Conflicted Vision: Thomas Jefferson and the University of Virginia

Conflicted Vision: Thomas Jefferson and the University of Virginia

by Alan Taylor

Review by James J. Carpenter

            In any discussion of early America and public education, Thomas Jefferson inevitably plays a central role. For many, he “remains one of democratic education’s founding fathers” (Neem, 2013, p. 3). Jefferson’s Bill for the General Diffusion of Knowledge called for a three-tiered system of public schooling that would, according to Wagoner (2004), “elevate the mass of people to the moral status necessary to insure good government and public safety and happiness” (p. 34). Jefferson’s vision for Virginia schools would fall victim to the political realities of that state, save for the eventual establishment of the University of Virginia in 1819. Indeed, the university is one of three accomplishments Jefferson had engraved on his tomb, along with being the author of the Declaration of Independence and of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.

            Like most of Jefferson’s life, there is a considerable volume of literature on his educational views and his plans for improving education in his beloved Virginia (e.g. Addis, 2003; Conant, 1962; Gilreath, 1999; Heslep, 1969; and Wills, 2002). I was curious, therefore, to read Alan Taylor’s latest work entitled Thomas Jefferson’s Education. Was this a description of Jefferson’s personal educational odyssey or was this another discourse on his educational philosophy and plans for public schooling in Virginia?  I was pleasantly surprised to find it was both and more. Taylor successfully weaves Jefferson’s fight to advance public education in Virginia with stories of a wide variety of individuals who supported or resisted his goals. Furthermore, he situates these often bitter political struggles in the context of a stratified Virginia society built on a foundation of enslaved labor.    

Indeed, Taylor’s description of a complicated social milieu often seems to be the real subject of his book. At first, as a reader, I was distracted by the many anecdotes and stories Taylor offers as illustrations for the contesting forces that impacted Jefferson’s goal of free public education for white males. It is only when the reader sits back and focuses on the entire mosaic rather than on the individual tesserae that Taylor’s story becomes clear. He rather quickly addresses the failure of Virginia’s legislature to approve Jefferson’s plans for publicly funded elementary and secondary schools and focuses on Jefferson’s goal for a public university that would rival Harvard and Yale.

            Taylor places this struggle to create the University of Virginia in the context of powerful cultural forces within the state – and by extension throughout the South – and thereby creates a fascinating subtext for his book. The primary forces at work were the increasingly rigid attitudes regarding slavery and the strict adherence to the gentry’s belief in their privileged status including their preference for drinking, gambling, and dueling in defense of their honor. Taylor masterfully posits these societal flaws against Jefferson’s wishes to create a university which would train leaders who would reform Virginia. Jefferson envisioned this next generation of leaders would further republicanism by adopting “a more democratic state constitution for white men,” by embracing his goals for public education for all white children, and by emancipating but deporting slaves (p. 307). Jefferson’s hopes for the future evolved during a period where regional bitterness was hardening at an alarming rate, an extreme bitterness Joanne Freeman (2018) has described as a violent “cultural federalism” (p. 50). Southern politicians increasingly saw the Union as endangered by northern political and economic interests which would put the South at a distinct disadvantage. Southern fathers did not want their sons attending northern institutions of higher learning for fear they would be corrupted by antislavery ideas and dangerous democratic ideas of equality. Instead, southern “gentlemen attended college to hone social skills and cultivate social networks” (p. 82). Additionally, “fathers wanted sons to develop a robust sense of honor,” including choosing dueling over accepting insults (p. 83). And, as Taylor describes, their sons whole-heartedly bought into their privileged status; to the extent that they believed themselves exempt from obeying rules and policies implemented by those they believed to be of inferior status including their professors. Indeed, according to Taylor, this strategy at times worked all too well. Most of Virginia’s young gentlemen “became petty tyrants” to the state’s enslaved population (p. 83).

            It was in this social and cultural milieu that Jefferson and others in Virginia’s founding generation tried to re-establish that state’s prestige. As other states, especially in the North, gained in population and in political influence, these aging leaders identified education as the means to restore Virginia to what they believed to be her rightful status. The College of William and Mary was in decline since the state capitol had moved from Williamsburg to Richmond and Jefferson saw this as an opportunity to build a new university, one that would embody his philosophical beliefs and be free from any religious connections. Taylor describes Jefferson’s reliance on his chief lieutenant in the state legislature, Joseph C. Cabell, and his efforts to thwart other attempts to construct a university in locations other than Charlottesville. Many personalities are presented in this account; some famous like James Madison, Patrick Henry, and James Monroe and others less so, such as the Scottish teacher James Ogilvie, the mercurial John Randolph, and Jefferson’s rival for controlling the fledgling university, John Hartwell Cocke.

In detailing how he secured his beloved university, Taylor sheds light on Jefferson’s complex personality. For example, in constructing the university Jefferson dismissed the idea of sharing state education allocations with two other campuses he ridiculed as “’local interests’” while remaining oblivious to the parochial nature of his own plans (p. 198). Believing “that only architectural grandeur could attract many students” (p. 211), Jefferson’s construction costs exceeded both the state appropriations and private monies raised through subscriptions leaving the university with no money for scholarships for deserving students. As a result, only sons of the wealthiest Virginia families could afford to attend causing the university to “suffer from their homogeneity and sense of entitlement” (p. 214).

            Known for his pleasing manners and hospitable nature, Jefferson could also be sharp and intransient on issues he deemed important. His insistence that the university be free from religious influence and that there be no professor of divinity alienated many Virginia Christians, especially Evangelical Episcopalians and Presbyterians, leading to contentious struggles with the university’s Board of Visitors and state political leaders. Though he expressed a faith in the free expression of ideas, Taylor describes how Jefferson “assumed that the free pursuit of truth always led to his conclusions.” His university would be a bastion of republican orthodoxy free from “Federalist “’heresies.’” For example, Jefferson selected political readings that “favored states’ rights over national consolidation” as texts for the professor of law to use (p. 238, emphasis added to first quote). Republicanism was the litmus test in hiring for Jefferson. Therefore “no Federalist need apply to become professor of law at the University of Virginia,” regardless of his qualifications (p. 239). Far from promoting a democratic education, Jefferson often endorsed a more authoritarian approach in managing the day to day issues at his university.

            Today the University of Virginia is one of the most respected public universities in the United States. It is fondly referred to as Mr. Jefferson’s university. The picture Taylor paints of the early days of the university is at odds with what it has become. Plagued by low enrollments and financial problems, it initially housed a student population more dedicated to drinking, gambling, and carousing than to studying. Students accustomed to privilege and power frequently fought, rioted, mistreated slaves, and disrespected faculty, with one student actually fatally shooting a professor. Following Jefferson’s death in 1826, things began to change, albeit slowly. By the mid-1840s, the university could afford to grant scholarships to deserving but less affluent students. Increasing enrollments led to greater numbers of Christian students who would have been unacceptable to Jefferson. Faculty hires became less political and rule changes on campus led to less violent and more sober student behavior. By the eve of the Civil War, the University of Virginia was becoming a major academic institution though not as envisioned by its famous founder.

            The evolution Taylor describes contains many ironies. For example, while largely ignoring the need to educate women beyond what was required to be a good wife (though he did promote learning for his own daughters and granddaughters), it was Jefferson’s daughters and granddaughters who became “teachers of a new generation of women” and who managed to save their family financially after the Civil War (p. 315). And Taylor masterfully describes the problematic relationship between Jefferson’s primary objectives for students who attended the University of Virginia. One goal was to produce republican leaders who would protect the rights of states against what he perceived as an increasingly threatening union controlled by northern politicians. His second objective was that these more enlightened leaders would reform Virginia, especially by first ending slavery and then deporting the formerly enslaved out of the United States, thereby ridding the country of its original sin. Jefferson failed to see these two goals as being contradictory. As Taylor demonstrates, the next generation did defend states’ rights in ways Jefferson could not have imagined. And rather than seeing slavery as a sin to be abolished, Virginia leaders promoted slavery as a positive institution which protected an inferior race. Ultimately, the university students did not “uproot slavery as Jefferson had hoped,” but instead “defended it and served the Confederacy in the Civil War” (p. 307). In delineating this progression to the potential dissolution of the union Jefferson had helped create, Taylor not only has made a valuable contribution to the literature on Thomas Jefferson’s impact on education but also to that of the history of education in the United States and to that of sectional development in ante-bellum America.    

References

Addis, C. (2003). Jefferson’s Vision for Education, 1760-1845. New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Conant, J. B. (1962), Thomas Jefferson and the Development of American Public Education. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Freeman, J. B. (2018). The field of blood: Violence in Congress and the road to civil war. New York NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Gilreath, J. (Ed.). (1999). Thomas Jefferson and the Education of a Citizen. Washington, D. C.: The Library of Congress.

Heslep, R. D. (1969). Thomas Jefferson & Education. New York, NY: Random House.

Neem, J. (2013). Is Jefferson a founding father of democratic education? A response to “Jefferson and the ideology of democratic schooling.” Democracy and Education, 21 (2), Article 8. Available at https://www.democracyandeducationjournal.org/home/vol21/iss2/8.

Wagoner, J. L., Jr. (2004). Jefferson and education. (Monticello monograph series). Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.

Wills, G. (2002). Mr. Jefferson’s University. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society.

Teaching Critical Thinking in the Context of Political Rhetoric: A Guide for Classroom Practice

Teaching Critical Thinking in the Context of Political Rhetoric: A Guide for Classroom Practice

by Joseph Sanacore

During the past several decades, there has been a blitz of information, sometimes referred to as the knowledge explosion, and students have struggled in their attempts to distinguish true, fake, and terribly biased information, especially regarding political issues. This book highlights the value of critical thinking as a way to navigate this difficult and frustrating terrain, so that students grow and develop as knowledgeable, independent thinkers. To promote this growth, the book offers thoughtful, evidence-based advice for teachers to support students’ deep thinking as it relates to real-world contexts. Strategies presented include student reflection based on experience, moving from narrow to broader perspectives, and using graphic organizers to build and activate knowledge before, during, and after instructional activities. With the instructional guidance and activities presented in this short, easy-to-apply volume, teachers can give students the tools they need to negotiate the often-murky waters of political. Chapters include: The Need to Teach Critical Thinking; Promoting Critical Thinking; Application and Transfer of Learning; Other Strategies and Activities That Support Transfer of Learning; The Value of Hard Work; and Reflections on Critical Thinking.

In a review, Alina Reznitskaya, Professor, Department of Educational Foundations, Montclair State University, New Jersey, writes “Written at a time when news can be fake and facts can have alternatives, this book provides teachers with innovative research-based instructional strategies that help students learn how to think through complex questions in a deliberate and informed way. It is a timely and valuable resource for practitioners who are looking for effective ways to address a pressing educational priority: teaching students how to critically evaluate various types of information and reach a sound conclusion. Importantly, the book treats teachers as co-inquirers, who reflect on their own thinking and continue to learn with their students.”

Joseph Sanacore is a journalist, researcher, and professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning at the Post Campus of Long Island University, Brookville, NY. He has authored more than 100 articles, essays, and book chapters. He also was an elementary, middle, and high school teacher and a K-12 Director of Language Arts and Literacy.

Sense of Origins: A Study of New York’s Young Italian Americans

Sense of Origins: A Study of New York’s Young Italian Americans

by Rosemary Serra, translated by Scott R. Kapuscinski

In Sense of Origins, Rosemary Serra explores the lives of a significant group of self-identified young Italian Americans residing in New York City and its surrounding areas. The book presents and examines the results of a survey she conducted of their values, family relationships, prejudices and stereotypes, affiliations, attitudes and behaviors, and future perspectives of Italian American culture. The core of the study focuses on self-identification with Italian cultural heritage and analyzes it according to five aspects—physical, personality, cultural, psychological, and emotional/affective. The data provides insights into today’s young Italian Americans and the ways their perception of reality in everyday interactions is affected by their heritage, while shedding light on the value and symbolic references that come with an Italian heritage. Through her rendering of relevant facets that emerge from the study, Serra constructs interpretative models useful for outlining the physiognomy and characterization of second, third, fourth, and fifth generations of Italian Americans. In the current climate, questions of ethnicity and migrant identity around the world make Sense of Origins useful not only to the Italian American community but also to the descendants of the innumerable present-day migrants who find themselves living in countries different from those of their ancestors. The book will resonate in future explorations of ethnic identity in the United States. Rosemary Serra is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Trieste, Italy. Scott R. Kapuscinski teaches English at Queens College, City University of New York.

Suffrage and Its Limits: The New York Story

Suffrage and Its Limits: The New York Story

Edited by Kathleen M. Dowley, Susan Ingalls Lewis, and Meg Devlin O’Sullivan

Suffrage and Its Limits offers a unique interdisciplinary overview of the legacy and limits of suffrage for the women of New York State. It commemorates the state suffrage centennial of 2017, yet arrives in time to contribute to celebrations around the national centennial of 2020. Bringing together scholars with a wide variety of research specialties, it initiates a timely dialogue that links an appreciation of accomplishments to a clearer understanding of present problems and an agenda for future progress. The first three chapters explore the state suffrage movement, the 1917 victory, and what New York women did with the vote. The next three chapters focus on the status of women and politics in New York today. The final three chapters take a prospective look at the limits of liberal feminism and its unfinished agenda for women’s equality in New York. A preface by Lieutenant Governor Katherine Hochul and a final chapter by activist Barbara Smith bookend the discussion. Combining diverse approaches and analyses, this collection enables readers to make connections between history, political science, public policy, sociology, philosophy, and activism. This study moves beyond merely celebrating the centennial to tackle women’s issues of today and tomorrow.          

Kathleen M. Dowley is Associate Professor and Chair of Political Science and International Relations, Susan Ingalls Lewis is Professor Emerita of History, and Meg Devlin O’Sullivan is Associate Professor of History and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, at SUNY New Paltz.

Teaching For Black Lives and Teacher Unions and Social Justice

Teaching For Black Lives and Teacher Unions and Social Justice

Teaching for Black Lives, edited by Dyan Watson, Jesse Hagopian, and Wayne Au, grows directly out of the movement for Black lives. The editors recognize that anti-Black racism constructs Black people, and Blackness generally, as not counting as human life. They provide resources and demonstrate how teachers connect curriculum to young people’s lives and root their concerns and daily experiences in what is taught and how classrooms are set up. They also highlight the hope and beauty of student activism and collective action. Teacher Unions and Social Justice, edited by Michael Charney, Jesse Hagopian, and Bob Peterson, is an anthology of more than 60 articles documenting the history and the how-tos of social justice unionism. Together, they describe the growing movement to forge multiracial alliances with communities to defend and transform public education.

Teaching Climate History: There is No Planet B

Teaching Climate History: There is No Planet B

by Alan Singer

Welcome to the Anthropocene. Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, human-caused climate change has impacted the globe with the burning of fossil fuels. The debate in classrooms and the political realm should not be whether climate change is happening or how much it places human civilization at risk but over how societies and individuals should respond. This interdisciplinary book offers an in-depth examination of the history of the Earth’s climate and how historians and citizens can influence contemporary climate debate and activism. The author explains climate history and climate science and makes this important subject matter accessible to a general audience. Chapter topics include examining the Earth’s geological past, the impact of climate on human evolution, the impact of climate on earlier civilizations, climate activism, and the need for international cooperation. Presenting climate history, human history, and climate science in a readable format and featuring resources for students, this book is meant for use by teachers in high school elective or an introductory college course setting.

Chapters include “Our House is on Fire”; Tipping Points; Great Climate Migration; Earth’s Past Climates; Climate Change and Human Evolution; Extreme Heat; Four Billion Years of Climate History; Mass Extinctions; “Clocking” Climate Change; Diseases Carried by Mosquitoes or Hidden in the Ice; Climate Change Deniers and Minimizers; A Short Cold Snap of about 500 Years; Power of Ice; Climate Repercussions; Water Scarcity, Water’s Vengeance; Technology Debate; Saving the Amazon Rainforest; Capitalism vs. the Climate; and Climate Activism. There is an annotated bibliography and a list of resources for teaching about climate change.

Heroes of Ireland’s Great Hunger

Heroes of Ireland’s Great Hunger

Edited by Christine Kinealy, Gerard Moran, and Jason King

Review by Alan Singer (originally published at The History News Network)

Christine Kinealy, professor of history and the founding director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, has created an impressive academic juggernaut for the study of the mid-19th century Great Irish Famine and for bringing the famine to the attention of a broader public. Her more recent published work includes The Bad Times. An Drochshaol (2015), a graphic novel for young people, developed with John Walsh, Private Charity to Ireland during the Great Hunger: The Kindness of Strangers (2013), Daniel O’Connell and Anti-Slavery: The Saddest People the Sun Sees (2011), and War and Peace: Ireland Since the 1960s (2010). She recently released a collection of essays, prepared with Jason King and Gerard Moran, Heroes of Ireland’s Great Hunger (2021, co-published by Quinnipiac University Press and Cork University Press). In Ireland, it is available through Cork University Press. In the United States, it is available in paperback on Amazon. Co-editor Jason King is the academic coordinator for the Irish Heritage Trust and the National Famine Museum in Strokestown, County Roscommon, Ireland. Co-editor Gerard Moran is a historian and senior researcher based at the National University of Ireland – Galway.

Sections in Heroes of Ireland’s Great Hunger include “The Kindness of Strangers,” with chapters on Quaker philanthropy, an exiled Polish Count who distributed emergency famine relief, and an American sea captain who arranged food shipments to Ireland; “Women’s Agency,” with three chapters on women who “rolled up her linen sleeves” to aid the poor; “Medical Heroes,” with five doctors who risked their own lives to aid the Irish; and sections on the role of religious orders in providing relief and Irish leadership. Final reflections include a chapter on “The Choctaw Gift.” The Choctaw were an impoverished Native American tribe who suffered through the Trail of Tears displacement to the Oklahoma Territory. They donated more than they could afford to Irish Famine Relief because they understood the hardship of oppression and going without. Kinealy, King, and Moran managed to enlist some of the top scholars in the field of Irish Studies from both sides of the Atlantic to document how individuals and groups made famine relief a priority, despite official government reticence and refusal in Great Britain and the United States. In her work, Kinealy continually draws connections between the Great Irish Famine and current issues, using the famine as a starting point for addressing problems in the world today. The introduction to the book opens with a discussion of the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Readers meet powerful individuals who deserve a special place in the history books. James Hack Tuke, a Quaker, not only provided and distributed relief, but he attempted to address the underlying issues that left Ireland, a British colony, impoverished. His reports from famine inflicted areas highlighted pre-existing social conditions caused by poverty, not just famine related hunger. His reports challenged the stereotype popularized in the British press that the Irish were lazy and stressed the compassion the Irish showed for their neighbors. While working with famine refugees in his British hometown of York, Tuke became ill with typhus, also known as “Famine Fever,” a disease that caused him to suffer from debilitating after-effects for the rest of his life. After the famine subsided in the 1850s, Tuck continued his campaign for Irish independence from the British yoke.

Count Pawl de Strzelecki of Poland was an adopted British citizen who documented the impact of the Great Irish Famine so that British authorities could not ignore what was taking place and who spoke out against the inadequacy of British relief efforts. Strzelecki was a geographer, geologist, mineralogist, and explorer. As an agent for the British Association for the Relief of Distress in Ireland and the Highlands of Scotland, he submitted reports on conditions in County Donegal, Mayo and Sligo. The reports challenge the British government’s effort to minimize the impact of the famine on the Irish people. On a personal level, Strzelecki provided direct aid to impoverished Irish children and lobbied before Parliamentary committees for increased governmental and institutional attention to their plight. He later worked to provide assistance to women who were emigrating to Australia.

The chapter on Asenath Nicholson was written by my colleague at Hofstra University, Maureen Murphy, Director of the New York State Great Irish Famine Curriculum and author of Compassionate Stranger: Asenath Nicholson and the Great Irish Famine. Nicholson was an American Protestant evangelical who traveled the Irish countryside delivering relief packets and sending reports home to the United States in an effort to raise more money. While she distributed Bibles, she did not make participation in Protestant services a condition of aid, unlike a number of British aid workers. Murphy describes Nicholson as a “woman who was ahead of her time – a vegetarian, a teetotaler, a pacifists, and an outdoor exercise enthusiast” (96). Nicholson’s achievements were largely ignored by a male-dominated world until brought to public attention by Murphy’s work.

Daniel Donovan was a workhouse medical doctor in Skibbereen, perhaps the hardest hit town in County Cork and in all of Ireland. I consider him one of the most significant heroes included in the book. As epidemic diseases devoured the countryside, Dr. Dan, as he was known locally, treated the poor and documented conditions for the outside world. Donovan’s diary reported on the impact of the famine in Skibbereen was published in 1846 as Distress in West Carberry – Diary of a Dispensary Doctor and sections were reprinted in a number of newspapers in Ireland and England, including The Illustrated London News. Dr. Dan, who became a major international medical commentator on famine, fever, and cholera, continued to serve the people of Skibbereen until his death in 1877.

I do have one area of disagreement with the editors. I would have included a section on the leaders of Young Ireland and the 1848 rebellion against British rule, including William Smith O’Brien, John Blake Dillon, John Mitchel, and Thomas Meagher. Rebellion, as well as relief, was an important and heroic response to the Great Irish Famine.

Immigration Matters: Movements, Visions, and Strategies for a Progressive Future

Immigration Matters: Movements, Visions, and Strategies for a Progressive Future

Edited by Ruth Milkman, Deepak Bhargava, and Penny Lewis

According to the editors of this collection of sixteen timely essays, “during the past decade, right-wing nativists have stoked popular hostility to the nation’s foreign-born population, forcing the immigrant rights movement into a defensive posture. In the Trump years, preoccupied with crisis upon crisis, advocates had few opportunities to consider questions of long-term policy or future strategy. Now is the time for a reset.” Immigration Matters offers a new, actionable vision for immigration policy. It brings together key movement leaders and academics to share cutting-edge approaches to the urgent issues facing the immigrant community, along with fresh solutions to vexing questions of so-called “future flows” that have bedeviled policy makers for decades. The book also explores the contributions of immigrants to the nation’s identity, its economy, and progressive movements for social change. Immigration Matters delves into a variety of topics including new ways to frame immigration issues, fresh thinking on key aspects of policy, challenges of integration, workers’ rights, family reunification, legalization, paths to citizenship, and humane enforcement.

The perfect handbook for immigration activists, scholars, policy makers, and anyone who cares about one of the most contentious issues of our age, Immigration Matters makes accessible an immigration policy that both remediates the harm done to immigrant workers and communities under Trump and advances a bold new vision for the future. In a review, Julián Castro, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (2014–2017), argues “For too long, politicians have stoked nativism and weaponized our immigration system to divide people. Democrats and progressives shouldn’t be afraid to put forward a bold, forward-thinking vision for immigration that is rooted in common sense and compassion, instead of cruelty. Immigration Matters helps illuminate that vision and provides a path forward for achieving it.”

The book includes essays by immigration activists from People’s Action, the National Immigration Law Center, United We Dream, UNITE HERE, and Congressional Representative Pramila Jayapal (Dem-WA). Ruth Milkman is a Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center and the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies. Deepak Bhargava is a Distinguished Lecturer in Urban Studies at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies and was previously president of the Center for Community Change. Penny Lewis is an associate professor of labor studies at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies.

Ages of American Capitalism: A History of the United States

Ages of American Capitalism: A History of the United States

by Jonathan Levy

A leading economic historian traces the evolution of American capitalism from the colonial era to the present—and argues that we’ve reached a turning point that will define the era ahead. Levy reveals how capitalism in America has evolved through four distinct ages and how the country’s economic evolution is inseparable from the nature of American life itself. “Wealth is power, and power is wealth. The aphorism commonly attributed to the Englishman Thomas Hobbes, author of the great political philosophical treatise Leviathan (1651), was later invoked by Adam Smith in the greatest treatise ever written on commerce, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776). Smith was a Scot, not an American, but up until 1776, Scots and Americans shared something in common: both were subjects of the British Empire. In the Age of Commerce, empire and capitalism grew up together.” The Age of Commerce spans the colonial era through the outbreak of the Civil War, and the Age of Capital traces the lasting impact of the industrial revolution.

The volatility of the Age of Capital ultimately led to the Great Depression, which sparked the Age of Control, during which the government took on a more active role in the economy, and finally, in the Age of Chaos, deregulation and the growth of the finance industry created a booming economy for some but also striking inequalities and a lack of oversight that led directly to the crash of 2008. Jonathan Levy is a professor in the Department of History at the University of Chicago. His book, Freaks of Fortune: The Emerging World of Capitalism and Risk in America, won the Organization of American Historians’ Frederick Jackson Turner Award, Ellis W. Hawley Prize, and Avery O. Craven Award.

The Dawn of Everything

The Dawn of Everything

by David Graeber and David Wengrow

According to this new book, “for generations, our remote ancestors have been cast as primitive and childlike―either free and equal innocents, or thuggish and warlike. Civilization, we are told, could be achieved only by sacrificing those original freedoms or, alternatively, by taming our baser instincts.” David Graeber and David Wengrow argue that these “theories first emerged in the eighteenth century as a conservative reaction to powerful critiques of European society posed by Indigenous observers and intellectuals. Revisiting this encounter has startling implications for how we make sense of human history today, including the origins of farming, property, cities, democracy, slavery, and civilization itself . . . The Dawn of Everything fundamentally transforms our understanding of the human past and offers a path toward imagining new forms of freedom, new ways of organizing society. This is a monumental book of formidable intellectual range, animated by curiosity, moral vision, and a faith in the power of direct action.” David Graeber was a professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics. David Wengrow is a professor of comparative archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London.