Thursday, November 30, 2006

American Heritage, the United States's best-known history magazine, has opened nearly its entire archive to Internet browsers. This will keep history fans like me occupied for months, since the archives go back to the early Fifties and include, literally, more than ten thousand articles.

For those not familiar with it, American Heritage is known for its rigor and reliability, and its lack of a political agenda. (I wouldn't call it "pro" or "anti" American, but it is most definitely American in its tone.) The magazine is not a scholarly journal; rather, it's aimed at college-educated middlebrows with some knowledge of the subject. Many American Heritage authors are prestigious academics, and quite a few are famous; David McCullough, Barbara Tuchman, Henry Steele Commager, Bruce Catton, William Manchester, and Richard Rhodes are just some names that turn up.

Non-Americans whose knowledge of US history is sketchy--and that's almost all of you folks--now have an excellent resource to turn to.

My only criticism is that the archives have obviously merely been scanned and not proofread, and so there are occasional scanning errors that can be confusing. But, hey, what do you want for free?

Here are just a few pieces I've read in recent days:

One from 1993 on drug prohibition in the US, with pro- and anti-legalization historical arguments.

One from 1974 on the disastrous Revolutionary War Penobscot expedition which ended up in the court-martial of Paul Revere.

One from 1969 on Washington's destruction of the Iroquois during the Revolution.

One from 1977 on the development of the Mormon church.

One from 1980 on the political maneuvering that led to the Emancipation Proclamation. (Don't miss Frederick Douglass's assessment of Lincoln at the very end.)

An unusual one from 1998 by John Lukacs on how the bourgeois of 1901 thought.

One from 1990 by the Army officer who investigated the My Lai massacre.

I've merely scratched the surface, of course; these are just a few that I particularly noticed.

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