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.

  It’s 1942 and the Nazis are racing to be the first to build a weapon unlike any known before. They have the physicists, they have the uranium, and now all their plans depend on amassing a single ingredient: heavy water, which is produced in Norway’s Vemork, the lone plant in all the world that makes this rare substance. Under threat of death, Vemork’s engineers push production into overdrive.
 
For the Allies, the plant must be destroyed. But how would they reach the castle fortress set on a precipitous gorge in one of the coldest, most inhospitable places on Earth?
 
Based on a trove of top secret documents and never-before-seen diaries and letters of the saboteurs, The Winter Fortress is an arresting chronicle of a brilliant scientist, a band of spies on skies, perilous survival in the wild, sacrifice for one’s country, Gestapo manhunts, soul-crushing setbacks, and a last-minute operation that would end any chance Hitler could obtain the atomic bomb—and alter the course of the war.

  In the early seventeenth century, a crippled, graying, almost toothless veteran of Spain's wars against the Ottoman Empire published a book. It was the story of a poor nobleman, his brain addled from reading too many books of chivalry, who deludes himself that he is a knight errant and sets off on hilarious adventures. That book, Don Quixote, went on to sell more copies than any other book beside the Bible, making its author, Miguel de Cervantes, the single most-read author in human history. Cervantes did more than just publish a bestseller, though. He invented a way of writing.

In The Man Who Invented Fiction William Egginton explores Cervantes's life and the world he lived in, showing how his influences converged in his work, and how his work--especially Don Quixote--radically changed the nature of literature and created a new way of viewing the world.

  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.

The long-forgotten remains of 14 slaves discovered more than a decade ago in upstate New York have been reburied.

  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.

  Jim Shepard’s new book, The Book of Aron, tells the story of a Jewish boy growing up in poverty and desperation. It begins before the Germans invaded Poland and, through Aron’s eyes, takes us from the Polish countryside into the depths of the Warsaw Ghetto and then into a famous orphanage for destitute children.

  Mark Twain, the highest-paid writer in America in 1894, was also one of the nation’s worst investors.

The publishing company Twain owned was failing; his investment in a typesetting device was bleeding red ink. After losing hundreds of thousands of dollars back when a beer cost a nickel, he found himself neck-deep in debt. His heiress wife, Livy, took the setback hard - but Twain vowed to Livy he would pay back every penny. And so, just when the fifty-nine-year-old, bushy-browed icon imagined that he would be settling into literary lionhood, telling jokes at gilded dinners, he forced himself to mount the “platform” again, embarking on a round-the-world stand-up comedy tour. No author had ever done that. He cherry-picked his best stories—such as stealing his first watermelon and buying a bucking bronco—and spun them into a ninety-minute performance. Twain trekked across the American West and onward by ship to the faraway lands of Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, India, Ceylon, and South Africa.

Richard Zacks' new book is Chasing the Last Laugh: Mark Twain's Raucous and Redemptive Round-the-World Comedy Tour

  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're speaking with Edward Paulino, one of the New York Council for the Humanities’ Public Scholars and an assistant professor of history at John Jay College about the history of bearing witness to what is often unspeakable violence. In his recent book, Dividing Hispanola, he details the 20th century history of one of the world's bloodiest borders, that between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

  Historian Chris Bray (himself a former soldier) has a new book: Court-Martial: How Military Justice Has Shaped America from the Revolution to 9/11 and Beyond. It is an account of how military justice has shaped American society since the nation’s beginnings.

With a great eye for narrative, tells the sweeping story of military justice from the institution of the court martial in the earliest days of the Republic to contemporary arguments over how to use military courts to try foreign terrorists or soldiers accused of sexual assault.

Throughout, he shows that the separate justice system of the armed forces has often served as a proxy for America’s ongoing arguments over equality, privacy, discrimination, security, and liberty. Chris Bray is a former infantry sergeant in the United States Army and holds a PhD in history from UCLA. 

  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.

  Steve Berry is the author of fifteen historical novels. His latest, The 14th Colony, deals with presidential succession, potential disaster at the inauguration, and a real plan, never carried out, to invade Canada and make it The 14th Colony.

Berry’s protagonist, Cotton Malone, must stop disaster before it happens, which is only a few hours away. 

For more than 150 years the Gowanus Canal has been called a cesspool, an industrial dumping ground, and a blemish, but it is also one of the most important waterways in the history of New York Harbor. Yet its true origin, man made character, and importance to the City has been largely forgotten. In his new book, Gowanus: Brooklyn's Canal, Brooklynite, author, and Journalist Joseph Alexiou shares the little known history of the small waterway in Brooklyn.

Alexiou is the author of Paris For Dummies; ​he is also a licensed New York City tour guide; and his writing has appeared in The New York Observer, Gothamist, and New York Magazine's Daily Intel.  

You might know that Uncle Sam, the personification of the United States, is based on a real person. Samuel Wilson, a meatpacker who lived in Troy, New York from the late 1700s until his death in 1854, is said to be the original Uncle — but even that is up for debate. Either way, a group of Trojans this weekend is hoping to bid on what could be the only known photograph of Wilson.

  Juan Williams is a top political analyst for Fox News Channel and will be with us this morning to discuss his new book, We the People: The Modern-Day Figures Who Have Reshaped and Affirmed the Founding Fathers' Vision of America.

In the book, Williams tells us who would be on his modern day Mount Rushmore.

  Taylor Mac is a playwright, actor, singer-songwriter, performance artist, director and producer who is currently creating a 24-hour durational concert called, “A 24-Decade History of Popular Music.”

6 hours of the project, representing the six decades between 1836 and 1896, will be performed at MASS MoCA in North Adams Massachusetts this Saturday, April 9th from 4 to 10pm. Audience members are encouraged to come and going during the performance.

Taylor Mac was recently name-checked in a New York Magazine article about why New York Theater is thriving and The New York Times said “Fabulousness can come in many forms, and Taylor Mac seems intent on assuming each and every one of them.”

  The struggle between individual rights and the good of the community as a whole has been the basis of nearly every major disagreement in the history of the United States, from the debates at the Constitutional Convention and in the run up to the Civil War to the fights surrounding the agendas of the Federalists, the Progressives, the New Dealers, the civil rights movement, and the Tea Party.

In American Character, Colin Woodard traces these two key strands in American politics through the four centuries of the nation’s existence.

  In The Geography of Genius, acclaimed travel writer Eric Weiner sets out to examine the connection between our surroundings and our most innovative ideas. He explores the history of places, like Vienna of 1900, Renaissance Florence, ancient Athens, Song Dynasty Hangzhou, and Silicon Valley, to show how certain urban settings are conducive to ingenuity. 

Eric Weiner is a former NPR correspondent and the author of the New York Times bestseller The Geography of Bliss and the critically acclaimed Man Seeks God.

  More than fifty years before the American Revolution, Boston was in revolt against the tyrannies of the Crown, Puritan Authority, and Superstition.

In The Fever of 1721, Stephen Coss tells the story of a year that changed the course of medical history, American journalism, and colonial revolution.

During the worst smallpox epidemic in Boston history Cotton Mather convinced Doctor Zabdiel Boylston to try a procedure that he believed would prevent death—by making an incision in the arm of a healthy person and implanting it with smallpox. “Inoculation” led to vaccination, one of the most profound medical discoveries in history. Public outrage forced Boylston into hiding, and Mather’s house was firebombed.

  In the new book, The Immortal Irishman: The Irish Revolutionary Who Became an American Hero, National Book Award winner Timothy Egan illuminates the dawn of the great Irish-American story -- with all its twists and triumphs, is told through the improbable life of one man, Thomas Francis Meagher.

A dashing young orator during the Great Famine of the 1840s, in which a million of his Irish countrymen died, led a failed uprising against British rule, for which he was banished to a Tasmanian prison colony. He escaped and six months later was heralded in the streets of New York — the revolutionary hero, back from the dead, at the dawn of the great Irish immigration to America.

  Eternity Street tells the story of a violent place in a violent time: the rise of Los Angeles from its origins as a small Mexican pueblo. In his narrative, John Mack Faragher relates a dramatic history of conquest and ethnic suppression, of collective disorder and interpersonal conflict. Eternity Street recounts the struggle to achieve justice amid the turmoil of a loosely governed frontier, and it delivers a piercing look at the birth of this quintessentially American city. 

John Mack Faragher is the Howard R. Lamar Professor of History and American Studies at Yale University. He is the author of many books on the American frontier, including Daniel Boone: The Life and Legend of an American Pioneer, which received a Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and, most recently, A Great and Noble Scheme.

  More than a century has passed since Theodore Roosevelt was in the White House, but he still continues to fascinate. Never has a more exuberant man been our nation's leader. He became a war hero, reformed the NYPD, busted the largest railroad and oil trusts, passed the Pure Food and Drug Act, created national parks and forests, won the Nobel Peace Prize, and built the Panama Canal―to name just a few.

Yet it was the cause he championed the hardest―America's entry in to WWI―that would ultimately divide and destroy him. His youngest son, Quentin, his favorite, would die in an air fight. How does looking at Theodore's relationship with his son, and understanding him as a father, tell us something new about this larger-than-life-man?

Eric Burns explores the story and relationship in his book, The Golden Lad: The Haunting Story of Quentin and Theodore Roosevelt.

 In his new book The Year Of Lear: Shakespeare In 1606, James Shapiro offers a portrait of one of the most inspired moments in William Shakespeare's career, the extraordinary year he completed King Lear and then went on to write the two other great tragedies Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra. Shapiro, a preeminent Shakespeare scholar and author of the previous books, A Year in the Life of Shakespeare: 1599 and Contested Will sheds new light on these plays by placing them in the context of their time.

  In The Black Calhouns, Gail Lumet Buckley—daughter of actress Lena Horne—delves deep into her family history, detailing the experiences of an extraordinary African-American family from Civil War to Civil Rights.

Beginning with her great-great grandfather Moses Calhoun, a house slave who used the rare advantage of his education to become a successful businessman in post-war Atlanta, Buckley follows her family’s two branches: one that stayed in the South, and the other that settled in Brooklyn. 

A child of wealth and privilege possessing unlimited will and ambition, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, seemed destined for the presidency. The nation he lead was large in population, rich in resources, committed to a universal ideology of liberal democracy, and destined for grand geopolitical power. A man and a nation were each poised on the brink of greatness. FDR's twelve years in The White House culminated in what can justly be called an 'American century'. This convergence of individual and national destinies created a large and complex story that remains essential to our understanding the world in which we live in today. 

  In June 1983 Margaret Thatcher won the biggest increase in a government’s parliamentary majority in British electoral history. Over the next four years, as Charles Moore relates in this central volume of his uniquely authoritative biography, Britain’s first woman prime minister changed the course of her country’s history and that of the world, often by sheer force of will.

Charles Moore has had unprecedented access to all of Mrs. Thatcher’s private and government papers. Margaret Thatcher: At Her Zenith: In London, Washington and Moscow is his second volume on the first - and so far only - female PM of Great Britain.

For more than 2,000 years, the death of Julius Caesar has fascinated us. Most of us only know only what we learned from the high school staple, Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: a story of amateur politicians who banded together, however clumsily, to assassinate a tyrant. Since then, countless movies and series have referenced the historical event, but what actually happened on March 15, 44 B.C. is more gripping than any fictional account.

In the new book The Death of Caesar: The Story of History’s Most Famous Assassination, Barry Strauss presents a historic account of the real death of Julius Caesar, and an examination of the key players' motives. 

  Can a football game affect the outcome of an election? What about shark attacks? Or a drought? In a rational world the answer, of course, would be no.

But as bestselling historian Rick Shenkman explains in Political Animals: How Our Stone-Age Brain Gets in the Way of Smart Politics, our world is anything but rational. Drawing on science, politics, and history, Shenkman explores the hidden forces behind our often illogical choices.

  Even as a child, Martin Luther King, Jr. was shocked by the terrible and unfair way African-American people were treated. When he grew up, he decided to do something about it—peacefully, with powerful words.

His story is told in the latest book in Brad Meltzer's New York Times Bestselling "Ordinary People Change the World" series, I am Martin Luther King Jr.

  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.

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