Journal of American History

Presidential Address

Security against Democracy: The Legacy of the Cold War at Home

In her presidential address to the 2010 Organization of American Historians annual meeting, Elaine Tyler May observes that over the last half century, Americans have become obsessed with security: national as well as personal. When American leaders talk about security, they often emphasize the need to protect and preserve our democracy. But since the early Cold War era, Americans have understood that it was their individual, private responsibility to provide security for themselves and their families in the face of internal and external threats. This has led Americans to distrust each other as well as their government and to develop a vigilante mentality. May argues that rather than strengthen- ing democracy, the quest for security has undermined and weakened democratic practices. (pp. 939–57) Read online >


“The Highest Pleasure of Which Woman’s Nature Is Capable”: Breast-Feeding and the Sentimental Maternal Ideal in America, 1750—1860

Portrait of an unidentified woman breastfeeding a baby, ca. 1848.
Courtesy Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.

In the mid-eighteenth century, Enlightenment debates about women’s social role prompted a flurry of discussions about motherhood. In particular, advice manuals, portraits of mothers, and American women’s personal writings highlighted breast-feeding as one of the most important maternal duties. Nora Doyle argues that late eighteenth-century advice manuals developed a new focus on the emotional and physical pleasures of breast-feeding. This rhetoric of pleasure contributed to the construction of a sentimental maternal ideal that remained the most important feminine script into the nineteenth century. Doyle sheds new light on the sentimental culture surrounding motherhood by showing how discussions about the physical pleasure of breast-feeding offered possibilities for mediating and exploring female sexuality within marriage and motherhood. (pp. 958–73) Read online >

America’s Conservatory: Race, Reconstruction, and the Santo Domingo Debate

This photo, by Augustus Marshall of Boston shows Samuel Gridley Howe in 1870.
Courtesy University of Nebraska–Lincoln Libraries.

In the spring of 1870, as the Fifteenth Amendment became the capstone of Radical Reconstruction, Ulysses S. Grant and the alumni of the antislavery struggle plunged into a curious and protracted fight over whether the Dominican Republic should be annexed to the United States. Some historians have dismissed the “Santo Domingo affair” as another tawdry example of Grant-era corruption; others have presented it as a prelude to the extensive imperial entanglements of the later nineteenth century. Nicholas Guyatt argues instead that the annexation debate was a central episode in the history of Reconstruction and reveals deep divisions within the reform community about how black rights and citizenship should be guaranteed at home and abroad after slavery. (pp. 974–1000) Read online >

Consuming Relief: Food Stamps and the New Welfare of the New Deal

This posed photo from 1941 illustrates the transfer of food stamps—illustrated with the Roman goddess of plenty—for attractive surplus grocery items.
Courtesy National Ar- chives, College Park, Md., Records of the Office of the Secretary of Agriculture, Food Stamps folder, image 16-G-321-1-1106.

While scholars have chronicled the rise of the Great Depression–era welfare state, little attention has been paid to its relationship to the development of American consumer culture. At the same time, the literature on the history of consumption in America, with its focus largely on the middle and working classes, has obscured the role of the poorest citizens in the construction of American consumer politics. Rachel Louise Moran argues that the New Deal–era federal Food Stamp Plan, the nearly forgotten basis of contemporary welfare, illustrates that the late 1930s ushered in a vision of a capitalist welfare state that fit with the interests of the emerging liberal order. The plan was designed by businessmen and required recipients to pay for stamps and use retail stores to obtain relief. It promised, Moran argues, to move welfare recipients into the marketplace, stimulate the economy, and decrease the stigma of relief, while simultaneously restricting and monitor- ing consumer behavior. (pp. 1001–22) Read online >

Listen to an interview with Rachel Louise Moran about this article in the JAH Podcast.

Disability, Antiprofessionalism, and Civil Rights: The National Federation of the Blind and the “Right to Organize” in the 1950s

John Nagle (right) of the National Federation of the Blind’s Washington, D.C., staff is pictured here with President Lyndon B. Johnson. Although this photograph dates from the 1960s, Nagle was an active lobbyist for the “right to organize” campaign in the late 1950s.
Courtesy National Federation of the Blind.

Felicia Kornbluh problematizes the familiar timeline of civil rights histories. Instead of seeing the major civil rights campaigns in America as a succession of movements, starting with the one against Jim Crow in the late 1940s and ending with the movement for dis- ability rights in the 1970s, Kornbluh suggests that these post–World War II movements emerged simultaneously and influenced one another as they developed. She argues that the challenges to medical, psychiatric, and social-scientific expertise usually associated with the 1960s and 1970s may in fact have originated in the activism of blind people and others in the movement for disability rights in the 1940s. Finally, by focusing on issues of disability, such as the passage of legislation creating the civilian program of occupational rehabilitation, she offers a new view of the 1950s as an era of expansion in domestic social and health policies. (pp. 1023–47) Read online >

Textbooks & Teaching

  • The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning and the History Classroom by Scott E. Casper (pp. 1048–50)
    Read online >
  • The End of the History Survey Course: The Rise and Fall of the Coverage Model by Joel M. Sipress and David J. Voelker (pp. 1050–66)
    Read online >
  • Putting History Teaching “In Its Place” by Keith A. Erekson (pp. 1067–78)
    Read online >
  • How Now? Historical Thinking, Reflective Teaching, and the Next Generation of History Teachers by Elizabeth Belanger (pp. 1079–88)
    Read online >

Book Reviews

March 2011, Vol. 97 No. 4

Alphabetical by the last name of the book's first author or editor.


Web Site Reviews

Web Site reviews are available without a subscription.

  • National Constitution Center, by Mortimer Sellers (pp. 1195–6) Read online >
  • A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774—1875, by Whitman H. Ridgway (pp. 1196–7) Read online >
  • The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, by Adam Rothman (pp. 1197–8) Read online >
  • Detroit Publishing Company: Photographer to the World, by Mark Newman (pp. 1198–9) Read online >


Recent Scholarship

View “Recent Scholarship” listing online >

Recent Scholarship is available as a searchable database, Recent Scholarship Online >

Contents of Volume 97

Index to Volume 97

View the Index to Volume 97 online >

cover image

On the cover:

Grocers in low-income neighborhoods such as this one in 1940 were extraordinarily excited about the Food Stamp Plan, which brought poor consumers into their stores. The large banner, as well as the official stamp poster in the bottom right corner, indicate the energy grocers put behind the program’s success. Courtesy National Archives, College Park, Md., Records of the Office of the Secretary of Agriculture, Food Stamps folder, image 16-G-321-1-445. See Rachel Louise Moran, “Consuming Relief: Food Stamps and the New Welfare of the New Deal,” p. 1001.

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