History Buzz April 5, 2013: History Doyen Robert Remini Dies at 91

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

Robert Remini, 91, acclaimed history professor, dies

Source: Chicago Tribune, 4-5-13

Robert Remini, an award-winning biographer and political historian, was named historian of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2005 and asked to pen a narrative history of the body. His book, “The House: The History of the House of Representatives,” was published the next year…READ MORE

The following is a reprint of Robert Remini’s History Doyen profiled I edited while I was an Assistant Editor at the History News Network (HNN). Robert Remini’s profile was the inaugural profile for the History Doyens series I edited, and was first published January 20, 2006 .  

History Doyens: Robert V. Remini

Edited & Compiled by Bonnie K. Goodman

What They’re Famous For

Robert V. Remini is professor emeritus of history and the humanities at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Robert V. Remini  JPGHe is currently at work on a narrative history of the U.S. House of Representatives, and has been named House Historian. Remini has written a three-volume biography of Andrew Jackson, the third volume of the series, Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Democracy, 1833-1845 won the National Book Award for nonfiction in 1984. He is also the author of biographies of Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, as well as a dozen other books on Jacksonian America, and is considered the most preeminent scholar on Andrew Jackson and his times.

Personal Anecdote

To a very large extent my career as an historian, such as it is, was determined by events over which I had little control. For example, when I graduated from college I fully intended to become a lawyer. Not because I was intrigued by the law but because it seemed like a worthy profession then for a child of the Great Depression. Fortunately World War II came along and I found myself aboard a ship plying the Atlantic and reading histories of the United States. I even read all nine volumes of Henry Adams’s History of the United States During the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and I loved every page. After three years in the service I realized I wanted to spend the rest of my life reading and writing and teaching history. I got so worked up that I even had the audacity of writing an article and submitting it for publication to the American Historical Association. It wasn’t a very good article and was based solely on secondary sources. Graciously, the AHA rejected it, but it was not many years later when they did publish an article I wrote.

So as soon as I was discharged I enrolled in the graduate school of Columbia University and began my newly discovered career. I was particularly anxious to study 20th century, urban, New York, political history. I’m not sure why, except that I was born and raised a New Yorker, as were both my parents. I signed up for an MA seminar conducted by Richard Hofstadter. He had arrived at Columbia about the same time I did. The class was packed with about 40 students, most of them returning veterans. Can you imagine a seminar of 40? I don’t think I ever said a word in the seminar. I just enjoyed every word Hofstadter spoke, for he spoke like he wrote, in complete sentences and paragraphs, every one a delight to hear. I wrote my master’s essay on John Purroy Mitchel, the reform mayor of New York City just prior to World War I and fully intended to continue with this topic for my doctorate.

Then one day Hofstadter approached me and suggested that I consider doing my PhD dissertation on Martin Van Buren since the Mitchel papers were locked up for 50 years which would prevent any further work on that topic. It seems that Columbia had received a grant that would permit the University to purchase microfilm copies of presidential papers held in the Library of Congress and the library people at Columbia were anxious to begin with copies of the Van Buren papers. Apparently the grant also stipulated that a graduate student begin working on them after their arrival. Now Van Buren was a New Yorker, said Hofstadter, and an important political figure. Granted he was not urban or twentieth century, but if I accepted his suggestion it would mean that I could do my basic research at Columbia and not have to travel to Washington or any other remote repository. Now if you think a graduate student cannot be influenced by such a proposal you are very mistaken.

I was gratified that Hofstadter had suggested me for this work and I agreed to switch to the nineteenth century. I did my doctoral dissertation on the early political career of Martin Van Buren under the direction of Dumas Malone, since Hofstadter did not give a PhD seminar at that time. That dissertation when published as a book argued that Van Buren was central to the formation of the Democratic party and the revival of the two party system. I fully expected to continue that work and write a full biography of Van Buren but Andrew Jackson intervened and changed all my plans. But that’s another and longer story.

Quotes

By Robert V. Remini

  • At length one sovereign artist found the language to express what Andrew Jackson had meant to his generation. In Moby Dick, Herman Melvile paid everlasting tribute to the fallen hero:“Men may seem detestable… but man, in ideal, is so noble and so sparkling… that over any ignomininous blemish in him all his fellows should run to throw their costliest robes…. But this august dignity I treat of, is not the dignity of kings and robes, but that abounding dignity which has no robed investiture. Thou shall see it shining in the arm that wields a pick or drives a spike; that democratic dignity which, on all hands, radiates without end from God; Himself! The great God absolute! The centre and circumference of all democracy! His omnipresence, our divine equality!The Course  of American Democracy, 1833-1845 JPG “If, then, to meanest mariners, and renegades ands castaways, I shall hereafter ascribe high qualities, though dark; weave round them tragic graces;…if I shall touch that workman’s arm, with some etheral light…then against all moral critics bear me out in it, thou just Spirit of Equality, which hast spread one royal mantle of humanity over all my kind! Bear me out in it, thou great democratic God!…Thou who didst pick up Andrew Jackson from the pebbles; who didst hurl him upon a warhorse; who didst thunder him higher than a throne! Thou who, in all Thy mighty earthly marchings, ever cullest Thy selectest champions from the kingly commons; bear me out in it, O God!”To such an invocation of Jackson on behalf of the democratic ideal, one can only say, Amen, O God, Amen. — Robert Remini in the conclusion of “Andrew Jackson : The Course of American Democracy, 1833-1845″
  • I have been invited to speak on Heroes of History, a subject about which it is very easy for professional historians to be cynical. And that is a great mistake because there are a great many genuine heroes in American history, starting at the very beginning and coming down to the present. I am thinking in particular of the heroes of 9/11, the astronauts of the space ship, Columbia, and the soldiers who fought and are fighting in Iraq.The question immediately arises as to what constitutes heroism. How can a hero be defined? Each person will have his or her own definition, but to me heroes are those who have performed extraordinary sacrifices for the benefit of others, and most especially for their country.This past year I was fortunate to be invited by the Library of Congress to undertake the writing of the history of the United States House of Representatives. I will start with the First Congress and continue to the present 108th. In researching and writing that book, I have been amazed by what the members of the First Congress accomplished, not only by the fact that they were mostly “ordinary” men, most of whom are obscure today, but how through heroic efforts they breathed life into the Constitution and helped create a republic that has not only survived, but prospered to an extraordinary extent. — Robert V. Remini “Ordinary heroes: Founders of our republic,” July 2003
  • The House really needs somebody who can remind them of all of the great traditions, the history of the institution. This is how you come to really love the place, by knowing more about it and how it evolved. — Robert Remini on his commission by the Library of Congress to write history of the House.

About Robert V. Remini

  • “Robert Remini, the Jackson biographer who has also turned out works on John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster and Henry Clay, said that only recently had he realized that he’s never written history, just biographies. Even his newest project, a history of the Congress, is really a “series of biographies.” He said he finds it easy to write. It’s the rewriting that’s hard. ‘I was trained by Jesuits and you were rewarded if you did good and punished if you did bad. I decided that I had to write nine pages a day. And if I did I got a martini. If not, I didn’t. Now I take a martini whether I’ve written or not’ (laughter). Remini, who by now had the crowd in stitches, said there’s one chief advantage of biographies. ‘For one thing there’s a beginning and an end. He dies.’ — Rick Shenkman in HNN’s “Reporter’s Notebook: Highlights from the 2004 Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association”
  • “The appointment of professor Robert Remini to the House Historian position is a magnificent choice. From my experience as House Historian, I know that the Representatives themselves and the public at large, not to mention historians in particular, believe that the person with the title of historian should be someone who has devoted his life to history, not to the study of politics and political institutions. In Robert Remini the House not only has a Historian, but a great historian. In fact, Remini is one of our greatest living American historians. He is one of the legends. He is author of a monumental biography of Andrew Jackson, and for years has been widely considered our most accomplished Jackson scholar. Furthermore, Remini has written numerous books on the Jackson period and on the fundamental issues and questions of American history. He is beyond question superbly qualified to be Historian of the House of Representatives.” — Christina Jeffrey, Visiting Professor of Politics, Coastal Carolina University in Roll Call
  • “In introducing his magisterial biography of Daniel Webster, Robert Remini laments the creeping historical illiteracy that threatens to engulf Webster and his contemporaries. All the more reason, then, to be grateful to Professor Remini, the nation’s leading Jacksonian scholar, for reminding us of a time when eminent historians still wrote for the general educated reader. Remini’s research is impeccable, his storytelling on a par with his outsized subject. And what a story he has to tell.” — Richard Norton Smith on “Daniel Webster: The Man and His Time”
  • “With this book, Robert V. Remini has completed his trio of biographies of the great political leaders of the Middle Period: Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, and now Daniel Webster. Remini seems never to have met an anecdote he didn’t like. Alas, a good many of dubious authenticity found their way into this volume. The story of how Webster demanded an apology from the eminent lawyer William Pinckney for insulting him during arguments before the Supreme Court, for example, does not ring true. ‘Now I am here to say to you, once for all, that you must ask my pardon, and go into court tomorrow morning and repeat the apology,’ Webster supposedly told Pinckney, ‘or else either you or I will go out of this room in a different condition from that in which we entered it,’ at which Pinckney ‘trembled like an aspen leaf.’ It also seems hard to believe that after Webster’s notable reply to Hayne, another Southern senator said to him, ‘Mr. Webster, I think you had better die now, and rest your fame on that speech,’ whereupon Hayne himself declared: ‘You ought not to die: a man who can make such speeches as that ought never to die.’ Still, such tales enrich the narrative, and perhaps they illustrate a deeper truth. This life of Black Dan the Godlike Daniel is undoubtedly the fullest and the best that we will have for a long time to come.” — James McPherson, Princeton University on “Daniel Webster: The Man and His Time”

Basic Facts

Teaching Positions: University of Illinois at Chicago Circle, Chicago, professor of history, 1965-91, research professor of humanities, 1985-91, professor of history emeritus and research professor of humanities emeritus, 1991–; chairman of department, 1965-66 and 1967-71, director of Institute for the Humanities, 1981-87.
Wofford College, 1998.
University of Notre Dame, 1995-96.
Robert V.  Remini JPG Douglas Southall Freeman Professor of History, University of Richmond, 1992.
Jilin University of Technology, China, 1986.
Fordham University, New York City, instructor, 1947-51, assistant professor, 1951-59, associate professor of American history, 1959-65.
Visiting lecturer, Columbia University, 1959-60.

Area of Research: 19th century U.S. History; Presidential History; American statesmen; including John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster, Martin Van Buren and Henry Clay. He is especially well known for his works about Andrew Jackson and Jacksonian America.

Education: Fordham University, B.S., 1943; Columbia University, M.A., 1947, Ph.D., 1951.

Major Publications:

Sole Author:

  • Martin Van Buren and the Making of the Democratic Party, (Columbia University Press, 1959).
  • The Election of Andrew Jackson, (Lippincott, 1963).
  • Andrew Jackson, (Twayne, 1966).
  • Andrew Jackson and the Bank War: A Study in the Growth of Presidential Power, (Norton, 1968).
  • The Revolutionary Age of Andrew Jackson, (Harper, 1977).
  • Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Empire, 1767-1821, (Harper, 1977).
  • Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Freedom, 1822-1832, (Harper, 1981).
  • Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Democracy, 1833-1845, (Harper, 1984).
  • The Life of Andrew Jackson (includes 1767-1821, 1822-1832, and 1833-1845), Harper, 1988, published as Andrew Jackson, (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998).
  • The Legacy of Andrew Jackson: Essays in Democracy, Indian Removal and Slavery, (Louisiana State University Press, 1988).
  • The Jacksonian Era, (Harlan Davidson, 1989), second edition, 1997).
  • The Legacy of Andrew Jackson: Essays on Democracy, Indian Removal and Slavery (Walter Lynwood Fleming Lectures in Southern History), (Louisiana State University Press, 1990)
  • Henry Clay: Statesman for the Union, (Norton, 1991).
  • Daniel Webster: The Man and His Time ,(Norton, 1997), also published as Daniel Webster: A Conservative in a Democratic Age, (Norton, 1997).
  • The Battle of New Orleans: Andrew Jackson and America’s First Military Victory, (Viking, 1999).
  • Andrew Jackson & His Indian Wars, (Viking, 2001).
  • John Quincy Adams, (Times Books, 2002).
  • Joseph Smith, (Viking, 2002).
  • The House : The History of the House of Representatives, (Collins, May 2006)

Editor, Contributor, Joint Author:

  • (Editor and author of introduction and notes) Dixon Ryan Fox, The Decline of Aristocracy in the Politics of New York, 1801-1840, (Harper, 1965).
  • (Editor and author of introduction and notes) James Parton, The Presidency of Andrew Jackson, (Harper, 1966).
  • (Contributor) Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and Fred L. Israel, editors, History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-1968, Volume I, (McGraw, 1971).
  • (Editor) The Age of Jackson, (University of South Carolina Press, 1972).
  • (With James I. Clark) Freedom’s Frontiers: The Story of The American People, Benzinger (Beverly Hills, CA), 1975.
  • (With Clark) We the People: A History of the United States, Glencoe (Beverly Hills, CA), 1975.
  • (Compiler with Edwin A. Miles) The Era of Good Feelings and the Age of Jackson, (AHM, 1979).
  • (With Robert O. Rupp) Andrew Jackson: A Bibliography, (Meckler, 1991).
  • (Author of historical overview) Sara Day, editor, Gathering History: The Marian S. Carson Collection of Americana, (Library of Congress, 1999).
  • (With Fred W. Beuttler, Melvin G. Holli), University of Illinois at Chicago (The College History Series), (Arcadia Publishing, 2000)
  • Consulting editor, The Papers of Andrew Jackson.
  • Additionally, Contributor to Encyclopaedia Britannica, and to professional journals. Member of editorial board, Journal of American History, 1969-72.

Awards:

  • The Freedom Award, The U.S. Capitol Historical Society (2004), Remini was honored for his lifelong work in historical scholarship and his current efforts in writing a narrative history of the House of Representatives.
  • the American Historical Association’s Award for Scholarly Distinction
  • Commissioned aide-de-camp and Tennessee Colonel by governor of Tennessee, 1992.
  • Society of Midland Authors Award, 1992, for Henry Clay: Statesman for the Union; commissioned Kentucky Colonel by governor of Kentucky, 1992.
  • Honorary degrees from Governor’s State University, 1989, Eastern Kentucky University, 1992, and Fordham University, 1993.
  • Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation Award.
  • Carl Sandburg Award, 1989, for The Life of Andrew Jackson.
  • University Scholar Award, University of Illinois, 1986.
  • Friends of Literature Award, 1985.
  • National Book Award in nonfiction, 1984, for Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Democracy, 1833-1845.
  • Guggenheim fellow, 1978-79.
  • Huntington Library fellowship, 1978.
  • Friends of American Writers Award of Merit, 1977.
  • Encaenia Award, Fordham University, 1963.
  • Grant-in-aid, American Council of Learned Societies, 1960, and American Philosophical Society, 1964.

Additional Info: In May 2005 named House historian.
In September 2002 named Distinguished Visiting Scholar of American History in the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress; Remini will research and write a narrative history of the U.S. House of Representatives. (The project was authorized by Congress in 1999 under the House Awareness and Preservation Act (P.L. 106-99))
Remini is a much sought after speaker and is hailed for his ability to make history “come alive.”
Honorary historian of Thirteen-Fifty Foundation.
Remini was named to the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels.
Remini has served as a review board member for the National Endowment for the Humanities since 1974.
He was selected by President George Bush in 1991 to speak at the White House as part of the Presidential Lecture Series on the Presidency and has been invited by President George W. Bush as well.
Special editor, Crowell-Collier Educational Corp.
Military service: U.S. Navy, 1943-46; became lieutenant.

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 Doyens: Eric Foner

Edited By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor / Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

What They’re Famous For

Eric Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University, is one of this country’s most prominent historians. He received his doctoral degree at Columbia under the supervision of Richard Hofstadter. He is only the second person to serve as president of the three major professional organizations: the Organization of American Historians, American Historical Association, and Society of American Historians.

Eric Foner JPG Professor Foner’s publications have concentrated on the intersections of intellectual, political and social history, and the history of American race relations. His best-known books are: Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil War (1970; reissued with new preface 1995) Tom Paine and Revolutionary America (1976); Nothing But Freedom: Emancipation and Its Legacy (1983); Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877 (1988) (winner, among other awards, of the Bancroft Prize, Parkman Prize, and Los Angeles Times Book Award); The Reader’s Companion to American History (with John A. Garraty, 1991); The Story of American Freedom (1998); and Who Owns History? Rethinking the Past in a Changing World (2002). His new book The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, was just published in the fall of 2010.

Eric Foner is a winner of the Great Teacher Award from the Society of Columbia Graduates (1991), and the Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching from Columbia University (2006). He was named Scholar of the Year by the New York Council for the Humanities in 1995. In 2006, he received and the Kidger Award for Excellence in Teaching and Scholarship from the New England History Teachers Association.

“Rarely have the study and teaching of history aroused such intense controversy as today. Public interest in how history is conceptualized and taught is to be applauded; however, the increasingly strident calls to reverse the recent achievements of a more heterogeneous profession, a broadened curriculum, and a more nuanced understanding of the American past must be resisted.”

(Excerpted from ericfoner.com)

Personal Anecdote

Eric Foner: Why he became an historian (Part 1)

The HISTORY NEWS NETWORK (http://hnn.us) recorded this appearance of Eric Foner at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association on the morning of January 6, 2007, as part of the panel “Lives in History: Four Master Historians Reflect on Their Careers.

Eric Foner: Why he became an historian (Part 2)

Quotes

By Eric Foner

  • On January 1, 1863, after a winter storm swept up the east coast of the United States, the sun rose in a cloudless sky over Washington, D.C. At the White House, Abraham Lincoln spent most of the day welcoming guests to the traditional New Year’s reception. Finally, in the late afternoon, as he had pledged to do 100 days before, the President retired to his office to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. Excluded from its purview were the 450,000 slaves in Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri (border slave states that remained within the Union), 275,000 in Union-occupied Tennessee, and tens of thousands more in portions of Louisiana and Virginia under the control of federal armies. But, the Proclamation decreed, the remainder of the nation’s slave population, well over 3 million men, women, and children, “are and henceforth shall be free.”Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877  JPG Throughout the North and the Union-occupied South, January I was a day of celebration. An immense gathering, including black and white abolitionist leaders, stood vigil at Boston’s Tremont Temple, awaiting word that the Proclamation had been signed. It was nearly midnight when the news arrived; wild cheering followed, and a black preacher led the throng in singing “Sound the loud timbrel o’er Egypt’s dark sea, Jehovah hath triumphed, his people are free.” At a camp for fugitive slaves in the nation’s capital, a black man “testified” about the sale, years before, of his daughter, exclaiming, “Now, no more dat! . . . Dey can’t sell my wife and child any more, bless de Lord!” Farther south, at Beaufort, an enclave of federal control off the South Carolina coast, there were prayers and speeches and the freedmen sang “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.” To Charlotte Forten, a young black woman who had journeyed from her native Philadelphia to teach the former slaves, “it all seemed . . . like a brilliant dream.” Even in areas exempted from the Proclamation, blacks celebrated, realizing that if slavery perished in Mississippi and South Carolina, it could hardly survive in Kentucky, Tennessee, and a few parishes of Louisiana.Nearly two and a half centuries had passed since twenty black men and women were landed in Virginia from a Dutch ship. From this tiny seed had grown the poisoned fruit of plantation slavery, which, in profound and contradictory ways, shaped the course of American development. Even as slavery mocked the ideals of a nation supposedly dedicated to liberty and equality, slave labor played an indispensable part in its rapid growth, expanding westward with the young republic, producing the cotton that fueled the early industrial revolution. In the South, slavery spawned a distinctive regional ruling class (an “aristocracy without nobility” one Southern-born writer called it) and powerfully shaped the economy, race relations, politics, religion, and the law. Its influence was pervasive: “Nothing escaped, nothing and no one.”3 In the North, where slavery had been abolished during and after the American Revolution, emerged abolition, the greatest protest movement of the age. The slavery question divided the nation’s churches, sundered political ties between the sections, and finally shattered the bonds of Union. On the principle of opposing the further expansion of slavery, a new political party rose to power in the 1850s, placing in the White House a son of the slave state Kentucky, who had grown to manhood on the free Illinois prairies and believed the United States could not endure forever half slave and half free. In the crisis that followed Lincoln’s election, eleven slave states seceded from the Union, precipitating in 1861 the bloodiest war the Western Hemisphere has ever known.To those who had led the movement for abolition, and to slaves throughout the South, the Emancipation Proclamation not only culminated decades of struggle but evoked Christian visions of resurrection and redemption, of an era of unbounded progress for a nation purged at last of the sin of slavery. Even the staid editors of the New York Times believed it marked a watershed in American life, “an era in the history . . .of this country and the world.” For emancipation meant more than the end of a labor system, more even than the uncompensated liquidation of the nation’s largest concentration of private property (“the most stupendous act of sequestration in the history of Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence,” as Charles and Mary Beard described it).4 The demise of slavery inevitably threw open the most basic questions of the polity, economy, and society. Begun to preserve the Union, the Civil War now portended a far-reaching transformation in Southern life and a redefinition of the place of blacks in American society and of the very meaning of freedom in the American republic.
    Eric Foner JPG

    In one sense, however, the Proclamation only confirmed what was already happening on farms and plantations throughout the South. War, it has been said, is the midwife of revolution, and well before 1863 the disintegration of slavery had begun. Whatever politicians and military commanders might decree, slaves saw the war as heralding the longawaited end of bondage. Three years into the conflict, Gen. William T. Sherman encountered a black Georgian who summed up the slaves’ understanding of the war from its outset: “He said . . . he had been looking for the ‘angel of the Lord’ ever since he was knee-high, and, though we professed to be fighting for the Union, he supposed that slavery was the cause, and that our success was to be his freedom. “5 Based on this conviction, the slaves took actions that propelled a reluctant white America down the road to abolition.

    As the Union Army occupied territory on the periphery of the Confederacy, first in Virginia, then in Tennessee, Louisiana, and elsewhere, slaves by the thousands headed for the Union lines. Union enclaves like Fortress Monroe, Beaufort, and New Orleans became havens for runaway slaves and bases for expeditions into the interior that further disrupted the plantation regime.

    Eric Foner in “Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877″About Eric Foner

  • “Do we need yet another book on Lincoln?… Well, yes, we do—if the book is by so richly informed a commentator as Eric Foner. Foner tackles what would seem to be an obvious topic, Lincoln and slavery, and manages to cast new light on it…. Because of his broad-ranging knowledge of the 19th century, Foner is able to provide the most thorough and judicious account of Lincoln’s attitudes toward slavery that we have.” — David S. Reynolds – The New York Times Book Review The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery JPG
  • “While many thousands of books deal with Lincoln and slavery, Eric Foner has written the definitive account of this crucial subject, illuminating in a highly original and profound way the interactions of race, slavery, public opinion, politics, and Lincoln’s own character that led to the wholly improbable uncompensated emancipation of some four million slaves. Even seasoned historians will acquire fresh and new perspectives from reading The Fiery Trial.” — David Brion Davis, Sterling Professor of History Emeritus, Yale University, author of Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World
  • “Definitive and breathtaking: with dazzling clarity and authority, demonstrating a total command of his sources and a sense of moral justice that transcends history, Foner has done nothing less than provide the most persuasive book ever written on Lincoln’s vital place in the fight for freedom in America. This volume stands alone in the field. It is not only the best account ever written on the subject; henceforth, it should be regarded as the only account.” — Harold Holzer, author of Lincoln President-Elect
  • “Eric Foner has done it again. The Fiery Trial explores the pivotal subject of Lincoln and slavery free from the mists of hagiography and the muck of denigration. With his usual stylish mastery, Foner advances enlightened debate over our greatest president, the origins and unfolding of the Civil War, and the abolition of southern slavery. His book marks an auspicious intellectual beginning to the sesquicentennial of the American Iliad.” — Sean Wilentz, author of The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln
  • Starred Review. Original and compelling….In the vast library on Lincoln, Foner’s book stands out as the most sensible and sensitive reading of Lincoln’s lifetime involvement with slavery and the most insightful assessment of Lincoln’s—and indeed America’s—imperative to move toward freedom lest it be lost. An essential work for all Americans. — Library Journal
  • Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877 is a “long, brilliant and stylish book . . . of signal importance, not only to understanding one of the most controversial periods in American history but to comprehending the course of race relations in this country during the last century.”… Reconstruction “is the most comprehensive and convincing account of the effort to build a racially democratic and just society from the fiery ruins of slavery.” — Gary Nash, Los Angeles Times Book Review
  • “in a deliberate effort to overturn stereotypes, [Foner] offers an admiring picture of the freedman during the postwar years… he has performed a real service in bringing blacks front and center in the Reconstruction drama, where they belong.” — David Herbert Donald, the New Republic
  • Foner “asserts that Reconstruction had a direct bearing on the civil rights movement and suggests that the period speaks to the still-persisting denial of freedom to blacks that lingers in so many parts of society…. Foner becomes the pre-eminent historian of Reconstruction.” — William S. McFeely, New York Times Book Review
  • Foner “is excellent at delineating the dominant ideologies and linking them to political events. . . . Foner also recognizes the early importance of intersectional political parties in resisting and containing sectional confrontation, but he emphasizes their demise in the face of popular sectional ideologies. . . . This is an important and invigorating work.” — J. H. Silbey, American Historical Review about “Politics and Ideology in the Age of the Civil War”
  • The Story of American Freedom “is layered in complexity. It approaches brilliance in relating the efforts of many Americans to advance freedom for everyone, of others to advance it for themselves…. Foner relishes ‘freedom’ as much as the next man — Robert H. Ferrell, National Review
  • “And, like the pragmatic American that he is, is not inclined to define it. Definition, after all, means assigning limits, which is precisely what Foner does not want to do. On the contrary, his particular contribution has been to illustrate the chameleon-like quality of freedom and to suggest the diverse, elusive, mercurial nature of the concept…. it is no small thing for a high-profile American historian to undertake a work of creative synthesis. It was also courageous for someone with intellectual roots in the mid-nineteenth century to write a book containing over 200 pages on the twentieth. What Foner has produced is not a simple, linear story, but one in which the nature and meaning of its central concept, freedom, is constantly up for grabs.” — Daniel Snowman in History Today about “The Story of American Freedom”

    Basic Facts

    Teaching & Professional Positions:

    Eric Foner JPG DeWitt Clinton Professor of History, Columbia University, l988-present;
    Professor, Department of History, Columbia University, l982-88;
    Professor, Department of History, City College and Graduate Center, City University of New York, l973-82;
    Pitt Professor of American History and Institutions, Cambridge University, l980-8l;
    Fulbright Professor of American History, Moscow State University, Spring l990;
    Harmsworth Professor of American History, Oxford University, 1993-94;
    Leverhulme Visiting Scholar, Queen Mary, University of London, Spring 2008.

    Area of Research:

    The Civil War and Reconstruction, slavery, and 19th-century America

    Education:

    Ph.D. – Columbia University 1969
    B.A. First Class – Oriel College, Oxford University 1965
    B.A. – Columbia College 1963

    Major Publications:

    • Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party before the Civil War, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1970, reprinted, 1995.
    • Nat Turner (“Great Lives Observed” series), Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1971.
    • Tom Paine and Revolutionary America, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1976.
    • Politics and Ideology in the Age of the Civil War, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1980.
    • Nothing but Freedom: Emancipation and Its Legacy, Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 1983.
    • Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877 (“New American Nation” series), Harper and Row (New York, NY), 1988.
    • A Short History of Reconstruction, 1863-1877, Harper and Row (New York, NY), 1990.
    • (With Olivia Mahoney) A House Divided: America in the Age of Lincoln, W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 1990.
    • The Tocsin of Freedom: The Black Leadership of Radical Reconstruction, Gettysburg College (Gettysburg, PA), 1992.
    • Freedom’s Lawmakers: A Directory of Black Officeholders during Reconstruction, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1993, revised edition, Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 1996.
    • Slavery and Freedom in Nineteenth-Century America, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1994.
    • (With Olivia Mahoney) America’s Reconstruction: People and Politics after the Civil War, HarperPerennial (New York, NY), 1995.
    • The Story of American Freedom, W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 1998.
    • Who Owns History? Rethinking the Past in a Changing World, Hill & Wang (New York, NY), 2002.
    • The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 2010

    Editor / Joint Editor:

    • America’s Black Past: A Reader in Afro-American History, Harper and Row (New York, NY), 1971.
    • Harry L. Watson, Liberty and Power: The Politics of Jacksonian America, Hill and Wang (New York, NY), 1990.
    • The New American History (“Critical Perspectives on the Past” series), Temple University Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1990, revised edition, 1997.
    • (With John A. Garraty) The Reader’s Companion to American History, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1991.
    • Thomas Paine: Collected Writings, Library of America, 1995.
    • (With wife, Lynn Garafola) Dance for a City: Fifty Years of the New York City Ballet, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1999.
    • (With Alan Taylor; and general editor of entire series) American Colonies (“Penguin History of the United States” series, book one), Viking (New York, NY), 2001.

    Contributor to Books:

    Author of introductions and forewords in books by others, including the foreword of For the Hell of It: The Life and Times of Abbie Hoffman, University of California Press; Contributor to the Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History and of articles and reviews to numerous periodicals, including the New York Times, New York Review of Books, Journal of American History, Journal of Negro History, and New York History.

    Awards:

    Prizes for Reconstruction: Los Angeles Times Book Award for History; Bancroft Prize; Parkman Prize; Lionel Trilling Award; Owsley Prize. Finalist, National Book Award; Finalist, National Book Critics’ Circle Award.
    Outstanding Reference Book, New York Public Library; and Library Journal, for Reader’s Companion to American History.
    Awards for A House Divided exhibition, Chicago Historical Society: Lawrence W. Towner Award, Illinois Humanities Council; James Harvey Robinson Prize, AHA.
    Award of Merit, American Association for State and Local History, for America’s Reconstruction exhibition.
    Order of Lincoln, Lincoln Academy of Illinois, 2009.
    John Jay Award for Distinguished Professional Achievement, Columbia College Alumni Association, 2007.
    President, Society of American Historians, 2006-07.
    Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching, Columbia Univerity, 2006.
    Kidger Award for Excellence in Teaching and Scholarship, New England History Teachers Association, 2006
    Silver Gavel Award, American Bar Association, 2005 for “Brown at Fifty,” special issue, The Nation, ed. Eric Foner and Randall Kennedy.
    Featured in Current Biography, August 2004, 50-55
    Featured in History Today, January 2000, 26-29
    Class of 2006 Distinguished Professor Award, April 2004
    First Place, Electronic Product of 2003, for Columbia American History Online, Association of American Publishers.
    Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, Iona College, 2002.
    President, American Historical Association, 2000.
    Elected Corresponding Fellow, British Academy, 1996.
    Scholar of the Year, N. Y. Council for the Humanities, 1995.
    President, Organization of American Historians, 1993-94.
    Great Teacher Award, Society of Columbia Graduates, 1991.
    Elected member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, l989.
    National Endowment for the Humanities Senior Fellowships, l982-83, 1996-97.
    Guggenheim Fellowship, l975-76.
    American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship, l972-73.

    Additional Info:

    Foner is one of only two persons to serve as President of the Organization of American Historians, American Historical Association, and Society of American Historians.
    Eric Foner JPGHe has also been the curator of several museum exhibitions, including the prize-winning “A House Divided: America in the Age of Lincoln,” A House Divided exhibit, Chicago Historical Society, and America’s Reconstruction, traveling exhibition, originating at Virginia Historical Society.
    Authored articles, essays and book reviews in numerous academic and popular journals, magazines, and newspapers.
    Rewrote Hall of Presidents presentation, Disney World, 1993.
    Historical Consultant, The Civil War, Broadway musical, 1999.
    He serves on the editorial boards of Past and Present and The Nation, and has written for the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, London Review of Books, and many other publications, and has appeared on numerous television and radio shows, including Charlie Rose, Book Notes, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report, Bill Moyers Journal, Fresh Air, and All Things Considered, and in historical documentaries on PBS and the History Channel. He was the on-camera historian for “Freedom: A History of Us,” on PBS in 2003.

  • History Doyens: Paul S. Boyer

    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. JPGIt 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 Doyens: Kenneth M. Stampp

    What They’re Famous For

    Kenneth Milton Stampp is the Alexander F. and May T. Morrison Professor of History Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, where he taught from 1946-1983. He is an award-winning historian of slavery, the American Civil War, and Reconstruction, and is considered the leading scholar in his area.

    Stampp was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1912, and came of age during the depression years. He attended the Milwaukee State Teachers’ College, and then the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he graduated his B.A. in 1935 and his M.A. a year later in 1936. Stampp worked on his PhD under the direction of Charles A. Beard and William B. Hesseltine, who served as his dissertation advisor. Stampp completed his doctorate in 1942, and then briefly worked at the University of Arkansas and the University of Maryland from 1942 to 1946. In 1946, he began his tenure at Berkley where he taught for 37 years before retiring. Kenneth  M. Stampp JPG

    In 2006 Stamp celebrated the 60th anniversary of his affiliation with the UC, Berkley. His most well known publication is The Peculiar Institution, for which he is most remembered, and is “starting point for modern studies of US slavery.” Stampp’s next book The Era of Reconstruction countered the school of thought of William A. Dunning (1857-1922) and his followers, by claiming that Reconstruction was in fact a success, and as Stampp writes “the last great crusade of nineteenth-century romantic reformers.” The book served to “cement” Stampp as the leading authority on the Civil War and Reconstruction. Stamp’s many distinctions include being awarded the American Historical Association Award for Scholarly Distinction in 1989, and in 1993, the Lincoln Prize for lifetime achievement, which was given by the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College. He has held visiting professorship posts at numerous institutions, including, Harvard University, University of London, University of Munich, and Oxford University.

    Personal Anecdote

    Master’s Thesis on Antislavery in the South

    I had no doubt after meeting Hesseltine that he was the man I wanted to work with. Well, he was the most dynamic American historian there. Perhaps not the most profound, but certainly the most dynamic. Hicks, by comparison, was rather drab. I always thought of him as the man in grey; his complexion was sort of grey, and he wore grey suits. There was a certain quiet charm about him, and I took courses from him in Western history and recent American history. But Hesseltine, the first course I took from him was American constitutional history, and he was a Beardian. One of the first things he had us read was Beard’s economic interpretation of the constitution, and in those Marxist days, this made sense to me.Hesseltine bought it, and he sold it. I was convinced that this was a satisfactory explanation for the nature of the constitution and for the motives of its framers.

    He had a wonderful lecture style. He was witty, he was clever, his lectures were full of humor. Challenging, sometimes outrageous generalizations. But I was rather young and naive then, and he seemed to me awfully exciting. There was no discussion in these lectures. He lectured, and we listened. For a while, I was scared to death of him. I thought he was wonderful, but I was afraid of him.

    The next term, in the fall, I started taking his year course in the history of the old South and the sectional conflict and Civil War and Reconstruction, and that’s what really excited me. He was a southerner himself; he came from Virginia, but he was a kind of southern maverick at the time. He always claimed that the men who ran the–and they were men at that time, mostly–the Southern Historical Association would have nothing to do with him. He was never elected president of the Southern Historical Association, and he claimed that it was because he was just too much of a rebel.

    I loved graduate school, I really did. I look back with great nostalgia to Madison in the thirties. It was a wonderful place. I really did like graduate school and got to know people who were lifetime friends during those years.

    I had to pick a thesis topic immediately when I started graduate work, and I picked as the subject of my master’s thesis the antislavery movement in the South. That was my first experience with research into important primary sources. I picked it myself. I don’t remember how–I must have read something about antislavery sentiment in the Old South. The Southern critics of slavery were largely Quakers; there were antislavery organizations in Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Tennessee–not in the Deep South, where organized antislavery was impossible. Antislavery Southerners advocated gradual, compensated emancipation, and then the colonization of the emancipated slaves somewhere outside the United States, back to Africa or wherever. That was the kind of movement they supported.

    Dissertation: Indiana Politics during the Civil War

    I intended to keep working in that period and that field. Somehow, I got interested in an Indiana politician. I have no Indiana connections. Indiana is politically an interesting state, and I’ll explain why. I got interested in an Indiana politician named Oliver P. Morton. He was a Democrat in his early life, and broke with the Democrats in 1854 over the Kansas-Nebraska bill. He joined a group that was at that time known as the Anti-Nebraska Democrats. They were one part of the coalition that formed the Republican party, old Whigs and Anti-Nebraska Democrats and antislavery Free-Soilers, some former members of the Know-Nothing party.

    Morton was a fairly important, active politician during the 1850s, and in 1860, he ran for lieutenant governor on the Republican ticket and was elected. Another Republican, [Henry S.] Lane, was elected governor. Everyone knew in advance that he was going to be elected to the United States Senate. He was, and Morton became governor in 1861.

    My interest in Morton never changed, but I finally decided that I disliked the man so much that I couldn’t possibly write a biography of him. That’s an interesting matter.

    The more I got to know him, the more I got to dislike the man, and that’s an interesting thing to think about. Biographers usually write about people they like and not often about people they don’t like. Perhaps there would be some interesting biographies if they were written by people who didn’t like their subjects, like some of the Nixon biographies, for example.

    By that time, I had done quite a lot of research on Morton as governor, as Civil War governor of Indiana.

    Then the question was, if I don’t want to do a biography of Morton, how do I salvage off-and-on research over a couple of years? I finally decided that I was going to do a more general study of Indiana politics during the Civil War. This turned out to be a fascinating subject because Indiana was a fascinating state during the Civil War.

    I ended with the end of the war in my dissertation. I have an introductory chapter on the 1850s about the formation of the Republican party and the election of 1860; the second chapter is on the secession crisis; then the rest is on the war and the social consequences. I have a concluding chapter that tries to summarize my view of what had happened in society in Indiana during the war and to the politics of Indiana. That’s where I ended it.

    After I wrote the dissertation, I reworked it, did some cutting, and submitted it for publication.

    My life that year was very simple: work. I worked in the Indiana State Library and the Indiana Historical Bureau. They were both in the same building, but they had different collections. In the evening at least five nights a week, I went to the Indiana Public Library and worked on newspapers for the 1850s and 1860s, and that’s about all there was to my life. I knew my roommate, I got to know the people at the Indiana State Library, but I had virtually no social life while I was down there. It was just work. Sometimes my roommate and I played two-handed bridge at night just for diversion. I read when I could, but it was really just the library all day long.

    I think I was kind of lonesome down there with not knowing anybody. I had had a rather active social life in Madison, and this was drudgery in some respects, but the research was exciting, I loved it.

    I was out of graduate school as far as that was concerned. No, I had plenty of time just to work on my dissertation.

    I had finished teaching up in Fond du Lac and the term ended in Madison. It was the same drudgery being a teaching assistant, making out the exams and grading the exams and attending lectures that I was hearing for the third time.

    By the end of July or early August, I finally finished my research on that dissertation, and I thought it was time for a holiday. Jobs were almost nonexistent, so I was delighted to take the job at Arkansas. I could have had one more year on the extension; I could have had a second year.

    In June 1941, we moved back down to Madison. Some time while I was up in Rhinelander, I had a letter from a young professor who used to teach at the University of Wisconsin, his name was Fred Harvey Harrington. He was a Ph.D. from New York University, and he was the young man in the History Department there, in American history. I got to know him fairly well the year that I was Hesseltine’s teaching assistant and teaching in Fond du Lac. They came over to see Kay and me a number of times, and we went to see them.

    The next year, the year I was in Rhinelander, he left Madison to go to the University of Arkansas to become head of the Department of History and Political Science as a full professor. Some time in the late spring of 1941, I heard from Hesseltine and got a letter from Harrington that there was a one-year job. Somebody was going on leave at the University of Arkansas, and Harrington wanted to offer it to me. I took it.

    So in June we went back down to Madison, and we found an apartment. It was a terribly hot summer, I remember, and I spent the whole summer writing my dissertation. Before the summer was over, I had it all written except one concluding chapter. I showed it all to Hesseltine, and he approved it, thought it was good. I’m not very good in heat, especially humid heat, the kind we had in Wisconsin. I can remember sitting in a bathtub with a big board on the side, writing in the bathtub in cool water with my notes there.

    By September, I had just one last chapter, about fifteen or twenty pages, I had to write, and early in September, we started for Fayetteville, Arkansas.

    That fall–it’s all connected with Pearl Harbor–I finished the last chapter of my dissertation, and I was to go back to Madison. Pearl Harbor was on the seventh, I think it was a Sunday, and I was to go back to Madison and take my Ph.D. exams the following Wednesday.

    I took my oral exam on the tenth of December. That day I think their minds were on Pearl Harbor and other things more than my exam. They did ask some questions. I had my usual trouble with Chester Penn Higby, the European historian, who asked me some impossible questions. Selig Perlman, the man with whom I took my outside field in economics, labor history and socialism and capitalism, was on the committee. He thought my dissertation was excellent. I got by with everyone except Higby.

    After it was over, I was sent out then called back in, and everyone congratulated me except Higby. He just walked out and never said a word to me. He could never forgive me for that, even though I had given him an explanation. I think I did very well in my oral exam. So I passed, and I was a Ph.D. at last.

    An Offer from Berkeley

    Then in the spring of 1946, things began to happen. Hofstadter got an offer from Columbia, and I knew he was leaving. Mills got an offer from Columbia, and I knew he was leaving. And there I was–I wasn’t going to get the job at Hopkins, and I wasn’t going to get the job at Swarthmore. I thought, My God, I’m going to be here again. Freidel is fired, Hofstadter is leaving, Mills is leaving, and I’m going to be here alone.

    In April 1946 I went to a kind of rump meeting of the Mississippi Valley Historical Association in Bloomington, Indiana. John D. Hicks had been one of my professors at Wisconsin.

    He was very much in favor of Roosevelt’s foreign policy. He knew Hesseltine, and I was a Hesseltine student. John D. Hicks was at the Mississippi Valley meeting in Bloomington, Indiana. It was a small meeting, and I remember Hicks saying, “Let’s have a drink together. You know, I’m an old Wisconsin–” he was out here [in Berkeley] now. He came out here in ’42. So we sat and had a drink and talked about Wisconsin and about Hesseltine. And that was that.

    The next month, early May of 1946, I got a letter from Hicks and a letter from Hesseltine offering me an instructorship out here. He had written to Hesseltine and said that he was interested in bringing me to Berkeley. I said, “Instructorship? I’m an associate professor. I know it’s only Maryland, but I’m not going to start over again.” He wrote to Hesseltine and said, “Tell Stampp to accept it,” an instructorship. I said, “No.” I wrote back and said, “I’ll step down one rank. I’ll go back to assistant professor, but I’m not going to take an instructorship.” Well, I think Hicks had sort of said, “That’s all I can do.” Ultimately it was changed.

    It was raised to an assistant professorship, and more than that, it was raised to a second-step assistant professorship. My salary at Maryland at that time was $3,500, and going to Berkeley, my salary would be $3,600. That wasn’t much of an inducement. Well, it turned out when I got here that it was going to be $3,900, and that helped a lot.

    I didn’t even know where Berkeley was. I had to find a map. I thought Berkeley was somewhere in southern California. I was that ignorant about the university. I found it was across from San Francisco. I had never been to San Francisco. I had been to Los Angeles but not San Francisco. I told Hofstadter about the job, and he said, “Well, surely you’re not going to take it.” I said, “Well, I’d like to get out of here, and I wouldn’t mind going out there for a few years.” He said, “Well, I must say, I don’t think much of the history department at Berkeley.”

    Well, he knew, for example, that the dominant figure for some years was Herbert Eugene Bolton and that Bolton didn’t have any use for men who taught American history. You should teach history of the Americas.

    I came out. I told Hofstadter I would go out at least for a few years. I went to Madison that summer and taught in the summer session. My wife was with me. Then I managed to get a car. They were hard to get in 1946, but through an influential brother-in-law I got a car so I could drive out.

    We got into California on the twelfth of September, I remember, and stopped up in the mountains. I loved the mountains, I wanted to stop in the mountains, so we stopped in the little village of Cisco, elevation of about 5,500 feet, and found a motel there.

    The next day, we drove on down– driving into the Bay Area then was something because there was no freeway. You had to drive through Roseville and every community on the way–Davis, and right through Richmond, and Rodeo and so on. I thought we would never get here.

    I remember we finally came out on–I think there was an East Bay freeway then–the freeway the afternoon of September thirteenth, and I looked at San Francisco and the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge, and I fell in love with it, absolutely fell in love.

    Settling into Teaching and Publishing

    I began teaching a survey course in American history. I remember walking in to 101 Cal [California Hall]–I don’t know whether you remember 101 Cal when it was a lecture hall, held about 400 students.

    It was a nice lecture hall–you didn’t realize the size of it from the podium because it was sort of like this [shaped like an amphitheater]. I had never lectured to more than thirty-five students, and I walked in there one Tuesday morning and found 400 students in there, and four teaching assistants whom I had not met yet. I still remember one of them asked whether I had my registration card with me. I looked kind of young then. I had to tell them I was going to run this course. And–wow, that was an experience, I must say, lecturing to that many students. That was really nerve-shattering.

    My own field, really, for the first time. I gave my course in the history of the Old South. I had about, oh, sixty or seventy students in it. It was a nice-sized group. I had a seminar–it must have had seven or eight students in it. That I liked very much.

    I spent all my spare time writing And the War Came, and also I went East for conventions, took the train East. I got travel money, research money, to do that. I conferred with a new director of the Indiana Historical Bureau, I believe in 1947. I had sent him the revised dissertation manuscript, and he thought it was great, “We’re going to publish it.” That was wonderful. It came out in 1949, finally. So I was hard at work on And the War Came. I finished that in 1948.

    I sent it to LSU Press, Louisiana State University Press, and they loved it. They took it and published it in 1950, so that looked pretty good: a book out in 1949 and another book in 1950.

    It had wonderful reviews. I didn’t get a single critical review; it really was good. I found out later that it was second for the Pulitzer Prize. I found that out through the head of the LSU Press.

    I had learned how to lecture to 400 people, and I was not too bad at it, I was pretty good. As a matter of fact, Hicks had heard that my lectures were very good, and my enrollment in my upper-division course had grown from about fifty or sixty students the first time to 200 or 300 students. I lost that small group there. Hicks once asked me whether I had preachers in my family or something.

    The Peculiar Institution

    To my best recollection, it was a former graduate student, Richard Heffner, who, hearing my feeling that there was a need for a new book, said, “Well, why don’t you write it?” and I thought about it. I do insist that it had nothing to do with the civil rights movement.

    The book came out in 1956, and so somebody suggested–I think it was Win [Winthrop] Jordan, actually, who used to be in our department–that it was somehow connected with the civil rights movement, and it really wasn’t. My decision to write it dated back to the forties.

    I began working on it as soon as I finished a book called And the War Came, which I finished in 1948. In the spring of 1952, I had applied for a Guggenheim, and I received one. I was due for a sabbatical. So I planned to be away for the whole year, from the summer of ’52 to the summer of ’53. That’s when I was going to do the bulk of my research on this book.

    In January, I moved to Chapel Hill. I had written to a friend at the university there, and he had found a quite satisfactory place for us to live in a suburb of Chapel Hill called Carboro, which is a mill town. It was rather interesting living in a Southern mill town for a while. I couldn’t have done the book without going there, yes. I don’t think it had any effect on the tone of my book. A lot of the Southerners whom I saw, when the book came out, didn’t write to me and say, “This is a great book.”

    When the Guggenheim year was over in July, we came back to Berkeley. I had a little more research to clear up out of secondary sources, but I began writing in the late fall or maybe early winter of 1953-’54. It was a terrible experience beginning that book. I was terribly concerned about this book and my responsibility in writing it. I really wanted to write a book that would persuade Southerners that slavery wasn’t quite like the myths and legends.

    Now, the question of a publisher, Knopf published it, but I had an unfortunate relationship with Knopf with my book And the War Came–giving them an opportunity to reject it twice. It was a double humiliation. Anyway, And the War Came was out in 1950, and it had very good reviews. Alfred Knopf, the old man, was pretty peeved at one book man at Knopf, one of their field men, because he’s the one who had solicited the manuscript. I had said, “I will never publish a book with Knopf.” Anyway, this man came to me in 1952 at a convention and said, “I hear you’re writing a book about slavery.” I said, “Yes, but Knopf is not going to have it.” I don’t think is an exaggeration: I think he must have been under considerable pressure from Knopf because he practically got on his knees and asked for it. I said, “I’ll never send you the manuscript. If you want to give me a contract without ever seeing the manuscript, okay.” And I got it.

    Sight unseen. I was never going to let them turn down another manuscript or another book of mine. So I’m very glad because Knopf makes beautiful books, and he does a pretty good job of promoting. So I sent the manuscript to Knopf the late summer of 1955, and I had an editor whose name I can’t remember, and he disappeared before the book was finished. He probably was fired. Knopf was always firing people. So for the last bit, I didn’t have an editor. The manuscript–it was a clean manuscript. I had a typist who really made no typos–I couldn’t find any–and raised a couple of questions. She did a little bit of editing, actually, anyway. So the manuscript was a nice clean one that I sent to Knopf; then later in his reminiscences, Alfred Knopf said that in all the time that he was running his company, he had only received two manuscripts that could go straight to the publisher without editing. Mine was one, he said; another was a friend of his who also had written on black history. Well, that was partly true, but it also covered the fact, or disguised or concealed the fact, that my editor had been fired. Anyway, it’s a nice story, and it never made me unhappy to have Knopf say that my manuscript was so letter-perfect.

    It was published in October, 1956. As far as I know, it received no prizes. There was no Pulitzer prize or Bancroft prize. There was a prize at that time given for the best book in Southern history, and it didn’t even win that prize, though I think it was by far the best book in Southern history that year. The only prize actually came years and years later — I got the Lincoln prize in 1993. It was sort of a lifetime award, but the thing they always featured in their presentation prize was The Peculiar Institution, which most people think is the most important book I wrote.

    Quotes

    By Kenneth M. Stampp

  • “As one reflects upon the problem of causation one is driven to the conclusion that historians will never know, objectively and with mathematical precision, what caused the Civil War. Working with fragmentary evidence, possessing less than a perfect understanding of human behavior, viewing the past from the perspective of their own times, finding The Causes  of The Civil War JPG it impossible to isolate one historial event to test its significance apart from all others, historians must necessarily be somewhat tentative and conjectural in offering their interpretations.It may then be asked whether there was any point to the enormous effort that has gone into the various attempts to find the causes of the Civil War. If after more than a century the debate is still inconclusive, would not the historian be wise to abandon his search for causes and confine himself to cataloging facts and compiling statistics? Is it not all the nore discouraging to find, as the documents in this book indicate, that historians often merely go back to interpretations advanced by partisans while the war was still in progress? I think not. Because the century of historical inquiry, if it leaves the causes of the Civil War still open to debate, has nevertheless been extremely illuminating. uncertainty about the war’s causes has driven historians back to the sources time and time again, with the result that we have gredually enlarged our knowledge and and deepened our understanding of our greatest national crisis. Hence I find the prospect of a continuing debate, however much it may annoy those who find it disagreeable to live with uncertainties, the best promise that research and writing in this period of American history will continue to have vitality.” — Kenneth M. Stamp in the Introduction of “The Causes of The Civil War”
  • But Indiana Democrats did not long encumber their cause with a nostalgic yearning for things that had passed. The leaders of these western agrarians were soon busy resurrecting their party in order to re-engage their foes and to make themselves felt in the new nation. They quickly confessed that slavery was dead and warned that Democrats should not “tie the corpse around their necks.” Instead they preferred to face the living issues of national reconstruction.What these issues would be did not long remain in doubt. The Sentinel reminded its readers that the war had left the tariff question unsettled and that in this respect the interests of the West and South were still identical. Western Republicans, it affirmed, were the mere tools of New England, and tariff reduction could be the program by which the Democracy would rescue the nation from “a great manufacturing aristocracy.” Other party leaders saw in the growing indignation of western farmers against the railroad monopolies another problem demanding a solution. Finally, there were already cries of protest against the national banking system which enriched a few men but failed to meet the West’s constant need for additional capital.

    The Sentinel confidently predicted that the present attempt of New England to be “overseers of the whole nation” would be as odious to the West as the past attempt of the South had been. Hence, it prophesied, the western states, with their identity of interests, would soon make themselves a power in the land. “And they will make that power felt in impressing their policy upon the nation.” The roots of western insurgency were already deep in the soil of Indiana. In 1872 and 1876 the Democrats would capitalize on agrarian discontent with the new order to capture the governorship; in the latter election they would, for the first time since 1856, win the state’s presidential electoral votes. From their ranks would come the leaders of the Granger and Populist movements.

    But the triumphant Republicans, heirs to the Whig tradition, were equally prepared for the future and ready to meet this new threat from their irrepressible foes. The Indianapolis Journal noted with satisfaction that war and Republican rule had brought to the Northwest an unprecedented degree of material well-being. Indiana, it observed, was a region “of unabated prosperity.” Accordingly, in the spring of 1865 Indiana’s political rulers surveyed the Hoosier scene and pronounced it good. Kenneth M. Stampp in “Indiana Politics during the Civil War”

  • Critics of slavery, certain white men think, err when they assume that the Negroes suffered as much in bondage as white men would have suffered. One must remember, argue critics of critics, that to the Negroes slavery seemed natural; knowing no other life, they accepted it without giving the matter much thought. The  Peculiar Institution JPGNot that slavery was a good thing, mind you-but still, it probably hurt the Negroes less than it did the whites. Indeed the whites were really more enslaved by Negro slavery than were the Negro slaves. This poet-slavery argument, like the ante-bellum proslavery argument, is based on upon some obscure and baffling logic. It is not unlike James H. Hammond’s confident assertion that “our slaves are the happiest…human beings on whom the sun shines”; or his complaint that “into their eden is coming Satan in the guise of an abolitionist.”A former slave once pronounced a simple and chastening truth for those who would try to understand the meaning of bondage: “Tisn’t he who has stood and looked on, that can tell you what slavery is,-’tishe who has endured.” “I was black,” he added, “but I had feelings of a man as well as any man.” One can feel compassion for the antebellum southern white man; one can understand the moral dilemma in which he was trapped. But one must remember that the Negro, not the white man, was the slave, and the Negro gained the most from emancipation. When freedom came-even the quasi-freedom of “second-class citizenship”-the Negro, in literal truth, lost nothing but his chains. — Kenneth M. Stampp in “The Peculier Institution”
  • NOT LONG AGO one of America’s best political commentators made an observation about the problem of causation in history that every responsible historian would surely endorse:I hold a kind of Tolstoyan view of history and believe that it is hardly ever possible to determine the real truth about how we got from here to there. Since I find it extremely difficult to uncover my own motives, I hesitate to deal with those of other people, and I positively despair at the thought of ever being really sure about what has moved whole nations and whole generations of mankind. No explanation of the causes and origins of any war — of any large happening in history — can ever be for me much more than a plausible one, a reasonable hypothesis. 1

    This is a position to which I fully subscribe, and I believe that it is as valid for explanations of why a war was won or lost as for explanations of why a war began.

    The Imperiled Union: Essays on the Background of the Civil War   JPG With this cautionary statement in mind, I am going to suggest one of the conditions, among several, that may help to explain why the South lost the Civil War. I think there is reason to believe that many Southerners — how many I cannot say, but enough to affect the outcome of the war — who outwardly appeared to support the Confederate cause had inward doubts about its validity, and that, in all probability, some unconsciously even hoped for its defeat. Like all historical explanations, my hypothesis is not subject to definitive proof; but I think it can be established as circumstantially plausible, because it is a reasonable explanation for a certain amount of empirical evidence….

    Very soon, as a matter of fact, white Southerners were publicly expressing their satisfaction that the institution had been abolished and asserting that the whites, though perhaps not the blacks, were better off without it. Many were ready now to give voice to the private doubts they had felt before the war. They denied that slavery had anything to do with the Confederate cause, thus decontaminating it and turning it into something they could cherish. After Appomattox Jefferson Davis claimed that slavery “was in no wise the cause of the conflict,” and Alexander H. Stephens argued that the war “was not a contest between the advocates or opponents of that Peculiar Institution.” The speed with which white Southerners dissociated themselves from the cause of slavery is an indication of how great a burden it had been to them before Appomattox.

    The acceptance of emancipation, of course, did not commit Southerners to a policy of racial equality. Rather, they assumed that the free Negroes would be an inferior caste, exposed to legal discrimination, denied political rights, and subjected to social segregation. They had every reason to assume this, because these, by and large, were the policies of most of the northern states toward their free Negro populations, and because the racial attitudes of the great majority of Northerners were not much different from their own. White Southerners were understandably shocked, therefore, when Radical Republicans, during the Reconstruction years, tried to impose a different relationship between the races in the South — to give Negroes legal equality, political rights, and, here and there, even social equality. Now for the first time white Southerners organized a powerful partisan movement and resisted more fiercely than they ever had during the war. The difference, I think, was that in rejecting Radical race policy they felt surer of their moral position, for they were convinced that Northerners were perpetrating an outrage that Northerners themselves would not have endured. Thus the morale problem was now on the other side; and the North, in spite of its great physical power, lacked the will to prevail. Unlike slavery, racial discrimination did not disturb many nineteenth-century white Americans, North or South. Accordingly, in a relatively short time, chiefly because of the unrelenting opposition of white Southerners, Radical Reconstruction collapsed.

    The outcome of Reconstruction is significant: it shows what a people can do against overwhelming odds when their morale is high, when they believe in their cause, and when they are convinced that defeat means catastrophe. The fatal weakness of the Confederacy was that not enough of its people really thought that defeat would be a catastrophe; and, moreover, I believe that many of them unconsciously felt that the fruits of defeat would be less bitter than those of success. — Kenneth M. Stampp in “The Southern Road to Appomattox”

  • “Could all of this have been avoided — would the course of the sectional conflict have been significantly altered — if Buchanan had remained true to his pledge and demanded the submission of the whole Lecompton constitution to the voters of Kansas? That is a question no historian can answer. It is doubtful that a firm stand by Buchanan would have resulted in southern secession, because the provocation would not have been sufficient to unite even the Deep South behind so drastic a response. Nor would it have been sufficient to produce a major split in the national Democratic party. Accordingly, without a divided and demoralized national Democracy, Republican successes in the elections of 1858 and the presidential election of 1860 would have been a good deal more problematic.America in 1857: A Nation on the Brink JPG Yet, contrary to the optimists of 1857, removing the Kansas question from national politics, although eliminating a serious irritant, would not have assured a lasting settlement of the sectional conflict. The possibilities for other crises over slavery were far too numerous. Sooner or later, any one of them, like Lecompton, might have disrupted the Democratic party, perhaps, as in 1860, led to the nomination of two Democratic presidential candidates, and resulted in the election of Abraham Lincoln or some other “Black” Republican. The triumph of a Republican presidential candidate proved to be the provocation that turned the southern threats of secession, heard so often in the past, to reality.

    On December 6, 1858, after the Democratic disasters in the northern autumn elections, Buchanan sent his annual message to the lame-duck session of the Thirty-fifth Congress. He began with his own explication of the Lecompton controversy, expressing satisfaction that Kansas at last appeared to be “tranquil and prosperous” and was attracting thousands of emigrants. The rebellious activities of the “revolutionary Topeka organization” had been abandoned, thus proving that “resistance to lawful authority . . . cannot fail in the end to prove disastrous to its authors.” Although he continued to believe that approval of the Lecompton constitution would have “restored peace to Kansas and harmony to the Union” more rapidly, he “cordially acquiesced” in the English bill which Congress preferred. Still, it was “to be lamented that a question so insignificant when viewed in its practical effects on the people of Kansas, whether decided one way or the other, should have kindled such a flame of excitement throughout the country.” In this manner, at the end of a disruptive party controversy, Buchanan made his case for posterity.

    Rarely, it must be admitted, has any President, during his term in office, confessed publicly that he was guilty of an important error of judgment. He may on occasion, using the passive voice, concede the possibility that mistakes had been made, leaving responsibility for them in doubt. Buchanan would not concede even that. Referring to his message of February 2, 1858, which recommended approval of the Lecompton constitution, he now assured Congress and the public that he had no regrets. “In the course of my long public life,” he defiantly asserted, “I have never performed any official act which in the retrospect has afforded me more heartfelt satisfaction.” Let him be remembered, then, for that! — Kenneth M. Stampp in “America in 1857: A Nation on the Brink”

    About Kenneth M. Stampp

  • “Students and scholars alike will benefit from this collection of eight essays by one of the nation’s finest historians of the Civil War era. Stampp considers the crises of the 1850s that produced the Republican Party, the concept of a perpetual Union that the North went to war to defend, and the role of Abraham Lincoln in the sectional conflict. — Robert Detweiler reviewing “The Imperiled Union: Essays on the Background of the Civil War” in “History Teacher”
  • The bloodiest Civil War battles of the historians, unlike those of history, have been fought over events before rather than after 1861. And unlike the historic battles, the historiographic engagements still rage, the issue still in doubt in many instances. Most of them have been going on for more than a century, and while there have been occasional truces and lulls in the fighting, latest bulletins from the front offer little prospect for peace. Kenneth M. Stampp takes us on a guided tour of the classic antebellum battlefields of historiography….Professor Stampp is well qualified as a guide to these battlefields of the historians. A veteran of most of the campaigns and still a participant on active duty in several, he is well posted on the strength, weakness, and firepower of the forces engaged. After first pointing out, identifying, and assessing all belligerent units and reserves on a particular field, he puts on a demonstration as a participatory guide. Pitching in with live ammunition he leads a charge himself and often leaves the field littered with casualties. While he makes no secret of the colors he flies and the cause he fights, he shows a proper regard and, in all but a few cases, a seemly gallantry toward his foes. Bearing scars from many past encounters, he has learned a due respect for the forces of opposition and usually prefers to consider their intentions honorable if misguided. — C. Vann Woodward reviewing “The Imperiled Union: Essays on the Background of the Civil War” in New York Review of Books
  • Kenneth M. Stampp is by common acclaim the dean of historians of the Civil War era, and the long and honorable list of his works more than justifies the title; but not since “The Era of Reconstruction” (1965) has he used the narrative form. Now that it is becoming so academically fashionable, he has perhaps decided to show the young how an old master can handle it; and the result is a triumph of the historian’s craft. The argument underlying this chronicle of one year could not be stated more modestly, but almost every detail contributes to it; and the cunning structure of the narrative, which amounts to a carefully calculated arrangement of details, will compel readers to discover Mr. Stampp’s thesis for themselves and make it their own. — Hugh Brogan reviewing “AMERICA IN 1857 A Nation on the Brink” in NYT
  • “For almost firty years Kenneth Stampp’s writings and teachings have charted the course of historical inquiry regarding slavery and the Civil War. Standard textd have incorporated much of what Stampp has said about the era of Reconstruction that we forget how revolutionary many of Stampp’s arguments were when they first appeared. He rejected such former common-places as slavery being a benign insitution, as a “blundering” generation and “irresponsible agitators” alone bringing on secession and civil war, and as Republican corruption and vindictiveness marking Reconstruction as a tragic era. Save for his assumptions about the cultural unity of races and his emphasis on the exploitive, regimented character of master-slave relationships in The Peculier Institution: Slavery in the Antebellum South- assumptions and emphasis currently challenged in recent work on slavery, sometimes by Stampp’s own former students- Stampp’s work has proved remarkably durable.” — Randall M. Miller in the “Journal of Southern History” about “New Perspectives on Race and Slavery in America: Essays in Honor of Kenneth M. Stampp”
  • “In this reassessment of the period after Appomattox, Kenneth Stampp, professor of history at the University of California at Berkeley, calls the Southern version dead wrong. He is only one of dozens of contemporary historians who have recently undertaken to reconstruct the Reconstruction. Of these revisionists, Stampp is easily the most The Era of  Reconstruction JPGprovocative. His proposition is that the impenitent postwar South set to work at once to restore the very order that it had supposedly yielded in defeat. The idea was to negate the war’s outcome.In this cause, says Stampp, the North served as unwitting accomplice. Lincoln’s assassination propelled Andrew Johnson into the White House, a kind-hearted and derivative man anxious to implement Lincoln’s injunction to let the South up easy. To staff the governments of the secessionist states, he granted wholesale pardons to Confederate officers and civil servants—and such men did not waste time accepting the chance to preside….

    The South’s version of Reconstruction blames everything on those vengeful Yankees who rammed their triumph down rebel throats—and implies that until then the rebels were willing to acknowledge the inevitable price of defeat. Stampp’s purpose is to expose this version as a falsehood that has graduated, over the years, into a Southern mystique. His book presents compelling arguments that Selma is the predictable heritage of a South that, though losing a war, at once conspired to evade the moral indemnity that was its toll.” — Time review article on “THE ERA OF RECONSTRUCTION, 1865-1877″ (Apr. 23, 1965)

  • “One white scholar who did much to quicken interest in Afro-American history was Kenneth M. Stampp. His book The Peculier Institution: Slavery in the Antebellum South, was, in the words of Robert H. Abzug, a “landmark in the rewriting of Afro-American and race relations history.” The Peculier Institution opened new interpretations of the Afro-American past. Stampp assumed a unity among Americans that that transcended the differences dividing them, writes Abzug. After the publication of The Peculier Institution, white scholars in particular began to examine black history in terms of individual experiences. Even Stanley M. Elkins, whose book Slavery: A Problem in American and Institutional and Intellectual Life, which appeared in 1959, adopted an environmental rather than a biogenetic argument to explain the existence of Sambo as a childlike, lazy, dependent slave. Stampp and his students have looked at the effects of slavery and racism on both whites and blacks.” — Robert L. Harris, Jr. in the review article “The Flowering of Afro-American History”
  • “For the vast majority of Berkeley students whose lives Ken Stampp touched, of course, it is as a teacher of American history that he is best remembered. And with good reason: I have never known a teacher whose classroom presentations were more beautifully organized and controlled, more literate and logical, more eloquently understated, and more appealing to the common sense of students. Whether lecturing before hundreds of restless academic novices in cavernous Wheeler Auditorium or to upper-division students in his courses on sectional conflict, or supervising a dozen separate scholarly inquiries in seminar, his “presence” uniformly reflected a deep respect for the discipline of history and a delight in teaching.” — John G. Sproat, Professor Emeritus of History University of South Carolina
  • “In his distinguished studies of the sectional conflict, Kenneth M. Stampp has pushed aside musty curtains and opened sensitive topics to fresh inquiry. He has never deluded himself into believing that his work is “definitive,” for his grasp of the human factors in the historical equation makes it apparent to him that other generations will write histories conditioned by their own perspectives. Yet, his contributions are not likely soon to be set aside and forgotten. For the most enduring quality of his work may well be his capacity to comprehend the essence of a historical situation, then to express it in terms that make it all but self-evident. Nowhere is this quality more apparent than in the closing lines of his classic study of slavery: “One can feel compassion for the antebellum southern white man; one can understand the moral dilemma in which he was trapped. But one must remember that the Negro, not the white man, was the slave, and the Negro gained the most from emancipation. When freedom came– even the quasi-freedom of ‘second-class citizenship’–the Negro, in literal truth, lost nothing but his chains.” It is difficult to conceive of an intellectual climate in America in which that truism could be refuted.” — John G. Sproat, University of South Carolina in “Dictionary of Literary Biography”
  • Basic Facts

    Teaching Positions:
    1940-41: Instructor, University of Wisconsin, Extension Division
    1941-42: Instructor, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
    1942-46: Assistant Professor, University of Maryland, College Park
    1946-83: From Assistant Professor to Morrison Professor, University of California, Berkeley

    Visiting Professor: Harvard (1955), SUNY, Binghamton (1980), Colgate (1981) Williams College (1983)
    Summers: University of Wisconsin, Madison (1945, 1946, 1949, 1952), University of Colorado, Boulder (1958).

    Area of Research:
    Slavery, American Civil War, and Reconstruction

    Education:
    BS, PhM, PhD, University of Wisconsin, Madison (1935, 1937, 1942)

    Major Publications:

  • Indiana Politics During the Civil War, (Indiana Historical Bureau, 1949).
  • And the War Came: The North and the Secession Crisis, 1860-1861, (Louisiana State University Press, 1950, with a new preface by the author, 1970).
  • The Peculiar Institution, (Knopf, 1956).
  • Andrew Johnson and the Failure of the Agrarian Dream: An Inaugural Lecture Delivered before the University of Oxford on 18 May 1962, (Clarendon Press (Oxford, England), 1962).
  • The Era of Reconstruction, 1865-1877, (Knopf, 1965).
  • The Southern Road to Appomattox, (University of Texas at El Paso, 1969).
  • The Imperiled Union: Essays on the Background of the Civil War, (Oxford University Press, 1980).
  • Records of Ante-bellum Southern Plantations from the Revolution through the Civil War, (microform), (University Publications of America (Frederick, MD), 1985-2000).
  • America in 1857: A Nation on the Brink, (Oxford University Press, 1990).
  • The United States and National Self-Determination: Two Traditions, (Gettysburg College, 1991).
  • Contributor of articles to historical journals.

    Editor, Contributor, Joint Author:

  • (Contributor) Problems in American History, (Prentice-Hall, 1952).
  • (Editor) The Causes of the Civil War, (Prentice-Hall, 1959, revised edition, 1974, 3rd revised edition, Simon & Schuster, 1991).
  • (Co-author) The National Experience, (Harcourt, 1963, revised editions, 1968, 1973).
  • (Coeditor with Esmond Wright) The McGraw-Hill Illustrated World History, (McGraw-Hill, 1964).
  • (Editor with Leon F. Litwack) Reconstruction: An Anthology of Revisionist Writings, (Louisiana State University Press, 1969).
  • Awards and Grants:

    Phi Beta Kappa (1935);
    MA, Oxford University, 1961;
    LHD, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, 1981;
    Guggenheim Fellow, 1952-53,1967-68;
    Fulbright Lecturer, Amerika-Institut, University of Munich, 1957, 1968, 1972;
    Commonwealth Fund Lecturer, University of London, 1960;
    Harmsworth Professor of American History, Oxford University, 1961-62;
    President, Organization of American Historians, 1977-78;
    Visiting Fellow, All Souls College, Oxford University, 1979;
    Confederate Memorial Literary Society, Award of Merit, 1980;
    Commonwealth Club, Silver Medals, 1981, 1991;
    Shortlisted for Pulitzer Prize, 1991;
    American Historical Association Award for Scholarly Distinction, 1989;
    Organization of American Historians Distinguished Service Award, 1993;
    Lincoln Prize, Lincoln and Soldiers Institute, Gettysburg College, 1993;
    Telford Taylor Public Service Award, Yeshiva University Law School, 1995;
    Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences;
    Southern Historical Association Certificate of Achievement, 2005.

    Posted on Sunday, November 26, 2006 at 7:01 PM

    History Doyens: Linda Gordon

    What They’re Famous For

    Linda Gordon has specialized in examining the historical roots of contemporary social policy debates, particularly as they concern gender and family issues. Her first book was a documentary history of working women in the US (America’s Working Women, orig. 1976, revised ed. 1995). Linda  Gordon JPG She then turned her attention to the history of birth control; her book on that topic, Woman’s Body, Woman’s Right: The History of Birth Control in America, was a runner-up for the National Book Award in 1976 and was re-issued in an up-to-date revision in 1990. Her 1988 book, Heroes of Their Own Lives: The History and Politics of Family Violence, winner of the Joan Kelly prize of the American Historical Association, examined the history of child abuse, child sexual abuse and wife-beating.

    As a domestic violence expert, she serves on the Departments of Justice/Health and Human Services Advisory Council on Violence Against Women. More recently she turned her attention to the history of welfare. Her Pitied But Not Entitled: Single Mothers and the History of Welfare (1994), winner of the Berkshire Prize and Gustavus Myers Human Rights Award, explains how we ended up with a welfare program detested by recipients and non-recipients alike.

    Her 1999 book, The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction (Harvard University Press) uses a narrative about a 1904 white vigilante action against the Mexican American foster parents of white children to illustrate how family values and racism can interact. It was the winner of the Bancroft prize for best book in American history. A more recent book, Dear Sisters, edited with Ros Baxandall (Basic Books, 2000), offers an historical introduction to the women’s movement of the 1970s through essays and documents.

    Personal Anecdote

    I was lucky enough to be studying history when the ground was shifting beneath the older definitions of the field. The changes began for me with the French social history I read in college at Swarthmore from Paul Beik, and the Russian social history I read in graduate school at Yale from Firuz Kazemzadeh. I did not at the time register that these subjects and the methods of approaching them were new. But although I was already a “social” historian–my dissertation focused largely on runaway serfs–still the idea that historical questions could be framed and researched about women, let alone a new-to-me concept like gender, did not reach me until 1969. And then it arrived not through academic channels but through a social movement.

    In 1969 I was teaching at the University of Massachusetts/Boston where I was hired in the field of my dissertation and PhD, Russian history. But the women’s movement had gripped me, as so many others, and I was a participant in an informal group of scholars who had the idea to examine what historical research might yield on questions of gender. We thought we were pioneers. We thought we were inventing new ideas. But then I went to Harvard’s library and began to browse. To my surprise I found a few superb books–deeply researched, intellectually both analytic and synthetic. One example is Alice Clark’s The Working Life of Women in the Seventeenth Century, published in London in 1919. From this work I learned more than from any other my understanding of gender as a material, not just a cultural, practice.

    The I looked at the library check-out slip pasted to the inside back cover. Clark’s book had not been checked out since the 1930s. I soon found others equally dusty and forgotten.

    I found this ominous. How could such a good book have been so neglected? Linda Gordon JPGHistory-writing was supposed to progress, and to do so by standing on the shoulders of previous scholars, incorporating or challenging their work and moving beyond it. Soon the new women’s-history scholars would learn that the number of female historians and university professors declined between 1920 and 1960. Their work was all but lost for five decades, and entirely lost in the training of new historians in this period.

    I hope my generation of scholars examining gender, and those that followed, through their prodigious publishing and teaching of the past three decades, have made a more lasting impact, but I don’t take anything for granted any more. When I wrote a book on the history of birth control politics, published now 30 years ago, I assumed that reproduction control was an aspect of modernity and women’s emancipation, a practice here to stay. How wrong I was. History must always struggle for independence from the present. And our resistance is needed not only against scholars defending “tradition.” Sometimes we have to contest the interpretations of our allies. I remember being criticized by some activists in the movement against violence against women because they saw my emphasis on the “agency” of domestic violence victims as a form of blaming the victim.

    I was lucky in another regard: there were plenty of jobs when I finished graduate school. I enjoyed the fruits of a public and private welfare state, however modest, that paid for my undergraduate and graduate education (the National Merit Scholarship and National Defense Education Act programs) and supported the universities at which I taught (the universities of Massachusetts and Wisconsin). The economy was strong, taxation was less regressive than it is today, deindustrialization was not yet a largescale phenomenon, and Cold War competition was stimulating education spending. And because there were academic jobs, I could take the risk of changing my field of concentration, from early modern Russian borderlands to 19 th and 20th century US gender, labor, and social policy. I do not need to tell HNN readers how many extremely talented history scholars lack these opportunities today, but it is worth pointing out that we are all the losers for the mistreatment of this talent and dedication.

    Quotes

    By Linda Gordon

  • When the posse arrived at Margarita Chacón’s house, George Frazer, supervisor of the copper smelter, banged on the door with the butt of his Winchester. Neville Leggatt, the only member of the posse who actually knew Margarita, cringed; when she opened the door he kept his hand away from his revolver and he hoped the others would do likewise. The  Great Arizona Orphan Abduction JPGAlthough it was already 11 PM and raining, Leggatt knew exactly where to go because, he said, he knew every Mexican in North Clifton since he was delivery man for the company store, and he didn’t think there would be any trouble from Margarita. She was familiar to most of Clifton: a schoolteacher who taught the Mexican kids in her own home, a devout woman who went to church every day, dressed entirely in black, her face hidden under her black shawl. Her husband Cornelio was a skimmer for the copper smelter, earning top wages for a Mexican. Frazer naturally did the talking for the posse. He said that she was to hand over the orphans the priest had given her. She asked “if I had an order from the padre to take the child; but I said, No … the citizens of the town demand the children back …” These children were 4-year-old Jerome Shanley and 3-year-old Katherine Fitzpatrick, Irish Catholic orphans from New York City; they had been shipped out to Arizona on an orphan train to their new home with Mrs. Chacón as arranged by the padre. Frazer testified (later, at the trial) that she was “very obliging and accommodating” to the four armed men. But that was when he was trying to avoid the impression that the children had been taken by force. It’s true that after they had waited in the wind and rain a while she invited them in, seeing that they were already carrying three kids they had picked up from Francisco Alvidrez and from Lee Windham’s Mexican wife whose name they didn’t know. But Leggatt didn’t find Margarita so obliging, and pointed out that she took 45 minutes to confer with her family and dress the two orphans before handing them over. In fact he said she was the only one who did not want to give up the children–as he also said that she was the only one who could speak English, without seeing any connection between his two statements. Afterwards they went to the home of José Bonillas so by the time they made their way back to the hotel the four of them were carrying and pulling along six kids through the rain. — Linda Gordon in “The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction,” 1999
  • “Historians could help us understand how Americans oppose Americanism to anti- Americanism, patriotism to dissent, loyalty to criticism. We need to scrutinize how high, middle and low-brow culture have all participated in constructing these oppositions and, perhaps, what cultural forms have tended to disrupt the polarities. Disrupting them has to be one of our major goals as Americans and historians.” -– Linda Gordon in a presentation at a panel discussion about 9/11 and anti-Americanism, NYU, spring 2003
  • I want to ask you to celebrate with me the construction of a crime. I realize that this request may seem perverse but it is a way to introduce an historical approach to the problem of family violence. The fact that child abuse, domestic violence, and rape are now crimes–no matter what the relationship between perpetrator and victim–represents a major victory for women, men, and children, for humanity and for democracy. 150 years ago, beating children harshly was not only commonplace but often praised; beating wives was widely considered a standard, inevitable and minor foible, like rape the subject of snickers among men and resignation among women. Today the criminalization of these practices should be seen as an achievement of the magnitude of compulsory education or woman suffrage.It is not always easy to recognize progress when we see it, because it is human to look forward, focusing on the distance yet to go, rather than backwards. But if we don’t see what we have accomplished we cannot accurately gauge the remaining tasks and, worse, we may lose confidence in the possibility of change.

    Once we recognize change, we must also understand how it took place, who brought it about, or we may slip into thinking that it just happened, forgetting the people who made it happen, ignoring the many failures they experienced along with their victories, and, worst of all, misunderstanding how hard we need to work for change today. Delegitimating the once common parental prerogative to batter children and the patriarchal privilege to assault women did not just “happen” as an inevitable part of progress. It took protracted political struggle to criminalize such abuse. I would like to explain this process and to give these activists their due, to recognize the bravery, ingenuity, and perseverance not only of reformers but also of women and children often seen only as victims. — Linda Gordon in a Speech, “The History and Politics of Family Violence,” Louisville, March 8, 2000

  • To speak of “big government” as a unifying factor is to depoliticize Progressivism, just as that slogan today functions to shut down debate about what government should do. The slogan avoids the question on which Progressives were most divided: how democratic should government be? Some advocated democratizing reforms, such as woman suffrage, while others fought for antidemocratic reforms such as disfranchisement of the poor and people of color. When I was in high school in Portland, Oregon, studying civics, as we used to call it, my lessons included prominently the initiative and the referendum (because Oregon was the first state to adopt these quintessentially Progressive measures) and an annual field trip to Bonneville Dam where we saw the giant generators producing our cheap public electricity–and these were represented to us in Oregon as the highest achievements of democracy. But we did not learn about the widespread adoption of voter registration and other methods aimed at disfranchisement of the poor, African Americans and other people of color. In other words, we were taught a highly selective story of the development of government.The nature of a state cannot be measured linearly, from small to large. A more accurate generalization about Progressives points to their conviction that government should rely Linda Gordon  JPG on expertise. Expertise, I suppose, is what you get when you combine higher education with the notion of impartiality–that is, the idea of rising above politics. The symbol and the most influential application of this faith in expertise was the development of the modern social survey, notably by WEB Du Bois and Florence Kelley. Whether they were studying poverty, fertilizer, or prostitution, what was distinctively Progressive in this vision of expertise was the idea that the data thus collected and presented should form the basis of public policy–in fact, that expertise could resolve seemingly unresolvable political stalemates. Not only convinced that the social sciences could exclude bias, Progressives also thought that experts were more honest and less corruptible than politicians. Experts were to extend their responsibility not only to making recommendations and writing legislation and judicial decisions, but then to agitating for these policies. One mark of their success is the way that Congressional investigations and reports of Congressional Committees or special Commissions have become a standard part of our political process. Historians, of course, were much less able to show the necessity of their expertise to government, but they nevertheless absorbed the notion of expert impartiality into their scholarship.

    Some of the increasing reliance on expertise derived from the goal of securing the public welfare. The practice recognized that industrial and technological development left consumers and workers defenseless without expert protection. How could the buyer know if the milk was adulterated when she was no longer in direct contact with the dairy farmer? How could the copper miner know that the hard-rock dust was giving him silicosis? And if they suspected these dangers, as many lay people did, how could they get their concerns onto the political agenda? By their very professional self-aggrandizement, experts not only built careers for themselves but made themselves political players who could generate legislation and legal decisions. Public health experts, armed with germ theory, proved that typhoid and diphtheria could not be confined to the slums and used this proof to agitate for public sewers and water treatment. It took engineering expertise to make sure that those who worked in the new taller buildings could be protected from fire and structural collapse, or that those who walked the sidewalks outside could still feel some sun and air. We all benefit from the work of scientists demonstrating the link between tobacco and cancer. We all benefit from the work of social and biological scientists who have demonstrated that empowering women works better than population control programs to lower birth rates, that condoms can prevent HIV transmission.

    But the meanings and consequences of the use of expertise in government are themselves conflicting. Many Progressives–including both those we might today call liberal and those we might call conservative– tended to view both the working class and the corporate owning class as corrupt, and as a solution sought to empower middle-class experts as super-citizens whose recommendations would supersede those of ordinary citizens. Many attempted to combat the corruption of partisan politics by moving large sectors of government outside the political arena, for example through hiring town managers rather than electing mayors. But not all Americans were equally able to become qualified as experts or to get experts to listen. In class, race and gender terms, Progressive expertise contributed not only to growing inequality but also to the decline of participatory politics even among white men.

    Further complicating the story, it is not always easy to distinguish “good” from “bad” expertise. “Americanization” agents taught immigrant women to get their newborns immediately onto regular feeding schedules, never to feed them on demand; just as they also taught that babies shouldn’t be fed spoiled cows’ milk. Progressives did not always seek out ways to integrate expertise into democracy, and in fact many called on expertise to delegitimate democratic decision-making. The Progressive faith in supposedly nonpartisan professionals was often paired with deep-seated distrust of the uneducated, hard-drinking, allegedly easily corruptible immigrant or black or Mexican worker. But of course the uneducated are by no means always ignorant. In fact, miners did know that the hard-rock dust was making them ill, while the experts were still insisting that the disease was TB caused by the miners’ own unhygienic living conditions; but the miners could not get their knowledge respected until the expert Alice Hamilton actually went down into the mines to sample the dust.

    Yet at the same time Progressivism was characterized by extremely high levels of grassroots activism…. — Linda Gordon, “Progressive Expertise: an Oxymoron?”, for conference of the Association for the Study of Law, Culture and the Humanities, March 2002, published as “If the Progressives were Advising Us Today, Should We Listen?” Journal of Gilded Age and Progressive Era, April 2002.

  • Charles Payne writes in his magisterial study I’ve Got the Light of Freedom, “I once heard a journalist who had covered the movement remark that two decades after its height the civil rights movement had inspired no great works of art–no great novels or films, no great plays. He rather missed the point. The movement was its own work of art …”1 Payne is saying that a social movement is not just an emanation of beauty, or of justice, or of rage, but a product of art, even artifice–that is, of craft, skill, strategy, hard work and discipline. Social movement leaders are often master artists –note that we have no feminine word for mastery in that sense. In becoming social-movement leaders women face some of the same obstacles they face in becoming artists. As artists tend to be deprived of honor in our society, save for those few whose works become luxury commodities, so have social-change leaders. And in some ways, the more effective the leader, the less the recognition, because it may well be that the most effective leaders teach and lead in such a way as to promote others rather than themselves.Payne also wrote of the civil-rights organizers he studied, “courage is the least of their gifts.” Knowing their extraordinary perseverance in the face of power water hoses, aggressive dogs, police beatings, southern jails and marauding, sadistic killers, I found this an odd thing to say. Payne’s comment is the essence of the book’s argument, however: its insistence that social movements and their leaders are not “natural” eruptions of discontent, not expressions of an instinctive human drive for freedom and dignity, but rather complex intellectual projects, great political achievements.

    Charles Payne’s book reminds us that historians are underdeveloped in analyzing social movements and social-movement leadership. Sociologists have made a field of social movements and developed a large body of work analyzing, categorizing, defining them. By neglecting this project, historians have been derelict in a public duty. Although university tenure committees do not always agree, historians have a responsibility to the citizens of their countries, even of the world. Historians produce our collective memory. We are of course just as fallible and subjective as memory but no one else is going to do it better. Preserving, interpreting and communicating our legacy of movements for social change is vital to us all–even more vital to the younger among us. It is important because, first, we must honor those to whom we are indebted for the dignity and decencies we enjoy, even when we think we have far to go. Second, because failure to acknowledge these debts is a suppression of history and therefore of what we can learn from it. Third, failing to understand how we got to our present will certainly prevent us from understanding the present fully enough to change it. About a decade ago a Polish Solidarity activist friend visiting in the US heard a teenager say, dismissively, “Oh that’s history, mother.” When he learned the meaning of the slang, our friend was shocked because he knew that to Poles “that’s history” would mean “that is of the utmost importance.” This slang use of “history” is not a mere accident: American culture, of course, promotes this ahistorical perspective. — Linda Gordon, Social Movements, Leadership and Democracy: Toward More Utopian Mistakes,” keynote lecture, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, 2000, Monday, May 22, 1933, Washington, DC

  • “Harry Hopkins sits at his desk in the middle of a hallway in the Federal Security Building. The day is May 22, 1933. Heating pipes are banging, paint is peeling, footsteps are echoing on the uncarpeted floors. The building smells of antiseptic soap, mildew, and stale tobacco. Feet on the old scratched-up desk, his cigarette ash beginning to accumulate on the floor beneath him, Hopkins is writing a steady stream of telegrams and handing them to messengers to run to the Western Union office. He is giving away money….In his first two hours on the job May 22, he spent $5.3 million ($65 million in 2001 dollars). By the time he left work that night, he had hired a staff, instructed 48 governors what they needed to do to get emergency relief, and sent out relief checks to Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, and Texas. The Washington Post headlined “MONEY FLIES.”

    Hopkins ignored accusations of hurried, slapdash decision-making. “People don’t eat in the long run,” Hopkins snapped to critics, “they eat every day.”…

    The press, unaccustomed to such governmental activism, immediately began to badger Hopkins, searching for corruption and/or boondoggling. Hopkins snarled back, “I’m not going to last six months here, so I’ll do as I please.” In fact Hopkins’ own operation was run on the smallest possible budget. At year’s end, when a billion-and-a-half dollars had been distributed to 17 million people, the FERA’s 121-person payroll was still just $22,000 a month….

    Despite the best efforts of Hopkins and his staff, race and sex prejudice permeated the distribution of FERA aid. Direct grants went disproportionately to southern and western states, because they were poorer but also because they were more tight- fisted than midwestern and northeastern states when it came to helping the poor. Some, like Virginia, never contributed a single dollar to relief programs. These state administrations regularly excluded or short-changed people of color, principally African Americans, Mexican Americans, American Indians, Asian Americans. Everywhere relief discriminated against women. Everywhere politicians, Democrats as much as Republicans, used the money to enhance their own political power through patronage.*** So the FERA “feds,” led by the squeaky clean Hopkins, were continually clashing with the state relief administrations, sometimes winning, often losing.

    At the same time the FERA battled a conservative social work establishment convinced that the poor needed moral supervision and surveillance lest welfare encourage them in laziness and dependence. This establishment included the major private charities, child-saving agencies, religious aid groups, as well as many state and local governmental agencies administering public assistance. By contrast Hopkins’ logic, and that of the group of administrators he was rapidly recruiting, was that the moral character of its recipients was no more suspect than that of the rich or of those lucky enough to be in work. FERA policy was to distribute aid without humiliating and infantilizing surveillance. Why was it FERA’s business if an aid recipient had a boyfriend or drank beer in a saloon? — Linda Gordon in “Harry Hopkins Brings Relief,” in “Days of Destiny,” ed. McPherson and Brinkley (NY: Agincourt Press for the Society of American Historians, 2001).

  • I want to argue that the idea/slogan “difference,” and its policy-talk analog, “diversity,” are serving as inert placemarkers which reduce rather than enlarge analytic power to take in the complexity and trajectory of our world — not the first time that an advance at one historical moment has become limiting at another. This little essay is not intended as another attack on identity politics. I see no reason to regret anything about the elaboration of multiple and even contradictory social oppressions and identities. But I fear that difference- and diversity-talk are acting as substitutes for more specific and critical concepts such as privilege, contradiction, conflict of interest, even oppression and subordination, as well as obscuring bases for potential cooperation.The difference talk I examine here developed in two streams within feminism: Difference I, gender difference, and Difference II, differences (racial/ethnic/religious/class/sexual) among women, the latter also called diversity. They are opposite meanings in some ways: the more we emphasize differences between men and women, the more we implicitly erase differences among women and among men. Yet the very strength of the first contributed to the development of second….

    Worse, in both Difference I and Difference II the new multicultural feminism sometimes falls into an uncritical discourse of pluralism, a celebration of diversity. Political pluralism as a concept developed as a way of distinguishing democracy from totalitarianism; the argument was that interest groups and other civic associations were important to check state power. After World War II pluralism became an often smug legitimation of American anticommunism and as a result evoked scathing critique. Theorists such as Herbert Marcuse and C. Wright Mills exposed the ideological functions of the concept: masking power through the fiction of formal equality where there was no substantive equality. There’s nothing wrong, of course, with an appreciation of multiple identities and civic associations, but we need to be wary of pluralist fictions about conflict among interest groups who begin from theoretically equal positions on a theoretically level playing field. Feminists should be the last to be taken in by the notion that scholarship, like society, is an open competitive field, a “free marketplace” of ideas. — Linda Gordon in “On Difference,” Genders, Spring 1991, and “The Trouble with Difference,” Dissent, spring 1999

    About Linda Gordon

  • The Moral Property of Women: A History of Birth Control Politics in  America JPG“Gordon’s effort to situate birth control in the material history of women’s lives gives her history its analytical edge. In the end, Linda Gordon’s revised history of birth control reminds us that women’s bodies remain battlefields crossed by the ideological and property relations of the societies in which we live.” — Rosemary Hennessy, Science & Society reviewing “The Moral Property of Women: A History of Birth Control Politics in America”
  • In this revised and updated version of a comprehensive history first compiled twenty-six years ago, the author traces birth control and the often controversial politics swirling around it during the past 200 years. The title comes from a phrase that the author heard used by the French prime minister of health nearly fifteen years ago, when he ruled that RU-486, also known as the abortion drug, could be placed on the market there. He called it “the moral property of women.” (Gordon’s 1976 version was titled Woman’s Body, Woman’s Right.)Gordon begins with a prehistory of birth control-describing how Jewish women on the Lower East Side of New York City one hundred years ago tried to abort themselves by sitting over a pot of steam from stewed onions-and moves on through Victorian prudery and its reaction, the 1870s voluntary motherhood ideology, which had its roots in the early women?s rights movement. It?s sometimes difficult to follow the players-suffragists, moral reformers, free-love members, eugenists, socialists, sex radicals, the medical community-without a scorecard, but Gordon does a good job of pulling up blood-and-flesh examples of each. Ezra Heywood, for example, a free-love patriarch, endorsed male continence, a form of abstinence.

    The social history moves chronologically; a large section is devoted to Margaret Sanger and the background of what was to become Planned Parenthood. Gordon, a professor of history at New York University, and author of The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction, which received the Bancroft Prize in 1989, has extensively researched her subject, so she is often able to throw out hard-to-believe information; for example, during the Depression, one enthusiastic soul proposed by law to limit families to two children. — ForeWord Magazine reviewing “The Moral Property of Women: A History of Birth Control Politics in America”

  • “Gordon’s book shows how cultural attitudes … and governmental policies can inflame ‘human foibles.’ As such, her … [book] is excellent cautionary reading for policymakers entrusted with making the American home safe.” — Laura Elliot in the Washington Monthly reviewing “Heroes of Their Own Lives: The Politics and History of Family Violence, Boston, 1880-1960″
  • In this unflinching history of family violence, the historian Linda Gordon traces policies on child abuse and neglect, wife-beating, and incest from 1880 to 1960. Drawing on hundreds of case records from social agencies devoted to dealing with the problem,  Gordon chronicles the changing visibility of family violence as gender, family, and political ideologies shifted.From the “discovery” of family violence in the 1870s–when it was first identified as a social, rather than a personal, problem–to the women’s and civil rights movements of the twentieth century, Heroes of Their Own Lives illustrates how public perceptions of marriage, poverty, alcoholism, mental illness, and responsibility worked for and against the victims of family violence.

    Powerful, moving, and tightly argued, Heroes of Their Own Lives shows family violence to be an indicator of larger social problems. Examining its sources as well as its treatment, Gordon offers both an honest understanding of the problem and an unromantic view of the difficulties in stopping it. Originally published in 1988, when it received the Berkshire Prize and the Gustavus Myers Award, Heroes of Their Own Lives remains the most extensive and important history of family violence in America. –

  • “The study contributes to two debates: first, about the nature, mode and timing of the US welfare state; and second, about the utility of neo-institutionalist as opposed to society-centered perspectives to explain its origins. This study, which happily does not try to universalize American experience, provides an excellent basis for comparisons with policy and retrenchment strategies in other welfare states.” — Heather Jon Maroney in Journal of Comparative Family Studies reviewing “Pitied but Not Entitled: Single Mothers and the Origins of Welfare”
  • Particularly timely and instructive…thoroughly documented, balanced and often absorbing…Perhaps it will help us to take another look at the current thinking about both the needs and the rights of the poor before harsh, punitive policies critically injure children and their families for generations to come. — Ruth Sidel, Nation reviewing “Pitied but Not Entitled: Single Mothers and the Origins of Welfare”
  • In her gripping book, The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction, Linda Gordon has written a model study of the creation and maintenance of race relations that manages to capture both the breathless sensationalism of the era’s tabloids and the complexity of social status, shifting racial codes and the multiple uses of sex roles in social action… Gordon divides her story into six scenes, most of them devoted to some portion of the four days when the orphans’ arrival engulfed Clifton-Morenci in a near riot followed by a mass kidnapping. Spliced between each scene is the history–long-term and proximate– of the towns’ sociocultural landscape. It is an ingenious narrative device that enables her to reconstitute the distinct social structures of the area while rendering a taut journalistic account of the unfolding drama…The magnificence of her achievement [is] her masterly assembly of historical detail and acute sensitivity to the intricacies of human relations as mediated by power, prejudice and the passing of time. — Stephen Lassonde, New York Times Book Review reviewing “The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction”
  • If Gordon’s book did nothing more than redeem from obscurity the story of the Arizona orphans, it would be an extraordinary contribution to social history. But Gordon has gone beyond that scanty written record, mainly from the court proceedings, to explore the motives of the Mexican and Anglo women…Gordon’s achievement is that she so effectively and fair-mindedly delved into the site and unearthed this appalling and poignant story. — Michael Kenney, Boston Globe reviewing “The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction”
  • “Remarkably revealing window on past American attitudes towards religious prejudice, ethnic and racial identity, competing notions of the family, class conflict and ideologies of childhood.” — William Cronon reviewing “The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction”
  • Linda Gordon’s The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction is a spellbinding narrative history–the kind of rigorous but engaging work that other academics dream of writing. Gordon here unearths a long forgotten story about abandoned Irish-Catholic children in turn-of-the-century New York who were sent out to Arizona to be adopted by good Catholic families. The hitch was that those families turned out to be dark-skinned Mexicans. What ensued was a custody battle that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The astonishing story Gordon has recovered considers vexed intellectual questions about race, class and gender in a dramatic, accessible fashion. — Maureen Corrigan, Newsday reviewing “The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction”
  • Gordon demonstrates the continuing vitality of the issues social historians have brought to the table – class, race, gender, family – in the context of a new commitment to a synthesizing narrative…Gordon’s invocations of the many issues that have concerned social historians deeply enhances her examination of a particular time and place in this richly re-imagined history…Gordon has gone to such pains to guard the integrity of her historical subjects and to invest then with genuine depth and individuality. — Paula S. Fass, American Historical Review reviewing “The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction”
  • When America’s War Relocation Authority hired Dorothea Lange to photograph the internment of Japanese-Americans in 1942, they put a few restrictions on her work. Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese  American Internment  JPGBarbed wire, watchtowers and armed soldiers were off limits, they declared. And no pictures of resistance, either. They wanted the roundup and sequestering of Japanese- Americans documented—but not too well. Working within these limits, Lange, who is best known for her photographs of migrant farmers during the Depression, nonetheless produced images whose content so opposed the federal objective of demonizing Japanese-Americans that the vast majority of the photographs were suppressed throughout WWII (97% of them have never been published at all). Editors Gordon and Okihiro set this first collection of Lange’s internment work within technical, cultural and historical contexts. Gordon (The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction) discusses Lange’s professional methods and the formation of her “democratic-populist” beliefs. Okihiro (Whispered Silences: Japanese Americans and World War II) traces the history of prejudice against Japanese Americans, with emphasis on internees’ firsthand accounts. But the bulk of the book is given over to Lange’s photographs. Several of these are as powerful as her most stirring work, and the final image—of a grandfather in the desolate Manzanar Center looking down in anguish at the grandson between his knees—is worth the price of the book alone. — Publishers Weekly reviewing “Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment”
  • Basic Facts

    Teaching Positions:
    University of Massachusetts, Boston, instructor, 1968-69, assistant professor, 1970-75, associate professor, 1975-81, professor of history, 1981-84;
    Linda  Gordon JPG University of Wisconsin, Madison, professor of history, 1984-90, Florence Kelley Professor of History, 1990-2000, Vilas Distinguished Research Professor, 1993-2000;
    New York University, New York, NY, professor of history, 2000–.

    Scholar in residence, Stanford University, summer, 1979, Dickinson College, summer, 1987;
    Bunting Institute fellow, Radcliffe College, 1983-84;
    visiting professor, University of Amsterdam, 1984;
    Bird Memorial Lecturer, University of Maine, 1986;
    invited residency, Bellagio Center, Italy, 1992;
    Swarthmore College, Eugene Lang Visiting Professor, 2001;
    Princeton University, Lawrence Stone Visiting Professor, 2004.

    Area of Research:
    Twentieth-century U.S. social, political, and social policy history; women and gender; family; U.S. Southwest.

    Education:
    Swarthmore College, B.A. (magna cum laude), 1961;
    Yale University, M.A., 1963, Ph.D. (with distinction), 1970.

    Major Publications:

  • Woman’s Body, Woman’s Right: A Social History of Birth Control in America, (Viking, 1976), updated and revised edition published as The Moral Property of Women: A History of Birth Control Politics in America, (University of Illinois Press, 2002).
  • Cossack Rebellions: Social Turmoil in the Sixteenth-Century Ukraine, (State University of New York Press, 1982).
  • Heroes of Their Own Lives: The Politics and History of Family Violence, Boston, 1880-1960, (Viking, 1988).
  • Pitied but Not Entitled: Single Mothers and the Origins of Welfare, (Free Press, 1994).
  • The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction, (Harvard University Press, 1999).
  • Editor, Contributor, Joint Author:

  • (Editor, with Rosalyn Baxandall and Susan Reverby) America’s Working Women: A Documentary History, (Random House, 1976, 2nd revised edition, 1995).
  • (Editor) Maternity: Letters from Working Women ((originally published in London, England, 1915), Norton, 1979).
  • (Editor) Women, the State, and Welfare, (University of Wisconsin Press, 1990).
  • (Author of introduction) Taking Child Abuse Seriously, (Unwin Hyman, 1990).
  • (Editor, with Rosalyn Baxandall) Dear Sisters: Dispatches from the Women’s Liberation Movement, (Basic Books, 2000).
  • (Editor, with Gary Y. Okihiro) Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment, (Norton, 2006).
  • Awards and Grants:

    National Book Award in History nomination, 1976, for Woman’s Body, Woman’s Right: A Social History of Birth Control in America, and 1988, for Heroes of Their Own Lives: The Politics and History of Family Violence, Boston, 1880- 1960;
    National Institute of Mental Health grant, 1979-82;
    National Endowment for Humanities fellow, 1979; American Council of Learned Societies travel grant, 1980;
    Outstanding Achievement Award, University of Massachusetts, 1982-83;
    Antonovych Prize, 1983, for Cossack Rebellions: Social Turmoil in the Sixteenth- Century Ukraine; Guggenheim fellowship, 1983-84, 1987;
    American Council of Learned Societies/ Ford Foundation fellowship, 1985;
    University of Wisconsin graduate school research awards, 1985-95;
    Joan Kelley Prize for best book in women’s history or theory of the American Historical Association; Wisconsin Library Association Award, 1988, for Heroes of Their Own Lives: The Politics and History of Family Violence, Boston, 1880-1960;
    American Philosophical Society Research Award, 1988-89;
    Chicago Women in Publishing award, 1990, for Women, the State, and Welfare;
    Berkshire Prize for best book in women’s history, and Gustavus Myers Award, both 1995, both for Pitied but Not Entitled: Single Mothers and the Origins of Welfare;
    Bancroft and Beveridge Prize, 1999, and Banta Award, Wisconsin Library Association, 2000, both for The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction.

    Additional Info:

    Gordon has given numerous academic lectures, presented papers, and participated in conferences and annual meetings throughout the world; manuscript and proposal referee for many national organizations and presses, including National Endowment for the Humanities, Temple University Press, Columbia University Press, University of California Press, Northeastern University Press, University of Illinois Press, Oxford University Press, American Council of Learned Societies, National Humanities Center, Woodrow Wilson Center, Harvard University Press, Yale University Press, Princeton University Press, university presses of California, Cambridge, Chicago, Columbia, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Northeastern, Ohio, Oxford, Temple, Canadian Social Science Research Council, and U.K. Social Science Research Council.

    Lecturer at numerous universities and colleges. Consultant/adviser to numerous local, civic, academic, media, and government organizations.

    Gordon has contributed to many anthologies and encyclopedias, including Encyclopedia of the American Left, Encyclopedia of American Women’s History, and Encyclopedia of American History. Contributor of articles and reviews to numerous periodicals and newspapers, including New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Dissent, Chronicle of Higher Education, Against the Current, and Nation. Member of editorial board, American Historical Review, 1990-93, Contemporary Sociology, 1994–, Journal of American History and Journal of Policy History, both 1994-97, and of Signs, Feminist Studies, Journal of Women’s History, Contention, and Gender and History; referee for many scholarly journals.

    Gordon has also worked as a consultant and historian for television production and videotape productions, including Spare the Rod: the Politics of Child Abuse, Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), 1988; War on Poverty, 1994-95, PBS; The Roots of Roe, Connecticut Public Television, 1994; The Troubled American Family, 1996; Family in Crisis, 1996; Children of the Great Depression, American History Project; Barbie!, KCTS-TV; History of Birth Control, Perini Productions; A Century of Woman, Paramount Studios; History Matters Web site; and Encyclopaedia Britannica Web site on women’s history, 1998. Also guest on numerous television and radio programs, including those on PBS and National Public Radio (NPR).

    Posted on Sunday, November 12, 2006 at 6:24 PM

    History Doyens: Anne Firor Scott

    What They’re Famous For

    Anne Firor Scott, a pioneer historian of American women, is W. K. Boyd Professor Emerita of History at Duke University. Scott joined Duke’s history department in 1961 on a visiting appointment. Nineteen years later she was named William K. Boyd Professor of History and appointed chair of the department. Professot Scott holds the distinction of being the first woman to chair the Duke history department, yet she also stands as the first professor at Duke to include women’s scholarship in her teaching and research. She was educated in her home state at the University of Georgia, as well as at Northwestern University and Radcliffe College. In addition to her tenure at Duke, she has taught at Haverford College and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Anne  Firor Scott JPG Anne Scott is author of The Southern Lady (1970, 1995), One Half the People (with husband Andrew M. Scott), Making the Invisible Woman Visible (1984), Natural Allies: Women’s Associations in American History (1992), Unheard Voices: The First Historians of Southern Women (1993), and most recently, Pauli Murray and Caroline Ware: Forty Years of Letters in Black and White (2006).

    In 1970 her book The Southern Lady: From Pedestal to Politics, 1830-1930 virtually established the modern study of southern women’s history, and it has never gone out of print. Southern Lady: From Pedestal to Politics, 1820-1920, was one of the first studies in what come to be called “the new women’s history,” and the first to be based on close study of women’s personal documents.

    Since then, Anne Scott has taught at Duke and all over the world, inspiring legions of younger followers to insist on the importance of women in southern history. To honor her eightieth birthday, the Schlesinger Library for the History of Women in America held a symposium in 2001 in which a number of scholars paid tribute and Scott reflected on the highlights of her career. In 1987, a group of her former students and colleagues established the Anne Firor Scott Research Fund, an andowment to help support students conducting independent research in women’s history. In the spring of 1989, the Women’s Sudies living group elected to name the domoitory in honor of Professor Scott. In the scholarship fund and the dormitory dedication Anne Scott’s students, friends, and colleagues honored the first professor at Duke to introduce scholarship into the curriculum.

    She has edited several volumes and has published essays, introductions, lectures, and book reviews dealing with the history of American women. She was president of the Organization of American Historians in 1984 and of the Southern Historical Association in 1989. She is an editor of the American Women’s History Series at the University of Illinois Press and has long been an editor for UPA. Scott received the OAH Distinguished Service Award in 2002. She also has served on President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Advisory Council on the Status of Women.

    Personal Anecdote

    Contingency is everything. Being born in 1921, just when women got the right to vote, meant that I grew up in a different world than that of my forbears. As the first born I got the full attention of education minded parents; by the time three brothers came along I had consolidated my position, and assumed the role of all-knowing Big Sister. . Nobody told me, and I didn’t pick up from the environment, the idea that my chances in life would be limited by gender. It did not occur to me to play dumb or the benefit of the males in my class. Of course in high school I got a reputation as a nerd and longed to be popular. No luck There was nothing to do but make good grades.

    College was different. Aspiring to become a foreign correspondent, I joined the mainly male staff of the school newspaper. Some of them invited me to dances and didn’t seem to notice that I was a good student.. I had left my miserable high school years behind me.

    I was 18 when Germany invaded Poland and for the next few years opportunities for women were everywhere. Graduate fellowships, internships in Washington, multiple job offers—it was a heady time to be female. Much as I felt guilty about my friends who were overseas, that didn’t stop me from having a wonderful war. My job on the staff of the National League of Women Voters educated me more than anything up to that time had done. When things closed down after 1945 the genie was out of the bottle. I was not prepared to adopt the feminine mystic or to retire to suburbia. When a young man said “Come marry me and go to Harvard, I took him up on both parts of the invitation. The program in American civilization allowed me to sign up for courses in both history and government and, since there was only one woman on the Harvard faculty, I studied with famous men: Samuel Eliot Morison, Perry Miller, Benjamin Wright Louis Hartz, Oscar Handlin. Only Wright and Handlin paid any serious attention to me but that attention was of the utmost importance. I learned a great deal from Morison, though he hardly recognized my existence, and, studying with Miller I learned to stand up for myself in the face of sometimes bitter sarcasm. Hartz, a convinced Marxist was friendly and a useful gadfly.

    My dissertation began as a study of the progressive era in the South, which in Cambridge was usually viewed as an oxymoron. But Handlin knew better, and encouraged the research. Though I must admit that his theory of mentoring was “sink or swim” pride determined that I would swim. In the end I focused on the southern progressives in Congress of whom there were a good number. Since I tended to have a baby every chapter it was a long process.

    Anne Firor  Scott JPGThe real significance of the dissertation, was that I discovered that the most interesting southern progressives were women. From that insight, in a very long “due course,” grew The Southern Lady, , product of my considerable curiosity about these women of whom hardly anybody seemed to have heard.. There was no model for such a book, and I was often discouraged. My husband, a systematic thinker (which I am not) kept me at it until, finally, in 1970 it emerged in print. I had no notion that the result would be seen as a new way of studying the past, and as inaugurating a major historiographical shift.

    By the time the book came out I had been teaching for a decade. Women were still comparatively rare in history departments in 1957, but the (then) all-male Haverford College took me on for a year; after which we moved to North Carolina and I found a part time job in the UNC History Department. I loved teaching -again in an all-male department. Then we went off to Italy on a Fulbright. -a year worth ten ordinary ones for developing perspective—and in the spring I was astounded by a letter from the chairman of history at Duke inquiring if I could come to teach “until we can find somebody.” Overlooking the implication, I agreed, and came home to begin what turned into a forty year stint in that department.

    By the 1970s women were suddenly “in” both as historical subjects and as potential colleagues. By this accident of timing I had chances to visit or lecture at many institutions here and abroad, an experience which has led me to reflect a great deal about the way we educate people, or think we do. I hope somehow to find the time to put these thoughts in coherent prose before I die.

    The surprising thing—in retrospect—is how one things leads to another , how the resume grows. . . and suddenly, or so it seems, one is a senior person, called on for advice, for mentoring, to preside over this and that learned society, to sit on boards and give advice.

    All this surprised me. Looking back, next to creating a family which is now into the third generation, the most satisfactory part of it all has been teaching -students, adults, grandchildren. Many of the people I have taught are now teachers themselves, and when they come to see me, one and all, what they remember if not so much the substance of what we studied together, but the pedagogy I had learned from my father, who, late in his life, said : “It is said that I am a good teacher, and I do not wish to deny it. But insofar as that is true it is because I never knew the answers, and my students and I have sought them together.” My books will be revised, and eventually remanded to some remote storage in the Library, but I hope my students will have students who have students. . .until global warming finishes us all off.

    Quotes

    By Anne Firor Scott

  • “The eighteenth century, to borrow Bernard Bailyn’s phrase, was not incidentally but essentially different from the present, and many of the elements of that essential difference can be most clearly seen in the lives of women. Colonial history has so long been written in terms of high achievement, of political theory, of Founding Fathers, of economic development, of David-and-Goliath conflict that it is easy to forget how small a part such things played in most individual lives. Seen from the standpoint of ordinary people, the essential theme of the the eighteenth-century experience was not so much achievement as the fragility and chanciness of life. Death was an omnipresent reality. Three children in one family die on a single day from epidemic disease; fathers are lost at sea; adolescents mysteriously waste away; mothers die in childbirth; Making the  Invisible Woman Visible JPGyet life goes on to a constant underlying murmur of “God’s sacred will be done.” In these circumstances, how is the meaning of life perceived? What social structures do people build to sustain the spirit? What, in this context, become the central values? What is the texture of daily life?The life histories of three colonial women give some clues. . .[There follow studies of women from three parts of the early colonies-become-states: Jane Mecom of Boston, Elizabeth Drinker of Philadelphia, and Eliza Lucas Pinckney of Charleston.]

    [The essay concludes] . . . I have tried to learn from the records left by these three women what it was like to be an eighteenth century person. They take us to the heart of daily life: to scenes of childbearing and nerve-racking struggle to keep babies alive, to scenes of mysterious illness and sudden death, of wartime stringencies and dislocations, to the struggle to “git a living” or -at another level—to get rich. Through their eyes we see the chanciness of life, and begin to understand the central role of kinship in providing such security as was possible in a world so filled with uncertainty…” — Anne Firor Scott in “Self-Portraits: Three Women” first published in Uprooted Americans: Essays to Honor Oscar Handlin (Boston: Little Brown,1979 pp 43-76.) (The original book is out of print but the essay can be found in Anne F. Scott, “Making the Invisible Woman Visible” (Champaign, 1984) which is in print)

  • The whole thing began almost by accident. Duke University has consolidated all reunions into onelarge gathering in April, and people all over campus organize events, which they hope will lurealumni to their particular domains. In April 2000 the Women’s Studies Program announced that a handful of faculty, of whom I was one, would be on hand to greet former students. Eight of my former students attended, and lingered long after the appointed hour. They spoke so enthusiastically about this chance to bring me up to date on their doings that in 2001 I let the Alumni Office know that I would be in a certain room on Saturday afternoon of the reunion for a conversation with former students. A single sentence in the fat program included this information. That time forty-nine people showed up. This caught the attention of the organizers who asked me to do it again in 2002 and offered an elegant venue—the Rare Book Room in the Library—and prime time. I thought it might be a good idea to provide a topic for the discussion and came up with “How has the study of history affected your later life?”

    Anne Firor Scott  JPGThe response was overwhelming—ninety people attended. The group varied markedly in age, ranging from a member of the class of 1937 to a couple of students who graduated in 1992. Husbands and wives came—some even bringing their teenage children—and all sorts of careers were represented including doctors, lawyers, social workers, teachers, and volunteer leaders. Only a few professional historians attended.

    The discussion was a bit like the best class one had ever taught: everyone wanted to talk about an amazing variety of things. They wanted to report on the books that they had read, ask for other people’s views, and make speeches. Some even wanted to argue.

    But when it came to the announced question, there were surprises. I don’t quite know now what I expected. I suppose without too much reflection I had assumed that somehow the study of history would tend to make people wiser, more reflective, less dogmatic than their contemporaries who had little knowledge of the past. At the end of the discussion I realized that no generalization is justified.

    All the participants seemed to think that their historical studies had been and still were important to their lives—exactly how these studies were important, however, was not so clear. The libertarian, for example, insisted that studying history would show anybody that the American people had been hoodwinked into accepting the sixteenth amendment. (Murmur around the room: “What was the sixteenth amendment?”) Others had equally firm convictions—not necessarily related to what they had been taught— about the significance of the past. Many people testified to an ongoing desire to read well-written, popular history. Some attendees wanted my opinion about the recent plagiarism scandals. (I tried to be judicious, which might translate as timid.)

    One interesting moment came when I asked my students if they remembered our long and intense discussions about the Great Crash of 1929 and its aftermath. Indeed, they did—and demonstrated the fact. I then asked if that knowledge affected their decisions about investments in the past three years? There was a sudden silence and a good deal of embarrassed head shaking accompanied by murmurs of “Well, I should have remembered.” Nobody, however, testified to having recognized a speculative bubble when it was before their eyes.

    What did I learn from this experience?

    • The “uses of history” are not at all clear cut. People take from the past what they are prepared to understand, and not what some teacher thinks they should understand. Some summon their perception of the past to support whatever they want to do now. Others search for parallels and seek explanations for what is happening at the moment.
    • Good teachers are remembered long after the fact. Names of a few of my colleagues came up over and over. “As Professor X said . . .” was a recurrent phrase.
    • The attendees enjoyed challenging each other and me—they clearly would rather be challenged than entertained.

    As I pondered this experience, I was reminded of an earlier encounter. Last fall the library celebrated my eightieth birthday and invited two former students to speak. One of the speakers, an engineering graduate, had taken several social history courses with me. He was, I should probably note, a top notch student; the best in his class. He told me that the primary sources he had read in my class two decades prior—which dealt with the lives of ordinary people in the rapidly changing society of the early twentieth century—profoundly affected his own life. He works for a major engineering firm in a major American city and has a disabled child. His resources and training are such that he has been able to become a major advocate for such children with his local school board. “Because of what I learned in that course,” he said, “I was able to recognize the number of families with children like mine, who had no voice and no way of making their needs clear to the powers in our town. So I have tried to represent them as well as myself.”

    Although this is only one story it is enough to make any teacher forget all the blue books, all the neglectful or cocky students, all the hard work and occasional frustration. Think well—a few stories like this make it all seem worthwhile. — Anne Firor Scott, “How Has Studying History Affectistorians Affected Your Life?” article in honor of receiving the OAH Lifetime Distinguished Service Award in 2002.

    About Anne Firor Scott

  • “Twenty-five years ago The Southern Lady created a new field of historical inquiry and shaped a generation of southern women historians. What Anne Firor Scott wrote about antebellum and Progressive-era white women-their discontent with subordinate roles, their The Southern  Lady JPGdetermination to find meaning in work, their subversion of patriarchial assumptions-aimed straight at the heart of male-dominated academic scholarship. After the publication of The Southern Lady, antebellum planters and southern Progressives no longer meant simply masters and male reformers but conflicted mistresses and female activists. By tracing tracing white women Progressives from missionary work through the Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) club work, the Consumer League, anti-sweatshop agitation, and interracial cooperation, Scott demonstrated the combined efforts necessary to develop a collective female consciousness….The reprint of The Southern Lady evokes memories. Anne Scott’s spirited grandmother graces the cover of this splendid new edition. In an afterword, the author traces her own work for the League of Women Voters. Her travels for the league brought her into contact with surviving suffragists and national board members. Scott’s association and imterviews with longtime activists produced the most powerful and sustaining effect on her thought. She interviewed Judge Lucy Somerville Howorth, and Howorth’s memories of her mother’s career as a church and WCTU member, and later a suffragist and Mississippi legislator, convinced the author of the recurrent patterm of women’s activism….
    But memory serves another pupose as well. The 1970s generation of scholars remembers that these life histories and the author’s clear and determined purpose strenghtened its resolve to open “[d]oor after door” (p. 104). — Jean E. Freidman, University of Georgia reviewing “The Southern Lady”
  • “A valuable contribution not only to the general field of women’s history, but also to our understanding of one woman historian’s personal and professional odyssey.” — Joan Hoff-Wilson, Women’s Review of Books reviewing ” Making the Invisible Woman Visible”
  • “The splendid ‘Self-Portraits’ is the very best piece she has written and is destined to become a classic. . . . There is real artistry here, as well as real scholarship.” — Linda K. Kerber, author of Women of the Republic reviewing ” Making the Invisible Woman Visible”
  • “One Half the People is a book I use regularly in class because it is the ‘ most succinct way I know to make the point that the suffrage ammendment is not trivial; that it was the result of a long political struggle and a complex philosophical argument. It certainly out to be used in women’s history and in general history courses. Students find the mix of official legal documments (like Supreme Court opinions) and informal ones (like speeches and responses and hearings) teacheable. [It] constitutes the best treatment of women’s fight for the vote.” — Linda K. Kerber reviewing “One Half the People”
  • “This is a greatly needed book, the best available on the topic and indispensable for teaching women’s history. I use it in all my courses, whenever appropriate, and have found students stimulated by it. — Gerda Lerner reviewing “One Half the People”
  • “This brief but authoritative analysis of the woman suffrage movement by an historian and political scientist should be of interest to students and general readers no less than to specialists. Well selected documents illustrate the interpretation in the text and enhance the value of the book as an effective teaching tool. Political historians, too often neglectful of this topic, will find the work highly useful.” — Richard P. McCormick reviewing “One Half the People”
  • “Both an engaging survey of existing scholarship and a plea for additional research….With wry humor and impassioned scholarship Anne Firor Scott teaches us that the the more we are able to learn about…’the more we will understand about the society that has shaped us all.’” — Laurel Thatcher Ulrich reviewing “Natural Allies” in the NYT
  • “Anyone interested in the progressive politics of race and gender in the middle Pauli Murray  and Caroline Ware Forty Years of Letters in Black and White JPGyears of the twentieth century owes a debt of gratitude to Anne Firor Scott for her edition of letters between Pauli Murray and Caroline Ware. The unusual two-sided nature of the volume brings to life two distinguished women intellectuals, one black, the other white, as well as a forty-year friendship based on affection, trust, and a shared commitment to social justice. That friendship saw them through the hazards of the McCarthy era (which adversely affected them both), the civil rights revolution (to which Murray made significant contributions), and the women’s movement, in which each played a leadership role. Perhaps most of all, the letters document the difficulties that even the best educated women had in establishing themselves professionally in these years as well as the fierce determination that enabled Murray and Ware to carve out such singular careers.” — Barbara Sicherman, Kenan Professor Emerita, Trinity College reviewing “Pauli Murray and Caroline Ware Forty Years of Letters in Black and White”
  • “Anne Scott has not only celebrated two remarkable women, one white, the other black, in this edition of their correspondence, but in the process has also underscored her own role as a very distinguished historian of women and of the South.” — John Hope Franklin reviewing “Pauli Murray and Caroline Ware Forty Years of Letters in Black and White”
  • “This intriguing collection of letters, edited by one of our most distinguished American historians, follows the evolving relationship between two very unlikely ‘sisters’ whose friendship doesn’t quite fit any mold we might cast to surround it.” — Barbara Ransby, author of Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision reviewing “Pauli Murray and Caroline Ware Forty Years of Letters in Black and White”
  • “The award recognizes their efforts to create and shape two of the major sub-fields of American history, those being African American history and women’s history. We really view them as pioneers. They have touched the lives, intellectual development and work of a generation of historians, and have truly changed the ways we understand both the past and our present.” — John Dichtl, deputy director of the organization on John Hope Franklin, Gerda Lerner and Anne Firor Scott having been selected as recipients of the Organization of American Historians’ Distinguished Service Award in 2002
  • Basic Facts

    Teaching Positions:
    Haverford College, Haverford, PA, lecturer in history, 1957-58;
    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, lecturer in history, 1959-60;
    Anne Firor Scott  JPG Duke University, Durham, NC, assistant professor, 1962-65, associate professor, 1965-70, professor of history, beginning 1971.

    Occasional lecturer, Johns Hopkins Center, University of Bologna, 1960-61,
    Chairperson, North Carolina Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women, 1963-64;
    member of federal Citizens Advisory Council on Status of Women, 1964-68.

    Area of Research:
    American Women’s history, Southern Women’s history

    Education:
    University of Georgia, A.B., 1941;
    Northwestern University, M.A., 1944;
    Radcliffe College, Ph.D., 1949.

    Major Publications:

  • The Southern Lady, (University of Chicago Press, 1970).
  • The American Woman: Who Was She?, (Prentice-Hall, 1970).
  • Women in American Life, Houghton, 1970.
  • (With Andrew M. Scott) One-Half the People, (Lippincott, 1976).
  • Making the Invisible Woman Visible, (University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 1984).
  • (With Suzanne Lebsock) Virginia Women: The First Two Hundred Years, (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation (Williamsburg, VA), 1988).
  • Natural Allies: Women’s Associations in American History, (University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 1991).
  • Editor, Contributor, Joint Author:

  • (Editor) Jane Addams: Democracy and Social Ethics, (Harvard University Press, 1964).
  • (Contributor) Wayne Booth, editor, The Knowledge Most Worth Having, (University of Chicago Press, 1967).
  • (Contributor) Kenneth Underwood, editor, The Church, the University and Social Policy, Volume II, (Wesleyan University Press, 1969).
  • (Editor) What Is Happening to American Women?, (South Atlantic Newspaper Publishers Association, 1970).
  • (Editor) Unheard Voices: The First Historians of Southern Women, (University of Virginia (Charlottesville, VA) (London, England), 1993).
  • (Author of introduction) James Weber Linn, Jane Addams: A Biography, (University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 2000).
  • Contributor to literary journals and popular magazines, including American Heritage.

    Awards and Grants:

    American Association of University Women national fellow, 1956-57;
    National Endowment for the Humanities senior fellow, 1967-68, 1976-77;
    OAH Distinguished Service Award, 2002;
    Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences class of 2004.

    Additional Info:

    Scott worked for the International Business Machines Corp. (IBM), Atlanta, GA, private secretary, 1941-42;
    League of Women Voters of the United States, Washington, DC, program associate, 1944-47, congressional representative and editor of National Voter, 1951-53.
    The OAH Lerner-Scott Dissertation Prize was given for the first time in 1992 for the best doctoral dissertation in U.S. women’s history. The prize is named for Gerda Lerner and Anne Firor Scott, both pioneers in women’s history and past presidents of the Organization of American Historians.

    Posted on Sunday, October 8, 2006 at 8:17 PM

    History Doyens: Stephan Thernstrom

    What They’re Famous For

    Stephan Thernstrom is the Winthrop Professor of History at Harvard University where he teaches American social history, and Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute. He was born in Port Huron, Michigan and educated in the public schools of Port Huron and Battle Creek. He graduated with highest honors from Northwestern University in 1956, and was awarded the Ph.D. by Harvard in 1962. Stephan Thernstrom JPGHe held appointments as assistant professor at Harvard, associate professor at Brandeis University, and professor at UCLA before returning to Harvard as a professor in 1973. In 1978-1979 he was the Pitt Professor of American History and Institutions at Cambridge University and Professorial Fellow at Trinity College.

    He has been awarded fellowships from the John S. Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Social Science Research Council, and the John M. Olin Foundation, and research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Mathematical Social Science Board, the American Philosophical Society, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Smith Richardson Foundation. His most recent book, co-authored with Abigail Thernstrom, is No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning. He also collaborated with Abigail Thernstrom in America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible. He is the editor of the Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups, the co-editor of Nineteenth Century Cities: Essays in the New Urban History and Beyond the Color Line: New Perspectives on Race and Ethnicity , and the author of Poverty and Progress: Social Mobility in a 19th-Century City,

    His books have been awarded the Bancroft Prize in American History, the Harvard University Press Faculty Prize, the Waldo G. Leland Prize of the American Historical Association, and the R. R. Hawkins Award of the Association of American Publishers. He also has written widely in periodicals for general audiences, including The New Republic, the Times Literary Supplement, The Public Interest, Commentary, Dissent, Partisan Review, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. He was appointed to serve on the National Humanities Council by President Bush in 2002.

    Personal Anecdote

    I cannot offer a neat little anecdote that sums up why I became a historian. I came relatively late and only gradually to the discipline. Indeed, I must confess that my interest in anything that happened in school developed relatively late in the day. I was bored out of my mind in my elementary and junior high classes, and devoted my energies to making life miserable for my teachers. Dipping the pigtails of the girl sitting at the desk in front of me into my inkwell (yes, we had inkwells back in Port Huron, Michigan in the 1940s), releasing garter snakes in class, putting thumb tacks on the teacher’s chair, etc. I was an ardent reader from an early age, but saw no connection between the books I was devouring and what the teachers were trying to do. One day in 8th-grade English, the teacher urged us to consider attending college, not very common for my age group those days. To underscore the point that mere brains would not suffice, she declared that Steve Thernstrom might be smart enough for college but never would make it there because he was such a goof-off and troublemaker.

    When I hit 9th-grade, we were all placed in one of three tracks–academic, general, or vocational. It was no surprise to me that I was consigned to Metal Shop, while the diligent, well-behaved students were put in Latin. It was a great surprise to my mother, though, and she marched over to the school and raised hell. As a result of her intervention, I did get into Latin, and was a crucial turning point in my education. I loved it.

    Stephan  Thernstrom JPGIn the summer before 10th-grade, we moved from Port Huron to Battle Creek. I continued with Latin, but found a new love that engaged me even more deeply—the debate team. The academic subjects other than Latin continued to bore me; certainly the U.S. and World History surveys I took were uninspiring. But the debate coach proved to be the greatest teacher I had until graduate school, and he was responsible for my intellectual awakening. I spent more time working on debate than on all my other courses put together, and my enthusiasm for it determined my choice of college.

    All the best students in my high school automatically went on to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor; the only one who went East to an Ivy was the son of a Princeton man, and he followed in his daddy’s footsteps. I decided, though, that Michigan was not for me, because it had recently abandoned intercollegiate debate. So I chose to attend Northwestern, which not only had a strong debate team but scholarships for students who were good at it. The scholarship required that recipients enroll in the School of Speech rather than the College of Liberal Arts, so that’s what I had to do to be eligible for it. That did not prove very constraining. The requirements of the School of Speech were minimal and the courses were a snap, so that I always took five courses rather than the required four-course load and had ample opportunity to explore the liberal arts. Everything in the social sciences and humanities interested me in my college years. I did a fair amount of work in history (mostly European), in economics, sociology, and political science. I thought seriously about graduate school in economics, but my teacher in an economic history course advised me that I needed a strong math background to get anywhere in economics. After floundering in the math class I took as a result of this advice—ironically in light of the quantitative character of much of my later research—I gave up that idea, and decided on graduate school in political science.

    When I came Harvard, in 1956, political science was taught in the Department of Government, and the faculty’s commitment to that old-fashioned label was significant. The teachers I had my first year were all historians of sorts. V.O. Key taught a historically rich course in Southern politics; Robert G. McCloskey’s American Constitutional Law would have fit perfectly into a history department’s offerings. Most important to me was the offerings of the political theorist Louis Hartz, who had published his remarkable volume, The Liberal Tradition in America, the year before I arrived in Cambridge.

    Hartz dazzled me, and it happened he was then serving as chair of the interdisciplinary History of American Civilization Ph.D. program. My excitement over his explorations in what later came to be called “consensus history” led me to transfer into that program. I was not primarily interested in the history of political thought, though, and could not accept Hartz’s view that the roots of American exceptionalism were fundamentally ideological. I thought that a closer look at the evolution of the American social structure would illuminate the question more than further study of Madison or Calhoun. After entering the Am Civ program, I studied with Hartz, Oscar Handlin, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and Frank Freidel, and took two sociology courses, one on social stratification and social mobility, and another, from Barrington Moore on modern social theory and political power.

    Stephan  Thernstrom JPGAfter passing my orals, I began work on my dissertation–what became Poverty and Progress: Social Mobility in a 19th-Century City–under the wise guidance of Oscar Handlin. The underlying question it addressed—the absence of a class-conscious proletariat in the United States—had been explored by Hartz, and by Sombart and Marx before him. But I sought to answer it by using some simple quantitative techniques borrowed from sociology as well as the usual tools of the historian, building on a foundation supplied by the rarely used manuscript schedules of the U.S. Census I chose to work on Newburyport rather than another city conveniently near Cambridge—Lowell or Lawrence, say—because it was famous in American sociology as the site of W. Lloyd Warner’s five-volume “Yankee City” series.

    While I was doing my Newburyport research, I continued to learn from exposure to scholars in other disciplines. I worked as a section leader in sociologist David Riesman’s “American Character and Social Structure” and political scientist Samuel Beer’s “Western Thought and Institutions ” A fellowship from the Harvard-MIT Joint Center for Urban Studies gave me a final year free to do the final writing of the dissertation, and fruitful contact with specialists in urban economics, urban politics, demography, geography, and city planning.

    As I neared the end of graduate school, I had come to consider myself an American historian, and those were the job advertisements that I began to pore over anxiously. (I did have an inquiry from a leading sociology department, but decided that much of what I wanted to teach wouldn’t fit there and withdrew my name from consideration.) But I was also determined to keep up with the other social sciences as much as possible, and to make use of concepts and methods from other disciplines that might prove useful in explaining historical developments. In the four decades or so that have passed since then, my interests have changed to some extent; I work mainly on the 20th century rather than 19th century now, for example. But I still am doing the kind of history I learned to do in graduate school.

    Quotes

    By Stephan Therstrom

  • “In 1991, 13 percent of the whites of the United States said that they had generally “unfavorable” opinions about black Americans. In an ideal world, that number would be zero. But such a world is nowhere to be found, In Czechoslovakia that same year, 49 percent of Czechs had “unfavorable” attitudes toward the Hungarian ethnic minority living within the boundaries of their country. Likewise, 45 percent of West Germans disliked the Turks living in Germany; 54 percent of East Germans regarded Poles negatively; 40 percent of Hungarians frowned on the Romanians who lived among them; and 42 percent of the French disdained Arab immigrants from North Africa. In only two dozen European countries surveyed – Britain and Spain – was the proportion of the majority group less than twice as high as in the United States.America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible JPG Much of the animosity had deep historical roots. In 1991, a third of the Poles still had an “unfavorable” opinion of Jews, for example. Gypsies had the most enemies, with unfavorable rating ranging from a low of 50 percent in Spain to 91 percent in Czechoslovakia. “Ethnic, religious, and racial hatreds are thriving across Europe as the 20th Century draws to an end,” noted two commentators on the study. As the movement toward European union increases the flow of the labor across national boundaries, “the Continent could turn into a tinderbox,” they warned.

    Against this yardstick the racial views of white Americans look remarkably good. But are seemingly tolerant whites simply more hypocritical than Czechs or French? Perhaps they have learned to keep their animus hidden from public view. We think not. Although different ways of framing questions about racial prejudice yield slightly different answers, the bulk of the evidence squares with the 1991 survey results: when it comes to intergroup tolerance, Americans rate high by international standards.” — Stephan Thernstrom and Abigail Thernstrom in “America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible”

  • “The racial gap in academic achievement is an educational crisis, but it is also the main source of ongoing racial inequality. And racial inequality is America’s great unfinished business, the wound that remains unhealed. Thus, this is a book about education, but it also addresses the central civil rights issue of our time: our failure to provide first-class education for black and Hispanic students, in both cities and suburbs.The black high school graduation rate has more than doubled since 1960. And blacks attend college at a rate that is higher than it was for whites just two decades ago. But the good news ends there. The gap in academic achievement that we see today is actually worse than it was fifteen years ago. In the 1970s and through most of the 1980s, it was closing, but around 1988 it began to widen, with no turnaround in sight.

    Today, at age 17 the typical black or Hispanic student is scoring less well on the nation’s most reliable tests than at least 80 percent of his or her white classmates. In five of the seven subjects tested by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a majority of black students perform in the lowest category — Below Basic. The result: By twelfth grade, African Americans are typically four years behind white and Asian students, while Hispanics are doing only a tad better than black students. These students are finishing high school with a junior high education.

    No  Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning JPG Students who have equal skills and knowledge will have roughly equal earnings. That was not always true, but it is today. Schooling has become the key to racial equality. No wonder that Robert Moses, a luminous figure in the civil rights revolution of the 1960s, is convinced that “the absence of math literacy in urban and rural communities throughout this country is an issue as urgent as the lack of registered Black voters in Mississippi was in 1961.” Algebra, he believes, is “the gatekeeper of citizenship.”

    Literacy, too, is a “gatekeeper,” and the deadline for learning is alarmingly early. “For many students…the die is cast by eighth grade. Students without the appropriate math and reading skills by that grade are unlikely to acquire them by the end of high school…,” a U.S. Department of Education study has concluded.

    Race has famously been called the “American dilemma.” But since the mid-1960s, racial equality has also been an American project. An astonish-ing, peaceful revolution in the status of blacks and the state of race relations has transformed the country. And yet too few Americans have recognized and acknowledged the stubborn inequalities that only better schools can address.

    Even civil rights groups have long averted their gaze from the disquieting reality. “You can have a hunch that black students are not doing as well, but some of this was surprising,” A. V. Fleming, president of the Urban League in Fort Wayne, Indiana, said, as the picture of low black achievement began to emerge in the late 1990s. In Elk Grove, California, an affluent suburb of Sacramento, black parents were shocked, angry, and in tears when they learned of the low test scores of their kids. “People know that this is an important issue, and they don’t know how to talk about it,” said Philip Moore, the principal of the local middle school, who is black himself.

    For too long, the racial gap in academic performance was treated not only by civil rights leaders, but by the media, and even by scholars, as a dirty secret — something to whisper about behind closed doors. As if it were racist to say we have a problem: Black and Hispanic kids, on average, are not doing well in school.

    Suddenly, however, this shamefully ignored issue has moved to the front and center of the education stage. In part, the new attention is simply a response to an altered economic reality. A half century ago, an eighth-grade dropout could get a secure and quite well-paid job at the Ford Motor Company or U.S. Steel. Today, the Honda plant in Ohio does not hire people who cannot pass a test of basic mathematical skills.

    Demographic change, too, has forced Americans to pay attention to an educational and racial catastrophe in their midst. Fifty years ago, Hispanic children were no more than 2 percent of the school population. Today, a third of all American students are black or Latino. In California, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Texas white schoolchildren have become a numerical minority. These numbers, in themselves, drive home the urgency of educating all children.

    The unprecedented sense of urgency is unmistakable in No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the 2001 version of the nation’s omnibus 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The central aim of the revised statute, as its preamble states boldly, is “to close the achievement gap…so that no child is left behind.” Closing the gap is the core purpose of the legislation — and the test of its eventual success.

    Thus, the act requires all states to test children in grades 3-8 and report scores broken down by race, ethnicity, and other demographic characteristics associated with educational disadvantage. Each group must show significant annual progress. Affluent districts will no longer be able to coast along, hiding their lower-performing black and Hispanic students in overall averages that make their schools look good. A bucket of very cold water has been poured on educators — and particularly those who have been quite complacent. NCLB has been an overdue attention-getter. At a well-attended national meeting on education in September 2002, the audience was asked to name the most important new policy requirement in No Child Left Behind; closing the racial and ethnic achievement gap was the clear winner.

    Indifference to minority children who arrive in kindergarten already behind and continue to flounder is no longer an option for schools. The problem has been acknowledged — and thus must now be addressed. Racial equality will remain a dream as long as blacks and Hispanics learn less in school than whites and Asians. If black youngsters remain second-class students, they will be second-class citizens — a racially identifiable and enduring group of have-nots.” — Abigail Thernstrom and Stephan Thernstrom in “No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning”

  • ” Is America still “segregated”? In our deeply divided national conversation on race, the question endures, and it was raised again last spring by the 50th-anniversary celebrations of Brown v. Board of Education. Did that landmark decision by the Supreme Court promise much and deliver little? The ruling itself spoke only of segregation in the nation’s public schools, but its potential sweep was unmistakable. Officially sanctioned separation of the races, the Justices wrote, had the “detrimental effect” of “denoting the inferiority of the Negro group,” generating “a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community.” The logic of the decision, if not its words, was thus pertinent to the entire Jim Crow system, from water fountains to hospitals and bus systems, and was indeed rapidly extended to other spheres of public life in the South. The Justices had no magic wand with which to eliminate racism, of course, but in Brown they had declared, in effect, that racial inferiority was an idea whose time was up.It is easy to forget how far we have come over the past 50 years….Today, the typical black youngster attends a school that is only about halfblack- an extraordinary change in a half-century. Or is it? The most curious aspect of the anniversary of Brown last spring was the hand-wringing that accompanied so much of the celebration. Paul Vallas, Philadelphia’s education chief, lamented that “we’re still wrestling with the same issues” today as in 1954. Newsweek opined that “Brown, for all its glory, is something of a bust.” For the Harvard law professor Charles Ogletree, “the evil that Brown sought to eliminate- segregation-is still with us.” His verdict was shared by the Washington Post columnist Colbert King. “Segregation has found its way back-if, indeed, it ever left some schools,” he wrote. “To be sure, today’s racial separation is not sanctioned by law. But in terms of racial isolation, the effect is much the same.”

    …Those who recall what life was like for blacks in the Deep South before Brown v. Board of Education and the 1964 Civil Rights Act should be outraged by the equation of racial imbalance with segregation. The black children who broke the color-line in Jim Crow schools-the children who faced white mobs spewing insults and brandishing sticks-showed extraordinary courage in the face of state-sanctioned racism. Advocates of racially balanced schools are not engaged in a remotely similar fight. In claiming otherwise, they not only rob the civil-rights movement of its achievement, but turn our eyes toward the wrong prize-schools that look right rather than schools in which children, whatever their color, are truly learning. — Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom “Have We Overcome?” Commentary, November 2004

    About Stephan Thernstrom

  • “America in Black and White is lucidly written, rigorously researched, and persuasively argued. On a topic that frequently divides and polarizes, Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom have elevated and enriched the national conversation. America in Black and White looks honestly at the history of American racism while also looking to a more just, cohesive, and ultimate color-blind society. But it does more than that: the Thernstroms make a compelling case for color-blind public policies as the surest route to a society where all individuals are judged on the content of their character, rather than the color of their skin.” — William J. Bennet reviewing “America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible”
  • A benchmark new work turns the accepted history of racial progress in America upside down.” — Tamala M. Edwards, TIME magazine reviewing “America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible”
  • “. . . their tough-minded book serves the cause of racial justice. It shows that the issue is not whether black exceptionalism should end. The issue is when.” — Alan Wolfe, The New Republic reviewing “America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible”
  • “…A richly factual, rigorously analytical, profoundly humane account of the changing status of black Americans and of black-white relations since the early 1940s.” — Kenneth S. Lynn, The American Spectator reviewing “America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible”
  • “What distinguishes America in Black and White is its comprehensiveness: this is the Summa, the Magnum Opus…” — Roger Lane, The Philadelphia Inquirer reviewing “America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible”
  • “[America in Black and White] is in a class by itself when it comes to telling and analyzing what has been happening in this country on the racial front over the past two generations.” — Thomas Sowell, Forbes reviewing “America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible”
  • “…[The Thernstroms] have written the definitive account of U.S. race relations in our time.” — David Frum, Financial Post reviewing “America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible”
  • “…Deeply researched and powerfully argued. . . . America in Black and White is a notable edition to the lengthy shelf of books dealing with contemporary race relations. . . tightly argued, richly documented, provocative book – scholarship of the highest order.” — James Patterson, The Wilson Quarterly reviewing “America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible”
  • “Well-written and thoughtful, the book never stoops to the exageration and bombast that plague much of the current debate on race.” — Paul Magnusson, BusinessWeek reviewing “America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible”
  • “[America in Black and White's] discussion of race is far more level-headed and useful than anything the president or his recently appointed commission on race has said or is likely to say.” — Walter E. Williams, Parkerburg News reviewing “America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible”
  • “THAT a book like this would appear was merely a matter of time. The revived interest in ethnicity required a reference volume, if only to aid students struggling with term papers. But that such a work would come from Harvard, with its imprimatur in the title, might not have been predicted. After all, for most of its existence our senior university held itself aloof from ethnic America, as did most established institutions. All the more reason, therefore, to see how the Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups treats its subjects….Hence the rationale of the Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups. It is not just a book to sit on a reference shelf. Rather it is designed for a broad and varied audience, to be owned and read with pride. In fact, the effort that went into it shows that someone cares. At the same time, motives are always mixed, and never simply manipulative. This volume can also be seen as Harvard’s expression of atonement for having been party to a process that evokes a measure of regret. And this is only fitting: For atonement is a rite with honored ethnic origins. — Andrew Hacker reviewing “HARVARD ENCYCLOPEDIA OF AMERICAN ETHNIC GROUPS” in NYT

    Basic Facts

    Teaching Positions:
    Winthrop Professor of History, Harvard University, 1981Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute, 1999Chairman, History of American Civilization Program, Harvard University, 1985-1992 Director, Charles Warren Center for the Study of American History, Harvard University, 1980-83, 1986-87;
    Pitt Professor of American History and Institutions, University of Cambridge, 1978-79;
    Professorial Fellow, Trinity College, 1978-79;
    Professor of History, Harvard University, 1973-8l;
    Professor of History, UCLA, 1969-73;
    Senior Associate, Institute of Government and Public Affairs, UCLA, 1969-73;
    Associate Professor of History, Brandeis University, 1967-69;
    Assistant Professor of History, Harvard University, 1966-67;
    Instructor, Harvard-Yale-Columbia Intensive Summer Studies Program Summer, 1966;
    Research Member, M.I.T.-Harvard Joint Center for Urban Studies, 1962-69;
    Instructor in History and Literature, Harvard University, 1962-65.

    Area of Research:
    Social, demographic, and economic history of America; 20th century Social History, immigration, race and ethnicity.

    Education:
    B.S. with highest honors, Northwestern University, 1956
    A.M., History, Harvard University, 1958
    Ph.D., History of American Civilization, Harvard University, 1962

    Major Publications:

  • (with Abigail Thernstrom) No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning, (Simon and Schuster, 2003)
  • (with Abigail Thernstrom) America in Black in White: One Nation, Indivisible, (Simon and Schuster, 1997)
  • (with Richard Gill and Nathan Glazer) Our Changing Population, (Prentice-Hall, 1991)
  • A History of the American People, 2 vols., (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984; revised edition, 1988)
  • The Other Bostonians: Poverty and Progress in the American Metropolis, 1880-1970, Harvard University Press, 1973
  • Poverty, Politics, and Planning in the New Boston: The Origins of ABCD, (Basic Books, 1969)
  • Poverty and Progress: Social Mobility in a l9th-Century City, (Harvard University Press, 1964)
  • Professor Thernstrom and his wife Abigail are writing a co-authored book that reconsiders the concept of de facto segregation.

    Editor, Contributor, Joint Author:

  • Co-editor (with Abigail Thernstrom) Beyond the Color Line: New Perspectives on Race and Ethnicity, (Hoover Institution Press, 2002)
  • Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups, Editor, (Harvard University Press, 1980)
  • Co-editor (with Richard Sennett) Nineteenth Century Cities: Essays in the New Urban History, (Yale University Press, 1969)
  • Co-editor (with Neil Harris and David Rothman) Readings in the History of the United States, 2 vols., (Holt Rinehart Winston, 1969)
  • Awards and Grants:

    The Other Bostonians was awarded the Bancroft Prize in American History and the Harvard University Press Faculty Prize.
    Thernstrom Books JPG The Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups received the American Historical Association’s Waldo G. Leland Prize and the R.R. Hawkins Award of the Association of American Publishers
    America in Black and White received the Caldwell Award from the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, and was named a “notable book of the year” by the “New York Times”
    No Excuses was named one of “best books of 2003″ by the “Los Angeles Times,” and a 2003 and a “2003 Notable Book” by the American School Board Journal.” No Excuses and were honored with the Peter Shaw Award from the National Association of Scholars. Research grant, John M. Olin Foundation, 1998-99;
    John M. Olin Fellow, 1992-93;
    Research grant, Smith Richardson Foundation, 1990-92;
    Research grant, Rockefeller Foundation, 1975-80;
    Research grant, National Endowment for the Humanities, 1975-1980;
    John S. Guggenheim Fellow, 1969-70;
    Research grant, Mathematical Social Science Board, 1965-68;
    American Council of Learned Societies Fellow for Computer-Oriented Research in the Humanities, 1965-66;
    Research grant, American Philosophical Society, 1964-65;
    Samuel S. Stouffer Fellow, Joint Center for Urban Studies, 1961-62;
    Frederick Sheldon Travelling Fellow, 1959-60;
    Woodrow Wilson Fellow, 1956-57;

    Additional Info:

    Thernstrom’s professional activities include: National Council on the Humanities, 2002;
    Society of American Historians Editorial Board, Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 1970; Editorial Board, Journal of Family History, 1976; Editorial Board, Journal of American Ethnic History, 1981-97; Editorial Board, Labor History, 1970-75;
    Co-editor, Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Modern History book series, Cambridge University Press, 1980;
    Co-editor, Harvard Studies in Urban History series, Harvard University Press, 1972;
    Co-editor, Documentary History of American Cities series, New Viewpoints Press, 1975-78;
    Thernstrom JPG Co-editor, Perspectives in American History, 2nd series, 1984-86;
    Committee Member, Citizens’ Initiative on Race and Ethnicity, 1999-2001;
    Board of Directors, National Association of Scholars, 1990-97;
    Board of Advisors, National Association of Scholars, 1997;
    Consultant, U.S. Civil Rights Commission studies of “The Economic Progress of Black Men in America” and “The Economic Status of Americans of Asian Descent”;
    Panel Member, Committee to Review National Standards in U.S. History, Council on ‘ Basic Education, 1995;
    Planning Committee, National Assessment of Educational Progress, 1994 Assessment in U.S. History Textbook Advisory Committee, Education for Democracy Project, 1986-88;
    History Area Committee, Foundations of Literacy Project, National Assessment of Learning, 1985-87;
    Executive Board, Immigration History Society, 1983-88;
    Board of Directors, Social Science Research Council, 1977-78.

    Posted on Sunday, September 17, 2006 at 7:17 PM

    History Doyens: Joyce Oldham Appleby

    What They’re Famous For

    Joyce Oldham Appleby is professor emerita from UCLA and retired in 2001 after teaching there 21 years. She is one of the United States’ foremost historians of the early republic. Appleby is at the pinnacle of her profession through her powerful engagement with important ideas and controversial issues. Joyce  Appleby JPG Throughout her 40-year career, her scholarship has examined the formation of an ‘American’ political ideology, with particular focus on the connections between the history of ideas and the history of economic institutions, policies and practices.

    Her books include “Capitalism and a New Social Order: The Republican Vision of the 1790s,” “Inheriting the Revolution: The First Generation of Americans,” “Liberalism and Republicanism in the Historical Imagination,” “Economic Thought and Ideology in Seventeenth-Century England” and a recently published presidential biography of Thomas Jefferson. Appleby is past president of the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians and the Society for the History of the Early Republic.

    Personal Anecdote

    Perhaps because I began teaching at a university underfunded for research and overly funded with students with modest academic aptitude, I learned early in my career that the key point of teaching is to move students from one intellectual level to a higher one. What the study of history offers above all is an opening to the complexity of human experience. I devised ways to make complicated matters more accessible rather than simplifying the complexity.

    Joyce  Appleby JPGSince we toss around complex with the same abandon as nuanced, I’ll define how I think of complexity in history. Complexity in human affairs arises from the fact that human beings are never single-minded in their efforts and decisions, and events never slide along a predictable cause and effect continuum. Getting across this point has always been more important to me than raising consciousness about past injustices or rallying students to the heroism of dissenters and reformers. For this reason, I may have been perceived as conservative, even though in my extraprofessional, political life I have always been a left-leaning liberal with libertarian undertows.

    History offers students an opportunity to think and discuss sophisticated topics. For this words are needed, so I felt keenly the importance of habituating them to a larger vocabulary – one big enough to get at those nuances, complexities, and subtleties. I was astonished when I came to UCLA in my 15th year of teaching to run into a program in which the counseling staff monitored lectures in introductory classes with the idea of locating words that students could not be expected to know. This nefarious [in my view] enterprise ended with the production of a list of words that the monitors had found UCLA lecturers using which were deemed beyond the ken of the students. All that I cam remember from that list is the word, sovereignty. This is the dumbing down approach to education which still enchants some educators. I believe in the intelligencing up of students. From my point of view one of the greatest legacies of a college education is an expanded vocabulary. This may seem “small potatoes” to educational reformers, but not to me. One can not think of subtlety or complexity without the words to express their defining qualities.

    All of this is by way of introducing one of the most satisfying moments in my teaching career. It happened at San Diego State University in a lower division class with students more interested in getting a requirement out of the way than learning American History, much less participating in my “intelligencing up” project. The class size was limited to 40 because the department had committed itself to class discussions of the assigned primary texts that venerable collection, The People Shall Judge. The students sometimes let me know that my vocabulary was not theirs, but I insisted that it was the vocabulary of educated discourse. And during the semester, I noticed that some began to integrate new words when they spoke. During the final, one of the members of the class, a young man somewhat ragged around the edges, came up to me and softly asked how to spell, benign.

    Joyce  Appleby JPG I’ve remembered this moment all these years because it captured how studying a subject plunges one into a conceptual universe which soon becomes one’s own. In this new universe he had discovered a word that he wanted to use in his exam answer. He knew the meaning; he just lacked the spelling, because he had only heard it. He had to get the spelling because he couldn’t express his thought without it. There in a nutshell was evidence of learning. I’ve always wondered if he continued using benign.

    How I got involved in the History News Service

    Having begun my career working for Mademoiselle magazine in New York and the Pasadena Star-News in California, I was familiar with the world of journalism. When I was elected president of the American Historical Association years later, I saw a chance to create a link between historians and newspapers with historians writing oped pieces that provided historical perspectives on contemporary events. Receiving a go-ahead at my first AHA Council meeting, Perspectives, the newsletter of the American Historical Association, ran this notice in its October, 1996 issue.

    “AHA Seeking Volunteers to Write Articles: The AHA is looking for volunteers for a committee to promote the writing of feature articles and op-ed essays in the popular press. There are very few public issues that do not have a historical dimension, but the public rarely learns it. We would like to form a committee that would address this need by generating topic ideas and identifying appropriate authors within the profession as news stories break. Committee service would require a commitment of several hours a week and access to e-mail. Suggestions for committee members and ways to respond to this challenge should be sent to Joyce Appleby at Appleby@histr.ssnet.ucla.edu.”

    Joyce  Appleby C-Span JPGThe AHA Council decided that its sponsorship of a group distributing opeds could involve the association in unnecessary controversies, so HNS, not yet really an entity, was hived off from the AHA. By that time, I had received the most important response to my notice: James Banner wrote that he not only wanted to write for HNS, but would like to help me launch the enterprise. The offer of expert help could not have arrived at a better moment as I was about to enter my presidential year. I readily accepted his offer, and he set about developing an organization for HNS while I contacted newspapers, eventually finding more than 200 willing to look at our opeds.

    The oped writers nominated themselves by emailing submissions to both of us, now the HNS co-directors. Having hit our stride by the 2000 election, we learned that both prospective oped authors and the public thought about history in a time of crisis. More than two dozen opeds flooded into our in-boxes during the long, Florida stand-off. Jim and I wrote a pro and con piece on the Electoral College which appeared in some 20 newspapers, and elicited many, angry responses from both sides of the for or against divide. Our normal pace is a weekly distribution of one oped with six or seven papers (and many more web sites) picking it up, including the supportive History News Network.

    A tribute to the internet, all of our writing, revising, and distributing is done through email; any payment goes directly to the writer; anyone may use HNS pieces after they have been posted. Writers and members of the HNS steering committee are volunteers. We share the same goal: building bridges to the public by using our expertise and responding to our civic commitment to enhance the quality of public discourse.

    Quotes

    By Joyce Appleby

  • “There is a pervasive notion abroad in the land that somehow the past lingers on to force the hand of those who reconstruct it. Yet we know that the past as a series of events is utterly gone; only its consequences have infiltrated the present. Some remnants remain like litter from a picnic, but these material leftovers never speak for themselves. In fact they are inert traces until someone asks a question that turns them into evidence. We need to converse about the vital connection of curiosity and inquiry in scholarship, because one effect of the attacks on western knowledge has been to popularize a skepticism detached from its critical roots. Ours is a knowledge dependent society, yet people are quick to believe that knowledge changes in arbitrary ways, even that cabals of like-minded academics exist to poison the well of truth. We live in an age without consensus where paradoxically men and women all over the world are gravitating to the same opinions. Joyce Appleby  JPG History can minister to both perplexities, not only by preserving the endangered diversity of the human experience, but also by nurturing an understanding of how learned opinions are formed. Whether we meet our audience gathered in the classroom, at museum exhibits, reading our books, or in public forums, we need to offer an alternative to cynicism by making accessible how we reconstruct the past. And since our work is similar to the construction of all knowledge, learning how historical truths are put forward and tested possesses a protean utility?.History is powerful because we live with its residues, its remnants, its remainders and reminders. Moreover, by studying societies unlike our own, we counteract the chronocentrism that blinkers contemporary vision. That’s why we cannot abandon intellectual rigor or devalue accuracy. History has an irreducible positivistic element, for its subject is real, even if that reality is evanescent and dependent upon texts. Historical writing creates objects for our thoughts, making audible what had become inaudible, extracting latent information from the objects that men and women have constructed. This materiality of historical evidence does restrain us. Imagine a willful forgetting of the Holocaust had the Nazis won World War Two. Eventually someone would have picked up the trail of clues or stumbled over the contradictions in the documents created by the victors. Texts would then replace texts, but the impetus for the change would have come from the past itself just as scholars reconstructing the succession of post-Columbian demographic disasters had lots of evidence to go on, once their curiosity turned in that direction. The concreteness of history is what gives it the power to compel attention, to stretch imaginations, and to change minds?A hundred and fifty years ago, historians exalted the nation’s commercial values as proof of democratic vigor; since the Progressives they have focused more upon those groups that failed to benefit from a profit-driven economy. Perhaps now, as the twentieth century closes, we may be ready to explore the social complexity of our entrepreneurial system while shedding the celebratory and compensatory burdens of our predecessors.

    The power of history is liberating. The last four decades have demonstrated it, if proof be needed. First social historians located and analyzed group experiences which had been ignored by earlier historians. Then investigations of ideologies and paradigms, followed by postmodernist critiques and cultural studies, plumbed the depths of society’s shaping hand in organizing human consciousness through models, discourses and language’s insinuating codes. Today as teachers, exhibitors, preservers, and researchers of the past, we have been forced to think through the acts of appropriation and remembrance. We can no longer plead ignorance of their effects. We’re self-conscious about our voices, our genres, our assumptions. If we can live with this indeterminacy, pursue its implications, contend over meaning, give repeated witness to the magnificence of the human effort to understand, and share these acts with the public, we can be certain that history – the quintessential Western discourse – will have no end. — Joyce Appleby in “The Power of History,” January 9, 1998 Presidential Address, published in the American Historical Review , 103 (February, 1998) and reprinted in “A Restless Past,” Lanham, Maryland, 2005, pp.. 145-48.

  • “From the Springs of ardor and enthusiam issued a powerful mythabout America that metamorphosed ordinary labor into extraordinary acts of nation building. It also attached personal virtue to a narrative about human progress and claimed for liberty the protean capacity to sustain economic development and main maintain democratic vigor. Inheriting the Revolution: The First Generation of Americans JPG In the simplicity of this national narrative there was little room for alternative constructions of reality, no place for failures, scant concern for diverging truths, and insufficient attention paid to prophetic voices. Only one division could not be printed and papered over-that between the Northern and Southern States that was leading inexorably to dividing the house that had gone in escrow at Philadelphia.The American Revolution had not produced its own reactionaries. The Southern gentry had applauded the break with Great Britain with even more fervor than Northern leaders. What they disdained to share was the interpretation of America’s revolutionary heritage as a call to innovation, enterprise, and reform. The sucess of Noretherners in fashioning this understanding of their jopint inheritance led to a new North that spoke for the nation and an old South that clung to values that pushed them apart. what was happening in the United States in its first fifty years-the elaboration od democratic institutions, the hardening of racist lines, the openess of oppotunity, thinning of intellectual traditions, and reconfiguring of Northern and Southern states into the North and the South-could not be comprehended within a unifying story, yet this did not prevent those in the first generation most concious of the nation from claiming their story for the whole. Rather than abandon the cherished object of an American truth, they accepted the half loaf of a half truth wrapped in a covering myth about the land of the free.” — Joyce Appleby in “Inheriting the Revolution: The First Generation of Americans”
  • Thomas Jefferson JPG “The most talked-about president in America’s history, Thomas Jefferson commands both praise and condemnation. He is regularly quoted when people speak of natural rights, but the contradiction between the Declaration of Independence’s evocation of ‘the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ and its author’s being a slave-holder troubles us more than ever before. Looking at Jefferson’s presidency helps us to understand this puzzle as well as his amazing accomplishment in washing out the elite traditions of the nation’s colonial past from the expansive democracy he so decisively shaped.” — Joyce Appleby on Thomas Jefferson
  • Yet in the end it was Jefferson’s words – his power as author – that outstripped and transcended his prejudices as a man. Like some Sorcerer’s Apprentice, he had got hold of and articulated a vision whose power he felt but whose full implications he barely comprehended. His words and phrases – most especially those of the Declaration of Independence – would later be borrowed, repeated, and refashioned for purposes that Jefferson did not intend, could not foresee, and almost certainly could not have imagined. 45 When in 1848 the delegates at the Seneca Falls conference sought a model for their own declaration of feminist principles, they turned almost immediately to Jefferson’s Declaration. The ex-slave and ardent Abolitionist Frederick Douglass looked back to the Declaration’s color-blind and universal principles for inspiration and legitimation. And Abraham Lincoln saw in Jefferson’s Declaration the real charter of American liberty for all, black and white alike. A product of political compromise, the Constitution had recognized, and thus legitimized, slavery; the Declaration in its magnificent abstractness had not. Thus the “four score and seven years” before Lincoln’s 1863 Gettysburg Address locates 1776 as America’s better origin and the real birth-date of the republic. If America had originated in an “idea,” then Jefferson was father to the thought. — Joyce Appleby and Terence Ball in “Thomas Jefferson, Political Writings”
  • “I was very interested in what… Who constructed this revolutionary heritage, because we think of ourselves very much as a nation that starts with a revolution, and I’m a historian of the revolution and the Constitution, and I was curious as to how it was interpreted by those people who had no contact with the colonial era, who had never been subjects of the king, who had none of the sensibilities and mores that their parents had….
    There are two levels: One, because it created the… a sense that they had to do something with their lives and with the society, that was almost as if it were a gift, but it was a gift with a lot of strings attached to it. And then the other reason why it’s important is because there were other developments that had nothing to do with the United States, per se– economic developments, cultural developments– which played out very differently for an independent nation than they would have had the Americans still been under Great Britain….
    I think it was a charter generation, and it was because it was the first generation to live with this revolutionary inheritance, but also because it was the…very self- consciously being different in the world. The society was democratizing, it was becoming more liberal. There was an outpouring of religious enthusiasm, and many new denominations were formed, so the… Learning to live in this newly-created public space was what this generation did, and they, sort of, blocked out the areas that we’re still living with. Joyce Appleby discussing “Inheriting the Revolution: The First Generation of Americans” with Margret Warner on the “Newshour with Jim Lehrer”
  • “Well, I think that the founders would be impressed by the fact that democracy is spreading in the world. After all, theirs was one of the few republics in a world of tyrannies and monarchies, so that it would be quite remarkable to think that, what, there are 112 democracies in the world today. Clearly, there would be some sort of a jolt at seeing what kind of societies we have in the early 21st century.But I believe — again a kind of ambivalence — the founders really did believe these were universal principles, at the same time they recognized that they were path breakers, that they were experimenting, and I think it would be quite reassuring for them to see that democracies are flourishing many places, they’re struggling other places, but they are definitely in the ascendance. I think that would be extremely gratifying because they would feel that their revolution had been the beginning of an entirely new future for humankind. — Joyce Appleby on the “Newshour with Jim Lehrer” discussing “The Founders’ Vision,” July 4, 2003About Joyce Appleby
  • Joyce Appleby’s provocative and wide-ranging new book joins a growing group of works interested in the construction of our myths and how we remember our past. Appleby, long a scholar and admirer of Jefferson, has looked at how the generation of Americans, beginning to exert their power at the time of his election in 1800, gave meaning to the Revolution. She isolates America’s proverbial defining moment, crystallizes the ideas it produced, and indicates some it left behind. She consulted over 200 published autobiographies and memoirs in addition to myriad other accounts of this generation. Appleby’s group of Americans “did something in public,” and she acknowledges that failures did not get voices in her story. As a result, the tone often bears a strong resemblance to Tocqueville’s enthusiastic report of a country, brash and strong, expanding in every direction, a people serious, untutored, egalitarian, and pleased with themselves. Both writers find much to celebrate in tracing the effects of a democratic revolution on the character and practices of Americans. But Appleby’s primary story is not only about how these Americans construed their experience but also how that related to historical reality…. Appleby’s brilliant earlier work on the social construction of the liberal, economic man and the long preparation Americans had for the rapid penetration of the market lays the groundwork for her economic analysis…. While Appleby claims too much in some cases for the Revolution, her artful unfolding of the history of 1789-1830 and its participants’ simultaneous interpretation of it is a great achievement. In the end, as Appleby knows, it has mattered considerably less to most Americans exactly what historians believe the Revolution accomplished compared to what its legatees ascribed to it. Examining the gap between our reassuringly heroic revolutionary tradition and reality is an invaluable project, no matter what its precise measurements turn out to be. — Martha Saxton reviewing “Inheriting the Revolution: The First Generation of Americans”
  • Joyce Appleby deals with two themes in this book: the historical experience of the generation after the American Revolution and conflicts within American identity. The result is Whitmanesque, both in its complex but coherent vision and in its elegant expression. — Edward Countryman reviewing “Inheriting the Revolution: The First Generation of Americans” in the NYT
  • In her rich new book…[Appleby] argues that the first generation of Americans… experienced a degree of political and social change unrivalled before or since… This first generation reached a kind of closure about the meaning of democracy that has made it difficult for succeeding generations to articulate a vision of America other than the one they created: a society devoted to individualism and free enterprise… What emerges is a striking tale, on its face one of the most celebratory accounts of American gumption in recent historiography. — Marc Arkin reviewing “Inheriting the Revolution: The First Generation of Americans” in the “New Criterion”
  • Appleby documents, in precise and persuasive detail, the evolution and elaboration of assumptions about what it is to be an American that we now take completely for granted. What we think of as the “natural phenomenon” of individualism, for example, she describes as first appearing in the “prototype for the self-made man,” who eventually evolved into “a new character ideal…the man who developed inner resources, acted independently, lived virtuously, and bent his behavior to his personal goals–not the American Adam, but the American homo faber, the builder.” — Jonathan Yardley reviewing “Inheriting the Revolution: The First Generation of Americans” in “Washington Post Book World”
  • “Joyce Appleby perfectly captures the world created by the sons and daughters of the American Revolution. Enterprising and energetic, mad about money and seemingly constantly on the move, deeply pious and convinced of their own capacity to shape their own destinies, they took their Revolutionary legacy and made it into the world that we still inhabit, if with a little less optimism and a better sense of its contradictions.” –Jan Lewis, author of “The Pursuit of Happiness: Family and Values in Jefferson’s Virginia” reviewing “Inheriting the Revolution: The First Generation of Americans”
  • “This superb collection will have a major influence on our understanding of early American history.” — Gordon S. Wood, Brown University reviewing “Liberalism and Republicanism in the Historical Imagination”
  • “Appleby has succeeded in writing as good a brief study of this complex man as is imaginable. Another in a series on the American chief executives edited by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., her elegant book is a liberal’s take on the complex, sphinx-like founder of American liberalism. Appleby convincingly argues that the third president’s greatest legacies were limited government (breached, however, by the opportunism that characterized his own presidency) and the great expansion of democracy . . . She fully explains the man’s sorry record and tortured views on slavery and race. Providing along the way a short, up-to-date history of the early 19th-century nation, she also concisely surveys the day’s great issues—voting, democracy, political parties, commerce, westering and religion.” — Publishers Weekly reviewing “Thomas Jefferson [The American Presidents Series]“
  • “Is there a truth that historians can tell? Yes, in thunder, answer the authors of “Telling the Truth About History,” a confident, breezy account of the historical profession’s encounters with post-modernism and multiculturalism….
    Those affirmations in this book flow from three distinguished scholars. Joyce Appleby of the University of California, Los Angeles, has worked primarily on 18th- and early 19th-century America; Lynn Hunt of the University of Pennsylvania is a specialist in modern French history, and Margaret Jacob of the New School for Social Research is a historian of science. The three speak in a single voice, in the “I work in the archives” tone of researchers unwilling to leave to theorists the task of explaining to the public the politics and cognitive mission of historians….
    “Telling the Truth About History” is at once a vindication of historical knowledge against skeptical and relativist doubts and a popular history of the process by which these doubts came into being….
    These three authors sharpen their pragmatic realism by making good use of the recent work of the philosopher Hilary Putnam, and they rightly insist that a consensus-based theory of truth is more defensible if the group of inquirers is genuinely open to women and minorities. Despite these whiffs of contemporary thought, the doctrinal core of “Telling the Truth About History” is a pragmatic realism long since appreciated by many historians in the United States. Making this pragmatic realism more accessible to the public is the greatest contribution of this book. It will no doubt serve also to help undergraduates majoring in history find their way through the post-modernist debates…. — David A. Hollinger reviewing “Telling the Truth About History” in the NYT
  • “This excellent little book is part of a distinguished series of studies, each of which developped out of the Anson G. Phelps Lectureship on Early American History. This volume attempts “to uncover how the market economy influenced the way people thought about politics and the human potential for purposefully reordering social institutions.”…Appleby offers both a valuable explanation of the development of a capitalist ideology and a needed corrective for the traditional image of the Jeffersonians….This ia an excellent book, written in a lively style and particularly well suited for classroom use.” — Billy G. Smith reviewing “Capitalism and a New Social Order: The Republican Vision of the 1790s”
  • “In this 1979 Book Award of the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians, Joyce Oldham Appleby proposes to answer a number of questions about the meaning of economic activity to seventeenth-century English people. How did some explain and justify and other reject the changing material conditions of life? What moral values, evidence and logic were used in the debates? How did discussions of the market, trade, and currency influence the emerging modern worldview as well as subsequent economic thought? Appleby develops a lucid, provoking essay which may do for our understanding of seventeeth-century economic thought what Perry Miller began for the image of New England Puritanism; free it from the accretion of projections and historiographic stereotypes….Taken collectively, the detractions weigh lightly against the considerable strentghs of this study. Whether readers will agree or disagree with Professor Appleby’s assumptions about ideology and the process of change, all will be challenged and rewarded in some way by her book.” — Paul A. Fideler reviewing “Economic Thought and Ideology in Seventeenth-Century England”
  • Basic Facts

    Teaching Positions:
    San Diego State University, San Diego, CA, assistant professor, 1967-70, associate professor, 1970-73, professor of American history, 1973-81, associate dean of College of Arts and Letters, 1974-75;
    University of California, Los Angeles, professor of history, 1981–.

    Visiting associate professor, University of California, Irvine, 1975-76;
    visiting professor, University of California, Los Angeles, 1978-79.
    Joyce Appleby  JPGMember of board of fellows, Claremont Graduate School, 1970-73;
    fellow commoner, Churchill College, Cambridge University, 1977-78;
    summer fellow, Regional Economic History Research Center, Eleutherian Mills-Hagley Foundation, 1979;
    visiting fellow, St. Catherine’s College, Oxford University, 1982;
    Phelps Lecturer, New York University, 1982;
    Becker Lecturer, Cornell University, 1984;
    Harmsworth Professor of American History, Oxford University, and fellow of Queen’s College, 1990-91.
    Institute of Early American History and Culture, member of council, 1980-, chairperson, 1983-86.

    Area of Research:
    seventeenth and eighteenth century America, economic thought in early modern England, and the intellectual origins of capitalism.

    Education:
    Stanford University, B.A., 1950;
    University of California, Santa Barbara, M.A., 1959;
    Claremont Graduate School, Ph.D., 1966.

    Major Publications:

  • Economic Thought and Ideology in Seventeenth-Century England, (Princeton University Press, 1978).
  • Capitalism and a New Social Order: The Republican Vision of the 1790s, (New York University Press, 1983).
  • (With Joseph Cropsey and Forrest McDonald) Understanding the United States Constitution 1787-1987: Three Bicentennial Lectures, (Colorado College, 1988).
  • Without Resolution: The Jeffersonian Tension in American Nationalism: An Inaugural Lecture Delivered before the University of Oxford on 25 April 1991, (Oxford University Press, 1991).
  • Liberalism and Republicanism in the Historical Imagination, (Harvard University Press, 1992).
  • (With Lynn Avery Hunt and Margaret C. Jacob) Telling the Truth about History, (Norton, 1994).
  • (With Alan Brinkley and James M. McPherson) The American Journey, (Glencoe/MacGraw-Hill, 1998).
  • Inheriting the Revolution: The First Generation of Americans, Belknap Press, 2000.
  • (With Noble E., Jr. Cunningham), Jefferson and Monroe, (University of North Caroilina, 2003)
  • A Restless Past: History and the American Public, (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2005)
  • Editor, Contributor, Joint Author:

  • Materialism and Morality in the American Past: Themes and Sources, 1600-1800, Addison-Wesley (Reading, MA), 1974.
  • (With others) Knowledge and Postmodernism in Historical Perspective, (Routledge, 1996).
  • Recollections of the Early Republic: Selected Autobiographies, (Northeastern University Press, 1997).
  • (With Terence Ball) Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson, Political Writings, (Cambridge University Press, 1999).
  • Joyce  Appleby JPG Contributor to books, including The Origins of Anglo-American Radicalism, edited by Margaret Jacob and James Jacob, Allen & Unwin (Boston, MA), 1983; and Colonial British America: Essays in the New History of the Early Modern Era, edited by Jack P. Green and J. R. Pole, Johns Hopkins Press (Baltimore, MD), 1983.

    Contributor to numerous journals, including American Quarterly, Business History Review, Civil War History, Journal of American History, and Past and Present. William and Mary Quarterly, member of editorial board, 1980-83, chairperson, 1981-83. Member of editorial board of Intellectual History Group Newsletter, 1981–, Eighteenth-Century Studies, 1982–, Journal of the Early Republic, 1982–, American Historical Review, and Encyclopedia of American Political History.

    Awards and Grants:

    Berkshire Prize, 1978, for Economic Thought and Ideology in Seventeenth-Century England.
    1993, Annual Distinguished Faculty Award of the UCLA College of Letters and Science;
    1995, Guggenheim Fellowship for her project on the intellectual origins of liberalism;
    She has received support from the Mellon Foundation to train advanced graduate students to offer undergraduate seminars on current trends in historical theory.

    Additional Info:

    Appleby co-directs with James Banner, the “History News Service,” an informal association that distributes op-ed essays written by historians to over 300 newspapers weekly.
    She also writes op-eds and book reviews for the news media, including the “New York Times,” and has done commentary on the “Newshour with Jim Lehrer, anf recently appeared on C-Span2, Book TV “In Depth” show discussing her life, career, and writings.
    Memberships: American Antiquarian Society, American Historical Association (member of Chester Higby Prize committee, 1982; member of council, 1982-85; president, 1997), Organization of American Historians (member of program committee, 1982; president, 1991).

    Posted on Sunday, August 13, 2006 at 7:31 PM

    History Doyens: Harold M. Hyman

    What They’re Famous For

    Harold M. Hyman is William P. Hobby Professor of History, Emeritus, and director of the Center for the History of Leadership Institutions at Rice University, and is best known for his work on the legal and constitutional climates of the mid- to late-nineteenth-century United States. He is author of several books and articles on the Civil War and Reconstruction, Abraham Lincoln, internal security evolution, civilian-military relationships, and the impact of modern law firms. His Era of the Oath: Northern Loyalty Tests during the Civil War and Reconstruction Harold  Hyman JPG (1954), won the American Historical Association’s Beveridge Prize. Hyman has lectured and taught at major universities, law schools, and think tanks, and is past president of the American Society for Legal History.

    In 1997 on the occassion of being named Professor Emeritus and his partial retirement from Rice University where Hyman stopped teaching undergraduate courses but continued graduate courses and PhD advising, Hyman told Rice University News and Media Relations: “So far it doesn’t seem to be any different. I love teaching. I love being around students. [Becoming a professor emeritus] is a little like other milestones in life-being born, getting married… The only thing I know is being a historian…. [Rice has] been a very good place in almost every way-good students, good colleagues. By and large, the administration encouraged one to do what one should be doing-teaching and writing-and didn’t intrude.”

    Personal Anecdote

    Many Depression-decade high school dropouts enlisted in the pre-Pearl Harbor military. In mid-1941 I joined the Marines. That December, Imperial Japan attacked me, serially and seriously, on Oahu, Midway and Guadalcanal islands and elsewhere. I resented these sporadic and dangerous intrusions personally, for two reasonable reasons. First, Japan’s assaults might have impaired me physically. Second, the aggressive Japanese tactics repeatedly disrupted our military mail service.

    The latter consequence irked me primarily because, as Japan’s troops and my Marine duties permitted, I was trying to master high school completion courses, by correspondence. Even when stationed too briefly in Australia and New Zealand I bypassed the many beckoning bars, bimbos, and brothels in order to work on those demanding lessons, with growing enthusiasm for those in history. In addition to preserving my virtue this belated studiousness paid off, I assumed, when, in 1944, I, again encamped on a Pacific atoll, received by mail a glossy New York high school diploma.

    Sadly, I learned later that my abstention from wartime sins was superfluous. Without informing me, in 1943 or `44 New York had granted diplomas without course completions to all ultimately uniformed high school dropouts.

    So, to more autobiography. Once again a civilian, I found that my wartime experiences, including the prophylactic correspondence courses, had unfitted me for the blue-collar ruts my several siblings accepted. By mid-1946 I was married (still am, to the same splendid lady) and earning a superior salary. But while attending evening junior college classes I rediscovered my war-kindled interest in history and quit my job. Financed by my breadwinning wife and the GI Bill, by 1948 I had a BA from UCLA, then, in 1952, a Columbia University PhD, both in history. Faculty positions followed, at Earlham College (where, with a PhD, I earned less in 1952 than I had, when a high school graduate, in 1946), Arizona State, UCLA, Illinois, and, in 1968, an endowed chair at Rice University.

    Harold  Hyman JPGI retired from Rice in 1997 because, as the fall term began, a freshman asked me if, long ago, I had taught at UCLA. My affirmative reply triggered his response that, forty-plus years earlier, his future grandfather (!!) had taken my US Constitutional & Legal History course and now sent regards. It was time.

    For me, however, it proved not to be a good time. My encrusted habit was to work hard. For five decades, I, in addition to teaching, had published a baker’s dozen well- received books and many articles, essays, papers, etc. Retirement, I assumed, would mean unimpeded opportunity for further research and writing.

    But, once becoming a retired octogenarian, I fell prey to squads of surgeons, phalanxes of physicians, and platoons of pharmacists. They, and the federal pharmaceutical boondoggle of 2005-6, consumed my time, energy, and funds. My ambitious post-retirement research and writing plans wither. Since retiring I’ve published only some scholarly articles, op-ed essays especially about Iraq and domestic civil liberties, and book reviews, and evaluated manuscripts for publishers. Too physically uncertain to kayak and fish as I had also hoped to do, by default I look backward a lot.

    I look back less to the generations of undergraduates who, voluntarily or not, endured my lectures and exams, than to the roughly sixty PhDs and MAs whose theses and dissertations I had the privilege to oversee. They and I taught each other a lot.

    When I taught successfully they learned to ask significant questions of the past, to find through patient research relevant facts to justify reasonable judgments about worthy topics, and to express themselves clearly (passive voice and technical gobbledygook prohibited). I urged each graduate student to think of a dissertation as a book a-borning. It had first to survive seminar criticisms, then those of anonymous external referees, and, when appropriate, then deserve my positive recommendations to a publisher that it become a book. Harold Hyman JPGI emphasized the advantages a new PhD gained by retaining a dissertation’s core topic and perhaps widening its chronological coverage and/or employing alternative supplemental interpretations, perhaps by this means conceiving a second book or other major publication.

    It worked for a pride of “my” PhD’s. They taught me a great deal, especially through their distinguished, topically linked, yet disparate studies in broadly defined areas of American constitutional and legal history. Their writings help better to illuminate many endlessly contentious paths to our present, paths that include gender and race equality, war powers, Lincoln, the Civil War and Reconstruction, civil-military relationships, loyalty-security policies, federalism (including city-state), control of epidemics, and judicial biography.

    Despite their achievements and my own, my frustrated post-retirement research and writing plans now inspire a curmudgeon’s sour closing notes, especially about technology’s impacts on higher education. Remember my earnest wartime devotions in pursuit of a high school diploma? Today, nominally academic entities hire cadres of e-mail peddlers to tout the effortless acquisitions of secondary school diplomas, BAs. MAs, and even PhDs. In legitimate collegiate institutions undergraduates and graduate students easily muster long rosters of primary and secondary sources with which to decorate footnotes and bibliographies. What insights, I worry, have the students gained? As a retiree I’m pleased not to have to sit in on the unending committees that now grope toward some self-respecting accomodation with these and derivative problems. But mine is a guilty pleasure. My instinct was to enlist in frays. Now I can not.

    Muted, I wonder when I try to balance my emotions with calmer reason, are these technological marvels in research aids less problems than opportunities, as many respected colleagues insist? And, I ask as historian, is electronic data retrieval fundamentally more upsetting than was true of libraries’ innovative card catalogs a century ago?

    Damn. History again intrudes its disturbing questions that blunt excessively simple responses to changes.

    Quotes

    By Harold M. Hyman

  • Historians have attended more to victims’ assertions of unmerited injuries than to justifications by officials, a sensitivity which reflects attitudes of our time, when the suggestion that Staatsrecht was ever an adequate reason for imposition of any security procedures is shrugged away because strong suspicion exists that, currently, such devices are overblown.However deserving this judgment may be about today’s restraints, extrapolation of similar judgments to 1861-65 presents substantial difficulties. The question of feasible alternatives to what came in after the Sumter bombardment has received little attention. Actual disloyalty existed in dangerous quantity and frightening concentration; some security measures were in order or else efforts were wasted to restore by arms the disrupting union of states. A society resentful of restraints was unlikely to accept unnecessary security fetters as passively as proved to be the case. False pleas of necessity could scarcely have convinced alert, selfappointed monitors of American institutions, morals, and ways.

    The notion that officials could act secretly or mask excesses with fictions of mythical underground conspiracies was dubious at best. The antidisloyalty recourses of the Lincoln Administration were imperfect and galling; but they were neither irrelevant nor cynical. — Harold Hyman in “A More Perfect Union: The Impact of the Civil War and Reconstruction on the Constitution”

  • “The oaths did not identify the loyalty of federal pensioners. Well into the twentieth century the government continued its investigations of pension claims arising from the Civil War. Literally thousands of cases involved the definition of wartime loyalty. Proof or disproof rested not, upon oaths, but upon evidence. Nor did test oaths serve to identify the Southern Unionist, as the Southern Claims Commission learned when it labored for nine years to that end. The Commission came to disregard oaths as a matter of form, and to depend upon evidence to prove a claimant’s wartime Unionism. Of the thirty-four “standing interrogatories” which the Commission asked every claimant, only one concerned his willingness to swear to his past loyalty. And in many cases this requirement was waived in the light of local conditions which might have made a Southerner, however ardent a Unionist, give momentary aid to the Confederacy. Yet that same Southerner (to whom Congress paid federal funds after the Claims Commission approved his appeal) stood barred from federal employment, office, and juries because of a test oath of past loyalty. The jurors’ test oath was as much a failure as an identification of loyalty as any of the Civil War tests. Enforced diligently almost anywhere in the South, it crippled the courts. Unenforced as it came to be, it was a mere form, to which Southerners swore unthinkingly and uncaringly. And not one prosecution for the many perjuries ever arose, even when Radicals controlled the federal courts in the South.And so they failed, these loyalty tests of the Civil War and Reconstruction, for they did not measure loyalty. They failed for the nation, were condemned by the courts, and eventually were discarded. They failed also in the states, where the courts invalidated them or constitutional and legal reform repealed them. They failed, for as Samuel Butler said in Hudibras :

    He that imposes an oath makes it,
    Not he that for convenience takes it;
    Then how can any man be said
    To break an oath he never made?
    Harold Hyman in “Era of the Oath: Northern Loyalty Tests During the Civil War and Reconstruction”

  • “Meanwhile Lewis Stanton had commissioned his father’s friend George C. Gorham, former Secretary of the U. S. Senate, to write a biography. An intimate of the Stanton family, G. A. Mendall, confided to Frank A. Flower, a young Wisconsinite who was also interested in preparing a life of Stanton, that “Gorham is a pungent, bitter writer. . . . [There will be] a good deal more Gorham than Stanton in it.” And so it proved to be. When the two-volume Gorham book appeared in 1899, it fell far short of the hopes of the Stanton family and admirers, though it was a totally favorable view of its subject. In a review, George W. Julian unhappily admitted that “this is not the final Life of Edwin M. Stanton,” and concluded that Gorham had prepared “a healthy and inspiring story” for young people. Gorham’s Stanton remains, however, an indispensable source collection, for the author never returned to the Hutchison branch of the Stanton family the large number of manuscripts he had received from them to aid him in his task, some of which appear in the book.In 1905, using materials supplied by the Lamson members of the family, Flower published a Stanton biography. Stanton’s cousin, the wartime Ohio legislator Benjamin Stanton, after reading some of Flower’s manuscript, was sure that “you hit the character of Stanton exactly.” But Flower was no more capable than Gorham of delineating character or of constructively balancing conflicting pieces of evidence. He was a warm admirer of the War Secretary, and his book is as onesided a defense of its subject as its predecessor. Also, like Gorham, Flower failed to return to the Stanton family the papers he had received from them.

    Six years later, the diary of Gideon Welles went into print. Its caustic assertions concerning Stanton’s role in public affairs and his alleged inadequacies in matters of character made an immediate and lasting impression. Jesse Weik admitted that it had “completely upset my notion of Seward, Stanton, and Grant. I have always been such an admirer of all three that I sometimes regret that I ever read Mr. Welles’ estimate. But the great thing is his vindication of Andrew Johnson.”

    The vindication of Johnson continued for the next forty years, almost without contradiction. Then, in 1953, Fletcher Pratt published his study of Stanton, which, although it corrected some tenacious misapprehensions, did not provide the needed full study of his life. There, until now, the Stanton story has rested. — Harold Hyman in “Stanton: The Life and Times of Lincoln’s Secretary of War”

  • “Even more questionable is the thesis that a loyalty-security system is necessary at all. That the present apparatus has been conceived in haste and nourished in a substandard partisan environment is patent. There can be no doubt that it has been a major factor in the unsavory tendencies toward a fearful conformity which have marked the domestic American scene since the victorious close of World War II. Social tensions, translated into political pressures, brought loyalty-testing perilously close to disrupting much in the American system of government which the loyalty-security system was designed to protect.But the executive departments must protect themselves against future espionage and infiltration as well as against past acts. Indeed, fear of the past and the future, rather than judicious consideration of the present, has been the major obstacle to effective executive loyaltytesting. At no time have any of the federal agencies supplied the primary need of a valid loyalty program–a definition, a standard, a viable agreement on what loyalty is. Lacking this prerequisite, subjectivity, partisanship, sheer stupidity, and vindictiveness in the operation of the executive system have justified the criticisms made of it.

    Harold  Hyman JPG Defining loyalty is a philosophical problem. The difficulties involved in its realization are endless. Men in the present and past have ignored this need. They relied on loyalty oaths and other tests which prescribed absolutes of past conduct for suspected disloyalists. Mere emulation of the past in an uncritical search for security in the future is to turn a deaf ear to history and to the present needs of political democracy involved in unprecedented crisis. If executive officials have advanced beyond Lincoln’s use of loyalty-oath tests, they have not yet reached Lincoln’s calm appraisal of human nature and democracy’s resiliency: “On principle, I dislike an oath which requires a man to swear he has not done wrong. It rejects the Christian principle of forgiveness on terms of repentance. I think it enough if a man does no wrong hereafter. ” …

    Three decades ago, William Butler Yeats offered this doleful prophecy of mid-century life:

    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned.
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

    Herman Melville was more hopeful almost a century ago when, as civil war and mass disloyalty rent the land, he offered this poetical plea for moderation and humility:

    Yea and Nay–
    Each hath his say;
    But God he keeps the middle way.
    None was by
    When He spread the sky;
    Wisdom is vain, and prophesy.

    Between Melville’s humanistic skepticism and Yeats’s dreary pessimism rests the measure of the current generation, seeking absolutes of loyalty and of much else. Absolute security, as Justice Holmes said in another connection, is achieved only in the graveyard. Never in America’s history have loyalty tests provided security. That security has emerged from within, from strengths garnered by lives and sacrifices freely offered. Until the past history of the inutility of loyalty tests to provide loyalty is recognized, American unity and Americans’ rights will suffer. — Harold Hyman in “To Try Men’s Souls: Loyalty Tests in American History”

  • Hyman, who has served as president of the American Society for Legal History for the past two years and vice president two years before that, has been a history professor at Rice for 27 years. For him, interacting with the younger generation through his association gives him great satisfaction. More specifically, several of his former history doctoral students are set to present papers at the association’s annual meeting, which will be held in Houston later this month.
    “It’s a very good feeling to see intellectual offspring doing good things,” Hyman said. “Being president is a wonderful experience. It’s gratifying to see that so many of them [younger members] are energetic and talented. So there’s no reason to cry about the younger generation.”
    The society is a national as well as international scholarly society made up of about 2,000 members who share an interest in the history of law and the constitution. Members include historians of law, law academics, law practitioners, judges, social scientists and “a scattering of wonderful amateurs” from all 50 states and abroad, Hyman said.
    “This society is one of few forums where practicing lawyers and academics [historians] can come together,” Hyman said. “The best experience is just to see the seriousness members take. We create this arena where people can talk that otherwise wouldn’t talk. And we encourage that.”
    The society has made important contributions to scholarship with papers on race, gender, law, legal rights in wartime, among others, Hyman said.
    “We’ve learned a great deal out of the research this society encourages,” he said. “I’ve been honored to be elected.”
    Hyman has been a member of the society for 45 years and will pass along the title in late October at the annual meeting. — Harold Hyman in a Rice Univerity article on the occassion of his retirement from the presidency of the American Society for Legal History
  • About Harold M. Hyman

  • “For more than a generation J. G. Randall’s Constitutional Problems under Lincoln (first published in 1926 and revised in 1951) has stood alone in its field, so exhausative in its research, so authoritative in its judgments as to be the virtually unquestioned on the constitutional history of the Civil war era. Now Randall’s work faces a serious challenger in Harold M. Hyman’s A More Perfect Union, a comprehensive reinterpretation of American constitutional developments during the 1860s… To examine these and other major differences would require a book at least as long as Randall’s or Hyman’s. It is enough here to say that both books have great merit. On technical matters, such as legislative history and provisions of the several confiscations acts, students will continue to turn to Randall’s precise and elegant chapters. For the broader intellectual, social and political background of such legislation, they must consult Hyman. In short, Randall’s study has not yet been replaced, but it finally has in Hyman’s book a worthy companion on the shelf of indispensible books on American constitutional history.” — David Herbert Donald reviewing “A More Perfect Union: The Impact of the Civil War and Reconstruction on the Constitution” in the “Journal of American History”
  • “This is “Civil War and Reconstruction” constitutional history in a new key. Although the author deals with a number of constitutional problems that Randall and his contemporaries touched upon nearly two generations ago, his focus of interest is different….Hyman is concerned above all with the fashion in which the sucessive shocks of secessions and the subsequent suppression of a large-scale rebellion transformed the living constitutional system into a dynamic instrument adequate to all the exigencies of battle, conquest, occupation, emancipation, and finally reconstruction that sucessive crises called for….All this is excellent….But Hyman’s study, in aggegate assessment, must be set down as superior work. — Alfred H. Kelly reviewing “A More Perfect Union: The Impact of the Civil War and Reconstruction on the Constitution” n the “Journal of Southern History”
  • Brilliantly displays every characteristic of a definitive study–depth, range, detail, point of view, and lucidity….Disposes, once and for all, of the durable myth of [Stanton's] complicity in Lincoln’s assassination, and clarifies, to a large extent, his highly complicated role in the impeachment of Andrew Johnson. — New Yorker reviewing “Stanton, the Life and Times of Lincoln’s Secretary of War”
  • Union and Confidence: The 1860s is the third volume in “a retrodspective series” commissioned by Dun and Bradstreet Companies, Inc. Harold Hyman, among the nations better-known Civil War historians, was requested to probe “the business aspect of the 1860s as well as the political and social history of the era.” …The book, in a measure, is a compilation of generalizations, stated forthrightly and competently…. All Civil War historians will not agree with every interpretative comment or generalization. Some will disgree with more than others-and that is the way it should be. But all will welcome Union and Confidence as a provocative and scholarly book. — Frank L. Klement reviewing “Union and Confidence: The 1860s” in “American Historical Review”
  • “This is constitutional history as it should be written, but seldom is. Combining an excellent sketch of Chase’s life with the social, intellectual, and moral climate of the times, Hyman provides a brilliant analysis of two landmark decisions. He also presents a stimulating, original, and provocative treatment of the Chase Court that sheds new light on our understanding of the thirteenth and fourteenth amendments.” — John Niven, editor of The Salmon P. Chase Papers reviewing “The Reconstruction Justice of Salmon P. Chase In Re Turner and Texas v. White”
  • “A profound, highly disturbing, illuminating, thoroughly documented study of the oath as a loyalty test in the U.S…. Extremely important.” — Library Journal reviewing “To Try Men’s Souls Loyalty Tests in American History”
  • Harold Hyman JPG “Hyman set out to tell the story of the powerful Houston law firm Vinson and Elkins as an exercise in legal history, a field that he believes is the poorer for its lack of good histories of firms; this lack, he suggests, is primarily due to the difficulty that historians face in gaining access to firm records. Although many scholars have faced this problem, Hyman has been amazingly successful in his own efforts to find a firm agreeable to giving him access to personnel and records on a fairly impressive scale… All in all, six hundred dense pages is an awful lot of reading for the history of just one law firm. The patient reader is, however, rewarded with a comprehensive sweep to the tale and with a fair view of the changes in the firm and in the law and politics that its lawyers practiced. — Steve Sheppard reviewing “Craftsmanship and Character: A History of the Vinson & Elkins Law Firm of Houston, 1917-1997″
  • Basic Facts

    Teaching Positions:
    City College (now City College of the City University of New York), New York, NY, instructor in modern history, 1950-52;
    Earlham College, Richmond, IN, assistant professor of history, 1952-55;
    University of California, Los Angeles, visiting assistant professor of American history, 1955- 56;
    Arizona State University, Tempe, associate professor of American history, 1956-57;
    University of California, Los Angeles, professor of history, 1963-68;
    Rice University, Houston, TX, William P. Hobby Professor of History, 1968–, chairman of history department, 1968-70.

    Area of Research:

    Education:
    B.A. 1948, University of California at Los Angeles;
    M.A. in History, 1950 Columbia University;
    Ph.D. in History, 1952 Columbia University

    Major Publications:

  • Era of the Oath: Northern Loyalty Tests during the Civil War and Reconstruction, (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1954, reprinted, Hippocrene Books, 1978).
  • To Try Men’s Souls: Loyalty Tests in American History, (University of California Press, 1959, reprinted, Greenwood Press, 1981).
  • (With Benjamin P. Thomas) Stanton: The Life and Times of Lincoln’s Secretary of War, (Knopf, 1962, reprinted, Greenwood Press, 1980).
  • Soldiers and Spruce: The Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen, the Army’s Labor Union of World War I, (University of California Press, 1963).
  • A More Perfect Union: The Impact of the Civil War and Reconstruction on the Constitution, (Knopf, 1973).
  • Union and Confidence: The 1860s, (Crowell, 1976).
  • (With William Wiecek) Equal Justice under Law: Constitutional History, 1835-1875, (Harper, 1982).
  • Quiet Past and Stormy Present?: War Powers in American History, (American History Association, 1986).
  • American Singularity: The 1787 Northwest Ordinance, the 1862 Homestead- Morrill Acts, and the 1944 G.I. Bill, (University of Georgia Press, 1986).
  • Oleander Odyssey: The Kempners of Galveston, Texas, 1854-1980s, (Texas A & M University Press, 1990).
  • The Reconstruction Justice of Salmon P. Chase: In Re Turner and Texas v. White, (University Press of Kansas, 1997).
  • Craftsmanship and Character: A History of the Vinson & Elkins Law Firm of Houston, 1917-1997, (University of Georgia Press, 1998).
  • Editor, Contributor, Joint Author:

  • The Radical Republicans and Reconstruction Policy, 1861-1870, (Bobbs- Merrill, 1966).
  • New Frontiers of the American Reconstruction, (University of Illinois Press, 1966).
  • (With Leonard W. Levy) Freedom and Reform: Essays in Honor of Henry Steele Commager, (Harper, 1967).
  • H. C. Allen and others, Heard ’round the World: The Impact Abroad of the Civil War, (Knopf, 1969).
  • (And author of introduction) Carleton Parker, The Casual Laborer and Othe Essays, (new edition of 1919 original, University of Washington Press, 1972).
  • (And author of introduction, with wife, Ferne Hyman) The Circuit Court Opinions of Salmon Portland Chase, (new edition of 1875 original, Da Capo Press, 1972).
  • (And author of introduction) Sidney George Fisher, The Trial of the Constitution, (new edition of 1862 original, Da Capo Press, 1972).
  • Edward McPherson, The Political History of the United States of America during the Great Rebellion, 1860-1865, (new edition of 1865 original, Da Capo, 1972).
  • (With Hans L. Trefousse) McPherson, Handbook of Politics, six volumes, new edition of 1894 original, Da Capo, 1972-73.
  • (With Trefousse) McPherson, The Political History of the United States of America during the Period of Reconstruction, new edition of 1871 original, Da Capo, 1973.
  • (With Kermit L. Hall and Leon V. Sigal) The Constitutional Convention as an Amending Device, American Historical Association/American Political Science Association, 1981.
  • Editor, with Stuart Bruchey, of the “American Legal and Constitutional History Series,” Garland Publishing, 1986-87. Member of board of editors, Reviews in American History, 1964–, Ulysses S. Grant Association, 1968– American Journal of Legal History, 1970–, and Journal of American History, 1970-74.

    Awards and Grants:

    Albert J. Beveridge award, American Historical Association, 1952, and Sidney Hillman award both for Era of the Oath: Northern Loyalty Tests During the Civil War and Reconstruction;
    Sidney Hillman award for To Try Men’s Souls: Loyalty Tests in American History.

    Additional Info:

    U.S. Marine Corps, 1941-45; became master technical sergeant.
    U.S. Veterans Administration, Los Angeles, CA, rehabilitation officer, 1946-48.
    Member of the American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians, Illinois State Historical Society, Los Angeles Civil War Round Table.

    Posted on Sunday, July 30, 2006 at 7:51 PM

    History Doyens: Walter T.K. Nugent

    What They’re Famous For

    Acclaimed historian Walter Nugent is Emeritus professor of history since 2000 and was the Andrew V. Tackes Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame, where he has taught since 1984. Walter Nugent JPGBefore that he was Professor of History at Indiana University for twenty-one years. As a visiting professor he has also taught and lived in England, Israel, Germany, Poland, and Ireland. He has published 11 books and well over a hundred essays and reviews on American and comparative history. In 2000 he was awarded the Caughey prize of Western History Association for best book in Western history for Into the West: The Story of Its People which has been called “the most comprehensive and fascinating account to date of the peopling of the American West.” and an “epic social-demographic history.” He lives with his wife, the historian Suellen Hoy, in Highland Park, Illinois.

    Personal Anecdote

    Demography is destiny, or so it’s been for me. My enormous good luck is to have become a historian and to have been a faculty member at two excellent research universities. Good demographic timing helped produce this result, starting with being born in 1935, during the Depression. The birth rate was the lowest ever up to then. Whenever people looked for someone from my small cohort, my chances of being picked were always good.

    I was also the fortunate beneficiary of discrimination — my mother was forced to quit her elementary-teaching job after she became pregnant with me. As a result, her considerable force and talent as a teacher focused on me, so that I was reading, writing, and reckoning at an early age. Two uncles, one a brother of my mother’s and the other of my father’s, both Catholic priests, also invested in me: one put me through college and saw to it that I learned how to play and sing liturgical music. That let me earn my way through graduate school. The other gave me a spinet piano when I was five and also opened my ears to Beethoven and other great music with his collection of ’78s. Benedictine monks, my undergraduate teachers at a small college in Kansas, opened for me a broad universe of history, literature, and philosophy. Most influential were Brendan Downey, a Missourian with an Oxford degree in English; Victor Gellhaus, a Kansas medievalist whose Ph.D. was from Munich; Peter Beckman, a historian of America and the West; and Eugene Dehner, an inspiring zoologist and ornithologist.

    In grad school, I thought I would write a dissertation on whether there was a Catholic side to Progressivism. I did such a lousy job on my orals in that field that the faculty member I’d talked to (lengthily) about it said, “forget it.” I realized much later that the topic would have been a quagmire; I was extremely lucky to have failed my way out of it. Instead, with some personal knowledge of small farmers on the Great Plains, I decided to see if sources substantiated the then-current idea that the 1890′s Populists had been anti-Semites and nativists. I returned to Kansas, and found out that they weren’t (though some others were). This produced a dissertation, a book (The Tolerant Populists), and job offers. Again, demography favored me. Baby-boomers were entering college, enrollments were soaring, and the job market for young would-be academics was hotter than ever before or since.

    Walter  Nugent JPGIndiana University became my home for over twenty years. Then and now, it has had strong international programs. For nine years I had the honor and pleasure of directing its Overseas Study Programs. Watching the huge changes in hundreds of undergraduates who went on junior-year programs, from provincials to young cosmopolitans, was probably the most rewarding work I ever did as an educator. Travels to programs also brought invitations to lecture in Europe and Israel. In the mid-1980s, just under fifty (a good age for such invitations), the University of Notre Dame asked me to become dean of its College of Arts and Letters, which brought with it an endowed chair. I wisely decided that I’d had enough of administration and declined. But when they offered me the endowed chair anyway, I accepted and enjoyed a decade and a half of well-supported research and teaching.

    After my book on Populism, the next two were in Gilded-Age economic history. Then, while I was a dean at Indiana, I turned to textbook projects. Some collapsed; others became books (e.g., From Centennial to World War, on the Gilded Age and Progressive Era). A long effort to write a text for the American history survey course fizzled out, but during it I became convinced of the great importance of the demographic substrate of passing events. This led me both to quantitative data and to Braudel. American history, it seemed to me, could be arranged into three plateaus, defined by declining rates of population growth. Just then I was invited to give the 1979 Paley lectures at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the three-fold scheme became the lectures, called “The Graying of America,” and then a small book, Structures of American Social History (1981).

    Next came migration. Still influenced by Braudel, I wrote Crossings: The Great Transatlantic Migrations, 1870-1914 (1991), which treated the Atlantic and the lands around it – Europe, North America, South America – as a unified arena of human motion and action in the “age of steam.” During those years I also wrote essays on comparative migration and settlement, the processes that formed the American West. People came there from all points of the compass; the traditional east-to-west Turnerian story did not explain it. The result was Into the West: The Story of Its People (1999). About then, I retired from teaching and indulged myself by writing a family history, pulling together about twenty-five years of sporadic archival research into Making Our Way (2003). My current project is to connect the territorial acquisitions of the United States since 1782 to the process of settlement. The continental acquisitions ended in 1854 and the settlement process in the 1920s, but offshore acquisitions continued past 1945 and global empire-building into our own day. The new book will be called The Habit of Empire.

    If my luck continues to hold, I will continue writing history through my eighth decade and beyond, as have exemplars such as Ed Morgan, Bob Remini, Bill McNeill, and Bernie Weisberger. If it doesn’t, I can always be thankful for an enormously satisfying (as well as lucky) life as a historian. And I haven’t even mentioned my family. That’s for another time.

    Quotes

    By Walter Nugent

  • The Populists have been accused of nativism, both of a personal kind and of an ideological kind; instead, they were friendlier and more receptive to foreign persons and foreign institutions than the average of their contemporary political opponents. They have been accused of ‘conspiracy-mindedness’; for them, however, tangible fact quite eclipsed neurotic fiction. They have been accused of anti-Semitism, both personal and ideological; instead they consistently got along well with their Jewish neighbors and consistently refrained from extending their dislike of certain financiers, who happened to be Jews, to Jews in general. They have been accused of chauvinism and jingoism, especially with reference to the Spanish-American War; instead, such lukewarm support as they gave collectively to Cuban intervention was based on quite different grounds, and as a group they strongly opposed the imperialism that the war engendered…. In the case of Kansas, the largest of the wheat-belt Populist states, the… principal criticisms of Populism voiced by recent writers… should be replaced with a viewpoint so much in contrast as to be practically the opposite…. [T]he Populists of Kansas … were people who were seeking the solution of concrete economic distress through the instrumentality of a political party…. This involved profoundly the political co-operation of the foreign-born, and it involved a deep respect and receptivity for non-American institutions and ideas. — Walter Nugent in “The Tolerant Populists: Kansas Populism and Nativism” (1963)
  • Anyone who has undertaken historical research or who has prepared a set of course lectures in history knows that these things involve a creative process…. But the beginning undergraduate… does not realize this. History is something fixed on a printed page; how it arrived there he seldom asks, and when he does ask he can find no answer. In his beginning chemistry or zoology course he is treated to something very different…. he finds himself in a laboratory where he must himself become involved…. If it is important for him to know how science is done, shouldn’t it also be worth knowing how history is done? — Walter Nugent in “Creative History: An Introduction to Historical Study” (1967)
  • The subject of this book is the response of groups in American society to changing social conditions in the years immediately following the Civil War…. In order to sketch these group changes… I will relate them here to a question of public policy that was also an economic issue, and a moral issue. This was, in contemporary language, the “money question”… fundamentally the question of what the proper standard of money ought to be. For various reasons, to be described, this was very close to saying what the proper moral standard ought to be. — Walter Nugent in “Money and American Society, 1865-1880″ (1968)
  • The central observation of the book [is]… that the rate of population growth, although nearly always declining since the seventeenth century, did not drop steadily or constantly. The decline instead forms a pattern of several sudden drops from higher to lower plateaus. That pattern allows us to divide American history into periods in a new way and on a solid factual base. This book is not a full-scale demographic history, but a framework for a social history based on a demographic observation. — Walter Nugent in “Structures of American Social History” (1981)
  • Crossings: The Great Transatlantic Migrations, 1870-1914 JPG…[I]f, as Braudel demonstrated, the Mediterranean was the brilliant center of the late sixteenth-century world, surely the Atlantic was the center of the late nineteenth…. Here… is the demographic mosaic of the transatlantic region from 1870 to 1914…. That region, for present purposes, includes Europe, North America, South America, and to a slight degree Africa. All of the societies of the region experienced natural demographic growth, that is, more births than deaths, but at widely varying rates. They also experienced change through migration, some as donors of people, others as receivers, and a few as both…. The cumulative picture of movement is one of a swarming or churning of people back and forth across the Atlantic highway, fed by growing railroad networks on either side of it. –- Walter Nugent in “Crossings: The Great Transatlantic Migrations, 1870-1914″ (1992)
  • Into the West describes how the [American] West got its people: why they came and mostly stayed. What myths, ideals, and dreams drove them there? Who were they? Why did they make the West more urban, earlier, than almost anywhere else in the country? How did it become more ethnically and racially diverse than any other region…? How did the West lead the nation’s profound change from a farming people to city dwellers and suburbanites, for the West was the final, most concentrated cockpit of that transformation?…. This book is not driven by any thesis. But it does have one continuing plot line, which is also a premise and a hope. The briefest way to phrase it is e pluribus unum. … The national center of gravity has shifted and continues to shift. The worldview westward, from Manhattan to vagueness, no longer suffices. The myth of homesteading has already been consigned to the past, and gold rushing, California dreaming, and the macho cowboy are overdue for overhaul. A new national story, one that must include all the American people, whatever their ancestors’ origins, is also overdue. — Walter Nugent in “Into the West: The Story of Its People” (1999)
  • If this story has a moral, it may be: don’t be shocked at whom your grandchildren marry or how well they do. –- Walter Nugent in “Making Our Way: A Family History of Nugents, Kings, and Others” (2003)
  • About Walter Nugent

  • “Conceding that Kansas Populists were sometimes ‘confused, ill-informed, and behind the times,’ the author nevertheless makes a vigorous defense of their basic rationality and common sense – and this without rudeness or discourtesy to writers of the opposite persuasion. He denies that the Populists retreated to a dream world of ‘agrarian Arcadias,’ or that paranoiac thinking was characteristic of them…. His book is an even-tempered and valuable contribution to the literature on Populism.” –- C. Vann Woodward in Mississippi Valley Historical Review, on “The Tolerant Populists”
  • “Its greatest value lies in his demolition of the charge that Populists, at least those in Kansas, were anti-Semitic, anti-alien, and xenophobic.” –- Paul. W. Gates in Political Science Quarterly, on “The Tolerant Populists”
  • “On the level of the narrative itself, there is no doubt that Nugent has made a solid and fresh contribution to historical knowledge…. His scholarship is generally sound, his prose is vigorous, and he clarifies the internal relationship between the various aspects of the money question in a coherent synthesis. Most important, he keeps the subject more firmly in international context than any of his predecessors, combining his American materials with original work in European archives…. The book is a welcome and useful addition to the cumulative scholarship that is re-shaping our understanding of political and economic developments in the post-Civil War period.” –- Morton Rothstein in Political Science Quarterly on “Money and American Society, 1865-1880″
  • What gives Nugent’s book its distinctive character is the author’s use of the money question to explain why the 1870s constituted a ‘watershed of the future.’ Although well aware that other factors were present, Nugent contends that, in the context of the depression, it was the money question that ‘turned Arcadia into a battlefield.’ The monetary discourse of the 1870s was to be echoed in the 1890s, and its ‘spawn… were hardened rhetoric, class divisions, social antagonism, and the inability to consider a serious, wide, and realistic range of answers to the social concerns of the time.’” — Sidney Fine in Journal of American History, on “Money and American Society”
  • Professor Nugent’s rather inexpressive title conceals a study which should be read by all historians of the United States. It may be that a handful of them who have been trained in demographic skills will be acquainted with what he has to say; the rest, if they are honest with themselves, will find that in brief compass he has marshaled an array of facts and figures about America’s population which will force rigorous rethinking about the main trends and many of the formative factors in the development of the country. … [B]y relating each and every development in the population story to its social and economic antecedents or consequences it compels a reconsideration of the factors which lie at the heart of the American experience and obliges historians to think again about which of them are significant. -– The Economist (London), on “Structures of American Social History”
  • [G]iven the present state of historical research in American demographic development, this small volume is an extremely useful survey of what we know and, by implication at least, of what we do not know about the subject…. This book deserves to be popular among both those seeking a general introduction to the demographic foundations of social history and among historians and graduate students in search of research topics. — Allan G. Bogue in American Historical Review, on “Structures of American Social History”
  • “Nugent’s work is the ideal – the only – narrative companion to any quantitative analysis of late-nineteenth century population movements in the Atlantic economy. Crossings is a first, an ambitious and well-executed attempt to condense, synthesize, and re-examine from an international comparative perspective the captivating stories of the millions on the move in the age of mass migration.” –- Alan M. Taylor in Journal of Economic History on “Crossings: The Great Transatlantic Migrations, 1870-1914″
  • “This is a well-researched, wide-ranging, and serious study of migration from Europe to America (North and South)…. The U.S. experience is compared to immigration to Canada, Argentina, and Brazil and is found to be different but not unique or exceptional. The study emphasizes strong underlying similarities in immigration to North and South America in employment patterns, the effect of the expanding frontier, and the demographic structure of the immigrant population. Nugent… has given us a brilliant analysis of a critical chapter of migration history…. — Ira Glazier in American Historical Review on “Crossings”
  • Nugent’s primary purpose is ‘to pull together in one place the main contours of population change in the Atlantic region,’ 1870 to 1914, and to test the validity of two interpretive concepts, American exceptionalism and the theory of demographic transition, a corollary of modernization theory…. [T]he author succeeds admirably well in achieving his goals…. Nugent’s study, well illustrated and documented, deserves a wide readership and will become a must for courses on migration history. It is analytically incisive and illuminating by its comparative approach. It also stands as a model on how to overcome national narrowness.” — Dirk Hoerder in International Migration Review on “Crossings”
  • Into the West JPG“Walter Nugent’s Into the West is an engaging and important book about “how the West got its people.” It is not really a demographic history, nor is it simply a history of migration, although Nugent gives at least some account of virtually every western immigrant group. It is instead an attempt to discern the motives involved in movement: why people came and why they stayed. And since motives do not translate directly into results, it tries to discern the actual results of the demographic churning of the western part of the continent…. Nugent writes compellingly about homesteading and agrarian settlement, a topic that has largely gone out of fashion…. He points to California with its own distinctive tradition of latifundia as another, longer lasting version of rural society and agricultural landholding. -– Richard White in Journal of American History on “Into the West”
  • Basic Facts

    Teaching Positions:
    University of Notre Dame, Andrew V. Tackes Professor of History, 1984-2000; emeritus, 2000-present;
    Washburn University of Topeka, Instructor in History, 1957-58;
    Kansas State University, Temporary Instructor 1961; Assistant Professor of American History, 1961-63;
    Indiana University, Assistant Professor of History 1963-1964; Associate Professor 1964-68; Professor of History 1968-84. Associate Dean, College of Arts & Sciences, 1967-71, and in Central Administration, 1972-76; Director of University Overseas Study Programs, 1967-76; Acting Chair, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Literatures, 1968-69; Chair, Department of History, 1974-77.

    Columbia University, lecturer, summer 1966;
    New York University, lecturer, summer 1967;
    Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Fulbright Senior Lecturer, 1978-79;
    Paley Lecturer in American Civilization, Feb. 1979; lecturer summer 1982;
    Warsaw University, visiting scholar, spring 1979, spring 1982;
    Hamburg University, visiting scholar, summer 1980;
    Tel Aviv University, Kenneth B. Keating lecturer, Nov. 1987;
    University College Dublin, Mary Ball Washington Fulbright chair, 1991-92;
    Pacific Lutheran University, Schnackenberg lecturer, 1993;
    Huntington Library, Ray Allen Billington lecturer, 1993; Steinbeck Centennial lecturer, Oct. 2002;
    University of Indianapolis, Sutphin lecturer, Oct. 1999;
    University of Utah, David E. Miller lecturer, Nov. 1999;
    Calvin College, Mellema lecturer, Apr. 2001.

    Area of Research:
    American West; Gilded Age/Progressive Era; demographic history, especially migration; comparative history

    Education:
    St. Benedict’s College (Atchison, Kansas), A.B. in history, 1954
    Georgetown University, M.A. in European history, 1956
    University of Chicago, Ph.D. in American history, 1961

    Major Publications:

  • The Tolerant Populists: Kansas Populism and Nativism, (University of Chicago Press, 1963).
  • Creative History: An Introduction to Historical Study, (J. B. Lippincott, 1967; Second edition 1973).
  • The Money Question during Reconstruction, (W. W. Norton, 1967).
  • Money and American Society, 1865-1880, (Free Press, 1968).
  • Modern America, (Houghton Mifflin, 1973)
  • From Centennial to World War: American Society 1876-1917, (Bobbs-Merrill, 1977)
  • Structures of American Social History, (Indiana University Press, 1981; paper, 1985)
  • Crossings: The Great Transatlantic Migrations, 1870-1914, (Indiana University Press, 1992. Revised edition, 1995).
  • Into the West: The Story of Its People, (Alfred A. Knopf, 1999).
  • Making Our Way: A Family History of Nugents, Kings, and Others, (privately printed, 2003).
  • Editor, Contributor, Joint Author:

  • (with Martin Ridge), The American West: The Reader, (Indiana University Press, 1999).
  • (0riginal co-editor with Andrzej Bartnicki), Historia Stanów Zjednoczonych. (History of the United States), 5 vols.; (Warsaw 1995).
  • (co-edited with Malcolm Rohrbough), The Trans-Appalachian Frontier, Book series, Six volumes now in print, since 1996.
  • (co-edited with Martin Ridge), The American West in the Twentieth Century, Book series, Six volumes now in print, since 1991
  • (consultant and co-author), Chronicle of the American West, Forthcoming, 2007.
  • Awards:

    Newberry Library fellow, summer 1962;
    Guggenheim fellow, 1964-65;
    St. Benedict’s College, D. Litt. honoris causa, 1968;
    NEH summer seminars, director, 1979, 1984, 1986;
    NEH-Huntington Library fellow, 1979-80;
    Walter Nugent  JPGIndiana Association of Historians, President, 1980-81;
    Mead Distinguished Research Fellow, Huntington Library, 1985;
    Beinecke Fellow in Western Americana, Yale University, 1990;
    Society of American Historians, elected a fellow, 1991;
    Warsaw University, Medal of Merit, 1992;
    Choice outstanding academic book, for Crossings, 1992;
    U.S. Information Agency, Academic Specialist grant to Brazil, 1996;
    Immigration History Society, elected to executive board, 1996-99;
    Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, President, 2000-02;
    Caughey prize of Western History Association for best book in Western history (Into the West), 2000;
    Western History Association, honorary life member, 1998; President, 2005-06.

    Additional Info:

    U.S.-Israel Educational Foundation (the Fulbright Program in Israel), Board of Directors, 1985-89.
    Organist, St. Bride’s Church, Chicago, 1955-57, 1958-61.
    Hadassah Associates (life member).
    Contributor to professional journals since 1962
    Referee or consultant to various publishers and journals; to universities on tenure and promotion cases.
    Member of peer review panels for Council on International Exchange of Scholars (the Fulbright Program), National Endowment for the Humanities, Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education, the Huntington Library;
    Member of various book- and article-prize committees of the Western History Association, United Chapters of Phi Beta Kappa, Agricultural History Society.
    Member, Council on Foreign Relations (New York), 1984-99.

    Posted on Sunday, July 16, 2006 at 7:57 PM

    History Doyens: Winthrop D. Jordan

    Winthrop D. Jordan passed away on February 23, 2007. Click here for his obituary.

    This HNN Doyen profile was published in the summer of 2006.

    What They’re Famous For

    Winthrop D. Jordan is the William F. Winter Professor of History F.A.P. Barnard Distinguished Professor Professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of Mississippi. He received his AB from Harvard University, his MA from Clark University, and his Ph.D. from Brown University where he was awarded the Distinguishing Alumnus citation from the Graduate School. Jordan was briefly an Instructor of history at Phillips Exeter Academy and later a Professor of history at University of California, Berkeley, 1963-82, where he was also Associate Dean for Minority Group Affairs Graduate Division., 1968-70. He is the author of several books, including the award winning and groundbreaking White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812 and Tumult And Silence At Second Creek, he is also the co-author of several textbooks for junior high and high school students. Jordan is the recipient of seven book awards, including the National Book Award and a two time winner of the Bancroft Prize.

    Jordan retired from teaching in 2004. To mark this event his former students edited and contributed essays as a tribute to the career of one of America’s great thinkers and perhaps the most influential American historian of his generation. The anthology was published in 2005 as Affect and Power: Essays on Sex, Slavery, Race, and Religion in Appreciation of Winthrop D. Jordan. In the introduction Sheila L. Skemp described Jordan’s impact on his students: “Jordan’s legendary seminar-an introduction to the discipline, a requirement for every M.A. student in the Department of History, and experience no student will easily forget… He teaches his students to have an open mind about just what those voices from the past are saying. No matter how relevant his own work is, Jordan never allows his own political or ethical agenda to interfere with his reading of the sources, and he urged his students to put their own preconceived notions aside as well. When their work led them in new directions and they arrived, often despite themselves, at unexpected conclusions, no one was more delighted than Jordan to discover that common wisdom is neither infallible nor particularly wise.”

    Personal Anecdote

    My distinguished medical career ended when as a college sophomore I got a D- in Chem 1A. I took no history courses in college. Partly this was owing to being a history professor’s son, but also because I had taken a great deal of history at the secondary school level. Yet the principal reason was that Harvard offered a much less demanding major in its new Department of Social Relations. That major offered an appealingly wide range of courses in the social sciences and, fully as important, a lot less work. I spent nearly as much time singing with the Harvard Krokodiloes as going to classes.

    After graduating in Social Relations I spent nearly a year in a home-office management training program at the Prudential Life Insurance Company. After several months at their headquarters in Newark, I realized that my interests and abilities were less than a good fit with bureaucratic management. So I cast about for a job teaching something ? anything (perhaps English, Physics, French, or History) ? at a prep school. Serendipitously, it turned out that Phillips Exeter was looking for someone to teach history, and we agreed that I should start work on an M.A. in U.S. history at Clark University. Teaching the extremely bright students at Exeter led me toward getting a Ph.D. In a stroke of good fortune I was denied admission at Harvard and then chose Brown because I was admitted there. I gradually became aware of how lucky I was, as I became interested in early American history because of the marvelous books at the John Carter Brown Library. Also, perhaps because of my undergraduate acquaintance with cultural anthropology, I found dealing with the 16th-18th centuries interesting and intellectually profitable because their denizens lived in cultures so different from modern ones.

    At that time (the latter 1950s) the field of history was still dominated by my fellow male “WASPS.” In the 1960s I enthusiastically welcomed signs of broadening in the profession and especially the slackening of the outrageous, falsely genteel anti-Semitism that had sapped the moral integrity of the old establishment.

    Winthrop Jordan JPGThus my undergraduate background meant that my approach to history was strongly influenced by the social sciences of the early 1950s. For my Ph.D. dissertation, I chose a subject that I thought of as a study of an old culture which was still imposing a crushing weight on the nation’s publicly stated political and moral ideals. More particularly, I aimed to understand the large component of emotion and indeed irrationality that characterized the attitudes of the white majority toward “Negroes” in this country. Certainly “ideas” mattered in such an investigation, but they were often so blatantly absurd (especially in the “Age of Reason”) that I was constantly led to pondering the cultural dimensions of affect concerning “race.” No doubt I was influenced by the developing civil rights movement of the late 1950s, though I steered clear of reading much about it in newspapers. More important, the revelations about the wartime Holocaust in Europe loomed over the social sciences in those years; indeed it was no longer possible to think about “racial prejudice” without being acutely aware of the horrifying consequences of politicized anti-Semitism. I thus came to history with intellectual interests and perspectives that virtually dictated the kinds of topics that would engage my attention throughout my historical career. In addition, my mother’s side of the family was still steeped in a Quaker and strongly abolitionist tradition. Less obviously, my exposure to the barbarous prose of the social sciences led to a determination on my part to write in language that at least attempted a measure of grace and clarity.

    My dissertation dealt with a matter about which historians had written little. Even after Kenneth Stampp’s revolutionary study, The Peculiar Institution (1956) and the massive amount of research stimulated by Stanley Elkins’s assertions about “Sambo” in his Slavery (1959), white opinions about blacks took a back seat to “black culture,” which by the early 1970s was being called the “hottest field” in historical studies.

    Many years after publication of White over Black (1968) I wrote more directly about certain black slaves as they became involved in a conspiracy near Natchez, Mississippi. Over this long period, however, I also published short pieces on “other” subjects that seemed to me closely related to racial attitudes in American culture. These topics included past definitions of the temporal stages of the human life-cycle as well as familial imagery in political thought. Yet there was indeed an intellectual glue that bound such explorations together with my further inquiries into important matters about race that White over Black had failed to cover, including the culture of Tudor England and development of the United States’s unique one-drop racial rule. If I had to name this glue, I would call it “affect.”

    Because I had focussed on “thought” that was not intellective, I warmly welcomed a recent retrospective assessment of White over Black by Lawrence Shore in History and Theory which concluded that the book had shown that “if you ignore the evidence it is easy to deny the power of the irrational.” Indeed such persistent denial must be easy, since so many historians had and have been achieving it for years. Denial has recently spilled over into discussions of “race.” I hope soon to write about the modern social and scientific conceptualizations of “race,” which has proven such an appallingly dangerous term that many critics want to ban the word itself and to claim, mistakenly, that it is totally foreign to natural science including evolutionary biology. For present purposes I will merely emphasize that human beings constitute a single entity, whether it is called a single species, a breeding population, a gene pool, children of God, or the family of man. I personally find great value and aptness in all these designations. My doubts arise only in regard to the second term in the species name, Homo sapiens.

    Quotes

    By Winthrop D. Jordan

  • This study attempts to answer a simple question: What were the attitudes of white men toward Negroes during the first two centuries of European and African settlement in what became the United States of America? It has taken a rather long time to find out, chiefly because I have had to educate myself about many matters concerning which at the outset I was very ignorant. This book does something to answer the question, but I am aware that it affords only partial illumination. Like most practicing historians today, I have assumed the task of explaining how things actually were while at the same time thinking that no one will ever really know. Which is to say that this book is one man’s answer and that other men have and will advance others. I hope that mine is a reasonably satisfactory one, but I shall be enormously surprised— and greatly disappointed—if I am not shown to be wrong on some matters. — — Winthrop D. Jordan in “White Over Black American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812″
  • “The dilemma was apparent. Virginia’s distress was then America’s writ large. The white American wanted, indeed had, to remain faithful to himself and to his great experiment. In doing so he was caught between the necessity, on the one hand, of maintaining his identity as the fruit of England’s and Europe’s loins and as the good seed of civilization planted in the wilderness, and on the other, the necessity of remaining faithful to his own image as the world’s exemplar of liberty and equalitarianism, as the best hope of the civilization which he cherished. Whichever path he took he seemed to abandon part of himself, so that neither could be taken with assurance or good conscience. Individual Americans divided according to their private necessities, while at the same time the nation divided in response to pressures generated by economic, demographic, and cultural differences, but no American and no section of America could rest at ease with the decision. For Virginians especially, for many Americans, and for the nation as a whole it was impossible to make a clearcut choice.
    White  Over Black JPG Within every white American who stood confronted by the Negro, there had arisen a perpetual duel between his higher and lower natures. His cultural conscience–his Christianity, his humanitarianism, his ideology of liberty and equality–demanded that he regard and treat the Negro as his brother and his countryman, as his equal. At the same moment, however, many of his most profound urges, especially his yearning to maintain the identity of his folk, his passion for domination, his sheer avarice, and his sexual desire, impelled him toward conceiving and treating the Negro as inferior to himself, as an American leper. At closer view, though, the duel appears more complex than a conflict between the best and worst in the white man’s nature, for in a variety of ways the white man translated his “worst” into his “best.” Raw sexual aggression became retention of purity, and brutal domination became faithful maintenance of civilized restraints. These translations, so necessary to the white man’s peace of mind, were achieved at devastating cost to another people. But the enormous toll of human wreckage was by no means paid exclusively by the Negro, for the subtle translation of basic urges in the white man necessitated his treating the Negro in a fashion which tortured his own conscience, that very quality in his being which necessitated those translations. So the peace of mind the white man sought by denying his profound inexorable drives toward creation and destruction (a denial accomplished by affirmations of virtue in himself and depravity in the Negro) was denied the white man; he sought his own peace at the cost of others and found none. In fearfully hoping to escape the animal within himself the white man debased the Negro, surely, but at the same time he debased himself.
    Conceivably there was a way out from the vicious cycle of degradation, an opening of better hope demanding an unprecedented and perhaps impossible measure of courage, honesty, and sheer nerve. If the white man turned to stare at the animal within him, if he once admitted unashamedly that the beast was there, he might see that the old foe was a friend as well, that his best and his worst derived from the same deep well of energy. If he once fully acknowledged the powerful forces which drove his being, the necessity of imputing them to others would drastically diminish. If he came to recognize what had happened and was still happening with himself and the African in America, if he faced the unpalatable realities of the tragedy unflinchingly, if he were willing to call the beast no more the Negro’s than his own, then conceivably he might set foot on a better road. Common charity and his special faith demanded that he make the attempt. But there was little in his historical experience to indicate that he would succeed. — Winthrop D. Jordan in “White Over Black American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812″
  • About Winthrop D. Jordan

  • “The author has put simple solutions and flashy theories aside and brought to his task a patience, skepticism, thoroughness, and humility commensurate with the vast undertaking. He combines these qualities with imagination and insight. The result is a massive and learned work that stands as the most informed and impressive pronouncement on the subject yet made.” — C. Vann Woodward, New York Times Book Review reviewing “White Over Black American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812″
  • “A monumental work of scholarship, brilliant in conception and execution, humane, convincing, informed by warmth and wit, illuminating reading for all those concerned with America’s tragedy. . . . As an historian with keen psychological insights into his material, Winthrop Jordan is uniquely qualified to illuminate America’s anguished dilemma.” — Publishers Weekly reviewing “White Over Black American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812″
  • “White Over Black will stand as a landmark in the historiography of this generation. Its richness and insight, its sensitive, penetrating analysis of the unspoken as well as the explicit, its union of breadth with depth, make it a brilliant achievement.” — Richard D. Brown, New England Quarterly
  • “[A] rare thing: an original contribution to an important subject. In helping us understand today’s racial crisis, Jordan has ideally fulfilled the historian’s function of investigating the past in order to enlighten the present.” — The judges for the 1969 National Book Award for History and Biography
  • “This monumental study is a tremendously important block, fascinating and appalling, of American social and cultural history. . . . Though the study was begun years before the current civil rights agitation, it is quite indispensable for a full appreciation of the realities and wellsprings and the dilemmas of the contemporary struggle.” — The Phi Beta Kappa Senate award committee for the 1968 Ralph Waldo Emerson Award
  • “One of the most remarkable feats of detective work achieved by a modern historian.” — David Brion Davis, New York Review of Books reviewing “Tumult and Silence at Second Creek An Inquiry Into a Civil War Slave Conspiracy”
  • “This work represents the reconstruction of history at its very best.” — John Hope Franklin reviewing “Tumult and Silence at Second Creek An Inquiry Into a Civil War Slave Conspiracy”
  • Tumult and Silence at Second Creek JPGThis book, Winthrop D. Jordan tells us in his opening sentence, “is a story, but at the same time it is not.” With this paradox, Mr. Jordan characterizes the outcome of more than 20 years of investigation into events that occurred nearly a century and a half ago. “Tumult and Silence at Second Creek: An Inquiry Into a Civil War Slave Conspiracy” is at once an effort to capture the experience of black and white Mississippians confronting the implications of the Civil War for Southern slavery and also — and perhaps even more fundamentally — an exploration into the nature of historical inquiry and interpretation.
    Mr. Jordan, a professor of history and Afro-American studies at the University of Mississippi, has written a work of historical scholarship that leaves its scaffolding standing and visible, a study in which the process of discovery is at least as important as the result. He not only invites the engaged reader to participate in the struggle to understand the past, but he also includes almost all the available evidence in appendixes. — Drew Gilpin Faust reviewing “Tumult and Silence at Second Creek An Inquiry Into a Civil War Slave Conspiracy”
  • “What Jordan brings forth, in more subtlety and detail than space allows to examine here, is the complexity of slave life, of contradictions and ambiguities-both black and white-overloyalty and betrayal, trust and violence, sex and domination, freedom and bondage, oppression and resistance, paternalism and independence, and life and death in the slave South.
    This is both a fascinating and fustrating study, fasvcinating for what Jordan is able to wring out of a small handful of skimpy documents, and fustrating for what he is unable to explain because history would surrender nothing further, even to his skilled hands.” — C. Peter Ripley, Florida State University reviewing “Tumult and Silence at Second Creek An Inquiry Into a Civil War Slave Conspiracy”
  • “I think it is so good for us to go back. The issue of slavery is such an enduring topic. Dr. Jordan is a premier historian in the United States. His book ‘White Over Black’ is a model for other historians.” — David Sansing, professor emeritus of history University of Mississippi at the Porter L. Fortune, Jr. History Symposium in 2000
  • “At the annual meeting of the Organization of American historians, in the Spring of 1998, an overflow crowd gathered to honor the thirtieth anniversary of the publication of Winthrop Jordan’s magisterial work, White Over Black. Many of us old folks remembered where we were when the book first appeared, as we marveled at the impact it made on the profession then-an impact that continues to have reverberations even today. Young scholars joined the conversation, acknowledging that their comprehensive exam lists invariably include White Over Black as a “must read.” Audience members and panelists alike commented on the book’s merits and their memories of reading it in graduate seminars or undergraduate courses. The panel continued in an appropriately academic fashion, until a young woman stood up and asked to be heard. She was from the Carribean island of Dominica, and had first encountered White Over Black as a young woman. The book, she said simply changed her life. It was the first thing she had ever read that enabled her to understand herself, who she was. and what her relationship to the rest of the world was all about. The book, moreover, moved her to become a historian, so that she too, could join a community that asked the right questions and, at least on occassion, arrived at the right answers. Most historians would give anything to know that just once their work has had a profound-and positive- effect on someone’s life. Winthrop Jordan experiences that sense of satisfaction more often than most of us.” — Sheila L. Skemp in the introduction for “Affect and Power: Essays on Sex, Slavery, Race, and Religion in Appreciation of Winthrop D. Jordan”
  • Finally Winthrop Jordan set me off in the right direction as I began this essay as a chapter of my dissertation. His guidance, criticism, and inspiration call for a special debt of gratitude.” — David J. Libby in “Affect and Power: Essays on Sex, Slavery, Race, and Religion in Appreciation of Winthrop D. Jordan”
  • Basic Facts

    Teaching Positions:
    Brown University, Providence, RI, lecturer in history, 1959-61; College of William and Mary, Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, VA, fellow, 1961-63; University of California, Berkeley, assistant professor, 1963-67, associate professor, 1967-69, professor of history, 1969-1982. William F. Winter Professor of History F.A.P. Barnard Distinguished Professor Professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of Mississippi, 1982-2004.

    Area of Research:
    Afro-American History, Early American History.

    Education:
    Harvard University, A.B., 1953;
    Clark University, M.A., 1957;
    Brown University, Ph.D., 1960

    Major Publications:

  • White over Black: American Attitudes toward the Negro, 1550-1812, (University of North Carolina Press, for Institute of Early American History and Culture, 1968).
  • The White Man’s Burden, (Oxford University Press, 1974).
  • Tumult and Silence at Second Creek: An Inquiry Into a Civil War Slave Conspiracy, (Louisiana State University Press, 1993).
  • Editor, Contributor, Joint Author:

  • (Editor) Samuel Stanhope Smith, An Essay on the Causes of the Variety of Complexion and Figure in the Human Species, Harvard University Press, 1965.
  • (With Miriam Greenblatt and John S. Bowes) The Americans, the History of a People and a Nation, (Science Research Associates, 1982).
  • (With others) The United States, (Prentice Hall, 1982).
  • (With Ernest R. May, James F. Marran, John S. Bowes, Miriam Greenblatt and others) The American People: A History from 1877, (McDougal, 1986).
  • (With Ernest R. May) The American People: A History to 1877, (McDougal, 1986).
  • (Editor with Sheila L. Skemp) Race and Family in the Colonial South: Essays, (University Press of Mississippi, 1987).
  • (With Greenblatt and Bowes) The Americans: A History, (McDougal, 1994).
  • (Editor) Slavery and the American South : essays and commentaries, (University Press of Mississippi, 2003).
  • Jordan has also contributed numerous articles and book review to professional journals

    Awards:

    Jordan’s many awards include fellowships from the Institute of Early American History and Culture, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Social Science Research Council and the Center for the Advanced Study of the Behavioral Sciences, as well as a Distinguished Alumnus Citation from Brown University’s Graduate School.
    1968, Winner of the Francis Parkman Prize, Society of American Historians;
    1969, Winner of the National Book Award;
    1969, Winner of the Bancroft Prize, Columbia University;
    1968, Winner of the Ralph Waldo Emerson Award, Phi Beta Kappa all for White Over Black American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812
    1993, Winner of the Bancroft Prize;
    1993, the Eugene M. Kayden National University Press Book Award;
    1992 the Jules and Frances Landry Award all for Tumult and Silence at Second Creek An Inquiry Into a Civil War Slave Conspiracy.
    1976, Fellowship Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS).

    Additional Info:

    Jordan worked at Prudential Life Insurance Co., Newark, NY, as a management trainee, 1953-54; and then at Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, NH, as an instructor in history, 1955-56.

    Jordan has been widely reported in the press and has made several appearances on C-Span regarding the debate to whether Thomas Jefferson did in fact father his slave Sally Hemmings’s children, based on his claim in White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812 (1968) that “She bore five, from 1795 to 1808; and though he was away from Monticello a total of roughly two-thirds of this period, Jefferson was at home nine months prior to each birth.”

    Posted on Sunday, July 2, 2006 at 7:06 PM

    History Doyens: David Brion Davis

    What They’re Famous For

    David Brion Davis is the Sterling Professor of History Emeritus at Yale university and taught there from 1970 to 2001. He is currently Director Emeritus of Yale’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, which he founded in 1998 and directed until 2004. Davis received his PhD from Harvard University in 1956. His books include Homicide in American Fiction (1957); David Brion Davis JPG The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture (1966); The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution (1975); Slavery and Human Progress (1984); Revolutions: American Equality and Foreign Liberations (1990); In the Image of God: Religion, Moral Values, and Our Heritage of Slavery (2001), and Challenging the Boundaries of Slavery (2003).

    Davis’s latest book InHuman Bondage: Slavery in the New World was just released in April. He is currently returning to complete a major work he has been doing for many years, a two-volume The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation. Earlier volumes in this series The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture won a Pulitzer Prize, and The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution won National Book Award for History and Biography, the AHA’s Albert Beveridge Award, and the Bancroft Prize.

    Professor Davis has received numerous awards during his distinguished career. Most recently, in 2004 he was awarded by the Society of American Historians the Bruce Catton Prize for Lifetime Achievement. Also in 2004 he was awarded the New England History Teachers’ Association’s Kidger Award in recognition for his nine years of summer seminars for teachers on the origins and nature of New World slavery.

    Davis is considered the most pre-eminent historian of slavery as Ira Berlin claimed “No scholar has played a larger role in expanding contemporary understanding of how slavery shaped the history of the United States, the Americas and the world than David Brion Davis.” Davis has stated in a an interview the greater purpose in his study of the slavery; “I hope that my writings on slavery and abolitionism will continue to help people–especially non-academics–understand the roots and foundations of the great racial dilemma that America and other countries still face.”

    Personal Anecdote

    I would like to say a few words in opposition to the view, expressed nowadays by far too many educators, that history is a boring and antiquarian diversion, that we should “let bygones be bygones,” “free” ourselves from a dismal and oppressive past, and concentrate on a fresh and better future. I have long and fervently believed that a consciousness of history is one of the key factors that distinguishes us from all other animals — I mean the ability to transcend an illusory sense of NOW, of an eternal present, and to strive for an understanding of the forces and events that made us what we are. Such an understanding is the prerequisite, I believe, for all human freedom. Obviously history can be used in ideological ways to justify the worst forms of aggression and oppression. But that fact underscores the supreme importance of freeing ourselves from such distortions and searching, as far as possible, for a true and balanced picture of the past. I hope I can illustrate this point by briefly describing the personal path I took in becoming a historian of slavery and antislavery.

    Because my parents were journalists for a time and then became productive writers of excellent fiction and non-fiction, despite their lack of a college education, I spent many hours of my childhood traveling from coast to coast in the back seats of cars made in the 1930s, mostly Plymouths with a sleek Mayflower on the front of the hood. This meant that I experienced considerable diversity with respect to teachers and fellow students as I literally attended ten different schools from kindergarten to the twelfth grade, schools in such places as Denver, Beverly Hills, Manhattan, Carmel, California, and Hamburg, New York. In fact, I attended five high schools in the four years from the ninth to the twelfth grade. And whatever achievements I’ve had in the subsequent 61 years are in large part dependent on my luck in having truly extraordinary teachers in the third, fifth, and sixth grades (in three different schools in three different states), in addition to an inspired teacher of general science in the eighth and ninth grades, and a phenomenal teacher of English literature and writing in my senior year of high school.

    David Brion  Davis JPGWhen I graduated from high school in early June 1945, there were no thoughts about college or a future career. I was immediately drafted and plunged into combat training as an infantryman for the planned invasion of Japan in the fall. The appalling casualty figures from the ongoing battle for Okinawa, coupled with our officers’ accounts of their own combat experiences, gave a sobering perspective to our accuracy at the firing range and to our desired skill in throwing hand grenades, shooting flame throwers, and attacking mock Japanese villages defended by booby traps and dummy Japanese snipers hidden in the trees. But then as a direct result of the Hirosh’ima and Nagasaki bombings, I found myself on a troopship headed for a fascinating and highly influential year in what had very recently been Nazi Germany. Thanks to some high-school German, I soon became a member of the American Security Police, arresting black marketers, escaped SS officers, and on one occasion, a Polish soldier who had raped and given gonorrhea to a six-year-old German girl (who, in a painful interview, gave me the information I needed).

    Clearly I was untrained and was far too immature for such awesome responsibilities. But living in the shadow of the Holocaust and amid the rubble and ruins of the world’s greatest war did have a maturing effect and prompted serious thought on what to do with my life.

    In a long letter to my parents and 85 year-old grandmother, written on February 17, 1946, I described the appalling racism that many white American soldiers displayed when they encountered black soldiers in the segregated army, and then turned to some thoughts about college in the years ahead. Though expressing my desire to take courses in English, history, French, anthropology, and astronomy, I finally emphasized that “I quite definitely want to go into this physics business as well as the necessary accompanying mathematics. I think I could get quite interested in physics” [which I had taken in high school; and upon first hearing the news of Hirosh'ima, I thought of the drastic implications of e=mc square].

    But by October 9th, 1946 I had completely changed my mind. I will quote the new thoughts, clearly influenced by nearly a year’s exposure to the war’s devastation, in some detail: “I’ve been thinking over the idea of majoring in history, continuing into post-graduate research, and finally teaching, in college, of course, and have come to some conclusions which may not be original, but are new as far as I’m concerned. It strikes me that history, and proper methods of teaching it, are even more important at present than endocrinology and nuclear fission. I believe that the problems that surround us today are not to be blamed on individuals or even groups of individuals, but on the human race as a whole, its collective lack of perspective and knowledge of itself. That is where history comes in.”

    Actually, at age 19 I knew very little about history and had not been blessed with especially good history teachers in high school. But I went on: “There has been a lot of hokum concerning psychoanalysis, but I think the basic principle of probing into the past, especially the hidden and subconscious past, for truths which govern and influence present actions, is fairly sound. Teaching history, I think, should be a similar process. An unearthing of truths long buried beneath superficial facts and propaganda; a presentation of perspective and an overall, comprehensive view of what people did and thought and why they did it. When we think back into our childhood, it doesn’t do much good to merely hit the high spots and remember what we want to remember — to know why we act the way we do, we have to remember everything. In the same way it doesn’t help much to teach history as a series of wars and dates and figures, the good always fighting the bad, the bad usually losing. Modern history especially, should be shown from every angle. The entire atmosphere and color should be shown, as well as how public opinion stood, and what influenced it.”

    “Perhaps such teaching could make us understand ourselves. It would show the present conflicts to be as silly as they are. And above all, it would make people stop and think before blindly following some bigoted group to make the world safe for Aryans or democrats or Mississippians. During the 1930s there were many advances in the methods of teaching history. The effect cannot be overemphasized. After talking with many GIs of the 18-19 year old age group, I’m convinced that the recent course in modern European history did more good than any other single high school subject. And that is just a beginning.”

    “There are many other angles, of course, but I am pretty well sold on the history idea at present. It is certainly not a subject, as some think, which is dead and useless. You know the line, ‘why should I be interested in history? That’s all past. We should concern ourselves with the present and future — cars, vacuum cleaners, steel mills, helicopters, atom bombs, juke boxes, movies — and on into [Aldous] Huxley’s [Brave New] world of soma, baby hatcheries, feelies (instead of movies).’”

    “It is extremely difficult to tell whether an interest like this is temporary or permanent. It does fit into my other plans very nicely. After I once get into school and out of this vacuum, I’ll be able to narrow my sights and bring things into focus. At least I’ve got something to talk about.”

    As it happened, my road to becoming a historian was not quite as direct as this letter of 1946 might suggest. At Dartmouth I majored in philosophy, in part because the History Department was then so weak. But I focused on the history of philosophy and the history of evolving conceptions of human nature. And beginning in 1953, I did end up teaching American history for 47 years: a year at Dartmouth, 14 years at Cornell, and 32 years at Yale (2 years of which were actually at Oxford and the French Ecole des Hautes Etudes, in Paris).

    Quotes

    By David Brion Davis

  • Many historians have exaggerated the antithesis between slavery and Christian doctrine. The contradiction, as we have tried to show, lay more within the idea of slavery itself. Christianity provided one way of responding to this contradiction, and contained both rationalizations for slavery and ideals that were potentially abolitionist. The significant point, however, is that attitudes were interwoven with central religious concepts. This amalgam, which had developed through antiquity, was foreshadowed in Judaism and Greek philosophy.The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture In one sense slavery was seen as a punishment resulting from sin or from a natural defect of the soul that precluded virtuous conduct. The slave was a Canaanite, a man devoid of Logos, or sinner who scorned the truth. Stoics and Christians endeavored to distinguish the true from apparent slave, but physical bondage always suffered from the guilt of association.In a second sense slavery was seen as a model of dependence and self-surrender. For Plato, Aristotke, and Augustine this meant that it was a necessary part of a world that required moral order and discipline; it was the base on which rested an intricate and hierarchial pattern of authority. Yet Jews called themselves the slaves of Yahweh, Christians called themselves the slaves of Christ. No other word so well expressed an ultimate in willing devotion and self-sacrifice.

    In a third sense slavery stood as the starting point for a divine quest. It was from slavery that hebrews were delivered and from which they aquired their unique mission. It was slavery to desire and social convention that Cynics and Stoics sought to overcome by self-discipline and indifference to the world. And it was from slavery to the corrupted flesh of Adam that Christ redeemed mankind.

    For some two thousand years men thought of sin as a kind of slavery. One day they would come to think of slavery as sin. — David Brion Davis in “The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture”

  • I’m passionately committed to the cause that distinguishes us from all other animals — the ability to transcend an illusory sense of NOW, of an eternal present, and to strive for an understanding of the forces and events that made us what we are. Such an understanding is the prerequisite, I believe, for all human freedom. In one of my works on slavery I refer to “a profound transformation in moral perception” that led in the eighteenth century to a growing recognition of “the full horror of a social evil to which mankind had been blind for centuries.” Unfortunately, many American historians are only now beginning to grasp the true centrality of that social evil — racial slavery — throughout the decades and even centuries that first shaped our government and what America would become. — David Brion Davis writing in the “The Importance of History”
  • Inhuman Bondage is designed to illuminate our understanding of American slavery and antislavery by placing this subject within the much larger contexts of the Atlantic Slave System and the rise and fall of slavery in the New World. It is not a comprehensive or encyclopedic survey of slavery in every New World colony, but rather an exploration of America’s greatest historical problem and contradiction, which deeply involved such disparate places as Britain, Spain, Haiti, and ancient Rome.Inhuman Bondage JPG The book begins with the dramatic Amistad story in 1839-1841, which highlights the multinational character of the Atlantic Slave System, from Sierra Leone to Cuba and Connecticut, as well as the involvement of the American judiciary, the presidency (and a former president), the media, and both black and white abolitionists. I then move on to the ancient foundations of modern slavery in the Bible, ancient Babylonia, and ancient Greece and Rome, before turning to the long and complex origins and development of anti-black racism, extending from medieval Arab states to the early Iberian obsession with purity of blood and the racist theorizing of such major figures of the European Enlightenment as Voltaire, Hume, and Kant. Chapter Four, on “How Africans Became Intrinsic to New World history,” rejects various economic deterministic theories and emphasizes the contingent ways in which greed and a desire for profit became fused with issues of religion and ethnic identity. It is in this chapter that I describe the trading for slaves along the African coast and include vivid descriptions of the atrocious overpacking and dehydration on slave ships crossing the Atlantic. Above all, I emphasize that racial slavery became an intrinsic and indispensable part of New World settlement — that our free and democratic society was made possible by the massive exploitation of slave labor.I then move on to the nature and character of slavery in Portuguese Brazil, the British Caribbean, and colonial North America. I have no time here to summarize the many topics and arguments, but will simply say that the remaining chapters deal with the problem of slavery in the American Revolution, and in the French and Haitian Revolutions, before I give a detailed examination of slavery in the nineteenth-century South. Before turning to chapters on American and British abolitionism, I compare American slave resistance and conspiracies with three massive slave revolts in the British Caribbean. Though Chapter Fourteen focuses on the politics of slavery in the United States, it also considers British-American relations and the impact of Britain’s emancipation of 800,000 slaves, in 1834, on Southern fears and suspicions of the North. Chapter Fifteen attempts to put the American Civil War and slave emancipation within an international context. In the Epilogue I consider the influence of the American Civil War on the slave emancipations in Cuba and Brazil.

    The crucial and final point I want to make is that a frank and honest effort to face up to the darkest side of our past, to understand the ways in which social evils evolve, should in no way lead to cynicism and despair, or to a repudiation of our heritage. The development of maturity means a capacity to deal with truth. And the more we recognize the limitations and failings of human beings, the more remarkable and even encouraging history can be.

    Acceptance of the institution of slavery, of trying to reduce humans to something approaching beasts of burden, can be found not only in the Bible but in the earliest recorded documents in the Mesopotamian Near East. Slavery was accepted for millennia, virtually without question, in almost every region of the globe. And even in the nineteenth century there was nothing inevitable or even probable about the emancipation of black slaves throughout the Western Hemisphere. This point is underscored by the appalling use of coerced labor even in the twentieth century, especially in various forms of gulags or concentration camps, the outcome of which I saw as a young American soldier. Above all, I conclude, we should consider the meaning, in the early twenty-first century, of the historically unique antislavery movements which succeeded in overthrowing, within the space of a century, systems of inhuman bondage that extended throughout the Hemisphere — systems that were still highly profitable as well as productive. — David Brion Davis discussing his new book “Inhuman Bondage” in a recent speaking engagement.

    About Davis Brion Davis

  • A magnificent work done in the finest traditon of historical scholarship.” — C. Vann Woodward, Yale University reviewing “The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture”
  • “A magnificent history of ideas….It will remain a magnificent contribution to intellectual and social history….Will be studied for decades to come.” — Eugene D. Genovese, Journal of Southern History reviewing “The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture”
  • “A large, immemsely learned, readable, exciting, disturbing…volume, one of the most important to have been published on the subject of slavery in modern times. — M.I. Finley, The New York Review of Books reviewing “The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture”
  • The  Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution“In…The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture, David Brion Davis displayed his mastery not only of a vast source of material, but also of the highly complex, frequently contradictory factors that influenced opinion on slavery. He has now followed this up with a study of equal quality….No one has written a book about the abolition of slavery that carries the conviction of Professor Davis’s book. And this rich and powerful book will, I am sure, stand the test of time–scholarly, brilliant in analysid. beautifully written.” — J. H. Plumb, The New York Times Book Review reviewing “The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution”
  • The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution by David Brion Davis is a work of majestic scale, written with great skill. It explores the growing consciousness, during a half century of revultionary change, of the oldest and most extreme form of human exploitation. Concentrating on the Anglo-American experience, the historian also pursues his theme wherever it leads in western culture. His book is a distinguished example of historical scholarship and art.” — From the National Book Award citation for “The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution”
  • “A tour de force…. Could not be more welcome…. Davis follows the large story of slavery into all corners of the Atlantic world, demonstrating that hardly anyone or anything was untouched by it. He is particularly interested in the way ideas shaped slavery’s development. But ‘Inhuman Bondage’ is not a history without people. Princes, merchants and reformers of all sorts play their role, though Davis gives pride of place to the men and women who suffered bondage. Drawing on some of the best recent studies, he not only adjudicates between the arguments, but also provides dozens of new insights, large and small, into events as familiar as the revolt on Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) and the American Civil War…. An invaluable guide to explaining what has made slavery’s consequences so much a part of contemporary American culture and politics.” — Ira Berlin, The New York Times Book Review reviewing “Inhuman Bondage”
  • “Davis masterfully navigates the long history of slavery from ancient times to its abolition in the 19th century…. Succeeds heroically in wrestling a vast amount of material from diverse cultures. The result is a sinewy book that combines erudition and everyday detail into a gripping, often surprising, narrative.” — Fergus M. Bordewich, Wall Street Journal reviewing “Inhuman Bondage”
  • “David Brion Davis has been the preeminent historian of ideas about slavery in the Western world since the early modern period…. Davis, a leading practitioner of intellectual and cultural history, has now gone far beyond the history of ideas and attempted to study New World slavery in all its ramifications, social, economic, and political, as well as intellectual and cultural…. He convincingly demonstrates that slavery was central to the history of the New World.” — George M. Fredrickson, The New York Review of Books reviewing “Inhuman Bondage”
  • “David Brion Davis, our greatest historian of slavery and abolition, weaves together here one of the central stories of modern world history–and does so with a power, authority, and grace that is his alone.” — Edward L. Ayers reviewing “Inhuman Bondage”
  • “Ranging from ancient Babylonia to the modern Western Hemisphere, David Brion Davis offers a concise history of slavery and its abolition that once again reminds us why he is the foremost scholar of international slavery. There is no more up-to-date account of this pivotal aspect of the world’s history.” — Eric Foner reviewing “Inhuman Bondage”
  • “In this gracefully fashioned masterpiece, David Brion Davis draws on a lifetime of scrupulous scholarship in order to trace the sources and highlight the distinctiveness of America’s central paradox by situating it in both its New World and Western contexts. His powerful narrative is enhanced and deepened by persuasively rendered details. For students of slavery, and of American history more generally, it is simply indispensable. With all the makings of a classic, Inhuman Bondage is the glorious culmination of the definitive series of studies on slavery by one of America’s greatest living historians.” — Orlando Patterson reviewing “Inhuman Bondage”
  • “Inhuman Bondage is a magisterial achievement, a model of comparative and interdisciplinary scholarship, and the best study we have of American slavery within the broader context of the New World. It is also a powerful and moving story, told by one of America’s greatest historians.” — John Stauffer reviewing “Inhuman Bondage”
  • “This brilliant and gripping history of slavery in the New World summarizes and integrates the scholarship of the past half-century. It sparkles with insights that only an innovator of David Brion Davis’s caliber could command.” — Robert William Fogel reviewing “Inhuman Bondage”
  • Basic Facts

    Teaching Positions:

    Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, instructor in history and Ford Fund for the Advancement of Education intern, 1953-54;
    Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, assistant professor, 1955-58, associate professor, 1958-63, Ernest I. White Professor of History, 1963-69;
    David  Brion Davis JPG Yale University, New Haven, CT, professor of history, 1969-72, Farnham Professor of History, 1972-78, Sterling Professor of History, 1978–, currently emeritus, director of Gilder Lehrman Center for the study of slavery, resistance, and abolition.

    Fulbright lecturer in India, 1967, and at universities in Guyana and the West Indies, 1974. Lecturer at colleges and universities in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East, 1969–.

    Area of Research:

    Slavery in the Western World and America, Antebellum America, Intellectual history

    Education:

    Dartmouth College, A.B. (summa cum laude), 1950;
    Harvard University, A.M., 1953, Ph.D., 1956;
    Oxford University, M.A., 1969;
    Yale University, M.A., 1970.

    Major Publications:

  • Homicide in American Fiction, 1798-1860: A Study in Social Values, (Cornell University Press, 1957).
  • The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture, (Cornell University Press, 1967).
  • Was Thomas Jefferson an Authentic Enemy of Slavery?, (Clarendon Press, 1970).
  • The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution, 1770-1823, (Cornell University Press, 1975, reprinted, Oxford University Press, 1999).
  • (With others) The Great Republic: A History of the American People, (Little, Brown, 1977, revised edition, 1985).
  • pamphlet The Emancipation Moment, 1984.
  • Slavery and Human Progress, (Oxford University Press, 1984).
  • Slavery in the Colonial Chesapeake (pamphlet), (Colonial Williamsburg, 1986).
  • From Homicide to Slavery: Studies in American Culture, (Oxford University Press, 1986).
  • Revolutions: Reflections on American Equality and Foreign Liberations, (Harvard University Press, 1990).
  • (Coauthor) The Antislavery Debate: Capitalism and Abolitionism As a Problem in Historical Interpretation, edited by Thomas Bender, (University of California Press, 1992).
  • In the Image of God: Religion, Moral Values, and Our Heritage of Slavery, (Yale University Press, 2001).
  • Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World, (Oxford university Press, 2006).
  • Challenging the Boundaries of Slavery, (Harvard University Press, 2003).
  • Editor, Contributor, Joint Author:

  • Antebellum Reform, (Harper, 1967).
  • The Slave Power Conspiracy and the Paranoid Style, (Louisiana State University Press, 1969).
  • (Editor) The Fear of Conspiracy: Images of Un-American Subversion from the Revolution to the Present, (Cornell University Press, 1971).
  • Antebellum American Culture: An Interpretive Anthology, (Heath, 1979, reprinted, Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997).
  • (With Steven Mintz) The Boisterous Sea of Liberty: A Documentary History of America from Discovery through the Civil War, (Oxford University Press, 1998).
  • Contributor to books, including: The Stature of Theodore Dreiser, edited by Alfred Kazin and Charles Shapiro, (Indiana University Press, 1955); Twelve Original Essays on Great American Novels, edited by Shapiro, (Wayne State University Press, 1958); Perspectives and Irony in American Slavery, edited by Harry Owens, (University of Mississippi Press, 1976); Slavery and Freedom in the Age of the American Revolution, edited by Ira Berlin and Ronald Hoffman, (University of Virginia Press, 1983); and British Capitalism and Caribbean Slavery, edited by Barbara Solow and Stanley L. Engerman, (Cambridge University Press, 1987).

    Awards:

    Pulitzer Prize, 1967, for The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture.
    National Book Award for history, and Bancroft Prize, both 1976, both for The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution, 1770-1823.
    2004 Bruce Catton Prize of the Society of American Historians for lifetime achievement;
    2004 Kidger Award from the New England History Teachers Association given to honor his devotion to teaching;
    David Brion Davis  JPG Corresponding fellow, British Academy, 1992; Litt.D. from Columbia University, 1999;
    Presidential Medal for Outstanding Leadership and Achievement, Dartmouth College, 1991;
    Corresponding fellow, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1989;
    L.H.D., University of New Haven, 1986;
    Fulbright traveling fellow, 1980-81;
    National Endowment for the Humanities, research grants, 1979-80 and 1980-81, and fellowship for independent study and research, 1983-84;
    Litt.D., Dartmouth College, 1977;
    Henry E. Huntington Library fellow, 1976;
    Albert J. Beveridge Award, American Historical Association, 1975;
    Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences fellow, 1972-73;
    National Mass Media Award, National Conference of Christians and Jews, 1967;
    Anisfield-Wolf Award, 1967;
    Guggenheim fellow, 1958-59.

    Additional Info:

    Davis served as President of the Organization of American Historians for the 1988-1989 term.
    Commissioner, Orange, CT, Public Library Commission, 1974-75;
    Associate director, National Humanities Institute, Yale University, 1975.
    Contributor to professional journals and other periodicals, including New York Times Book Review, Times Literary Supplement, New York Review of Books, Washington Post Book World, New Republic, and Yale Review.
    Military service: U.S. Army, 1945-46.

    Posted on Sunday, May 28, 2006 at 7:12 PM

    History Doyens: Alonzo L. Hamby

    What They’re Famous For

    Alonzo L. Hamby is the Distinguished Professor of History at Ohio University. He is author of the award-winning biography, Man of the People: A Life of Harry S. Truman, Hamby has been the recipient of numerous awards and grants. They include the Herbert Hoover Book Award and the Harry S. Truman Book Award in 1996, both for Man of the People (1995). In addition to the Truman biography and numerous articles in scholarly journals, he has written or edited seven other books, including Alonzo Hamby JPGBeyond the New Deal: Harry S. Truman and American Liberalism, 1945-1953 (1973); The Imperial Years: The United States Since 1939 (1976); Liberalism and Its Challengers: F.D.R. to Bush (1992); and, most recently, For the Survival of Democracy: Franklin D. Roosevelt and th World Crisis of the 1930s (2004).

    Hamby also has receivedv two National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowships, a Harry S. Truman Library Institute Senior Fellowship, a Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Fellowship, and the Ohio Academy of History Distinguished Service Award. Born in Missouri, Hamby graduated from Southeast Missouri State University and earned his Ph.D. from the University of Missouri-Columbia. He is an expert on Harry S. Truman and his presidency, a research interest that started only years after Truman ledt the White House. In a recent interview he commented “I started at Missouri only ten years after Truman had left office. My dissertation, subsequently enlarged and published as Beyond the New Deal was not a biography. Truman’s personal papers were not yet available. It was a book about the liberal left of that time and the Truman presidency. I wrote a full-scale biography of Truman years later.”

    Personal Anecdote

    My mother probably thought that with a little luck, I might become a high school principal or superintendent someday. She had spent years teaching in one-room rural schools before meeting and marrying my father. They ran a mom and pop grocery store that required the time and work that in these days one expects only from immigrants. They also had books and newspapers in the house and wanted their children to do well in school. Naively or not, I believe that there remains plenty of upward mobility in America for those who work at it.

    My undergraduate colleges-Southwest Missouri State (one year) and Southeast Missouri State (three years) were primarily teacher training institutions. (I went against the grain and pursued a B.A. degree, which seemed to give me an opportunity to learn much more interesting things than what passed for “educational methods.”) What I recall most from my teachers were their high standards. No one seemed to worry about “retention,” and despite crushing loads, most of them gave generously of their time, advice, and above all their letter-writing efforts

    I managed (along with a couple of thousand other lucky students) to win a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship in 1960, and used it to pursue an M.A. at Columbia University. Columbia was quite an experience for a small-town kid. It had a huge M.A. program I probably couldn’t have been admitted otherwise. I’ll never forget a one-size-fits-all historiography course that had an enrollment approaching 200 students. It was the worst single class I would have in graduate school. Most of the other classes were ridiculously large, but nonetheless stimulating and frequently exciting.

    Alonzo  Hamby JPGThe Wilson money was much appreciated, but was only for one year. Financial aid at Columbia was tight, and I had no independent income. I got word of National Defense Education Act fellowships, tied to the study of the Truman presidency, at the University of Missouri. I applied and landed one. I found myself part of an excellent graduate program. The student talent level in truth surpassed that of my M.A. seminar at Columbia.

    At both schools, I was singularly fortunate in my choice of teachers. The three most important to me were John A. Garraty, Richard S. Kirkendall, and William Leuchtenburg.

    I had the good fortune to land a job at Ohio University upon completing my Ph.D. in 1965. Never having taught a course, delivered a paper, nor published an article, I would be considered utterly unqualified for a university position today. I decided that my dissertation, “Harry S. Truman and American Liberalism, 1945-1948,” should be the first half of a book that would take the theme through the entire Truman presidency, thereby condemning myself to, in effect, writing a second dissertation.

    One of the many benefits of this decision was that it reconnected me with William Leuchtenburg, whose large lecture class I had taken at Columbia. He was interested in the project for his recently started Columbia University Press Contemporary American History Series. No one, I would discover, could be more fortunate in his choice of an academic editor. Leuchtenburg was (and remains) the nicest man and the most demanding editor in the profession. The result was published as Beyond the New Deal: Harry S. Truman and American Liberalism (1973). I could take the time needed for such a venture because I already had tenure, awarded on the basis of an edited work and three or four articles. I doubt I could get it today!

    The book got me started on a professional track that emphasized the history of modern American liberalism and the presidency as a focus for the study of 20th-century American history.

    The rest, I guess, is history.

    Above photo: Professor Hamby in cap and gown from his Inaugural Lecture at the University of Leiden with wife, Joyce.

    Quotes

    By Alonzo L. Hamby

  • “Reduced to paper, the Roosevelt record was hardly impressive, even if one assumed that most New Deal beneficiaries expressed their gratitude in votes. But Roosevelt was impressive. His charisma, rhetorical talents, and dynamism made the New Deal more than the sum of its parts. American democracy differed perhaps most fundamentally from its British counterpart in demanding a strong leader at the top during times of crisis. Roosevelt, for all the inconsistencies of his agenda, emanated a sense of purposeful forward direction. However unsound his judgments may have been at critical times, however mixed his record, he had emerged as democracy’s most dynamic force in a menacing decade.” — Alonzo Hamby in “For the Survival of Democracy: Franklin Roosevelt and the World Crisis of the 1930s” (2004)
  • “I remain fundamentally positive in my view of [Harry Truman]. . . . I have sought to demythologize him, but not to debunk him. He is relevant to those who seek meaning in our past precisely because of the mixture of virtues and vices, strengths and limitations, one finds in his personality. Truman is significant not simply as one of the most important American presidents of our era, but also as a case study in American democracy . . . . Man of the  People JPGBorn to no special class with no ready-made identity, his life exemplifies the stresses of self-definition, risk, failure, success, compromise, mobility, and idealism characteristic of the American experience.”“The academic unfashionability of political biography (and political history in general) is . . . the result of an ideological viewpoint that prefers to ignore the success of liberal democratic politics in America. The latest generation of scholarly ideologues focuses single-mindedly on varieties of social history that with varying degrees of persuasiveness emphasize oppression or injustice, rather than liberty, democracy, or opportunity. Harry Truman’s story largely refutes them.”

    “. . . . I also believe that the distinction between social and political history is misconceived and that biography, by placing its subject within his or her context, can be a species of social history.” — Alonzo Hamby in “Man of the People: A Life of Harry S. Truman (1995)

  • “Strong political leadership, whether charismatic or tactical, has been throughout American history critical in popularizing a political ideology and mobilizing support for it. It is this circumstance (I am tempted to say ‘fact’) that justifies a biographical approach to the history of American politics, for leaders can rise and fall on the basis of individual personality characteristics unrelated to the substance of the issues they address.” — Alonzo Hamby in “Liberalism and Its Challengers: From F.D.R. to Bush” (1992)
  • About Alonzo L. Hamby

  • “In this vigorously argued, well-written book, Alonzo Hamby breaks new ground by placing Franklin Roosevelt’s first two terms in the context of what was happening in Hitler’s Germany and Stanley Baldwin’s Britain. For the  Survival of Democracy JPGHe is also considerably more critical of the New Deal than are traditional accounts. In both regards, he challenges the conclusions of other historians and the imaginations of his readers.” — William E. Leuchtenburg, reviewing “For the Survival of Democracy: Franklin Roosevelt and the World Crisis of the 1930s”
  • Hamby provides a vividly kaleidoscopic view of the global crisis of the 1930s — a real page-turner. — Fred I. Greenstein author of “The Presidential Difference” and “The Hidden-Hand Presidency” reviewing “For the Survival of Democracy: Franklin Roosevelt and the World Crisis of the 1930s”
  • A rich and compelling account of how the leaders of three nations — Britain, the United States, and Germany — responded to the economic crisis of the 1930s. No one who reads this book will ever again doubt that individuals, both great and infamous, can shape the course of history. — Steve Gillon, resident historian, The History Channel reviewing “For the Survival of Democracy: Franklin Roosevelt and the World Crisis of the 1930s”
  • “Alonzo Hamby’s biography of Truman is a masterpiece-arguably the best biography of any modern President. Its greatest strength is the steadfast willingness to confront the complexity of its subject. For those who want a simple Truman, a salty crackerbarrel philosopher who always knew where the buck stopped, or a venal graft-dispensing A-bomb- tosser, there are plenty of other places to look. Because Hamby, a historian at Ohio University and the author of a seminal study of Truman’s relationship to postwar liberalism, loves Truman, he does not need to like him all that much. He makes Truman’s greatness into a fascinating puzzle. How could such a relentlessly mediocre person do such great things?” — Mark Landy, Boston College, reviewing “Man of the People”
  • The need to be recognized and respected dominated Harry Truman’s life. That is the main theme of Alonzo L. Hamby’s superb new biography, “Man of the People.” So much has been written about Truman in recent years — most of it celebratory — that yet another book about him runs the risk of being ignored. That would be unfortunate in this case, since the Truman we meet in these pages is more troubled, complicated and genuine than the man we have read about before. While Mr. Hamby’s account lacks the narrative drive of David McCullough’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Truman,” published in 1992, it is superior, I think, in providing a clear interpretive framework for understanding the relationship between Truman’s personal traits and his momentous Presidential decisions…. By the time of his death in 1972, Truman had become an American hero. More than two decades later, his reputation soars. What Mr. Hamby has done, with great skill, is to remind us of the real Harry Truman, to demythologize him without slighting his accomplishments or his rough road to success. The people love Truman for good reason, as a common man who cared about them and demonstrated their potential. “His climb to the top in this Darwinian world can be seen as a triumph of the values America represented,” Mr. Hamby concludes. “Thus to celebrate him is to celebrate ourselves.” — David Oshinsky, reviewing “Man of the People” in NYT
  • “An altogether splendid biography. It combines well-paced narrative and sensitive portraiture with incisive analysis in setting Harry Truman against the troubles and triumphs of a turbulant time.” — Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. reviewing “Man of the People”
  • Hamby presents a beautifully and scrupulously researched portrait of Truman that strips away the mythologizer’s varnish to give us the authentic, politician whose life was a potent testimony to burning ambition, good judgement, and blind luck.” — The Washington Post Book World reviewing “Man of the People.”
  • Alonzo L. Hamby has written the sort of book that validates the scholarly woork of a lifetime…Hamby writes with what might be called archival integrity. Without succumbing to scholarly dullness, he nonetheless manages to narrate the complete details of Truman’s life…perceived flaws are insignificant compared to the book’s many virtues. Hamby has written a masterpiece of political history. — Edward Berkowitz, George Washington University, reviewing “Man of the People”
  • “Why is Harry S. Truman so much more popular as a president today than when he was actually in office? Alonzo L. Hamby has devoted much of his career to the study of Truman–admitting to a “quasi-obsession” going beyond the academic-and has synthesized much of his earlier work into a fine study of the now much-admired president. He has been particularly sucessful in combining serious historical analysis with a wealth of anecdotal material in the way that professional historians at their best both can ana should do. Seeking to “demythologize him, but to debunk him”, Hamby suceeds in making Truman understandable and in many ways attractive without having to ignore his abundant character flaws, particularly his personal combativeness….Hamby’s fine book certainly helps to contribute to the further examination of such questions, whether or not it suceeeds in fully vanquishing the point of view of those whom he characterizes as the currently fashionable historians who prefer “to ignore the sucess of liberal democratic politics in America.” — Jack Stuart, California State University, Long Beach reviewing “Man of the People”
  • Liberalism and Its Challengers JPGLiberalism and Its Challengers “is an important book–not for the light it sheds on the political history of the United States during the past five decades, but as a comment upon the status of present-day liberalism. Alonzo Hamby is a scholar of considerable standing.” — Forrest McDonald reviewing “Liberalism and Its Challengers”
  • “In an attempt to discredit what he simplistically calls “The New Left” interpretation. Alonzo Hamby has filed a welll-researched, ocassionally critical brief for the politics and policies of the Truman administration. The book is contraversial and will spark a many-sided debate among historians of cold-war America…. his scholarship is impressive and much of his analysis is quite valuable.” — William C. Berman, University of Toronto, reviewing “Beyond the New Deal”
  • “Greatest professor of department”…”Wonderful Professor”… “Very approachable and helpful.” — Anonymous Students
  • Basic Facts

    Teaching Positions:

    Ohio University: Assistant Professor, 1965-69; Associate Professor, 1969-75; Professor, 1975-96; Distinguished Professor, 1996- ; Alonzo Hamby  JPG Director of Graduate Studies, Department of History, 1978-80, 1987-88, 1995-96 ; Chair, Department of History, 1980-83.

    Sackler Professor of American History and Culture, University of Leiden, 2004-05. (Photo to the left from Hamby’s Inaugural Lecture at Leiden)

    Area of Research:
    U.S. History, 1607-present; Twentieth-century America; American Historiography

    Education:

    Southeast Missouri State College (now University), B.A., 1960;
    Columbia University, M.A., 1961;
    University of Missouri, Ph.D., 1965

    Major Publications:

  • Beyond the New Deal: Harry S. Truman and American Liberalism, 1945-1953 (Columbia University Press, 1973).
  • The Imperial Years: The United States since 1939 (Weybright and Talley, 1976).
  • Liberalism and Its Challengers: F.D.R. to Reagan (Oxford University Press, 1985). [2nd ed., 1992, subtitled F.D.R. to Bush]
  • Man of the People: A Life of Harry S. Truman (Oxford University Press, 1995)
  • For the Survival of Democracy: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the World Crisis of the 1930s (New York: The Free Press, 2004)
  • Present Research: A full-life biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt, under contract to Basic Books.
  • Editor, Contributor, Joint Author:

  • editor, The New Deal: Analysis and Interpretation (Weybright and Talley, 1969; 2nd ed., New York: Longman, 1980).
  • editor and contributor, Harry S. Truman and the Fair Deal (Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath, 1974).
  • co-editor and contributor, Historians, Archivists, and Access to the Papers of Recent Public Figures (Organization of American Historians, 1978).
  • Approximately thirty-five articles published or forthcoming in scholarly journals or magazines and collections of essays. In addition, about three dozen shorter pieces for encyclopedias and other reference works and approximately 120 book reviews in scholarly journals, newspapers, and magazines, including Times Literary Supplement, New York Times Book Review, and Wall Street Journal.
  • Awards:

    Herbert Hoover Book Award, 1996, and Harry S. Truman Book Award, both for Man of the People, 1996.
    David D. Lloyd Prize, Harry S. Truman Library Institute, 1974, Ohio Academy of History Publication Award, 1974, Phi Alpha Theta First Book Award, 1974–all for Beyond the New Deal.
    Alonzo Hamby JPGOhio Academy of History Distinguished Service Award, 1998;
    Fellow, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 1991-92;
    Southeast Missouri State University Outstanding History Alumnus, 1985, and College of Liberal Arts Alumni Merit Award, 1990;
    Harry S. Truman Library Institute Senior Fellowship, 1986-87;
    National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Fellowship, 1985;
    Evans Research Fellow, Harry S. Truman Library Institute, 1973-74;
    National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, 1972-73;
    Ohio University Baker Fund Awards, 1969, 1986;
    Ohio University Research Council Grants, 1967, 1976, 1983;
    Phi Beta Kappa, Lambda of Ohio, honorary membership, 1977;
    American Philosophical Society Grant, 1967;
    Harry S. Truman Library Institute Research Grants, 1964, 1966, 1967, 1969;
    University of Missouri Wilson Fellow, 1964-65;
    National Defense Education Act Fellow, 1962-64;
    Woodrow Wilson Fellow, 1960-61.Additional Info:

    Hamby comments frequently about Presidential politics in the media, including among others “the Newshour with Jim Lehrer”.
    Commentator for American Experience’s : Truman” on PBS.
    Hamby recently completed a substantial revision of the State Department Bureau of International Information Programs’ “Outline of U.S. History” publication.

    Top photo: Rick Fatica, Ohio University.

    Posted on Sunday, May 14, 2006 at 6:26 PM

    History Doyens: Bernard A. Weisberger

    What They’re Famous For

    Bernard A. Weisberger is a distinguished teacher and author of American history. Weisberger formerly was a professor at Wayne State University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Rochester where he was full professor and chair of the department. He has written more than a dozen books and worked on documentaries with Bill Moyers and Ken Burns. His Charles Ramsdell Prize winning article “The Dark and Bloody Ground of Reconstruction Historiography,” is considered a standard in the study of the Reconstruction period. Retiring in 1970, Weisberger has devoted himself full time to writing both books and articles in popular history media and magazines. Bernard Weisberger JPGHe is best known as a longtime contibuting editor for American Heritage. He started writing his first article for the magazine in 1955, and he then wrote the “In the News” column for more than ten years from 1989 to 1999. Additionally he published many of his books for American Heritage‘s book series

    Weisberger’s area of research stretches accross the landscape of American history. His most recent book When Chicago Ruled Baseball The Cubs-White Sox World Series of 1906 recounts how in 1906, the baseball world saw something that had never been done: two teams from the same city squared off against each other in an intracity World Series, pitting the heavily favored Cubs of the National League against the hardscrabble American League champion White Sox. In honor of its centennial anniversary Weisberger tells this tale of a unique time in baseball, a unique time in America, and a time when Chicago was at the center of it all. In an interview Weisberger discussed his wide area of research stating: “I’ve stuck to one subject area–U.S. history–but within that, I’ve managed to turn out textbooks, juveniles, illustrated popular books, biographies, standard trade books, [and] television presentations.”

    Personal Anecdote

    How did I become a historian? It may have begun on a Saturday afternoon in the early 1930s when I was about ten years old. My mother took me for diversion to a “convict ship” –one of those used to transport convicts from Great Britain to Australia–a restoration or a replica, I guess, which was being exhibited at a pier on the west side of Manhattan, where we lived. It’s my first recollection of an historical exhibit, and it was real to me–too real, in fact. It showed the shackles and the below-decks dungeons and the whips used to deal with unruly “passengers” and my imagination translated those objects into vivid pictures of actual, bleeding men being shoved into those dark enclosures lit only by what came through tiny, barred openings in the heavy doors. That’s been a lasting feature of my mind’s eye–when I write about anything historical it’s all actually taking place right in front of me; I can see it and hear it–and I try, as best I can, to get that into my writing. Why not historical fiction, then? Of that, more in a moment or two.

    I can’t say that on that afternoon I decided “Gee, I wanna be an historian, Mom.” At that age , of course, I didn’t know what an historian was. What I did know that I was scared stiff by the vivid scenes I had just “witnessed” and plainly showing it. My mother thought I obviously needed an antidote. It happened that it was one of the years when the U.S. Atlantic fleet–maybe the Pacific one, too, for all I know–made a visit to New York, and anchored in its spacious harbor and also in the Hudson River for some distance. Visits were offered and encouraged; the Navy knew the value of good public relations even then. So we finished the day’s excursion by going to the appropriate pier, getting in a launch, and being shown around a cruiser by a very polite young swabby who was virtually a walking recruiting poster. I did recover from my panic attack and I did enjoy the experience.

    If I’d enjoyed it even more, I might have become a professional sailor. But history won–and that was even before I got seasick for the first time in 1943, crossing the Pacific.

    I loved to read and discovered some ability to write by the time I was in high school. As a fourteen-year-old sophomore, I had a short story published in my Stuyvesant High School literary magazine, the Caliper. Bernard Weisberger JPG What a thrill. I decided then that I would be a writer. In the ensuing couple of years, I wrote another dozen to dozen and a half stories. The faculty advisor to the magazine, one, Irving Astrachan, was a fine teacher who luckily hadn’t fallen for the patois about not damaging the self-esteem of adolescents. I got about two of them published, and the other sixteen he would hand back to me with a terse comment: “Burn it.” I knew his judgment was correct. I still wanted to write–but nonfiction was going to be my metier. And by college time I got inspired. I still loved history. And history furnished me all the plots, characters, and dramatic episodes that I had a hard time making up. History even forbid making things up! (And it still does!!!) As I acquired more sophisticated understanding of how historians worked, I did come to realize that there is an inescapable element of imagination, even for the most scrupulous dryasdust scribe, in recreating a past that is accessible only through the saved recollections of those who experienced it, but let that pass. History it was for a vocation, and still is.

    I attended Columbia College as a subway commuter, and encountered a couple of sensational teachers, one of them Jacques Barzun, for whom, in my junior year I wrote a paper on the Paris Commune of 1871, which earned an “A” of which I am still proud and some personal encouragement. However, there were some other pressing engagements in June of 1942, and that September I was off to war. (No trumpets here; I’m one of those who “fought” from behind a desk.) Had the Japanese not attacked Pearl Harbor, I might have become an historian of France, and I almost regret that I didn’t, because it would have provided excuses to spend more time in Paris. But when I returned in 1946 and wound up in graduate school at the University of Chicago–actually marking time, because at that moment, I was equally attracted to the idea of becoming a journalist– and bang, another great teacher lit my fuse. He was Avery Craven, a specialist on the origins of the Civil War, some of whose views about its causes and consequences I never shared and never will, but that doesn’t matter. I signed up for one of his classes, he walked in, opened his mouth, and in five minutes I was a goner. He lectured from folders crammed with source documents–I never heard him quote another historian, though there were plenty of them on his reading list–and as he spoke, a parade of politicians, slaves, ex-slaves, pioneers, promoters, preachers, editors, soldiers, housewives, oh, a perfectly Walt Whitman-esque cast , strutted and fretted their little hour on the stage. (He was, by the way, an amateur artist.) I gobbled every course he offered, and it was a two-way romance, I guess, because he liked the papers I handed in. One day he asked me to sign on as his research assistant and push my way through to a PhD, and that’s how I became a Professor of American history. By the way, he never demanded “discipleship.” My subject matter and my ideas often strayed from his, and while he may have regretted my heresies, he was always a kind and supportive friend–an intellectual father in some ways, primarily as an inspiration to work always towards being the best and most honest writer of history I could.

    The record will show that I “professed” about eighteen years before quitting to write full time. I enjoyed the “teaching” part of academic life–e.g., dealing with the students close up–and made some lifelong friends among them and some of my colleagues, but I cared little for any other aspect of life behind the ivied walls. So I quit, did some freelancing, worked two years as an Associate Editor, took a part-time position at Vassar (where I met Rick Shenkman) and finally took to supporting myself fulltime as an historian-writer. It reminds me sometimes of Archibald McLeish’s definition of being a poet “A hardy life, with a boot as quick as a fiver.” But I’ve loved it.

    I don’t know as how I have written any “famous” books, but I think there’s a generation of historians trained in the nineteen-sixties who probably knew me through an article called “The Dark and Bloody Ground of Reconstruction Historiography,” which was reprinted and circulated fairly widely. It appeared in the Journal of Southern History in 1959, and the thrust of it was pretty much along the lines of what is now the more familiar story of Reconstruction best summarized in Eric Foner’s book on the subject. In short, it repudiated the “Dunning school” views that were common up until then– Reconstruction was a carnival of corruption and violence that forced the humiliated and conquered South to endure the revolting experience of being governed by an alliance of ignorant ex-slaves and trashy whites. What utter bunk!! I don’t get credit for discovering that–good black historians had known it for years, and Howard Beale had said as much in 1930 in the American Historical Review. But I was lucky enough to be surfing that wave at the dawn of the 20th century civil rights revolution. Well, anyway, the article won my only academic prize–the Charles Ramsdell Prize for the best article published that year in the JSH. Ramsdell was, like E. Merton Coulter whose book on Reconstruction was then a reigning favorite, a neo-Confederate who embraced the white supremacist view totally.

    My first book was my dissertation, extended. My second, They Gathered at the River, was on revivalism mostly in the 19th century US, and took me to the Moody Bible Institute to consult the papers of Dwight L. Moody, the “Billy Graham” of the 1870s and 1880s (but not one who so sedulously cultivated politicians and became the White House preacher of conservative Presidents.) I was welcomed, especially after the kind folks there were reassured that I was a Jew whose interest was purely historical, and not a “liberal Christian” on a mission to write a debunking article about them. Far from it, I rather respected and admired Moody for a number of reasons, remote as was his world outlook from mine. In fact, while there were some characters in the book for whom I had pretty low regard, I tried, as always, not to criticize or mock them or their followers, but to tell their story as they might have seen it. Well, I must have succeeded because something called the Religious Book Club adopted it as an alternate choice for one month in 1958, describing it as an “offbeat” selection. And the MBI’s house organ reviewed the book, naturally focusing on the Moody chapter, and said that it was good, but added–and I have to paraphrase, having long ago lost the original–”Professor Weisberger has no understanding of the supernatural.” Which was true, to be sure–I had explained Moody’s success in practical terms from information historically accessible, and they believed it was all God’s doing. Who knows? Might be so, but an historian’s license doesn’t extend to the supernatural.

    Bernard Weisberger JPG A little postscript, by the way; the good folk there (only name I remember is Bernard de Remer, at the time in their public relations office) had explained to me that my Jewishness wasn’t a bar to admission to the archives–they had missions to the Jews and in fact taught Hebrew and Yiddish courses among their offerings. (This is all fifty years ago, I have to note; I have no idea what the Institute is like now.) For a while after I left I did get mailings urging me to recognize the mistake I had made in not recognizing Jesus as true heir to Judaism, until I finally told them that much as I’d enjoyed my excursion into evangelical Christianity during the writing of the book, I could not be persuaded out of my Jewishness.

    I’m pretty proud of both the above stories–that concerning the Ramsdell Prize because I don’t think that “objectivity” stands in the way of a forthright expression of one’s own values even in a carefully documented and fairly written piece. And that about the MBI, because if history is worth anything, it is because, if studied rightly, it teaches you to recognize that even your most cherished opinions need to be recognized as open to question, and based on life experiences that are transitory.

    In some ways my favorite ‘teaching’ experience was the ten years I spent writing a column for American Heritage (1989-99) finding historical parallels for events that were then current “In the News,” which was the column’s title. My ‘class’ consisted of general readers of every kind, bound together by enough interest in history to buy the magazine. I was, and still am, trying to spread theword that history, and by that I mean sound, well-researched, thoughtful history, with all the virtues of perspective that it brings, is out there to think about and enjoy, even for the non-professional reader. And I don’t mean by that to disparage all academic historians. Nor the academic undertaking in general, but it has to keep an awareness of its connection to the purposes and expectations of the larger society in which it exists, if it wants to avoid clannishness, sterility and irrelevancy. Making that point has been the nearest thing I’ve had to a mission, and I’m happy to air that opinion on History News Network, which pretty much serves the same function.

    “. . .[S]eeing an event in historical perspective is a very good thing to do. It’s a safeguard against pontification of all sorts–against ‘the-sky-is-falling’ alarms at one extreme and ‘we-are-the-greatest-ever’ exultation at the other. It shrinks self-importance, rebukes dogmatism, and builds courage.”

    Quotes

    By Bernard A. Weisberger

  • “These observations are only the framework of an answer to the question of why Reconstruction represents a challenge not met by academic historians. Underlying the problem is the fact that Reconstruction confronts American writers of history with things thet things which they prefer, like other Americans, to ignore-brute power and its manipulation, class conflict, race antagonism. Yet these things make it an essentially modern period. Reconstruction cannot be properly “gotten at” by well-worn roads of agrarianism, sectionalism, or constitutional analysis. It cannot be approached without perhaps requiring of American historians that they yield up some of their marvelous ability to read unity, progress, and patriotism into every page of the American record-that they face problems which all their piety and wit cannot dismiss or solve with credit to all. Yet those who teach and write the American story cannot be a mere priesthood of patriotismm unless they wish to invite dominion of the second-rate. If they do not confront tragedies, paradoxes, tidal forces in the culture-if they do not show the forces eroding the compromises of the post-Civil War period illustrate the fustrating complexity of the problems now awakened again-then Reconstruction will have added the historical guild to the list of its ‘victims.’” — Bernard Weisberger in “The Dark and Bloody Ground of Reconstruction Historiography”
  • The Constitution, in the 1790s, was still considered a fragile work-in-progress– more a provisional outline than a charter for the ages. It didn’t yet have the emotional power to unite people automatically behind it. And it showed early signs of misjudgments and of business unfinished. First of all, since they shared a general coolness toward “democracy,” the framers failed to foresee the growth of a drive toward more widespread participation in “popular governments.” Second, they never anticipated that “factions” could embrace whole sections of the new Union, or that there might be large-scale permanent coalitions of “factions” in the form of political parties. And of course they could not know that the new ship of state would be launched into a wrenching tempest of international warfare caused by a French Revolution that was soon to begin.
    America Afire JPG All of these developments unleashed the passions of special interest and thwarted the hopes of immediately setting up a national government dedicated purely to the “permanent and aggregate interests of the community.” One result was that the machinery of succession to the presidency would be out of date in the very first election after the most popular man in the country had stepped down from power, and seriously dysfunctional by the time of the second. The seeds of the crisis of 1800 were planted in 1787 In Philadelphia. The Constitutional Convention set the stage for the drama and introduced some of the cast. One delegate, South Carolina’s Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, would become Adams’s running mate. Two others would be far more significant players–James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, friends in 1787, intense foes thirteen years later. The whole story of the nation during that interval reflected their unraveling alliance. Madison was so much at the heart of the convention that he has been called the Father of the Constitution. Hamilton had only one highlighted moment, but it was enough to foreshadow a career whose impact on America’s future may have been the most lasting of all.
    By 1800, Madison was a chief planner for the new Republican Party, which backed Jefferson for president. It strongly supported states’ rights, and history remembers Madison in part for his eloquent defense of that stance. But when he arrived in Philadelphia early in May 1787, days before the scheduled opening session, Madison was still a nationalist and with good reason. He came fresh from months in New York City as a frustrated member of the one-house Congress created by the 1781 Articles of Confederation.
  • Bernard A. Weisberger in “America Afire Jefferson, Adams, and the First Contested Election”

  • “The anticipation had been building for the six days since it became certain that both of Chicago’s teams were pennant winners. The town’s major daily newspapers (in those preconsolidation days of 1906, there were some nine in English and an equal number in German, Yiddish, Czech, Norwegian, and one or two other languages) gave baseball front- page coverage, beginning on Thursday and with the volume increasing over the weekend. The Tribune devoted most of its Sunday sporting section to a long review of the championship seasons of both White Sox and Cubs. It shared space with coverage of Saturday’s Big Ten college football matchups — baseball’s only serious rival for attention back then. But college football appealed mostly to college graduates, an influential but still miniature slice of the population. Americans without higher education, however, had taken the diamond game to heart by the millions. They wanted a steady and generous diet of baseball scores, standings, and gossip in the daily papers that plugged them into the world (at 2 cents a copy), and publishers fed it to them willingly and profitably.Front-page editorial cartoons, usually political, were temporarily shelved in favor of baseball gags: baseballs with smiley faces, deliriously happy fans and families, the latter including pets and babies. Two in particular carried implicit social messages. One, a story in four panels appearing in the Tribune, introduced a pair of characters already familiar from the comic strips: the boss and the office boy. The boss corners the reluctant youngster, who is planning to sneak away, and demands that the boy “do something” for him that afternoon, which happily turns out to be to “go to the ball game with me and explain the finer points.” The lesson was that first, there were “fine points” to the game that made it a craft worth studying and not an idle pastime, and second, that mutual delight in Chicago’s baseball prowess bound together generations and classes — benign old employer and lowly kid jobholder. In that simple form the text was clear even to the barely literate reader.

    When  Chicago Ruled Baseball JPG Compared to that theme of harmony, one of the Daily News’s pregame cartoons radiates realism. The image of Mrs. O’Leary’s angry cow starting the Great Fire of 1871, as legend had it, by kicking a lighted lantern into a pile of straw is succeeded by the “Mild and Gentle Animal of Today” wearing a contented grin as uniformed Cubs and Sox players cheerfully milk her into a bucket stamped with a large, eye-catching dollar sign. Whatever else professional baseball bestowed on society at large, it was a business whose chief end and aim was to generate cash.

    That contradiction between baseball’s public face as the simon-pure recreational expression of the American spirit and the reality of big-league, big-city baseball as a market enterprise (and a monopoly at that) anchored in a growing commercial entertainment industry and culture — that discord between image and reality — is clear in any hard- eyed look at that 1906 crosstown series in a Chicago banging and barging its metropolitan way into a new century. It’s a sports story that helps to explain how we American urbanites have come to be who we are and how we see ourselves.

    But songs of social significance aren’t the only music of baseball history. The Series itself was wonderfully exciting, an electric week of surprises, thrills, exploits and errors, hopes roused and hopes dashed. For those who were there, time was suspended, the world outside the playing field faded into the background, and individual problems were forgotten in the single, roaring life of the crowd riding the same emotional roller coaster with every swing and every pitch. That is what any popular spectator sport still does for its fans. In America, baseball did it first.

    It was a different world then. But a lover of baseball in 2006 isn’t all that estranged fron the grandstand throngs caught in those grainy black-and-white news photos of a century ago. We know more than we want to now about the private sins of the players, about multimillion-dollar payrolls and agents and unions and TV revenue shares– sometimes it’s hard to tell the sports pages from the business news. . . . — Bernard A. Weisberger in “When Chicago Ruled Baseball : The Cubs-White Sox World Series of 1906″

  • “It would be simplistic, even sappy, to call history yesterday’s news or to describe myself as a reporter of it. But I do see history as a continuing story with an essentially unchanging cast-to wit, the damned, infuriating, fascinating human race, wrestling with its fate. What I like is to talk about people, and the people I encounter in the day’s news are not all that different from those who emerge from the documents I consult in writing a book or article. Perhaps it’s because I deal only with American history, which is almost all current news when measured against the whole time span of the past. Be that as it may, it’s a source of pleasure, irritation, and occasional comfort to me that I would happily share.” — Bernard Weisberger in the announcement for his “American Heritage” column “In the News”, 1989
  • After ten years of writing this column, I am saying a fond farewell. Not to American Heritage or to writing in general, merely to “In the News.” I had intended to slip away unnoticed, but my good friend and editor Richard Snow offered me the opportunity for a parting word or two, and I find it irresistible. If, however, you turned to this page expecting another essay on the historical echoes of a recent news item and are disappointed, there will be no hard feelings if you stop here.Why am I quitting now? Mainly because I find myself getting a little repetitious, at least in my own view. Each issue’s “story” is different, but the message is the same: that seeing a current event in historical perspective is a very good thing to do. It’s a safeguard against pontification of all sorts-against “thesky-is-falling” alarms at one extreme and the “we-are-thegreatest-ever” exultation at the other. It shrinks self- importance, rebukes dogmatism, and builds courage. As a teenager I learned and loved a corny verse from A. E. Housman that runs: “The troubles of our proud and angry dust / Are from eternity and shall not fail / Bear them we can, and if we can we must / Shoulder the sky, my lad, and drink your ale.” I can laugh, many decades later, at the final words, the half-cynical, half-heroic posturing, the stoic shrug with nose buried in the ale mug. But there’s still a portion of truth in the first three lines….

    I end this personal recollection by repeating once more my commitment to “popular” history, which I’ve been writing for all these years, with a bit of television work thrown in. I don’t like the term. It has a pejorative flavor, much like its antonym of “academic” history. I’ve read good and bad examples of both, I know good people who do both, and I wish the wall between the camps weren’t so high. But I know where I stand. I’m unchangeably a storyteller. I never had any interest in research that didn’t lead to a narrative able to move the hearts and imaginations of nonspecialist readers, and I have a hard time comprehending the justification for any other kind of historical inquiry. I’ve heard the argument that just as science became more sophisticated and necessarily inaccessible to the generalist, so it has been with history. I won’t try to rebut it ex parte (that is, without some representative of that view present). But I frankly doubt it.

    It is wiser always not to linger at the door. My thanks to the editors and fact checkers with whom I have worked pleasantly over these years. Likewise, to those readers who troubled to write to me or the “Correspondence” page in support or dissent, I appreciate your attention. To all of you, I want to say that I have gotten unqualified enjoyment from history since my first childhood visit to a museum, my first reading of a “juvenile” biography, my first high school term paper, my first thrilling graduate school encounter with an actual manuscript letter laid on my desk by an archivist. I still do. I hope that it’s been reflected in these little excursions and that some of it has rubbed off on you. Good-bye for now. — Bernard Weisberger in his farewell “In the News” column for American Heritage, July, 1999.

    About Bernard A. Weisberger

  • “I love this book.” — Ken Burns reviewing
  • “…brings life to a magical city, an enchanting World Series and the baseball legends who battled for glory.” — Tom Stanton, Casey Award-winning author of “The Final Season and Hank Aaron and the Home Run That Changed America”
  • America Afire is a dazzling narrative filled with backroom intrigue, political chicanery, and high-minded idealism. A wonderful achievement.” — Douglas Brinkley reviewing “America Afire”
  • “Bernard Weisberger’s America Afire is a significant addition to the literature dealing with the early political history of the Republic.” — Arnold Rogow reviewing “America Afire”
  • “A vivid political history of the earliest and most unstable years of the American republic… a must-read…” — Kirkus review of “America Afire”
  • “In focusing upon the campaign that brought Jefferson to the White House and his party into the unparalleled dominance of the antebellum period, Bernard Weisberger recapitulates in America Afire the partisan developments of the 1790s. For him they are prelude to the election itself, the one that landed in the House of Representatives because party discipline had been so good that Jefferson and his running mate, Burr, got the same number of votes. A fine writer, Weisberger punctuates his political narrative with the standard events that gave this political moment its shape, from the drafting of the Constitution through Jay’s Treaty, the X, Y, Z Affair and the Alien and Sedition Act to the actual balloting. He does illuminate the political struggles that turned Jefferson into “the collective self-image of Americans.” Complementary as history, both of these fine books give us access to how that particular self-image was framed 200 years ago.” — Joyce Appleby reviewing “America Afire”
  • “Bernard Weisberger provides a highly engaging, thoroughly well-written account of the Adams-Jefferson rivalry, which traded on both personality and ideology–and, indeed, on markedly different visions of human nature. His book is timely, for many of the issues Adams and Jefferson argued over remain with Americans today and are the subject of constant controversy. Which is, Weisberger says, just as it should be; it means that ‘the revolution is still at work.’” — Gregory McNamee, Amazon.com reviewing “America Afire”
  • “Bernard Weisberger’s book is an old-fashioned electoral history in the best sense of the term. His exposition aims above all to indicate how and why the turbulence developed which led to “the crucial [U.S.] election of 1800,” and how this election “preserved the Revolution and the infant American republic” (p. 9). These complicated tasks the author accomplishes ably. Pari passu, Weisberger also provides many interesting and revealing glimpses of life in the Republic from the Constitutional Convention through the painful, extended election of the third President of the United States.
    As he clearly establishes his theme, the historian narrates well the simple inaugural ceremonies that accompanied the early March 1801 peaceful “transfer of power by popular vote” (p. 9). The body of America Afire, however, begins at the 1787 Convention in Philadelphia (Chapter 1)….
    On balance, however, America Afire is an outstanding book–clearly conceived, lucidly written, and satisfyingly informative. Once the author engages his theme, the narrative proves stimulating and education through the last page.” — James J. Kirschke, Villanova University reviewing “America Afire”
  • “At the time, it occurred to me that a group of such historians commenting on the news every week would make a fascinating television program. And perhaps it will, one day. Meanwhile, the editors of this magazine have decided to try to convert the rich lode of history underlying recent events into a regular column for our readers. The result, beginning in this issue, is “In the News,” a feature written by Bernard A. Weisberger, who will, in essence, read the newspapers and watch the television news for us, bringing his long career as a writer and historian to bear on whatever passing alarm takes his notice.” — Byron Dobell announcing Weisberger’s “American Heritage” column “In the News, 1989.”
  • “On a shelf near our office-supply cabinet sit three little steel boxes that are, in effect, the magazine’s memory. The five-by-seven cards they contain catalogue the name of every author who has ever written for us, the titles of the articles, the dates when they ran, and what we paid for them. They’re filed alphabetically, so it’s not until you get to the third box that you come across a wad of half a dozen cards, paper-clipped together. This packet charts the career of our most prolific contributor: Weisberger, Bernard A.Dim on the first card is the information that Bernie’s inaugural American Heritage article, “Evangelists to the Machine Age,” ran in the fifth issue of the new magazine, in August 1955. No record of what he was paid for that or for his second piece, but the third one, “Pentecost in the Backwoods,” netted him $350. (This and the first story were drawn from research he was doing for his fine 1958 book They Gathered at the River: The Story of the Great Revivalists and Their Impact Upon Religion in America.) In 1960 he writes about the Lowell Mills; 1963 brings a Christmas bonus of $100; in the 1970s he produces stories on Pinckney B. S. Pinchback, George Eastman, Benjamin Rush, and Paul Revere; in 1987 his essay “American History Is Falling Down” warns that the increasing fragmentation of the subject in the academy means that teachers are dismantling a coherent narrative and putting nothing in its place; in 1989 he publishes his first “In the News” column (in which he answers the many columnists who complained that the recently concluded presidential race has set “new lows in distortion and trivialization” by quoting a New York Times headline from the sainted Harry Truman’s 1948 campaign: PRESIDENT LIKENS DEWEY TO HITLER AS FASCISTS’ TOOL); and the final entry on the sixth card records that on 2/3/99 we acquired “Last in the News, July/Aug ’99 AH.”

    Bernie inaugurated our “In the News” column and wrote it for a decade. He was the ideal proprietor for this franchise because he could connect present concerns to past precedents with effortless ease. Of course, that ease was the result of a lifetime of hard work and a promiscuous curiosity that produced not only the scores of stories in American Heritage but books on a spectrum of subjects that runs from Civil War correspondents to the flamboyant Billy Durant of General Motors, from the La Follettes of Wisconsin to the long, tense confrontation of the Cold War.

    As for the effort, Bernie never let it show. His clean, brisk, relaxed writing, informed with strong feeling but free always of polemicizing, drew a steady stream of correspondence from our readers that is itself a tribute to his warmth and accessibility. Not everyone agreed with him (Bernie is pretty close to an honest-to-God New Deal liberal, a distinction I found useful to point out when we received the occasional letter accusing the magazine of having become a pawn of the right wing-just as we cite Bernie’s figurative next-door neighbor, the “Business of America” columnist John Steele Gordon, when mail accuses us of abandoning our old standards to veer leftward), but he answered all with a courteous enthusiasm that invariably proved infectious. Bernie is that rare creature, a man of powerful convictions and no enemies.

    I’m in his debt not only for fourscore good columns; when, in the long-ago spring of 1972, he decided to leave his post on the magazine to teach history at Vassar, it opened up a slot on the editorial staff that I was able to move into. Of course, nobody thought I was replacing Bernie, just as Bernie’s successor will not replace him. But I am happy to be able to welcome as the new “In the News” columnist, Kevin Baker, who comes from serving as the chief historical researcher on Harold Evans’s bestseller The American Century and has recently published the highly acclaimed historical novel Dreamland, a spirited, passionate, and altogether absorbing chronicle of life in New York City at the century’s turn.

    He’ll appear in the next issue. In this one Bernie speaks of his ten-year ambassadorship between today’s news and yesterday’s and says good-bye to his readers-but not forever: He is currently in the midst of a book on the pivotal election of 1800. And in saying good-bye to Bernie, I’ll quote a passage from one of his more recent columns that seems to me eloquent of the spirit in which he has approached his life’s work. In speaking of those who think that the much-beleaguered traditional narrative of our past fails to make itself relevant to many in an increasingly multicultural society, Bernie writes, “Somehow I have certainly never had a problem in assuming that even though my own ancestors did not reach these shores until around 1900, men like Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln had made and preserved the United States for people like me. I rather thought I was discharging a debt to them in telling the story to people like you.”” — Richard F. Snow on Bernard Weisberger retiring from the “American Heritage” column “In the News”

    Basic Facts

    Teaching Positions: University of Rochester, Rochester, NY, professor of history, 1963-68, chairman of department, 1964-65;
    University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, associate professor of history, 1959-63;
    Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, assistant professor, 1954-59;
    Antioch College, Yellow Springs, OH, assistant professor, 1952-54;
    Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA, instructor, 1950-51;

    Bernard Weisberger JPG Ford Foundation Lecturer, Atlanta University Center, Atlanta, GA, 1965;
    Part-time adjunct professor, New York University, New York, NY, 1968-69;
    Member of National Humanities faculty, 1969;
    Part-time visiting professor of history and American civilization, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY, 1972-79;

    Professional Positions: Freelance writer, 1968-70;
    American Heritage, associate editor, 1970-72, contributing editor, 1972–;
    freelance writer/historian, 1979–;
    Member of advisory committee, National Endowment for the Humanities feasibility study of a new journal in humanities, 1975.
    Chief consultant, Reader’s Digest Encyclopedia of American History, 1975;
    General consultant, Story of America, Reader’s Digest Books, 1975;
    bicentennial programming consultant, National Broadcasting Corp. (NBC) Radio Network, 1975-76;
    Consultant for film “City out of Wilderness,” 1975.

    Area of Research: American History and popular history

    Education: Columbia University, A.B., 1943;
    University of Chicago, A.M., 1947, Ph.D., 1950.

    Major Publications:

  • Reporters for the Union, (Little, Brown, 1953).
  • They Gathered at the River, (Little, Brown, 1958).
  • The American Newspaperman, (University of Chicago Press, 1961).
  • The Age of Steam and Steel, (Time-Life, 1964).
  • Reaching for Empire, (Time-Life, 1964).
  • The New Industrial Society, (Wiley, 1969).
  • The American Heritage History of the American People, American Heritage, 1971.
  • The Impact of Our Past (textbook), (McGraw, 1972, 2nd edition, 1976).
  • Booker T. Washington, (New American Library, 1973).
  • Pathways to the Present (textbook), (Harper, 1975).
  • The Dream Maker: William C. Durant, Founder of General Motors, (Little, Brown, 1979).
  • From Sea to Shining Sea: A History of the United States, (3rd edition, Webster Division, McGraw, 1981).
  • The Cold War, (American Heritage, 1982).
  • Cold War, Cold Peace: The United States and Russia since 1945, introduction by Harrison E. Salisbury, (American Heritage, 1984).
  • Many People, One Nation, (Houghton, 1987).
  • The La Follettes of Wisconsin: Love and Politics in Progressive America, (University of Wisconsin Press, 1994).
  • America Afire: Jefferson, Adams, and the Revolutionary Election of 1800, (Morrow, 2000).
  • When Chicago Ruled Baseball : The Cubs-White Sox World Series of 1906, (HarperCollins, 2006).
  • Editor, Contributor, Joint Author:

  • (Contributor) The Life History of the United States, (Time-Life, 1964).
  • (With Allan Nevins) Captains of Industry, American Heritage Junior Library, 1966).
  • (Contributor) Samuel Gompers, (Silver Burdett, 1966).
  • (Contributor) The District of Columbia, (Time-Life, 1968).
  • (Contributor) Irwin Unger and H. Mark Johnson, Land of Progress, (Ginn, 1975).
  • (Editor) The WPA Guide to America: The Best of 1930s America as Seen by the Federal Writers’ Project, (Pantheon, 1985).
  • (With Geoffrey C. Ward) The Statue of Liberty: The First Hundred Years (film script), directed by Ken Burns, released by Florentine Films, 1985.
  • (Author of introduction) An Ethnic at Large by Jerre Gerlando Mangione, Syracuse University Press (Syracuse, NY), 2002.
  • Contributor of articles to professional journals, American Heritage, and Antioch Review, and of reviews to newspapers.

    Awards:

    Ramsdell Prize, Southern Historical Association, 1962;
    Fellow, American Council of Learned Societies, 1959-60;
    Social Science Research Council grant, 1956;Additional Info:

    Weisberger along with Geoffrey Ward were the script writers for Ken Burns’ 1989 PBS documentary “The Congress.”
    Weisberger has contributed to “The New Leader,” The Chicago Tribune,” and “New York Times,” among others.
    Weisberger was among 20 distinguished professor including John Hope Franklin that participated in the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march in 1965.
    Hobbies and other interests include Camping, fishing, playing the recorder, running (“not fast but persistent; four marathons completed”).
    Military/Wartime Service included U.S. Army, Signal Corp, 1942-46; served in China-Burma- India theater; became second lieutenant; Historical Section, Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1951-52; became first lieutenant.
    Weisberger is a member of the Authors League of America and Society of American Historians.

    Posted on Sunday, April 30, 2006 at 2:11 PM

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