Jim Banner '53 Interviewed by Brian Hamilton
James M. Banner, Jr. '53
Jim holds a B.A. from Yale and a Ph.D. from Columbia, where he studied with Richard Hofstadter. He was a member from 1966 to 1980 of the Princeton history department, which he left to found the American Association for the Advancement of the Humanities. A former Guggenheim Fellow, fellow of the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard, member of the board of directors of the American Council of Learned Societies, and Fulbright Visiting Professor of American History at Charles University, Prague, he is the author of many books and articles in American history, the discipline of history, education, and public affairs. He was a Visiting Alumni Fellow at Deerfield in 1986.
Prior to his most recent book, The Ever-Changing Past: Why All History Is Revisionist History, Jim was editor of the 2019 book Presidential Misconduct: From George Washington to Today, an expansion of a 1974 report, of which he was one of the authors, prepared at the invitation of John Doar for the Impeachment Inquiry of the House Committee on the Judiciary, a book that The Economist and Foreign Affairs placed on their Best Books of 2019 lists. Jim has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Time, and many other publications and outlets. He was a co-founder, with Joyce Appleby, of the History News Service and, among other things, the moving spirit behind the founding of the National History Center of the American Historical Association. At the moment, he is hoping for a production of a play, “Good and Faithful Servants,” drawn from the correspondence between John and Abigail Adams and Thomas Jefferson. He lives in Washington, D.C.
History Department Chair
Hamilton is a historian, writer, teacher, and podcaster. He is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Under the direction of William Cronon and Stephen Kantrowitz, he is writing a dissertation entitled “Cotton’s Keepers: Black Agricultural Expertise in Slavery and Freedom,” a social and environmental history of African Americans in the Lower Mississippi Valley across the nineteenth century.
He is an experienced teacher at both the secondary and post-secondary level. He is currently chair of the Department of History and Social Science at Deerfield Academy, where he teaches courses on U.S. history, the history of capitalism, environmental justice, and political science. At Wisconsin, he worked as a teaching assistant for eight semesters in History, Environmental Studies, and Community and Environmental Sociology, and designed a new course, “Race and the Environment in the History of the United States,” which he taught in the summers of 2018 and 2019. Before beginning graduate school, he taught for four years in the History Department at the Cambridge School of Weston. He also oversaw the training of first-time teachers for three years at Wisconsin and two summers at the EXPLO program at Wellesley College.
His digital work includes his tenure as managing editor of the digital magazine Edge Effects and as lead author of the online exhibit and digital archive Gaylord Nelson and Earth Day: The Making of the Modern Environmental Movement. He also created the Edge Effects podcast and serves as a host of the podcast New Books in Environmental Studies.
Hamilton earned his B.A. in American Studies at Columbia University and grew up in Maine. He lives in Western Massachusetts with his partner and two children.