H. W. Brands
|H. W. Brands|
H. W. Brands
|Born||Henry William Brands
1953 (age 60–61)
|Other names||Bill Brands|
|Known for||American history|
Henry William Brands (born 1953) is an American writer of U.S. history and biography, authoring 25 books. He is also the Dickson Allen Anderson Centennial Professor of History and a Professor of Government at the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned his Ph.D. in history in 1985. His works have twice been selected as finalists for the Pulitzer Prize.
Early life and education
Born in 1953, Brands grew up in Oregon in the Portland metropolitan area. He attended high school at Jesuit, where he was a three sport athlete and national merit scholar. Brands enrolled at Stanford University studying mathematics and history, receiving his undergraduate degree in history in 1975. Following graduation he worked for a year in his family's cutlery business before returning to Jesuit to teach mathematics. He taught at the high school for the next five years while earning a M.A. in Liberal Studies from Reed College in 1978, followed by a M.S. in Mathematics from Portland State in 1981. During this time he realized that he wanted to write, and determined his love of history might provide an avenue for him to do so. He left Oregon to prepare for a career in history, traveling to the University of Texas at Austin to study under Robert A Divine. He wrote his dissertation on the Eisenhower administration and its foreign policy during the Cold War, earning his Ph.D. in History in 1985.
Brands worked as an oral historian at the University of Texas School of Law for a year, then taught at Vanderbilt University in 1986-87. In 1987 he took a position at Texas A&M University where he taught for seventeen years. In 2005 he joined the faculty at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is the Dickson Allen Anderson Centennial Professor of History and Professor of Government, and holds the Jack S. Blanton Sr. Chair in History.
Brands is an animated lecturer who attempts to explain history through stories. Researching an historical period he looks for particular characters by which to tell the story of the time, creating through them a voice the readers can identify with. Said Brands: "History is a story... in fact, it is the best story I can think of." Personal notes and writings, letters and diary entries are all items of great interest to Brands, as he uses these to make the period come alive. His biographical works are 'life and times' stories with the emphasis on the times. They are period histories that use the subject to transport the reader to the time the individual was living in. In this way Brands relates the history of the period in an interesting way, though the focus in a biography must necessarily be more narrow (the subject's life and experience) than a general history of the time would be.
Brands views his writings as an extension of his classroom, where his teaching of history is centered upon creating an interesting narrative. "It is more important to me that my students come out of my class believing 'This story is interesting and I might want to know more about it' than to fill them up with information." Brands holds that whatever information students may learn in a classroom will slip away with time, but creating an interest in history can result in learning that will continue throughout life. "If I can remind them or convince them that history is interesting than I feel I have succeeded, because unlike Chemistry or Physics, History is a subject that anyone can teach themselves, if they are interested." Brands believes textbooks should be captivating. As an author and contributor to text books, Brands comments: "I happen to think it is absolutely critical to write textbooks that engage the students." One of the textbooks Brands co-authored is titled American Stories: A History of The United States, conveying in the title Brands' view that history is best taught as a narrative.
He takes a progressive view on the founders and the U.S. Constitution, arguing that the founders were at heart radicals who were willing to challenge the status quo in search of a better future. That being so he believes that Americans today should not be constrained by the views of self-government held by the founders. "In revering the founders we undervalue ourselves and sabotage our own efforts to make necessary improvements in the republican experiment they began. Our love of the founders leads us to abandon and even betray the principles they fought for." He believes the framers would not want the Constitution to be interpreted by the idea of original intent, and believes that we are in error when we view the founders in a "deified" way.
Though noting the power of the Office of the President has increased greatly since the opening of the twentieth century, when the United States emerged as a significant world power and U.S. foreign policy became far more important, Brands believes Americans focus too much on the president. "We have a cult of the president, where we make too big a deal of the president."
Besides teaching history in his university courses, Brands has written extensively. He has authored twenty-four books, co-authored three others with T. H. Breen, and produced numerous articles that have been featured in newspapers and magazines. His writings have received critical and popular acclaim. The First American was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Los Angeles Times Prize, as well as a New York Times bestseller. The Age of Gold was a Washington Post Best Book of 2002 and a San Francisco Chronicle bestseller. Andrew Jackson was a Chicago Tribune Best Book of 2005 and a Washington Post bestseller. What America Owes the World was a finalist for the Lionel Gelber Prize in international affairs. The Wages of Globalism was a Choice Outstanding Academic Book winner. Lone Star Nation won the Deolece Parmelee Award. He has appeared in the documentaries The Presidents (2005), 10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America (2006), America: The Story of Us (2010) and The Men Who Built America (2012). His writings have been published in several countries and translated into German, French, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.
- Cold Warriors: Eisenhower's Generation and American Foreign Policy (1988)
- The Specter of Neutralism: The United States and the Emergence of the Third World, 1947-1960 (1989)
- India and the United States: The Cold Peace (1990)
- Inside the Cold War: Loy Henderson and the Rise of the American Empire, 1918-1961 (1991)
- Bound to Empire: The United States and the Philippines (1992), ISBN 0-19-507104-2
- The Devil We Knew: Americans and the Cold War (1993)
- The United States in the World: A History of American Foreign Policy (1994)
- Into the Labyrinth: The United States and the Middle East, 1945-1993 (1994)
- The Reckless Decade: America in the 1890s (1995), ISBN 0-312-13594-7
- Since Vietnam: The United States in World Affairs, 1973-1995 (1995)
- The Wages of Globalism: Lyndon Johnson and the Limits of American Power (1995)
- TR: The Last Romantic (1997), ISBN 0-465-06958-4
- What America Owes the World: The Struggle for the Soul of Foreign Policy (1998)
- Masters of Enterprise: Giants of American Business from John Jacob Astor and J. P. Morgan to Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey (1999)
- The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin (2000), ISBN 0-385-49328-2
- The Strange Death of American Liberalism (2001)
- The Age of Gold: The California Gold Rush and the New American Dream (2002)
- Woodrow Wilson (2003), ISBN 0-8050-6955-0
- Lone Star Nation: The Epic Story of the Battle for Texas Independence (2004), ISBN 0-385-50737-2
- Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times (2005)
- The Money Men: Capitalism, Democracy, and the Hundred Years' War Over the American Dollar (2006), ISBN 0-393-06184-1
- Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (2008), ISBN 978-0-385-51958-8
- America Past and Present coauthored textbook; (9th Edition, 2010)
- American Colossus: The Triumph of Capitalism, 1865-1900 (2010)
- American Dreams: The United States Since 1945 (2010)
- Greenback Planet: How the Dollar Conquered the World and Threatened Civilization as We Know It (2011)
- American Stories: A History of The United States, coauthored textbook (2nd ed. 2011)
- The Murder of Jim Fisk for the Love of Josie Mansfield [American Portraits series] (2011)
- The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in War and Peace (2012)
- The Heartbreak of Aaron Burr [American Portraits series] (2012)
- The Foreign Policies of Lyndon Johnson: Beyond Vietnam (1999)
- The Use of Force after the Cold War (2000)
- Critical Reflections on the Cold War: Linking Rhetoric and History (2000), with Martin J. Medhurst
- The Selected Letters of Theodore Roosevelt (2001)
- C-Span Interview In Depth, 3 July, 2005
- Muscolino, Joe (2013-05-28). "Behind the Books with H.W. Brands, Author of The Man Who Saved the Union". Biographile.
- "H.W. Brands Biography". BookBrowse. 5 July 2011.
- "LQ Podcast 34: H. W. Brands". Lapham's Quarterly Podcast. 2013. Retrieved 2014-03-03.
- Brands, H.W. (September 2003). "Our reverence for the Fathers has gotten out of hand". Atlantic Monthly.
- Brands, H.W. (2012-11-30). "Don't Dare to Be Great: The Paradoxes of Presidential History". SMU Center for Presidential History.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to H. W. Brands.|
- H.W. Brands official website
- Website at The University of Texas at Austin
- Brands's Course on the American Presidency
- C-Span Interview In Depth, 3 July, 2005
- Interview on Traitor to His Class at the Pritzker Military Library
- Booknotes interview with Brands on The Reckless Decade: America in the 1890s, February 25, 1996.
- Coast Cutlery