Mount Vernon Executive Director interviewedHistorians in the News
tags: George Washington
In February, we had the privilege of heading to Mount Vernon to interview Doug Bradburn, founding director of the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington. We sat in the stacks with Martha Washington’s papers, adjacent to the room filled with books owned by George Washington himself.
Before we launch into our Q&A, here’s a little background on Doug Bradburn. Doug is an acclaimed historian who was a professor and director of Graduate Studies in the History Department at Binghamton University. He taught college-level classes at a variety of institutions, held two year-long fellowships, earned a PhD in History from the University of Chicago, and got his BA in History and Economics from the University of Virginia. Doug is a specialist in the history of the American Revolution and the founding of the United States, and has written numerous articles and book chapters on topics related to the great problems of the Revolutionary Age.
His book, The Citizenship Revolution: Politics and the Creation of the American Union, 1774-1804 (UVAPress 2009), represents a thorough reconsideration of the meaning of the founding of the nation from the perspective of political fights over the meaning of individual rights and states’ rights within a changing federal Union.
David Bruce Smith: Doug, how and when did you develop a passion for American history?
Doug Bradburn: I believe that I came to love American History through a very strong interest in storytelling and stories. From an early age I wanted to be a writer. I was more attracted to stories of our past than in fiction, so that was the genesis of my interest. My father was also very interested in history and that had a huge impact. Having parents who read history and took us to historical sights definitely spurred my interest as well.
David Bruce Smith: Why do you think it is important to learn history?
Doug Bradburn: We learn about the past to understand the present. In fact, the stories of the past are not just fun fantasies—they can be very instructive tales that allow us to understand the choices that were made before we were here that impact our own lives. There is a basic need to know these stories, just like any child needs to know their parents’ history so they can better understand where they have come from. For instance, kids love learning how their parents met, what it was like when they were kids, etc. We all live based on the choices of others who came before us. It is something that kids crave.
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