Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Five best books on scandals, actual or invented

H.W. Brands's latest book is The Murder of Jim Fisk for the Love of Josie Mansfield.

At the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of books on truth or just in print.

One title on the list:
Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History by Fawn M. Brodie (1974)

During Thomas Jefferson's lifetime, enemies circulated rumors that the widower had a long sexual relationship with one of the slave women he owned. Jefferson's defenders denied the rumors as just the sort of trash one would expect of James Callender, the crusading editor and Jefferson enemy who originated the stories. Fawn Brodie, a noted practitioner in the 1970s of the then-fashionable genre of psychohistory, was one of the first academics to take the Callender story seriously. Probing what she imagined to be Jefferson's inner life, Brodie concluded that Sally Hemings, the slave woman in question, had indeed had a long relationship with Jefferson and had borne him children. The book was roundly rejected by the Jefferson fraternity, but it also spurred further investigation, eventually including the DNA tests that convinced even most Jefferson loyalists that Brodie and Callender were right.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue