It’s been a while since we talked bibliographic canon, so I thought we might give it another whack. A couple of years ago I posted a list for the long nineteenth century. The list below covers all of modern American history excluding the Revolution and the Federalist period. My colleague Michelle Brattain and I drafted it for doctoral students in our department, and it has benefited from suggestions by several others on our faculty. But the list is still too slanted toward our own interests.
Here’s the goal: Come up with a list of truly canonical books that everyone who has gone to graduate school in U.S. history should have read. This is not just a list of intellectual and cultural history–it is supposed to include all the major works in modern U.S. history in all the different sub-specialties. In certain cases where an article was substantially the same as an important book, we added the article instead. We also left out many good books and books that would help to fill out a coherent narrative, trying instead to arrive at a truly canonical list. That is, of course, an impossible task, given the fragmentation and specialization of the historiography of the United States. But we thought it worth the effort in any case.
So now the question is: where have we gone wrong? The list is capped at 100 works, so all suggestions for additions need to be accompanied by an equal number of works to cut. That is the only way to arrive at a canonical list. But we also could have gone wrong in our periodization or in any number of ways, so critique away. I look forward to the conversation.
Without further ado, here’s the list.
Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Book List
Peter Novick, That Noble Dream (1988)
Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought (2007).
Charles Grier Sellers, The Market Revolution: Jacksonian America, 1815-1846 (1991).
Sean Wilentz, The Rise of American Democracy (2005)
Harry L. Watson, Liberty and Power, Rev. Ed. (2006)
Sean Wilentz, Chants Democratic (1984)
Eugene D Genovese, Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made (1974)
Eugene D Genovese, The Political Economy of Slavery (1967).
Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Within the Plantation Household (1988)
Drew Faust, John Henry Hammond and the Old South (1982)
William Hutchison, Religious Pluralism in America (2003)
Jon Butler, Awash in a Sea of Faith (1990).
Christine Heyrman, South Cross (1997)
Paul Johnson, Shopkeeper’s Millenium, Rev. Ed. (2004)
Nathan Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity (1989)
Dave Roedeger, The Wages of Whiteness, Rev. Ed. (2007)
Ira Berlin, Many Thousands Gone (1998)
Nancy Cott, Bonds of Womanhood (1977)
Christine Stansell, City of Women (1986)
Eric Foner, Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men (1995)
Eric Foner, Reconstruction (1989).
Orville Vernon Burton, The Age of Lincoln, (2007).
James MacPherson, Battlecry of Freedom (1988)
Drew Faust, The Creation of Confederate Nationalism (1988)
Broad 19th Century
Rogers M Smith, Civic Ideals (1997).
John F Kasson, Rudeness & Civility (1990).
Steven Hahn, A Nation Under Our Feet (2003).
Matthew Frye Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color (1999)
Leo Marx, The Machine in the Garden (1964)
Lawrence Levine, Black Culture and Black Consciousness (1977)
Lawrence Levine, Highbrow/Lowbrow (1988)
Karen Haltunen, Confidence Men and Painted Women (1982)
Ellen Carol DuBois, Woman Suffrage and Women’s Rights (1998)
Grace Elizabeth Hale, Making Whiteness (1998)
Gilded Age and Progressive Era
William Cronon, Nature’s Metropolis (1991).
Alan Trachtenberg, The Incorporation of America (1982).
William A. Link, The Paradox of Southern Progressivism (1992)
Robert H Wiebe, The Search for Order (1968).
C. Vann Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow 3rd ed. (1974)
Gail Bederman, Manliness and Civilization (1996)
Rosalind Rosenberg, Beyond Separate Spheres (1982)
Daniel T. Rodgers, Atlantic Crossings (1998)
T.J. Jackson Lears, No Place for Grace (1981)
Fox and Lears, eds., Culture of Consumption (1983)
Alan Dawley, Struggles for Justice (1991)
Christine Stansell, American Moderns (2000)
David Kennedy, Over Here (1980)
Herbert Gutman, Work, Society, and Culture in Industrializing America (1976)
Roy Rozenzweig, Eight Hours for What We Will (1983)
Edward Ayers, Promise of the New South (1992)
Glend Gilmore, Gender and Jim Crow (1996)
Michael Kazin, Populist Persuasion (1995)
George Chauncey, Gay New York (1994)
John Higham, Strangers in the Land, 2nd ed. (1992)
Edward L. Larson, Summer for the Gods (2006
Henry F. May, End of American Innocence, Columbia University Press Morningside edition (1992).
Nancy Cott, Grounding of Modern Feminism (1987)
Nancy MacLean, “The Leo Frank Case Reconsidered: Gender and Sexual Politics in the Making of ReactionaryPopulism,” Journal of American History, 78 (Dec. 1991).
William Leuchtenberg, Perils of Prosperity, 2nd ed. (1993)
Patricia Sullivan, Days of Hope (1996).
Alan Brinkley, Voices of Protest (1983)
Lizbeth Cohen, Making a New Deal (1990)
William E. Leuchtenburg, Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal (1963).
Harvard Sitkoff, ed., Fifty Years Later: New Deal Evaluated (1985)
Paul Conkin, The New Deal, 3rd ed (1992)
Stephen Fraser and Gary Gerstle, ed., The Rise and Fall of the New Deal Order (1990)
John Dower, War without Mercy (1986)
Cold War/Postwar Politics
Lizabeth Cohen, A Consumer’s Republic (2004)
David Oshinsky, A Conspiracy So Immense (2005)
Melvin Leffler, The Specter of Communism (1994)
Fredrik Logevall, Choosing War (1999).
Marilyn Young, The Vietnam Wars (1991)
Odd Arne Westad, The Global Cold War (2005)
Friedman, Andrea, “The Smearing of Joe McCarthy: The Lavender Scare, Gossip, and Cold War Politics,” American Quarterly 57 (2005): 1105-1129.
Brattain, “Race, Racism and Anti-Racism,” American Historical Review (December 2007).
George C Herring, America’s Longest War, 4th ed. (2002).
Matthew Lassiter, The Silent Majority (2006)
Dan Carter, From Wallace to Gingrich (1996)
Michael Schaller, Reckoning with Reagan (1992)
Cold War/Postwar Social Movements
Harvard Sitkoff, The Struggle for Black Equality, rev. ed. (1993)
Robin Kelley, “We Are Not What We Seem: Rethinking Black Working-class Opposition in the Jim Crow South,: Journal of American History 80 (June 1993): 75-112.
John D’Emilio, Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities 2nd ed (1998)
Timothy Tyson, “Robert F. Williams, ‘Black Power,’and the Roots of the Black Freedom Struggle,” Journal of American History 85 (Sept. 1998): 540-570.
Braunstein and Doyle, eds. Imagine Nation (2002)
John Dittmer, Local People (1994).
Jeremy Varon, Bringing the War Home (2004).
Terry Anderson, The Movement and the Sixties (1996)
Thomas Sugrue, Sweet Land of Liberty (2008)
David Chappell, Stone of Hope (2004)
Cold War/Postwar Culture
Stephen J. Whitfield, Culture of the Cold War (1991)
Cuordileone, K. A. “‘Politics in an Age of Anxiety’: Cold War Political Culture and the Crisis In American Masculinity, 1949-1960” Journal of American History 87 (2000): 515-545.
Costigliola, Frank, “‘Unceasing Pressure For Penetration’: Gender, Pathology, and Emotion in George Kennan’s Formation of the Cold War” Journal of American History 83 (1997): 1309-1339.
Cold War/Postwar Society
Elaine Tyler May, Homeward Bound, Rev. ed. (2008)
Thomas J. Sugrue, The Origins of the Urban Crisis (1996).
Rebecca E. Klatch, A Generation Divided (1999).
Bruce Schulman, The Seventies (2001)
Andreas Killen, 1973 Nervous Breakdown (2006)
Joseph Crespino, In Search of Another Country (2007)
Kevin Michael Kruse, White Flight (2005).
Lisa McGirr, Suburban Warriors (2001).
Melani McAlister, Epic Encounters, updated ed. (2005)
Gary Gerstle, American Crucible (2001)