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American Rambler with Colin Woodward


Apr 17, 2021

Recorded on St. Patrick's Day, Colin talks with historian Michael Bellesiles about our country reckoning with major issues such as gun violence, citizenship, and equality. 

Michael is best known for his controversial book Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture, published in 2000. The book was the subject of an intense and prolonged campaign by NRA members and other right wing individuals to demolish its thesis and discredit Dr. Bellesiles's scholarship and integrity. The publicity surrounding the book was intense, and the fallout for Michael's career was severe.

But he has made a comeback. His most recent book, Inventing Equality: Reconstructing the Constitution in the Aftermath of the Civil War, provides an honest assessment of key figures in American history and how they have perceived individual rights. It shows how vague the Founding Fathers left the concept of something so seemingly basic as citizenship and how the idea has changed over time. 

Michael originally was a scholar of religion before turning his attention to American violence--not just in Arming America, but in his book 1877 (2010) and A People's History of the U.S. Military (2012). His scholarship has covered a wide swath of U.S. history. Whatever one thinks of Arming America and the debate surrounding it, Michael did not let it stop him from writing and teaching. And his story is one that deserves a prominent place in American historiography.