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The End of American History

The End of American History: Democracy, Capitalism, and the Metaphor of Two Worlds in Anglo-American Historical Writing, 1880-1980

Copyright Date: 1985
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 184
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  • Book Info
    The End of American History
    Book Description:

    Using the work of four major historians, Noble focuses on the dramatic change in historical structure and meaning that came with the collapse of the progressive paradigm and its guiding metaphor of exodus from the Old World to the New World.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8224-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. 1 Reformation and Renaissance: Republican Virtue and the American Promised Land
    (pp. 3-15)

    This book explores the role played by political philosophy in providing structure and meaning to the narratives of four major American historians whose writings span the century from the 1880s to the present decade: Frederick Jackson Turner (1861–1932), Charles A. Beard (1874–1948), Richard Hofstadter (1916–70), and William Appleman Williams (1921–). I also discuss Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971), whose reputation is that of a political philosopher and theologian and not that of a historian. I have included Niebuhr in my analysis because I believe an examination of his political philosophy and theology illuminates the crucial position that...

  5. 2 Frederick Jackson Turner and Charles Beard: International Capitalism or International Democracy, 1880–1920
    (pp. 16-40)

    Frederick Jackson Turner gained instant fame and leadership within the first generation of professional historians because his essays, appearing regularly after 1890, focused on issues that were of crucial importance to these men. “The Significance of the Frontier in American History” and his subsequent essays,which continued to explore the same themes, were the single most discussed interpretation of the American past by academic historians because if Turner’s thesis was correct, they could no longer write and teach that American history represented a successful exodus from the European past. And if the metaphor of an exodus from an Old to a...

  6. 3 Charles Beard: American Democracy or International Capitalism, 1920–48
    (pp. 41-64)

    As Charles Beard entered the 1920s, he experienced the intense pain and confusion of a failed prophet. The rational and democratic promise of the eighteenth century, the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, had not been fulfilled. How then could he continue to write hopeful jeremiads that asked his readers to look beneath the surface of those current events that had seemed, for Turner, to indicate a state of permanent declension, and to recognize the underlying evidence that the promise was about to be fulfilled? How could he, as apolitical scientist and historian, continue to be a prophet of a democratic...

  7. 4 Reinhold Niebuhr: International Marxist Democracy or American Capitalist Democracy, 1915–55
    (pp. 65-89)

    One reason for the great popularity of Charles Beard’s writings with the public as well as with professional historians during the 1920s and 1930s was that so many Americans shared Beard’s deep disappointment with the results of the United States’ participation in World War I. The powerful consensus among intellectuals and average voters alike was that American entry into the war had been a tragic mistake. In the early 1930s, when Beard preached the necessity of a policy of continentalism, many Americans responded positively and enthusiastically to his symbolic separation of the American democratic experiment from an external world of...

  8. 5 Richard Hofstadter: American Democracy or American Capitalism, 1940–70
    (pp. 90-114)

    Richard Hofstadter was the most influential of the younger historians who became identified with the Consensus, or Counter-Progressive, school of American historical writing during the 1950s. He began his graduate studies at Columbia University in 1938 under the direction of Merle Curti, an admirer of Charles Beard. As was common among his contemporaries, Hofstadter acknowledged Beard’s intellectual leadership in the profession. “I took up American history,” he later recalled, “under the inspiration that came from Charles and Mary Beard’sThe Rise of American Civilization.”¹

    His historical writing, which began in about 1940, illuminates, therefore, the devastating impact of the American...

  9. 6 William Appleman Williams: Universal Capitalism, Universal Marxism, or American Democracies, 1955–80
    (pp. 115-140)

    William Apple man Williams, unlike Turner, Beard, and Hofstadter, was a specialist in American diplomatic history. Although Williams was only a few years younger than Hofstadter, the age difference was enough to give him an entirely different view of history as he entered the profession. Hofstadter’s initiation had been into Beard’s philosophy of organic nationalism. In 1940, he had shared Beard’s belief that an elite, which participated in the culture of international capitalism and was alien to the American democratic heritage, had shaped American foreign policy since the late nineteenth century. But Williams, beginning his graduate studies after 1945, did...

  10. 7 The 1980s and the Irony of Progress: Limits on the Development of Democracy, but No Limits on Economic Development
    (pp. 141-146)

    When I became an undergraduate history major in 1946, my interest was focused on the Progressive Era in the United States. I did not realize then, or for many years to come, that my intense desire to understand the idea of progress, as it had been expressed by so many Americans before 1917, was interrelated with a sense of crisis among my teachers and their peers, in the 1940s, about the central narrative of American history as the story of progress. In retrospect, it seems that my experience as an adolescent caused me to be particularly attuned to that crisis....

  11. Notes
    (pp. 147-160)
  12. Index
    (pp. 161-166)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 167-167)