David Brion Davis

The Old New Thing
October 20, 2010

The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History By Samuel Moyn (Belknap Press, 337 pp., $27.95) In 1807, in Yorkshire, activists hit the campaign trail for William Wilberforce, whose eloquent parliamentary fight against Britain’s slave trade had won surprising success. “O we’ve heard of his Cants in Humanity’s Cause/While the Senate was hush’d, and the land wept applause,” they sang.

On Feeling the Misery of Strangers
February 04, 2005

The other day, as I was walking to the grocery store, I strategically moved toward the far edge of the sidewalk to put distance between myself and a pile of large, black trash bags haphazardly stacked against the side of a building. This sight is common in downtown Manhattan, as was the rustling I heard among the bags, which nevertheless made me start. Rats or mice, I thought, as I instinctively crossed the street to avoid them, but it was still light out, too early, it seemed to me, for these nocturnal creatures to be rummaging for food.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Thomas Jefferson
March 10, 1997

Thomas Jefferson a film by Ken Burns (PBS) The Long Affair: Thomas Jefferson and the French Revolution, 1785-1800 by Conor Cruise O'Brien (University of Chicago, 367 pp., $29.95) Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy by Annette Gordon-Reed (University Press of Virginia, 279 pp., $29.95) American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson by Joseph J. Ellis (Knopf, 351 pp., $26) I. Especially during his troubled second administration, Thomas Jefferson received a lot of hate mail.