UCL Institute of the Americas


"Popularizing the Past" Dr Nick Witham's new book now published

4 August 2023

Dr Nick Witham holds his new book Popularizing the Past

We are pleased to share that the University of Chicago Press has published a new book by our Head of Department, Dr Nick Witham, entitled Popularizing the Past: Historians, Publishers, and Readers in Postwar America

The book tells the stories of five historians—Richard Hofstadter, Daniel Boorstin, John Hope Franklin, Howard Zinn, and Gerda Lerner—who, in the decades after World War II, published widely read books of national history that changed the way ordinary Americans understood their nation’s past. The book is about these five writers, their intellectual and political biographies, and what they thought they were doing when they wrote for “general” readers. But it’s also about the way their work was shaped by the paperback revolution, and the collaborative efforts with publishing professionals required for them to reach mass audiences. Finally, it’s about those audiences themselves – who they were, what they thought about the American past before and after reading popular histories, and what uses they put their newly acquired ideas to.