AMERICAN HISTORY IN AMERICAN THOUGHT: Christopher Columbus to Henry Adams by Bert James Loewenberg

AMERICAN HISTORY IN AMERICAN THOUGHT: Christopher Columbus to Henry Adams

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A ""history of ideas,"" tracing the development of American historical studies in a broad context of ""culture"" and academic change. Future volumes will survey 20th century American historians of American history and ""philosophical issues."" This makes it hard to criticize lacunae in the present volume: for instance, the section on the Revolutionary period combines narrative and bibliographic precis -- what Mercy Warren said about John Hancock or Washington biographers from Weems to Washington Irving -- without anatomizing basic points of dispute like the social character of the revolution, Hamilton vs. Jefferson, or the Constitution struggle. And when Loewenberg says that despite Parrington, Niebuhr, Curti and Commager ""the religious influence in the making of the American mind. . . remains generally unsurveyed,"" he might expose himself to charges of ignoring Hofstadter, William A. Williams, and squadrons of others. Much of this book is a straightforward rundown of the work of American historians: Jared Sparks, ""the first great editor""; John William Burgess, synthesizer of the scientific method and Hegelianism; Woodrow Wilson, whose conservatism is not probed; and many others, some chiefly important for contributions to building graduate study programs. At times the progression becomes a mere sequence, and the polemics (about Reconstruction, for example) get lost in circumstantialities of X's work and Y's reputation; at times the influence of Whig historians or of Ranke is noted, but systematic exposition presumably awaits later sections. Ethnocentric Easterners are chided, but Loewenberg shares the emphasis when he skimps on Turner; and despite the promise of breadth, clashes like those between Henry Cabot Lodge and Henry Adams are treated as commons room anecdotes without seizing the basic differences or shared premises. The book will stimulate dedicated students, but as an interpretive venture it needs future tying of ends and spinning of new lines.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1972
Publisher: Simon & Schuster