american history

In The Constitution Today, Akhil Reed Amar, America’s preeminent constitutional scholar, considers the biggest and most bitterly contested debates of the last two decades and provides a passionate handbook for thinking constitutionally about today’s headlines.

Amar shows how the Constitution’s text, history, and structure are a crucial repository of collective wisdom, providing specific rules and grand themes relevant to every organ of the American body politic.

The Constitution states that it is Congress that declares war, but it is the presidents who have more often taken us to war and decided how to wage it.

In Waging War, David J. Barron opens with an account of George Washington and the Continental Congress over Washington’s plan to burn New York City before the British invasion. Congress ordered him not to, and he obeyed. Barron takes us through all the wars that followed: 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American war, World Wars One and Two, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and now, most spectacularly, the War on Terror.

National Geographic Channel - Hopper Stone

Tim Matheson (Animal House, The West Wing) is playing President Ronald Reagan in National Geographic's Killing Reagan (based on the Bill O’Reilly book series). Cynthia Nixon portrays Nancy Reagan.

The TV movie will premiere this Sunday, October 16th.

In 1932, as her husband assumed the presidency, Eleanor Roosevelt entered the claustrophobic, duty-bound existence of the First Lady with dread. By that time, she had put her deep disappointment in her marriage behind her and developed an independent life—now threatened by the public role she would be forced to play. A lifeline came to her in the form of a feisty campaign reporter for the Associated Press: Lorena Hickok. Over the next thirty years, until Eleanor’s death, the two women carried on an extraordinary relationship: They were, at different points, lovers, confidantes, professional advisors, and caring friends.

Susan Quinn has written a book about their unique relationship entitled Eleanor and Hick: The Love Affair That Shaped a First Lady. Quinn has an author talk and signing scheduled at the The FDR Presidential Library on Thursday, October 13 at 7 p.m.

Susan Quinn is the author of Furious Improvisation: How the WPA and a Cast of Thousands Made High Art Out of Desperate Times and Marie Curie: A Life, among other books. Her work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, the Atlantic, and other publications. She is the former president of PEN New England.

Did you know that many of America’s Founding Fathers― who fought for liberty and justice for all ― were slave owners?

Through the powerful stories of five enslaved people who were “owned” by four of our greatest presidents, Kenneth Davis’ new book, In the Shadow of Liberty, helps set the record straight about the role slavery played in the founding of America.

From Billy Lee, valet to George Washington, to Alfred Jackson, faithful servant of Andrew Jackson, these dramatic narratives explore our country’s great tragedy―that a nation “conceived in liberty” was also born in shackles.

Kenneth C. Davis is the New York Times bestselling author of America’s Hidden History and Don’t Know Much About History, which gave rise to the "Don’t Know Much About" series of books for adults and children. 

Lost Radio Rounders, Albany’s acclaimed acoustic American roots duo, recently released Politics & Patriots, a 15-song album that shines a light on campaign songs from George Washington to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The disc features Tom Lindsay and Michael Eck playing over 24 different instruments.

The combo is also takes the show on the road, playing 10 dates in seven counties and two states during the run up to Election Day. Lindsay and Eck recount the history behind the songs, noting, with a chuckle, that in terms of political rancor, backstabbing and name-calling there truly is nothing new under the sun.

Lost Radio Rounders will begin its official Politics & Patriots tour with a special record release concert 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 6 at Mabee Farm Historic Site in Rotterdam. We welcome Tom Lindsay and Michael Eck.

  Jeffrey Toobin is a New Yorker Staff writer and is the senior legal analyst for CNN.

His new book is American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst which revisits the famous kidnapping and the ongoing question of Hearst's motivations and loyalty in the 19 months that followed her abduction.

  Jennifer Chiaverini is the New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Grant and Madame JuleMrs. Lincoln's DressmakerThe SpymistressMrs. Lincoln's Rival, and the Elm Creek Quilts series.

Her new novel, Fates and Traitors, is about John Wilkes Booth, the mercurial son of an acclaimed British stage actor and Covent Garden flower girl, committed one of the most notorious acts in American history—the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

FDR's Right-Hand Woman

Sep 8, 2016

  The FDR Presidential Library will host an author talk and book signing at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, September 8, 2016 with Kathryn Smith author of The Gatekeeper: Missy LeHand, FDR, and the Untold Story of the Partnership That Defined a Presidency.

Widely considered the first female presidential chief of staff, Marguerite “Missy” LeHand was the right-hand woman to Franklin Delano Roosevelt—both personally and professionally—for more than twenty years. Although her official title as personal secretary was relatively humble, her power and influence were unparalleled. Everyone in the White House knew one truth: If you wanted access to Franklin, you had to get through Missy. She was one of his most trusted advisors, affording her a unique perspective on the president that no one else could claim, and she was deeply admired and respected by Eleanor and the Roosevelt children.

  Called “thoroughly informative and approachable” by The New York Times, Vernon Benjamin’s The History of the Hudson River Valley: From Wilderness to the Civil War presented nearly 250 years of the Hudson River Valley’s dynamic past with unmatched richness and detail.

Now with The History of the Hudson River Valley: from the Civil War to Modern Times, Benjamin completes his historical account of the region by taking readers from the post-Civil War period into the present day.  

  Scott Woolley's new book, The Network: The Battle for the Airwaves and the Birth of the Communications Age is the origin story of the airwaves - the foundational technology of the communications age - as told through the forty-year friendship of an entrepreneurial industrialist and a brilliant inventor.

  John Quincy Adams was the last of his kind—a Puritan from the age of the Founders who despised party and compromise, yet dedicated himself to politics and government. The son of John Adams, he was a brilliant ambassador and secretary of state, a frustrated president at a historic turning point in American politics, and a dedicated congressman who literally died in office—at the age of 80, in the House of Representatives, in the midst of an impassioned political debate.

In John Quincy Adams, scholar and journalist James Traub draws on Adams’ diary, letters, and writings to evoke a diplomat and president whose ideas remain with us today.

  A feminist, an outspoken activist, a woman without a college education, Midge Costanza was one of the unlikeliest of White House insiders. Yet in 1977 she became the first female Assistant to the President for Public Liaison under Jimmy Carter, emerging as a prominent focal point of the American culture wars. Tasked with bringing the views of special interest groups to the president, Costanza championed progressive causes even as Americans grew increasingly divided on the very issues for which she fought. 

In A Feminist in the White House, Doreen Mattingly draws on Costanza's personal papers to shed light on the life of this fascinating and controversial woman.

  In The Highest Glass Ceiling, best-selling historian Ellen Fitzpatrick tells the story of three remarkable women who set their sights on the American presidency. Victoria Woodhull (1872), Margaret Chase Smith (1964), and Shirley Chisholm (1972) each challenged persistent barriers confronted by women presidential candidates.

Their quest illuminates today’s political landscape, showing that Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign belongs to a much longer, arduous, and dramatic journey.

  In his new book, The End of White Christian America, Robert P. Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, challenges us to grasp the profound political and cultural consequences of a new reality—that America is no longer a majority white Christian nation.

For most of our nation’s history, White Christian America (WCA)—the cultural and political edifice built primarily by white Protestant Christians—set the tone for our national policy and shaped American ideals. But especially since the 1990s, WCA has steadily lost influence, following declines within both its mainline and evangelical branches. Today, America is no longer demographically or culturally a majority white Christian nation.

  Set against the backdrop of an expanding nation, Eric Jay Dolin's book, Brilliant Beaconstraces the evolution of America's lighthouse system from its earliest days, highlighting the political, military, and technological battles fought to illuminate the nation's hardscrabble coastlines.

Beginning with "Boston Light," America's first lighthouse, Dolin shows how the story of America, from colony to regional backwater, to fledging nation, and eventually to global industrial power, can be illustrated through its lighthouses.

The technological marvel of its age, the Erie Canal grew out of a sudden fit of inspiration. Proponents didn't just dream; they built a 360-mile waterway entirely by hand and largely through wilderness. As excitement crackled down its length, the canal became the scene of the most striking outburst of imagination in American history.

The Erie Canal made New York the financial capital of America and brought the modern world crashing into the frontier. Men and women saw God face to face, gained and lost fortunes, and reveled in a period of intense spiritual creativity.

The new book: Heaven's Ditch by Historian Jack Kelly illuminates the spiritual and political upheavals along this "psychic highway" from its opening in 1825 through 1844. 

Jack Kelly will be at Oblong Books in Rhinebeck July 14, at the Schenectady Canal Festival at Mabee Farm Historic Site July 16, and at Northshire Books in Saratoga July 17. 

  In the early sixties, Calvin Trillin got his start as a journalist covering the Civil Rights Movement in the South.

Over the next five decades of reporting, he often returned to scenes of racial tension. Now, for the first time, the best of Trillin’s pieces on race in America have been collected in one volume: Jackson, 1964: And Other Dispatches from Fifty Years of Reporting on Race in America.

Even before the Declaration of Independence was signed, the founders established the post office as the circulatory system of America’s body politic. Unlike European postal systems, America’s Post was based on a radical goal: to create an informed electorate by delivering news about public affairs to every citizen.

Winifred Gallagher’s How The Post Office Created America recounts how the U.S. Post was instrumental in developing the national transportation grid, from stagecoach lines to airlines. It organized a wild, rural landscape with roads, villages, towns, and addresses. The postal service was the lifeline that supported the great migration and expansion West. It also enabled America to shift from an agrarian to an industrial economy, and was integral to the development of the publishing industry, consumer culture, and the political party system.

  Best-selling historian Nathaniel Philbrick once again takes readers deep into the American Revolution, leading them into battles and illuminating the players on the field and behind the scenes.

His latest - Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution - is a complex, controversial, and dramatic portrait of a people in crisis and the war that gave birth to a nation. 

We have probably all seen the movies, TV shows and books which tell the story about lawman Wyatt Earp. But, very few make mention of his wife. Married for nearly 50 years, Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp was beautiful, gusty and Jewish.

Thelma Adams has delved into the life and times of Mrs. Wyatt with her new novel, The Last Woman Standing. At once an epic account of an improbable romance and a retelling of an iconic American tale, The Last Woman Standing recalls the famed gunfight at the O.K. Corral through the eyes of Josephine.

For over two decades, she has penned celebrity features and criticism for high-profile publications. While covering film for the New York Post, Us Weekly, and Yahoo Movies, Thelma Adams became a regular at film festivals from Berlin to Dubai, Toronto to Tribeca. Her debut novel was Playdate and it is always a pleasure to welcome Thelma back to The Roundtable.

  At the dawn of the nineteenth century, as Britain, France, Spain, and the United States all jockeyed for control of the vast expanses west of the Mississippi River, the stakes for American expansion were incalculably high. Even after the American purchase of the Louisiana Territory, Spain still coveted that land and was prepared to employ any means to retain it. With war expected at any moment, Jefferson played a game of strategy, putting on the ground the only Americans he could: a cadre of explorers who finally annexed it through courageous investigation. 

Julie M. Fenster is the author of many works of popular history, including The Case of Abraham Lincoln, Race of the Century, the award-winning Ether Day, and, with Douglas Brinkley, Parish Priest, which was a New York Times bestseller. She also co-wrote the PBS documentary First Freedom, about the founders and religious liberty. Her new book is Jefferson's America: The President, the Purchase, and the Explorers Who Transformed a Nation.

  Herbert Clark Hoover was the thirty-first President of the United States. He served one term, from 1929 to 1933. Often considered placid, passive, unsympathetic, and even paralyzed by national events, Hoover faced an uphill battle in the face of the Great Depression.

Many historians dismiss him as merely ineffective. But in Herbert Hoover in the White House,Charles Rappleye draws on rare and intimate sources—memoirs and diaries and thousands of documents kept by members of his cabinet and close advisors—to reveal a very different figure than the one often portrayed. The real Hoover, argues Rappleye, just lacked the tools of leadership.

  The Boys in the Boat: The True Story of an American Team's Epic Journey to Win Gold at the 1936 Olympics by Daniel James Brown tells the story of the University of Washington’s 1936 eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans. The sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the boys defeated elite rivals first from eastern and British universities and finally the German crew rowing for Adolf Hitler in the Olympic games in Berlin, 1936.

First released in 2013, the best-selling book has been released in a Young Readers Adaptation by Viking Books.

Berkshire Sculling Association in Pittsfield is hosting John Biglow, member of the 1984 Olympic rowing team. John has developed a talk around the The Boys in the Boat book, which he’ll be presenting at the Duffin Theater in Lenox on Sunday June 26 at 2:30.

  “There are two keys to unlocking the secrets of American politics and American political history.” So begins The Politicians & the Egalitarians, Princeton historian Sean Wilentz’s bold new work of history.

First, America is built on an egalitarian tradition. At the nation’s founding, Americans believed that extremes of wealth and want would destroy their revolutionary experiment in republican government. Ever since, that idea has shaped national political conflict and scored major egalitarian victories―from the Civil War and Progressive eras to the New Deal and the Great Society―along the way.

Second, partisanship is a permanent fixture in America, and America is the better for it. Every major egalitarian victory in United States history has resulted neither from abandonment of partisan politics nor from social movement protests but from a convergence of protest and politics, and then sharp struggles led by principled and effective party politicians. There is little to be gained from the dream of a post-partisan world.

With these two insights Sean Wilentz offers a crystal-clear portrait of American history, told through politicians and egalitarians including Thomas Paine, Abraham Lincoln, and W. E. B. Du Bois―a portrait that runs counter to current political and historical thinking.

    In our Ideas Matter segment we take time just about every week to check in with the state humanities councils in our 7-state region.

Today we learn about Reading Frederick Douglass, a statewide initiative led by Mass Humanities. Communities and organizations around the state typically organize public readings of Douglass' speech, "What is the Meaning of the Fourth of July to the Negro." We are joined today by Manisha Sinha, Professor of Afro-American Studies at University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Rose Sackey-Milligan, Program Officer at Mass Humanities. With them we explore the value of the humanities in enhancing and improving civic life.

  Using Washington's extensive but often overlooked financial papers, Edward G. Lengel chronicles the fascinating and inspiring story of how this self-educated man built the Mount Vernon estate into a vast multilayered enterprise and prudently managed meager resources to win the war of independence.

Later, as president, he helped establish the national economy on a solid footing and favorably positioned the nation for the Industrial Revolution. Washington's steadfast commitment to the core economic principles of probity, transparency, careful management, and calculated boldness are timeless lessons that should inspire and instruct investors even today.

Historian Ed Lengel is here to talk about his new book, First Entrepreneur: How George Washington Built His – and the Nation’s – Prosperity.

  Mark Zwonitzer is an author and award-winning documentary filmmaker. 

His new book The Statesman and the Storyteller, is a dual biography covering the last ten years of the lives of friends and contemporaries, writer Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) and statesman John Hay (who served as secretary of state under presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt), The Statesman and the Storyteller not only provides an intimate look into the daily lives of these men but also creates an elucidating portrait of the United States on the verge of emerging as a world power.

  Best-selling historian Nathaniel Philbrick once again takes readers deep into the American Revolution, leading them into battles and illuminating the players on the field and behind the scenes. His latest - Valiant Ambition - is a complex, controversial, and dramatic portrait of a people in crisis and the war that gave birth to a nation.

The focus is on loyalty and personal integrity, evoking a Shakespearean tragedy that unfolds in the key relationship of George Washington and Benedict Arnold. Philbrick gives readers a fresh view of America’s first president and offers a surprisingly sympathetic view of the man whose name is synonymous with the word traitor.

  Sidney Blumenthal's A Self-Made Man: The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln Vol. I, 1809 - 1849 is the first of a multi-volume history of Lincoln as a political genius - from his obscure beginnings to his presidency, assassination, and the overthrow of his post-Civil War dreams of Reconstruction. This volume traces Lincoln from his painful youth, describing himself as “a slave,” to his emergence as the man we recognize as Abraham Lincoln.

From his youth as a “newsboy,” a voracious newspaper reader, Lincoln became a free thinker, reading Tom Paine, as well as Shakespeare and the Bible, and studying Euclid to sharpen his arguments as a lawyer.

Lincoln’s anti-slavery thinking began in his childhood amidst the Primitive Baptist antislavery dissidents in backwoods Kentucky and Indiana, the roots of his repudiation of Southern Christian pro-slavery theology. Intensely ambitious, he held political aspirations from his earliest years.