David Nasaw

David Nasaw is the Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. Professor of History at the City University of New York Graduate Center and the author of several books, the most recent, Andrew Carnegie. He is at work on a biography of Joseph P. Kennedy.

Recent Articles

A Violent Regeneration

A search for American identity after the Civil War led to a surge of machismo and bloodlust.

Rebirth of a Nation: The Making of Modern America, 1877-1920 by Jackson Lears, Harper, 448 pages, $27.99 History is lived forward but written backward. In October of 1929, no one knew that the Great Depression had begun and would last for over a decade. The soldiers who marched off to fight in the Civil War -- and the families and loved ones who saluted their departure -- had no idea of the carnage that would follow. Historians know better but can't let their knowledge of what came next overdetermine the story they tell. Neither can they make believe that the future of that past was an open book. It wasn't. There were options, openings, possibilities, but only one path was taken. The historian's task is to explain why it was that path and not another. The best historians strike the right balance between the Scylla and Charybdis of inevitability and randomness. As Jackson Lears demonstrates again in his latest book, Rebirth of a Nation, he is one of the best, certainly of his (and my)...