Saturday, February 10, 2007

Congratulations to Harvard and Drew Faust

I'm delighted to read in this morning's Washington Post that Drew Gilpin Faust will be the next president of Harvard. She's a terrifc scholar (obviously) and a wonderful person. Harvard is, indeed, fortunate to have her.

Plus, I'm always happy to see when good things happen to historians of the antebellum south! Alas, I fear, that is where the overlaps in our resumes diverge.

Among Faust's many books that I enjoy, my favorite is The Creation of Confederate Nationalism, though James Henry Hammond and the Old South: A Design for Mastery is a close second.

Her A Sacred Circle is a brilliant, brilliant work of intellectual history that has a special place in my heart. I've thought for a long time (like decades) that we need a study that uses the antebellum judges to test Faust's picture of the isolation of intellectuals in the old South. This isn't the place for extended treatment of this topic, but if one's interested in seeing how the effect of ideas about slavery, hierarchy, history, and morality, antebellum judicial opinions are excellent places to turn (as well as antebellum legislative debates). But judicial opinions are particularly good places because you can trace out how people who read widely put together these ideas, at least one step removed from politics in the legislature. I think those judges are able to illuminate a lot of the practical impact of ideas studied by scholars like Faust, Elizabeth Fox Genovese and Eugene Genovese, and Michael O'Brien.


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