Paradigm, No. 18 (December, 1995)

Reading History:
Textbooks and Public Literacy inthe United States Progressive Era 1898-1913

Linda Adler-Kassner

General College,
University of Minnesota,
Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA

These questions were to be found at the end of chapters discussing the American Civil War in American history textbooks used in secondary schools during the Progressive Era of the United States, the period between ca. 1898-1917:

• What part did Lincoln play in all phases of the war?

• Give as many facts as possible to support the statement, 'in the end [the South] collapsed as no other conquered people have done in historical times'.

As is the case with questions asked in any textbook, there were distinctly right and wrong answers. For instance, if a student answered that Lincoln's part in the war was not as important as it was made to seem and that the former President was being portrayed as more significant than he was, the student would be incorrect according to the history represented in these books. Similarly, if a student dared to suggest that the South's collapse at the end of the war was not quite as dramatic as it is made to seem in the book from which this question comes, she would also be judged wrong. These questions and the 'right' answers to them are, narrowly, the subject of this article -- the idea that, in any given historical period, what is considered important for students to know reflects the context in which the criteria for 'correctness' are formed. More broadly, it is about the ways that American history textbooks like the ones these questions come from defined, shaped, and perpetuated 'public literacy'. This is a shorthand, used to refer to the knowledge required to understand, share, and reproduce the 'common sense' definitions of usage and language within a culture: in this case, the period in U.S. history between about 1898-1913 known as the Progressive Era. Ultimately, I want to argue that although textbooks, like these, are often referred to as reinforcing a public literacy, these books present public literacies. While the historians who wrote these books shared a general sense of what was required for public literacy -- like a sense that the Nation is progressing forward, and that participation by all was required to achieve progress -- their definition of specific parts of American history and, in fact, what was important to study at all, are different. Thus, I argue that within the Progressive paradigm, the books present multiple public literacies, not a singular, uniform idea.

The Progressive Era was a period in which members of the dominant culture were noticeably alarmed about the survival and perpetuation of their values. They believed that the good citizen was most concerned about the public good, and then about her own success in relationship to the public good. Progressives, therefore, believed in virtue, the liberty to participate in public affairs and function in a democratic public sphere, and belonged to a community in which these values were cherished equally among members. But many fin de siècle Americans believed that these values would not survive the onset of the twentieth century. They believed that the kinds of communities that had engendered these values, whose cohesion depended on face-to-face communication, were being destroyed. Progressives blamed this shift on three causes: communication, immigration, and reallocation of wealth.

Progressives held also that the phenomenon known as the 'communications revolution' was in part responsible for affecting a fundamental change in American culture. They argued that the rapid growth and development of technologies ranging from railroads to radio meant fundamental shifts in the ways that Americans perceived themselves in discrete communities. John Dewey, for example, complained that these new technologies made America a 'distended society.' 'Genuine communication', he wrote, was prohibited by

the proliferation of popular cultural diversions from political concerns such as sports, movies, radios, cars . . .; the geographical mobility of persons; and most important, the cultural lag in ideas, ideals, and symbols.

Progressives also believed that immigrants, who brought with them different value-systems, posed a threat to their own. During this period, the nation's population was changing dramatically. Between 1870 and 1890, 12 million immigrants arrived in the U.S. Most came from Britain, Ireland, Germany, and Scandinavia. They were followed by another nine million between 1900 and 1910, many of whom came from southern and eastern Europe. These new Americans, as well as southern Americans fleeing the still-depressed South, settled primarily in northern, industrial cities. Between 1840 and 1910 the urban population increased almost seven times, growing from just over six million to almost 42 million. The increase in population alone was enough to put members of older communities on edge -- suddenly, the composition of cities was changing. But these new citizens also brought with them different ideas of how a nation worked. They put the family, not the public good, at the centre of citizens' concerns, and they were interested and involved in public affairs only inasmuch as they benefited the family.

Finally, Progressives believed that changing allocation of finance threatened their values. Richard Hofstadter cites demographics showing that after about 1865 there was an enormous shift in the distribution of money. During the 1840s, there were fewer than twenty millionaires in the United States. By 1892, a New York newspaper cited 4,047 individuals having over one million dollars; in 1893, a study showed that '9 percent of the families of the Nation owned 71 percent of the wealth'. Progressives witnessed an enormous growth in the personal fortunes of entrepreneurs like Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, and Jay Gould, but did not believe that these self-made men had the public good in mind. On the surface, they were neither Protestant, nor middle-class. More substantively, however, they worked to advance their own self-interests at the expense of others -- immigrants and working class Americans who laboured for them -- and placed self-advancement over the good of the Nation.

As a group, Progressives rallied around to preserve the Progressive values that stood at the centre of their belief systems and tried to protect them from the values invading from systems of groups they defined as 'others' -- those who participated in new communities mediated by communication: a growing working-class comprised of immigrants and southerners; and the 'new money' class. Their efforts are evident in almost all of the period's significant reforms. Although it is difficult to impugn their positive effects, it is important to place them within their historical context. Doing so reveals that the Progressives' motivations were complex. Involved in most, to some degree, was a desire to protect Anglo-Saxon Progressivism from what their members perceived as a threat from without. Suffrage, for example, is a case in point. As a woman who can vote, I find it impossible to disparage suffragists' work, yet, examining their written legacy reveals that they sought to have the vote extended to women for some complicated reasons.

American suffragists initially articulated their support for universal suffrage -- the vote for women and non-whites alike. But at the end of the nineteenth century, it became clear that the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which granted citizenship and extended the vote to Americans of African and Caribbean descent, was going to be ratified. At that point, suffragists' positions began to change. The Fourteenth Amendment would upset the 'balance of power' in the United States; Anglo-Saxon men might no longer represent the majority of voters if black Americans were given the vote, as well. Suffragists therefore dropped their support for universal suffrage and began to agitate for a limited suffrage. Such notable suffragists as Elizabeth Cady Stanton grew more xenophobic, and their positions became less tolerant of diverse peoples or beliefs. Stanton, for example, believed that women and men alike should be subjected to five-year residency requirements and literacy tests before they should be allowed to vote; measures designed to keep those who did not participate in Progressive values away from participation in the political system.

University-affiliated historians, who by this time generally held Ph.D's and were members of an established profession, also belonged to the dominant culture and shared Progressive values. Their contribution to the achievement of the public good was their textbooks, which chronicled the evolution and growth of the Nation. Their books, as components of the educational system, represented an important point of defence for members of the dominant culture. As one component of what Pierre Bourdieu has called 'the system of schooling', they were a medium through which the culture's values could be transmitted to students. But an examination of the requirements for public literacy established in these textbooks reveals that the dominant culture of the Progressive Era was not a completely unified one.

History textbooks during the Progressive Era were written largely by a group of historians who shared the same label as the period, 'Progressive historians'. As a group, Progressive historians were somewhat disparate, but they shared one common characteristic that united them as Progressives: a commitment to Progressive values that was manifested and expressed in their textbooks in the rhetoric of the American jeremiad. Like other members of the dominant culture, Progressive historians generally believed that the Nation was progressing toward the achievement of some kind of virtuous democracy in which citizens would be liberated from the constraints of alienation from the dominant culture. These constraints might include identification with a non-white, non-Anglo-Saxon set of values, poverty, language barriers, or myriad other factors. For some Progressive historians, the virtuous democracy was industrial; for others, the independent yeoman farmer was at its core. But along the way toward achieving this promise, these historians saw the Nation falling into declension from it. Someone or something presented ideas that were not 'progressive', and for a time the people would follow that idea, rather than the 'correct' path, the one that the publicly literate knew would lead toward the achievement of the promise. In the textbooks under study here the factors that caused this fall sometimes differed, one fact that contributed to the idea that they presented multiple literacies. Regardless of their differences, however, in the end the Nation is conceptualized as being rescued from declension and set back on the right path again.

Another difference between these textbooks is the quality of the jeremiad in them; this is another point at which the textbooks display multiple literacies. The first thing students needed to know to be publicly literate, according to these history textbooks, is what kind of shape the Nation was in vis-à-vis the achievement of the promise. But Progressive historians defined this position differently. For some the Nation was progressing along, moving slowly but steadily toward it, and it was nearly at hand. In these books, history is presented as something that students should maintain only by voting for competent professional-managerial politicians who would usher in the achievement of the promise. Active involvement was not necessary because the forces of Providence (with their able assistants, members of the dominant culture) could maintain it. The rhetoric of the jeremiad in these textbooks, therefore, is understated, because the textbooks are functional -- students need to stay the course, and the course was progress. I call this the 'steady jeremiad.'

The tone of the jeremiads in the 'steady jeremiad' textbooks is established in the introduction to the books, where the authors lay out the definition and purposes of history as constructed there. Samuel Foreman's Advanced American History (1914), for example, employed this rhetoric, beginning with the pronouncement that:

The three greatest achievements of the American people have been these: they have transformed a continent from a low condition of barbarism to a high state of civilization; they have developed a commercial and industrial system of vast proportions; and they have evolved the greatest democracy the world has yet seen. In this text, therefore, it has been my aim to present fully and clearly these three aspects of our growth: to show the forces of civilization pressing ever westward upon the wilderness and extending the boundaries of the white man's domain; to show an industrious and ingenious people moving ever forward to make new conquests in the economic world; and to show a liberty-loving nation struggling with new problems of government and advancing ever nearer to a complete realization of popular rule.

In Foreman's jeremiad, the nation has nearly achieved promise of democracy. The American people have overcome innumerable obstacles in order to develop into a nearly perfect union; the task of the textbook is merely to show how this state has been achieved throughout American history.

James Alton James and Albert Hart Sanford's American History (1909) also used the rhetoric of the steady jeremiad in their textbook. They outline the purpose of their book:

It has been the aim of the authors of this book to give the main features in the development of our Nation, to explain the America of today, its civilization and its traditions. In order to do this, it was necessary to select topics from the various fields of human activity . . . Emphasis has been placed upon the fact that the position the United States occupies among the great nations is due primarily to the achievements of men and women in [political, industrial, social, and religious] fields.

This book also presents a country poised on the brink of achieving a promise. James and Sanford present the 'America of today' as a great nation whose status rests on the achievement of its virtuous citizens.

But in other books, the Nation was not moving steadily toward the achievement of the promise, and it was not close at hand. Instead, the Nation advanced towards it at an inconsistent pace. It stopped and started with huge bursts, and declension lay around every corner. In these books, public literacy required that students understood that democracy needed active maintenance. To use an oft-employed republican metaphor, it meant that students recognise that they needed to tend to the promise because they were the cultivators of the vineyard of democracy. In this case, the rhetoric of the jeremiad is fiery and active, presenting some people, events, and movements as very good, and others as very bad. The goal of the rhetoric was not only to communicate the essential facts of American history to students, but to motivate them to internalise the good (and recognise the bad) characteristics of each in order to recognise and act on what was required for public literacy. These textbooks are more motivational than functional, presenting a movement toward progress that needed constant care and attention. This is the 'active jeremiad'.

The tone of these jeremiads is also established in the introductions to the books. James Harvey Robinson, author of the introduction to David Saville Muzzey's An American History (1911), for example, wrote that the book did not:

tell over once more the old story in the old way, but [gave] the emphasis to those factors in our national development which appeal to us as most vital from the standpoint of to-day . . . Dr. Muzzey [the author] has [also] undertaken the arduous task of giving the great problems and preoccupations of to-day their indispensable historical setting. This I deem the very special merit of his work, and am confident that it will meet with eager approbation from many who have long been dissatisfied with the conventional textbook which leaves a great gap between the past and the present.

One of the elements that makes this introduction active, and therefore different from the previous two, is its emphasis. The implication, missing in the previous examples, is that the promise of democracy is far from achieved. There are weeds in the vineyard of democracy here. 'Problems and preoccupations' of the present have roots that stretch far into the turf of the past; to be publicly literate students must find those roots in the past, trace them to the present weeds, and remove them so that the vineyard may flourish.

Another example of an 'active jeremiad' comes from Charles and Mary Beard's History of the United States (1921). In the introduction, the Beards make a plea for students to be active, involved, and above all educated citizens who can help the Nation move toward the achievement of a virtuous industrial democracy. The Beards define their readers as 'boys and girls on the very threshold of life's serious responsibilities'. As such, they do not patronise these students by pretending that they should not be concerned about the health of the Nation.

We have aimed to stimulate habits of analysis, comparison, association, reflections, and generalization -- habits calculated to enlarge as well as inform the mind. We have been at great pains to make our text clear, simple, and direct; but we have earnestly sought to stretch the intellects of our readers -- to put them upon their mettle. Most of them will receive the last of their formal instruction in the high school. The world will soon expect maturity from them. Their achievements will depend upon the possession of other powers than memory alone. The effectiveness of their citizenship in our republic will be measured by the excellence of their judgement as well as the fullness of their information.

Here, the Beards want to 'enlarge and inform the mind' not for exclusively intellectual reasons, but to prepare students to be publicly literate citizens who can help the country achieve the promise.

These stable and active jeremiads defined in these introductions are played out in the books' narratives. Here, again, the differences between the two become significant because they frame disparate interpretations of history. These interpretations were Progressive historians' contributions to the public good and represented the paths by which they believed the Nation would achieve a virtuous democracy. By defining people, events, and movements they hoped not only to elucidate students' understanding of the American past, but establish role models that students could emulate in order to achieve a successful future. The question, then, is this: if the common characteristic of history textbooks was a jeremiad in which progress toward a promise was the goal, but both the promise and the route toward achieving it were different, how effective could the textbooks be in inculcating a national sense of public literacy, so that students would work to achieve a common promise that historians, educators, and other members of the dominant culture believed was essential to the survival of their United States?

In order to demonstrate the relationship between the jeremiads defined in the textbooks' introductions and the historian authors' interpretations, I will provide four additional examples, two from each of the four textbooks defined above. Each of the examples comes from the books' chapters on the Civil War, an event that was for Progressive historians the most significant declension from the promise in American history. As Anglo-American brother fought Anglo-American brother, they saw no hopeful lesson resulting from the conflict. Yet, historians who employed the steady jeremiad did not represent the war as a significant declension from the promise. Samuel Foreman, for example, concedes that the war was bloody and expensive. 'The cost of the war in blood', he wrote, 'was enormous.' But his conclusion focuses only on the benefits of the war: it did not affect economic progress and, in fact, positively effected the southern United States. 'In the North and the West', he argued, 'industrial and commercial conditions were so favorable that even the war did not check the rising tide of prosperity.' Even in the south, where he admits that 'the trade in cotton was almost completely destroyed and as a result the whole industrial system . . . paralyzed', Foreman says that '[t]he war . . . . had the effect of stimulating the manufacture of iron . . . . especially the manufacture of guns and cannons. It also had the effect of giving the South a more diversified agriculture.' Foreman's chapter on the war ends by reaffirming the Nation's stability and tranquillity, rather than emphasising the war as a significant declension from the promise:

At the close of the war there were about 1,000,000 men in the Union ranks and war expenses amounted to more than a billion dollars a year. Immediately after the surrender of Lee, however, the Union army began to be mustered out, and between May and November about 800,000 men changed from soldiers to citizens. 'This change in condition', says Rhodes, 'was made as if it were the most natural transformation in the world'. These soldiers were merged into the peaceful life of communities without interruption to industry, without disturbance to the social order.

It is difficult to interpret the war's cost, in lives and money. The additional damage inflicted by reconstruction perpetuated an already inequitable southern economic system. But in Foreman's history, none of these details are considered. Instead, the war's end is presented as a smooth transition to the placidity of 'normal' life.

The second book discussed above, James Alton James and Albert Hart Sanford's American History, also concedes that the war was a declension from the promise. Like Foreman, however, they find redeeming meaning in the conflict because, they say, it allowed Anglo-Saxons from north and south to demonstrate their shared commitment to Progressive values that bound them before the war and would again bind them afterward. They write that soldiers on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line believed that their cause would service the public good, and that they stood up for the liberty of that cause. Both sides had also demonstrated their abilities to create large bureaucracies in order to service the public good, another characteristic that some Progressives believed was essential to the achievement of the promise of democracy.

The defeat of the Confederacy was not due to lack of fighting qualities in her generals and soldiers, or of devotion in her people . . . . It was now less than two years since the first pitched battle of the war had been fought. In that short period the American people, both North and South, had displayed marvelous energy in the raising and training of two vast armies. They had given evidence of intense loyalty to the opposing principles that caused the war. They had put into operation with facility, and at great cost, all the governmental processes that were calculated to support a long war.

As in the previous textbook, the war here does not disturb the Nation's progress toward the achievement of the promise. Instead, it helps move it along by allowing those from North and South to demonstrate and observe the characteristics they shared as Americans.

Those who employed an active jeremiad defined the Civil War and its aftermath quite differently. To them, the causes behind the war and the conflict itself shook the promise of democracy right down to its roots. They believed that not only the rift between north and south, but the forces that provoked that rift, had to be eliminated from the national character. Primary among these causes were southern commitment to slavery and an inequitable economic system, both of which contradicted the idea of liberty implicit in Progressivism. The south, therefore, is presented as a region whose people collectively rejected the promise of democracy in the active jeremiad. David Saville Muzzey, for example, presents the South as morally and financially backward, non-participants in the jeremiad. In a chapter on 'social progress' during the war, for example, he defines the tenets of progress for 'any country' [as] manufactures, railroad mileage, the growth of cities, the diffusion of knowledge, [and] progress in arts and letters . . .', but wrote that the South was deficient in every category:

The South had hardly any manufactures . . . She spun and wove but two and 1/2 percent of the cotton she raised, and only 1/4 of the 31,000 miles of railroad track in the U.S. was laid on her soil. While the free states of the North abounded in thriving cities . . . the census of 1860 found only six 'cities' in Alabama with a population of 1000 or over, four in Louisiana, and none in Arkansas. Not a single Southern state had a free public school system before the war. Fifteen percent of the adult male white population of Virginia (in addition of course to practically all of the Negroes) were unable to read or write . . . while only 2/5 one percent of the adult males of Massachusetts were illiterate . . . . The cause of this sad social and industrial condition in the South was the plantation system founded on Negro slavery . . . Whatever relieving touches there are in the picture of the slave plantation . . . the system of slavery was a blight on industry and a constant menace to the character of the slaveholder.

Muzzey goes on to discuss the flaws of southern' poor whites', as well, saying that 'southern civilization was the worst enemy of their interests' but they failed to recognize it and professed their loyalty to the losing cause. To be publicly literate, according to Muzzey, students needed to understand how noxious the weed of southern values was in the vineyard of democracy.

At the end of the Charles and Mary Beard's version of the promise of American history lay a virtuous industrial democracy. But since the South was a region whose economy depended entirely on agriculture (something that is emphasised often in their textbook), it is clear that it was the northern, industrialised United States that would lead the Nation toward the achievement of this promise. In the Beards' active jeremiad, therefore, the South is characterised as standing against the achievement of the promise:

When we measure strength for strength in those signs of power -- men, money, and supplies -- it is difficult to see how the South was able to embark on secession and war with such confidence in the outcome. In the Confederacy at the final reckoning there were eleven states in all . . . a population of nine million, nearly one-half servile . . . a land without great industries to produce war supplies and without vast capital to furnish war finances . . . Even after the Confederate Congress authorized conscription in 1862, Southern man power, measured in numbers, was wholly inadequate to uphold the independence which had been declared. How, therefore, could the Confederacy hope to sustain itself against such a combination of men, money, and materials as the North could marshal?

In the concluding paragraph to the chapter, in which the 'moral' of the War is summarized, they emphasize the ways in which the South excluded itself from participation in achieving industrial democracy:

From the very beginning in colonial times there had been a marked difference between the South and the North. The former . . . was devoted to a planting system . . . and in the course of time slave labor became the foundation of the system. The North, on the other hand, supplemented agriculture by commerce, trade, and manufacturing. Slavery, though lawful, did not flourish there. An abundant supply of free labor kept the Northern wheels turning.

The results of the war were revolutionary in character . . . . The Southern planters who had been the leaders of their section were ruined financially and almost to a man excluded from taking part in political affairs. The union was declared to be perpetual . . . The power and prestige of the federal government were enhanced beyond imagination. The North was now free to pursue its economic policies . . . Planting had dominated the country for nearly a generation. Business enterprise was to take its place.

The North was rewarded for its virtuous nature here by receiving the industrial revolution, which moved it significantly closer to the achievement of the Beards' promise of industrial democracy. To be publicly literate, students needed to recognize that this virtue was rewarded, while the South was penalized -- damaged in the Civil War, stripped of its status and even its currency -- for its fealty to a less industrialized value-system.

The differences between these textbooks' jeremiads -- four of eight examined in a larger study -- is not inconsequential. They indicate that Progressive historians who were fundamentally concerned about making students publicly literate defined at least part of that literacy differently. They shared the idea that America was moving toward the achievement of a virtuous promise, but beyond that there are significant differences in the books. First, historians defined the promise differently. Next, the defined the Nation's position in relation to it differently. That, in turn, affected the rhetoric of the jeremiad in their books, which dictated the roles that the believed students should play in bringing the promise to pass. Those who used the rhetoric of the steady jeremiad believed that the promise was almost at hand, and students needed only to maintain their positions; textbooks featuring the active jeremiad believed that the promise was not close, and students had to become virtuous and active citizens in order to bring the Nation closer to its achievement. Within the Progressive paradigm, therefore, I argue that these books presented multiple literacies -- their jeremiads were different, indicating that they lacked consensus across the paradigm on such basic elements of 'literacy' as what was required to demonstrate it. Elsewhere, I've shown that they also assign different definitions of literacy to different important symbols, demonstrating that while they may have agreed about what elements were required for public literacy, they did not agree as to which historical symbols embodied these definitions.

But this study is not merely history for history's sake. The conclusions here offer a different conceptualisation of history textbooks, but they also have implications for today's educational system, as well. These differences give us a new way to think about literacy as communicated from school to student, rather than the literacy's that students bring to school. Traditionally, 'school' literacy is conceptualised as one consistent ideology embodied in various aspects of the 'system of schooling'. But this analysis, as the work of Raymond Williams and Basil Bernstein demonstrates, suggests that the hegemony that students face in school is neither monolithic, nor entirely encompassing. Instead, as Gramsci argues, it is a shifting constellation of alliances that includes and excludes various members of the community as it moves through their spaces, and their values move through it.

The findings here about the dominant culture in the Progressive Era also may have implications for today. Then, as now, this culture was conceptualised as possessing a single, unified ideology. But the research here shows that that was not the case, that there were fractures in the Anglo-American culture. This may provide some clues about why the Progressive Era lasted only about fifteen years -- a fairly brief run for any 'epoch' in U.S. history -- and why that period felt so unstable to many who lived in it. One question 'for further research' may be whether this is the case today, and if it is, what implications that has for current-day education. Perhaps it is one way to contextualize the recurring cries that a 'literacy crisis' is at hand.

Ultimately, I hope that this study will provide us with new ways to think about textbooks. For too long, they have been classified as a part of an enormously complex, larger 'system;' they need to be dusted off and exposed to the light of scholarship as independent components not just of education, but of culture.


1. Beard, C. and M. History of the United States, 378. Although the Beard's textbook postdates the Progressive Era itself, it is firmly couched with in the Progressive paradigm of American History that will be discussed in this article.

2. Channing, E. A Student's History of the United States, p. 555.

3. This definition is drawn from a variety of sources. Excellent definitions of republicanism can be found for example, in Hanson, R., The Democratic Imagination in America and Pockock, J. G. A., The Machiavellian Moment.

4. Qu. West, C. The American Evasion of Philosophy, p. 105.

5. John Whiteclaw Chambers, The Tyranny of Change, p. 10.

6. Hofstadter, R. The Age of Reform, p. 173 fn 1. Statistics are from Historical Statistics of the United States, 1789-1945, pp. 16, 25, 29.

7. Ibid, pp. 3-9.

8. Ibid, p. 136.

9. This argument is based on one initially articulated by Barbara Ansolsen's Daughters of Jefferson, Daughters of Bootblacks. Other sources used to expand Andolsen's original argument and integrate the notion of public literacy into it include Lana Rakow and Cheris Kramarae, The Revolution in Words (1990) and Martha Solomon, A Voice of Their Own (1991).

10. Bourdieu, P. Reproduction in Education, Society and Culture.

11. This article is part of a larger study in which I am examining eight of the most widely used textbooks during this period. This analysis is based on four of those eight books; however the rhetorical patterns identified in these four are typical of those included in the larger sample.

12. This term, originally used in Sacvan Bercovitch's The American Jeremiad, refers to a cycle that many historians argue repeats itself throughout American history. The jeremiad begins with the delivery of a chosen people (Americans) from a corrupt space (Europe) to a chosen land (America). The people begin to pursue a promise, aided by God or providence, that will ensure their salvation. But periodically the Nation falls into declension from this promise and follows a path that does not lead toward its achievement. Ultimately, however, they are rescued from declension and set on the 'right' path again.

13. I use this word as Dewey did -- not as an evaluation of something's worth, but as a property of a particular idea.

14. Foreman, S. Advanced American History, p. v.

15. James, J. A. and Sanford, A. H. American History, p. v.

16. Robinson, J. H. Introduction to Muzzey, D. S. An American History, p. iii.

17. Beard and Beard, History of the United States, pp. v-vii. Although the publication date of this book post-dates the Progressive Era, it bears all of the hallmarks of the Beards' Progressive Era jeremiad.

18. Foreman, S. Advanced American History, pp. 465-471.

19. Ibid, p. 462.

20. James and Sanford, American History, pp .395-396.

21. Muzzey, An American History, pp. 432-433.

22. Beard and Beard, History of the United States, p. 348.

23. Ibid, pp. 375-77.

24. Source of Williams's reference to the educational system -- in, for example, 'Base and Superstructure in Marxist Cultural Theory' -- seem fairly deterministic. Here, I am inserting education into his larger interpretation of hegemony as a set of limits inside which conflict and contestation occur.

25. For example, historians often conceptualize the period between 1913 and 1941 as 'the depression era' because of the economic depression that occurred between the World Wars.

26. Certainly, the period felt unstable to members of the dominant culture. Warren Susman says that Willa Cather pronounced that during this period 'The world broke in two' (p. 105).


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Bernstein, Basil. Class, Codes and Control, Vol. 3 (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973).

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Chambers, John Whiteclaw. The Tyranny of Change. (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992).

Foreman, Samuel. Advanced American History. (New York: Century, 1914).

Hoare, Quintin and Nowell, Geoffrey eds. Selections from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (New York: International Publications, 1971).

Hall, Stuart. 'Gramsci's relevance to the analysis of racism and ethnicity.' Journal of Communication Inquiry 10, 2 (1986), pp. 4-25.

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