Blogs > HNN > Luther Spoehr: New and Recent Books that Focus on Yale in the 1960s (And Much More Besides)

Aug 8, 2005 1:03 pm

Luther Spoehr: New and Recent Books that Focus on Yale in the 1960s (And Much More Besides)

New and Recent Books that Focus on Yale in the 1960s

(And Much More Besides)

One result of the upcoming election is certain: the next president will be a man who graduated from Yale in the 1960s, a member of the exclusive Skull and Bones. The extent to which that matters is debatable, but in any case the past few months have witnessed the publication of several books that include close looks at people and events on the New Haven campus during that turbulent era.

The first to arrive in print, Alexandra Robbins’ Secrets of the Tomb: Skull and Bones, the Ivy League, and the Hidden Paths of Power, has been out for over a year and has just become available in paperback. (256 pages. Back Bay Books. $13.95.) Herself a Boneswoman, Robbins spends a lot of time on the Bush family, only a little on John Kerry.

For a review in the Yale Review of Books, go to


Kingman Brewster, the energetic and embattled president who presided over Yale from 1963 to 1977, is the subject of Geoffrey Kabaservice's The Guardians: Kingman Brewster, His Circle, and the Rise of the Liberal Establishment. (592 pages. Henry Holt and Co. $30.00.) Perhaps most famous for voicing doubts that Black Panthers could get a fair trial in New Haven, Brewster is at the center of an extended group portrait that also includes perennial political insider McGeorge Bundy, lawyer/diplomat Cyrus Vance, New York Mayor John Lindsay, Paul Moore (the Episcopal Bishop of New York), and that ultimate exemplar of establishment rectitude, Elliot Richardson. From the standpoint of the history of higher education, the stories that may matter most are Brewster’s efforts to push Yale in the direction of meritocratic admissions and coeducation.

To see the publisher’s description, go to

To see a review by Alan Brinkley in The New Republic, go to

To see a review by Benjamin Schwartz in the Atlantic Monthly, go to

The Guardians will be available in paperback in January from Owl Books.



Warren Goldstein’s William Sloane Coffin: A Holy Impatience is a comprehensive biography of Yale’s controversial, conflicted chaplain, a champion of liberal causes who gained his greatest fame as an opponent of the Vietnam War.

To see the publisher's description, go to

For a review by John F. Stacks in the Chicago Tribune, go to



A Life with History (304 pages. University Press of Kansas. $35.00) is the new memoir by Yale historian John Morton Blum, author of The Republican Roosevelt, "V" Was for Victory, and many other books. It shows that, in addition to the meetings, demonstrations, and rallies about the war, there was a lot of academic activity (including, always, academic politics) going on at Yale in the ‘60s–and before that, and after that.

To read the publisher's description, go to

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