Category Archives: Books

American Exceptionalism: The History of an Idea


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ben_franklins_worldWhat is the underlying ideological current that links Americans together regardless of their ancestral or regional diversity?

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, we explore “American Exceptionalism” and the ideas it embodies with John D. Wilsey, author of American Exceptionalism and Civil Religion: Reassessing the History of an Idea (IVP Academic, 2015)You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/054

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Early United States-Haitian Diplomacy


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ben_franklins_worldMuch like the United States, the colonists of Saint Domingue (present-day Haiti) sought their independence from France by fighting a war and waging a revolution. However, unlike the Americans, the San Dominguans who fought the war and waged the revolution were predominantly African and Caribbean-born slaves.

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, we explore the Haitian Revolution and the quest of both the United States and Saint Domingue to establish diplomatic and trade relations with each other. Our guide for this exploration is Ronald A. Johnson, a history professor at Texas State University and author of Diplomacy in Black and White: John Adams, Toussaint L’Ouverture, and Their Atlantic World Alliance (University of Georgia Press, 2014). You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/052

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The Burned-Over District and Mexican Revolution


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francisco-i-madero-bhimaWhen Halley’s comet, that star with the quetzal’s tail, flared across Mexican skies in 1910, it heralded not only the centennial of Independence, but a deeply transformative episode, the Revolution launched by Francisco I. Madero on November 20, what Javier Garciadiego calls “the true beginning of a process, the birth of the modern Mexican state.” The great chorus of Mexican historians agrees. And yet, almost unknown and curious as it may sound, a vital taproot of this revolution lies in the Burned-Over District of New York State.

As a writer of both fiction and nonfiction, I have learned to appreciate that fact can be stranger than anything one might imagine. Before returning to the Burned-Over District, a word about Francisco I. Madero and how I came upon his Manual espírita, this until now obscure and yet profoundly illuminating book – at the very least for understanding Madero himself, why and how he led Mexico’s 1910 Revolution, and the seething contempt of those behind the overthrow of his government and his assassination. Continue reading

Frontier Seaport: A History of Early Detroit


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ben_franklins_worldDuring the 18th century, Detroit emerged as a cosmopolitan entrepôt filled with many different peoples and all of the goods you would expect to find in early Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, or Charleston.

Today, we explore the early history of Detroit with Catherine Cangany, an associate professor of history at the University of Notre Dame and author of Frontier Seaport: Detroit’s Transformation into an Atlantic Entrepôt (Chicago University Press, 2014). You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/051

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Betsy Ross & The Making Of America


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ben_franklins_worldHow did every day men and women experience life in colonial America?

How did the American Revolution transform their work and personal lives?

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, we explore the answers to those questions by investigating the life of Betsy Ross with Marla Miller, professor of history at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and author of Betsy Ross and the Making of America (Henry Holt & Co, 2010). You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/050

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Enemy Captives of the War for Independence


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ben_franklins_worldIn this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, we explore the day-to-day experiences of British and German POWs during the War for Independence with Ken Miller, Associate Professor of History at Washington College and author of Dangerous Guests: Enemy Captives and Revolutionary Communities during the War for Independence (Cornell, 2014). You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/048

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England and the American Revolution


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The Historians LogoThis week “The Historians” podcast features British journalist Nick Bunker, author of An Empire on the Edge: How Britain Came to Fight America. (Vintage Books, 2015). The book is a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Bunker takes a detailed look at English politics, economics and culture before and during the American Revolution. Listen at “The Historians” online archive here.
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The Vegetarian Crusade: An American Reform Movement


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ben_franklins_worldIn this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, Adam Shprintzen, Assistant Professor of History at Marywood University and author of The Vegetarian Crusade: The Rise of an American Reform Movement, 1817-1921 (University of North Carolina Press, 2013), takes us on a journey through the origins of vegetarianism and the Vegetarian reform movement in the United States. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/044

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75-Year-Old History Book Finally Published


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The Historians LogoThis week “The Historians” podcast features an interview with Dave Northrup, editor of the late Hugh Donlon’s book The Mohawk Valley (Mountain Air Books); Donlon wrote the book during the 1930s when he was a reporter and columnist for the Amsterdam Evening Recorder. You can listen here.

“The Historians” podcast is also heard each Monday at 11:30 am and Wednesday at 11 am on RISE, WMHT’s radio service for the blind and print disabled in New York’s Capital Region and Hudson Valley.

“The Historians” podcast is recorded at Dave Greene’s Eastline Studio. You can support this podcast by making a contribution to “The Historians” GoFundMe page: http://www.gofundme.com/TheHistorians

Adirondack Philosophers’ Camp Talk In Saratoga Springs


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The Story of the Philosophers CampIn 1858 some of the leading lights of American art, literature, and science camped together on Follensby Pond near Tupper Lake at what is now known as the Philosophers’ Camp.

The gathering was organized by Willam James Stillman, artist and editor of acclaimed art magazine of the time, The Crayon. It included transcendental philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, the poet James Russel Lowell, Harvard scientist Jean Louis Agassiz, and others.

The meeting at Follensby was widely covered in the popular press of the time and fueled an interest in the Adirondacks and retreating into the wilderness to write, make art and discuss the issues of the day. Continue reading

George Whitefield: Race and Revivalism


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The Historians LogoThis week “The Historians” podcast features an interview with Jessica Parr, author of Inventing George Whitefield: Race, Revivalism, and the Making of a Religious Icon (Mississippi, 2015). Whitefield was a founding father of American evangelicalism in the 1700s. Parr looks at his missionary career and his effort to reconcile his disdain for some plantation owners with his belief that slavery was an economic necessity in the American South. Listen at “The Historians” online archive here. Continue reading

Magna Carta & North America


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ben_franklins_world2015 marks the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. Its four key principles continue to influence and inspire the governments of English-speaking countries around the world, including the United States and Canada.

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, we explore Magna Carta and its long legacy with Carolyn Harris, author of Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada: Democracy, Law, and Human Rights (Dundurn Press, 2015). You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/038.

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Wilder Homestead Named Literary Landmark


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WilderThe Wilder Homestead in Burke, NY, will be designated a Literary Landmark during a celebration on Saturday, July 11. The Homestead is the setting for Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy (1933), and is where Laura’s husband Almanzo grew up from 1857 until his family moved to Minnesota in 1875.

A bronze plaque will be unveiled during the celebration in conjunction with the Homestead’s Children’s Art Event (10 am to 4 pm). There will be art activities for children and 19th century games, along with an awards ceremony for the children’s art show. The public is invited to hear author and historian William Anderson speak about the Ingalls/Wilder family homes. Museum admission applies to this event. Continue reading

Peconic Bay: History on Long Island


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peconic bayBordered on the south by the Atlantic Ocean and on the north by Long Island Sound, the Peconic Bay region, including the North and South Forks, has only recently been recognized for its environmental and economic significance. The story of the waterway and its contiguous land masses is one of farmers and fishermen, sailing vessels and submarines, wealthy elite residents, and award winning vineyards.

Peconic Bay: Four Centuries of History on Long Island’s North and South Forks (Syracuse Univ. Press, 2015) examines the past 400 years of the region’s history, tracing the growth of the fishing industry, the rise of tourism, and the impact of a military presence in the wake of September 11. Continue reading

Bronx Stories of Courage, Commitment


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Bronx Faces and VoicesIn Bronx Faces and Voices: Sixteen Stories of Courage and Commitment (Texas Tech University Press, 2014) sixteen men and women – religious leaders and activists, elected officials and ordinary citizens tell their personal, uncensored stories of the New York City borough — before, during, and after the troubled years of arson, crime, abandonment, and flight in the 1970s and 1980s.

The interviews are drawn from the Bronx Institute Archives Oral History Project’s interviews with hundreds of Bronx residents in the early 1980s, now held in the Special Collections division of the Leonard Lief Library of Lehman College, CUNY. Continue reading