Scholar says she had to stop researching Henry James to write a history book about the origins of Trumpism

Historians in the News
tags: KKK, eugenics, Trump, Henry James, Sarah Churchwell

“Nazi dog whistles seem to be embedded in Trump’s conversation, his thinking and his tropes,” according to Sarah Churchwell. “I’m just more and more convinced that he grew up listening to those tropes, and that they are how he thinks.”

She was describing a central theme of Behold, America: A History of America First and the American Dream, the new book that she envisaged partly as a “decoder ring” for just such “dog whistles”.

It is also a book that Professor Churchwell – chair of public understanding of the humanities at the University of London’s School of Advanced Study – felt compelled to write. At the time of Donald Trump’s election as US president, she had been working on the novelist Henry James.

But as she spent much of 2017 “trying to come to terms with what was happening in my country”, she had a sense that she “didn’t have permission to write about Henry James any more. It felt like burying my head in the sand.”

She told Times Higher Education: “Everybody has to try to fight this fight with whatever weapons we have. Mine are writing and arguing and researching – and now I can go back to James.”

Behold, America traces the history of the two concepts in its subtitle, “America First” and the “American Dream”, which both date back about a century. They came head to head in 1941, Professor Churchwell explained, “when the debate was couched in terms of the American dream of democracy and equality and justice, against ‘America First’ [and] keeping America out of the Second World War”. ...

Read entire article at The Times Higher Eduacation

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