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Striner’s Latest: Wilson at War and Art Deco

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    Washington College professor of history Richard Striner.
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May 02, 2014
New books published this spring by history professor Rick Striner probe the wartime failures of Woodrow Wilson and celebrate Art Deco architecture in Baltimore and Washington.

CHESTERTOWN, MD—Washington College history professor Richard Striner has published two new books this spring on topics that illustrate the broad range of his interests and expertise — presidential power and architecture.   

Striner’s Woodrow Wilson and World War I: A Burden Too Great to Bear (Rowman & Littlefield) offers a rare perspective on the 28th President of the United States, whom Striner describes as “perhaps the most tragic of American presidents.” Wilson is frequently idealized as one of America’s greatest leaders, but in a critique that the publisher describes as scathing but judicious and fair, Striner portrays a presidency marked by missteps and failures that came into sharp relief under the pressures of waging the First World War.

Striner argues that World War I proved too much for Wilson to handle successfully. According to Clay Risen, an editor at The New York Times, Striner’s Wilson book “should be required reading for our political leaders.” 

Washington and Baltimore Art Deco: A Design of Neighboring Cities (Johns Hopkins University Press), which Striner co-wrote with architectural historian Melissa Blair, explores significant Art Deco buildings, both surviving and lost. Striner is a native of Washington, D.C , and the founding president of the city’s Art Deco Society.  In the new book, he and Blair offer a comparative study of the prominent international design movement in two cities not often associated with Art Deco.  

In particular, they provide a new look at how the Art Deco movement inspired the design of ordinary places and buildings, from apartment houses and department stores to movie theaters and houses.  The book also explores the ways in which Art Deco was used in brand-new building types such as airports, bus stations, and “park-and-shop” retail centers. The pages are illustrated with richly evocative black and white images, many taken in the 1930s and ’40s when the buildings were in their prime. “We hope that this book will help the residents of Baltimore and Washington to appreciate what they have,” the authors write in the preface. 

Richard Striner has taught history at Washington College for more than 20 years. Widely considered a maverick and independent thinker, he is eclectic and interdisciplinary in his scholarship. Among his areas of focus are Abraham Lincoln and presidential power.  Other books by Striner include Lincoln and Race (Southern Illinois University Press, 2012), Supernatural Romance in Film: Tales of Love, Death, and the Afterlife (McFarland & Company, 2011), Lincoln’s Way: How Six Great Presidents Created American Power (Rowman & Littlefield, 2010), and Father Abraham: Lincoln’s Relentless Struggle to End Slavery (Oxford University Press, 2006). 

He has been a regular contributor to the New York Times “Disunion” series about the Civil War and is a regular guest commentator on “The Midday Show” on Baltimore’s NPR station, WYPR.


Last modified on May. 2nd at 9:49am by Kay MacIntosh.