Adam I. P. Smith

Historian | Writer | Broadcaster

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I’ve been working on a radio series about previous presidential elections (to be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 every day at 1.45pm in the week beginning January 16) with the aim of providing some historical context for our present political moment (Mr D. Trump, to remind you, if you’d forgotten, will be inaugurated on January […]

On election night last Tuesday, I was in New York. I watched Trump’s victory speech in a Sky News studio where I’d been offering some occasional undigested thoughts. A little later, when I emerged into Time Square in a dank pre-dawn hour, drunk Trump supporters were chanting “lock her up” and “build the wall”. One […]

A version of this blogpost appeared in the November 2016 edition of BBC History Magazine. It accompanies my BBC Radio 4 series, The Robber Barons. Railroad bosses were not supposed to order their own freight cars to be burned. In 1859, however, the superintendent of the western division of the Pennsylvania Railroad – a 24-year […]

Whenever the French have had a revolution since the first great eruption of 1789, they’ve re-written their Constitution and started over again — so the current French state is the Fifth Republic. Over the same period, in contrast, the USA appears to have had one stable Constitutional order. But appearances can be deceptive. Beneath the […]

This post is based on a review essay I published in the Times Literary Supplement in June 2015 Tom Taylor was the author of the play Lincoln was watching when he was shot. At least, he’d written the original script. Taylor had written a rather stilted comedy of manners in which a straw-sucking Vermonter called […]

In the last twelve months we have lost two great historians of the United States: William Brock and Michael O’Brien.* I remember them both with admiration and affection. They were men of different temperaments, backgrounds and generations, but beneath the surface were some similarities that tell us much about the practice of history at its […]

It’s not surprising that its residents so readily describe Santa Barbara as paradise. On a fertile plain between steeply rising mountains and a sandy, south-facing stretch of the California coast, the city basks in year-round warm sunshine. I was there at the end of January, when the contrast with the wintry chill of London was […]