This is a piece I wrote on January 22, 2019, for BBC History Magazine about the history of US Federal government ‘shutdowns’. The context was the longest shutdown (to that point) in history that had resulted from President Trump’s demand that Congress give him Like so much else, it’s all the fault of the Founding […]

This is a review I published in History Today of Jill Lepore’s fabulous book, These Truths One of the ways in which the current President of the United States differs from all his predecessors, from Washington to Obama, is that unlike them he doesn’t speak of the special mission of his country. When he talks […]

This is the text of a piece I’ve just written for BBC History Extra A few questioned its necessity, but for most of the delegates to the constitutional convention in Philadelphia in 1787 giving Congress the right to impeach the President was an obvious move. It was not to be used lightly. It was an […]

The first time I visited the American South, sometime in the late 1990s, I took at tour around one of those elegant plantation houses–I think it was in South Carolina–with a Spanish moss-covered avenue of trees, a shaded veranda on which to sip one’s mint julep, and discretely placed slave quarters. The lady showing us […]

A few days ago President Trump’s Chief of Staff John Kelly told Fox News that the Civil War was caused by the “lack of an ability to compromise”, that it was “fought by men and women of good faith on both sides” and that General Robert E. Lee was an “honorable man.” Frankly, it would […]

This is an edited draft of a lecture I have been writing, which in time may grow into a little book about the concept of compromise in American political life from the Revolution to the present day. Compromise must surely be the most ambivalent concept in modern politics. It can be a virtue or a […]