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Daniel Boorstin
Daniel Boorstin.jpg
Librarian of Congress
In office
November 12, 1975 – September 14, 1987
President Gerald Ford
Jimmy Carter
Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Lawrence Q. Mumford
Succeeded by James H. Billington
Personal details
Born Daniel Joseph Boorstin
(1914-10-01)October 1, 1914
Atlanta, Georgia
Died February 28, 2004(2004-02-28) (aged 89)
Washington, D.C.
Alma mater Harvard College
Oxford University
Yale University

Daniel Joseph Boorstin (October 1, 1914 – February 28, 2004) was an American historian at the University of Chicago, writing on many topics in American history and world history. He was appointed twelfth Librarian of the United States Congress in 1975 and served until 1987. He was instrumental in the creation of the Library of Congress Center for the Book.

Repudiating his youthful membership in the Communist Party while a Harvard undergraduate (1938–39), Boorstin became a political conservative and a prominent exponent of Consensus history.. He argued in The Genius of American Politics (1953) that ideology, propaganda, and political theory are foreign to America. His writings were often linked with such historians as Richard Hofstadter, Louis Hartz and Clinton Rossiter as a proponent of the "consensus school," which emphasized the unity of the American people and downplayed class and social conflict. Boorstin especially praised inventors and entrepreneurs as central to the American success story.[1][2]

Biography[edit]

Boorstin was born in 1914, in Atlanta, Georgia, into a Jewish family. His father was a lawyer who participated in the defense of Leo Frank, a Jewish factory superintendent who was accused of the rape and murder of a teenage girl. After Frank's 1915 lynching led to a surge of anti-Semitic sentiment in Georgia, the family moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where Boorstin was raised. He graduated from Tulsa's Central High School at the age of 15.[3] He graduated with highest honors from Harvard, studied at Balliol College, Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, receiving BA and BCL degrees and earned an SJD degree at Yale University. He was a professor at the University of Chicago for 25 years and was the Pitt Professor of American History and Institutions at the University of Cambridge in 1964. He also served as director of the National Museum of History and Technology of the Smithsonian Institution.

Boorstin wrote more than 20 books, including two major trilogies, one on the American experience and the other on world intellectual history. The Americans: The Democratic Experience, the final book in the first trilogy, received the 1974 Pulitzer Prize in history. Boorstin's second trilogy, The Discoverers, The Creators and The Seekers, examines the scientific, artistic and philosophic histories of humanity, respectively.

In his “Author’s Note” for The Daniel J. Boorstin Reader (Modern Library, 1995), he wrote, “Essential to my life and work as a writer was my marriage in 1941 to Ruth Frankel who has ever since been my companion and editor for all my books.” Her obituary in the Washington Post (December 6, 2013) quotes Boorstin as saying, “Without her, I think my works would have been twice as long and half as readable.”

Within the discipline of social theory, Boorstin's 1961 book The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-events in America is an early description of aspects of American life that were later termed hyperreality and postmodernity. In The Image, Boorstin describes shifts in American culture – mainly due to advertising – where the reproduction or simulation of an event becomes more important or "real" than the event itself. He goes on to coin the term pseudo-event, which describes events or activities that serve little to no purpose other than to be reproduced through advertisements or other forms of publicity. The idea of pseudo-events anticipates later work by Jean Baudrillard and Guy Debord. The work is an often used text in American sociology courses, and Boorstin's concerns about the social effects of technology remain influential.[4]

When President Gerald Ford nominated Boorstin to be Librarian of Congress, the nomination was supported by the Authors Guild but opposed by liberals. He was attacked by the American Library Association because Boorstin "was not a library administrator". The Senate confirmed the nomination without debate.[5]

Boorstin died of pneumonia February 28, 2004, in Washington.[3] He is survived by his three sons, Paul, Jonathan and David, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Honors[edit]

Boorstin was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure, First Class, by the Japanese government in 1986. He was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for writing The Americans: The Democratic Experience.[3] He was inducted into the Tulsa Hall of Fame in 1989, and received the Oklahoma Book Award in 1993 for The Creators.[3] He held twenty honorary degrees, including an honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Tulsa[3] and Doctor of Letters from Oglethorpe University in 1994.[6]

Books[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Alan J. Levine (2011). Bad Old Days: The Myth of the 1950s. Transaction Publishers. pp. 81–82. 
  2. ^ Pole (1969)
  3. ^ a b c d e Wilson, Linda D. Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. "Boorstin, Daniel J. (1914–2004)."
  4. ^ "Daniel J. Boorstin, RIP". The New Atlantis. Spring 2004. 
  5. ^ Robert Wedgeworth (1993). World Encyclopedia of Library and Information Services. American Library Association. pp. 137–38. 
  6. ^ "Honorary Degrees Awarded by Oglethorpe University". Oglethorpe University. Retrieved 2015-03-06. 

Further reading[edit]

  • John Y. Cole (March 30, 2006). "Jefferson's Legacy: A Brief History of the Library of Congress – Librarians of Congress". Library of Congress. Retrieved December 15, 2008. 
  • Diggins, John P. "The Perils of Naturalism: Some Reflections on Daniel J. Boorstin's Approach to American History." American Quarterly (1971): 153-180. in JSTOR
  • Morgan, Edmund S. "Daniel J. Boorstin, 1 October 1914 · 28 February 2004," Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society (2006) 150#2 pp. 347–351 in JSTOR
  • Pole, J. R. "Daniel J. Boorstin." in Past-masters: Some Essays on American Historians edited by Marcus, Cunliffe and Robin Winks (1969). pp to 10-38
  • King, Wayne and Warren Weaver Jr. "Briefing: Boorstin and the Emperor", The New York Times, May 2, 1986.
  • Wilson, Clyde N. Twentieth-Century American Historians (Gale: 1983, Dictionary of Literary Biography, volume 17) pp 79–85

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Lawrence Q. Mumford
Librarian of Congress
1975–1987
Succeeded by
James H. Billington

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_J._Boorstin — Please support Wikipedia.
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148 news items

The Manila Times

The Manila Times
Wed, 25 Mar 2015 10:18:31 -0700

In the book, The Image: A guide to pseudo-events, Daniel J. Boorstin wryly observes: “When the gods wish to punish us, they make us believe our own advertising.” BS Aquino is a classic example of a politician who believes in his own advertising and in ...

Gazeta Wyborcza

Gazeta Wyborcza
Fri, 27 Mar 2015 17:22:53 -0700

Zjawisko celebrytów opisywał ponad 50 lat temu Daniel J. Boorstin w klasycznym już dziele "The Image". Według amerykańskiego historyka przed nadejściem w mediach epoki ludzi znanych wyłącznie z tego, że są znani, w dobrym tonie dla osób z socjety ...

The National

The National
Sat, 07 Feb 2015 04:56:15 -0800

American historian Daniel J Boorstin once argued that we've entered the post-truth era, an age where believability has become an acceptable substitute for truth. I'm inclined to agree. Increasingly, ours is a society characterised by lies ...

Climate Central

Climate Central
Mon, 02 Mar 2015 12:18:43 -0800

Despite a recent influx of snow and rain this past weekend, extremely low snowpack in the Sierra Nevada has conspired with warm temperatures to keep the state in the grips of one its worst droughts on record for at least another year. The precipitation ...
 
Washington Post
Fri, 06 Dec 2013 14:12:42 -0800

Ruth F. Boorstin, the stalwart collaborator with and editor of her late husband, former librarian of Congress and prize-winning historian Daniel J. Boorstin, died Dec. 1 at an assisted-living center in Encino, Calif. She was 95. The cause was sudden ...

The Japan Times

The Japan Times
Sat, 24 Jan 2015 05:52:30 -0800

Historian Daniel J. Boorstin once defined a celebrity as someone who is “known for his well-knownness” — a person famous for being famous. Though many celebrities have talent and other attributes that draw attention, it is easier to gain notoriety ...

National Review Online (blog)

National Review Online (blog)
Wed, 31 Dec 2014 01:08:34 -0800

... Invisible Man's Ralph Waldo Ellison, tragic Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, John Hersey (whose landmark New Yorker article “Hiroshima” can be found here), former Librarian of Congress Daniel J. Boorstin, and Nobel Prize–winning Mexican poet Octavio Paz.

The Weekly Standard

The Weekly Standard
Thu, 25 Dec 2014 21:06:00 -0800

Social critics like Daniel J. Boorstin warned about the rise of a culture based on “simulation” and “illusion” rather than on reality. In his landmark The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America (1962), Boorstin pointed an angry finger at “Madison ...
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