Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Tidbits from the History Table

Book reviews lead to expenditures, of time or money or both. In this case I found potential goodies dealing with the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The current American Historical Review has an interesting review of Cathleen D. Cahill's Federal Fathers and Mothers: A Social History of the United States Indian Service, 1869-1933. Several levels of interest here. One has to do with unintended consequences: "Federal lawmakers assumed after the Civil War that the Indian Service would eventually work itself out of existence as native assimilation occurred." The other has to do with bureaucracy in general, and has relevance to almost any genealogy work: "It is this lower level of bureaucracy that literally determines what the actual policy of the government will be and rarely does it coincide with what the policy initiators envisioned."

Over at the blog US Intellectual History, Tim Lacy posted some reflections on Jackson Lears's Rebirth of a Nation: The Making of Modern America, 1877-1920. Short version: "The book is worth at least half of a graduate education in the fields of social, cultural, and intellectual history.  . . . should be on the shelf of every single historian who proclaims to study or teach post-Civil War history." (So far I'm wishing that Lears could have been a little less judgmental, but not sure how that would have worked.)

Meanwhile, William Cronon's outgoing address as president of the American Historical Association called attention to the facts that new students have no experience of off-line research, do little reading for pleasure and less of full-length books. His conclusion for historians: remember to tell stories, and the past is the greatest story of all: "Our core business is RESURRECTION: to make the dead past live again. ... Other professionals can afford to be boring. We cannot."

David E. Wilkins, review of Federal Fathers and Mothers, American Historical Review, vol. 117, no. 5 (December 2012):1598-99.

Cathleen D. Cahill, Federal Fathers and Mothers: A Social History of the United States Indian Service, 1869-1933 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011).

Tim Lacy, "Rebirth of a Nation: Reflections, Ruminations, and Reactions," US Intellectual History, 27 December 2012, : accessed 31 December 2012.

Jackson Lears, Rebirth of a Nation: The Making of Modern America, 1877-1920 (New York: HarperCollins, 2009). 

David Austin Walsh, "Highlights from the 2013 Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association: Dispatches, Day 2," History News Network ( : accessed 4 January 2012).

Harold Henderson, "Tidbits from the History Table," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 9 January 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

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