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Last Call at the Hotel Imperial: The Reporters Who Took on a World At War

December 4, 2022 @ 10:30 AM 12:00 PM

Deborah Cohen, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of the Department of History at Northwestern University, will speak to us on the topic, Last Call at the Hotel Imperial: The Reporters Who Took on a World at War.   They were an astonishing group:  glamorous, gutsy, and irreverent to the bone.  In her new book, Last Call at the Hotel Imperial, historian Deborah Cohen tells the extraordinary story of John Gunther, H.R. Knickerbocker, Vincent Sheean, and Dorothy Thompson:  a close-knit band of wildly famous American reporters, who in the run-up to World War II, took on dictators and rewrote the rules of modern journalism.  In those tumultuous years, they landed exclusive interviews with Hitler and Mussolini, Nehru and Gandhi (among many others), and helped shape what Americans knew about the world.  Alongside these backstage glimpses into the halls of power, they left another equally incredible set of records.  In their diaries and letters, they traced the collapse of the boundaries between the geopolitical and the personal.  Immersed in the world crisis, they found themselves channeling it in their own lives.  From those experiences would emerge the taboo-breaking memoirs of their time, including John Gunther 1949 Death Be Not Proud.

Cohen is of Ukrainian Jewish descent and grew up the daughter of a lawyer in Louisville, Kentucky. Her interest in British history stems from her father’s interest in British modernist literature.  Her feminist approach to history was influenced by Harvard University professors Susan Pedersen, Alexandra Owen, and Olwen Hufton.  She graduated summa cum laude from Radcliffe College, and completed her Ph.D. in history at the University of California, Berkeley.  After working as a faculty member in the history departments of American University and Brown University, Cohen joined Northwestern University as Ritzma Professor in 2010.  Her previous books include Household Gods, The War Come Home, and Family Secrets.  She writes regularly for the Atlantic on subjects ranging from punk rock to World War I photography.

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