Andrew Jackson and the Rise of the Democrats to be Published in Spring 2015

AJ and Rise of Democrats CoverThis week, I submitted the index for Andrew Jackson and the Rise of the Democrats, which will be published in March 2015.

I was asked to write this book by the series editor, Randall Miller, while I was completing Andrew Jackson, Southerner. It was an easy transition from one book to the next, since most of the research was similar.*

Because of the target market (undergraduate students), this book won’t draw as much attention from professional historians or the general public, but I think it provides a strong, concise narrative for understanding Early Republic politics and the development of the Jacksonian Democratic party.

One benefit to writing this book was that it forced me to think more deeply about Jackson’s political ideology. Just like his southern identity demonstrated his complexity, Old Hickory’s political ideology wasn’t as straightforward as has often been portrayed.

Much like the transition from Andrew Jackson, Southerner to Andrew Jackson and the Rise of the Democrats, writing Rise of the Democrats has provided a seamless segue to my next book, The Log Cabin and Hard Cider Campaign of 1840: Politics as Entertainment in Antebellum America. I’ll have updates on that book and some other new projects in early 2015.

* If you are interested in my workflow for this book, this document will give you some insight. Or not, depending on how idiosyncratic my organizational thinking strikes you.

Books for Spring 2015

On the schedule for the Spring 2015 semester are two sections of the U.S. survey (1865-present) and the Old South course. As usual, I’ve switched up the books. I also assign articles to supplement the book readings.

History of the U.S. II

Beth L. Bailey, From Front Porch to Back Seat: Courtship in Twentieth-Century America (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013) ISBN 9780801839351

Students generally like books that speak to their experience, so that’s my hope for this one.

James Broussard, Ronald Reagan: Champion of Conservative America (Routledge, 2014) ISBN 9780415521956

Jim is a good friend, and I had the opportunity to read the manuscript while it was in production.

K. Stephen Prince, Stories of the South: Race and the Reconstruction of Southern Identity, 1865-1915 (Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2014) ISBN 9781469614182

I hope students respond well to the cultural focus of this book.

Old South

Edward Baptist, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism (Basic Books, 2014) ISBN 9780465002962

This book has justifiably attracted a lot of media attention, and it will be interesting to hear students’ feedback.

Carole Emberton, Beyond Redemption: Race, Violence, and the American South after the Civil War (Univ. of Chicago Press, 2013) ISBN 9780226024271

Much like with the Civil War course, I want students to see the longer-term consequences of the Civil War for the South.

Lorri Glover, Founders as Fathers: The Private Lives and Politics of the American Revolutionaries (Yale Univ. Press, 2014) ISBN 9780300178609

As someone who has a continued interest in Andrew Jackson’s family relations, this book caught my eye. Lorri is one historian who has significantly influenced my understanding of southern kinship and father-son relations.

Paul Quigley, Shifting Grounds: Nationalism and the American South, 1848-1865 (Oxford Univ. Press, 2014) ISBN 9780199735488

We talked quite a bit about Confederate nationalism in this fall’s Civil War course, and I’m hoping that this book helps students better understand the connection.

The 100 Most Influential Americans

Credit: friend recently posted The Atlantic‘s 2006 list of the 100 most influential Americans. Not surprisingly, 5 of the top 10 Americans were presidents, with several more in the top 20, including Andrew Jackson (#18).

Lists like this are intended to generate conversation, and there were certainly some questionable placements, Ben Franklin at #6 being one of them. I also question Mary Baker Eddy making the list, given some of the other religious leaders who did not. On the other hand, I think we can all be glad that John F. Kennedy didn’t appear on the list.

If we were to make such a list today, what changes would you make? Where would President Obama appear on the list? Would Bill Gates move up? Can we all agree that Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande don’t belong?

In Memoriam: Donald B. Cole

Donald Cole PicEarlier this week, in the course of contacting historians about a new project, I learned that Donald B. Cole passed away last year. Unlike the death of Robert Remini, which garnered significant attention in the profession and the mainstream media, Don’s death passed largely unnoticed by the profession.

That is unfortunate, because Don’s scholarship was on par, and in some ways superior, to Remini’s. Remini’s narrative flair garnered him attention, but his desire to tell the story sometimes led him to gloss over the problems with his sources or to present an overly optimistic interpretation of Jackson. Don’s work was well-written, straightforward, and demonstrated fidelity to the sources. His biography of Martin Van Buren is far superior to Remini’s and Joel Silbey’s, and his study of Jackson’s presidency remains, two decades later, the standard account.

Personally, I can say that Don was always kind to me. He and Dan Feller were more gracious than they should have been at my first SHEAR conference (Buffalo in 2000), when the professional naiveté and self-confidence (read arrogance) of a graduate student were flexing their muscles. Don and I corresponded about projects over the years, specifically my Andrew Jackson, Southerner and his Vindicating Andrew Jackson: The 1828 Election and the Rise of the Two-Party System. He introduced me to Jon Meacham, wrote letters of support for grant opportunities, and offered his honest assessment of my work. Even when he disagreed, he did so generously, acknowledging that our interpretations were likely just different readings of the same evidence.

I encourage you to read more about Don in his obituary, the remembrance of a former student, and, most importantly, in his own words in an interview at American Talleyrand.

Biographies of Pivotal Tennesseans at the 2014 Southern Festival of Books

I have the distinct privilege of participating in this year’s Southern Festival of Books, which will be held this weekend in Nashville. I will be part of a session, entitled “From the State of Franklin to TVA: Biographies of Pivotal Tennesseans,” with Gordon Belt, Traci Nichols-Belt, and Aaron D. Purcell.

Our session will be held Saturday, October 11, from 11:00 A.M. to 12:30 P.M. in the Nashville Public Library, Third Floor Program Room. We will be signing books after the session concludes.

Tennessee Republicans Attack APUSH

AP-examTwo Tennessee Republicans, Dolores Gresham and Mike Bell, want the state to review the direction taken with the new AP U.S. History (APUSH) framework and exam. According to the Tennessean, Gresham is arguing that “[t]here are many concerns with the new APUSH framework, not the least of which is that it pushes a revisionist interpretation of historical facts. . . . The items listed as required knowledge have some inclusions which are agenda-driven, while leaving out basic facts that are very important to our nation’s history.”

Gresham and Bell appear to be taking their lead from the Republican National Committee, which is up in arms about the changes to APUSH. In particular, its members are upset about the lack of American exceptionalism in the new curriculum, as well as the absence of people and events traditionally a part of U.S. history curriculum. While Gresham and Bell do not, to my knowledge, specifically reference Stanley Kurtz’s piece in National Review, Gresham’s statement echoes Kurtz’s claim that the APUSH change is being pushed by “a movement of left-leaning historians that aims to ‘internationalize’ the teaching of American history. The goal is to ‘end American history as we have known it’ by substituting a more ‘transnational’ narrative for the traditional account.”

Kevin Gannon has provided a thorough critique of the “American exceptionalism” ideal that some APUSH critics have expressed, so there’s no need for me to repeat his cogent arguments. Kurtz’s deconstruction of the new APUSH and the proponents behind the change strikes me as silly. I looked at the new APUSH framework and the sample exam released by College Board, which is responsible for producing APUSH, and failed to see the leftist conspiracy that Kurtz imagines. Is it inclusive? Yes. Does it address the United States’ failures? Yes. Does it also address traditional U.S. history topics? Yes.

So, what’s the problem? Gresham, Bell, Kurtz, and Co. seem to want an APUSH that only acknowledges the positive things about the United States, and they believe that APUSH does the opposite instead. What is striking about the anti-APSUH crowd is that they seem oblivious to the fact that they are pushing an interpretation just as much as their opponents are. Despite Kurtz’s claim that under the previous framework, “[l]iberals, conservatives, and anyone in-between could teach U.S. history their way, and still see their students do well on the AP Test,” they seem to believe that there is only one interpretation of U.S. history: theirs.

There are legitimate differences in the way that we can interpret historical evidence, but liberal, conservative, socialist, or libertarian, the evidence must produce the interpretation, not vice-versa. It appears to me that Republicans are the ones letting their interpretation lead them, not APUSH.

Beloit Mindset List for Class of 2018

The new Beloit Mindset List is out, as is the new Beloit Mindlessness List.

I happen to agree with the latter: the original Beloit List for this year is not very interesting. I remember the mid-1990s as a much more exciting and revolutionary time, but maybe that’s just me.



Summer 2014 Research

IMG_20140716_141033128Last year, I said that the summer was one of the coolest and wettest I’d ever seen in Tennessee. It hasn’t been as wet this year, but it’s been unseasonably cool until this week.

This summer, I focused on three research projects. The first was completing Andrew Jackson and the Rise of the Democrats, which ABC-CLIO will publish next year. The second was beginning writing on The Log Cabin and Hard Cider Campaign, a new book on the 1840 presidential election, for The Johns Hopkins University Press. Finally, I also started writing a paper on Andrew Jackson and his alleged hatred of the British for LSU-Shreveport’s Battle of New Orleans bicentennial symposium, at which I will be presenting this fall.

In addition to these projects, two other major events occurred. First, I changed offices. Given the number of books I owned, that was no easy task. My wife convinced me that purging during the move was a good idea. Thankfully for my back’s sake, I took her advice. I have a window now, which has made a world of difference in my mood. I also have a plant; my take on that development is still pending.

IMG_20140716_183710704The second was a trip to New York City to speak at Bryant Park Reading Room. My friend and Van Buren expert and blogger James Bradley hosted me. I didn’t get the time I wanted to tour, but over 100 people came to my talk. I then traveled from NYC to Philadelphia for the annual SHEAR meeting, where I had the pleasure of sharing panel co-commenting duties with Harry Watson. As always, it was a great conference.

Classes start this week, marking the official end of my summer. Here’s to a productive semester.

Book Signing at the Wilson County Fair

Authors day banner JPEGThe Wilson County Fair is the largest fair in the state of Tennessee. I’ll be joining a number of authors there next Sunday, Aug. 17, to sign books. All of the authors will be located in the Fiddlers Grove Historic Village Pavilion from 2:00-6:00 P.M. Come see us if you have the opportunity.

Celebrating Four Years at Jacksonian America

Home made party cupcake with a number candle on topI started this blog four years ago today. It’s been quieter than normal the past few months, as I’ve been wrapped up in speaking about Andrew Jackson, Southerner and focused on writing on several new projects.

Despite my infrequent posting, this year witnessed a huge spike in views. This was largely due to a post I wrote on Andrew Jackson’s parrot. Who knew so many people were curious about a swearing bird?

Blogging continues to be a helpful creative outlet for me. Regardless of what brought you here originally or what keeps you coming back, thank you for reading.


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