Here’s a list of some of the writers whose work has been invaluable to my understanding of the founding period. They’re on the left — not New York Times “media bias left” as defined by the right. These writers are actually informed by Marxism. [UPDATE: I promise an invaluable Tory-history reading list next.] [UPDATE: But first, Left History, Part Two.] I leave it to you to sort out where you think each of them falls along the left — also to search for them, if you get interested, since (in most cases) they’re easy to find. I should note that some true left history I’d already known, but some I learned about through correspondence with Wythe Holt, a left law professor and historian, who wrote a very probing work on the Whiskey Rebellion (I found it too late to use it very much in my book on that topic, but I did correct a few things for the paperback).
I heard the other day that someone I don’t know, who has either read or heard about my books and articles, informed someone I know that I’m a Marxist. What pleased me, of course, is that someone I don’t know has actually been induced to form an impression of my thought. What worried me is that I’m eager to talk about my books to big audiences, and to talk to those audiences, in part, about the complicated presence of socialism at the founding, so I wouldn’t want any word to get around that might turn off those audiences from the get-go. When I, for example, believe that somebody is an -ist before he or she starts talking, I do assume that much of what’s to be said is overdetermined and therefore, even if true, boring. That by no means always turns out to be the case, but it’s a natural prejudice.
I tell stories. Stories that lead to weird destinations, I hope, but nevertheless stories. Some academic historians can find that cheap, for good reason, but I don’t, not the kind of stories I like to tell, for reasons I think this post will begin to get at. Continue reading