Book Breaks

Book Breaks is a weekly interview series with historians held every Sunday at 2 pm ET (11 am PT) on Zoom. Scroll down to see our upcoming programs!

Each week our hosts interview renowned scholars and discuss their acclaimed and frequently award-winning works, followed by a Q&A with the at-home audience. Our guests have included David Blight, Eric Foner, Annette Gordon-Reed, Clint Smith, Peniel Joseph, and Elizabeth Varon. 

How do I attend Book Breaks?

Book Breaks is completely free for Affiliate School K-12 teachers and students, and college students. 

  • K-12 students, simply log in or create an account
  • College students and K12 educators, log in, return to this page, and click the button to subscribe for access to all future programming and the Book Breaks archive. 

Members of the general public can purchase a one-year subscription for $25. The subscription includes

  • Full access to one year of weekly live programs
  • Unlimited access to our ever-expanding Book Breaks archive, featuring more than ninety sessions with the nation’s leading historians. View the full archive of past sessions. 
  • Log in and make your purchase

Can I watch a program before deciding to subscribe? 

Yes! First-time viewers can watch a Book Breaks program for free. Simply log in or create an account and you will see a link at the top of this page to access the week's historian lecture and Q&A.

Questions?

Email us at bookbreaks@gilderlehrman.org.

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Every Sunday at 2 p.m. ET (11 a.m. PT)


Upcoming Book Breaks

October

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.


Coming Soon

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.

View the full archive of past sessions