As Dr. Poe suggests, historians are by their nature public intellectuals because they are intellectuals who write about public events. In the interview, Zelizer discusses his efforts to bring the historian’s voice to the public and his most recent book Arsenal of Democracy: The Politics of National Security From WWII to the War on Terrorism (Basic Books, 2010), using historical research and writing to inform the public and public debate. The book proves that in the U.S. politics does not “stop at the water’s edge.” From the very beginning of the Republic, American foreign policy has been informed by a subtle mix of electoral politics, ideology, and institutional infighting. Zelizer focuses on the Second World War to the present, and shows that politics have a powerful effect on the major foreign policy decisions of the era: Korea, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam, Reagan’s volte-face on disarmament, the First Gulf War, and the Second. It is in the nature of our political culture to cross swords and break lances over issues of foreign policy.
New Books in History has a new podcast of an interview with Mark Philip Bradley and Marilyn Young, the editors of the Making Sense of the Vietnam Wars, the first volume in the Reinterpreting History series produced by the National History Center and Oxford University Press. The volumes in the series aim to convey to readers how and why historians revise and reinterpret their understanding of the past, and they do so by focusing on a particular historical topic, event, or idea that has long gained the attention of historians.
As Marshall Poe, editor of New Books in History, states, “[The] authors provide no simple answers because there are none. You will not find easy explanations, good guys and bad guys, or ideological drum-beating in these pages. What you will find is a sensitive effort to understand an event of mind-boggling, irreducible complexity. There’s a lesson here: we may think we know what we are doing on far-away shores, but we are fooling ourselves.”
The National History Center has entered into a partnership with New Books In History , which audiocast interviews with historians discussing their latest research and writing.
New Books In History
The first in the series offered in conjunction with the New Books in History, focuses on the the Reinterpreting History books, published by Oxford University Press. The volumes in the series aim to convey to readers how and why historians revise and reinterpret their understanding of the past, and they do so by focusing on a particular historical topic, event, or idea that has long gained the attention of historians.
This podcast deals with the volume Atlantic History: A Critical Appraisal. Marshall Poe, editor of “New Books”, interviewed the editors of the volume, Jack P. Greene and Philip D. Morgan.
As Professor Poe suggests, “You may think that historians normally study states or nations, like France and China. But they also study areas of international or imperial interaction. The most famous example of this sort of ‘international’ history is Fernand Braudel’s The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II (1949), but there are many others.’
As a relatively new field, the object of study is the “Atlantic World,” roughly, the history of the interaction of four continents (Africa, Europe, North America and South America) from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century. In this podcast, Greene and Morgan talk about the origin of the field, its work to date, and its prospects.