What follows is an interview that I did with Mark Edwards about my book, A War for the Soul of America: A History of the ultureulture Wars, which was originally posted at the excellent Religion in American History Blog. Below the interview is a list of the archives I consulted while researching the book, as well as a selected bibliography, both of which were cut for space reasons but which scholars of recent US history will no doubt find useful. A bibliography of the culture wars is somewhat unique in its easy mix of primary and secondary source materials.
Mark Edwards is Assistant Professor of History at Spring Arbor University and is the author of The Right of the Protestant Left: God’s Totalitarianism.
ME: You mention in your Acknowledgements that Leo Ribuffo gave you the topic for this book. Could you say more about how and why it came about?
AH: After one of Professor Ribuffo’s seminars that I took in graduate school, Leo offhandedly suggested that I should write my dissertation on the battles over education during the 1950s. A few years later I had a dissertation, which he directed, and a few years after that I had my first book, Education and the Cold War. Leo seems to have a knack for knowing how to match my interests to the gaps in the literature. So in 2008, just as my first book had come out, Leo once again offhandedly suggested in an email that perhaps my second book should be a history of the culture wars of the 1980s and 1990s. He knew then, and I soon discovered, that no historian had ever written a monograph about the culture wars. And the topic really did match my interests since it allowed me to explore education, politics, and culture—all through the lens of intellectual history.
But Leo suggesting that I write a history of the culture wars was also deeply ironic, because he doesn’t think that historians should take the “culture wars” label seriously. He always prefaces the “so-called culture wars.” He thinks it’s hyperbolic and that Americans have always had shouting matches related to the national identity. Continue reading