Ratner, Lorman 1932-
RATNER, Lorman 1932-
PERSONAL: Born July 23, 1932, in Brooklyn, NY; son of Mortimer (a lawyer) and Lillian (Kruger) Ratner; married Nina Nutt, June 20, 1953; children: Wendy, Todd, Joseph, Matthew. Education: Harvard University, A.B., 1954; Cornell University, M.A., 1958, Ph.D., 1961.
ADDRESSES: Office—University of Tennessee, 1912 Terrace Ave., Knoxville, TN 37996. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY, assistant professor of history, 1959-60; Herbert H. Lehman College of the City University of New York, New York, NY, instructor, 1961-62, assistant professor, 1963-67, associate professor, 1968-71, professor of history, 1971-77, dean of academic planning, 1972-74, dean of social sciences, 1974-77; University of Wisconsin—Parkside, Kenosha, WI, vice-chancellor and dean of faculty, beginning 1977; University of Tennessee at Knoxville, professor of history emeritus and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, during the 1990s. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, adjunct professor. Associate member, Columbia University Faculty Seminar in American Civilization.
MEMBER: American Historical Association, American Studies Association, American Association of University Professors, Organization of American Historians.
Pre-Civil War Reform: The Variety of Principles and Programs, Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1967.
Powder Keg: Northern Opposition to the Anti-Slavery Movement, 1831-1840, Basic Books (New York, NY), 1968.
Antimasonry: The Crusade and the Party, Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1969.
Dialogue in American History, Holt (New York, NY), 1972.
(Editor, with Stanley Coben) The Development of an American Culture, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1972, second edition, 1983.
(Editor, with John D. Buenker) Multiculturalism in the United States: A Comparative Guide to Acculturation and Ethnicity, Greenwood Press (New York, NY), 1992.
James Kirke Paulding: The Last Republican, Greenwood Press (Westport, CT), 1992.
Andrew Jackson and His Tennessee Lieutenants: A Study in Political Culture, Greenwood Press (Westport, CT), 1997.
(With Dwight L. Teeter, Jr.) Fanatics and Fire-Eaters: Newspapers and the Coming of the Civil War, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 2003.
Contributor to historical journals.
SIDELIGHTS: Lorman Ratner is a professor of history emeritus who has published works on American culture and the pre-Civil War period. His book Powder Keg: Northern Opposition to the Anti-Slavery Movement, 1831-1840 is a study of public and published opinions against the abolition movement in New England and the middle Atlantic states. Here he identifies racism and church opposition as central factors, as well as fear of violence and concern for the future of the Union. The book prompted reviewers to comment on questions that still needed to be addressed. In the Journal of Southern History, Donald G. Mathews felt that it avoided the subject of private and "covert" anti-abolitionist sentiment, as well as mob responses in the Northeast. A similar view was expressed by Eugene H. Berwanger in the Journal of American History, but he also found the book a welcome reminder that anti-abolitionism was an important and neglected field of study. Writing in the American Historical Review, Allen Weinstein said it was "a useful, if indiscriminate, compendium of antiabolitionist screeds during the 1830s."
Ratner examines a once popular American writer and important political advisor in James Kirke Paulding: The Last Republican. Paulding (1778-1860) sought to preserve the Republic as he believed the founding fathers envisioned it, which ultimately put him in sympathy with Southern secessionists. Reviewer Fred Somkin wrote in the Journal of American History that "This small book, based on the plausible assumption that Paulding's mind reflected an important segment of American public opinion, demonstrates the way his key notions fit together more or less consistently." Jonathan Wells further remarked in Journal of Southern History, "Ratner's biography sheds considerable light on a poorly understood individual. Although Ratner has left to future studies the task of placing Paulding's philosophy in its intellectual and historical context, he has contributed a work that will begin to remedy the historical neglect from which Paulding has so long suffered."
The subject of Ratner's next book is one of the presidents Paulding advised, Andrew Jackson. In Andrew Jackson and His Tennessee Lieutenants: A Study in Political Culture he provides short biographies of seven friends and political supporters and suggests that Celtic traditions influenced the way that politics, military service, and financial gain united them. Critic Lawrence Frederick Kohl hesitated to accept this idea in his Journal of American History review, in which he commented, "It would take a much longer and more thoroughly researched book to convince most readers that boorish frontier behavior should be given legitimacy by connecting it with some ancient and honorable Celtic tradition."
One of Ratner's most widely reviewed books is his recent Fanatics and Fire-Eaters: Newspapers and the Coming of the Civil War, which he wrote with Dwight L. Teeter, Jr. The authors show how newspapers grew dramatically with the advent of steam-driven presses, the telegraph, and railroads. They assert that increased circulation gave added weight to the opinions being expressed in the papers, which were more and more heated prior to the Civil War. The study examines how a variety of newspapers treated six influential events during this period: the Dred Scott decision, the Brooks-Sumner attack in the Senate, the Kansas state constitution, Lincoln's election, and the battle at Fort Sumter. Reviews reflected the wide range of readers interested in these issues and the complexity of such analysis. While he questioned the selection of newspapers as a representative sample, Guy Reel remarked in Journalism History that the book provided "a tightly drawn history lesson within a narrower study." John G. Selby noted in the Georgia Historical Quarterly, "Given the inherent challenge of their task—the inability to measure the impact of newspaper coverage and editorials on its readers, … the authors, in the main, give a tidy summation of the range of opinions published by newspapers on the eve of the Civil War." The book promises to "fill a glaring void in Civil War historiography," according to Ted Hutchinson in New England Quarterly; he further commented that "the book will be a useful reference tool for readers who want to know specifics about how the press responded to these events. Unfortunately, what this work does not offer is a thoughtful analysis of the role played by the press during all of the 1850s; we are therefore left without a clear understanding of whether and how newspapers helped bring the nation to war." Glenn Himebaugh reviewed the book for Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, in which he reflected, "the authors paint a compelling picture of newspapers' influence on a troubled citizenry wrestling with the issues of slavery and the future of the republic." He also admired their writing style, saying that "while the book is undeniably scholarly … the writing is reader friendly."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, June, 1969, Allen Weinstein, review of Powder Keg: Northern Opposition to the Anti-Slavery Movement, 1831-1840, pp. 1725-1726; December, 1971, Milton Cantor, review of The Development of an American Culture, pp. 1580-1582.
American Journal of Sociology, May, 1972, Robin M. Williams, Jr., review of The Development of an American Culture, pp. 1225-1227.
American Quarterly, summer, 1969, Gerda Lerner, review of Powder Keg, pp. 394-395.
Choice, October, 1992, D. Liestman, review of Multi-culturalism in the United States: A Comparative Guide to Acculturation and Ethnicity.
Georgia Historical Quarterly, spring, 2004, John G. Selby, review of Fanatics and Fire-Eaters: Newspapers and the Coming of the Civil War.
Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, autumn, 2003, Glenn Himebaugh, review of Fanatics and Fire-Eaters, p. 741.
Journalism History, spring, 2003, Guy Reel, review of Fanatics and Fire-Eaters.
Journal of American History, March, 1969, Eugene H. Berwanger, review of Powder Keg, p. 865; June, 1994, Fred Somkin, review of James Kirke Paulding: The Last Republican, p. 266; June, 1999, Lawrence Frederick Kohl, review of Andrew Jackson and His Tennessee Lieutenants: A Study in Political Culture, p. 234.
Journal of Southern History, February, 1969, Donald G. Mathews, review of Powder Keg, p. 865; November, 1994, Jonathan Wells, review of James Kirke Paulding, p. 795.
New England Quarterly, December, 2003, Ted Hutchinson, review of Fanatics and Fire-Eaters, p. 651.*