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Thursday, April 02, 2015

Sometimes an Art: Nine Essays on History(2015) by Bernard Bailyn

Book Review
Sometimes an Art: Nine Essays on History(2015)
 by Bernard Bailyn
Published January 20th, 2015 by Knopf

  Bernard Bailyn is a heavy United States historian specializing in trans-Atlantic history focusing on the British Empire and the early United States.  Over a lifetime of writing and teaching, his is one of a small number of really first rate global-level academic historians who can also write to a broad, popular audience.  Among his major hits are The Ideology of the American Revolution (1992), a kind of synthesis of state of the art academic history with some of the revisionist themes in popular history that sprang to the fore in the 1960s and 1970s; he also wrote The Peopling of British North America (1988), which the standard undergraduate level treatment of that particular subject, and for over a period of 30 years at this point.

  The general theme of his work is to emphasize the connections between the Empire of Great Britain and the colonies that would become the United States.  Thus, this book of essays- many of which seemed to have been adapted directly from speeches given on various august occasions, orbits around the ideas he has explored over a lifetime and other areas: there are repeated mentions of subjects like Australian and Caribbean history.  The non-speech essays seem to be either articles or introductions written for various special events within the field of history.

  His thoughts are illuminating if you are interested in historiography (the study of the study of history) in a general sense- although endnotes are included, everything is pitched at a general level and the book itself is under 300 pages.

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