What We’re Reading: November 29, 2012

Today’s What We’re Reading features film commentaries from historians, discussion of Obama by presidential historians on Face the Nation, and an increasingly heated historiographical debate over Thomas Jefferson.

Image courtesy of Touchstone Pictures / Photofest.

Historians and the Cinema

Historians and History-at-the-Movies
In one of the more interesting takes on two new releases, Ben Alpers writes: “But recent discussions of Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln and Oliver Stone’s Showtime documentary series, Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States, have highlighted another weakness of historians’ fact-checking approach to movies: it does a terrible job conveying to the public what it means to do history.”

Masters at the Movies
Inspired by Alpers’s insightful remark, we’d like to recommend a series of film commentaries that, in our humble opinion, does a terrific job conveying to the public what it means to do history: “Masters at the Movies” in Perspectives on History.

Booze and Pilots: Flight
And so long as we’re on film, David Courtwright, at the Points blog, takes inspiration from the film Flight to look at the history of drinking, and drunken, airplane pilots.

History and Current Affairs

History Shows Secession Not the Best Idea, a Logistical Nightmare
In his online essay for the NBC’s North Carolina associate, staffer Jake Seaton take an analytical look at the petition calling for North Carolina to secede from the United States, which had been filed at Whitehouse.gov and has reached 25,000 signatures, requiring a response from the White House.

Good Neighbors, Bad Border
Stephen R. Kelly, writing for the New York Times, discusses the history behind a brewing border dispute between the United States and Canada.

Presidential Authors on Face the Nation
Doris Kearns Goodwin, Jon Meacham, Evan Thomas, and Bob Woodward discuss negotiation, compromise, and leadership and “lessons of history” for President Obama (starts around minute 4:30).

The Abolitionist Map of America

News in the Discipline

The Debate over Thomas Jefferson’s Slaves Rages On
A historiographical debate over Thomas Jefferson and his thoughts on slavery is growing increasingly heated amongst Jefferson historians in response to Henry Wiencek’s new book Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves. Wiencek responded to his critics, and further defended his book in Smithsonian’s October issue. You can read more about the debate here.

Digital Databases
Benjamin Weber offers a detailed look at the possibilities of digital databases for historical research, and issues related to accessibility.

The Abolitionist Map of America
An interactive map provided by PBS as part of its promotion of The Abolitionists miniseries, premiering January 8.

Dating and Job-Hunting
Lori A. Flores, at Inside Higher Ed, compares her experience at the AHA annual meeting to the dating scene, and provides nine practical tips for job seekers.

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