Top Young Historians: 16 – Yanek Mieczkowski


Edited by Bonnie K. Goodman

16: Yanek Mieczkowski, 3-27-06

Basic Facts

Teaching Position: Associate Professor of History, Dowling College.
Chairman, Dowling College History Department (May 2000-May 2003)
Education: Ph.D. Columbia University, 1995
Area of Research: Twentieth-century America, The American Presidency, US Presidential Elections
Major Publications: Mieczkowski is the author of Gerald Ford and the Challenges of the 1970s, (University Press of Kentucky, 2005); The Routledge Historical Atlas of Presidential Elections, (Routledge Press, 2001); and Instructor’s Manual for America in Modern Times, by Alan Brinkley & Ellen Fitzpatrick. (McGraw-Hill, 1997).
Yanek Mieczkowski JPG Contributor to The American National Biography (Oxford University Press, 1998); chapter on Gerald R. Ford for The Reader’s Companion to the American Presidency, edited by Alan Brinkley & Davis Dyer (Houghton Mifflin); The History News Service and The History News Network.
Awards: Mieczkowski is the recipient of Released Time Grants, Dowling College Long-Range Planning and Development Committee Course Releases Awarded for Research/Writing (1997-present); Abilene Travel Grant, The Dwight D. Eisenhower Foundation, 2005; Gerald R. Ford Foundation Research Grant, 1992, 2003; The Rockefeller Archive Center Research Grant, Rockefeller University, 1996; Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center Visiting Scholars Grant, The University of Oklahoma at Norman, 1995; Everett Helm Visiting Fellowship, The Lilly Library, Indiana University, 1995.
Additional Info: Mieczkowski has also been a Reader for the Advanced Placement Exam in U.S. History, Educational Testing Service; Faculty Advisor, Dowling College chapter of the Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society; Oral histories: the Dwight D. Eisenhower presidency; the Gerald R. Ford presidency; friends and family of Ernie Davis (first African American to win the Heisman Trophy); Television commentator for “Our Town,” Long Island Cablevision “Our Town: Meet the Authors” on Gerald Ford and the Challenges of the 1970s (May 10, 2005) and The Routledge Historical Atlas of Presidential Elections (Sept. 17, 2004); Consultant for McGraw-Hill, Prentice Hall, Pennsylvania Historical Society; Writing Fellow, The American National Biography.

Personal Anecdote

My Search for a Missing Ford Administration Member

I had been searching for him a long time. His name was Russell Freeburg, and he served as the first director of President Gerald Ford’s “Whip Inflation Now (WIN)” program. Ford employed numerous economic weapons to combat the high inflation of the 1970s, including an attempt to rally citizens in a consumer crusade against rising prices. Yet almost as soon as Ford unveiled the WIN program, it faltered. Critics ridiculed it as feckless and trite, and within a few months Ford abandoned it, partly because a deep recession gripped the country, making an anti-inflation campaign the wrong economic medicine.

I was researching a book on Ford’s presidency and came across documents at the Gerald Ford Presidential Library naming Russell Freeburg as the first WIN director. My research depended heavily on oral interviews with Ford administration members, and I had enjoyed considerable luck in locating them and recording their recollections. Yet the Ford Library had little information on Freeburg; he seemed to have vanished without a trace. I did a white pages search and located a person with the same name in Florida, and I wrote to him. Weeks passed with no response. Finally, one day a handwritten letter arrived, and inside I found words that seemed like magic: “I am the Russell Freeburg you’re looking for.” He explained that he was spending the summer at his cottage in Michigan, and he left a phone number.

I called immediately and told him that I was planning a trip to the Ford Library in Ann Arbor. Could I see him at that time? His cottage was a good five hours from Ann Arbor, near Lake Michigan, but he welcomed a visit. Not wishing to trouble him for directions, I told him that I could find his home on MapQuest. “You’re not going to find this cottage on MapQuest,” he predicted. On the telephone, I could hear someone laughing in the background, and he said, “You see–even my wife’s laughing. MapQuest’s not going to show this place.” I had no idea why he had such little confidence in MapQuest, but I told him I’d try. As it turned out, MapQuest did indeed provide directions, and on a late August day, I drove out to Frankfurt, Michigan.

It was beautiful country, high on Michigan’s lower peninsula. The cool air told me that I was far north, and even though it was still summer, I could see splotches of color marking the tree leaves. As I approached his home, carefully following MapQuest’s directions, I began to see why Freeburg and his wife got such a kick out of the notion that MapQuest would show his cottage. It was in the middle of a forest! I seemed to leave civilization, traveling on a dirt road deep into the woods. But I spotted some cottages, and the directions told me I was there. I knocked on the door of what I believed was Freeburg’s home, and a tall gentleman approached. Before I even got a chance to ask, “Are you Mr. Freeburg?”, he looked down at me and said, “Well. My apologies to MapQuest.”

Interviewing Freeburg that day, I gained valuable insight into WIN. He reiterated what President Ford had told me, that it was just one symbolic part of a larger, more substantive administration fight against inflation, and he spoke of his frustration that there hadn’t been enough time to plan, staff, and fund WIN during its brief existence. I left that day feeling that I could more accurately tell the story of WIN’s rise and fall.

I’ve stayed in touch with Russell over the years, and I was saddened to learn that his wife Sally died last fall. I’ll always remember her cheerful laughter on the telephone, which marked the beginning of a journey that brought WIN, MapQuest, and history together in a quiet forest near Lake Michigan.


By Yanek Mieczkowski

  • The post-Vietnam, post-Watergate suspicion was highly visible in the media. After covering the Vietnam War and Watergate and trapping the president in lies during both events, the press would not let presidential statements go unexamined. Reporters, hunting for fame, fortune, and Pulitzer Prizes, engaged in “investigative journalism” both in print and on television. (CBS’s news magazine, 60 Minutes, became a top-rated program during the 1970s and spawned imitations such as ABC’s 20/20.) Ford became the subject of the more aggressive and cynical journalistic code. An example occurred in early 1975, when NBC White House correspondent Tom Brokaw interviewed him at the White House. The young reporter asked Ford if he was “intellectually up to the job of being president.” The audacious question at once illustrated three phenomena: the new, bold press behavior; the diminished reverence that the media felt toward the presidency and its occupant; and the negative public image plaguing Ford. Ford replied by mentioning his solid academic performance at the University of Michigan and Yale Law School. But this was not enough. The next day, reporters demanded that the White House furnish transcripts of Ford’s grades. Jerald terHorst, Ford’s first press secretary, commented that the “distrust was deep and almost endemic. . . . You couldn’t talk about policy and the need for continuity without someone questioning whether there was a devious plot behind it all. The press had been feeding on Watergate and Vietnam for so long that it was hard to shift gears.” Government officials, journalist Bob Woodward believed, were usually guilty as charged, which gave the press additional incentive to pursue aggressively allegations of wrongdoing. — Yanek Mieczkowski in “Gerald Ford and the Challenges of the 1970s”
  • “Gerald Ford and the Challenges of the 1970s (University Press of Kentucky, 2005) represents the culmination of nearly 15 years of research on Gerald Ford and 1970s America. This work, which reassesses the Ford presidency as more successful than many observers have previously thought, examines the great crises of the 1970s and Ford’s efforts to solve them: economic stagflation, energy shortages, the cold war, the scandal-tainted presidency after Watergate, and jarring transformations in America’s political system. Drawing on numerous interviews with President Ford, cabinet officers, and members of the 94th Congress, as well as extensive archival research, Gerald Ford and the Challenges of the 1970s is both a political biography and survey of 1970s America, and it will surprise and fascinate readers with its intriguing portrait of a president and his times. — Yanek Mieczkowski on “Gerald Ford and the Challenges of the 1970s”

About Yanek Mieczkowski

  • “By a masterful analysis, Mieczkowski shows how Ford restored credibility to government and promoted amicable relations with Congres.”– Richard Lowitt, University of Oklahoma praising “Gerald Ford and the Challenges of the 1970s”
  • “One of the best presidential biographies I have read. It explains the rise of the Republican Party as a ruling majority today. It is fast paced and extremely well written. It is a worthy assessment of Mr. Ford’s presidency.” — (Lanett, AL) Valley Times-News reviewing “Gerald Ford and the Challenges of the 1970s”
  • “This ambitious work calls for a reexamination of the Ford presidency in light of the formidable challenges he faced upon taking office. A welcome and important addition to the literature on the Ford presidency.” — Library Journal reviewing “Gerald Ford and the Challenges of the 1970s”
  • “The reader come away from reading this fine and impeccably researched book with a new appreciation for Gerald Ford as a sophisticated thinker and a person with a consistent vision for the nation’s domestic and international policy. . . . Succeeds admirably as a political biography.”– Business History Review reviewing “Gerald Ford and the Challenges of the 1970s”
  • “He’s a great professor!”…”Tremendously intelligent; very challenging.”… “Very intelligent. Quite informative. This class should be for history lovers only. This mans love of history is wasted on none history majors.”…”really knows his history… overall he is an excellent teacher”…”Expects much but is an awesome history professor.” — Anonymous students

Posted on Sunday, March 26, 2006 at 1:56 PM

History Buzz: March 2006

History Buzz

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.

March 27, 2006

  • Paul Berman on Francis Fukuyama: Neo No More America at the CrossroadsNYT, 3-26-06
  • Joshua Zeitz: Zelda, Clara and Other Women Gone Wild Flapper : A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America ModernNYT, 3-24-06
  • Francis Fukuyama: The War Among the Conservatives A leading neocon thinker breaks ranks with his former allies over Iraq – Washington Post, 3-26-06
  • Jerome Armstrong and Markos Moulitsas Zuniga: Why Can’t Democrats Win? Crashing the Gate Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics NYT, 3-26-06
  • Jane Glover: They Loved Wolfgang Mozart’s WomenNYT, 3-26-06
  • Gershom Gorenberg, Walter Laqueur: The Battle for the Holy Land – Washington Post, 3-26-06
  • Historical Fiction, James Morrow: Wicked In colonial America, a young woman sets out to prove that there’s no such thing as witches – Washington Post, 3-26-06
  • James L. Swanson: ‘Manhunt’ a thrilling history – The Post and Courier, 3-26-06
  • John Lewis Gaddis: Misses the Soviet angle in the Cold War – Tony Judt in the NY Review of Books, 3-23-06
  • Michael Kazin: William Jennings Bryan A Complicated, Consequential Leader A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings BryanChristianity Today, 3-20-06
  • Historian David McCullough to a Senate Committee in June on the No Child left Behind Act: “history is being put on the back burner or taken off the stove altogether in many or most schools, in favor of math and reading.” – LA Daily News, 3-26-06
  • History Channel: Auschwitz: The Forgotten Evidence, Sunday, March 26 @ 8pm ET/PT –
  • PBS: American Experience, “Eugene O’Neill: A Documentary Film” Monday, Mar. 27 @ 9pm – PBS
  • History Channel: Battlefield Detectives “The War of 1812: the Chesapeake and the Shannon” Wednesday, Mar. 29 @ 6pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: Hitler and Stalin: Roots of Evil, Wednesday, Mar. 27 @ 8pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: The Plot to Kill Ronald Reagan, Thursday, Mar. 30 @ 11pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: True Story of the Bridge on the River Kwai, Saturday, Apr. 1 @ 6pm ET/PT
  • C-Span2, BookTV: In Depth: Shelby Steele, Sunday, Apr. 2 at 12pm & Monday, Apr. 3, @ 12am- BookTV
  • James L. Swanson: Manhunt The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer, #13, (6 weeks on list) 4-2-06
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin: Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, #19 – 4-2-06
  • Colin G. Calloway: The Scratch of a Pen : 1763 and the Transformation of America, Mar. 31, 2006 –
  • Ronald Kessler: Laura Bush: An Intimate Portrait of the First Lady, Apr. 4, 2006 –
  • Jon Meacham: American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation, Apr. 4, 2006 –
  • Efraim Karsh: Islamic Imperialism : A History, Apr. 11, 2006-
  • Robert Dallek & Terry Golway: Let Every Nation Know, Apr. 17, 2006 –
  • Douglas Brinkley: The Great Deluge : Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, May 9, 2006 –
  • Nathaniel Philbrick: Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War, May 9, 2006 –
  • Gordon Wood: Revolutionary Characters : What Made the Founders Different, May 18, 2006 –

Posted on Sunday, March 26, 2006 at 5:25 PM

March 20, 2006

  • Alan Brinkley on Kevin Phillips: Clear and Present Dangers American TheocracyNYT, 3-19-06
  • Eric Foner on Raymond Arsenault: Bound for Glory Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial JusticeNYT, 3-19-06
  • Ira Berlin & Leslie M. Harris: Our Captive Past Slavery in New YorkNYT, 3-19-06
  • Harvey C. Mansfield: Who’s the Man? ManlinessNYT, 3-19-06
  • Elaine Feinstein: Not Silenced Anna of All the Russias: The Life of Anna AkhmatovaNYT, 3-19-06
  • Richard Carwardine: British Historian Crafts Masterful Political Biography of Abraham Lincoln – Huntington News Network, 3-17-06
  • Kevin Phillips: Tying Religion and Politics to an Impending U.S. Decline American TheocracyNYT, 3-17-06
  • Francis Fukuyama: Supporter’s Voice Now Turns on Bush America at the CrossroadsNYT, 3-14-06
  • James L. Swanson: Fascinated by Lincoln’s Assassination, and the Trail of the Killer – NYT, 3-15-06
  • Jill Lepore on teaching about slavery in the North: Most Americans do not know the story of slavery in the North. There’s no reason to hide the fact that New York City was built by slaves. It’s an important part of the city’s past.” – AP, 3-17-06
  • Michael Kazin on the Third Anniversary of the Iraq War: “During Vietnam, Lyndon Johnson said we can fight them there or fight them here, but no one believed it. This time, there’s more fear about what happens next.” – Courier Post Online, 3-19-06
  • Richard Larsen: Historian to discuss life during Civil War in Minnesota and Wisconsin, Mar. 28, 2006 – Pioneer Press, 3-17-06
  • Billy D. Higgins: Book signing for A Stranger and a Sojourner: Peter Caulder, Free Black Frontiersman in Antebellum ArkansasBaxter Bulletin, 3-16-06
  • Laurel Thatcher Ulrich: Discussing “Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History,” Mar. 29, 2006 @ the University of Notre Dame – South Bend Tribune, 3-16-06
  • Mark E. Neely, Jr.: To Compare Civil Liberties Restraints of Lincoln Era to Post-Sept. 11, Mar. 23, 2006 @ SUNY Cortland – SUNY Cortland News, 3-16-06
  • H.R. McMaster: Featured in 60 Minutes story about Iraqi town taken back by US – 60 Minutes, 3-12-06
  • Historians: Book Conference to honor legacy of Shelby Foote @ University of Mississippi, Mar. 30-Apr. 1, 2006 – Daily Journal, 3-12-06 and U of Miss Conference Registration
  • David Wrobel: K-12 Teachers Invited To Partner With History Professors At CU-Boulder Center Of The American West Event, Mar. 22, 2006- CU Boulder News & Events, 3-9-06
  • PBS: American Experience, “Murder of the Century,” Monday, Mar. 20, 2006 @ 9pm – PBS
  • History Channel: UFO Files Texas’ Roswell, Monday, March 20 @ 8pm ET/PT –
  • History Channel: Digging for the Truth “Troy: Of Gods and Warriors,” Monday, March 20 @ 9pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: The True Story of the Philadelphia Experiment, Wednesday, March 22 @ 11pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: Decoding The Past Secret Brotherhood of Freemasons, Thursday, March 23 @ 9pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: Titanic’s Final Moments: Missing Pieces, Friday, March 24 @ 8pm ET/PT
  • Caligula: Reign of Madness, Friday, March 24 @ 10pm ET/PT
  • C-Span2: After Words: Kevin Phillips and Grover Norquist, Saturday, March 25 @ 9:00 pm & Sunday, March 26 @ 6:00 pm @ 9:00 pm – BookTV
  • History Channel: Women’s History Month Listings – History Channel
  • James L. Swanson: Manhunt The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer, #6, (5 weeks on list) 3-26-06
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin: Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, #11 (20 weeks on list) – 3-26-06
  • David McCullough: 1776, #26 – 3-26-06
  • Kevin Phillips:American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century, Mar. 21, 2006 –
  • Jerome Armstrong & Markos Moulitsas Zuniga: Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics, Mar. 2006 –
  • Colin G. Calloway: The Scratch of a Pen : 1763 and the Transformation of America, Mar. 31, 2006 –
  • Ronald Kessler: Laura Bush: An Intimate Portrait of the First Lady, Apr. 4, 2006 –
  • Jon Meacham: American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation, Apr. 4, 2006 –
  • Efraim Karsh: Islamic Imperialism : A History, Apr. 11, 2006-
  • Robert Dallek & Terry Golway: Let Every Nation Know, Apr. 17, 2006 –
  • Douglas Brinkley: The Great Deluge : Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, May 9, 2006 –
  • Nathaniel Philbrick: Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War, May 9, 2006 –
  • Gordon Wood: Revolutionary Characters : What Made the Founders Different, May 18, 2006 –
  • Madeleine P. Cosman: 68, Medieval Expert, Dies – NYT, 3-19-06

Posted on Sunday, March 19, 2006 at 3:24 PM

March 13, 2006

  • Sarah Dunant: 16th-Century Fox In the Company of the Courtesan Historical Fiction – NYT, 3-12-06
  • Sarah Dunant: In the Company of the Courtesan Historical Fiction, First Chapter – NYT, 3-12-06
  • Sarah Dunant: Historical horizontal advancement In the Company of the Courtesan Historical Fiction – Houston Chronicle, 3-10-06
  • Peter Richardson: The conscience of California American Prophet: The Life & Work of Carey McWilliamsLA Times, 3-12-06
  • Michael Kazin: Beyond monkey business Bryan as reformer A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings BryanBaltimore Sun, 3-12-06
  • Texas Reads: Histories focus on 1800s events, figures – Bryan College-Station Eagle, 3-12-06
  • Peter Kornbluh on Chile: “ultimate study of morality – or the lack of it – in American foreign policy.” – Chicago Tribune, 3-10-06
  • Elyse Luray: ‘History Detectives’ will be on the Hunt at ‘Atlantique City’ March 25-26 –, 3-8-06
  • History Channel: THE HISTORY OF ST. PATRICK’S DAY, Friday, Mar. 17, 2006 @ 7PM/ET – History Channel
  • History Channel: “Digging for the Truth: City of the Gods” Sunday, Mar. 19, 2006 @ 7PM/ET – History Channel
  • History Channel: Women’s History Month Listings – History Channel
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin: Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, #8 (19 weeks on list) – 3-19-06
  • David McCullough: 1776, #23 – 3-19-06
  • James Risen: State of War, #29 – 3-19-06
  • Taylor Branch: At Canaan’s Edge, #32 – 3-19-06
  • Jerome Armstrong & Markos Moulitsas Zuniga: Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics, Mar. 2006 –
  • Colin G. Calloway: The Scratch of a Pen : 1763 and the Transformation of America, Mar. 31, 2006 –
  • Douglas Brinkley: The Great Deluge : Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Apr. 1, 2006 –
  • Efraim Karsh: Islamic Imperialism : A History, Apr. 11, 2006-
  • Robert Dallek & Terry Golway: Let Every Nation Know, Apr. 17, 2006 –
  • Douglas Brinkley: The Great Deluge : Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, May 9, 2006 –
  • Gordon Wood: Revolutionary Characters : What Made the Founders Different, May 18, 2006 –
  • Richard P. McCormick: Hundreds fill Rutgers: Kirkpatrick Chapel to celebrate beloved professor’s life – The Star Ledger, 3-10-06

Posted on Sunday, March 12, 2006 at 6:13 PM

March 6, 2006

  • Heather Cox Richardson reviewing Eric Foner: A Dream Deferred FOREVER FREE The Story of Emancipation and ReconstructionWashington Post, 3-5-06
  • Michael Kazin: The Man With the Silver Tongue A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings BryanNYT, 3-5-06
  • Michael Kazin: A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan First Chapter – NYT, 3-5-06
  • Mark Kurlansky: The Mollusk That Made Manhattan The Big Oyster: History on the Half ShellNYT, 3-5-06
  • Mark M. Smith: USC professor has a sense of racial stereotypes – The State, 3-5-06
  • David Reynolds: Fascinating look at Churchill’s on words on WWII IN COMMAND OF HISTORY: CHURCHILL FIGHTING AND WRITING THE SECOND WORLD WARToledo Blade, 3-5-06
  • Eric Burns: Book chronicles colorful history of early journalism Infamous Scribblers: The Founding Fathers and the Rowdy Beginnings of American JournalismGwinnett Daily Post, 3-5-06
  • Michael Kazin: His New bio of William Jennings Bryan – Scott McLemee at Inside Higher Ed, 3-1-06
  • Charles Hill: Subject of a former student’s biography – Michiko Kakutani in the NYT, 2-28-06
  • David Sirota: Tom Friedman Becomes America’s Chief Revisionist Historian – Huffington Post, 3-4-06
  • Fred Kaplan: Yes, We Should Worry About Iran Do we really want to relive the Cold War nuclear nightmare? – Slate, 3-3-06
  • Gil Troy on Bill Clinton’s Canadian Tour: “He’s the first presidential rock star in American history. He still has this tremendous skill set. He can seduce a room like nobody else in America…. He [Mr. Clinton] couldn’t help himself. It’s pathological. It’s not like he doesn’t know his own skill sets. He stole the show, but in stealing the show, he stole it from her [Hillary Clinton].” – The Globe and Mail, 3-4-06
  • W. Jeffrey Bolster: Professor to discuss the ‘Colonial Revival’ (Tuesday, Mar. 7, 2006) @ The Exeter Historical Society – The Hampton Union
  • Garry Wills: Will discuss his latest book “What Jesus Meant” (March 29, 2006) @ the Washington National Cathedral – Washington Post, 3-5-06
  • Joseph Ellis: Discussed “His Excellency: George Washington” –, 3-2-06
  • David Brion Davis: Historian situates ‘back-to-Africa’ movements in broad context at Tanner Lecture – Stanford Report, 3-1-06
  • Charles Bracelen Flood: Will deliver the 24th annual Edward F. Prichard Jr. Lecture (Monday, Mar. 20, 2006) @ the University of Kentucky- U of K News, 3-1-06
  • Nell Painter: Lectured Her New Book, Creating Black Americans @ Hamilton College- Hamilton College News, 2-28-06
  • John O. Anfinson: Spoke at Winona State University’s lecture series, “Celebration of the Book 2006” – WSU Winonan, 2-28-06
  • Raymond E. Janifer: Professor lectures on early American black history – Chambersburg Public Opinion, 2-27-06
  • History Channel: Women’s History Month Listings – History Channel
  • History Channel: Train Wreck in Lake Michigan, Monday 6, 2006 @ 10PM/ET – History Channel
  • History Channel: “Warrior Queen Boudica”, Friday, Mar. 10, 2006 @ 8PM/ET – History Channel
  • C-Span2’s BookTV: Richard Barnet, author of The Rockets’ Red Glare: When America Goes To War — The Presidents and the People, Saturday, Mar. 11, 2006 @ 6PM/ET – C-Span
  • History Channel: THE HISTORY OF ST. PATRICK’S DAY, Friday, Mar. 17, 2006 @ 7PM/ET – History Channel
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin: Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, #7 (18 weeks on list) – 3-12-06
  • David McCullough: 1776, #17 – 3-12-06
  • Douglas Brinkley and Julie M. Fenster: Parish Priest, #28 – 3-12-06
  • Taylor Branch: At Canaan’s Edge, #32 – 3-12-06
  • James Risen: State of War, #33 – 3-12-06
  • Liza Picard: Victorian London : The Tale of a City 1840–1870, Mar. 7, 2006 –
  • Jerome Armstrong & Markos Moulitsas Zuniga: Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics, Mar. 2006 –
  • Colin G. Calloway: The Scratch of a Pen : 1763 and the Transformation of America, Mar. 31, 2006 –
  • Douglas Brinkley: The Great Deluge : Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Apr. 1, 2006 –
  • Efraim Karsh: Islamic Imperialism : A History, Apr. 11, 2006-
  • Robert Dallek & Terry Golway: Let Every Nation Know, Apr. 17, 2006 –
  • Douglas Brinkley: The Great Deluge : Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, May 9, 2006 –
  • Gordon Wood: Revolutionary Characters : What Made the Founders Different, May 18, 2006 –
  • Don Rittner: Honored with the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution Historic Preservation Award – Albany Times Union, 3-2-06
  • Arnold A. Rogow: 81, a Writer Who Put History on the Couch, Dies – NYT, 3-2-06

Posted on Sunday, March 5, 2006 at 5:57 PM

History Doyens: Bertram Wyatt-Brown


Edited by Bonnie K. Goodman

Bertram Wyatt-Brown, 3-20-15

What They’re Famous For

One of the most distinguished historians of the American South, Wyatt-Brown is the Richard J. Milbauer Emeritus Professor of History, University of Florida. Under the guidance of C. Vann Woodward, he earned his Ph.D. from the Johns Hopkins University in 1963. Before arriving at the University of Florida, he taught at Colorado State University, the University of Colorado, University of Wisconsin (as a visiting assistant professor), and Case Western Reserve University. Wyatt-Brown mentored many Ph.D.’s in his long career. He chaired 6 Bertram  Wyatt-Brown JPGstudents to their doctorates at CWRU and 29 at the University of Florida. In addition, he served on 110 graduate students’ committees at various institutions during his career. In October 2005 his former students and the University of Florida put on a retirement symposium “Honoring a Master,” in honor of his career as a distinguished educator, historian, and critic.

Just before retiring, he served as the Douglas Southall Freeman Professor at the University of Richmond and as the James Pinckney Harrison Professor at the College of William and Mary. He is the author of nine books, 93 essays, and nearly 150 book reviews. Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South (1982, 1983) is a classic the best known of his work. It was a finalist for the American Book Award and Pulitzer Prize. A fellow of the National Humanities Center, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment of Humanities, and the Shelby Cullom Davis Center, Princeton, he has served as President of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic (1994), St. George Tucker Society (1998-99), and Southern Historical Association (2000-01). He is currently writing Honor and America’s Wars: From the Revolution to Iraq. Wyatt-Brown has appeared in a number of television documentaries, and serves as series editor of the Louisiana State Press’ Southern Biography Series.

Personal Anecdote

How to Lose Your First Job Teaching History: A Cautionary Tale

In August 1962, my wife Anne and I headed from Maryland for the Far West in a newly painted bottle-green Volkswagen Beetle. It had been an ugly tan color until the ministrations of Earl Schreib’s paint shop at $29.95 brightened its appearance. We passed through Tennessee (to visit in my mother in Sewanee), Arkansas (where “white” and “colored” rest rooms confronted us at every rest stop), the vast spaces of Oklahoma, and eventually our destination. Just married on June 30, we were heading from Baltimore to Fort Collins, Colorado, seat of Colorado State University. It was known locally–or at least so we younger instructors liked to laugh–as the Harvard of Larimer County.

It was my first teaching job in the field of Jacksonian and Southern history. David Donald, newly arrived at Johns Hopkins, advised me by phone to seize the appointment. He assured me that he knew personally how dynamic a faculty was being constructed there. My own advisor, C. Vann Woodward, was out of reach for consultation. Lily Lavarello, the departmental secretary, told me that Dr. Woodward was in Houston, with only a “c/o Postmaster” address and no known phone number. He had already left for Yale the year before his sabbatical. For his last student at Hopkins, however, he did return in January 1963 to preside over my final dissertation exam. Thus, in lieu of any other advice, Donald’s seemed wise. The position would include tenure at some point, but all new faculty contracts at CSU were limited to only one year with expected renewals thereafter. For both Anne and me, it seemed at the time quite adventuresome, even thrilling, to leave the familiar East Coast for the unknown desert West.

Sheltered under the Rockies, Fort Collins, we quickly discovered, Bertram Wyatt-Brown JPGwas at that time a typically American small town. Apart from CSU, its economic life depended upon the sale and processing of sugar beets, wheat, and other agricultural products. Conservative, devoutly Protestant, and wary of undergraduate inclinations, the town fathers required that to buy anything more potent than 3.2 beer you had best Harry Hoffman’s, a discount store near the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver. The Fort Collins restaurant scene consisted primarily of the International House of Pancakes (“IHOP”) and a Chinese establishment run by a Jewish New Yorker. There was also a cheap but satisfying Mexican restaurant on the edge of town. Hotels? I cannot recall a single major chain or first-class set of accommodations. In those days, I am sure that at times the townspeople still regretted that the state penitentiary had been conferred by the legislature upon Golden instead of Fort Collins, which received the consolation prize of unchecked adolescent students and professors from heaven knows where.

Until 1957, only five years earlier, CSU had been Colorado State Agricultural and Mechanical College, so named in 1944. The body of oversight was still the State Agricultural Board. While pontificating about the rationale for the American Revolution in the first half of the U.S. survey, I was somewhat disconcerted by the seemingly endless parade of Union Pacific Railroad freight cars rattling and screeching under the lecture-room windows. Crossing campus, the passerby could sometimes hear pigs squeal as they were getting slaughtered in a nearby Ag building.

The first disappointment was my introduction to the university library. According to the brochure I had read before arrival, the library boasted over a million volumes. While this may have been true, a first-hand inspection of the stacks revealed that at least 60% of these consisted of agricultural pamphlets, dry-wheat farming being a specialty. Another 20% or so was devoted to veterinary medicine. I disclaim the accuracy of the figures, but, truthfully, the size of the history collection was upsetting, especially for a young instructor preparing classes for the first time. Each professor, though, was allotted $100 to fill gaps. Even in that non-inflationary time, the allotment was not much. The library is now justly named for William E. Morgan, who was the university president during that period. It is a quite impressive edifice compared with the pleasant but relatively bookless facility that preceded it. Old Main in the handsome and popular Dutch style, built in the 1880s one would guess, was the only notable ornament on campus. My wife taught English composition there; sadly it burned down a few years later.

Class sizes were huge. Like the other professors, I had 100 students in two sittings, along with 36 in the upper-level Jacksonian course. Foolishly, I had the students write a midterm essay exam in the freshmen survey. I had disdained to adopt what my more experienced colleagues offered–multiple choice. Chastened by the countless hours of toil, I soon submitted to the department’s more comfortable exam arrangement. For the second term, I was assigned a course in economic history about which I knew practically nothing. But was I popular! My grades were extraordinarily high since I could not judge the real quality of the papers. The students rejoiced.

Pay in those days was as meager as classes were large. Nonetheless, the university had its hopes for the future. Governor Steve McNichols, a stalwart Democrat, had determined to improve higher education throughout the state. He promoted higher faculty salaries and instituted improved finances for education even though these reforms meant higher taxes. The senior faculty, the president, and administrators were also determined to make CSU a genuine institution of higher learning. It began seriously to reach that goal after our departure.

At the time, though, a serious letdown across the campus affected everyone. In the fall election of 1962, the state had gone very Republican. McNichols lost his bid for reelection. His successor, John Arthur Love, the business candidate, took the gubernatorial chair in January 1963. At once, he announced a large tax reduction and a drastically steep cut in the state budget for higher education. At that time, we younger faculty members labeled him a Far Right extremist, but in retrospect by today’s criterion he would seem simply a moderate. In any event, it was as if only Democrats were foolhardy enough to pay for such a frivolous waste. Incensed, in my naiveté I spoke to the matter in class.

If you are young and insecurely arrogant, it would be best not to follow the example about to be described. I announced that Governor Love was the “enemy” of undergraduates in so cruelly shrinking the funds for their education. The term was ill-advised. The son of an Agricultural Board member, whom Love had recently appointed, sat in one of my survey classes. He reported the remarks to his father, who then informed the governor. Love immediately called President Morgan to inquire what action he was taking on so blatant a violation of classroom decorum. Being a shrewd and resourceful academic leader, Morgan called me on the phone and asked if he could come by my office. Of course, I was flattered, but quite flummoxed about as to why so lofty and distant a figure would wish to visit a lowly assistant professor. But the president’s tactic was not merely gracious but also disarming–in case I was some Eastern firebrand primed to initiate a sensational political scene. The President knew that Love would have welcomed the chance for popular applause by rooting out a left-leaning zealot from a university faculty. Quite plausibly such an uproar would thoroughly humiliate the Democratic university president and force him into resigning.

Seated in a chair usually occupied by a wheedling undergraduate seeking some act of mercy, the president told me the circumstances. He asked if I would be willing to write an expression of regret to him that he could forward to the Governor and the Board. Relieved that no worse fate was about to descend, I readily replied, “Yes, of course. I will do exactly as you suggest.” Moreover, it was clear to me what Love’s partisan intentions were. With the letter of apology soon on his desk and sent on to the state authorities, that ended the business.

Alas, if my troubles had only terminated at that point. By the beginning of the second year of teaching, I had learned the rudiments of the academic craft but was hardly well-seasoned. Trying to complete the doctoral dissertation for C. Vann Woodward with every available moment, in preparing for the survey course, I came to rely on Morrison and Commager’s Growth of the American Republic for anecdotes and information. (In those days, most Hopkins graduate students were not allowed to face an undergraduate class, even as assistants to a senior professor.) We moved from a dormitory-like university apartment for underpaid faculty ($75 per month) to a much more pleasant duplex nearer the campus. The rent of $95 a month (plus gas) that we paid horrified the senior history faculty, used to years of near penury. But, with Anne expecting our first child, the extra sum seemed worthwhile even if money for entertainment and book-buying had to be severely cut.

In 1962, I was only one of six new Ph.D. hires in the CSU History Department. We were not a happy crew the following year. Salary increases had been minimal. The senior faculty members, while quite academically respectable, had been there during the still more depressing times of the early 1950s. They had learned from cheerless experience to resign themselves to whatever changes of fortune there might be. The younger history teachers grew impatient with their seeming timidity and backwardness. On later reflection, though, I have to confess that we were scarcely above reproach in our ill-disguised disrespect. Some of us from larger cities we suffering somewhat from culture shock. That state of mind did not help. In addition, we thought we were indispensable. It was not so. While most of us left at the end of that year, our replacements proved no less enterprising and ambitious than we were, and they were probably more sensible, too.

On some weekends, we junior historians and political scientists and our spouses took R & R trips to Denver’s Brown Palace and dinners at the hotel’s swank and reasonable Ship Tavern. It was only five dollars for perfectly grilled rainbow trout, and ten dollars got you a well-appointed hotel room. The excursions, sometimes through heavy snows, helped momentarily to shake off the parochialism of Fort Collins. There the churches far outnumbered the mediocre eateries and movie houses. Yet, as a spirited controversy developed in the fall, winter, and spring of 1963 and 1964, we young instructors developed what might be called a definite case of small-group neurosis. It all seemed rational at the time, but, on reflection, our bonding was not altogether reasonable or sound.

One of the six new professors was a Ph.D. who had come from Berkeley, the Parnassus of the West. He grew certain that he had landed in the midst of unsanctified barbarism. In a senior honors class, the Californian discovered that one of the students had plagiarized her entire term paper. He gave the senior an F, a grade that effectively prevented graduation. Had the student been an ordinary undergraduate, no more would have been heard of the matter. She was, however, the wife of the only endowed chair-holder in the university, a professor of veterinary medicine whose forte, as I recall, was equine science. His college was the only branch of CSU with national standing at that time.

The chair of the history department, some senior history faculty members, and the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences urged the instructor to exercise some discretion. In small college towns, these things matter more than elsewhere. Robert Barnard’s satirical mystery story, Death of an Old Goat, explores a similar academic episode in the Australian outback. With much flare and flourish, the young assistant professor refused to change the grade. (If memory serves, the veterinarian’s wife did win her degree at some point. Not surprisingly, the stubborn instructor was not re-hired. The department and college would certainly handle similar circumstances quite differently today.)

The dean was a botanist known statewide for his slide lectures at women’s garden clubs. On this matter of instructional autonomy and ethics, however, he was not up to form. At a hot meeting with the dean and others, I announced my frustration that it was even taking place and declared my intention to resign. That move was nearly disastrous. The department decided that my services would not be needed the following year and so officially informed me. Recognizing my impulsiveness, I tried to take back my hasty words. That change of heart, though, won no change of minds in the department and administration. Be advised never to resign your first job if there is no fall back position. On the Diane Rehm show (30 January 2006), the Southern novelist Gail Godwin told how she was fired as a fledging reporter, even though she had had six by-lines and the lead story in that same day’s paper. “It’s terrifying to lose your first job,” she observed. How true.

By then our first child was well on the way. Under considerable strain, Anne was teaching two sections of Freshman Comp and taking graduate courses toward a Masters’ degree, after she had earned her B.A. at Radcliffe and her M.A.T. degree at Johns Hopkins. Bertram Wyatt-Brown JPG I went to the history conventions, where friends helpfully rounded up various possibilities, an even dozen, as I recall. 1964 was a rare year in the annals of the profession when demand was greater than supply. None worked out. I remember one interview for the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, during a Philadelphia American Historical Association meeting. My sole examiner was in the shadows of the hotel room, while I nervously sweated under a blazing light. It was like a scene out of a bad movie, in which an intelligence agent suspects espionage and other skulduggery. I was not hired. Ed Yoder, a distinguished journalist, took the post. I doubt if he had been subjected to a similar interrogation.

Another appointment opened at Roosevelt University in Chicago. I flew in from Denver and was rushed from one restive faculty member to another, while I grew increasingly uneasy. The dean was equally indifferent, periodically checking his watch. The late Jack Roth, chair, manfully did his best to arouse his superior’s enthusiasm. I returned home in a blustery storm, barely able to navigate the VW against the wind and snow drifts that nearly pushed the underpowered vehicle back toward Denver. When I arrived, Anne told me that the telegraph wires were down. But apparently, the last message to reach Fort Collins was from Roth, who announced that the position had been filled. He later called to explain that the Roosevelt department had hired August Meier. Later a good friend, Augie, now deceased, had first turned down the position, but, just as I was flying to Chicago as his substitute, he changed his mind and accepted.

In April, our baby Laura was born, but I still had no job for the fall. The OAH met in Cleveland, and things were looking grimmer than ever. But on the last day, I noticed a position in Jacksonian history at the University of Colorado posted on the meat-market board. Racing up the staircase to his room, I caught Fritz Hoffman, a Latin American historian and chairman of the department, bent over his suitcase. He was about to leave for the airport. I introduced myself, and he replied that he had been frustrated the whole convention. No one who came up to his room for an interview was really a Jacksonian. They all belonged in some other field of U.S. History. When I explained that my doctoral dissertation was a study of two abolitionists, Arthur and Lewis Tappan, he brightened at once. “Well, where are you teaching now?” he asked. I responded, “CSU in Fort Collins.” “Oh, we never raid other schools in the state system.” “But I will not be employed there next fall.” “In that case,” Hoffman allowed, “Come on down for a meeting with the department next week.”

When I arrived at the Boulder campus, it was lunchtime. Fritz and the search committee hustled me toward the cafeteria. During the meal, we discussed very little history. Instead, I was peppered with gossipy questions about the goings-on between the junior and senior history faculty at Colorado State. One professor, Carl Swisher, a Chinese specialist, asked if I would be interested in renting his house while he and his wife went on a year’s leave. “I would be only too happy to rent your house,” said I, having no idea where he lived or what the rent might be. That was one departmental vote for sure. I ended up paying for my own Coke and ham and cheese sandwich, which I had barely managed to finish amidst all the animated discussion of the sins of junior faculty members.

Actually, I got the job–but on a vote of thirteen to twelve. Fortunately for my already bruised ego, I did not learn about that outcome until much later. Needless to say, the senior faculty members at Colorado State were utterly dismayed. Not only had I found another position, but it was at the state flagship school. They would have done anything to teach there themselves. It turned out that, like CSU, the University of Colorado at Boulder was riven with departmental infighting far exceeding anything at Fort Collins. Had they known how gloomy and solitary the next two years were going to be for us, they would have been quite gratified. But the story of that experience must await another time.

As a postscript, it is worth mentioning that in the year 2000, I was asked back to Fort Collins to deliver the annual Norman F. Furniss Lecture. It was named for the most prominent scholar on the history staff of the 1950s and 1960s. Norm Furniss was an outstanding intellectual and exemplary teacher. He also had the kindheartedness and sense of proportion that none of us on either side of the junior-senior dispute could match. His efforts at departmental reconciliation, however, failed. Tragically, during the troubles, he contracted hepatitis, ignored medical advice, and continued teaching at full throttle. He died during the winter term.

The return to Fort Collins that Arthur Worrall, recently retired, and his colleagues arranged was most enjoyable. Anne and I were surprised to discover that after thirty-six years, memories of those unhappy events had vanished as if they had never occurred. The surviving faculty members present were most gracious, and the bitter feelings were replaced by expressions of good will all round. The occasion was as gratifying as our departure so many years earlier had been troubled. Moreover, we discovered a quite different town and university. There are over a score of decent and even upscale hotels, whereas the dingy hostelry of earlier times, where my mother had unpleasantly stayed on a visit, might have been the hangout for Wyoming desperadoes. The restaurants, too, now offer better food and decor and more diverse menus, from French and Greek to Middle Eastern and Japanese than the tasteless fare offered in our day. The urban population on the Poudre River has more than tripled. Larimer County boasts well over a quarter million residents, with a proliferation of professionals in medicine, law, and other fields to lend variety to the region’s demography. New and well-appointed housing suggests that much wealth has materialized. On the CSU campus, artistically designed buildings now grace an campus that always had its simple charm.

Still more impressive, though, is the size and quality of the student body, over 22,000. Bertram  Wyatt-Brown JPGThe faculty currently consists of over 1500 well regarded members. With reference to the latter, most memorable was a lively and wide-ranging luncheon with some liberal arts professors. Among them was a recently retired philosopher, who reminded us of mutual acquaintances from the old days. He told great stories about his first experiences there. One, Anne and I both remember, concerned a former chairman of the Philosophy Department, an old Westerner who had seldom ventured out of the state. He once had interviewed a candidate from New York for an assistant professorship. Self-deprecating, the young man replied to some question by announcing, “Well, I’m a mischugana.” Unfamiliar with the Yiddish expression, the chairman thought he was referring to some obscure Eastern Native American tribe. The newly-minted Ph.D. was appointed at once as a gesture of racial equity long before there was an affirmative action mandate. (In those days, any hire was the sole responsibility of the chair.)

Finally, the current CSU history faculty members, both seniors and newcomers, appeared most enterprising and earnest. They were immersed in their subjects more than in small-town gossip. It was all an amazing revelation to Anne and me. Yet, I must add that those senior historians, whom we had unfairly disparaged, can take credit for the remarkable transformations over the years. They had laid the foundations for the department’s present degree of sophistication and promise.

But now, back to the purpose of this account. The moral of the narrative is: be careful not to lose your first job.


By Bertram Wyatt-Brown

  • “Even in the fast-changing North there continued to be a mingling of older and newer versions of honor. Not all Northerners were pious Victorian gentlemen. Not all were outraged by Southern slavery. Southern Honor  JPGSome Yankees even joined the ceaseless flux of plantation expansions west, and most of them were quite at home with Southern popular values. Yet despite the despite the diversity that existed in both sections, the crucial difference between them remained a matter of ethical more than economic priority. As much as the regions shared a common legacy, they yet parted to some degree on perceptions of right and wrong. Differing economic systems may coexist peaceably in the same country. But when moral assumptions diverge, the chances for disunion are much greater. Without grasping the ancient, even pagan origins and continuities of honor, we cannot comprehend the endurance of racism as a sacred, intractable conviction, or the approach of civil war, or the desperate commitment of Southern whites to hold black Americans forever in their power.” — Bertram Wyatt-Brown in “Southern Honor: Behavior and Ethics in the Old South”
  • Perhaps it streches credulity to claim that Confederate defeat bore a direct relationship to racial tragedies and the level of personal violence among whites a quarter-century later. Yet recent controversies over the waving of the Rebel flag attest to the continuation of deep feelings in some whites about the meaning of that shattering, devastating loss. In 1880, Father Abram Ryan, poet laureate of the Lost Cause, tried to lay that emblem to rest in a reverential way. It almost seems as if Father Ryan had it wrong when he wrote “The Conquered Banner” in 1880:
    Shaping of Southern Culture JPG Furl that Banner, softly, slowly!
    Treat it gently – it is holy –
    For it froops above trhe dead.
    Touch it not – unfold it never,
    Let it droop there, furled forever,
    For its people’s hopes are dead!
    Tom Watson’s “reply” to Ryan’s poem, cited in the epigraph for this chapter was closer to the mark. At the time of this writing, the Rebel flag still flies over the statehouse in Columbia, South Carolina. Eventually the flag will be lowered never to be returned to the flagstaff. At that point, Southern honor, particularly its racist aspect, will have been chastened once again. But those who claim that the Stars and Bars represent gallant tradition, a reverence for local governance, and a strict interpretation of the Constitution should read what their post-Civil War ancestors thought that flag symbolized. For them the Rebel banner stood for a sacralized determination to keep African Americans underfoot. Any means to do so were deemed honorable. The ethic that so long has sustained the racial prescriptions of the white South required no respect or humanity toward those outside its moral boundaries. As the anthropologist Julian Pitt-Rivers has remarked, “Honor has caused more deaths than the plague.” — Bertram Wyatt-Brown in “The Shaping of Southern Culture: Honor, Grace, and War, 1760s-1880s”
  • “Honor has its advantages and also its disadvantages.
    Very often, honor is manipulated. It’s an appeal that people respond to. In Vietnam, President Johnson told us that we could not lose face or the communists would take advantage of it. Suppose we did not remain involved in Vietnam. You can ask yourself, what difference would it have made?
    I think honor is an awful code, except in some circumstances. Honor has a double face: There is this primitive, hierarchal, prejudicial, unjust aspect to it. You want to avoid shame yourself but to impose it on someone else. But there is the other side of honor, which has resulted in soldiers performing great deeds of valor.” — Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Interview with William & Mary College News, 2004

About Bertram Wyatt-Brown

  • “The history of the South is unlikely to be written again in quite the prevailing way,” says C. Vann Woodward, considered by many to be America’s leading Southern historian…
    The result has been lauded as the most comprehensive study of pre-Civil War white Southern culture since W.J. Cash’s “The Mind of the South” captured a generation of readers in 1941. Indeed, Dr. Woodward (who last year garnered a Pulitzer for “Mary Chestnut’s Civil War”) sees Wyatt-Brown’s book having a “monumental impact” far more significant than the Cash work. Cash’s was a more popular history which, Woodward says, misled a whole generation of scholars.
    “This code he analyzes and describes,” says Dr. Woodward, “shaped and influenced the people living under it from the cradle to the grave. It very strongly influenced the process of child-rearing, relations of parent to child, spouses, courtships, social hierarchy from planter class to slave – every aspect of family, its integrity and protection.”
    “He attempts to divest himself of modernism in order to explore the South on its own terms,” says Woodward. This avoids great risks of distortion that have figured in the “paradox, irony, scorn, and attribution of guilt (that) have figured prominently in the modern picture of the pre-modern South,” he says.
    “And he is right in reproving historians who label the darker features ‘tragic aberrations,’ deny that they were integral parts of a cultural pattern, or forget that the nobler claims were put to the service of primal honor – especially when honor cried out for secession.” — Christian Science Monitor feature on Bertram Wyatt-Brown’s “Southern Honor: Behavior and Ethics in the Old South” with comments by the late C. Vann Woodward
  • Unlike so many historians who have been interested in handing down judgments, favorable or unfavorable, on the Old South, Mr. Wyatt-Brown has studied Southerners much as an anthropologist would an aboriginal tribe. He has looked for patterns in such intimate relationships as marriage and child rearing and in public behavior from extending hospitality to strangers to participating in lynch mobs. The key to understanding Southerners, he has found, is the concept of honor… Mr. Wyatt-Brown’s remarkable book…is not a tissue of generalizations but a tapestry of hundreds of specific illustrations drawn from every conceivable collection of Southern manuscripts and newspapers… Southern Honor is an important, original book. Along with W.J. Cash’s classic study The Mind of the South, this is one of the few serious attempts to recreate the lost world of the Old South. And like Cash’s book, it is not just a survey but an implicit critique of that society. The author’s anthropological approach offers him an opportunity to question values that white Southerners most cherished -the sanctity of the Southern family, the virtue of Southern womanhood, the honor of Southern men – and compels the reader to revise such myths as the chivalrous gentleman planter and the sturdy yeoman with an outlook similar to the worker in the North…Powerful study, which challenges so many widely held beliefs about the Old South. — David Herbert Donald reviewing “Southern Honor: Behavior and Ethics in the Old South” in the New York Times
  • Southern Honor is a work of enormous imagination and enterprise, one that has the audacity to see a vast realm of human experience through a single lens and the authority to make that view seem not merely plausible but incontrovertible… Wyatt-Brown has altered and deepened our understanding of the Southern past–and thus, inevitably, of the American past as well.”– Jonathan Yardley in Washington Post Book World reviewing “Southern Honor: Behavior and Ethics in the Old South”
  • “One of the very best books about the South…A model of what scholarly writing can be: a rather bold thesis rigorously defended with logic and with innumerable supporting citations, each kept brief and deftly fitted into the overall design.” — Philadelphia Inquirer reviewing “Southern Honor: Behavior and Ethics in the Old South”
  • “An engaging and challenging series. . . . While honor remains at center stage, Wyatt-Brown perceptively explores its relation to such matters as grace and war. . . . The most interdisciplinary southern historian of his generation, Wyatt-Brown draws heavily upon anthropology, theology, and psychology for his analyses, giving his work a rare intellectual resonance. But the breadth of his reading in other disciplines is more than matched by the depth of his research in historical sources.” — Journal of Southern History reviewing “The Shaping of Southern Culture: Honor, Grace, and War, 1760s-1880s”
  • “Those familiar with the concept of honor will want to explore the themes and questions raised here. Those new to the subject will find a useful introduction to a complex subject. If the mark of a great historian is not only the answer he provides but also the new questions he raises, then this book is a confirmation of Wyatt-Brown’s influence on a generation of historians.” — Journal of American History reviewing “The Shaping of Southern Culture: Honor, Grace, and War, 1760s-1880s”
  • “Wyatt-Brown has done what most historians dream about doing: produce a graceful, thoughtful, and important book. His Shaping of Southern Culture significantly contributes to our understanding of how honor animated behavior and helped create a southern ideology.” — H-South reviewing “The Shaping of Southern Culture: Honor, Grace, and War, 1760s-1880s”

Basic Facts

Teaching Positions: University of Florida, Gainesville, Richard J. Milbauer Professor of History, 1983-2004;
Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, associate professor, 1966-74, professor of history, 1974-83;
Bertram Wyatt-Brown at Berfest JPG University of Colorado, Boulder, assistant professor of history, 1964-66;
Colorado State University, Fort Collins, assistant professor of history, 1962-64.

University of Richmond (the Douglas Southall Freeman chair, 2002-03);
James Pinckney Harrison Professor at the College of William and Mary;
Visiting professor, University of Wisconsin, 1969-70;
Associate, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 1974.

Area of Research: Antebellum and Civil War South, Southern Honor


University of the South, B.A., 1953; King’s College, Cambridge, B.A. (with honors), 1957; Johns Hopkins University, Ph.D., 1963.

Major Publications:

  • Lewis Tappan and the Evangelical War against Slavery, (Press of Case Western Reserve University, 1969, 2nd edition, Atheneum, 1971).
  • Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South, Oxford University Press, 1982.
  • Yankee Saints and Southern Sinners, (Louisiana State University Press, 1985).
  • Honor and Violence in the Old South, (Oxford University Press, 1986) (An abridged version of Southern Honor).
  • The House of Percy: Honor, Melancholy, and Imagination in a Southern Family, (Oxford University Press, 1994).
  • The Literary Percys: Family History, Gender, and the Southern Imagination, (University of Georgia Press, 1994).
  • The Shaping of Southern Culture: Honor, Grace, and War, 1760s-1880s, (University of North Carolina Press, 2001).
  • Hearts of Darkness: Wellsprings of a Southern Literary Tradition, (Louisiana State University Press, 2003).

Editor, Contributor, Joint Author:

  • (Editor) The American People in the Antebellum South, (Pendulum Press, 1973).
  • (Co-Editor with Peter Wallenstein) Virginia’s Civil War, (University Press of Virginia, 2005).


Winner of a Phi Alpha Theta Book Award, Pulitzer Prize nomination, American Book Award nomination, and Ohio Academy of History prize, all 1983, all for Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South.
OAH Distinguished Lectureship Program, 2005-2006;
University of Florida Doctoral Mentoring Award Winner, 2002-2003;
the Henry Luce Foundation Fellowship, 1989-90 NEH Fellowship at the National Humanities Center, 1998-99; Shelby Cullom Davis fellow, Princeton University, 1977-78;
Guggenheim Foundation fellow, 1974-75.
Wyatt-Brown has won teaching awards and graduate student mentoring awards at Case Western Reserve University and the University of Florida.

Additional Info:

Wyatt-Brown has appeared in television documentaries for Discovery, A&E, and PBS.
He has served as President of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic (1994), St. George Tucker Society (1998-99), and Southern Historical Association (2000-01).
Editorial Advisory Board, Ohio History, the Scholarly Journal of the Ohio Historical Society, 1978-1986; Series editor of the Louisiana State Press’ Southern Biography Series.
He served in the U.S. Navy, 1953-55, and became lieutenant junior grade.

Posted on Sunday, March 19, 2006

Top Young Historians: 15 – Bruce J. Schulman


Edited by Bonnie K. Goodman

15: Bruce J. Schulman, 3-12-06

Basic Facts

Teaching Position: Professor of History, Boston University;
Director, American and New England Studies Program, BU (1997-2002)
Area of Research: Modern U.S. political and presidential history
Education: Ph.D., History, Stanford University, Sept. 1987
Major Publications: Schulman is the author of From Cotton Belt to Sunbelt: Federal Policy, Economic Development, and the Transformation of the South, 1938-1980, (Oxford Univ. Press, 1991), (Revised Edition with New Preface published by Duke University Press in 1994); Lyndon B. Johnson and American Liberalism, (Bedford Books of St. Martin’s Press, 1995); The Seventies: The Great Shift in American Culture, Politics, and Society, (The Free Press, 2001); Bruce Schulman JPG
He is the co-editor with Julian Zelizer of Rightward Bound: Making America Conservative in the 1970s, (Harvard University Press, forthcoming). Schulman is currently working on Reawakened Nation: The Birth of Modern America, 1896-1929, Oxford History of the United States, Volume VIII, (Oxford University Press).
Awards: Schulman has been honored with teaching awards including; Commendation for Outstanding Teaching, Boston University Dean’s Office (2000, 2001); Harriet and Charles Luckman Distinguished Teaching Award (UCLA, 1993); Eby Award for the Art of Teaching (UCLA, 1993); UCLA Mortar Board Commendation for Outstanding Teaching (1990, 1992).
Other awards include; OAH Distinguished Lectureship Program (2004); New York Times “Notable Books of the Year” for The Seventies (2001); Blum-Kovler Foundation Fellowship (1999); Fulbright Senior Professorship (Declined, 1999); Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History Fellowship for 1996-97, and the National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for 1992.
Additional Info: Formerly Assistant Professor to Associate Professor of History, UCLA (1987-93) and Director, California History Project (1989-90). Schulman is a frequent contributor to the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and Washington Post, and other publications. He has also appeared as an expert commentator on numerous television and radio programs.

Personal Anecdote

As I flew off to my first on-campus interview, I thought back to the first I had ever seen: a chilling parade of three young candidates during my first year as a graduate student. The candidate was a young woman, Ms. K., we’ll call her, gangly, obviously uncomfortable in her new, just-bought-for-the-occasion suit, she seemed a walking, talking compendium of anxiety, tension, nerves, worries. I have never seen a condemned prisoner walking to her or his death–at the movies I even cover my eyes for that sort of scene–but I imagined that they looked just like Ms. K. as she stood in the corner of the little lecture room waiting to be introduced. She would try to impress us–or really, try to impress the assembled faculty–with her job talk, an hour-long lecture on the subject of her dissertation research. The acid test would follow, when she would be forced to demonstrate her adroitness in answering difficult questions.

Now, Ms. K. was just finishing her Ph.D. at U.C. Berkeley. She obviously possessed a distinguished academic record, and, for all I know, she endured the ordeal of this interview, recovered splendidly, and went on to a successful academic career. But I prefer to believe that the scene I am about to describe broke her spirit, sundered it utterly. And you should believe it too. It makes for a better story (and, remember, like many graduate students in History who are twisted and defeated by academic life, Ms. K. probably succumbed to temptation, enrolled in Law School and now commands a six-figure salary in a prestigious, powerful firm. So you don’t have to feel too badly about it).

Remember that Ms. K. had probably never delivered a lecture before–that the normal nervous butterflies of public speaking, fluttering vigorously in the stomach of an inexperienced lecturer, reached the frenzy of mating season as they realized she was interviewing for a job. And not just any job–for a plum position at “one of the nation’s leading institutions of higher learning,” in the Bay Area, one of the nation’s most desirable places to live, and near her home in Berkeley too!

What a disaster. I cannot remember the subject of the talk. I couldn’t remember it even five minutes after I left the room and, to tell the truth, I cannot even tell you if the material was fresh, the approach innovative, the anecdotes revealing and funny. It was, as the proverb goes, all in the delivery. Ms. K. simply could not get the words out. She constantly tripped over her tongue, mauling her own words. And every time she did so, she drew attention to the gaffe and heightened her own nervousness by repeating the mangled sentences.

I cringed without relaxing for fifty minutes, and made certain to offer hearty applause when the lecture ended. It was obvious that any chance she had for the position had evaporated, that she was no longer a serious candidate. I expected–and such was my naivete that I really, God’s truth, did expect–that no one would ask a question. There was no point; they would allow this wounded animal to slink away without further torment.

You see, I had been concentrating so much on my own cringing and on Ms. K.’s agony that I neglected to observe the people around me. My nose not yet trained to sniff academic carrion a mile off, I had not heard the slathering of the hungry dogs, seen the circling vultures, sniffed the stalking hyenas (oh, you know what I mean).

One of the Department’s most prominent members immediately raised his hand. He, by the way, is a lovely man, a superb historian, and one of the few academics I have ever found truly inspiring. He really loves his work, and he is one of a tiny minority of academic historians working today animated by a real and lively curiosity. He really wants to learn things, to grapple with whatever big issue piques his interest. He has been criticized for dilettantism in the hyper-specialized world of the contemporary academy, criticized also for oversimplifying complex topics (unlike, say Physics, where practitioners seek simplicity and call simple theories “elegant,” historians worship complexity. More than once, I have heard colleagues utter as the highest possible praise: She or he “adds another layer of complexity to the problem.”).

This senior professor also loves an argument. His books are deliberately provocative. His classroom manner is wry and challenging. He relishes friendly combat, sincerely believing that in the parry and thrust of adversarial conversation lies the secret of learning, of knowledge, of “advancing the field.”

In measured tones, then, he asked the hapless candidate the first question. I don’t remember the actual question, but its thrust was something like “Isn’t it true that everything you’ve just said is a crock of bull”? Those weren’t his actual words, of course, but you get the idea. The blow staggered the interviewee. How could it not have?

She recovered enough of her composure to make an answer. But whether she just wanted to get out of the room as soon as possible or whether her instincts told her a job candidate should not openly disagree with a senior member of the hiring department and a prizewinning author to boot, she didn’t deny that everything she had just said was a crock of bull. “Maybe, you’ve got a point there,” she conceded. “I’d never realized it before.”

Instantly, the Department’s famed “radical” historian picked up the scent. This memorable character was born on precisely the same day as my father, and only a few miles away. But he had long ago traded the clipped, nasal, rapid-fire talk of outer-borough New York Jews for an ever-so-slow, slightly pretentious manner of speaking. His labored style was affected, affected in the true sense of the word–it not only betrayed a trace of haughtiness, but was clearly a conscious strategy. It added drama to everything he said, and it, along with a half-dozen equally poison-tipped arrows in his rhetorical quiver, made this radical historian one of the best lecturers I have ever heard and one of the most infuriatingly difficult persons to converse with.

“Isn’t it true,” he asked (imagine a Gramaphone playing an old 78RPM record at too slow speed and you can hear his voice), isn’t it true not only that your work is absolutely worthless, but that you yourself and your entire life are a crock of bull”?

That just about finished Ms. K. There were a few more desultory questions, some muted applause, a quick emptying of the room. Now, many years and many, many of such interviews later, I understand exactly what those senior Professors were doing, exactly why they posed those crippling, mean-spirited questions. They wanted her to defend herself; they were provoking the candidate to fight back. Your task in an academic interview is to impress, and to so it is far better to be bold than right.

IT’S BETTER TO BE BOLD THAN RIGHT”: Call this the FIRST LAW OF THE JOB TALK. If you have exaggerated some point and a questioner suggests a necessary qualification, make a mental note of it for later, thank the person for the advice after you get the job, but never, never back down during the interview. For contemporary academics, brashness, even obtuseness are signs of a “fine young mind at work”–and that, after all, is what every Search Committee seeks. If you can disagree with that Pulitzer Prize winner, firmly and effectively, if you can brashly trumpet the originality and import of your conclusions, the prize is yours. Be bold, be bold,” that muse of academic interviewees John Milton wrote. “write everywhere, ‘Be bold, but not too bold. Better, though the excess than the defect.”


By Bruce J. Schulman

  • Still, there was much in life, as in art, that made Seventies Americans grimace. The collective wince of the late 1960s and early 1970s–the profound anguish over Vietnam, race riots, Watergate–gave way to the national smirk of the Carter years–the malaise that President Carter diagnosed in his crisis of confidence speech. But this omnipresent skepticism–this sense that nothing is serious, nothing can be trusted–undermined a campaign for national renewal, one that would have to be based on ardent conviction. Punk rockers and maverick directors forged new paths; ironically, they helped clear the way for a more wide-open, southwestern libertarianism that would share little with them but a defiant style and a set of common enemies. In the background, amid the wasted days and disco nights of the 1970s, rumbled a new, furious political movement. Thunder was gathering on the right. Bruce Schulman in “The Seventies: The Great Shift In American Culture, Society, and Politics”
  • Many Americans express contempt for “bleeding ponytails.” They share the prevailing sense that the baby boomers of the 1970s traded in their radical politics for a selfish, corporate culture, exchanging marijuana and VW minibuses for martinis and SUVs. . . .
    But the “sell-out” label misses the point. These icons, and their 21st century children, have preserved a Seventies emphasis on authenticity and freedom, on political transformation through personal liberation. But the market–in particular starting new businesses–became the favored means for personal liberation and cultural revolution. To be sure, something has been lost in this metamorphosis. But the legacies of the 1970s, the changes in latitude and changes in attitudes, remain potent. Like it or not, the long, gaudy, depressing Seventies re-invented America. We still live in their shadows. — Bruce Schulman in “The Seventies: The Great Shift In American Culture, Society, and Politics”

About Bruce J. Schulman

  • But the ’70s, as Bruce Schulman’s new book argues, is more than just the sum of its “Dukes of Hazzard” lunchboxes and “Whip Inflation Now” buttons — more than just a repository of kitsch to be plundered for cheap laughs. Shulman’s study aims to “offer a rich, evocative portrait of the United States in the 1970s,” and it succeeds… With The Seventies, the period finally has that noble thing, a standard text…The Seventies provides a superb overview of the period, and points the way for further exploration. For the nostalgic reader, remembering the decade fondly but not well, it may be a longer, stranger trip than expected. — Josh Ozersky in the Washington Post reviewing “The Seventies: The Great Shift In American Culture, Society, and Politics”
  • “In “The Seventies: The Great Shift in American Culture, Society, and Politics,” Bruce J. Schulman essentially answers: both. The “great shift” is away from the public-spirited universalism that gave America the New Deal and the civil rights movement, and toward the sovereignty of the free market and private life. In other words, the 1980’s began in the 1970’s…. A book of shrewd historical analysis and clear anecdotal prose… His central argument is utterly persuasive. On or about November 1968, American character changed. In the case of most Americans of Schulman’s generation, much has been given and little asked, and it’s easy to think that nothing short of “the moral equivalent of war” will snap us out of our separate commercial trances.” — George Packer in the New York Times reviewing “The Seventies: The Great Shift in American Culture, Society, and Politics”
  • “Prof. Schulman is the best professor I have had at BU. He is so passionate about History and teaching. His use of multimedia during his lectures not only makes the class interesting but provides tangible examples.”…
    “I loved Schulman. He’s nice, funny and so smart!”… “Schulman is absolutely the greatest professor BU has to offer. If you do not take a class with him, you’re missing out. I cannot rave enough about him. Take any class you can with him!”…
    “Unbelievable lecture…feels like a privelage to hear him speak. The most fascinating course I’ve ever taken in anything, and he is just a freaking cool guy in general.”…
    “he’s a great speaker, intellegent and witty.”…”To encourage discussion, he runs around Morse Auditorium with a microphone like Geraldo Rivera, which is pretty amusing.” — Anonymous students

Posted on Sunday, March 12, 2006 at 2:18 PM

History Doyens: Bernard Bailyn


Edited by Bonnie K. Goodman

Bernard Bailyn, 3-6-06

What They’re Famous For

Bernard Bailyn is the Adams University Professor and James Duncan Phillips Professor of Early American History Emeritus at Harvard, where he has taught since 1949. He is the author of The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (1967), for which he received the Pulitzer and Bancroft prizes in 1968; The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson (1974), winner of the National Book Award in History in 1975; Voyagers to the West (1986), which won the Pulitzer Prize in History. Bailyn has been described in the Washington Post Book World as “arguably the pre-eminent historian of the thirteen colonies’ break with Britain.” Bernard  Bailyn JPG Robert V. Remini has labeled Bailyn “the foremost historian of the American Revolution,” while Stephen Presser, of the Chicago Tribune Books, identified him as the “dean of American colonial historians.” Another Washington Post Book World critic remarked that “any book by Bailyn… is an event.”

Bailyn earned his A.B. from Williams College in 1945 and his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1953. Bailyn is a member of numerous organizations in the United States and abroad including the American Historical Association (president, 1981) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the recipient of many awards, including more than 15 honorary degrees. In February 1998, Bailyn inaugurated the Millennium Evening Lecture Series at the White House, and in March of that year, he was awarded the Jefferson Medal of the National Endowment for the Humanities. He sees the influence of the American Revolution extending beyond the political realm of its time, into the present. “Whether we recognize it or not, the sense we make of the history of our national origins helps to define for us…the values, purposes,and acceptable characteristics of our public insititutions.”

Personal Anecdote

I was lucky, being at Harvard, to have some great historians as instructors, but when I think back to what direct guidance they gave me I don’t come up with much. Samuel Eliot Morison advised young historians to go sailing in the summers, which was advice wasted on me since the only vessel I had been on was a troop ship and I was seasick most of the time. Paul Buck, whose fine book The Road to Reunion impressed us all, advised us that when we come to lecture we should tell a joke at about 40 minutes into the hour. That didn’t help much, a) because I didn’t know that many jokes, and b) because his own jokes were so bad. And Oscar Handlin, when I came to him with a complex theoretical problem about Max Weber, Ernst Troeltsch, and R.H.Tawney, when I was writing about Puritanism and economic growth, muttered something like “umm.”

But the truth is that I learned an enormous amount from all three of them – not from what they said but from what they did, as teachers and writers. From Morison, especially from his vast 15-volume history of the US Navy in WW II, and also from his multi-volume history of Harvard, I learned that it is possible to write a complex story crowded with detailed incidents and conflicting personalities in clear, simple narrative form. From Buck I learned that one can best motivate students by getting them to elicit what truly interested them, to get them to recognize what – for whatever reason – caught their imagination, and encourage them to work out from there. And from Handlin I learned the most important thing of all, that history is a form of intellection, a way of thinking and understanding, not a compilation of facts, no matter how cleverly you organize them.

So I was lucky, not in having wonderful advice given to me but in witnessing up close some master historians at work. It’s what they did that mattered, not what they said.


By Bernard Bailyn

  • Joann Conrad Beissel, an ignorant, mystical, tormented baker’s boy from the German Palatinate, after flirting with several radical sects that struggled for existence in the spiritually burnt-over districts of the Rhineland, had joined the exodus of Pennsylvania; concocted, in a hermit’s cabin near Germantown, his own brand of sabbatarian Dunkerism; gathered a band of followers at Conestoga; and founded the Ephrata Cloister, whose monks and nuns ruled despotically, neurotically, and cruelly. God-possessed, immersed in the writings of the mystics, entranced by the secret rites of the Rosicrucians, he was a cyclone of energy, and he pursued his dream of a pure religion, unimpeded by state, society, or church. He was bizarre but unconfined, The  Peopling of British North America JPGand the fame of his strange sect of emaciated celibates spread throughout the English as well as the German population of Pennsylvania and ultimately throughout the Rhineland and in France, through Voltaire, as well. Beissel preached with his eyes shut tight, passionately, ungrammatically, in incoherent torrents. If by chance his bowed congregation indicated understanding in quiet murmurs of assent, he reversed his chaotic argument to demonstrate the incomprehensibility of God’s truth. And he imposed on his half starved followers-clothed in rough, Capuchin-like habits designed to hide all signs of human shape-a rule of such severe self-motification that some went mad, while the elite enacted the secret rites of the Rosicrucians, to which neophytes sought admission by bodily ordeals that lasted forty days and forty nights. Yet and yet the art of book illumination was reinvented in Beissel’s Ephrata, and from some spark of hidden genius the Vorsteher himself devised a form of polyphonic choral music, complete with own system of notation, which, when sung in falsetto by his followers straining to reach ever higher, more “divine” notes, created an unearthly effect that enthralled everyone who ever heard it-and which caught the imagination, two centuries later, of another German immigrant in America, Thomas Mann, who, brooding on art and the German soul, immortalized Beissel in Doctor Faustus. — Bernard Bailyn in “The Peopling of British North America : An Introduction”
  • Failure to respond to the moral indignation and the meliorist aspirations that lay behind the protests of the Revolutionary leaders, Hutchinson could find only persistent irrationality in their arguments, and he wrote off their agitations as politically pathological. And in a limited, logical sense he was right. The Revolutionary leaders were not striving to act reasonably or logically. Demanding a responsiveness in government that exceeded the traditional expectations of the time, groping toward goals and impelled by aspirations that were no recognized part of the world as it was, they drew on convictions more powerful than logic and mobilized sources of political and social energy that burst the boundaries of received political wisdom. The Ordeal  of Thomas Hutchinson JPGHutchinson could not govern an aroused populace led by politicians manipulating deep-felt ideological symbols. He could not assimilate these new forces into the old world he knew so well, and, attempting uncomprehendingly to do so, lost the advantage of his greatest assets: a deserved reputation for candor, honesty, and a tireless and impartial devotion to the general good. Failing to carry the new politics with him by arguments that were accredited and tactics that were familiar he was obliged to become devious; inevitably he appeared hypocritical, ultimately conspiratorial, though in fact he was neither. As the pressure mounted, his responses narrowed, his ideas became progressively more rigid, his imagination more limited, until in the end he could only plead for civil order as an absolute end in itself, which not only ignored the explosive issues but appeared, unavoidably, to be self-serving. — Bernard Bailyn in “The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson”
  • When Jefferson and Adams died, both on the 4th of July fifty years after Independence, none of the goals of the American Enlightenment, of the Revolution’s transforming radicalism, had been reached. But a basic force had been created in American life: the propulsion within a pluralistic, tumultuous, abrasive, and ruthlessly ambitious society to approach the fulfillment of historic ideals.The gap between the real and the ideal remains, far narrower than in Adams’ and Jefferson’s time, but still achingly wide. We are still a multi-ethnic, materialistic, ambitious, impatient, and volatile people, but in our finest moments we are also, I believe, the most idealistic nation on earth. We are riven by differences, discrimination, and animosities, but, instinctively responding to ideals set out in our deeper past, we reach for reconciliation.A spark was struck two centuries ago which lights the way for us still. — Remarks by Dr. Bernard Bailyn, Millennium Evening Lecture, White House, 1998 About Bernard Bailyn
  • If the storms of fashion that have pounded the humanities during the last 30 years have spared the study of early American history, one of the scholars we have most to thank is Bernard Bailyn. Bailyn’s 1967 classic, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, kept the eyes of a generation of historians on the subjects that early Americans themselves eyed so obsessively: the ideas and the politics of a highly intellectual and political time. There were battles to be fought and money to be made during the American Revolution, and without victory in the first, or the lure of the second, the Revolution would never have been won. But the thoughts of even soldiers and speculators kept returning to politics, and to the ideals that they believed politicians lived to defend, or to threaten. Bailyn made the founders comprehensible, and lively — for their ideas still march through our minds. — Richard Brookhiser in the NYT on the impact of “The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution”
  • “Mr. Bailyn brings a new vividness, authenticity and excitement to the story of the settlement of North America….He sees the past in a more lively and human fashion, and in sharper detail, than have most previous historians….This is a rich canvas of a great folk-wandering over two centuries …. If the Introduction is any guide to what is to follow, the volumes to come will be treasure houses indeed.” — Esmond Wright, The New York Times Book Review reviewing “The Peopling of British North America : An Introduction”
  • “With a spare and delicate genius, [Bailyn] sketch[es] out the fiendishly complex essentials of a world where ‘everything seems strange close up.’… Bernard Bailyn’s work has the grandeur of a Braudel and the humanity of a Michelet. And he’s got to the roots.” — Gwyn A. Williams, The Guardian reviewing “The Peopling of British North America : An Introduction”
  • “In the concluding pages of [the book] Bailyn points out that Hutchinson never understood the forces that destroyed him…. And in the opening pages he tells us that his own instinctive sympathies remain with the revolutionists, that he is simply showing us how it was possible for a good man to take the other side. But in between the opening and closing pages he succeeds so well that he leaves the American Revolution looking a pretty shabby affair.” — Edmund S. Morgan in the New York Review of Books reviewing “The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson”
  • “Rarely has a single book stimulated such a burst of productive scholarship, though the new works often presented alternative formulations of the argument. Mr. Bailyn has little patience with revisionist positions, and while in the present essays he corrects and enlarges his original thesis, he essentially adheres to it.” — Forrest McDonald in the New York Times Book Review reviewing “Faces of Revolution: Personalities and Themes in the Struggle for American Independence”
  • I can’t think of a better way to inaugurate this series of lectures than with one on the founding of our republic, also the first White House cyberspace lecture. We are truly imagining — honoring the past, not by imagining the future, but through the prism of the future.
    I thank Bernard Bailyn for what he said and the way he said it and for a lifetime of work. We received the distilled wisdom tonight of more than four decades of hard thinking and work about what it means to be an American and what America means to Americans and to the rest of the world.
    I was rather amused, he said when we started that all these people who came from a lot of different places, they moved around a lot, they disagreed a lot, they were disdainful of government — I thought, what’s new? (Laughter.) But they were also, as Professor Bailyn said at the end of his remarks, at their best moments profoundly idealistic and always, always appropriately suspicious of untrammeled power in the hands of anyone in the government. — Remarks by President Bill Clinton at the Millenium Lecture in response to Bailyn’s Speech
  • When I entered graduate school in the history department at Harvard in 1969, I knew almost nothing about Bernard Bailyn, nor was I interested in the field of early American history that he taught. The fact that his study of The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution had received the Pulitzer Prize in the spring of 1968 was lost on me, overshadowed by the tumultuous events that marked my final semester of college: the aftermath of the Tet offensive, Lyndon Johnson’s abdication and the Gene McCarthy boomlet, the assassination of Martin Luther King. The notion that someone immersed in the events of the 1960s would want to carry his interest in American politics back to its eighteenth-century origins would have struck me as quaint. For all I knew or cared, real American history began sometime around the New Deal — the rest was prologue, nothing more. Of course, one might be expected to know something about the colonial and Revolutionary eras — but who would want to make them the subject of his own work?A funny thing happened to me, though, on my way to becoming a historian of modern America. When I went to sign up for my first graduate seminar with the late Frank Freidel, a distinguished biographer of Franklin Roosevelt, he surprised me with his advice. “You’ll learn a lot more if you take Professor Bailyn’s seminar,” Frank said, smiling beneath the last flattop haircut sported by any member of the Harvard faculty. I dutifully wandered down the corridor of the top floor of Widener Library to Bailyn’s office and secured the necessary permission.For me, as for literally scores of his students, that seminar was a transforming intellectual experience… To an untutored naif like myself, Bailyn’s seminar was at once mystifying and elating. For the first half of the course, we were never quite sure what the subject was. Each week’s readings were so eclectic that we went to class wondering what we would possibly discuss…With that seminar, I was hooked — a common fate for many of his students. The next year I was a teaching assistant in two of Bailyn’s lecture courses. Here I saw a different facet of his approach to teaching. In his graduate courses, Bailyn mustered an admirable patience that most professors find hard to sustain, making us kick problems around, false leads and all, before nudging us (or sometimes commanding us, with an imperious “Look!”) to consider the points he wanted us to see. His undergraduate lectures took a different form. Bailyn was not a classroom lecturer in the grand style; he never gave the sort of polished performance that is full of bons mots and witticisms and manages to reach its scintillating conclusion seconds before the bell. For the first twenty minutes of class, one barely needed to take a note, because he usually spent the time restating the problem he had been discussing at the close of the previous class. But round about 25 minutes past the hour, it would be off to the races, as a whole new topic was introduced and brilliantly sketched, opening up interpretive vistas more rapidly than anyone could imagine….Teaching Voyagers to the West (as I regularly do) to our graduate students carries me back to the heady experience of Bailyn’s seminar. For the one lesson I learned best in 1969 was that I was preparing to write a book (on what subject I hardly knew), and that when I did, Bailyn’s extraordinary lessons and example would set the standard I would aspire to meet. That standard was never imposed, however; Bailyn left us to puzzle things out for ourselves, goaded only by his critical eye and his alarming propensity to call us Bernard Bailyn  JPGshort with the most famous of all his questions: “So what?”

    Bernard Bailyn has just turned seventy-five, and he remains as actively engaged in original research as he was when he was the young star of the Harvard history department in the 1950s. His studies of the peopling of British North America continue, and for the past few years, he has been conducting a highly energized series of seminars and workshops on the settlement and economic development of the early modern Atlantic world. He is, in fact, the youngest historian I know. — Jack Rakove “Bernard Bailyn: An Appreciation” (Humanities, March/April 1998)

    Basic Facts

    Teaching Positions: Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, joined faculty in 1949, instructor in education, 1953-54, assistant professor, 1954-58, associate professor, 1958-61, professor of history, 1961-66, Winthrop Professor of History, 1966-81, Adams University Professor, 1981-93, James Duncan Phillips Professor of Early American History, 1991-93, professor emeritus, 1993–, director of Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, 1983-94.

    Colver Lecturer, Brown University, 1965;
    Phelps Lecturer, New York University, 1969;
    Trevelyan Lecturer, Cambridge University, 1971;
    Becker Lecturer, Cornell University, 1975;
    Walker-Ames Lecturer, University of Washington, 1983;
    Curti Lecturer, University of Wisconsin, 1984;
    Lewin Visiting Professor, Washington University (St. Louis, MO), 1985;
    Pitt Professor of American History, Cambridge University, 1986-87;
    Thompson Lecturer, Pomona College, 1991;

    Area of Research: Early American history, the American Revolution, and the Anglo-American world in the pre-industrial era

    Education: A.B., Williams College 1945, A.M. (1947), and Ph.D. (1953) Harvard University.

    Major Publications:

  • The New England Merchants in the Seventeenth Century, (Harvard University Press, 1955).
  • (With wife, Lotte Bailyn) Massachusetts Shipping, 1697-1714: A Statistical Study, (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1959).
  • Education in the Forming of American Society: Needs and Opportunities for Study, (University of North Carolina Press, 1960).
  • The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1967, enlarged edition, 1992.)
  • The Origins of American Politics, (Knopf, 1968).
  • The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson, (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1974).
  • History and the Creative Imagination, (Washington University, 1985).
  • The Peopling of British North America: An Introduction, (Knopf, 1986).
  • Voyagers to the West: A Passage in the Peopling of America on the Eve of the Revolution, (Knopf, 1986).
  • Faces of Revolution: Personalities and Themes in the Struggle for American Independence, (Knopf, 1990).
  • The Great Republic: Nineteenth and Early Twentieth-Century America, 1820-1920, (D. C. Heath, 1993).
  • On the Teaching and Writing of History: Responses to a Series of Questions, edited by Edward Connery Lathem, (Montgomery Endowment, 1994).
  • The Federalist Papers (Bradley Lecture Series Publication), Library of Congress, 1998.
  • To Begin the World Anew: The Genius and Ambiguities of the American Founders, Knopf, 2003).

Editor, Contributor, Joint Author:

  • (Editor, with Jane N. Garrett, and author of introduction) Pamphlets of the American Revolution, 1750-1776, Volume 1, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1965.
  • (Editor) The Apologia of Robert Keayne: The Self-Portrait of a Puritan Merchant, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1965.
  • (Editor, with Donald Fleming) The Intellectual Migration: Europe and America, 1930-1960, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1969.
  • (Editor, with Donald Fleming) Law in American History, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1972.
  • (With others) The Great Republic: A History of the American People, (Heath, 1977, 4th edition, 1992).
  • (Editor, with John B. Hench) The Press and the American Revolution, (American Antiquarian Society, 1980).
  • (Editor, with Philip D. Morgan) Strangers within the Realm: Cultural Margins of the First British Empire, (University of North Carolina Press, 1991).
  • (Editor) The Debate on the Constitution: Federalist and Antifederalist Speeches, Articles, and Letters during the Struggle over Ratification, two volumes, (Library of America, 1993).
  • From Protestant Peasants to Jewish Intellectuals: The Germans in the Peopling of America (published together with Causes and Consequences of the German Catastrophe, by Heinrich August Winkler), (Berg for the German Historical Institute, 1988).
  • Editor-in-chief, “John Harvard Library,” 1962-70.
  • Editor with Donald Fleming, Perspectives in American History, annual of Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, Harvard University, 1967-77, 1984-86.
  • Contributor to symposia and proceedings of professional organizations. Contributor to professional journals, including American Historical Review and William and Mary Quarterly.
  • Contributor to books including A Lyme Miscellany, 1776-1976, edited by George J. Willauer, Jr., (Wesleyan University, 1977); and Glimpses of the Harvard Past, (Harvard University Press, 1986).


Pulitzer Prizes in history, 1967, for The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, and 1986, for Voyagers to the West: A Passage in the Peopling of America on the Eve of the Revolution.
Bernard  Bailyn JPG Bancroft Prize, Columbia University, 1967, for The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution.
National Book Award in history, 1975, for The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson.
Saloutos Award, Immigration History Society, 1986, Triennial Book Award, and nomination for National Book Critics Circle Award, 1986, all for Voyagers to the West.
Kennedy Medal of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 2004.
Centennial Medal of the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, 2001.
Bruce Catton Prize of the Society of American Historians for lifetime achievement in the writing of history, 2000.
Medal of the Foreign Policy Association, 1998.
Henry Allen Moe Prize, American Philosophical Society, 1994.
Thomas Jefferson Medal of the American Philosophical Society, 1993.
Fellow, British Academy, and Christ’s College, Cambridge University, and Montgomery fellow, Dartmouth College, 1991.
L.H.D., Lawrence University, 1967, Bard College, 1968, Clark University, 1975, Yale University, 1976, Grinnell College, 1979, Trinity College, 1984, Manhattanville College, 1991, Dartmouth College, 1991, University of Chicago, 1991, and William and Mary College, 1994.
Litt.D., Williams College, 1969, Rutgers University, 1976, Fordham University, 1976, and Washington University (St. Louis, MO), 1988.
Recipient of first Robert H. Lord Award, Emmanuel College, 1967.
Harvard Faculty Prize, 1965, for Volume 1 of Pamphlets of the American Revolution.

Additional Info: During World War II Bailyn served in the Army Signal Corps and in the Army Security Agency.
Professor Bailyn is a member of the American Historical Association and served as President in 1981. He is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the National Academy of Education. He is a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy and the Royal Historical Society, and a Foreign Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Academia Europaea, and the Mexican Academy of History and Geography. He was a Trustee of the Institute of Advanced Study, Princeton, 1989-94.
Bailyn was the Jefferson Lecturer, National Endowment for the Humanities, 1998, and the first millennium lecturer, White House, 1998.
He also serves as a Senior Fellow in the Society of Fellows.
Bailyn is Director of the Harvard’s International Seminar on the History of the Atlantic World since 1995.

Posted on Sunday, March 5, 2006 at 4:48 PM

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