May 26, 2010
Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin
“I believe in democracy and I believe democracy works best if there’s an awareness of what’s come before,” said H. W. Brands in an interview.* “Otherwise we try to reinvent the wheel.”
His belief in the promise of democracy is why Dr. Brand’s books appear as often in the aisles of Barnes & Noble as the stacks of colleges and universities. It also accounts for his continuing desire to travel around the country, lecturing to capacity audiences, and to teach survey courses to packed auditoriums of undergraduate students. “I want to make my classrooms as big as possible,” said Brands. “The more people I can fit, the better.”
Dr. Brands, the Dickson Allen Anderson Centennial Professor of History and professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin, has won numerous teaching awards for courses on U.S. history and international relations. Holding Bachelor’s and Doctoral degrees in history from Stanford University and the University of Texas at Austin, respectively, as well as Master’s degrees in liberal studies and mathematics from Reed College and Portland State University, Brands began his career teaching high school and community college students. He later taught at Vanderbilt University and, for 23 years, Texas A & M University before returning to Austin in 2005.
Dr. Brands has written twenty books and coauthored or edited five others. His books include:
- Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times (Doubleday, 2005)
- Woodrow Wilson (Times Books/Henry Holt, 2003)
- The Age of Gold: The California Gold Rush and the New American Dream (Doubleday, 2002)
- The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin (Doubleday, 2000)
- What America Owes the World: The Struggle for the Soul of Foreign Policy (Cambridge UP, 1998)
- TR: The Last Romantic (Basic Books, 1997)
His writings have received critical and popular acclaim. The First American was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Los Angeles Times Prize, as well as a New York Times bestseller. The Age of Gold was a Washington Post Best Book of 2002 and a San Francisco Chronicle bestseller. Andrew Jackson was a Chicago Tribune Best Book of 2005 and a Washington Post bestseller. What America Owes the World was a finalist for the Pulitzer and Bancroft Prizes and the Lionel Gelber Prize in international affairs.
His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, International Herald Tribune, Boston Globe, Atlantic Monthly, Smithsonian, National Interest, American Historical Review, Journal of American History, Political Science Quarterly, American History, Presidential Studies Quarterly, and many other newspapers, magazines and journals.
Dr. Brands is an elected member of various honorary societies, including the Society of American Historians and the Philosophical Society of Texas. He is associate editor for Presidential Studies Quarterly and serves on the editorial board for Rhetoric and Public Affairs. He is a regular guest on national radio and television programs, and is frequently interviewed by the American and foreign press. His writings have been published in several countries and translated into German, French, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.
Dr. Brands was born in Portland, Oregon, where he lived until he went to California for college. After graduating he became a traveling salesman, with a territory that spanned the West from the Pacific to Colorado. His wanderlust diminished after several trips across the Great Basin, and he turned to sales of a different sort, namely teaching.
He lives in Austin with his wife and their youngest child.
* Brands interviewed by Vive Griffith.
“In a remarkably brief time, the Hauenstein Center has become one of the leading institutions for research and education on the American presidency. Its facilities, speaker series, and website are absolutely first-rate. It has something for every student of the presidency, from the dedicated scholar to the concerned citizen.”
~ H. W. Brands