Happy 60th, American Heritage!

A longtime contributor and former editor introduces the special anniversary issue
READERS, I HAVE THE honor of introducing this birthday banquet of essays on critical moments in our nation's story by some of its ablest current thinkers. I even get to follow on the distinguished heels of President John F. Kennedy; whose resounding words in the preceding article remind us of the vital importance of a citizenry knowing its history. It's worth noting that two of Kennedy's White House predecessors-Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were published historians and presidents of the American Historical Association.
Date of Event: 
Monday, January 22, 1866
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Bruce Catton

Notes about the famous historian and American Heritage editor

For decades, Yale history professor David Blight, an award-winning author and a preeminent scholar of the Civil War, has studied the legacy of Bruce Catton, the historian/writer who significantly shaped our understanding of the Civil War by bringing it into exhilarating, memorable relief through his books and magazine articles. “Few writers have grasped the transformative effect of the war so well,” says Blight, “along with understanding that it is ultimately a great human story.”  Read more »

The Search For A Usable Past

A distinguished historian describes how America, suddenly thrust into nationhood without a history of its own, set out to create one. And what a splendid achievement it was!

The United States was the first of the “new” nations. As the American colonies were the first to rebel against a European “mother country,” so the American states were the first to create—we can use Lincoln’s term, to bring forth—a new nation. Modern nationalism was inaugurated by the American, not the French, Revolution. But the new United States faced problems unknown to the new nations of nineteenth-century Europe—and twentieth. For in the Old World the nation came before the state; in America the state came before the nation.

Prescott’s Conquests

The great historian who so eloquently described the taking of Mexico and Peru won a great private victory of his own in the quiet of his study on Beacon Hill.

“When you see Prescott, give him my cordial remembrances. You two are shelved together for immortality.” Over a century ago Washington Irving thus prophesied an eternity of readers for two New England scholars, George Ticknor, first American master of European literature, and his close friend, the historian William H. Prescott.