Hot off the presses; obsessively

September 11, 2006

Is there a joy more robust and clear than reading a biography? Perpaps scoring one penned by S. E. Morison, whose entries in the Dictionary of American Biography read like full length books condensed down into a few paragraphs. (For proof of this see Morison’s ‘Elbridge Gerry, 1744-1814’ from the Base Set.) Here in Supplement 3, Morison treats the “father of History 13” with overflowing pride, the elect commending the elect, delving into wistfulness while maintaining appropriate acumen. It’s a classic tale of what an old man was in 1940. “Students regarded him as a sort of Rip Van Winkle; he wandered aimlessly through the stacks of Harvard’s Widener Library like a bearded ghost.

In defense of my obsession with the DNB, Dan Cohen writes in a defense of blogging here “When I was in graduate school, the Russian historian Paul Bushkovitch once told me that the key to being a successful scholar was to become completely obsessed with a historical topic, to feel the urge to read and learn everything about an event, an era, or a person. In short, to become so knowledgeable and energetic about your subject matter that you become what others immediately recognize as a trusted, valuable expert. As it turns out, blogs are perfect outlets for obsession.” This is a point I both recognize and heartily agree with. Knowledge is obsession.

Without further adieu, I present to those with the most discerning taste Samuel Eliot Morison’s biography of Albert Bushnell Hart from the Dictionary of American Biography, Supplement 3: 1941-1945.

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