Susan Dunn, the Massachusetts Professor of Humanities at Williams, is the author of Dominion of Memories: Jefferson, Madison, and the Decline of Virginia. Her latest book is 1940: FDR, Willkie, Lindbergh, Hitler—the Election amid the Storm.
 (May 2017)


Slaves in the White House

Kara Walker: The Emancipation Approximation (Scene #18), 1999–2000; from the exhibition ‘Emancipating the Past: Kara Walker’s Tales of Slavery and Power—From the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation' on view at the University Museum of Contemporary Art at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, through April 30, 2017

Ties That Bound: Founding First Ladies and Slaves

by Marie Jenkins Schwartz
The “fierce spirit of liberty is stronger in the English Colonies probably than in any other people of the earth,” declared the great Irish statesman and author Edmund Burke to the British Parliament in 1775, urging conciliation and not war with the colonists. And the people of the American South, …

Eleanor in War and Love

Eleanor Roosevelt at the temporary headquarters of the United Nations, Lake Success, New York, 1946

Eleanor Roosevelt, Vol. 3: The War Years and After, 1939–1962

by Blanche Wiesen Cook

Eleanor and Hick: The Love Affair That Shaped a First Lady

by Susan Quinn
In the fall of 1940, when Luftwaffe planes were dropping tens of thousands of bombs over British cities and ports every night, and when American intervention in the war seemed more and more necessary, Eleanor Roosevelt published a short book entitled The Moral Basis of Democracy. Framed around Christ’s message …

The Revolution: Treason and Rescue

Benedict Arnold (right) and other American officers at the Battle of Valcour Island, Lake Champlain, October 1776; detail of a drawing by Charles Randle, from Nathaniel Philbrick’s Valiant Ambition

Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution

by Nathaniel Philbrick

The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783–1789

by Joseph J. Ellis
“I heartily wish some person would try an experiment upon him,” wrote an army physician at Fort Ticonderoga about the enigma that was Brigadier General Benedict Arnold, “to make the sun shine through his head with an ounce ball; and then see whether the rays come in a direct or …

Angry, Icy, Enlightened Adams

Louisa Catherine and John Quincy Adams; paintings by Charles Robert Leslie, 1816

John Quincy Adams: American Visionary

by Fred Kaplan

Louisa Catherine: The Other Mrs. Adams

by Margery M. Heffron, edited by David L. Michelmore
John Quincy Adams was a highly principled, hardworking, and patriotic man of great intelligence and integrity. He was complex and full of contradictions, frigid and hot-tempered, confrontational and thin-skinned, devoted to public service and egocentric. He yearned for acclaim and strove for achievement and high political office, but had a personality quite unsuited for a life in politics.

The TR Show

Ida Tarbell at her desk at McClure’s magazine, New York City, 1894

The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism

by Doris Kearns Goodwin
“I’ve had a bully time and a bully fight. I feel as big and strong as a bull moose,” Lieutenant Colonel Theodore Roosevelt ebulliently told reporters when he returned to New York after the famous charge up San Juan Hill in the summer of 1898. Avid for publicity, Roosevelt had arranged for two photographers to accompany him and his Rough Riders to Cuba and had led favored reporters with him into battle.

The Other Franklin

A scene from Samuel Richardson’s novel Pamela, in which Mr. B. comes upon Pamela writing; painting by Joseph Highmore, 1744. Benjamin Franklin printed an edition of Pamela in 1742, and Jill Lepore writes that it is likely he gave a copy to his sister Jane.

Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin

by Jill Lepore
“I blame myself for not sooner desiring you to lay in your Winter’s Wood,” Benjamin Franklin apologized to his seventy-five-year-old sister Jane in the fall of 1787. He was concerned that she might not have enough firewood to get through the rough New England winter. “But I have been so …

When America Was Transformed

Thomas Jefferson; aquatint by Michel Sokolnicki, after a portrait by Tadeusz Kosciuszko, early 1800s

Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815

by Gordon S. Wood
Far too many congressmen were ignorant and unlearned, complained Benjamin Latrobe, President Jefferson’s surveyor of public buildings, in 1806. Philadelphia and its suburbs, Latrobe said, had not sent a single man of letters to Congress. Well, it was true that one representative was a lawyer—though he was of “no eminence”—and …