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Paul C. Nagel (1926–2011)

Author of John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, a Private Life

Includes the names: Paul C. Nagal, Paul C. Nagel, Nagel Paul C.

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Paul C. Nagel has 1 media appearance.

Paul C. Nagel
Booknotes, Sunday, January 4, 1998
Paul C. Nagel discusses John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, a Private Life.

Two decades ago, Paul Nagel experienced a change of heart as a person and as a writer. For thirty years, he had participated in university life as an historian and administrator. During that time, he continued the scholarly interests he had developed in graduate school. This meant he wrote sometimes impenetrable books and articles setting forth for a small audience the ideas and images Americans used when they thought about their nation during the nineteenth century. Then, in the mid-1970's, Nagel realized he was no longer happy with academic life and with intellectual history. He found he wanted to aim his books toward general readers rather than professional peers. Consequently, he traded campus life for the solitude and risks of full-time writing. Appropriately, his new specialty was quite different from the old. Instead of abstractions, Nagel took up lives of notable people and began writing as a biographer. Whatever else may be said about this switch, there have been no regrets on Nagel's part. Fortunately, Nagel has been married to a genealogisc and librarian, Joan Peterson, whose aid and encouragement he emphasizes made his embrace of biography possible. The result has been six books, ranging from the latest, John Ouincy Adams: A Public Life, A Private Life, to a prize-winning portrayal of Missouri, his native state. The others have included two additional volumes about the Adams family, as well as biographies of the Lee family of Virginia and of the artist George Caleb Bingham. Happily, most of these books became selections of the Book-of-the-Month Club and the History Book Club. Now Nagel is steering toward autobiography as he begins a book about his German forebears and their influence upon him. He writes in Minneapolis where he and Joan reside. During their fifty years together, the Nagels have lived in ten states, mainly Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, and Virginia. Along the way, they raised three sons and numerous cats. Besides cats, Nagel's other interests are hiking, reading biography, and joining his wife in genealogical digging. All of these, however, fade when there are visits to offspring who live in London. Recognition of Nagel's writing has led to his election as a cultural laureate of Virginia and as a fellow of the Society of American Historians, the Pilgrim Society, and the Massachusetts Historical Society. He has been president of the Southern Historical Association and a trustee of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. He is a corresponding editor of American Heritage. —from the publisher's website (timspalding)… (more)
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