Education: Source-Saver

At Columbia University, Historian Allan Nevins is known as the man who is always writing a book. But "every time I start to write one," says he, "I get annoyed." The trouble is that many of the most important men of U.S. history have died without ever telling the full story of what they did, thought and saw. They are the presidential advisers, the party bosses, the behind-the-scenes movers and shakers of business and politics. To Nevins, this has always seemed a tragic dissipation of source material.

By last week, Historian Nevins was making progress in stopping the waste. He had started...

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