U.S. Intellectual History Blog

Book Acknowledgments

Book coverWhat follows are the acknowledgments that will be published as part of my forthcoming book, A War for the Soul of America: A History of the Culture Wars. I am publishing these here because this public venue has been so very important in helping me write the book. I would also like to hear from readers about what you look for when you read book acknowledgments. I should note that I wrote these almost a year ago, and that if I were to write them now I would change a few things, add a few people, etc. Perhaps I will make such revisions and additions explicit in the near future. But for now I post these acknowledgments as they will appear in the book.


I am excited to publish this book with the University of Chicago Press, and am deeply grateful to Robert Devens, the editor who signed me to an advance contract. Robert saw the potential for this book and was extremely helpful in giving it direction in its early stages. Timothy Mennel, who took over as my editor midway through the process, has been equally enthusiastic and has proved an insightful reader. Tim secured two fantastic readers to review my manuscript. These anonymous readers gave me confidence going forward with their praise and helped make the book that much better with their criticism. I thank them for their important service. Speaking of making the book better, Ruth Goring’s deft copyediting improved the text by leaps and bounds. And last but not least, in acknowledging all of the fine people at the University of Chicago Press, I must thank Nora Devlin, who has patiently walked me through the production process with aplomb, and Timothy McGovern, who undertook the important task of creating a fine index.

Leo P. Ribuffo is a towering figure in my life as a historian. For the last thirteen years Leo has been an influential teacher, an honest critic of my work, and a good friend. He even suggested the topics for both of my books. Along with the dozens of other doctoral students advised by Leo—my fellow Ribuffoites—I owe this smart, irascible, hilarious, lovable historian an enormous debt of gratitude.

In addition to Leo, several of my friends have read the manuscript in part or in whole. David Sehat bears special mention as my most thorough and challenging reader. David has been incredibly generous with his time and intelligence in helping to make this book better. I am also grateful to Raymond Haberski, who boosted me when I needed it and helped me see the big picture when it was obscured. Two other people read the manuscript in whole: Mike O’Connor, one of the smartest and more skeptical readers of my work, and Julian Nemeth, who has preternatural editorial gifts. I owe thanks as well to Allison Perlman, Claire Potter, and Daniel Geary, who each read and offered expert criticism on chapters related to their own research. And for reading my book proposal at a much earlier stage, I appreciate the sage advice I received from George Cotkin, Timothy Lacy, and David Steigerwald.

Several people at my home institution, Illinois State University, have been wonderfully supportive of my efforts to write this book. Thanks to colleagues in the ISU College of Arts and Sciences who favorably reviewed my proposals, I received several summer research grants, which allowed me to travel to various archives, and a one-semester sabbatical, which allowed me to write a large chunk of the book. I must also thank Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Gregory Simpson and Associate Deans Dagmar Budikova and Joseph Blaney, all of whom have been generous with their support. Of everyone at ISU, I am most grateful to my department chair, Anthony Crubaugh, a consummate professional and good friend. And I appreciate those colleagues in the history department who read and discussed my book proposal at a faculty research seminar: Richard Hughes, Lou Perez, Stewart Winger, and Amy Wood. I am thankful to Touré Reed for his guidance on the historiography of race and social policy. I also thank Alan Lessoff for introducing me to Robert Devens at the University of Chicago Press. And last but not least, I thank Issam Nassar for being such a great colleague and friend.

This book emerged from the crucible of the U.S. Intellectual History Blog, where I have been a regular writer since 2007. The ideas that inform this book took shape in the many conversations I have had at the USIH Blog with my blogmates—Benjamin Alpers, Lauren Kientz Anderson, L. D. Burnett, Robert Greene II, Ray Haberski, Tim Lacy, Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn, Rivka Maizlish, Kurt Newman, Mike O’Connor, Andy Seal, and David Sehat—and with our smart community of readers. In this way the USIH Blog has acted as an informal, ongoing peer-review process for the book.

Stemming from our efforts to build an online scholarly community with the blog, we formed an academic society—the Society for U.S. Intellectual History (S-USIH)—which hosts a vibrant annual conference. The society and conference have endowed this and many other books with a community of readers, and for that I would like to thank those who have helped make it happen: Ben Alpers, Tim Lacy, Paul Murphy, Mike O’Connor, Allison Perlman, David Sehat, Lisa Szefel, and Daniel Wickberg. Nobody has done more to steward S-USIH than Ray Haberski. We all owe Ray.

Librarians and archivists are the unsung heroes of any history book. I must sing the praises of the wonderful Vanette Schwartz, history librarian at Illinois State University, who has been amazingly helpful. And I extend my gratitude to the countless librarians and archivists at the following institutions: the University of Illinois Archive Research Center, Urbana, Illinois; the Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, DC; the Hoover Institution, Palo Alto, California; Western History Collection, Denver Public Library; Special Collections Research Center, Gelman Library, George Washington University, Washington, DC; Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, Simi Valley, California; Manuscripts and Archives Division, New York Public Library; Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas, Lawrence.

I presented several conference papers on the research I conducted for this book. I am thankful to those historians who commented on them: Beth Bailey, Martha Biondi, Casey Nelson Blake, Jonathan Holloway, Andrew Jewett, Bruce Kuklick, James Livingston, George H. Nash, Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen, and Martin Woessner. Their sharp commentaries have given me food for thought and have made this book much better.

In April 2011 I was invited by David Courtwright to participate in a seminar at Arizona State University on the topic “Morality, Public Policy, and Partisan Politics in Recent American History.” I gave a paper on curriculum debates and received comments from an eclectic group of scholars who included Donald Critchlow, our gracious host, as well as Carolyn Acker, Beth Bailey, Ian Dowbiggin, Michael Nelson, Phillip Vandermeer, and Daniel Williams. The seminar papers were then transformed into a special issue of the Journal of Policy History, carefully edited by Courtwright. Reworked bits of my article—“‘A Trojan Horse for Social Engineering’: The Curriculum Wars in Recent American History,” Journal of Policy History 25, no. 1 (2013): 114–36—appear in this book.

I have given several invited talks about my research on the culture wars. I am grateful to the following people and institutions for their kind invitations and for providing me with smart, curious audiences: W. Fitzhugh Brundage and the History Department at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, and Christopher Waldrep and the History Department at San Francisco State University, where I gave job talks in February 2009, when this project was still in its infancy; the American History Teachers’ Collaborative in Urbana, Illinois; Ray Haberski and his colleagues at Marian University, Indianapolis; Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen and the Harvey Goldberg Center at the University of Wisconsin–Madison; Jason Stahl and the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy and Development at the University of Minnesota–Minneapolis; Keith Woodhouse, Huntington Institute on California and the West, and the History Department at the University of Southern California; Jason Stacy and the Illinois Council for the Social Studies, which invited me to give its keynote address in April 2013; Christian Olaf Christiansen and ECORA at Aarhus University, Denmark; Allison Perlman and the Humanities Collective, University of California–Irvine; Clodagh Harrington and the UK-based American Politics Group, which invited me to address its 2013 meeting at the US embassy in London; Nick Witham and the History Department at Canterbury Christ Church University, UK; Bevan Sewell and the Department of American and Canadian Studies, Nottingham University, UK—and Richard King, who gave smart, generous comments on my Nottingham talk; Jack Thompson and the Clinton Institute for American Studies, University College–Dublin, Ireland; Daniel Geary, Juergen Barkhoff, and the Arts and Humanities Research Group, Trinity College, Dublin; Laurie Béreau and the Department of English and American Studies, Université de Strasbourg, France; and Stig Skov Mortensen and Pedagogical and Philosophical Studies, Aarhus University–Copenhagen, Denmark. I must also thank the UK and Irish Fulbright Commissions for funding my travel to England and Ireland from Denmark to give several talks.

Regarding my Fulbright experience, I am very grateful to Marie Mønsted and the other good folks at the Danish-American Fulbright Commission, in addition to all of my colleagues in the Center for American Studies at the University of Southern Denmark,who, by generously helping my transition to living and teaching in Denmark during the 2013–14 academic year, have made it possible to finish writing this book. Special thanks in this regard to Niels Bjerre-Poulson, Thomas Bjerre, Jørn Brondol, Charlotte Granly, Mette Kobbersmed Ringsmose, Marianne Kongerslev, Anne Mørk, David Nye, and Anders Rasmussen.

I am pleased to thank three key participants in the culture wars who helped me with this project. First, my former professor and current friend Martin Sherwin, who lent me three large boxes of ephemera he had collected during his involvement in the Enola Gay–Smithsonian controversy. Second, Gary Nash, who walked me through the events of the National History Standards controversy. And third, the late Sheldon Hackney, with whom I corresponded in 2009 about his chairmanship at the National Endowment for the Humanities.

As always, I am grateful to have good friends who share my passion for history and ideas. In particular, I thank my graduate school comrades Christopher Hickman and Jason Roberts, who offered encouragement and periodically sent me sources related to the culture wars the past seven years. I am also lucky to be friends with resourceful scholars like Lisa Szefel, who has broadened my knowledge of gay and lesbian history, and David Weinfeld, who has informed my understanding of Jewish American history. My longtime friend Andres Martinez helped me grasp the importance of Chicano leaders like Corky Gonzales. And my old professor and friend Charles Angeletti started me down the path of this book and career by getting me hooked on reading Howard Zinn.

Although this is my second book, it is not far removed from my experience as a graduate student at George Washington University. Three amazing professors in particular sparked my intellectual obsessions, and thus implicitly helped shape this book: Donald Collins, Melani McAlister, and Andrew Zimmerman—thanks to you all.

I have been privileged to teach many intellectually curious students, at Illinois State University and the University of Southern Denmark, about the culture wars. They, more than anyone else, have taught me how to make complex and seemingly arcane issues relatable. I am particularly obliged to my former student Corey Cox, who compiled a bibliography on the culture wars in higher education as part of his undergraduate research project.

I spent hundreds of hours writing this book in two coffee houses. I offer my gratitude to the proprietors and baristas at the Coffeehound in Bloomington, Illinois, and at Nelle’s in Odense, Denmark, for keeping me stimulated with delicious coffee and for providing the perfect ambience for writing.

Finally, I would like to thank my family. I am forever indebted to my parents Karen Hartman, who taught me how to write, and Tim Hartman, who taught me how to enjoy life. To my sister Sarah Hartman and brother Matt Hartman, who continue to inspire me each in their own ways. To my mother-in-law Jane Wilhelm, who cares for me as if I were her own son. To my father-in-law Richard Wilhelm and his wife Shelly Porges, who lovingly subsidized several research trips. And finally, to Erica, whom I will never be able to thank enough.

Over the seven years I have been working on this book—which has proved to be the biggest challenge of my academic career thus far—I saw the birth of my two boys, Asa and Eli. Although Erica is a giving partner and wonderful parent, having two young children around the house has not quite sped up the writing process. But if Asa and Eli have slowed down this book, they have also made life that much more rewarding. Many of the figures in this book fought the culture wars in a search for meaning. Asa and Eli have given more meaning to my life, and for that I dedicate this book to them. With love.

6 Thoughts on this Post

  1. Andrew,
    Thanks for this thorough and heartfelt appreciation of all in your life who have contributed to your success. Rich and I are proud to be among them and to have as thoughtful and devoted a son-in-law as you are. We wish you all the success with this book, clearly a labor of love as much as it is a labor of labor, and with all else you do in your life.

  2. Is a coffee house less noisy and topsy turvy than a house with two young boys in it? I need my own space to write. I know folks do it all the time, but I can’t work that way. But it obviously works for you, and that’s all that matters.

    • White noise works well for me. I can lose myself in my reading and writing in a coffee house. My boys make a lot of noise but rarely is it “white.”

  3. Andrew, what a beautiful acknowledgment. Gosh, it is a delight and an honor to be included in such company. What a gift and a kindness.

    And thanks for your kindness in sending me the page proofs for the book. Couldn’t have done my work on this chapter without it. I just posted my bibliography at my blog, and there you are, between Vincent Harding and Kerwin Lee Klein. That’s not bad company either, and your book certainly belongs on the reading list of anyone who wants an *outstanding* overview of the cultural conflicts plaguing (or blessing?) American life in the 1980s and 1990s. Bravo — and thanks again.

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