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A Reflection on Historian Richard Hoftstadter

October 9, 2006

This is not something of mine, but rather a reference to a great Nation story by John Wiener – reprinted by History News Network and titled: “Why Richard Hofstadter Is Still Worth Reading but Not for the Reasons the Critics Have in Mind.” – TL


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  1. there was also a fantastic essay about Hofstadter and liberal history by Sean Wilentz, published in the New Republic a few months ago. I'd recommend it as well.


  2. CM: I think the HNN piece might have mentioned Wilentz's article. Have you read anything by Hotstadter? I read 'Age of Reform' about two years ago, and thought it pretty good. I haven't read the anti-intellectualism book, but I agree with the article on its being a popular reference point – interpretation errors or no. – TL


  3. I read Age of Reform and actually used it as a reference point for an MA readings course that I taught on 1877-1945. It provided a nice way to engage the idea of periodization, characterization, etc. Plus, Hofstadter wrote so breezily (we can't do it that way anymore, which is part of why people say the old guys wrote better; If we turned in manuscripts with as few citations as they did, we'd get laughed out of the room). I thought his ideas were engageable and interesting, if a bit off the mark. I've always been more of a Weibe guy myself.


  4. I need to read Wiebe's The Search for Order. I don't recall it ever coming up in my graduate courses or exams, and I've seen references to it about 4-5 times in the past month. I get really irritated when I find holes in my education, especially holes related to the 'great books' of U.S. history. I even read Hofstadter on my own: none of his works were assigned in my graduate studies, and we barely discussed him in my standard, graduate-level intro historiography course. I think that's why I found the HNN/Nation piece so interesting.


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