Friday, February 29, 2008

Gordon Wood on the Origins of the American Republic

I've been looking for a video clip of Gordon Wood for months and finally found one! Here in this clip, Gordon Wood addresses an audience of European scholars in Hungary. He explains the origins of the United States, the Constitution, etc. This is a must-see video. Wood provides an in-depth view of the current historiography of the American Revolution. Gordon Wood is arguably the foremost historian of the American Revolution, so give this video your undivided attention.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Eleanor Roosevelt Resigns From Daughters of the American Revolution

In 1936, African American singer/songwriter Marian Anderson was invited to sing at the White House by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Roosevelt, a long time supporter of Civil Rights, hoped that the invitation might alleviate some of the racial tensions of her day. Aside from her performance at the White House, Mrs. Anderson was booked to perform at Constitution Hall that same week.

Unfortunately, the racism of the day prevailed, and Marian Anderson was not granted access to Constitution Hall. Part of the reason for the denial was a 1932 rule adopted by the Daughters of the American Revolution, which stated that no person of color could perform at Constitution Hall. First Lady Roosevelt, who was an active member of the organization, immediately resigned out of protests. Needless to say, the resignation of a person of Roosevelt's stature did not go unnoticed, and the organization changed its rules shortly thereafter.

Here is an interesting article regarding the Marian Anderson saga and Eleanor Roosevelt's resignation from the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Happy Birthday George!

Happy 276th birthday George Washington! You don't look a day over 175! For those of you that might be unfamiliar with the role of George Washington in American history, let me refer you to what one of Washington's most famous biographers had to say. As Joseph Ellis put it, Washington was "the palpable reality that clothed the revolutionary rhapsodies in flesh and blood...America's one and only indispensable figure...the American Zeus, Moses and Cincinnatus all rolled into one. Washington's importance to the revolution and the founding of early America is simply immeasurable. As Henry "Lighthorse" Lee stated in his eulogy of Washington, he was "First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen. Here is an interesting video on the military life of General Washington:

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Founding Mothers Seminar

Here is a long but excellent video on the women of the American Revolution. The video includes Cokie Roberts,the author of the book Founding Mothers.


One of the biggest problems with the historiography of the American Revolution is that we often view it as being a massive force of radical change, which literally swept across the colonial countryside. We rarely examine the revolution at a microscopic level, but instead subscribe to the notion that the American Revolution encompassed any and all radical changes in colonial American society. Changes in religion, culture, employment, travel, economics, and social structure are rarely examined on an individual level, but are instead considered components of the whole.

Instead of viewing the revolution at a macro level, I believe that one can gain a better understanding and appreciation of the American Revolution by examining the numerous individual revolutions, which together created the atmosphere of independence. After all, the Founding Fathers (and the entire revolutionary generation as a whole) understood the revolution in these terms.

First off, I think it is important for us to ascertain just how long the American Revolution (as a whole) lasted. The war, which was merely a byproduct of all the revolutionary movements, lasted eight long years, but the Revolution itself lasted much longer.

The Great Awakening: Prior to the Stamp Act, Boston Tea Party, etc., colonial America was gripped by a religious revolution that literally transformed the way people understood deity. Instead of completely relying on a pastor for one's salvation, the Great Awakening inspired common citizens to develop an individual relationship with God. Salvation, in essence, became a personal endeavor. This new movement brought about a greater understanding on personal independence, which would play a large role in American Independence. Religions themselves began to actively recruit converts by promoting education, social programs, and community activism. In every sense of the word the Great Awakening was a religious revolution.

Breakdown of Traditional Social Constructs: Gordon Wood is without question the premiere historian on this issue. In his Pulitzer Prizewinning Book The Radicalism of the American Revolution, Wood suggests that one of the most important factors that led to independence was the transformation of the American social ideology. Instead of following the traditional social norms of Britain, in which the gentry class enjoyed the finer things of life, American colonial structure permitted a common civilian to climb the social ladder of success. By no means does this suggest that every member of colonial American society was on the same social level. Instead, we should think of colonial America as a society with less social tradition and less social disparity between elites and commoners. Wood's example of British v. colonial homes is a good illustration of this idea. Wood points out that in Britain, a common gentry would have enjoyed an estate of roughly 50-100 bedrooms, dozens of servants, and a large amount of land. In colonial America, however, the typical home of an American gentleman was 10-15 bedrooms, with much less land. The difference between the social world of Britain and America is another key ingredient in the push for independence.

The Market Revolution: Historian Charles Sellers is the foremost expert on the Market Revolution. His research has literally transformed our understanding of Jacksonian America, and of capitalism in America. Contrary to popular belief, good old-fashioned American capitalism did not begin with the Puritans in 1620. Instead, colonial America relied on the neighborhood exchange system of economics, in which each family provided for itself. There were no large markets in the early years of the United States. In fact, very little money was printed or used as a means of conducting business. Colonial families literally banded with their neighbors, creating a neighborhood exchange system, which became very anti-capitalist in nature. It was rare for colonial families to ever sell their surpluss of goods to a larger market. Instead the surplus was traded with one's neighbors, in exchange for their services.

The Market Revolution, which came along in the early years of the 19th century, changed all that. Americans began to specialize in the production of a specific good or service, which was sold for a profit. The rise of the textile industry helped to fuel this newly emerging market economy, which transformed the American perspective on labor. Instead of viewing labor as a loathsome activity that was reserved for the poor of society, labor was seen as a noble endeavor. The ideology of putting in a "hard day's work" was born. It is here that the "American Dream" was born.

The Transportation Revolution: In many ways, the Transportation Revolution is a byproduct of the Market Revolution. Colonial American society was literally situated in a savage world. The thick forests of the east, combined with its often-harsh climates, made life difficult for early colonists. The road system in the early years of the American Republic was virtually non-existent. Families that lived on the frontier lands had a very difficult time traveling to the coast or to the cities. In fact, 90% of colonists never traveled further than 30 miles from the place they were born.

The Transportation Revolution would change all that. With the advent of the steam engine, railroads, and the canal system, Americans had a much easier time getting around. Businesses and farms found these new advancements extremely advantageous for shipping and distributing their goods. Missionaries were able to stretch their web even further, thanks to the new advances in transportation. Citizens could now be better informed, thanks to the quicker exchange of information between cities.

These are just a few of the many revolutions that took place before, during, and after America's war for independence. A closer look into these individual events will show that they are, in reality, all linked. It is likely that one would not have existed without the other. When taken all together, they help to create a society that was able to embrace even further changes to their way of life. In short, these are the REVOLUTIONS of the American Revolution.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The "Melancholy" of Meriwether Lewis

The study of mental health is, for the most part, a relatively new field of science. For centuries the human race has had little to no understanding of how the mind processes or responds to the various stimuli and experiences of a given lifespan. For the most part, the common understanding of mental health throughout history has been to categorize individuals as "lunatics," "insane," or "melancholy." The lack of knowledge regarding proper diagnosis and treatment of mental health often led to tragic tales of individuals locked away in asylums, or of men and women taking their own lives out of desperation.

The early American republic, despite its great advances in government and politics, was still a world of ignorance in the medical arena. Doctors possessed little to no understanding of the causes or treatments of mental illness. As a result, many early Americans were forced to deal with the various forms of mental illness on their own.

Such was the case for the heroic early American explorer, Meriwether Lewis. As a young man, Lewis was labeled as being, "prone to long bouts of melancholy." In fact, Lewis' good friend, Thomas Jefferson, described him as, "a man of good sense, integrity, bravery and enterprise" but also, "prone at times to sensible depressions of the mind...that seem to persist in the family."

Even during his infamous trek across the American countryside, Lewis seemed troubled by what his subordinates called "deep bouts of melancholy." Though Lewis never mentioned such troubles himself, one can easily see a pattern of highs and lows in his journal. For instance, Lewis would go weeks without writing a single thing down (even though President Jefferson had insisted that he keep a record of every day), while on other occasions he would fill several pages with his ramblings on mundane issues.

By most standards, it appears that Lewis suffered from Bipolar Disorder. One of the typical features of this disorder is a pattern of extreme highs and extreme lows. The individual will commonly experience a profound period of deep depression, in which they are unable to cope with common daily issues. After a period of time, the individual will experience a complete change in their emotional state, in which the depression is replaced by a state of extreme euphoria. During this period, the individual may feel that they can literally conquer the world. Again, after time, this stage will cycle back to depression.

Meriwether Lewis is virtually a textbook case for this disorder. During his "low" times, Lewis was inconsolable, often seeking seclusion from society. During the "high" moments, Lewis was a fireball of energy and ambition. Throughout the trek west, Lewis would commonly attempt to cross several dangerous rapids or stare danger in the face without flinching. At other times, he was virtually impossible to motivate or talk to.

Eventually Lewis's mental illness would get the better of him. On the night of October 11, 1809, while his party stayed the night in the cabin of a Mrs. Grinder, the life of Meriwether Lewis came to an abrupt end. According to Mrs. Grinder, Lewis appeared to be in a state of profound depression. The depression was severe enough that the men accompanying Lewis that night actually contemplated tying him to the bed for the duration of the night. Mrs. Grinder stated that she witnessed Lewis "pacing around the home...speaking to himself in a violent manner."

Later that evening, while preparing to retire, Mrs. Grinder heard a shot ring out, and Lewis shouting, "O Lord!" Lewis has shot himself in the chest. In the early hours of the morning, Lewis finally succumbed to the gunshot.

Though the story of Meriwether Lewis ends sadly and abruptly, it serves as a wonderful illustration to historians of the realities of mental illness. By no means are these illnesses exclusively reserved for the modern individual. We would all do well to remember that people of the past, just as they do today, suffered greatly from the effects of mental illness.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Yet ANOTHER Trailer for "John Adams"

I may be beating a dead horse, but it is one that deserves to be beaten. Here is another preview for HBO's "John Adams." I just purchased HBO yesterday!!! March 16th at 8:00, everyone get ready!

The Paradox of the American Revolution

We've talked at length on this blog about the issue of slavery. In fact, some of our best discussions have focused on this topic. As we all know, slavery is often a very heated subject in both the historical community and the general public. Needless to say, opinions and beliefs of the historical community differ over the issue of how slavery impacted the American Revolution. I'm sure we have all read historians who argue that the institution of slavery is damning to the legacy of the Founding Fathers. At the same time, we all know of writers that address the slavery issue as nothing more than an unfortunate fact of life in colonial America.

I bring this up because I believe that slavery is one of the most important issues of the American Revolution. How we choose to reckon slavery and the American Revolution is not only important, but also imperative to the historiography of early America. As most of you know by now, I tend to take a centrist view on most political and historical issues. For me, slavery is an undeniable black eye that will forever plague early American society. Their inability to effectively address the issue is the most obvious error of their generation. At the same time, however, I am forced to recognize that these Founding Fathers were, in the end, human. We would be foolish to expect perfection of them. Every society and generation has their proverbial skeletons in the closet. It would not be a stretch, for instance, to imagine future generations condemning us for allowing poverty, genocide or global warming.

Our Founding Fathers were exceptional individuals, who would stand out in almost any era of history. Their endeavors to establish a sovereign republic, where the voice of the people rules supreme is undeniably the foundation upon which we currently stand. We cannot discard all the good that they gave the world simply because they owned slaves. At the same time, we cannot give the Founders (or any slaveholders for that matter) a free pass simply because they were brilliant statesmen. In essence, the slavery issue becomes the great paradox of the American Revolution.

Keeping this in mind, I would invite you to read the following article from the Avenging Our Ancestors Coalition. The article attempts to give a quasi-condemnation of George Washington for his owning of slaves. Though I personally believe that the article has an obvious bias, I decided to post it here in the hopes that it might stir further discussion on the issue.

Here are a few segments from the article that I found most surprising. Even though this article singles George Washington out in particular, these same attacks are often leveled against every single slaveowner:

Although he personally cannot be held responsible for the institution of slavery in America, he personally — as president of the Constitutional Convention and president of the United States of America — can be held responsible for condoning, hence encouraging, slavery. He can be held so responsible because he enslaved Black human beings and because he refused to use his considerable political power to condemn slavery during his presidency of the convention and of the country...

The problem is that much of his money was earned from his investment in the slave economy and some of it specifically from the slave trade. In other words, his wealth, to a significant extent, was blood money earned literally from the blood, sweat, and tears of enslaved Africans and their enslaved descendants.

Monday, February 18, 2008

What Happened to George Washington's Day?

Well, here we are at "Presidents' Day." How in the world did we get this holiday? By federal law and according to this holiday's original purpose, we are supposed to be celebrating the birthday of the Father of our Country, George Washington.

What happened?

In my opinion, we should reject Presidents' Day by removing George Washington's Birthday from the Monday Holidays Act. We can force Americans to remember this day for what it's supposed to be by putting the holiday on Washington's birthday itself (according to the modern holiday).

Since people will still want to say "Presidents' Day" (since it's caught on in pop culture and it rolls off the tongue easily), then perhaps we can declare January 20 as being "Presidents' Day" (it being Inauguration Day).

What do you all think?

The Last Founding Father

For centuries, Americans have paid homage to our Founding Fathers for their bravery and steadfastness in creating the American Republic. Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, and others are etched in stone, grace our currency, and even have states and cities named after them. These early Americans established the foundation that vitually every American would later build upon.

Though the early Founding Fathers are vitually unanimously accepted as the generation that paved the way for subsequent Americans, one has to wonder when their legacy ends. In other words, who should we consider to be the last Founding Father.

This question has been debated for decades by historians, politicians and the laycommunity alike, and I would like to pose this question to all of you. Who in your opinion is America's LAST Founding Father? Here are a few of the popular choices:

Andrew Jackson: Jackson is often seen as the concluding Founding Father for his ability to appeal to the common American. Jackson's presidency actually extends into the presidencies of others, hence the term JACKSONIAN America.

Abraham Lincoln: Lincoln, though separated by roughly 100 years from the original Founding Fathers, can be seen as the final Founding Father for his role in the Civil War. Lincoln's contributions to the eradication of slavery can be seen as the final chapter of the American Revolution. After all, it was Lincoln that accomplished what the Founders were unable or unwilling to do.

Martin Luther King: Obviously King is separated by two centuries of history from the Founding Fathers. King, however, is credited with binging about some revolutionary changes to the social and political nature of the United States. In fact, most of the Founding Fathers would find King to be even more revolutionary than they were.

Anyway, these are just three of the possibilities. I want to hear your take. Who was America's last Founding Father?

A Mouth of Wood?

One of the most popular myths surrounding the life and legacy of George Washington has to do with his mouth. We've all heard the stories of Washington's infamous wooden teeth. The story is as mythical and popular as are the stories of the cherry tree and the silver dollar. Of course we can rest assured that George Washington never had wooden teeth. As one Washington biographer put it, "everyone knows what happens to a toothpick if left in your mouth."

In reality, Washington's teeth were a combination of gold, pieces of ivory, lead, human and animal teeth. Recent laser scans of George Washington's teeth have uncovered that most of the ivory used originated from a hippopotamus. Joseph Ellis states that they look less like teeth and more like a medieval torture device.

So where did the wooden teeth story come from?

The answer is actually quite simple. Upon completing their portraits, several Washington artists recalled the decrepit nature of Washington's oral hygiene. In an effort to obscure the unsavory truth, these same artists concocted the myth of George Washington's wooden teeth. After all, this sounds a lot cleaner and dignified than the truth.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Joyce Appleby and "Inheriting the Revolution"

In this semi-lengthy video, legendary early American historian Joyce Appleby discusses her book Inheriting the Revolution. More imporatntly, this interview gives the viewer a chance to listen to one of the greatest historians on the American Revolution. If you want to glean some fascinating insight on the revolutionary and post-revolutionary period than this video is for you. Appleby has a very unique view of the American Revolution. I also want to add that this book is excellent! A definite A+

Friday, February 15, 2008

Informal Book Review: Providence and the Invention of the United States 1607-1876

I am not a big fan of religious history, but my uncle (who is also an historian) begged me to read this book. To be honest, I had never even heard of the author before. Once my uncle sent me to book, it sat on the top of the booksehelf for over 3 months. I finally decided to simply thumb through it, just to appease my stubborn uncle. Once I opened the book though, I was not able to put it down. This books is simply fantastic! I realize that we've been debating in recent posting how certain historians either promote or demean American history to a fanatical degree. Nicholas Guyatt, however, does a wonderful job of giving both sides of the story. He is neither a religious zealot or a secular scholar. He simply tells the history as it was (and is one heck of a writer might I add).

The book's main focus centers on the religious nature of colonial America, and how those religious standards helped to shape American society for both the good and bad. There is a trmendous amount of attention given to the history of the American Revolution, and what various religions and preachers were thinking at the time.

I cannot say enough about this book. If I had a "Top 10 List" of books, this one would easily make it. I reccomend it to all of you. Believe me, you will not be wasting your time. I think Brad and Brian will especially appreciate it, since they love religious history. I would also reccomend the book to be our featured book for March. It is simply that good.

Needless to say, the book gets an A+!!!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Historians for Obama

The 2008 presidential race is going more than full speed ahead for Barack Obama. Recent polls are showing him ahead of his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, for the party's nomination. In several of the last primaries, Obama has received more votes than McCain and Huckabee combined. Anyway, I realize that this is not a political blog, nor do I wish to declare my allegiance for Obama. I do, however, want to bring to your attention something very interesting regarding Barack Obama and a number of famous early American historians.

Just this past month, a group of very famous and influential historians (many of whom are historians of the American Revolution or colonial America) banned together in support of Barack Obama's presidency. Among these early American historians are Joyce Appleby, David Blight, Edward Blum, Bruce Chadwick, Joseph Ellis, David Gellman, Steven Lawson, James McPherson, Stephanie Ambrose Tubbs, and Laurel Ulrich. In total, there are well over 100 prominant historians that have joined in support for Obama (for the full list of historians click here).

Their reasons for supporting Obama range from his stance on the war in Iraq to Bush's failed foriegn policy (which they claim is the worst since the Vietnam War). On their website is written the following:

We endorse Barack Obama for president because we think he is the candidate best able to address and start to solve these profound problems. As historians, we understand that no single individual, even a president, leads alone or outside a thick web of context. As Abraham Lincoln wrote to a friend during the Civil War, "I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me."

However, a president can alter the mood of the nation, making changes possible that once seemed improbable. Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and kept the nation united; Franklin D. Roosevelt persuaded Americans to embrace Social Security and more democratic workplaces; John F. Kennedy advanced civil rights and an anti-poverty program.

Barack Obama has the potential to be that kind of president. He has the varied background of a global citizen: his father was African, his stepfather Indonesian, his mother worked in the civil rights movement, and he spent several years of his childhood overseas. As an adult, he has been a community organizer, a law professor, and a successful politician - both at the state and national level. These experiences have given him an acute awareness of the inequalities of race and class, while also equipping him to speak beyond them.

Obama's platform is ambitious, yet sensible. He calls for negotiating the abolition of nuclear weapons, providing universal and affordable health insurance, combatting poverty by adding resources and discouraging destructive habits, investing in renewable energy sources, and engaging with unfriendly nations to ease conflicts that could otherwise lead to war. He takes more forthright stands on these issues than do his major Democratic competitors. But it is his qualities of mind and temperament that really separate Obama from the rest of the pack. He is a gifted writer and orator who speaks forcefully but without animus. Not since John F. Kennedy has a Democrat candidate for president showed the same combination of charisma and thoughtfulness - or provided Americans with a symbolic opportunity to break with a tradition of bigotry older than the nation itself. Like Kennedy, he also inspires young people who see him as a great exception in a political world that seems mired in cynicism and corruption.

I'm sure that very few of us would argue that history serves as a wonderful barometer of the future. Understanding one's past is paramount in being able to prepare for the future. Keeping this all in mind, I want to pose a question: to what degree should historians get involved in politics? Is it a mistake for historians to band together in support of one candidate? After all, Obama could turn out to be a complete flop. One only needs to remember Franklin Pierce, who was considered by most "experts" to be the solution to the slavery/succession crisis. I'm not saying that historians (like any other person) do not have the right to vote. Of course they do. What I am asking is whether or not you think they should unite in support of a candidate.

Your thoughts.

Happy Colonial Valentine's Day

As we've discussed at length, holidays, and the means of celebrating them, were very different during the colonial era. Most of the holidays that are enjoyed today were hardly even recognized by the first generation of American, due to the fact that they had a very different set of social and cultural norms.

As far as Valentine's Day is concerned, the differences are almost night and day. First off, colonial America did not celebrate Valentine's Day with chocolates and cards. This does not mean, however, that they were void of celebration. Instead of a formal Valentine's Day, many colonial Americans joined in celebrating festivities that were based on the Roman holiday of Lupercalia. Lupercalia was a holiday to commemorate both Romulus and Remus, the two fabled founders of Rome. During Lupercalia, men would chase women around in goat-skinned clothing, hoping to be able to catch a virgin. The women were also lightly whipped with leaves as they were chased. The men were to laugh as loud as possible, in the hopes of scaring away the evil spirits associated with winter (this would also supposedly aid in female fertility).

In addition to these festivities, young colonial women regulary pinned five bay leaves to their pillow (four leaves on each corner and one leaf in the middle). The belief was that the leaves would inspire the dreams of the young damsel, who would recognize her true valentine in her dreams. Young women also wrote the names of the village men on pieces of paper, which were then rolled into clay. The clays were then dropped into a vassel of water, where the women would wait for the first clay piece to rise to the water's surface. It was believed that the first clay piece to rise to the top was the young woman's true valentine.

Early Dutch settlers in the American colonies also celebrated a few Valentine's Day customs as well. The most popular tradition of young Dutch women was the belief that the first man she laid eyes upon on Valentine's Day was to be her future spouse. As a result, many young women would arise in the morning, keeping their eyes shut until a friend or family member advised them. It was usually planned by the family to have a pleasing male awaiting the young woman's first gaze. One can only imagine how much fun it would have been to play a practical joke on these helpess girls! =)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Bit More on Historians and Plagiarism

Since this issue has been our primary focus of discussion, I thought some of you would enjoy these additional sources.

Sources on Stephen Ambrose:

The Weekly Standard Stephen Ambrose Copycat Article click
How the Ambrose story developed click
here. Story by HNN.
Los Angeles Times article on Ambrose click

Sources on Doris Kearns Goodwin:

How the Goodwin story developed click
here. Story by HNN.
Doris Kernes Goodwin: Liar article click
Forbes Magazine article on Goodwin click

Of course these arn't the only historians to have been caught for plagiarism. They are, however, two very big names in the historical community, and therefore receive the greatest amount of publicity for their misdeeds.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

New Preview for HBO's John Adams

Here is the newest preview for HBO's highly anticipated series "John Adams."

"Historians in the Hot Seat"

In light of Lindsey's recent comments on Ellis, I thought this posting would be an appropriate way to keep the discussion alive. I have to credit our fellow contributor, Brian Tubbs, and his website The American Founding Blog for inspiring me to write this posting. On his blog you will find a recent posting on David McCullough, and the criticism surrounding his work. One of the sources that Brian mentions is a CBS News article entitled Historians Under Fire. The article makes the claim that several popular historians have, in recent years, come under fire for some of their questionable research methods. The article mentions some of the accusations of plagiarism facing the late Stephen Ambrose, most of which have been confirmed through a detailed inquiry into several of his books. There is also mention of McCullough's questionable research methods, especially in regards to his biographies on John Adams and Harry Truman. The Truman allegations are virtually undeniable, a reality that even McCullough has admitted to. McCullough has also recently admitted to taking sources and quotations for his John Adams book out of context.

Ambrose and McCullough are not the only historians to come under attack. In recent years, several news organizations have published allegations against a number of leading historians. As we have already discussed, historian Joseph Ellis has been a popular target in recent years. (read Lindsey's posting below for more on Ellis). Doris Kerns Goodwin, the highly acclaimed presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize winning author of No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and the very popular Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, has faced some severe criticism for plagiarism that is virtually indisputable. Both the New York Times and The Weekly Standard broke the stories regarding Goodwin's plagiarism. They point out the fact that Goodwin’s book The Fitzgerald’s and the Kennedy’s is virtually a carbon copy of work done by authors Rose Kennedy, Hank Searl, and Lynne McTaggart. Peter King of the L.A. Times has also noted that Goodwin's Pulitzer Prize winning book No Ordinary Time consists of several pages that are a virtual copy of Joseph Lash’s Eleanor and Franklin and Hugh Gregory Gallagher’s FDR’s Splendid Deception. The plagiarism in Goodwin's works is so blatant that several newspapers have published her writings along side the stolen texts, proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Goodwin copied from other sources (just so I don't get in trouble, you can click here and here for sources on Goodwin's plagiarism).

The History News Network has put together a list of historians in the "hot seat." Faced with the allegations of plagiarism, these historians face a difficult road in recovering their lost credibility. After all, plagiarism is to the writer, what steroids is to the athlete. Lesson to the wise: CITE YOUR SOURCES!!! It's really not that hard. Here is the link to the History News Network's article on plagiarism, and here is the link to the History News Network's list of "Historians in the Hot Seat."

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Historical Liar

I realize that the majority of our readers and contributors have a great deal of admiration for the work of historian Joseph Ellis, so this posting may be a bit disappointing. I have to admit that I was very upset to learn about Ellis's truth-telling problems.

The New York Times, along with several other news agencies, broke the news that Joseph Ellis outright lied about his involvement with the Vietnam War. As a result, Ellis was put on academic leave without pay for over a year. In their article The Lies of Joseph Ellis, the New York Times points out that Ellis made the claim that he was deeply involved in the Vietnam War, where he parachuted into the country, and was involved in many armed conflicts with the enemy. The truth, however, was that Ellis never even left the states during his time in the military. In fact, he was safe and sound in his snug little office at West Point, teaching American history to the cadets (a far cry from parachuting into enemy territory and exchanging bullets).

Historian Bonnie Goodman of the History News Network also wrote a piece on Ellis, entitled Has Scandal Taken Its Toll On Ellis? In her article, Goodwin suggests that Ellis lost an incredible amount of credibility within the historical community for his blatant falsehoods. After all, how can a historian be trusted with their work, when it is discovered that they blatantly lied to their students?

Ellis, whose lies became public in 2001, has noticed a dramatic drop in public support for his work. After his Pulitzer Prize winning book Founding Brothers was published in 2000, Ellis was riding on the clouds of the historical community. After his lies were discovered in 2001, however, Ellis has been engaged in a futile attempt to earn back the trust he lost from his comrades. His subsequent books, His Excellency and American Creation have received much less praise from the historical community. The general public, however, seems to be oblivious of Ellis's errors. For the most part, Ellis still remains one of the best selling history writers in America. The scholastic community obviously feels otherwise. Though he is likely to keep selling books to the general public, it is doubtful that Ellis will ever receive another major award due to this scandal.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A Trip Through Jamestown

I wanted to pass along some exciting information about the Virtual Jamestown project. Ever since its 400th anniversary celebration, interest in the first successful English colony has been growing by leaps and bounds. Thankfully, additional funding has helped to enhance the public's perception and interest in colonial America's historical roots.

One of the many projects to improve the public's knowledge of and interest in colonial America is the Virtual Jamestown Project. The initial 3-D experience (which is in its infancy) can be seen by clicking here. Enjoy a virtual tour of the Jamestown fortifications, not to mention a few of its surroundings. Again, this virtual tour is only a prototype of what is to come. The completed virtual Jamestown tour will be an intimate and in-depth view of the colony. But for now, take a look at the prototype. Also, check out the Virtual Jameston Project website for additional resources.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

"Here We Go A-Caucussing"

"Super Tuesday" is upon us! Today literally millions of Americans will go to the polls to cast their ballots for their Democratic or Republican choice for President. Many of these states (including my beloved "Centennial State"), will hold a caucus to determine who the Democratic or Republican candidate is.

This caucus, which is essentially nothing more than a group meeting of political supporters, may seem very confusing to its participants. Isn't it a much easier process to simply cast an electronic vote?

What most Americans don't know when it comes to the caucus is the fact that it is a very old tradition, which dates back to a time before the United States ever existed. Though the origins of the word are greatly debated, the term caucus is believed to have originated from the Algonquin Indians, who resided in what is today New York and Vermont. It is believed that the Algonquin word 'cau´-cau-as´u', meaning "counsel" was adopted by early American Democratic-republicans in the latter part of the 18th century. Historian J.L. Bell mentions that the first known usage of the word caucus comes from the diary of America's second president, John Adams, who wrote:

"This day learned that the Caucas Clubb meets at certain Times in the Garret of Tom Daws, the Adjutant of the Boston Regiment. He has a large House, and he has a moveable Partition in his Garrett, which he takes down and the whole Clubb meets in one Room. There they smoke tobacco till you cannot see from one End of the Garrett to the other. There they drink Phlip I suppose, and there they choose a Moderator, who puts Questions to the Vote regularly, and select Men, Assessors, Collectors, Wardens, Fire Wards, and Representatives are Regularly chosen before they are chosen in the Town. Uncle Fairfield, Story, Ruddock, Adams, Cooper, and a most rudis indigestaque Moles of others are Members. They send Committees to wait on the Merchants Clubb and to propose, and join, in the Choice of Men and Measures. Captn. Cunningham says they have often solicited him to go to these Caucas, they have assured him Benefit in his Business, &c."
(Click here for the link to the electronic archive of the Diary of John Adams)

So as you make your way to the polls today, remember that you are participating in a tradition that is older than America itself. To go "a-caucussing" is an activity as American as apple pie, which, by the way, Native Americans enjoyed as well.

Monday, February 4, 2008

A Faux Pas in Need of Correction

So I was up a little early this morning (around 3:00 a.m.), unable to sleep due to the flu. As a means of relief, I turned on my television to one of the numerous cable news stations. As can be imagined, the only item of discussion (other than the monumental victory of the Giants over the Patriots) was the impending "Super Tuesday" primary elections. As I watched, half asleep from the cold medicine, I heard one of the news anchors proclaim that if John McCain wins the election, he will become the first and only president to have endured the agony of being a prisoner of war. I could hardly believe my ears. Even though John McCain is a genuine war hero of undisputed proportions, he will not become the first president to have been a P.O.W. That distinction belongs to "Old Hickory" himself.

That's right folks, Andrew Jackson is (thus far) the only president to have also been a prisoner of war. One of the most forgotten facts about Andrew Jackson is the fact that he fought in the American Revolution at the age of 14. He and his brother were wounded and captured by the British during a raid. It was Jackson's mother, Elizabeth, who freed him from captivity.

Anyway, I wanted to correct the historical illiteracy of this anonymous cable news station (Fox news...AKA..."fair and balanced").

Sunday, February 3, 2008

New Books on Jefferson

*I win for making the 100th posting on this blog! Let's try for 1000!*
I apologize for the brevity of my posting, but I just wanted to mention a couple of new books on Thomas Jefferson. They have both received decent reviews (I doubt they will be Pulitzer Prize nominees, but that doesn't mean they are bad books) from historians and journalists in the field.

The first book is entitled Mr Jefferson's Women by John Kukla. From the title, you can assertain what the book is about. Kukla discusses the influence of Jefferson's mother, early love interest, wife, and of course Sally Hemmings.

The second book is Twilight at Monticello: The Final Years of Thomas Jefferson by Alan
Crawford. This book is literally hot off the presses. It became available on Amazon just this week. From what I've gathered, this book gives quite an in-depth view of how Jefferson's views became quite radical at the end of his life. In fact, Jefferson began to question the entire revolutionary movement at the end of his life, wondering if it would have been better to stay with Britain. This should be an exciting book, one that I can't wait to start reading.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Founding Fathers and the Threat of Tyranny

Though I am not a big fan of YOUTUBE videos, simply because anyone can post whatever junk they feel like, I found one that I think is quite applicable to our ongoing blog discussions. The video is a conglomeration of various quotations from our Founding Fathers regarding the threat of tyranny in America. I would ask that you watch the video and then tell me what you think. Are we at a point in our nation's history where our personal liberties are threatened? Which quotes did you find to be the most poignant?