Below is an essay by Jesse Lemisch, elaborating on some remarks he made at the USIH Facebook page. (If you do not have a Facebook account, you can read his excerpted remarks in this blog post.) I should note here — because I promised him I would — that I take exception to Prof. Lemisch’s characterization of the professional practice of intellectual historians in general, present company included. Nevertheless, I am glad for the opportunity to share his perspective with our readers. –LDB
Higham, Hofstadter and Woodward: Three Liberal Historians?
Here’s a fuller account than I gave previously of my experience with John Higham’s rage against left scholarship in 1969. Thinking about this reminds me of some events involving Vann Woodward and Richard Hofstadter, adding up to a suggestion that some historians who are generally thought of as liberals had very bad reactions to the Sixties, and that the liberal expression for which these historians are known should be seen as at odds with who they were and what they did when confronted with real challenges to their worldview in the real world. This further suggests that we might be skeptical about a frequent albeit not universal practice in intellectual history: swallowing ideas whole without scrutinizing what they actually translated into in concrete reality. Continue reading