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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
L: This is an oral history interview [being conducted with Dr. David Bushnell on October
19, 1993 in his Gainesville home]. It is very much a biographical sort of an
interview, and so the first question I have for you is: when and where were you
B: I was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1923.
L: Can you give us the specific date?
B: May 14.
L: Tell me a little bit about your parents--their names, background.
B: Well, my father, Edward R. Bushnell, worked for the University of Pennsylvania. He
worked in the athletic department as an editor and public relations person, I suppose
is what you would say. [He was] editor of their various athletic programs and other
publications. He did a certain amount of free-lance editing on the side. My mother
had been a kindergarten teacher, but she had ceased working before I was born.
L: Do you have any siblings?
B: I have one sister who is still living.
L: Is she older or ...
B: She is older; I was the youngest of the children. One sister has died; the other is
still living in Pennsylvania.
L: So I take it that both of your parents were educated.
L: Did you have much exposure to the university community in Philadelphia as a child?
B: Well, not very much. We did not live in [Philadelphia]. I was born in Philadelphia,
but I think before my first birthday we had moved from there over to Moorestown
[New Jersey] in south Jersey from which my father commuted to work. Certainly by
the time I was in my teens, I would sometimes go over to the university myself to
use the library or to attend events of one kind or another, all of which I might not
have done if my father had not been a university employee. But I did not spend
much time in or around the University of Pennsylvania.
L: Did you go to a public high school or a private school?
B: I went to a Friends [Quaker] school. Moorestown, where I grew up, was basically a
small Quaker (at least in its origins) community. I am sure the Quaker's were a
minority by the time we moved and I was not a Quaker myself, but it was a good
school and it is what my parents enrolled me in. I went the entire time--from
kindergarten to senior high--in the same school.
L: When did you graduate from high school?
B: Well, it would have been, I think, 1940. 1939 or 1940; it gets hazy.
L: What was your family's experience vis-a-vis the Great Depression? Do you have
much memory of that?
B: Well not very much. I was aware of the Depression, but I certainly cannot say that
we personally suffered any hardship. We had, for example, had a vacation house
on the Jersey shore which we lost. But there was always food on the table, no
necessities were ever lacking.
L: Other than school work, what did you do as a child and a young adult/teenager?
Were you active in athletics?
B: No, I was not active in athletics at all, and I guess I was something of a loner. I had
a small number of close school friends, but was not engaged in any group athletics,
nor in any organizations. I was not a Boy Scout or anything like that.
L: You mentioned that you were not a Quaker. Were your parents religious? Did they
adhere to any particular faith?
B: Well, they were nominal Presbyterians. My grandfather on my father's side had
been a Presbyterian minister, in fact. We did more or less regularly attend the
Presbyterian church although I was never formally a member. I am not sure my
parents were formally members.
L: So it is not a major thing.
B: It was not a major thing in my growing up. Certainly as far as religious influences
are concerned going to a Quaker school was probably more influential on me than
the association with the local Presbyterian church. For example, at that particular
Friends school all students attended Friends meeting every Thursday morning, or
Fifth day morning as the Quakers put it. Then we had scripture as one of our
L: OK. Once you graduated from high school, 1939 or 1940, 1 see from your vita that
you do not enter [college immediately]. When did you enter Harvard? What
happens after your graduation?
B: The same year that I graduated, I think it was 1939; no, it was 1940. I can
remember dating this by means of Pearl Harbor. I was in my second year in college
in December of 1941, so I must have entered college and graduated from high
school in 1940. I went directly to college.
L: What were you interested in or what were you studying as an undergraduate?
B: Well, I majored in history. That was not my original intention when I arrived. I
expected to major in political science, but instead I majored in history, in part
because I was very much taken with the freshman history survey that my advisor
had put me in when I arrived there. But I think more fundamentally perhaps than
that even [was] because I was interested even then in Latin America as an area of
study and there was more course work [and] more to be done concerning Latin
America in the history department than in political science or economics or pretty
much any other of the social sciences.
L: How did you get this interest in Latin America, do you know?
B: Well, my memory is vague on that. It goes back really to my elementary school
days and the one thing I can put my finger on is that at some point, probably fifth or
sixth grade, I received an illustrated, abridged edition of [William Hickling] Prescott's
Conquest of Mexico as a Christmas present which, obviously, made a very lasting
impression on me. I would not become a specialist in colonial Latin America. I think
as much as anything that got me interested. It was, of course, the lure of the exotic
or the appeal of the romantic, exotic, far-away, because there was no Latin
American community anywhere near me at that time. I am growing up the 1930s.
L: That is very interesting. So, what else sticks out in your mind about being an
undergraduate at Harvard [University] in the early 1940s?
B: Well, it was mostly hard work. I certainly enjoyed most of my college experience,
although it was not a wholely typical college experience because the war intervened.
I remained there to finish my degree, but had a speed-up of my program. So I was
taking extra courses to get through faster. This added to the stresses and strains of
L: Did many of your classmates drop out and enter the service after Pearl Harbor?
B: I do not recall, probably some did. But, my memory fails me on that.
L: OK. Was there any military component? Was there anything resembling ROTC at
B: There was, but I was not in ROTC. And I did not serve in the military myself. I failed
my physical exam.
L: For any particular reason?
B: Well, I suppose the record--I am a little hazy on that too, but they did not take me is
all I can say.
L: So you graduate with a degree in 1943 in history.
L: What did you do then?
B: Well, the first thing I did was take a trip to Latin America. I had been awarded a
Sheldon Traveling Fellowship. This was from a grant set up by some alumnus, I do
not know when, but primarily for students to go spend a year traveling (usually in
Europe) after their graduation as an undergraduate from college. Obviously in 1943
one was not going to take a traveling fellowship to Europe, and I did not take quite a
full year. But I did take advantage of it to go to Latin America really for the first time.
My first visit to Latin America actually had been after my freshman year at college. I
went to Mexico on a Quaker work camp group. I had won a German prize which I
then spent to go to Mexico to practice Spanish--somewhat to the annoyance of the
German department, but I sure was not going to go to Germany in 1940. But that
was just a first experience which I, of course, very much enjoyed. I wanted more.
So, Latin America was shaping up as kind of a career specialty or likely to be. I took
advantage of this offer of a traveling fellowship to set off on my own to Latin
America, which I went to mainly by land. I went down through Mexico and ultimately
as far as Quito in Ecuador. On my return from that I went to work for the OSS, the
Office of Strategic Services, as a research analyst in their Latin American division.
L: Well, two questions, I guess: what did you do as a research analyst, and where
were you based?
B: I was based all the time in Washington, D.C. What I did was prepare, or initially help
prepare (and eventually I was given independent responsibility for certain
assignments) reports on current Latin American affairs.
L: Related to the war situation?
B: Well, at least in most cases of course, indirectly. Latin America was not a theater of
combat. The main concern of the United States during World War II, as far as Latin
America was concerned, naturally was that Latin America remain stable and not
create distractions that might interfere with the U.S. concentration on the war effort.
So, to that extent, the reports that we drew up were mainly concerned with overall
political and economic stability. Secondarily of course, factors that would affect Latin
American attitudes towards the war, support of the U.S. effort and that sort of thing.
L: Were they drawing upon your skills as a historian for this particular job?
B: Well, yes, although not so much [as a] historian. Specifically [they drew more from
my] general social science and humanities training. If I had majored in political
science, they would have been just as happy to hire me; maybe even happier.
L: OK. I take it that position continued until the end of the war.
B: Until the end of the war and actually a little after. After the war the OSS was
dissolved. Part of it became the nucleus of the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency].
The research and analysis division, where I was located, did not became part of the
CIA. It was annexed to the Department of State. And so for roughly my last year as
a research analyst in Washington I was working for the State Department, but doing
pretty much the same kind of work.
L: At this point in time were you interested in a career in government?
B: I was certainly open to that possibility. Of course, in 1946, [I] resigned from the
State Department to go back and get an advanced degree in history. I thought of
that really as preserving and enhancing my range of options. I was not necessarily
committing myself to a college teaching career although that was certainly attractive
to me even then. But I had not excluded the possibility, by any means, of going
back to government service at some time after getting my final degree.
L: So you returned to Harvard in ...
L: 1946. Since all three of your degrees are from the same institution, this leads me to
a sort of an odd question. Nowadays, it is pretty much common to hear students
advised not to get all of their degrees from the same institution.
B: Yes, I have advised students of that myself, and certainly that advice was often
given in my day, too. Of course, the times were not quite typical or normal when I
went back to graduate work. This was the period immediately after the war when
the colleges and universities were being flooded with returning GIs. So, there was
congestion and just getting a place for oneself was difficult, and it seemed to me that
[by] going back to Harvard, in my case since I was already known there, [it] would
be easier to get in. I knew the people. I also knew the program, so once I got in I
could get through faster. In fact, all the courses offered in Latin American history I
had already had as an undergraduate, so what I had to do as a graduate student in
my own field consisted purely of taking a seminar, but mainly doing independent
L: Were you married at this point?
B: Yes, I was married while working in Washington.
L: And your wife's name?
B: Virginia Starkes.
L: And is this the woman that I met as I walked in?
B: Yes. [Laughter] She is still my wife, yes.
L: Did you have any children?
B: Yes, we have three.
L: And their names and when were they born.
B: Well, John, the oldest, was born in Washington D.C. in 1945. Peter, the second,
was born in 1948. Catherine, the youngest, in 1953.
L: So you are going into graduate school already with a family, a wife, children.
B: Yes, I had a wife and a first child when I went back to do my graduate work. Of
course, we had saved up some money. Both of us were working in the OSS; that is
where we met. We had saved up some money that we could draw on during my
graduate work. Also, though my wife did not work full time while I was a graduate
student, she had a number of part time jobs, which, needless to say, helped us
make ends meet during that period. Now of course our second son was born in
Bogota [Colombia] when I was doing my dissertation research.
L: Oh, that is very interesting. Did Harvard provide assistantships, fellowships, things
B: Yes. They were, of course, fairly modest, although you cannot compare with today's
assistantships and fellowships because of the difference in the price levels. Maybe
they would not be all that modest if the inflation factor was worked in. But they did
provide some help. By no means did I ever have anything approaching a full
L: Were you doing any sort of teaching as a graduate student?
B: No. Well, the closest I came to teaching was to serve once as my mentor's
graduate assistant which entailed nothing but correcting exams, and actually most of
his exams he corrected himself anyway.
L: Who was your mentor at Harvard?
B: Clarence H. Haring was his name.
L: And he was a specialist in ...
B: Latin American history.
L: Any particular region?
B: Well, no region, but [he specialized in a particular] period, yes. He was a colonial
period specialist, but a very open-minded sort of person, most of whose students
specialized in something quite different, myself included. Most of us worked on [the]
national period history of Latin America, but in different countries.
L: Is Harvard at this time the leading Latin America history center in this country?
B: No, it certainly is not now, and really never was. When I was there in the 1940s,
both as an undergraduate and as a graduate, at that time it was still one of the few
institutions that had a recognized Latin American specialist in their history
department. Of course, there were not many specialists in Latin American history as
of yet in this country. Harvard had received an endowed chair for Latin American
history. They did not have much else, however, in the way of Latin American
studies, and the Spanish department, for instance, was quite weak.
L: Was there any concern that you develop what we now call outside minors? Were
you also studying European or American history?
B: I was required to take (same as at the University of Florida more or less) and pass
examinations in outside fields. One of them was Roman history, another was U.S.
[history], and a third was Spanish history.
L: I can see how two of them sort of fit together. It would be difficult these days to get
away with American history and Roman history in the same program. Was there
any concern with studying other social sciences: anthropology, sociology? Were
historians borrowing from these areas at this time?
B: To some extent; not as much as became the fashion later on. As an undergraduate,
I had the introductory courses in political science, government ([as] they call it at
Harvard), and also economics. But those were just sort of introductory
undergraduate courses. As a graduate student, to fill one of my requirements of
something outside my own major, I did take a course in anthropology, a course
which in a way turned me off. It mostly seemed to me broken pottery. It was not the
kind of anthropology that I thought I was getting into.
L: Were you more interested in theory?
B: Not really. As far as anthropology was concerned?
B: Not really; I suppose I was more interested in description, but description of more
recent Indian communities in Latin America.
L: At that point in time, were historians studying the indigenous populations of the Latin
American countries, or were they more concerned with the political leaders and the
politics and government?
B: Well, as far as the Indian communities are concerned, both pre- and post-conquest,
particularly pre-conquest, the historians have always left them, to a considerable
extent, to the anthropologist. Of course there are historians today who do work
primarily on the Native American communities in Latin America in the nineteenth and
twentieth centuries, or for that matter, sixteenth or seventeenth, but they are a fairly
small minority. My own mentor, Haring, was definitely an institutional historian. [He
was] concerned not just with political institutions, [but] also economic and religious,
for example. But I am sure his general approach would be considered somewhat
old-fashioned today. He was not certainly one of those interested in, as they put it,
"history from the bottom up". He did not go around interviewing people, either.
L: OK. I am wondering (as you have picked up on) if there is any social history going
on in the 1940s.
B: Some, but certainly the social history content of my formal training was fairly slight.
This was in part a function of the literature available then, over and above the
personal inclinations of my mentor, who was not himself about to do much to correct
that lack of social history in the literature. It was not wholly lacking. But it certainly
took a subordinate place. The kind of social history that I got, and I am sure most
others of my generation got in their formal training, was sort of what we in Latin
America call costumbrismo, picturesque local customs as seen by foreign travelers
in the early nineteenth century and that kind of thing--not the more analytical type of
social history which has come to the fore in recent years.
L: You mentioned a few minutes ago that your second child was born in Bogota while
you were doing dissertation research.
L: How long were you in Colombia and what exactly were you researching?
B: Well, at that time I was in Colombia for about nine months altogether doing my
dissertation on the institutional history (this is following the example of my mentor
again) of the immediate post-independence period, the formation of the first
L: In the mid nineteenth century?
B: No, early. 1820s.
L: Was Harvard or some other institution financing this research to get you down there
and support you?
B: Harvard did not provide any support for that. I had a fellowship, what they called a
research training fellowship from the SSRC.
L: And the SSRC is?
B: The Social Science Research Council.
L: Were you doing nothing but research while you were there, or were you affiliated
with a university doing any teaching?
B: No, I was doing only my own research. I had really no contact with any university.
At that time in Colombia there were no professional history departments in the
universities. The professionalization of history as a discipline really did not get
underway until about the 1960s. So, my local contacts were with the Academy of
History, which basically was an association of amateur historians who were very
L: And I would assume you were working in government archives.
B: Yes. Well, mostly in the Colombian national archives and in the archives of the
L: Was that a good experience for you and your family, living in Bogota?
B: Well, I would have to ask my family. It certainly was [for me]. It was in many ways
difficult for my wife since I had a fellowship (but it was a fairly modest one). We had
difficulty making ends meet, of course, with a family, one son already born and
another on the way. We had certain costs, including medical bills, which would not
have been the case otherwise, and the fellowship program did not really take all
those into account. My wife was used to traveling. She had grown up in the army,
her father was an army doctor; she traveled a lot. But, of course, when you travel
with the army every possible need is taken care of by Uncle Sam. This was her first
exposure to foreign travel with no such support whatsoever. She also knew some
Spanish, but not very much. Thus in many ways it was a traumatic experience for
her--but she did, happily, survive.
L: You finished your degree, or you were awarded the Ph.D., in 1951?
L: But I also have that you are teaching at the University of Delaware from 1949
B: Yes. That was my first teaching job. Of course, in those days, happily for me, there
was not the same insistence on [having the] Ph.D. in hand for getting a university
teaching job. So it was perfectly normal to hire somebody while he or she (usually
he in those days) was still writing the dissertation. It was a good source of cheap
labor. Labor did not become much more expensive even after I got my degree.
L: How long did you work at trying to find a job before you landed the one at Delaware?
Were jobs hard to get at this time?
B: They were hard to get. [A] flood of people were going back to college right after the
war was ebbing, which meant of course on the one hand there were not as many
students in the universities in 1949 as there had been in 1946 and 1947 and you
had all of these newly-trained graduate students out looking for jobs. So I had a
really worrisome summer after I got back from Colombia in 1949 of sending out
applications, waiting, watching the mailbox, and experiencing one disappointment
after another. And I was about ready to go off and try and find a job at a gas station
or something like that when sort of out of the blue I got a call from the University of
Delaware. They had hired somebody else earlier in the year who, however, then
stood them up--happily for me, because that created a sudden opening for which
they hired me. I spent the next six years at the University of Delaware.
L: Did the university begin to expand rapidly while you were still there? I know that the
University of Florida began booming in the early to mid 1950s.
B: Well, I do not think the University of Delaware changed very much during the six
years that I was there. Certainly, the history department did not change very much.
L: Was it a large department?
B: No. It was, of course, a small university. The University of Delaware had between
two and three thousand students (including graduate students) at that time, and their
specialty was, not surprisingly, chemistry and chemical engineering. Of course, they
were in close proximity to the DuPont corporation, which had helped them out very
much in those fields.
L: So what were they having you teach?
B: I taught Latin American history. But most of my teaching hours were in the
European history survey, because that is where they needed live bodies.
L: The "bread and butter" course.
L: Were you doing any work with graduate students at this point?
B: A little. We gave only an M.A. degree in history at that time. There were a few, but
not very many, who worked with me during that period. I had a greater number of
graduate students who were taking other courses of mine, [but] not working on
theses with me. These were school teachers working on degrees in education but
taking history on the side.
L: I see. How well did this job pay? How good of a standard of living were you able to
B: It paid very poorly. I was making more money during my time in Washington in the
mid 1940s (and this is just my own job, not taking into account the salary that my
wife was also bringing home). Then I got from the University of Delaware [an
amount] which, again, I would not know how to convert into present day dollars and
cents, but it was certainly not enough to support a growing family. So, again, my
wife, all through the Delaware period, was engaged in a succession of part-time or,
in some cases, near full-time, jobs, much of the time teaching kindergarten (which
she enjoyed very much) or teaching nursery school, actually. I also sought out
summer work--summer school teaching if it was available. One summer I worked
for about a month in an automobile assembly plant near Newark, Delaware, near the
university. It gave me my first experience on how an assembly line works, which
certainly deepened my knowledge of contemporary history, but it is not something
that I would want to do again.
L: It sounds like both of you stayed very busy throughout this period. Well, you shift
jobs again in 1956. [You begin working] as a historian for the Air Force Missile
Development Center. Is that correct?
B: It went through a number of changes of name but that is as good as any.
L: How did this come about?
B: Well, it came about when I was passed over for tenure at the University of
Delaware, which is a story, I guess, in itself. The problem, of course, was the low
emphasis on Latin America. Of course, Delaware had no obvious reason to develop
a Latin American program. The department had always professed satisfaction with
my teaching; all my yearly evaluations had been good. The student feedback was
not as systematized, as [is] today at [the] University of Florida with those evaluation
forms that are handed out in every course. But the rather more informal equivalent
which they had then gave me high enough marks from the students, too. But, I was
kept on with one one-year appointment after another for six years. After that the
department had to decide: would they invest a permanent tenured position in Latin
American history or not? They decided not. So I had to look for something else.
There were not many jobs in teaching available in the mid 1950s, which was a kind
of low point of U.S. interest in Latin America, really. Through a colleague of mine at
the University of Delaware I heard about a former colleague of his who had gone
into the Air Force history program. He was looking fora collaborator, a colleague, to
also work in his office. So, I was alerted to this possibility. I put my application
through the proper channels and went off to southern New Mexico to work for a few
years for the Air Force.
L: Certainly the University of Delaware had to have been aware of the fact that you
were publishing quite a bit.
B: Yes, they had no complaint about that. As I say, they never had any complaint
about my teaching or other performance.
L: Well, what did you do for the Air Force as a historian?
B: Well, I of course wrote history, which is too obvious an answer. Well, [I] wrote
history and also answered questions, doing sort of spot research as called for by
anybody at the installation who needed to check up about something which had
happened years past in relation to any of the programs which they had underway.
Now, of course, this was at Holloman Air Force Base near Alamogordo, New
Mexico. It was a research installation which was involved in everything from
missiles (they were not concerned with big missiles, but small and medium sized
missiles) to various kinds of biomedical research, and one of their more interesting
projects was training chimpanzees for eventual travel in space. They also did tests
on medical effects of space travel, zero gravity and things like this, all looking ahead
toward the space program which had not yet been launched, but it was the Air Force
sort of positioning itself for a slice of that particular action when the time came. The
history that I wrote, most of it, had to do with aspects of this aerospace research
L: What do you remember about Sputnik? Sounds like you are right in the thick of
things as far as ...
B: Well, it of course made a big impact. There was enormous excitement in the Air
Force, as you can imagine. Of course, the United States, as I am sure you know,
was jarred into a break-neck effort to catch up with the Russians after Sputnik, and
naturally the Air Force was right in the middle of that break-neck catch-up effort,
with, of course, the special feature [that] the Air Force was not only trying to catch
up with the Russians, but also to assure itself a significant role in whatever U.S.
space program finally came about.
L: Before the announcement of Sputnik, were the Soviets considered as any sort of
aerospace rivals? Do you have any memory of this? I am trying to get at just how
shocking this event was.
B: My impression is, and I could be quite wrong on this, that we did not take them all
that seriously. If they had been doing something more along the line of just what we
were doing at the Air Force Missile Development Center, then our people might
have been following more closely what the Russians were up to. Maybe some
people were, but the Russian factor did not loom very large in anything I was doing,
certainly, prior to Sputnik. Of course, once Sputnik occurred, then the Russian
factor was taken into account in absolutely everything. I suspect that in general the
Air Force, like other agencies of the U.S. government, was not really prepared for
what the Russians did.
L: How does this job shift into the Office of Aerospace Research in 1961? Is that a
different agency all together?
B: Sort of.
L: [You were talking about being] promoted.
B: Well, it was a promotion to me from being historian at a particular installation out in
the New Mexico desert, to being the head of the historical office in a higher level of
organization in Washington. Of course, the Office of Aerospace Research was a
fairly small organization as far as personnel was concerned, and even their total
budget was not much compared with the budget of some of the operational Air
Force commands, for example. They were mainly concerned with supporting basic
research, both research carried out by Air Force installations such as the one that I
had been at in New Mexico and also basic research carried out at universities but
funded by the Air Force.
L: So this is a sub-unit of the Air Force?
B: It was a sub-unit of the Air Force, right.
L: And you continue in that until 1963?
B: Yes, I was there approximately two years.
L: Then you switched jobs again.
B: Well, then I came down here and that was my last job switch. Of course, when I first
went to the Air Force after Delaware, I had thought of this as sort of a temporary port
in a storm. I had always certainly kept in the back of my mind the hope and
expectation that I would eventually be able to return to teaching. Of course, the
longer I stayed in the Air Force, the more complicated that became since I was on
the federal payroll again, moving up in salary. Also, of course, [I was] getting older
so that I was not in competition anymore for just any sort of beginning position in
And of course, I enjoyed what I was doing for the Air Force, but at the same time it
was not quite what I had been trained for. Science, for example, had been quite
neglected in my own formal education, and so as an Air Force historian I had to
brush up on the science that I needed as I went along. Perhaps even more
basically than that, I had to learn how to write plausibly about scientific matters
without wholly understanding what I was writing myself but being able to get this
past somebody who really did know what was going on.
There was also, of course, to me the annoyance of commuting to work in
Washington, D.C., so when I heard of an opening which was just about the right
level, associate professor level here [at the] University of Florida, I expressed
interest and was hired and I have been here ever since.
L: Who hired you exactly? How did that work at that time?
B: Well, it was a much more informal kind of thing than it is now, really a matter of [an]
old boy network. While I was in Washington a very good friend of mine, Howard
Cline, was at that time head of the Hispanic Foundation of the Library of Congress
(it is really the Latin American and Spanish division of the Library of Congress). I
had known him first at Harvard where he was a few years ahead of me but also
studying Latin American history, and he was head of the division there in the Library
of Congress while I was working in Washington, so I saw a good bit of him then. He
was also a very good friend of Dr. [Lyle Nelson] McAlister [Professor of History and
Director, Center for Latin American Studies]. So when Don[ald Emmet] Worcester
[Professor of History], who had been one of the Latin American history professors
here at Florida, resigned, Mac [McAlister] mentioned to Howard Cline among others
that they needed a replacement. Howard passed on my name; I came down here to
see and be seen, and then I was hired because there was no search committee or
anything like that, no EIB, no Perspectives, nothing like that.
L: Who was chairman at the time when you arrived?
B: Jack [John A.] Harrison [Professor of History].
L: And he leaves in 1965, I think; he goes to the [University of] Miami.
L: I guess before we get into the history department itself, I would like to ask you a
number of questions about your reaction to Gainesville, your first impressions, and
what life was like here in the early 1960s. What can you tell me about that?
B: Well, it was a pleasant enough place. It was not exactly what I expected. The only
thing I knew about Florida was Miami where I had been going to and from Latin
America. Of course, I expected to have the same kind of vegetation flourishing
everywhere, and Gainesville was quite different from that, although not wholly
different. It was a medium-sized, or small-sized, university community, but it was
certainly an agreeable place to live. You did not have an Oaks Mall. One
sometimes went to Jacksonville to shop, which one would never do now. One had
to go to Jacksonville to catch a plane, which one no longer has to do. But, I will tell
you, the differences between Gainesville then and Gainesville now are more
quantitative than qualitative really.
One thing, of course: the University was considerably smaller then than now; the
history department was smaller. One difference that I would point to so far as my
own teaching is concerned is that, to me at least, there was a closer rapport
between faculty and graduate students, at least in Latin American history. At that
time, of course, the Latin Americanists were the largest single group of graduate
students. They considered themselves, and I think were on the whole justly
considered, as a kind of elite subsection of the history graduate students. There
was a very close rapport socially as well as professionally between the faculty and
graduate students, some of which has certainly been lost over the years as an
inevitable part of the growth of the department and the University.
L: What do you recall about race relations when you got here? Had you experienced
Jim Crow up close before you moved to Gainesville?
B: Well, in Delaware. Well, Jim Crow was a problem all the time that I was at the
University of Delaware. Of course, the public school desegregation began in
Delaware sooner than it did here. I guess Delaware in the 1950s went through what
Florida did in the 1960s, but the very same problems were in evidence. And of
course also in Delaware, my wife and I had been members of the local chapter of
the NAACP. We were not very active [for a number of] reasons, [primarily] I think
because we were so busy just barely earning a living between us.
But through that we had some contacts with the local black community and were
aware of what they were up against. Of course, the university was in Newark, and
of course there was a black elementary school, but high school students were bused
all the way to Wilmington because there was no black high school, and of course,
there was a separate black college. The university did get its first black student
before I left, but blacks were still not much in evidence yet. So then we repeated the
whole process in Florida.
L: So you got to watch it all over again, even worse. Did you become involved in any
sort of community organizations once you got to Gainesville in these early years?
B: Not really. Now, we have been members of the Episcopal church, we had been
involved in Delaware and elsewhere, [and] we always had been. But, as far as
secular community organizations are concerned, I cannot think of any that I have
been a member of. I belong to my various professional organizations, but these are
either regional or national.
L: So you start out as an associate professor of history in 1963. Did this come with
tenure or were you tenure tracked at this point?
B: No, I was hired without tenure; it was certainly tenure tracked, and I had been given
to understand that getting tenure would not be all that difficult once I had put in the
required number of years. I took those assurances at face value. In more recent
years I have seen numerous cases in which people refuse to take those assurances
of that sort of thing at face value and insist on getting some kind of prior tenure, but I
never asked for it and it was certainly never offered.
L: And it came smoothly?
B: It came smoothly. I was hardly aware of the process. I was asked to suggest some
names of people who could write letters of recommendation. I mean, tenure and
also promotion to full professor, both of these were things for which a certain
number of years had to pass. I could not even say for sure which came first; neither
one was a big deal.
L: David Chalmers told me that his tenure just sort of came in the mail one day; that is
how he put it.
B: That would be the same way for me. It was no big deal. And [it was] the same way
[for] the promotion to full professor.
L: What were your teaching duties in these early years?
B: My teaching was almost exclusively Latin American history, combining both
undergraduate and graduate courses. In two different terms I taught two different
segments of the European survey, which is really what I had been doing at
Delaware so I offered to do it, and John [Keith] Mahon [Professor of History] took me
up on it.
L: This must have been in the later 1960s.
L: He was running the department. Were you directing graduate students, mentoring
B: From the very beginning. Well, once the papers were processed and I was formally
added to the graduate faculty. That, again, came in the mail very quickly.
L: How many graduate students, roughly, were you in charge of at any one time?
B: At any one time?
B: Well, the greatest number at any one time, if you are counting both Ph.D. and M.A.,
including the so called MALAS students (M.A. in Latin American studies), would
have been probably around ten or a dozen. This would be maybe sometime in the
1980s; not initially.
L: And is your research interest still focused on the national period?
L: Well, how did you end up becoming the chairman in 1978?
B: Well, of course, that was an election then with the dean's stamp of OK on it, the
same way things are done now. For how long that process has been followed I
have no idea. And I am not sure when the idea of becoming chairman first crossed
my mind. A number of colleagues suggested it (or at least inquired whether I might
be interested in running for chairman), and I felt it would be appropriate, I think, for
sort of two reasons: [first] it was about time for another Latin Americanist to have
this job. Mac had been the last Latin Americanist to head the department and that
was some years ago, so it was our turn. Then also, it was sort of the turn of the so-
called budgeted department members to have a chairman. Remember this was still
before the merger of University College and the College of Arts and Sciences.
Now, of course, the line items for close to half of the people teaching history courses
were budgeted in the various social sciences or other departments in University
College, social sciences especially. Of course, they, I think, quite rightly felt that they
were treated as some sort of second class citizens, but they had had the previous
chairmanship. Art[hur Layton] Funk [Professor of History and Humanities and Chair,
Department of History] came out of the humanities department in the University
College, and it struck me as a little odd--and of course Jack [Herbert Joseph]
Doherty [Professor of History and Social Sciences and Chair, Social Sciences] from
social sciences was almost certain to put his hat in the ring for chairmanship of the
department as Art's successor, which was of course was a very logical candidacy--it
just seemed odd to me that someone at least among the so-called budgeted
department members could not also offer his name as a candidate. So this was
another reason, sort of to increase the representativeness, you might say, of the
candidate pool, that I tossed my name in that particular ring.
L: Could you elaborate a little bit more about the relationship between the historians
working for University College and those working for the history department? I know
that there is some sort of tension there.
B: There certainly was. I was not personally very much aware of it; I think the fact that
I was not all that aware of it may be one indication of the problem that existed, that I
just did not pay much attention. But, of course, the overriding consideration in my
case is that I was in Latin American history and none of them were. There had been
a Latin American historian in University College when I first came here who was not
a very good scholar (he may have been a very good teacher). He then later moved
on and again I lost track of him, but he was not replaced or [there was] no other
Latin Americanist in University College. So we Latin Americanists rubbed shoulders
with the people from University College departments, those historians, essentially in
history department meetings and in social gatherings. I was of course aware that
there were apparently some discrepancies in salary levels, not that any of us were
pulling down very big bucks. [Laughter] [There were] also discrepancies in the
amount of support for research and going to meetings; again, not that anybody was
getting very much back in the 1970s.
L: Did Dr. Funk choose to step down and create a vacuum, or was he rotated out?
B: Well, I do not know. I really have no idea. You will have to ask him when you track
him down. He served four years, and whether he had any interest in going beyond
that I really have no idea. I personally find it hard to see why anybody would want to
serve a second term, although Dave [David] Colburn [Associate Professor of Social
Sciences and History] did, and he was a first-rate chairman.
L: Oh, these are set up in four-year terms?
B: Well, not necessarily. I do not think there was any formal term, and I served only
three [years]. I think Art Funk served four years and I know that Dave served, if I am
not very much mistaken, two successive four-year terms. And I know that Dean
[Charles F.] Sidman [College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Professor of History]
preferred reelections, but there was no pressure put on me to serve another term. I
had said at the beginning that I was only interested in one term and I wanted to keep
L: What changed in terms of your work load and your activities? What was the biggest
change after becoming chairman?
B: Well, the biggest change was just being somewhat more tied down to the office and
to paper work. I am not sure the total number of hours per week changed all that
much. My teaching load was decreased, but I had to spend more time around
campus than I had before, and I had more letters to write and forms to fill out and all
those little odds and ends. And, of course, I could not take off for extended
absences. I declined the option of putting myself on a twelve month salary in order
to keep at least part of each summer free, usually to go to Latin America on some
research project or something, which I did manage to do during the three years that
I was chairman. I did have an associate chairman but I could never get too far away
for too long. So it was in that respect sort of confining.
L: Did being chairman have a negative impact on your research endeavors?
B: Some, but I do not think it made a critical difference. I certainly continued writing.
L: I can see that from your vita here.
B: So, I found time.
L: What was your biggest difficulty in trying to run a history department? I have been
told that money was continually a problem.
B: Well, the money was always a problem, but of course in my case the biggest
problem was the adjustment to the merger which came about while I was chairman.
I was strongly in favor of it myself, but not everybody was equally in favor, and of
course it was not just that some people were a little leery on either side perhaps,
[but that] there were people who were not convinced that this merger was a good
idea. But also what was most awkward to manage was the feeling on the part of
certain of the so-called budgeted members that certain of the other historians were
not really up to our standards and we should not vote them in. Now, Dean Sidman
was very clear that he wanted all the historians taken in, and I was completely in his
corner on that one. We certainly could not make any invidious comparisons;
everybody had to be treated equally in this respect. Eventually everybody did get in,
but there were some awkward moments and some unpleasantness along the way.
This was easily the biggest problem that I had to deal with.
Money was of course a problem, but that you took for granted (that it was going to
be a problem). It was actually less of a problem for me. I think there was more
money available during my chairmanship than there had been for my predecessor.
Now, my successor fared even better than I did; the movement was in a favorable
direction. Our budgets were increasing rather than decreasing. So, this helped.
L: The University College was dissolved at the dean's office level, is that correct? I am
trying to put together the series of events that leads to that.
B: Well, of course, the decision came from the very top level. For all I know the Board
of Regents may have had to give their approval, but of course the president's office
primarily was responsible for saying yes or no, and they said yes. Of course, this
had been talked about for a good many years [that] the two organizations should be
combined. Even many people, I think, who agreed that the University College in its
day had been a great idea felt that for one reason or another its original mission had
become sort of lost, or changed beyond recognition. It was no longer functioning
the way it was originally set up to function, so you might as well just make a clean
sweep and combine the two organizations. And the new dean of arts and sciences,
Sidman, was 200 percent in favor of this. Of course, he was going to end up as
dean of the enlarged operation. I am sure that was not his only motive by any
means. He was very much interested in promoting history as a discipline, for
example, and part of this promoting of history as a discipline involved getting all the
historians and building a big history department, and he was of course interested in
promoting other disciplines as disciplines. He did not have that sort of mystique of
the interdisciplinary studies that had given rise to University College in the first
place. At least this is my reading of the situation.
L: How long did this take to get this merger?
B: My memory is fairly hazy; I would say it took about a year altogether. There was
probably maybe some mopping up; in fact, there were some loose ends even after
that. There were a few people from University College departments who remained
in some kind of a limbo even after the rest of their colleagues had been assigned to
particular departments. I do not think that wasthe case of any one of the bona fide
historians in University College, and of course, many of the University College
historians were some of our very best people.
L: The department more than doubles in size at this point.
B: Well, roughly doubles.
L: Who all comes aboard from University College? I know David Colburn did.
B: Colburn, [George E.] Pozzeta [Associate Professor of Social Sciences], Sam[uel]
Proctor [Professor of History and Social Sciences, Julien C. Yonge Professor of
Florida History, Curator of History, Florida State Museum].
L: [Eugene] Ashby Hammond [Professor of History and Social Science]?
B: No, Ashby had retired before then, I am almost certain. There was of course Merlin
[Gwinn] Cox [Associate Professor of Social Sciences] who has retired since then.
[Arch] Fred[ric] Blakey [Associate Professor of Social Sciences and History] came
over. Of course Fred[erick] Gregory [Assistant Professor of Physical Sciences] our
present chairman [came over]. He was in whatever department it was that did basic
science, but he was in University College. And if I walked down the corridors there
in Turlington, I could probably point to others who came over, Hal [Harold Arnold]
Wilson [Associate Professor of Social Sciences and History].
L: Julian [Mciver] Pleasants [Assistant Professor of Social Sciences and History]?
B: Pleasants, absolutely.
L: [Augustus Merrimon] Burns [Assistant Professor of Social Sciences and History]?
B: Gus Burns, sure. Certainly over half, it seems to be over half, of our U.S. historians.
We more than doubled our U.S. historians because we had more U.S. historians
than any other kind in the University College. For example, Irmgard Johnson
[Professor of Humanities], their Asianist, came overtoo. She did not actually have a
L: Right, she had some sort of humanities [professorship].
B: Humanities, right. There were objections raised on that ground to letting somebody
without a history degree into the history department, but for various reasons, not all
of which I remember and maybe I did not wholly understand even then, history
seemed to be the most logical one of the departments in the combined college to
put her in. I had no problem with that; I was in the dean's corner on this issue.
L: While you were chairman, did you hire anybody from the outside?
B: A few. We did not hire many, but we hired Geoffrey [J.] Giles [Assistant Professor of
History, 1978], we hired Pat[rick J.] Geary [Associate Professor of History, 1980]
whom we just lost, and I think we hired Kermit [L.] Hall [Associate Professor of
History, 1981] my last year as chairman, although I had already gone by the time he
reported for duty. There was not much hiring taking place.
L: Before I get off the subject, how was the hiring process conducted while you were
B: Well, much more informally than now. Of course, it changed during the period that I
was there. I know the most informal was our hiring of Geoffrey. I do not think we
had any formal committee or anything like that set up. I think we may have first
hired him on a non-tenured appointment, but then moved him in. I am really very
hazy about that. Harry [W.] Paul [Professor of History] knew about Giles, so
whether we had a committee or not, whatever processes we went through, it was
really Harry Paul twisting my arm that this is the man that we ought to get. And
Harry was, I would say, quite right.
Now, the next hiring was for Pat Geary. We did have a committee. By then we had
the present system. We advertised in the Chronicle [of Higher Education], and we
had a committee established with, of course, Harry again as a member of it because
we were looking for another European historian. I remember that [in] one of the
sessions, the committee [was] looking through the dossiers of applicants. Harry
[was] leafing through Pat Geary's and came across an offprint of an article which Pat
had published in the Annales and once Harry saw that, [he said] "Here is our man,
the search is over." And, of course, we still invited Geary here to give a lecture and
be voted on and all that, but he had no trouble winning the vote.
L: Even today they are still teaching us in various courses the importance of the
Annales, and so I can see the power of that.
B: I had heard of it, I never quite realized the power until then. That was the conclusive
evidence, that anybody with an article in the Annales... they could have published
in the AHR [American Historical Review], who cares, but the Annales, yes, grab him.
L: Who was your vice-chairman?
B: Dave Colburn.
L: Dave Colburn, OK.
B: Very fortunately.
L: And then he moves into the chairmanship once you [leave].
B: He was more than ready.
L: Your graduate coordinator?
B: [My] graduate coordinator [was] Dave [David Mark] Chalmers [Professor of History],
I think for the whole period.
L: As chairman, how important was the graduate program and training graduate
students at this time?
B: Well, I would say it was important, but it was at a kind of relatively low point. We
had a lot of graduate students in the 1960s during the great expansion of the
American university system and we were churning people out and they had two or
three good jobs to choose from. Those days came to a screeching halt in the 1970s
when all the jobs were filled and the people hired in the 1960s were not yet ready to
either die or retire, and there were not many openings, and the more this news got
around, the fewer students were applying to study in history.
Then, of course, in the 1980s there was a distinct recovery in size of the graduate
program, aided, of course, by the hiring of a number of stars on the order of
[Bertram] Wyatt-Brown [Richard J. Milbauer Professor of History] [and] people like
that, and our graduate research professor in U.S. history. All of which gave a
particular boost to the U.S. part of the program, but again, the graduate program as
a whole certainly got greater vitality in the 1980s than it had had in the 1970s. We
were just sort of getting by.
L: Was it one of your priorities to bring in a magnet like Darrett [Bruce] Rutman
[Graduate Research Professor] or Wyatt-Brown?
B: The possibility did not cross my mind; maybe it should have crossed my mind. I
suspect that even if it had, the times were not quite yet right. They soon became
L: Did you have that kind of money to work with?
B: No. I mean, again, if we had made a strong case to Sidman we might have landed
somebody like that, but certainly I did not make the effort to prepare the justification
and all that to get a major endowed chair or even add another string of GRPs
[Graduate Research Professors]. I was not what you call an activist chairman. I
would look upon my three years as when I was sort of easing the transition from a
rather small and also poverty stricken department, which it had been during the mid
1970s (the Funk years), to the great expansion of the 1980s under Colburn.
L: Whom we could call an activist chairman.
B: By all means. Of course, he had an activist dean with whom he got along
L: So you stepped down as chairman in 1981?
L: Unleashing David Colburn. And do you go back to a heavier teaching load or
B: Well, eventually. I first took a year off. I went to Spain for a year, which was under
the sponsorship of the famous Spain-Florida alliance I am sure you will hear about
down in your office. I was the first faculty member, in fact, sent to Spain from
Florida under those auspices. [I] spent a year having a very pleasant time giving a
few lectures at different Spanish universities and dabbling at a few bits and pieces of
research, also traveling around.
L: You were also, throughout this period, winning visiting fellow professorships at
Oxford in 1977?
B: Yes, that was before I became chairman. Actually, I was at Oxford at the time that I
was elected chairman.
L: And again, you were giving lectures there?
B: Right, I was a visiting fellow, which involved giving about, on the average, one and a
quarter lectures a week.
L: How did the English system strike you?
B: Strange. I was at St. Antony's College, which is a purely graduate college at Oxford,
so I have had no experience with the English undergraduate system, but from all I
understand, it is rather strange also, as compared to ours. The graduate program
had certain very strong advantages and disadvantages, of course, same as their
undergraduate program. It is heavily based on individual work, tutorial with your
professors, rather than attending lecture classes (which they do not have much of).
So, of course, I was giving one lecture a week. A full time professor at St. Antony's
College, Oxford, might well have been giving also one lecture a week. But he would
be having really intense tutorial sessions with individual students; that I did not really
have. I just had that one lecture or little more a week. But what struck me as the
biggest difference between their system and ours was the lack of a structured
degree program. I mean, you did not have to take exams in outside fields or
anything like that. Basically you spend a certain amount of time at Oxford and you
absorb wisdom from those ivy-covered walls and all that, and you read extensively
under your mentor's guidance in your special field, and you write a thesis or
dissertation, as the case might be, and that was that.
So, one thing that struck me in St. Antony's is that they had a lot of Latin Americans
who went there, some very extremely able people who went to get a degree in
Oxford, which was really easier for them to do than if they had come to the United
States. If they had come to Florida they would have had to take this that or the
other required graduate course, they would have had to work up U.S. or European
[minors]. They did not have to worry about that. Of course, in a way they were
foolish if they did not take advantage of being there to learn something about British
history, but there was a much higher degree of specialization than what we would
L: You have also done a couple of Fulbright [scholarship] trips back to Colombia. Was
that in Bogota?
B: Well, it was in Bogota and traveling around. I have had a number of Fulbrights. The
first Fulbright I had was in Argentina in 1967-68; that was a purely research
Fulbright. The one in Colombia in 1972 was a visiting lectureship type; it was partly
in Bogota, partly in Tunja, partly just sort of making short sort of one-night stands at
different universities, with a combination of various formats.
L: Let me ask you a few questions about your relationship with the Center for Latin
American Studies. Did you hold a joint appointment?
B: I guess, though the joint appointment is, again, one of these things that comes in the
mail. I mean, if you are a Latin American specialist, they list you in their brochure,
so I guess you would call it being part of the Center faculty although my salary
always came from history.
L: Was that an entity that operated like the history department?
B: Not really. They have only a very few line item positions other than, of course, the
center director and one or two secretarial or administrators, but [of] the faculty
members they had two or three at most, at least that is my recollection.
B: The Center basically fulfilled a coordinating role as far as Latin American studies
was concerned. Well, [it] coordinates and it also sponsors events, visiting speakers
and this sort of thing, of general Latin American interest.
L: Particularly the annual conference on Latin American history.
B: Yes. You are talking about the Center?
B: Their annual Latin American conference.
L: Yes. Which I understand is a major undertaking.
B: [It] is a major undertaking, but it is by no means the only thing they do. They have
extension programs, for example. The only time in my life I have been to Key West
was under the Latin American Center's extension program to talk to high school
teachers or something or other.
L: Well, I am wondering if there is anything that we have not touched upon.
B: Well, I would just add, as far as the Latin American Center is concerned, that, of
course, most of the time my office was on the third floor of Grinter Hall rather than in
the history department itself. So, up to a point, the Center also provides office
space. It cannot accommodate all the Latin Americanists on the third floor of Grinter
Hall, but, of course, that meant that I saw the other Latin Americanists from other
departments really more frequently than I saw a lot of my fellow historians. I always
considered myself, first and foremost, a Latin Americanist more than a specialist in
the discipline of history. This, of course, going back to my undergraduate college
days, when, as I said, one reason I majored in history was just that they had more
courses on Latin America. So I have really been more interested in Latin America
as an area of study than in history as a discipline. I have felt really quite close to the
Latin American Center at all times.
L: And I understand the offices are larger over there too.
B: They are more conventionally designed; there is more usable space than there is in
those funny-shaped offices in Turlington.
L: You are now Professor Emeritus?
L: What year did you retire?
B: Wait a minute, not 1981, I mean 1991.
L: Yes. And at what age is this happening?
B: Well, I was sixty-eight.
L: Were you under any pressure? Was there any rule about an age to retire?
B: No. Ages to retire, of course, have been officially ended. Although, as we all know,
sometimes pressure is put on. When I was a chairman two minor problems
involved encouraging people to retire who did not really want to. But there is nothing
you can do about it, actually. Well, theoretically you can make life miserable for
somebody. I do not think we did that. But, of course, you can sit on somebody's
raises and such.
Well, to get back to my case, there was no pressure, at least that I was aware of. Of
course, neither were people down on their hands and knees pleading with me to
stay on. But I think it was a good time for me to retire. I did not opt for the so-called
phased retirement, because as of the time when I could have done so, under the
rules I was not able to do so, because my last six years here I was managing editor
of the HAHR [Hispanic American Historical Review]. And, of course, with that
editorial function I could not also be just half-time.
L: Comment for a while on your duties as the editor of that. How involved of a process
was that? Was it taking up most of your time?
B: It took up more time and was more confining than being chairman, I can say that.
On the whole I found it also more interesting than being chairman. Really, it was all
in my own field, although there was a lot of drudgery in the way of reading proof and
writing letters and all that.
L: Were you supplied with money for graduate students?
B: We always had a graduate assistant. We had Jeremy Stahl, I think more than once,
and [Jeff] Mosher and a good bunch of graduate students.
L: Is this editorship still based at the University here somewhere?
B: It is down at FlU [Florida International University].
B: It normally rotates every five years. It stayed here six because nobody had stepped
forward to take it over, but it is a rather expensive operation. The university has to
contribute a lot of money, [but a] lot as compared to what? But, at least Sidman was
delighted to put up whatever was needed. His successor was eager to get rid of it.
L: Is this Harold?
B: Harrison. It was a drain ofXthousand dollars from the college expense budget. I
suppose you could argue that whatever glory Florida got had already been gotten,
so why prolong this at a certain level of expense?
L: I would think, though, that that would be a valuable thing to have, status wise, under
the umbrella of the College of Arts and Sciences.
B: Oh, I think it certainly is, but of course, probably, with five years you have enhanced
your status as much as you are going to, and FlU probably needs that enhancement
more than we do. I mean, they have a very strong Latin American program there,
but not much at the graduate level.
L: OK. There is an association behind this review?
L: Was it providing any funds to support production?
B: Nothing. The Duke University Press, which publishes the journal, provided a
subsidy, but most of the money came out of the University budget.
L: In my mind I am trying to see how similar this is to the Florida Historical Society and
the [Florida Historicall Quarterly. There is this large society that sort of sits behind
B: Well, there is what they call the Conference on Latin American History, which is a
Latin Americanist section of the AHA [American Historical Association], [and it] is the
institutional sponsor of the HAHR, and they name one member of the board of
editors and their title appears on the masthead and this sort of thing. And of course
by the same token, the editor is an ex-officio member of the general committee of
the conference, but they do not put up one cent.
L: I am going to do one of my minors in Latin America, so I am sure that I will have
plenty of time to examine that closely in the future.
B: You may not always read the books, but at least read the reviews of them in the
L: That is the trick.
L: What have you been up to since you retired? I know you are still active to some
extent in the department. I know you are giving a lecture tomorrow, as a matter of
B: Yes, over at the Latin American center as part of one of their speaker programs,
their so-called colloquium. As far as professional activities are concerned I have
been mostly sort of winding up loose ends. The biggest loose end of all was my
history of Colombia which I have been working on for a number of years but which
finally was published last winter.
L: This is...
B: It did not appear on ...
L: My copy of your vita is from 1991.
B: Yes, I have not updated that.
L: The title of this work?
B: The Making of Modern Colombia[: A Nation in Spite of Itself (Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1993)1.
L: The Making of Modern Colombia. Is this your grand masterpiece?
B: I do not know about grand masterpiece, but it is sort of the final culmination, I guess
you would say, of a good many years of working in Colombian history. It is also, to
some extent, a written-out version of my lectures I used to give in my course on
Gran Colombian nations.
L: And you also published your dissertation on Gran Colombia.
You are obviously in good health.
B: Well, I have been writing some articles and odds and ends. That is the one major
L: Have you moved into any other realms of activity? I know that Lyle McAlister is an
avid fisherman these days.
B: Well, I have never been a fisherman. I probably do more walking with my wife than I
used to. We usually go walking every morning; I do not have to run into the office or
anything like that anymore. And I once a week I go make soup at St. Francis
House. That is something new. That is about it.
L: How did you get involved with St. Francis House? How did that come about?
B: Well, through a church connection. Of course, their soup kitchen is at the St.
Augustine Catholic student center, and as I said I am an Episcopalian. But my wife
and I went there sort of to represent our local Episcopal parish to help out one day,
and then we have been back. The first time I went [was before I retired], but this
was on a one time basis, but after I retired I did this again and was asked by the
lady who runs the soup kitchen whether I could come back on a regular basis. I no
longer had a reason for saying no, so there is where I go on Thursday mornings.
L: Is this something you enjoy doing?
B: Well, yes, I would say I enjoy doing it.
L: I have heard that St. Francis is a considerable operation.
B: Well, it is a big operation and, of course, you meet interesting people. I only work in
the kitchen; I do not usually go down to the serving line which I do not enjoy as
much, but I have done it sometimes when they are caught short. Mostly I make
soup, and I like soup so it is no problem.
L: Are your children in Florida?
B: One. Our second son, Peter, the one that was born in Bogota, is a cataloguer in the
library here. So he lives in town. The others live far away.
L: So you do not see them that often.
B: Not very often. We will go for Thanksgiving to Evanston [Illinois] which is [where]
our oldest son teaches at Northwestern [University]; [he] teaches history of all
things, not Latin American.
L: I wonder how he got interested in that.
B: Well, he is not quite sure himself because as he pointed out, it is unusual; none of
his colleagues is the offspring of a historian, so it does not seem to be all that
common for one person to be the son or daughter of another historian.
L: The [Arthur Meier] Schlesingers aside.
B: Right. They are the exception that proves the rule, they and the Bushnells. After
that we will go to Christmas in Tucson [Arizona] which is where our daughter lives.
B: We have two in Tucson and one in Evanston.
L: Well, have we done a thorough job this afternoon?
B: Well, as far as I can tell. Any afterthoughts, give me a call.
L: OK. Well, I would really like to thank you for giving me your time this afternoon. I
know Dr. Proctor will be very happy to have this addition to his grand project on the
University of Florida. So, thank you.