Every Sunday at 2 p.m. ET (11 a.m. PT)
Upcoming Book Breaks
October 9, 2022 - Richard White discusses his book Who Killed Jane Stanford? A Gilded Age Tale of Murder, Deceit, Spirits, and the Birth of a University.
In 1885 Jane and Leland Stanford cofounded a university to honor their recently deceased young son. After her husband’s death in 1893, Jane Stanford, a devoted spiritualist who expected the university to inculcate her values, steered Stanford into eccentricity and public controversy for more than a decade. In 1905 she was murdered in Hawaii, a victim, according to the Honolulu coroner’s jury, of strychnine poisoning. With her vast fortune the university’s lifeline, the Stanford president and his allies quickly sought to foreclose challenges to her bequests by constructing a story of death by natural causes. The cover-up gained traction in the murky labyrinths of power, wealth, and corruption of Gilded Age San Francisco. The murderer walked. Deftly sifting the scattered evidence and conflicting stories of suspects and witnesses, Richard White gives us the first full account of Jane Stanford’s murder and its cover-up.
Against a backdrop of the city’s machine politics, rogue policing, tong wars, and heated newspaper rivalries, White’s search for the murderer draws us into Jane Stanford’s imperious household and the academic enmities of the university. Although Stanford officials claimed that no one could have wanted to murder Jane, we meet several people who had the motives and the opportunity to do so. One of these, we discover, also had the means.
Richard White, the Margaret Byrne Professor of American History, Emeritus at Stanford University, is a MacArthur Fellow and a recipient of the Mellon Distinguished Professor Award. His work has won numerous academic prizes, and he has twice been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
October 16 - T.H. Breen on The Will of the People: The Revolutionary Birth of America
October 23 - Tamara Payne on The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X
October 30 - Carrie Gibson on El Norte: The Epic and Forgotten Story of Hispanic North America
November 6 - Steven A. Steinbach and Maeva Marcus on With Liberty and Justice for All? The Constitution in the Classroom
Student Question Submission Competition
Middle and high school students (age 13 and up), submit your questions for one of the historians being featured on Book Breaks! If your question is chosen, it will be announced live on the program and both you and your teacher will win a $50 gift certificate to the Gilder Lehrman Gift Shop. Your question can be about the book or the topic in general. Please, only one submission per program.
Submit your question here.
The deadline to submit a question for the upcoming Book Breaks is Thursday.
Book Breaks Archive
The Book Breaks archive contains over eighteen months of past programs from historians such as David Blight, Eric Foner, Annette Gordon-Reed, Peniel Joseph, Elizabeth Varon, and more. Still deciding whether to subscribe? You can watch David Blight’s talk on Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom below to help you make up your mind.