My Life with History: An Autobiography

My Life with History: An Autobiography

My Life with History: An Autobiography

My Life with History: An Autobiography

Excerpt

It is easy to pinpoint the beginning of this book. Early in December, 1962, five years after my retirement, William N. Davis, Jr., State Archivist and a former member of the University of California history department, had me up to his house in Sacramento for a dinner in my honor. Present also were a number of mutual friends, several of whom had worked with me as graduate students in Berkeley. After dinner Bill asked me to speak to the group, but said he would like also to play a record by Samuel Eliot Morison, "The Faith of an Historian." Which would I prefer to come first? Oddly, I had not foreseen the inevitability of a speech, so I said: "Play the record first and maybe it will give me some ideas." He did and it did. The contrast between Morison's eastern and urban background and my western and rural origin became the basis for my remarks. About a year later, when my turn came to read a paper for the Kosmos Club, an organization of Berkeley professors, I wrote down my Sacramento comments into a little essay entitled "The Personal Factor in the Writing of History." Taking myself as a case in point, I asked: What were the influences that had determined my attitudes toward historical scholarship? Why had I written as I had? With whatever candor I could command, I set down my answers.

The domino theory may have no relevance to what happens in Southeast Asia, but it worked for me. When I showed my Kosmos Club paper to Robert E. Burke of the University of Washington, he claimed it at once for publication in the Pacific Northwest Quarterly (July, 1964). Thus encouraged, I went on with another paper, this one on "My Years as a Graduate Student," and after its appearance in the Wisconsin Magazine of History (Summer, 1964), I wrote three more, each on a segment of my teaching record. When they, too, achieved publication, sheer momentum, plus the example of memoirs by two of my friends, Paul Knaplund of Wisconsin and Arthur M. Schlesinger of Harvard, did the rest.

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