Book review: Contesting Commemoration: The 1876 Centennial, Independence Day, and the Reconstruction-Era South.

   Louisiana State University Press, 2021. $45.00   How does a nation celebrate itself when it is in many ways still at war with itself? Jack Noe tackles this question in his engaging study of nationalism and identity in the post-Civil War South through the lens of Independence Day celebrations… Continue reading

Book Review: The End of Ambition: The United States and the Third World in the Vietnam Era by Mark Atwood Lawrence

If there was anything that most historians had firmly placed on the list of Richard M. Nixon’s accomplishments – good or bad – it was that his presidency engineered a rightward shift in US foreign policy. Yet, according to Mark Atwood Lawrence’s important new study, The End of Ambition: The United States and the Third World in the Vietnam Era, even this too must be stripped from the 37th president’s beleaguered historical legacy. An analysis of US policy towards the ‘Global South’ during the 1960s, Lawrence’s book argues that the key transitions away from the ‘ambitious’ policies of the John F. Kennedy years were made not by Nixon but Lyndon Johnson. Under the pressure of the Vietnam War, political change at home, and increasing anti-Americanism abroad, Johnson abandoned his predecessor’s interest in transformative global change to focus on stability and lower costs, even if that meant embracing pro-US strongmen. Nixon’s subsequent ‘doctrine’ to this effect merely codified in rhetoric what was already the case in practice. Continue reading

Book Review: The Republican Party and the War on Poverty: 1964-1981 by Mark McLay

In The Republican Party and the War on Poverty, Mark McLay analyses how the Grand Old Party (GOP) responded to Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty, and the issue of poverty more broadly, between 1964 and 1981. He considers what Republican opposition to anti-poverty measures reveals about the GOP and wider US politics during this period. In chronological chapters, McLay examines continuity and change in Republican approaches to poverty. He shows persuasively how Republican reactions to the War on Poverty shaped the GOP’s enduring conservative, anti-statist, and racialised responses to poverty, alongside how anti-poverty measures were understood by the wider public, for years and decades to come. Continue reading

Book Review: The Rise of Common-Sense Conservatism: The American Right and the Reinvention of the Scottish Enlightenment by Antti Lepisto

Why were historians of conservatism shocked by Donald Trump’s rise? Antti Lepistö, an intellectual historian at the University of Oulu, Finland, seeks to answer this question in his first monograph, The Rise of Common-Sense Conservatism: The American Right and the Reinvention of the Scottish Enlightenment. The work is split into six chapters each focusing on a different element of neoconservative thought. The first- and second-chapters study journalist Irving Kristol’s use of ‘common man’ rhetoric in the late-1970s and early-1980s, and how social scientist James Q. Wilson built upon this. Continue reading

Spaces of Empire: Two Early Modern Views from both sides of the Atlantic

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In order to understand the relationship between empire and space in American history, it is necessary to address the historiographical tendencies and myths of the past four hundred years.[i] Retrospective historiographical myths of the nascent United States, as it sought to establish its own history in the shadow of the… Continue reading

Review: HOTCUS Annual Conference 2017

The tenth annual meeting of Historians of the Twentieth Century United States (HOTCUS) took place in an uncharacteristically balmy Dublin, hosted by University College Dublin situated in the fair city’s south side. The event attracted delegates from Melbourne to Oslo and seemingly everywhere in between, a fitting testament to its growing international appeal Continue reading

Review: The US and Us: American History in Britain in the Twenty-First Century

The framing question of the workshop was: how do we research the US from a distance? Andrew Johnstone, the organiser of this series of events, and holder of the British Academy’s Rising Star Award, drew together an impressive roster of academics, archivists, and librarians to help us answer that question. Continue reading