Biography, Education, History, Reviews

Review: Brown, Richard Hofstadter

jacket imageGreat reviews continue to pour in for David S. Brown’s Richard Hofstadter: An Intellectual Biography. In his review for, David Greenberg called the book "perceptive and lucid."
Wilfred M. McClay of the Wall Street Journal wrote about Brown’s honest examination of Hofstadter: "The paradoxical effect of Mr. Brown’s biography, however, is to lower rather than raise our estimation of Richard Hofstadter as a historian and thinker. This may come as a bit of a shock to those who have admired him for so long and have clung to his example as an alternative to the narrowly academic or tendentious historical writing of the present day. It is a bit disconcerting, like the archetypal visit to one’s childhood home and neighborhood, where everything that once seemed so great and magical looks infinitely smaller and shabbier than one remembered. But Mr. Brown’s book makes it hard to evade the fact that Hofstadter was a historian who, for all the charm of his work, was nearly always wrong in his most important assertions."
In his review in the Summer 2006 issue of Bookforum, Robert S. Boynton called Richard Hofstadter "excellent."
In the Boston Globe, Christopher Shea noted that Hofstadter "had a knack for picking topics that resonated with the present" and that "some of [Hofstadter’s] themes seem presciently in tune with our times, too-tension between rural and urban America, grass-roots distrust of experts and intellectuals, democracy’s vulnerability to demagoguery. All of which makes Brown’s biography, the first of Hofstadter, especially timely." On a similar note, in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, author David S. Brown describes how Hofstadter predicted the rise of today’s right wing.
The author of The American Political Tradition and the winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, Richard Hofstadter was one of the most celebrated and respected historians of twentieth-century America—and certainly one of its most influential public intellectuals. His championing of the liberal politics that came out of the New Deal, his fierce opposition to McCarthyism and then the acolytes of Barry Goldwater, and the many ideas that he introduced to our nation’s political conversation shaped not only the way we think of the historian’s role in civic life, but steered the direction of American politics as well. This masterful biography explores Hofstadter’s remarkable life story in the context of the rise and fall of American liberalism.
Read an excerpt.