The Culture Wars

Daniel Rodger’s Age of Fracture is “a history of the ways in which understandings of identity, society, economy, nation, and time were argued out int he last decades of the century, and how those struggles of books and mind changed the ways in which social reality itself would be imagined.” (2) The first chapter of his book–which … [Read more]

Memorials and Tourism

Harriet Senie, in Memorials to Shattered Myths: Vietnam to 9/11, builds on work I’ve read previously for public history, including Kirk Savage’s Monument Wars, Marita Sturken’s Tourists of History, and Edward Linenthal’s The Unfinished Bombing. Senie examines The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Oklahoma City memorial, the Columbine High School memorial, and the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. Each … [Read more]

The 1960s

Van Gosse, in Rethinking the New Left: An Interpretive History, provides a history of the movements that struggled and advocated for change between the 1950s and 1975, which are collectively termed the New Left. Gosse states that his goal “is to offer a new synthesis of older and recent scholarship on all of the movements of … [Read more]

The Holocaust and Memory

Edward Linenthal, in Preserving Memory: The Struggles to Create America’s Holocaust Museum, examines the challenges faced by those who took part in establishing the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, and the ways in which Holocaust memory was defined and determined at that site by ideas, objects, and people. Linenthal begins by detailing the creation of … [Read more]

African American Civil Rights Movement

Thomas Sugrue, in The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit, examines Detroit in the 25 years following World War II. The work examines issues of housing, segregation, industrial relations, racial discrimination, and deindustrialization. Sugrue argues “the coincidence and mutual reinforcement of race, economics, and politics in a particular moment, the period … [Read more]

Contested Public Spaces

This week’s readings focused on public space, memorials, and nationhood. Owen Dwyer and Derek Alderman’s Civil Rights Memorials and the Geography of Memory has an interesting premise: the authors examine the politics of producing civil rights memorials and the ways in which the Civil Rights Movement is presented in public space. They are looking at what … [Read more]

Historic House Museums

Jennifer Pustz, in Voices from the Back Stairs: Interpreting Servants’ Lives at Historic House Museums presents a fascinating look at the ways in which historic house museums can integrate class into their interpretations of the past through analyzing the work of domestic servants. She is responding to Crew and Sims’s “Locating Authenticity: Fragments of a Dialogue,” and to … [Read more]

The Cold War

John Lewis Gaddis’s The Cold War: A New History is a political historical narrative of the Cold War. Gaddis is a skilled writer and adeptly details the significant foreign policy decisions, political ideologies, and key actors of the Cold War. Beginning with World War II, Gaddis discusses the goals and objectives of the US and Russia during World War II and … [Read more]

Depression and New Deal

Anthony Badger, in The New Deal: The Depression Years, 1933-1940, examines specific aspects of New Deal activity, including industry, organized labor, agriculture, welfare, and politics. He argues that the New Deal did not represent a sharp break with the past and instead functioned merely as a ‘holding operation’ for American society. Badger posits that more dramatic … [Read more]

Commemorating Slavery and Freedom and the Creation of the Lost Cause

Kirk Savage’s Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in Nineteenth Century America is a study of how the history of slavery and freedom was communicated publicly through monuments. He writes that his book “explores how that history of slavery and its violent end was told in public space–specifically in the sculptural monuments that increasingly … [Read more]