U.S. Intellectual History Blog

Intellectual History Books for the Spring

Today’s post will be a brief summation of intellectual history, and intellectual history-related, books coming out this spring. Some of them, in fact, are already out. Regardless, it is clear that 2016 is shaping up to be an important year for intellectual history as a field. Also, with the upcoming first annual African American Intellectual History Society conference in Chapel Hill, North Carolina this coming week (where I’ll be part of a panel on #BLKTwitterstorians), numerous panels on African American Intellectual History at the National Council for Black Studies next week, and this fall’s Society for U.S. Intellectual Historians conference, there will be plenty of intellectual ferment about our field before the year is over.


Robert S. Levine’s The Lives of Frederick Douglass offers a much needed look at the various writings of Douglass beyond his The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Considering the towering figure Douglass struck in nineteenth century America, The Lives of Frederick Douglass reminds us of the other autobiographies written by Douglass, especially his Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1881), the only one of his three autobiographies written after the American Civil War and Reconstruction periods. Douglass offers a singular perspective on American history during a tumultuous era of secession, reconstruction, and national retreat from citizenship and race. Levine’s book already looks like a must-read.

Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War is a look at how the memory of that war has been shaped in various nations, including the United States, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and other nations. Viet Thahn Nguyen’s book offers a new entry to memory studies that goes across borders. I would also say anyone interested in civil religion should read this book as well. The memory of that war—which had an impact upon several nations—is something worth considering in not just an American context but an international context.

Two books about recent American history and the urban crisis will also offer new perspectives on American intellectual history and African American history. Battle for Bed-Stuy: The Long War on Poverty in New York City and From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America both give the intellectual, political, and cultural context of what we know as the War on Drugs. These two works by Michael Woodsworth and Elizabeth Hinton, respectively, look to offer new takes on recent American history—a topic near and dear to many writers and readers here at the S-USIH blog.

As seen above with the new Douglass book, biography often offers a good way to do intellectual history. Laura Visser-Maessen’s book, Robert Parris Moses: A Life of Civil Rights and Leadership at the Grassroots is a reflection on the life of civil rights activist Robert Moses. Visser-Maessen attempts to bring back to the forefront of civil rights scholarship. In the process, this book can also be a way to think about intellectual history on a grassroots level—an important space within society where intellectual history happens, but still needs greater attention from scholars.

There are numerous intellectual history works coming out this spring—this post was only meant as a small sample of what’s to come. By all means, add more in the comments section!

5 Thoughts on this Post

  1. Thanks for building my spring booklist, Robert! Here are a few more I look forward to reading:
    Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter Onuf, “Most Blessed of the Patriarchs”: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of Imagination
    (http://books.wwnorton.com/books/detail.aspx?id=4294989834)
    Susan Juster, Sacred Violence in Early America (http://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/book/15507.html)
    Wendy Warren, New England Bound: Slavery and Colonization in Early America (http://books.wwnorton.com/books/detail.aspx?id=4294990729)
    John M. Dixon, The Enlightenment of Cadwallader Colden
    Empire, Science, and Intellectual Culture in British New York (http://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/book/?GCOI=80140100162200)
    Louisa Thomas, Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams (http://thepenguinpress.com/book/louisa-the-extraordinary-life-of-mrs-adams/)
    David Wheat, Atlantic Africa and the Spanish Caribbean, 1570-1640 (http://uncpress.unc.edu/browse/book_detail?title_id=3699)

    • This is such a wonderful list! Thanks so much for creating it and sharing it with the blog.

  2. “Intellectual History Books for Spring 2016, aka books you might be reading ten years from now if you’re lucky.”

    A more accurate title for this post. Thank me later. Now back to this book from 1975.

  3. Thanks for these posts. I’m looking forward to Levine, Nguyen, Gordon-Reed/Onuf, Dixon, Wheat, and esp. Warren for her assessment (if any) of the Atherton Company and various Profits in the Wilderness proprietors, the significance and insignificance of the RI Charter commissions/KPW in the Barbados and Caribbean littoral trade, and early Newport traders such as Francis Brinley and Peleg Arnold. Warren’s article from the March 2007 JAH approached the history of chattel slavery from a somewhat novel perspective.

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