History and the New Left

Madison, Wisconsin, 1950-1970

Edited by Paul Buhle
Book Cover

PB: $32.95
EAN: 978-0-87722-836-3
Publication: Apr 91

HC: $34.95
EAN: 978-0-87722-653-6
Publication: Dec 89

457 pages
6 x 9

Essays trace the rise of an intellectual New Left from 1950 to 1970


Madison, Wisconsin has long been known as a dynamic cultural center and focus of political-intellectual ferment in the middle of America. This collection of essays and interviews traces the rise of an intellectual New Left from 1950 to 1970 as experienced by activists and scholars with ties to the University of Wisconsin. Its thirty-two contributors, including prominent historians, journalist-scholars, and veteran political activists, re-examine their own personal histories in different eras and draw fresh, often surprising conclusions. The city and campus of Madison provide a veritable laboratory for the study of deep continuities in American dissenting thought. Photographs and cultural documents accompany these poignant, candid oral histories.

The volume explores a crucial period of Madison’s intellectual life as a crossroad of history and culture. Interviews with the scholars and former students who politicized historical analysis in light of the Cold War, McCarthyism, nuclear and environmental holocaust, civil rights, and the Vietnam War, recall the debates and alliances that kept Madison in a state of ferment.


"Buhle has assembled a rich collection of people to reflect on how that community's traditions and meeting grounds in the 1950s and 1960s interacted to shape their own creative contribution." —David Thelen, Journal of American History

"Madison, Wisconsin, in the 1950s and 1960s was a rich soup of Wisconsin progressives, New York folksingers, socialists, and communists from all parts, actors, hyper-energetic graduate students, future film folk, culture critics—and above all, historians. The modern school of history-from-the-bottom-up came out of Madison. The place was probably the single most creative center of the American New Left. It was the place to be—as you'll see when you read the autobiographical reminiscences in this imaginative volume."Paul Berman, New York Institute for the Humanities

Table of Contents

Madison: An Introduction – Paul Buhle

Part I: Cold War Days
1. The Smoking Room School of History – Warren Susman
2. Learning About History – Herbert G. Gutman
3. WASP and Dissenter – William Preston
4. I Dissent – George Rawick
5. Parentheses: 1952-1956 – Jeffry Kaplow
6. A Madison Bohemian – Nina Serrano
7. A Journalist Among Historians – Richard Schickel

Part II: From Old Left to New
8. From Liberal, to Social Democrat, to Marxist: My Political Itinerary Through Madison in the Late 1950s – Bertell Ollman
9. From the Labor Youth League to the Cuban Revolution – Saul Landau
10. Studies on the Left – James Weinstein
11. The Intellectuals and the First New Left – James B. Gilbert
12. New York Meets Oshkosh – Lee Baxandall
13. Another Madison Bohemian – Roz Baxandall
14. Civil Rights and History – Harriet Tanzman
15. A Way of Seeing – Elizabeth Ewen

Part III: Conflict and Consciousness
16. In Exile – Evan Stark
17. The Intellectual New Left – Stuart Ewen
18. Memories from the Periphery – Malcolm Sylvers
19. Radicalized History – Peter Wiley
20. Madison and Women's History – Mari Jo Buhle
21. A Madison Communist – Paul Richards
22. Neighborhood Politics – Michael Meeropol and Gerald Markowitz
23. Radical America and Me – Paul Buhle
24. New Left Intellectuals/New Left Politics – George Mosse

Part IV: Our Teachers
25. Harvey Goldberg – Ron McCrea and Dave Wagner
26. The Mosse Milieu – Paul Breines
27. The Tragedy of Hans Gerth – Eleanor Hakim
28. My Life in Madison – William A. Williams

Appendix A: The Historian’s Task – Warren Susman
Appendix B: The Boy Scouts in Cuba – Lee Baxandall, Marshall Brickman, Danny Kalb
Name Index

About the Author(s)

Paul Buhle is Director of the Oral History of the American Left Project at the Tamiment Library of New York University and teachers U.S. History at the Rhode Island School of Design. He is co-editor with Paul Buhle of The New Left Revisited (Temple).


In the Series

  • Critical Perspectives on the Past edited by Susan Porter Benson, Stephen Brier, and Roy Rosenzweig

    Critical Perspectives on the Past, edited by Susan Porter Benson, Stephen Brier, and Roy Rosenzweig, is concerned with the traditional and nontraditional ways in which historical ideas are formed. In its attentiveness to issues of race, class, and gender and to the role of human agency in shaping events, the series is as critical of traditional historical method as content. Emphasizing that history is itself an interpretation of material events, the series demonstrates that the historian's choices of subject, narrative technique, and documentation are politically as well as intellectually constructed.