Sailing down the river that would later bear his captain’s name, explorer Robert Juet described the Hudson River Valley in 1609 as a “drowned land” submerged by a “great lake of water.” Over the next two centuries, this drowned landscape would be the site of a truly historic flowering of art, literature, architecture, innovation, and revolutionary fervor—drawing comparisons to another fertile cultural haven built around a might mighty river in Western Europe.

As historian Vernon Benjamin chronicles in The History Of The Hudson River Valley: From Wilderness To The Civil War, the Hudson River Valley has been a place of contradictions since its first settlement by Europeans. Discovered by an Englishman who claimed it for the Dutch, the region soon became home to the most vibrant trading outpost for the New World colonies—the Island of Manhattan—even as the rest of the valley retained the native beauty that would inspire artists from James Fenimore Cooper to Thomas Cole.

  In the bestselling tradition of The Where, the Why, and the How, The Who, the What, and the When: 65 Artists Illustrate the Secret Sidekicks of History is an offbeat illustrated history reveals people you've probably never heard of, but who helped shape the word as we know it. Muses and neighbors, friends and relatives, accomplices and benefactors—such as Michael and Joy Brown, who gifted Harper Lee a year's worth of wages to help her write To Kill a Mockingbird. Or John Ordway, the colleague who walked with Lewis and Clark every step of the way.

Jenny Volvovski, one of the co-authors, joins us.

    A genius immortalized her. A French king paid a fortune for her. An emperor coveted her. Every year more than 9 million visitors trek to view her portrait in the Louvre.Yet while everyone recognizes her smile, hardly anyone knows her story.

Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered is a blend of biography, history, and memoir about the world’s most recognized face, most revered artist, and most praised and parodied painting.

    In August 1939, curators at the Louvre nestled the world's most famous painting into a special red-velvet-lined case and spirited her away to the Loire Valley. Thus began the biggest evacuation of art and antiquities in history. As the Germans neared Paris in 1940, the French raced to move the masterpieces still further south, then again and again during the war, crisscrossing the southwest of France. At times Mona Lisa slept at the bedside of curators who were painfully aware of their heavy responsibility.

  For the first time, religious self-identification is on the decline in American. Some analysts have cited as cause a post-9/11 perception: that faith in general is a source of aggression, intolerance, and divisiveness—something bad for society. But how accurate is that view?

In her book, Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence, Karen Armstrong sets out to discover the truth about religion and violence in each of the world’s great traditions, taking us on an astonishing journey from prehistoric times to the present.

    When Lions Roar begins in the mid-1930s at Chartwell, Winston Churchill's country estate, with new revelations surrounding a secret business deal orchestrated by Joseph P. Kennedy, the soon-to-be American ambassador to Great Britain and the father of future American president John F. Kennedy. From London to America, these two powerful families shared an ever-widening circle of friends, lovers, and political associates – soon shattered by World War II, spying, sexual infidelity, and the tragic deaths of JFK's sister Kathleen and his older brother Joe Jr. By the 1960s and JFK's presidency, the Churchills and the Kennedys had overcome their bitter differences and helped to define the “greatness” in each other.

Acclaimed biographer Thomas Maier tells this dynastic saga through fathers and their sons – and the remarkable women in their lives – providing keen insight into the Churchill and Kennedy families and the profound forces of duty, loyalty, courage and ambition that shaped them.


  Fearless on the battlefield, Churchill had to be ordered by the king to stay out of action on D-Day; he pioneered aerial bombing and few could match his experience in organizing violence on a colossal scale, yet he hated war and scorned politicians who had not experienced its horrors. He was the most famous journalist of his time and perhaps the greatest orator of all time, despite a lisp and chronic depression he kept at bay by painting.

On the fiftieth anniversary of Churchill’s death, Boris Johnson celebrates the brilliance of one of the most important leaders of the twentieth century in the book, The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History.

  In the summer of 1959, most of the town of Braddock, Pennsylvania---along with half a million steel workers around the country---went on strike in the longest labor stoppage in American history. With no paychecks coming in, the families of Braddock looked to its football team for inspiration.

Author and journalist Greg Nichols writes about it in his book, Striking Gridiron: A Town's Pride and a Team's Shot at Glory During the Biggest Strike in American History.

"Bring the War Home," which had been a rallying cry of the anti-Vietnam-War movement, was transformed on May 4, 1970 into a macabre irony when the Ohio National Guard opened fire on student anti-war protesters at Kent State, killing four and wounding nine. Many, certainly not all, of the anti-war student activists were chauvinist, privileged, white men.

  We are very happy to continue our regular feature – Ideas Matter: Checking in with the Public Humanities. It is our chance to check in with the Humanities Councils throughout our 7-State area to discuss important ideas and why they do indeed matter.

Today we check in with Bob Weible, New York State Historian and Chief Curator for the New York State Museum, and learn about New York History Month.