Brands, H.W. 1953–
Brands, H.W. 1953–
(Henry William Brands)
PERSONAL: Born August 7, 1953, in Portland, OR; married; wife's name Ginger; children: five. Education: Stanford University, B.A., 1975; Reed College, M.A., 1978; Portland State University, M.S., 1981; University of Texas at Austin, Ph.D., 1985.
ADDRESSES: Home—1701 Cresthaven Dr., Austin, TX 78704-2750. Office—University of Texas at Austin, Department of History, College of Liberal Arts, 1 University Station, B7000 Austin, TX 78712. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Writer and educator. Austin Community College, Austin, TX, instructor, 1981–86; Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, visiting assistant professor, 1986–87; Texas A&M University, College Station, assistant professor, 1987–89, associate professor, 1990–92, professor of history, 1992–98, Ralph R. Thomas '21 Professor of Liberal Arts and coordinator of History of the Americas Research Program, 1998–2001, distinguished professor, 2000–04, Melbern G. Glasscock Chair in American History, 2001–04. University of Texas at Austin, visiting assistant professor, 1990, Dickson Allen Anderson Centennial Professor of History and Professor of Government, 2005–. Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, Bernath Lecturer, 1992.
MEMBER: Society of American Historians, Institute of Texas Letters, Philosophical Society of Texas.
AWARDS, HONORS: National Endowment for the Humanities fellow, 1985; citation for outstanding academic book, Choice, 1995, for The Wages of Globalism: Lyndon Johnson and the Limits of American Power; Pulitzer Prize nomination, 1999, for What America Owes the World: The Struggle for the Soul of Foreign Policy; Bancroft Award nomination, 1999, for What America Owes the World; finalist for Lionel Gelber Prize in international affairs, 1999, for What America Owes the World; named South Central Regional Scholar of the Triennium, Phi Kappa Phi, 1998–2001; Pulitzer Prize finalist and Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist, both 2001, both for The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin; Washington Post Best Book Award, 2002, for Age of Gold: The California Gold Rush and the New American Dream; Deolece Parmelee Award, 2005, for Lone Star Nation: How a Ragged Army of Volunteers Won the Battle for Texas Independence and Changed America.
India and the United States: The Cold Peace, Twayne (New York, NY), 1990.
Inside the Cold War: Loy Henderson and the Rise of the American Empire, 1918–1961, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1991.
Bound to Empire: The United States and the Philippines, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1992.
The Devil We Knew: Americans and the Cold War, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1993.
Into the Labyrinth: The United States and the Middle East, 1945–1993, McGraw (New York, NY), 1994.
The United States in the World: A History of American Foreign Relations, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1994.
The Wages of Globalism: Lyndon Johnson and the Limits of American Power, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1995.
The Reckless Decade: America in the 1890s, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1995.
Since Vietnam: The United States in World Affairs, 1973–1995, McGraw (New York, NY), 1995.
T.R.: The Last Romantic, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1997.
What America Owes the World: The Struggle for the Soul of Foreign Policy, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1998.
(Editor) The Foreign Policies of Lyndon Johnson: Beyond Vietnam, Texas A&M Press (Collegeville, TX), 1999.
(Editor) The Use of Force after the Cold War, Texas A&M Press (Collegeville, TX), 2000.
(Editor, with Martin J. Medhurst) Critical Reflections on the Cold War: Linking Rhetoric and History, Texas A&M Press (Collegeville, TX), 2000.
The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2000.
(Editor) The Selected Letters of Theodore Roosevelt, Cooper Square Press (Lanham, MD), 2001.
The Age of Gold: The California Gold Rush and the New American Dream, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2002.
Lone Star Nation: How a Ragged Army of Volunteers Won the Battle for Texas Independence and Changed America, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2004.
(With Robert A. Divine and others) America Past and Present, 7th edition, Longman (New York, NY), 2004.
(With Robert A. Divine and others) The American Story, Pearson/Longman (New York, NY), 2005.
Andrew Jackson: A Life and Times, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor of scholarly articles to professional journals, as well as more popular articles to periodicals, including Atlantic Monthly, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, and International Herald Tribune.
ADAPTATIONS: The First American and Masters of Enterprise were both adapted for audiobook by Modern Scholar/Recorded Books, 2003; Lone Star Nation was adapted for audiobook by Random House Audio, 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: H.W. Brands is the author of a score of nonfiction titles dealing with topics from revisionist examinations of the Cold War era to American involvement with India to Texas independence. Brands, who holds advanced degrees in both mathematics and history, is the Dickson Allen Anderson Centennial Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin.
In The Reckless Decade: America in the 1890s and T.R.: The Last Romantic, Brands focuses on American society of the turn of the twentieth century and its flamboyant president, Theodore Roosevelt. The Reckless Decade examines the widespread sense of doom that the end of the nineteenth century brought to many countries around the world, including the United States. Brands notes that the end of a century "sets people to thinking about their collective prospects and ultimate destiny." As Melissa Knox wrote in New Leader, at a time when America was "becoming the wealthiest nation on Earth," there was a general feeling of malaise brought about by the perceived end of an era. Some worried that with the end of the frontier, a vital impetus to American life had vanished. While Brands describes the many technological innovations seen in the 1890s, the political conflicts, and the economic growth, he notes the effects these changes had upon the ordinary American of the time. Knox concluded: "That the country overcame the gloom afflicting the final decade of the last century is, says Brands, a reflection of its resilience."
In T.R.: The Last Romantic Brands looks at America's president at the turn of the twentieth century, Theodore Roosevelt, who was inaugurated in 1901. In a narrative that the critic for Publishers Weekly found "lucid, fast-moving and unblinded by hero worship," Brands details Roosevelt's remarkable career and argues that both the president and the nation were romantic in outlook. "Brands uses Roosevelt's many personal letters to tell his story in a firsthand manner," wrote Boyd Childress in the Library Journal, "resulting in the most comprehensive Roosevelt biography yet." Writing in the American Spectator, Philip Terzian claimed: "Brands has allowed us to see Roosevelt as he was, and perhaps more important, as he saw himself. The times are bound to alter our retrospective view, but the careful historian has performed his basic task with elegance, insight, sympathy, and style."
Brands examines the evolution of American business with his book Masters of Enterprise: Giants of American Business from John Jacob Astor and J.P. Morgan to Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey. Through the lives of twenty-five prominent business people, he illustrates the course of American business history. Brands also demonstrates the qualities that this disparate group of people have in common: good health, abundant energy, a clear and burning creative vision, and a powerful hunger for success. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly commented that although John Astor and Cornelius Vanderbilt "would have difficulty understanding the technology behind the companies" established by business people such as Andy Grove and Bill Gates, "they would have completely understood their business models." David Rouse in Booklist noted that while the life stories of most of Brands's subjects are familiar, the author's "storytelling skills animate the details of how each got started." His writing style was also praised by a contributor to Kirkus Reviews, who commented: "The freshness of the narrative is well suited to the positive message imparted by the contents. It serves as an invigorating justification of the business of business."
The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin provides a new look at one of America's most famous citizens. Although Franklin's autobiography was once required reading for almost every American high school student, during the latter half of the twentieth century he began losing popularity. As Brands was quoted as saying in a 2000 interview with Thomas J. Brady for the Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, "dead white guys were falling out of fashion, and people were looking in other directions…. They focused on some of the other Founding Fathers and Founding Mothers and various minorities and people who hadn't been written about…. That's the best that I can explain for the fact that there really hasn't been that much interest in Franklin for quite a long time." Brands's book recounts Franklin's early life, his many business enterprises and inventions, his transformation from British loyalist to one of America's first patriots, and his successes as ambassador to France. The author notes that the breadth of Franklin's achievements is almost incredible. "To some degree, I suppose, one of the reasons that people lost interest in him is that he was just too good to be true. And, actually, he almost is," mused Brands in the interview with Brady.
From early American history, Brands next turned to more recent developments with his 2001 title, The Strange Death of American Liberalism. In this work, he argues, as Daniel Jacobson noted in American Studies International, "that foreign threats, not domestic comforts, propelled forward postwar liberalism in the United States." In other words, programs such as Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal and the Great Society of Lyndon Johnson were not what brought Americans around to liberalism for a time; rather it was the imminent threat of World War II and the Cold War. With the end of the Cold War, Americans, in Brands's analysis, simply went back to their traditional distrust of big government. Jacobson went on to call the author's thesis "provocative," but also thought that it "frustrates more than it explains." Jon Schaff, writing in Perspectives on Political Science, had similar concerns, noting that Brands's book "makes interesting reading, but ultimately his argument is thin and unconvincing."
With his 2002 book, The Age of Gold: The California Gold Rush and the New American Dream, Brands focuses on another major theme in American history—with an emphasis not on the gold fields themselves, but on how the entire enterprise shaped American society. Not only did the discovery of gold lead to California's accession as a state, but it also tipped the balance in the ongoing debate over slavery, leading to the Civil War. Bob Trimble, writing in the Dallas Morning News, praised the work: "Few historians can tell a better tale than H.W. Brands."
More speculation about the manner in which history played on the formation of the American polity and character comes in the 2004 title Lone Star Nation: How a Ragged Army of Volunteers Won the Battle for Texas Independence and Changed America. Brands recounts the usual particulars of the story of Tennessee farmers inspired to break new farmland in Texas and the subsequent Battle of the Alamo, focusing on major characters such as Stephen Austin and Sam Houston. He also turns a critical lens on Mexicans such as Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, who, as a critic for Kirkus Reviews noted, "earns points for bravery." Brands thus tells the story from both the American and Mexican points of view but remains objective in the telling. The Kirkus Reviews contributor called Brands "one of the most fluent of narrative historians," and further noted that he "spins a good yarn, strong on colorful characters and situations." Booklist contributor Gilbert Taylor considered the book not only an "excellent, fair-minded chronicle," but also an "impressive integrative account" that demonstrates "trenchant psychological insights."
Brands returns to individual biography for two further works profiling American presidents. His 2003 book Woodrow Wilson is, at under two hundred pages, a "digestible precis," according to Taylor, again writing in Booklist. Brands recounts the major achievements of this president and contends that it was not the initiation of the income tax or establishment of the Federal Reserve that were his real and lasting achievements, but rather his leadership and rhetoric that brought the United States onto the world stage by taking the nation into World War I. Gilbert further praised Brands for his "proven success in popular-history writing over the past decade." Thomas J. Baldino, writing in the Library Journal, deemed Woodrow Wilson a "balanced, well-written treatment."
An earlier president is featured in Brands's 2005 publication, Andrew Jackson: A Life and Times. This time, the treatment—at over seven hundred pages—is anything but brief. According to a critic for Kirkus Reviews, "Brands's biography is more action-packed than bookish, suiting its subject." Brands traces the Scots-Irish roots of Jackson, called Old Hickory by admirers and detractors alike. Jackson grew from an adolescent fan of the American Revolution to military commander to presidential candidate who, after winning the popular vote, lost the election when the House of Representatives gave the office to John Quincy Adams. This outraged many, leading to election reform. Four years later, in 1828, Jackson was voted into office, serving two terms. The contributor for Kirkus Reviews went on to note that Andrew Jackson was a "pleasure for history buffs." Noting that Brands displays both Jackson's accomplishments as well as his low points, such as Indian massacres, a reviewer for Publishers Weekly called the resulting work "a bracing, human portrait of both a remarkable man and of American democracy."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Political Science Review, June, 1989, Michael Schaller, review of Cold Warriors: Eisenhower's Generation and Foreign Policy, p. 680.
American Spectator, March, 1994, p. 72; March, 1998, Philip Terzian, review of T.R.: The Last Romantic, pp. 76-78.
American Studies International, February, 2003, Daniel Jacobson, review of The Strange Death of American Liberalism, p. 242.
Argumentation and Advocacy, summer, 2001, Davis W. Houck, review of Critical Reflections on the Cold War: Linking Rhetoric and History, p. 51.
Booklist, May 1, 1992, Steve Weingartner, review of Bound to Empire: The United States and the Philippines, p. 1566; October 15, 1997, review of T.R., p. 381; June 1, 1999, David Rouse, review of Masters of Enterprise: Giants of American Business from John Jacob Astor and J.P Morgan to Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey, p. 1755; March 15, 2003, Gilbert Taylor, review of Woodrow Wilson, 127; January 1, 2004, Gilbert Taylor, review of Lone Star Nation: How a Ragged Army of Volunteers Won the Battle for Texas Independence and Changed America, p. 813.
Book World, January 18, 1998, review of T.R., p. 1.
Choice, May, 1998, review of T.R., p. 1589; April, 1993, M.P. Onorato, review of Bound to Empire, p. 1365; May, 1998, R.M. Hyser, review of T.R., p. 1589; June, 1999, review of What America Owes the World: The Struggle for the Soul of Foreign Policy, p. 1865; January, 2000, R.H. Immerman, review of The Foreign Policies of Lyndon Johnson: Beyond Vietnam, p. 1010.
Current, September, 1999, Christopher M. Gray, "The Struggle for the Soul of American Foreign Policy," p. 35.
Dallas Morning News, October 29, 2002, Bob Trimble, review of The Age of Gold: The California Gold Rush and the New American Dream.
Economist, January 8, 1994, p. 83; April 18, 1998, review of T.R., p. 6; May 15, 1999, review of Masters of Enterprise, p. 7.
Foreign Affairs, fall, 1988, Gladys Smith, review of Cold Warriors, p. 187; fall, 1991, Gaddis Smith, Inside the Cold War: Loy Henderson and the Rise of the American Empire, 1918–1961, p. 174; March-April, 1994, Stephen E. Ambrose, review of The Devil We Knew: Americans and the Cold War, p. 152; January-February, 1995, David Fromkin, review of The Wages of Globalism, p. 161; September, 1998, review of What America Owes the World, p. 153.
Journal of American History, June, 1991, Arlene Lazarowitz, review of India and the United States: The Cold Peace, p. 383; June, 1991, Robert J. McMahon, review of Inside the Cold War, p. 314; September, 1992, Diane B. Kuntz, review of The Specter of Neutralism: The United States and the Emergence of the Third World, p. 728; September, 1994, Michael S. Sherry, review of The Devil We Knew, p. 794; March, 2000, Robert D. Schulzinger, review of What America Owes the World, p. 1791.
Journal of Economic History, December, 1999, review of What America Owes the World, p. 1126.
Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 1993, review of The Devil We Knew, October 1, 1997, review of T.R., p. 1498; May 1, 1999, review of Masters of Enterprise, p. 686; December 15, 2003, review of Lone Star Nation, p. 1432; July 15, 2005, review of Andrew Jackson: A Life and Times, p. 772.
Kliatt, July, 2004, John E. Boyd, review of Lone Star State (audiobook), p. 60.
Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, October 4, 2000, Thomas J. Brady, "H.W. Brands on Benjamin Franklin" (interview), p. K7231.
Library Journal, October 15, 1997, Boyd Childress, review of T.R., p. 68; May 1, 1999, review of Masters of Enterprise, p. 90; September 15, 2000, Robert C. Jones, "The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin," p. 85; June 15, 2001, Thomas J. Baldino, review of The Selected Letters of Theodore Roosevelt, p. 95; May 1, 2003, Thomas J. Baldino, review of Woodrow Wilson, p. 128; October 1, 2004, Scott R. DiMarco, review of Lone Star Nation (audiobook), p. 119.
New Leader, January 29, 1996, Melissa Knox, review of The Reckless Decade: America in the 1890s, p. 18.
New Republic, August 15, 1994, Jacob Heilbrun, review of The Devil We Knew, p. 31.
New Yorker, February 16, 1998, review of T.R., p. 81.
New York Times, October 10, 2000, Michiko Kakutani, review of The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin, p. B8.
New York Times Book Review, Adam Garfinkle, September 13, 1998, review of What America Owes the World, p. 43.
Perspectives on Political Science, fall, 1999, Gordon Mace, review of What America Owes the World, p. 225; spring, 2002, Jon Schaff, review of The Strange Death of American Liberalism, p. 102.
Political Science Quarterly, fall, 1999, review of What America Owes the World, p. 517.
Presidential Studies Quarterly, June, 2001, David A. Crockett, review of Critical Reflections on the Cold War, p. 370.
Publishers Weekly, March 1, 1991, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Inside the Cold War, p. 65; July 12, 1993, review of The Devil We Knew, p. 63; October 2, 1995, p. 61; October 13, 1997, review of T.R., p. 61; April 12, 1999, review of Masters of Enterprise, p. 61; September 4, 2000, review of The First American, p. 98; September 3, 2001, review of The Selected Letters of Theodore Roosevelt, p. 76; December 15, 2003, review of Lone Star Nation, p. 61; July 11, 2005, review of Andrew Jackson, p. 69.
Reference & Research Book News, August, 1998, review of T.R., p. 46.
Teaching History, fall, 2004, Mark Davis, review of The Reckless Decade, p. 102.
Times Literary Supplement, May 22, 1998, review of T.R., p. 27; September 24, 1999, review of What America Owes the World, p. 8.
Wall Street Journal (central edition), September 20, 2000, review of The First American, p. A24.
H.W. Brands Web site, http://www.hwbrands.com (November 17, 2005).
National Endowment for the Humanities, http://www.neh.fed.us/ (November 17, 2005), "How the Century Began: A Conversation with H.W. Brands."