Bernard Bailyn, RIP


Here is Harvard historian David Armitage:

Here is an excerpt from Bailyn‘s memoir, Illuninating History: A Retrospective of Seven Decades:

MY PARENTS WERE complicit in this addiction, and they had an expert to advise them. Hartford’s biggest and best bookstore, which once had sold books to Mark Twain, was then owned by a friend of theirs, Israel Witkower, an émigré from Vienna.

He knew about books of all kinds, in several languages, and visiting his store, with its deep central corridor crowded with books, its alcoves, and its jumbled bargain basement, was an adventure.…

History was of no special interest, but I recall two books…that I read before high school and that I later realized were historical in essence. I read and reread them, and I never forgot them. One was a big coffee-table book with a deeply embossed purple cover, published, I think by the Collier’s magazine company, largely consisting of close-up photos of the great men and events of the early twentieth century. The pages were printed in the brownish, “rotogravure” process, but to me they were vivid, and the commentary was readable. The faces of the presidents and other celebrities were intriguing. But it was the battle scenes of World War I that mainly gripped my imagination.…The comments were innocuous, but the scenes were fearful and unforgettable.

The other book of those pre-high-school years that was so memorable and implicitly historical contained a series of comparisons on facing pages of towns in England and in New England that bore the same names. Thus there were photos with comment on the towns of Biddeford, Devon, and Biddeford, Maine; of Bath, Somerset, and Bath, Maine; of Portsmouth, Hampshire, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire; of Newhaven, Sussex, and New Haven, Connecticut; and of Hartford, Hertfordshire, and my own town, Hartford, Connecticut. It was only later that I would understand that these were mainly towns of England’s West Country and south coast, and why their names would have carried over to New England. But it was enough for me, then, to search for the similarities and differences of these towns on either side of the Atlantic, and to puzzle about how that could have come about.

Bailyn’s students include Fred Anderson, Virginia DeJohn Anderson, Richard Bushman,  Richard D. Brown, Ed Countryman, Philip Greven, Robert Gross, Sally Hadden, David Hancock, James Henretta, Peter Hoffer, Michael Kammen,Stanley Katz, Pauline Maier, Gary Nash, William Nelson, Mary Beth Norton, Jeff Pasley, Jack Rakove, Gordon Wood, Peter Wood, and Michael Zuckerman

There were two of the first books I read in graduate school:

Ideological Origns


Read The New York Times obituary here.

A Historian Writes a Savage Obituary for Another Historian


Richard J. Evans authored Norman Stone’s obituary

Historian Norman Stone died on June 19, 2019.

Apparently, obituary-writer and fellow historian Richard J. Evans was no fan of Stone.  Here are few excerpts from Evans’s obituary in The Guardian:

The obit begins:

One of the specialities of the historian Norman Stone, who has died aged 78, was character assassination. As a judge of the Fraenkel prize in contemporary history some years ago, he told the astonished members of the jury that they should not award the prize to a historian of Germany whose politics he disliked because she was an East German agent – an allegation that was enough to rule her out of contention even though it was absolutely baseless and undoubtedly defamatory.

Shortly after the death in 1982 of his patron and mentor in Cambridge, EH Carr, the author of a multivolume History of Soviet Russia and influential works on historiography and international relations, Stone published a lengthy assault on his reputation, which included lurid details of his three marriages. When a colleague criticised this “outrageous” diatribe to his face, telling him that Carr “always said you were amoral”, Stone responded: “And he always said you were a bore” (probably an invention, though one cannot know for sure).

At a time when malice and rudeness were highly prized by some rightwing Cambridge dons, Stone outdid them all in the abuse he hurled at anyone he disapproved of, including feminists (“rancid”), Oxford dons (“a dreadful collection of deadbeats, dead wood and has-beens”), students (“smelly and inattentive”), David Cameron and John Major (“transitional nobodies”), Edward Heath (“a flabby-faced coward”) and many more.

And there is this:

During his researches in Vienna, he had met Nicole Aubrey, the niece of the brutal and corrupt Haitian dictator “Papa Doc” Duvalier’s finance minister: they married in 1966 and had two sons. By the time The Eastern Front was published, the marriage was breaking down, and they divorced in 1977.

The resulting financial strain led him to start writing quick potboilers, beginning with a short life of Hitler (1980), a superficial and poorly researched work justly savaged by reviewers, notably Tim Mason, whose exposure of its weaknesses upset Stone considerably despite his own record of rubbishing other historians’ achievements.

There followed Europe Transformed 1878-1919 (1983), a short volume in the Fontana History of Europe, one of the weakest in an uneven series. His second marriage, to Christine Booker (nee Verity), came in 1982. They had a son, and she died in 2016.

As a teacher Stone could be inspiring, often winning over his pupils with his charm, which on occasion could be quite considerable, but he became increasingly undisciplined, neglecting his duties, and spending increasing amounts of time playing poker and drinking himself into oblivion in Soho.

I am not familiar with the academic politics in England, nor do I know anything about German historiography.  Perhaps someone can explain what is going on here.

HT: Rob Townsend via Twitter.

Marc Mappen, R.I.P.


The New Jersey history community is mourning the death of Marc Mappen, the author of several books on New Jersey history, an administrator at Rutgers, and a former director of the New Jersey Historical Commission (NJHC).

I only talked with Marc face-to-face a few times, but over the last twenty years or so he has been a regular cheerleader of my work, especially when that work intersected with New Jersey History.  I met him when he was leading NJHC, an organization that helped fund my dissertation research, my first book, and my current work on New Jersey in the American Revolution.  I think I first learned about the Mount Holly “witch trials” from his book Jerseyana and I consult his Witches & Historians every time I refresh my lecture on the Salem Witch Trials.   I was also honored to contribute several articles to the Encyclopedia of New Jersey, a major reference took he edited with Maxine Lurie.

Rest in peace, Marc.

Here is Marc Mappen’s obituary:

Mappen, Marc, Ph.D., 74, of Highland Park died on Sunday, January 6, 2018 after an illness surrounded by his family at the Francis Parker Home at River Road in Piscataway.

Dr. Mappen was born in Boston, MA and received his undergraduate degree in American History from Boston University in 1967. He continued his education at Rutgers University attaining his Master degree in 1968 and a Doctorate of Philosophy in 1976. His dissertation was entitled “Anatomy of a Schism: Religious Dissent in a New England Community, 1705-1765.”

He was a frequent speaker on National Public Radio, New Jersey Network, and the History Channel on the subject of New Jersey history and the author of several publications. These publications include Jerseyana: The Underside of New Jersey History, There’s More to New Jersey Than the Sopranos, Prohibition Gangsters: A Generation of Bad Men, Encyclopedia of New Jersey (co-editor-in-chief), Murder and Spies, Lovers and Lies: Settling the Great Controversies of American History, and Witches and Historians: Interpretations of Salem.

Dr. Mappen worked at Rutgers University from 1973 through 2000. During that time, he held a number of positions at Rutgers-Newark and Rutgers-New Brunswick, serving as the Associate Dean for Administration from 1985-1990 in the Faculty of Arts and Science – Newark and as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs from 1990 to 2000 at University College in New Brunswick. He was also extremely proud of his role as Executive Director of the New Jersey Historical Commission for the State of New Jersey from 2000 to 2010.

Dr. Mappen was predeceased by his brother, Felix Roth (2018) and a sister, Edith Ingall (1974).

He is survived by his wife of 48 ½ years, Ellen; a son, Benjamin and his wife Lily Whang of San Carlos CA; and a daughter, Rebecca and her companion Gavin of Somerset, NJ. He is also survived by his sister, Ina Schneider, a brother-in-law, David Ingall, and a sister-in-law, Fortuna Calvo Roth. There are also many nieces and nephews.

A public memorial service will be scheduled at a future time.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a contribution to the Highland Park Public Library or a charity of your choice in his memory.

Here are some Marc’s books:

witches mappen



nj ency




David Lowenthal, RIP


I never met David Lowenthal, but his scholarship has influenced my work.  I highly recommend The Past is a Foreign Country (1985) and Possessed by the Past: Heritage Crusade and the Spoils of History (1996).

Here is a taste of his obituary at The Guardian:

In 2017 the historian and geographer David Lowenthal, who has died aged 95, gave a lecture at University College London in which he insisted: “Heritage is not history: heritage is what people make of their history to make themselves feel good.” He contrasted the way that individual nations and tribes imagine their own heritage with the conception recently promoted by international organisations, notably Unesco, that heritage must be universal, for the good of all.

A case in point is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, built on a site said to cover locations important around the time of Jesus’s death. Six Orthodox and Catholic Christian denominations own different parts of the church, while two Muslim families look after its entrance. Solutions to the resulting clashes of responsibility are very much needed, just as with other sacred sites in the city.

American-born but British by inclination, David became professor of geography at UCL in 1972, retiring as emeritus professor in 1986. Apart from Unesco, the heritage agencies he advised included the World Monuments Fund, English Heritage, the US National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Trust of Australia. Never afraid of controversy, he presented cogent opinions on a host of topics, such as the Elgin Marbles, the statue of Cecil Rhodes in Oxford and the role of the Barclay twins on the island of Sark.

He helped make heritage studies a discipline in its own right: the lecture he gave last year was the first in an annual series for UCL’s recently founded Centre for Critical Heritage Studies. In doing so, he pointed to the way history seeks to identify the truth while heritage exaggerates and omits, invents and forgets in order to fabricate prejudiced pride in the past. Heritage is fashioned to “attest our identity and affirm our worth”, an argument he developed further in The Heritage Crusade and the Spoils of History (1997).

Read the rest here.

Ronald Hoffman, R.I.P.

Hoffman BookI did not know Ron Hoffman well.  He was the Director of the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture at William & Mary when I was coming of age as an early American historian.

I first met Ron in March 1998 on the campus of James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.  I was a graduate student presenting a paper on Philip Vickers Fithian at the Shenandoah Valley Regional Studies Seminar.  Ron was present at the seminar.  He gave me some great feedback on my paper during the conversation.  Later I learned he drove nearly three hours from Williamsburg to attend the session.  From this point forward, he took an interest in my Fithian project and always seemed to go out of his way to say hello (and get an update on my progress) at conferences.  I always appreciated Ron’s willingness to encourage a graduate student (who did not attend William & Mary) in this way.

Here is the Omohundro Institute obituary for Ronald Hoffman:

The OI is very sad to share the news that Ronald Hoffman, who retired as Director of the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture and Professor of History at William & Mary in 2013, passed away on September 4th.

He is survived by his partner, Sally Mason; his daughter and son-in-law, Maia Hoffman and Avi Melamed; his son and daughter-in-law, Barak Hoffman and Dora Lemus; and his sister, Joanne Giza.

A distinguished scholar of the American Revolution, author or editor of dozens of books, and the editor of the Papers of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the only Roman Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence and the last of the signers to die, Dr. Hoffman was the seventh, and longest serving, Director of the Omohundro Institute.

Born in Baltimore, Dr. Hoffman graduated from Baltimore City College in 1959. His high school career included playing the position of lineman on the football team, which, depending on who is recounting the story, won a fierce contest against a local private school team quarterbacked by a later professional colleague, Professor Peter H. Wood. Following his graduation from City, Ron joined the United States Navy, and served as a Sea Duty Helmsman aboard the USS Newport News, an experience that remained a source of pride to him throughout his life. When his enlistment ended in 1961, he enrolled in Baltimore Junior College and upon finishing his course of study there, completed his undergraduate degree in 1964, at the George Peabody College (now part of Vanderbilt University). At the urging of a mentor at Peabody, Dr. Hoffman entered graduate school at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he was a member of the seminar directed by the renowned historian Merrill Jensen. He earned his Ph.D. from Wisconsin in 1969 and joined the history department at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he was, during his tenure (1969-1992), Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, then Professor of History. Johns Hopkins University Press published his first book, A Spirit of Dissension: Economics, Politics, and the Revolution in Maryland, in 1973. Dr. Hoffman also co-authored a textbook, The Pursuit of Liberty: A History of the American People, with R. Jackson Wilson, James Gilbert, Stephen Nissenbaum, Donald Scott, and Carville V. Earle (Alfred A. Knopf, 1983), and contributed essays and articles to scholarly journals and edited collections.

Beginning in 1978, Dr. Hoffman, at the request of the United States Capitol Historical Society’s founding president, Iowa Congressman Fred Schwengel, convened a series of historical conferences focused on the American Revolutionary and Confederation periods through the creation and ratification of the Constitution and the early years of the new Republic. These meetings produced a remarkable fifteen volumes of essays, edited by Dr. Hoffman, his colleague and collaborator Dr. Peter J. Albert, as well as a number of other scholars as co-editors and published by the University Press of Virginia. Among these is Slavery and Freedom in the Age of the American Revolution, edited by Dr. Hoffman and his longtime friend, fellow University of Wisconsin alumnus, and College Park colleague, the late Dr. Ira Berlin.

Throughout his academic career, Dr. Hoffman served as editor and project director of the Charles Carroll of Carrollton Papers. In 2001 he published, with co-editors Sally D. Mason and Eleanor S. Darcy, the first three of a projected seven volumes. Entitled Dear Papa, Dear Charley: The Peregrinations of a Revolutionary Aristocrat, as Told by Charles Carroll of Carrollton and His Father, Charles Carroll of Annapolis, with Sundry Observations on Bastardy, Child-Rearing, Romance, Matrimony, Commerce, Tobacco, Slavery, and the Politics of Revolutionary America, the books won the Maryland Historical Society Book Prize and the J. Franklin Jameson award from the American Historical Association for outstanding editing of historical sources. The previous year he published, in collaboration with Sally D. Mason, a scholarly analysis of the Carroll story entitled Princes of Ireland, Planters of Maryland: A Carroll Saga, 1500-1782. In 2001, the monograph won the Southern Historical Association’s Frank L. and Harriet C. Owlsey Prize and the Library of Virginia’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction, and in 2002, the Maryland Historical Society Book Prize. Dr. Hoffman, Dr. Mary C. Jeske, and Ms. Mason were at work on the final four volumes of the Carroll Papers at the time of his death. These volumes will be published by the Maryland Historical Society in 2019.

On his retirement, Dr. Hoffman remembered that leading the Institute had felt to him like “assuming a sacred trust.” The Institute, founded in 1943 and sponsored by William & Mary, publishes the flagship journal in the field, The William and Mary Quarterly, has a book program co-publishing with the University of North Carolina Press, awards fellowships to scholars, and convenes meetings and conferences. Appointed director in 1992, Dr. Hoffman guided the organization through significant changes that helped to advance the field of early American history. Investing extraordinary energy in developing innovative scholarly programs and publications, he inaugurated an annual convening of early Americanists aimed especially at supporting the work of scholars who were just entering the profession. Among the dozens of national and international forums he organized were a series of conferences designed to foster historical scholarship on slavery. These began in 1998, with a meeting to introduce the publication of the W. E. B. Dubois Institute Dataset of Slaving Voyages and included a conference held in Ghana in 2007 to mark the 200th anniversary of British efforts to end the transatlantic slave trade. He played an instrumental role in the intellectual lives and professional development of dozens of leading early American scholars, many of whom held fellowships at the Institute during his tenure. He also shepherded the Institute’s naming gift from Malvern H. and Elizabeth Omohundro.

At Maryland and at William & Mary, Dr. Hoffman was a mentor and advisor to scores of graduate students. His undergraduate and graduate courses on the American Revolution were justly famous among William & Mary students for the depth and breadth of reading he required. He was honored with the Pullen Chair in History at William & Mary from 2004-09. He also served on a number of academic advisory groups and editorial boards.

Dr. Hoffman will be buried at Moshav Sde Nitzan in Israel, long a dream of his. He will be deeply missed by his family, friends, and colleagues, all of whom remember him with abiding affection and gratitude.

On November 6, the Omohundro Institute will host a celebration of Dr. Hoffman’s life from 5:00-7:00 p.m. in the Great Hall of the Sir Christopher Wren Building at William & Mary.

Memorial gifts may be directed to the Omohundro Institute, which sponsors the Ronald Hoffman Postdoctoral Fellowship in his honor. Omohundro Institute, PO Box 8781, Williamsburg, VA, 23187-8781, or contact Shawn Holl at



The New York Times is publishing obituaries for important people in history who never got an obituary published in the Times at the time of their deaths.  Learn more here.

The initial installment of the “Overlooked” series includes obituaries of fifteen women:  Ida B. Wells, Qui Jin, Mary Ewing Outerbridge, Diane Arbus, Marsha Johnson, Sylvia Plath, Henrietta Lacks, Madhubala, Emily Warren Roebling, Nella Larsen, Ada Lovelace, Margaret Abbott, Belkis Ayon, Charlotte Bronte, and Lillias Campbell Davidson.

Here is a taste of the Ida B. Wells obit:

Wells was born into slavery in Holly Springs, Miss., in 1862, less than a year before Emancipation. She grew up during Reconstruction, the period when black people, including her father, were able to vote, ushering black representatives into state legislatures across the South. One of eight siblings, she often tagged along to Bible school on her mother’s hip.

In 1878, her parents both died of yellow fever, along with one of her brothers; and at 16, she took on caring for the rest of her siblings. She supported them by working as a teacher after dropping out of high school and lying about her age. She finished her own education at night and on weekends.

Around the same time, the Civil Rights Act of 1875 was largely nullified by the Supreme Court, reversing many of the advancements of Reconstruction. The anti-black sentiment that grew around her was ultimately codified into Jim Crow.

“It felt like a dramatic whiplash,” said Troy Duster, Wells’s grandson, who is a sociology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and New York University. “She cuts her teeth politically in this time of justice, justice, justice, and then injustice.”

Observing the changes around her, Wells decided to become a journalist during what was a golden era for black writers and editors. Her goal was to write about black people for black people, in a way that was accessible to those who, like her, were born the property of white owners and had much to defend.

Her articles were often reprinted abroad, as well as in the more than 200 black weeklies then in circulation in the United States.

Read the rest here.

Michael Cromartie


I was saddened to learn of the passing of Michael Cromartie, vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington D.C.  Cromartie worked quietly behind the scenes to help evangelicals engage politics and the larger culture with civility and grace. I only met him once–at a teacher-education seminar at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. I remember the kindness he showed me on that day as I talked with him about my work on the Christian America book.

Here is Christianity Today‘s obituary:

Michael Cromartie, a Washington networker who helped rebrand America’s image of Christian political engagement, has died of cancer at age 67.

Cromartie brought Christian thought leaders and secular journalists under the same roof at the Faith Angle Forum, held every year since 1999. Through his work as EPPC vice president, he evoked theologians and philosophers as he advocated for thoughtful engagement in public policy and civil discourse.

In a political arena often dominated by competition, power grabs, and culture war debates, Cromartie stuck out by offering a friendlier, humbler approach. It’s this attitude that his colleagues remember most and cite as his greatest legacy.

“It can’t be said of many people, but everyone Mike touched was influenced for the better,” said Michael Gerson, a Washington Post columnist and former speechwriter for President George W. Bush. “His passing leaves a huge gap in American public life and in the lives of his friends.

“Mike was a man of great knowledge who made it accessible to others,” Gerson told CT. “He was a man of great faith, who make it real and attractive to others. And he was a man of exceptional decency, who demonstrated how to live with joy and integrity.”

Journalists and Christian leaders alike shared their tributes.

“Michael Cromartie was different from what most people think of when they think ‘evangelicals and politics.’ Thanks be to God,” said Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, who admired his humble character and effective engagement with journalists.

“After his cancer diagnosis, every time I saw Mike he would say, ‘Pray like a Pentecostal.’ We did,” Moore shared with CT. “Mike now is in the presence of the Lord of Pentecost. We will miss him here, and must pray for more like him.”

Read the entire obit here.

Peter Lawler, RIP


One of the country’s great conservative thinkers passed away on Tuesday.

I never met Peter Lawler, but I occasionally read his work.  He once referred to me as a “routinely excellent conservative blogger.”  While some might question my conservative credentials (or my liberal ones for that matter), I appreciated the “routinely excellent” part of his comment. 🙂

When I learned of Lawler’s passing I went back to see how much we discussed his work here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home.  It looks like we have given him some shout-outs over the years.  Read them all here.


Joyce Appleby: RIP

joyce-applebyJoyce Oldham Appleby, a giant in the field of early American intellectual and political history, died earlier this week at the age of 87.  If you are unfamiliar with Appleby or her work I encourage you to head over to The Junto and read Michael Hattem’s excellent obituary.

I never met Appleby, but I read and admired her work. I read Capitalism and a New Social OrderLiberalism and Republicanism in Historical Imagination,and Telling the Truth About History in graduate school.  Appleby’s published disagreements with Gordon Wood and others from the “republicanism” school of the American Revolution were staples on the reading lists of all early American graduate students in the 1990s.  Her book Inheriting the Revolution made me aware of the role memoirs could play in understanding the American Revolution and the early republic.

In 1996 Appleby and James Banner Jr. founded History News Service (HNS) in an attempt to get more academic historians to write for a public audience.  As a newly-minted history Ph.D who was trying to imagine a slightly different kind of career than the one I was encouraged to follow in graduate school, my interests intersected with the mission of HNS and I began sending op-eds to Appleby and Banner.  Anyone who wrote for HNS remembers the editorial good-cop (Appleby)/bad cop (Banner) routine they used when editing the work of those of us who were new to this genre of writing.  Banner would cover the piece with the proverbial red ink.  In my case he pushed me to write more succinct sentences and dispense of academic jargon.  Appleby was no less of a critic, but she had a softer, more encouraging, touch.  Both of them made me a better writer. Banner made me realize that it would take hard work to master the craft of public writing. (And I am certainly not there yet).  Appleby made me feel like there was actually a chance I could contribute to this genre.

After I learned that she had passed away I went back and re-read some of the e-mails she wrote to me in her role at HNS.  Here is one from 2004 that I will always remember:

“Excellent rewrite, John.  I am ready to turn this  over to Jim for fine-tuning.  I have made one suggestion in caps for your conclusion.  I hope that you will consider it.  Many thanks.  I wish you’d write more for HNS.  You are a natural writer.  Joyce

Joyce Appleby probably never thought again about the last two sentences of this e-mail, but this small kindness meant the world to me and kept me going.  Thanks, Joyce.  RIP.

Rick Beeman, R.I.P.

beemanWe lost another esteemed member of the early American history community last week.  After an extended illness, Richard Beeman, the John Welsh Centennial Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania, passed away.  I learned about Rick’s passing from Dan Richter‘s e-mail to the McNeil Center for Early American Studies community.

Here is a taste of that e-mail:

I have the sad responsibility to report that my colleague Richard Beeman, John Welsh Centennial Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania, has passed away after a long illness. Rick taught wildly popular courses at Penn for more than forty years and was Dean of the College for over a decade. The impressive body of scholarship he left us includes, among many other works, The Evolution of the Southern Backcountry (1984) and The Varieties of Political Experience in Eighteenth-Century America (Early American Studies series, 2004). More recently he gained a wide general readership for Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution (2009); and Our Lives, Our Fortunes and Our Sacred Honor: The Forging of American Independence, 1774-1776 (2013). The McNeil Center community owes him a particular debt of gratitude for his key role in our institution’s early years, including the period during the 1980s when he served as Director. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him.

I didn’t know Rick Beeman well.  We often exchanged pleasantries during the couple of years I spent at the McNeil Center and he was always kind to me as a young scholar.  A few years ago we chatted at Mount Vernon during the George Washington Book Prize gala.  Rick was on the jury and I am grateful that he saw fit to select my Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? as one of the three finalists for that award.

I think I read The Evolution of the Southern Backcountry two or three times during my dissertation research.  I was writing about rural hinterlands in the mid-Atlantic and found Rick’s treatment of a small region in early America to be a helpful model for my own work on southern New Jersey.  And then there was the time Rick was invited on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart to debunk the erroneous claims of David Barton.

Those who came through the history graduate program at Penn knew him well.  Over at Historiann, historian Wayne Bodle shares some reflections:

Rick came to Penn in the fabled fall of 1968, straight out of the U. of Chicago.  He genially, and not confrontationally, recognized himself to be a traditionalist of a certain order.  When Mike Zuckerman was reading chapters of my Valley Forge project (as an in-progress National Park Service report), and telling me it could be a dissertation, he ran one chapter by Rick one summer.  (Rick was a summer Maine vacationer, as you doubtless know).  The feedback, via Mike, was that it was not how Rick would have done, or advised, it, but yeah, he could be a second or third reader.  He ended up being a second reader.

When I went to see him (up in the old Philadelphia Center for Early American Studies building at 38th and Walnut, long before it became the McNeil Center) about this I said what does it need? He said what do *you* think it needs?  I said a historiographical introductory chapter.  He said that’s what I think, now go do it.  So I went and did it, although the first sentence said that the historiography of Valley Forge begins with the fact that there really was no historiography, per se, of Valley Forge.

Rick loaned me his seminar at Penn in the fall of 1991 (again from Maine, when his deanship came to him from out of the blue).  He said “I’ve ordered about six books–” (this was in mid-August), “you don’t have to use any of them, but if you do, you’ll need to order some more.”  He pointed out that his take on the Revolution was old-school high politics, and he more than welcomed my approaching it differently, which I did.  He even acknowledged that military history was out of his bailiwick.

By this time I had met and actually worked with Linda Kerber, so I began the syllabus with her essay ‘the Revolutionary Generation’.  I tried to use ‘generation’ as an analytic theme for the course.

Rick later, as a member of the committee, made a real effort to get me a major book prize for The Valley Forge Winter (2002), all the time warning that it was an outside shot, as his fellow committeemen were even more traditionalist than he was, and he was coming around, at least on the military part.

It was a generous prize, but his effort meant even more. He wrote a bunch of letters for me.  I never had him for an actual class.

Pray for the Wheaton College English Department

As two of the premier Christian colleges in the country, Messiah College and Wheaton College often compete for students and sports victories.  I think I speak for my colleagues at Messiah, especially those in the humanities, when I say that we are not competing today.

A few hours ago I posted about the sudden death of Roger Lundin, a gifted Christian scholar who has influenced the life of so many of us with his serious reflections on faith and learning.

I just realized that another member of the English Department at Wheaton also passed away this week.  I did not know Brett Foster nor am I familiar with his work, but if he was a member of the English Department at Wheaton he must have been a very bright and talented teacher, scholar, and poet. Foster passed away on Monday after a battle with cancer.

What a sad day for those of us committed to working in places like Wheaton and Messiah.  Let’s keep the Wheaton English Department and the entire Wheaton community in our prayers as they cope with the loss of these colleagues and friends. I am sure that the rich Christian community at Wheaton will be a comfort through it all.  As a department chair, I can’t imagine what it must be like to go through this.

Here is a post from the Wheaton website on Foster’s death:

The Wheaton College community is saddened by the death of Associate Professor of English Dr. Brett Foster. Dr. Foster died last night, following a battle with cancer.
“Wheaton College mourns the death of Professor Brett Foster, who has been a good, true friend to his students and colleagues on campus,” said Wheaton College President Dr. Philip G. Ryken. “Dr. Foster’s exceptional poems will be a lasting treasure for all who read them, both inside and outside the church.”
“While we rejoice that Professor Foster’s earthly struggles are over and find comfort in the promise of his eternal life with Christ, we grieve the loss suffered by his wife Anise, his children Gus and Avery, and his many friends among the faculty, staff, students, and alumni of Wheaton College,” Ryken said.
Dr. Foster’s award-winning publications include The Garbage Eater (Triquarterly Books/Northwestern University Press, 2011) and Fall Run Road (Finishing Line Press, 2012). Beyond campus, Dr. Foster shared his poetry and expertise at readings at The Poetry Foundation in Chicago, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, and more.
His poems have been published in Anglican Theological Review, Books & Culture, Bostonia, The Christian Century, Harvard Review, Yale Review, and other journals, as well as in the anthologies And What Rough Beast: Poems at the End of the Century (Ashland Poetry Press, 1999), American Religious Poems (Library of America, 2006), Best New Poets (University of Virginia Press, 2007), Imago Dei (ACU Press, 2012), Before the Door of God: An Anthology of Devotional Poetry (Yale University Press, 2013), The Gulf Stream: Poems of the Gulf Coast(Snake Nation Press, 2013), and St. Peter’s B-List: Contemporary Poems Inspired by the Saints (Ave Maria Press, 2014).
Dr. Foster received grants from the PEN American Center and the Illinois Arts Council, and was awarded the Willis Barnstone Prize for translation and the Baltimore Review Poetry Prize, among others.
A memorial service for Dr. Foster will take place at 1 p.m. on Saturday, November 14 in Pierce Memorial Chapel, located on the southeast corner of Washington and Franklin streets in Wheaton. An obituary with additional details is available here.

Roger Lundin, 1949-2015

I never met Roger Lundin, but I know dozens of people who have been influenced by his life and his work as a Christian scholar.  My prayers go out today to his family–especially his son Matthew Lundin, a history professor at Wheaton College who I know through our experience in the Lilly Fellows Program in Humanities and the Arts.

Here is the press release from Wheaton:

The Wheaton College community grieves the death of Professor of English and Arthur F. Holmes Professor of Faith and Learning Dr. Roger Lundin. Dr. Lundin died last night from unexpected complications of a heart disorder.
Dr. Lundin graduated from Wheaton College in 1971. He had been on faculty since 1978, and was widely known for his passionate teaching, his dedicated service to colleagues, and his outstanding contributions as a scholar.
“Through his scholarship, teaching, and friendship, Roger Lundin has been a spiritual and intellectual leader at Wheaton College and for Christian higher education,” says Wheaton College President Dr. Philip Graham Ryken ’88. “ As an English major, I took several courses with Dr. Lundin during my time as an undergraduate. In teaching us American literature, he really taught us about American culture and the Christian life.”
Dr. Lundin specialized his research in 19th and 20th-century American literature, the relationship of religion to literature, modern intellectual history, and the history of Christian thought. He served as the President of the Conference on Christianity and Literature, and was Visiting Fellow in Theology and the Arts at the Duke Divinity School in spring 2014.
His award-winning publications include Beginning with the Word: Modern Literature and the Question of Belief (Baker, 2014); Believing Again: Doubt and Faith in a Secular Age (Eerdmans, 2009); From Nature to Experience: The American Search for Cultural Authority (Rowman & Littlefield, 2005), among many others. Edited collections include Christ Across the Disciplines: Past, Present, Future, ed. (Eerdmans, 2013); Invisible Conversations: Religion in the Literature of America (Baylor University Press, 2009); There Before Us: Religion, Literature, and Culture from Emerson to Wendell Berry (Eerdmans, 2007); and Emily Dickinson and the Art of Belief (Eerdmans, 2004).
Dr. Lundin’s articles have been published in journals and books including The Oxford Handbook of Religion and the ArtsReligion and LiteratureThe Beauty of God: Theology and the Arts (InterVarsity Press, 2007), and The Oxford Handbook of Evangelical Theology (Oxford University Press, 2010).
In addition to lecturing on campus, Dr. Lundin has presented at higher education institutions including Baylor University, Regent College, the University of British Columbia, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Notre Dame. 
“I chose to teach English because from a very early age I had found the reading of novels a valuable and necessary experience. I found that as I went through college and seminary I had interests in history and philosophy and theology, but that I couldn’t put novels and poems and plays down. I felt I had to study them. I couldn’t leave them behind,” Dr. Lundin said in the August 1984 issue of Wheaton Magazine, where he was featured as winner of the Junior Teacher of the Year award.
“It’s inconceivable for me to think of teaching—especially teaching subject matter that deals with human values, human desires, human nature, human aspirations—without in one way or another bringing my Christian witness to the material. I think I would be naïve if I were to think that my Christian faith did not influence my reading of literature. I don’t find that a limiting thing, I find it a liberating thing. My concerns as a Christian father, a Christian husband, a Christian worker, a Christian friend, a Christian servant affect the way I read literature,” he said.
“I find it most satisfying to work through the implications of this literature with students who are Christians—or a number of times with students who find it difficult to claim the Christian faith for one reason or another. Because of my own experience, I feel it’s a very necessary task.”
Dr. Lundin is survived by his wife Susan ’71, and their children, Associate Professor of History Dr. Matthew Lundin ’96, Kirsten ’99, and Thomas ’05.
Information about a memorial service for Dr. Lundin will be posted here when it becomes available.

C. Dallett Hemphill Obituary

In case you have not heard, early American historian Dallett Hemphill has passed away.  Here is the obituary:

C. Dallett Hemphill, 56, an American history professor at Ursinus College, an accomplished storyteller, and a scholar whose specialty was social history from colonial times to the 19th century, died at Jefferson Hospital on Friday, July 3, after a prolonged battle with breast cancer.

Ms. Hemphill’s research topics included how the French government provided women for the settlers of Louisiana and the role of women in 18th-century Quaker meetings.  She lived in Erdenheim, Montgomery Country.

She lent her expertise on early-American families and women to “Philadelphia: The Great Experiment,” Sam Katz’s TV documentary series.

“She was just an outstanding scholar and mentor–and just a really wonderful person,” Katz said Sunday.

During her 28 years at Ursinus, Ms. Hemphill taught an array of American history courses, as well as a class on civic engagement based on Philadelphia government and politics.  Instead of focusing on the city’s elected officials, Ms. Hemphill had students interview people who dealt regularly with the city from other perspectives, including neighborhood activists, ward leaders, political consultants, reporters, and City Hall lobbyists.

She was the author of two books published by Oxford University Press: Bowing to Necessities: A History of Manners in America, 1620-1860 and Siblings: Brothers and Sisters in American History.
Read the rest here.

C. Dallett Hemphill, RIP

I just learned this morning from Dan Richter that early American historian C. Dallett Hemphill of Ursinus College passed away yesterday. Few details surrounding her death have been made public.

Those of you who knew Dallett or her work will be devastated by this news.  Anyone affiliated with the McNeil Center for Early American Studies knows that she was a fixture at the Center’s Friday seminars.  She was one of the most intellectually curious people I have ever encountered.

Dallett was one of the outside readers of my book The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in Early America.  She took the job seriously, providing the University of Pennsylvania Press with a three or four pages of single-space commentary on the manuscript.  I will always appreciate the way she championed this book and encouraged me in the process.  You can read her blurb here.

Dallett will be remembered for her two major books: Bowing to Necessities: A History of Manners in America, 1620-1860 (Oxford, 1999) and Siblings: Brothers and Sisters in American History (Oxford, 2011).  She was also, by all reports, a committed undergraduate mentor and teacher at Ursinus.  For the last several years she served as editor of Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal.

This is a huge loss for the early American history community.

Liz Covart on "The Art of the Obituary"

I am so glad to have Liz Covart on our team for the 2014 AHA.  Liz’s blog Uncommonplace Book is must reading for independent historians or any historian who wants to develop a writing platform and speak to public audiences.  Yesterday Liz attended a session entitled “Historians, Journalists, and the Challenges of Getting It Right: The Art and Craft of the Obituary.”  Here is her report:

On Thursday January 2, 2014, I attended “Historians, Journalists, and the Challenges of Getting it Right: The Art and Craft of the Obituary.” Sponsored by the National History Center, this roundtable panel included Journalism professor Janice R. Hume (University of Georgia), Adam Bernstein, Editor at The Washington Post, New York Times reporter Adam Clymer, and panel chair, Martin H. Kaplan (University of Southern California). Kaplan posed questions to each panelist and allowed the other panelists to chime in with their thoughts afterwards.

The panel imparted fun and informative information about obituaries, their history, and the ethics involved in writing them.

Janet R. Hume provided historical information and contextualized the panelists’ discussion. Hume wrote the book on early obituaries. Obituaries in American Culture surveys more than 8,000 newspaper obituaries between 1818 and 1930.

According to Hume, obituaries in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century America reported on the qualities that people admired about the deceased. They tended to be sentimental pieces written by editors who used familial accounts as source information. (Prior to the Civil War newspapers did not have reporters to conduct interviews with people who knew the deceased.) As a result of this source material and a strong Christian influence, early obituaries tended to be overly polite; they tried to fit people into categories that they did not fit into because they wanted to highlight the deceased’s moral goodness.

Hume also remarked on how early American obituaries discussed dying in metaphorical and poetic terms. People did not die. Instead, they were “scathed by the wing of the angel of death.”

Finally, Hume discussed the obituary as a historical source. Early obituaries reflect the cultural resonance of death stories with nineteenth- and twentieth-century Americans. Hume cautioned historians to be careful with how they use obituaries as obituary writers have a cultural filter that they impose on their writing. She also stated that online obituary message boards and comment threads offer scholars a new view on how our contemporaries participate in the bereavement process by interacting with obituaries.

Adam Bernstein discussed the logistics of being a modern-day obituary writer. First and foremost, obituaries are news stories. They impart the news that someone has died and function as an “accountability” story for the life and accomplishments of the deceased.

The Washington Post publishes approximately 2,000 obituaries a year and has about 400 advance obituaries on file. Newspapers keep obituaries on file for the President and other famous and important national and world leaders in case something happens. These advance copies give the obituary reporter a draft that they can quickly update, which in turn helps the writers keep their publications on top of the news cycle.

Bernstein also noted that modern-day newspapers are more egalitarian about who gets an obituary. Prior to the 1980s, a person who read obituaries may have thought that few women and African-Americans died. Newspapers often printed obituaries for white men, but rarely for women and African-Americans.

In contrast with The Washington Post, Adam Clymer noted that The New York Times does not print obituaries for local people and the NYT has approximately 1500 advance obituaries on file. Clymer also discussed the art of interviewing people for an advance obituary. Clymer calls the person and tells them that he is a reporter with The New York Times and that he would like to interview them about the story of their political career. Often his subjects do not realize who he is or what he is writing. Most assume that “it is about time” that The New York Times has called for their story. Some of his interviewees figure out his purpose, but most do not know that they are recording their thoughts and achievements for posterity.

The audience question and answer session started several interesting, brief discussions about the differences between American obituaries and their British counterparts, how obituary writers need to stick to the “public” facts of a person’s life while historians remain free to probe into the personal details of a deceased person’s life, and recognized that poets like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Walt Whitman wrote some of the most interesting early obituaries in verse.

Thanks, Liz.  Stay tuned for Liz’s next post on a session on writing history for public audiences.

Oscar Handlin R.I.P.

I always begin my course on the immigrant experience in America by talking about the work of Oscar Handlin and his book The Uprooted: The Epic Story of the Great Migrations That Made the American People.  It won the Pulitzer Prize for history in 1952.  I was thus saddened to hear of Handlin’s passing.  Here is a taste of an obituary published in the Philadelphia Inquirer. 

Oscar Handlin, 95, a prolific, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian whose best-known book altered public perceptions about the role of immigration in U.S. history, died Tuesday at home in Cambridge, Mass.

Mr. Handlin wrote many scholarly volumes on immigration, race, and ethnic identity during his nearly half-century as a history professor at Harvard University. His work as a chronicler of the migrations of Puerto Ricans and African Americans to cities attracted a generation of scholars to the field of urban studies in the 1950s, when it was considered marginal.

But his best-known work, The Uprooted: The Epic Story of the Great Migrations That Made the American People, which won the 1952 Pulitzer for history, was aimed at general readers in making his case that immigration, more than the frontier experience, or any other episode in its past, was the continuing, defining event of U.S. history. Dispensing with footnotes and writing in a lyrical style, Mr. Handlin emphasized the common threads in the experiences of the 30 million immigrants who poured into U.S. cities between 1820 and the turn of the century. Regardless of nationality, religion, race, or ethnicity, he wrote, the common experience was wrenching hardship, alienation, and a gradual Americanization that changed the United States as much as it changed the newcomers.

The book used a form of historical scholarship considered unorthodox, employing newspaper accounts, personal letters, and diaries as well as archives.

Mr. Handlin, whose parents were Jewish immigrants from Russia, was among the first Jewish scholars appointed to a full professorship at Harvard, where he taught from 1939 until 1984. 

“All his work tried to capture the voice and experience of people undergoing this uprooting process, this process of immigration,” said David J. Rothman, a history professor at Columbia University and a former student of Mr. Handlin’s. “He was alert to the fact that every group was different. But this process, regardless of whether you were Irish or Jewish, was something shared.”