Resources: Books: History, Culture, and Biographies
Updated: Sep 26
What makes me the expert on conservatism, you ask? I’m certainly not claiming to be an expert. But I do read the experts and strive to faithfully translate their writings into blog posts and podcasts for contemporary eyes and ears. If you'd prefer to go straight to the source material there are plenty of books I highly recommend from the actual "experts".
In this post, you will find links to books on history, culture, and biographies that help place the conservative view in a historical context and introduce us to the men and women who shaped the worldview.
A New York Times Bestseller, and the inspiration for the hit Broadway musical Hamilton! Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Chernow presents a landmark biography of Alexander Hamilton, the Founding Father who galvanized, inspired, scandalized, and shaped the newborn nation.
In the first full-length biography of Alexander Hamilton in decades, Ron Chernow tells the riveting story of a man who overcame all odds to shape, inspire, and scandalize the newborn America. According to historian Joseph Ellis, Alexander Hamilton is “a robust full-length portrait, in my view the best ever written, of the most brilliant, charismatic and dangerous founder of them all.”
Chernow’s biography is not just a portrait of Hamilton, but the story of America’s birth seen through its most central figure. At a critical time to look back to our roots, Alexander Hamilton will remind readers of the purpose of our institutions and our heritage as Americans.
In this powerful, epic biography, David McCullough unfolds the adventurous life-journey of John Adams, the brilliant, fiercely independent, often irascible, always honest Yankee patriot -- "the colossus of independence," as Thomas Jefferson called him -- who spared nothing in his zeal for the American Revolution; who rose to become the second President of the United States and saved the country from blundering into an unnecessary war; who was learned beyond all but a few and regarded by some as "out of his senses"; and whose marriage to the wise and valiant Abigail Adams is one of the moving love stories in American history.
An incisive account of the tumultuous relationship between Alexander Hamilton and James Madison and of the origins of our wealthy yet highly unequal nation. In the history of American politics there are few stories as enigmatic as that of Alexander Hamilton and James Madison's bitterly personal falling out. Together they helped bring the Constitution into being, yet soon after the new republic was born they broke over the meaning of its founding document. Hamilton emphasized economic growth, Madison the importance of republican principles.
Jay Cost is the first to argue that both men were right--and that their quarrel reveals a fundamental paradox at the heart of the American experiment. He shows that each man in his own way came to accept corruption as a necessary cost of growth. The Price of Greatness reveals the trade-off that made the United States the richest nation in human history, and that continues to fracture our politics to this day.
This explosive book challenges many of the long-prevailing assumptions about blacks, about Jews, about Germans, about slavery, and about education. Plainly written, powerfully reasoned, and backed with a startling array of documented facts, Black Rednecks and White Liberals takes on not only the trendy intellectuals of our times but also such historic interpreters of American life as Alexis de Tocqueville and Frederick Law Olmsted. In a series of long essays, this book presents an in-depth look at key beliefs behind many mistaken and dangerous actions, policies, and trends. It presents eye-opening insights into the historical development of the ghetto culture that is today wrongly seen as a unique black identity--a culture cheered on toward self-destruction by white liberals who consider themselves "friends" of blacks. An essay titled "The Real History of Slavery" presents a jolting re-examination of that tragic institution and the narrow and distorted way it is too often seen today. The reasons for the venomous hatred of Jews, and of other groups like them in countries around the world, are explored in an essay that asks, "Are Jews Generic?" Misconceptions of German history in general, and of the Nazi era in particular, are also re-examined. So too are the inspiring achievements and painful tragedies of black education in the United States. Black Rednecks and White Liberals is the capstone of decades of outstanding research and writing on racial and cultural issues by Thomas Sowell.
First published in 1976, and revised in 1996, George H. Nash’s celebrated history of the postwar conservative intellectual movement has become the unquestioned standard in the field. This new edition, published in commemoration of the volume’s thirtieth anniversary, includes a new preface by Nash and will continue to instruct anyone interested in how today’s conservative movement was born.
In this, the liveliest and most accessible one-volume life of Edmund Burke, Russell Kirk ingeniously combines into a living whole the private and the public Burke. He gives us a fresh assessment of the great statesman, who enjoys even greater influence today than in his own time. Russell Kirk was a leading figure in the post-World War II revival of American interest in Edmund Burke. Today, no one who takes seriously the problems of society dares remain indifferent to "the first conservative of our time of troubles." In Russell Kirk’s words: "Burke’s ideas interest anyone nowadays, including men bitterly dissenting from his conclusions. If conservatives would know what they defend, Burke is their touchstone; and if radicals wish to test the temper of their opposition, they should turn to Burke." Kirk lucidly unfolds Burke’s philosophy, showing how it revealed itself in concrete historical situations during the eighteenth century and how Burke, through his philosophy, "speaks to our age."
This volume makes vivid the four great struggles in the life of Burke: his efforts to reconcile England with the American colonies; his involvements in cutting down the domestic power of George III; his prosecution of Warren Hastings, the Governor General of India; and his resistance to Jacobinism, the French Revolution’s "armed doctrine." In each of these great phases of his public life, Burke fought with passionate eloquence and relentless logic for justice and for the proper balance of order and freedom. With sure instinct born of his sympathy and understanding, Kirk gives us the incisive quotation, the illuminating highlight, the moving, all-too-human elements that bring Burke and his age to vivid life. Thanks to Russell Kirk’s skillful evocations, Edmund Burke in these pages becomes our contemporary. "Because corruption and fanaticism assail our era as sorely as they did Burke’s time, the resonance of Burke’s voice still is heard amidst the howl of our winds of abstract doctrine."