Pragmatism, Feminism, and Democracy: Rethinking the Politics of American History

By James Livingston | Go to book overview

Introduction

Attitudes Toward History

Only in the United States do the losers, deviants, miscreants, and malcontents get to narrate the national experience-not, mind you, as exiles or émigrés such as Leon Trotsky or Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, but as accredited professionals boring from within their own cultures and disciplines. In historiographical time, for example, coming to terms with the second American republic codified in the Fourteenth Amendment took almost a century, because the formative moment known as Reconstruction was originally defined by historians who identified with the good old causes of southern honor and white supremacy. But an even better example is the historiography of the Progressive Era, which qualifies, by all accounts, as an equally formative moment in the making of the nation. Here, too, historians who have proudly identified with the good old lost causes (especially but not only Populism) have been able to define the moment in question, and to shape research agendas accordingly. In this sense, coming to terms with the third American republic- the one that resides in the emergence of corporate capitalism between 1890 and 1930-has been no less difficult than coming to terms with the second. 1

Several years ago, in a graduate reading seminar that covered the period 1880 to 1930, I was reminded

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