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In addition to Watergate! Stanley Kutler’s Other Monument

Historians in the News
tags: Stanley Kutler



Michael H. Ebner is professor of American History emeritus at Lake Forest College and served for many years on the editorial board of Reviews in American History.

Related Link NYT Obituary for Stanley Kutler

Understandably the lead  for Stanley I. Kutler’s obituaries draw notice to his important books about Watergate as well as his successful law suits to obtain access to related archival documents sequestered by the National Archives.  Stanley surely would have relished all of that, and deservedly so.

But there is the other Kutler achievement – also momentous but certainly not garnering any headlines – that deserves the notice and gratitude of American historians.  I refer, as readers may have guessed, to his founding – in tandem with Stanley N. Katz – of  Reviews in American History, published by Johns Hopkins University Press, since 1973.  From its inception I have relished its quarterly arrival in my mailbox, knowing that instantly it would bring to my notice well-turned essay-reviews.  To invoke a term from baseball lore, Stanley Kutler diligently filled out the lineup card for each issue over twenty-four years.  He carefully attended to matching up reviewers with the appropriate books.  

But there is more to say.  Stanley had a very keen eye for fresh talent, routinely offering newly minted assistant professors with opportunities to write for RAH.  This admirable habit has been honored by each of his successors.  As well, he cared deeply about the quality of writing, which  brought RAH its just distinctions in the world of scholarly publishing.  It is also clear, to anyone who knew Stanley Kutler, that he enjoyed the wide range of connections he maintained with his expansive bench of reviewers.  He maintained – mostly in the years before the electronic century gave us e-mail – a robust correspondence that was instrumental to advancing his great scholarly enterprise.  Soon after the birth of RAH, a little-remembered sibling reached the surface carrying the then-inevitable name of  Reviews in European History.  It soon went over the horizon, never heard from again.  My surmise is that it lacked  a captain with a clear appreciation of the journey’s purpose. 

One further observation merits  notice.  Stanley Kutler attained his professional prominence as a well-published scholar of American constitutional history.   He wrote two monographs – Judicial Power and Reconstruction Politics (1968) and Privilege and Creative Destruction: The Charles River Bridge Case (1978) – that brought him wide recognition.  I am certain that the promise detected in the candidacy of Stanley Kutler  resulted in his  appointment in 1964 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where in time he deservedly sat upon a chair as the Gordon Fox Professor of American Institutions.




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