Category Archives: Books

An Environmental History of Early California & Hawaii


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ben_franklins_worldIn this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, we explore how Spanish longhorn cattle influenced the early American and environmental histories of California and Hawaii with John Ryan Fischer, author of Cattle Colonialism: An Environmental History of the Conquest of California and Hawaii (UNCPress, 2015).  You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/067

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The Amazing Career Of Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler


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nicholas miraculousIn Nicholas Miraculous: The Amazing Career of the Redoubtable Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler (Columbia Univ. Press, 2015), Michael Rosenthal explores the life of Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler (1862–1947).

To some, like Teddy Roosevelt, he was “Nicholas Miraculous,” the fabled educator who had a hand in everything; to others, like Upton Sinclair, he was “the intellectual leader of the American plutocracy,” a champion of “false and cruel ideals.” Ezra Pound branded him “one of the more loathsome figures” of the age. Whether celebrated or despised, Nicholas Murray Butler was undeniably an irresistible force who helped shape American history. Continue reading

Crossing Broadway, Washington Heights and the Promise of New York City


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Crossing BroadwayIn Crossing Broadway Washington: Heights and the Promise of New York City (Cornell University Press, 2014), Robert W. Snyder explores New York City in the 1970s.

When the South Bronx burned and the promise of New Deal New York and postwar America gave way to despair, the people of Washington Heights at the northern tip of Manhattan were increasingly vulnerable.

The Heights had long been a neighborhood where generations of newcomers — Irish, Jewish, Greek, African American, Cuban, and Puerto Rican — carved out better lives in their adopted city. But as New York City shifted from an industrial base to a service economy, new immigrants from the Dominican Republic struggled to gain a foothold. This was followed by the crack epidemic of the 1980s,  and the drug wars. Continue reading

Washington’s Spies: America’s First Spy Ring


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ben_franklins_worldIn this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, we explore espionage during the American Revolution and the origins and operations of the Culper Spy Ring with Alexander Rose, author of Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring (Bantam, 2007) and a historian, writer, and producer for AMC’s television drama TURN. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/065 Continue reading

Destruction and the American Civil War


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ben_franklins_worldThe American Civil War claimed more than 620,000 American lives. It also cost American forests, landscapes, cities, and institutions.

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, we explore the different types of ruination wrought by the American Civil War with Megan Kate Nelson, author of Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War (University of Georgia Press, 2012). You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/063

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The Bill of Rights on the Ben Franklin’s World podcast


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ben_franklins_worldDid you know that when James Madison originally proposed the Bill of Rights, it consisted of 36 amendments and that the House of Representatives did not want to consider or debate Madison’s proposed amendments to the Constitution?

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, we explore the Bill of Rights and its ratification with Carol Berkin, author of The Bill of Rights: The Fight to Secure America’s Liberties (Simon and Schuster, 2015). You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/062

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George Washington in Retirement


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ben_franklins_worldIf you had only six years to enjoy retirement what would you do?

Would you improve your plantation? Build canals? Or work behind-the-scenes to unite your country by framing a new central government?

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, we explore George Washington’s brief retirement from public service with Edward Larson, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in History and author of The Return of George Washington, 1783-1789 (William Morrow, 2014). You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/061

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Braddock’s Defeat: The Battle of the Monongahela


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ben_franklins_worldDid George Washington start the French and Indian War?

Why should we remember a battle that took place over 260 years ago?

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, we investigate the answers to those questions as we explore the Battle of the Monongahela with David Preston, author of Braddock’s Defeat: The Battle of the Monongahela and the Road to Revolution (Oxford University Press, 2015). You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/060

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The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad


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ben_franklins_worldBetween the 1830s and 1860s, a clandestine communications and transportation network called the “Underground Railroad” helped thousands of slaves escape to freedom.

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, we investigate this secret network with Eric Foner, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author of Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad (W.W. Norton & Co., 2015). You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/059

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How We Remember the American Revolution


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ben_franklins_worldWhy do we choose to remember the American Revolution as a glorious event that had almost universal, colonial support when in fact, the Revolution’s events were bloody, violent, and divisive?

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, we explore our memory of the American Revolution and how our memory of the event and its participants evolved with Andrew Schocket, author of Fighting Over the Founders: How We Remember the American Revolution (NYU Press, 2015). You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/058

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A New Book About Catskills History


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catskillshistoryStephen M. Silverman grew up in Los Angeles and admits he knew nothing about the Catskills before coming to New York to attend college. And yet, despite that rather late introduction to the area, he has managed to write what promises to become one of the most important books about the region, released last month by Knopf.

In fact, from the first glimpse of its colorful dust jacket to the final profound phrase on the last page of text, The Catskills: Its History and How it Changed America is about as impressive a book as you are likely to find on this or any subject.  The history is comprehensive, covering virtually everything from the Hardenbergh Patent to Washington Irving to hydraulic fracturing to casinos; the illustrations are magnificent, including some of the most breathtaking renderings of Asher Durand and Thomas Cole; and the sources are impeccable, most notably hours and hours of videotaped interviews with respected modern authorities. Continue reading

War, Money, and the American State, 1783-1867


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ben_franklins_worldAs Benjamin Franklin stated in 1789, “nothing is certain but death and taxes.” Given the certainty of taxes it seems important that we understand how the United States’ fiscal system developed.

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, we explore the development of the early American fiscal system with Max Edling, Professor of History at King’s College, London and author of A Hercules in the Cradle: War, Money, and the American State, 1783-1867 (University of Chicago Press, 2014). You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/057

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Hugh Donlon’s ‘The Mohawk Valley’


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The Mohwak Valley by Hugh DonlonWritten during the 1930’s, but unpublished during his lifetime, Hugh Donlon’s The Mohawk Valley is a broad overview of the author’s native region from the end of the last ice age to the third decade of the twentieth century.

In the Foreward to The Mohawk Valley, Hugh P. Donlon argues that the region’s history has been well-documented both in “extensive compilations” too long for the “average reader” and in shorter “pamphlets chiefly concerned with a particular event or section of the valley.” His goal was different. Continue reading

The Historians Podcast Explores 1932


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The Historians LogoThis week “The Historians” podcast features David Pietrusza of Glenville, N.Y. who has written numerous books, including a trilogy of volumes (1920, 1960, and 1948) on American Presidential electoral history. Pietrusza’s newest book is 1932: The Rise of Hitler and FDR – Two Tales of Politics, Betrayal and Unlikely Destiny (Lyons Press, 2015). You can Listen to the podcast here. Continue reading