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Richard Hofstadter: An Intellectual Biography by David S. Brown

By David S. Brown

Richard Hofstadter (1916-70) was once America’s so much special historian of the 20 th century. the writer of numerous groundbreaking books, together with the yankee Political culture, he used to be a energetic champion of the liberal politics that emerged from the hot Deal. in the course of his approximately thirty-year profession, Hofstadter fought public campaigns opposed to liberalism’s such a lot dynamic competitors, from McCarthy within the Fifties to Barry Goldwater and the solar Belt conservatives within the Sixties. His competition to the intense politics of postwar the United States marked him as one of many nation’s most crucial and prolific public intellectuals.In this masterly biography, David Brown explores Hofstadter’s existence in the context of the increase and fall of yankee liberalism. A fierce suggest of educational freedom, racial justice, and political pluralism, Hofstadter charted in his works the altering nature of yank society from a provincial Protestant starting place to 1 according to the values of an city and multiethnic country. based on Brown, Hofstadter presciently observed in rural America’s hostility to this cosmopolitanism symptoms of an anti-intellectualism that he believed was once dangerously endemic in a mass democracy.By the top of a existence lower brief through leukemia, Hofstadter had received Pulitzer Prizes and his books had attracted overseas recognition. but the Vietnam years, as Brown exhibits, culminated in a conservative response to his paintings that continues to be with us. no matter if one consents with Hofstadter’s critics or his lovers, the significance of this seminal philosopher can't be denied.   “In this illuminating biography . . . [Brown] freshens the tired chronicle of postwar top West part intelligentsia by means of re-telling it from Hofstadter’s playful, ceaselessly skeptical, oddly uninflammatory aspect of view. . . . in particular, Brown is helping readers verify Hofstadter as a member of a iteration of yankee historians every piece as vital as (and in a few respects extra so than) the well known innovative new release of Charles Beard, Frederick Jackson Turner, and Vernon Parrington.”—Sean Wilentz, New Republic

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4 In the days before professional training, antiquarians and well-heeled patrician writers dominated historical writing in America. George Bancroft and Francis Parkman captured the thematic convictions of the period in a series of celebrated studies that emphasized the nation’s postfeudal roots and pointed to a brilliant future of Protestant liberalism. In the ten-volume History of the United States from the Discovery of the American Continent, Bancroft portrayed his countrymen as a providential people building a progressive civilization destined to stand as a moral force to the rest of the world.

49 Scrutinizing Main Currents encouraged Hofstadter to sharpen his critical reconsideration of the conflict historians. From the vantage of Depression America, Parrington’s ideas, and the Progressive impulse that lay behind them, had lost all intellectual and moral power to persuade. * * * Hofstadter’s decision to study history at Columbia coincided with the most politically active period of his life. He attended with Felice meetings of the Young Communist League and his correspondence during this period bears evidence that he carefully monitored the progress of the Spanish civil war.

Trained in Europe or influenced at home under the Germanic “stress on the history of institutions, constitutions, social organizations, legal history, public law, administration and government,” Herbert Baxter Adams of Johns Hopkins, Edward Channing of Harvard, and John W. 5 To ensure a uniformity of purpose, training, and perspective, scientific historians oΩered graduate school instruction, established trade journals, and conferred (or denied) a kind of organizational imprimatur through control of the academic job market.

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