Distinguished Lecturers
James M. Banner Jr.

James M. Banner Jr.

James M. Banner Jr. is an independent historian in Washington, D.C. The co-founder of the National History Center, he is now a visiting scholar in the history department of George Washington University. Banner is a coeditor of Becoming Historians (2009), the author of Being a Historian: An Introduction to the Professional World of History (2012), and the editor of Presidential Misconduct: From George Washington to Today (2019). His latest book is The Ever-Changing Past: Why All History is Revisionist History (2021). Banner's play, "Good and Faithful Servants," adapted from the correspondence between John and Abigail Adams and Thomas Jefferson, is under development.  In addition, he is now writing a book whose working title is "Historians: Who They Are, What They Do, Why They Do It" and remains a specialist in the history of the early republic, his latest contribution to that field being a prospective article on the constitutional crisis occasioned by the electoral tie of 1801.

NEW IN 2021: The Ever-Changing Past: Why All History Is Revisionist History (Yale University Press)

OAH Lectures by James M. Banner Jr.

In our era of disputed elections, the presidential elections of 1800 and 1801--one involving voting in each state, the other in the House of Representatives--have new salience. This outcome of this duo of elections, arguably the first "critical election" outcome in the United States, created a Democratic majority that lasted for 60 years, threatened the constitutional fabric, and laid the groundwork for path-breaking constitutional developments. But there's more to say about it than we've recognized, especially if we focus directly on the election of 1801, which resolved the deadlocked electoral college vote. The effort to resolve the deadlock offered the first instance of disinterested constitutionalism--a commitment of which we could use more today--in the nation's history. And, as the lecture argues, close examination of the resolution of the electoral deadlock brings to the fore the election's possible, and so far overlooked, links, personal as well as juridical, to John Marshall's decision in Marbury v. Madison only two years later.


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