMERICA Reflections on the Birth of the United States By Gordon S. Wood 385 pp. The Penguin Press. $29.95.

Related

Excerpt: ‘The Idea of America’ (Google Books)

David Hackett Fischer teaches history at Brandeis University. He is the author of “Champlain’s Dream” and the forthcoming “Fairness
and Freedom: A History of Two Open Societies, New Zealand and the United States.”

Gordon S. Wood is more than an American historian. He is almost an American institution. Of all the many teachers and writers of history in this Republic, few are held in such high esteem. Part of his reputation rises from his productivity — a stream of books, monographs, articles, lectures and commentary. Now he has added “The Idea of America” (along with a new edition of John Adams’s Revolutionary writings in two volumes for the Library of America series).

More important than his productivity is the quality of his work, and its broad appeal to readers of the right, left and center — a rare and happy combination. Specially striking is Wood’s rapport with the young. In the film “Good Will Hunting,” Matt Damon and Ben Affleck centered a lively scene at a student hangout on an impassioned discussion of Wood’s work. The television sitcom “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” made “Gordon Wood” into an adjective, and used it as a synonym for serious scholarship in general. “Wicked awesome,” one character said, “all that Gordon Wood business!” Through it all, the man himself preserves a quiet modesty, and even a humility that is central to his work. He is respected not only for what he does but for who he is.

Wood’s latest book is a collection of 11 essays, along with an introduction and conclusion, that encompass his entire career. It reveals more of the author than any of his other work and creates the opportunity for an overall assessment of his achievement. Wood introduces himself with a familiar line from the poet Archilochus: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” He celebrates the foxes who flourish in his field, and adds in his modest way, “By contrast, as a historian I fear I am a simple hedgehog. . . . Nearly all of my publications have dealt with the American Revolution and its consequences.”…READ MORE

Joe Walsh: Freshmen Republican ex-history professor holds key role in debt talks

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‘These are people who are, deep down, anti- government': professor

Before the 2010 U.S. midterm elections, Joe Walsh was a two-time political loser who almost no one – excluding maybe his family and close friends – thought would win a seat in Congress.

Now the 49-year-old former American history professor and investment banker is among a group of first-term House Republican lawmakers who, arguably, wield more power over America’s debt crisis than the president of the United States.

Swept into office last November on a wave of support from Tea Party conservatives, Walsh, who represents Illinois’ 8th district, is one of 87 GOP freshmen whose opposition to a compromise over raising America’s debt ceiling risks pushing the U.S. government into default.

Call them uncompromising, or call them principled, this much is undisputed about the Republican newcomers: Without their backing, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives will have extraordinary difficulty getting the necessary 218 votes to pass bipartisan debt legislation before the U.S. reaches its $14.3 trillion borrowing limit on Aug. 2…. READ MORE

Bruce Stewart: West North Carolina historian reveals the truth about moonshiners and prohibitionists

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History Buzz

Bruce Stewart‘I was curious why moonshiners were embraced as heroes by many people in Western North Carolina in the 1860s and 1870s; and then condemned in the 1880s and 1890s,” Bruce Stewart, assistant professor of history at Appalachian State University, said in a recent interview with the Citizen-Times.

Stewart has just published a book, “Moonshiners and Prohibitionists: The Battle over Alcohol in Southern Appalachia,” that pries the lid off historical truth and stands as a model of research.

In the generation before the Civil War, the temperance movement had been supported by urban leaders such as Asheville’s James Patton and Augustus Merrimon.

When railroads arrived, many people’s affinity for the good old days of uncriminalized whiskey changed to support for prohibition. Even mountain preachers closely associated with the independence feelings of their flocks got on the respectable industry and tourism train.

Those who continued to say, “be hot, my still,” became outlaws and were branded degenerates.

“Local crusaders,” Stewart writes, “responded by demonizing alcohol manufacturers and their rural clientele, much like southern reformers did to African-Americans and northern temperance advocates did to eastern European immigrants.”

Stewart’s study is clearly written and full of instances and deductions.

Discovery moment

Stewart had been an undergraduate living in his parents’ basement in Winston-Salem, commuting to UNC Greensboro, when he’d committed to his career.

“When I was going to college,” Stewart said, “I also worked at UPS. And I did not want to do that, so that got me motivated to really crack down on my studies.”

At UPS, he worked five hours a night, five nights a week.

He went on to Western Carolina University, where he received his master’s degree in history, producing what became Chapter Four of his new book. A doctoral thesis at the University of Georgia yielded the full draft in 2007….READ MORE

Dr. Andrew Bacevich’s Quacker

If you think American kids are ignorant about history, wait till you get a load of this historian.

Source:WSJ, 6-28-11

Andrew J. Bacevich: America Comes to Its Senses

Andrew Bacevich, a professor of history and international relations at Boston University, has an innovative foreign-policy theory. “At periodic intervals,” he argues in a Los Angeles Times op-ed piece, “the American body politic” succumbs to “war fever,” which he defines as “a sort of delirium” whose symptoms are “delusions of grandeur and demented behavior.”

He offers a medical history beginning with the Spanish-American War: “Gripped by such a fever in 1898, Americans evinced an irrepressible impulse to liberate oppressed Cubans.” Once it was all over, “no one could quite explain what had happened or why.”

Then, “in 1917, the fever suddenly returned. Amid wild ravings about waging a war to end war, Americans lurched off to France. This time the affliction passed quickly, although the course of treatment proved painful: confinement to the charnel house of the Western Front, followed by bitter medicine administered at Versailles.”…

Were they really? Half a dozen years ago would be 2005, two years after Iraq was liberated from Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. By that time, there was no clamor for more “wars of choice.” To the contrary, opposition was mounting to the continuing American presence in Iraq. The next “war of choice” didn’t begin until just a few months ago, in Libya. (Bacevich obliquely acknowledges that last point, writing that “the post-9/11 fever . . . lingers most strongly in the Obama White House, where a keenness to express American ideals by dropping bombs persists”–though our recollection is that the “keenness” for intervention in Libya emanated from the State Department rather than the White House.)…READ MORE

Jeremi Suri: International History Scholar Gets First Mack Brown Chair and LBJ School and History Joint Appointment

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History Buzz

Source: UTexas News, 6-7-11

Jeremi Suri, an acclaimed scholar of international history, has been named the first holder of the Mack Brown Distinguished Chair for Leadership in Global Affairs at the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law and has received a joint appointment at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs and the Department of History in the College of Liberal Artsat The University of Texas at Austin.

Suri, a history professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, joins the university in fall 2011.

Jeremi Suri“Jeremi Suri is one of the most highly regarded scholars of international history, with a brilliant record of innovation in teaching and research,” said Robert Hutchings, dean of the LBJ School. “His appointment will secure our already strong reputation as the leading program in international history, drawing together scholars and practitioners in international security, American foreign policy, international law and diplomatic history. Other institutions have excellent programs in one or two of these fields, but ours breaks new ground owing to the combined strength of our faculties in history, law and public policy.”

“Besides his intellectual achievements, Suri brings boundless energy, extraordinary eloquence and high visibility,” said  Randy L. Diehl, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “The entire university community will benefit immeasurably from having such a talented individual among us.”

Suri said, “The Strauss Center uniquely positions Austin and the University of Texas to become a leader in re-making American foreign policy for the 21st century. The interdisciplinary mix of cutting-edge scholars, the integration of distinguished policy practitioners and the culture of practical inquiry nurtured by the center have already expanded our understanding of contemporary international challenges and opportunities. I look forward to joining both the exciting and transformative team at the Strauss Center and collaborating with the many distinguished historian scholars at the university.”

Francis J. Gavin, the director of the Strauss Center and the Tom Slick Professor of International Affairs at the LBJ School, said Suri possesses a stellar academic record and has excelled as a teacher, scholar, institution builder and leader.

“Jeremi Suri is one of the nation’s foremost scholars on global affairs and one of the leading international historians of his generation,” said Gavin. “He is the perfect addition to our growing world-class team of scholars and practitioners. We believe his joint appointment in history and public affairs, and his leadership of our new ‘History and Policy’ program signals the center’s commitment to innovative, interdisciplinary and policy-relevant scholarship and teaching.”

“Suri is one of the top young historians of U.S. foreign relations and the international history of the 20th century,” said Alan Tully, chairman of the History Department. “He joins Professors H.W. Brands and Mark Lawrence in History as well as Frank Gavin and William Inboden in the LBJ School of Public Affairs to give The University of Texas at Austin one of the largest and most distinguished groups of diplomatic and international historians of any university in the world.”

Suri has received numerous awards for his research and teaching, and Smithsonian Magazine named him one of America’s “Top Young Innovators” in the Arts and Sciences in 2007. He is the author of four books, including, “Henry Kissinger and the American Century” (Harvard University Press, 2007). His latest book, “Liberty’s Surest Guardian: American Nation-Building from Washington to Obama,” will be the Free Press/ Simon and Schuster’s lead non-fiction release in fall 2011.

Suri earned his bachelor’s degree in history from Stanford University in 1994 and a master’s degree in history from Ohio University in 1996. He earned his doctor’s degree from Yale University in 2001.

The Mack Brown Chair, named in honor of the university’s head football coach for his leadership on and off the field, is the center’s flagship chair. It was created to bring the highest profile leaders in global scholarship and policymaking to The University of Texas at Austin to inspire and instruct the next generation of leaders to better meet international challenges.

The Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law is a non-partisan research center dedicated to promoting multidisciplinary, policy-relevant scholarship on the most pressing problems in international affairs.

Timothy Holder: History educator quizzes readers’ presidential knowledge

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History Buzz

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, 6-1-11

Timothy Holder, a history professor at Walters State Community College, teaches Sunday school at Wallace Memorial Baptist Church recently.

Timothy Holder, a history professor at Walters State Community College, teaches Sunday school at Wallace Memorial Baptist Church recently.

“Hey, It’s Presidential Trivia” by Timothy Holder, TDH Communications, 106 pages

Three presidents of the United States had the nickname Hickory.

It’s an odd nickname, but Andrew Jackson was called “Old Hickory” and his political protege James Polk was called “Young Hickory” and Franklin Pierce was “Young Hickory of Granite Hills.”

Timothy Holder isn’t sure that last one really constitutes a nickname because of its long-windedness, but he found it to be an interesting fact about the country’s 44 presidents.

“Three presidents with the nickname ‘Hickory,’ who would’ve thought that?” said Holder, a history professor at Walters State Community College.

In his new book, “Hey, It’s Presidential Trivia,” published in February, Holder provides readers with many facts about the presidents that they might never have thought true.

One president spoke English as his second language. Martin Van Buren, the eighth president, grew up speaking Danish.

“You’re not a better historian for reading, but it’s fun,” said Holder, who lives near Mascot.

Holder, 44, said he always liked history growing up, but he didn’t decide to become a history teacher until he was in his 20s. He had received his undergraduate degree in Bible, thinking he might want to be a preacher.

“I was always interested in how I could learn a story in history and there was always a story leading up to that and a one leading up to that,” Holder said. “There was always more to the mystery.”

Much of his writing combines these two passions for Christian faith and history, especially biographies. Over the past eight years, Holder has authored and coauthored nine books, including “Influential Christians,” published last year and “Ask the Professor: Advice for College Grads,” which came out in January.

“Influential Christians” is a book containing biographies of 16 influential writers, musicians and preachers.

His books have all been nonfiction so far, though he hopes to write fiction in the future.

“I think what I was drawn to was the communication of the truth,” said Holder, who also teaches Sunday school at Wallace Memorial Baptist Church. “To communicate the truth, that is why I am here.”

For him, writing books is another way to communicate the truth.

His presidential trivia book, which includes at least five quirky facts for each president, plus years of service and political party, is a bit different than his other books.

However, at the suggestion of his wife, Angela, he wanted to make a more affordable book for readers to purchase at book signings.

His publishers set the price for his book fairly high at $20 to $25. He self-published the trivia book so he could control the cost.

As a professor, Holder said it is easy to find time to write over breaks and the summer. Holder wrote most of his trivia book last summer.

He already knew a lot of presidential facts from the courses he teaches, but he also did some research and “pleasure reading” to find the quirkiest facts about the country’s commanders in chief.

Just like with his lectures, Holder said he tried to inject humor into the book because he finds people focus better with a little bit of laughter.

Each month, Holder said he sets small writing goals, such as finishing 30 pages so his larger goal of writing a 300-page book doesn’t seem as daunting.