John Judis lists his top ten American history books. “They’re my favorites; they’re not the best books, because I haven’t read comprehensively, especially in certain periods. It’s much heavier on the history of religion than on social history, and on the Progressive Era than on, say, the Civil War.” Everyone is entitled to her favorite writers and periods of history. Fair enough.
See if you can guess why Historiann has a problem with this list (aside from the fact that the latest publication date on his list is 1988!):
- Perry Miller, Errand into the Wilderness, (1956).
- William McLoughlin, Revivals, Awakenings and Reform, (1978).
- Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787, (1969).
- Michael Paul Rogin, Fathers and Children: Andrew Jackson and the Subjugation of the American Indian, (1988).
- Herbert Croly, The Promise of American Life, (1909).
- Martin J. Sklar, The Corporate Reconstruction of American Capitalism, 1890-1916, (1988).
- Warren Susman, Culture and History, (1973).
- Harold Cruse, The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual, (1967).
- William Appleman Williams, The Contours of American History, (1961).
- Louis Hartz, The Liberal Tradition in America, (1955).
Native American history? Check. Book on the so-called “Founding Fathers?” Check. African-American history? Check. Progressive (but certainly not Marxist–this was published in The New Republic, after all!) scholars and scholarship? Check. It seems like there was an effort (however modest and unconvincing) at representing certain kinds of diversity here for the benefit of the readers of The New Republic. They would undoubtedly question a list that was entirely (instead of just mostly) lily-white.
According to this (admittedly personal and idiosyncratic) list, no women in American history have ever made or contributed to any achievement of note, and no woman historian has ever written a worthy book. History is the purview solely of powerful male politicians and intellectuals. (No wonder he calls his list “looking backward!”)
How Sisyphian our task is to get people to see history as something that centers on women as much as men, and as a genre that women have mastered.