Henry Steele Commager: Midcentury Liberalism and the History of the Present / Edition 1

Henry Steele Commager: Midcentury Liberalism and the History of the Present / Edition 1

by Neil Jumonville
ISBN-10:
0807824488
ISBN-13:
9780807824481
Pub. Date:
03/01/1999
Publisher:
The University of North Carolina Press

Hardcover

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Overview

Henry Steele Commager: Midcentury Liberalism and the History of the Present / Edition 1

Historian Henry Steele Commager (1902-1998) was one of the leading American intellectuals of the mid-twentieth century. Author or editor of more than forty books, he taught for decades at New York University, Columbia University, and Amherst College and was a pioneer in the field of American studies. But Commager's work was by no means confined to the halls of the university: a popular essayist, lecturer, and political commentator, he earned a reputation as an activist for liberal causes and waged public campaigns against McCarthyism in the 1950s and the Vietnam War in the 1960s. As few have been able to do in the past half-century, Commager united the two worlds of scholarship and public intellectual activity.

Through Commager's life and legacy, Neil Jumonville explores a number of questions central to the intellectual history of postwar America. After considering whether Commager and his associates were really the conservative and conformist group that critics have assumed them to be, Jumonville offers a reevaluation of the liberalism of the period. Finally, he uses Commager's example to ask whether intellectual life is truly compatible with scholarly life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807824481
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 03/01/1999
Edition description: 1
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.71(d)

Table of Contents

Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments

Part I. Intellectuals and Historians
1. The Formation of a Public Intellectual, 1902-1932
2. Philosophy Teaching by Experience, 1928-1936
3. Columbia and New York in the Forties, 1938-1950

Part II. Freedom and the American Century
4. Protecting Liberalism in World War II, 1939-1947
5. Anticommunism and McCarthyism, 1945-1960
6. University, Family, and Race, 1945-1968
7. The Call to Political Morality, 1964-1974

Part III. The Meaning of the American Past
8. The Character and Myth of Historians at Midcentury, 1937-1997
9. Liberals and the Historical Past, 1948-1997
10. Legacies, 1971-1997

Notes
Index

Illustrations

Adam Dan, Henry Steele Commager's maternal grandfather
Henry Steele Commager at age fourteen
Henry Steele Commager and the New York University history department, 1927
Merle Curti, 1944
Allan Nevins, late 1920s
Henry Steele Commager, 1940s
Samuel Eliot Morison, 1940
Henry Steele Commager campaigning against McCarthyism
Arthur Schlesinger Jr., May 1965
William Leuchtenburg, November 1948
Harold Hyman and his wife, Ferne, 1952
Evan Commager with children Nell, Lisa, and Steele
Henry Steele Commager and Allan Nevins, 1963
Henry Steele Commager, 1954
Richard Hofstadter, 1960s
Henry Steele Commager, 1977

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

A revealing, engaged assessment of the life and work of a man who taught thousands and was read by millions. . . . Brilliantly assesses Commager's scholarship and writings and sets the historian in his intellectual and professional context.—Kirkus Reviews

Informed and entertaining.—Journal of American History

[An] engaging biography.—American Studies

Neil Jumonville has done more than write an elegant intellectual biography of a historian who was one of the commanding figures of his generation. He has raised a rousing challenge to scholars today to recognize the enduring pertinence of midcentury liberalism and to acknowledge their obligation to be publicly engaged.—William E. Leuchtenburg, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Emeritus

Neil Jumonville's book is valuable in two principal ways. First, it is a lucid, accessible biography of one of our century's most prominent historians, teachers, and public intellectuals, a man already in danger of being unjustly forgotten. Second, it uses Commager's story as a springboard for a fresh and compelling reconsideration of the drift of contemporary scholarship in American history and American studies. Not only does the book enrich our sense of this talented, if flawed, man, but it also recovers the forgotten brilliance of an entire generation of midcentury liberal scholars—creators of a body of work that still has much to teach us today.—Wilfred M. McClay, Tulane University

A dexterous, timely, rewarding study of Commager and his indelible place in the 20th century.—Amherst Quarterly

Neil Jumonville writes history like poetry . . . bringing layers of meaning to his text that transform it into literature. . . . [Jumonville] does a fine job of setting Commager on his intellectual path. He describes the historian's appreciation of the principles of Thomas Jefferson, Unitarian abolitionist Theodore Parker and others who argue for free speech.—Chicago Tribune

The central contribution of this book is that it makes more complex and rich our understanding of the fate of American liberalism in the twentieth century, continues the process of broadening the roster of intellectuals whom we must consider important, and provides a nuanced and interesting intellectual biography of an important historian and public intellectual.—Daniel Horowitz, Smith College

[A] thoughtful and intelligent biography.—Alan Brinkley, The New Republic

A superb biography of Henry Steele Commager, an energetic, erudite, and concerned intellectual, as well as an account of American historiography. Anyone interested in American civilization, today's cultural wars, and the continuing search to interpret the past will learn much from this book. . . . Jumonville's elegant style engages the reader and compels one to read on. This is an important book.—Journal of Illinois History

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