History & Politics
For Women's History Month, we've gathered books about intelligent, brave, and resourceful women through the centuries. Some are well-known. Some are not. Some wore jewels and silk. Some wore lab coats. Some were spies and soldiers. Others were athletes, politicians, and hearth-keepers. All are fascinating.
By the mid-1800s, American middle class women frequently turned to Godey’s Lady’s Book for household advice, sewing patterns, and recipes. Although founded by Louis Godey, from 1837 to 1877, it was led by Editor Sarah Josepha Hale and under her leadership, circulation rose dramatically. In Civil War Recipes, Lily May and John Spaulding have done a very nice job of selecting recipes from the first part of the 1860s run of the magazine and presenting them along with enough culinary history to make for an interesting read.
The Founding Foodies, by Dave DeWitt, is an easy-going chat on matters historic and gastronomic in the Old Dominion and beyond. DeWitt dismisses some food writers’ contentions that colonial food was poor stuff. Having attended Mr. Jefferson’s university and being thus familiar with the third president’s many accomplishments, he knew that this common opinion was surely an overgeneralization. Jefferson, as well as Washington and Franklin, were trend-setters—learned men who easily absorbed and promulgated cultured styles of fashion, philosophy, architecture, and, yes, food, derived European trends, especially their French allies.
Besides these Founding Fathers’ culinary preferences, DeWitt also looks at curious historical periods of Virginia history where food, or lack of same, played a noteworthy role. At Jamestown, the horrors of spoiled ships’ rations and the colonists’ inexperience with hunting and fishing made them very dependent on the native tribes’ shared knowledge. They did learn to hunt and fish which was well since the supply ship was delayed, nearly resulting in John Smith being hanged. Desperate to turn a profit in the days before tobacco, the settlers took up fishing on a grand scale—thousands of pounds of salted cod to England and dried fish to Spain.
"One of the most eccentric and accomplished politicians in all of American history, John Randolph (1773--1833) led a life marked by controversy. The long-serving Virginia congressman and architect of Southern conservatism grabbed headlines with his prescient comments, public brawls, and clashes with every president from John Adams to Andrew Jackson. The first biography of Randolph in nearly a century, John Randolph of Roanoke provides a full account of the powerful Virginia planter's hard-charging life and his impact on the formation of conservative politics."
Leave it to Cory Doctorow, author, blogger, and technology activist-extraordinaire, to weave a story that successfully blends coming-of-age woes, homelessness, national politics, copyright law, cooking, gadgetry, love, overcoming homophobia, civil disobedience, film-making, mashups, public speaking, the judicial system, beer and coffee brewing, cryptography, and oh so, so much more into a wonderfully geeky, heart-wrenching, page-turning bang-up novel that people of all ages should read. This book is full of such big, exquisite ideas to learn about that you’ll be Googling your fingers off through the entire story and I mean that in the best way possible. You will learn reading Pirate Cinema and you will love this as much as you love the characters.
“But tho’ an old man, I am but a young gardener.”
—Letter from retired President Thomas Jefferson to famed portrait painter Charles Willson Peale
Author Peter Hatch has been the Director of Gardens and Grounds at Monticello since 1977. When Annie Leibovitz came to historic site, she chose to photograph his hands, which have spent decades re-envisioning and recreating Jefferson’s beloved garden. “A Rich Spot of Earth” is a stunning visual and verbal tribute to both the historic gardens and their careful recovery. Follow these links to learn more about Monticello’s historic gardens and its Center for Historic Plants.
FREDERICKSBURG IN REVOLUTIONARY DAYS
We come now to the record of one of the most important of Virginia's institutions for the prosecution of the war: the manufactory of small arms established by ordinance of the Convention of July, 1775. The facts here presented are those discovered in files of correspondence at present in the Department of Archives of the Virginia State Library, Richmond. There are large gaps in the record of this manufactory: the books and papers of the director seem to have wholly disappeared, and we are forced to rely on the ordinance of Convention establishing this institution, a few subsequent laws and single documents for its history prior to September, 1780; but, from that time forward there remains the correspondence of Charles Dick, on whose shoulders rested the burden of keeping up this institution.
The Yugo was a small car made in the former nation of Yugoslavia that survives in the American consciousness as the ultimate automotive failure. Poorly engineered, ugly, and cheap, it survived much longer as a punch line for comedians than it did as a vehicle on the roads. The story of how this particular car became the most hated vehicle in the U.S. is a comedy of errors detailed in Jason Vuic’s book, The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History. A bewildering array of capitalist hucksters and impoverished communists desperate for revenue collaborated to create the Yugo, and what could have been a great international relations victory of the Cold War was ruined the moment consumers and auto critics actually got to drive it. Vuic examines the many failures of the Yugo venture and the people involved with a keen journalistic eye and a razor-sharp wit, making this a great read for anyone interested in automotive history or 1980s nostalgia.
On Tuesday, September 18, in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Antietam--the single bloodiest day of battle on American soil, PBS’ American Experience will premiere a new NEH-funded documentary, Death and the Civil War, by six-time Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Ric Burns.
Based on the book This Republic of Suffering by historian Drew Gilpin Faust, President of Harvard University and the National Endowment for the Humanities’ 2011 Jefferson Lecturer, the documentary examines how the unprecedented death toll and carnage of the war challenged American cultural attitudes about death and fundamentally transformed federal government policies towards soldiers.