The Princeton Encyclopedia of American Political History - Vol. 1

The Princeton Encyclopedia of American Political History - Vol. 1

The Princeton Encyclopedia of American Political History - Vol. 1

The Princeton Encyclopedia of American Political History - Vol. 1


An essential resource for anyone interested in U.S. history and politics, this two-volume encyclopedia covers the major forces that have shaped American politics from the founding to today. Broad in scope, the book addresses both the traditional topics of political history--such as eras, institutions, political parties, presidents, and founding documents--and the wider subjects of current scholarship, including military, electoral, and economic events, as well as social movements, popular culture, religion, education, race, gender, and more.

Each article, specially commissioned for this book, goes beyond basic facts to provide readers with crucial context, expert analysis, and informed perspectives on the evolution of American politics. Written by more than 170 leading historians and social scientists, The Princeton Encyclopedia of American Political History gives students, scholars, and researchers authoritative introductions to the subject's most important topics and a first step to further research.

  • Features nearly 190 entries, organized alphabetically and written by a distinguished team of scholars, including Dean Baker, Lewis L. Gould, Alexander Keyssar, James T. Kloppenberg, Patricia Nelson Limerick, Lisa McGirr, Mark A. Noll, Jack N. Rakove, Nick Salvatore, Stephen Skowronek, Jeremi Suri, and Julian E. Zelizer

  • Describes key political periods and eras, from the founding to the present day

  • Traces the history of political institutions, parties, and founding documents

  • Explains ideas, philosophies, and movements that shaped American politics

  • Presents the political history and influence of geographic regions

  • Describes the roles of ethnic, racial, and religious groups in the political process

  • Explores the influence of mass culture, from political cartoons to the Internet

  • Examines recurring issues that shape political campaigns and policy, from class, gender, and race to crime, education, taxation, voting, welfare, and much more

  • Includes bibliographies, cross-references, appendixes, a comprehensive index, and more than 50 illustrations and maps


What is political history? the answer may seem obvious. in everyday language, “politics” in a democratic nation like the United States is the subject of who gets elected to office and what they do with the powers granted to them by voters, laws, and constitutions. It is an endless contest of speech making, lawmaking, fund-raising, and negotiating in which ambitious actors spend their lives struggling to come out on top.

This definition may seem like common sense, but it does not capture what most political historians actually do. Many authors who engage in the serious study of past politics try to understand the larger forces that propel changes in governments, laws, and campaigns. the most influential historians, in particular, have always framed the narrative of legislative give-and-take and winning and losing office within a context of grand historical themes and developments. in the 1890s, Frederick Jackson Turner argued that the frontier experience shaped American democracy. For him, regional identities and cultures drove political development. Early in the twentieth century, Charles and Mary Beard contended that the clash of economic interests was at the root of every turning point in U.S. history—from the drafting of the Constitution to the Civil War. At midcentury, Richard Hofstadter used the psychological concept of “status anxiety” to explain the fervor of both Populist and Progressive reformers. in recent decades, leading scholars have sought to illuminate evolving tensions within the body politic by focusing on intersecting differences of religion and cultural taste, race and ethnicity, gender and class.

This encyclopedia also assumes an expansive definition of politics: the meaning and uses of power in the public sphere and the competition to gain that power. the word politics derives from the Greek word for “citizen,” and the rights, powers, and obligations of citizens and their governments have been at the core of the subject since the days of Aristotle, Plato, and Herodotus.

Another tradition has been with us since the building of the Acropolis: history is a constant debate. in this spirit, our contributors offer interpretations of their topics, not merely a factual record or a summary of views held by others. Each article ends with a bibliography meant to guide the reader to some of the most significant works on that topic.

The study of politics in the United States has featured several interpretive approaches since the first serious histories of the subject were published in the middle of the nineteenth century. First, at a time when universities were just beginning to train historians, such self-taught, eloquent writers as George Bancroft and Henry Adams wrote multivolume narratives of presidents and diplomats. Their prose was often vivid, and their judgments had a stern, moralizing flavor.

By the early twentieth century, such grand personal works were being supplanted by a rigorously empirical approach. This was a style of history pioneered by disciples of the German academic scholar Leopold von Ranke, who declared that the past should be studied “as it really was.” Rankean scholars wrote careful monographs which piled fact upon fact about such subjects as the decisions that led to independence and the making of new state constitutions. They believed a “scientific” approach could produce a political history with the opinions of the historian left out.

At the same time, however, a new group known as the “progressive” historians was garnering controversy and a large readership outside academia as well as among . . .

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