It’s BAD HISTORY! where the strangely reassuring meets the deeply unsettling. After the terrorist attacks of 2001, I began digging into an American past more conflicted—and conflicted about more things—than we often want to know. Amid current political crises, I need that kind of perspective more than ever. In this newsletter, I’ll explore the history I’ve found and keep finding, in hopes of helping both you and me put the turmoil we’re going through in the context of what the country’s gone through before. Things can get hair-raising, but also entertaining (otherwise, I wouldn’t do it). I’ll be telling strange stories about race. Class. War. Money. Law. Religion. Uprisings and crackdowns. Political chicanery. Offbeat characters: sometimes villains, more rarely heroes. Also sometimes American roots music, the strange nature of nonfiction, and related matters. The free posts will give you the flavor of where I’m going with all this.
who the heck do I think I am
I give talks and write books, including the Wild Early Republic trilogy: The Whiskey Rebellion (Simon & Schuster), Declaration (S&S), and Autumn of the Black Snake (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Now I’m working on a book about Alexander Hamilton’s national financial plan. I write essays, published at Boston Review, The New Republic, The Atlantic, Lapham’s Quarterly, The Oxford American, American History, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and elsewhere. I was born in the state of Virginia and grew up in the borough of Brooklyn, and there’s much more about me, with endorsements from major historians and others, here.
what you’ll get
For paying subscribers, I’ll post exclusive content twice a month, delivered straight to your inbox via Substack, with an archive always available here; each post will have links to further reading, often including primary sources. (Non-paying subscribers will get more occasional posts, lacking the “further-reading” dive.) In those pieces, I’ll consider the ongoing current events that I think run most deeply, or strangely, or comically, or tragically, or all of the above, into the unresolved conflicts that mark this country’s seething past, digging up the history that provokes thought: your thought and mine.
what you’ll pay
Subscribers to HOGELAND’S BAD HISTORY cough up $5.00/month for exclusive, regular content: at least two posts per month, as discussed above.
You can also subscribe without paying: I will occasionally post something free, lacking the “further reading” thing.
A small selection of nice things that people have said about my other work:
“For William Hogeland, thinking about history is an act of moral inquiry and high citizenship. A searching and original voice.” —Rick Perlstein
“He knows his stuff, and his point of view is fresh and sure-footed. My notion of the republic's narrative has been forever altered.” —Eric Bogosian
“The best popular histories are the ones that take obscure subjects and make them not only compelling, but vitally relevant, for lay readers…Hogeland deserves all the plaudits he can get.” — Salon
“Elegant, authoritative prose packed with lively characters and hard-won detail.” —Richard Kreitner, The Nation
“William Hogeland is one of the best historians of early America…pulsating and thought-provoking.” —John Ferling, Professor Emeritus, University of West Georgia
“William Hogeland's rare talent is turning books into conversation, and bloodless, impenetrable histories into compelling and strange narratives. Icons become flawed people who did all sorts of things for contradictory reasons. The author is a skeptic, political analyst, and truth teller. Which is all fine, but not nearly as important as being a brilliant and amusing storyteller.” —Paul Chaat Smith, Associate Curator, National Museum of the American Indian