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American Rambler with Colin Woodward

Nov 16, 2020

Historian Jean Baker is a lifelong resident of Baltimore, so it makes sense that her most recent book is Building America: The Life of Benjamin Henry Latrobe. Her book on Latrobe is only the latest in a long and productive career that began as a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University.

At Hopkins, she worked under the late, great, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David Donald, whose students include Michael Holt, Robert Kenzer, and Bill Cooper (who have previously been on the podcast). True to her mentor's example, Dr. Baker's scholarship has combined political history and biography. Her subjects have included Mary Todd Lincoln, Margaret Sanger, the suffragettes, the Know-Nothings, and less-than-stellar 15th president, James Buchanan. 

Jean's days as a historian have included everything from teaching at Harvard and at a Maryland prison, to carpooling with nuns. She also reflects on what it's like being a female historian in a traditionally male-dominated industry. What has she learned from Mary Todd Lincoln? And how does President Buchanan show us that lifelong experience doesn't always translate into success in the nation's highest office?

In the intro, Colin celebrates the end of the Trump era by playing some secret audio footage.