For the last year I've been kicking around an idea for a new series of video interviews. I thought it might be interesting to ask various historians why they decided to study history. In the short responses that I'll post you'll hear about what drew a scholar to the field and what engaged them on a personal level. I've always enjoyed reading autobiographical reflections of historians, and this is, in some way, a little extension of that genre.
The first installment features Jack N. Rakove, who reflects on his early fascination with history and his later pursuit of graduate study and career as a professor and author.
Rakove is William Robertson Coe Professor of History and American Studies and Professor of Political Science and Law at Stanford University. He received his PhD from Harvard University in 1975. Rakove is the author of a variety of books on legal and political history and the American Revolution, including: The Beginnings of National Politics: An Interpretive History of the Continental Congress (Knopf, 1979); James Madison and the Creation of the American Republic (Scott Forsman, 1990); Declaring Rights: A Brief History with Documents (Bedford 1997); Founding America: Documents from the Revolution to the Bill of Rights (Barnes & Noble, 2006); and Revolutionaries: Inventing an American Nation (Houghton Mifflin, 2010). His Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution (Knopf, 1996) won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize in History. Rakove is currently working on a book titled Beyond Belief, Beyond Conscience: The Radical Significance of the Free Exercise of Religion for Oxford University Press.