Book Breaks

Gilder Lehrman Book Breaks is a new program that features the most exciting history scholars in America discussing their books live with host William Roka, followed by a Q&A with home audiences.

Programs will now take place on Sunday afternoons at 12 p.m. ET.


Upcoming Book Breaks

REGISTER FOR THE SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 27 BOOK BREAKS WITH RICHARD J. M. BLACKETT HERE AND FIND THE BOOK FOR SALE HERE.

September 27, 2020 - Richard J. M. Blackett discusses his book The Captive's Quest for Freedom: Fugitive Slaves, the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, and the Politics of Slavery

This magisterial study, ten years in the making by one of the field's most distinguished historians, explores the impact fugitive slaves had on politics in the critical decade leading up to the Civil War. Through the close reading of diverse sources ranging from government documents to personal accounts, Blackett traces the decisions of slaves to escape, the actions of those who assisted them, the many ways Black communities responded to the capture of fugitive slaves, and how local laws either buttressed or undermined enforcement of the federal law. Every effort to enforce the law in northern communities produced levels of subversion that generated national debate, so much so that, on the eve of secession, many in the South, looking back on the decade, could argue that the law had been effectively subverted by those individuals and states who assisted fleeing slaves.

Order The Captive's Quest for Freedom at the Gilder Lehrman Institute’s Bookshop Store.

REGISTER FOR THE SUNDAY, OCTOBER 4 BOOK BREAKS WITH RICK ATKINSON HERE AND FIND THE BOOK FOR SALE HERE.

October 4, 2020 - Rick Atkinson discusses his book The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775–1777

The British Are Coming recounts the first 21 months of America’s violent war for independence. From the battles at Lexington and Concord in spring 1775 to those at Trenton and Princeton in winter 1777, American militiamen and then the ragged Continental Army took on the world’s most formidable fighting force. It is a gripping saga alive with astonishing characters: Henry Knox, the former bookseller with an uncanny understanding of artillery; Nathanael Greene, the blue-eyed bumpkin who becomes a brilliant battle captain; Benjamin Franklin, the self-made man who proves to be the wiliest of diplomats; George Washington, the commander in chief who learns the difficult art of leadership when the war seems all but lost. The story is also told from the British perspective, making the mortal conflict between the redcoats and the rebels all the more compelling.

Order The British Are Coming at the Gilder Lehrman Institute’s Bookshop Store.

REGISTER FOR THE SUNDAY, OCTOBER 11 BOOK BREAKS WITH HAROLD HOLZER HERE AND FIND THE BOOK FOR SALE HERE.

October 11, 2020 - Harold Holzer discusses his book The Presidents vs. the Press: The Endless Battle between the White House and the Media from the Founding Fathers to Fake News

Every president has been convinced of his own honesty and transparency; every reporter who has covered the White House beat has believed with equal fervency that his or her journalistic rigor protects the country from danger. Our first president, George Washington, was also the first to grouse about his treatment in the newspapers, although he kept his complaints private. Subsequent chiefs like John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, and Barack Obama were not so reticent, going so far as to wield executive power to overturn press freedoms, and even to prosecute journalists.

In this new history, Holzer examines the dual rise of the American presidency and the media that shaped it. From Washington to Trump, he chronicles the disputes and distrust between these core institutions that define the United States of America, revealing that the essence of their confrontation is built into the fabric of the nation.

Order The Presidents vs. the Press at the Gilder Lehrman Institute’s Bookshop Store.


Coming Soon

Christopher Brown, Moral Capital: Foundations of British Abolitionism

Manisha Sinha, The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition

Lonnie Bunch, A Fool’s Errand: Creating the National Museum of African American History and Culture in the Age of Bush, Obama, and Trump

David S. Reynolds, Abe: Abraham Lincoln in His Times

David Blight, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom


Last Week’s Book Breaks

September 20, 2020 - Richard Brookhiser discussed his book Give Me Liberty: A History of America’s Exceptional Idea

Order Give Me Liberty at the Gilder Lehrman Institute’s Bookshop Store.

View full archive of past sessions


Gilder Lehrman Institute Education Coordinator William RokaDiscussion moderator William Roka is an independent researcher focusing on the history of travel and ocean liners in the early twentieth century. He has presented at conferences in the UK, Argentina, Australia, and across the US. He was the historian and public programs manager at the South Street Seaport Museum from 2016 to 2018, and curated the exhibition Millions: Migrants and Millionaires aboard the Great Liners, 1900–1914. His paper on ocean liners and travel in the early twentieth century was published in the inaugural edition of the Yearbook of Transnational History in 2018. He currently is an education coordinator for the Hamilton Education Program at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. He studied history at University College London and international relations at King’s College London.