David McCullough: Next book will be about Americans in Paris

Historians in the News

David McCullough, whose next book will be a history of Americans in Paris, remembers when he first laid eyes on the French capital. He was a freshman at Yale University — young, in love, "impressionable."

And at the movies.

"I went to see 'An American in Paris,'" McCullough, speaking by telephone Monday with The Associated Press, said of the 1951 classic that won six Academy Awards. "I aspired at that point to be an artist, and there was Gene Kelly, who, like me, came from Pittsburgh, dancing all over Paris and enjoying to the fullest as a painter."

McCullough's romance with Paris, consummated when he finally visited there in the 1960s, will eventually be shared with his many readers. The million-selling historian, whose biography of John Adams helped start a wave of best sellers about the Revolutionary War era, is working on a book about the many artists and writers transformed by their time in France.

"It's going to be quite different from anything I've done before, and that's one of the reasons I'm so excited about it," says the 74-year-old McCullough, whose previous books also include works on the Panama Canal and the Brooklyn Bridge.

"History isn't only about politics and the military and social issues. It's about literature and poetry and theater and music. ... I've been fascinated for a long time with how much of American history has taken place in France, more than any other country than our own, and how much France and the French have been an influence on the United States and our way of life."

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