In celebration of LSUP’s 80th anniversary the staff selected 80 of our most memorable titles. Adding to our “Around the Press in 80 Books” blog series, Editor Neal Novak writes about Views from the Dark Side of American History.
Graduate school, as anyone who attended can attest, can be an overwhelming experience. I had little idea of the challenges I would face when I stepped into my first history graduate seminar in the fall of 2002. Little did I know a decade later I would copyedit a book that would have served as a wonderful guide to navigate me through grad school.
Michael Fellman’s Views from the Dark Side of American History is as much about how one becomes a historian as it about how one is a historian. In this sense, Dark Side is undoubtedly the most intimate work Fellman published over his long, illustrious career. He shares stories about colleagues with whom he disagreed, and he readily admits his own limitations as a researcher, instructor, and friend. Humility, it seems, served as a counterbalance to Fellman’s brilliance.
Even so, it is all but impossible not to be impressed by the works Fellman authored and revisits in this volume. His book Inside War, which he reflects upon in the final chapter of Dark Side, is a seminal work that, like the author himself, is inspired, passionate, and unapologetic. Equally remarkable is the way in which Fellman outlines his approach to history, research, applied theory, and analysis. The result is a study that examines methodology—indeed few were as fearless as Fellman when engaging the historiography—and is deeply personal. Historians who are true to themselves, he suggests, write history that is true to the people, places, and events they study. Graduate school may be ten years behind me now, but I’d like to think that Fellman—who passed away just seven months after publication of Dark Side—shared with me a few lessons that apply to life outside the classroom as well.
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