Alan Taylor

Alan Taylor, a professor of history at the University of California, Davis, won the Pulitzer Prize for William Cooper's Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early American Republic. His most recent book is Writing Early American History.

Recent Articles

Democratic Storytelling

The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln by Sean Wilentz ( W.W. Norton & Company, 969 pages, $35.00 ) During the early 20th century, “Progressive historians” interpreted the American past as an epic struggle to perfect a democratic republic for the common people. Adopting the great American taste for moral melodrama, they cast Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson as heroic democrats pitted against the elitist defenders of privileged wealth: Federalists and Whigs. Progressive history served the politics of the Progressive Era: the construction of an activist and reformist state pitched against entrenched business interests. Celebrating Jefferson, Jackson, and American democracy was easy so long as historians defined “the people” in 19th-century terms as white men. Like their more conservative competitors, the Progressive historians regarded women as politically irrelevant, Indians as doomed primitives, and black slaves as exceptions in a national story of democratic...