When the United States government passed the Bill of Rights in 1791, its uncompromising protection of speech and of the press were unlike anything the world had ever seen before. But by 1798, the once-dazzling young republic of the United States was on the verge of collapse: partisanship gripped the weak federal government, British seizures threatened American goods and men on the high seas, and war with France seemed imminent as its own democratic revolution deteriorated into terror. Suddenly, the First Amendment, which protected harsh commentary of the weak government, no longer seemed as practical.
So that July, President John Adams and the Federalists in control of Congress passed an extreme piece of legislation that made criticism of the government and its leaders a crime punishable by heavy fines and jail time. In Liberty’s First Crisis, writer Charles Slack tells the story of the 1798 Sedition Act, the crucial moment when high ideals met real-world politics and the country’s future hung in the balance.
David Shipler reported for the New York Times from 1966 to 1988 in New York, Saigon, Moscow, Jerusalem, and Washington DC. He is the author of six books including the best sellers Russia, and The Working Poor, as well as Arab and Jew which won the Pulitzer Prize.
His new book, Rights at Risk: The Limits of Liberty in Modern America, is an examination of violations of the constitutional principles that preserve individual rights and civil liberties from court rooms to class rooms.
Bret Stephens, winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is the foreign affairs columnist and deputy editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal. His new book is: America In Retreat: The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder.
In the face of economic troubles at home, Americans have been weary of acting as the world’s policeman. Troops are coming home in some cases, certain military spending is being cut, and surveillance programs are being exposed and curtailed.
Stephens makes the case that there is a profound connection between the new global disorder and America’s diminishing international footprint.
Azar Nafisi, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Reading Lolita in Tehran, is here to tell us about her new book: The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books.
Ten years ago, Nafisi wrote Reading Lolita in Tehran, which told the story of how she taught American literature to eager students in Iran, revealing how fiction can be a liberating force in a totalitarian society.
Blending memoir with close readings of four of her favorite novels—Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Sinclair Lewis’s Babbitt, Carson McCullers’s The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter and James Baldwin’s Another Country—Azar describes how she first discovered America and its fictional landscape as a young girl in Tehran and reminds us of the crucial role that literature played in the lives of the founding fathers.
Blue Gold: American Jeans is a feature-length documentary about how one unlikely garment ended up connecting us all. Following vintage jeans hunter Eric Schrader around the world, Blue Gold searches for the reason we all wear blue mining pants from the late 1800s.
An ambassador of Americana, Eric trades in the history, myth, and intrinsic values that have made blue jeans the most expensive and fetishized piece of vintage clothing on the planet. From fashion history and subculture aspiration to the lost tradition of American manufacturing, Blue Gold explores Americana in our globalized world, where cultural exchange and social responsibility demand greater transparency and inspire innovation.
Blue Gold: American Jeans will have its festival premiere at The Berkshire International Film Festival this weekend -- screening at 11:30am on Saturday at The Beacon in Pittsfield and again at 11:30am on Sunday at The Triplex in Great Barrington.
With insights gained from original scholarship and an unusual breadth of experience in finance and government, Bill White distils practical lessons from the nation's five previous spikes in debt. America's Fiscal Constitution is an entertaining and objective guide for people trying to make sense of the current and most dangerous debt crisis.
Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte was renowned as the most beautiful woman of nineteenth-century Baltimore. Her marriage in 1803 to Jérôme Bonaparte, the youngest brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, became inextricably bound to the diplomatic and political histories of the United States, France, and England.
In Wondrous Beauty, Carol Berkin tells the story of this audacious, outsized life.
Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld join us to discuss their controversial book of The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America
Why do some groups rise? Drawing on groundbreaking original research and startling statistics, The Triple Package uncovers the secret to their success. A superiority complex, insecurity, impulse control—these are the elements of the Triple Package, the rare and potent cultural constellation that drives disproportionate group success.
Growing up in a small river town in Illinois, Diane Johnson always dreamed of floating down the Mississippi and off to see the world. Years later, at home in France, a French friend teases her: “Indifference to history—that’s why you Americans seem so naïve and don’t really know where you’re from.”
In her new memoir, Flyover Lives, Johnson explores the Midwest and the family’s history. In digging around, she discovered letters and memoirs written by generations of stalwart pioneer ancestors.
Historian Lincoln Paine has just written a monumental retelling of world history through the lens of maritime enterprise, revealing in breathtaking depth how people first came into contact with one another by ocean and river, lake and stream, and how goods, languages, religions, and entire cultures spread across and along the world’s waterways, bringing together civilizations and defining what makes us most human.
In his book, Sea and Civilization: A Maitime History of the World, Lincoln Paine takes us back to the origins of long-distance migration by sea with our ancestors’ first forays from Africa and Eurasia to Australia and the Americas.