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Friday, February 5, 2010

Historian Hans Trefousse, 1921-2010

The study of history is instructive across all sorts of disciplines.   It helps scholars, statesmen, scientists, lawyers, commentators and historians.   This is because history is not merely a recitation of the past; it is the study, in many ways, of human behavior.   Its allure, and the joy of its analysis, is that it allows one's imagination to run free (well, within reasonable bounds) and speculate what the future will hold in light of measured human behavior and patterns of reactions to various events.   It allows one to play an endless loop of "What if?"   
As if:  What if the Japanese had never attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor?   What if Nazi Germany had never opened a second front against the Russians, instead concentrating on the West?
These thoughts come to mind with the news that noted Civil War historian and author Hans Trefousse passed away earlier this year.   A wonderful tribune to Professor Trefousse (a mentor to Crime, Politics and Policy's author back when he owned little but the clothes on his back and books in his bag) is in this morning's New York Times.
Professor Trefousse was a professor of history at Brooklyn College and also taught at the City University of New York's Graduate Center.   There were many top echelon professors in the CUNY system.   Professor Trefousse was among the very best.   He was also, notably, in my opinion, a fine gentleman and someone whose genial manner and demeanor was a model for many of his students.   Sometimes the best lessons are not the ones from books.   He will be fondly remembered by his many students and colleagues.

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