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Episode 195: James Oakes

American Rambler with Colin Woodward

Release Date: 01/28/2021

Episode 200: Michael Bellesiles show art Episode 200: Michael Bellesiles

American Rambler with Colin Woodward

Recorded on St. Patrick's Day, Colin talks with historian Michael Bellesiles about our country reckoning with major issues such as gun violence, citizenship, and equality.  Michael is best known for his controversial book Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture, published in 2000. The book was the subject of an intense and prolonged campaign by NRA members and other right wing individuals to demolish its thesis and discredit Dr. Bellesiles's scholarship and integrity. The publicity surrounding the book was intense, and the fallout for Michael's career was severe. But he has...

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Episode 199: Episode 199: "The NRA: The Unauthorized History"

American Rambler with Colin Woodward

In part two of Colin's talk with journalist Frank Smyth, Frank talks about his 2020 book, The NRA: The Unauthorized History. The history of the National Rifle Association begins in New York City in 1871 as a group made up of Union veterans and those interested in target shooting. Founded on the model of the British National Rifle Association, the American NRA was a pro-government, pro-military organization seeking to train men for the next major war. As Frank's book shows, the NRA started to take a hard turn to the Right in the late 1970s at what has been called the "Cincinnati Revolt." Today,...

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Episode 198: Frank Smyth: Central America and the Mid-East show art Episode 198: Frank Smyth: Central America and the Mid-East

American Rambler with Colin Woodward

Frank Smyth is a journalist with a long and impressive career covering war-torn places such as Central America and the Mid-East. His resume includes articles and stories for The Village Voice, The Nation, and The Washington Post. He is also the author of The NRA: The Unauthorized History (2020), the subject of the next American Rambler podcast. You can find Frank's writings at and . In part one of Frank and Colin's conversation, Frank talks about how he went from a student at Boston College and Johns Hopkins to covering the complicated and often brutal war in El Salvador in the mid-1980s,...

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Episode 197: Dan Gullotta show art Episode 197: Dan Gullotta

American Rambler with Colin Woodward

Dan Gullotta is the host of the popular Age of Jackson history podcast. A relatively recent arrival in the U.S. by way of Australia, Dan is a Ph.D. student of religious studies at Stanford University, though he is currently residing in Kansas. Dan is working on a dissertation that focuses on 19th century religion and how it influenced the development of the second party system in America.  Dan talks with Colin about why he wanted to do a podcast, his love of his new homeland, and where America stands in terms of its historical consciousness. He also discusses what he doesn't like about...

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Episode 196: The Kid Detective with Michael Scott show art Episode 196: The Kid Detective with Michael Scott

American Rambler with Colin Woodward

Movie detectives are as old as movies themselves. So what could a 2020 film add to the genre? Michael Scott, co-host of cinema podcast The Dana Buckler Show and his own film podcast Adkins Undisputed returns to American Rambler to discuss the recent crime noir/comedy/thriller The Kid Detective. It's a detective movie, but in addition to having a subtle comedic sense, it packs an emotional punch. The Kid Detective stars Adam Brody (of TV's The O.C. and Smallville) as Abe Applebaum, an early-30s, down-on-his-luck private investigator who gets his biggest case in years involving the murder of a...

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Episode 195: James Oakes show art Episode 195: James Oakes

American Rambler with Colin Woodward

James Oakes is a two time winner of the Lincoln Prize for Civil War studies. But as he tells Colin, he initially went to college for business. An English teacher at Baruch College wisely turned him away from the world of international finance. Since then, he has made a name for himself as a scholar of 19th century history. Jim ended up attending Berkeley for graduate school during an astounding period in the department's history. He studied with Kenneth Stampp, whose book The Peculiar Institution Jim had read when he was still in high school. Also there at the time was Winthrop Jordan,...

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Episode 194: Michael Gorra show art Episode 194: Michael Gorra

American Rambler with Colin Woodward

Michael Gorra is a native of Connecticut who has taught at Smith College since the 1970s. A professor of English, his most recent book is The Saddest Words: William Faulkner's Civil War. This book builds on a career dedicated to examining writers such as Henry James and V. S. Naipaul. In Faulkner, Professor Gorra has tackled one of our most brilliant and baffling novelists. Raised on a steady diet of sci-fi, Michael entered college thinking he wanted to write novels. Or at least, he knew he didn't want to work in his father's fruit business. He ended up pursuing an English degree, though he he...

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Episode 193: Country Boy: The Roots of Johnny Cash show art Episode 193: Country Boy: The Roots of Johnny Cash

American Rambler with Colin Woodward

Colin gives a sneak peak at his January 6 "Legacies and Lunch" talk for the Central Arkansas Public Library in Little Rock. His talk will be on his upcoming book Country Boy: The Roots of Johnny Cash, coming out in the fall of 2021 from the University of Arkansas Press. Country Boy seeks to reclaim Cash for Arkansas. In the book, Colin examines Cash's upbringing in rural Arkansas, his rise to stardom, and the memorable concerts he gave in his home state. These included the concerts for Winthrop Rockefeller in 1968, at Cummins prison farm in 1969, his 1976 show in Rison, and his final Arkansas...

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Episode 192: Alan Farrell show art Episode 192: Alan Farrell

American Rambler with Colin Woodward

It's not often that Colin has a poet warrior on the podcast. It's been twenty years since Dr. Farrell taught at Hampden-Sydney College, where he was a professor of modern languages. He spent 27 years at HSC before moving on to VMI, where he was fired from being a dean after he said the wrong thing to a "fat guy in an expensive suit." Nevertheless, he enjoyed a long tenure as a teacher at VMI before his retirement to Unlucky Mountain near Lexington, where he lives and rides motorcycles. Alan grew up in New Hampshire, went to prep school in Connecticut, graduated with a bachelor's from Trinity...

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Episode 191: Jean H. Baker show art Episode 191: Jean H. Baker

American Rambler with Colin Woodward

Historian Jean Baker is a lifelong resident of Baltimore, so it makes sense that her most recent book is Building America: The Life of Benjamin Henry Latrobe. Her book on Latrobe is only the latest in a long and productive career that began as a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University. At Hopkins, she worked under the late, great, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David Donald, whose students include Michael Holt, Robert Kenzer, and Bill Cooper (who have previously been on the podcast). True to her mentor's example, Dr. Baker's scholarship has combined political history and biography. Her...

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James Oakes is a two time winner of the Lincoln Prize for Civil War studies. But as he tells Colin, he initially went to college for business. An English teacher at Baruch College wisely turned him away from the world of international finance. Since then, he has made a name for himself as a scholar of 19th century history.

Jim ended up attending Berkeley for graduate school during an astounding period in the department's history. He studied with Kenneth Stampp, whose book The Peculiar Institution Jim had read when he was still in high school. Also there at the time was Winthrop Jordan, Lawrence Levine, Charles Sellers, Charles Royster, William Gienapp, Albert Raboteau, and Leon Litwack.  

Before his dissertation was even done, Jim had a contract with Knopf for a book that was based on years of archival research at Duke and Chapel Hill. That book, The Ruling Race, took on the paternalism thesis put forth by Eugene Genovese in his landmark Roll, Jordan, Roll.

Jim talks with Colin about his moves from New York to California and back again. And back again. Also, he discusses his time at Princeton and Northwestern as well as his new book, The Crooked Path to Abolition: Abraham Lincoln and the Antislavery Constitution, which you can purchase here:

https://www.amazon.com/Crooked-Path-Abolition-Antislavery-Constitution/dp/1324005858