Bruce Catton, middlebrow culture, and the liberal search for purpose in cold war America

Cook, Robert (2013) Bruce Catton, middlebrow culture, and the liberal search for purpose in cold war America. Journal of American Studies, 47 (1). pp. 109-126. ISSN 0021-8758

[img] PDF - Published Version
Restricted to SRO admin only

Download (584kB)


This essay provides a case study of one man's transition from the reform-oriented liberalism of the New Deal period to the burgeoning rights-focussed liberalism of the 1960s. It contends that Bruce Catton, the most popular Civil War historian of his generation, played an influential role in forging the culture of Cold War America. He did so in his capacity as a prominent “middlebrow” intellectual who sought to instil his legions of adoring fans with a sense of moral purpose at a time when political elites were fretting about ordinary Americans' ability to fight the Cold War effectively. While his finely crafted narratives of the Civil War demonstrated the courage and conviction of nineteenth-century Americans, his many public appearances in the 1950s enabled him to disseminate further his conviction that the timeless values of American democracy remained as relevant in the disturbing present as they had been in the country's divided past. Catton's characteristically middlebrow commitment to antiracism as a contribution to the Cold War struggle was by no means unfaltering but an assessment of his writings and actions during the Civil War centennial reveals his continuing determination to render American democracy sufficiently vigorous to counter the ongoing communist threat.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of History, Art History and Philosophy > American Studies
Subjects: E History America > E151 United States (General) > E0740 Twentieth century
Depositing User: Robert Cook
Date Deposited: 06 Mar 2013 15:56
Last Modified: 08 Mar 2017 07:44

View download statistics for this item

📧 Request an update