Playfair and the search for elusive truth

In our current political and social environment, it’s no secret that truth, and the value of truth, is taking a beating. When truth is under attack, fallacious theories get repeated and “alternative facts” promoted, and when a preference for the spurious is favored, the search for truth becomes ever more critical.

Of course, it can be argued, and frequently has been stated, that truth itself is elusive if not unattainable. “There is no such thing as absolute truth and absolute falsehood,” wrote Henry A. Rowland. “The scientific mind should never recognise the perfect truth or the perfect falsehood of any supposed theory or observation. It should carefully weigh the chances of truth and error and grade each in its proper position along the line joining absolute truth and absolute error.” (Rowland, Henry A. “The Highest Aim of the Physicist,” Science, New Series, Vol. 10, No. 258, Dec. 8, 1899, 825-833, as of November 6, 2017: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1627046 )

Nevertheless, the job of historians, biographers, journalists, and others is to seek out the truth to the best of their ability, relying on facts. Facts can be discovered and brought to light, or manipulated and distorted; the difference is consequential.

This is why university presses exist: to reveal and elucidate facts and bring us ever closer to truth, or at least the threshold of truth.

In our new, forthcoming title, Playfair: The True Story of the British Secret Agent Who Changed How We See the World, author Bruce Berkowitz reveals a journey to uncover a truth that is often hidden, opaque, distorted, refracted by lenses of luck, fate, and personal conflicts of interest.

Line chart by Playfair: Commercial and Political Atlas, 1786
Source: Wikimedia Commons

William Playfair, when he is known today, is remembered as the inventor of “statistical graphics,” including the line, bar, and pie charts that we still use regularly today (and built into Microsoft Excel). He’s a sometime-hero of the Infogeek community. Edward Tufte cited him extensively in The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, and called Playfair one of the great inventors of modern graphical design, who created the “first time series using economic data.” (Tufte, Edward, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Graphics Press, 1983, 9, 32-34, 64-65, 91-92)

William Playfair also pioneered strategic analysis, essential to our understanding of today’s world, and developed theories explaining international trade and investment while making contributions to important concepts like price indexes and measures of national power.

Yet Playfair is generally not well known, some of his contributions remain largely forgotten or ignored, and his reputation has suffered with characterizations by historians that he was a lightweight, flimflam artist, or worse.

As Berkowitz writes: “One might say Playfair is the most famous man you have never heard of. He appears everywhere; he knows everyone. Time and again, he’s at the hinge point of history: the Industrial Revolution, the French Revolution, the founding of the United States, the birth of modern economics, the Age of Napoleon. Documents and artifacts link him to influential ideas and famous men. He’s the Forrest Gump of his era—except, unlike Gump, he’s brilliant, and, unlike Gump, he’s not just an accidental witness stumbling on the scene—he’s shaping and driving events.” (Playfair: The True Story of the British Secret Agent Who Changed How We See the World, page 334)

Berkowitz’s marvelous book is as much detective story as biography, a history of Playfair, his exploits and inventions, as well as a history of how the facts and truth about Playfair have been obscured over time.

Playfair: The True Story of the British Secret Agent Who Changed How We See the World, by Bruce BerkowitzThe booby trap pinning Playfair as a blunderer provides an illustrative example. Playfair apprenticed to James Watt, inventor of the steam engine, who is frequently quoted in articles about Playfair as claiming: “I must warn you, Playfair is a blunderer.”

The often-repeated quote makes an early appearance in James Watt and the Steam Engine, by Henry William Dickinson and Rhys Jenkins, first published in 1927. Statisticians Patricia Costigan-Eaves and Michael Macdonald-Ross wrote an influential article about Playfair in Statistical Sciences that repeated the quote. But an examination of the original source, Watt’s letters, finds that the quote is a misleading snippet of what is, in fact, Watt’s recommendation that Playfair receive a promotion: “I would recall Playfair who can do part of the business, & I think now you are at home you can contrive to gett him proper assistance—I must warn you that Playfair is a blunderer but I dare say he will be assiduous and obedient and plain direction must be given him.” While the word “blunderer” sounds a bit damning, it was a frequent epithet employed by Watt, even to himself. (Playfair, 344)

Historian Randolph G. Adams said, “Each generation has to rewrite history for itself-and some­times from the same sources used by previous generations.” (Romney, Rebecca and J.P. Romney, Printer’s Error: Irreverent Stories from Book History, Harper Collins, 2017, 284, quoting from Lawrence C. Wroth, Notes for Bibliophiles in the New-York Herald Tribune, 1937-1947, ed. Richard J. Ring, Ascencius Press, 2016, 128) Indeed, in Playfair’s case, the various misquotations, passages taken out of context, and even complete fabrications began to accumulate over time, taking on a life of their own, seeping into scholarship as well as popular media.

Another example uncovered by Berkowitz regards Playfair’s involvement in the first major political scandal in the newly formed United States. The so-called Scioto Affair was a land speculation gone bad involving Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and George Washington. One historian, Ephraim C. Dawes, largely pinned part of the scandal on Playfair. Berkowitz describes the historical puzzle as a bit like Akira Kurosawa’s famous samurai classic, Rashômon, where the witnesses all believe and describe different versions of the same event. Berkowitz shows how Dawes, however, was the great-grandson of Manasseh Cutler, and used his version of the affair to clear his relative’s name. A later historian, Theodore Thomas Belote, made Playfair the heavy, as a confidence man, embezzler, and schemer, without relying on historical evidence. Berkowitz uncovers the real story, however, by carefully analyzing original source documents, digging up existing transcriptions of letters that have disappeared, and discovering an unlikely source, a bilingual French schoolteacher who wrote her thesis and, later, a book published in French, about the tangled Scioto affair.

L.S. Stavrianos wrote, “Each generation must write its own history, not because past histories are untrue but because in a rapidly changing world new questions arise and new answers are needed.” (Stavrianos, L.S., Lifelines from Our Past: A New World History, M.E. Sharp, 2004, 13).

The most remarkable discovery in Playfair is how the author uncovers evidence that William Playfair diligently proposed, planned, and executed the first covert operation in history to collapse a nation’s economy. By printing vast amounts of counterfeit assignats, the paper currency France had adopted to pay for their government and wars, Playfair hoped to dismantle the French economy, in 1793, hindering the French revolution on behalf of the British.

Uncovering the true story was a challenge: Playfair never bragged about it, he never even mentioned it in his unpublished memoirs, and Playfair pioneered and employed elements of espionage “tradecraft” often used today to hide his tracks. Berkowitz uncovered substantial evidence for the op during his journey of writing the book, including various documents and letters. Among them was Playfair’s original plan for the counterfeiting operation, written in his hand and dated March 1793, but lost until now, found among Playfair’s other correspondence to British Secretary of State for War Henry Dundas. Also among the evidence for the operation were physical specimens: three paper molds found at the Haughton Castle mill. Two of the molds were used for counterfeiting assignats, and a third used for making notes for Playfair’s Original Security Bank (a story in and of itself). Berkowitz’s book offers an amazing story of finding the molds, mislabeled and misplaced, in Newcastle’s Discovery Museum, as he describes, “…Like the last scene of Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark: warehouse workers box the Ark of the Covenant, slot it into a vast sea of crates, and the credits roll as the artifact vanishes into the maw of a bureaucracy” (Playfair, 240).

Berkowitz writes about the importance of examining original source documents when uncovering facts and revealing the elusive truth to a story: “Transcripts [and citations] usually don’t include marginal notes, scribbles on the backs of documents, addresses, and postal markings, all of which can sometimes provide clues to piecing together a story. Besides, there’s nothing like handling an actual artifact. It’s a physical connection between you and the man you’re trying to figure out” (Playfair, 239). For this reason, Playfair’s endnotes include references not only to the citation used but also, wherever possible, to the original source document.

Berkowitz writes: “Analysis should also be cumulative. Everyone builds on others’ work, adding information and insight along the way. (And, when necessary, making corrections.) It’s all part of the process of creating knowledge. By making the source material easier to obtain, we hope to encourage others to follow up with their own research” (Playfair, 372).

The book has been an incredible journey, for the author and for our new, fledgling university press. We look forward to your comments and reaction.

 

Playfair: The True Story of the British Secret Agent Who Changed How We See the World, by Bruce Berkowitz, will be published by the George Mason University Press in November 2017.

Order from Amazon or from your favorite independent bookseller. George Mason University Press titles are distributed by University of Virginia Press and Longleaf Distribution.

 

This blog post is part of UP Week 2017: A Celebration of University Presses

See also:

Why University Presses Matter by Daniel Heath Justice

Scholarship Making a Difference by Gary Kramer

Tools for Surviving in a Post-Truth World

Scholarship Makes a Difference, by Al Bertrand

The Struggle for Equality, Recognition, and Reward, by Athena Coustenis and Thérèse Encrenaz

Winning Hearts and Minds: Publishing that Matters, by Anne Brakenbury

Knowledge and Facts Matter, by Nicole Mitchell

Mason Author Series with Patricia Ferrell Donahue

The University Libraries, Mason Publishing,
and the University Bookstore
present

Patricia Ferrell Donahue

Discussing her new book: Participation, Community, and Public Policy in a Virginia Suburb

Thursday, November 16
3:00-4:30 pm

Main Reading Room
Fenwick Library
Fairfax Campus

Participation, Community, and Public Policy in a Virginia Suburb (Cover)Participation, Community, and Public Policy in a Virginia Suburb challenges conventional wisdom about the nature of modern American communities. Through the story of Northern Virginia’s Pimmit Hills, she finds many more types of activities shape a community, than just those few typically tracked by social scientists, such as volunteering. Communities are the sum of a wide variety of participation—positive, negative, formal, informal, direct, and indirect. Pimmit Hills’s rich history will be familiar to those who grew up in middle-class suburbs, while its proximity to Washington, D.C. makes its story unique.

 

Patricia Ferrell DonahuePatricia Farrell Donahue received her M.A. in public policy from Georgetown University and Ph.D. in public policy from George Mason University. She is the 2014 Recipient of Mason’s Robert L. Fisher Award for Best Dissertation and Academic Achievement. She works as a senior policy analyst in the federal government, studying community and economic development, health, banking, defense, housing and other topics. She also serves as a Policy Fellow at Mason’s Schar School of Policy and Government.

Refreshments will be provided.

The Mason Author Series is co-sponsored by the University Bookstore.

Open Educational Resources Workshop—October 18, 2017

Workshop on Open Educational Materials, October 18, 2017

Discovering and Developing Open Educational Resources for Your Courses

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

2:00 pm – 3:30 pm, Fenwick Library, Room 1009.

Open Educational Resources (OERs) include materials for teaching, learning, and research that may be freely used and repurposed by others, because they reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license (such as Creative Commons) that permits their use and reuse. The high costs of textbooks have led universities including Mason to advance OER adoption to reduce the cost of instruction for students, improve teaching and learning outcomes, and enable better opportunities for students through open access to quality educational resources.

Mason 4-VA, in collaboration with Mason Publishing in the University Libraries and the Office of Digital Learning in the Stearns Center for Teaching and Learning, has announced a call for proposals to encourage the use of OERs in innovative course redesign.

Competitive grants will be awarded ranging from $1000-$5000, depending on the nature of the work and the level of team collaboration. Larger amounts will be considered for projects that develop original materials. Courses targeted for the pilot include those with high enrollment numbers, are required courses for majors, count in the Mason Core, or carry high textbook costs. As part of this pilot project, Mason Publishing is assisting instructors in developing open textbooks and other open access materials.

RFP Open Educational Resources 2017

Attendees will learn from teams who have successfully incorporated OERs in online and face-to-face classrooms. Participants will also learn about opportunities to develop textbooks and other materials with Mason Publishing, and how to identify and quality open textbooks as a replacement to higher cost textbooks.

Mason Author Series with Sam Lebovic

The University Libraries, Mason Publishing,
and the University Bookstore
present

Sam Lebovic

Discussing his book: Free Speech and Unfree News: The Paradox of Press Freedom in America

Thursday, October 4th
3:00-4:30 pm

Book cover: Free Speech and Unfree News
Free Speech and Unfree News: The Paradox of Press Freedom in America

Main Reading Room
Fenwick Library
Fairfax Campus

Does America have a free press? Many who answer yes appeal to First Amendment protections that shield the press from government censorship. But in this comprehensive history of American

press freedom as it has existed in theory, law, and practice, Sam Lebovic shows that, on its own, the right of free speech has been insufficient to guarantee a free press.

Winner of the prestigious 2017 Ellis W. Hawley Prize, Organization of American Historians.

Free Speech and Unfree News compels us to reexamine assumptions about what freedom of the press means in a democratic society.

 

Sam Lebovic is Assistant Professor of History at George Mason University
Professor Sam Lebovic

Sam Lebovic is Assistant Professor of History at George Mason University, where he directs the Ph.D. program in History and serves as associate editor of the Journal of Social History.  His research focuses on the history of American politics, culture, and media, and his essays and articles have been widely published.  Lebovic teaches a wide range of subjects in modern American and global history, and he is currently researching the mid-century history of cultural globalization.

Refreshments will be provided.

The Mason Author Series is co-sponsored by the University Bookstore.

Open and Affordable Educational Resources (OER)

At Mason, we want to make your courses accessible to all students.  One way to do that is to reduce the costs of the textbooks and other educational materials you use—and University Libraries can help.

We offer support for reducing the cost of textbooks  and for making library-licensed e-content available to your students.  We’re also ready to help you discover, use or even develop and publish your own open educational resources.

So there are several ways to make educational resources affordable for your students:

  • Choose a standard textbook, put a physical copy on reserve, then let your students know how to access it.
  • Choose a textbook or articles where the library already offers free digital access.  Place the item on ‘e-reserve‘ and then link to the item on your Blackboard site or include a link in your syllabus.
  • Choose an existing Open Educational Resource (see Finding OERs below).
  • Work with us to develop and publish an OER for your course(s). Contact John Warren at jwarre13 at gmu.edu to get started.

What are Open Educational Resources?

Open Educational Resources (OERs) are freely-accessible teaching, educational, and research materials that either exist in the public domain or are available to users via an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing. These resources include complete online courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, assessment tools, and software. They provide people worldwide with access to quality education and the opportunity to share, use, and reuse knowledge.

Finding OERs

Mason’s Open Educational Resource Metafinder

In conjunction with Deep Web Technologies, University Libraries is developing a search engine that simultaneously queries more than a dozen sources of educational materials.   We’re still adding search targets but today our OER Metafinder searches fifteen sites and returns the top 250 or so hits from each site–in seconds!

Search: Mason OER Metafinder (MOM)

 
Advanced Search

 

RFP for Open Educational Resources at Mason

The high costs of textbooks have led universities including Mason to advance OER adoption to reduce the cost of instruction for students, improve teaching and learning outcomes, and enable better opportunities for students through open access to quality educational resources.

Mason 4-VA, in collaboration with Mason Publishing in the University Libraries and the Office of Digital Learning in the Stearns Center for Teaching and Learning, has announced a call for proposals to encourage the use of OERs in innovative course redesign.

Competitive grants will be awarded ranging from $1000-$5000, depending on the nature of the work and the level of team collaboration. Larger amounts will be considered for projects that develop original materials. Courses targeted for the pilot include those with high enrollment numbers, are required courses for majors, count in the Mason Core, or carry high textbook costs. As part of this pilot project, Mason Publishing is assisting instructors in developing open textbooks and other open access materials.

RFP Open Educational Resources 2017-18

 

Additional Resources

Explore the links below for additional information  on this OERs:

Course Content and Textbooks

Open Courses and MOOCs

Grants and Advocacy

K-12 Resources

Articles and Research on OERs

OER Part 1: Course Content and Textbooks

The following Open Educational Resources (OER) collections include course content and textbooks you may use, re-purpose, and distribute for your teaching and learning needs. Learn more about high-quality open courses, educational resources, and OER advocacy by checking out the rest of the series below:

Part 2: Open Courses and MOOCs | Part 3: Grants and Advocacy | Part 4: K-12 Resources | Part 5: Articles and Research

Return to OER overview

Continue Reading OER Part 1: Course Content and Textbooks

OER Part 2: Open Courses and MOOCs

The following Open Educational Resources (OER) collections include open courses and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) that you can take to supplement your curriculum or simply explore new subjects. Learn more about high-quality open educational resources and OER advocacy by checking out the rest of the series below:

Part 1: Course Content and Textbooks | Part 3: Grants and Advocacy | Part 4: K-12 Resources | Part 5: Articles and Research

Return to OER overview

Continue Reading OER Part 2: Open Courses and MOOCs

Innovation and the Publishing Start-Up

This article originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of Choice magazine.

Note: Choice magazine’s annual University Press Forum offers the perspectives of University Press directors on a variety of topics. This year’s Forum—the 13th in the series—addresses the topic of Innovation at the University Press. Essays from eight University Press directors are included in this year’s Forum, including Bruce Austin, RIT Press; Courtney Burkholder, Texas Tech University Press; Faye Chadwell, Oregon State University Press; Steve Cohn, Duke University Press; Linda Manning, The University of Alabama Press; Gianna Mosser, Liz Hamilton, and Jane Bunker at Northwestern University Press; Mary Rose Muccie, Temple University Press; and yours truly.

John W. Warren
Head, Mason Publishing/George Mason University Press

Statue of George Mason at George Mason UniversityOne of the questions I frequently field, professionally speaking, is: “You’re starting a new university press? I thought many presses are closing.”

As with many, if not most, things these days, perception does not perfectly correlate with reality. Despite the fact scholarly publishing is undergoing a period of change, turmoil, and reinvention, relatively few presses are closing. Many academic institutions continue to see the value in supporting a press and most, if not all, presses do a fair job of breaking even, coming close to breakeven, or generating a modest surplus. Press closures, or attempted press closures, however, receive an exceptional amount of press coverage, social media activity, and activist response from scholars, publishers, and others involved in the scholarly ecosystem. The establishment of a new press, on the other hand, frequently goes unnoticed, for reasons that are understandable—it usually takes a while to make any kind of impact and gain attention.

Although precise numbers are hard to come by, two areas that have grown over the past decade in terms of new presses appear to be academic library publishing and scholarly publishers in developing countries. My institution, George Mason University, provides an example. The University Libraries had been involved in various publishing services for several years, including dissertations and thesis services, scholarly communications, open access journals, and an institutional repository. There had also been a separate effort to establish a university press in the mid-1980s, through a partnership with the University Press of America, formally an imprint of Rowman & Littlefield. Subsequently, an initiative was started in 2007, under the aegis of Mason’s College of Humanities and Social Science, which published a handful of regional titles. In 2014, the University Libraries established a formal publishing program incorporating both library publishing services, under the imprint of Mason Publishing, and the George Mason University Press, to support the creation, dissemination, and curation of scholarly, creative, and educational works.

Our approach to this new publishing venture is as a start-up. Even though we were not exactly starting from scratch, there was no “legacy” operation to be concerned with (nor, unfortunately, a vibrant backlist to fund publishing efforts). The framework of a start-up provides an opportunity to define (or redefine) the priorities, strategies, and tactics to pursue.

As in any start-up, several questions need to be addressed, including but not limited to the following:

  • What is our organization’s (library and university) vision/mission?
  • What are the interests, concerns, and expectations of our stakeholders (administration, staff, partners, funders, audience, etc.)?
  • How important is the pursuit of revenue/profit versus social good?
  • What opportunities exist for growth and innovation?
  • How can we add value and what contribution(s) do we want to make to the world?

As the start-up organization takes shape, it’s crucial to consider what the ideal composition and characteristics of the staff should be. For example, diversity is important and it should not just be “token” diversity. A certain amount of “deviance” can be a good thing, but the right balance is critical. It’s not important that everyone always agrees, but some people disagree with everything as a matter of practice. In a previous organization, a staff member routinely commented on every new idea: “I’ve tried that before and it doesn’t work.” The squeaky wheel gets the grease, but this may be someone you don’t want to work with day after day. Within organizational ethics, positive conformity leads to innovation, experimentation, a change in organizational product or processes, such as continuous improvement and not accepting “what we’ve always done around here.”

More specific questions relevant to a publishing start-up include the following:

  • What is the role and makeup of the advisory or editorial board?
  • What is the role of or focus on open access versus commercial sales?
  • What kind of books do we want to publish?
  • What kind of books do we not want to publish?
  • What other products will add value to our organization?

An important first step was to align our strategic priorities with those of George Mason University. This involved explicitly connecting our specific objectives and tactics with those of Mason’s 2014–2024 Strategic Plan, with the stated priorities and concerns of the University’s Provost, and with the University Libraries’ strategic plan. A few examples that have informed the objectives of our press include Mason’s strategic focus on innovative learning, access, and diversity; creating learning partnerships that emphasize innovation and collaboration; contributing to the cultural vitality of our community through regional partnerships; engaging students in research; supporting excellence in teaching and scholarship; focusing on multidisciplinary research; and elevating research of consequence.

Some of the ways these strategic goals translate into our publishing priorities include increasing the number of student and faculty led journals, particularly those focused on multidisciplinary research; providing increased training and editorial services to these journals; and leveraging our journals platform (Open Journals Systems) for conference proceedings and course use. For example, we approached Mason’s Center for Teaching and Faculty Excellence, proposing a partnership to publish abstracts, presentations, and papers for the annual Innovations in Teaching and Learning Conference, none of which had previously been archived. We are working with an English Composition professor to utilize OJS for peer review of student work in her course, an application that is generating interest among other faculty. We have also reached out to the larger scholarly community by helping to host and publish the papers of the Open Scholarship Initiative conference, a global collaborative effort between all major stakeholders in scholarly publishing to improve the future of how research information gets published, shared, and accessed.

We sought to increase partnerships for faculty collaboration and opportunities for publishing student research by partnering with the Provost Office and Mason Online, Mason’s Office of Digital Learning, to promote the development and publishing of open educational resources (OERs) on campus. Our pilot project is focused on innovative course redesign that reconsiders the materials currently used with the intent purpose to integrate digital materials, with the aim of reducing the cost of instruction for students, improving teaching and learning outcomes, and increasing economic opportunities through open access to quality educational resources. While not a revenue opportunity, this effort adds value to the university by publishing faculty workbooks, open textbooks, and other publications that can be used as OERs both at Mason and beyond.

And yes, we are looking forward to publishing a few scholarly books this fall that will make meaningful contributions to their fields (and, I hope, begin to build a backlist). Another important goal of our press, and we are certainly not alone in this, is to consider and start planning digital opportunities from the very genesis of a new project—not as an afterthought. Meanwhile, we need to continue to seek additional sources of funding for Press projects—subventions, grants, donors, crowdsourcing—and develop a revenue stream that sustains a growing Press publishing program.

Longer term, we plan to implement a rich media journals publishing platform (i.e., Vega, in development at the University of West Virginia) that will support digital research and publications that include multimedia, data, and interactive aspects. Digital humanities are an established strength at Mason, and we aspire to support publication of this innovative research in its diverse forms. This approach underscores the importance of partnerships with other departments in the libraries and centers in the university. These include the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, innovative faculty in the English and Rhetoric department, faculty in game design, and others. Our staff is contributing to the development of a new digital scholarship center and a new scholarly production lab within the library.

Several principles help drive innovation and creativity, whether in a start-up or established organization. These include fostering an attitude of openness, of seeking diversity, of being open to criticism and not being afraid to make mistakes, looking for ideas everywhere, identifying hidden talents among staff, and instilling a drive to keep growing and learning. As important as trying new ideas is to jettison the ones that are not working or are no longer adding value to the organization.

It’s also important to ask yourself frequently, “What kind of leader am I? What kind of leader do I want to become?” I like to use the phrase “experiment with intent”—meaning it’s great to experiment and try new things, but have a reason for it, such as what you can learn from the experience, even if the results don’t turn out as well as you hope. Assign important projects to staff, establish stretch goals, deliver feedback that is relevant, review the results, debrief staff, and articulate the business or social implications.

Our quest is to redefine what it means to be a scholarly publisher, to find new ways to tell stories and connect with readers, and to make an impact on the future. As Henry David Thoreau said, “Be not simply good—be good for something.”

Mason Author Series with General Michael V. Hayden, May 4th

The University Libraries, Mason Publishing,
and the University Bookstore
present

General Michael V. Hayden

book cover for Playing to the EdgeDiscussing his book:  Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror

Thursday, May 4th
3:00-4:30 pm
Main Reading Room
Fenwick Library
Fairfax Campus

For General Michael Hayden, playing to the edge means playing so close to the line that you get chalk dust on your cleats. Otherwise, by playing back, you may protect yourself, but you will be less successful in protecting America. “Play to the edge” was Hayden’s guiding principle when he ran the National Security Agency, and it remained so when he ran the CIA.  In his view, many shortsighted and uninformed people are quick to criticize, and this book will give them much to chew on but little easy comfort; it is an unapologetic insider’s look told from the perspective of the people who faced awesome responsibilities head on, in the moment.

How did American intelligence respond to terrorism, a major war and the most sweeping technological revolution in the last 500 years?  What was the NSA before 9/11 and how did it change in its aftermath?  Why did the NSA begin the controversial terrorist surveillance program that included the acquisition of domestic phone records? What else was set in motion during this period that formed the backdrop for the infamous Snowden revelations in 2013?

For 10 years,  then, General Michael Hayden was a participant in some of the most telling events in the annals of American national security. General Hayden’s goals are in writing this book are simple and unwavering: No apologies. No excuses. Just what happened. And why. As he writes, “There is a story here that deserves to be told, without varnish and without spin. My view is my view, and others will certainly have different perspectives, but this view deserves to be told to create as complete a history as possible of these turbulent times. I bear no grudges, or at least not many, but I do want this to be a straightforward and readable history for that slice of the American population who depend on and appreciate intelligence, but who do not have the time to master its many obscure characteristics.”

 

portrait of Michael V. HaydenGeneral and Distinguished Visiting Professor Michael Hayden is a retired four-star general who served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency — the only person to helm both agencies— during a time of heinous new threats and wrenching change. In addition to leading CIA and NSA, General Hayden was the country’s first principal deputy director of national intelligence and the highest-ranking military intelligence officer in the country.  He also served as commander of the Air Intelligence Agency and Director of the Joint Command and Control Warfare Center and served in senior staff positions at the Pentagon, at U.S. European Command, at the National Security Council, and the U.S. Embassy in Bulgaria. He was also the deputy chief of staff for the United Nations Command and U.S. Forces in South Korea. He is currently a principal at the Chertoff Group and a distinguished visiting professor at the George Mason University Schar School of Policy and Government.

Refreshments will be provided.

The Mason Author Series is sponsored by the University Bookstore.

Jennifer Ritterhouse book launch in Mason Author Series, April 26th

The University Libraries, Mason Publishing,
and the University Bookstore
present

Jennifer Ritterhouse

In a discussion of her new book:  Discovering the South: One Man’s Travels Through a Changing America in the 1930s

Wednesday, April 26
3:00-4:30 pm
Main Reading Room
Fenwick Library
Fairfax Campus

Discovering the South- CoverDuring the Great Depression, the American South was not merely “the nation’s number one economic problem,” as President Franklin Roosevelt declared. It was also a battlefield on which forces for and against social change were starting to form. For a white southern liberal like Jonathan Daniels, editor of the Raleigh News and Observer, it was a fascinating moment to explore. Attuned to culture as well as politics, Daniels knew the true South lay somewhere between Erskine Caldwell’s Tobacco Road and Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. On May 5, 1937, he set out to find it, driving thousands of miles in his trusty Plymouth and ultimately interviewing even Mitchell herself.

In Discovering the South, historian Jennifer Ritterhouse pieces together Daniels’s unpublished notes from his tour along with his published writings and a wealth of archival evidence to put this one man’s journey through a South in transition into a larger context. Daniels’s well chosen itinerary brought him face to face with the full range of political and cultural possibilities in the South of the 1930s, from New Deal liberalism and social planning in the Tennessee Valley Authority, to Communist agitation in the Scottsboro case, to planters’ and industrialists’ reactionary worldview and repressive violence. The result is a lively narrative of black and white southerners fighting for and against democratic social change at the start of the nation’s long civil rights era.

See also the author’s website for the project.

Jennifer Ritterhouse

Jennifer Ritterhouse is associate professor of history at George Mason University. She is the author of Growing Up Jim Crow: How Black and White Southern Children Learned Race and several articles; editor of a reprint edition of Sarah Patton Boyle’s autobiography, The Desegregated Heart: A Virginian’s Stand in Time of Transition; and co-editor of Remembering Jim Crow: African Americans Tell About Life in the Segregated South. She teaches classes on the 20th-century US, the South, cultural history, and research methods.

Refreshments will be provided.

The Mason Author Series is sponsored by the University Bookstore.