Contesting Democracy

Substance and Structure in American Political History, 1775-2000

Edited by Byron E. Shafer and Anthony J. Badger

In this defining statement about the state of the discipline, a "who's who" of prominent scholars addresses and critiques the entire sweep of American political history. Exemplifying the revitalizing power of the "new political history" and its renewed emphasis on large "P" politics, these writers have combined to produce an illuminating synthesis of the most recent work in the field.

Focusing upon both the major policy issues in the politics of each period (substance) and the major social forces shaping politics (structure), these essays chronicle and evaluate the evolution of American politics and society over two and a quarter centuries. In the process, they reflect their authors' strong collective commitment to a dynamic field of intellectual inquiry, while simultaneously highlighting key interpretive disputes within it.

“In a series of essays covering the transformation of politics and the growth of the national state over two hundred-plus years, Contesting Democracy is a sober study of a circus,and a good thing, too. People with ringside seats smell the sawdust and can tell the performing elephants from the trained jackasses, but, for a full view of the big picture, it helps to get beyond the big tent. Byron E. Shafer and Anthrony J. Badger's collection gives a necessary perspective on what, for many years, was America’s greatest participatory sport.

—Journal of American History

“A major publishing event in American political history. The flowering of the ‘new’ political history in the 1970s was followed by a generation of scholarship stressing grassroots non-electoral social movements, masculinized politics and gendered social policies, ‘whiteness’ studies, the mediating role of civil society, and comparative state-building. Here a parade of leading scholars examines how this research has reshaped our understanding of two centuries of American self-government.”

—Hugh Davis Graham, author of Civil Rights and the Presidency

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An outstanding summary of current and recent thinking in the field, this book should become an essential volume for scholars and teachers in both history and the social sciences.

About the Author

Byron E. Shafer is Andrew W. Mellon Professor of American Government at Oxford University. His many books include Quiet Revolution: The Struggle for the Democratic Party and the Shaping of Post-Reform Politics and The Two Majorities: The Issue Context of Modern American Politics.

Anthony J. Badger is Paul Mellon Professor of American History at Cambridge University. He is the author of The New Deal: The Depression Years, 1933–1940 and coeditor, with Eric Foner, of F.D.R.: The First Hundred Days.