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  • Originally published 10/21/2013

    A Conversation With: Historian Ramachandra Guha

    Ramachandra Guha is one of India’s foremost public intellectuals and historians. “Gandhi Before India,” his first volume of a two-part biography of Mohandas K. Gandhi, was published in India earlier this month.

  • Originally published 08/14/2013

    James Dawes: Why Do People Commit Atrocities? (INTERVIEW)

    A Japanese soldier poses with the head of a Chinese prisoner.The human capacity to injure other people is very great precisely because our capacity to imagine other people is very small.--Elizabeth Scarry, For Love of Country?Most Americans know little of Japanese war crimes perpetrated in China during the Second World War. In the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), Japanese troops tortured, raped and murdered Chinese men, women and children, as Japanese scientists conducted horrific medical procedures on living human subjects at facilities such as the notorious Unit 731, a covert research center for biological and chemical experimentation in northeast China.

  • Originally published 08/08/2013

    Jon Wiener interviews Dan Savage for The Nation

    Jon Wiener teaches US history at UC Irvine.Dan Savage started the “It Gets Better” project in 2010, with a short video online addressed to gay, lesbian, bi and transgender young people facing harassment, letting them know that, yes, it gets better.  Today more than 50,000 people have posted videos at ItGetsBetter.org, which have been viewed more than 50 million times.  He’s also a best-selling author whose new book is American Savage.  He lives in Seattle with his husband, Terry, and their 15-year-old son, D.J. Jon Wiener: How did you feel when you first heard the news that the Supreme Court had overruled DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act that had defined marriage as limited to two people of the opposite sex?  I’m morbid, so my first thought was ‘I can die now.’Dan Savage: You didn’t think “now we can live happily ever after”?

  • Originally published 08/04/2013

    Jennifer Polk: "Recent PhDs Need to Have Their Confidence Boosted"

    The academc job market remains in the doldrums. Recent PhDs continue to outstrip new positions, and the adjunctification of higher ed. in general -- and historians in particular -- continues unabated. It's not surprising, then, that a growing contingent of recent PhDs are standing athwart academic history yelling 'stop!'

  • Originally published 07/21/2013

    Toronto Globe & Mail interviews Tom Sugrue on Detroit

    Once the dynamic heart of automotive America, the city of Detroit took the humbling step of filing for bankruptcy on Thursday – the largest U.S. municipality ever to do so. On Friday, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder defended his decision to authorize the bankruptcy filing....The Globe’s Joanna Slater spoke with Thomas Sugrue, a historian at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit, an award-winning social history of the once-proud city, about its long decline....What are the most important factors that contributed to Detroit’s current mess?

  • Originally published 07/19/2013

    Anthony Grafton writes 3,500 words a morning

    From an interview with The Daily Beast's Noah Charney....Describe your morning routine.Absolutely. When I want to write, at home, I get up about 5, make coffee, slowly begin to be conscious. I’ll do a fair amount of other work, check email and Facebook and news sites, then I’ll bring my wife coffee and read the newspaper. It’s a long day’s reaching consciousness. By 8 I like to be at the computer and I like to write until about noon.Do you like to map out your books ahead of time, or just let it flow?I write my first draft on the computer. I used to write everything out by hand, but just don’t have the time, patience, or legible handwriting to make that possible anymore. I like to write quickly, so in ideal conditions I’ll have done a lot of research, made a lot of notes, before I sit down. But I don’t do an outline. By the time I could do an outline, I’ll already know what I need to say, so I’ll just sit and write.What do you need to have produced/completed in order to feel that you’ve had a productive writing day?

  • Originally published 07/18/2013

    Marie Arana: Simon Bolivar the "Polar Opposite" of George Washington (INTERVIEW)

    In Bolivar, Ms. Arana recounts Bolivar’s bloody military campaigns and forays into the turbulent and frustrating politics of the new republics, and she also presents a striking portrait of the times and the many contradictions and foibles of the Great Liberator -- a passionate embodiment of the Enlightenment who was addicted to gambling, glory, and women.

  • Originally published 07/14/2013

    Ray Begovich: How I Found Rare Footage of FDR in a Wheelchair

    Ray Begovich, a journalism professor at Franklin College in Franklin, Indiana, has announced that he has discovered an eight-second clip of FDR being pushed in his wheelchair aboard the cruiser U.S.S. Baltimore in July 1944.

  • Originally published 07/06/2013

    How Depression Went Mainstream: Interview with Dr. Edward Shorter

    Psychiatrists are very interested in the historical perspectives because they can see the obvious power that an understanding of history brings to appreciating the current situation. Historians haven’t been so interested. Psychiatrists are centered on diagnosis and treatment, and those are the two aspects that are central to the practice of medicine.

  • Originally published 07/01/2013

    Journal of the American Revolution interviews T.H. Breen

    I recently asked our readers via Facebook who they’d most like to see interviewed next and T.H. Breen was among the handful of historians named (hat tip to Matthew Kroelinger). Breen is the William Smith Mason Professor of American History at Northwestern University and a specialist on the American revolution. He is the author of several books and more than 60 articles. In 2010, he released his latest book, American Insurgents, American Patriots. Breen won the Colonial War Society Prize for the best book on the American Revolution for Marketplace of Revolution: How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independence (2005). Breen currently lives in Greensboro, Vermont, and recently took the time to answer a few questions about past and future works, recommended reading and time travel.1 // American Insurgents, American Patriots reminds us that revolutions are violent events. Do you think there was a greater strategy behind most of the violence, or was it primarily raw emotion and vengeance?

  • Originally published 06/26/2013

    Jeff Wasserstrom considers three tumultuous years in ever-changing China

    This month Asia Society Associate Fellow Jeffrey Wasserstrom, China expert and Professor of History at the University of California-Irvine, is coming out with an updated version of his book China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford University Press), originally published in 2010. Since three years is a long time in rapidly changing China, we were curious to know what changes he made to the text to make it as relevant as possible for today's readers.Since the writing of your book China has gone through one of its ten-year leadership changes with the entrance of the Xi Jinping administration. What did you feel people needed to know about a new government that has declared its focus to be fulfilling the "Chinese Dream?"

  • Originally published 06/17/2013

    Niall Ferguson on the hot seat

    The often controversial Niall Ferguson, 49, is one of the world’s most prominent historians. A specialist in international and economic history, a professor at Harvard and a senior research fellow at Oxford, Ferguson is the author of The Ascent of Money and Civilization: The West and the Rest, among other works. Married to feminist and atheist activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the British-American scholar is also a vocal critic of U.S. President Barack Obama. Ferguson’s latest book, The Great Degeneration, which originated in 2012 as the BBC’s prestigious Reith Lectures, condemns what he sees as an era of decline in the West, pinning the blame on our deteriorating institutions.Q: You have a reputation, rightly or wrongly, as a Western triumphalist, and now you’re writing about Western decline. Is this an about-turn?

  • Originally published 06/14/2013

    On Non-Academic Job Market, Your PhD is a Visa, Not a Passport

    Image via Shutterstock.If being a professor will indeed no longer a viable career due to downward pressure from administrations and the disruptive potential of massive online open courses, as Cary Nelson darkly suggested at the American Association of Universty Professors conference in Washington, what are enterprising young graduate students and recent PhDs to do?It's not as if the state of the academic history job market right now is particularly encouraging. Despite an uptick of 18 percent in the number of jobs advertised with the American Historical Association in 2012, the number of PhD receipts for that year alone exceeded the number of job opening by nearly one-third.

  • Originally published 06/10/2013

    FDR’s Alter Ego: Interview with Historian David L. Roll on Harry Hopkins

    Harry Hopkins as secretary of commerce. Credit: Wiki Commons.During the war years Hopkins would become the only person in the U.S. government other than the president to thoroughly understand the interrelationships of war, diplomacy, politics, economics, and logistics.--David L. Roll, The Hopkins Touch

  • Originally published 06/02/2013

    How Memory Works: Interview with Psychologist Daniel L. Schacter

    Image via Shutterstock.Memory is deceptive because it is colored by today’s events.--Albert EinsteinMemory is the stuff of history. Historians rely on the memories of individuals as they seek and discover the facts and stories from which we create our public memory. Thus, knowledge from a scientific perspective of how human memory works can be instructive to historians.

  • Originally published 05/27/2013

    The Brutal War on Vietnamese Civilians: Interview with Nick Turse

    U.S. commanders wasted ammunition like millionaires and hoarded American lives like misers, and often treated Vietnamese lives as if they were worth nothing at all.--Nick Turse, Kill Anything That MovesIn March 1968 U.S. infantry troops of the Army’s Americal Division massacred five hundredVietnamese civilians, mostly women and children, in the village of My Lai. The military described the massacre as an anomaly, an aberration, the result of a few bad apples in the ranks, and the mainstream media embraced that explanation.In 1971, decorated Navy veteran (now Secretary of State) John Kerry testified before the Senate that such atrocities in Vietnam were not “isolated incidents, but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.” Kerry told of U.S. veterans who “relived the absolute horror” of what their country made them do.

  • Originally published 05/10/2013

    Doug Brinkley makes cover of Rolling Stone for Joe Biden interview

    Douglas Brinkley, the prolific Rice University historian who has already twice graced the cover of Rolling Stone (first for his interview of Bob Dylan in 2009, then for his interview of Barack Obama in 2012) has done it again.Brinkley's interview with Vice President Joe Biden made the cover of the most recent issue of Rolling Stone.A taste:There is a keen Kennedy-like vigor to Joe Biden that overwhelms any room. As was once said of Theodore Roosevelt, he, too, wants to be the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral. Unlike President Obama, who speaks in interviews with Hemingway-esque sparseness, Biden rambles like Thomas Wolfe, painting a robust picture of an ever-changing America where coal miners will soon be working in clean-tech jobs, gun-safety laws will be tougher and China will be reined in by the White House from poisoning the planet with megatons of choking pollutants....

  • Originally published 05/07/2013

    The Civil War's 'Young Napoleon': An Interview with Richard Slotkin

    Richard Slotkin is one of the most well-known historians of American history and culture. His writings on the frontier, the Old West, Hollywood Westerns, the Civil War, and World War I, among other topics, have played a significant role in shaping the field of American Studies.In 1973, Slotkin published Regeneration Through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600-1860, the first of his trilogy on the mythology of the American West. The book remains a cornerstone in American Studies in its examination of how the colonization of the frontier and the violence used against Native Americans defined certain attitudes and prejudices that influenced American culture for years to come. The subsequent books of the trilogy, The Fatal Environment: The Myth of the Frontier in the Age of Industrialization, 1800-1890, and Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth-Century America, further explore these themes of American mythmaking....What drew you first to General George McClellan, or “The Young Napolean”, as he’s often been called? What is it about him that makes him so compelling not only as a notable figure from history but as a character that stands out on the page?

  • Originally published 05/04/2013

    No Kinky Porn, Please -- We're English

    Letícia Román in a publicity still for Russ Meyer's 1964 film adaptation of Fanny Hill. Actual illustrations from Fanny Hill are decidedly NSFW.In England, the eighteenth century was a time of questioning, exploration, scientific advances, and an expanded worldview -- the birth of modernity, according to some historians.This age of remarkable energy and innovation also saw an explosion of erotic literature that reflected dynamic social and cultural changes as it challenged the authority of Church and State, satirized the hypocritical, and explored the fantasies of its consumers.

  • Originally published 03/05/2013

    NYT interviews Garry Wills

    The author of “Nixon Agonistes,” “John Wayne’s America,” “Lincoln at Gettysburg,” “Reagan’s America” and, most recently, “Why Priests?” considers Garry Trudeau’s “Doonesbury” “the best political writing of our time.”What was the best book you read last year?Peter Brown, “Through the Eye of a Needle.” Puts a stethoscope to the fourth through sixth centuries C.E.When and where do you like to read? Anywhere. Everywhere. In high school, I read in the stands through the school’s football and basketball games....

  • Originally published 02/24/2013

    On Creating a Groundbreaking Historical Novel

    SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhold Heydrich in 1940. Credit: German Federal Archives.I just hope that, however bright and blinding the veneer of fiction that covers this fabulous story, you will still be able to see through it to the historical reality that lies behind.-- Laurent Binet, HHhHIn Prague on May 27, 1942, Slovak factory worker Jozef Gabcik and Czech soldier Jan Kubis attacked and mortally wounded Reinhard Heydrich, the SS Obergruppenführer (equivalent to a full general) and Nazi Protector of Bohemia and Moravia -- a man so ambitious and casually cruel that Hitler called him “The Man with the Iron Heart.”

  • Originally published 02/08/2013

    Picturing James Baldwin in Exile

    1964 portrait of James Baldwin. All photos courtesy of Sedat Pakay.Being out . . . one is really not very far out of the United States . . . One sees it better from a distance . . . from another place, from another country.-- James BaldwinJames Baldwin (1924-1987), the renowned American novelist, essayist, playwright, civil rights advocate and social critic, was an outspoken advocate for equality and respect for all citizens regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual preference. His novels include Giovanni’s Room, Go Tell It on the Mountain, and Another Country, but he may be most remembered for his powerful essays, often reflections on the timeless American obsessions with race and sexuality, found in his books such as Notes of a Native Son, The Fire Next Time and Nobody Knows My Name.

  • Originally published 01/24/2013

    The China Blog: An Interview with Historian James H. Carter

    Historian James H. Carter recently wrote a piece for the Los Angeles Review of Books on a new “biography” of the “The Books of Changes,” an important Chinese classical text.  Asia Editor Jeffrey Wasserstrom caught up with Carter to ask him a few questions about, naturally enough, China and biography.JW: You began your review of Richard Smith’s new “biography” of the Yi Jing (Book of Changes) with some ruminations on the whole notion of biographies that don’t focus on individuals.  If there were one other book with a tie to China you think especially worthy of a “biography,” what would it be - and who would you like to see writeJHC: It’s hard to eschew “actual” biographies - ones about people - because there are so many lives in China’s past that are so rich and resonant.  Zhang Xueliang, who began life as the son of China’s most powerful warlord, and saw his homeland overrun by Japanese troops after his own commanders ordered him not to resist, played a key role in kidnapping Chiang Kai-shek and forcing him to cooperate with the Communists before living for decades under house arrest in Taiwan (eventually dying - at age 100! - in Hawaii), seems a more than deserving subject.

  • Originally published 01/22/2013

    Clayborne Carson: Interview with Stanford

    Stanford historian Clayborne Carson has been researching and documenting the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr. for nearly three decades.From Carson's trip to Washington, D.C., in 1963 to hear King give his famous "I Have a Dream" speech to his personal relationships with members of the King family, Carson's involvement with the American civil rights movement has been much more than an academic pursuit.In 1985, Coretta Scott King asked Carson to edit and publish her late husband's papers. Carson subsequently founded the King Papers Project, which is producing the definitive record of King's writings, from speeches and sermons to personal correspondence and unpublished manuscripts.Drawing from his personal journals and records, Carson offers a personal and candid account of his evolution from political activist into a self-described "activist scholar" in his new book Martin's Dream.In a conversation with Corrie Goldman of the Stanford Humanities Center, Carson talked about the book and his experiences.

  • Originally published 01/22/2013

    Jim Bendat on the history of presidential inaugurations

    Jim Bendat is an expert on U.S. presidential inauguration history, and has written the book “Democracy’s Big Day: The Inauguration of Our President 1789-2013.” Bendat spoke with Tom Fox, who is a guest writer of the Washington Post’s Federal Coach blog and vice president for leadership and innovation at the Partnership for Public Service. Fox also heads up the Partnership’s Center for Government Leadership.Can you reflect on some of your favorite leadership moments from past inaugurations?

  • Originally published 01/21/2013

    Understanding the Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King in 1964.In 1985, Dr. Clayborne Carson, a professor of history at Stanford University, received a phone call that changed his life. Coretta Scott King called and asked if he would edit the papers of her late husband, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. Carson was initially reluctant, but eventually agreed to take on the monumental task. He has been studying the life of this American icon ever since. Under Dr. Carson’s direction, the King Papers Project has issued six volumes of The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr., -- a projected fourteen-volume edition of King’s most significant speeches, sermons, correspondence, publications, and unpublished writings.

  • Originally published 01/18/2013

    Q&A: Roosevelt Biographer Recalls an Earlier Top Cop

    ...But with a crowded race for City Hall this year and some likely candidates suggesting they would like appoint a different top cop, it remains unclear what’s might come next for the long-time commissioner. Metropolis spoke with historian Edmund Morris, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author of a trilogy about Teddy Roosevelt, on how  Kelly compares with New York’s other famous police commissioner. Here is the edited interview:Metropolis:  What drew TR into the police force? And how was policing different back then?Morris: TR came back to the city of his birth in 1895, after six long years as a civil service commissioner in Washington, ambitious to be a moral force in the reform administration of Mayor William L. Strong.Ironically, his restless progressivism ran into even more opposition here than it had been in the nation’s capital. This was partly because TR was just one member of the city’s four-man board of police commissioners (as president of the board, he had only titular preeminence). But it was also because he seemed to go out of his way to alienate such entrenched, conservative interests as the saloon industry, Wall Street, and indeed the corrupt ranks of the police force itself.

  • Originally published 01/11/2013

    Antietam's Bloody Intersection of War and Politics

    Battle of Antietam--Army of the Potomac. Lithograph, 1888.On Wednesday, September 17, 1862, the bloodiest single-day battle in U.S. history was fought at Antietam Creek in Maryland, the first major Civil War engagement on Union soil, leaving more than 23,000 Confederate and Union soldiers dead, wounded or missing.

  • Originally published 01/10/2013

    Demystifying the American Story

    John Smith Saved by Pocahontas by Alonzo Chappel, circa 1865 via Wiki Commons.Americans tell a tangled story of their past that has shaped the story itself, replete with inaccuracies, discrepancies and lingering myths. The versions of the story inevitably vary with the motives of the teller and the time of the telling.

  • Originally published 08/05/2012

    Jim Downs: Civil War and Emancipation the "Greatest Biological Catastrophe of the Nineteenth Century."

    Contraband during the Civil War. Credit: Wiki Commons.January 1, 2013 will mark the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of the effective date of the Emancipation Proclamation.We tend to think of the emancipation of African American slaves in the South as a celebratory moment of jubilation and ecstasy. But there is a darker, bitterly ironic side to this triumphant story -- a grim story of neglect and indifference to a vulnerable population of uprooted men, women and children left to negotiate their freedom in a hostile, war-torn, disease-plagued land.

  • Originally published 10/02/2011

    Who Knew that Armageddon Actually Matters in American Politics? Matthew Sutton Explains.

    Matthew Avery Sutton is associate professor of history at Washington State University, the author of Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America and the forthcoming American Evangelicals and the Politics of Apocalypse. He recently wrote an op-ed for the New York Times outlining apocalyptic strains in American politics and was a guest on the Lawrence O'Donnell Show.I spoke to Mr. Sutton last week via. telephone.Your op-ed in the New York Times last week stirred up quite a bit of media controversy. What’s your reaction to it all?

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