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My Times & Life: A Historian's Progress Through a Contentious Ageby Morton Keller
Synopses & Reviews
“To be a reasonably successful member of a not notably distinguished generation,” says Morton Keller in his introduction to My Times and Life “is hardly to be among the best-situated claimants for public attention or admiration.” Yet this account of an ordinary life played out in extraordinary times has a wide resonance, as his story reflects the experiences of a large portion of his generation. Although that generation was born too late to be part of the great generation that fought and won World War Two, and born too early to be part of the boomer generation, it nonetheless was a generation that lived through a half century of the greatest social change our country has ever experienced.
The primary source for background on his ancestry and youth, he explains as he begins his tale, turned out to be the most common record-keeping device of twentieth century American families: snapshots. Reflecting on the “photo legacy” of his family’s fading snapshots collected over the years, Keller draws on the yellow, sepia-toned pictures to re-create his parents’ early life as immigrants and his own childhood in Brooklyn. He describes his experience as a preadolescent confronting the drama of World War Two on the home front: too young to fight but old enough to be aware of what was happening. And he tells how leaving New York to attend the University of Rochester and later Harvard catapulted him into a world of people, ideas, and artifacts distant from anything that he had been accustomed to. Particularly poignant are his memories of being a middle-aged parent and professor at Brandeis University dealing with the baby boom generation in the 1960s and 1970s. With a legal and political historian’s insight he explains how, as much as anything, popular music has distinguished modern America’s sequence of generations one from the other.
Bringing his story up to the present day, he ends by telling of his more sedate mode of existence in the inner-directed 1980s and 1990s, ending in a retirement representing the beginning of a new phase of his life—a fitting conclusion to an always attractive, but hardly momentous, American saga of respectable achievement from relatively humble origins.
Keller remains an active scholar today. He is the author of fifteen books, his most recent titles being, Making Harvard Modern (2007), coauthored with his wife, Phyllis Keller, and America’s Three Regimes: A New Political History (2009).
Book News Annotation:
This memoir of "an ordinary life played out in extraordinary times" presents the views of an aging academic on a century of political, technological and social progress unlike any other. Drawing on old snapshots to weave together the history of his family and the times, Keller (history, Brandeis U.) reflects on the roles of generations he missed, too young to have been in World War II and too old to be a baby boomer, and on the outcomes of history. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
An Academic Forrest Gump
In My Times and Life, Morton Keller recounts his “not extraordinary life played out in quite extraordinary times”—from the Great Depression through World War Two, the cold war, the sixties, and 9/11. A classic American saga of respectable achievement from relatively humble origins, his life through eight-plus decades as a solid, unequivocal, dues-paying member of the middle class resonates beyond the individual to echo the experiences, the beliefs, and the values of his generation.
Set against the backdrop of ever-tumultuous events in the world at large, Keller describes his parents’ early life, his childhood in Brooklyn, and his education at the University of Rochester and at Harvard. He recounts his academic career at North Carolina, Penn, Harvard, Oxford, and Brandeis and the scholarly work that made him one of the nation's leading political historians. He tells of his marriage of nearly sixty years, his reflections on dealing with the baby boom generation in the 1960s and 1970s, and his more sedate mode of existence in the inner-directed 1980s and 1990s—all the while riding the wave of social change that transformed American life during the second half of the twentieth century.
Morton Keller is a professor emeritus in history at Brandeis University and a legal and political historian.
Morton Keller recounts his "not extraordinary life played out in quite extraordinary times"—from the Great Depression through World War Two, the cold war, the sixties, and 9/11. A classic American saga of respectable achievement from relatively humble origins, his life through eight-plus decades as a dues-paying member of the middle class resonates beyond the individual to echo the experiences, the beliefs, and the values of his generation.
About the Author
Morton Keller is the Spector Professor of History Emeritus at Brandeis University. He previously taught at the University of North Carolina and the University of Pennsylvania and has been a visiting professor at Harvard, Sussex, and Oxford, where he was the Harmsworth Professor of American History.
He is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the British Academy. He has been a visiting scholar at the Hoover Institution since 2005.
His books include The Life Insurance Enterprise, 1885–1910 (1963); The Art and Politics of Thomas Nast (1968); Affairs of State: Public Life in Late Nineteenth Century America (1977); Regulating a New Economy (1990); Regulating a New Society (1994); Making Harvard Modern (with Phyllis Keller) (2001); and America’s Three Regimes (2007).
Articles written by Keller have appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, Daedalus, the New Republic, the American Interest, the Wilson Quarterly, and many scholarly journals.
Table of Contents
War and Peace
Up and Out
Riding the Wave
The Late Middle Ages
About the Author
What Our Readers Are Saying