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Some books you may have missed in 2014

There was the usual flood of nonfiction books on the Civil War in 2014, and many of those attracted a lot of well-deserved attention. There were, however, some real gems that were little noticed and were easily overlooked. They include...Show More Summary

MLK day.

Here’s a post I wrote way back when. I think things have changed quite a bit in the past seven years, actually, whether because recent events have laid bare the emptiness of the rhetoric of a post-racial America, because the President of the United States is African American, because popular culture, including films like Selma, […]

“Made by Hand” at Old South

The Old South Meeting House is hosting a series of midday events on the theme of “Made by Hand in Boston: The Crafts of Everyday Life,” cosponsored by Artists Crossing Gallery. These sessions explore the cross between artistry and commerce...Show More Summary

Virginia Flaggers Upstaged by Local High School Students

A few of you have already seen this photograph in a previous post, but I thought it was worth highlighting with its own post given that one of the participants shared his thoughts in the comments section. More to the point, it’s just downright hilarious. I can’t think of a better way of pointing out […]

T. H. Breen on BackStory

As another sort of preparation for T. H. Breen’s talk at Cambridge Forum on Wednesday, I’ll point to this episode of BackStory, the public-radio show on American history. I enjoy that show as a podcast.This particular episode, ”Counter Culture,” is about shopping in American life. Show More Summary

Appropriating the Very Recent Past to Distort the Distant Past

The only thing missing was the Virginia Flaggers marching down the streets of Lexington with their hands in the air or on the ground for a die-in. Actually, both images are ideal for a talk that I am scheduled to give at a high school on the history of the Confederate flag.

President Washington and Major Gibbs

Here’s a final glimpse for the week of President George Washington’s visit to Massachusetts in 1789. On Friday, 30 October, Washington left Boston for the north shore and New Hampshire. His diary entry for that day was all about the bridges along the way, such as the one over the Charles River, shown above courtesy of the John Carter Brown Library. Show More Summary

If the Virginia Flaggers Show Up in Your Town…

…and no one comes out to greet them, does it really matter? One of the reasons behind Robert E. Lee’s 1862 invasion of the United States was the belief that the state of Maryland was being held against its will. Lee hoped that the presence of his army would be sufficient for closet Confederates to […]

It’s like they had a camera in our apartment

We took the kids to see Selma, and I think you should too. (I mean, my God: it’s got both Stephen Root and Wendell Pierce.) Its historical liberties notwithstanding, it’s a great piece of historical fiction. As a sometime practitioner of both history and historical fiction, let me explain why. First, here’s John Steinbeck on […]

“Point of Honor” Buries the Lost Cause For Good

The producers of Amazon’s new series, “Point of Honor,” set out to appeal to mainstream viewers who for whatever reason prefer their dramas to be set in the past. The history itself is almost incidental. “Point of Honor” plays with the time tested popular meme of the family caught in the middle of an unfolding […]

President Washington in Sickness and in Lexington

Having spent many autumn days outdoors meeting lots of American citizens, on 26 Oct 1789 President George Washington…got sick. He wrote in his diary:The day being Rainy & Stormy—myself much disordered by a Cold and inflamation in the left eye, I was prevented from visiting Lexington (where the first blood in the dispute with G. Show More Summary

The Daily Beast Shows How Not to Think about the Confederate Flag Controversy

Jonathan Horn’s short article in The Daily Beast is designed to highlight his new biography of Robert E. Lee by wading into to the Confederate flag controversy at Washington & Lee University. While it will likely convince those predisposed politically to agree with his conclusions the historical content falls short. Horn’s basic point is that […]

Schoolboy Views of President Washington in 1789

When President George Washington finally reached Boston on 24 Oct 1789, he found that the town had planned a huge celebration for him. Huge.The young architect Charles Bulfinch had designed a triumphal arch, shown above. (For more about...Show More Summary

Why Charles Dew’s Secessionist Commissioners Matter 150 Years Later

My abbreviated course on the Civil War has hit the ground running in the last two weeks. This time around I am using Louis Masur’s brief history of the war and Reconstruction and so far it is working out well. I tend to look for a concise narrative that I can supplement in various ways. […]

My lawn: get off it.

The National History Day queries have gotten out of hand. I say this as someone who: a) is an employee of a public institution and takes his obligations to the public very seriously; b) participated in and learned a great deal from the National History Day competition; c) likes working with anyone, including middle school […]

Washington’s Return to the Vassall Estate in Cambridge

Yesterday I quoted President George Washington’s description of his return visit to Cambridge on 24 Oct 1789, when he viewed Middlesex County militia troops under the command of militia general John Brooks (shown here later in life)....Show More Summary

Trailer For “Point of Honor”

Well, the trailer for the pilot episode of Amazon’s “Point of Honor” is available and its even worse than first thought. It looks like a movie version of a Don Troiani painting. It is worth emphasizing that in light of recent Hollywood releases “Point of Honor” is an outlier given the narrative’s emphasis on distancing […]

On the Road with President Washington

As I announced yesterday, on 21 January Prof. T. H. Breen will speak at the Cambridge Forum about President George Washington’s visit to New England in the fall of 1789, and the political issues it raised. As newly elected President of a new nation, Washington was trying to thank the American people and also to bind them together. Show More Summary

Preservation effort saves much of a wool jacket from the Monitor

A frantic sailor threw off his heavy, navy blue cloth coat as he abandoned the sinking USS Monitor off Cape Hatteras N.C. on New Year’s Eve, 1862. It wasn’t seen again until conservators at the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary and Mariners’ Museum discovered it in the turret of the iron clad that was being preserved. Show More Summary

Breen on the President and the Governor, 21 Jan.

On Wednesday, 21 January, Prof. T. H. Breen will speak at Cambridge Forum on “Duel Over Dinner: President Washington’s Clash with Governor Hancock Over State Sovereignty.”In 1789 George Washington returned to Massachusetts for the first...Show More Summary

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