Sean Wilentz on Richard Hoftstadter

hofstadter

Richard Hofstadter

In the Sean Wilentz interview I posted about yesterday, the Princeton historian told Bill Kristol that mid-20th-century historian Richard Hofstadter may have been one of the few Americans who understood the populism, paranoia, and anti-intellectualism that we see today on both the Left and Right.

Today I found another interview with Wilentz at the blog of the Journal of the History of Ideas in which he talks with Daniel Wortel-London about Hofstadter and his legacy. Wilentz is the editor of a recent Library of America collection on Hofstadter that includes Anti-Intellectualism in American LifeThe Paranoid Style in American Politics, and some essays he wrote between 1956 and 1965.

 

Here is a taste of the interview:

DWL: Hofstadter argues that anti-intellectualism is partly the product of “benevolent impulses” towards equality and egalitarianism. Expertise, for example, can be equated with hierarchy, pursuit of nuance can appear synonymous with political inaction, and personal experience can be seen as more “honest” than abstract facts. As a result, he argues that anti-intellectualism can only be contained and checked “by constant and delicate acts of intellectual surgery which spare these impulses themselves” (Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, p. 23). How can this surgery best take place today, particularly regarding those whose “benevolent impulses” might lead them to join progressive or radical social movements that seek to challenge several additional (and in my view, far more powerful) factors Hofstadter identified as threats to intellectual life: the influence of powerful business groups wary of criticism and an unimaginative and complacent political class?

SW: In his early writing, Hofstadter seemed more sympathetic to agitators than political leaders. The one figure in The American Political Tradition who broke with the dominant democracy of cupidity is Wendell Phillips, the “golden trumpet” of abolitionism and later a supporter of the labor movement. At one level, that portrayal allowed for a consistent radicalism in American politics but also sketched the limits of its power. Long before a younger generation of scholars began dog-earing copies of Antonio Gramsci, Hofstadter laid out what he saw as a kind of liberal capitalist hegemony in American politics. And in that respect, his work has sometimes ended up encouraging a cynical view of American mainstream politics, in which social movements do all the good, only to be coopted and ultimately defeated by more progressive liberal elements of the ruling class. Hofstadter never subscribed to that view: he still found Jefferson, Lincoln, and the others honorable and valuable. But the distinction between movement politics and party politics was certainly implied in his early work.

The McCarthyite experience helped shift that. Whereas he had previously criticized Popular Front myths by debunking their sentimentalized depictions of Jefferson, or Jackson, or Lincoln as champions of the people, he later came to criticize the sentimentalized view of popular movements themselves, above all the Populists. Along the way, he began having more sympathy for mainstream reformers. Compare, for example, how The American Political Tradition (1948) handles FDR with how The Age of Reform (1955) does. Hofstadter was still working out his critique of social movement politics in Anti-Intellectualism (1963) and The Paranoid Style(1964).

I think that toward the end of his life, he was trying to find a way to handle the kind of surgery you talk about. You see hints of that in The Idea of a Party System (1969), where professional party politics becomes more than an anti-intellectual engine of greed. You see other hints in America at 1750 (1973), a stark portrayal of the suffering among slaves and indentured servants that lay behind what he saw as an essentially middle-class society. I imagine that he intended the multi-volume history of the United States on which he had embarked at his death in part to explore when those acts of intellectual surgery in politics you’re referring to succeeded and when they failed.

Read the entire interview here.

A Review of Three New Washington D.C. Exhibits on the Women’s Suffrage Movement

women's Sufferage

Are you looking for one more quick get-away this summer?  Why not take a women’s suffrage-themed trip to Washington D.C.?

Over at The New York Times, Jennifer Schuessler reviews exhibits at the National Portrait Gallery, Library of Congress, and National Archives.  These exhibits, Schuessler argues, reveal the complexity of the Women’s Suffrage Movement in the United States.

Here is a taste of her piece:

Together, these shows — all curated by women — make up one of the richest explorations of women’s history yet assembled in the capital, or anywhere else. But they also offer a lesson in the messiness, complexities and compromises involved in any movement for social change — and the fraught politics of historical memory itself.

For years, the drive for women’s suffrage was presented mainly as the story of middle-class white women and iconic national leaders like Anthony and Stanton. That story began with the Seneca Falls Convention in upstate New York in 1848 and ended with the triumphant adoption of the amendment on Aug. 26, 1920, which resulted in the single largest extension of democratic voting rights in American history.

But in recent decades scholars have taken a less top-down view, emphasizing the movement’s multiple starting points and patchwork progress through hundreds of state and local campaigns. They have also excavated the role of African-American women, who were largely excluded from the major, white-led suffrage organizations and marginalized in the early histories of the movement, if they were mentioned at all.

Even before the centennial year began, there have been tensions over who and what to celebrate — or even how to sum up the amendment’s significance.

Read the entire piece here.

Help the Library of Congress Transcribe Suffragist Papers

women's Sufferage

The Library of Congress needs your help with this crowdsourcing project.  This would be a great project for an American history course.

Here is a taste of Brigit Katz’s piece at Smithsonian.com:

Over the past year, By the People has introduced a number of “campaigns” calling on volunteers to transcribe the digitized papers of Abraham LincolnClara BartonWalt Whitman and others. The suffrage campaign coincides with the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which was passed by Congress in June 1919 and ratified the following year. Library experts hope that by transcribing these documents, volunteers will not only help make suffrage materials more accessible, but also “engage with our collections and feel a connection with the suffragists,” as Elizabeth Novara, an American women’s history specialist and curator of a new suffragist exhibition at the library, puts it.

Anyone can participate in the transcription effort. Once a given page has been completed, it must be approved by at least one registered volunteer before it is integrated into the library’s main website. “It’s a consensus model,” explains Lauren Algee, By the People’ senior innovation specialist, “similar to Wikipedia.” Users are encouraged to tag documents, with the goal of supplying additional information that would not be captured by the transcription.

Learn more here.

Library of Congress Places 25,000 Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps Online

sanborn-maps-logo-1911-pennsylvania-allentown

This is huge.  We uses these maps for our Digital Harrisburg Project at Messiah College.

Here is a taste of the press release:

The Library of Congress has placed online nearly 25,000 Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, which depict the structure and use of buildings in U.S. cities and towns. Maps will be added monthly until 2020, for a total of approximately 500,000.

The online collection now features maps published prior to 1900.  The states available include Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Alaska is also online, with maps published through the early 1960s.  By 2020, all the states will be online, showing maps from the late 1880s through the early 1960s.

In collaboration with the Library’s Geography and Map Division, Historical Information Gatherers digitized the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps during a 16-month period at the Library of Congress.  The Library is in the process of adding metadata and placing the digitized, public-domain maps on its website. 

The Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps are a valuable resource for genealogists, historians, urban planners, teachers or anyone with a personal connection to a community, street or building.  The maps depict more than 12,000 American towns and cities.  They show the size, shape and construction materials of dwellings, commercial buildings, factories and other structures.  They indicate both the names and width of streets, and show property boundaries and how individual buildings were used.  House and block numbers are identified.  They also show the location of water mains, fire alarm boxes and fire hydrants.

In the 19th century, specialized maps were originally prepared for the exclusive use of fire insurance companies and underwriters.  Those companies needed accurate, current and detailed information about the properties they were insuring. The Sanborn Map Company was created around 1866 in the United States in response to this need and began publishing and registering maps for copyright. The Library of Congress acquired the maps through copyright deposit, and the collection grew to 700,000 individual sheets. The insurance industry eventually phased out use of the maps and Sanborn stopped producing updates in the late 1970s.

I have spent far too much time looking at these maps this weekend.  You can view them here.

Marilynne Robinsion Wins Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction

robinson_examinedlife_ba_img.jpg

Here is the press release:

Acting Librarian of Congress David S. Mao has announced that Marilynne Robinson, author of such critically acclaimed novels as “Gilead” and “Home,” will receive the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction during the 2016 Library of Congress National Book Festival, Sept. 24.

The National Book Festival and the prize ceremony will take place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.

The annual Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction honors an American literary writer whose body of work is distinguished not only for its mastery of the art but also for its originality of thought and imagination. The award seeks to commend strong, unique, enduring voices that—throughout long, consistently accomplished careers—have told us something new about the American experience.

Mao chose Robinson based on the recommendation of a jury of distinguished authors and prominent literary critics from around the world. He said of the selection, “With the depth and resonance of her novels, Marilynne Robinson captures the American soul. We are proud to confer this prize on her and her extraordinary work.”

“American literature has been a kind of spiritual home to me for as long as I have been aware of it. So this award could not be more gratifying,” Robinson said.

Previous winners of the prize are Louise Erdrich (2015), E. L. Doctorow (2014) and Don DeLillo (2013). Under its previous name, the Library of Congress Creative Achievement Award for fiction, the awardees were Philip Roth (2012), Toni Morrison (2011), Isabel Allende (2010), and John Grisham (2009). In 2008, the Library presented Pulitzer-Prize winner Herman Wouk with a lifetime achievement award for fiction writing.

Robinson was born in Sandpoint, Idaho, in 1943. She is the author of four novels: “Lila” (2014), winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award; “Home” (2008), winner of the Orange Prize (UK) and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; “Gilead” (2004), winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award; and “Housekeeping” (1980), winner of PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Fiction. Her five nonfiction books include “The Givenness of Things: Essays” (2015) and “The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought” (1998).

Robinson’s many other honors include the American Academy of Arts and Letters Mildred and Harold Strauss Living Fund, the National Humanities Medal, and the American Academy of Religion in the Arts Award. Robinson, a longtime faculty member of the University of Iowa Writers Workshop, is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Robinson lives in Iowa City, Iowa, where she is a deacon for the Congregational United Church of Christ.

Where is the Declaration of Sentiments?

No one can seem to find the most important document in American women’s history. The White House is looking for the original.  

Here is a taste of Megan’s Smith’s article at WhiteHouse.Gov. Smith is the U.S. Chief Technology Officer.

When I joined the White House a year ago, I asked the Archivist of the United States David Ferriero if the Declaration of Sentiments was part of the National Archives. The Declaration of Sentiments is the foundational document for women’s rights drafted in Seneca Falls, New York, at the first women’s rights convention in July 1848. It changed the course of history.

Ferriero and his team asked around, and learned that it isn’t in the Archives’ holdings — the team contacted various experts and learned that the original Seneca Falls Declaration has not been found. The closest to “original” that anyone knew of is the printing of the text done in 1848 by Frederick Douglass’s print shop in Rochester. They found newspaper accounts and also checked “The Road to Seneca Falls” by Judith Wellman, who wrote that no one has ever found the minutes by Mary Ann M’Clintock that likely also went to Douglass’s print shop. They learned that the tea table upon which the original declaration was drafted has been found, but the document itself is still missing.

The road to drafting the Declaration of Sentiments started in 1840 when Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott and their husbands traveled across the Atlantic to attend the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London only to learn that women were no longer permitted on the main floor and had to listen from a gallery. We can only imagine their frustration!
A few years later, Mott visited her cousin Katherine McClintock near Seneca Falls, New York. During the visit, they hosted a tea where five women planned a convention to discuss women’s rights. In preparation for the convention, Stanton drafted a “Declaration of Rights and Sentiments,” which she modeled after the Declaration of Independence. In the document, she called for moral, economic, and political equality for women…
Here’s where you come in: Let’s see if we can find this thing — and unveil other untold stories and histories in the process. Call it a real-life “National Treasure,” if you like.
Have a tip or an idea as to where the sentiments might be located? Or a related story?Share that with us here, and post on your social channels using the hashtag #FindTheSentiments. Have another untold story that you want to see written into history? We want to hear those, too.
It’s going to take all of us speaking up to help preserve the stories of the incredible women and men who made this country what it is today. I hope you’ll add your voice to the conversation.
Read this entire article here.

Library of Congress Interview with Mark Noll

Dan Turello of the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress interviews University of Notre Dame historian Mark Noll.  Noll is a member of the Library of Congress’s Scholar’s Council.
Here is a taste:
Just over 20 years ago, you published a book that made waves, titled “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.” Then, as now, you identified as an Evangelical, and the book was issued by an Evangelical publishing house. What was the “scandal” and why did you feel it was important to write this book?
The scandal of the evangelical mind, I said in that book, was that not much “an evangelical mind” existed. I still believe that this assessment is correct, although I would now try to put it in ways that require at least a couple of subordinate clauses, along the following lines: Since the seventeenth century and the rise of European pietism, and then the emergence of evangelicalism in Britain and her colonies in the eighteenth century, pietistic and evangelical impulses have greatly assisted in adapting historical Christianity to the individualism, democracy, and practical mind-set of western modernity. At the same time, that very process of adaptation has, with a few exceptions like the New England minister Jonathan Edwards, hindered pietists and evangelicals in thinking carefully about the basic questions concerning God, the physical world, social order, other cultures, and the human condition.
Broader and more comprehensive thinking of that sort needs the intellectual and theological ballast provided by the historical Christian traditions (Catholic, Calvinist, Lutheran, or even Orthodox). Pietists and evangelicals who make use of those traditions are in a good position to think carefully and to produce responsible intellectual work, even as they can bring a measure of spiritual vitality to those traditions. But because of the populist, individualist, and activist character of evangelicalism, the foundations for productive thinking need to be sought somewhere other than in evangelicalism itself. I wrote “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind” to encourage other evangelicals, along with myself, to think more responsibly about how to contribute to serious intellectual endeavor.
What do you think has changed over 20 years? How are Evangelicals who are part of the Gen X, Gen Y, and Millennial generations living out the relationship between faith, life, and scholarship?
My sense is that a considerable number of younger scholars with evangelical or similar backgrounds now do much better with intellectual tasks. Evangelicals now enjoy more good models of responsible scholarship in philosophy, the history and philosophy of science, sociology, history, and more recently also law, biology, physics, and other disciplines. What has not changed, I fear, is the general climate that besets not just evangelical communities, but the wider public landscape, where snap judgments, tendentious politicized partisanship, and the rush to instant analysis undermine all serious intellectual efforts. In other words, it is possible to find a wider array of responsible Christian thinking in the broader intellectual marketplace (admittedly, not all wanting to be identified as “evangelical”), even as that marketplace is overrun by shoddy thinking, name calling, and a great deal of all-or-nothing media hype. We self-identified evangelicals, I fear, contribute too much of the latter and still not enough of the former.

The Next "Librarian of Congress" Should Be a Librarian

This is the argument of Portland Community College librarian Meredeth Farkas in a piece at The New Republic.

Farkas chides outgoing Librarian of Congress James Billington for, among other things, not modernizing the Library and bringing it fully into the digital world.

She writes:

President Obama will soon appoint a new Librarian of Congress, a position that requires Congressional approval and could impact the everyday lives of most Americans. This position has the power to provide exemptions to a copyright regime that currently limits what consumers can do with their media, software, digital devices, and even vehicles. The next Librarian of Congress could ease copyright restrictions, provide improved access to federally-funded research, and embrace cooperative efforts toward making our nation’s history available online. On the other hand, the new Librarian could limit what Americans can do with the content and technologies they have lawfully purchased by choosing not to make exemptions to copyright law. It all hinges on the values and background of the person the President chooses to appoint….

In a 2014 speech, former Deputy and now Acting Librarian of Congress, David Mao stated that the Library of Congress is “the de-facto national library of the United States and so… it’s actually your library.” Over the past few decades, public access to the Library of Congress has increased and the Library has carved out a role in preserving, digitizing, and making accessible the cultural history of the United States. Projects like American Memory (begun in 1990) and THOMAS (begun in 1995) were early trailblazers in providing historical artifacts and legislative information on the Web.
In the two decades since the birth of those projects, however, digital initiatives at universities, cultural institutions, other national libraries, and Google have eclipsed the work of the Library of Congress in terms of both scale and design. Although programs like their newspaper digitization initiative, Chronicling America, have great value, only a very small proportion of their collection has been made available to the public online. The Library of Congress has also been notably unwilling to participate in major cooperative digital library initiatives, including the Digital Public Library of America, which has brought together the digital collections of public libraries, university archives, and diverse cultural heritage institutions, including the National Archives and the Smithsonian
A public intellectual would likely be an easy sell to Congress as Billington was beloved by members of Congress even as they criticized his Library. The next Librarian of Congress, however, needs to not only be well-credentialed, but someone who can run a very large and complex agency of over 3,000 employees. They will step into an organization that has beenwidely criticized for mismanagement. They will need to know when to lead, delegate, collaborate, or gracefully get out of the way. They will not only need to bring the Library of Congress into the 21st century, but they will have to administer a large institution that has been poorly run for decades.
Many in the library world are advocating for a fellow librarian to be appointed Librarian of Congress. A librarian could be expected to capably administer The Library of Congress, which serves many of the same functions as an academic library, albeit on a much grander scale. There are many distinguished and innovative librarians who have successfully run large, complex organizations and are well-versed in issues related to scholarly publishing, copyright, digitization, technology trends, and fundraising. However, the next Librarian of Congress could still embody and support the values librarians hold dear, whether she or he is a librarian, a scholar, a university administrator, or a software executive
Read the entire article here.

Jurgen Habermas and Charles Taylor Receive Kluge Prize

The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress “brings together scholars and researchers from around the world to stimulate and energize one another, to distill wisdom from the Library’s rich resources, and to interact with policymakers and the public.”

Every year the Kluge Center presents the John W. Kluge Prize for Achievement in the Study of Humanity.  The $1 million prize (this year is $1.5 million) “celebrates the importance of the study of humanity and recognizes individuals whose outstanding scholarship in the humanities and social sciences has shaped both public affairs and civil society.”

Previous winners include Peter Brown, John Hope Franklin, Pail Ricoeur,and Jaroslav Pelikan.

This year’s winners are Jurgen Habermas and Charles Taylor:

Here is the awards ceremony:

"Poor John!," 1907

Library of Congress’s National Jukebox

http://media.loc.gov/player/flowplayer.commercial.swf?0.10478603933006525<!– 

  • Recording Title

    Poor John!
  • Composer

  • Soprano vocal

  • Genre(s)

    Humorous songs
  • Category

    Vocal
  • Description

    Female vocal solo, with orchestra
  • Language

    English
  • Label Name/Number

    Victor 16057
  • Matrix Number/Take Number

    B-4224/4
  • Recording Date

    1907-02-01
  • Place of Recording

    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania [unconfirmed]
  • Size

    10″
  • Duration

    02:34

"Get Yourself a Broom and Sweep Your Troubles Away," 1924

  • Recording Title

    Get yourself a broom and sweep your troubles away
  • Composer

  • Piano

  • Ukulele

  • Lyricist

  • Tenor vocal

  • Genre(s)

    Ragtime, jazz, and more, Humorous songs
  • Category

    Vocal
  • Description

    Male vocal solo, with ukulele piano
  • Language

    English
  • Label Name/Number

    Victor 19549
  • Matrix Number/Take Number

    B-31532/5
  • Recording Date

    1924-12-19
  • Place of Recording

    New York, New York
  • Size

    10″
  • Duration

    02:37

"A Might Fortress is Our God," 1922

A Martin Luther classic from the Library of Congress’s National Jukebox:

http://media.loc.gov/player/flowplayer.commercial.swf?0.942927316762507<!–

  • Recording Title

    A mighty fortress is our God
  • Other Title(s)

    • Ein feste Burg (Parallel (translated) title)
    • Hymn (Title descriptor)
  • Vocal group

  • Composer

  • Translator

  • Genre(s)

    Religious
  • Category

    Vocal
  • Description

    Male vocal chorus, with brass quintet
  • Language

    English
  • Instrumentation

    2 cornets, 3 trombones, and tuba
  • Label Name/Number

    Victor 18897
  • Matrix Number/Take Number

    B-26290/2
  • Recording Date

    1922-04-06
  • Place of Recording

    New York, New York
  • Size

    10″
  • Duration

    03:12

Woodrow Wilson on Labor

1912:  From the Library of Congress’s National Jukebox:

  • Recording Title

    Woodrow Wilson on labor
  • Other Title(s)

    • On labor (Alternate title)
  • Author

  • Speaker

  • Genre(s)

    Speeches
  • Category

    Spoken
  • Description

    Political address
  • Language

    English
  • Label Name/Number

    Victor 35253
  • Matrix Number/Take Number

    C-12392/1
  • Recording Date

    1912-09-24
  • Place of Recording

    New York, New York
  • Size

    12″
  • Duration

    03:35

"Christ the Lord is Risen Today," 1922

I should have posted this on Easter.  A great Charles Wesley hymn courtesy of the Library of Congress’s National Jukebox:

http://media.loc.gov/player/flowplayer.commercial.swf?0.738723476184532<!

  • Recording Title

    Christ the Lord is risen today
  • Other Title(s)

    • Lyra Davidica (Work title)
  • Author

  • Composer

  • Contralto

  • Genre(s)

    Religious
  • Category

    Vocal
  • Description

    Contralto vocal solo, with orchestra
  • Language

    English
  • Label Name/Number

    Victor 87354
  • Matrix Number/Take Number

    B-26435/1
  • Recording Date

    1922-04-26
  • Place of Recording

    Camden, New Jersey
  • Size

    10″
  • Duration

    03:07

"Stand Up! Stand Up for Jesus!"

From 1901, courtesy of the Library of Congress’s National Jukebox

http://media.loc.gov/player/flowplayer.commercial.swf?0.9117613551206887<!

  • Recording Title

    Stand up! Stand up for Jesus!
  • Vocal group

  • Composer

  • Lyricist

  • Soprano vocal

  • Genre(s)

    Religious
  • Category

    Vocal
  • Description

    Mixed vocal trio, with organ
  • Language

    English
  • Label Name/Number

    Victor 3201
  • Matrix Number/Take Number

    [Pre-matrix B-]3201/1
  • Recording Date

    1901-03-11
  • Place of Recording

    Camden, New Jersey [unconfirmed]
  • Size

    10″
  • Duration

    02:31
  • Notes

    Also recorded as [PM-]723.

"What A Friend We Have In Jesus," 1915

From the Library of Congress’s National Jukebox

http://media.loc.gov/player/flowplayer.commercial.swf?0.36385383270680904<!

"Swing Low, Sweet Chariot"–Tuskegee Institute Singers, 1914

From Library of Congress National Jukebox

http://media.loc.gov/player/flowplayer.commercial.swf?0.38317444385029376<!– 

  • Recording Title

    Swing low, sweet chariot
  • Other Title(s)

    • Primitive Negro chant (Title descriptor)
  • Vocal group

  • Baritone vocal

  • Bass vocal

  • Tenor vocal

  • Genre(s)

    Religious
  • Marketing Genre(s)

    Educational
  • Category

    Vocal
  • Description

    Male vocal double quartet, unaccompanied
  • Language

    English
  • Label Name/Number

    Victor 17890
  • Matrix Number/Take Number

    B-16512/3
  • Recording Date

    1916-02-14
  • Place of Recording

    Camden, New Jersey
  • Size

    10″
  • Duration

    03:12
  • Notes

    For takes 3-5, the singers are listed as a quintet in Victor ledgers. Disc label shows double quartet.
    Dixon/Godrich/Rye notes the 9/20/1915 session as taking place in New York City. Victor ledgers do not list a specific location.