I’ve been reflecting the past few weeks on the historians who’ve influenced my work or historical viewpoint the most. Some of the historians were obvious, but I was also surprised at who else came to mind after some thought. There is a distinct bias toward political historians.
In no particular order, my list*:
Robert V. Remini
Remini is the most obvious influence because of his focus on the Jacksonian period. He’s been criticized as being too sympathetic to Jackson, which I think is true on some issues. Nevertheless, his three-volume biography, which I’ve read multiple times, remains the standard by which all Jackson biographies are measured.
C. Vann Woodward
Woodward’s The Burden of Southern History was the first scholarly history book I read as an undergraduate. It helped me understand my identity as a southerner and prompted my interest in the history of the region, which hasn’t abated.
His work on southern honor was significant in shaping my understanding of antebellum southern society and the relationships between men of the era.
Hofstadter’s essay on the paranoid style was instrumental in encouraging me to explore conspiracy thinking in American history, and his influence on Jacksonian political history is unmistakable.
Pessen’s work inspired the title of this blog and provided a good balance to Remini’s more optimistic portrayal of the Jacksonian era.
Johnson’s Soul By Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market was a book that stayed with me long after I finished it. It helped me grasp the reality of everyday antebellum slavery in ways that no other book has.
His The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution influenced my thinking about the role of conspiracy thinking in early American politics and led me to explore the works on classical republicanism by J.G.A. Pocock, Lance Banning, Robert Shalhope, Joyce Appleby, Drew McCoy, and others.
For better or worse, that’s the list. What’s yours?
* For the purposes of this list, I am leaving off professors who taught me. Their influence is unmistakable, and they automatically belong on my list.