Many of you may already know that my latest book, "America's Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise that Preserved the Union," was released on April 17th. With several other new publications in the offing, it seemed like the right moment to inaugurate this long-promised blog as a channel to communicate to you about my work, American history, and (occasionally) myself.
In new posts that will appear several times a month, I'll be delivering news about my current and upcoming writing projects, talking about history—mostly between the nation's founding and post-Civil War Reconstruction—and ways in which the past continues to interpenetrate and shape the present.
When it seems apt, I'll tie history to present-day events. I won't shy away from controversy. But I promise not to rant, nor will I denigrate or insult anyone, present or past.
You'll soon be hearing soon about my next work of history, "American Dawn," a history of the First Congress, of 1789-1791, which I'll be working on for the next couple of years, and which will be published by Simon & Schuster. The First Congress has often been overlooked in treatments of the Early Republic, but it's importance was immense. It literally invented the United States government from the paper blueprint of the Constitution. What happened there, when it met in New York City still recovering from the ravages of the Revolutionary War, is a dramatic political tale in which we see the Founding Fathers as hard-headed but immensely creative politicians who took the fragile idea of nationhood and made it real. Their success was by no means a forgone conclusion.
You'll also find, as time goes on, personal reflections, short essays, book reviews, and occasional travel writing about, perhaps, Harriet Tubman country on Maryland's Eastern Shore, or the abolitionist heartland of upstate New York, or the astonishing Fort Jefferson ("Shark Island") in the Dry Tortugas, off the Florida Keys.
I may also take a literary detour from time to time...
...perhaps with something about China, where I lived and worked in the early 1980s, and still write about from time to time. My review of Paul French's terrific noirish true-crime thriller Midnight in Peking, set in Beijing in the eve of World War II, will soon be on my website.
...or perhaps about American Indian issues. Much of my childhood was spent around native American communities, and my book Killing the White Man's Indian was a combination of reportage and history that explored the incredibly complicated relationship of Indians in the present-day U.S.
Before too long, I also hope to give you an early preview of the novel I've been writing about the consequences of the Civil War. It's titled "Confederates," and it's set in the late 20th century...
I hope to be informative, entertaining, and at least sometimes surprising. As a "long" writer by both habit and temperament, the compacted form of blogging doesn't come to me naturally. But I expect to eventually get the hang of it. I'll strive to keep the tone informal, in the spirit of a friendly conversation, and to avoid the heavy notes of the lecture hall. New posts will appear regularly at least several times a month.
In my next post, I'll be talking about my soon-to-be-released e-book, "The Looming Conflict: Radicals, Rebels, and the Road to Civil War."