Category: Books

Our American Story on Audible

Published on 12 September 2019 under Books
Our American Story on Audible

The audiobook for Our American Story is now available on Audible here.

Our American Story features leading thinkers from across the political spectrum—Jim Banks, David W. Blight, Spencer P. Boyer, Eleanor Clift, John C. Danforth, Cody Delistraty, Richard A. Epstein, Nikolas Gvosdev, Cherie Harder, Jason Kuznicki, Gerard N. Magliocca, Markos Moulitsas, Ilya Somin, Cass R. Sunstein, Alan Taylor, James V. Wertsch, Gordon S. Wood, and Ali Wyne. Each draws on expertise within their respective fields of history, law, politics, and public policy to contribute a unique perspective about the American story. This collection explores whether a unifying story can be achieved and, if so, what that story could be.

Constitution Making in Indiana

Published on 16 August 2019 under Books

In 1851 Indiana held a constitutional convention and the delegates wrote a totally new constitution to replace the one adopted in 1816 when Indiana became a state. This drastic step was made necessary because the earlier document prohibited piecemeal revision.

The new document, ratified by voters in 1852, did allow for future amendment. However, only a few changes were made over the next hundred years and by the 1960s, dissatisfaction had begun to build with the 1852 document and some people called for another constitutional convention to bring it into the 20th century. Such dissatisfaction was not unique to Indiana, with several other states with constitutions of the same vintage also considering constitutional conventions.

In Indiana, many called for a coordinated, piecemeal amendment process in lieu of a convention. Ultimately, the piecemeal approach won out and a constitutional revision commission was created in 1969. This began a process that led to voter ratification of a number of changes to our 1852 constitution, including annual legislative sessions, the governor and lieutenant governor running as a team, and a change in the way the governor deals with vetoes. Separately, a judicial study commission recommended a complete revision of the judicial article, moving from elected to appointed appellate judges.

This initial history of the Indiana Constitution, from 1852 until 1960, was recorded in four volumes of Constitution Making in Indiana. Charles Kettleborough edited the first three volumes (volume 1: 1780-1851, volume 2: 1851-1916, volume 3: 1916-1930) and John Bremer edited the fourth (volume 4: 1930-1960). Thankfully, two new volumes will soon release bringing this important history up to date. (more…)

The Return of North & South Magazine

Published on 19 June 2019 under Books
The Return of North & South Magazine

North & South is back. The magazine (“The Official Magazine of the Civil War Society”) previously operated from 1997 to 2013 as a staple in the Civil War historical community. Founder and editor Keith Poulter explained the return:

With the disappearance of Blue & Gray magazine, I have been inundated with letters and phone calls from people imploring the relaunch of North & South to “fill the vacuum that now exists.” So here goes. This is the first issue of what we are calling the Second Series. Issues in this series will appear six times a year, this time in both print and online form.

For most of its history North & South was regarded as a high-quality publication, perhaps the leading non-university Civil War publication. Despite no affiliation with a university, North & South retained academic rigor and accuracy, offering a wide range of well-researched and annotated articles from leading historians. It helped establish that a quality, glossy Civil War magazine was possible.

Eventually North & South‘s editor Terry Johnston left (some reports suggest he was terminated) and he founded The Civil War Monitor in 2011, which may still be the leading Civil War magazine. Upon Johnston’s departure, Keith Poulter explained a “nuanced shift” he had in mind for North & South:

For example, expect to see a little more emphasis on the military side of things, and a little less social history. The order-of-battle diagrams, so beloved of the wargamers (and many others) among the readers will again become a standard feature.

Unsurprisingly, Johnston’s new Monitor promised more emphasis on the social, political, and economic history of the war. Perhaps Johnston’s departure, and their split in emphasis and approach, hurt North & South enough to force its closure in 2013. Or perhaps the magazine industry’s vulnerability to the internet spelled doom and prevented three major mass-market Civil War publications from surviving at once (Blue & Gray magazine did not cease publication until 2017). Reports also surfaced citing Poulter’s alleged mismanagement, broken promises, and lack of payments to authors as a major factor in North & South‘s demise.

Now with its resurrection North & South claims a strong cast of associate editors like Gary Gallagher, Ed Bearss, Allen Guelzo, and Gordon Rhea, among others, although it is unclear if they are indeed still associated or if the masthead is a carry-over from earlier editions. I watch with great anticipation to see how North & South adapts and survives.

Politics & Prose

Published on 24 April 2019 under Books

I will join Alan Taylor, Jason Kuznicki, and Ali Wyne for a discussion and book signing for Our American Story at Politics & Prose on Saturday, June 8, 2019 from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 5015 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, D.C.

The event is free to attend with no reservation required. Seating is available on a first come, first served basis. Click here for more information.

Applied History Series

Published on 7 February 2019 under Books

On Thursday, February 21st at 12 p.m. I will be on campus at the University of Southern Indiana to discuss my forthcoming book, Our American Story.

USI’s Applied History Series is a collaborative connection between the Department of History and Evansville community members and USI alumnae to discuss ways in which they have used the study of history in their field.

The series is an important piece of USI’s effort to help students and the community understand the craft of history and how we write about the past. In the words of USI’s history department, “History offers original and indispensable ways of looking at human experience because it distinguishes and evaluates continuity amid the forces of change. By means of historical inquiry, the modern world is seen as shaped by the past.”

Update: Many thanks to the students, faculty, and public who attended and prompted valuable discussion with good questions.

Lincoln Day 2019

Published on 31 January 2019 under Books
Lincoln Day 2019

Lincoln historian and author Bill Bartlet, who co-edited Abe’s Youth with me, will be the featured speaker at the annual Lincoln Day program at the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial on Sunday, February 10, 2019.

Bartelt is a former employee of Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial and is the author of There I Grew Up: Remembering Abraham Lincoln’s Indiana Youth. He will be speaking about his current research with our book, Abe’s Youth, which focuses on the “Lincoln Inquiry” conducted by the Southwestern Indiana Historical Society in the 1920s. The program will begin at 2:00 p.m. (CST) and will be held in the Abraham Lincoln Hall of Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in Lincoln City, Indiana.

The 2019 Lincoln Day program will include presentation of the colors by the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, special music, and other ceremonial activities to honor the memory of Abraham Lincoln and his family. Following the indoor program, the traditional pilgrimage to the gravesite of Nancy Hanks Lincoln for a wreath laying ceremony will be held. All are invited to a reception in the Nancy Hanks Lincoln Hall at the conclusion of the program.

Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial preserves the Indiana farm where Abraham Lincoln lived for 14 years — from 1816 to 1830, and the site where his mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, is buried.

Brian Dirck’s Lincoln in Indiana

Published on 22 October 2018 under Books

I’ve penned a new review for H-Net of Brian Dirck’s Lincoln in Indiana. The review can be found here (with a PDF version here). Books about Abraham Lincoln began springing up immediately after his death and their proliferation seems to have continued unabated to this day. About sixteen thousand books cover Mr. Lincoln. Every aspect of his life and philosophy has been covered in depth at some point by some writer. Why, then, do we need another one? Despite the proliferation of Lincoln books, there remains a dearth of modern material about his youth in Indiana.

Because of its light treatment of certain topics, the book cannot serve as a definitive guide to Lincoln’s youth, but it nonetheless achieves its intended scope—a good, quick primer for those interested in the subject. Despite the tremendous amount of Lincoln material, Dirck identified a void in Lincoln material and offers a much-needed modern, concise history of Lincoln’s life in Indiana.

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