Shapers of Southern History
Autobiographical Reflections

Edited by John B. Boles

Historians look at formative influences on their professional careers


"The essays are engaging for their personal tones as well as how the work of any historian is prompted and molded by his or her penchants, experiences, and mentors and associates. . . . The varied personal paths into the discipline evidence why history is so informative and germane. It is because identity and memories are bound into it that it is able to speak about human affairs."
Midwest Book Review

"The autobiographical essays in Shapers of Southern History prove that the history of the historians is as colorful and meaningful as the history of the region they study. The stories told are amazingly varied. Indeed, the only thing uniform in this collection is the high quality of the writing."
—Charles Reagan Wilson, Director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, University of Mississippi

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This volume gathers personal recollections by fifteen eminent historians of the American South. Coming from distinctive backgrounds, traveling diverse career paths, and practicing different kinds of history, the contributors exemplify the field's richness on many levels. As they reflect on why they joined the profession and chose their particular research specialties, these historians write eloquently of family and upbringing, teachers and mentors, defining events and serendipitous opportunities.

The struggle for civil rights was the defining experience for several contributors. Peter H. Wood remembers how black fans of the St. Louis Cardinals erupted in applause for the Dodgers' Jackie Robinson. "I realized for the first time," writes Wood, "that there must be something even bigger than hometown loyalties dividing Americans." Gender equality is another frequent concern in the essays. Anne Firor Scott tells of her advisor's ridicule when childbirth twice delayed Scott's dissertation: "With great effort I managed to write two chapters, but Professor Handlin was moved to inquire whether I planned to have a baby every chapter." Yet another prominent theme is the reconciliation of the professional and the personal, as when Bill C. Malone traces his scholarly interests back to "the memories of growing up poor on an East Texas cotton farm and finding escape and diversion in the sounds of hillbilly music."

Always candid and often witty, each essay is a road map through the intellectual terrain of southern history as practiced during the last half of the twentieth century.

Page count: 360 pp.
Trim size: 6 x 9


List price: $28.95

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John B. Boles is William Pettus Hobby Professor of History at Rice University and managing editor of the Journal of Southern History. His books include Shapers of Southern History and Autobiographical Reflections on Southern Religious History (both Georgia).