13 Questions for H.W. Brands

Historians in the News
tags: interview, HW Brands

Tiffany April Griffin is an HNN intern. 

H.W. Brands holds the Jack S. Blanton Sr. Chair in History at the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of more than thirty books, two of which were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize. His latest book is The General vs. the President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War.

Why did you choose history as your career?

I tried teaching, and when I found I liked it, I decided to continue. Writing was a bonus.

What was your favorite historic site trip? Why?

Almost any place on the Oregon Trail. I was enchanted by the romance of the great trek to the West.

If you could have dinner with any three historians (dead or alive), who would you choose and why?

Herodotus. [I’d ask him] What made you want to invent history?

Edward Gibbon. [I’d ask him] How did you develop that confident voice in your writing?

Henry Adams. [I’d ask him] Why did you write your memoir in the third person?

What books are you reading now?

John Grisham, The Confession.

What is your favorite history book?

The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman,

What is your favorite library and bookstore when looking for history books?

The main library at UT. Powell's City of Books in Portland.

Do you own any rare history or collectible books? Do you collect artifacts related to history?

Just an old Persian rug.

Which history museums are your favorites? Why?

All of them.

Which historical time period is your favorite?

Nineteenth century in America.

What would be your advice for history majors looking to make history as a career?

Don't aim for a career in history. Make it your hobby. If it becomes a career, fine. But the odds are against you.

Who was you favorite history teacher?

My 11th grade U.S. history teacher.

Why is it essential to save history and libraries? 

A people without historical memory is like a person with amnesia. We would keep making the same mistakes over and over.

What is your goal with using Twitter for history? 

To convey a light-hearted take on history to an audience that might not get it by other means.

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