Herbert J. Muller’s The Uses of the Past
by Thomas C. Reeves
In the late 1950s, while Americans for Democratic Action and the American Civil Liberties Union were struggling against the legacy of McCarthyism, and Adlai Stevenson was still at work, after two failed attempts, to extend the New Deal and bring the White House under the control of the articulate and learned, Professor Herbert J. Muller was providing those in the moderate, anti-Communist left with one of the most powerful and persuasive interpretations of history ever written in this country.
A longtime professor of English at Indiana University, in 1957 he published a book that would become the foundation for a series of Muller volumes proclaiming the same theme. The Uses of the Past: Profiles of Former Societies, published by Oxford University Press, was a moving and penetrating statement of the Enlightenment credo, an examination of largely Western history that reflected not only the teachings of the likes of Voltaire and Jefferson but also much of post-war liberalism in the United States.
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Thomas C. Reeves is a retired history professor who lives with his wife Kathleen in the Wisconsin countryside. Among his numerous books are biographies of John F. Kennedy and Fulton J. Sheen. His latest book is Distinguished Service: The Life and Times of Wisconsin Governor Walter J. Kohler, Jr. (Marquette University Press).
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