Steve Beaudoin joined the Centre College faculty in 1997 as a visiting assistant professor of history and he currently serves as Ewing T. Boles Professor of History.
As an undergraduate, Beaudoin earned a double major in history and French, and his scholarly interests bring those fields together. He has taught courses on various topics in early modern and 19th-century European history, as well as world and Chinese civilization.
Besides essays in the Journal of Social History, the Encyclopedia of European Social History, the Encyclopedia of Social History, and the Encyclopedia of World History (6 ed.), Beaudoin is author of The Industrial Revolution, a reader in Houghton Mifflin’s “Problems in European Civilization” series, and Poverty in World History, published by Routledge Press.
Beaudoin holds a B.A. from Bates College, M.A. degrees from University of Maine and Carnegie Mellon University, and a Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University.
Professor Beaudoin has put together a varied list of recommended reading. The list covers books of the popular mystery genre, works in historical fiction, and non-fiction titles in his specialized area of history. Stop by the library to see a display of his recommended titles and check one out today!
Favorite book in college:
Buddenbrooks, by Thomas Mann. I read this book for a class on German history and I was fascinated by this tale of a proud German family weathering the great transformations that rocked the 19th century.
Favorite discipline-related book:
The Trial of Mme Caillaux, by Edward Berenson. This is a fine example of a technique known as “microhistory,” in which the historian places one event into its deepest contexts and then uses that to explore the mindsets of the times. In this case, Berenson focuses on the 1914 trial of Henriette Caillaux, the wife of a former prime minister of France, for murdering the editor of one of Paris’ most important daily newspapers. He uses this single case and the lives of those involved to explore the cultural tensions surrounding the emergence of new gender roles and the rise of the popular press. For a relatively small book, it packs a great punch.
Book recommendation for students:
I have four recommendations. For anyone interested in history, I would suggest Steven Johnson’s The Ghost Map. This is an engaging analysis of the different circumstances that led to the recognition in 19th-century London that cholera is a waterborne illness. Although I’m not completely convinced by his very optimistic vision of what urban life has to offer humanity, it’s a great read. For a more serious historical analysis, I would recommend Michael Miller’s The Bon Marché, the history of the first great department store in Paris, which is still in operation and well worth a visit. Miller does an excellent job of explaining how tradition could be and was adapted to make the new and modern more accessible and accepted. After all, there was a time when department stores were new and seemingly “dangerous” – their success was never guaranteed. Finally, I would recommend Stendhal’s The Red and the Black and Balzac’s Père Goriot for identical reasons; both tell the story of young people trying to find their way in a turbulent world.
One book you would have on a deserted island:
I’m going to cheat on this one! I would choose a compendium of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City. (Technically, I think the first 3 books are in one compendium and the last 3 are in a second compendium.) Maupin does a great job of bringing the era and his characters to life. Whenever I pick up one of these books, I feel like I’m getting back in touch with long-lost friends.
Since I read mainly non-fiction for work, I tend to gravitate to fiction, especially mysteries, for pleasure reading. So my favorite authors include those who can use history to tell a great yarn and mystery writers. In the first category, I loved James Michener and Leon Uris when I was younger. By Michener, I especially enjoyed Centennial and Poland, and by Uris, I liked QB VII and Trinity. Among mystery writers, I would highly recommend everything by P.D. James and Henning Mankell. Caleb Carr has written a couple of nice novels that combine both history and mystery, The Alienist and The Angel of Darkness. You can find similar works set in France by Barbara Corrado Pope. I’ve read Cezanne’s Quarry and The Blood of Lorraine. Finally, I also enjoy the work of Richard Russo. He freaked me out a little with Empire Falls, however. Its main characters include a high school student living in a decaying mill town whose father owns a diner and whose mother is named Jeannine. I grew up in a decaying mill town, my father owned a diner, and my mother’s name is Jeannine. Spooky!
Christopher Rice’s The Snow Garden, a story set in an elite New England college, but whose characters enjoyed a much more “exciting” life than I did at their age! [OK, this may not be the best choice, since one of the characters is sleeping with his professor, but it is the last book I read!]
Harlan Coben’s Hold Tight. (Though technically, this isn’t my next read, since I’m in the middle of it right now.) I had never heard of Coben until last year, when Astrid Hullar, who teaches French in Strasbourg, lent me a couple of his books. He writes fast-paced thrillers and mysteries whose main characters are often as sarcastic as they are resourceful. The books are pure escapism, and I can’t put them down!
For my “real” next read, it will probably be David Leavitt’s most recent book, The Indian Clerk, though frankly I’m hoping it isn’t too mathematical. I’ve read some of his other works, The Lost Language of Cranes, Equal Affections, and While England Slept, so I’m looking forward to this new one.