Glenn C. Altschuler Reviews Steven Gillon’s ‘Pearl Harbor’ : A look at FDR, Pearl Harbor and a transformed presidency

Glenn C. Altschuler Reviews Steven Gillon’s ‘Pearl Harbor’ : A look at FDR, Pearl Harbor and a transformed presidency
Source: The OregonianThe Oregonia, 11-26-11

Steven M. Gillon
Basic Books
$25.99, 248 pages

For millions of Americans, Dec. 7, 1941, is a date that lives in infamy. They remember Japan’s surprise attack against the Pacific Fleet based in Hawaii as a pivotal moment that swept the United States into World War II and sealed the fate of the Axis powers.

In “Pearl Harbor: FDR Leads the Nation Into War,” Steven M. Gillon, resident historian for The History Channel and history professor at the University of Oklahoma, provides a concise and informative account of Franklin Roosevelt’s initial response to the crisis. Against a backdrop of “chaos and confusion,” with no polls to guide him and little time for reflection, Gillon argues, the president exhibited extraordinary qualities of leadership, orchestrating a response that would reassure and inspire an anxious nation.

“Pearl Harbor” does not break new ground or depart from conventional wisdom. Along with virtually every professional historian, Gillon sees no evidence that Roosevelt knew the attack was coming and used it to push the United States into war. The president and his staff, he writes, may have “gravely misjudged Japan’s intentions and capability, but they were not guilty of deliberate deception.”

Gillon agrees, however, that Roosevelt did restrict the flow of information to the press. Concerned that detailed damage assessments might embolden the Japanese and demoralize Americans, he ordered that briefings come only from the White House, and did not update casualty figures. These practices, Gillon claims, perhaps naively, would not be acceptable today.

There is no doubt, however, that, for good and ill, the attack on Pearl Harbor transformed — and enlarged — the presidency. In one of many executive orders, Gillon reminds us, Roosevelt authorized the forced evacuation of more than 100,000 Japanese residents on the West Coast, many of them American citizens.

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


History Buzz

Source: NYT, 7-24-11

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


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

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

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

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

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

Robert Jay Lifton: Life of a Psychohistorian


History Buzz

Source: NYT, 6-17-11

Review by Maurice Isserman

For many years, Robert Jay Lifton has been recognized as a leading “psychohistorian,” or as he prefers to define his vocation, a “historically minded psychiatrist.” Psychohistory is the field of inquiry that explores the psychological motives of individuals and groups of historical actors, as well as the psychological impact of historical events. Lifton is perhaps best known as the author of “Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima,” published in 1967, which received a National Book Award. In that book, he described how the hibakusha, those residents of Hiroshima who survived the atomic bomb on Aug. 6, 1945, lived with deep and shameful feelings of being “inwardly poisoned” by their experience, as well as an embittered “sense of special knowledge” that set them apart from those who had not witnessed the horrors of the attack.

“Witness to an Extreme Century” is a memoir of Lifton’s life and career, and as one is forewarned by its title, he doesn’t offer readers many laughs. Still, one passage toward the end did make me smile. “Dad,” he reports his daughter, Natasha, once asking him, “have you ever considered taking up more cheerful subjects?”

Apparently not. Lifton, whose academic affiliations include stints at the City University of New York, Yale and, most recently, Harvard, has devoted himself to studying how individuals have coped with extreme circumstances: war, torture, genocide. In addition to Hiroshima survivors, his subjects have included Vietnam veterans, the victims of Chinese Communist “thought reform,” and German concentration camp doctors.

“Witness to an Extreme Century” is a work of intellectual autobiography. Mentors, including Lifton’s fellow psychohistorian Erik Erikson, the sociologist David Riesman and the anthropologist Margaret Mead, are discussed at length, while his parents, children and wife make only occasional appearances — although there is a tribute in the epilogue to his spouse, the well-known author Betty Jean Lifton, who died in November 2010….READ MORE

John Lewis Gaddis: Classic review: The Cold War – A New History

Source: CS Monitor, 5-1-11

The cold war: how it began, why it ended

The Cold War: A New History By John Lewis Gaddis Penguin Group 352 pp.


[This review from the Monitor’s archives originally ran on Dec. 20, 2005]. Fourteen years ago, in December 1991, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev told his country that the cold war was over. In signing the decree that dissolved the Soviet Union and ended the East-West competition, Gorbachev also announced an end to the arms race and the “insane militarization” that had “distorted” his country’s thinking and “undermined” its morals. And perhaps most significantly, he claimed “the threat of a world war” had come to an end.

With the demise of the Soviet state, the world seemed ready to enter an era in which the fear of a catastrophic war would no longer stalk humanity. Many believed the perils of the cold war would give way to a more tranquil age.

But it was not to be. Yesterday’s fear of intercontinental ballistic missiles raining down on New York or Washington has been supplanted by today’s fear of suicide attacks and dirty bombs.

And now, when boarding a plane gives many people pause, one looks almost longingly at the postwar decades, when the United States seemed to understand its adversary and believed Russian leaders were unlikely to act irrationally. After all, the cold logic of the cold war meant a Soviet attack on the United States would lead to a swift and devastating response.

As US leaders strain to manage America’s current overseas dilemmas, The Cold War: A New History by John Lewis Gaddis transports us to an earlier era. In luminous detail, Gaddis, the Robert A. Lovett professor of history at Yale, traces the history of the conflict that dominated world politics from the end of World War II to the early 1990s. How long ago it all seems.

Gaddis, America’s most distinguished cold war historian, has been writing about the subject for more than 30 years. (I co-edited a book on nuclear diplomacy with Gaddis and two other scholars in 1999.)

But unlike several of his previous books, which were intended for scholars, this one is aimed at a broader audience – for those who want to understand how the cold war began, how it unfolded, and why it ended when it did.

Given these objectives, Gaddis has succeeded splendidly. Indeed, in the book’s narrative sweep, analytical insights, and deft incorporation of the most recent scholarship, Gaddis has written the best one-volume treatment of the East-West struggle. By examining how individual leaders, differing ideologies, domestic politics, and the nuclear threat shaped the competition, he’s produced an altogether stimulating work…READ MORE

Timothy Snyder: Hitler’s, Stalin’s bloodlands instructive history

Source: Ken Osborne, the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 22, 2011 H7

Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin By Timothy Snyder, Basic Books, 524 pages, $36

BETWEEN 1933 and 1945, more than 14 million people in Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and western Russia were killed, not for anything they did but simply for who they were.

Their political beliefs were suspect, they were the wrong religion or nationality or social class, they were too educated, or were simply judged to be in the way.

This mind-numbing figure does not include the millions of soldiers killed in combat on the eastern front during the Second World War. It describes only non-combatants who were killed as the result of decisions knowingly made by Nazi and Soviet policy makers.

This is why Yale University historian Timothy Snyder calls his comprehensive analysis of this European catastrophe Bloodlands.

He argues that the deaths he describes were the result of competing Nazi and Soviet ideologies reinforced by the mutual tensions that existed between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

For the Nazis, Eastern Europe and the western Soviet republics were to be the basis of a new German empire, emptied of their inhabitants and peopled by Germans, embodying Nazi principles and providing food and raw materials for the fatherland.

For the Soviets, control of Eastern Europe provided defence in depth and security for their vulnerable western borders in the war with capitalism that Stalin believed was inevitable….

Snyder’s decision to put aside the brutalized nature of combat on the Eastern front and the resulting millions of military deaths between 1941 and 1945 detracts from the grim story he has to tell. Life and death in the bloodlands were even more horrifying than he describes.

Even so, Bloodlands deserves to be read. It is instructive history in every sense of the word.

Simon Schama: Essay on ice cream takes the cake in this exhilarating read

Source: South Africa, Independent Online, 1-24-11

IOL Tonight Pic CT Scribble Scribble 21 Jan 2011

Scribble, Scribble, Scribble: Writings on Ice Cream, Obama, Churchill and my Mother

Simon Schama

Bodley Head

REVIEW: Donald Paul

A UNIVERSITY Professor of Art History and History at Columbia University, Simon Schama is one of those exasperatingly prolific writers, that is, he writes damned thick books, and lots of them.

He’s also written and presented more than 40 documentaries for the BBC. The title of his latest book is from a comment made by Edward Gibbon’s patron, the Duke of Gloucester: “Another damned, thick square book! Always scribble, scribble, scribble! Eh! Mr Gibbon?”

To plough through Landscape and Memory, published in 1995, is somewhat the intellectual equivalent of cycling the Tour de France: relentlessly demanding, panoramic and exhilaratingly exhausting. The collection of essays, Scribble, Scribble, Scribble, is more like a long traipse through defined but unknown territory, a sort of Camino de Santiago, with stops along the way where you can re-gather yourself.

The book is divided into eight sections, ranging from “Travelling” to “Performing”, and from “Cooking and Eating” to “Remembering”. You can stop in where you like, and move on when and where the spirit takes you.

Schama, born in London, now lives in the US and his essay in “Travelling” about the historical depiction of the relationship between Europe and his fellow Americans goes a long way to explaining how different the two peoples are still to this day. It has a lot to do, he says, with the Americans’ insistence on “severance from history; and, above all, what the Germans called Bodenlosigkeit, a willed rootlessness”…READ MORE

Dolen Perkins-Valdez: A tender spot in master-slave relations

Source: WaPo, 1-21-11

Novelist Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Novelist Dolen Perkins-Valdez (Photos By Mark Gail)

Dolen Perkins-Valdez was reading a biography of W.E.B. DuBois when she came across the small aside. It was piece of history she hadn’t known, and couldn’t stop thinking about.

The land for Ohio’s Wilberforce University, the nation’s oldest private historically black college, where DuBois had once taught, at one time had been part of a resort – a place called Tawawa House, where wealthy Southern slaveholders would take their slave mistresses for open-air “vacations.”

“I had never heard of anything like that,” says Perkins-Valdez, then a writing professor at the University of Mary Washington. She knew of masters taking slaves north to attend to them, “but the thought of them taking women to a vacation resort was just stunning to me. I didn’t know what to do with that.”

What she did first was wonder: How would they have gotten there? And what did the resort look like? Then she asked: Why would a slave taken to a Northern free state not run?

Her attempts to answer those questions turned into the novel “Wench,” out in paperback Tuesday, just in time for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War…READ MORE

George Rable: In ‘God’s almost chosen peoples,’ UA historian explores religion in Civil War


Source: University of Alabama, 1-5-11

Amid the horrendous slaughter of the Civil War, people from all denominations turned to their faith to explain and justify the causes for which they fought – and to find reasons for pressing on. A new book by a University of Alabama professor takes up this essential topic in American history,150 years after the start of the war.

“Many Americans interpreted the causes and the course and the consequences of the war in religious terms,” said Dr. George C. Rable, Charles G. Summersell Chair in Southern History at UA. “Religion was an important part of their motivation, it’s an important part of sustaining the war effort, and it helped people justify the horrendous sacrifices that the war required.

“It is a source of morale and a source of meaning. This is war beyond what anyone could imagine in the spring of 1861 when it began. People asked themselves, ‘why did all this carnage occur? What did it mean? Should the war continue? To what end?’ And they sought answers in religion.”

Rable’s book is titled “God’s Almost Chosen Peoples: A Religious History of the American Civil War,” published by the University of North Carolina Press. Publishers Weekly, in a starred review, stated that the book is “brilliant and groundbreaking … Rable’s engrossing study of the role of religion in the Civil War will stand as the definitive religious history of America’s most divisive conflict.”

Rable researched and wrote this volume over the course of nine years; he relied extensively on primary sources, including journals, politicians’ letters and denominational records. Of particular interest to Rable were the many published sermons from preachers in a variety of denominations and religious newspapers, which published many articles about the war.

“The number of published sermons is staggering,” Rable said. “The religious press actively commented on the war in a variety of ways.Pacifist Quaker editors, for example, might try to ignore the war, though some got into trouble for putting war news in their papers.”

Ideas about sin, divine providence and judgment pervaded religious tracts and discussions of the time, Rable said. Both Northerners and Southerners believed that God was on their side, and that divine providence favored their efforts. In fact, the Civil War can be seen in part as a conflict over biblical interpretation – what did the Bible say about slavery and God’s will?

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“As far as the pro-slavery people were concerned, they had the Bible on their side,” Rable said. “They could cite chapter and verse, whereas the anti-slavery people had to appeal more to the spirit of the Gospels. In many cases, it became a very technical argument over the translation of Hebrew and Greek words. A lot of arid treatises were produced on slavery in the Bible. One of the things that makes religion so vital to the understanding of the war is that it was very important to both sides. It was very easy for people to claim that God was on their side.”

As the war grew more horrific and the fortunes of each side waxed and waned, preachers and other believers began seeing the war as a kind of judgment, either against the sin of slavery or for some other misdeeds.

“The Confederates thought they were being punished not for holding slaves but for not doing it in the right way – for splitting up families, for not teaching slaves how to read the Bible, for not providing religious instruction, for cruel treatment – that sort of thing,” Rable said. “Slavery was fine according to their way of thinking, but individual slaveholders had been guilty of essentially violating divine law and not treating their slaves properly.

“For anti-slavery people, the war is a judgment against the sin of slavery. But the war might also be a judgment on other transgressions. Preachers were very good at listing all the sins the nation was guilty of, both individually and collectively, including the treatment of the Indians, alcohol, gambling and swearing.”

Rable’s book encompasses a wide range of religious expression in the United States at the time, including Roman Catholicism, Mormonism and African-American religion. Roman Catholics had their own conflicted attitudes toward the war, as expressed in the Roman Catholic press at the time.

“The Catholic position is fascinating,” he said. “First of all there’s a range of opinion. You don’t have published Catholic sermons, but the Catholic press says at the beginning, if this were a Catholic nation, this war wouldn’t be happening. With the Protestants, you have schism and division, and the sectional conflict is the logical result of Protestantism. Their argument was that the Catholic Church could be a source of unity for the nation, and Catholics, both North and South, tended to be much more moderate. Northern Catholics ran the gamut from pro-slavery to anti-slavery.”

“God’s Almost Chosen People” also contains many anecdotes that illustrate how religion played an essential part in the war. For example, swearing was a big issue – Stonewall Jackson, Rable noted, believed that God would not bless soldiers in battle if they went in swearing. But the war helped forge bonds across sectarian lines as well. For example, Rable recounts the experiences of the Rev. Joseph Twichell, a congregational minister, and Father Joseph B. O’Hagan, a Jesuit priest, who were thrown together as chaplains in a New York regiment.

“The two young chaplains not only concluded a treaty of amity, peace and cooperation but soon became fast friends,” Rable said. “While Twichell still worried about a priest placing himself between a dying man and , he saw that O’Hagan had reasonable views on matters of . For his part,Twichell sounded increasingly less dogmatic about the truths of Protestantism. One cold night, shortly after the Battle of Fredericksburg, they lay down to sleep, putting their blankets together to stay warm. O’Hagan began laughing, confiding to Twichell how the situation amused him – a Jesuit priest and a New England puritan minister of the worst sort lying close together under the same blanket. ‘I wonder what the angels think.’ He quickly answered his own question: ‘I think they like it.’”

Rable noted that despite the extensive scope of his volume, the subject of religion during the remains so vast that still more materials await researchers.

“One of the problems with the project is that there’s material on religion everywhere,” he said. “I still run across new information. I never tired of researching it and writing about it, and there’s still much work to be done on the subject.

Samuel Moyn: The Last Utopia traces the history of human rights policy

The Birth and Death of Human Rights Doctrine

Samuel Moyn‘s The Last Utopia traces the history of human rights policy.

Source: Slate, 1-1-11

The Last Utopia.Human rights—the notion that the protection of the immutable rights and freedoms of every individual on the planet supersedes all other concerns—did not always enjoy this prominent place in our political debate. Most historians have located the ideology’s origins in previous eras, from the ancient Greeks and Hebrews to the Enlightenment to post-World War II. In his erudite new book, The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History, Samuel Moyn proposes a more recent source. He argues that it was only in the 1970s, when other utopian ideologies—socialism, anti-colonialism, and anti-communism—fell by the wayside that human rights assumed its stature as the ultimate moral arbiter of international conduct.

As Moyn tells it, human rights might trace its philosophical lineage to earlier times—few ideas emerge from the intellectual womb as orphans—but its dominant role was not assured until a particular point in time. He takes issue most forcefully with the belief that human rights’ ascension was an answer to the extermination of European Jewry. “Contrary to conventional assumptions, there was no widespread Holocaust consciousness in the postwar era, so human rights could not have been a response to it,” he writes.

Communism and anti-communism defined global ideological debate in the immediate postwar era, soon joined by revolutionary nationalism. The Last Utopia’s best chapter chronicles the hold anti-colonialism had both on the masses in developing countries and on leftist intellectuals in developed nations. Sanctified by Woodrow Wilson, Lenin, and the Atlantic Charter, the doctrine had broad appeal. “It was the promise of self-determination,” Moyn agues, “rather than any supervening concept of international rights that resounded around the world at that time.” Indeed, if human rights were the dominant foreign policy concept after the Holocaust, as conventional wisdom holds, nobody told Mao, Ho-Chi Minh, Nasser, Nehru, Mandela, Castro, or any of the Soviet or American leaders….READ MORE

Top 12 Civil War books ever written

The top 12 Civil War books ever written One great book for each month of 2011, the sesquicentennial of the War Between the States:

By Glenn W. LaFantasie

Source: — Salon, 12-26-10

Glenn W. LaFantasie is the Richard Frockt Family Professor of Civil War History and Director of the Institute for Civil War Studies at Western Kentucky University. His most recent book is “Gettysburg Heroes: Perfect Soldiers, Hallowed Ground” (Indiana University Press, 2008). More: Glenn W. LaFantasie

First, some arbitrary rules that have guided my selection of titles. I’ve only included books published after World War II, which means I’m leaving out a long shelf of good books issued before the second half of the 20th century, some of which still stand the test of time. Out of necessity, I’ve narrowly defined the universe from which I have picked my top dozen. For example, I’ve not included any biographies on this list — an exclusion that some may find indefensible. No series or multivolume works are included here either, which means that Allan Nevins’ majestic “The Ordeal of the Union” (eight volumes), Bruce Catton’s “Centennial History of the Civil War” (three volumes), and Shelby Foote’s very popular “The Civil War” (three volumes) are not to be found below, despite the fact that they all qualify as masterpieces. What’s more, I’ve stuck to only nonfiction titles, so fans of Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With the Wind” or Michael Shaara’s “The Killer Angels” (both winners of the Pulitzer Prize) will be disappointed to see these novels missing from my list.

In any event, here are a dozen books that, for me, tell the story of the Civil War with literary elegance, intellectual gusto and enormous flair….

  • 12. “The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War” by Bruce Catton
    11. “Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America”: by William E. Gienapp
    10. “Lincoln’s Men: How President Lincoln Became Father to an Army and a Nation”: By William C. Davis
    9. “Grant and Sherman: The Friendship That Won the Civil War”: By Charles Bracelen Flood
    8. “Chancellorsville 1863: The Souls of the Brave”: By Ernest B. (“Pat”) Furgurson
    7. “Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam”: By Stephen W. Sears
    6. “Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches From the Unfinished Civil War”: By Tony Horwitz
    5. “Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory”: By David W. Blight
    4. “This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War”: By Drew Gilpin Faust
    3. “Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era”: By James M. McPherson
    2. “The Destructive War: William Tecumseh Sherman, Stonewall Jackson, and the Americans”: By Charles Royster
    1. “A Stillness at Appomattox”: By Bruce Catton

Daniel Rasmussen: New book chronicles largest slave revolt in U.S. history

Source: Louisiana Weekly, 12-27-10

Daniel Rasmussen, American Uprising The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt January 8, 1811 a group of determined enslaved Africans set into motion a plan to rise up against slavery and take their destiny into their own hands. Vowing to cast the shackles that bound them to the sugar cane plantations just west of the Crescent City, these ambitious warriors carved out a place in history for themselves that some have sought to bury for two centuries.
While many are familiar with the stories of uprisings led by Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey and John Brown, a significantly fewer number of people know the story of revolutionaries Charles Deslondes, Harry Kenner, Kook and Quamana who led a group of enslaved Africans toward a vulnerable New Orleans during the annual Mardi Gras celebration in hopes of gaining their freedom. That is about to change.
American Uprising, a new book written by Daniel Rasmussen and slated for an early January 2011 release tells the story of the planning and execution of this uprising and its aftermath.
Rasmussen, a recent Harvard University grad, says he began researching and writing the book about three years ago after stumbling upon the story of the revolt while working on his senior thesis. “In a lot of history about slavery there were only three sentences about this revolt, the largest slave revolt in America,” he told The Louisiana Weekly. “Very little was known about it. The more I came upon this in different books, I said to myself ‘I’ve got to figure this out.’ I’ve done a fair amount of investigative journalism so the idea of looking into something that other people didn’t know about and I think some people have consciously tried to keep secret was really intriguing to me.
“The more I learned about it, the more fascinated I became,” he continued. “Number one, my thesis was exactly right, this revolt had been covered up for almost 200 years by very powerful people with very strong interests in keeping this secret. As soon as I found that out, I got even more excited.”… –

Stanley Harrold: Prof examines role of border states in Civil War

Source: The Times and Democrat, 12-21-10

A South Carolina State University professor goes beyond the traditional understanding of the Civil War’s causes in his new book.

History professor Stanley Harrold explores the conflict and bloody violence over slavery in the border states in his latest book, “Border War” (University of North Carolina Press).

The author of seven previous books about the Civil War, Harrold offers documentation of incidents involving factions other than just pro- and anti-slavery forces.

“All of my books have dealt with the years leading up to the Civil War,” Harrold said. “These involved the abolitionist movement and the resulting conflict in the North-South border states.

“The usual assumption by most historians was the border region was conservative. That thinking held that it was the radical components in the upper North and the Deep South that pushed the country toward Civil War.”

Harrold contends the border states of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky and Missouri were the tinderbox where people with varying views on slavery met face to face.

The book covers what Harrold says are two main phases to the border conflict.

“The first was, as time went by, the border slave states came to realize they needed to get slavery protection from the federal government,” Harrold said. “If they secede from the Union, they won’t be covered by federal laws allowing recovery of runaway slaves. That led them to stay with the Union.

“The second phase was the domino theory held by the Deep South. It held if slavery was weaker in the border states, then the next tier of states will fall, eventually pushing down to the Gulf of Mexico. Secession was the Deep South’s way to try and head off what it saw was that logical progression.”..READ MORE

New David McCullough book based on Christmas show

David McCullough AP – FILE – In this March 3, 2008 file photo, author David McCullough arrives at the HBO premiere of ‘John …

By HILLEL ITALIE, AP, 10-25-10

David McCullough’s latest book project did not begin with a president or a great war. It started with his friendship with Larry H. Miller, the late owner of the Utah Jazz basketball team.

“He was a phenomenal success in business and a success at almost everything he touched. Here’s a fellow who had little education, who fairly late in life became interested in American history and interested in how teaching could be improved, a subject close to my heart,” McCullough, the Pulitzer Prize winning historian, said during a recent telephone interview from his home in Maine.

“I helped him set up a summer seminar program for history teachers in Utah, whereby it was made possible to spend several weeks brushing up on history in general. I was invited to lecture at several of the universities in Utah. One thing led to another. Larry became quite ill with diabetes and one of his last wishes to me was to take part in the Christmas concert with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra.”

Miller died in February 2009. In December, McCullough was among the guests at the annual Mormon Tabernacle performance on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, where he discussed two Christmas songs, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” and their ties to a Christmas Eve ceremony at the White House in 1941, less than three weeks after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. President Franklin Roosevelt spoke briefly from the White House balcony about celebrating a holiday during wartime, then introduced a surprise guest, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who had secretly crossed the Atlantic Ocean to appear with Roosevelt.

“He wasn’t even mentioned in the program,” McCullough said of Churchill. “He risked his life to be there.”

McCullough’s talk has just come out in book form, the 56-page “In the Dark Streets Shineth,” released by the Salt Lake-based Shadow Mountain Publishing. “Dark Streets” includes a DVD of McCullough’s reading with the choir, photographs from the 1941 White House gathering and pictures of World War II soldiers….READ MORE

History Headlines June 17, 2010: Gordon S. Wood: Was Washington ‘Mad for Glory’?


History Buzz


Gordon S. Wood: Was Washington ‘Mad for Glory’?

An Artist in Treason: The Extraordinary Double Life of General James Wilkinson
by Andro Linklater
Walker, 392 pp., $27.00

The Ascent of George Washington: The Hidden Political Genius of an American Icon
by John Ferling
Bloomsbury, 464 pp., $20.00 (paper)

Washington-Custis-Lee Collection/Washington & Lee University, Lexington, VA

George Washington as Colonel of the Virginia Regiment; painting by Charles Willson Peale, 1772

No two generals in the era of the early Republic appear to differ from one another more than George Washington and James Wilkinson. Although each man possessed considerable personal, political, and military skills and each at different times became commander in chief of the United States Army, the two generals seem to have little else in common. Washington was a revered figure in his own lifetime, someone who appeared to transcend the petty interests of ordinary men—a man of character, self-controlled, incorruptible, the epitome of selfless disinterestedness, and the savior of the new and fragile Union.

By contrast, Wilkinson, who was twenty-five years younger than Washington, was always a controversial figure, vain, flamboyant, and widely criticized for his selfishness and his lack of moral character. Throughout most of his career in the US Army, even as its commander in chief, he remained a paid secret agent of the Spanish government, a devious, untrustworthy, and corrupt creature who, far from endeavoring to preserve the Union, threatened several times to break it up. While Washington is rightly celebrated as one of America’s greatest heroes, Wilkinson may be the most unscrupulous character in all of American history.

But are the two men as opposite as they seem? Juxtaposing these two books suggests that Wilkinson and Washington may not be as different from one another as we have thought, or at least one of the authors wants us to think so.

Book Reviews: David La Vere’s “The Lost Rocks: The Dare Stones and the Unsolved Mystery of the Lost Colony”

Digging up “The Lost Rocks”

Source: Wilmington Star News, 6-7-10

David La Vere was going through back numbers of the Journal of Southern History when he found an intriguing item from May 1938.

A team of Emory University scholars had examined a 21-pound rock found near the Chowan River in northeastern North Carolina – probably a ballast stone from an early English sailing ship.

Scratched on the stone, in Tudor English, was what seemed to be a message from Eleanor Dare, one of Sir Walter Raleigh’s “lost” Roanoke colonists of 1587, telling her father what had happened to the colony and where to find the survivors.

“It was written by this Dr. Pearce, who seemed so authoritative,” said La Vere, a professor of history at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. “I just had to wonder, why had I not heard of this?”

The reason – which La Vere recounts in his new book “The Lost Rocks: The Dare Stones and the Unsolved Mystery of the Lost Colony” (Dram Tree Books, $19.95) was that Emory historian Haywood Pearce Jr. collected other stones, also purporting to have been written by Eleanor Dare…. READ MORE

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