Thursday, August 21, 2014

Samuel Elliot Morison

A remarkable historian.  He, and Henry Steele Commager wrote "Growth of the American Republic", the standard college textbook of American history.  Morison knew nearly everybody, from Wilson, to Roosevelt, Ernie King, Douglas McArthur, many more.  He was a reserve Navy officer.  During WWII he was aboard a carrier at Midway, aboard the Torch invasion fleet, and a lot of other places too.  After the war he single handedly wrote the US Navy official war history (in a dozen volumes).  The Navy was so pleased with the work that they promoted him to Rear Admiral, a very high rank for a reservist. He also wrote "The Oxford History of the American People, one volume of 1100 pages.  A copy turned up at a local yard sale, and I bought it. 
   It reads remarkably well.  It goes all the way, unlike the US history taught in public school which always quit right after the civil war. Morison takes it right up to 1963 (Kennedy's assassination) which was current events at the time he was writing (1965).  Morison knows and tells all the great stories, and there are a lot of 'em.  He also doesn't hesitate to editorialize.  You learn that he was a New Deal democrat, from his favorable treatment of the New Deal, and his fair, but somewhat disparaging treatment of the Eisenhower administration.  If you like history, anything by Morison is a good read.
  They don't make Harvard professors like that anymore. 

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