History

It’s Independence Day! Read an Excerpt from “Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose”

July 4, 2019
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In the years after the Revolutionary War, the fledgling republic of America was viewed by many Europeans as a degenerate backwater, populated by subspecies weak and feeble. Chief among these naysayers was the French Count and world-renowned naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon, who wrote that the flora and fauna of America (humans included) were inferior to European specimens. Thomas Jefferson spent years countering the French conception of American degeneracy. The American moose, which Jefferson claimed was so enormous a European reindeer could walk under it, became the cornerstone of his defense. Convinced that the sight of such a magnificent beast would cause Buffon to revise his claims, Jefferson had the remains of a seven-foot ungulate shipped first class from New Hampshire to Paris. Unfortunately, Buffon died before he could make any revisions to his Histoire Naturelle, but the legend of the moose makes for a fascinating tale about Jefferson’s passion to prove that American nature deserved prestige. In Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose, first published in 2009 and reissued in paperback this year, Lee Alan Dugatkin vividly recreates the origin and evolution of the debates about natural history in America and, in so doing, returns the prize moose to its rightful place in . . .

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Join Our New Twitter Book Club

June 24, 2019
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Looking for smart, engaging, and somewhat offbeat reading recommendations? Want to be a part of a community of readers who are curious and sharp? Want to have the opportunity to chat directly with authors, editors, and translators about their work? Then the #ReadUCP Book Club is for you! This July we are launching our seasonal Twitter book club. We know you are already avid readers with many books on your bedside and crammed into your satchel, so we’re keeping it pressure-free with just four selections a year (July, October, February, and May) that promise to be fun, thought-provoking, and a little unconventional for a book club pick. Each season we invite our @UChicagoPress Twitter followers to join us in reading and discussing our selection. We’ll share inside information on our blog and check-in via Twitter to share our thoughts and progress along the way. In turn, we invite you to send questions as you read and to join us for virtual book club meetings. Just use #ReadUCP when you tweet. To follow the conversation, you can use Twitter’s search tool or a tool like HootSuite or TweetDeck to filter by #ReadUCP. Our Summer Pick Is: Edible Memory by Jennifer A. . . .

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5 Questions for Karen Routledge, author of “Do You See Ice?: Inuit and Americans at Home and Away”

April 24, 2019
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Many Americans imagine the Arctic as harsh, freezing, and nearly uninhabitable. But as Karen Routledge shows in Do You See Ice?, the living Arctic—the one experienced by native Inuit and others who work and travel there—is a diverse region shaped by much more than stereotype and mythology.  We sent Routledge some questions recently to delve into exactly how she came to study this unusual topic. How did you end up working as a professional historian, and what do you love about it? I’m a historian for Parks Canada, the Canadian national park service. I was lucky to end up here. When I was a graduate student, I thought I wanted a tenure-track job, and feared I’d be a failure if I didn’t get one. Near the end of my PhD, a Parks Canada historian (my now-colleague Meg Stanley) told me they were hiring. I realized I badly wanted the job. Thankfully I got it, and I’ve been here since 2010. This has ended up being an ideal job for me. I love that Parks Canada projects can reach a wide audience, and that so many local people and visitors are passionate about our sites. I work mostly on project teams . . .

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Magic, Mayhem, and Maps in the Harlem Jazz Age

October 10, 2018
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  Historian Susan Schulten takes us on a deep dive into the fascinating story behind a favorite map from her new book, A History of America in 100 Maps. In 2016, the Beinecke Library at Yale University paid $100,000 to add Elmer Simms Campbell’s energetic profile of interwar Harlem to its celebrated collection of black history and culture. The Library described Campbell’s image as a “playful rendering” of the age, but it also captures the complex dynamics that made Harlem the cultural capital of black America. Campbell’s success may even have surprised him. After studying at the Art Institute of Chicago, he moved to Manhattan in 1929 to seek work, though faced a string of rejections due to his race before catching a break at the newly founded Esquire magazine in 1933. For the next four decades, Campbell supplied the magazine with cartoons and illustrations that shaped its knowing, urban, and often cheeky sensibility. Though he initially struggled to find work, Campbell immediately found in Harlem’s jazz scene. He quickly befriended Cab Calloway, who, along with Duke Ellington, presided over legendary performances at the Cotton Club. The men became drinking buddies and regulars at Harlem’s famed clubs and speakeasies, all of . . .

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Trapped in an inescapable flood of information – it’s sink or swim

September 26, 2018
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Trapped in an inescapable flood of information – it’s sink or swim

Has there ever been an era in human history in which communication slowed down? Or is the increasing rate at which information is shared a historical constant? My money’s on the latter. In attempting to navigate the flood of information online, which seems in no danger of slowing down, it’s pretty much sink or swim. So why not invest some time checking out Professor of Education and History at Stanford University Sam Wineburg’s new book Why Learn History (When It’s Already on Your Phone). Confronting head-on the deluge of information that modern technology has made available, and offering crucial tips for navigating it, Wineburg’s book is of value to citizens and students alike, offering readers a tool set for vetting and verifying the myriad sources of information we encounter online, while laying bare the many rhetorical devices used to spin and bias purportedly factual information. Recently Slate magazine has invested a decent sized chunk of their online real estate to what Wineburg has to say, with an eye-opening interview with the author as well as an excerpt from his new book in which Wineburg offers an insightful and penetrating critique of Howard Zinn’s classic, A People’s History of the United States. Wineburg . . .

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Free eBooks from The University of Chicago Press – Building the American Republic, Volumes 1 and 2

January 10, 2018
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Free eBooks from The University of Chicago Press – Building the American Republic, Volumes 1 and 2

Donald Trump takes the podium outside the Capitol Building to be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States–freeze frame, record scratch, cue up the intro to that one song by The Who, and a narrator chimes in: “Now I bet you’re wondering how we ended up here?” Flashback to a bunch of seasick Europeans disembarking from their ship on the eastern shores of the new world–to the surprise and perhaps amusement of some of the locals who are just out for a stroll. And so begins the first volume of our magisterial new two-volume history of the United States, Building the American Republic. Okay, that’s not really how it starts–but it totally should be if anyone ever wants to option the television rights! Right now though you can see how the books really begin yourself by downloading the e-books of both volumes at buildingtheamericanrepublic.org absolutely free. With the need for an informed electorate more clear now than ever, these books, written by two of the foremost experts on American history working in the field today, are an indispensable asset in understanding America’s past and present, and what can be done to guarantee its future. At a time when knowledge . . .

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Going home for the Holidays? Take Scott Tong’s Fascinating Family History with You.

December 15, 2017
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Going home for the Holidays? Take Scott Tong’s Fascinating Family History with You.

Looking for something to listen to on the long road/flight/L ride to Grandma’s house? Well look no further, because Marketplace correspondent Scott Tong has been hitting the podcast circuit in the past week to promote the publication of his new book A Village with My Name: A Family History of China’s Opening to the World. In the tradition of Marketplace‘s fascinating coverage of the latest topics in business and economics, Scott Tong’s book takes an intimate look at China’s long and challenged ascendancy to the global political and economic powerhouse that it is today, as told through the life stories of members of his own extended family. The recent Marketplace interview with Kai Ryssdal does a great job of summarizing the book, touching on most of its most salient points, while a longer interview with Tong on the Sinica podcast (Warning: Contains spoilers) should get you most of the rest of the way to Grandma’s. Tong is also doing quite a few book signings and events early in the New Year, including one in DC on the 3rd and one in San Francisco on the 9th. Check out the UCP author events calendar for more upcoming dates on Tong’s book tour. . . .

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Our Latest Longest War . . . still going on

August 23, 2017
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Our Latest Longest War . . . still going on

On Monday night, President Trump announced a new strategy for Afghanistan, where American forces have been fighting since late 2001. He gave few details, but the general indication was that the war would go on–with possibly as many as 4,000 additional troops–and that the strategy wouldn’t differ markedly from those followed by the Bush and Obama administrations. Aaron O’Connell, retired Marine lieutenant colonel, Afghan war veteran, and the editor of our collection of analysis of the Afghan war by those who have fought it, Our Latest Longest War: Losing Hearts and Minds in Afghanistan, talked with NPR’s Morning Edition on Monday. That was before the president’s speech, but O’Connell had a sense of what he was likely to say, and he wasn’t impressed: Nobody thinks 5,000 more troops is going to end the war in Afghanistan. For context, we have about 8,400 American troops there now. And at the height of the surge in 2011, we had 100,000. So adding 5,000 more won’t end the war. The hope is that it will buy the Afghan government a bit more time to bring the Taliban to a negotiated peace, or at least to halt the loss of momentum and halt the Taliban advance. . . .

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You thought that by coming here you were going to escape all the Russia news, didn’t you?

July 23, 2017
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You thought that by coming here you were going to escape all the Russia news, didn’t you?

Well, define “news.” Because what we have to offer is nearly a century old–but it’s also little known. Over at Aeon, Julia Mickenberg has written a piece drawing on her book American Girls in Red Russia: Chasing the Soviet Dream about the almost unknown stories of the many American women who moved to the young Soviet Union in the early part of the twentieth century in search of a better life. Most of these were ordinary women, tempted by promises of greater freedom, more equality, and a broader spectrum of rights than they could have in the United States at the time. But a few were famous–including dancer Isadora Duncan; you can read about her Soviet years in  an excerpt from the book at Lapham’s Quarterly. See? Nary a word about secret meetings, dodgy dossiers, or anything contemporary. It’s okay sometimes to live in the past–especially when that past reminds you of long-forgotten (if ultimately tragic) dreams of the future. . . .

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The Real Million Dollar Baby

June 23, 2017
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The Real Million Dollar Baby

“Claressa Shields is the Real Million Dollar Baby,” Sarah Deming’s piece from our new anthology The Bittersweet Science: Fifteen Writers in the Gym, in the Corner, and at Ringside, first ran at Deadspin. Here’s an excerpt from that essay below. More at Deadspin, of course. *** Claressa Shields was born in Flint, Mich., the middleweight champion of hard-luck towns. Her dad was an underground fighter called Cannonball who went to prison when she was two. Her mother was an imperfect protector. When Cannonball got out, Claressa was nine years old and already a survivor. Father and daughter drove around Flint in his big burgundy van, trying to make up for lost time. Cannonball told Claressa it was a shame nobody else in the family boxed. All the Shieldses could fight; most of the men had gone to jail, and some of the women, too. He said prison was a cycle somebody had to break. He said it was sad how Muhammad Ali had all those sons and none of them followed him into the ring. “Laila did,” said Claressa. “She’s a bad girl,” said Cannonball. Claressa thought he was telling her to box. Her favorite cartoon was The Powerpuff Girls, about three little superheroines who . . .

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