Scholars Talk Writing: James M. McPherson

About a zillion years ago, I was an editorial assistant at Oxford University Press, apprenticed to Sheldon Meyer, one of the great editors of American history. Sheldon had exquisite taste and the ability to keep his authors happy and productive by dint of his supportive intelligence, patience, and many-martini lunches. He was responsible for a series of trade books on the history of the United States, to be edited by C. Vann Woodward and Richard Hofstadter. The three of them came up with an all-star line up of scholars to write each volume, and contracts were issued.

When I got to the press, in 1984, only one of the books had been published, The Glorious Cause, by Robert Middlekauff. The series, as is often the case with ambitious publishing projects, had gotten stalled. So when James M. McPherson submitted a gargantuan manuscript for what would become Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (1988), everyone was excited. I got to do extremely important work on the proj­ect: cheerily typing up the front matter, numbering the pages by hand, making copies, and having endless discussions about maps.

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