Category Archives: Books

George Washington’s Revolution


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ben_franklins_worldWhat drove George Washington to become a Patriot during the American Revolution?

How did he overcome the ill-trained and inexperienced troops, inadequate pay, and supply problems that plagued the Continental Army to win the War for American Independence?

In this episode of Ben Franklin’s World: A Podcast About Early American History, we revisit our conversation with Robert Middlekauff, professor emeritus of colonial and early United States history at the University of California, Berkeley, as we explore details from his book Washington’s Revolution: The Making of America’s First Leader (Vintage, 2015).You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/146.

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Saratoga Race Course Historian Lecture, Reception


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the spa book coverThe Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation will host an event honoring the history and future of the Saratoga Race Course on Tuesday, August 15, 2017 at 5:30 pm at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, 191 Union Avenue.

Following a reception in the Sculpture Gallery, Paul Roberts, an internationally-renowned expert on race courses, will give a presentation and sign copies of the second edition of The Spa: Saratoga’s Legendary Race Course beginning at 7 pm. The book highlights the history of the oldest sports venue in the United States. Continue reading

Law & Disorder: The Chaotic Birth Of The NYPD


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law and order book coverIn his new book Law & Disorder: The Chaotic Birth Of The NYPD (Thomas Dunne Books, 2017) historian Bruce Chadwick argues that rampant violence led to the founding of the first professional police force in New York City.

Chadwick paints a picture of a bloody and violent city, where race relations and an influx of immigrants boiled over into riots, street gangs roved through town with abandon, and thousands of bars, prostitutes, and gambling emporiums clogged the streets.

Chadwick says that in the 19th century the crime rate was triple what it is today and the murder rate was five or six times as high. The drive to establish law and order involved some of New York’s biggest personalities, including mayor Fernando Wood and journalist Walt Whitman. Continue reading

Mercy Otis Warren and the American Revolution


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ben_franklins_worldMercy Otis Warren wasn’t your typical early American woman. She was a woman with strong political viewpoints, which she wrote about and published for the world to see and consider.

Did anyone take her views seriously?

Did her writings sway public opinion in the direction of her political views?

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, Rosemarie Zagarri, author of A Woman’s Dilemma: Mercy Otis Warren and the American Revolution (Wiley-Blackwell 2015), helps us kick off a new, six-episode series about the people of the American Revolution by taking us through the life of Mercy Otis Warren. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/145

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Radical Gotham: Anarchism in NYC


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radical gothamNew York City’s identity as a cultural and artistic center, as a point of arrival for millions of immigrants sympathetic to anarchist ideas, and as a hub of capitalism made the city a unique and dynamic terrain for anarchist activity. For 150 years, Gotham’s cosmopolitan setting created a unique interplay between anarchism’s human actors and an urban space that invites constant reinvention.

A new book edited by Tom Goyens’, Radical Gotham: Anarchism in New York City From Schwab’s Saloon To Occupy Wall Street (UI Press, 2017) gathers essays that demonstrate anarchism’s endurance as a political and cultural ideology and movement in New York from the 1870s to 2011.

The authors cover the gamut of anarchy’s emergence in and connection to the city. Some offer important new insights on German, Italian, and Yiddish- and Spanish-speaking anarchists. Others explore anarchism’s influence on religion, politics, and the visual and performing arts. A concluding essay looks at Occupy Wall Street’s roots in New York City’s anarchist tradition. Continue reading

Beauty In The City: The Ashcan School


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beauty in the cityRobert A. Slayton’s new book Beauty In The City: The Ashcan School (SUNY Press, 2017) takes a look back to the beginning of the twentieth century, when the Ashcan School of Art blazed onto the art scene, introducing a revolutionary vision of New York City.

In contrast to the elite artists who painted the upper class bedecked in finery, in front of magnificent structures, or the progressive reformers who photographed the city as a slum, hopeless and full of despair, the Ashcan School held the unique belief that the industrial working-class city was a fit subject for great art.

Beauty in the City illustrates how these artists portrayed the working classes with respect and gloried in the drama of the subways and excavation sites, the office towers, and immigrant housing. Their art captured the emerging metropolis in all its facets, with its potent machinery and its class, ethnic, and gender issues. Continue reading

Chenango Canal: A Million Dollar Ditch


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Chenango Canal: The Million Dollar Ditch A new book by author Wade A. Lallier, Chenango Canal: The Million Dollar Ditch (Arcadia Publishing, 2017) chronicles the story of a Central New York State canal and how it changed the region. In 1825, the Omnibus Canal Bill had called for a survey of a canal linking the Susquehanna River at Binghamton to the Erie Canal in Utica. The idea of a canal was well received in the Chenango Valley but was opposed by many outside it. Continue reading

The Making of the United States Constitution


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ben_franklins_worldHow did the framers draft the Constitution of 1787? What powers does the Constitution provide the federal government? Why do we elect the President of the United States by an electoral system rather than by popular vote?

These are some of the many questions listeners have asked since November 2016. And in this episode of Ben Franklin’s World: A Podcast About Early American History, we’re going to explore some answers with Michael Klarman, author of The Founders’ Coup: The Making of the United States Constitution (Oxford University Press, 2016). You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/143

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A Remarkable WWII Veteran With NYC Ties


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the indestructible manA new book about a little-known hero of World War II — and one with strong ties to the New York City area — has just been published by local writer David Rocco. Rocco has recently co-authored the book The Indestructible Man (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017), the story of Navy officer Dixie Kiefer, who was an instrumental player in major battles in World War II. Kiefer was the executive officer on the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown at both the Battle of the Coral Sea and Battle of Midway. He was the last man off Yorktown before she sank at Midway.

Though seriously injured, he swam through shark-infested waters pushing a life raft filled with hurt sailors toward a rescue ship. Later, as captain of the carrier USS Ticonderoga, his ship came under attack by kamikaze aircraft. Though critically wounded by flying shrapnel, he remained on the bridge, overseeing counter-attacks and damage control for twelve hours. Continue reading