Adam I. P. Smith

Historian | Writer | Broadcaster

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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 […]

A few weeks ago I found myself in the middle of California’s central valley, standing on the edge of a road with straight lines of fruit trees stretching regimentally in every direction. It is a totally flat landscape – more like the Midwest than most people’s image of California. On a clear day I probably […]

A frontier gunfight May 11, 1880: a gunfight in a wheat field six miles northwest of Hanford, CA, the main town in what was then known as the Mussel Slough area of Tulare County (now Kings County) in the Central Valley. Seven men were killed or mortally wounded that day. The fight was over land. […]

When I went there, I thought that Alta Loma terrace, in Hollywood, CA, was a pretty, rather enviable place to live. Unusually for any residential street in America the houses are arranged on either side of a footpath instead of a road (although reassuringly there’s vehicle access to the rear of the houses) and the […]