When I first suggested this book to JoAnne Prichard, executive edi tor of the University Press of Mississippi, I said that it would be a labor of love. I meant that it would deal with a subject that has long fascinated me--that neglected crossroad where the past meets and illuminates the present. The resulting manuscript then went through several drafts, and I am grateful to Ms. Prichard, whose keen editorial eye saw the makings of a coherent book in the frag mentary raw materials I initially submitted. Her suggestions were invaluable.
As always, I owe a debt to my editors at The Washington Post Writers Group--Bill Dickinson, Alan Shearer and Anna Kara vangelos--and to a number of editors of Book World over the years, especially Eve Auchincloss, Bridgitte Weeks and the late Reid Bed dow. I have profited from conversations about many of the topics touched upon in this book with my colleagues at Washington and Lee, especially John Jennings, Holt Merchant and Hampden Smith III. As in the past, two valued friends, John Maurice Evans and Jonathan Yardley, read and commented on the manuscript. They spared me significant errors of judgment, taste and style.
I have dedicated this book to the memory of three mentors in the field of history. Jim Caldwell, known to many of his friends and colleagues in the history department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as "Speck," was my freshman instructor in both parts of the two-semester course in Western Civilization. It was from him, along with my father, that I had the good fortune to contract my earliest enthusiasm for the study of the past. I have