President Faust's new book & the price of conflict has an early review of President Faust's new book "This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War". She kicks off her book tour with a lecture and book signing on Wednesday at the National Archives in Washington, DC.
“No other generation of Americans has encountered death on the scale of the Civil War generation. This Republic of Suffering is the first study of how people in both North and South coped with this uniquely devastating experience. How did they mourn the dead, honor their sacrifice, commemorate their memory, and help their families? Drew Gilpin Faust’s powerful and moving answers to these questions provide an important new dimension to our understanding of the Civil War.”—James M. McPherson, author of This Mighty Scourge: Perspectives on the Civil War
Faust made a career studying conflict as it manifested itself during the Civil War. Now she has the opportunity to influence, among other things, the local (and of course much smaller and less violent) conflicts that Harvard tends to create with its neighbors.

President Faust recently said, "For the last several years, the university leadership has been in transition. I can own a project and look at it in a deliberative way. . . . We're looking at everything again." What does that mean? How does she intend to "own" a project in a way different than Rudenstein, Summers, and Bok?

She hasn't come to Allston and talked with people here about Harvard's expansion or said much of anything about Allston in public, so for now nobody knows for sure what that means. Just as she makes time to talk about her scholarly work on a trip to D.C., neighbors and I hope she will find the the time and justification to visit Allston.

One plausible way a scholar of history and conflict might look at situations that have historically given rise to conflict would be to seek to minimize future conflict and the ensuing damage it can do to all parties involved.

Honestly, I don't see the belligerence in that reasoning. To the contrary, I consider it a hopeful and optimistic attitude that there can be better relations between Harvard and Allston and that, in the grander scheme, someday other institutions might look positively on Harvard (the way UPenn is now considered) when they consider their relationship with their neighbors.

If the tone of my original post did not sufficiently express any of that, I hope this additional viewpoint sets the record straight.


  1. Anonymous2:59 PM

    Are you REALLY comparing Harvard's building project to the Civil War?

    And I thought it was bad when you illustrated a post about a hydrogen lab with a picture of the Hindenberg.

    This is an extremely useful web site, but I hope you will understand why some of your readers, however grateful, find that they have to tune its relentlessly negative tone out in order to enjoy all that you offer.

  2. I'm absolutely not comparing the damage done by the Civil War with anything happening in Allston or Brighton. That would be ridiculous. I also think it is valid to hope that someone with a sensitivity to understanding the nature of conflict (on a massive scale) would be interested in issues of conflict on a much much smaller scale.

  3. Anonymous7:06 PM

    I still don't understand the argument. Drew Faust studies the American civil war and the way Americans reacted to the mass killing and general violence associated with the civil war, therefore she will be more understanding of Allstonians' concerns than her predecessors?

    Here's a response, from a blog written by Harvard students and recent alumni. The implicit belligerence of a blog post like this one certainly isn't going to help win the hearts and minds of the people who pay the bills over in 02138.