Author Archives: mike

The existential despair of teaching

I teach American history at a state university. I like the job, for many reasons, not all of them noble. But I walk out of nearly every class with a feeling of having failed. Nearly every class. I suspect that’s true of most teachers. This could just be neurosis, because according to the standard metrics […]

Greenbacks, Negro Soldiers, and the President

In honor of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, an excerpt from my book Face Value. During the Civil War, Lincoln’s opponents saw African Americans in uniform and Greenback dollars as the same thing: inflated. We can see the same phenomenon today. The Civil War wasn’t all that popular in the North. Despite a […]

The Crazy Uncle Email

Crazy uncle emails. You get ’em: a long long chain of forwards and re-forwards to lists of family members and friend and further down, total strangers: the subject header says something like “shocking video!” or “what are the politicians up to now!” or “you won’t believe this.” And most of the time, indeed I don’t: […]

The Lincoln-Douglas-Gingrich Debates

Newt Gingrich, who stands a very good chance of getting the GOP nomination for President, wants to challenge Barack Obama to “a series of seven Lincoln-Douglas debates.” It’s worth looking at the proposal in light of the original Lincoln Douglas debates The Lincoln-Douglas debates live in the mind of most people as a symbol of […]

Joe Frazier

Joe Frazier died last night. He was a very important figure in my childhood and his fights with Ali, which took place when I was in middle and high school, taught me a lot about race, class and masculinity. The big shadow Ali cast distorted Frazier’s public character. It’s hard to recapture what a big […]

There Can be More than One

My esteemed colleague Zachary Schrag’s guest post reminded me of the cable TV staple Highlander, in which immortal characters battle each other extravagantly while insisting–for no apparent reason–that “there can only be one.” There can be more than one model, and existing journals don’t have to annihilate each other so that one may live forever. […]

Guest Post: More Babies in that Bathwater

Today we feature a guest post, a critique of American History Now from my esteemed colleague Zachary Schrag. ◊ I love my iconoclastic colleagues, but oh, how they provoke me! First, Hacking the Academy comes out. Then Dan Cohen gives a talk for Open Access Week. Then Mike O’Malley announces his plans for American History Now. (Not to […]

PressForward and American History Now

The Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media recently got a grant from Alfred Sloan Foundation. The “Press Forward” initiative is described here. Part of the grant will establish American History Now, a new kind of professional journal. Yours truly is to be the managing editor. Managing editor of what? What do we want a new […]

“History-ness” and video games

I recently read the first two George R.R. Martin books (game of thrones? song of swords? One of the problems with the Kindle is you don’t get reminded of the titles). I liked them at first, but got really sick of them by the end. They’re relentlessly “plotty,” with lots of cliffhangers but little or […]

The Imaginary Public

It’s campaign season again–really, when is it not campaign season–and again we get endlessly treated to speculations about image and perception and style. Here’s a typical example, from today’s Washington Post. “Rick Perry has distanced himself from George W. Bush’s brand of conservatism,” says the headline, and it goes on to tell us how Perry […]