Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My Love/Hate (but mostly love) Relationship with David Goldfield

And with a title like that, I'm sure you're thinking the pain meds have finally put me under. Not so, and you'll understand the title as I get further into this post. I have just begun reading Dr. David Goldfield's latest book, America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation (for Amazon link see the "What I'm Reading" sidebar on the right). I've read the Introduction and the first two chapters so far and I am impressed. Goldfield's writing is as impressive as I've come to expect.

My "relationship" with Goldfield goes back to graduate school when I was studying modern Southern history. I read a number of his books, most importantly Cotton Fields and Skyscrapers. I knew of Goldfield and his work prior to actually reading any of it because my friend Jeff had received his MA in history at UNC-Charlotte where Goldfield teaches. Goldfield took on the image of the "rock star" historian to me (as did many others who I won't mention here).

Needless to say, I was giddy when I found out that he would be moderating the panel that I would presenting on at the UNCC Graduate History Forum in the spring of 1999. I had presented at that forum the previous year and all had gone fairly well. As luck would have it in 1999 however, I was nearing the completion of my MA thesis and was nearly burned out. Because of this my paper was not nearly as good as the one I had presented the year before, though I didn't realize that at the time. I was not prepared to present either and ended up exceeding my time limit and being cut off. In his comments, Goldfield absolutely destroyed me (and the other speaker on the panel as well). As far as I know, the other speaker on that panel still holds a grudge against Goldfield, but with hindsight I've let go of that bad experience. I realize now that the paper I presented was not good and my presentation was probably even worse. Goldfield has remained a rock star in my mind, and his new book is proving to live up to that reputation, at least for now.
A photo of me and Dr. Goldfield at the 1999 UNC-Charlotte Graduate History Forum (which I had totally forgotten about until I wrote this post)

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