Why Institutions Matter

John, Richard R.

The emergence in the 1990s of a "new" institutionalism in historical writing on the early American republic built on the realization by a small cohort of mostly younger historians that the regnant social and cultural paradigm that had dominated history departments since the 1960s had become unduly confining—a relic, as it were, of a very different age. This shift in historical thinking was energized by a desire to make the history of the United States comprehensible for a generation for whom the passions of the 1960s had been supplanted by a new constellation of concerns. The media, public finance, and the military are but three of many topics that, though of obvious contemporary relevance, were largely ignored by historians of the early republic until quite recently. In turning to such topics, the new-institutional historians have sought to write a history of early America that is more realistic, less sentimental, and more open to international comparisons than the history they remember learning in school or encountered in most of the textbooks taught in introductory college survey courses.

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Common-Place: The Interactive Journal of Early American Life

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August 1, 2018