U.S. Intellectual History Blog

Where Have You Gone, Gordon Wood?


A few weeks ago, I posted an essay by William Hogeland, on the triumph of ideas over action in this history of the Founding, and how this was a bad thing. In a post at The Junto: A Group Blog on Early American History, Michael Hattem takes up this issue in the context of briefly surveying Gordon Wood’s career and how other historians have responded to him. Here’s a sample (Hattem’s concluding paragraph):

“At The Junto, there are a few of us who are working on or have worked on elites and intellectual history in early America, including my own work on the dissenting intelligentsia and Anglican clergy in the middle colonies, Tom Cutterham’s work on “power and ideology among American elites in the 1780s,” and Michael Blaakman’s work on land speculators and their role in state formation in the early republic. Early Americanists of my generation do not appear to carry the cultural baggage which the generation following Wood acquired from its experience and the subsequent generation through its graduate education. Or at least we don’t carry it as heavily. For some junior historians, there seems to be less in terms of raw self-identity at stake in choosing their topics, creating a different dynamic in which studying elites is not an implicit statement against historians of race, gender, or class and vice versa. One could argue that this is not a good thing, that historians should have a personal stake in their choice of subject, but the effects of such detachment will remain to be seen.”

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