Date: Wed, 9 Mar 1994 14:15:51 -0600 Subject: Reading Lists for US Political History
Date: Wed, 9 Mar 94 10:22:33 CST
From: John F. Reynolds <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In a few weeks I and many other folks on the net will be putting
together a reading list for their upper division U.S. Political
History class. So I thought it might be useful to see what everyone
is using. For the purposes of setting things off I present below
my tentative annotated reading list, and I invite others to critique
my list, offering substitutions where appropriate. A couple of rules
(1) Don't propose a book for a reading unless it is in print (or at least only very recently out of print, so that it is still available used. A later listing might discuss great out of print books we wish we could use.
(2) The books need to be reasonably priced (paperback in most cases). This is a standard assumption at our institution, and presumably at others -- but correct me if I am wrong about this. (3) Let's leave articles out of the discussion for the moment (unless there is a good reader already out there). A later discussion could focus on a dream list of articles all in one cover to supplement the following.
Edmund S.Morgan, Inventing the People, The Rise of Popular Sovereignty in England in America.
I really like this book! First, it has some provocative things to say about the "fictions" that underlie all political regimes. It should get students to recognize is a concept not a reality. It also links U.S. political development with our mother country, Cromwell and the Glorious Revolution are part of U.S. History. I was dismayed to find that the students who read it in my last classes hated it, perhaps because is mainly intellectual history.
Gordon Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution
Said to be the now definitive work on the subject, and deservedly so. I was surprised to find how pervasive the social history is to the account, and for this reason is not a bad match for the Morgan book. The two overlap somewhat in their coverage of the revolution, but they come at it with very different approaches and conclusions.
R. Kent Newmeyer, The Supreme Court Under Marshall and Taney,
If American politics is unique in the amount of power wielded independently by the judiciary, it is appropriate to give at least some attention to this branch of the govt. This book has all the strengths of the best books in the Harlan/Davidson series: historiographical and concise and bristling with perspectives on the Federal power and political economy. Students are intrigued by the expose of the court's policy making role from the Marshall court on.
Joel Silbey, The American Political Nation, 1838-93
A splendid recapitulation of the Party system and so much of the research on 19th American politics. I do not hold quite so favorable an opinion of the parties and the party period, still this book does a fine job of introducing a number of important themes: realignments, ethnocultural politics, the decline of the party era.
Ann Scott, Natural Allies, Women's Associations in American History
This book fills in a big gap in the historiography, laying out the role of women in political process that was quite important well before enfranchisement, and outlining the limited scope of the public sector. It also brings one into the progressive era -- with an admittedly old fashioned interpretation that seems to be gaining ground as of late. I have not used this book in class yet, and I am interested to see how students react (female students at least -- I suppose that the reaction of a certain portion of the male element will be easy to predict.
William Riordon, Plunkitt of Tammany Hall
This is always a crowd pleaser, students feel that Plunkitt is talking straight to them and sometimes are carried away by the down home rhetoric. I was very impressed with the newly released St.Martin's version, introduced by Terrence McDonald -- this is the only edition to order. It includes a much more balanced and sophisticated appraisal of Plunkitt with some useful primary source material. Certainly puts Plunkitt and machine politics in a very different (and I think more accurate) light. It has some interesting points to make the invention of the machine politician.
Thomas Leonard, The Power of the Press, The Birth of American Political Reporting
This is more a collection of essays, that each can be drawn on to look at the role of the "media" in the colonial, revolutionary, and 19th centuries. It certainly presents a sharp contrast to the media's role in the present day. The latter half of the book is not so easy to follow (for me at least) but does have stimulating things to say the media's responsibility for the current day disgust with politics. I break this book up and have the chapters read in conjuction with the various other readings.
Alan Brinkley, Voices of Protest: Huey Long, Father Coughlin and the Great Depression.
I have not found students can get very excited about the standard literature on the New Deal (I've used Conkin, Sitcoff and others). I thought I would try this out -- though admittedly it misses the important public policy initiatives of this crucial era. Still, it is a good read with something to say about American political culture of the twentieth century.
Hedrick Smith, The Power Game, How Washington Works.
A big book that consumes a lot of time on the syllabus. Still this is a book that really covers the territory (inside the beltway, at least). Combined with the earlier works it helps put the current political process into perspective: we see the role of the media, new forms of "honest graft", and the demise of political parties. You need to do some substantial editing, but it reads pretty easily.
OK -- so that is my input. I am interested in some feedback and proposed substitutions. I think the list is about the right length, though if I could get away with it I would like to add Eric Foner's Short History Reconstrucion. The list is short on the multicultural end, and I would be interested in other works that brings minorities into the center of the action. Also works that cover local politics. But let's hear from others.
Return to H-POL's Home Page.
Social Sciences Online
Copyright © 1995-2007