Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Poem

screen-shot-2016-12-14-at-6-28-25-pmI have many talented colleagues – some of whom do much more that one might think…like write poetry.

One such individual shared this with me yesterday…

 

The End

by Jeremy Shine

 

If I had to choose a way to die,

I think I would like to go

In the form of a house-fly,

Who meets his end

By way of the hard-cover

Of a well-read and much liked

History, one whose prose

Could sweep you into

A world long past, and yet

With clear relevance to our own;

Continuity being of the essence.

And the comforting thought

That life goes on, the Future assured.

As it is written:

Just as we are now and those that were are to us,

So we will be then to those to be.

(On the other hand,

Maybe a newspaper would be best.)

 

 

 

 

Office Hours – the Latest

Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 9.07.32 AMGreetings all!

The Office Hours series is clicking along at a good clip – and doing well…strangely, not so much on Youtube, but most definitely on Facebook. Go figure. At any rate, here are my two latest episodes: One on counting the Civil War dead and the other on the Teapot Dome scandal. Hey – students ask – so I answer, which means…if you are dying to know about something concerning United States history, just ask. I might feature your question on Office Hours.

In other news, I have a podcast in development set to launch by fall. I’m asking the tough questions. So stay tuned. Anyway, enjoy the videos 🙂 Oh…and by the way, I am shooting one today explaining Alexander Hamilton and the assumption of state debts. Because Hamilton.

With compliments,
Keith

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Gettysburg for Young Readers

Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 6.23.07 PMI am quite certain that one or more Civil War aficionados with a leaning toward bibliophilia has catalogued the number of books dedicated to the Battle of Gettysburg. The number must reach into the tens of thousands: general histories, books that focus on command, strategy, and tactics, books that single out particular days of the three-day battle, books that emphasize specific details, or that follow the campaign with particular regiments or even individuals. And the number of books, articles, essays, even movies about Gettysburg seems to inexorably grow.

I wonder…how many of these books are accessible to young readers? Having spent a good deal of time engaging many of these sources, my guess is not that many. The cynics among us might ask why we  bother reaching out to kids with the written word. Young people engaged with the Internet and its trappings: seconds-long sound bytes, rapid fire information, and the easy access of social media posts are certainly appealing to kids who are plugged in to the outside world at all times. I do not disapprove. Social media and the Internet has been the greatest advancement in education since the printing press…at least in my estimation.

But does that mean we should give up on the idea of young readers picking up a history book and engaging its contents? I think not. Success will come with striking a balance. Visual imagery, relevance, and an exciting narrative style is essential when the goal is to inspire a kid to read history. They can take what they learn and go interactive – turning to social media armed with information and an inquisitive spirit.

I am acquainted via Twitter with the author Iain Cameron Martin, who has put together what I think is an ideal introduction to the Battle of Gettysburg for young readers – Gettysburg: The True Account of Two Young Heroes in the Greatest battle of the Civil War. His easily accessible narrative style, accompanied by beautiful illustrations and contemporary images and accounts of the battle’s participants, follows the campaign from June, 1863 into Southern Pennsylvania for a detailed investigation of the battlefield drama as it played out between July 1-3. He explores the battle’s aftermath and legacy and what’s more, interjects the first-hand testimony of two young residents of Gettysburg who witnessed the battle: Tillie Pierce and Daniel Skelly.

Martin writes out of the shadow of modern controversy. Rather, he takes an even-handed approach to the battle narrative – simply telling the story of two armies struggling for their respective causes and what was at stake.  But at the same time, he makes clear the issues forming the foundation of those causes.

When I visit Gettysburg, as I do frequently enough, I am always struck by the number of young people exploring the rock formations in Devil’s Den, climbing Little Round Top in search of the spot of Chamberlain’s famous charge, or recreating Pickett’s doomed assault on Cemetery Ridge. I am sure these kids would benefit greatly form Martin’s work. We might quibble with his details or analysis. But any well-conceived history should make us think – and Gettysburg certainly succeeds at that.

With compliments,

Keith

American Civil War Web-Course

ACWtitlecardHi all,

My web-course, The American Civil War, is now live. Please have a look HERE for a free preview. Be sure to scroll down the page to see all that the course offers. Readers here at Keith Harris History will receive a special discount (YAY!). Created especially for students, but open to anyone with an interest in the Civil War, the course includes over forty video lectures and other interactive activities covering all aspects of the conflict: military, political, social, and economic. In addition, each lecture features downloadable primary documents to facilitate a better understanding of the material. I encourage you to join in the conversation on Twitter – I will address all questions personally.

With compliments,

Keith

 

Wait for it…Some Thoughts on Critiquing Hamilton

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Well…it didn’t take long for folks to go after Lin-Manuel Miranda’s smash hit, Hamilton – and point out its failures as history. I’m not surprised – many jumped at Spielberg’s Lincoln before the credits finished rolling. The problem, as some see it, is that Hamilton, despite its diverse cast, is a “great man” history that obscures the role of those non-white, non-elite people, especially slaves, in the development of America.

The problem with this analysis, of course, is that Hamilton is not an academic history book, so it seems to me odd to review it as such. In fact, it’s not really history at all – but rather the story of ambition, envy, and of tragically flawed character.

Yes, Miranda’s musical (adapted from Ron Chernow’s biography) does gloss over or even leave out a few things concerning slavery in 18th and early-19th century America – though he does offer several moments praising abolitionists and snarkily jabbing at slaveholders.

The last time I checked, Miranda was not a professional historian. So why should we critique him as such? Perhaps we should ask what Hamilton does do – instead of what it doesn’t.  As far as I can tell, it has done a great deal to get people thinking about a particularly contentious and ambitious group of individuals set against a historical backdrop…and if Hamilton fans have been inspired to look deeper into the history of the Revolution and the Early Republic to find out what was really up – well then…what more can I say?

With compliments,

Keith