history

Over the course of his distinguished career, Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough has spoken before Congress, the White House, historical societies, and other esteemed institutions -- including Union College in Schenectady.

Now, at a time of self-reflection in America following a bitter election campaign that has left the country divided, McCullough has collected some of his most important speeches in a brief volume designed to identify important principles and characteristics that are particularly American.

The book is entitled The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For

The Jewish Federation Connecting with Community series presents The Butcher's Daughter: Echoes of the Shoah with author and published poet, Florence Grende on Monday April 24th.

Grende offers a gripping, at times haunting, family history by the daughter of a Holocaust survivor. The Butchers Daughter is an account of the devastation of war and the marks left on the succeeding generation. 

In 1797, eight years after the mutiny on the HMS Bounty, came a mutiny aboard the British frigate HMS Hermione—the bloodiest mutiny ever suffered by the Royal Navy.  In American Sanctuary, historian and author Roger Ekirch shares the story of Jonathan Robbins, one of the mutineers who made his way to American shores, and for whom the British called for extradition. 

He let it be known that he was an American citizen from Connecticut and had been impressed into service by the British. In one of the most catastrophic blunders of his administration, the extradition was sanctioned by President John Adams, and Robbins was sentenced to death by the British and hanged. Adams’ miscalculation ignited a political firestorm, fanned by the news of Robbins’ execution without his constitutional rights of due process and trial by jury. 

Jack Mayer is a pediatrician and a writer. He was last here to talk about his book - Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project. His new novel is: Before the Court of Heaven - based on a true story of Weimar Germany and the rise of the Third Reich.

Three themes impel the book: understanding the rise of Nazism, unfathomable forgiveness, and the complexity of redemption. It is a portrait of Germany between world wars, from revolution and unrest following World War I to the rise of the Nazis, World War II and the Holocaust.

When archaeologists ventured into a thick Honduran rainforest in 2015, they were searching in an unexplored valley for the remnants of a long-lost city. Legend had it that an ancient metropolis was buried under centuries worth of jungle growth.

Best-selling author Douglas Preston went along on the expedition. The archaeologists Preston followed had the advantage of detailed survey maps to guide them to precise locations. Three years earlier, scientists had deployed advanced LIDAR (Light Imaging, Detection, And Ranging) technology to peer through the rainforest canopy to reveal a sprawling ancient metropolis.

Preston has detailed the experience in a new book The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story.

Read any history of New York City and you will read about men. You will read about men who were political leaders and men who were activists and cultural tastemakers. These men have been lauded for generations for creating the most exciting and influential city in the world.

But that's not the whole story.

The Women Who Made New York by Julie Scelfo reveals the untold stories of the phenomenal women who made New York City the cultural epicenter of the world.

Julie Scelfo will be at Oblong Books in Rhinebeck on March 1.

Everyone knows that America is 50 states and…some other stuff. Scattered shards in the Pacific and the Caribbean, the not-quite states—American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands—and their 4 million people are often forgotten, even by most Americans. But they’re filled with American flags, U.S. post offices, and Little League baseball games. How did these territories come to be part of the United States? What are they like? And why aren’t they states?

Doug Mach explores these questions in his book, The Not-Quite States of America: Dispatches from the Territories and Other Far-Flung Outposts of the USA.

Bellevue Hospital, on New York City's East Side, occupies a colorful and horrifying place in the public imagination: a den of mangled crime victims, vicious psychopaths, assorted derelicts, lunatics, and exotic-disease sufferers. In its two and a half centuries of service, there was hardly an epidemic or social catastrophe—or groundbreaking scientific advance—that did not touch Bellevue.

In Bellevue: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America's Most Storied Hospital, David Oshinsky chronicles the history of America's oldest hospital and in so doing also charts the rise of New York to the nation's preeminent city, the path of American medicine from butchery and quackery to a professional and scientific endeavor, and the growth of a civic institution. From its origins in 1738 as an almshouse and pesthouse, Bellevue today is a revered public hospital bringing first-class care to anyone in need.

  Despite the outpouring of books, movies, museums, memorials, and courses devoted to the Holocaust, a coherent explanation of why such ghastly carnage erupted from the heart of civilized Europe in the twentieth century still seems elusive even seventy years later. 

Peter Hayes' Why? dispels many misconceptions and answers some of the most basic, yet vexing, questions that remain: why the Jews and not another ethnic group? Why the Germans? Why such a swift and sweeping extermination? Why didn’t more Jews fight back more often? Why didn’t they receive more help?

Peter Hayes is professor of history and German and Theodore Zev Weiss Holocaust Educational Foundation Professor of Holocaust Studies Emeritus at Northwestern University and chair of the Academic Committee of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Encore: Proctors At 90

Jan 23, 2017

When Proctors opened its doors in Schenectady, N.Y., in December 1926, it was the jewel in a chain of 50 vaudeville houses spanning the East Coast from Delaware to Maine; the greatest of gilded movie palaces in a bustling, industrial city packed with nearly two-dozen theatres. Within a half-century, it was the last hall standing, nearly derelict, presiding over a deserted downtown, another symbol of American blight.

The new book Encore: Proctors at 90 presents photographs and essays to construct a narrative of renewal and rebirth, a tale of a city and a theatre taking turns saving each other. Rescued by a hardy group of citizens, and nurtured by smart leaders, Proctors began its true resurrection at the turn of this century to become much more than a playhouse.

The commerative book Encore: Proctors at 90 is now out and we welcome the authors Michael Eck and Richard Louvrich to The Roundtable.

Aaron Thier is the author of the novel The Ghost Apple, a semifinalist for the 2015 Thurber Prize for American Humor. He writes a column, Food & Consequences, for Lucky Peach and he is a regular book critic for the Nation.

In his novel, Mr. Eternity it's Key West in 2016. Sea levels are rising, coral reefs are dying. In short, everything is going to hell. It’s here that two young filmmakers find something to believe in: an old sailor who calls himself Daniel Defoe and claims to be five hundred and sixty years old. In fact, old Dan is in the prime of his life—an incredible, perhaps eternal American life. The story unfolds over the course of a millennium,

  From the domestication of the bird nearly ten thousand years ago to its current status as our go-to meat, the history of this seemingly commonplace bird is anything but ordinary.

How did chicken achieve the culinary ubiquity it enjoys today? It’s hard to imagine, but there was a point in history, not terribly long ago, that individual people each consumed less than ten pounds of chicken per year. Today, those numbers are strikingly different: we consumer nearly twenty-five times as much chicken as our great-grandparents did.

Collectively, Americans devour 73.1 million pounds of chicken in a day, close to 8.6 billion birds per year. How did chicken rise from near-invisibility to being in seemingly "every pot," as per Herbert Hoover's famous promise?

Emelyn Rude explores this phenomenon in Tastes Like Chicken.

The America we live in today was born, not on July 4, 1776, but on December 7, 1941, when an armada of 354 Japanese warplanes supported by aircraft carriers, destroyers, and midget submarines suddenly and savagely attacked the United States, killing 2,403 men—and forced America’s entry into World War II. Pearl Harbor: From Infamy to Greatness follows, moment by moment, the sailors, soldiers, pilots, diplomats, admirals, generals, emperor, and president as they engineer, fight, and react to this stunningly dramatic moment in world history.

Beginning in 1914, bestselling author Craig Nelson maps the road to war, beginning with Franklin D. Roosevelt, then the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (and not yet afflicted with polio), attending the laying of the keel of the USS Arizona at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Writing with vivid intimacy, Nelson traces Japan’s leaders as they lurch into ultranationalist fascism, which culminates in their insanely daring yet militarily brilliant scheme to terrify America with one of the boldest attacks ever waged. Within seconds, the country would never be the same.

Award-winning author and journalist Marc Wortman will discuss his new book 1941: Fighting the Shadow War tomorrow afternoon at 2:30 pm at the Boardman Road Branch Library of the Poughkeepsie Public Library District.

Conventional wisdom dictates that the US entered World War II on December 8, 1941 in retaliation for the bombing of Pearl Harbor. However, historian Marc Wortman reveals the ways in which America played an increasingly significant and clandestine role in the war in the months and years prior to officially joining the battle.

After traveling across three continents to stalk the modern story of butter, award-winning food writer and former pastry chef Elaine Khosrova tells a story as rich, textured, and culturally relevant as butter itself. Her new book is Butter: A Rich History.

From its humble agrarian origins to its present-day artisanal glory, butter has a fascinating story to tell, and Khosrova is the perfect person to tell it. With tales about the ancient butter bogs of Ireland, the pleasure dairies of France, and the sacred butter sculptures of Tibet, Khosrova details butter’s role in history, politics, economics, nutrition, and even spirituality and art.

With his break-out debut novel, Rules of Civility, Amor Towles established himself as a master of absorbing, sophisticated fiction.

His latest, A Gentleman in Moscow, tells the story of a Russian aristocrat who was sentenced by the Bolsheviks during the revolution to a lifetime of house arrest in Moscow's ​Metropol hotel. 


  Charles Dew, one of America’s most respected historians of the South, will tell us about his powerful memoir - The Making of a Racist: A Southerner Reflects on Family, History, and the Slave Trade.

He turns the focus on his own life, which began not in the halls of enlightenment but in a society unequivocally committed to segregation.

 

In the book, Dew re-creates the mid-century American South of his childhood--in many respects a boy’s paradise, but one stained by Lost Cause revisionism and, worse, by the full brunt of Jim Crow.

 

The second half of the book shows how this former Confederate youth and descendant of Thomas Roderick Dew, one of slavery’s most passionate apologists, went on to reject his racist upbringing and become a scholar of the South and its deeply conflicted history.

 

The centerpiece of Dew’s story is his sobering discovery of a price

Charles Dew is Ephraim Williams Professor of American History at Williams College and the author of the Fletcher Pratt Award-winning Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War and Bond of Iron: Master and Slave at Buffalo Forge, selected as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

It is unlike the second career of any other president: “Bill Clinton” is a global brand, rising from the dark days of his White House departure to become one of the most popular names in the world.

In Man of the World: The Further Endeavors of Bill Clinton, Joe Conason describes how that happened, examining Clinton’s achievements, his failures, his motivations, and his civilian life. He explains why Clinton’s ambitions for the world continue to inspire (and infuriate).

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. 

  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.

  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.  

  Once, war was a temporary state of affairs—a violent but brief interlude between times of peace. Today, America’s wars are everywhere and forever: our enemies change constantly and rarely wear uniforms, and virtually anything can become a weapon. As war expands, so does the role of the US military.

Rosa Brooks traces this seismic shift in how America wages war from an unconventional perspective—that of a former top Pentagon official who is the daughter of two anti-war protesters and a human rights activist married to an Army Green Beret.

By turns a memoir, a work of journalism, a scholarly exploration into history, anthropology and law, and a rallying cry, How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everythingtransforms the familiar into the alien, showing us that the culture we inhabit is reshaping us in ways we may suspect, but don’t really understand.

The Olana Partnership, in collaboration with the New York chapters of the American Institute of Architects and the American Society of Landscape Architects presents Follies, Function & Form: Imagining Olana’s Summer House. The design exhibition unites 21 visionary architects and landscape architects to address one of the great mysteries at Olana: the summer house.

In the 1886 “Plan of Olana,” a detailed blueprint of Frederic Church’s vision for his large-scale designed landscape, the plan’s details are largely accurate, yet it contains a structure labeled “Summer House” for which there is no documentary evidence.

The 21 designers have imagined Olana’s summer house and have each created one concept sketch of this structure and its environs, much in the way Frederic Church sketched to convey design and architectural ideas.

To tell us more – we welcome Mark Prezorski, Landscape Curator of the Olana Partnership. And we also meet architect Joan Krevlin who has been a partner at BKSK Architects since 1992 and Laurie Olin is a practicing landscape architect whose many award-winning projects include Bryant Park in New York, the Getty Center in Los Angeles, and the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia.

  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.

  In the heart of the Ottoman Empire as World War I rages, Stepan Miskjian’s world becomes undone. He is separated from his family as they are swept up in the government’s mass deportation of Armenians into internment camps. Gradually realizing the unthinkable—that they are all being driven to their deaths—he fights, through starvation and thirst, not to lose hope. He dons disguises, outmaneuvers gendarmes, and, when he least expects it, encounters the miraculous kindness of strangers.

The Hundred-Year Walk alternates between Stepan’s saga and another journey that takes place a century later, after his family discovers his long-lost journals. With his journals guiding her, Dawn Anahid MacKenn grows ever closer to the man she barely knew as a child.

  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.

Paper By Mark Kurlansky

Aug 15, 2016

  Paper is one of the simplest and most essential pieces of human technology. For the past two millennia, the ability to produce it in ever more efficient ways has supported the proliferation of literacy, media, religion, education, commerce, and art; it has formed the foundation of civilizations, promoting revolutions and restoring stability.

Now, amid discussion of “going paperless”―and as speculation about the effects of a digitally dependent society grows rampant― we’ve come to a world-historic juncture. By tracing paper’s evolution from antiquity to the present, with an emphasis on the contributions made in Asia and the Middle East, Mark Kurlansky challenges common assumptions about technology’s influence, affirming that paper is here to stay.

  For millions of people around the world, the Summer and Winter Games are a joy and a treasure, but how did they develop into a global colossus? How have they been buffeted by―and, in turn, affected by―world events? Why do we care about them so much?

From the reinvention of the Games in Athens in 1896 to Rio in 2016, best-selling sportswriter David Goldblatt brilliantly traces their history through national triumphs and tragedies, individual victories and failures.

  From the end of World War II until 1980, virtually no American soldiers were killed in action while serving in the Greater Middle East. Since 1990, virtually no American soldiers have been killed in action anywhere else. What caused this shift? Andrew J. Bacevich, one of the country’s most respected voices on foreign affairs, offers an incisive critical history of this ongoing military enterprise—now more than thirty years old and with no end in sight.

His book is America's War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History .

  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.

Pages