When There’s Too Much Historical Evidence

Over the weekend I continued my Anxious Bench series on the challenges of writing biographies by reflecting on the problem of historical evidence. While the biographer whose book I’m currently reading seems to have enough evidence to narrate his subject’s entire life on a weekly (sometimes daily or even hourly) basis, I know that he actually is deploying … More When There’s Too Much Historical Evidence

That Was The Week That Was

Here… • For the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, I recalled one Christian college’s willingness to welcome Japanese American students. • My series on Gary Burge’s Mapping Your Academic Career continued with some reflections on finding your voice as a teacher. • Gift ideas: histories and biographies that made Best of 2016 lists. • How did … More That Was The Week That Was

My New Series on Writing Biography

Earlier this week I started a three-part series at The Anxious Bench on the challenges of writing biographies. I’m writing these posts without any real knowledge of what biographers go through, having never written a book of that sort. But like many historians who have reached mid-career, I’m contemplating such a project, reading more examples of it than usual, and starting … More My New Series on Writing Biography

Best of The Pietist Schoolman: On Hamilton and History

In honor of the Hamilton documentary premiering tonight on PBS… Once more, with feeling: I’m not one for delaying gratification. But I somehow summoned the willpower to avoid buying the chart-topping cast recording of the acclaimed musical Hamilton until last month, when I knew that we would need listening material for our cross-country trip to Virginia. I was not disappointed. … More Best of The Pietist Schoolman: On Hamilton and History

At Long Last, My Post on Hamilton and History

It’s probably foolhardy to post on Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway sensation Hamilton. Even if there’s anything new to say at this point, there’s no way to write about something so exhilarating and creative without coming off as dry and trite by comparison. Aaron Burr, the show’s narrator and somewhat sympathetic villain, would no doubt advise me to “Talk less, smile more.” But in … More At Long Last, My Post on Hamilton and History

History as “An Aggressive Act”

The few times I’ve daydreamed about having another career, I’ve almost always imagined myself a journalist. It’s maybe not much of a stretch for a historian. Journalists, after all, are writing the “first draft of history.” But if I’m being perfectly honest, I’m really only interested in a particular sort of journalism, one that may seem less than serious and … More History as “An Aggressive Act”

Is (Responsible, Thoughtful) Hagiography Coming Back?

Hagiography is not a term that most Western academics dream of seeing in reviews of their work, but historian Rick Kennedy meant it as a plaudit when he dedicated his recent Christian Scholar’s Review essay to an “emerging genre” he termed the “new academic hagiography”: In this New Hagiography the author must try to analyze methodically while believing. Unthinking piety has … More Is (Responsible, Thoughtful) Hagiography Coming Back?

Grant Wacker on Billy Graham: Cushwa’s Spring Seminar

Duke Divinity School historian Grant Wacker’s new book on Billy Graham was the focus of this spring’s Cushwa Center Seminar in American Religion at the University of Notre Dame, which met this past Saturday. Although Wacker has been teaching at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill since 1977, I first remember hearing about him … More Grant Wacker on Billy Graham: Cushwa’s Spring Seminar

Comment Drive: What’s Your Favorite Biography?

This week’s “comment drive” got off to a good start asking about historical movies… Let’s see if we can generate even more conversation about one of filmmaker’s favorite genres of history: biography. In this week’s installment of Past & Presence, our department’s webisode series, we turn to biography: I host from my hometown of Stillwater, Minnesota; we … More Comment Drive: What’s Your Favorite Biography?