I suspect some of you may have some answers to the following query.
I’m thinking of proposing an essay for an upcoming CFP for the journal Rethinking History.
The CFP is very much attuned to intellectual history. The journal, in the words of the editors, is “invit[ing] proposals for a themed issue entitled ‘Liberalism, Conservatism, Radicalism, and Historical Materialism.’ The purpose of this issue is to reconsider the relationship between political ideas and historical practice. We seek essays representing a variety of approaches and disciplines.”
I might propose an essay that seeks to compare and contrast recent leftist historical interpretations in relation to conservative historiography. My presupposition is that historians with overt political bents must reckon with political appropriations of the past. For instance, leftist historians have been forced to reexamine their broad historical theories to account for the failure of socialism to lay deep roots in most societies, especially in the US. I think this has led to some very creative and innovative interpretations. In the realm of intellectual and cultural history I might examine the work of Michael Denning, Perry Anderson, Mike Davis. I might also examine the work of Gabriel Kolko in diplomatic history. His work represents an innovative break with more traditional Marxist approaches to foreign relations.
I harbor doubts that conservative historians have had such a renaissance based on the fact that history has supposedly confirmed their worldviews. This does not mean that political conservatives have not written interesting and lasting work. But the trajectory of the conservative oeuvre has not been forced to reckon with failure to the same degree, and has thus not been as theoretically innovative. Am I crazy here?
My question to all of you: Who would you consider to be equivalent of these leftist historians? I was thinking of comparing John Lewis Gaddis to Kolko for diplomatic history. But in terms of intellectual/cultural history, who do you consider to be the most important historians working from a clearly conservative perspective? I’m considering writing about John Patrick Diggans, although Diggans considers himself a centrist liberal. Maybe Paul Johnson? My colleague and fellow student of conservative thought Chris Hickman (who, by the way, has voiced interest in joining the USIH collective) suggests that I examine the work of James Wilson and perhaps Richard Posner. Any thoughts?
I look forward to your comments and suggestions.