Profiles and Interviews

Burning History onto Celluloid: Steven Spielberg Humanities, November/December 1999

“Filmmaker Steven Spielberg is a man captivated by history. “I have a deep rooted fascination in the Second World War because my father fought in that war, and an interest in the Holocaust, because my parents spoke openly and freely about it. These were stories that were painful, yet compelling to me,” he says. While his movies 1941 and the Indiana Jones trilogy take a spirited approach to World War II, the period is also the subject of Spielberg’s more sobering films-Empire of the Sun, Schindler’s List, and Saving Private Ryan.”

M.H. Abrams: 2013 National Humanities MedalistHumanities, September/October 2014

“The man who would help generations of English majors romp with Chaucer, puzzle through John Donne, and laugh with Oscar Wilde, spoke Yiddish as his first language. Born in 1912, Meyer Howard Abrams—”Mike” to his friends—grew up in Long Branch, New Jersey, the son of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. As a young boy, he found a second home in the library, constantly checking out books, devouring them, and then heading back for more.

Teofilo Ruiz: 2011 National Humanities MedalistHumanities, January/February 2012

“I think that the role of a historian, the role of a teacher—and I truly believe this—is to go against the grain. To argue. To be a contrarian. To make people think critically about things,” says Teofilo F. Ruiz, professor of history and chair of the department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of California, Los Angeles.”

William H. McNeill: Tracing the Western Tradition | Humanities, November/December 2009

“One day while working in the library at Cornell, William H. McNeill stumbled onto three green-bound volumes of Arnold Toynbee’s The Study of History. As he devoured the books, which were the first of an ambitious attempt to chart the rise and fall of world civilizations, McNeill found himself alternately agreeing and arguing with Toynbee. When he’d finished, McNeill knew that he wanted to write his own history of the world.” (read more)

Richard BrookhiserHumanities, January/ February 2009

“If you had one phone call, and it has to be to one of the Founding Fathers,” says journalist and historian Richard Brookhiser, “and you’re in one of the four following situations—you’ve just been thrown into jail, you’ve just been taken to the emergency room, you’re suddenly broke, or someone cancelled on you for a dinner party and you need a replacement—the Founder you would call would be Gouverneur Morris.”

John Lewis Gaddis:  Documenting the Cold War Humanities, January/February 2006

“For Gaddis, part of the attraction of working on the Cold War has been the ongoing reassessment of the conflict as a result of the opening of the archives in the former Communist bloc. ‘I never expected to be in a position to draw on Soviet, Chinese, and East European documents, but it is now possible to do that. It really requires going back and rethinking many of the things that we thought we knew before the Cold War ended.'”