An Interview with Douglas Wilson.

Abstract to Interview

1:30 – Wilson is not sure how his book came to be on the program. At this time Brian Lamb was preparing a recreation of the Lincoln Douglas debates which could have sparked his interest.

2:18 – Wilson knew that Lamb was interested in Presidents generally, but was not aware of his passion for Lincoln specifically until later.

2:42 – Wilson’s preparation for Booknotes was a part of broader prep for his book tour. His approach was to re-familiarize himself with his own book.

3:45 – From his appearance on the show, Wilson remembers that CPAN’s staff was cordial, well organized, and on time. He had seen the program beforehand so he knew to expect an hour of questions which were well informed. Because of how thoroughly Lamb had read the book, Lamb was not afraid to ask questions about the more controversial aspects of the book, such as an incident about prostitution addressed in the book. 

7:52 – Wilson enjoyed the latitude that an hour-long program gave him because it provided the luxury to thoroughly answer complicated questions. This process was unique.

10:12 – Wilson is amazed that Lamb was able to read so many books, so thoroughly every week. When he ran into Lamb, he would complain about having to keep up with the pace of reading for the program.

11:23 – The detail with which Lamb read the book gives the author the ability to expand, defend, and clarify his positions. Lamb was good at showing you what the problem with your book was and then letting you deal with it and discuss its implications. Most interviewers, in his experience, do not read the book. 

13:00 – Wilson was surprised to be asked about the process of writing. But he thinks that these questions are based around the serious audience which comes to CSPAN. 

14:34 – Wilson did not regularly watch the program either before or after appearing on the show. But after being on the show Wilson had an appreciation for its quality.

16:12 – Wilson thinks that the bare set does not affect the author, but it intensifies the interaction between interviewer and author which is powerful for the viewer. Now that all of CSPAN is online, including these interviews, these strong resources will be available to a wider public.

18:09 – Wilson thinks that the Booknotes collections can be useful for historiography.

19:07 – If he had been asked back to the program, he would have been delighted to appear on the show again.

20:20 – Appearing on Booknotes helped to ensure that his book was read by serious people. The interview was also one of the most referenced interviews, showing that people were watching. But he does not think that the appearance helped sales generally.

22:00 – Wilson is not sure that his conversation with Lamb affected his writing process but does think that Lamb had the ability to ask the kinds of questions which give you the opportunity for self-analysis.

23:54 – Since appearing on Booknotes Wilson has been doing a great deal of work surrounding Lincoln. This includes editing historic papers, writing books, and transcribing Lincoln’s papers for the Library of Congress.

32:00 – Wilson thinks that Lamb is a unique person who always has remarkable ideas. He sees CSPAN as a marvelous tool which makes a difference.


Misha Griffith (Oral Historian) , “An Interview with Douglas Wilson.,” One Book. One Author. One Hour., accessed November 29, 2022,



Output Formats

Dublin Core


An Interview with Douglas Wilson.


Misha Griffith (Oral Historian)


8 July 2014


Professor Douglas Wilson is interviewed as part of the Booknotes Oral History Project on 8 July 2014. Wilson discusses his appearance on C-SPAN's Booknotes program on 29 March 1998, where he discussed his book "Honor's Voice: The Transformation of Abraham Lincoln."


Booknotes (Television program)
Lamb, Brian, 1941-
C-SPAN (Television network)


Booknotes Oral History Series. R0143 Box 01 File 14.


George Mason University Libraries


Copyright held by George Mason University Libraries. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections & Archives, George Mason University Libraries.


Video recording