Daniel T. Rodgers

Daniel T. Rodgers is the Henry Charles Lea Professor of History at Princeton University. His book Age of Fracture shared the Bancroft Prize for 2012.

Recent Articles

The Past, Reclaimed from Right-Wing Myth

Now can we get to work saving the future?

Flickr/freshwater2006
(Photo: Flickr/freshwater2006) T he Tea Party’s name was one of its organizers’ most brilliant choices. Furor at George W. Bush’s bank bailouts and Barack Obama’s electoral victory might have taken any number of forms less charged with history. It could have grown into a movement to Stop Paying Your Neighbor’s Mortgage, as CNBC’s Rick Santelli urged in the on-air rant that galvanized rank-and-file conservatives in early 2009. It could have harked back to the property-tax revolts of the late Carter years or to any of the loosely organized right-wing splinter groups from which so many Tea Party organizers were drawn. Some early organizers proposed to call this the Porkulus movement, with pigs’ heads and free government “pork” as its icons rather than the 1775 “Don’t Tread on Me” flags that soon dotted the protest rallies. But with nostalgic restoration as its theme, the Tea Party made a bid for foundational history as well as politics. To wrest back Obama’s America from the brink of “...

A Little Liberal Persuasion

Darwin and Lincoln were born on the same day two centuries ago. A mere coincidence, or did the two men write the language of modern liberalism?

Angels and Ages: A Short Book About Darwin, Lincoln, and Modern Life by Adam Gopnik, Alfred A. Knopf, 211 pages, $24.95 The 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth is upon us, and the flood of Lincoln books has begun to crest. At least a dozen Lincoln books were released on Presidents' Day weekend. Meanwhile, the Obama camp has played heavily on Lincoln parallels since the campaign began. Conservative columnists chide that if Obama were really to act Lincoln's part, he would reach at once toward a bipartisan political center. In fact, aside from the extraordinary arc that took them to the White House, most of the parallels between Lincoln and Obama are misleading. Lincoln worked hard to cajole the border states to stay within the Union, but he was no compromiser in 1860. As secession fever consumed the Deep South in the months before his inauguration, and others struggled to forge a grand compromise that would hold the Union together, Lincoln quashed any retreat from the...

Shop 'Til You Drop

A Consumers' Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America By Lizabeth Cohen, New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 567 pages, $35.00 In many a family memory, the 25 years between the end of World War II and the economic crisis of the 1970s were the "good years" of the 20th century. These were the years of an unprecedented consumer revolution, in which the promise of America was recast in a new vernacular of mass-produced refrigerators, washing machines, television sets and tract houses. A quarter-century of steadily rising real incomes were poured into consumer goods and the jobs and investments to produce them. Turning their backs on the ethnic tenement neighborhoods of the cities, white working-class families moved into houses of their own in the new postwar suburbs. Familiar as this story is, A Consumers' Republic is the first historical account to examine closely the social world of postwar consumerism and the politics that were so tightly enmeshed with it. The heady promise...

Books in Review

Jane Addams and the Dream of American Democracy By Jean Bethke Elshtain. Basic Books, 336 pages, $20.00 T he appellation "St. Jane" came early to Jane Addams. Florence Kelley, one of her closest comrades during the early years of settlement work at Hull House, once told Addams that if another woman called her a saint again, "I'd show her my teeth, and if that didn't convince her, I would bite her." But the label stuck. What else was one to do with Addams, a woman so out of place, so disturbing to the conventional wisdom, but consign her to the category of a holy fool, a modern St. Francis of the Chicago slums? Jean Bethke Elshtain's adoring but ultimately flat and depoliticized account of Jane Addams' life and ideas shows how strong that temptation still runs. Addams was a challenge then, and her life remains a challenge now. Raised in an environment of Victorian moral earnestness in small-town Illinois, she could anticipate a life of motherhood, domestic graces and bourgeois...