History Buzz, February 8-15, 2010: Presidents’ Day




  • Books on Abraham Lincoln: Michael Burlingame offers a Presidents Day reading list: Distinctive personal portraits of Abraham Lincoln…. – 1. Honor’s Voice, By Douglas L. Wilson, Knopf, 1998
    2. The Young Eagle, By Kenneth J. Winkle, Taylor, 2001
    3. Lincoln’s Melancholy, By Joshua Wolf Shenk, Houghton Mifflin, 2005
    4. Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Keckly, By Jennifer Fleischner, Broadway, 2003
    5. Herndon’s Lincoln, By William H. Herndon and Jesse W. Weik, University of Illinois, 2006 – WSJ, 2-13-10
  • Test your knowledge of presidential history: Ultimately, the Founding Fathers rejected the prevailing concept of governance at the time – a monarch – in setting up an infant nation, opting instead for someone a little closer to home. The President….
    And because we put so much faith in one man – no women, yet – we want to know as much about him as possible. So as we recognize Presidents Day today, it might be a good time to determine just what we do know about the presidents who’ve come and gone…. – The Gainsville Sun, 2-15-10



  • Faulkner Link to Plantation Diary Discovered: The climactic moment in William Faulkner’s 1942 novel “Go Down, Moses” comes when Isaac McCaslin finally decides to open his grandfather’s leather farm ledgers with their “scarred and cracked backs” and “yellowed pages scrawled in fading ink” — proof of his family’s slave-owning past. Now, what appears to be the document on which Faulkner modeled that ledger as well as the source for myriad names, incidents and details that populate his fictionalized Yoknapatawpha County has been discovered…. – NYT, 2-11-10
  • Niall Ferguson: Sex and summitry: the rise of the raunchy summit: So now we know what it takes to remove leading public intellectuals from their studies and source-notes. Niall Ferguson, TV historian, neo-Conservative and heart-throb of the conference circuit, has left his wife for the terrifyingly glamorous feminist writer, Ayaan Hirsi Ali…. – UK Standard, 2-11-10
  • Snow Is No Longer a Joking Matter in Washington For what might be the first time ever, says Fred Beuttler, the House’s deputy historian, the chamber’s cafeteria was forced to close… – Time, 2-10-10


  • Andrew Young’s Memoir of John Edwards: THE POLITICIAN An Insider’s Account of John Edwards’s Pursuit of the Presidency and the Scandal That Brought Him Down In “The Politician,” Young, a longtime aide to John Edwards, ventilates his abhorrence for former Senator Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, both of whom he seems to have undertaken Stakhanovite efforts to please…. – NYT, 2-12-10 Excerpt
  • Jerry Z. Muller: Jews and the Burden of Money: CAPITALISM AND THE JEWS – In his slim essay collection “Capitalism and the Jews,” Jerry Z. Muller presents a provocative and accessible survey of how Jewish culture and historical accident ripened Jews for commercial success and why that success has earned them so much misfortune. NYT, 2-12-10
  • James S. Hirsch: A Nice Guy in a Perfect Baseball World: WILLIE MAYS The Life, the Legend James S. Hirsch’s new book, “Willie Mays: The Life, the Legend,” is the first biography written with Mays’s participation. (Mr. Hirsch and Mays intend to split the book’s earnings.) The result is an authoritative if sometimes listless book, one that’s less “Say Hey” than so-so. Like a long out to center field that scores a runner, however, it’s a book that gets the job done… – NYT, 2-12-10 Excerpt
  • Michael Shelden: Books of The Times Mark Twain: A Public Image as Tailored as His Snow-White Suits: MARK TWAIN: MAN IN WHITE The Grand Adventure of His Final Years As Michael Shelden illustrates in his lively, star-struck and surprise-filled portrait of Twain the septuagenarian, this kind of behavior was carefully calculated. Twain made crucial, image-shaping decisions about how he would live his last years, and Mr. Shelden takes his book’s title from one of these choices… – NYT, 2-12-10 Excerpt
  • Kevin Boyle: Book review of ‘Root and Branch’ by Rawn James, Jr.: ROOT AND BRANCH Charles Hamilton Houston, Thurgood Marshall, and the Struggle to End Segregation In “Root and Branch,” Rawn James, Jr. isn’t trying to add to that imposing scholarship as much as he’s trying to give it a popular spin. A Washington lawyer, he moves nimbly through the complex legal issues Houston and his team raised. To add a poignant touch, he interweaves Houston’s and Marshall’s powerful personal stories. And he gives their campaign a stirringly triumphal arc, the story of a whole nation being forced — by the fierce will of two learned men — to overcome…. – WaPo, 2-12-10
  • PUBLIC POLICY Book review: ‘The Great American University,’ by Jonathan R. Cole: THE GREAT AMERICAN UNIVERSITY Its Rise to Preeminence, Its Indispensable National Role, Why It Must Be Protected Our high schools may be hurting, but the best U.S. universities — the Ivies, Johns Hopkins, Stanford, the select state universities (Virginia, California at Berkeley, Michigan and others) — are the envy of the world. In his new book, Jonathan R. Cole, a former provost and dean of faculties at Columbia, shows how our research universities in particular came to be what they are… – WaPo, 2-12-10
  • Book review: ‘Inside Obama’s Brain,’ by Sasha Abamsky: INSIDE OBAMA’S BRAIN – Sasha Abramsky promises us a glimpse in “Inside Obama’s Brain.” He tells us right away what his book is not: It’s not a biography, not political history, not inside-the-Beltway prattle. It is, he says, “a psychological profile writ large.”… – WaPo, 2-12-10
  • Bettye Collier-Thomas: Faith-Based Defiance: JESUS, JOBS, AND JUSTICE African American Women and Religion In “Jesus, Jobs, and Justice,” Bettye Collier-Thomas, a professor of history at Temple University, tells the untold stories of scores of religious and politically active black women, their organizations, informal gatherings and intellectual movements. For readers who imagine that the religious and political activism of Sojourner Truth, Mary McLeod Bethune and Rosa Parks is exceptional, the book will be a revelation…. – NYT, 2-5-10
  • SUSAN RUBIN SULEIMAN on Frederick Brown: French Contentions: FOR THE SOUL OF FRANCE Culture Wars in the Age of Dreyfus The real question for the opposing camps was not whether Alfred Dreyfus was guilty or innocent, but whether France itself was to be modern or traditional, cosmopolitan or nationalist, Catholic or secular, a republic or a monarchy. The struggle, as Frederick Brown puts it in “For the Soul of France,” his briskly paced and highly readable book, was between “champions and foes of the Enlightenment.” – NYT, 2-5-10
  • Rebecca Skloot: Eternal Life: THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS In “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” Rebecca Skloot introduces us to the “real live woman,” the children who survived her, and the interplay of race, poverty, science and one of the most important medical discoveries of the last 100 years. – NYT, 2-5-10Excerpt
  • Charles Pellegrino Book review: ‘The Last Train from Hiroshima’: THE LAST TRAIN FROM HIROSHIMA The Survivors Look Back But the tragedies and atrocities of World War II now belong to history, while Hiroshima is still part of our world, our continuing present, maybe our dreaded future. “The Last Train from Hiroshima” reminds us why this is so. Charles Pellegrino’s account of what it was actually like on the ground in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, culled from survivors’ memories and his own work in forensic archaeology, is the most powerful and detailed I have ever read. It puts flesh on the skeletons…. – WaPo, 2-7-10
  • Garry Wills: Book review: ‘Bomb Power’: BOMB POWER The Modern Presidency and the National Security State Gary Wills begins his provocative account of the atomic bomb’s impact on the republic with a high-detonation assertion…. The ensuing pages carry the reader through well-written, sometimes exciting vignettes of the bomb’s damage to liberty and constitutional checks and balances. WaPo, 2-7-10
  • Jonathan R. Cole: Tales Out of School: THE GREAT AMERICAN UNIVERSITY Its Rise to Preeminence, Its Indispensable National Role, Why It Must Be Protected As provost of Columbia University for 14 years and a professor of sociology and dean of faculties before that, Jonathan R. Cole is in an excellent position to write about the rise of the American research university and its special contribution to American life. In “The Great American University,”he makes a case for the extraordinary role such institutions play in improving our daily lives. He also argues that these “jewels in our nation’s crown” face a host of serious threats. NYT, 2-5-10


  • Tomb May Hold Answer to How Much Shakespeare Actually Wrote: A sarcophagus in an English parish church built by the writer Fulke Greville, a Shakespeare contemporary, could contain clues about several works traditionally attributed to Shakespeare. St. Mary’s Church in Warwick, England, contains a tomb that parishioners believe may contain clues about Shakespeare’s work. The church was built by Fulke Greville, a “prominent 17th-century nobleman, … scholar, soldier, statesman,” spy, writer and Shakespeare contemporary who “some believe is the true author of several of the Bard’s works,” according to the Daily Telegraph. – Finding Dulcinea, 2-15-10
  • HOW CHRISTIAN WERE THE FOUNDERS? The Christian “truth” about America’s founding has long been taught in Christian schools, but not beyond. Recently, however — perhaps out of ire at what they see as an aggressive, secular, liberal agenda in Washington and perhaps also because they sense an opening in the battle, a sudden weakness in the lines of the secularists — some activists decided that the time was right to try to reshape the history that children in public schools study. Succeeding at this would help them toward their ultimate goal of reshaping American society. As Cynthia Dunbar, another Christian activist on the Texas board, put it, “The philosophy of the classroom in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next.” – San Francisco Sentinel, 2-14-10
  • Changing History Four new ways to write the story of the world: The fame of Howard Zinn, who died a week and a half ago, rested on his long record of challenging the status quo. As a young professor, he was a leader of the civil rights and antiwar movements, and throughout his career he was an inveterate demonstrator and speaker at rallies and strikes. His writings brought formerly obscure events like Bacon’s Rebellion, the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, and the Philippine-American War into the light, arguing that such popular uprisings – and their brutal suppression – were central to the American story. It’s a vision that resonated with readers: Zinn’s 1980 book, “A People’s History of the United States,” has sold more than 2 million copies…. Boston Globe, 2-7-10
  • A Chronicler of the World Now Looks Inward: In one of the short personal reminiscences that the historian Tony Judt has been writing for The New York Review of Books he mentions that he was part of the “lucky generation” born in the affluent West after World War II, free to indulge in daydreams and passions. Mr. Judt’s world, sadly, has contracted considerably. Now 62, he learned about 16 months ago that he has a form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or A.L.S., commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and since then he has lost the ability to move nearly every muscle in his body, including those that help him breathe and swallow…. – NYT, 2-8-10


  • Mark Dyreson “It’s a weird world of sports, but Winter Games have charms too”: “Part of the reason we don’t get the Winter Games is that we just don’t understand the sports — 300,000 Swedes lining a snow-covered path to watch people skiing strikes us as absurd,” said Mark Dyreson, sports historian and professor at Penn State. “But part of it is also bald nationalism. We don’t like it because we’re not top dog.” – LAT, 2-12-10
  • On Religion A Rare Blend, Pro Football and Hasidic Judaism: For Jews, abundant as fans but uncommon as top players, the visibility of a Shlomo Veingrad serves both reassuring and cathartic roles. Having a Jew to root for — whether Hank Greenberg, Sandy Koufax or the Israeli N.B.A. rookie Omri Casspi — “has a lot to do with our desire to define ourselves as Americans in the most American way, which is sports,” said Jeffrey S. Gurock, a history professor at Yeshiva University and the author of “Judaism’s Encounter With American Sports.” At a deeper and more anxious level, American Jews continue to grapple with the stereotypical view of the Jew as egghead, nerd, weakling. That dismissive portrayal was a staple not only of anti-Semites, but also of early Zionists, who envisioned their “new man” with his plow and rifle as the antidote to the “golus Yid,” the exilic Jew unable even to defend himself. “I don’t think those feelings are as conscious as in prior generations, but they still have some resonance,” Professor Gurock said in a telephone interview. “So there’s a residual pride of someone achieving in this very secular world of sports.” – NYT, 2-6-10


  • Michael Kazin: What’s Behind The New Populism?:
    In the year 2010, what is populism?
    It is as it has always been: the language of people who see ordinary people as a noble group and the elite class as self-serving. This year, the elites are perceived as Wall Street, the Obama administration and Democrats who want to increase the size of government. The left and right have been arguing in populist terms — whether the big evil is big government or big business — since the 1930s. NPR, 2-5-10
  • Brown’s Entry Ends Democrats’ Supermajority: Republican Scott Brown was sworn in Thursday as the 41st Republican in the U.S. Senate. His election ends the Democratic supermajority in the chamber. WELNA: Senate Historian Don Ritchie says years ago it was normal that Republicans and Democrats would cross the aisle on key votes. He says its lately become normal that they dont.
    Mr. DON RITCHIE (Senate Historian): The two parties are much more internally cohesive than they ever were before. The ideological spectrum inside the Democratic conference and inside the Republican conference is much narrower than it was before, and they tend to vote together. WBUR, NPR, 2-4-10


  • Michael Burlingame “UIS professor wins 2010 Lincoln Prize”: Authorities at the University of Illinois Springfield have announced two new honors for Professor Michael Burlingame, a noted Abraham Lincoln scholar. On Thursday, Burlingame was installed as holder of the Naomi Lynn Distinguished Chair of Lincoln Studies. On Friday, it was announced that Burlingame has won the 2010 Lincoln Prize for his two-volume “Abraham Lincoln: A Life,” published last year by Johns Hopkins University Press…. – Chicago Tribune, 2-12-10
  • Anna Pegler-Gordon: Professor wins book prize: Anna Pegler-Gordon, an associate professor in MSU’s James Madison College was awarded the 2009 Theodore Saloutos book prize of the Immigration and Ethnic History Society for her book. Pegler-Gordon, who also is acting director of the Asian Pacific American Studies Program, won the award for the book “In Sight of America: Photography and the Development of U.S. Immigration Policy.” – MSU State News, 2-9-10


  • How Dovid Katz Thirst For Jewish History Rabbi Dovid Katz’s unique perspectives bend minds and preconceived notions: On a cold and misty Saturday evening, the small sanctuary at Beth Abraham Congregation in Northwest Baltimore is packed to overflowing. Men and women, young and old, Orthodox and Conservative, Reform and non-affiliated, have all come to hear about modern Jewish history. The speaker is Dovid Katz, the rabbi of Beth Abraham (known widely as “Hertzberg’s Shul”), who also happens to hold a Ph.D. in Jewish history and is attracting large audiences to his current 12-part lecture series — most of whom find his talks entertaining, interesting and informative. That’s one reason why the program is underwritten by the Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, and co-sponsored by a number of local businesses and individuals…. – Baltimore Jewish Times,


  • Noted historian to examine ‘grand strategy’: “The Nuts and Bolts of Grand Strategy” is the title of a lecture by Yale University historian Paul Kennedy set for 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 18, in 16 Robertson Hall. – Princeton, 2-15-10
  • Civil War Web site gears up State promoting events for war’s 150th anniversary: With just one year to go until the Civil War’s 150th anniversary, history lovers across Tennessee have taken their battle for the past to a new front – cyberspace. The Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission and the state Department of Tourist Development launched a new Web site this month to help promote events planned statewide for the war’s anniversary, which will stretch from 2011-2015. The Web site – http://www.tncivilwar150.com – remains a work in progress but has already drawn praise from East Tennessee historians and preservationists…. – Knox News, 2-8-10




  • Jordan Goodman: The Devil and Mr. Casement: One Man’s Battle for Human Rights in South America’s Heart of Darkness, (Hardcover) February 16, 2010
  • Ken Gormley: The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr (Hardcover), February 16, 2010
  • Jeffrey Race: War Comes to Long An: Revolutionary Conflict in a Vietnamese Province (Updated), (Paperback) February 16, 2010
  • Patrick Tyler: World of Trouble: The White House and the Middle East–from the Cold War to the War on Terror, (Paperback) February 16, 2010
  • Susan Wise Bauer: The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade, (Hardcover) February 22, 2010
  • Richard J. Evans: The Third Reich at War (Paperback) February 23, 2010
  • Cliff Sloan: The Great Decision: Jefferson, Adams, Marshall, and the Battle for the Supreme Court, (Paperback) March 2, 2010
  • Hugh Ambrose: The Pacific, (Hardcover) March 2, 2010
  • Jonathan Phillips: Holy Warriors: A Modern History of the Crusades, (Hardcover) March 9, 2010
  • Thomas Asbridge: The Crusades, (Hardcover) March 9, 2010
  • Bryan D. Palmer: James P. Cannon and the Origins of the American Revolutionary Left, 1890-1928 (1st Edition), (Paperback) March 1, 2010
  • C. Brian Kelly: Best Little Stories from the Civil War, (Paperback) March 1, 2010
  • Nicholas Schou: Orange Sunshine: The Brotherhood of Eternal Love and Its Quest to Spread Peace, Love, and Acid to the World, (Hardcover) March 16, 2010
  • Timothy M. Gay: Satch, Dizzy, and Rapid Robert: The Wild Saga of Interracial Baseball Before Jackie Robinson, (Hardcover) March 16, 2010
  • Miranda Carter: George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I, (Hardcover) March 23, 2010
  • John W. Steinberg: All the Tsar’s Men: Russia’s General Staff and the Fate of the Empire, 1898-1914, (Hardcover) April 1, 2010
  • Simon Dixon: Catherine the Great, (Paperback) April 6, 2010
  • J. Todd Moye: Freedom Flyers: The Tuskegee Airmen of World War II, (Hardcover) April 12, 2010
  • Seth G. Jones: In the Graveyard of Empires: America’s War in Afghanistan (Paperback) April 12, 2010
  • Nick Bunker: Making Haste from Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World: A New History, (Hardcover) April 13, 2010
  • Dominic Lieven: Russia Against Napoleon: The True Story of the Campaigns of War and Peace, (Hardcover), April 15, 2010
  • Timothy J. Henderson: The Mexican Wars for Independence, (Paperback) April 13, 2010
  • Hampton Sides: Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin, (Hardcover) April 27, 2010
  • Max Hastings: Winston’s War: Churchill, 1940-1945, (Hardcover) April 27, 2010
  • Bradley Gottfried: The Maps of Gettysburg: An Atlas of the Gettysburg Campaign, June 3 – July 13, 1863, (Hardcover) April 19, 2010
  • Kelly Hart: The Mistresses of Henry VIII, (Paperback) May 1, 2010
  • Mark Puls: Henry Knox: Visionary General of the American Revolution, (Paperback) May 11, 2010


  • Hawaii author and historian Bob Dye dead at 81: Honolulu author, historian and journalist Bob Dye died Friday following a long illness. He was 81. Dye wrote “Merchant Prince of the Sandalwood Mountains: Afong and the Chinese in Hawai’i,” about the first Chinese millionaire in Hawai’i, and he was the editor of “Hawai’i Chronicles II and III.”…. – Honolulu Advertiser, 2-6-10
  • Hans L. Trefousse, Historian and Author, Dies at 88: Sometimes the least prepossessing American presidents are the most enduringly interesting. That is certainly the case for Andrew Johnson. His impeachment trial of 1868 was in the news again in the late 1990s, during the impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton…. – NYT, 2-4-10
  • Daniel Randall Beirne: Army officer who went on to become a history and sociology professor and expert on Baltimore history: Daniel Randall Beirne, a West Pointer and retired Army officer who later had a second career as a University of Baltimore professor of sociology and history and was considered an authority on Baltimore history, died Wednesday of heart failure at his East Lake Avenue home. He was 85…. – Baltimore Sun, 2-6-10
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