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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 March 2012

Department of History, Harvard University E-mail:


American intellectual history in the future will be embodied, embedded, and extended. Building on a sturdy foundation of past practices, intellectual historians will consolidate the advances of the last half-century and continue to study ideas articulated in multiple registers, by multiple historical actors, for multiple purposes.

Forum: The Present and Future of American Intellectual History
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

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1 Hollinger, David A., In the American Province: Studies in the History and Historiography of Ideas (Bloomington, 1985), p. 177Google Scholar.

2 A sample of prize-winning intellectual biographies published recently includes Brinkley, Alan, The Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century (New York, 2010)Google Scholar; Capper, Charles, Margaret Fuller: An American Romantic, 2 vols. (New York, 1992–2007)Google Scholar; Foner, Eric, The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery (New York, 2010)Google Scholar; Lewis, David Levering, W. E. B. DuBois, 2 vols. (New York, 1993–2000)Google Scholar; Marsden, George, Jonathan Edwards: A Life (New Haven, 2003)Google Scholar; and Marshall, Megan, The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism (New York, 2005)Google Scholar.

3 Skinner, Quentin, Visions of Politics, vol. 1, Regarding Method (Cambridge, 2002)Google Scholar, vii: “If we are to write the history of ideas in a properly historical style, we need to situate the texts we study within such intellectual contexts and frameworks of discourse as enable us to recognise what their authors were doing in writing them.”

4 Lovejoy, Arthur O., “Reflections on the History of Ideas,” Journal of the History of Ideas 1 (1940), 323CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

5 On the continuing usefulness of some now less fashionable insights from the linguistic turn see Spiegel, Gabrielle M., “The Task of the Historian,” American Historical Review 114 (2009), 115CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

6 Gordon-Reed, Annette, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (New York, 2008)Google Scholar; Banning, Lance, The Sacred Fire of Liberty: James Madison and the Founding of the Federal Republic (Ithaca, 1995)Google Scholar; and Throntveit, Trygve, Power without Victory: Woodrow Wilson and the American Internationalist Experiment (Chicago, forthcoming)Google Scholar.

7 A few recent examples include Martinez, David, ed., The American Indian Intellectual Tradition: An Anthology of Writings from 1772 to 1972 (Ithaca, 2011)Google Scholar; Konkle, Maureen, Writing Indian Nations: Native Intellectuals and the Politics of Historiography, 1827–1863 (Chapel Hill, 2004)Google Scholar; Conn, Steven, History's Shadow: Native Americans and Historical Consciousness in the Nineteenth Century (Chicago, 2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Reed, Adolph Jr, and Warren, Kenneth W., eds., Renewing Black Intellectual History: The Ideological and Material Foundations of African American Thought (Boulder, CO, 2010)Google Scholar; Zagarri, Rosemaire, Revolutionary Backlash: Women and Politics in the Early American Republic (Philadelphia, 2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Kelley, Mary, Learning to Stand and Speak: Women, Education, and Public Life in America's Republic (Chapel Hill, 2007)Google Scholar; and Winterer, Caroline, The Mirror of Antiquity: American Women and the Classical Tradition, 1750–1900 (Ithaca, 2007)Google Scholar.

8 Compare Darnton, Robert, The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Eighteenth-Century France (New York, 1995)Google Scholar; idem, Poetry and the Police: Communication Networks in Eighteenth-Century Paris (Cambridge, 2010); Chartier, Roger, “Do Books Cause Revolutions?” in idem, The Cultural Origins of the French Revolution, trans. Cochrane, Lydia G. (Durham, NC, 1991), 169–97Google Scholar; and the recent symposium “What Was the History of the Book?”, with contributions by Bell, Bill, Chartier, Darnton, Burke, Peter, and Hall, David D., in MIH 4 (2007), 491544CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

9 Hall, David D. et al. , eds., The History of the Book in America, 5 vols. (Chapel Hill, 2007–9)Google Scholar.

10 See The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol 12, Ecclesiastical Writings, ed. David D. Hall (New Haven, 1994), pp. 80–85.

11 Slauter, Eric, “Reading and Radicalization: Print, Politics, and the American Revolution,” Early American Studies 8/1 (2010), 540CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

12 Ratner-Rosenhagen, Jennifer, American Nietzsche (Chicago, 2012)Google Scholar; see also Woessner, Martin, Heidegger in America (Cambridge, 2011)Google Scholar; and Winterer, Caroline, The Culture of Classicism: Ancient Greece and Rome in American Intellectual Life, 1780–1910 (Baltimore, 2002)Google Scholar.

13 See, for example, Cohen-Cole, Jamie, “Cold War Salons, Social Science, and the Cure for Modern Society,” Isis 100 (2009), 219–62CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed; Engerman, David C., Gilman, Nils, et al., eds., Staging Growth: Modernization, Development, and the Global Cold War (Amherst, 2003)Google Scholar; Isaac, Joel, Knowledge by Design: Crafting the Human Sciences in Modern America (Cambridge, 2012)Google Scholar; Jewett, Andrew, To Make America Scientific: Science, Democracy, and the University before the Cold War (Cambridge, 2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Lemov, Rebecca, World as Laboratory: Experiments with Mice, Mazes, and Men (New York, 2006)Google Scholar; and cf. Daston, Lorraine, “Science Studies and the History of Science,” Critical Inquiry 35 (2009), 798813CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

14 See Rothschild's, Emmaintroduction to the forum “The Idea of Sustainability,” with essays by Paul Warde, Alison Frank, and Rothschild, in MIH 8 (2011), 147–51Google Scholar.

15 See, for example, Micklethwait, John and Wooldridge, Adrian, The Company: A Short History of a Revolutionary Idea (New York, 2003)Google Scholar; and Belgrad, Daniel, The Culture of Spontaneity: Improvisation and the Arts in Postwar America (Chicago, 1998)Google Scholar.

16 See James T. Kloppenberg, Tragic Irony: Democracy in European and American Thought (forthcoming), chap. 8.

17 See for example Burns, Jennifer, Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right (New York, 2009)Google Scholar; Bordogna, Francesca, William James at the Boundaries: Philosophy, Science, and the Geography of Knowledge (Chicago, 2008)Google Scholar; and Blower, Brook, Becoming Americans in Paris: Transatlantic Politics and Culture between the World Wars (New York, 2011)Google Scholar.

18 Withers, Charles W. J., “Place and the ‘Spatial Turn’ in Geography and in History,” Journal of the History of Ideas 70 (Oct. 2009), 637–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

19 Slate, Nico, Colored Cosmopolitans: Race and the Shared Struggle for Freedom in the United States and India (Cambridge, MA, 2011)Google Scholar. See also Manjapra, Kris, “From Imperial to International Horizons: A Hermeneutic Study of Bengali Modernism,” MIH 8 (2011): 327–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

20 See Dubois, Laurent, Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution (Cambridge, MA, 2004)Google Scholar; and idem, “An Enslaved Enlightenment: Rethinking the Intellectual History of the French Atlantic,” Social History 31 (2006), 1–14.

21 Engerman et al., Staging Growth; Borgwardt, Elizabeth, A New Deal for the World: America's Vision for Human Rights (Cambridge, MA, 2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Moyn, Samuel, The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History (Cambridge, MA, 2010)Google Scholar; and, more broadly, Bender, Thomas, ed., Rethinking American History in a Global Age (Berkeley, 2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

22 Burgin, Angus, The Return of Laissez-Faire (Cambridge, 2012)Google Scholar.

23 The intellectual history of the West has so far attracted less attention than that of the South. Cf. Worster, Donald, A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir (New York, 2008)Google Scholar; O'Brien, Michael, Conjectures of Order: Intellectual Life and the American South, 1810–1860, 2 vols. (Chapel Hill, 2004)Google Scholar; and Bernath, Michael, Confederate Minds: The Struggle for Intellectual Independence in the Civil War South (Chapel Hill, 2010)Google Scholar.

24 See EriSchwitzgebel, c, Perplexities of Consciousness (Cambridge, MA, 2011)Google Scholar.

25 For a recent overview of developments in this domain, ranging from the Mapping the Republic of Letters project to work at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, see Patricia Cohen, “A New Enlightenment: Digital Keys to the Humanities’ Riches,” New York Times, 17 Nov. 2010, pp. C1, C5. I am hardly the best guide: after reading Cohen's article in the newspaper, I clipped it and put it in a manila folder. The future lies with those whose folders are all electronic.