Coming of Age with the ''New Republic'', 1938-1950

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In this absorbing memoir, Merrill D. Peterson traces his progress from a young Kansas Republican to a "Left Liberal," Democrat by reconstructing how the New Republic singularly influenced his intellectual development and academic career during some of the most turbulent years in American history—the final years of the Great Depression through World War II and the beginnings of the Cold War. Peterson recalls how, as a young man, he was guided to intellectual maturity by such extraordinary individuals as Max Lerner, Archibald MacLeish, Vincent Sheean, Alfred Kazin, Lewis Mumford, and Malcolm Cowley—all contributors to this important magazine. We look back, with Peterson, and see how their views are inextricably reflected in his own developing worldview.

Peterson was introduced to this liberal weekly by one of his teachers during his senior year of high school (1938-1939). For the next ten years, the magazine served as his principal guide to the politics and culture of the times. Now, at seventy-eight years of age, Peterson revisits the magazine that he read so eagerly during those early, impressionable years. With considerable skill and charm, Peterson weaves together the fresh reading, the history of the country during the 1940s, and his own personal history to give us the heart of the book. In addition, he includes brief essays on Vernon L. Parrington, Lewis Mumford, and Max Lerner, the three American writers and intellectuals he believes had the most influence on him.

Peterson discusses several turning points in his young life, but he focuses primarily on his education and the role the magazine played in it. The book concludes when Peterson, with a Ph.D. in the history of American civilization, accepts his first academic appointment, at Brandeis University, and approaches the publication of his first book. Thus, a critical chapter in his life comes to a close.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Fascinating, revealing, and important, this intellectual autobiography will be of interest to Americans who lived through the decade of the 1940s and those who seek to understand it."—James L. Roark
Peterson (history, U. of Virginia, Charlottesville) shares his political transformation from a young Republican to a liberal Democrat as influenced by the and its host of intellectual contributors. At the same time he explores the history of this liberal magazine and the country during these turbulent years from the Great Depression through World War and early Cold War. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826212573
  • Publisher: University of Missouri Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/1999
  • Pages: 144
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Merrill D. Peterson is Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Virginia-Charlottesville. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including The Jefferson Image in the American Mind, Thomas Jefferson and the New Nation: A Biography, and Lincoln in American Memory. 

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Table of Contents

1 Home 1
2 World War 16
3 Uprooting 36
4 Harvard 65
5 Mind-Shapers 74
6 Cold War 92
7 Brandeis 123
Acknowledgments 131
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