My OAH experience this year was short but sweet. My panel, “Advise and Dissent: Intellectuals, Values, and Postwar Conservative Trajectories,” which took place on Thursday, was a huge success by my account. Chaired by J. David Hoeveler (University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee), it included excellent papers by Gregory Schneider (Emporia State University), who talked about Stephen Tonsor, and Lisa Szefel (Pacific University, the next S-USIH treasurer), who presented on Peter Viereck. I gave a paper on Gertrude Himmelfarb. The highlight of the session was provided by George H. Nash, author of the groundbreaking The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America since 1945 (which we debated last year at length here).
Nash opened with a fascinating autobiographical discussion about his peculiar career trajectory–which is of historiographic significance given that his seminal book on conservative intellectuals was written way, way before the topic became trendy. He then spoke some about the incredible surge of historiography on conservatism since Alan Brinkley offered the topic his imprimatur
. After that, Nash concluded with some suggestions about what still needs to be done on the history of conservatism. Here they are:
Nash contends that we need biographies of the following three conservative intellectuals:
1) Irving Kristol. (It’s amazing nobody has written this yet.)
2) Richard John Neuhaus. (I think our own Ray Haberski is the perfect candidate to write this book.)
3) Peter Viereck. (As Nash noted, luckily Lisa Szefel is on the case.)
Nash also argued that we need more historical exploration of the following three spheres of conservative intellectual history:
1) Neoconservatism. (I couldn’t agree more.)
2) The changing place of Europe in the conservative imagination. (This is intriguing–I wanted to ask Nash more about this but forgot to.)
3) Conservative religious ecumenicalism and interfaith alliances. (Speaking as someone writing on the culture wars, for which the breakdown of religious barriers in favor of new political alliances was a major cause and consequence, I second this notion.)
What do you all think? How about an open thread on what still needs to be done on the history of conservatism, conservative intellectuals, or even intellectual history more broadly.