Category Archives: adventures in publishing

August 16, 2012, 2:25 pm

Speaking of embarrassing corrections …

The publisher of David Barton’s book The Jefferson Lies (without the definite article it would be a perfectly valid thesis) has pulled it.

“Mr. Barton is presenting a Jefferson that modern-day evangelicals could love and identify with,” Warren Throckmorton, a professor at the evangelical Grove City College, told Hagerty. “The problem with that is, it’s not a whole Jefferson; it’s not getting him right.”

The linked article goes on to say, “The book’s publisher came to the same conclusion” – after, of course, publishing and selling a bunch of copies.

What kinds of claims did Barton make?

Barton calls Jefferson a “conventional Christian,” claims the founding father started church services at the Capitol, and even though he owned more than 200 slaves, says Jefferson was a civil rights visionary.

Sometimes the things you learned in school are true, you know. Thomas Jefferson was a…

Read More

March 17, 2012, 10:29 am

We could sell a lot of shirts.

Someday, perhaps someday soon, The Very Last Edited Collection of Essays will roll off a university press.

For years historians have been told that There Will Be No More, because they don’t make money. When one goes to a small conference, the organizers always say, “we would like to get an edited collection out of this, but the publishers we’ve spoken to say they aren’t doing them anymore.”

For a long time, putting out an edited collection was a good way of defining a new subfield – of saying, not only am I toiling in these weeds, but so also are a dozen other promising scholars. Or of redefining an existing subfield, of saying, brave new work is still happening here. Or, very occasionally, they essay a redefinition of the field itself. Or of course they collect the short works of a major historian.

I have a number of these collections on my shelves. The ones I reach for, repeatedly,…

Read More

November 22, 2011, 12:46 pm

Occupy Beijing

9780809094776 jpgIn the spring and summer of 1900, bands of ordinary Chinese began to spread across northern China, protesting against and attacking the representatives of an imperial world that was remaking their country in the name of modernity and progress. The so-called “Boxers” were mostly leaderless and connected only by their shared desire to resist and rebel.

The empires fought back. Caught in the middle was the tottering Qing Dynasty of China, led uneasily by the Empress Dowager Cixi, who had dominated Chinese politics for half a century. Watching was the rest of the world, caught by the daily reports from journalists embedded with the western forces.

I wrote a book about that summer of 1900. Writing a book takes a while. There are numerous way stations. There’s the research and the writing, the research that results from the writing, the rewriting, the editing, the rewriting that…

Read More

October 25, 2011, 6:35 pm

Best practices.

Among the many things we don’t teach our graduate students — not just here but anywhere that I can think of — is how to referee a manuscript. There are many reasons why this skill isn’t taught: methods aren’t universal, time is short, most people suck at it. There are others, too, I’m sure. That said, this is a really useful guide. Useful enough that I’m just going to paste it in its entirety below the fold.


May 27, 2010, 10:16 am

Still kicking.

It’s nice that when one’s book is seven years old, it’s still on the top of some people’s minds (and lists). I’d like for there to be a tenth anniversary edition, come to that. Come on, stay in print!

September 2, 2009, 4:54 pm

Best underrated historical novel.

What’s your choice? Mine is Richard Powers, Gain. What a terrific book about American capitalism. And how often do you get to say that? (Go on, nominate JR.) Also full of neat wordplay and eminently readable. Plus, Powers has an excellent and timely sense of what it means to slide into the Best Healthcare System in the World™.

Your turn.

August 12, 2009, 10:32 pm

History for grownups

So, Yale UP is, for the moment at least, publishing a book about the controversy surrounding the in/famous Danish cartoons lampooning the Prophet Muhammad. But the press has refused to print the cartoons themselves — or any of the other images of Muhammad that the author included with her manuscript. I don’t find myself in an especially high dudgeon about this. Which is to say, I don’t think the terrorists have won, or that the press is guilty of anything so heinous as pre-9/11 thinking. But it seems like Yale’s move was either to publish the book with the relevant images — I’m assuming that images, though not precisely which ones, were part of the original contract between author and publisher — or not publish it at all. Regardless, it’s an odd and somewhat unsettling story.