Monthly Archives: August 2014

The Guns of August

While posting that title, I’m immediately struck by how many uses of guns in the month of August there might be. Even now, we might be talking about current fighting in Iraq or the Ukraine.

This time, though, I’m pointing back to the Guns of August 1914. In our remembrance of World War I, we should point out that the initial attacks and invasions occurred throughout August 1914. I have always been fascinated both by the German attempt to sweep through Belgium into France according to the Schlieffen Plan and then the France final stand at the Battle of the Marne. These gripping moments make an appearance in my lectures on World War I for both European and American History.

The phrase “the guns of August” was popularized by the historian Barbara Tuchman, who wrote a book by that name about August 1914. Last year, I reflected on Tuchman’s writing, both content and style.

(However, if that’s too serious, I can also say that the topic was parodied by Stan Freeberg, in his United States of America, volume 2.)

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Fall Semester, 2014

It’s the first day of classes at the University of Northwestern-St. Paul, Minnesota, and in an hour I’ll be tramping out of my office for my first class of the year.

Inspired by several posts I’ve seen (such as this one), I thought I’d identify what I’m teaching this semester. I have three full-semester classes, with plenty of reading in each of them:

1. Honors History of Western Civilization

Augustine, Confessions, trans. Garry Wills, (NY: Penguin Classics, 2008).

John Locke, 2nd Treatise on Government (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1980).

Friedrich Nietzsche, Nietzsche and the Death of God (Boston: Bedford/ St. Martins, 2006).

John Olin, ed. A Reformation Debate: John Calvin and Jacopo Sadoleto (NY: Fordham University Press, 2000).

Thomas West and Grace S. West, eds., Four Texts on Socrates (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1998).

Course Packet with LOTS of Primary Sources.

2. U.S. History to 1877

Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave and Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (NY: The Modern Library, 2004).

John Fea, Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011).

David Hackett Fischer, Paul Revere’s Ride (NY: Oxford University Press, 1994).

David Harrell, Jr., et. al, Unto a Good Land, Vol. I, To 1900 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005).

George Marsden, A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008).

LOTS of Primary Sources.

3. American Religious History (aka, Religion in American History)

Larry Eskridge, God’s Forever Family: The Jesus People Movement in America (NY: Oxford University Press, 2013).

Edwin Gaustad and Mark Noll, eds., A Documentary History of Religion in America, 3rd edition, 2 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003).

George Marsden, The Twilight of the American Enlightenment (NY: Basic Books, 2014).

Mark Massa, Catholics and American Culture: Fulton Sheen, Dorothy Day, and the Notre Dame Football Team (NY: Crossroad Publishing Co., 1999).

Chaim Potok, The Chosen (NY: Fawcett, 1987).

I’m excited for each class in its own way. I know from experience that each of them has the potential to be a great–even transformative–experience.

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John Jay, Prudence, and Duty

I’m just wrapping up a great writing day in which I was working through John Jay’s political conclusions from his experience with the French Revolution. In the course of my writing, I came across a quote which I think is too good not to share. This strikes me as as applicable today as it was in 1807:

“Things are as they are, and we must make the best of them; as travellers do or ought to do, well knowing that in the course of a long journey, they cannot expect to have every day fine weather, good inns, good roads, and good company. Nothing remains for us but to do our duty to our country with prudent and unabated zeal; to enjoy with gratitude and cheerfulness the good we have; and to bear with decency and dignity the ills which cannot avert or remove. What may be our duty will depend on the circumstances of the day.”

-John Jay to William Beers, April 18, 1807

 

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Summer Reading and Going Clear

One of the great joys I have in the summertime is the (slight) increase in the flexibility about what I can read and think about.

This summer, one of my “outside the box” reads was Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright.

I found the book fascinating. It was well worth my time, and I would suggest it would be well worth yours. If you have ever been curious about Scientology, ever known some Scientologists, or just wondered what was happening with Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, this book gives great insights.

I wrote an extended review of the book at the Religion in American History Blog.

In addition, I was able to work in a shout-out to Adina Johnson, a University of Northwestern-St. Paul History Major now at Baylor University.

Check it out!

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