Sean Wilentz is George Henry Davis 1886 Professor of American History at Princeton and author of The Rise of American Democracy. (February 2013)

Cherry-Picking Our History

President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace during a broadcast from the White House in 1940, the year Roosevelt named Wallace as his vice-presidential running mate
Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick’s new book would more properly be called The Unlearned History of the United States—if the scholarship and the authors’ reworking of it were thorough, factually accurate, and historically convincing.

The Left vs. the Liberals

Walter Reuther, left, future president of the United Auto Workers, with Richard -Frankensteen following their beating by Ford Motor Company security men in the ‘Battle of the Overpass,’ at the Ford Rouge factory in Dearborn, Michigan, May 26, 1937. Reuther, while strongly anti-Communist, worked closely with, and also opposed, UAW activists such as Frankensteen who were cooperating with the Communist Party of the USA at the time.
Michael Kazin’s new book about American leftists and their impact on the nation over the last two centuries presupposes, as its subtitle suggests, that this impact has been enormous. But Kazin is a judicious scholar without bluster, a professor of history at Georgetown, and coeditor of Dissent, and his assessments are carefully measured. Kazin concedes that radical leftists have often been out of touch with prevailing values, including those of the people they wish to liberate. He concludes that American radicals have done more to change what he calls the nation’s “moral culture” than to change its politics. And yet, even as Kazin tries to avoid romanticizing the left, his book leaves unchallenged some conventional leftist conceptions about American politics and how change happens.

The Pride of Teddy Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt, early 1900s
Theodore Roosevelt, the youngest man to serve as president of the United States, and the youngest ex-president, also died young, at the age of sixty, in 1919. Apart from the four presidents who have been assassinated, only two of Roosevelt’s predecessors, James K. Polk and Chester A. Arthur, died younger …

Speedy Fred’s Revolution

Eighty-two years after his death in 1915, Frederick Winslow Taylor, the industrial engineer whose invention of “scientific management” promised to revolutionize American industry, is largely forgotten. Celebrated during his lifetime for his dramatic schemes to improve efficiency and increase productivity, Taylor was once linked with Thomas Edison and Henry Ford …

A Triumph of the Gilded Age

In a year of important American centenaries—Columbus’s landing, the Salem witchcraft trials, the death of Whitman—it may be easy to overlook the lockout and strike at the Carnegie steelworks in Homestead, Pennsylvania, in 1892. Yet the Homestead strike was perhaps the culminating event of the Gilded Age. The stakes were …