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Michael Nelson

Michael Nelson is professor of political science at Rhodes College. A former editor of The Washington Monthly, he has published twenty books on the American presidency, national elections, and higher education. In recent years he has written articles for VQR about Abraham Lincoln, C. S. Lewis, Garrison Keilloir, Frank Sinatra, Ward Just, Stephen Carter, Robert Caro, and other subjects. More than forty of his articles have been anthologized in works of political science, history, and English composition.


Ward Just’s Washington

Pity me in 1973: a second-year graduate student, committed to turning avocation (a fascination with American politics) into vocation (political scientist) and increasingly dissatisfied with my commitment. I read day and night in my library carrel [...]

C.S. Lewis and His Critics

Nearly a quarter century after his death on Nov. 22, 1963, the popularity of C.S. Lewis, who made his living as a literary scholar at Oxford and Cambridge but is better known for his apologetic and imaginative works of Christian literature, refuses t [...]

The Washington Community Revisited

James Sterling Young's Washington Community, 1800—1828 created something of a scholarly sensation when it was published in 1966 by Columbia University Press, and justly so.The Washington Community was that rarest of all things in modern academe: [...]

The Ultimate Commencement Speech

Morale. By John Gardner. Norton. $7.95. American Reformers, 1815—1860. by Ronald G. Walters. Hill and Wang. $10.95. REMEMBER, if you can, the last graduation ceremony you went to. Remember the heat, the glare, the bugs buzzing around your head, t [...]

Scholar-Politicians and Sheriffs

Robert Kennedy and His Times. By Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. Houghton Mifflin. $19.95 Months before its release, long before the reviews were assigned or the store copies ordered, the book world knew that Robert Kennedy and His Times was going to be [...]

Evaluative Journalism: A New Synthesis

Somewhere along the line, even those of us who are not deeply versed in Hegel probably have heard the popularized version of his theory that historical change is the product of clashes of ideas. "Thesis," the leading idea of an age, confronts "antit [...]

Fighting for Lincoln’s Soul

Good Friday fell on April 14 in 1865. At 10:13 that evening Abraham Lincoln was shot by the Confederate partisan John Wilkes Booth. He died nine hours later, at 7:22 on Saturday morning. It took almost no time at all for pious and patriotic people [...]

The Good, the Bad, and the Phony: Six Famous Historians and Their Critics

Summer 2002 | Essays

What a bad time it has been for the nation's best-known historians—that is, for the small number of historical writers, some affiliated with academic institutions and some not, whose books regularly inhabit the bestseller lists, whose faces frequently appear on television, and whose speaking fees reach well into the five figures. The entire roster consists of six people: Stephen E. Ambrose, Michael Beschloss, Joseph J. Ellis, Doris Kearns Goodwin, David McCullough, and Edmund Morris. All but Morris have recently been accused, in widely read publications and in some cases on talk shows, of offenses ranging from incompetence and superficiality to plagiarism and outright fabrication. Morris had his own spell of notoriety three years ago, when he published a "semi-fictional" (his term) biography of Ronald Reagan.