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Handlin decided to become an historian at the age of eight and began reading avidly, even while delivering groceries for his father.
Freedom House was an interventionist organization originally founded by Dorothy Thompson and others in 1941 as a counterweight to Hitler’s propaganda operations. For an interesting account of Silber’s early career as a leading liberal on the UT Austin campus, see Doug Rossinow’s The Politics of Authenticity. Intellectual History is a nonpartisan educational organization. #100yearsnew We ask that those who participate in the discussions generated in the Comments section do so with the same decorum as they would in any other academic setting or context.
******* The Distortion of America was reissued in a revised edition in 1996, which was probably a bit too late to take full advantage of the culture war boom…though it would have arrived just as the neoconservatives were beginning to focus more thoroughly on foreign policy. The opinions expressed on the blog are strictly those of the individual writers and do not represent those of the Society or of the writers’ employers. Since the USIH bloggers write under our real names, we would prefer that our commenters also identify themselves by their real name.
And though Handlin was hardly alone in remaining focused on Vietnam in the early 1980s (the decade brought us Rambo, after all), the case for the disaster of American defeat in Vietnam was, if anything, less coherent in 1981 than it had been in 1967. Bradford in The National Review gave it something resembling a positive review, agreeing with Handlin on his critique of the recent trahisons des clercs, but suggesting that Handlin, in retaining his Cold War liberal views, failed to grasp that liberalism itself had created the monster he wrote against: “The way not to have Eugene Mc Carthy, George Mc Govern, and John Anderson [three politicians that Handlin singles out for criticism] is not to have Franklin Delano Roosevelt,” wrote Bradford.*** Other reviewers were less kind.
Although widely reviewed, Distortion was not widely admired. James Neuchterlein in the New York Times, noted that “this is one of those books whose cause is better than its argument.” “Even for those inclined to accept the author’s assumptions of national decline,” wrote Norman Graebner in the Journal of American History, “there are other ways of interpreting the trends in recent years.” “Polemical in tone, long on assertion, and short on new argument or convincing analysis,” concluded Choice.**** Oscar Handlin would continue to be at least a fellow-traveler of academic conservatism over the course of the 1980s.
He had intended to study medieval history, but specialized in American history because he thought the person one studied with was more important than the field itself; the medievalist had retired, so Handlin wrote his doctoral dissertation for Arthur M. Handlin taught at Brooklyn College from 1936-1938, during which time he married Mary Flug, and began his long career on the Harvard University faculty in 1939.
Handlin's dissertation was published in 1941 as The book was highly regarded for its innovative research involving sociological concepts, census data, and the previously untapped immigrant press; in 1941, the book won the prestigious Dunning Prize from the American Historical Association for being the outstanding historical work published by a young scholar that year.Although Handlin was a civil libertarian and a supporter of opening the gates to new immigrants, he was also a staunch supporter of the Vietnam War.In December, 1967, as public opinion began to turn against the War, Handlin was one of fourteen scholars who co-wrote a report for the Freedom House Public Affairs Institute arguing that disaster would strike if the U. withdrew from Vietnam.** And it was Handlin’s continuing sense that the Vietnam War should have been won, and that the anti-war movement constituted a threat not only to freedom around the world but to the proper functioning of representative government at home, that led to his move to the right over the next two decades.We welcome suggestions for corrections to any of our posts.As the official blog of the Society of US Intellectual History, we hope to foster a diverse community of scholars and readers who engage with one another in discussions of US intellectual history, broadly understood.Pulitizer Prize winner Oscar Handlin (born 1915) ranks as one of the most prolific and influential American historians of the twentieth century, with pioneering works in the fields of immigration history, ethnic history, and social history. 29, 1915, in Brooklyn, New York City, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants.His father was involved in running a grocery store, a steam laundry, and real estate.In addition to admiring obituaries in the New York Times and the Boston Globe, bloggers from left to right are singing Handlin’s praises. Handlin virtually invented the field of immigration history in the 1950s. Especially in the first half of his career, Handlin also distinguished himself as a public intellectual, writing numerous book reviews in general circulation publications, signing an ACLU-organized petition of scholars demanding that the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) cease operations, and, perhaps most significantly, playing an important role in the great immigration reforms of the mid-1960s.* But my first impression of Oscar Handlin was very different.His history of American immigration, The Uprooted, won the 1952 Pulitzer Prize in history and helped solidify the mid-century notion that the U. I first heard of Handlin when I arrived as a freshman at Harvard in 1982._______________________* On the anti-HUAC petition, see “250 Teachers Hit House Comittee,” New York Times, March 20, 1961. Bradford, “The Nightmare of Oscar Handlin,” The National Review, May 14, 1982.** “14 Scholars Warn A Vietnam Means Bigger War,” New York Times, December 20, 1967. **** All of these quotes can be found in Book Review Digest. ***** Joseph Berger, “Scholars Attack Campus Radicals,” New York Times, November 15, 1988. Flyers for @Ideas_History #USIH2019 are starting to make their way around campus @The New School Can’t wait to for so many smart minds to come together in NYC for incredible #USIH keynotes, plenaries, podcasts and MORE!