The Making of the Middle Class: Toward a Transnational History grew out of two panels on the middle class at the American Historical Association meetings in 2004 and a related conference at the University of Maryland in 2006. Taken together, the 16 papers and three commentaries included in this book have the feel of a big academic meeting.
Given the amount of excellent accounts of post-war Britain that have appeared in the past decade or so, one is tempted to state that readers of contemporary British history have never had it so good.
Recently, Sir Keith Thomas, after chairing the judging panel for the annual Wolfson History Prize, signalled his misgivings over the tendency for young historians to eschew conventional academic publishing (the scholarly monograph) and instead to ‘hire an agent, cut out the footnotes, jazz it all up a bit and try to produce a historical bestseller from what would have otherwise been a perfectl
It is a brave man who would take on the job of writing a history of Germany and the Holy Roman Empire between 1493 and 1806. Many historians would maintain that neither Germany nor even German national consciousness (certainly not German nationalism) existed during this period; as for the Holy Roman Empire, there is a long-running dispute over what it actually amounted to.
If we survey the historical profession at the moment, there are plenty of academic squabbles going on, but the great debates that once divided historians seem to be in short supply. Time was when contests over the standard of living during the industrial revolution or about post-modernism and its application to the study of history would drive scholars into a frenzy of position taking.
The jacket cover of Peter Hennessy’s new work describes the author as ‘the UK’s leading contemporary historian’, a reputation soundly based on a string of highly regarded books such as Cabinet, The Hidden Wiring, Whitehall and The Secret State, as well as on his high profile as a media presenter and commentator.
At the centre of this rich, provocative book is a body of water and a steampunk contraption. In the 19th century, the Mississippi River loomed large in the American imagination; a waterway of immense power and possibility which sliced through the North American continent.
Whatever the medievalists might say when they think you’re not listening, 20th-century European history is hard, and post-1945 history can be the trickiest bit. The decades after 1945 are much less precisely understood, in historical terms, than the decades before. They are more subject to unchallenged platitudes and uninformed controversy: they are surrounded by white noise.
Popular views of the US civil rights movement remain focused on the post-war South.
University library shelves on both sides of the Atlantic groan under the weight of synoptic studies of the era of FDR.