[Paleopsych] Historically Speaking, 4.9-10 (Vol. 6, No. 1)

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Historically Speaking,4.9-10 (Vol. 6, No. 1)

[Many short articles below, besides the series on the
professionalization of history. There is a Sage Sighting!]

News bulletin from the Chronicle of Higher Education, 5.1.14
  A glance at the current issue of Historically Speaking: The
professionalization of history
  The field of history suffers from "mass professionalization,"
Bruce Kuklick, a professor of American history at the University of
Pennsylvania, writes in the lead essay in "The American Historical
Profession in the 21st Century: an Exchange," a section based on papers
presented at the Historical Society's 2004 conference. Too many people
have doctorates in history, and there are not enough jobs in higher
education to accommodate them, Mr. Kuklick says. The result is "a growing
helot class of non-standing faculty, exploited and underpaid." Publication
has traditionally been the way for scholars to distinguish themselves from
the pack, he writes, but the staggering number of journals and books being
published now makes it "more difficult for scholars to publish their way
'out' or 'up.'" There is too much material for most scholars to keep track
of what is out there, he says, much less evaluate what is especially good.
"In the old days," he argues, "standards may have been narrow and
determined by a group of old white males who successfully passed on their
rigidities. But at least one knew who to read, and the number of
historians was limited enough so that supply did not so entirely exceed
one's ability to consume." In a response to Mr. Kuklick's essay, Marc
Trachtenberg, a professor of political science at the University of
California at Los Angeles, is less troubled by the volume of publications
available. "The more basic problem," he says, "is that I would not want to
read much of it, no matter how much time I had." And in another response,
Leo P. Ribuffo, a professor of history at George Washington University,
says: "Ain't it awful? You bet. It always is." The essays are online at

             --Kellie Bartlett

Joseph S. Lucas and Donald A. Yerxa, Editors
Historically Speaking: The Bulletin of the Historical Society
September/October 2004
Volume VI, Number 1

Jeremy Dupertuis Bangs, "Re-Bunking the Pilgrims"

Joseph Morrison Skelly, "Here We Stand, in Baquba"

Thomas Fleming, "Illusions and Realities in World War I"

Bruce J. Evensen, "D.L. Mooody and the Mass Media Revival"

  --Bruce Kuklick, "The Future of the Profession"
  --Leo P. Ribuffo, "Ain't It Awful? You Bet, It Always Is"
  --Marc Trachtenberg, "Comment on Kuklick"

An Interview with John Ferling

  --John T. McGreevy, "Catholicism and American Freedom"
  --Leo P. Ribuffo, "The American Catholic Church and Ordered Liberty"
  --Eugene McCarraher, "Remarks on John McGreevy's Catholicism and American 
  --Christopher Shannon, "Comments on Catholicism and American
  --John T. McGreevy, "Response to Ribuffo, McCarraher, and Shannon"

Thomas Schoonover, "Uncle Sam's War of 1898 and Globalization

George Huppert, "Notes on the Boothbay Harbor Conference"


       Jeremy Dupertuis Bangs

       In grade school in the 1950s, I learned that the Pilgrims were the
most important and influential of England's American colonists. Seeking
religious freedom, the heroic Pilgrims set sail for distant shores. En
route to America, these poor, purehearted souls invented democracy with
the famed Mayflower Compact. After struggling through the initial
hardships of life on unfamiliar soil, they invented the classic American
holiday of Thanksgiving, which they celebrated with their friends the
Indians. More virtuous than the rapacious Virginians who preceded them,
the Pilgrims were the first true Americans.

       Those inspiring Pilgrims of my youth have taken a beating! According
to today's historians, the Pilgrims were among the least significant of
England's American colonists. Their tiny Plymouth Colony was soon absorbed
by the larger and more prosperous Massachussets Bay. The Pilgrims were no
friendlier to Indians than other Europeans in the Americas-which is to
say, they were greedy, duplicitous purveyors of genocide. Nor did they
invent democracy: the Mayflower Compact was just an expedient means of
maintaining order in a new environment. And their first "Thanksgiving" was
nothing more than a replica of a traditional, secular English harvest
feast. The Pilgrims didn't even call themselves Pilgrims, a term coined by
the 19th-century Americans who invented these virtuous forbears out of
thin air in an effort to grace the relatively new United States with a
glorious past. Indeed, about the only aspect of my schoolboy Pilgrims that
has survived this assault is their poverty.

       The truth about the Pilgrims-and yes, I do still call them
Pilgrims-is perhaps closer to the "myth" than to what we can learn from
today's textbooks . . . .

       Formerly curator of the Leiden Pilgrim Documents Center (1980-1985),
chief curator of Plimoth Plantation (1986-1991), visiting curator of
Manuscripts, Pilgrim Hall Museum (1992-1996), Jeremy Bangs (Ph.D. Leiden,
1976) is director of the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum. His extensive
publications on 16th- and 17th-century Dutch and colonial cultural history
include The 17th-Century Town Records of Scituate, Massachusetts (New
England Historical and Genealogical Society, 3 vols., 1997, 1999, 2001);
Indian Deeds, Land Transactions in Plymouth Colony, 1620-1691 (New England
Historical and Genealogical Society, 2002), containing an extensive
critique of Jennings's "invasion" metaphor; Pilgrim Edward Winslow: New
England's First International Diplomat (New England Historical and
Genealogical Society, 2004); and Letters on Toleration, Dutch Aid to
Persecuted Swiss and Palatine Mennonites, 1615-1699 (Picton, 2004). He is
currently editing the remaining twelve volumes of Plymouth Colony records
for integral publication on CD-ROM and writing a book to be called Leiden
and the Pilgrims.


       Joseph Morrison Skelly

       On the morning of Saturday, September 25th, I arrived in Baquba, my
final destination in a year-long deployment to Iraq with the United States
Army Reserve. The city lies forty miles northeast of Baghdad, in Diyala
province, on the eastern edge of the Sunni Triangle. Its population of
280,000 is a mixture of Sunnis, Shiites, and even some Kurds who have
drifted down from the northern part of the province. It has been a
volatile place at times over the past six months, the scene of major
battles in April and June. These flare-ups were sparked by a small,
disgruntled minority-an angry assortment of ex-Baathists, Al Qaeda
operatives, foreign agents, and some local opportunists who cast their lot
with the insurgency. This motley crew made a fatal mistake. The 3rd
Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Infantry Division ("The Big Red One" of
Sicily, Normandy, and the Bulge), quickly put down both uprisings. Known
as the "Dukes of Diyala," the 3rd BCT controls the city and its
hinterlands, and has made great progress in stabilizing the province since
its arrival in February of 2004.

       In fact, beneath the radar screen of cable news networks and
twenty-four hour news cycles, normal life has returned to many parts of
Baquba. The vast majority of its people are decent, hardworking citizens
who are glad to have the Americans here, ecstatic to be rid of Saddam
Hussein, and eager to turn their country around. Many are supporting the
reconstruction efforts of the United States and its Coalition partners.
Some do so publicly, others privately. Several personal conversations over
the past weeks have unequivocally confirmed these sentiments. So, too,
have the actions of numerous men, women, and children that I have
witnessed firsthand. That said, the insurgents, as reported in the press,
sometimes target Iraqis who work with the Coalition. These Iraqis remain
undaunted. Their courage is inspiring. Yet the full telling of their tale
may have to await the final defeat of the insurgency. Perhaps historians
will one day reveal the complete truth.

       My duty station in Baquba is at a location called the CMOC, the
Civil-Military Operations Center. It is a joint headquarters. The Army
personnel at this center work closely with the local and provincial
governments, the State Department, and some NGOs, under the command of the
Army leadership at brigade and division levels. Army officers and enlisted
troops, working closely with Iraqi experts and administrators, tackle a
variety of projects, all geared towards stabilizing the province. These
missions include restoring public works, upgrading the transportation
system, streamlining the energy distribution network, reconnecting
communications links, improving public education facilities, and enhancing
civil-military relations. These essential activities constitute an
integral part of full spectrum warfare on the 21st-century battlefield. In
the coming months, my duties will focus on higher education (including the
reconstruction of one of the local universities, which was damaged in the
June uprising when insurgents commandeered a nearby stadium), government
relations, and other projects that may arise.

       The CMOC is a compound of several buildings situated on
approximately one city block. It has a high-visibility presence in the
city. It is accessible. These features are necessary to attract locals and
to build trust in the community. They also mean that the installation is
sometimes a target of the insurgents. Occasional mortar rounds, echoes of
improvised explosive devices, and sporadic AK-47 fire punctuate the days
and nights. Indeed, the CMOC was attacked in early October, when three
Russian-made rockets slammed into the neighborhood, with two near misses
and one direct hit on the compound. There were no American casualties, but
several innocent Iraqi civilians were injured, which was of no concern to
the guerillas, of course. The next three nights the CMOC and the nearby
offices of the Iraqi National Guard and Iraqi police were mortared,
without any reported damage. On the night of October 12 insurgents fired
several RPGs at the seat of the provincial government several blocks away,
known locally as the Blue Dome. These attempts at intimidation failed. The
American troops stationed at the CMOC remained rock solid throughout this
brief test, passing it with flying colors. They are determined to hold
this ground. Down the street, the Blue Dome opened for business as usual
on the morning of October 13.

       In a nutshell, this city is one of the cockpits of this war. The
next several months will be critical. The soldiers at this post will not
waver. To paraphrase Martin Luther, "Here we stand, in Baquba."

       Joseph Morrison Skelly is assistant professor of history at the
College of Mount Saint Vincent. He is the author of Irish Diplomacy at the
United Nations, 1945-1965: National Interests and the International Order
(Irish Academic Press, 1997). He is currently serving with the 411th Civil
Affairs Battalion, in support of the 1st Infantry Division, in Operation
Iraqi Freedom.

       Thomas Fleming

       Two years ago, when I decided to write a book on the American
experience in World War I, I thought I had discovered the best opening for
a historical narrative I had seen in forty years of writing books.

       On the night of April 1, 1917, only hours before Woodrow Wilson was
scheduled to go before Congress and ask for a declaration of war, the
president sent for Frank I. Cobb, editor of the New York World, a stalwart
supporter of him and the Democratic Party. As Cobb told the story, he
rushed to Washington, arriving at the White House at 1:00 a.m. He and
Wilson talked into the dawn.

       Wilson told Cobb he had "considered every loophole" to escape going
to war but each time Germany blocked it with some "new outrage." Then
Wilson began to talk about the impact the war would have on America. "Once
lead this people into war," the president said, "and they'll forget there
ever was such a thing as tolerance. To fight you must be ruthless and the
spirit of ruthless brutality will enter the very fiber of our national
life, infecting Congress, the courts, the policeman on the beat, the man
in the street."

       "He thought the Constitution would not survive it," Cobb said. "That
free speech and the right of assembly would go. He said a nation couldn't
put its strength into a war and keep its head level; it had never been

       "If there's any alternative, for God's sake let's take it," Wilson

       "Well I couldn't see any, and I told him so," Cobb concluded.

       This touching scene coincided with another episode I discovered in
the memoir of Woodrow Wilson's secretary, Joseph Tumulty, a man whose name
was often spoken with respect in my boyhood home in Jersey City. Tumulty
was born not too many blocks from my house.

       Tumulty told how he and Wilson returned to the White House on that
April evening after the president's speech to Congress, calling on America
to fight a war without hate, a war to make the world safe for democracy.
The soaring rhetoric had been received with near hysterical applause.

       Tumulty accompanied Wilson to the cabinet room, where the president
broke down. "My message today was a message of death for our young men,"
Wilson said. "How strange it seems to applaud that."

       The president launched into an emotional monologue, defending his
long struggle to keep America neutral. Finally, Tumulty said, "he wiped
away great tears [and] laying his head on the table, sobbed as if he was a

       Here, it would seem, was a double dose of heartbreak combined with
globe-girdling drama. I could almost hear the sympathetic sobs as readers
turned the opening pages. Alas, additional research led to another variety
of heartbreak: the literary kind. These two scenes, which are in numerous
biographies of Woodrow Wilson and histories of World War I, never
happened. According to the White House logs, Frank Cobb did not set foot
in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on the night of April 1, 1917. Nor did Joe
Tumulty return to the White House to witness Wilson's supposed breakdown
after his speech.

       What was going on here? It took a lot more research to find the
answer . . . .

       Thomas Fleming is the author of more than forty books, including The
Illusion of Victory: America in World War I (Basic Books, 2004).


       Bruce J. Evensen

       I am a child of revival. In 1962 I was one of 704,900 who attended
Billy Graham's meetings on Chicago's lakefront and one of 16,597 who came
forward to express a personal need for a savior. Today, Graham's reach is
far wider. On Christmas Eve in 1996, speaking from a small sports stadium
in Puerto Rico, Graham preached to a targeted one billion people across
the planet. Satellite technology created this communication community. It
reportedly reached a man in Sierra Leone, who borrowed money to repair an
antenna so that "twenty two of my friends and neighbors could watch the
Gospel on television." At that very hour, 2,000 Ugandan churches opened
their doors to television parties that showed the same program. Churches
in the Philippines conducted immediate baptismal services for those who
had "come to Christ." Pastors in Saltillo, Mexico said 20,000 saw Graham's
"A Season for Peace" and reported many were curious about the condition of
their souls. In Italy, event organizers reported 20,000 "decisions for
Christ" following the worldwide television special.

       The romance between mass media and popular religion, practiced as an
evangelistic art by Graham, was a development one of Graham's mentors,
D.L. Moody, would have easily appreciated. During the late Gilded Age the
former shoe salesman with a fourth grade education conducted urban
revivals across the Anglo-American landscape, appropriating, as Graham
later would, all available means in doing so. That meant the active
courting of the press as an important instrument in reaching the
unchurched with the gospel message. Moody's success resulted in the
creation of mass media revivals that relied on the twin pillars of prayer
and publicity in constructing citywide spectacles as extraordinary as any
editor or reader had ever seen.

       Moody was a little known Chicago layman when he arrived in Liverpool
on June 17, 1873. When the revivalist left the same city two years and two
months later after preaching all over England, Scotland, and Ireland, he
was heralded as the greatest evangelist in the English-speaking world . .
. .

       Bruce J. Evensen is professor of communications at DePaul
University. He is the author of God's Man for the Gilded Age: D.L. Moody
and the Rise of Modern Mass Evangelism (Oxford University Press, 2003).


       One of the many highlights of the Historical Society's 2004
conference, "Reflections on the Current State of Historical Inquiry," was
a lively session on "The American Historical Profession in the 21st
Century." Bruce Kuklick launched the session with his paper, after which
Leo Ribuffo and Marc Trachtenberg offered their responses. The exchange
was provocative, candid, and frequently hilarious. Below are slightly
revised drafts of the speakers' papers.

       Bruce Kuklick

       There are several reasons why I was a bad choice to make this
presentation. I have an ambivalent connection to the profession, disliking
meetings and networking and thereby losing sustained intellectual contact
with peers. In many ways I am barely professionally active. My interests
lie in two peripheral fields, intellectual and diplomatic history, that
are usually counted as retrograde. Moreover, although I am convinced
(unlike many of my colleagues) that we know at least a little bit about
the past, I also believe that we know very little about the future, and
should not get into the game of being futurologists. I am under an
illusion that I read widely but when, in preparation for the talk, I
looked at the Journal of American History's recent symposium on the topic,
I noted that there were many "seminal," "pathbreaking," and
  "paradigm"-shattering or -creating books, not just that I had not read
but that I had not heard of. Thus, readers are encouraged-as were the
commentators -to be very critical of my views. Readers are also reminded
that for the most part, I am noting what I think are trends, and not
endorsing them.

       What will shape the future of the profession is a phenomenon that I
call "mass professionalization"-a very large number of people trained to
be professional historians, to publish in ever more specialized journals,
to try to avoid undergraduate research agendas. This phenomenon has
diverse consequences.

       In our era, the large number is too high-too many people trained
with a Ph.D. degree to be historians, so that even in the enormous system
of higher education, there are too few jobs for these individuals. This
may be an issue of under demand rather than oversupply, but the
consequences are the same, especially in the fields of American history
that I know best.

       The first significant problem of mass professionalization is that
there is a growing helot class of non-standing faculty, exploited and
underpaid. To presume that the tenure-track job at a major university
represents the norm is like presuming that Ozzie and Harriet represent the
typical American family. But the power of the tenure system to distort
market forces is extraordinary. In ordinary circumstances, with such an
enormous supply of faculty in comparison to a relative small demand, one
would draw the inference that faculty with jobs would be teaching more and
being paid less; but for standing faculty the reverse actually often

       Thus, two likely results of mass professionalization in the 21st
century are, on the one hand, increasing attacks on tenure and, on the
other, increasing pressure for unionization. Both the attacks and the
pressure me that we ought to try to maintain the older dignified notion of
a profession, and I don't like the idea of unions for graduate students.
But I have a hard time coming up with good reasons to fight unions, and I
can't think of many to retain the tenure system. I would settle for a
system of the old crafts union, like carpenters but not like autoworkers.
We will probably get the latter.

       Even for those on the lowest rungs of the professional ladder, the
ideology of graduate school professors, which emphasizes publication, more
than usually holds sway. Even schools that have long served certain
regional, vocational, or ethno-cultural needs have often given in to this
ideology. This means that most of us value scholarship, and promote it,
more than we promote teaching or service to an institution.

       A second significant problem of mass professionalization stems from
this scholarly emphasis-the exponential growth of publications. Some of
these publications are products of the proliferation of academic
historical societies, each valorizing one aspect of the past-of the Soviet
Union, the early American republic, the history of public policy,
secondary education in Asia, Byzantium, the history of the book-you name
it. Along with a society usually goes a journal and scholarly essays.

       Books are a more important publishing endeavor in the profession
than articles. I am told that even the prestigious academic presses cannot
much longer afford to print dissertations and, as they put it, serve as
vetting agents in tenure decisions. The average sale of a history book is
600-800 copies, and in many cases, the most frequent request made on
presses is to give their readers' reports to tenure committees. It is easy
to infer from this that no one wants to read many of these books, but I
actually believe that perhaps unlike other disciplines, there are useful
facts in most first books by professional historians, and it is not so
terrible to have them available in a form that will now last for 500

       The problem here is that almost none of us is able to sort out what
is worth reading (as opposed to what is worth consulting if someone wants
to get some information). We can no longer monitor with any reliability
the publications that define the contours of historical knowledge at any
time, the scholarly structure that is supposed to define the profession.
This may not be an overarching concern in some recherché areas of inquiry,
but it certainly is in the main line of American history.

       There is a third related problem of mass professionalization. While
there is useful information in most of these volumes, whether or not they
are good history is a different question. The increase of historians,
specialties, and publications has joined its force to another social fact:
a growing university system that even at its bottom end has many

       Together these facts make it more difficult for scholars to publish
their way "out" or "up," for there are so many people writing that it is
almost impossible for all of us jointly to discern what is meritorious.
What is crucially important is one's first place of employment. Thus it
seems to me there is more justified ressentiment on the part of faculty at
non-elite schools, for many talented historians there may rightly feel
that their work is not appreciated the way it should be.

       There is a flipside to this. There are a great many ordinary
historians who by luck, backslapping, and a bit of diligent effort are now
regarded as premier scholars in their fields. They can marshal journals,
societies, a constellation of university departments, and even funding
agencies in their support.

       This problem of mass professionalization means that we have fewer
efficient means at our disposal for authoritatively evaluating historical
work. In the old days standards may have been narrow and determined by a
group of old white males who successfully passed on their rigidities. But
at least one knew who to read, and the number of historians was limited
enough so that supply did not so entirely exceed one's ability to consume.

       When I discussed my presentation with friends, a number of them
expressed the hope that I would denounce cultural history and falling
standards, and speak up in some fashion for the history of ideas or of
international politics. The attentive reader will find a bit of this kind
of response in the comments of Professors Ribuffo and Trachtenberg to this
short paper. But my concern is not that many professional historians
emphasize things that don't interest me much, or have political views I
disparage. I am not alarmed at the cultural presuppositions that some see
as constraints on the profession or as leading it in the wrong direction.
There may be a left-liberal set of predispositions in history that sets a
certain agenda, but that is not what I find troubling.

       Rather than operating with blinders, the profession, I believe, has
a 1000 flowers blooming; history is a big tent. My fear is the number of
flowers and the size of the tent. There is so much out there, and so many
of us are struggling to get recognition for whatever it is that we do that
we have little sense of what the outlines of even large fields are and of
what is worth reading. We don't have much of a handle on what we do, or
how we are doing it, and I don't see much of a chance that this will

       A fourth significant problem of mass professionalization is the
trade's connection to the role of history in American society. All
cultures have some sense of an immemorial past, and in some ways
professional historians partly serve the same function as tribal elders.
That is, part of our role is that we collectively maintain a social sense
of the past. One way we do this is through popular history writing, the
History Channel, and historical movies and documentaries. But there is an
enormous gap between what intrigues the profession as a whole and the
obsession of the greater public with Great Men and Big Battles. I am not
entirely opposed to this obsession, but I do think that the public would
be better served if there were a better match between its concerns and our
priorities and standards. As matters stand now, there seem to me to be two
diverging tracks, the popular and the professional, and I do not believe
that is healthy. It may also be pretty conventional, but it does strike me
that the effusion of historical specialties has increased the divide
between the popular and the professional. In the old days, the commitment
of the profession to past politics was pretty much synchronized with
public tastes.

       Another aspect of this problem is the history text, at both the high
school and college level. And here I have a different concern from the one
evinced in the controversy over the History Standards. The textbooks are
legion, although the ones that I know best are in American history, which
I have recently taught in AP American history courses. The texts exhibit
the troubles I have talked about and give some weight to every subfield
and every dimension of the study of the United States that will make a
text "comprehensive." Again, these books reflect the diversity and
complexity of the profession, and not at all the needs of our
undergraduate charges. I would trade all of these texts in for just two
old books: James Henry Breastead's Ancient Times and Charles and Mary
Beard's Rise of American Civilization. Just as the claims of popular
history reflect the gap between what the public needs and what we are able
to provide, the texts illustrate the gap between what students in our
democracy require and what we are able to give them.

       Let me, in conclusion, turn away from the problems to a connected
matter: where I would like us to direct our efforts in the future. I would
like to see far more of an accent on undergraduate teaching. We need a
more coherent history curriculum, with more stress on a series of basic
courses that offer a broad introduction to the national and international
historical setting of our lives. We need fewer seminars on narrow topics
for undergraduates. We need more discussion courses and a graded writing
program that would increase in difficulty with an increase in the level of
courses. We need more faculty willing to teach freshperson seminars. We
need more seasoned faculty to teach survey courses. We need more faculty
to recognize that the "reproduction" of the professoriate, as it has been
described to me, is not the most holy task. We need fewer graduate
students competing with undergraduates for time with faculty, and fewer
graduate students substituting for faculty in classrooms. That is, we need
to do more to train our students to be educated citizens.

       Bruce Kuklick is Nichols Professor of American History at the
University of Pennsylvania. His latest book is A History of Philosophy in
America, 1720-2000 (Oxford University Press, 2002).

       Leo P. Ribuffo

       Bruce Kuklick has been one of my best friends for more than three
decades. Thus I say with candor and affection that this article does not
represent Kuklick at his best. It reflects an educational background and
academic career spent entirely at elite universities. It contains too many
self-righteous ex cathedra assertions that even Kuklick does not believe
when pressed to think about them.

       Just as every person is his or her own historian, every person is
his or her own futurologist. In some dumb sense, to appropriate Carl
Becker's phrase, Kuklick as an everyman futurologist made predictions
about the future when he acquired mortgages and decided to raise four
children. And I suspect he attempted to make those decisions with minimum
stupidity. So why should not the rest of us, acting in our capacities as
what William Appleman Williams called "citizen historians," engage more
broadly in futurology about something as insignificant as our own craft,
business, profession, trade, and- sometimes-racket? Kuklick claims to
detest the history business (what in calmer moments he has described as an
honorable "practice") because it is too much of a racket. Yet, as Kuklick
has also admitted in less oracular moments, he has spent much of his
career studying intellectual businesses and rackets. Perhaps when pressed
Kuklick might admit that our trade deserves the same serious attention he
has elsewhere lavished on churchmen, philosophers, archaeologists, and
even shortstops. We get no such respect from him here.1

       Kuklick's central argument is that historians suffer from "mass
professionalization." Simply put, there are more historians than the
market can absorb, and this oversupply derives from the propensity of
academic stars, some of whom are also academic racketeers, to build their
egos and empires while avoiding undergraduates. This argument is true as
far as it goes, but Kuklick oversimplifies the situation, in the process
showing an unmerited enthusiasm for market forces absent elsewhere in his
work. There seem to be roughly 5,000 academic historians in the United
States. Is this too many? The number is no larger than the number of
big-time professional athletes-a frivolous occupational cohort Kuklick
likes more than historians. Certainly Americans have the right to cast
their dollar votes, to recall an old image from Economics 101, on
shortstops rather than professors, but this is not necessarily a good
idea. Kuklick forgets that mass professionalization has been an
inescapable byproduct of mass education, a development that has enormously
benefited the United States in general and many of us academics in
particular. If university education had remained as limited and insular in
the 1960s as in the 1930s, Kuklick and I might be hammering nails and
sweeping floors as our fathers did rather than enjoying what he recognizes
as one of the most pleasant jobs in the world. Indeed, the very
pleasantness of our job means that supply will exceed demand most of the

       What are the intellectual consequences of mass professionalization?
Kuklick reduces them to a nostalgic assertion that it is now "almost
impossible" for people "to discern what is meritorious." I think this is
no more true now than in 1966, when I entered graduate school, even
though, now as then, I disagree with most of our trade's elite about what
is interesting, important, original and, ideally, both original and pretty
much true.

       As a William Jamesian, Niebuhrian, Cold War revisionist, social
democratic professor out of sync with the elite of our trade in 2004, I am
a noncombatant in the grandiosely misnamed "culture wars" at least partly
because I remember, within human limits, what it was like to be a
Jamesian, Niebuhrian, Cold War revisionist, social democratic graduate
student during what Kuklick calls the "old days," when scholarship was
dominated by pluralist social theory and consensus (or counterprogressive)
historiography.2 In recent years my admiration has grown for Richard
Hofstadter, Seymour Martin Lipset, Nathan Glazer, and other leading
members of this intellectual cohort because they got right one big thing
now often forgotten-that the U. S. is a relatively homogeneous and
conservative country. Even so, their plentiful errors look as absurd as
anything currently published. Among these errors, my favorites (a friendly
term I can use in tenured late middle age) are that religion was dying
out, that cultural politics was illegitimate and avoidable, that mentally
healthy people clustered in the vital center, that anyone beyond that
sacred segment suffered from status anxiety at minimum if not a
full-fledged paranoid style, and that American anti-Semitism was only
marginally related to Christianity.

       Since Kuklick passes on the opportunity, I will address some of the
intellectual trends in American history. Although what follows is
necessarily impressionistic, it is based on the usual interaction with our
trade: teaching, service on search committees, and the reading of
professional journals (with greatest attention to the book reviews). There
is certainly an orthodoxy of sorts, though that term may be too pompous
and rigid to describe the perennial situation that some topics, questions,
methods, and moral judgments are hot while others are not. As I am hardly
the first to observe, professional organizations create orthodoxies;
indeed, that is what they are intended to do. In a nutshell, the
"orthodoxy" that has become dominant in the past two decades is a kind of
mushy leftism descended from the Popular Front of the 1930s by way of the
1960s. As Doug Rossinow, one of the best historians of the 1960s,
commented more than a decade ago, the historical profession is "filled
with liberals who think they are radicals."3 The extent to which non-elite
historians, especially graduate students, actually believe in the
orthodoxy is a tougher call. Undoubtedly, as in all such circumstances,
there is more backsliding and latent rebellion in the pews than in the
pulpits, let alone at the bishops' residences.

       Although men and women make their own historiography they do not
make it under circumstances of their own choosing. Two circumstances seem
particularly compelling now. First, given the problem of oversupply
(Kuklick's formulation) or under demand (mine), there is an especially
strong inclination to stick with the tried and (I hope) true topics,
questions, methods, and moral judgments honored by our trade's
establishment. Opportunities to do so are abundant. Starting in the 1960s,
for example, historians rediscovered women, African-Americans, and Native
Americans. Their stories do need to be told. Since few historians favor
slavery, segregation, patriarchy, or mass murder, most of these stories
can be told with minimal professional risk and, therefore, minimal

       Second, as the American electorate has (sort of) moved rightward and
the Right has made the academy a special target in the socalled culture
wars, most liberal and radical historians have unsurprisingly conducted a
reflexive defense of their now orthodox methods, moral judgments, and
favorite hot topics. Evidence of rethinking, ecumenicalism, and serious
argument (by which I mean something very different from sweetsy
  "dialogue") is hard to find in the major associations and journals. In
less polarized times, for instance, more historians might agree with my
colleague William H. Becker that practitioners of labor history and
practitioners of business history have much to teach each other. Worst of
all, the so-called culture wars have energized a compulsory cloying
moralism that afflicts historians across the ideological spectrum.

       To a greater degree than is usually acknowledged, rethinking,
intellectual ecumenicalism, and serious argument can be found at the
grassroots, perhaps especially in non-elite colleges and universities.
Indeed, Kuklick to the contrary, this is the best reason why non-elite
Ph.D. programs should not close up shop. From the vantage point of one of
those universities, let me offer several nonsweetsy observations and
suggestions about our trade's intellectual trends.

       The vogue of postmodernism is less significant, for good or ill,
than the hoopla surrounding it suggests. It is a good idea for historians
to think about what they are doing, especially about what is usually
called the problem of relativism. With few exceptions, such concerns were
dormant among practicing historians during the golden age of
counterprogressive historiography. By the 1980s the old questions
reappeared in an unfamiliar (and thus especially seductive) European
vocabulary-a familiar phenomenon in American intellectual life-via
literature departments. As philosopher Richard Rorty recently observed,
the same issues could have surfaced again through a rediscovery of William
James and John Dewey (and, he might have added for our trade, Carl Becker
and Charles Beard). But, as Rorty put it, American pragmatists were
thought to "lack pizzazz" compared to Martin Heidegger, Friedrich
Nietzsche, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Derrida.4

       Accordingly, insofar as our trade is methodologically chic, we
address perennial problems in a new idiom. When I was in graduate school,
under the influence of the "new criticism," we read a bunch of words on a
page and perhaps discerned therein the theme of rebellion. Now graduate
students deconstruct a text and perhaps discern therein the trope of
transgressiveness. In practice, the difference is largely a matter of
jargon, as is often the case with linguistic twists and turns. We sound
savvy by "powering down" our computers, as the manuals instruct, even
though we stop the flow of electricity just as effectively when (following
an older discourse from our frugal parents) we merely "turn off" the

       Despite the hoopla, there are few thoroughgoing postmodernists among
practicing historians, let alone a horde of amoralists pushing students
down a slippery slope to nihilism. Rather, there is a ritualistic
inclination to talk the talk even if the meaning is murky. Indeed, the
talk sometimes seems intended to intimidate those who admit that the
meaning is murky.

       The main perils of high theory are, first, that new words may be
confused with new and better ideas, and second, that current theories may
yield less understanding than earlier frames of reference. This danger is
hardly new, however. The pluralists and counterprogressives used Emile
Durkheim, Max Weber, and Sigmund Freud to concoct an interpretation of the
Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s which is inferior to the best workaday
journalism of the 1920s.

       Much more influential than the postmodern rediscovery of
relativism-and much less appealing to my taste-is the pervasiveness of
small-scale social histories that purport to illuminate the lives of
ordinary men and women, "the people." This vogue has many sources. The
resurrected intellectual Popular Front of the 1960s made "history from the
bottom up" an attractive field for baby boomer historians. But a far from
leftist Zeitgeist also energizes this specialty. We live, after all, in
the era of People magazine. Then, too, local social history meets market
needs. Compared to other countries, there are a great many historians in
the United States and relatively little American history, and graduate
students have to write dissertations about something.

       Although small-scale social history has never been to my taste, I
would be more likely to acknowledge the field's virtues (primarily, that
"useful facts" are made available, as Kuklick notes) if authors of these
studies wrote better and claimed less. A book focusing on one city,
neighborhood, union local, or Ku Klux Klan klavern can be fascinating. In
fact, these tend to be clunky and boring. At their worst, the main
characters reveal less temperamental and moral complexity than characters
in a good television disaster-of-theweek movie. Mixed motives and
ambiguous feelings are particularly absent in accounts of the oppressed
who (contrary to the views of some Historical Society members) did and
still do exist.

       H. L. Mencken joked long ago that historians were failed novelists.
Would that it were so! In our day, they are less likely to be good
storytellers than second-string social theorists who problematize
questions that need not be problems, let alone major problems. Did
artisans in Hartford, Connecticut differ from their counterparts in
Bridgeport, Connecticut? Believe it or not, they did if you look closely
enough. Do "the people" blindly yield to capitalist hegemony or do they
sometimes think and act for themselves? Do they have "agency?" Guess what?
The answer is "Yes!"

       Even if every practitioner of local social history wrote as well as
William Faulkner or Sherwood Anderson, the prevalence of this genre would
present problems. Of necessity, the authors magnify small differences.
This approach, combined with the assumption that there should be no
"master narrative" (even provisionally for the purpose of addressing large
questions), undermines broader frames of reference and obscures larger
realities. For instance, American historians ritualistically repeat that
the United States is one of the most diverse nations in the world. On the
contrary, and especially if we count for this large question only the
native born population, the United States is not even one of the most
diverse countries in the Western Hemisphere.

       To a large degree academic political history has become a wholly
owned subsidiary of social history, especially small-scale social history.
Consider the historiography of the 1930s. During the past two decades
there have been countless studies of labor unions, cities, and
neighborhoods in which the local actors are (with varying skill) related
to national developments. At the same time, there is no solid,
comprehensive account of the Works Progress Administration or the Civilian
Conservation Corps. In short, though studies of politics, variously
defined, are available, historians for more than a generation have shown
remarkably little interest in how government, especially the federal
government, actually functioned or functions in domestic affairs.
Americanists who study government actions in the world are often thought
peripheral and perhaps retrograde. Indeed, distraught diplomatic
historians have recently begun to sex up their field's vocabulary in order
to sound like social or cultural historians.

       In their general disregard of government, historians, regardless of
their political persuasions, stand shoulder to shoulder with their fellow
citizens. Yet most of their fellow citizens do not notice the historians
by their side. Kuklick joins the throng, pondering our trade's most
frequently asked question about the market. Given the popularity of
historical novels, period-piece films, Civil War reenactments,
celebrations of the "greatest generation" and so forth, why don't people
pay more attention to us? Whatever their ideological and methodological
differences, leaders of the American Historical Association, Organization
of American Historians, and the Historical Society join in the common
lament that historians fail to reach a general audience. As a mere matter
of intellect, this lament lacks merit. Consider the prototypical
  "practice": medicine. Physicians whose research appears in the New
England Journal of Medicine usually do not expect their findings to reach
the New Yorker.

       Moving beyond mere matters of intellect to the level of status
anxiety and market rewards, I too regret that I am not as rich and famous
as I would like to be. In an attempt to ameliorate this devastating
situation, I have even appeared twice on the History Channel (known to
detractors as the Hitler Channel). The last time I addressed the
popularization question, in 1992, I offered to appear on "The Tonight
  Show" whenever Jay Leno wants to banter about William James or the Cold
War. My offer remains open, and I hope that if Leno sees the light he will
seat me next to Ashley Judd rather than Mel Gibson.

       I am not holding my breath, however, and neither should any readers
hoping for a similar invitation. But neither am I wringing my hands.
Historians with an inclination to popularize what they know can and should
do so as well as their skills and circumstances allow. Yet circumstances
are not promising. Indeed, there is an unavoidable roadblock that cannot
be cleared even with sound bytes and makeup. Every person is his or her
own historian, but most people are not very good historians. Moreover,
most people do not care that they are mediocre or bad historians (or
physicists or sociologists or theologians). A reliable understanding of
the past beyond their own memories does not seem essential to their
lives-which, by and large, it is not. Acting as their own physicians,
everyman or everywoman would probably choose to be treated by a doctor who
published original research in the New England Journal of Medicine rather
than by the author of medical popularizations in the New Yorker. Since an
accurate understanding of diseased bodies is much more consequential than
an accurate understanding of Thomas Jefferson, it makes sense as a
futurologist of personal health to bet on professional standing rather
than popularity or accessibility.

       My generalization about everyman and everywoman's limited capacity
as a historian certainly applies to journalists and documentary
filmmakers. Indeed, following their professional standards, they typically
crave gimmicks and profess to believe that grand events turn on quirks of
personality. Kuklick writes with some justice that the questions academic
historians ask and the answers we give are not intellectually imposing.
Yet they rank up there with oncology when compared to the simplistic
history favored by policy makers and pundits-even in cases where a
thoughtful and reliable understanding of the past might affect matters of
life and death.

       This essay has been primarily an "internalist" analysis of the
history business. Yet the major changes in American intellectual life have
derived less from internal inconsistencies in orthodox belief systems or
from the imperatives of careerism than from external shocks originating in
the wider world. Indeed, without the Vietnam War and the capital S
Sixties, the basic premises of pluralist social theory and
counterprogressive history would probably still dominate the academy, as
they still dominate national politics and mainstream journalism. I am not
a good enough futurologist to predict the next world historical shock.

       In the meantime, to describe the situation in a favored jargon
(popularized by Kuklick in his transgressive youth), we will proceed with
"normal" historical investigation rather than face a "paradigm shift."5
Boredom, opportunism, and curiosity will continue to inspire slight
modifications in the mushy leftist orthodoxy-modifications usually framed
as revelations and still leavened with compulsory cloying moralism. For
instance, the historical establishment has rediscovered that industrial
workers spent time in churches as well as factories and, guess what, one
venue affected the other. Similarly, tight-knit communities under stress
produced conservative activists as well as heroic radicals and, guess
what, lots of the conservatives were women.

       But there is hope for something beyond caution and quibbling. You do
not have to be a demographer or futurologist, only a regular at faculty
meetings, to notice that the long predicted wave of retirements will
finally start to occur within a decade. Then, briefly, demand for academic
historians will once again exceed supply for roughly a decade. Another
forty-year job crisis will undoubtedly follow. During this interlude,
however, free spirits among Generation X-ers and the "millennial"
generation that follows may feel sufficiently secure to problematize
questions that are significantly problematic.

       In the meantime, ain't it awful? You bet. It always is.

       Leo P. Ribuffo is Society of the Cincinnati George Washington
Distinguished Professor of History at George Washington University. He is
the author of "Confessions of an Accidental (or Perhaps Overdetermined)
Historian," in Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn, eds.,
Reconstructing History: The Emergence of a New Historical Society
(Routledge, 1999), 143-163.

       1 Bruce Kuklick, The Rise of American Philosophy: Cambridge,
Massachusetts, 1860-1930 (Yale University Press, 1977); Churchmen and
Philosophers: From Jonathan Edwards to John Dewey (Yale University Press,
1985); Puritans in Babylon: The Ancient Near East and American
Intellectual Life, 1880-1930 (Princeton University Press, 1996); To Every
Time A Season: Shibe Park and Urban Philadelphia 1909-1976 (Princeton
University Press, 1991); and "Writing the History of Practice: The
Humanities and Baseball, with a Nod to Wrestling," in Elizabeth
Fox-Genovese and Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn, eds., Reconstructing History: The
Emergence of a New Historical Society (Routledge, 1999), 176-88.

       2 Almost all of the leaders of our trade during the quarter century
after World War II affirmed the political, sociological, and psychological
"vital center" (to recall Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.'s famous phrase), but
they did not necessarily discern or affirm an American consensus.
Accordingly, following Gene Wise, I prefer to call them counterprogressive
historians. See Wise, American Historical Explanations: A Strategy for
Grounded Inquiry (Dorsey, 1977).

       3 In conversation over a beer.

       4 Richard Rorty, "Philosophical Convictions," Nation, June 14, 2004,
54. 5 Bruce Kuklick, "History as a Way of Learning," American Quarterly 22
(1970): 609-628.

       Marc Trachtenberg

       What is going to determine the future of the American historical
profession? For Bruce Kuklick, sheer numbers are of fundamental
importance. The profession, he thinks, has become so large that it no
longer has, or indeed can have, a clear sense of what it is about. In the
old days you knew what the important works were. You could see which works
defined "the contours of historical knowledge" at any particular point in
time. But today there are so many historians and there is so much pressure
to publish that no one can hope to develop a sense for what, in scholarly
terms, pulls the community of historians together.

       Indeed-to draw out what for me is one of the key implications of
Kuklick's argument -there is not much that makes our occupational group a
real profession, with a distinct identity and a broadly accepted set of
standards for "authoritatively evaluating" scholarly work. Instead, what
we have is a mass of people laboring in particular subfields. The work
they produce is rarely of interest to scholars working in other subfields.
People write for very narrow audiences, producing books and articles that,
as a general rule, almost no one reads. What passes for the profession is
really a congeries of specialized groups with highly parochial
interests-groups, moreover, of privileged individuals, shielded by the
tenure system, turned in on themselves, cut off from the larger society,
incapable, by and large, of even giving their undergraduate students the
sort of instruction they need.

       The problem, according to Kuklick, is rooted in what he calls "mass
professionalization," although perhaps (if we bear in mind what a
profession is supposed to be) "mass deprofessionalization" might be a
better term. There are just so many people trained to be historians, and
so much work that has to be published, that things more or less had to
develop along these lines. It is not a pretty picture, but in his view
there is not much we can do about it. The source of the problem is
structural; the basic structures he has identified will certainly remain
intact; so we will have no choice, he thinks, but to live with the
situation as he has described it.

       What is to be made of that argument? I have no real quarrel with his
description of the way things are today. There is obviously not much today
that holds us together as a profession. Even to refer to history today as
a "discipline" strikes me as inappropriate. It is clear, as Kuklick says,
that as a profession "we don't have much of a handle on what we do, or how
we are doing it." And he is obviously also right about how the interests
of historians have diverged from those of the public at large, and indeed
from those of the undergraduates they are supposed to teach.

       So he has accurately identified a whole complex of problems, but if
we are to face those problems intelligently, we need to grapple with the
question of what gave rise to them in the first place. What are we to make
of his argument in this area? Is it just a question of numbers? I do not
think that the growth in the size of the profession is nearly as important
in this context as he makes out. There are other professions, medicine,
for example, and many hard sciences, which have expanded enormously in
size but have retained a strong sense of the sort of work that is of
fundamental importance and the kinds of standards to be used in evaluating
the work that is produced.

       So if the problem we historians face is not a result of sheer
numbers, what then is it rooted in? I think values are a good deal more
important than Kuklick is prepared to admit. When I look at what is being
produced nowadays, the problem, at least for me, is not that there is so
much being published that I just do not have the time to read much of it.
The more basic problem is that I would not want to read much of it, no
matter how much time I had. The amount of work published is not a
fundamental problem. In principle, the subfields can always identify their
best work, and we can always find the time to read the most interesting
books produced by people working in all sorts of different areas,
especially books that speak to the broader concerns of people throughout
the profession. Or to put the point more precisely: we at least have as
much time today to do that kind of reading as we had thirty or forty years
ago. But the key point here is that those books have to be worth reading,
and the problem today is that what can be identified as prominent works in
many areas of history are often not worth spending much time on. I would
love it if a thousand flowers were in fact blooming. But as I look around
me, I don't see a garden of that sort. I see some flowers blooming but
many more being choked out by weeds-indeed, weeds that people fawn over
and treat as though they were more beautiful and more fragrant than the
flowers themselves.

       What does this imply about the future? Kuklick does not see much of
a chance that the problems he has identified will go away. And of course
if numbers were the heart of the problem, the situation would not be
likely to change for the better. But if the problem were rooted in
values-and by that I mean not the political values of the practitioners,
but rather their sense of what history should be and how it should be
done-then change is very likely. The reason is that culture is always in
flux. Values are always changing. I have no idea what the historical
profession, if one can still call it that, will be like twenty or thirty
years from now, but I think it is almost bound to be very different from
what it is today.

       The present situation, in fact, is not rock solid. Society allows
us, as members of a profession, to enjoy certain prerogatives. But it does
this not because it loves the color of our eyes. It does this because at
some level it counts on getting something in return, something of value to
society as a whole. Professional autonomy is not a simple gift, bestowed
for all eternity with no questions asked. Professions are relatively free
from social control, but in exchange they are supposed to feel a certain
sense of obligation-a sense of responsibility to the society as a whole, a
responsibility for maintaining standards and for doing work of real value.
There is an implicit bargain, and a profession cannot expect to renege on
its part of the bargain without, in the long run, paying a real price.

       The long run, of course, may be very long. The profession is now
shielded from social pressure by the sorts of institutional structures
Kuklick talks about. We all know how strong those structures are and how
weak the mechanisms of social accountability are, especially if we are
thinking primarily in terms of immediate and short-term effects. But in
the long run, social forces-including especially market forces-have a way
of making themselves felt, no matter what institutional frameworks exist.
A profession, for example, that insists on offering courses that the
students are not interested in may well, sooner or later, pay a price for
that kind of behavior, especially if neighboring disciplines move in to
meet unfilled student demand.

       No one knows what the future holds in store for us. But it is hard
to believe that things will go on as they have forever. And if you believe
that things are bound to change in the long run, then you have to feel
that it is very important right now not to throw in the towel. As we move
through what may be a very long night, it is important to keep at least
some fires burning: it is important to keep alive a certain sense of what
history is.

       Marc Trachtenberg is professor of political science at UCLA. His A
Constructed Peace: The Making of the European Settlement, 1945-1963
(Princeton University Press, 1999) was awarded the American Historical
Association's Paul Birdsall and George Louis Beer prizes in 2000.

       Conducted by Joseph S. Lucas

       JOHN FERLING, professor emeritus of history at the State University
of West Georgia (he retired in May 2004), has written extensively on the
political and military history of early America. Among his works are A
Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the American Republic (Oxford
University Press, 2003); A Wilderness of Miseries: War and Warriors in
Early America (Greenwood Press, 1980); and Struggle for a Continent: The
Wars of Early America (Harlan Davidson, 1993). An accomplished biographer,
Ferling has written lives of George Washington, John Adams, and the
Pennsylvania Loyalist Joseph Galloway, as well as Setting the World
Ablaze: Washington, Adams, Jefferson and the American Revolution (Oxford
University Press, 2000). His most recent work is the just published Adams
Vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, part of Oxford University
Press's Pivotal Moments in American History series. Joseph Lucas had the
privilege of interviewing this prolific student of early American history
in April of 2004. Ferling reveals that his predilection for writing about
war, politics, and great leaders stemmed partly from expediency. Yet
Ferling also passionately believes that these classic subjects continue to
matter, and their histories have much to teach us today.

       Joseph Lucas: During your long and productive career you have bucked
several of the trends that have defined your generation of historians. You
have focused on elite leaders rather than marginalized masses. Your
primary concerns are political and military history rather than social and
cultural history. And you see the past not as a foreign country but as
intimately connected to the present. Indeed, you argue that the past,
particularly with regard to political and military leadership, holds
important lessons for us today. How do you account for your iconoclastic
views? And how do you see your work in relation to that of your peers and

       John Ferling: Well, for many years I had a poster over my desk, and
it contained a quote from Thoreau about marching to a different drummer.
So maybe I am iconoclastic. But I don't think so. I think I've wound up
doing what I've done out of necessity because of where I teach. It just
seems the pragmatic thing to do. I don't teach at a major research
university, and I don't have a research library at my disposal. So I've
chosen to work with the resources available to me on a daily basis. We
have things like the modern editions of the Washington papers, Franklin
papers, Hamilton papers, Adams papers, and so forth. That was the
direction that I went simply because the material was there and available
to me. As a result, I think, most of my work has been on political and
military history.

       When I was finishing graduate school, I had a one-year appointment
at a school just outside of Philadelphia in Chester County. I was very
much interested in abolitionism, and there was a wonderful library of
abolitionist materials in Chester County, maybe five minutes from where I
was living. If that had materialized into permanent, tenuretrack
employment, I would have probably worked on the history of antislavery.

       I do think there are lessons from the past: political lessons and
military lessons as well. I'm struck by the fact, for example, that
Jefferson wrote a letter to John Adams in 1813 stating that all through
history, in every society at every time, one party existed that favored
the many while another party existed that favored the few, and political
battles tended to revolve around that struggle between the many and the
few. And that's how I see American politics. I see that struggle going on
in the Revolution. I see that struggle going on between the Federalists
and the Democratic Republican Party in the 1790s and the early days of the
republic. I see it through most of the 19th and 20th centuries in America's
political history as well.

       Lucas: Are there other important lessons from the era of the
American Revolution and the early republic?

       Ferling: I think there are. The American Revolution, for example,
can tell us a great deal about the limits of military power. Look at the
relative strength of Great Britain and the colonies in 1775-it seemed as
if there was no way that the colonists could win that war and that they
were mad to go to war. And yet they wound up winning it. There were limits
to British military power. In Vietnam the United States wound up making
some of the same mistakes that the British had made in the 1770s, thinking
they could do whatever they wished. I hope we haven't made that same
mistake again with our recent policies.

       The American Revolution says something about the cost of imperial
power as well. The British found themselves caught up in four
intercolonial wars between 1689 and the end of the French and Indian War
in 1763, and they were driven deeply in debt as a result. They tried to
extricate themselves from their indebtedness with policies that brought on
the Anglo-American crisis and war.

       I'm struck by the fact, too, in reading Gordon Wood's Radicalism of
the American Revolution and Joyce Appleby's Inheriting the Revolution,
that both of those historians develop the idea of how different America
had become by 1826. Almost no one could have dreamed in 1776 of how the
Revolution was going to play out and the changes that it would bring. I'm
not sure I agree entirely with Wood, who argues that people like Jefferson
were ultimately disenchanted by what happened. I wouldn't go that far. But
it reinforces the lesson that you just never know what's going to happen
in history. You undertake something, and you think you know where you're
going, but it always leads to things you can't foresee. (In my survey
classes I emphasize how World War II was a crucial factor in bringing on
the modern civil rights revolution in the 1950s and 1960s and may have had
a hand in bringing on the women's liberation movement in the 1960s and
1970s-certainly no one foresaw these developments when the U.S. went into

       In the 1790s one of the things that really fascinates me is how
Washington and Adams coped with great crises. In 1794 there was a hue and
cry to go to war with Great Britain, and instead of going to war
Washington opted to seek peace. He sent John Jay to London and eventually
accepted a treaty that had many shortcomings. But the great virtue of the
treaty was that it prevented a war that Washington thought would have been
disastrous for the union. By the same token, Adams's entire presidency was
taken up by the Quasi-War crisis with France. He was under enormous
pressure, especially from the right wing of his party, to take a bellicose
policy. He, too, resisted that and sought peace, even though he knew that
his actions might wreck his chances for reelection in 1800. I think that
both presidents ultimately acted more like statesmen than as politicians.
There is a lesson there for subsequent leaders. What seems to be the best
thing to do from a political standpoint may not be the best thing to do in
the long-term interests of the nation, or the historical reputation of the

       Lucas: Your first book was a study of Joseph Galloway, a Loyalist,
and his ideas. Yet the several books that you wrote after that work have
focused primarily on Revolutionary leaders. Why the shift? How did your
initial work on Loyalism during the Revolution inform your subsequent work
on the revolutionaries themselves?

       Ferling: When I was starting out, actually still working on my
Masters degree, I found myself fascinated with dissenters. I was
interested in the Copperheads in the Civil War and Loyalists in the
Revolution. When I decided to specialize in the American Revolution era, I
focused on the Loyalists. By the time I got to Joseph Galloway it was
1969, and I was active in the anti-war protests. Galloway was a protester.
It was a very different kind of thing; he was a conservative protester,
and the anti-war protests I participated in were at the opposite end of
the spectrum.

       As I worked on Galloway, I found myself drawn to areas that I hadn't
imagined I would go into-I tell my graduate students that this is a
benefit of doing biography. Galloway was speaker of the house of the
Pennsylvania Assembly for about twenty years, so I had to learn a good bit
about Pennsylvania politics. His political ally was Benjamin Franklin, and
so I had to learn something about him. And then during the war, after
proclaiming his neutrality initially, Galloway opportunistically joined
the British when he thought they were about to win the war in 1776. The
British used him as a military intelligence official, and so I had to
learn something about military history. When I came along-and it may still
be like this in graduate school today-if you were taking a course on the
American Revolution, the professor would usually just skip over all of the
military aspects and say, "We'll leave that to armchair generals." So I
hadn't really learned anything about military history in school. Further,
Galloway wrote about twenty-five pamphlets or so during the Revolution,
and I had to understand something about the ideology of the Revolution in
order to sort out what Galloway was saying in contrast to what the Whigs
were saying.

       More than anything, however, working on Galloway peaked my interest
in military history. When I finished the Galloway book, I decided to do a
book on colonial warfare. I was particularly influenced at that time by
Richard Kohn's "The Social History of the American Soldier: A Review and
Prospectus for Research," American Historical Review 86 (1981): 553-567.
Kohn talked about a new military history, and it was new in the sense that
military historians now were trying to look not only at how war affected
society, but also at how society affected war. The book I wrote was called
A Wilderness of Miseries. As I researched that book, I grew interested in
George Washington. At that time no one had done a one-volume biography of
Washington for about fifty years. Because we did have source materials
here, at that time it was the Fitzpatrick edition of Washington's
writings, I was able to do a biography of Washington and still later a
biography of Adams. I was probably able to do about 95% of my research for
both books here in Carrollton, Georgia-getting books and microfilm on
interlibrary loan and using the modern editorial versions of my subjects'
papers. So it was a matter both of interest and expediency.

       Lucas: What inspired you to become a historian, writer, and

       Ferling: When I was an undergraduate I had to take two courses in
American history during my freshman year and two in Western Civ in my
sophomore year, but neither turned me on to history. They were mostly just
memorization courses, and I didn't like them. I had had some interest in
history before I started college, but those courses pretty much turned me
off. I got to the last semester of my sophomore year and I had to declare
a major. Fortunately for me, the guy who was teaching Western Civ fell ill
and had to go in the hospital. In the time honored tradition of academe
the low man on the totem pole in the history department got rushed in to
teach the remainder of the course. He was a young historian right out of
graduate school named William Painter, and he threw out the original
syllabus. He had us read several paperbacks. I don't remember all of them,
but one of them was Marcus Cunliffe's George Washington: Man and Monument.
I remember being completely fascinated. Instead of listening to lectures,
we read and discussed the books. I found myself really getting turned on
and going to the library and wanting to read more about Washington. One of
the other books was Alan Bullock's Hitler: A Study in Tyranny. So at least
two of the books were biographies. That may well be the source of my
interest in biography.

       But there was also something else that was crucial. In the 1960s
during the student protests many of the schools began to abandon the
requirement that students had to take both halves of Western Civ and both
halves of U.S. history. They went over to a cafeteria approach, and you
had to take a set number of courses in social science. And you could take
history, or you could elect not to take any history at all. One of the
things that historians quickly discovered was that if the students were
given a choice, they wouldn't take history.

       This aroused concern in the profession, and I remember reading a
couple of presidential addresses delivered to historical associations. The
thrust of these was to encourage historians to write narrative history, to
try to write something that could reach the general public. That really
resonated with me. I wanted to reach out to the general public as well. I
felt that writing biographies would be a way to do that. And all through
my career in fact I've tried not only to publish in scholarly journals,
but to write articles for popular magazines such as American History and
the Smithsonian Magazine as a way of reaching out to the general public.

       One of the things that disturbs me today about the profession is
that almost everything that's being done is in social history, and it
doesn't appear that very much of that is being read by the general public.
There have been some academic historians who have been able to reach the
general public. Joseph Ellis and David Hackett Fischer come to mind. But
they are not writing social history, they are writing political or
military history. I wish more professional historians could succeed in
reaching the general public as popular writers such as David McCullough
and Walter Isaacson have succeeded in doing. Their success suggests to me
that the general public is interested primarily in biography and political

       Lucas: Did you have literary ambitions prior to becoming a

       Ferling: When I was an undergraduate I had no idea what I was going
to do. My dad worked for a large chemical company, but he didn't have much
of a formal education. He had the misfortune of graduating from high
school just as the stock market crashed in 1929, so he wasn't able to go
forward with college. He worked for Union Carbide where he was surrounded
by engineers, and he very badly wanted me to be an engineer. But I didn't
have the inclination and certainly didn't have the talent in math for

       What I really wanted to do was be a sportswriter. I worked on the
newspaper in high school and wrote some sports for that. One of the things
that got me interested in history was a movie I saw in high school (I've
seen it since, and it's pretty awful, but at the age of sixteen I thought
it was wonderful). It was a documentary called The Twisted Cross on the
rise and fall of Hitler. That sent me to the library, and I started
reading some things on history. And a lot of what I read was written by
popular writers. I remember being very much taken by William L. Shirer's
Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, which I read when I was an
undergraduate. And I remember thinking that I would like to do something
like that. And when I took that Western Civ course with Professor Painter,
I went to his office and said, "How do you get to do something like this?
Do you have to be wealthy, a man of means, to write these things?" His
response was something like, "Hell no. You teach history in college." And
I knew at that point what I wanted to do.

       Lucas: Two of your contemporaries, Bernard Bailyn and Gordon Wood,
have focused on the ideas that they believe shaped America in the late
18th and early 19th century. An earlier generation of historians, the one
that included Charles Beard, stressed the role of economic interest as an
agent of historical change. Where do you stand?

       Ferling: Actually, I straddle the fence, although I lean more toward
the idea of economics playing the principal role in determining what
happens in history. I certainly don't think ideas are unimportant. Look,
for example, at abolitionism in the 19th century: many people wind up in
the abolitionist movement because of Christianity and Christian
thought-the notion that I am my brother's keeper. At the opposite end of
the spectrum, in the 20th century racist ideas helped create Nazis. But by
and large I tend to see economics as the determining role in history. I
look at the Constitutional Convention, for example, and if I had to put my
money on why the Constitution wound up being written as the founders wrote
it, it would be more because of economics than ideology. I wouldn't rule
out ideology. The founders certainly had read extensively in the political
science of their day and tried to structure government so that one branch
didn't become more powerful than another. But by and large I see something
like the Constitutional Convention as composed of delegates who
represented the economic interests of their states. It's telling that the
Southerners who come to the Constitutional Convention almost to a man were
interested in protecting slavery and devising a document that could
protect slavery. Northern delegates from urban areas were interested in
furthering the commercial interests of New York or Philadelphia or Boston.
So I tend to see economics as the driving force there and, for the most
part, throughout history.

       Bernard Bailyn's Ideological Origins of the American Revolution came
out in 1967, and I started work on my dissertation on Galloway in 1969. I
was really very much influenced by Bailyn. His book threw open a window to
me that had been closed. Most of my work to that point had been involved
with looking at what Progressive historians had written in the 1920s and
1930s. They were dismissive of ideas, which they saw as tools that leaders
used for propaganda purposes. Bailyn obviously took ideas extremely
seriously, and he saw ideas as shaping action. I was very much taken with
Bailyn and still frequently use Ideological Origins as a required text in
my American Revolution class. More than any other book, it shaped the way
I approached Galloway. But now, I have come full circle. To tell you the
truth, if I was to go back and write another book on Galloway today, I
would probably see him as tied to Philadelphia's mercantile community and
its fear of change for economic reasons and develop that concept far more
than I did thirty years ago.

       Lucas: Your book A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the
American Republic appeared in the summer of 2003. What is the theme of the

       Ferling: A Leap in the Dark looks at the era of the American
Revolution, the half-century between the Albany Conference in 1754 and
Jefferson's inauguration as president in 1801. In the first half of the
study I am concerned with explaining why the Revolution occurred. I
emphasize economic factors and the personal opportunities that many sensed
would result from independence. Workers and some merchants, especially
those in New England, came to see that breaking away from Britain's
restrictive mercantile legislation was in their best interests. Similarly,
many who had invested-or hoped to invest-in land in the trans-Appalachian
West, came to see that they would be better off if Americans called the
shots with regard to opening that vast region. In addition, many ambitious
colonists despaired of accomplishing what they believed they were capable
of achieving because of the limitations imposed by what Jefferson referred
to as their "colonial subservience." Many years after the Revolution, John
Adams wrote that all he had been able to hope for as a British colonist
was to be a militia officer, sit in the colonial assembly, and achieve a
comfortable standard of living. That was insufficient for him, and for
many others.

       In the second half of the book I look at what the Revolution meant
to that generation. Until 1776 the focus of the protest was entirely on
resisting British policy. Other than Tories, few appeared to think about
what post-Independence America would be like, and most who gave it some
thought shrank from divulging their thoughts publicly. Then in 1776 Thomas
Paine spoke of Independence as the birthday of a new world and an
opportunity to begin the world anew. I believe that he captured what some
had been quietly thinking, while others, who were stirred by the
Declaration of Independence, began to envision change after 1776. Of
course, the most conservative revolutionaries never imagined radical
social and political change, and many were appalled by the changes that
occurred during the last years of the war and the first years of peace.
This portion of the book deals with how these two sides coalesced and the
struggle that they waged between the end of the war in 1783 and the
election of 1800. In many ways it is a return to the Progressive
interpretation, but I think I am more charitable than they were to the
Federalists. The nationalists, or consolidationists, not only harbored
legitimate concerns about national security, but through Hamiltonianism
they created a modern and diversified economy.

       Lucas: What do you make of the recent and current scholarship that
looks favorably and seriously at post-1760 British policy in North
America? It strikes me that there's a feeling in the air among a lot of
historians of early America that the continuation of the British Empire
might not have been such a bad thing, maybe in some ways even preferable
to American independence, especially with regard to slavery and the fate
of American Indians.

       Ferling: I don't agree with that. I see the Revolution as a great,
liberating moment. I see it in Jeffersonian terms, and I see the election
of 1800 as a revolution of 1800- a revolution in the sense that it made
possible the fulfillment of the ideas that people like Thomas Paine had
given voice to and that I think many Americans embraced. Paine talks about
the Revolution as a chance to start the world anew. It's the first day of
a new world, he says in Common Sense. And I think a great many Americans
came to see that as the case. I think what makes the American Revolution
at once frustrating and really interesting is that all of the focus- until
you get into the war in 1775 and 1776-is on resisting British policy, and
it's unlike any other modern revolution. There's no sense of domestic
change by and large in that time period. And it's only when they start
thinking seriously in 1775 and 1776 of declaring independence that some
people like Paine do begin talking openly about change. The Americans
fielded a citizens' army basically, and a lot of those people come out of
the war thinking that "we want to make some really seminal changes here;
this is going to be the payback for all of the sacrifice that we've gone
through." If the crisis had been resolved peacefully and Britain had been
in control, maybe eventually, toward the end of the 19th century as
happened in England, there would have been a broadening of suffrage rights
and whatever. But enormous change was unleashed, particularly, as Joyce
Appleby makes clear in Inheriting the Revolution, between 1800 and the
50th anniversary of independence in 1826. The window was thrown open, and
the possibility for change was brought about, with Jefferson's victory in
1800. Lucas: Is liberation the theme of your forthcoming book, Adams Vs.
Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800?

       Ferling: It has two themes. One is that 18thcentury politics and
politicians were decidedly modern. There were differences between the
politics of the 1790s and the early 21st century, but what I found most
striking was how many similarities existed. The parties were better
organized by 1800 than I had expected them to be. They already employed
what we now call "negative campaigning": they adroitly used the technology
at their disposal to get out their message; they utilized every
conceivable artifice to out-hustle their adversaries; and the presidential
candidates, including President Adams, were actively involved-though in a
surreptitious manner-in the presidential campaign.

       The second theme is that the election of 1800 resulted in a
"revolution of 1800." At first blush, the results of the election appear
to be extremely close. There was little difference in the electoral totals
between the two parties, and in the states where I was able to flesh out
the voting results, the parties more often than not were rather evenly
balanced. Yet I also found evidence of significant change. In the
congressional elections as a whole, there were striking signs that the
Federalists had been repudiated. In part, that was payback for their high
taxes, the Alien and Sedition Acts, and what many believed had been a
contrived war scare with France. But it also represented the hope of many
that the promise of truly sweeping change that Thomas Paine and Thomas
Jefferson had enunciated in 1776-change that would bring an end forever to
many of the social and political limitations that had existed in colonial
Anglo-America before 1776- would at long last be fulfilled.

       Lucas: I'm struck by the way you evoke the rhythms of daily life in
the early 19th-century U.S. in your biography of John Adams. Have you
learned a lot from the works of social and cultural history written by
your Americanist colleagues, or did you get that from the Adams papers?

       Ferling: Well, I think it was from both. I've always been interested
in social history. In fact for many years as part of my regular teaching
load I taught two courses in social history: U.S. social history to and
since the Civil War. And I've always incorporated a great deal of social
history in my survey classes. I teach two survey courses and one upper
level course every semester. My two survey courses are mostly social
history courses, and I probably incorporate far more than my students
would like about farm life. I am really intrigued by farm life because I
grew up in a more urban environment around Houston. But my mother was the
daughter of a farmer who lived not too far from Pittsburgh, and we used to
go back up there on vacations every summer. So I'd spend several days on
my grandfather's farm, and I suppose it led me to become intrigued with
what life was like for those who had lived on farms in earlier
generations. My dad was a bluecollar worker, a hardhat, so I was also
interested in the industrial workplace and have stressed that as well in
my classes. Most of my readings in the survey courses-outside
readings-were on things like birthing practices or marriage habits or
diets or medicine and longevity and that sort of thing. So I have always
been interested in social history. But I do think one of the problems with
social history is trying to tie things together into a bigger, meaningful
whole. I think with political history you can, for example, develop a
theme around the growth of capitalism or the growth of democracy. But if
you're dealing with what life was like for coalminers or mill hands, it's
fascinating and I think you want to try to understand how our ancestors
lived, but I have some difficulty in tying it all together into something
that's really meaningful. I can do that better from a political angle.

       Political history broadens your understanding of the general time
period that you're working in, and I think that's one of its advantages.
Biography is the same. As you mentioned, it does force you-if you're
looking at John Adams, for example-not only to look at the political side,
but also to try to come to grips with his private life. What was it like
to be a lawyer in mid-18th-century Massachusetts? What was family life
like? What was he like as a parent? What kind of houses did he live in?
What books did he read, and why? How did he travel?

       Lucas: You've spent a lot of time with the founders, particularly
Adams, Jefferson, and Washington. How do you assess their respective

       Ferling: Jefferson is a great contradiction. He's a racist, and you
would want more from a guy who appears to be so enlightened. He's a slave
owner, and unlike Washington who liberates his slaves in his will,
Jefferson only liberates a handful of slaves. And they're all from the
Hemings family. People find that side of Jefferson distasteful. But on the
other side, here's this guy who sees the danger posed by the route that
the Federalists are taking. He takes the lead in resisting the Alien and
Sedition Acts and more than any other person he was responsible, starting
about 1790, for piecing together a movement to oppose Hamiltonianism.
Ultimately, the 19th century, as it unfolded politically at any rate, was
Jefferson's century. So there's a real dichotomy there in looking at
Jefferson, and it makes him extremely fascinating.

       I think almost everybody who looks at Washington comes away with
pretty positive ideas. People look at Washington trying to find evidence
of corruption on his part, and just can't find it. He doesn't misuse
power. He's not a great general, but he's not a bad general either. And I
think the country was extremely fortunate to have Washington as its first
president. I don't agree with everything that he did. As I said, I'm
probably more of a Jeffersonian, and Washington wound up leaning clearly
toward the Federalists in his presidency. But I do think that the country
was fortunate to have him. When he was faced with that crisis with Great
Britain in 1794 he didn't opt for war, he opted for peace. I think that if
he'd opted for war, there is a real possibility that the United States
wouldn't have survived that early period. The country was so divided
between Anglophiles and Francophiles that it might have been pulled
completely apart if it had been a long, tough war. He did have a kind of
Olympian manner about him. He was an unapproachable individual. He doesn't
appear to be a very warm person at all. I've often thought, for example,
that if somehow or other I could spend an evening-go to dinner and have a
couple of drinks-with one of these people, who would I probably prefer it
to be? And certainly Washington would be the one I would be least
interested in spending an evening with, because he is so unapproachable. I'd
probably opt for John Adams. If nothing else he'd probably gossip, and I'd
probably learn more from him than the others.

       Lucas: You've been extraordinarily prolific throughout your entire
career, even while teaching three courses per semester. I wonder about
your work habits. Do you write daily?

       Ferling: Actually, the three courses a semester are about one-third
of what I taught for more than my first twenty years at West Georgia. We
were on a quarter system, and we taught three courses a quarter. So I
taught nine courses a year, and we met each class five days a week. So I
was in the classroom for three hours every day. In some respects, maybe
that was good, because it disciplined me to come to work five days a week.
Most of my colleagues currently teach a two-day a week schedule, but I
still opt to teach a five-day a week schedule, so that I come up to the
office every single day. All through my career I have tried to work out a
teaching schedule with a long block of time in order to write. And it's
meant doing some things that I didn't particularly want to do. I taught an
awful lot of night classes when we were teaching the three courses a
quarter. Now I teach my classes in the afternoon, and I come to work at
8:00 AM and try to work in the library for up to four hours. I don't look
at a stopwatch or anything, and on days when I'm just spinning my wheels,
I pack it up and wait for a better day tomorrow. But generally I try to go
to the library and work there for several hours every day, five days a

       Lucas: So that's where you do your writing as well as your
research-in the library?

       Ferling: Right, in the library. But then I come back, and, of
course, I have the computer in my office. But I still compose in longhand.
When I started my career, I worked with a typewriter, and I wasn't a good
enough typist to think about typing and think about writing
simultaneously. So I got in the habit of writing in longhand, and I still
do that. After I revise what I write in longhand, then I come back and put
it on the computer and do all of my revisions. I once had an office mate
who used to say that he loved research, but he hated writing. He thought
that writing was just an exercise and sort of a necessary evil. I always
saw writing as an art form and loved writing every bit as much as doing
the research. I spend at least 50% of the time that goes into every book
writing and rewriting and rewriting.

       Lucas: What do you have in the works now, after the Adams Vs.
Jefferson book?

       Ferling: Well, Oxford is going to publish that book some time in
late September or early October. They've put it on the fast track, and
they're hoping to get it out in the midst of this presidential
election-they hope it will get a little bit more attention that way. Since
submitting the manuscript for the election of 1800 book, I've begun
working on a book on the War of Independence. I've always veered between
biography or political history and military history. One of the writers I
most admire is John Keegan, the British military historian. I absolutely
loved his single-volume histories of World War I and World War II, which I
think are useful for both a scholarly audience and a popular audience, and
I'm writing a book on the War of Independence that is modeled on Keegan's


       IN THE LAST ISSUE of Historically Speaking, we featured a forum on
Jonathan Edwards's place in the American history narrative. In this issue
we turn the spotlight to the largest American denomination, Roman
Catholicism, in an effort to explore its impact on the nation's political
and intellectual life. As with the forum on Jonathan Edwards, we again
debate whether the standard narrative of American history adequately
encompasses religious experience and thought. And we also touch on the
more controversial notion of rewriting American history from distinctive
religious perspectives.

       Our guide will be University of Notre Dame historian John T.
McGreevy, whose Catholicism and American Freedom was published last year
by W.W. Norton. On May 7, 2004, the Historical Society and the
Intercollegiate Studies Institute co-hosted a forum on McGreevy's book at
ISI's headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware. McGreevy opened with a brief
synopsis of Catholicism and American Freedom, after which Leo Ribuffo,
Christopher Shannon, and Eugene McGarraher provided commentary and then
McGreevy responded. Edited versions of the participants' comments appear

       John T. McGreevy

       Catholicism and American Freedom [CAAF] sketches the interplay
between Catholic and American ideas of freedom, beginning in the 1840s
when an unprecedented wave of European immigrants made Catholicism the
single largest religious denomination in the United States. Many of these
immigrants helped create what historians now describe as the 19th-century
Catholic revival.1 The revival affected large regions of France, Belgium,
Germany, and Italy, and swept across Ireland and into the United States,
Canada, parts of Latin America, and Australia. Mass attendance became more
regular, and religious vocations (especially among young women) grew
steadily. Ultramontanism, the term most associated with the revival, is
shorthand for a cluster of shifts that included a Vatican-fostered move to
Thomistic philosophy, a more intense experiential piety centered on
miracles and Vatican-approved devotions such as the Sacred Heart, an
international outlook suspicious of national variations within
Catholicism, and a heightened respect for church authorities ranging from
the pope to parish priests. All this was nurtured in the world of Catholic
parishes, schools, and associations, whose members often understood
themselves as arrayed against the wider society. 2

       What this revival and its intellectual legacy meant for the history
of the United States is my subject . . . .

       John T. McGreevy is professor of history and department chair at the
University of Notre Dame. In addition to Catholicism and American Freedom
(Norton, 2003), he wrote Parish Boundaries: The Catholic Encounter with
Race in the 20th-Century Urban North (University of Chicago Press, 1996).

       1 Raymond Grew terms the conflict between Catholicism and liberalism
a "central theme" of 19th-century European history. See Grew, "Liberty and
the Catholic Church in 19th-Century Europe," in Richard Helmstadter, ed.,
Freedom and Religion in the 19th Century (Stanford University Press,
1997), 197; Margaret Lavinia Anderson, "The Limits of Secularization: On
the Problem of the Catholic Revival in 19th-Century Germany," Historical
Journal 38 (1995) 647-670; and Austin Iverveigh, ed., The Politics of
Religion in an Age of Revival: Studies in 19th-Century Europe and Latin
America (Institute of Latin American Studies, 2000).

       2 Joseph A. Komonchak, "Modernity and the Construction of Roman
Catholicism," Cristianesimo nella storia 18 (1997): 353-385.


       Leo P. Ribuffo

       For more than two centuries, harsh nativists, relatively benign
critics, and reflexive Protestant celebrationists have called the Roman
Catholic Church an un- American institution. While dispensing with the
loaded term "un-American," we need to take the issue seriously. In several
respects, some obvious and some harder to discern, the Catholic Church as
an institution has stood apart from prevailing American attitudes.

       First, and most obviously, as George Marsden has observed in The
Soul of the American University (1994), the United States is the "only
modern nation" whose "dominant culture was substantially shaped by
low-church Protestantism." Some Scots, Swiss, and Canadians might dispute
the "only," but Marsden's general point is sound. Second, and less
obviously at a time when scholars exaggerate American diversity past and
present, the United States was conceived by leaders with an extraordinary
sense of national mission. This sense of mission, which derived both from
Reformation Protestantism and from Enlightenment republicanism, sometimes
involved changing the rest of the world by example and sometimes involved
changing the rest of the world by force of arms. Indeed, despite notable
internal divisions, this sense of mission energized Americans to conquer a
continent within a half century of independence, a conquest that in turn
further energized nationalist sentiment. In this patriotic, even
chauvinist climate, the Catholic Church was-and still is-an international
organization headed by a foreigner. Not surprisingly, the Vatican
classified the United States as a mission field until 1908, well after it
had become the foremost economy on earth.

       Third, since roughly the 1840s, the United States has been a
democracy. Political democracy, though limited almost entirely to white
men at the outset, nonetheless went far beyond what was available in
Europe. An expandable ethos of equality was at least as important, and the
results quickly could be seen within Protestantism. In the 18th century
Jonathan Edwards would have agreed with all of the popes that the true
faith could not be defined by every Tom, Dick, or Hezekiah who happened to
read Scripture. In the 19th century Barton Stone, Charles Grandison
Finney, and Joseph Smith had no such qualms. The Catholic Church was
not-and is not-a democracy. Indeed, as McGreevy stresses, while Americans
on the whole became increasingly democratic and enthusiastic about
individual autonomy, the Vatican and elements of the American Church
became less so.

       Throughout much of his book, perhaps most of it, McGreevy in theory
seems to prefer this more restrained definition of freedom, which might be
called, with a bow to traditionalist conservatives, ordered liberty . . .

       Leo P. Ribuffo is Society of the Cincinnati George Washington
Distinguished Professor of History at George Washington University. He is
the author of Right, Center, Left: Essays in American History (Rutgers
University Press, 1992) and is working on a book titled The Limits of
Moderation: Jimmy Carter and the Ironies of American Liberalism.

       Eugene McCarraher

       In his conclusion to What I Saw in America G. K. Chesterton
reflected with a splendid and rueful uncertainty about the future of
American democracy. Having already dubbed America the "nation with the
soul of a church," Chesterton wondered if that soul-baptized, he knew, in
the font of Protestantism-would be able to withstand the corrupting
influences of modern science and capitalism. Indeed, the growing cultural
authority of business and science alerted Chesterton to the need to root
democracy in religious not secular ground. Against John Dewey, H. L.
Mencken, and other acolytes of a post-Christian order, Chesterton argued
that the most insidious enemy of democracy was not religion but
secularism, and especially the scientific, instrumentalist rationality to
which more intellectuals were pinning their hopes.

       Chesterton reasoned that because secular reason could demonstrate
wide variations in intelligence, skill, and merit, it undermined belief in
equality and buttressed the leadership of elites, and thus could not
provide an impeccable basis for a democratic culture. However, because it
asserted the divine parentage and likeness of men and women, "the dogmatic
type of Christianity, [and] especially the Catholic type of Christianity"
could, in Chesterton's view, assure democratic citizens that "its
indestructible minimum of democracy really is indestructible." Democracy
had no reliable foundation, he concluded, but in "a dogma about the divine
origin of man." Any secular groundwork was "a sentimental confusion, full
of merely verbal echoes of the older creeds."

       Bored by secular liberals and socialists, Chesterton made clear that
his brief for orthodoxy should give no comfort to conservatives: earlier
in the book, he had confessed the "attraction of the red cap as well as
the red cross, of the Marseillaise as well as the Magnificat," and now
declared that "the idealism of the leveler could be put in the form of an
appeal to Scripture, and could not be put in the form of an appeal to

       Echoing Augustine and anticipating the libertarian pessimism of
postmodernists, Chesterton hoped that Americans would remember that "there
is no meaning in democracy if there is no meaning in anything; and that
there is no meaning in anything if the universe has not a centre of
significance and an authority that is the author of our rights." "So far
as that democracy becomes or remains Catholic and Christian, that
democracy will remain democratic," he concluded. "In so far it does not,
it will become wildly and wickedly undemocratic."

       Except among Chesterton aficionados, What I Saw in America remains
virtually unknown among American intellectuals. That's a pity, I think,
because it's the finest Catholic, or even foreign, reflection on American
democracy ever written, far superior to Tocqueville's Democracy in America
in points of literary style, intellectual prowess, and critical acuity.
Tocqueville, of course, thought that American Catholics, far from being
frightened into submission by clerics, would in fact provide the strongest
ballast for democratic equality. So it's certainly not surprising that
American Catholic intellectuals, especially those maturing or born after
the Second World War, have routinely appealed to Tocqueville when arguing
for an affinity between Catholicism and liberal capitalist democracy.

       One of the many small merits of John McGreevy's book is that it
features only two brief and unconnected lines about Tocqueville. And while
it doesn't mention either Chesterton or his record of American travels,
the great merit of McGreevy's study is that it demonstrates the wisdom and
durability of Chesterton's ambivalence . . . .

       Eugene McCarraher is assistant professor in the Department of
Humanities and Augustinian Traditions at Villanova University. He is the
author of Christian Critics: Religion and the Impasse in Modern American
Social Thought (Cornell University Press, 2000).


       Christopher Shannon

       John McGreevy is the Jay Dolan of his generation. I mean this not
only in the sense of his being the leading practitioner of American
Catholic history today, but also in his default capacity as ambassador
from this subfield to the larger profession. Dolan burst on to the
professional scene with his 1975 monograph The Immigrant Church. Scholars
not particularly interested in church history were drawn to the work as a
study of immigrants, and Dolan's use of then cutting-edge techniques of
social history placed his book at the vanguard of the academic history of
its day. Twenty or so years later, McGreevy burst on to the scene with his
Parish Boundaries (1996). Here the innovation was less in method than
subject matter: the book examined the role of urban Catholics in the
resistance to integrated housing during the civil rights era. Race, an
issue relatively neglected by Dolan, had become the single most burning
passion of American historians following the end of the Cold War.
Non-Catholic historians praised Parish Boundaries for its sensitivity to
religion as a "factor" in race relations; Catholic historians praised it
for being praised by non-Catholics. Parish Boundaries appealed to those
within the field as a model of yet another "new" American Catholic history
that would finally realize the long dreamed of integration into the
mainstream of the profession-precisely the hope for Dolan's Immigrant
Church some twenty years earlier.

       I raise these connections less out of concern for professional
genealogies than as a symptom of a logic of revision that afflicts the
profession as a whole. For reasons that I believe are in the book itself,
I doubt that Catholicism and American Freedom will succeed where Dolan's
work failed. It does stand, however, as a ringing endorsement of the
professional standards to which post-Dolan American Catholic historians
still aspire. As we are at a meeting of a professional association forged
in battles over the status of those standards, I think it is appropriate
to evaluate the book at a level that can unfortunately best be identified
as meta-history. . . .

       Christopher Shannon is assistant professor of history at Christendom
College. His most recent book is A World Made Safe for Differences (Rowman
and Littlefield, 2000).


       John T. McGreevy

       Leo Ribuffo challenges me to more fully integrate Catholic
politicians and political activists into my account. Fair enough. In part
my explanation for the modest attention devoted to John Kennedy, Al Smith,
and Joseph McCarthy is that I wrote an intellectual history not a
political one, and I do discuss how Catholic and non-Catholic
intellectuals understood the Smith campaign in 1928 and Kennedy's handling
of the religious issue in 1960. What does seem notable by its absence in
CAAF, in retrospect, is a thorough treatment of religion and politics at
the local level, where the parallels between the neighborhood- based,
male-dominated parish structure and the neighborhood-based, male-dominated
ward structure deserve much closer attention.

       Ribuffo adds that more sustained treatment of figures such as
Phyllis Schlafly (or, I might add, William F. Buckley) would have widened
the scope of a narrative too concerned with Catholic responses to American
liberals at the expense of Catholic influence on the modern conservative
movement. Again, a reasonable point. Still, fine books on the relationship
between Catholics and modern conservatives do exist.1 And within the
100,000 words bequeathed me by W.W. Norton I thought it more important to
focus on the dominant Catholic intellectual tradition -suspicious of
liberalism, certainly, but dismissive (at least until the 1980s) of
National Review-style free market economics.

       Ribuffo also makes a broader claim: that I place too great an
emphasis on "words" or more particularly "clergy and leading theologians"
at the expense of studying the behavior of lay Catholics. Certainly I do
not intend to argue that all lay Catholics reflexively obeyed priests and
bishops. (And some of the figures discussed at length in the book,
including Orestes Brownson, James McMaster, and Jacques Maritain, were not
priests.) Or that all "Catholic" immigrants to the United States from
Italy, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, or anywhere else were Catholic in a
meaningful sense. What I can do is point to a subculture of remarkable
density and scope and ask what ideas and practices sustained it. That all
Catholics did not agree upon or even care about the contours of those
ideas and practices is unremarkable, and we should avoid placing upon
Catholics a burden of coherence not impressed upon, say, followers of John
Dewey. . . .

       1 Patrick Allitt, Catholic Intellectuals and Conservative Politics
in America, 1950-1985 (Cornell University Press, 1993). Also see Rick
Perlstein, Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the
American Consensus (Hill and Wang, 2001).


       Thomas Schoonover

       Most Americans have considered the Spanish-American War (a better
term is the War of 1898) as a conflict that took place in Cuba, Puerto
Rico, and the Philippines and as a dispute between the United States and
Spain. The conventional emphasis upon Cuba and Puerto Rico has made it
easy to think of this war primarily in domestic terms. This viewpoint
seemed patently misleading to me while in graduate school. The War of 1898
incorporated permanent global engagements into U.S. foreign relations.

       The War of 1898 and its aftermath formalized the transfer of
leadership-unwillingly on the part of Spain, most of Europe, and Japan-in
the ongoing quest for access to wealth in Asia and the Pacific. This
passage of power to the United States occurred within the context of its
competitive relationship with other states in the North Atlantic region
and in the Caribbean and Pacific basins. Since the 17th century,
Protestant North Americans considered the Catholic colonies to the south
and west and all the non-Christian areas of the Pacific basin as a
challenge to their religion, security, commercial activity, and culture.
U.S. growth and transformation across the continent pointed to the
resilient tradition of British colonial expansion. In the 1780s U.S.
vessels hunted whales and seals, and other ships traded in Pacific and
East Asian waters. Soon, missionaries undertook to "civilize" the Pacific
islanders and East Asians (and U.S. sailors), while U.S. warships departed
to explore the Pacific, protect U.S. interests, and tutor those Pacific
basin dwellers who failed to adopt U.S. civilizing and material
instructions. At times, these ships were used to protect U.S. objectives
from the Chinese, Japanese, and Europeans who proposed alternative visions
for the Pacific basin. These expansive impulses generated tensions and
conflict in both the Caribbean and Pacific basins in the course of the
century-and-a-half after 1776 . . . .

       Thomas Schoonover, Sagrera Professor of History, University of
Louisiana at Lafayette, is the author of The French in Central America:
Culture and Commerce, 1820-1930 (Scholarly Resources, 2000), Germany in
Central America: Competitive Imperialism, 1821-1929 (Scholarly Resources,
1999), and, with Lester Langley, The Banana Men: American Mercenaries &
Entrepreneurs in Central America, 1880-1930 (University Press of Kentucky,


       George Huppert

       The 2004 conference of our Society took place in an unusual setting.
We met in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, from June 3-6. Our host was the Spruce
Point Inn, an exquisite seaside resort hidden amid woods and surrounded by
the ocean. Some of our participants may have harbored doubts about setting
out to meet in this distant rendezvous, but their doubts were dispelled on
arrival. Others signed up for the conference, coming from as far away as
Berkeley or London, precisely because of the setting's powerful appeal.

       For three days we were able to talk to each other under ideal
circumstances, mostly outdoors. The weather was perfect. Our plenary
sessions were held in the beautiful conference center finished only hours
before our arrival.

       We broke with tradition by avoiding corporate hotels in big cities.
We also departed from conventional ways by having papers precirculated and
asking presenters to speak informally instead of reading prepared texts.
These measures went a long way toward erasing the distinction between
panel and audience. In most sessions this resulted in lively and fruitful
exchanges among all those present. We continued our discussions under the
tent adjacent to the conference center, where breakfast and lunch buffets
were served by the inn's fine staff.

       Some of us still had enough energy in reserve to go on talking into
the night. Some of us brought our children who could be heard squealing
and splashing in the swimming pool while the imposing figure of Donald
Yerxa floated past them. Meanwhile serious work was going on in the
conference rooms where we found ourselves adventuring way beyond the
confines of our fields of expertise. It is not often that specialists in
Renaissance studies or labor history join discussions of South Indian
historiography, Russian church history, Jeffersonian democracy, or
Holocaust memoirs.

       We did not wander too far from the theme of the conference, which
was defined as a reflection on the current state of the discipline.
Roundtables on world history and global identity were among the broadest
topics addressed. Elsewhere we discussed the state of the art in
Renaissance, Enlightenment, and Latin American historiography, as well as
new developments in the study of medieval Poland, modern Islam, and Black
nationalism. Among the sessions that provoked a good deal of argument were
the Christopher Lasch Lecture delivered by Sean Wilentz and Sanjay
Subrahmanyam's discussion of world history. Bruce Kuklick, Leo Ribuffo,
and Marc Trachtenberg offered their critical summary of the current state
of the American historical profession in an atmosphere of rising hilarity,
beginning with Kuklick's dissection of the foibles of our profession and
rising to storms of laughter in response to Ribuffo's practiced comedy

       As is to be expected, much of importance happened outside of the
formal sessions. The relaxed setting-more like a retreat than a business
meeting-allowed us to avoid the usual distractions. Communication with the
outside world was severed. No cell phones ringing, no e-mail. The sense of
having happily stepped out of our ordinary activities permeated the entire
meeting. Instead of arranging job interviews, we arranged a concert
offered to us by Deborah Coclanis and her friends.

       Our experiment with new ways of interacting is likely to influence
our next meeting. We may want to pre-circulate papers again-we may even go
so far as to read them carefully before the meeting-and we may try to
retain the informality we achieved in Boothbay at our next meeting, in
2006, when we will descend on the Chapel Hill campus at the invitation of
our president, Peter Coclanis.

       George Huppert, past president of the Historical Society, is the
author of several books and articles on early modern European history. In
1989 he was decorated as Chevalier de l'Ordre des Palmes Academiques by
the French government.

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